Anker 5 Port USB charger

Living in this digital age, with so many devices that need to be charged, you can quickly find yourself charging devices throughout the house. I wanted to find something that could handle recharging multiple devices while only using a single power cord.

This is where the
Anker 40W, 8A 5-Port USB Charger came in and has worked out beautifully. It has been able to simultaneously charge my iPhone, iPad, Speaker, Camera, Bluetooth Stylus, etc, and haven't had any issues so far. There is a 25 Watt, 5 Amp version that is slightly less expensive but it doesn't have the extra juice needed to recharge everything that the big brother can do with ease. I really like the products that Anker produces. They have excellent build quality and the packaging and instruction are very good as well.


iPad Air


I bought the very first iPad when it came out but it has not aged well. Oh, it still works but the apps and games have now matured to the point where the specs of that first generation iPad are excluding it from the party. It only had a single A4 chip running at 1GHz and only had 256 MB of RAM and the display was 1024 x 768, and it was stuck at iOS 5.1. So, it served me faithfully but it was time to get a new one. I sold the first gen iPad to a friend and bought the new iPad Air.

The specs of this new
iPad Air are impressive. It now has a dual-core A7 running at 1.4 GHz, 1 GB of RAM, a quad-core PowerVR 6430, a resolution of 2048 x 1536, has front and back cameras, Bluetooth 4 and comes standard with iOS 7. Now I have no problems running the latest apps or games and now can finally use bluetooth accessories.

It is exciting to see the payoff of Apple's acquisitions of
P.A. Semi and Intrinisity. The A7 chip is based on ARM processors but Apple licenses the design and architecture to build their own custom chips in-house using the expertise of the engineers that they acquired from PA Semi and Intrinisity. The A-series line is developing pretty fast. It will be interesting to see how fast and powerful these CPUs are in 5 years time, or in 10 years time. Could they rival Intel's desktop chips 10 years from now?

Firecore's Infuse


Firecore is a company that I had turned to when I was looking to put additional software on my Apple TV. I used the Sea3on Pass to jailbreak my 2nd Gen AppleTV and installed Firecore's aTV Flash. Then it was easy to install software like Plex. They have now developed their own iOS app called Infuse.

Infuse is a video player app that handles nearly any video file you could think of and supports subtitles. While I predominantly use Plex at home there are many times when I am out and don't have access to WIFI (my iPad doesn't have a Cellular plan). Also, I have a limited data plan with my iPhone so streaming with Plex could get expensive. This is where Infuse shines for me in that I download the videos to the iPad/iPhone and I am able to watch anytime without the need for streaming.

The user interface is first rate and it is a well thought out application. I love the control over subtitles, being able to control the color, size, and the vertical positioning of the text. Infuse automatically gathers artwork and metadata for the videos you add. It supports AirPlay so you are able to use it in conjunction with the Apple TV. If you took the time to convert your DVD movies in Handbrake and set up things like Chapters, they will show up with Infuse.
The best video player application of any platform, iOS or Android.

Update Dec 5th: Infuse has been refreshed with the new iOS 7 aesthetic. I paid for Infuse 1 and was able to upgrade for free to version 2 but now Infuse 2 is free for everybody. The catch is that to get the Pro features, new users have to do an in app purchase. Still worth the money to do so but now everybody can try the free version and see how great it is. Smart move by Firecore.

Mactaris Webcam Settings

I had been on a quest the past couple years to find a great webcam for my Mac Pro. Unlike the Mac Book Pros or iMacs, the Mac Pro requires you to buy your own display so there is no convenient iSight webcam. Turns out it was harder than I thought to find a quality webcam that worked well with a Mac. I failed miserably and then gave Logitech a second chance. The Logitech C910 HD Pro Webcam was the third webcam that I had bought and tried. I was impressed with it so much that I bought a second C910 and set it up with my mother for Skype.

The only issues I had with the C910 were the same endless issues I have with Logitech, the drivers!
There just is no Mac parity when it comes to the drivers. A Windows user has much more control over the C910 webcam. I had to turn to third party app developers to find drivers that would give me finer control over the webcam. The best solution was from Mactaris. Their $8 Webcam Settings app allows me to control the focus, white balance, exposure, pan, tilt, etc. In short, Webcam Setting gives me all the options that Logitech should have in the first place.

In my opinion, the Logitech C910/C920 coupled with Webcam Settings gives you the best webcam for the Mac right now.

Roku 2 XD


I had jailbroken my Apple TV to install Plex on it but had a second TV which needed some loving. I am not too keen on having televisions that are smart TVs because I feel you are at the mercy of those manufacturers and updating apps and widgets is not their top priority. Better to buy dumb TVs and set them up with smart boxes like an Apple TV or a Roku. When I saw this Roku 2 XD on sale for $40 at the local Walmart, I decided to give it a shot. Plex has a channel for the Roku that you can download for free and it works well. The Plex interface is not as nice as the Apple TV but it just works and updates smoothly.

With the Apple TV, whenever Apple comes up with an update it usually means I have to jump through hoops to wait for a jailbreak, and then install Plex again, etc. It isn't just set it up once and forget it. Roku has that set it and forget down pat and that is very appealing at the end of the day. I do think Netflix is much nicer looking on my Apple TV, but that may be subjective on my part. I do know that I don't like how the Roku/Netflix combo handles subtitles. With Roku if I turn on subtitles for one movie then it continues on for all other movies that I may watch. It should be smart enough to know that I only want it on in that one example, or be smart enough to turn them on by default if it is a foreign movie.

Outside of a few quibbles, I find it to be a nice little box and Roku works hard at improving the hardware and software with every iteration. If I had bought TVs with all of these smart TV aspects built in then you are limited later on. How do you go about upgrading that hardware in 5 years time? 10 years time? External boxes like the Roku and Apple TV are the way to go and give you the most flexibility.

Apple TV, 3rd Gen

After my success at jailbreaking my 2nd Gen Apple TV and installing Plex and other software, I wasn't looking to buy another one. When I found a great deal on this 3rd gen I couldn't help myself, always a sucker for a great deal. I use it primarily to watch Netflix on the living room TV. Can't help but feel Apple is really missing out with this little device. I can use Airplay with my iPad and iPhone to stream music, movies and such to the Apple TV and even play games that way too, but it could do so much more. If they opened up the SDK and had an App Store, I think games would really take off in a big way. What with the Roku and others entering the smart TV market, Apple needs to step up their game.