Connect to Your Stereo via Bluetooth for Under $15

mpow bluetooth receiverThere are lots of ways to listen to music these days, and many people just use their phones or perhaps an mp3 player.  That works, and you can buy dedicated devices that will allow you to listen to music via Bluetooth.

But what if you have an old-school stereo system at home, or one in your car that isn’t Bluetooth enabled?  I’ve got a 2009 car that has a 1/8″ miniplug input, but no USB or Bluetooth capability.

I also have a vintage stereo system at home, with a turntable and a CD player connected to it.   How can you play music from your phone through that?

A new gadget from a company called Mpow will allow you to do that, and the device sells for less than $15.

The Mpow Streambot Bluetooth Receiver has a 1/8″ miniplug output, so you can connect it directly to any device with that kind of input.  With an inexpensive adapter, however, you could also convert that 1/8″ plug to a pair of RCA plugs, for instance, and then you could connect it to a vintage 1970s or 1980s receiver, if you wanted to.

The Mpow Streambot gets up to 8 hours of use from a single charge, and it can be recharged in 90 minutes.  Recharging is done via USB, and you can recharge the unit while using it, which you might find to be convenient from time to time.

It’s great for using in a not-quite-up-to-date car, where you can simply connect the Mpow to your car stereo and then stream music from your phone.  The Mpow allows you to connect two Bluetooth devices at the same time, and it can automatically reconnect to your phone if your phone is already turned on when you power up the Mpow.

The Mpow is compatible with most Bluetooth enabled smartphones and electronics, and the company makes several different models with slightly different feature sets.

Here’s the best part – the price for any of the models in the Mpow Streambot line is under $20, and the reviews are terrific.  It’s a simple, inexpensive device that was created to do one thing and apparently does it pretty well.

It’s a great way to get extra use out of older stereo equipment that you might have lying around that you thought you wouldn’t use again because you’re primarily listening to music on your phone these days.

It’s also a great way to get music in your car without having to replace your car stereo with something newer and more expensive.

You can find the Mpow Streambot Bluetooth Receiver at a number of different retailers, including Amazon.

Well worth it for the ridiculously low price.

Vintage Vinyl Becomes a Bluetooth Speaker

vintage vinyl bluetooth speakerIf you like vinyl, and lots of people do, and you also like the convenience of modern technology, then you should check out the new Kickstarter project for a Bluetooth speaker that uses vintage record albums for the cone.

The project was created by Jeff Davis, who owns a company called Vinylux.  He’s been repurposing old albums and turning them into bowls.  He got the idea of using the bowl shape to create a speaker horn, and the idea for the Bluetooth speaker was born.

He partnered with a company called UncommonGoods to create the speaker, which comes in a wooden enclosure and features Bluetooth connectivity so you can connect a music source.

While I’m not all that crazy about seeing a record destroyed to make a speaker, it turns out that tends of thousands of records are discarded every year, and many of them are in such poor condition that they’re unplayable as records.  It’s not a bad idea to find some way of putting them to use again.

Jeff has spent the last 15 years recycling old, worn-out records and turning them into useful devices.  He got his idea when someone looked at one of his bowls and asked, “Will it still play?”  That gave him the idea for a speaker that made use of a record in the design.

Production will take place in Philadelphia, and the production process will make use of all the parts of the record, including the cover.  The label will appear in the center of the speaker.

There are several price levels involved for those who pledge this project.  At the lowest level, you can simply select a genre of music, and the company will select a record for you.

At the next level up, you can create your own artwork.

For a few dollars more, you can submit your own record, and they’ll use it to create the speaker.

Finally, you can spend a few dollars more, and they’ll acquire the record for you and use that newly-acquired album to create your speaker.

Genres include:

  • 60s Rock
  • 70s Rock
  • The 80s
  • R & B
  • Diva
  • Show Tunes
  • Crooner
  • Disco
  • Jazz
  • Classical
  • Opera
  • Folk
  • Classic Country

 

Starting  prices for the speaker is about $175, and prices range up to $250 if you want them to buy the record for you.  The finished speakers are expected to ship later this year.

If you’re interested in this Vintage Vinyl Bluetooth Speaker,  you should check out their Kickstarter site.

Turn Your Smartphone Into a Real Camera

smove stabilizerCell phones originally had no cameras in them and when they were finally added, they weren’t very good.  They’ve gotten a lot better over the years, but in the end, they’re still cameras inside telephones, and that presents some problems if you’re shooting video.

The problems are numerous, but the biggest are that you’re likely to have somewhat jerky video if you shoot with a smartphone.  You’re also likely to use up a lot of your phone’s power.

Those are pretty significant drawbacks, as people aren’t going to be interested in taking your video seriously if they’re so jerky that they become nauseous when they’re watching them.

That’s where the Smove comes in.  This was a crowdfunded product through Indiegogo that’s been successfully funded.  In fact, it’s been funded beyond the amount that the creators were seeking by some 4638%, which suggests that a lot of people wanted to see a device brought to market that does this.

And what does the Smove do?  At it’s most basic, it’s a handle for your smartphone that allows you to handle it as though it were a video camera.  It’s simply a better way to hold it.

In addition, the Smove has a built-in stabilizer, so your jerky videos are going to be a thing of the past.  There was a time when that sort of technology cost thousands, but it’s not available at under $200 in the Smove.

The built in power source should allow you to shoot for 6-7 hours before running out of power, and that’s in addition to the power you have in your phone’s own battery.

The Smove also includes a built in 5000mAh power supply, so you’re not likely to run out of juice while you’re in the middle of filming something that’s going to win you a Pulitzer Prize.

The Smove also has a motorized feature that allows you to shoot panorama shots and you can adjust that from 180° to 360° to suit your needs.

There are several models available that can accommodate Android and iPhone smart phones as well as Go Pro video cameras.  You can also buy a bundle that includes both the Smove and a phone, just in case you need to get an all in one solution and you don’t have a smartphone already.

I’ll freely admit that I don’t shoot much video by phone, but I’m surprised at how many people do.  I’m also surprised at how many people don’t know that you should generally turn your phone sideways when shooting so that you get an image that’s widescreen, rather than thin and tall, but that’s a topic for another blog post, I suppose.

Smove also has a special price for two units if you think you’re going to be doing a lot of shooting.  There’s no problem carrying them around, as they’re small enough and compact enough to fit in your pocket.

The Smove has been wildly successful during the funding phase, and has more than 11,000 sales already.  They’re expected to ship any time now.

 

 

Bluetooth Water Bottle

hydra water bottleIn time, every single thing known to man will be Bluetooth enabled.  It’s inevitable.  The latest odd thing to come along with this wireless technology is a water bottle.

Yep.  A water bottle, known as either the Hydra Water Bottle or the Hydra Hydra Water bottle, is a 20 ounce, BPA-free, container for drinking water.  You can take it on your bike (it should fit in most bicycle water bottle carriers) or take it to the gym, or throw it in your backpack and take it hiking.

Or you can just attach it to your belt with the attached carabiner that also doubles as a bottle opener.

There’s more, though.  The Hydra Water Bottle also includes a 5 watt speaker, so you can listen to tunes via Bluetooth from your phone or other device.  It’s got a 400 mAh power reserve built in, so you can use it to charge other devices via the built in USB port.

The Hydra Water Bottle also includes a built-in microphone, so you can use it as a speakerphone for making calls from out in the wild.

That’s a lot of features to include in something that isn’t much bigger than a regular water bottle, but there are even more features in this thing.

hydra hydra water bottleIt has a light.  Actually, it has three lights.  One is a white light for general illumination.  Another is a red light for safety if you just want to alert people to your presence when you’re hiking or on your bike.  There’s also a light that cycles through the colors of the rainbow, just for the lulz.

And no, that’s not all.  There’s also a hidden chamber inside the Hydra Water bottle for storing your “valuables.”  I put that in quotes, because your valuables aren’t going to be all that safe if they’re stored away inside something that people can easily carry away if they get their hands on it.

Still, it’s a place to stash keys or loose change, and it will likely come in handy from time to time.

Finally, there’s a Nighttime Sleeper app that will let you use the Hydra to soothe yourself to sleep with the calming sounds of crickets, surf, rain or a bonfire.

I have to admit that when I first encountered this thing, I thought a Bluetooth enabled water bottle was just the latest in a long line of “Bluetooth devices that we don’t need.”  People are going a bit crazy to make things electronic that don’t really need to be.

In the case of the Hydra, we’re really talking about a wireless speaker that also happens to store water.  That’s not by any means a bad thing, and the whole shebang will set you back about $60 or so.

When I last checked, the Hydra was available in five different colors – black, blue, gray, orange and red.

You can find the Hydra Water Bottle at Amazon.

 

Smartphone Powered Paper Airplane

powerup 3.0Paper airplanes are fun, but they’re not fun for long.  You spend a lot of time designing them and folding them and making them look good and making sure that they’re aerodynamically sound, and then…

…you throw it in the air and it crashes about ten feet later.

That wasn’t much fun, was it?  That’s where the Powerup 3.0 powered paper airplane can make a huge difference.

The Powerup 3.0 is a device that attaches to a paper airplane and provides both a power source (a propeller) and a method of navigation ( a Bluetooth-enabled rudder) that allows you to actually fly a paper airplane, rather than just throw one.

When you buy the Powerup 3.0, you’ll get the power source, the app that controls it (compatible with most iPhone and Android models) and some templates to help you build some flying paper airplanes that actually fly.

After you fold your plane to perfection, you add the easily-attached power source, take it to a place where you’ve got room to stretch out, and let it fly.   A single ten minute charge will give you up to 20 minutes of flying time.  Range is about 60 feet, so you don’t want to get too far away from your plane or boat.

If you’re out of power, you can recharge it using a mini-USB cable.

The Powerup 3.0 originated as a Kickstarter project, and you never really know how those are going to go.  I’ve seen some terrific Kickstarter ideas flounder, and I’ve seen some lousy ones make fat bank.  The Powerup 3.0 did surprisingly well, and brought in more than $1.2 million in funding.

Now that it’s on the market, they’re branching out.  You can buy a pair of planes, sold as a “dogfight bundle.”  You can also buy a powered boat.

The company also sells accessories, including extra propellers and extra batteries, just in case you need extra power or need to repair a broken plan.

The basic Powerup 3.0 kit sell for about $50 and you can find it at Amazon and a number of other retailers.  I have to admit that this does not exactly fall under the “I gotta have that” category, but it’s still a pretty cool idea.  I’ve built a lot of paper airplanes over the years, but I haven’t built any lately.

The reason for that is that your typical paper airplane just isn’t a lot of fun, and unless you’re flying it indoors, you’re going to be at the mercy of the elements.  That’s not the case here, and unless you’re flying in a tornado, you should be able to have a fair amount of outdoor fun with the Powerup.

 

 

 

Want Your Own Star Trek Communicator?

star treck communicatorIf you’re even slightly geeky, chances are you’re a fan of the original series of Star Trek, or Star Trek: TOS as it’s often referred.  Sure, the 1960s series, with William Shatner as Captain Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock can come across as a bit campy these days, but it’s still a lot of fun to watch.

Part of the fun is to see what “futuristic” technology appeared in the show and to compare it to what we have now.  Unfortunately, we don’t yet have transporters, because that would be way too cool.  We don’t yet have warp drive, either, which means it can still take a long time to get across town.

I’m guessing that hand held phasers are also still a few years off.

What we do have, however, is hand held communications devices.  Granted, they weren’t overly visionary during the 1960s when they envisioned that we’d one day have hand held devices that let us talk to people but didn’t envision that we’d have devices that would let us do more.

But an iPhone just isn’t as cool as a Star Trek communicator, even if they did somewhat resemble the mostly-obsolete flip phones of a decade or so ago.  There’s a certain nostalgic coolness to seeing Kirk flip open his communicator and ask to be beamed up.

Now, you can do that yourself – sort of.  An officially licensed replica of the Star Trek communicator is now available, and it actually works.  Works, in the sense that you can use it to make phone calls.  It’s Bluetooth enabled, and it can connect with your mobile phone so you can make and receive calls, but do so in a bit more of a retro way.

bluetooth star trek communicatorThe device was laser-scanned from one of the last surviving props from the original show, and it’s been somewhat modernized.  It comes with its own recharging dock, to which it attaches via magnets.

It includes built-in sound effects from the original show, and includes a high quality foam lined transit case for carrying it around.  It also has a high quality speaker built in, so you can use it to play back music, which, as far as I know, is not something that the original show’s communicator was able to do.

Odd; you’d think they’d have included that feature in the 23rd century just as a matter of course.

It’s also USB rechargable, so you can take it wherever you need to go and keep it powered up.

It’s a nice looking replica, and if you’ve got friends who are fans of the original Star Trek show (and who doesn’t?) they’re going to be envious.

Unfortunately, when you ask someone on the other end to beam you up, nothing is likely to happen.  They’re still working on that technology.

The Star Trek communicator is available from a number of retailers, and sell for $150 or so.

I can’t say that this falls into the “must have” category, especially considering the price.  Still, it’s a fun toy for any geek and especially for anyone who likes sci-fi or the original show.

Live long and prosper.

 

Stylish Bluetooth Wireless Headphones from V-Moda

v-moda bluetoothIf you’re under 50, you’ve likely been listening to music through ear buds for a long time, probably for decades.  It’s a convenient way to listen, though there are some problems.

The sound quality is usually so-so, at best, and the wires are a nuisance.   Sure, you’ve been putting up with the wires for years, but as time goes on, more and more devices have been going wireless, so we’re having to deal with less of that as time goes on.

We’re finally seeing some wireless Bluetooth headphones, and while that’s welcome, a lot of them still don’t sound that great.    Sure, getting rid of the wires is nice, but can’t we have good sound, too?

V-Moda’s new Forza Metallo (Metal Force) Bluetooth headphones say they’re going to change all of that, offering good sound, wireless performance, and all in a form factor that they say is rugged enough to put up with the stresses that come with wearing them every day.

The earbuds are attached to an aircraft-grade aluminum frame that fits comfortably around your neck.  V-Moda says they’ve done thousands of ergonomic tests to come up with a sturdy yet comfortable design that won’t cause you fatigue even after you’ve been wearing them for hours.

The Bluetooth enabled units will work within 10 meters (33 feet) of the music source, so you can run about the room or workout without having to have your music source on your person.

v-moda forza metalloBattery life is about 10 hours on a full charge, but a quick 15 minute charge will give you an additional two hours of playing time.

What about the sound?  V-Moda has a reputation for making good quality products, and they’ve worked hard on the drivers for the Forza Metallo.

They say that the new 5.8 mm Hi-Res neodymium driver provides enhanced bass, vivid midranges and natural, stress-free high frequencies.  In addition, the Forza Metallo also has built-in noise cancellation circuitry, so you won’t have to make do with other headphones that offer good noise cancellation but terrible sound quality.

Forza Metallo was designed with workouts in mind, so they’ve been built to be resistant to sweat.  Moisture of any kind is a problem with electronics, and since these headphones were built to be worn while working out, the phones have been treated with what the company calls “special nanocoating technology.”

An attached 3 button remote makes it possible to control your music and incoming calls and the headphones are compatible with iPhone, Android and all Bluetooth-enabled audio devices.

The headphones also come with three different sets of detachable sport fins to give you the best fit and stability while working out.  The last thing you want from your headphones when you’re exercising is to have them fall off.

All of this performance and technology doesn’t come cheaply, unfortunately.  While you can spend a fortune on electronics these days, most people don’t want to spend big bucks on headphones, especially since such relatively small items are easily lost.

The Forza Metallo headphones start at a base price of $170 or so, and they’re available from the V-Moda Website.  You can also likely find them at a number of other retailers.

If you’ve been looking for a great looking set of wireless Bluetooth headphones that can also provide some decent sound, the V-Moda Forza Metallo might be worth taking the time to check out.

 

A Wireless, Web-Connected Bed?

These days, it seems as though pretty much everything has been connected to either the Web or a smartphone in one way or another.  In some cases, you have to wonder if the manufacturer really thought things through before they said, “Let’s make this Web-enabled!”

In other cases, it makes logical sense to connect a device to the Internet and in a lot of cases, it’s a take it or leave it proposition.

That’s sort of where I am on the idea of the It Bed, which is a bed that’s Web-enabled and controlled by your smartphone.    Found at Sleepnumber.com, the It Bed is designed to help you find out when you sleep best, how long you need to sleep, and at what temperature you prefer to be sleeping.

The It Bed can also connect to your fitness apps and devices, such as  Apple® Health, FITBIT®, Microsoft® Health, Withings Health Mate™, Nest Learning Thermostat™,,  and Map My Run™.

The idea behind this smart bed is that a lot of people sleep badly, but only because they can’t figure out what circumstances enable them to sleep well.  The It Bed makes that possible, as it has adjustable firmness and can also keep track of such metrics as your heart rate and your body temperature.

it bedIt’s all controlled by your smartphone, and it’s iPhone and Android compatible.  You install the app and register at the company’s Website.  Then you set up your account, lie down on the bed, and adjust the comfort level until you find a setting with which you’re happy.

After that, you just need to keep your phone handy while you sleep each night.  Over a few days, the It Bed will accumulate date based on your sleep patterns, your heart rate and temperature and assign a “sleep score” to you.  You’ll get suggestions for how to improve your score.

By connecting your apps to the It Bed software, you can also see how your active life and your sleep patterns interact with one another.

Not sleeping alone?  The It Bed has independently adjustable sides, so you and your partner can each find the settings that they like.  The bed has multiple chambers of air and foam that can adjust to the contours of your body.

Setup is easy; you just need to set up a flat, firm surface, remove the bed from the packaging, unroll it, and power it up.

As the bed is automatically adjustable, you’ll have to plug it into the wall using the included power supply.  It also needs to sit on a firm base, so beds with slats on the frame may not work.

Find your sleep score

If there’s one thing I didn’t like about the It Bed, it’s that you must use it with a smartphone.  It would be nice if it came with a Web-enabled remote, such as a small tablet, that could perform the function that a smartphone does.  While a lot of people own smartphones, not everyone does, and I’m not sure that people who don’t own a smartphone would be willing to go get one just to have a smart bed.   The app will work with Web-enabled tablets, too, but it would be nice if the company gave you an option to buy one with the bed.

The It Bed is available in Twin, Queen, King and California King sizes, and it’s a bit on the pricey side, though not overly expensive as mattresses go.  Twin models are about $800 and the king is about $1500 or so.  You can spend that much, or more, on a regular mattress.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, and lots of people do, then you might find that the It Bed is a wise investment.  If you’re getting proper rest, you’ll feel better, you’ll likely get more work done and you’ll probably enjoy life a bit more, too.

You can try the It Bed for 30 days with a no-hassle return policy, though they do charge $99 for returns.  On the other hand, they’ll ship it to you for free.

Sounds in the Shower With Moxie

Do you like to sing in the shower?  Take really, I mean, really long showers?  Or just want a portable speaker that will let you play music nearly anywhere?

You might want to take a look at the Moxie showerhead by Kohler.

moxie speaker showerheadI know what you’re thinking – “A showerhead?”  Yeah, it sounds strange.  But Kohler actually makes a showerhead that plays music, and it’s cooler than it sounds.

It won’t do you any good if you’re one of those people who is in and out of the shower in two minutes, but if you spend a lot of time there, or even a lot of time in the bathroom, you might find this device to be useful.

The Moxie Showerhead mounts in your shower  just like any other showerhead would, so if you have a wrench and some Teflon tape, you can install it in a couple of minutes.  Don’t forget the tape or you might find yourself with a leaky shower.

 

The showerhead has a cone-shaped depression in it, and the Moxie is a cone-shaped speaker with a magnetic fastener in it.  It just pops into the shower head and pulls right out so you can recharge it.

The Moxie is Bluetooth enabled, so you can stream music to it from any other Bluetooth source, such as a tablet or a smartphone.  It comes with a recharger, so you can just remove it from the shower and plug it in to recharge.

Volume is controlled from the device providing the music, so you’ll have to set that up on your phone.  You’ll get up to 7 hours of music on a charge.

As the Moxie speaker can be removed from the shower with a gentle tug, you can take it with you to use pretty much anywhere.  Kohler had this in mind when they designed it, so they made the speaker available in four different colors.  As I write, it’s available in Navy Blue, Chartreuse, Retro Blue, Cherry Red and Original White.

The Moxie is able to work at distances up to 32 feet from the music source, which gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of where you put either the speaker or the source.

How is the shower?  Not bad; it has 60 angled nozzles that spray water around the speaker, and you can use the head with or without the speaker in place.  Of course, I’m not sure why you would; having the speaker is sort of why you bought the showerhead in the first place, isn’t it?

wireless showerheadThe showerhead is also available in two different flow levels – 2.0 gallons per minute and 2.5 gallons per minute.  Oddly enough, the version with the lower flow actually costs about 20% more.  I don’t know why anyone would pay more to get less water, but then again, I’m one of those people who likes a lot of water out of his shower.

I realize that not everybody is going to need music in their shower, nor do they need a Bluetooth-enabled showerhead.  On the other hand, the Moxie is portable, works well, provides sufficient volume for most uses, and doesn’t scream “I’m a showerhead component!” when it’s sitting on  a table just playing music.

If you’re looking for a good portable speaker that can double by providing music in your shower, you might find the Kohler Moxie to be a pretty useful tool to have around your house or apartment.

You can find the Moxie at Amazon and a number of other retailers.