Running on Bluetooth…I found a New Toy!

Mpow Headset 1

Ah, Mpow! When you asked if I wanted to review your Swift Bluetooth 4.0 Headphones, I really wasn’t that excited. I mean, they look good, but my desk drawer is full of useless Bluetooth Headsets that look good!  Yes – I have more Bluetooth Headsets than the combined population of several small countries. It’s a sickness, but I’m OK with it.

Then I thought about it; I may have a lot of Bluetooth headsets, but how many are good for running? The list narrows.

I run fairly frequently (2-3 times a week), indoors and outdoors, and the biggest headache is finding a quality Bluetooth headset that fits well, has good sound, and doesn’t fall off have way through a run. I’ve gone through a bunch of ‘em. I’m currently using a set of over-the-ear headphones that are really good, so the bar was set high when I received my Mpow® Swift Bluetooth 4.0 Wireless Stereo Sweatproof Jogger, Running, Sport Headphones.

I have several inviolable rules about gadgets, especially headphones; (1) it must have a common (MicroUSB) power adapter, it must have good battery life, it must be easy to use, and it must be cost effective. After using the Mpow Swift Bluetooth 4.0 Headphones for several days now, I can tell you it meets all my expectations.

Adapter: Mpow uses a MicroUSB plug for recharging – no weird, proprietary connector that once lost is never found again. Mpow provides a cable, but any MicroUSB cable will do to recharge your headset. I ran it dry and it took less than 2 hours to fully recharge.

Battery Life: From full recharge this headset lasted 4 hours and 45 minutes of constant use. Do I need a life? Perhaps, but I listened to a couple of movies and some music before the voice in my ear said that the battery was low.

Ease of use: Just press and hold the “Mpow” power button to start the Bluetooth syncing process. The connection held (no dropouts or noise). The easy-to-find and use volume buttons double as “Next” and “Previous” for music selections. I found it easy to adjust the volume or change music selections while running, something beyond the capabilities of most headsets.

Cost effective: You will not go broke buying these. The build quality is terrific and the additional ear pieces help you find the perfect fit! Only time will tell about durability, but I’m betting on a long and useful life.

Running: I ran for an hour (treadmill) and the Mpow headset did not move, slip, or cause any distraction. I worried the sweat would cause them to fall out – didn’t even come close. The secure fit also served to block out surrounding noise – the person jabbering on their phone next to me, the din of 50 treadmills all running at the same time…nothing but music made its way into my ears!

Sound: Careful – these can get VERY loud, but some headsets I’ve used just aren’t loud enough. No matter the volume setting, the sound holds; good bass and treble, no noise (thanks Bluetooth 4.0!), and the secure fit means you get all the music and none of your surroundings.

I was really surprised by the fit. You forget they are even there! So watch out Treadmill, Lawn Mower, Leaf Blower, and my Daughter’s lovable (loud) dog, I’ve got the Mpow Bluetooth 4.0 Headphones and I’m not afraid to use them!


Inside Windows 10

I can’t explain it.

I mean I just can’t explain it.

How is it that the folks at Microsoft can’t release two good Operating System versions in a row??

If you look at their track record over the past 20 years or so of new Windows releases, you can discern a pattern.

1995 – Windows 95 – Good
1998 – Windows 98 – So, so
2000 – Windows 2000 – Good
2000 – Windows ME – Disaster
2001 – Windows XP – Outstanding
2007 – Windows Vista – Disaster
2009 – Windows XP – Terrific
2012 – Windows 8 – (Another) Disaster

So, the law of averages would tell us that the release of Windows 9 would be a success, right? Hmmm! How much do we want to tempt fate?

Two things!

(1) The next release of Windows will not be called Windows 9. It will be called Windows 10. Why? Who knows, perhaps they are trying to break the hoodoo of the every other version curse (I mean, have you tried Windows 8? Ugh!).

(2) The next release of Windows, called Windows 10, looks like it will be a winner! I volunteered to be a beta tester and have been playing with the new release for several weeks, on and off.

My first impressions are favorable – they’ve gotten rid of the most annoying parts of Windows 8. The pop out sidebar is gone, so finding the Control Panel and Power switch is easier; the screen full of tiles is gone. Selecting the Windows button or Icon gives you a modified Start Menu; much of the old Start Menu has been restored with the addition of just a few tiles that the user can configure (size, location, and which tiles are shown).

Other, less obvious changes are meant to make some of your daily tasks easier, while binding you into the Windows infrastructure. The addition of a Search Icon on the taskbar is good, but it is tied to the Bing search engine (Windows own search tool) which opens in Internet Explorer (Windows own Browser).

The Evaluation Copy Build 9841 I’ve looked at is not the final release, but is smooth and polished. Despite loading the Windows 10 on a new hard drive, the system recognized my HP Elitebook 2540p and loaded all the drivers. All I had to do was start the machine and it all just worked!

We’ll have to wait and see what else Windows does with this release – will it add tabs to the File Explorer? Will it help battery life for laptops? How much will it cost? I don’t have any of those answers, but so far I’m a fan of Windows 10!

Sorry Gertrude!

The GERD has his share of maladies – a bad knee, a Thyroid that went AWOL several years ago, Sleep Apnea, and a condition known as ShortFatUgly-ness.  All that is bad enough, but there is one condition that really bugs the GERD.  Way up, way, way up, inside my right ear sits a lady (I call her Gertrude) who plays an organ.  This is a special organ – it has only one key, a real high key, and Gertrude plays it ALL THE TIME!  I went to an audiologist last year and he had a name for it, Tinnitus, also known as “ringing in the ears”.  Only mine isn’t a ringing, it’s that real high-pitched key that Gertrude plays ALL THE TIME.  My audiologist was very nice; he gave me a very useful piece of advice.   He said, “GERD, silence is the enemy”.  Once I finished giving him that strange look that only the GERD can (ask my daughters), it started to make sense to me.  When I’m in a really quiet environment, Gertrude really goes to town on her organ.  The quieter it is, the louder she gets.  Ever tried sleeping with that going on in your head?  What my Audiologist told me was to go to sleep at night with some noise, any noise, to take my mind off of Gertrude (he doesn’t really call her that, only I do).  Otherwise she keeps me up all night with her one note song of torture. 

But wait a minute; the GERD’s wife doesn’t have Tinnitus!  How unfair would that be; “sorry dear but Gertrude demands that I play music so I can sleep.  What’s that, you need sleep too??”

To every problem in life there is a technological solution (OK, that’s not really true but it’s fun looking for one).   Like many of you I have used, from time to time, a blue tooth headset with my cell phone.  These tend to be large, expensive, and weak on battery life.  When looking for a technological solution to Gertrude I found a blue tooth headset that is not large, not expensive, and not weak on battery life.  The Plantronics Marque M155 Bluetooth Headset is small in size and fits comfortably and securely in the GERD’s offending ear, and lasts for several hours on a single charge.  It syncs easily and rapidly with my Samsung Galaxy S3, my iPad Mini, and every other blue tooth capable device I have.  I wear it to bed (don’t laugh; I have a condition, after all!).  I play a movie or a music playlist from my Nexus (in its docking station on my night table).  Once the movie/playlist is done, the Plantronics stays unobtrusively in my ear.  Sleeping on my back or on my left side helps.  Even if it pops out during the night, no harm is done.  The best thing is that this beauty only costs around $30.  That’s a deal in the GERD’s book of technological solutions to life’s problem!

 I wear it driving to work (listening to my favorite book from Audible).  I wear it at work listening to Pandora.  Since it’s in only one ear I can still hear conversations, the phone, and my email alert.  I wear it while shopping, doing chores around the house; I even wear it on the airplane.  Having one ear available to hear things is an advantage in every situation, except where certain relatives are concerned.

 The sound quality is really good, if only in one ear.  Sound controls are easy to use; it’s so small and light that I forget it’s there.  And yes, you can also use it to make phone calls!  Call quality is quite good (so I’m told by those who call me), and when the call is concluded the music/Audio book takes up where it left off.  I have 5 of these things and I use them everywhere.  They recharge (quickly) with a standard micro USB connector.

So my audiologist was correct, silence may be my enemy, but with my Plantronics blue tooth headset, I’ve made peace with Gertrude.  She’s not really a bad person, but I wish she would learn to play a new note!

Alternate Tech Shopping

Let’s face it, technology can be expensive.  In the GERD’s super-secret East Coast electromagnetic fortress I have many examples of such expensive items.  A long time ago I learned that when it comes to electronics, you get what you pay for.  However, over time I also realized that you can pay less for the same thing; thus the rise of the “alternative” shopping sites.  Long before Amazon became to end-all be-all place to shop online, the GERD searched the web from end to end looking for better prices for good technology.  It started with MP3 players, then DVD players, PDAs, and then…the mother lode…iPods!  I managed to acquire quite the stockpile of gadgets (for the coming electronic apocalypse) for less than factory prices.  I could keep this critical information to myself (I do have a security clearance, you know!), but that would be most un-GERD-like of me.  Before I let you in on the secret, here’s the catch.  These are almost always older models, usually one version off of the current one, but still a deal for those looking for one.  Here are my top three “Alternative” tech shopping sites;

Ubid.comSign up for an account and then let the bidding begin.  Not restricted to just electronics, really got me to research prices and find great deals for MP3 players, DVD players, even desktop computers.  Find the current price and outbid it, repeat as necessary until either you win or decide the price is too high for you.  You can monitor the bidding process or sign up for email alerts when you are outbid.  Go with known brand names; everything comes with a 30 day warranty – I’ve never needed to return anything.  Look in from time to time and occasionally you can really snag a great deal! – A Ubid-like bidding site that offers more than just tech.  Both sites even offer collectables, including Coins.  Between Ubid and AtAuction you should be able to find something interesting. – This is not a bidding site but it offers great prices, especially for components and accessories like flash memory cards and headphones.  A set of Sennheiser Wireless Infra-red Stereo TV Assistive Listening Sound System (Set 830-TV) that lists for $210.09 at Amazon goes for $179.95 on Newegg.

Listen to the GERD; if you are going to keep buying electronics and you’re not Donald Trump, use these sites to find the best deals to feed your Tech Monster!