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  BlueAnt S1 Bluetooth Speakerphone Review  
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BlueAnt S1 Bluetooth Speakerphone Review
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  BlueAnt Q1 Headset Review  
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BlueAnt Q1 Headset Review
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  Flashback: Contra (NES)  
  FLASHBACK  
Flashback: Contra (NES)
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  MSI Launches Switch to One Touch Video Contest  
  FREEBIES  
MSI Launches Switch to One Touch Video Contest…
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BlueAnt S1 Bluetooth Speakerphone Review
August 17, 2009, 8:34 PM by ROB
Posted in BLUETOOTH, REVIEWS, MOBILE | 13577 views
BlueAnt S1 Bluetooth Speakerphone Review

I was totally impressed with BlueAnt's Q1 headset and decided I'd give their S1 speakerphone a try. I'd tried Bluetooth speakerphones in the past with marginal success; I have a very noisy Jeep Cherokee, so midrange products like the SurfaceSound Compact from Contour Design and one of Tenqa's early speakerphones—while great for light use—don't perform well enough in the harsh environment of my 1998 Cherokee.

When I first took the S1 for a ride down the Interstate, I feared the worst—it seemed difficult to hear my callers on the other end of the conversation. Once I got off of the highway and onto city streets, my calls sounded spectacular; the people I was speaking to said I sounded clearer than on my usual headset.

That being said, living in a metro area, I do spend the majority of my commute on the Beltline and that means a lot of Interstate driving.

What's Hot: When I can hear it, call quality is awesome. I've got pretty sensitive hearing, and low-quality speakers on phones and headsets frequently hurt my ears. Even though I'm still pumping phone-quality audio through the speakers, it somehow sounds more like I'm speaking with someone else in the room rather than over a phone. The audio is also louder than any other Bluetooth speakerphone I've used (though not quite loud enough for my vehicle—see above).

The design is nice and the device feels solid. Its visor clip is detatchable to protect it from breakage in case something catches the speakerphone.

Another cool feature is A2DP Stereo Bluetooth for streaming audio. Outside of the car, the S1 has found itself serving as a portable speaker for pumping music from my iPhone.

Like the Q1, the S1 supports multipoint connectivity, but I didn't have a chance to play with the feature.

What's Not: Apart from the volume issue (which is only relevant to people with noisy vehicles like mine), the only complaint I have of the device is how the buttons work for making and placing calls. The "Call" button doubles as the on/off button, so on more than one occasion, I found myself accidentally redialing my phone rather than turning the speakerphone off.

The S1 does have voice answering features and voice dial capability, but I didn't have the opportunity to receive a call with voice and my iPhone doesn't support voice dial.

The Bottom Line: While it's not quite perfect for me thanks to my noisy Jeep, the S1 is the closest Bluetooth speakerphone I've found to being adequate for my needs. Coming in at around $60, it's a great value for the money compared to other models in the same price range.


Comments (192)
MSI Launches Switch to One Touch Video Contest
June 22, 2009, 12:01 PM by ROB
Posted in FREEBIES | 4334 views
MSI Launches Switch to One Touch Video Contest

Starting today, MSI Computer is giving away five Wind Top All-in-One Desktop PCs I reviewed last month in their "Switch to One Touch" video contest.

On top of that, the first 50 users who submit a video score a USB flash drive, and 20 voters each week will be entered to win a MSI digital sports watch.

Check out the video below:


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iPhone 3GS on the way!
June 14, 2009, 1:06 AM by ROB
Posted in IPHONE, GADGETS, MOBILE | 1413 views
And I want one. Bad. Here's a quick summary of the changes in the new hardware design (if you've been living under a rock lately), prioritized in my concept of importance:

—Improved (3 MP) camera with autofocus and video capability
—More memory (RAM)
—Better processor
—More storage
—Better battery life

Why do I want one? Because I have no life, really. Granted, I really hope the new hardware is jailbreakable.

Speaking of jailbreaking, QuickPWN is giving away an iPhone 3GS on their site. Click through for more info and how to enter.


Comments (1)
Whoops... Real life is here.
May 31, 2009, 12:22 PM by ROB
Posted in THE FUTURE | 1497 views
So here's the recent chain of events... Rob graduates from Wake Forest University. On his birthday. The next day, he was thrown into the real world.

Posts will pick up soon. In the interim, I'm devoting a lot of time to my new startup, Connective Insights, a marketing research and consulting practice for tech companies looking to sell to the college demographic.

On the horizon, we'll be focusing on productivity here at Gadget Grounds: showing you how to make the most out of old gadgets while enhancing productivity with new ones.

Hang in there. We'll be back soon.

Technorati Profile


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The Perfect Mouse for Couch Potatoes
May 28, 2009, 12:19 AM by ROB
Posted in REVIEWS, GADGETS | 3517 views
The Perfect Mouse for Couch Potatoes

If your desk looks anything like mine, real estate is practically non-existent. I typically have to brush aside a half dozen empty soda cans to fit my keyboard on it, let alone my mouse. Enter the Weramouse: a wireless, hand-held pointing device that mates a Wii Nunchuck with a trackball mouse.

The Weramouse features dual right-click buttons (to accommodate both right- and left-hand users), a trackball, a scroll wheel, and a trigger-style left-click button. After a quick charge with the included mini-USB charging cable, I connected the wireless dongle to my computer and started using the device.

You're going to love the Weramouse if you can satisfy two conditions. First, you don't have no flat surface readily available. Second, you need a mouse for something other than day-to-day use. For me, it was my home theater setup; I could control my media with my media remote, but switching applications (like switching between BeyondTV and, say, an NES emulator) required far more movement than I'm typically willing to expend. I tried other wireless mice, but they were all too cumbersome for using from the couch without a book or lap desk. Using the Weramouse, I could lay back, relax, and still manage my HTPC.

I wouldn't use the Weramouse for all-day use; if you use a computer as much as I do, the trackball would probably give you a nasty case of "oh-crap-my-thumb-hurts-itis."

It's great for applications like a home theatre PC and light gaming (check out the branded Poker Mouse).

Snag one for $99 at Weramouse.


Comments (4)
Biased Pirate Bay Judge Judged by More Biased Judges
May 21, 2009, 3:40 AM by ROB
Posted in SPECTRIAL | 2242 views
Biased Pirate Bay Judge Judged by More Biased Judges

I typically craft my own headlines, but TorrentFreak put it so eloquently that I couldn't have done better myself.

'Tis true. The Swedish legal system is officially whack. Ulrika Ihrfelt, the judge appointed to determine whether or not the judge of The Pirate Bay trial was biased, has ties to the same pro-copyright organizations as Judge Tomas Norström. Fearing more bad press, the appeals court removed Ihrfelt and appointed a three-judge panel to work on the decision.

Guess what? One of those members has ties to pro-copyright groups. In a land as historically lax on copyright laws as Sweden, you'd think there would be far fewer copyright hard-asses in positions of legal power. Granted, the committee members' supposed "biases" hardly interfere with the question of whether or not Norström is biased. Therefore, it doesn't matter. Sheesh.

Catch the whole story over at TorrentFreak


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BlueAnt Q1 Headset Review
May 20, 2009, 10:51 PM by ROB
Posted in BLUETOOTH, REVIEWS | 13503 views
BlueAnt Q1 Headset Review

The Q1 headset is BlueAnt's latest voice-enabled Bluetooth headset. The Q1 features a full set of voice commands for button-free operation and a sleek "gunmetal" finish in addition to the standard fare of mid- to high-end modern headsets: voice isolation technology, quick pairing, and multipoint technology.

What's Hot: Hands down, the Q1's most distinguished feature is its voice-enabled features. Turning on the headset for the first time, users are greeted by a set of voice prompts guiding them through the pairing process, eliminating the need for complicated button combinations when pairing the device with a phone. Once paired, the headset runs users through a crash-course on its voice commands before turning them loose to use the device on their own.

The voice commands are totally awesome. Since I ditched my Windows Mobile AT&T 8525 for my iPhone, I've sorely missed my voice-dialing ability, especially in conjunction with my headset. The Q1 gives me that freedom back. In the car, I don't have to take my eyes off of the road to answer a call; the Q1 alerts me to an incoming call and gives me the option to say "answer" or "ignore." To pair the device with a second phone, simply say "pair me" at the voice prompt. You can hear a list of commands by saying "What can I say?"

The headset's dual-microphone noise-cancelling technology identifies background noise and processes it to two degrees: "standard" and "maximum" noise reduction. The two modes can be changed on-the-fly during a call by pressing the headset's main button. I've had problems with other headsets picking up too much background noise (especially when I'm wasting time fragging on the Xbox and chatting at the same time) and call recipients report that call quality is much improved with the enhanced feature in loud environments such as the car and late-night Resident Evil 5 fragging.

What's Not: While the voice-command interface is utterly awesome, there are some issues with the voice processing. In noisy environments or if the headset is not properly aligned, response is sub-par to, say, Windows Mobile's Voice Command. I've said, "Switch Headset Off" and accidentally called a co-worker at 12:30 AM when the headset thought I said, "Call Speed Dial 5." The good news is that the phone has user-upgradeable firmware, so future revisions may or may not improve the accuracy of the voice command processing.

The Q1 also has a pretty poor battery life—just four hours of talk time. If you use a headset as often as I do, you'll be recharging often.

The Bottom Line: I'm no stranger to Bluetooth headsets (I've owned seven), so I can honestly say that the Q1 ranks near the top of my list. If it weren't for the sometimes-poor voice recognition accuracy, I'd give the device a 5/5 rating, but until a firmware update boosts that accuracy, I'll be using the Q1 solely as an "in the car" headset.

The Q1 is available now for $129.00 in Sprint stores and through Sprint's online stores. The headset should be available at retailers nationwide starting in June.


Comments (1)
More Facebook Phishing? Come on...
May 14, 2009, 2:15 PM by ROB
Posted in PHISHING, FACEBOOK | 2253 views
More Facebook Phishing?  Come on...

As we reported a couple of weeks ago, Facebook is no stranger to phishing attacks. This time, scammers are using sites such as "151.im" and "121.im" to redirect to an official-looking (but fake) Facebook login page.

The page is hosted at traffic-exchange.ru and Google Chrome picks up on the bull-jive right away. Just another reason to download Chrome!

Phishing is a technique scammers use to steal your personal information such as email addresses, passwords, and credit card numbers. If you suspect that your account has been jeopardized, report it to Facebook immediately.

» Via TechCrunch


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Review: MSI Wind Top All-in-one PC
May 14, 2009, 3:00 AM by ROB
Posted in REVIEWS, GADGETS | 3971 views


Today, we’ll be taking a look at MSI’s new all-in-one desktop computer, the MSI Wind Top.

The AE1900 comes in two flavors. The first option ships with Windows XP and features a single-core Intel Atom 230 1.6 GHz processor, 1 GB of onboard SDRAM, and a 160 GB hard drive. The second option gets an upgrade to an Atom 330 1.6 GHz dual core processor, 2 GB of RAM, and a 250 GB hard drive running Windows Vista Home Basic.

The most prominent feature of the AE 1900 is the 18.5-inch 16:9 touch screen display. The touch screen itself is incredibly responsive and, while it lacks multi touch capability, it is still very pleasant to use.

The device doesn’t feature much in the way of touch-enabled software outside of an app launcher, but third-party add-ons such as BumpTop can give users a fresh tactile experience. The device does include some alternative input software applications—an on-screen keyboard and handwriting recognition app—but they aren’t practical for extended keyboarding. I didn’t notice any tablet PC features in the XP operating system our review unit shipped with and, as a veteran of tablet PCs (I’m writing this review on a Lenovo Thinkpad x60 Tablet), I greatly miss those features in the Wind Top system. Our source tells us they'll be developing a Windows 7 model in the future and I'm sure that product will blow me away.

That being said, the Wind Top is absolutely beautiful. It comes in two colors—black and white—and features a clear bezel around its edge. This is a machine I'd be proud to display in high-traffic areas of my home.

Included with both Wind Top models is a DVD Super Multi Rewriter, integrated 1.3 MP webcam with microphone, 4X multi card reader, and integrated 802.11b/g/n wireless and gigabit LAN. The device consumes just 65 watts of power (about the same as an average incandescent light bulb) thanks to its nettop internals and runs exceptionally quietly.

This product would be great for casual computer users—you’re not going to run Crysis on this PC—and students who are looking for a desktop for schoolwork and entertainment. Starting at $529, I could see the Wind Top being an attractive alternative to higher-end 20-inch LCD TVs for dorm or apartment use. With TV-on-demand websites like Hulu, I’ve pretty much eliminated broadcast television from my viewing habits.

The Wind Top’s DVD playback works just fine with no noticeable lag. Menus are easily navigated using touch, eliminating the need for a remote. Other entertainment options include a couple of mediocre (but surprisingly addictive) head-tracking webcam games.

The Wind Top may be slightly underpowered, but when all is said and done, the AE1900 represents a value you won’t find in any other all-in-one PC.

» MSI Wind Top Product Page


Comments (0)
Flashback: Contra (NES)
May 14, 2009, 1:24 AM by ROB
Posted in FLASHBACK, GAMING | 5710 views
Flashback: Contra (NES)

This is the third episode in the weekly Flashback series, in which we bring you a new old-school favorite with each installment. Last week, we took a look at Apogee Software's Duke Nukem. Got an idea? Catch me on Twitter @RobLaughter!



ZOMGZ. Since I've posted on the Konami Code love on Facebook and ESPN.com, close to 50% of my free time has been spent in front of my 32" LCD TV playing NES ROMs on my laptop. Contra, of course, is responsible for the bulk of my procrastination.

If you haven't played Contra for the NES, you haven't truly lived. The plot is simple: aliens are taking over the world and you need to stop the evil jerk who is responsible for it all. Players fight through hordes of baddies, dodge showers of bullets, and defeat epic bosses after each side-scrolling level. Between levels, players work their way through faux-3D corridors (impressive for its time) to get to the next stage.

The game itself is extremely challenging; players start with three lives and it takes just one bullet to kill your character. Even with two players, the game is downright difficult, so many players (myself included) resorted to the now-sacred Konami Code (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start) to start the game with thirty lives. In my recent foray into the game, my friend Kevin and I only managed to get to the third stage before losing all thirty lives. Yeah—we suck.

Contra is near-perfect in graphics, music, and gameplay. When you're ready to play, go buy a vintage NES—there's no other way to play it. If you're hard up on cash (or just lazy), grab an NES emulator and download the ROM. Note: ROMs are copyrighted code; unless you own the original cartridge, downloading a ROM for any other purpose than immediately deleting it is illegal. Don't be naughty.


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