Category Archives: Gadgets

How to Control a PC or Game Console with a Single Remote

This is a Sponsored guest post written by Matt Ryan on behalf of Lenovo for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% the writer’s own.

Lenovo is known the world over as one of the leading PC manufacturers out there. From nettop systems to high-end servers, Lenovo has a firm grasp on the PC market. But did you know that Lenovo also makes some of the most innovative accessories on the market?

A couple of years ago, I was working in a studio where multiple smaller systems were needed to power various screens located on set. These systems needed to be extremely quiet, small, and powerful enough to play video at 1080p. We decided on the Lenovo Q150, a handy little Atom-powered system capable of handling just about anything we threw at it. We were even able to use one as a backup live video streaming solution.

Despite being great little systems, one accessory in particular caught my attention. The Lenovo Enhanced Multimedia Remote with keyboard allowed us to control various systems in an adjoining room from a device that weighed practically nothing and fit in one hand. These remotes allowed us the capability of solving issues in the studio without breaching the sound-proofed room or distracting the host to do so. In short, they were probably one of the most appreciated gadgets we’d come across, and they came with the computer.

Fast forward a couple of years. Lenovo has taken into consideration all the feedback it received from its users and created something even better. The N5902 is the next generation, and it has a number of remarkable improvements on what was already a useful device.

What is the Lenovo N5902 Multimedia Remote with Keyboard?

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Simply put, the N5902 is a second-generation all-in one remote that extends your ability to control your PC or arcade game console without having to rely on a flat surface, bulky keyboard, or clutter-inducing cables to do so. Your keyboard and mouse are both infused in a single handheld controller that can be used from 30 feet away. A small (very small) USB receiver plugs into your PC, PS3, Xbox, or Wii, and starts working as soon as you turn it in.

In fact, this little device works natively on Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7. I even got it to work on my wife’s Mac mini, though keep in mind that it’s a Windows keyboard natively, so some key bindings may be different.

The mouse component of the N5902 is a combination of a ribbed scroll bar and a tiny optical touch pad that you move your finger across to control the cursor. A left and right button set is placed under the keyboard component to allow you more functionality.

How Well Does it Work, Really?

First, this is not intended to replace your keyboard and mouse on a primary machine. You’re not going to enjoy this product if you use it to browse the Web all day or attempt to accomplish a day’s worth of tasks. The Lenovo N5902 shines most when using on a media center PC or game console. It’s intended to give you a quick and easy keyboard with full functionality (including a dedicated Ctrl+Alt+Del key) to allow you to check the Web, navigate Windows, and get those quick and dirty functions done without having to reach for a bulky keyboard and mouse combination.

Using the Lenovo 5902 is fairly natural. My wife, who is a much pickier user than I am, was able to pick up on it and start using it almost immediately. It took a moment to adjust to the way the cursor control worked, though after a minute or two, it’s a fairly natural control mechanism. You can opt to click the touch button or the dedicated left-click button to select an on-screen window or option.

The backlit keys are a big help in a dark media room. With the lights totally out, navigating the Lenovo N5902 was easy and intuitive. For any multimedia PC controller to be worth the price of admission these days, backlit keys are a must. This begs the question of why so many manufacturers that deal in multimedia controllers and remotes don’t add this feature on their hardware.

What Can I Use it With?

The drivers the N5902 uses are native to Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7. You can also use it on the PS3, Wii, and Xbox without having to deal with any setup hassle. While it isn’t built for the Mac, it worked just fine after I set it up through the setup process in OS X.

The entire time of setup on Windows is literally a few seconds. All it needs to do is identify the keyboard (which can be pretty instant on most machines) and activate it. Once that’s done, you’re ready to start controlling your PC from across the room.

Final Thoughts

I’m a huge fan of this little gadget, and not just for its multimedia applications. The media keys available along the top of the built-in keyboard make it easy to control media players from across the room. When I’m cleaning the hoboken apartment, this little device can go around the house with me, making switching between songs or pausing a movie as easy as hitting a single key.

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Between you and me, I’ve even used it to play a practical joke on the missus from the other room. This is a fun little gadget, and one that can be used in a variety of settings from professional to casual and all points in-between. Professionals will love the sleek look and seamless integration, home users will appreciate its space-saving profile, and geeks will love its ability to connect you with your PC from across the room. In my mind, that’s a win-win.

You can find the N5902 at your favorite electronics retailer at a suggested retail price of $79.99.

Want One?

We’re giving away one of Lenovo’s Enhanced Multimedia Remotes! The only qualification is that you must leave a comment on this blog post sharing why you want it. Pretty simple, eh? You know what to do. We’ll be selecting the recipient at random within a few weeks.

How to Rough It with Technology

This is a sponsored post written on behalf of Samsung; the opinions represented are 100% my own.

Being away from the warm glow of your computer’s monitor is typically considered roughing it for some geeks. A night without some time in front of the computer can feel a lot like camping. So, how do you stay connected when venturing out into the wild world, far away from the comfort of your desk?

A recent video released by Samsung demonstrates how you can enjoy the many conveniences of a larger desktop computer with a device as light and compact as the new Galaxy Tab 10.1. Online shopping, staying in touch with friends and loved ones, playing games, and even checking your stocks are all made possible without the need of a bulky laptop or desktop computer.

The new Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is pretty impressive. Both thinner and lighter than the iPad 2, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 takes full advantage of everything Android (3.1 Honeycomb) has to offer. This boost to mobility doesn’t come with a sacrifice in screen real estate either; the 10.1″ WXGA display offers a full 1280 x 800 pixels, making it both spacious and detailed.

How to Rough It with TechnologyThe UI has also undergone some refurbishment from previous versions of the Galaxy Tab series. For example, Live panel gives users quick access to their favorite apps and features from the home screen. In addition, mini apps can be applied that give basic functionality to the user without the hassle of having to launch a full-fledged application. Couple that with some impressive browsing and media management tools, and you’ve got a solid tablet that’s easy to travel with.

Thanks to 3G and 4G technology now being made available built-in with tablets, such as the Galaxy Tab 10.1 from Samsung, you can essentially carry all of your computing needs in a single device that takes up less space than a small textbook without having to be tethered down to a local network.

With a larger screen and more processing power than even the most powerful smartphones, having a tablet with you can certainly alleviate many of the discomforts of being away from your desk, even if you aren’t roughing it deep in the woods or working on a dude ranch.

Favorite iPad Apps?

I wanted an iPad before I knew I wanted an iPad. It was probably the first product from Apple that I purchased without hesitation – not because I needed one, but because the iPad was so radically different from anything else in the industry that I was drawn to it (magnetically, perhaps).

Years later, I’m sitting on top of hundreds of installed iPad applications. I get many of them for free not because I’m reviewing them, but because I watch for iPad software discounts to float across my social media radar. I tend to share and reshare the good ones, too.

The community constantly asks me: what are my favorite iPad apps? I don’t even know if I have a favorite iPad app (singular)! There are just so many of ’em out there, and each one of those applications does a great job independent of any other iPad app. That’s what makes the iPad work, ya know? It’s not some kind of complex computing tool that allows you to see dozens of open programs at any given time. No, instead, the iPad excels at providing a near-perfect platform for today’s various needs.

Each iPad app has the potential of being my favorite app – depending on what it is that I’m wanting to do. In many cases, I can likely find an app that will do what I’d like to have done. Doesn’t that make it a favorite for the task at hand? I believe so.

Mind you, I don’t use every single iPad app every single day. I don’t even use a single app regularly (beyond the web browser and email clients)! I know: you still want to know what I’m using on my own iPad this year. It’s for that reason we decided to do a live walkthrough via YouTube earlier this week (in conjunction with an iPad 2 giveaway, courtesy of a sponsor):

By the time the third-generation iPad rolls off the assembly lines and into my hands, I’m sure I’ll have hundreds more apps to show you. Maybe we’ll do this again next year? If you have the patience to sit through this hour-long video iPad tour and you noticed I have a few missing apps, please make your Favorite recommendations in the comments thread.

Should You Buy a Dyson Air Multiplier?

Anyone that has spent time around small kids knows that their fingers get in to everything. Fans are often a big concern for parents who forego more powerful models for safer, slower ones. For the past several decades, the science of air transfer really hasn’t changed much. Fans have taken on slightly different shapes, blades have been tooled several different ways, and the motors driving them have become quieter and less bothersome. None of these advances have really been revolutionary, until recently.

The Dyson Air Multiplier isn’t your normal fan. For one, it has a bladeless design making it much saver to have around children. This design also makes it much easier to clean. You no longer have to chase after dust that clings and sticks to blades and grills faster than you can keep up with it. Yes, you’re still blowing dust around with the Air Multiplier, but cleaning the fan itself is a matter of wiping it with a damp cloth once in a while.

Wind is uninterrupted and smooth compared to the choppy breeze created by fan blades constantly cutting in to the air flow as it pushes air through. According to Dyson, the Air Multiplier actually increases the natural current of the air up to 18 times, making it a capable room cooler. At its top speed, things get noticeably louder as a quiet breeze becomes a strong gust flowing past hollow tubes. If you keep the speed set at low and mid settings, you really can’t hear it at all.

The biggest drawback to this particular gadget is the price tag. At $300, it doesn’t exactly solve any critical issues or replace any technology that goes for anything close to that price range. Like the early adopters of the Tesla, you’re buying in to the newness of the technology and prices will undoubtedly drop as competitors find a way to build on this concept. Is the Dyson Air Multiplier really worth $300, probably not unless the coolness factor is really worth it to you.

First Impressions of the HP TouchPad

LockerGnome’s Jake Ludington has decided to give the HP TouchPad a try. The webOS-driven tablet computer has been receiving positive reviews out of the gate, and the ability for users to experience flash elements from the web is a clear advantage in cases where the user frequently uses web-based tools that require some level of flash support. Here are some of our first impressions of the HP TouchPad:

The HP TouchPad features a 9.7-inch LED backlit display (1024×768) and a glossy black finish that is a fingerprint magnet. It’s slightly heavier than the iPad 2 and has a build that more closely resembles the slightly bulkier original iPad. That isn’t to say that it’s too heavy to use, but it could be a burdon after a long period of time. Is is comfortable to hold, however, and doesn’t have any sharp corners that would otherwise make the device feel uncomfortable.

After inspecting the TouchPad, it appears to have two reasonably-sized speakers and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the left side. The built-in camera is front facing with no camera available on the back, meaning you’ll need to face the screen at whatever you’re taking a picture of. This indicates the primary use of any camera on this device will be for video chat rather than updating your Instagr.am account.

The 1.2GHz Snapdragon processor seems powerful enough. We were able to do some video benchmarking online and discovered that the TouchPad actually outperforms the iPad in a few rendering situations. However, this is not intended to be a processing powerhouse. It’s intended to be a tablet geared towards running web-based apps with support for stand-alone applications.

Battery life is pretty solid. HP reports say you should be able to get a solid 9 hours out of it during normal use. This appears to be a close approximation. In general, you’ll want to keep a USB cable handy to give it a charge if you intend to use it for more than a normal day’s use.

Switching between apps on webOS is snappy and easy. Navigation requires an occasiona flick and tap giving you the ability to toss unwanted windows and applications off the screen to get rid of them. If you want to look something up, Just Type gives you the ability to search on the device and on the web for something with a single search bar. This is a pretty nice feature, especially when you have a lot of apps loaded in to the TouchPad down the line.

Overall, it’s a fine device for anyone that absolutely must have flash as part of their mobile browsing experience and doesn’t want to deal with Android. Of all the tablet operating systems out there, webOS is doing a lot to prove its feasibility in today’s competitive market. Whether or not the TouchPad really takes off is anyone’s guess.

Why Most As Seen on TV Products Suck

It’s 3am, and you’re sitting on the couch flipping through channels trying to fight off insomnia and muster up the willpower to give falling asleep another try. Unfortunately, the late-night infomercials are just too energetic to create a sleep-friendly environment. So, in your near-catatonic state of drowsiness, you keep watching with growing interest as various gadgets and gizmos do their thing in an almost magical fashion on the screen.

Wake up! These gizmos are rarely even useful. The knife that stays sharp forever dulls on anything harder than a tomato, the automatic stirring device dances around one corner of your pan, and the overpriced baking soda doesn’t clean any better than dollar store detergent. The fact is, you probably wouldn’t buy these things if the seemingly dimwitted fellow on the screen wasn’t so absolutely amazed every time the product is demonstrated.

The fact is, many of the As Seen on TV products suck. They’re cheaply made and designed to encourage spending to solve a problem that most people don’t even know they have. Chances are, once you pick up a Gizmodoodle or Hackamabob, it’s going to sit in your kitchen cabinet until you show it off to someone that stops by and pawn it off on them.

That isn’t to say that some of these gadgets don’t actually serve a useful purpose. A couple of them are are alright. The problem is, they’re all pitched the same way and it’s impossible to tell what its limitations are until you’ve picked one up. Some of these ads make it look like you can saw a giant oak tree down with a single stroke using a $10 knife. Can you, really? NO!

I’m not saying you should avoid any invention sold through late-night infomercials. For practical applications, some of them are every bit as good as any reasonable person might assume them to be. The best way to avoid being burned by late-night advertising is to do some research before bringing out the credit card. Take a look at what actual users have to say about it. If you still think the product is a good investment – go for it. Send me an email and let me know if it does work out exactly as you expected it to. I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Please feel free to comment below and share your experience with As Seen on TV products. Have you had any success with them? If so, what was it and how did it work for you?