Posts tagged gadgets

How to make your old car smart

Today’s new cars are available with enough technology to keep you travelling at the right speed, in your lane and awake for the journey.

However, your 2002 Audi or GM might look sleek but seem long in the tooth without the ability topark autonomously and create Wi-Fi hotspots.

Fortunately, there are ways to make your old car smart without having to get dirty under the hood.

Dash uses a car's on-board diagnostics port to communicate vital vehicle information back to a driver's smartphone

Dash uses a car’s on-board diagnostics port to communicate vital vehicle information back to a driver’s smartphone

Almost all cars built since 1996 have something called an on-board diagnostic port, or more technically speaking, an OBD-II port.

It’s this portal that lets you turn your old ride into a more modern, Internet-connected machine.

Most drivers probably don’t even know what an OBD-II port is, much less know where it is. Hint: look at the bottom of your dashboard, probably in the bottom-left corner by your hood release lever.

When dealerships say they’re going to “scan your car” for problems after you report seeing a dreaded “Check Engine” light, they plug their garage’s computer or tablet to the OBD-II to see what’s wrong with your car.

It’s this port that gives you a window to your vehicle’s soul. All drivers need is an OBD-II port reader and a smartphone.

Get connected

Lemur’s BlueDriver is a simple, basic option that costs about $100.

The dongle, about the size of your key fob, plugs into the OBD-II port and then links up with your phone over a Bluetooth connection.

Drivers and passengers are able to see real-time data from the car, including engine load, emissions information, fuel consumption, etc.

The BlueDriver can also identify and decipher error codes, suggesting possible solutions to a variety of problems. Perhaps that pesky “Check Engine” light is due to a bad oxygen sensor.

While most dealerships may still want to perform their own diagnostics, drivers can still head to the shop with a good idea of what’s wrong under the hood.

Get smarter

Mojio is a niftier OBD-II gadget from a Vancouver-based company. But unlike BlueDriver (and similar competitors), this one is more advanced.

It relies on an always-active 3G Internet connection to transmit your vehicle and driving information back to the cloud — and the driver.

mojio

From hard acceleration to unnecessary breaking, Moijo is designed to provide drivers with more than just raw numbers.

Error codes will prompt mobile alerts, while the analytics platform will help drivers see why their fuel-sipping car is blowing through tanks of gas.

However, the steady Internet connection requires a subscription ($4.99/month) so the Mojio won’t be constantly communicating with the driver’s cellphone over a battery-draining Bluetooth connection.

Drivers not wanting to pay a monthly subscription can also consider the Dash or Automatic OBD-II port devices.

Recipes for automation

Ok, you can’t program your old jalopy to drive itself just yet. But the cloud can help make your time behind the wheel more efficient.

Recipes available on IFTT (If This, Then That) can trigger events in your digital ecosystem based on where you drive, how you drive, or what you need to do while driving.

For example, Mojio drivers can receive a mobile alert if their battery runs low. Automatic drivers can prompt their car to turn on their house lights when they get home. Dash can send a tweet to let your followers know you’re on the road and not reading their 140-character posts.

And should your dashboard’s error display light up like a Christmas tree, Automatic can send those error codes to your mechanic via email before you’ve even had a chance to open the owner’s manual.

Apple isn’t cool anymore: teens

Apple has been in the news lately, and not necessarily because it’s selling new and vastly innovative products. And now the results of a new survey suggest Apple’s cool factor is fading.

Actually, it seems as though the company is making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

A report in the Wall Street Journal tossed cold water on Apple’s hot stock price by suggesting that the tech giant was cutting orders for parts used in its iPhones due to less demand for the device.

Sources told the WSJ that orders for the screens that go in the latest iPhone declined to about half what they had planned for, although at least one analyst says that wasn’t reason to panick.

Wall Street is taking notice, however. Apple’s stock price has dropped by 28 per cent since it hit a high of $702.10 back in February 2012.

And now the ultimate barometer of what’s cool is turning on Apple.

Research from the Buzz Marketing Group suggests teens don’t think Apple is cool anymore. Instead, they have their eyes on Samsung’s Galaxy SIII and the Microsoft Surface tablet.

Picked your jaw off the floor? Continue reading…

 

Maurice Cacho reviews the Turtleshell Outdoor Boombox

If you want to listen to your tunes on-the-go, check out the Turtle shell Outdoor Boombox.

It connects to your smartphone or audio device using Bluetooth. Use it as a speaker, or take advantage of the built-in microphone to use the device as a audio conference speaker.

A rechargeable battery also means you can take your music with you wherever you go.

It’s more than 90 decibels loud so here is a Maurice Cacho top tip: If you don’t want to be attacked by a bear, don’t have this running at full blast!

Watch my review here

Tech I travel with – what’s in my bag?

Laptop, tablet, headphones and smartphones for travel.

Laptop, tablet, headphones and smartphones that are good for travel.

As a big gadget guy, it’s tough for me to leave home without my toys. So what do I bring with me when I travel? And how do I pack light?

Laptop:

You’ll see I pack my Ferrari-red Lenovo Thinkpad x100e. With an 11-inch screen, it’s not the biggest of laptops. But with a keyboard and a 64-bit processor under the hood, it’s a smart laptop that works for me. Other than the awesome colour, the keypad features the classic IBM eraser head-style mouse in the middle of a well-sized keyboard – making it great to type and navigate windows with.

The battery charge is enough to get me across Canada. When it’s not on, I use it’s active power USB port to charge up my next gadget.

Note: The Thinkpad has since been replaced with a Microsoft Windows 8 based Lenovo Yoga, which is yet to make its maiden voyage. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Tablet:

I love reading magazines on long flights for two reasons: it’s usually the only time I’ll read, and reading sometimes puts me to sleep (I can’t nap while travelling). The full-size Apple iPad gets the job done for all the right reasons.

It also doubles as a handy device to get caught up on news and email when I’m away from home – and I can find good places to go see (and eat) without having to wait for my laptop to boot up.

I recently took the smaller iPad mini with me on a trip. While the smaller size meant I could break it out while waiting in lines and stash it in a small carry-on bag, the non-Retina display didn’t make it very comfortable for reading.

Headphones:

I used to bring my biggest headphones and blast the music to drown out the drone of jet engines. Then I discovered noise-cancelling headphones.

The sound from my Sennheiser cans sound great – and the noise-cancelling function dramatically cuts down the steady racket of air travel. When it’s time to land, they fold up into a small and stashable carrying case that keeps them protected.

Sunglasses:

It’s important to see the world in all it’s glory -whether you’re out on a patio or carving down the slopes. They’re not the most stylish sunglasses, but my Adidas sport sunglasses do the trick. The polarized lenses also help cut out glare and pump up the colours.

What else?

You might see there’s an LG phone in there. I’m often testing out gadgets, so there’s a good chance I’ll put one to the ultimate test when I’m away from home. Did I mention I really love the LG Optimus G? Ok, there you go. Quad-core power is awesome.

 

Toyota to put wireless phone chargers in cars

Toyota is going to have a feature in one of its new models that will let you wirelessly charge your phone while you drive.

The 2013 Toyota Avalon, when equipped with the technology package, will have a charging mat in the cabin, according to a BBC report.

All the driver (or passenger) will need to do is leave their smartphone on the mat and let it charge.

This saves you from having to fumble around for a charging cord – or battle over the cigarette adaptor socket.

The feature isn’t cheap, however. It’s bundled in the $1,950 “technology package.”

And don’t expect that feature to work with all phones right away. Toyota says it’s only compatible with handsets that use the Qi standard (pronounced chee).

Read more

Nest thermostat now sold in Canadian stores

The neat Nest thermostat is now available in several major Canadian retail outlets, the company announced this week.

Nest is a smart thermostat that is connected to the Internet to help you save as much money as possible on your energy bills.

Previously, you could only order Nest online. Not that anything’s wrong with that, but you can now touch and feel it in person before you buy it at a couple of home improvement outlets.

The smart thermostat is now available at Home Depot, Lowe’s.

What makes the Nest so special is that it runs software designed to cut down on your energy bills and make sure you’re comfortable at the same time.

It learns a temperature schedule so that your home is at just the right temperature when you want it to be. The Nest also uses a motion sensor to determine when you’re not home, going into power saving mode at just the right time.

I had the chance to try out the Nest – and it cut my electrical usage during the peak summer months by as much as 50 per cent, compared to a non-programmable thermostat.

The Nest was also pretty easy to install.

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