Reviews

Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Speaker

I’ve had the original Bose SoundDock for several years and I love it. Also love the Bose customer service. When I called them after I lost a dock adapter, they sent me one for free. This is why I know the new SoundLink Bluetooth Speaker is great: it’s a great product from a great company which takes care of its customers. It comes in three finishes: nylon, leather and special edition.

You’ve got your music on your phone, and you’re ready to play. Enjoy deeper, more powerful sound than you thought possible from a speaker this small. The SoundLink Bluetooth Mobile speaker II works wirelessly with Apple, Android and BlackBerry devices, or your tablet or laptop – and goes wherever you do for music when you want, where you want.

Buy it here: Bose® SoundLink® Bluetooth Mobile Speaker II – Nylon

If you want an even smaller Bluetooth speaker, Bose has the SoundLink Mini.

Enjoy better sound on the go, everywhere you go, with the Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth speaker. It delivers full, natural sound from an ultra-compact speaker that fits in the palm of your hand. The speaker connects wirelessly to your smartphone, tablet or other Bluetooth device. A lithium-ion battery gives you hours of unplugged play time. And the included charging cradle keeps the speaker fully charged while serving as its convenient home base. The SoundLink Mini speaker is engineered with a solid, aluminum housing and skid-proof rubber bottom, so it can stand up to everyday use. Take your music, videos and games places they’ve never been before.

Buy it here: Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth Speaker

If you have the original Bose SoundDock, then you can still use it via Bluetooth. All you need is a small Bluetooth adaptor from CableJive, called the dockBoss air.

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Reviews

CableJive dockBoss air

I have this little gadget and I love it. It allows me to play my iPhone’s music to my Bose Sounddock, untethered, via Bluetooth. It’s super convenient and easy to use.

Wireless Bluetooth Music Receiver for audio docks made for iPhone 4/4S including, iHome, Bose, Logitech, JBL, Phillips, Sony, 30-pin iPod/iPhone speaker dock. Wireless range 33 feet, 10+ meters (free space). No batteries, no maintenance. Powered by the dock you connect it to. Uses the Bluetooth A2DP protocol to easily stream your audio.

Buy it here: CableJive Wireless Bluetooth Music Receiver Adapter for Bose SoundDock and other iPod and iPhone Audio Docks including iHome, Bose SoundDock, JBL, Logitech, Sony and other 30-Pin Audio Docks for Wireless music. Connect dockBoss air adapter to your speaker dock and control your music from your phone up to 30 ft. away.

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How To

Finally, an update for Apple's Bluetooth problems

Updated 8/26/09: It turns out the firmware update didn’t fix the Bluetooth issues. But OS X 10.5.8, which also came out recently, seems to have mostly fixed the problems. I still get the occasional Bluetooth connection error, but it’s nowhere near as often as before.

A software update noticed popped up on my MBP today, telling me Bluetooth Firmware Update 2.0 was available for download and install.

bluetooth-update-1

The update explanation says the following:

“This update provides bug fixes and better compatibility with the Apple Wireless Mighty Mouse and Apple Wireless Keyboard. It installs on all Macintosh systems with Bluetooth based on the Broadcom chipset.”

Finally! If you’re unfamiliar with the Bluetooth crashing problems on Mac computers, then you’re one of the few lucky ones. But the rest of us with late generation laptops like the MacBook Pro have had this issue for at least a few months now. This, for example, is just one of the many threads in the Apple Forums dealing with this persistent Bluetooth issue. On June 9, I’d had enough and vented on FriendFeed about it.

Basically, Bluetooth communications stopped working after a Mac was woken up from sleep mode, necessitating either a turn off/on cycle of the Bluetooth hardware, or another quick sleep/wake cycle. I for one didn’t have too many problems with the keyboard and mouse not working, but I did have a serious issue maintaining connectivity with my Nokia N95 via Bluetooth. My MBP kept refusing to connect to it, and I can’t remember how many times I removed and re-added it from my preferred Bluetooth devices. I even thought my N95 was to blame, until I tried turning Bluetooth off/on and realized my MBP could connect to it just fine after that.

From the looks of things, Apple’s been at work on a fix for the problem, and it’s now available for general install. So, by all means, download away and see if it helps you. I for one will be on the lookout for any more Bluetooth issues, to see if this firmware update has truly fixed the bug.

Before I close, I’d like to point out that even though a restart is not announced for the firmware update, you will most certainly need to restart your Mac. Once the Safari update installs, and your Mac restarts, the following dialog box pops up on the screen, informing you that the Bluetooth update will now begin, and your machine will restart once it’s finished. Just FYI.

bluetooth-update-2

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How To

Use a Nokia N95 as a Bluetooth modem on a Mac

One of the reasons I bought a Nokia N95 was the ability to tether it as a Bluetooth modem on my MacBook Pro. I wanted to access the internet via my mobile phone if I’m away from home or from a WiFi spot. While Nokia’s PC Suite of applications includes an option to tether the phone to a Windows machine with just a few clicks of the mouse, it’s not that simple for the Mac.

Fortunately, once you go through a 5-10 minute initial setup process (outlined below), connecting to the net via the N95 becomes a simple matter of two mouse clicks. Keep in mind that this tutorial will help you configure a Nokia N95 phone only for the T-Mobile network; you’re on your own when it comes to other service providers, but the process should be fairly similar.

I’m indebted to this pre-existing tutorial from The Nokia Blog. However, I found the instructions a bit confusing, as the Mac OS X operating system has been updated since and the network preference screens don’t look the same. Consider my post an updated tutorial, with screenshots from the current Mac OS X (10.5.5).

1. Get the 3G modem scripts for Nokia phones from Ross Barkman‘s website.

Look for the section called “Scripts for Nokia 3G (EDGE/UMTS) phones”.

He’s written numerous such scripts and posted them for download on his site. They work fine for countless people, so please, if his script works for you, show your thanks by donating a few dollars to him.

2. Drop the “Nokia 3G” folder containing the modem scripts (yes, the entire folder), in the /Library/Modem Scripts/ directory at the root level of your Mac’s hard drive.

It should look like this once it’s in there:

3. Add your Nokia N95 phone as a paired Bluetooth device.

If you haven’t added your phone as a Bluetooth device yet, click on the plus sign in the lower left corner and go through the wizard to add it. Make sure to check both boxes shown below, and to pair it as well.

If you have already added it as a Bluetooth device, you may want to run through the configuration wizard again, making sure to mark both checkboxes, as seen below. Click on the phone to select it from the list of Bluetooth devices (see screenshot above), then click on the little gear icon in the lower left corner of the dialog box and select “Configure this device”. You will get the following screen. Click on Continue and run through the wizard to the end.

4. Configure the Bluetooth service preferences.

Go to Network preferences. Here’s where you have a choice. If you’re going to want to use multiple mobile phones or Bluetooth devices as modems, you may want to duplicate the existing Bluetooth service and configure each copy separately, naming them accordingly (Nokia N95, iPhone, etc). To do that, select Bluetooth, then click on the little gear in the lower left corner and select “Duplicate Service”.

I’m only going to use the Nokia N95 as a Bluetooth modem, so I chose to work directly with the existing Bluetooth service, as you can see below. To do that, click on the Configuration drop-down menu and choose “Add Configuration”. You’ll be asked for a name. I named it “T-Mobile Internet”. In the Telephone Number field, I put “internet2.voicestream.com”.

Now click on Advanced, and you’ll get a whole series of preference panes. Modem is the first one. Make sure the information matches what you see below.

Now click on DNS. Some say you should pre-fill DNS server addresses, because your mobile service provider may or may not give them to you. Thankfully, T-Mobile will automatically assign you two DNS server addresses when you connect, but just to be on the safe side, grab one or two more DNS addresses from a public DNS server list like this one and add them to the DNS preference pane. If you look below, the two DNS addresses that are grayed out were automatically assigned by T-Mobile after I connected through the phone, and the single address in black was the one I manually added.

Don’t worry about WINS or Proxies, go to PPP, where you’ll have a drop-down menu. The Session options on the PPP preference pane should look like this:

And the Configuration options on the PPP preference pane should look like this:

Some people say you should disable “Send PPP echo packets” and “Use TCP header compression”. I left them enabled, and my connection works just fine. But, if you should have problems connecting and staying on, you may want to disable them. Just uncheck them and hit OK.

5. Apply the changes and click on Connect.

The Bluetooth modem status should change in the menu bar and first say “Connecting…” then “Authorizing…”. After it connects, it should show the time elapsed since the connection started, like this:

There’s one thing I haven’t been able to figure out though, and I would appreciate your help on this. Getting the Mac to connect to the internet reliably through the phone, every single time, is still something that I need to work out.

That first evening after I configured things as outlined above, I was able to connect and disconnect at will. However, the second morning, I got a “Could not authenticate” error. I clicked on the “Set Up Bluetooth Device” (shown above), and re-configured my N95 (as detailed in Step 3). After that, it was okay for the rest of the day, but the same connection issue re-surfaced the next day. I’d read that keeping iSync open while you connect will help, and I tried it, but it didn’t seem to work reliably for me. What has seemed to work is logging in and out of my account on the Mac, and rebooting the phone.

It seems that Nokia would be best equipped here to make things easier and more reliable. I do wish they’d release a tethering app for the Mac, just like they released an iSync plugin that lets the N95 sync with the Address Book and iCal. Until then, you can try any of the following workarounds when you experience connection issues:

  • Re-configure the phone as a Bluetooth device (as outlined in Step 3 above)
  • Disable “Send PPP echo packets” and “Use TCP header compression” in the PPP Configuration preference pane
  • Open iSync before you try to connect to the Internet through the phone
  • Log out of your account on the Mac and reboot the phone

Once the phone is tethered properly, it’s an enjoyable experience. There’s a newfound freedom I feel when I can go online from just about anywhere. There’s something elegant in using my phone as a Bluetooth modem. It can stay in my pocket or on the table next to my laptop, tethered wirelessly, still working fine as a phone while also letting me get on the Internet. Cool stuff indeed.

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Reviews

The skinny on the new iPhone 3G

At the 2008 WWDC keynote, Steve Jobs introduced the new iPhone 3G. As it turned out, most of the rumors about it were true. Here’s the rundown on the things that made it into the new phone:

  • 3G: YES. This was by far the biggest rumor, and it made sense for Apple to bring it to life. What’s nice is that it continues to support EDGE in addition to WiFi, so now users have three networks they can use.
  • Skinnier, hence the title of this post: YES, at the edges, which are tapered.
  • Less expensive: YES. $199 for 8GB or $299 for 16GB, BUT only with a 2-year contract with AT&T.
  • Built-in GPS for real-time mapping and tracking AND photo geotagging: YES.
  • iPhone 2.0 software, which includes support for third party apps, making it super easy to add functionality to your phone through the App Store: YES.
  • Enterprise features: YES. But we knew these were coming, because Steve Jobs and Phill Schiller had demoed them months ago. This includes support for Microsoft Exchange through ActiveSync, over-the-air push email, contact and calendar syncing, remote wipe and Cisco IPsec VPN.
  • Seamless integration with MobileMe, the replacement for .Mac: YES. We suspected this would happen when word got out last week that Apple had secretly purchased me.com for approximately 11 million dollars.

Now here’s what didn’t make it:

  • Unlocked phone: NO. I knew that sounded too good when people announced it. You can’t drop the iPhone to $199 and ALSO unlock it. It has too many features, it’s too advanced. When you have half-baked unlocked phones that cost $300 to $400, you’re not going to get an unlocked iPhone 3G for less. So, we’re stuck with AT&T, and with 2-year contracts.
  • Video chats through iChat/Skype: NOT SPECIFIED. This was my #1 feature request for the new iPhone. I’d really hoped they’d let us do video chats on the phone. After all, it has a camera, and it can record video. No official guidance yet on this. Does anyone have any specifics?
  • 5 megapixel camera: NO. That’s annoying. Still stuck with an underpowered 2 megapixel camera. Perhaps the photos it takes are better this time around.
  • Cut and paste: NO. I know of several people that were eagerly awaiting this feature. Apparently, it didn’t make it to the iPhone yet. But thankfully it’s a software, not a hardware issue, so it can be implemented later.

New features introduced without rumors:

  • 3G dock: YES. Apparently, faster, and will let you do speakerphone calls.
  • Compact USB power adapter: YES. It’s significantly smaller.
  • Bluetooth headset: YES. It’s made specifically for iPhone.

I was one of the people who held out for iPhone 2.0 –namely, this one — when the first version came out last year. Will I now purchase one? Not sure. I really wanted to be able to do video chats on the iPhone, and if it turns out that I still can’t, it may be a deal breaker for me. Plus, being hobbled with a 2-year AT&T contract is not the kind of commitment I enter into lightly. I don’t know, I’ll have to think about this. At any rate, I’ve got until July 11th to make up my mind.

Photos courtesy of Apple, Inc. More info can be found in Apple’s original press release and on the iPhone website.

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How To

How to properly clean your keyboard

I found myself needing to clean our iMac’s keyboard a few days ago. I remembered watching a video recently that suggested we should simply stick the keyboard in the dishwasher. I wasn’t about to do that. I doubted the circuitry would have worked afterwards, particularly the Bluetooth link between the keyboard and the computer.

The safer route was to simply remove the keys, wash them separately with warm water and soap, then wash the keyboard base with a cloth moistened with water and a mild soap solution. Ligia also got some cotton swabs and rubbing alcohol ready, just to make sure we’d be able to get into all of the keyboard’s crevices.

This solution should work for all keyboards. A word of caution: before you start doing anything to your keyboard, take a couple of photos of the key layout! You don’t want to find yourself with a bunch of keys in your hand, clueless about where to stick them… Take photos of the keys and have them ready to display on your computer, or print them out ahead of time.

Removing the keys is quite simple. You take a quarter or any larger coin, put it under a key, and pry upwards. The key should pop right out. Be careful though, you don’t want to break them — that would render the keyboard quite useless afterwards.

After the keys are removed, the keyboard should look something like this:

Apple keyboard with keys taken off

Please excuse the distortion caused by the camera lens. I used my 24mm prime to make for fast work.

Once the keys are off, Ligia cleaned the keyboard, and I got to work cleaning the keys. I used a basin filled with warm water and I poured in some detergent, then gave each key a light scrubbing with a brush. You can also use the sink directly, but you’ve got to be very careful there. Sinks have drain holes under the top lip, and your keys might just run into them, since they’re plastic and they float. Once they go into the drain, good luck getting them out. You can open up the P-trap and see if they’re there, but chances are that they’re already gone. So be very, very careful as you wash the keys. You want to make sure that you don’t lose any of them.

After the keys were washed, I put them in an absorbent cotton towel and shook them around a bit to get drops of water dislodged from the keys’ undersides, then, while keeping them bunched up in the towel, I ran a hair dryer in there to make sure they got dry a little faster. Here you’ll need to make sure all of the corners of the towel are raised up, otherwise your keys will start flying around… You can also leave them on a towel overnight if you don’t want to bother with the hairdryer.

Keys from Apple keyboard

You also want to be careful that you don’t get excess liquid on the keyboard itself. The last thing you need after you go through the trouble of cleaning it is some problem with the circuits in there. Use a moistened cloth or paper towel, and clean it carefully, making sure you remove any debris or gunk or crumbs or whatever you find in there. Use cotton swabs moistened with rubbing alcohol to get into the tighter spots. When you think you’re done, examine it carefully under a strong light, to make sure you got everything off. Sometimes keys will stick because you or someone else in your house/office spilled sticky liquids on the keyboard, and if you don’t get that sticky gunk cleaned off, the keys will continue to stick even after you think you’ve cleaned them.

After Ligia got the keyboard base cleaned up, we stuck all of the keys back on the keyboard, and it looked quite beautiful when we got done. It was as if we’d gone out and bought a brand new keyboard. Just think of it! We did our part for the environment by re-using a piece of perfectly good hardware, and we also saved about $60. Pretty cool!

Apple keyboard after thorough cleaning

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Thoughts

Minuscule headset powered by novel battery

I was in my car, driving back from lunch, when I got a call on my cellphone. I’m holding out on buying a Bluetooth headset, because they look ridiculous. So I still have to answer the phone the “old fashioned” way, by flipping it open and pressing Speakerphone. I know, what tough luck… But I realized that these wireless/Bluetooth headsets could be made really tiny, and could fit in the ear, if the battery could be made really small. Sure, it’d be a hassle to change the battery, but what if you didn’t have to? What if the battery charged itself? How could that happen? Well, let’s look at three existing technologies on the market today:

  1. “Perpetual motion” watches: you know, the kind that charge themselves from the movement/agitation of your hand. They’ve been around for a while.
  2. Microphones: both dynamic and condenser types… They use a vibrating wand or membrane to generate an electrical signal. They’ve also been around for a while.
  3. The balance pebbles inside your inner ear: okay, this is more like biological technology, but I do find it interesting that they can move and touch nerve sensors, generating electrical impulses that tell your body how to balance itself.

Given these three very interesting methods of generating energy or electrical impulses, why can’t we make a really tiny battery that can charge itself from the movement of our body, our body heat, or the vibrations caused by our voice? We could be charging the battery as we speak, as we move, etc.

This sort of battery could be used in a tiny headset that could be placed in the ear, or in some other fashion, but the point is, it would be really small, almost unnoticeable. I wouldn’t look like a geek, with a big Bluetooth headset strapped to my ear, a menacing blue light flashing on it, as if I were an android. I’m sure many of you share my feelings here. Instead, I would use a small device, no bigger than the tip of my small finger, or even smaller, that could go inside the ear, or hook right outside the ear canal with a thin wire that goes behind my ear. It would let ambient noise pass through unchanged, but would block it when I’d be using my cellphone.

Wouldn’t this be cool?

Are you interested in using this idea? Then please see my rules about using it.

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