Showing posts with label electronics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label electronics. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

The Best Bone-Conduction Bluetooth Headphones Review: Shokz OpenRun Pro

If you enjoy listening to music, radio, podcasts or audiobooks, watching TV, movies, YouTube, etc., Bluetooth headphones are a must-have — especially if you don't live (or work) alone. If you want to be able to hear ambient noises, such as a phone call, someone speaking to you or an approaching car as you're crossing the street, you'll want to choose open-ear headphones, rather than on-ear or in-ear styles, such as earbuds. And if you care about sound quality and comfort, I highly recommend investing in a good pair of lightweight bone-conduction Bluetooth headphones.

Shokz, which changed its name from Aftershokz in 2021, is the leading brand of bone-conduction Bluetooth heaphones, for good reason. I have owned several pairs over the years and the company's products just keep getting better. 

I recently purchased the new, top-of-the-line (as of this writing) Shokz OpenRun Pro premium bone conduction Bluetooth headphones, which were launched in January 2022 and are significantly superior to my older models. In this product review, I'll share what I love most about my new Shokz OpenRun Pro on-ear headphones and why I think they are worth their premium price tag. I will also recommend some less expensive models of Shokz bone conduction headphones that are also well worth considering, depending on your needs and your budget.

Main image: Shokz OpenRun Pro Bone Conduction Open-Ear Bluetooth Headphones

Bone Conduction Headphones

I first learned about bone conduction headphone technology in 2015 from my husband, who researched and purchased his first pair of Shokz (then called Aftershokz) bone-conduction headphones after his primary care doctor advised him to stop wearing earbuds, over-ear or on-ear headphones because of his ear eczema. When his new 'phones arrived, he invited me to try them and I became a fan almost immediately (it did take a couple of minutes to get used to the mild vibration against my outer cheekbones the first time I put them on).

Unlike traditional wired and wireless types, Bluetooth headphones with bone conduction technology bypass the eardrum entirely! Instead of sending vibrations through the air to your eardrum, bone-conduction headphones use transducers to transmit those vibrations through your cranial bones (mainly cheekbones and jawbone) directly to your inner ear, causing the cochlea to send signals to the brain, which processes those vibrations into the sound coming through the headphones.

Interesting fact: Since bone conduction technology bypasses the eardrum, it is also used in certain types of hearing impairment tests and hearing aids.

Advantages of Open-Ear Bluetooth Headphones

We continue to move inexorably from wired to wireless technology. We have become accustomed to the freedom and convenience of no longer being tethered to our devices or having limited mobility while using them because they need to be plugged in. This is especially true when it comes to headphones. Most wireless headphones and the devices we use them with, such as laptops, tablets and smartphones,  have built-in Bluetooth technology. So, for example, when I'm out taking a walk, I can listen to an audiobook through my wireless Bluetooth headphones while the iPhone I'm playing it on is safely zipped inside my purse, backpack or belt bag.

Types of wireless Bluetooth headphones include:

  • Earbuds that fit inside your ears.
  • In-ear monitors (IEMs). These are often the choice of serious audiophiles, professional musicians, band members and sound engineers.
  • Over-ear headphones with cushioned ear cups that enclose your ears completely to isolate whatever you are listening to from ambient noise. Again, if you are a serious audiophile, professional musician or sound engineer, or if you are a frequent traveler, these definitely have their uses.
  • On-ear headphones, where the cushioning rests against your ears, rather than enclosing them, so there is less sound isolation (i.e., you can hear some ambient sounds and others may be able to hear what you are listening to, i.e., sound leakage).
  • Open-ear headphones, which have a slim, wrap-around headband that goes behind the head and above the ears, with the ends resting on your cheekbones just in front of the ears. Most open-ear headphones, including the Shokz OpenRun Pro headphones, use bone conduction technology.
Here are some of the key benefits of open-ear Bluetooth headphones:

  • Comfort. Open-ear headphones tend to be significantly more lightweight than other types that have bands. In addition, some people (including me) find earbuds and IEMs painful. In my case, I can't get earbuds to stay in my ears, and I have tried many different types including those designed specifically for people with hard-to-fit ears!
  • Safety. Open-ear headphones allow you to hear what's going on around you while you're listening to music, audiobooks, podcasts, videos or TV, taking phone calls, etc. So, if you're out for a run in the park and a cyclist is bearing down on you from behind, you won't be caught off-guard. Similarly, if you're vacuuming and an important call comes in, you can not only hear the phone ring but also pick it up and talk with the caller without having to pull out your cell phone or walk over to a land line.
  • Hygiene. When you cover your ears with earbuds, over-ear or on-ear headphones, you're creating an enclosed, warm, moist environment that bacteria thrive in. Earbuds and IEMs are especially non-hygienic, since you are repeatedly inserting them inside your ear, where they become covered with bacteria that can continue to grow after they have been removed. Ick!

    In addition, some people (including my husband and me) have ear eczema, which makes the skin in and on our ears dry, flaky and itchy. Wearing headphones that cover our ears, and especially earbuds or IEMs that fit inside them, exacerbates this condition, whereas open-ear bone conduction Bluetooth headphones allow the skin in and on our ears to "breathe."
  • Unobtrusive appearance. The band on most open-ear Bluetooth headphones is narrow and can be worn under your hair, if desired (unless it's extremely short), so that the only visible part is the small ends containing the transducers, which sit just in front of your ears.
Photo of man wearing Shokz OpenRun Pro Bluetooth bone conduction headphones
The Shokz OpenRun Pro wrap-around band is extremely thin, lightweight and comfortable.

It can easily be hidden underneath your hair, if you wish, so that only the small transducers are visible in front of the ears.

Why I Highly Recommend Shokz OpenRun Pro Premium Bone Conduction Open-Ear Bluetooth Headphones

In addition to the pros of open-ear, bone-conduction Bluetooth headphones I've already covered, here are some features and benefits specific to the Shokz OpenRun Pro model I own:

  • close-up of Shokz OpenRun Pro bone conduction headphones control buttons
    Simple power & volume control buttons
     on the right side (above magnetic charging port

    Shokz's newest, most advanced bone conduction technology. Bass tends to be an issue with open-ear headphones, but the new OpenRun Pro 'phones feature Shokz TurboPitch 9th Generation Bone Conduction Technology with CoreCushion bass enhancers inside the transducers for full, rich sound.
  • Multi-point pairing lets you pair with two devices at the same time. I have my Shokz bone-conduction Bluetooth headphones paired with my laptop and my iPhone by default, so I don't have to disconnect and re-pair my Shokz each time I switch from one electronics device to the other multiple times a day.
  • Simple, intuitive controls. The buttons have been enlarged, which makes it much easier to avoid pressing the wrong button.
    • On the right side, there is a large Power/Volume+ button and  Volume- button. Press and hold the Power/Volume+ button for two seconds to power up the headphones, then press and hold it for three seconds to turn them off.
    • Close-up of multifunction button on Shokz OpenRun Pro headphones
      The multifunction button on the
      left side is context-aware.
      On the left side, there is a single, large, context-sensitive multifunction button. Phone calls: Click it once to answer or end a call. Music: Click once to play/pause, double-click while the music is playing to skip to the next song, or triple-click while the music is playing to go to the previous song.
  • Up to 10-hour of music and phone calls on a full charge. Note: With any Bluetooth or other wireless headphones, your actual battery life will depend on the type of audio you're listening to, the volume, the ambient temperature and the output of the USB port used to charge your headphones.  
  • Full charge time: 1 hour. That's pretty fast for 10 hours of use!
  • 5-minute quick charge = 1.5 hours of use. Since these are so lightweight and comfortable, I sometimes forget I'm wearing them and don't remember to turn them off when I'm through listening to my music, audiobook, etc. So, being able to quick-charge them for 5 minutes and immediately use them for another 1.5 hours is an awesome feature!
  • close-up of magnetic induction charging cable and headphone jack
    Magnetic induction charging =
    no fumbling to align the
    charging cable with the charging port!
    Magnetic induction charging cable. The magnetic charging pad on the Shokz OpenRun Pro charging cable firmly snaps into place automatically as soon as it gets near the magnetic charging pad next to the power and volume buttons. Fast and effortless! The location of the charging pad on the headphones has also been moved to make it more easily accessible.
  • Audio battery level notifications. There's no need to guess how much charge you have left, because each time you power on your headphones, a voice will say "Battery High," "Battery Medium," "Battery Low" or "Charge Me." How cool is that?
  • LED charging/charged indicator glows red when charging, then turns blue when fully charged.
  • 20% smaller than previous models. My new Shokz OpenRun Pro headphones are not only more unobtrusive than the older models I have owned, they are also much more lightweight and fit my small-ish head much better, while stil fitting my husband's much larger head equally comfortably.
  • IP55 certified water-resistant. Wear your Shokz OpenRun Pros during a sweaty workout or outdoors in the freezing rain, snow, or blistering heat—they can take it! Just remember that they're water-resistant, not waterproof, so take them off if it starts to pour.
  • Moisture detection alerts. Shokz OpenRun Pro headphones will beep to let you know if it detects water, perspiration or other moisture on the charging pads, so you can stop charging and allow the area to dry completely before charging. 
  • Dual noise-canceling built-in microphone. Perfect for making or taking phone calls or participating in Zoom meetings without annoying electronic feedback.
  • 33 ft. wireless range lets my phone be in one room while I listen to music or audiobooks playing on it in another room.
  • Lightweight nylon fitted zippered hard shell storage and travel case makes it harder for me to lose my new headphones, charging cable, sports headband, warranty card or user guide and protects my investment when I throw them into my purse or suitcase.
  • Optional elasticized headband (included). I have never used mine, but I gather it is to make sure your headphones can't come off while you are running or doing other forms of strenuous exercise.
  • New color option: blue! While I wouldn't sacrifice quality for appearance when choosing an electronics product, I admit I was delighted to see that these superb Shokz OpenRun Pro headphones are available in a pretty aqua blue as well as in black.
  • 2-year warranty. The manufacturer's warranty covers product defects. If you order your Shokz headphones on Amazon you can also purchase an ASURION 2- or 3-Year Portable Electronic Accident Protection Plan with Tech Support for a small additional fee, if you wish.
Photo of aqua blue Shokz OpenRun Pro Bluetooth headphones in black nylon zippered case.
My aqua blue Shokz OpenRun Pro headphones in their
black nylon fitted case (with a loop for the charging cable

The only real "con" is the premium price tag. As of this writing, Shokz OpenRun Pro premium bone conduction open-ear headphones retail for $175.95, much more than I would normally consider spending on this type of product. However, for all the reasons I've listed, uncluding the unmatched comfort, great sound quality, magnetic induction charging and quick charge feature, I consider them a worthwhile investment. 

They are marketed as sports headphones, but I consider them top-of-the-line, open-ear Bluetooth bone conduction headphones for all-around use.

Other Shokz Bone-Conduction Open-Ear Bluetooth Headphones Worth Considering

Shokz open-ear Bluetooth headphones are consistently top-rated by expert technology product review sites such as TechRadar, which named Shokz OpenRun Pro their top pick of The Best Bone Conduction Headphones of 2022. Given their steep price tag, however, there are other, less expensive Shokz models as well as some specialty models that also merit consideration.

Shokz OpenRun have the 8th (vs. 9th) generation of the company's bone conduction technology (with PremiumPitch 2.0 vs. Shokz TurboPitch) and have an 8-hour battery life (vs. 10-hour), a 1.5 hour charge time (vs. 1 hour), a 10-minute quick-charge time for 1.5 hours of usage (vs. 5-minute quick-charge time for 1.5 hours of usage), compared to the Shokz OpenRun Pro. However, they also are IP67-certified waterproof (vs. IP55-certified water-resistant), priced $50 lower than the OpenRun Pro model ($129.95) at the time of publication, and are available in a choice of four colors: Black, bright blue, grey or red. 

Shokz OpenRun Mini headphones are the same model but with a smaller band to fit smaller heads. They only come in black.

Shokz OpenMove have the 7th generation of the company's bone conduction technology with PremiumPitch 2.0, a 6-hour battery life and are IP55-certified water-resistant. They have a partial titanium frame (vs. a full wrap-around titanium frame), use a USB-C charging cable (vs. magnetic induction charging), and don't have a quick-charge feature. On the other hand, they retail for only $79.95 as of this writing, $100 less than the OpenRun Pro model. They come in a choice of blue, grey, pink or white.

Shokz Bone-Conduction Bluetooth Headphones Make a Great Gift

Most people I know own at least one and, for the most part, multiple Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as laptops, mobile phones, tablets, TVs, smart watches and fitness trackers. From college students to seniors, there's a Shokz bone-conduction open-ear Bluetooth headphones model to suit their needs and your budget.


The Best Bone-Conduction Bluetooth Headphones Review: Shokz OpenRun Pro by Margaret Schindel


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Wednesday, February 23, 2022

The Best Affordable Microfiber Cloths for Cleaning Eyeglasses, Screens & Lenses

Many of us wear prescription eyeglasses, magnifying readers or sunglasses to help us see clearly and protect our precious vision from UV rays. More and more of us rely on our mobile phones, smart phones, tablets, laptops, Kindle or Nook e-readers, smart watches, fitness trackers, digital cameras and other electronics and mobile devices with screens or lenses for working, staying in touch, virtual visits, news, entertainment, hobbies, banking and other important activities. The best and safest way to clean those lenses and screens, especially if they have any type of coating, is with a soft, smooth, tightly-woven, lint-free microfiber cloth, either dry or moistened with water or a good quality cleaning solution designed for that purpose, depending on the type of lens or screen.

This is my product review of the Care Touch microfiber cleaning cloths I purchased recently to replace our older, worn cloths that were no longer cleaning effectively. I highly recommend these excellent, lint-free microfiber cloths for cleaning all types of optic lenses and electronics display screens gently and safely.

Main image: Care Touch Microfiber Cleaning Cloths Safe for Any Lens or Screen!

Both my husband's single-vision glasses and my progressive, no-line bifocals have were expensive, with Transitions lenses and anti-reflective coatings. Each of us also has a pair with single-vision prescription lenses and an anti-glare coating (John's are very dark sunglasses, while mine are for doing close-up work, such as making jewelry, crafting, sewing or pulling out a splinter). We also have a collection of smartphones, tablets and other devices with built-in cameras and displays. Together, they represent a  significant investment that we need to protect with proper care, cleaning and maintenance.

Frequent washing of the cloths you use to clean your optic lenses and display screens is important, since even tiny dust particles or your fingerprints can scratch or smear the delicate surfaces and coatings. So, when I started researching the best microfiber eyeglasses, lens and screen cleaning cloths for our needs, I not only looked for ones that could safely and effectively clean our expensive prescription eyeglasses as well as the camera lenses and display screens on our phones and other devices, I also decided to buy enough so we could swap in clean cloths for dirty ones that needed to be laundered.

As I was comparing products and reading Amazon customer product reviews, the Care Touch microfiber cleaning cloths really stood out. However, since I hadn't heard of this brand before and they don't sell the individually, was a bit hesitant to order a bulk pack of 12 sight unseen. (There was also a pack of six, but the difference in price between the 6-pack and the 12-pack was negligible.) 

I'm very glad I decided to go with my gut and take a chance on them.

Package of 12 Care Touch microfiber cleaning cloths
Inside the bag are 12 microfiber lens and screen cleaning cloths, each folded and individually wrapped in its own cellophane envelope/pouch

What We Love About Care Touch Microfiber Cleaning Cloths

Here are some of the key features, benefits and other considerations that impressed me enough to choose the Care Touch Microfiber Cleaning Cloths 12-pack over other, better known and much more expensive brands, such as Zeiss or Nikon.

  • Safe to use on all lenses and display screens, even single- or multi-coated prescription eyeglasses, camera lenses and filters!
  • Machine washable and air dry quickly when laid flat (I recommend a clean cotton terrycloth towel).
  • Durable fabric and construction including pinked, heat-treated edges that resist fraying, so they hold up well through frequent machine washing cycles.
  • Smooth, silky, very finely woven, lint-free microfiber that cleans lenses and screens gently and thoroughly without scratching, smearing or leaving any residue, either with or without water or a cleaning solution, as long as the cloths are kept clean and free from any dust.
  • A generous 6" x 7" size, identical to the lens cleaning cloths we get from our optometrist, which is ideal for eyeglasses, camera lenses, mobile devices and other portable electronics. (Although I prefer a larger size for large-screen TVs and monitors, these work great for those, too, in a pinch.)
  • Individually wrapped in cellophane envelope pouches. 
    • Even though these cellophane pouches were designed to be discarded after opening and removing the cloths, I have been refolding and carefully placing the cloths (except the ones I keep inside my hard eyeglasses cases) back inside the pouches to keep them clean and dust-free between uses. When the cellophane pouches tear, as I'm sure they will at some point, I'll probably store the cloths in sandwich-size food storage bags or make some small drawstring bags from scrap fabric.
  • Great for removing fingerprints from other surfaces, such as crystal glassware, watch crystals and smooth or brushed metal surfaces.
  • A terrific value! When I purchased them on Amazon last month, the price was less than nine dollars for a pack of 12 individually wrapped microfiber cleaning cloths. That's less than 75 cents each! And a dozen gives you enough for multiple pairs of eyeglasses, phones, tablets and other devices, with a couple of extras to swap out for laundering, and you'll still have a couple leftover to share with a friend or family member. 
    • Note: Although a few Amazon reviewers have complained that they received only 10 cloths instead of 12 that was not my experience.
  • Excellent reviews from Amazon customers.
  • Responsive customer support including monitoring and responding to many customer questions on Amazon and a 30-day satisfaction guarantee (return the cloths in their original condition within 30 days or for a full refund or replacement).
My Care Touch Microfiber Cleaning Cloths 12-Pack with five of the individually wrapped cloths

Care Touch Lens Care Products Make Affordable, Thoughtful and Practical Gifts

I can't think of anyone who wouldn't appreciate receiving some new, high quality, durable, gentle and effective microfiber cloths, pre-moistened wipes or spray lens cleaner for keeping their eyeglasses, camera lenses and device screens clean and free of fingerprints, smudges or streaks. Here are my top picks for both personal use and gift giving.

  • Care Touch Microfiber Cleaning Cloths
    • Instead of giving the entire 12-pack to someone who may only have use for a few, consider breaking it up into several smaller stocking stuffers for multiple recipients. At less than 75 cents apiece, tucking a few of these individually wrapped, lint-free microfiber cloths into someone's Christmas stocking will only set you back a couple of bucks. It's rare to find such an inexpensive product that is also well made, truly useful and nice enough to be gift worthy.
  • Single-use Care Touch Pre-Moistened Lens Cleaning Wipes
    • Care Touch Pre-Moistened Lens Cleaning Wipes are gentle alcohol prep pads saturated with a 39.5% isopropyl alcohol solution that is milder and safter for cleaning coated or special lenses than the 70% concentration of isopropyl alcohol in the solutions used with typical alsohol prep pads that can damage these types of lenses.
    • Generous 5" x 6" size for cleaning larger as well as smaller lenses and screens.
    • Convenient, compact, and individually sealed so you can easily tuck a couple into your purse or briefcase for quick, streak-free cleaning of fingerprints and smudges on your eyeglasses, phone or tablet screens on the go.
  • Care Touch Lens and Screen Cleaning Set
    • 200 of the pre-moistened lens cleaning wipes
    • 6 of the microfiber cloths
  • Care Touch Eyeglass Cleaner Spray Kit 
    • This kit has everything you or your gift recipient needs for lens and screen care, which makes it a wonderful gift idea for family members and friends, from school-age kids to seniors:
      • Two Care Touch microfiber cleaning cloths
      • Two 8-oz. bottles and one 2-oz. TSA-friendly travel size bottle of Care Touch Eyeglass Cleaner Spray, a gentle yet effective alcohol-free and ammonia-free formula designed to be used with the microfiber cloths for cleaning all lenses, screens, and glass surfaces, even those with anti-reflective, transition, anti-fog or other special coatings.
      • 26 Care Touch Pre-Moistened Lens Cleaning Wipes
    • At publication time, this kit was selling on Amazon for only $9.99—45% off the list price of $17.99. That's a terrific deal!

The Best Affordable Microfiber Cloths for Cleaning Eyeglasses, Screens & Lenses by Margaret Schindel

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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

This Easy $3 Hack Prolongs Your Charging Cables' Life

Apple Lightning cables, Thunderbolt cables, and several types of USB cables remain in widespread use, despite the prevalence of Bluetooth wireless technology. You probably own multiple chargers and other types of cables to power, recharge and connect your mobile phones, digital cameras, tablets, e-readers, laptop or desktop computers, wired printers and other electronic equipment and peripherals, whether or not they are Bluetooth-enabled.

If you are frustrated by how often even expensive, top-rated phone chargers and other charging cords and cables need to be repaired or replaced, you’ll appreciate this quick, easy and inexpensive DIY hack that will strengthen and significantly prolong the life of your charging cables and data transfer cables. I’ll show you how to reinforce and extend the manufacturer’s built-in strain relief for the connectors on the ends of these cords with a small, single-use pack of Sugru moldable rubber glue and a few minutes of your time.

There's no way to predict exactly how much longer yours will last with this hack, since there are quite a few possible variables at play. However, I can say that, as someone who tends to be pretty hard on iPhone charging cables, USB cables and other cords for my various electronics and digital devices, using Sugru to strengthen my new cables before I start using them has roughly doubled the useful life of several of mine.

Apple Lightning to USB iPhone charging cables before and after reinforcing the strain relief with Sugru moldable rubber glue
It took only a few minutes and less than $3 worth of Sugru moldable rubber "glue" to reinforce and extend the strain release on this new Anker Powerline+ III Apple Lightning to USB-A charging cable.

How Many Types of Charging Cables Do You Use?

USB cables are ubiquitous home, office and mobile device staples. In addition to charging most of our electronic devices, these cords are also used to transfer files and photos from a digital camera or mobile phone to a desktop, laptop or tablet, send documents, images and other data to a regular, multifunction or 3D printer, electronic cutting machine or other device with a USB port, and to sync files, photos and other data among digital devices, either instead or as an alternative to using Bluetooth or other wireless technology options.

Most households own multiple mobile phones, tablets, computers, printers and other digital devices that require different types of USB charging cables and cords for data transfer. For example, I use both USB-A to Apple Lightning cables and USB-C to Apple Lightening cables to charge my iPhone or transfer data from my iPhone to my Windows laptop and a USB-A to USB-C cable to charge my Fire HD 10 tablet, while my husband’s old Samsung Galaxy S5 Android phone uses a Micro USB Type B to USB-A charging cable. 

An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure

High-quality charging cables usually have more substantial, durable and usually molded integral strain relief than cheap ones. However, even on better quality USB charging cords from top brands such as Anker, if care isn’t taken to avoid undue tension or torsion at the connector ends, the strain relief may not be sufficient to prevent a wire in a shielded cable from breaking or stop the insulation, shield and jacket layers that surround those wires from splitting, fraying or separating from the connectors.

Using Sugru moldable glue to repair charging cords when the outer layers fray or split has long been a popular hack. While encasing the cable ends and connectors with this durable, air-cured rubber putty can sometimes extend the lifespan of a cable with relatively minor surface damage, such as a frayed cord or a small tear in the insulation, it can’t fix one that has stopped working because of a loose or broken wire. So, instead of waiting until one of these issues develops and having to attempt a DIY repair or pay a repair service more money to fix the broken cord or charger than it would cost to buy a new one, I highly recommend taking a more proactive approach by using Sugru to reinforce the strain relief the manufacturer has added to a new cable as soon as you remove it from the packaging. It's simple, inexpensive precaution that can significantly extend or even double a laptop, tablet or phone charger's useful life.

At the time of this post’s publication, you can order a 3-pack of Sugru moldable glue on Amazon for $7.99 with free shipping for Amazon Prime members. That equates to $2.66 for each single-use pack, which contains the perfect amount of Sugru for this quick and easy DIY project. So, for less than $3 each, you can beef up the strain relief to prolong the life of your new or lightly used charging cables. 

Since there are so many ingenious and useful Sugru hacks that use this strong, adhesive, self-hardening rubber putty, you may want to order the more economical Sugru moldable multi-use glue 8-pack, available on Amazon for $16.99 with free Prime shipping as write this, which brings down the cost of each pack to just $2.12 per (or even less with the current $3 off coupon).

Another consideration: One single-use pack of Sugru is enough to reinforce two cord ends. I prefer to reinforce both ends of my charging cables, so I use one pack for each cable. However, many people reinforce only one end of each cord, and if that's your preference, you can strengthen the strain relief on two chargers with each single-use pack, 

Note: If you aren’t a Prime member already, I highly recommend taking advantage of the Amazon Prime 30-day free trial. You can take a month to explore and enjoy the wide range of valuable benefits of being an Amazon Prime member—plenty of time to decide whether or not the annual membership fee would be worth it for you and your family.

Sugru: Use It or Lose It

Sugru begins to cure and morph from a soft putty to a hard rubber as soon as it is exposed to air. So, the minute you tear open one of the foil pouches, the clock starts ticking. According to the manufacturer's website, "Once you open your single-use pack, the moisture in the air will trigger the setting process giving you 30 minutes to fix, bond and create before Sugru begins to harden." So, it's important to work quickly so you will have enough time to complete and refine your project within that 30-minute window. [Source]

Since the company has not found yet found a way to extend Sugru's working time once it is exposed to air, make sure you have everything set out and ready to go before you open that airtight, sealed foil pouch. And, if you only need part of the packet's contents for your project—for example, if you only want to reinforce one end of a charging cable—try to plan another project (or two) to use up the remainder of the Sugru during that 30-minute "open time" so none of it goes to waste. 

Even unopened Sugru has a limited shelf life and an expiration date that is marked on the packaging. However, the good news is that Sugru was reformulated last fall and one of the new formula's improvements is that you can increase the product's shelf life as much as three times by storing the single-use pouches in the refrigerator from the time you bring them home until you're ready to use them.

How to Strengthen Your Charging Cables to Prolong Their Useful Life

Follow these simple, step-by-step instructions for reinforcing and extending the manufacturer's existing strain relief collar or band with this easy $3 charging cable Sugru hack.

What You'll Need

Note: Teflon is one of the few materials that Sugru won't stick to before it cures. Even if you prefer not to cook or bake with it, this nonstick sheet can be extremely useful for crafting and DIY projects. Unfortunately, I couldn't find mine recently when I was photographing this DIY tutorial, so I tried substituting a sheet of wax paper to protect the cutting board I used as my portable work surface. The Sugru glue did stick to the wax paper somewhat, so I don't recommend it. If you don't have (or don't want to buy) a piece of nonstick sheet for crafting and DIY, I suggest trying plastic wrap aka cling film, which might work better.

Materials and supplies needed: charging cable, Sugru moldable glue, optional container of soapy water

Step 1: Set Up Your Workspace With Everything You Will Need Before You Open the Pack of Sugru.

The second the Sugru inside a sealed foil pouch is exposed to air, the clock starts ticking on the 30-minute window of working time before the rubber putty starts to cure. So, it's a good idea to get as much set up as you can to maximize that limited window of opportunity, before the countdown begins.

  • Clear off a flat workspace and cover it with the nonstick sheet.
  • Remove the charging cord (or cords) from its packaging, loosen the hook-and-loop fastener cable tie just enough to pull out the connector end(s) you will be reinforcing for easy access, then re-tighten the cable tie.
  • Fill a small container with lukewarm soapy water, if using.
  • Set a countdown timer or app for 30 minutes, or put your watch. clock, or mobile phone clock where you can see them.
  • Pull out a single-use pack of Sugru moldable glue in the color of your choice, which can match, complement or contrast with the color of the charging cord.
    • For this tutorial, I chose a pack of black Sugru to make it easy to distinguish between the original strain relief collar band of the red Anker Powerline+ III Lightning to USB-A charging cable and the new, longer and thicker Sugru molded rubber reinforcement I added.

When everything is set up and ready to go, start the countdown timer (or make note of the time) and cut or tear open the sealed foil pouch of Sugru. It's show time!

Step 2: Remove the Sugru and Divide It in Half.

Lightly roll each half into a ball and then into a log or sausage shape long enough to cover and extend past the charging cable's strain relief collar or band, as shown. 

Step 3: Taper, Flatten, Wrap and Shape a Sugru Log Around One End of the Charging Cord.

Taper one of the Sugru logs slightly, then gently flatten it with your fingertips until it's just wide enough to wrap around one end of the cable. Align the wider end of the tapered, flattened Sugru log so it overlaps the bottom edge of the connector or plug cover slightly. Then, wrap the edges of the Sugru around the cord, lightly pressing and stroking the soft rubber putty so it conforms smoothly, evenly and snugly and tapers gradually as it extends past the strain relief band and onto the outer cord covering.

When you are happy with the shape of your molded rubber strain relief reinforcement, stroke the surface lightly with a fingertip to smooth out any bumps, seams or uneven edges. 

Red Anker Powerline+ III Lightning to USB A Charging/Sync Cable strengthened with black Sugru moldable rubber glue DIY strain relief reinforcements

If you want to further refine the appearance of your Sugru-enhanced cable strain relief, you can dip your finger into some soapy water for the final smoothing, which will allow your fingertip to glide over the surface of the soft, sticky Sugru rubber to smooth away any fingerprints, lumps, bumps, or unevenness. 

You can see how much smoother and more refined the black Sugru wraps are on this Anker Powerline+ III Lightning to USB-A iPhone charging cable compared to the slightly lumpier, less evenly shaped red Sugru wraps on the Amazon Basics Nylon USB-A to Lightning Cable Cord, MFi Certified Charger for Apple iPhone in the next photo, which I formed without the benefit of any soapy water lubricant. The red Sugru strain relief hack looks fine, too, just a bit less "finished." 

Red Amazon Basics USB-A to Lightning Cable Apple iPhone Charger, with ends and connectors reinforced with rubber Sugru moldable glue

Just make sure to keep and eye on the countdown clock, so you can leave enough time to reinforce, shape and smooth the other end of the charging cord (or a second charging cable) before the Sugru starts to cure and becomes harder to form and refine.

Step 4: Repeat With the Remaining Sugru.

Repeat step 3, using the second log of Sugru to reinforce the other end of the same cable or another charging cord.

Tip: If you are reinforcing both ends of the same cord, be careful not to let the first newly-reinforced cord end bump into anything accidentally while you are working on strengthening the strain relief on the other end, since the Sugru will still be soft and easily marred. One big advantage of working on a PTFE/Teflon sheet is that you can lay the first Sugru-covered end flat on the nonstick sheet, where it can remain undisturbed (if you're careful not to jostle it) as you form the remaining rubber putty around the other end of the cable.

Step 5: Allow the Sugru Rubber-Reinforced Charging Cable(s) to Cure, Undisturbed, For 12 to 24 Hours.

If you can arrange the cord(s) so that the reinforced ends lay flat against the nonstick sheet-covered work surface, that's probably the easiest option.

Alternatively, you may be able to hang the cable over a wall hook, shower curtain rod, towel rack, or even a doorknob, as I did, as long as the still-soft Sugru cord ends don't touch anything, including each other until the next day. 

By the following day, the moldable rubber will be fully cured, providing much more robust cord strain relief and helping to prolong the lifespan of the many types of phone chargers and other charging cables that power and connect the devices you rely on for information, education, communication, entertainment, work and play.


This Easy $3 Hack Prolongs Your Charging Cables' Life by Margaret Schindel


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Sunday, October 4, 2020

Furniture With Built-In Bluetooth Speakers

Product Page Here

Last week I featured funky furniture that comes with built-in USB charging stations. As mentioned in that article, tracking down unique, slightly different home decor products is my passion.

For those who aren't familiar with the variety of home decor pieces that come with built-in Bluetooth, here are several home decor items that may surprise you.

"Product Page: You can view all the products discussed below here"

Mirrors with Bluetooth Speakers

What a great idea! Did you know you can get vanity mirrors or regular mirrors to feature above a dresser, a sink, or anywhere you want that have built-in speakers? What a great idea for a gift as well. The product page features several designs. 

End Tables with Bluetooth Speakers

As discussed in last Sunday's article, many end-tables come with the USB charging stations. However, did you know that some also come with built-in speakers? Isn't that convenient? What a terrific, unique gift idea as well. If you're not sure what to get a couple for a wedding gift, this is something they can always find a spot for.

Ottomans with Bluetooth Speakers

If you prefer your furniture with Bluetooth to be mobile, then an ottoman is the way to go. Carry your ottoman from room to room, or to the outdoor porch or patio! Again, it makes an excellent gift, and best of all, they're relatively affordable.

Couches with Bluetooth Speakers

Yes, you can find these as well. I featured a few on the product page. Again, this is a perfect solution for small apartments or those who consider themselves minimalists. Your sofa serves as an all-in-one media center.

Headboards with Bluetooth Speakers

Not only can you get headboards with built-in USB charging stations, but you can also get them with built-in Bluetooth speakers! How handy is that! When you want music in your bedroom, no more ugly speakers; just turn on the speakers in your headboard.

Consoles with Bluetooth Speakers

Consoles double as storage and provide a decorative piece for hallways or fill walls that need a little something. Look for consoles that come with Bluetooth, and you'll have a place to play your music. The nice part about a console is how they look more like a music cabinet.

Desk or Gaming Chairs with Bluetooth Speakers

Go ahead and choose a gaming chair as your home-office desk chair. They typically come with built-in speakers. When you're working at your desk, you'll be able to listen to your music via your chair's speakers.




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Sunday, September 27, 2020

Furniture Pieces that Come with Built-in USB Charging Stations

Furniture with Built-In USB Charging Station
Furniture with Built-In USB Charging


Did you know there is a wide variety of furniture choices that come with built-in USB charging stations? It's not something we typically think of when we're shopping for recliners and end-tables; however, we should.

For Funkthishouse.com, I'm always on the hunt for creative finds for the home. Yah, I spend too much time scrolling through furniture, rugs, drapes, and bedding ... you name it. It's like hunting for little golden nuggets lol. I sure enjoy it.

Anyway, today's article features pieces of furniture, big and small, that come with built-in USB charging ports.

"Product Page is Here" - You can view all the furniture ideas discussed below on the product page - Be sure to check them out, some are pretty funky :)


Coffee Tables and End-Tables with Built-In USB Charging


Unless you want a full-blown Smart-Table, you can easily find coffee/end-tables that come with built-in USB charging stations. How convenient is that? When you need to charge your device, reach over and plug it into the outlet on your table. If you're wondering what a "Smart-Table" is, here's a brief article.

Couches and Chairs with Built-In USB Charging


Yes, that's right; if you're in the market for a new couch or chair, be sure to check if it comes with a built-in USB charging station. You'll notice you don't have to spend a fortune (you can if you want) for pieces with built-in charging stations. They come in a wide variety of designs and styles.

Lamps with Built-In USB Charging 


If end-tables, chairs, or couches are too much of an expense, the next time you need a lamp, choose one that has a built-in charging station. They're incredibly convenient for desks or work stations. I've included several styles for you to examine on the product page.

Desks with Built-In USB Charging 


This one is expected. Indeed, with working from home and home-schooling, desks that feature these built-ins add another level of convenience. Get a lamp with a charging station, and you're all set.

Headboards with Built-In USB Charging


Yes, you'll be able to find one of these as well. These headboards come in a broad range of prices, but you can get them in the lower price range as well ... and they're just as lovely. Check out the ones I've featured; they're pretty cool.

Again, here's the product page featuring the above furniture pieces. 

If you can think of any other furniture items with built-in USB ports, let me know. I'm always on the hunt for something different in home decor.






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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Sling TV Review (Alternative to Cable TV)

Cable TV bills getting you down? Need a cheaper alternative but don't want to give up your favorite stations and shows? Then do what I did. Try Sling TV and stream top-rated cable channels directly to your TV, computer, phone, or tablet for just $20 a month!
Sling TV Review - Alternative to Cable TV
My TV, my hand,  my Fire TV Stick screen, my Sling TV. Love it! 

Excuse me if I sound like a commercial, but I'm excited about this. We've never had cable TV at our house (we use an antenna), but we do have a Fire TV Stick which we use to stream movies, listen to music, and more. A couple of months ago I became aware of a service, an app really, called Sling Television that we could download to our Fire TV Stick to watch the cable TV channel that I was craving. Yes, I got the app primarily for one channel (TNT), to watch one show (Major Crimes), but the standard $20 monthly cost actually includes more than 20 stations including ESPN and ESPN2, the History channel and H2, A&E, the Food Network, HGTV, the Travel Channel, CNN, and more. What a deal!

We're talking 23 (at last count) LIVE cable television stations that you can watch for just $20 (plus tax) a month. You can also get HBO for $15 more a month, the Sports Extra, Deportes Extra, Kids Extra, Hollywood Extra, plus several other add-on packages for $5 each, but only if you want those channels. See the full list at the website.

Don't have a Fire TV stick or Fire TV? No problem! Play Sling through your Roku, Xbox One, Android or iOS device, your PC or Mac, or your Kindle Fire.

Since I use the app with my Fire Stick, I actually signed up via the app on Amazon and got a 14-day free trial (that offer is still in effect as I type this) and I pay, conveniently, a month at a time through my Amazon account. Oh, did I mention that there are no contracts? All I have to do is cancel if I change my mind.

So, how well does Sling TV work? For me, quite well. Navigation is easy. While the screen has frozen perhaps a couple of times, it's been rare. I remember once when the audio and video were horribly out of sync, but I just exited the app then went right back in and everything was fine. Obviously your mileage may vary depending on the device you're using and the reliability of your wi-fi connection.

Speaking as a non-techy person, I set this up myself and I'm the one who usually controls the remote, so that proves that it's easy to use. Is SlingTV a good choice for you? I don't know your needs, but for me, I can watch Major Crimes on Monday nights, plus a lot of other great shows, and I don't have a cable bill or a contract, so I'm happy. With the 14-day trial, you really have nothing to lose.

Where do I sign up for Sling TV?
Download the app on Amazon and you'll be eligible for the 14-day trial.  Learn more about the service and see the current line-up of shows on the Sling Television website, but you'll only get a 7-day trial if you sign up there. (Prices and terms subject to change.)

So tell me, do you have cable TV or do you use an alternative service such as Sling?

P.S. Update: It's been almost three months since I wrote this review and I'm enjoying Sling more and more. Between baseball playoffs and college football, I'm using it more and more, too.  

-- Susan Deppner

About the Author





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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Hewlett-Packard Printer Review



HP Envy 5530 e-All-in-One Series Computer Printer

Available on Amazon

I recently upgraded the operating system on my home desktop computer.  As a result, my old printer could no longer 'talk' to my computer, so I needed to purchase a new printer.  I wasn't surprised, as my old printer was 8 years old and was made for operating systems 4 upgrades ago!

After getting my newly revised computer back, I went shopping for a compatible printer, first doing some research online.  I knew I wanted a printer that would do more than print, as I often need to make copies of documents and I do a lot of scanning.  The computer tech who upgraded my computer advised me to first look at the prices of ink cartridges and find a model that was inexpensive, since the ink is the biggest ongoing expense you will have with a printer.


HP Ink Cartridges


Easy Order on Amazon
The printer I purchased not only had reasonably priced ink cartridges, but also happened to be made by a company I've been pleased with in the past ~ Hewlett-Packard.  My very first computer printer back in the early 1990s was an HP and I liked it very much.  And, come to find out, not only are the ink cartridges for my new printer less expensive than the model I was using previously, but they print more than TWICE as many pages per cartridge (up to 190 pages) than the others did and the print is very crisp and sharp on the page.  


HP Envy Printer Model 5530

Needless to say, I am VERY pleased with my new HP Envy 5530 e-All-in-One (print-copy-scan) computer printer! It has a color control panel on the front you can activate with the touch of a finger (or use the printer controls from the computer).  The ink cartridges and paper are both easy to load.  You can print from your smartphone or your tablet, and from an Internet-connected PC. And it has wireless capabilities so it can be located anywhere you need it to be.

This HP Envy printer has so many more features than my old printer did.  For instance, it is able to do two-sided printing, and you can view and print photos from the color touchscreen and produce borderless, lab-quality photos.  And the best part, when I was ready to buy, I found that this HP printer was on Sale!

So now my home office is all set for awhile – a completely revamped desktop computer with a new OS and additional RAM…. And, a brand new spiffy-looking printer. 




Article by Wednesday Elf



*Written on 7/25/15. Updated 7/27/2018


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Monday, March 30, 2015

Otter Box - Protection for Your Electronics

Otter Box for the Moto X
After recently dropping my phone in a parking lot, for the umpteenth time, and finding it to be undamaged, I realized I should write a review on the protective phone case I am fortunate to own - the Otter Box Defender Series. The Otter Box is a rugged, shock-absorbing, attractive case for your android phone, iphone, tablet, or e-reader.


Why I love my Otter Box


I don't like to update my phone with each new model. There are several reasons that I'm so slow at trading in phones.  I worry about phones finding their way into land fills, I don't like to learn new gadgets, and I don't like to spend extra money.  In fact, I like to hang onto each phone until my plan allows for a free phone. Because I am frugal when it comes to electronics and because I am a very clumsy person in general, I need heavy-duty protection for my cell phones.

I have seen students, friends, and family members who have broken their phones from seemingly minor accidents.  My phone accidents tend to include incidents such as dropping my phone from my pocket as I'm exiting my Jeep. I watch in horror as my phone bounces on the pavement.  But so far, knock wood, my phones have been undamaged.

I am quite sure that my current smart phone would have been damaged had it not been for the Otter Box protective case.  There are many reasons that I love my Otter Box


  • I love the color - the dark blue matches my light blue phone
  • The "rubbery" material is easy to stretch over the phone; easy to put on and take off
  • Unlike hard/"plastic" phone cases, this never breaks or pops off unexpectedly
  • The port/access areas of my phone are covered by "flaps". The flaps are durable,  have not broken off, and continue to protect the ports.
  • The heavy-duty, removable clip is perfect for keeping my phone from becoming lost in my hiking bag - keeping it accessible and secure.
  •  I have hidden a few dollars for safe keeping between the clip and the case when hiking in clothing without pockets. 

Otter Box for Tablets


If you, or your children, carry tablets with them there is probably no better case to use for the protection of that investment. This is the Otter Box for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 10.1.  You can see that it also has a durable clip that doubles as a kickstand. 


Otter Box for the Samsung Galaxy Tablet

Protect Your Kindle with Otter Box


I will soon upgrade my original Kindle to a newer version. When I do, I will be very tempted to buy an Otter Box case to protect it. I was thrilled to find that Otter Box makes a case for the newer Kindle Paperwhite and the Kindle Fire.  




The Otter Box, with a screen film protector, has been great insurance for my cell phone investment and has kept my phone looking like new.  While the Otter Box is not advertised to be water resistant or weather resistant, my phone has been protected during bad weather hiking trips as well as during clumsy incidents in parking lots. Whether you are looking for protection in order to increase the longevity of your electronics, out of concern about the environment, or for some other reason, I believe the Otter Box is an excellent way to protect your valuable electronics.






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