Nowadays few of us would consider “roughing it” in the wilds without taking along at least a smartphone, and perhaps even a tablet or laptop. The problem with that is, when we get too far away from civilization — or our cars, at least — for more than a day or so, there’s no way to keep our mobile devices charged. You can take along a portable battery pack, but if you’re off the grid for very long at all, then the issue becomes keeping it charged. The answer, of course, is a solar power charger, such as the Aukey 20-watt Portable Foldable Solar Charger ($50) we’re reviewing here today.
There are scores of portable solar power sources available, ranging from $30 to $300 and beyond. Some, such as the Kogalla Solar Storage Bank ($200), come with rechargeable batteries that allow you to store power for when the sun is not shining. Others, including the ECEEN Foldable Solar Charger ($34) and today’s review unit, the Aukey 20W solar charger, do not. Many come with only one USB port, though, whereas the Aukey model comes with two. Designed with the backpacker in mind, it’s the only $50 solar charger we know of that generates enough juice to allow you to charge two mobile devices at full power at the same time.
The hype around gaming mice makes it difficult to see the reality for the hyperbole. You can spend $60 or more for industry-standard pointing devices, such as the Razer DeathAdder Elite, or choose less costly alternatives like Logitech’s G602. Yet there’s an even less expensive, highly customizable, lesser-known alternative — $36 Aukey KM-C4 Gaming Mouse, which regularly retails for as little as $20.
The Aukey gaming mouse might seem a little too humble if you’re into impressive specifications like 16,000 DPI sensors and tracking speeds of 450 inches per second. However, most gamers don’t need incredible hardware in a gaming mouse. Aukey’s not the only company that knows this. It faces competition from Logitech’s G300 and Corsair’s Harpoon, a pair of well-known mice from major brands.
While devices that extend your Wi-Fi signal to eliminate dead zones in your home or office abound, you won’t find many that double as home security hubs. But that’s exactly what you get with Zmodo’s $49.95 Beam Alert. By itself, Beam Alert is just one more way to make your home network and Internet connection accessible in the back bedroom or upstairs, but with the addition of the company’s multiple accessories—door and window sensors, motion and smoke detectors, video cameras, gas and carbon monoxide detectors, and alarms—you can turn your wireless network and smartphone into a home security system.
If all you need is simple Wi-Fi extension, it’s easy to find less-expensive solutions, such as Netgear’s AC750 Wi-Fi Range Extender. And yes, there are devices, such as D-Link’s Wi-Fi Audio Extender, that do more than merely extend your wireless signal. There’s also several wireless security solutions, including Stack Lights BeOn bulbs and the iSmartAlarm. However, Beam Alert is the only combined Wi-Fi extender and security system we know of. When you think about it, though, the matchup makes a lot of sense.
While there are plenty of innovative wireless pointing devices available, few are as light, compact, interesting, and mobile as Microsoft’s Arch Touch Bluetooth Mouse. It’s designed primarily as an accessory for the company’s Surface Book PCs (it’s the same light-gray color), but since it’s a standard pointing device, it also works with most laptops or tablets running a recent version of Windows (and some MacBooks) that support Bluetooth. The Arc Touch mouse is, when turned off, ultra-thin, making it easy to slip in to your pocket or some other tight spot.
The Arc Touch mouse is unique in design. Even so, just about any other small wireless “travel” pointing device, such as Logitech’s M535 Bluetooth Mouse ($39.99) or Microsoft’s own Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500 ($29.99), is a direct competitor. You can pick up the Arc Touch mouse for about $40, which is a bit high for a small mouse like this, especially considering that you can buy the EasyGlide Wireless 3-button Travel Mouse, and several others, for as little as $20. That said, you’ll have trouble finding a mobile mouse as easy to carry around with you than the slim and petite Arc Touch Bluetooth Mouse, and like most Microsoft peripherals, it’s well-built, durable, and somewhat elegant.
There’s no shortage of mobile keyboards in the world. Some, such as EC Technology’s Bluetooth Ultra-Slim Keyboard and the Jorno Keyboard, fold in thirds. Others, including VisionTek’s Waterproof Bluetooth Mini Keyboard and today’s review unit, Microsoft’s Universal Foldable Keyboard, fold in half. Nearly all are water resistant to some degree, and most of them support all three of the standard tablet and smartphone operating systems: Android, iOS, and Windows.
Akin to its Surface 3 and Surface 3 Pro Type Cover keyboard sibling, Microsoft’s mobile keyboard is light, compact, and easy to use. And like most Microsoft keyboards (and other peripherals), it’s well-designed and well-built, if somewhat expensive. If you shop around, you can find it for around $70. You can pick up the VisionTek model for as little as $20, though, and the iClever BK03 Ultra Slim Mini Bluetooth Keyboard, yet another competitor, sells for about $36. At nearly two-thirds of a C-note, do you get what you pay for?
Beneath the hype leading up to the imminent release of Windows 10, other teams at Microsoft are busy readying the 16th full-version upgrade of the company’s highly successful office productivity software, Microsoft Office, officially dubbed “Office 2016.” The number of Office users has, when including the current 9.2 million Office 365 Personal and Home users and more than 50 million Office Online users, surged recently to an estimated total of 1.2 billion users overall.
Despite its enormous popularity, office productivity software is changing—rapidly and drastically, moving online and to the cloud. Microsoft itself has recently said that the new Office experience will be in recognition of this new mobile and cloud-first world (which was supposed to be the focus all along, we thought). In other words, if all goes as Redmond expects, Office 2016 will be important not as stand-alone software, but as part of the Office 365 subscription service.
Read the entire review at Digital Trends.
For the longest time, we called the non-operating system executables running on our Windows desktops “programs” or “applications.” Since the inception of Windows, 8, though, a new breed of program, one that runs only in the Windows 8 environment (or the Win 8 UI overlay), has emerged. In just a few short years, this new program type has gone by many names, including: Metro apps, Metro-style apps, Windows 8-style apps, Modern apps, Windows Store apps, Universal apps, and now, according to a recent announcement from Microsoft, “Windows apps.”
Obviously short for “application,” the abbreviation apps originated, or at least became prevalent, with the original iPhone (and a little later the iPad) and Apple’s App Store. From there, the term “app” spread from the mobile world to include programs, or applications, that run on all platforms. Somewhere along the line Microsoft Office suite programs, such as Word or Excel, became “apps,” and the distinction between those big, expansive Windows desktop programs and small smartphone apps was lost, or at least blurred.
Microsoft to the rescue! Just as we were getting used to “Universal apps,” Redmond up and announces yet another name change. If you’re paying attention to all this, it probably all seems confusing, maybe even silly. Even so, let’s see if we can make sense of it.
Read the entire article at Digital Trends
In the 20 or so years the world has enjoyed public Internet (ever since the days of dialup, in fact), there has always been free Internet in one form another. Usually, though, these so-called “free” providers forgo the monthly fee in lieu of the subscribers allowing the company to subject (bombard) them with advertising—in the form of banner ads or some other, usually more distracting, type of message. For these providers and their subscribers, this is a mutual exchange; nobody gets anything from charity or the goodness of anybody else’s heart.
Not so, though, according to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, for subscribers of Facebook’s free Internet service, Internet.org. Founded in 2013, goals are much loftier than ad-supported providers of old. It hopes to offer free Internet service to the two-thirds of the world’s inhabitants who, because of poverty, location, or a general lack service availability, don’t have and can’t get Internet connectivity.
Istruly an attempt at altruism, as Zuckerberg claims, or a scheme to bring less developed countries of the world Facebook?
Read entire article at Digital Trends.
Perhaps in predicting “bio-neural” circuitry to store and transfer data throughout the starship, the writers of the mid-1990’s TV series Star Trek: Voyager were prophetic. Over the past few years, researchers at Harvard, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, ETH Zurich university, and other research facilities have been experimenting with storing data in DNA. Researchers are starting to find we may be able to store data for thousands of years by using techniques first perfected by Mother Nature.
The Voyager engineers have 400 years or so on today’s scientists. DNA storage is probably a little closer to today than the 25th Century, where Star Trek: Voyager was set. Still, this budding technology has a lot of obstacles, among them prohibitive costs. If that can be conquered, though, all of today’s existing digital data could be stored and preserved in about four grams of synthesized DNA.
Read the entire article at Digital Trends.
The recent introduction of Windows 10 Technical Preview has made many pundits wonder about the future of Microsoft’s Windows RT, an inexpensive, low-power version of Windows 8 designed to run on the ARM processors often used to power tablets and smartphones. Much of the speculation is that Windows RT is dead. Then again, was it ever really alive?
Nobody was ever enthusiastic about Windows RT. Microsoft promised, negotiated, bribed, and cajoled, but still the response to RT was poor, at best. The financial loses, especially Microsoft’s, were immense (and still climbing). Within a year or so of its 2012 release a list of PC manufactures including Asus, Dell, Samsung, and Lenovo gave up trying to sell RT devices.
Read the entire article at Digital Trends.