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Lantronix xPrintServer Home Edition (Review)

April 3, 2015 Comments off

xPrintServer Home Edition from LantronixxPrintServer Home Edition
Lantronix
$99.95

The xPrintServer Home Edition box reads, “iPad & iPhone Printing Made Easy. Print From All Your iOS Devices To Virtually Any Printer.” And Lantronix has adhered to ‘truthful advertising’ because the xPrintServer Home Edition (xPrintServer) does exactly that and it does so without any fancy setup or hassles. It couldn’t be any easier to do so, with the xPrintServer’s two-step process.

  • Connect the xPrintServer to power, your network, and printer.
  • Print from your iPad, iPhone, or computer.

In addition to printing from your iPad and iPhone, you can also print from Macs and Windows computers. However, Windows 8 seems to have a problem with Bonjour printing and my Mac mini works at first and then doesn’t print again. Windows 7, iPad, and iPhone work great with it.

xPrintServer Home vs. Office Comparison

I’ve used other print servers, from the small generic and inexpensive ones on up to the ones costing several hundred dollars and the Lantronix xPrintServer Home Edition falls into the category of an individual home use unit as advertised. I wouldn’t use it for a small business unless all of my employees used Windows 7 and iPads because it doesn’t seem to work consistently with Mac and I can’t get it to work with Windows 8.x at all.

That said, I’m not sure whether the failure to print is with the Lantronix unit , the Bonjour printing software, or perhaps with my somewhat outdated HP OfficeJet J3680 All-in-One printer. Since it does print with Windows 7 and our iPads, I have to assume it is the Bonjour printing software.

The xPrintServer takes up very little space. It has the approximate dimensions of an iPhone 5, but about two to three times the thickness. It does require its own AC power source, a network connection, and a USB connected printer plugged into it. So, while the unit is small, it still requires three wires for power and connectivity. That’s not a negative statement; just a fact.

The xPrintServer does what it’s supposed to do: print. For those systems it works with, it’s never failed or hesitated to work in any way.

Why it’s Frugal: The Lantronix xPrintServer Home Edition is a frugal solution for home users who need to print from a short list of supported devices to a single printer and have no other means to do so. The $99.95 price tag is a little off-putting, but still within the range of a home-oriented gadget.

Here’s how it works from an iPhone:

Open File for Printing

Lantronix 1: Open File for Printing

Share the File

Lantronix 2: Share the File

Select Print

Lantronix 3: Select Print

Printing the File

Lantronix 4: Tap Print to Send to Printer

Open an app. I’m using PlainText. In that app, select a document to print. See Lantronix 1.

Tap the Share button at the bottom center of the screen to see the options given in figure Lantronix 2.

Tap Print from the screen as shown in Lantronix 3.

Finally, be sure that your printer is listed and then tap Print to send the file to the printer.

Apple devices should find the printer automatically and display it for you. The printer might not appear immediately, but if you attempt to find the printer by running through these four steps and then try again in a minute or two, the printer should appear for you to use.

The Lantronix xPrintServer is a good device and performs flawlessly. It offloads print jobs quickly and never hesitates or loses a print job. The web interface is simple and intuitive to use–that is, if you ever need to use it, which you probably won’t. Just know that it’s there if you need it.

Overall, I like the xPrintServer. I just wish that support for Mac OS X and for Windows 8 was there, but again, I don’t think this is necessarily the Lantronix product’s fault. I think it’s with the Bonjour software.

Rating: 8.5/10

Recommendation: If you have Windows 7 and iOS devices, buy it; it works.

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Sengled Boost Reinvents the Light Bulb as a Wi-Fi Repeater

March 24, 2015 Comments off

SingledAtlanta, March 24, 2015 – Sengled, makers of intelligent lighting products that integrate consumer electronics with LED bulbs, today announced the release of the Sengled Boost, an LED light bulb with a built-in Wi-Fi signal repeater that can boost connectivity levels throughout the home. The first product of its kind offered at an affordable price, the Sengled Boost incorporates two antennas in each LED bulb, providing the connectivity levels users need to get a strong signal anywhere in the house and power devices throughout their connected homes.

“People typically have a single Wi-Fi transmitter in their home that provides a strong signal near the device, but signal performance diminishes the further you move away from the transmitter,” said Johnson Shen, CEO of Sengled. “That’s a problem if you’re connecting in other rooms to use smartphones, tablets, gaming or entertainment consoles or any of the popular new home automation products since the signal may be obstructed by walls or objects or the device may be too far away to get a strong signal. Sengled Boost fits in standard lighting fixtures, which is a perfect solution since fixtures are typically mounted overhead and free from obstructions.”

Sengled Boost not only strengthens Wi-Fi signals, it provides users with eco-friendly, energy efficient, long-lasting LED lighting that can be controlled from a free app via a smartphone or tablet. The app allows users to configure the Wi-Fi signal and control light levels. The Sengled Boost LED light bulb doesn’t have to be turned on to boost the Wi-Fi – the light can be dimmed or turned off while the Wi-Fi signal boost function continues, making Sengled Boost perfect for connecting devices in any room – day or night. Once configured, Sengled Boost saves the setup information so users don’t have to setup a new connection for each use.

Using Sengled Boost is a great way to de-clutter the home with a wireless Wi-Fi booster that enables users to seamlessly access a strong signal and maximize the value of the technology they use every day. And since Sengled Boost LED bulbs come in a variety of sizes to fit most light fixtures, they can wireless strengthen Wi-Fi signals in virtually any home.

Sengled Boost is another bright idea from Sengled, the company that reinvents the light bulb by combining it with the consumer electronics that make modern life better. To learn more about Sengled and Sengled Boost, please visit www.sengled.com.

About Sengled

Sengled is a global innovator in LED lighting, pioneering research and development that brings bright new ideas to smart lighting. By integrating consumer electronics with energy-saving LED bulbs, Sengled provides consumers with app controlled, intuitive, eco-friendly products that bring smart home capabilities to every room enhancing the connected home with technology for entertainment, utility and security.

Nyrius ARIES PRO Wireless HD Transmitter for Laptops (Review)

February 17, 2014 Comments off

ARIES PRO Wireless Transmitter for LaptopsARIES PRO Wireless HD Transmitter (NPCS550)
Nyrius
$249.99 Amazon (Prime)
Uncompressed streaming of 3D video at 1080p from computer to TV up to 160 feet away.

I didn’t know quite what to think of this product just from its description but once I saw it in action, I decided that I’m a Nyrius convert. I know it might sound funny to say it but I’ve wanted a product like this for a long time–at least for the past five years. The Nyrius ARIES PRO Wireless HDMI Transmitter for Laptops consists of a wireless transmitter that you insert into a laptop (or other computer) via its USB and HDMI interfaces and an HDMI receiver that connects to your TV’s HDMI interface. The receiver also plugs into a power outlet. And as if by magic, the two units connect and your computer’s screen is streamed to your TV. Seriously.

The reason that I’ve waited so long for this can be summed up in a single word: Netflix. Several years ago, we purchased a Netflix subscription from which we ordered physical DVD movies, three at a time, that were delivered to our home. After watching the movies, we returned them.

Well, as you know, Netflix started offering streaming movies via the Internet. We didn’t have a TV capable of receiving Netflix, so we had to opt for one or more of the following as options:

1. The Netflix Channel on our Nintendo Wii.
2. A laptop wired to our TV.
3. DVDs mailed to our house, which we also had to mail back.

None of those options were/are that great.

Nyrius ARIES PRO Receiver and TransmitterThe Nyrius ARIES PRO Wireless HD Transmitter (ARIES PRO) takes care of that problem. But the service doesn’t just stop at Netflix. I can stream anything to the TV that I have on my laptop, which includes movies, TV shows, computer applications, presentations, and even Skype conversations.

I used to have what was called a “TVator” that consisted of wires and hookups that worked very well back in the 1990s. It was very cool. A wireless setup would have been (And is) much better.

ARIES PRO Transmitter and ReceiverFor presentations, I’m not limited to where I am in a room. I don’t have to stand in some cumbersome place and have the people in the room shuffle around to see the screen. I’m totally out of the way. In fact, I don’t even have to be in the room. I could be at my desk giving the presentation to the conference room up to 160 feet away. That’s handy for when I need to record a presentation as well as present one at the same time. Being able to do it remotely cuts down on all of the ambient room noise: coughing, shuffling, random comments, etc.

Now, I understand that this product is meant for streaming TV, movies, and video games from your computer to a TV screen but come on, that’s way too limiting for someone who needs this product for less esoteric use.

What you get for $249.99:

  • Digital Wireless HD Transmitter
  • Digital Wireless HD Receiver
  • Velcro strips
  • External IR Receiver
  • Velcro Strips
  • 100-240V AC Power Adapter
  • 5 ft HDMI Cable
  • Right Angle HDMI Adapter
  • USB Power Cable
  • Female USB Adapter
  • 1 Year Warranty
  • Lifetime Live Customer Support

Why it’s frugal: The ARIES PRO product is frugal because of its flexibility as a streaming device. If you could only use it as a computer to TV connection for games and movies, it wouldn’t be frugal. But its extended use as a professional presentation tool makes it extremely frugal. You don’t have to buy anything else.

My favorite part of the product is that it just worked. I didn’t have to fuss or tweak anything. In fact, it shocked me that it was so easy to setup. Here are the setup steps from unboxing to video streaming:

  1. Unbox the product
  2. Plug in the HDMI cable and power connector to the TV receiver box (the larger one) and then connect that box to your TV and power.
  3. Change your TV channel to use the HDMI port that you plugged the receiver into.
  4. Connect the USB cable to the transmitter and then plug in the transmitter to your computer’s HDMI interface and into an open USB interface.
  5. The two units “find” each other and begin transmitting. If this doesn’t happen automatically, press the button on the transmitter once.

Everything that is now on your computer screen is mirrored on your TV. Magic.

There’s no software to install, no messing around in Control Panel, no calling your brother-in-law the computer expert to help you figure it out. It just works.

The downside of a product like this for home use is that now there are Roku boxes, Chromecast devices, and Apple TV, for streaming movies and TV shows that the need for such a device has diminished somewhat. However, the need for this service has exploded in businesses for training, presentations, software demonstrations, and collaboration. No conference room should be without one. And while $250 for a home setup is a little steep, it’s a great deal for businesses. I guess the old adage is true for the ARIES PRO–when one door closes, another one opens.

For quick, easy setup for conference room computer visualization, I haven’t seen anything better since the TVator. It’s a quality product at a great price point for business use.

Rating: 8/10

Recommendation: Buy it for your business but you probably don’t need it at home.

Diamond Multimedia Wireless Range Extender and Router WR300NR (Review)

August 11, 2013 Comments off

NR_2Wireless Extender and Router WR300NR
Wireless Router – Bridge – Repeater – Access Point
Diamond Multimedia
$49.99 Retail/$39.99 Amazon (Prime)
Product Spotlight Video

Diamond Multimedia offers a variety of wireless devices to extend your wireless networks, provide additional security to your wireless users, and to provide some advanced home networking features at a very low cost. The WR300NR (NR) is a sophisticated but inexpensive 4-in-1 wireless networking device. It can act as a router (default), a bridge, a wireless access point (hotspot), and a range extender. You can check out my review of a similar 3-in-1 product (range extender, bridge, wireless access point) from Diamond Multimedia–the WR300NSI Wireless Range Extender for comparison.

This review is not a comparison of the two products but rather a focus on the WR300NR’s router capability, which generally sets it apart from the WR300NSI.

The NR provides you with an extra layer of security as a router that you really need when using public Internet connections such as those in hotel rooms. You can read elsewhere about how non-secure public WiFi hotspots are. The NR protects you by adding a barrier or Firewall between you and the outside world.

NR_1Setup is easy with the NR.

To start, plug in the device into any standard electric socket. Use the included RJ-45 network cable to plug into the LAN side of the device and the other end into the network card (NIC) in your laptop or desktop computer.

Restart the computer that’s connected to the NR or disable/enable the NIC to refresh its connection so that the NR supplies your computer with an IP address.

Open your favorite Internet browser application (Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, etc.) and point it to http://192.168.10.253.

When prompted, enter admin for the username and admin for the password.

The initial screen opens for you. Note the navigation area on the left side of the screen. See Figure 1 for reference.

Figure1

Figure 1: WR300NR Main Setup Screen

Use the included instruction booklet and the Wizard selection from the web page’s navigation menu to setup your NR. Router is the default setting. Click NEXT to continue.

If you’re setting up the NR to be your Internet gateway, then you’ll need to refer to your Internet provider’s documentation to tell you what kind of connection you have so that you can set your NR’s router mode: Fixed or Static IP Address, Dynamically assigned IP Address (DHCP), or an ADSL dialup (PPoE).

You can also setup your SSID, channel (Auto is fine), and security mode (Disabled, WPA, WPA2, or WPA/WPA2 mixed). I suggest WPA2.

NOTE: Do NOT leave your router in Disabled mode (default). Always use security on your home network so that passersby, neighbors, and criminals can’t piggyback onto your connection and potentially get you into trouble by downloading or uploading illegal files or participating in other illegal behavior at your expense.

That’s all there is to it. Basically one step with a few subparts. Click SAVE & REBOOT to save your settings and reboot the device.

For advanced users, there are many tweaks and settings to alter. You can configure the Firewall to meet your needs, change the Wireless settings, and edit just about every possible parameter.

Don’t worry about messing up or configuring yourself out of the device completely, since you can always reset the device to factory defaults by pressing the RESET button with an ink pen located on one side of the NR. Remember that if you do this, all of your changes will be gone. You will also have to reconnect to the device as described above by pointing your browser to http://192.168.10.253 and using username admin and password admin to return to the configuration screen.

Also, you’ll want to change the username and password for your router from the default. You don’t want to leave it as admin/admin. To change the username and password, click Management in the navigation pane. Why do this? Because if someone attempts to hack into your network, the first username and password combination he’ll try is admin/admin.

Remember to change the username and password if you travel and have to reset the NR. For $40, you could always buy two: One for home and one for travel.

The NR is a very capable router and firewall. For the money, it might be the best I’ve seen. There are many devices in this group from which to choose but none as small (2.9 x 1.9 x 1.6 inches), as feature-filled, or as competitively priced as the WR300NR.

Why it’s frugal: You could spend more for a larger device with the same or similar features and pay a lot (2-3X) more but why would you when the NR has everything you need? For $40 and free shipping from Amazon (For Prime members), it doesn’t make sense to buy anything else.

Rating: 9/10

Recommendation: Buy it. Use it at home and take it with you on the road. 

Rocksteady XS 1.5 with Speakerphone: First Impressions

June 17, 2013 Comments off

RocksteadyXS 1.5 with Speakerphone - sideRocksteady XS 1.5 bluetooth portable speaker with Speakerphone.
Killer Concepts, LLC.
$89.99

Question: What has the exact dimensions of the Rocksteady XS portable bluetooth stereo speaker but with even more cool features?

Answer: The Rocksteady XS 1.5 with Speakerphone.

And if I told you that the new Rocksteady XS with Speakerphone has jawdropping sound, you’d have to believe me. After I paired the new XS with my iPhone 5, I turned on my music to test it for the first time. It was one of those “unboxing” experiences that I didn’t record with video. Thankfully so.  The queued song just happened to be a classic recording of Iron Butterfly‘s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” and the first few notes of the intro made me jump and I almost dropped my iPhone. Jawdropping (or phonedropping) is a good description of that experience. My heart was still pounding a few minutes later when the song switched to Flyleaf’s hard-hitting “All Around Me.”

My kids, who are all on summertime vampire slumber hours, all three hit my office door at the same time to find out what the heck was going on. When I showed them the new XS and the fact that I could receive phone calls on it, they all responded, “Cool.” They also looked as if I had just run over their iPhones in the process. (They obviously wanted me to tell them it was for one or more of them) I waved them away while I continued my play–, ahem, research with the new XS.

Ordinarily my kids and my wife all make fun of me and my tech gadgetry. When I showed my wife the Speakerphone feature of the new XS, she picked up the XS and started walking away with it. “Hey, I’m not done with that. I’m writing a review.”

She returned it to me albeit reluctantly. I also told her that the new XS isn’t exclusive to my phone or a single device anymore. You can bluetooth connect two devices simultaneously and, like my Nissan Cube, the new XS remembers the last four devices paired to it for easy connection later.

The new Rocksteady XS with Speakerphone’s other notable features:

Battery Life: >10 hours
Distortion Free > 85dB
Charge USB devices with the USB port
3.5mm Line in music playback
USB stick music playback
Bluetooth streaming music playback
Control music and phone from phone or XS
Bluetooth 3.0 and no pairing PIN
Tough all-aluminum case
Replaceable rechargeable Lithium ion batteries
Longer, higher quality cables (1m USB and 1.2m 3.5mm cable)

And one notable feature that they forgot to tell me about in the literature: Killer sound. Of course I understand that marketing people don’t use phrases like “freakin’ killer” or “blow you away” but wow, just wow. You have to hear it to believe it.

OK, what they did say about the sound quality is this: Proprietary air channels inside to augment the sound range and volume using patent pending air channeling and membrane technology.

Uh, yeah, that’s what I meant by “blow you away” quality. I just didn’t get all geeky with it.

The sound grabs you by the throat and pounds your head. That’s a better way of saying it. And it’s not just the volume, which is important but the clarity and quality of the sound is unreal. I’m glad I don’t understand the magic behind it because I like it. I’m no sound expert but the tone is excellent and I never got any distortion even at the highest setting.

The sheer volume and clarity on this little device is one that could quite possibly drive your neighbors crazy–and if you knew my neighbors, you’d know that’s a pretty short drive.

For the highest setting, I turned my phone’s volume all the way up and then tapped the XS volume + button several times to get the most from it.

Remember the days when party DJs used to bring all that crap with them? Well, frankly, unless you have a huge auditorium, you could start your own DJ business with a phone and two or three of these new XSs. The XS would be really cool for street musicians too who don’t want to lug around a bunch of sound equipment. If I were a street musician, I’d use two of them and I’d have all the attention–even in Las Vegas, where you’ll have street performer overload after a stroll on the strip.

I compared the sound on this little device to my expensive HD TV and there’s no comparison. (I’m going to figure out a way to play my TV through it and give you an update).

The whole point of any sound device is to give you a great listening experience. The Rocksteady XS with Speakerphone will do just that. You’ll be impressed.

But its other features make it a “must have” pairing with your phone or other bluetooth-capable audio devices.

A note about the speakerphone feature. The microphone is located near the Pause/Stop button on the top of the XS. Apparently it’s pretty sensitive because my wife who answered my phone with it was standing about six or more feet away after she pressed the Pause/Stop/Answer/Hangup button. We could both hear each other just fine through it. I think the capability to receive calls through the XS is my personal favorite feature. Well, other than the incredible sound quality, it’s my favorite feature.

The Rocksteady XS 1.5 with Speakerphone is a great value. It is a stand-out in its class and you’ll be happy with it. As of this writing, Amazon.com is out of stock on it, so that should tell you something. It tells me that you’ll be lucky to find one and you should grab it when you do.

My highest recommendation and highest rating: 10/10

In the, “Why is it Frugal?” category, the Rocksteady XS 1.5 with Speakerphone is frugal because it does everything you want it to. In other words, it is the single best device to pair with your phone that I’ve seen in a while. It is more than just a portable speaker, it’s a companion. It’s what you need and its features make it a bargain.

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