Sep 01 2016

LED Lantern is the Ultimate Portable Light Source

Powered by a bright LED light, this lantern is the perfect portable light source.

Powered by a bright LED light, this lantern is the perfect portable light source.

As a teenager, I have many memories of walking up a dark gravel road that led to our New Jersey summer home. Surrounded by the darkness of the night, not even the light of the moon could penetrate the large oak trees. At that time, the only source of light was a handheld flashlight. Note to former self: do not watch the horror classic “Halloween” before walking up Aniwa Road at night.

Fast forward to today, portable lighting has evolved over the years, especially in an era of alternative light sources and new technologies. I recently picked up the Mr Beams® UltraBright LED Lantern (Model MB470R) and was quite impressed with this portable lantern. Armed with a dedicated LED light that never needs to be replaced, this latest lantern provides sufficient light, making it the perfect companion during a camping trip or keeping the kids safe during the Halloween season. I also liked the contoured handle and the weight of the lantern, as it was really easy to carry around. With an emergency mode feature, it will automatically turn on if the power goes out – perfect solution in the case of a power outage. I’ve already found a home for this lantern, as it remains charged near my garage door, so it’s there when I need it. This is especially true since I live in an area that is prone to storms and power outages.

Charging on the Go
Another nice feature is a dedicated USB charging port, providing an alternative source for charging your cell phone or MP3 player. While writing this post, I was able to charge my iPad without any issues. It comes with a USB charging cord to charge the lantern and on a full charge, it can last up to 26 hours. As a wish list item, it would be cool if the lantern had built-in speakers, so that you could stream music from any portable player.

Here are some key features:

  • Lantern provides 260 lumens of light, covering up to 900 square feet of light
  • It operates on rechargeable li-ion rechargeable batteries, a lighter and more efficient feature
  • Power outage system can detect a power outage and automatically turn on when the power goes out
  • Two brightness settings (incl. night light mode) with a one hour auto shut off warning
  • Dedicated USB port (pictured below) to charge electronics, including cell phones and MP3 players
  • Removable top and hanging hook – just remove the top and hang it where needed (see image below)
  • LED Color: Neutral White (4000K)
  • Dimensions: 8” H x 4” W x 4” D (click here for image)
  • Weather Resistant: Tight seals and UV resistant material allow this lantern to work in all weather conditions
Lantern can charge USB powered devices, like my iPad Mini. You can also hang it with the built-in lift hook.

Lantern can charge USB powered devices, like my iPad Mini. It also can be hung with the built-in lift hook.

Overall, this lantern is a great solution for light on on the go, and I encourage you to give it a try and tell me what you think. Click here to learn more about it.


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Feb 26 2016

Experience 360 Video

When photospheres were first introduced, it opened the doors to a new interactive user experience, while becoming a standard feature with Google Maps. Working with a similar DNA to photospheres, 360 video takes it to the next level, as it offers the same level of interaction within a video. Viewers can pan and rotate, while watching the video from different angles. To illustrate with an example, check out this 360 video:

As you can see, the motion handle is located in the upper left hand corner. The video above was captured with the Samsung Gear 360 and the quality is actually pretty solid. With newer cameras on the market, it’s making it that much easier to pick up a decent camera under the $500 mark. In addition, YouTube’s decision to fully support 360 video enables site owners to embed a 360 video in just a few clicks.

For more information on uploading 360 videos, click here. It will be interesting to see how 360 video evolves over time, especially the level of interaction.

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Nov 07 2015

Real Time Assistant for Google Analytics

From day one, I have used Google Analytics, as it remains a powerful platform for site analysis. From conversion tracking to just getting a pulse on your site’s performance, it all works on all levels. This platform continues to evolve and their latest release of Google Tag Assistant Recording is the perfect companion for anyone with Google Analytics. As part of the Google Tag Assistant Chrome extension, this tool will help you validate your installation of Google Analytics as well as troubleshoot any related issues, with the ability to record activity on your site. In doing so, you can see how your site is captured in Google Analytics.

tag code

Click here to learn more about this platform.


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Sep 01 2015

“They are inventing the future, and for them it’s just child’s play.”

A recent article in The Register piqued my interest as it hit several key points, especially around the essence of trial and error and enabling kids to be the problem solvers.

When the Raspberry Pi first hit the market, it changed the whole landscape of programming and served as a way for anyone to create new projects out of necessity and innovation. In some respects, it’s like a throwback to my Radio Shack days when anything was possible. However, the Pi is less about getting a LED to light up or moving a plastic wheel 10 feet, as it’s more about building and solving problems, while putting the imagination of kids into high gear.

raspberry_pi_official_caseThe article profiled an 11-year old girl who managed to turn her Pi into a monitoring a communication device, enabling her to check-in on her grandfather. According to the girl, “Grandpa is getting pretty old. Out there all alone on that farm, he has no one to look in on him, just to see if he’s ok. He’ll use the landline, but he’s beyond of the range of mobile, and he’s never been really great with computers. No Skype or emails. Grandpa does have internet. So I built this for him.”

The girl points down to a small box with a few wires coming out.

“I can bring up a web browser, and take photos inside grandpa’s house. Has he moved his coffee cup today? Is the telly on? At least then we’ll know he’s okay. And I can even type messages” – she changes focus to a textbox inside a web form – “that show up on top. We used ImageMagick for that part…here, you can see it in our code.”

Working with a very limited knowledge of code and many hours of trial and error testing, this 11-year old girl not only mastered the platform, but she found a lasting solution to a problem. With many resources at hand, including Google and Stack OverFlow, this was not a difficult challenge.

In some respects, the Raspberry Pi has opened this whole new world to solving problems – all with the spirit of innovation and collective learning. Ultimately, this approach has given kids the opportunity to transform ideas into solutions. To the article’s point, “they are inventing the future, and for them, it’s just child’s play.”

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Jul 19 2015

TrackR Bravo: In Search of the Right Tracking Device

Where’s my wallet? Where are my keys? These are all questions that have surfaced at some point in your life. For some, it’s a matter of checking underneath the sofa or coat pocket, while for others, they are left scrambling around the house, looking for that lost item. That has all changed.

Initially launched as an Indiegogo project last year, the TrackR Bravo is a small coin-sized Bluetooth-enabled device that can easily be attached to almost any item, so that it can be located using the TrackR app. For me, I put one in my wallet, and it was a great fit as it did not take up too much space and was easy to pair and configure on my iPhone. I also put one on my keychain, and have already used it a couple of times to locate them. This latest device in the TrackR series is small enough to fit anywhere, yet a great solution for finding misplaced items. They also offer waterproof-based cases, so that you can use them outdoors, as well as on your pet’s collar. Powered by Bluetooth 4.0 technology, the TrackR Bravo has a 100-foot range and works with the free mobile TrackR app. Once activated, you simply add the device by pairing it with your mobile phone. It can support up to 10 devices and the Bravo emits a pinging sound to track the lost item. It also has an interactive map display of the location of the item.

Given the fact that it’s working with a limited range, it’s best suited for finding a lost item in your home, where the roaming is limited to a confined space. It does display the last known location of the device, and I would recommend enabling the feature to alert you if the TrackR Bravo and your iPhone become separated. TrackR also has a Crowd GPS network, enabling you to locate items outside of the Bluetooth range, as it can tap into other users with the TrackR app installed.

Overall, it’s not a bad product, but I still think they have to look for a way to extend the range of the device, as it does rely on Bluetooth technology, which has some limitations. In addition, the pinging sound is barely audible, so the map locator is a better way to track down that lost item. I also tested Amazon Tile and although similar, it does NOT have a replaceable battery, making the TrackR the better option, as it uses a small CR1616 battery.

To learn more about the TrackR device, visit, and if you use the promo code “trackr10”, you will receive a $10 discount from the price.

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Jul 07 2015

Freedcamp: A Solid Alternative to Basecamp for Project Management

Several years ago, I started using Basecamp, a popular project management tool for keeping track of projects, while supporting group collaboration. At the time, their free version offered the essential components for project management.

However, when Basecamp shifted away from their bare-bones free version, I started to explore alternatives and Freedcamp was a great discovery. Yes, the name is a tongue and cheek stab at Basecamp, but it offers comparable features with a free price tag. In my opinion, Freedcamp is the best alternative out there with a clean interface, and many options to manage projects.

Similar to Basecamp, Freedcamp has the same structure of assigning milestones with associated tasks. Notification options include both email and mobile text messaging, making it a great way to keep team members informed of activity. So, when you assign a task or benchmark to a user, they will receive a notification. I also like the full integration with Google calendar as well as the full suite of plugin applications, like the time tracker. You can also toggle many different views, including their sticky note display option. Even the drag and drop interface makes it that much easier to delegate and change statuses of tasks.


Is it really free?

Yes, but like most free applications, Freedcamp made some cutbacks in certain areas, including storage. The basic standard package comes with 200MB (formerly 20MB – updated 7/13/15) of space, with options to upgrade for additional storage. So, if you need more space for files, it’s only $2.49/month for an additional 1GB of storage – well worth the upgrade.

Although a little long, this video highlights the core features of the application:

As an added value, their premium product is free to non-profits, teachers and students. Click here for blog post with details.

I encourage you to try it out, and I think you will find that Freedcamp is a solid alternative to Basecamp with a nice range of features and options. Let’s hope they stay true to their name and remain free.

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Jun 20 2015

The Essence of Good Storytelling on Mobile

I love this quote: “Mobile is not about being quicker, but simply better.” It was was pulled from a recently discovered video that was powered by Google’s Unskippable Labs, which features Google’s latest series of experiments around mobile video advertising.

Basically, they took Mountain Dew’s Kickstart “Come Alive” commercial and cut it three ways, including a long form commercial on mobile. In doing so, they were able to measure the impact, especially around viewer retention and engagement. From that study, they were able to really see how storytelling changes on mobile, and as you will see in the final report, users were actually more engaged with the longer form commercial on their mobile device. Click here to view the whole study with additional details.

Mobile is not about being quicker, but simply better.”

In an era of quick cuts and appealing to short attention spans, it was refreshing to see this perspective of the value in telling a good story – even on a mobile screen.

The Future of User-Generated Advertising
This leads to additional thought about the future of mobile advertising, and how consumers will engage with a brand. Especially with Gen Z on the front lines of the digital space, it would be interesting to see how they respond to this storytelling treatment over time. I like how the video makes the distinction that ads need to appeal to people, not consumers. Given that, I think commercials will eventually evolve into a user-generated model of personal storytelling, in which the viewer becomes the actor, director and the true messenger. It will be in their voice, supporting the brand and/or product. Whether it’s through a user-generated, feed-based engine or community-based platform, it will happen. Ultimately, that will represent a new era for user-generated advertising across all platforms – starting with mobile.

Feel free to share your thoughts (or good stories). 🙂

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May 15 2015

Countdown to Facebook’s New Likebox Social Widget

Commonly seen on blogs and commercial sites, the Facebook Like Box is a feed-based widget that enables site owners to feature posts from their Facebook page onto their site. Easy to implement and a great way to build traffic to your site and awareness of your Facebook page, this widget is ideal for any site owner. Given the new release of the Graph API (v2.3), the new Like Box plugin will go into effect as of June 23, 2015. This means the old Like Box widget will stop working after this date.

This is what the new widget looks like:

What’s different about it?

The new one works with responsive, fluid and static layouts, so it will scale according to the layout and device. Like the original one, you can customize the display, so that it displays followers, post images, header image and more. In contrast to the current Like Box, the width of the widget can NOT be adjusted, so if you have it in a sidebar, make sure that you have the bare minimum width of 280px. Another thing to keep in mind is the widget has a dedicated tag for blockquote, so if you are using the same style name in your stylesheet, it will render the widget as a blockquote. The solution is simple – either rename your style for blockquotes or add the javascript embed code in your theme. Again, the deadline is June 25, so if you have the original widget on your site, make sure you update it before this cutoff date.

For more details and customization options for this plugin, follow this link:

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Apr 13 2015

New Ways to Use Your iPod Classic

Last year, Apple made the decision to discontinue the iconic iPod Classic line, mainly due to the lack of demand, as well as the associated production costs to keep this player on the shipod_originalelves at retail stores. It was a logical progression, especially since the iPhone has become the all-in-one media solution – all with newer features and a slimmer design.

Given all that, I’m sure most of you have an iPod Classic sitting on a shelf or tucked in a drawer with a tangled pair of earbuds somewhere in your home. I recently found my 80GB iPod Classic, and it was a like discovering a time capsule of music. From artists that ranged from Miles Davis, Tito Puente to John Coltrane and Counting Crows (remember them?).  While that music is still all good, many thoughts came to mind of ways to use this iPod. I also got a new car, so the timing to resurrect this old iPod was perfect.

Here’s my short list of some options for your iPod Classic: 

iPod Classic can be paired with the uConnect system. You can also stream music from other media services.

1) Get Mobile: Most cars have the ability to pair all media players, including the iPod Classic, making it a great solution for storing music and playing your favorite tunes on the go. The uConnect system has a great user interface for managing your music library. Another big plus with the iPod is the capacity, so even a 80GB model can hold over 13,000 tunes, providing much music on the open highway.

2) Back it up / Music on the Go: You can use the iPod Classic as a swap or backup drive for your music collection, serving as a good way to have a backup of your tunes on the go.

3) Hook it Up: You can also use the iPod Classic as a solution to play your favorite tunes on your sound system. Most systems support the ability to dock or mount an iPod Classic or you can simply just hook it up via the headphones jack with a simple adapter.

4) Photo / Video Swap Drive:  Along the lines of backing up music (#2), you can also use it to offload photos and videos to your iPod with Media Reader, making it a great swap drive for storing additional media.

5) Video: Granted, the screen is quite small, but it could provide a little dose of entertainment for the kids, as it supports video. This is especially true given the storage capacity and you can optimize the movies for that screen size (320 x 240 px is a good starting point).

6) See the Light: For those who use their iPhone to find those missing keys in the dark, there is another solution with the iPod Classic. Similar to the Flashlight app, Griffin’s iBeam can be used as flashlight or even as a laser pointer (great for presentations).

I’m sure there are other methods and uses for the iPod Classic, so feel free to share your tips or suggestions.

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Jan 15 2015

Arthur C. Clarke Predicted the Internet in 1974

By nature, Science Fiction writers have always been ahead of the curve, casting predictions of the future and life in modern society. Famed author, Arthur C. Clarke was no exception with his bold predictions and his vision of the future. On the heels of his classic novel “2001: Space Odyssey” he conducted an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and predicted that every household by the year 2001 would have a computer with full connectivity to other computers around the world. In essence, he was predicting the Internet and the home computer, as well as the impact on society.

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Jun 24 2014

Every Photosphere Tells a Good Story

Heard of photospheres? While the term may be new to you, you’ve probably seen them in Google Street views. They are basically 360 degree views, comprised of images that are stitched together (known as “photostitching”) enabling users to freely look up, down and all around to view the entire scene. Ideal for outdoor captures, photospheres have changed the way we interact with images, while giving the user a full digital immersion into the scene. For the past few months, I have been capturing photospheres using my HTC One phone, and I compiled some key tips to keep in mind while doing them:

1) Get the right app: there are many Android-based mobile apps out there to capture photospheres, and it really comes to trying them out to find the one that meets your needs. I have found the Google Camera app to be the best one to use.

2) Know your position / Keep it vertical: photospheres are best when captured outside, and you have at least a 30-foot diameter around your body. That is why most of them are of large land masses, such as beaches, canyons and open fields. Also, keep the camera steady and close to your body and I found keeping the camera vertical works best.

3) Rotating: All apps capture each photo stitch in blocks, requiring you to rotate the camera slowly. Keep a steady hand and follow the screen prompts (usually dots) to capture them.

During a recent work-related trip to Quito, Ecuador, I captured several photospheres, including this one of a community garden. I really love this one as it highlights the many greens in the garden. Check it out:

Once your photosphere is done, you can submit it to Google Views. From there, you can embed them on your site with the provided embed code and the process is similar to embedding a YouTube video. For more details on the submission process, follow this link:

For info on how to create and use photospheres, panorama metadata and other details of particular interest to developers, visit the Google Developers Photo Sphere site. In addition, this video is a good introduction to capturing photospheres.

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