Posts filed under ‘Gadgets and Toys’

iPhone and iPod Tricks

Apple has sold 50 million iPhones and 35 million iPod touch devices, so there are a lot of people who can benefit from these secrets.

This is by no means a complete list, but I wanted to provide some of the most useful and least well known iPhone tricks. Most of this list also applies to the iPod touch; if you know someone with one of these, be sure to send them a link to this article.

Double Click the Home Button

The button on the front of the phone is called the “home” button. You can choose what happens when you double click it. Mine is set to go to my phone favorites, making it quicker to dial my people. You can get to this screen by going to Settings > General > Home.

As you can see on the option screen above, there is an option for “iPod Controls.” When those are on and the phone is in standby mode (blank screen), you can double click the home button to see the current song/artist/album cover and show audio controls (volume/forward/back/play/pause) — see below for example. If you want to fast forward or rewind, hold the forward/back buttons respectively.

(more…)

May 3, 2010 at 12:11 am 19 comments

Stop Cords from Falling Behind Your Desk

At some point, everyone with a rechargeable gadget will curse gravity as the cord falls behind their desk. This is extremely annoying, mostly because you never want to go under your desk if you don’t have to; although, you’ll probably find some other lost treasures when you do.

A friend shared this secret with me recently and it blew my mind: use binder clips to catch the cables.

I bought a pack of Medium Binder Clips at Staples (24 @ $2.79) and I weaved my cables through — they work perfectly. If your cable slides through easily, you may need to tie a very loose knot in the cable or even better, put a couple zip-ties around the cable to stop it from falling through.

Broken Secrets | Written By: Chad Upton

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April 20, 2010 at 12:01 am 9 comments

Keeping Headphones Untangled

Walking, flying, train and bus riding — these are some of the most inane, meaningless and repetitive activities that you may do. Many people do them everyday, even twice or more. Headphones, and the devices they’re connected to, make these activities more enjoyable, memorable and sometimes even meaningful.

I’ve spent my fair share of time commuting in planes, trains and automobiles, but few of these experiences were memorable. Even fewer were memorable in a good way. But, I’ll never forget the bus ride when I first listened to the song, “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” by Death Cab for Cutie. I had played the song dozens of times before, but this was the first time I really listened to it. (more…)

April 7, 2010 at 11:32 pm 2 comments

3D TVs are Available Now

I was at my local big-box electronics store on the weekend where they had a 55″ Samsung 3D TV running. The picture looked funny to me, but one of the other customers, who I suspect had been sitting there for a while, immediately handed over his 3D glasses and told me to try it out. It was awesome.

It was the kind of experience that was once limited to theme parks and special events.

3D media in general is not new; the first 3D camera was patented in the year 1900. Many early prints and movies used red/blue glasses to present 3D images. This technique is called Anaglyph. The color filters are a basic way to present separate images to both your eyes from a single frame, which gives you the perception that some objects are closer than others. The downside is that everything is either red or blue.

I remember Captain EO at Disneyland back in the 80s, that was the first 3D film I saw without the red/blue lenses (although they were invented in the 1950s). In most cases, theaters use glasses with polarized clear lenses. The polarized lenses are different, each one filters out light waves that do not oscillate in the same orientation as the polarization. The projection system projects two images, one that will be filtered out by right lens and one for the left. This allows us to have a full color 3D experience. Although the projection system is very expensive, polarized glasses are fairly cheap and that’s why they’re the primary choice for theaters.

In 2003, 3D films started gaining in popularity, showing up in regular and IMAX theaters. Now, many local theaters have at least one 3D projection system. Some of the films in this time have included: Bugs! (2003), The Polar Express (2004), Chicken Little (2005), Nightmare Before Christmas (2006), Beowulf (2007), Meet the Robinsons (2007), Bolt (2008), Coraline (2009), Up (2009) and of course Avatar (2009).

There were many more, but those are some of the more popular ones. Since there have been so many 3D movies in the theaters, 3D home theater will let you enjoy those movies in all their glory over and over again. (more…)

March 25, 2010 at 12:45 am Leave a comment

The Ideal Vehicle Speed for Best Fuel Economy

The precise number varies by car and environmental conditions, but the sweet spot is generally between 40-60 mph (65-95 km/h). Most small and medium size cars get the best mileage at about 50 mph (80 km/h).

A lot of factors affect the fuel economy of your car. Some of them don’t vary much with speed, such as the resistance of the engine pumps and accessories. Other factors, like the size of the frontal area and the drag coefficient create increasing resistance with speed.

The faster you drive, the more energy is needed to overcome the aerodynamic resistance of the car. Up to 40 mph, that isn’t really even a factor. So, if you’re driving a box then your best fuel economy is likely closer to 40 mph than 50. If you’re driving a teardrop shaped eco-car, then you’re likely closer to 60 mph. Of course, engine size and other factors are involved too. (more…)

February 25, 2010 at 12:01 am 6 comments

Why Vinyl Records are Becoming Popular Again

By Chad Upton | Editor

There have always been cool record shops in the hip parts of town hocking vinyl to the enthusiasts. But, it had been a long time since the major record stores carried them, until last year.

Maybe you’ve noticed, maybe not. But if you’ve been into BestBuy recently, some of their stores have a massive vinyl record selection. A year ago, they had a few, now they have hundreds. It’s not every store, but some of them.

 

Vinyl Edition

 

For many people, it’s probably hard to imagine that anyone would go back to using records.

Records are not convenient to use. They don’t play for very long, about 26 minutes before you have to flip it over or put a new one on. You can’t easily skip songs at the push of a button. They have to be kept very clean to sound good. The needle drags on the record so the sound degrades over time and worst of all, they are expensive.

Since all of these drawbacks are easily overcome by digital formats like CDs and MP3s, it surely makes people wonder, why are vinyl records making a mainstream comeback? (more…)

February 19, 2010 at 1:26 am 4 comments

Some Rechargable Products Use Standard Batteries

I normally shave the old fashioned way, with shaving cream and a razor. Although, a couple times a week I use a rechargeable electric razor.

It doesn’t shave as close as a straight blade or cartridge razor, but it does shave time off my morning routine. It’s an easy way to catch up when I’m running behind or anxious to get working earlier.

I’ve had the same electric razor for about 10 years. I got it as a gift and it has worked really well, but its ability to hold a charge has degraded significantly since it was new. When it was new, I could travel for a week and not recharge it. Recently, it has required a charge after every use.

A couple weeks ago, it failed to run for more than a few seconds. I charged it again, and had the same result.

The internal rechargeable battery had finally failed. (more…)

February 16, 2010 at 12:27 am 1 comment

You Can Buy Your Own Dental Tools

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned that you can buy your own tamper proof screwdrivers. Ownership of tamper proof screwdrivers ups your do-it-yourself status to a new level; but, you can’t earn your DIY badge without having your own set of dental tools.

Maybe you’ve got a deep pocket in a molar that you can’t floss or brush clean, or maybe you just want to descale your pet’s gum line.

There are so many uses for dental tools. Hobbyists use them for carving, cleaning and hooking small objects. Technicians and mechanics may use them for removing tiny o-rings and gaskets. Perhaps you will use them to pick locks or scratch lotto tickets, poke the CD-ROM eject hole or spread glue in a hairline crack on the ceramic you broke last summer.

I found a 5 piece set on Amazon at a great price. Heck, for $2 (see “other sellers”), I’m not sure there is a more versatile set of tools for your toolbox. Best of all, you probably don’t own these tools yet and we all know it’s fun to get new tools.

Buying a new tool is like buying a new skill. It empowers you to put yourself in the way of new dangers and abstain from doing new things that you never dreamed of avoiding before.

So go ahead, have your popcorn and eat it too.

Broken Secrets

Written By: Chad Upton

PS – I’m really excited for fellow blogger Neil Pasricha’s new book: The Book of Awesome. Pre-order it now (or if you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t already, at least checkout the blog)!

February 15, 2010 at 12:34 am 3 comments

Rescue a Disc From Your CD Drive With a Paperclip

Most CD/DVD drives in computers have a secret eject button. It allows you to open the CD drive when a disc gets stuck and cannot be ejected normally. It’s also helpful if you need to remove a disc and you don’t want (or have time) to power up the computer — the force eject works without power.

You’ll need a thin sturdy object to operate the manual eject, a straightened paperclip works well. In rare cases, the hole will be slightly smaller than a paperclip and a sewing needle will be required.

Look for a round hole on the face of the CD drive that is just large enough to feed a paperclip through. The following photos show the manual eject hole on a desktop and laptop CD drive.

Once you have found the hole, push a straightened paperclip through the hole and when you feel it stop, push a little harder and it should push open the motorized drive tray (desktop) or release the drive lock (laptop).

If you’ve got a Mac, most new models have a slot load drive (there is no tray that the disc sits on, similar to most car CD players). Some of these drives are particularly bad at ejecting CDs with uneven edges (if yours does this then you’ll know what I’m talking about) and there is a paperclip method for these drives too. There is an Apple support document for this issue; you’ll have to click here to view it since I can’t use their material.

Maybe you’ve seen that hole and wondered what it was for, maybe not. Frankly, it doesn’t matter, because you know now and that’s what we do here.

Broken Secrets

Written By: Chad Upton

Available on Kindle | Share Your Secret!

February 11, 2010 at 1:39 am 18 comments

How To Make Your Laptop Battery Run Longer

When your laptop is new, you can run on battery power for hours! But, as the battery gets older it doesn’t hold a charge like it used to. Ideally, you would just buy a new battery, but laptop batteries are expensive. From the manufacturer, they range from $80 to $150. Aftermarket batteries are often 50% – 70% of the manufacturer’s price. I’d recommend searching eBay or Amazon for new aftermarket batteries.

If you buy a new battery, keep your old one. I used to travel almost every week for work and I always had a second laptop battery with me. At times, the second battery was old, and only ran for 45 minutes, but that was a lifesaver on an airplane when you’re trying to finish some work (or watch the end of a movie you brought).

I usually buy the aftermarket batteries and never have problems with them. I did have a problem with an aftermarket power supply cord once; it died after three months. But, even with that $13 loss, buying aftermarket laptop accessories has saved me a lot of money over the years.

If you travel a lot, a second power cord is paramount. You should have one that you always leave in your computer bag, that way it’s impossible to leave behind when you travel. Have you ever tried to find a computer power cord at a retail store? If you are lucky enough to find one, it’s going to cost at least $60. If you can’t find one, and you need one for work — it’s a disaster. (more…)

January 29, 2010 at 1:52 am 5 comments

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