Techie Traveling

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Ahh, technology.  In many ways, it’s made our lives easier.  From our mobile devices, without ever talking to a real person, we can now accomplish tasks such as making airline reservations, checking the weather, monitoring our heart rate, and most importantly – we can even order a pizza.  It’s amazing stuff, and all indications are that we’ve just hit the tip of the iceberg.

Our family of six has just returned from our annual January pilgrimage to Disney World in Florida (I’m freezing right now), and I thought it’d be fun to talk about a little of the technology that definitely made our lives easier as we navigated the friendly skies.  For all of you moms and dads out there, I think you’ll agree – whatever can help make our lives easier, is of great interest!IMG_0019_2

So the day before we were scheduled to leave out of Chicago O’Hare, I received an email from United, saying that our aircraft was part of their “Personal Device Entertainment” program.  The techie side of me, and the dad side of me rejoiced in the possibilities that this might offer for in-flight distractions for 2.5 hours.  I saved the email, made sure our devices met the minimum requirements (more on that in a minute), and prepared for the following day’s flight.

We boarded the plane, and second on my priority list was figuring this entertainment thing out (first on the list was making sure all four of our boys made it on the plane).  So once we made it to our seats, and stowed our carry-on bags, I fired up my iPad, and … nothing happened.  This wasn’t exactly the experience I was hoping for, and I later realized that the service doesn’t become active until the aircraft is airborne.  Probably a good idea.

IMG_0021But once we got connected, and understood how to work things, this system was really cool.  The amount of content is pretty impressive, and there seemed to be a little something for everybody (including kids) available for viewing.  A few things to note before you stream movies on United to your heart’s content:

  • Make sure you download the latest version of the United app to your smartphone or tablet.  This was clearly stated in the directions, and somehow I totally missed that.  Without the app, you’re stuck with nothing but a complimentary beverage and a bag of peanuts to entertain you during your flight.
  • Right now, this service is limited to those with laptops, or iOS devices.  According to United, full support for Android and “other devices” is coming soon.

So there you have it.  United’s got a great system, and if you read the directions (don’t follow my example), you’ll be in good shape.

As a quick follow-up, I recently flew on Southwest Airlines back to Florida (I told you I was cold), and they have a similar system, with a few differences.  Southwest makes you pay to watch a movie; 5 dollars to be exact, which is reasonable, but a bummer.  On the positive side, though, they give you about 10 channels or so of free live TV!  Watching a live college basketball game was a great way to pass the time, while my co-traveller caught some shut eye.

Got a great techie travel story?  We’d love to hear about it!

Where to print smartphone photos?

Right from your phone to your mailbox! No hassle necessary.

This is so cool and comes very highly recommended by some of our clients — 100 of your favorite smartphone photos packaged in a beautiful 4.5” X 6.5” album delivered right to your door for just $2.99 a month.

As more and more precious memories are now being captured behind the lens of a smartphone, one innovative family dreamed up and launched what we now know as the GrooveBook (as seen on Shark Tank nearly a year ago.)

Little did this husband and wife team, Julie and Brian Whiteman, know that within a year of appearing on Shark Tank, Shutterfly would acquire their soon to be multi-million dollar company for $14.5 million.

The concept is quite simple.

GrooveBook

GrooveBook is a mobile app company that lets you choose and print up to 100 of your favorite smartphone photos each month. Photos are printed on glossy photo paper and are perforated for easy removal from a 4.5” X 6.5” photo book. You can choose how many of each photo you’d like, upload them, and receive your GrooveBook in the mail within 10-12 days, all for $2.99/month (which includes shipping and handling).

You can then frame your photos, share them with family/friends, or keep them neatly in the book. Each photo includes location and date the pictures were taken.

Want to download GrooveBook for yourself?

GrooveBook requires an iOS 6.0 or later and is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for the iPhone 5 and can be downloaded here.

It is also compatible with most Android devices and can be downloaded here.

What are your thoughts on GrooveBook? Are you getting photo books in the mail each month?

And as always, if you break your phone while taking a photo, or if you need assistance in telling your business story, we can help!

Take Charge of Your Heart

With the AliveCor Heart Monitor.

The other day we were talking with a customer who has a diagnosed heart condition, atrial fibrillation, or AFib. They were sharing with us how terrifying it was when their heart would beat so fast it felt like they had just completed a marathon, while resting on the couch. Which led to the topic of inconvenient doctor visits (as this customer is a world-traveller), but now due to the AliveCor Heart Monitor, their AFib has been much more manageable.

AFib occurs when the heart’s electrical signals don’t travel through the heart in a normal way. Disorganized electrical signals cause the heart’s two upper chambers (called the atria) to fibrillate, or contract quickly and irregularly. Blood will then pool in the atria as it doesn’t get completely pumped into the heart’s two lower chambers (called the ventricles). As a result the chambers don’t work together as they should. Some people with AFib may not feel symptoms, but it can be detected through an electrocardiogram (ECG) or also known as an EKG.

AliveCor Heart Monitor

Up until recently, those with AFib were required to meet with a physician to get an ECG reading, but today, they can do this anywhere at anytime right from their Apple iOS or Android OS device. Our customer was ecstatic that they could attach the AliveCor Heart Monitor to their phone (taking the place of a normal case), download the free AliveECG app from the Apple Store, and immediately begin recording their ECGs by holding it, automatically sharing results with their physician. The Android app can be downloaded at Google Play.

In addition to tracking and saving ECGs, the app then allows you to save medications, track symptoms like palpitations/shortness of breath and habits like caffeine/alcohol consumption, as well as activities like exercise/sleep.

Clinical studies have shown that the accuracy of AliveCor is comparable to readings from Lead 1 of standard ECG machines, but at a fraction of the cost. Studies also show the monitor is highly accurate, enabling easy and effective detection of irregular heart rhythms by your physician.

In fact, AliveCor just came out with a brand new 3rd generation heart monitor yesterday in addition to the case for the iPhone 5/5s and one for veterinary use.

Take charge of your heart! Our customer did and couldn’t be happier.

Pinning Our Way Through the Holidays

We can’t believe Christmas Eve is tomorrow!!

Feels like Thanksgiving was just yesterday and we had all the time in the world to prepare for yet another grand holiday season. And now, ready or not, Christmas is here.

Never fails. Every single year it comes right down to the very last minute on Christmas Eve that we finish up my Christmas shopping and baking. We always have these great intentions of getting everything done a week before, but hey in this hectic, crazy thing we call life, we just can’t get everything done in a day.

So, if you’re anything like us and still need a few more things to make your holiday a smashing success, we have gathered a few Christmas-inspired pins:Melted Snowmen Oreo Balls

  • Melted Snowmen Oreo Balls — Seriously, how cute are these? Oreo balls are a must at our holiday parties, but usually never resembling snowmen. We typically just drizzle the chocolate over. Amazing how a little change in chocolate can go a long way!
  • DIY Sharpie Mugs — We’ve been seeing these all over Pinterest! They seem to be the new craze. Perfect for that last minute DIY Sharpie Mugsgift for a co-worker or friend. All you’ll need to begin is a mug and oil-based Sharpie paint markers as the plain old regular Sharpie markers do not work at all. The oil-based Sharpies don’t do so well in the dishwasher, but do just fine in soap and water. You could get real creative and add glitter. The possibilities are endless!
  • DIY Reindeer Thumbprint Ornaments — Looking for a new tradition or something fun to do with the kids? DIY Thumbprint Reindeer OrnamnetsThis could be perfect. All you’ll need to begin are a few ornaments (matte ones are recommended) brown craft paint (along with red if you want to create Rudolph), a black Sharpie, and of course little thumbs.

Speaking of pins, did you know one pin generates, on average, two website visits, six webpage views, and $.78 in sales (if you’re a business)? And 83% of Pinterest users said they’d follow a favorite brand over a favorite celebrity while 73% said they’d follow a favorite beauty products brand over a favorite makeup artist?

Want to increase your traffic using Pinterest? We can hook you up with an account when taking advantage of one of our many online marketing packages. Until then, we hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Forgot your garage door opener?

On more than one occasion, my car gets parked in the driveway for the night. By the time I pull up to the garage door, get out of my car to open it, get back in my car to pull in, and then get back out of my car to close it; opening the garage door just becomes an inconvenience. Yes, I have a garage door opener, but half the time certain family members ‘borrow’ it in their own vehicles. I never see it again.

This happens to you too?

Not for much longer. MyDoorOpener was developed so this wouldn’t happen to anyone ever again. It’s an iPhone app that allows you to open and close your garage door from anywhere at any time using an Arduino controller. So if you forget to close your garage door and remember at work, one swipe will get it closed.

MyDoorOpener application works over the internet, accessing your home network allowing you to operate any number of doors from as many devices as you’d like to program. It’s password protected preventing signal theft and unauthorized entry, and can also be programmed to notify you when there’s any door activity.

MyDoorOpener

Interested? Read on!

After building and assembling the hardware, download and install the Arduino IDE on your computer. Then download and extract the MyDoorOpener controller application. Configure to suit your needs using the Arduino IDE, and upload to your Arduino controller via your computer’s USB port. Connect your Arduino controller to your home network router and configure you home router to have a specific port forwarded to the Arduino’s IP address. Download and install MyDoorOpener iPhone application from the Apple App Store. After launching the app on your phone, go to Settings and adjust the parameters to match your controller configuration. And wa-lah, you now have an iPhone operated garage door opener!

Android user? The iSmartGate app is for you. It’s very similar to MyDoorOpener.

And just like that, opening the garage door is no longer an inconvenience.

What are your thoughts on this mobile-friendly garage door opener? Oh and if you happen to crush your phone under the garage door, we can fix it! 🙂

Waterproof your Reading

Last week we dove into the water with all you aqua-loving fanatics equipped with a Waterproof iPod Shuffle and Headphones. This week we are going to relax in the hot tub, hit the sauna, and vacation on the beach with a Waterproof Kindle Paperwhite.

Similar to the Waterproof iPod Shuffle and Headphones, the Waterproof Kindle Paperwhite can be submerged 210 feet underwater and has 4GB to hold thousands of your favorite books. It has a front lit display for reading in the dark, along with a rechargeable battery life of eight weeks.

Waterproof Kindle PaperwhiteBut what makes these electronics different from other ‘waterproof’ devices?

The Dual Layer technology developed by Waterfi. This two-step comprehensive process completely waterproofs and corrosion-proofs electronics from the inside out.

Having worked on a lot of water damaged devices over the years, we are intrigued with how this technology works. Before the waterproofing process begins, empty space inside the device leaves the electronics exposed to potential environmental threats and water damage. Since most casings and coatings are not designed to completely protect the interior components, water eventually makes its way inside the device and short circuits the vital electronics.

But with two layers of protection, you’ll be able to take your Waterproof Kindle Paperwhite anywhere, as well as any other Waterfi electronic.

Waterfi Waterproof Technology

The first layer is a thick, rubbery, insulator that fills the entire interior of the device and forms a barrier around all of the sensitive electronic components. This barrier protects the device from exposure to water and other damaging elements.

The second layer adds an extra internal barrier that enhances the waterproofing protection and guards the device from corrosion caused by threatening environmental elements such as salt water, chlorine, heat, and steam.

This two-step comprehensive process works to eliminate air pockets and imperfection, giving you a durable, long-lasting, and trusted waterproof Kindle (among other things).

We’ve seen a few devices come in with shattered screens, and then found water damage on the inside. And the customer had no idea! Something as simple as dropping your device on the wet pavement, in a pile of snow, or resting on the bathroom counter while you’re in the shower, can all create water damage to some degree.

Do you have a Waterproof Kindle Paperwhite? If so, do you think Waterfi’s waterproofing technology works well?

Where water and terrific collide

Waterproof devices for your aqua workout.

The other day we had a customer, who just so happens to be a swimmer, comment on how she wished there were quality water-proof earbuds she could use while swimming. That she has seriously contemplated giving up swimming for the sole purpose of having the ability to listen to music much like her running/yoga exercising friends.

Well, we’re here to tell not only her, but any other aqua-exercise lovers, that there are in fact, many waterproof earbuds specifically designed for swimmers. Because according to a Speedo-sponsored study published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise, music can greatly improve a swimmer’s stamina. In the study, athletes swam three 200-meter freestyle races while listening to either motivational music, neutral music, or no-music control. Swimmers listening to music beat their non-music-listening times by three seconds. This may seem like only a slight improvement, but it’s easily the difference between first and fourth place in a competitive race.

Even though there are several options, we’ve gathered a few we think you may like:

Waterproof iPod Shuffle & Headphones

  • Waterproof iPod Shuffle — Developed by Waterfi, this iPod shuffle is designed to go down to 210 feet underwater. Being light and compact, it shouldn’t get in the way of your workout as you can clip it to your goggle strap, wetsuit, shirt, hat, or sunglasses. With 2GB of memory you can store approximately 500 of your fave songs, which can be easily downloaded through iTunes available both for Mac or PC users. With a single click you can quickly play and pause the current track, change songs and adjust volume without interrupting your workout. The rechargeable battery can last up to 15 hours.
  • Waterproof Short Cord Headphones — Also developed by Waterfi, these headphones come with the Waterproof iPod Shuffle and can be used as deep as 10 feet underwater. With an IPX rating of IP8, they meet all waterproofing standards. The cord should not get in your way as it is only 11 inches allowing enough length to connect to your iPod Shuffle without getting tangled anywhere else.
  • X-1 Surge Mini Waterproof Headphones — These headphones allow you to dive 12 feet underwater and still enjoy your favorite music. They’re 100 percent waterproof and are designed to stay in your ear on the go. With an IPX rating of IP8, they can be submerged for extended periods of time. However, if you plan on diving further than 12 feet underwater, be cautious as it could result in hearing damage.

To date these products have been used for surfing, kiteboarding, diving, training for marathons, triathlons, and many other sweat, dirt, and water filled activities, in addition to swimming.

What’s your favorite aqua activity? Will you be taking advantage of any techie waterproof gadgets? Or, do you already utilize these gadgets?

A Few Things to Keep in Mind…

Looking for that perfect mobile device, but just can’t decide on which one to get? Feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the options displayed in various Black Friday ads?

Well, here’s a few things to keep in mind while doing your holiday shopping.

1. Cost — When looking to purchase a tablet, keep in mind who it’s going to and how much it would cost to repair. As many brands are marketing the best tablet yet, consider the repair costs if it were to break. So many of these tablets are not cost effective to fix. So yes, you may be getting a ‘steal of a deal’ on Black Friday, but if that ‘steal of a deal’ gets a shattered screen, you could probably buy a brand new tablet (or two) for the price it would be to fix. In our experience an iPad is a better investment because they can be easily repaired and the resale value is better when you decide to upgrade.

2. Phones — If you’re debating between an iPod and an iPhone, consider the phone. Especially if you’re buying for a child. Apple designed iPods to be ‘throw-aways,’ but depending on the repair and the storage space (GB) of the device, it may not be cost effective to repair. Yes, it can be done, but by the time it’s all said and done it could be cheaper to buy a brand new one. Whereas, with a phone, you’d be getting all the benefits of an iPod plus it’s easily repaired. You’d also be able to download the ‘Find my Friends’ app, which allows you to keep tabs on your children at all times. This is especially helpful if your child says one thing but goes somewhere else.

3. Cases — Just because you put a protective case over your device does not mean it’s indestructible. Yes, they protect the device somewhat but if you drop it just so, it’s going to break. It doesn’t matter what case is on it. We’ve seen breaks in all major brands on cases, however we see a lot of breaks when a child takes it out of the case “just for a second.”

4. Insurance — Would you like to purchase the 2-year warranty for $59.99? How many times have you been in the check out line when the cashier asks that question? There are a couple of things to think about before hitting the sales.

  • Insurance through your wireless carrier — Consider how much your monthly coverage is going to cost you. Do you have to pay a deductible when you make a claim? What does the insurance cover? Many companies charge around $9.00/month, which adds up to $108/year. And don’t forget to read the fine print. Most companies also charge an additional $100-200 deductible. So if you break your precious iPhone screen after one year, you just spent $200-300 for that screen replacement when your local repair shop would have charged $100.

Stocking Stuffers

  • Insurance through your mass retail store — These plans are often something to consider when purchasing a computer or tablet. Typical plans for a tablet would run around $50 for a 2-year service plan. On most devices, with the exception of mobile phones, there is not a deductible. A mobile phone might run you $130 plus $49/claim. If you anticipate breaking your phone more than once this might be the plan for you.
  • No insurance — If you have a good track record with your devices you might opt to keep that money in your pocket. If you do run into an issue with your device contact 815 Media and we can hook you up!

When you do decide on that perfect tablet, consider a few stocking stuffers such as our four-foot Belkin Lightning to USB Cables compatible with any lightning adapter iOS device for $18 plus tax, which is considerably cheaper than any of our competitors. Or an 815 Media classic tee for $9. These super soft, super awesome shirts come in orange and navy and can be purchased here.

Set up your Nest in 3 simple steps

I hope this #TechieTuesday finds you nice and warm cuddled up under your favorite blanket. And if it finds you under a palm tree somewhere, we envy you.

Either way, today we are going to discuss everything you need to know about the Nest Thermostat, so that no matter where you are, you could potentially save up to 20% on your heating and cooling bills.

The Nest Thermostat is an automatic thermostat that programs itself to suit the needs of your daily habits that can be easily controlled from your phone. If you leave the house and forget to turn the thermostat down, no worries. You can turn it down via your phone, thus conserving energy and money.

Get started in three easy steps:

1. The Nest Thermostat can be purchased here for $249 and takes most people under 30 minutes to install. It programs itself in about a week creating a personalized schedule based on the temperature changes you’ve made. You may have to adjust it to the temperature you like within the first week, but after that, it’ll automatically adjust iteslf.

Nest Thermostat

2. While you’re away, the Nest Thermostat automatically turns to an energy-efficient away temperature that you manually set up during installation. Auto-Away works in 90% of homes, even if it’s located in a spot you don’t pass on your way out the door. The lower your away temperature is, the more money you can save. You could even set it cooler before bed time to help save energy that way too.

3. Use the Nest Leaf to gauge how much energy and money you save. The Nest Leaf appears when you turn Nest to a temperature that saves energy. It tracks your energy use over time so you can see how much you’ve saved in Energy History.

We use a Nest Thermostat here in the office and it is so convenient. When we leave for the weekend, it automatically cools to our away temperature of 64 degrees Fahrenheit, and when Monday morning rolls around, it starts to warm up so by the time we get in the office, it’s our perfect temperature. It’s also easily controlled through our phones so if we’d have to adjust the temperature we could do so from our homes.

Nest makes more than just thermostats, so keep watching for a future #TechieTuesday article, were we’ll talk about some other awesome things this company is up to.

Even though our calendar says we still have about a month of fall left, I think it’s safe to say winter is here to stay. So why not utilize technology to take that bitter chill out of winter?

Fitbit propelling to a healthier you

Building a better routine one day at a time.

How many of you find yourselves on a roller coaster ride when it comes to fitness and YOUR health? You know those weeks when you’re really on top of things followed by those weeks when you can barely sustain enough energy to get off the couch? How about those weeks you crave salads followed by those weeks you can’t consume enough chocolate?

We’ve all been there. And now Fitbit has announced two new products to get us over the lows that track your activity, sleep, and calorie intake — Charge HR and Surge.

Fitbit Charge HR

Since it’s beginnings in 2007, Fitbit has helped millions of people achieve their fitness goals by tracking every single part of their day including activity, exercise, food, weight, and sleep. A Fitbit can be synced wirelessly to a mobile device in order to keep track of progress. To date, Fitbit can be purchased in over 20,000 retail stores in North America as well as more than 17 countries across Asia and Europe and is available on over 120 mobile devices.

So, without further adeui, a look into the Charge HR and Surge.

This heart rate and activity wristband monitors heart rate continuously right from your wrist, while accurately tracking calorie burn, maintain workout intensity, maximize training, and optimize health. It automatically records workouts and tracks all-day activity and sleep patterns. It also comes with a caller id allowing you to stay connected in style. The Charge HR will be available for $149.95 beginning early next year.
Fitbit Surge

This ultimate fitness super watch contains all the features of the Charge HR plus GPS tracking and a longer battery life of up to 7 days. The GPS displays run time, distance, pace, and elevation stats. Bands are water-resistant and can be cleaned with a soap-free cleanser. The Surge will be available for $249.95 beginning early next year.

As those at Fitbit would say, “Seek it, crave it, live it.”

What kind of Fitbit do you live?