10 Aug 2015

Remote controlled helicopter with camera

A couple of years ago I blogged about my radio controlled mini helicopter. I still have it and take it out for a spin once in a while with the kids. However, I am a bit bored with it and was on the lookout for a replacement - something bigger and more fun this time.

I think I might have found the perfect replacement - a remote control helicopter with camera. It just costs $44.99 in the US and best of all, FREE shipping.

The i-helicopter from ThinkGizmos can be controlled using an iPhone / iPod / iPad / or Compatible Android device by downloading their app on the device.

The helicopter has a camera which comes with a 2GB SD card which can record over 1 hours flight time. The videos are recorded at resolutions of 680 x 480 at 25 frames per second.

Fully charged, the helicopter gives you fun filled flying time of about 6-7 minutes. The charging time is about 45 minutes using the included USB cable.

If you live in Europe, you can buy this amazing toy from Amazon.de for EUR 52.99.

9 Aug 2015

Computer speakers for all budgets

Here is my selection of three different computer speakers to suit different budgets. Space or the lack of was my main concern when considering the speakers and so out of my list were all the huge surround sound systems. So here are the three speakers starting with the least expensive.

A. Budget Option: Vinnfier VS200

They are not the cheapest or the smallest in the market but the sound quality was acceptable. All other cheaper speakers I tried were simply not up to the mark.  The two speakers delivers a total of 6W with frequency response between 90Hz – 20KHz and impedance: 4 ohms. Power supply is via a USB cable (5V).

Price: Approx. RM30 (Malaysia)

 B. Mid-range Option: JBL Pebbles

JBL Pebbles]
When you want quality sound, small profile and not break the bank, you have to go for the JBL Pebbles. Mine is the white-orange combination. Despite its small dimensions (13 cm high x 15 cm deep x 7.7 cm wide), the speakers deliver amazing sound - amazing clarity and deep bass.

Not sure about the wattage (no information was provided with the packaging) but the frequency response is between 70Hz – 20kHz with maximum SPL / signal to noise ratio at 89dB@1m. I love the simple integrated rotating volume control on the side of the main speaker. You can connect other devices via the 3.5mm Aux-in Port.

Price: $49.95 (US)/ RM 299.00 (Malaysia)

 B. High-end Option: Harman Kardon NOVA 

If you are an audiophile and have money to spend, this is the option to go for. For it's size, this high-performance stereo speaker system delivers really amazing sound - excellent clarity and rich lows. You can also press the bass button for improved deeper bass.

The transparent futuristic looking speakers include Performance-tuned 2.5” drivers, 1.25” tweeters and passive radiators. Moreover, the speakers allow Bluetooth wireless streaming with NFC compatibility with any device via analog 3.5mm connector and optical inputs.

One of the cool features is the touch sensitive volume control slider on the top of the main speaker. Unfortunately the kids love playing with it.

Specs for the technically minded:
Frequency Response between 70 Hz - 20,00kHz
Impedance: 8 ohms;
Crossover Description: 3.5kHz;
RMS Power Range - Amplifiers: 40 watts

Unlike the two previous speakers, the NOVA requires a connection to a power outlet.

For a change, this is a PC speaker which looks nice and it sounds nice as well.

Price: $299.95 (US)/ RM1199 (Malaysia, best price on Lazada)

28 Jun 2015

Remote controlled robot

I have always loved robots. Maybe growing up reading Asimov and sci-fi movies may have something to do with it and ended up with a collection of several robot - battery operated flashing robots that made noises and moved around or even toys that looked like robots - including the popular Playskool Major Morgan, which was not actually a robot but a musical toy. I am not sure where they all went but I have not stopped collecting and still into robot, only thing is that they are a bit more sophisticated now.

My daughter's birthday is coming up soon and no I am not going to give her a Frozen toy - she's just not into them. I think I might have found the perfect gift: A robot or more precisely a remote controlled robot. The RC robot from Thinkgizmos.com is available on Amazon.com for just $39.99 with free shipping (down from the original price of $69.99). The robot walks and talks - lines like "Freeze!" "Identify yourself or I will shoot" and "Surrender now!". You can also fire small plastic discs from it's chest when you press 'fire' on the remote and and it even dances. You can even programme the robot to do stuff on its own.

Made in China, the robot is about 30cm tall and requires 6 AA Batteries (not included). It is suitable for ages 3 and above - so great fun for everyone.

If you are in Europe you can order the robot from Amazon.de.

Looks like I am going to end up buying two - one for my daughter and one for myself.

19 Jun 2015

Casio G-Shock GA - 100MC - 1 AER dive test

I recently went on a long overdue week long holiday with my family and decided to get myself certified as a PADI open water diver as well. I took only my Casio G-Shock GA - 100MC - 1 AER watch and decided that it would be great to actually test out whether it was really water resistant to 200M. I only found out later that 200M water resistance means that I can use it during swimming, snorkeling, jet-skiing but not while scuba diving. For scuba diving (with air tanks), you are supposed to wear watches with the words "DIVER'S WATCH 200M".

The maximum depth I went down to was around 17 meters and the watch survived the dive. Legibility was good but I realised that the lights were not very useful when using the digital timer.

The only Casio watches which are certified "DIVER'S WATCH 200M" are those in the Frogman series. The latest model is the GF-1000-1 which is now on my wish list. A few older models are available on Amazon UK.

Unlike other G-shock models which are held by 4 screws, the GF-1000-1 features a Screw Lock Back. The back and bezel are made of diamond-like carbon that resists scratching and wear.

Other features include Moon Phase Graph, Moon Age Indicator, Tide Graph (very useful), World Time and 5 alarms. It is solar powered (Tough Solar). Specifically for divers, useful functions include Dive time and surface interval measurement function. It records one set of data (dive time, dive start time, dive date) in it's memory. This watch is not meant to replace the Dive computer but as a backup.

17 May 2015

Tesla’s Home Battery Could Change the Energy Market Forever

Guest post by Maria Ramos

You probably have never heard of Michael Stanley Whittingham but certainly you have heard of Elon Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur who, besides creating plans for colonizing Mars and providing accessible satellite internet virtually anywhere in the world, is doing his level best to feed a renewable energy revolution on Earth.

Back in the 1970’s, while working for Exxon, Dr. Whittingham was the principal proponent for a new type of battery technology: Lithium-ion. As of April 8th 2015, Elon Musk’s company Tesla announced their plans to utilize Li-ion technology for large-scale, distributed electricity storage one house and business at a time.

Tesla's Powerwall

Energy Storage is Critical to the Green Revolution?

The ability to efficiently store excess energy from intermittent renewable sources such as wind or solar has been a challenge for power producers for decades. Hydroelectric power has a natural, on-demand storage mechanism built-in but other energy sources only have the reserve of unconsumed fuel itself.

Power utility companies spend enormous resources managing power loads between high and low demand cycles. Solar, which only produces during daylight hours and wind, which cannot be coerced to blow only during peak demand periods, complicate their balancing act. Without an efficient means to store excess power, much of it goes to waste.

This situation explains why utility companies would much rather subsidize home-based storage systems in order to reduce complexity and avoid building capital-intensive peak generation capacity—according to Ohiogascompanies.com, the infrastructure needed to distribute energy is the most difficult expense for utilities to mitigate, and as Renewableenergyworld.com points out, the industry has been unable to develop a cost-effective storage solution thus far.

Enter Elon Musk, Tesla and SolarCity

You could think of electric power storage as Tesla’s raison d’etre. Tesla is now re-purposing their technology and expertise derived from their all-electric cars to manufacture economically feasible on-site electricity storage. Tesla’s upcoming $5 billion gigafactory in Nevada will be completely dedicated to lowering Li-ion battery production costs and improving battery storage efficiency.

Their new Powerwall battery storage system, in 7 kilowatt-hour and 10 kilowatt-hour versions, is already in pre-production out of their Fremont plant in California. Tesla is teaming up with another Elon Musk company, SolarCity, to provide complete solutions to homeowners for electricity backup, storage, and grid-sharing. Currently, hundreds of U.S. households are already happily utilizing Tesla electricity storage systems.

The complete systems for which SolarCity is taking orders now include the power pack, inverters, and grid-sharing services. Complete system cost is estimated at $500 per kilowatt-hour.

Overcoming Battery Storage Drawbacks

Besides high initial cost, batteries have some disadvantages, which both Tesla and SolarCity are mitigating:

  • Batteries being charged via the utility grid require an AC to DC inverter.
  • To use a battery pack’s DC power for AC appliances, a DC to AC inverter is needed.
  • Converting between AC and DC loses up to 30 percent of the energy in transfer.
  • Properly maintained Li-ion batteries require replacement every several years.

The Future of Green Energy

Despite isolated fears about “grid disruption” when large numbers of small-scale solar and wind power installations come online, the number of installations continues growing. Increasingly efficient, low-cost solar panels and the advent of innovative battery storage solutions, such as Tesla’s, are driving the trend.

SolarCity’s online micro-grid, battery and inverter control plus revenue-sharing plans are creating new business models that merge customer and utility energy assets. All of this means less reliance on fossil fuels and more efficient use of all fuels as the highs and lows of energy demand gradually smooth out.

Future Improvements 

Fortunately, visionaries such as Elon Musk and the hard work and innovations of scientists like M. S. Whittingham mean more energy storage advances are yet to come. These will benefit everyone from homeowners to utility companies and Mother Earth.

About the author:

Maria is a freelance writer currently living in Chicago. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a minor in Communication. She blogs about environmentally friendly tips, technological advancements, and healthy active lifestyles. You can follow her in Twitter @MariaRamos1889


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