Friendly Swede iPad Stylus

Friendly Swede iPad Stylus
A Review

Friendly Swede iPad StylusThe Friendly Swede has really outdone himself with this 6-piece set of stylish, good-looking iPad / iPhone Stylus Pens. The Friendly Swede iPad Stylus comes in a colorful set of six. Many apps on tablets and smartphones simply work better with a stylus. The other day, I was at my local, OfficeMax store where I noticed they sold iPad Stylus pens for $19.95 each. This seemed rather expensive to me, even though I had never really bought or shopped for a stylus pen before. I decided to see if I could find something cheaper online and boy was I pleasantly surprised when I came across a 6-piece set of stylus pens from, The Friendly Swede. Until you’ve tried these stylish looking stylus pens, you’ll never know whether or not $9 bucks will get you something worthwhile. I decided to give them a try.

The Friendly Swede iPad Stylus

6-Piece Stylus Pens

I ordered this 6-piece style pen set from Amazon for just $8.99. These pens came to me with free shipping since I ordered another item and my total order with Amazon topped $50.00. For $9.00, I figured the pens must be pretty cheap, but as long as they worked I was okay taking a risk. Thanks to a big snow storm in Philadelphia my entire order was delayed by about 6 days, but that’s certainly not the fault of Amazon or the Friendly Swede. When I opened the small package of the 6 stylus pens, I was rather surprised by the professional appearance and packaging. These stylus pens even come with a connector and string that ties the pen into your headphone port to keep it attached to your device, as well as a micro-fiber cleaning cloth which does an excellent job removing smudges from your screen. The most surprising part about the 6-piece stylus set, however, is the quality and workmanship of the pens. These are very attractive pens that are very well made, weighted just right and feel really good in your hands.  They come in a set with 6 different colors: Blue, light blue, green, pink and purple. They look great, but, how well does the stylus work on my iPhone and iPad?

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Wireless Weather Station

Wireless Weather StationThis Wireless Weather Station replaced the broken atomic clock that was in my bathroom for several years. Named, Touch Weather, by Oregon Scientific, this particular wireless weather station was appealing to me for a couple of reasons: The picture on the box indicated a very bright, easy-to-read display and a small, attractive design. I really only wanted another atomic clock for getting ready for work in the mornings, but decided having a temperature gauge in the bathroom would be an equally good idea.  Let me give you my opinion the features and functions of this particular unit.

Touch Weather

Wireless Weather Station by Oregon Scientific

As the graphic on the box indicated, Touch Weather is a rather small, attractive unit with clear, easy-to-read, retro-like, LCD display.  The unit is named, Touch because you can switch between In-Door and Outdoor temps simply by touching the screen.  The first touch of the screen will illuminate the display. Touching it again will toggle you through the outdoor sensors, 1-3, then bring you to an indoor weather screen. Both indoor and outdoor weather includes both temperature and humidity displays. There is also, of course, a self-setting, atomic clock and date which can be viewed by touching the digital read-out. Other features of Touch Weather include a minimum/maximum temperature record of indoor/outdoor temperatures and an alarm.  Okay, so these features sound pretty good, but how well does the Touch Atomic clock actually work as a wireless weather station?

Touch Weather Clock Likes and Dislikes

Likes

The unit is attractive, small and takes up little room in the bathroom. The temperature readings have been very accurate thus far by comparison to my other wireless weather station in my den as well as the Weatherbug app. on my iPhone which uses a weather station just a couple of miles away. Having both indoor and outdoor humidity on such a small device is useful to me and it is easy to change between displays. The max/min temp/humidity is a good idea if actually worked. This brings me to my dislikes of the Touch wireless weather clock.

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Bluetooth Wireless Speaker

Best Bluetooth Speaker under 100

iHome Wireless SpeakerWhat is the best way to get wireless outdoor music on a tight budget? I recently had my outdoor deck replaced and unfortunately it meant having to rip out the outdoor, JVC speakers which were attached to my basement stereo and mounted to my outdoor deck facia. I neither had the time nor energy to re-wire the speakers to an antiquated, in-door stereo system. By the same token, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money for an expensive Bose, Wireless speaker system. I decided to make it my goal to find the best sounding wireless speaker/s I could find for under $100.00. This actually turned out to be a reasonably easy task. All of the department stores sell various wireless speakers which operate via bluetooth and/or iPhone/iPad docks and have demo buttons so you can listen to them. The secret for me was  to find one that delivers the best sound for under $100.
In addition to sound quality, the best solution is the easiest solution. Music already exists in our iTunes libraries and can be played from the computer or home stereo via Apple TV and AirPlay. Why not have a Bluetooth speaker for taking the music outside? Small speakers don’t produce as much sound as larger, more expensive ones, but really, how loudly can you play your music outside and still remain friends with your neighbors. I decided to check-out, reasonably priced, Bluetooth speakers for outdoors. I did some research and narrowed it down to these two choices:

Soundfreaq Sound Kick vs. iHome iBT4 Bluetooth Wireless Speaker

Soundfreaq Wireless SpeakerIt makes a great deal of sense to compare these two speakers for a couple of reasons: One, they both cost $99.00 each. Two, they both use the same, blue-tooth wireless technology to play music from a remote device like an iPhone, iPad or other blue-tooth device. The Soundfreaq was the first speaker that caught my eye due to the $99 price tag and glowing reviews from actual users. I read the box and played the demo which unfortunately, was limited to drum and rap beats and didn’t really give me a a good idea of how the unit would sound with my own kind of music. I was impressed with the volume, clarity of sound and high rating so I was all set to buy it. Then, just as I was about to walk out of the store, another unit caught my eye.

iHome iBTR Outdoor Boombox

The iHome iBTR looked like the type of equipment that was made for the outdoors. It also looks like some type of shortwave radio you might see from World War II, which actually makes it kind of adds to the ‘cool’ factor. It has a rugged, rubberized exterior with a handle – perfect for taking out by the pool. It also includes an FM radio with antennae which is something the Soundfreaq does not have. When I pushed the demo button, I thought the sounds coming out of the iHome had better bass and fuller, overall sound. Still, I was hesitant to choose it because it didn’t have quite the number of rave reviews as the Soundfreaq.  Still, I chose the iHome over the Soundfreaq and took it home.

Performance and Operation of the iHome Wireless Boombox

When I brought the iHome wireless bluetooth boombox home, I was a little confused at first because there were no instructions inside the box. On the other hand, there are only two dials and a button – it can’t be too hard to figure out, right?  In fact, nothing could be more intuitive if you’ve ever paired a Bluetooth device before. One dial chooses between radio and Bluetooth playback setting.  The other dial is for controlling the volume and the button in the middle is labeled, Pair for connecting to your Bluetooth device. I turned on my iPhone, went to the Bluetooth settings and pressed the Pair button until I was connected. It was as simple as that. I was playing Jack Johnson an instant later and it sounded reasonably well. At least as well as I would expect from a $99.00 speaker. I took the iHome out to the pool and it was plenty loud enough. I liked the handle and the radio antennae. It was very convenient. Yet, something kept telling me I needed try the Soundfreaq since it had such glowing reviews from users. Is it possible that I overlooked how well it sounded in the store?

Performance and Operation of the Soundfreaq Wireless Blue-tooth Speaker

I went back to Target and purchased the $99.o0 Soundfreaq with the intention of comparing it with the iHome and taking the inferior one back in its original packaging the next day. For some reason, I was really rooting for the Soundfreaq to win this contest. Perhaps that is due to the power of suggestion. I brought the Soundfreaq home much to the bewilderment and chagrin of my wife who was perfectly happy with the one we already had. Unlike the iHome, the Soundfreaq has no rubberized, outdoor-like exterior and lacks an FM radio antennae. It is considerably smaller and sleeker. Cosmetically, the two are complete opposites. Another thing that intrigued me is that the Soundfreaq is advertised as a stereo speaker. No where on the box does iHome’s $99.00 product advertise it as having stereo sound. But, beauty is in the ear of the listener. Both my wife and I listened to the two side-by-side and immediately preferred the deeper, fuller sound of the iHome Wireless Speaker. It took all but 45 seconds for me to turn them both off, wrap up the Soundfreaq and package it back inside of its box for a return trip to Target.

Conclusion of Best Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

The iHome iBT4 wins the contest for it’s rubberized, rugged exterior, carrying handle and FM radio output. Neither of these boomboxes are going to give you a great, mid-range, professional, stereo sound, but both of them will satisfy the typical needs for an outdoor, portable music system that works with your Bluetooth devices. I would recommend either of these units, but for my own taste, the iHome iBT4 was the better choice.

Differences Between $99.00 Soundfreaq Sound Kick vs iHome iBT4

Both of these units are under $100 and feature wireless playback from any Bluetooth device. Sound is similar based on your subjective opinion, but here are a few differences that might make or break your opinion.

  • The iHome has a carrying handle the Soundfreaq does not
  • The Soundfreaq has a sleek, slim design, the iHome is boxy and square (retro)
  • The Soundfreaq has a USB port for charging your iPhone or other USB devices – the iHome does not.
  • The iHome has an FM Radio with built-in Antenna, the Soundfreaq does not.
  • The iHome has both an auxiliary input and output, the Soundfreaq has only an input.
  • The Soundfreaq provides 7 hours of battery life compared to 6 hours for the iHome.  

In my estimation, the iHome has a much fuller sound and I like the convenience of the FM radio antennae. If you prefer a smaller form-factor and a USB port for charging your devices, you might lean towards the Soundfreaq. Both of these wireless speakers represent good value for the money.

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Logitech M325 Mouse

logitech-m325-review

The Logitech M325 is about one third the price of the Microsoft 5000 Laser mouse I bought 4 years ago. What I used to think was the best wireless mouse is now in my trash can. As I zip around Windows 7 and surf the web with the sleek, comfortable, well-made and cheap, Logitech M325, it is obvious that you don’t always get what you pay for with user interface products such as mice and keyboards.  The Microsoft Laser 5000 mouse was still working when I trashed it, but the scroll wheel became mushy, difficult to use and the entire unit often failed to track my movement. The Laser 5000 required a long cord and receiver that takes up space on the desk. The M325 has only a tiny USB plug.  There is much to be said for simplicity that goes unnoticed. Plug in the M325 adapter and in seconds, you’re up and running.

Operation of the Logitech M325 Mouse

Having put up with the mushy feel of the Microsoft Laser 5000, the M325 feels amazing – the wheel is solid, precise inspiring great confidence as you use it. I found the default movement to be a little fast for my tastes, so went into the control panel and adjusted the speed down a couple of notches. The M325 glides across either my wood-grain desk or mouse pad with ease – never losing track of my movements. I never liked the silly side buttons on the Laser 5000 because I was constantly inadvertently pressing them and causing strange behavior to occur with my screen. The M325 can reverse and go forward through web pages simply by pushing the wheel to the left or right. Keep in mind, the Logitech M325 Mouse M325 is not a laser mouse, it is a 2.4GHz radio controlled, optical mouse. Technically, this means the M325 may not be as precise or accurate, but you would never notice the difference. What you will notice is more reliable, smoother overall operation. The M325 is small and fits just right in my hand. The unifying receiver by Logitech will allow you to connect up to 6 different input devices. Unfortunately, it will not worth with bluetooth devices like the new, Logitech K810 keyboard I just purchased that will not work on my bluetooth-less PC. Logitech claims the M325 mouse will operating up to 18 months on a single battery. What they don’t say is whether or not that means the mouse has to be turned off each time it is not being used. While, the M325 works right out of the box, there are some advantages to installing the latest version of Logitech’s Setpoint software from their website.

Logitech M325 Mouse

Software Features

If here is only one reason to install the Logitech Setpoint software is because it will let you know how much battery life you have left. Should the mouse ever stop operating as it should, you won’t be left wondering if it’s the battery or the optical sensor is dirty or some other problem is inhibiting its operation. The SetpPoint software allows you 11 different pointer-speed settings, 4 acceleration choices, pointer trails and a Smart Move setting which I found to be quite useful for accurately finding your way around the screen. The scroll button can be set for 1, 3, 5 lines or entire screen. All buttons are programmable. Logitech’s SetPoint software also has an entire game-configuration screen and an advanced settings mode for configuring application-specific button assignments.  While the Logitech mouse software is not necessary for smooth operation of the M325, it is worth taking the time and drive space to download and install on your system, especially if you want to use other devices which use the unifying receiver.

Logitech M325 Review Conclusions

Best Wireless Mouse for the Money

For its smooth operation, quality-feel, good looks and low price tag, the M325 deserves 5 stars. I give it only 4.5 because there is always room for improvement. Perhaps Logitech might incorporate a bluetooth radio in their unifying receivers of future input products. The Logitech M325 also gets high marks for appearance and variety. You can choose between multiple colors and patterns. It is a very attractive mouse that outperforms other products costing 2, 3 and 4-times more.

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Is the iPhone 5 Worth It

Is the iPhone 5 Worth Buying?If you’re reading this, you probably already own an iPhone 3 or 4 and wondering is the iPhone 5 worth it over your older model. If you’re contact with your phone carrier is due for renewal, you can upgrade to an iPhone 5 for $199.00 and a small activation fee (usually $15 – $35 depending on whether or not you’re with Verizon, Sprint or AT&T). It has only been out three months, but is the iPhone 5 worth buying? I’ll be honest, I have become progressively less ‘wowed’ with each new iPhone upgrade since I originally purchased a 3GS about 4 years ago. Still, there are some notable differences that might make the iPhone 5 worth the $199 upgrade price:

Reasons to upgrade to the iPhone 5

  • Longer screen. More viewing area, especially when turned sideways
  • Lighter weight / thinner design
  • Higher resolution, 8MP Camera – Much better photos in poorly lit rooms
  • Faster processing: Up to 3 times faster than the 4S running certain applications
  • Much faster, new 4G / LTE networking bandwidth
  • Longer battery life (supposedly)

Next, I’ll explain whether or not the claimed improvements above really live up to their expectations. First, let’s go over some of the drawbacks of the new

Reasons not to upgrade to the iPhone 5

  • Lightening Connector – your old charging devices and docks are not compatible
  • Nothing earth-shattering or new about functions and operation
  • Longer screen makes the phone seem narrow and some apps don’t recognize the bottom of screen

Conclusion: Is the iPhone 5 Worth It?

The longer screen doesn’t get me too excited – in fact, it seems small and narrow. The iPhone 5 is thinner and lighter, but that lone, is not a huge deal for me ither. The higher resolution, 8MP camera, however, is significantly better than the camera on the iPhone 4 and the in door pictures look about as good as a nice, point and shoot digital camera. I’ve noticed very little difference in the speed of operation, despite the faster processor of the iPhone 5. The 4G / LTE network has not yet made much of a difference either, due to the limited coverage offered by providers. The longer battery life is a huge myth. Each of my new iPhone upgrades has had progressively worse batter life and the iPhone 5 is no exception. The bottom line is that if you want better pictures and support for better network speed,makes the iPhone 5 worth it while we wait a long time for the iPhone 6.

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