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Sean Bacher

Something on the Side: A wristband to keep you on your toes

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In this week’s round-up of Something on the Side, SEAN BACHER highlights the FitBit Flex wristband, the mini GoPro Hero 3 camera, a dual-band Wi-Fi range extender from Belkin, the Epson L110 printer and a pair of wireless headphones from Jabra.

FitBit Flex

The FitBit Flex bracelet is a pedometer, sleep pattern logger and calorie counter in one. It is simple to set up, requiring the user merely to charge the bit that fits in the bracelet, set up a profile, set goals and then strap on the bracelet. Every step is logged and synched with either a desktop, Android or Apple device. Users can check on how close they are to their set goals by tapping the band to reveal a strip of LEDs (each one that is illuminated represents 20% of the pre-set goal.) Unlike other fitness bracelets, the FitBit is designed to be removed only when it needs a charge every five days or so. This means that users can get it wet without having to dry it off afterwards. At night, a double tap of the bracelet sends it into sleep mode, at which stage the FitBit Flex monitors and logs a user’s sleep pattern.

Expect to pay: R1 299

Stockists: iStores across South Africa.

GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition

At a little bigger than a matchbox, the GoPro could quite possibly be one of the smallest cameras in the world. Its diminutive size does not mean it has limited functions though, as the camera boasts12MP high-definition stills as well as video. It is designed for active users, whether they are cycling, running, skiing or even doing a little water sports. The casing is dust and water proof, meaning it can be submerged in water, although not for long periods of time.

Expect to pay: R5 600

Stockists: Visit: www.omnico.co.za

Belkin N300 dual band Wi-Fi range extender

This Wi-Fi range extender plugs into a wall socket for electricity near the edge of a router’s Wi-Fi range. Pair it with that router and it will eliminate most of the ‚”dead-spots‚” in a home or small office. The Wi-Fi range extender’s settings can be accessed from any browser on most mobile devices. It operates on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency and offers 256 bit WPA2 encryption as well as 64 or 128 it WEP encryption.

Expect to pay: R1 200

Stockists: All major electronics retail outlets across South Africa.

Epson L110 single function printer

This single function printer uses an integrated ink system, making it ideal for home offices wanting to cut their printing costs down, as it allows them to refill the cartirdges easily with Epson-genuine ink bottles. The printer features Epson’s Micro Piezo printhead technology, which allows for precisely controlled ink droplets of up to five different sizes to be ejected from the print head – resulting in sharper, grain-free photo prints with smoother tonal transitions. According to Epson, a full cartridge will print up to 4 000 pages in black and white and 6 500 pages in colour.

Expect to pay: R2 800

Stockists: Incredible Connection.

Jabra Revo Wireless

The Jabra Revo Wireless headphones connect to a phone, tablet or computer via Bluetooth, meaning the user gets maximum freedom of movement without getting caught up in a web of wires. A turntable touch control on the side of the headphones allows users to play, skip or pause music and even manage calls easily. The headphones incorporate Dolby technology, ensuring the lowest base and highest treble tones are produced with minimal distortion. The Sound App, which can be downloaded to a smartphone, allows a user to fine tune the headphones to their exact liking.

Expect to pay: R4 000

Stockists: All major electronics retail outlets across South Africa.

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AppDate: MTN music track targets the deaf

In his app roundup, SEAN BACHER highlights DefBars, The Answer Series, AppVenture, hApp-e-tax VAT app and Motomatch.

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DefBars

Deafness is one of the largest prevailing disabilities in South Africa, with more than four million people living with a hearing challenge. 

With this in mind, MTN recently developed DefBars, a bespoke music track using SASL (South African Sign Language) for the hard-of-hearing and/or deaf community. Working with SA rapper The LazarusMan, who specifically learned sign language for the project, the aim of the track is to increase awareness of SASL and to promote the learning of the language among the hearing community.

The lyrics are all signed and can only be understood if one knows SASL or is prepared to learn the basics.

The track was mastered by Hey Papa Legend to ensure that the vibration within it can be “heard” by deaf South Africans. The music video was filmed with the supervision of St Vincent’s School for the Deaf to ensure that all the signs were visible and understood.

While the track was well-received, there was an influx of positive criticism from within the deaf community.  MTN thus moved on to develop phase two of Defbars – a remix of the track with Glen: The Rapper, an up-and-coming rapper from within the deaf community, who put his own spin on its presentation.

The remixed track highlights the subtle differences between a hearing person’s interpretation of SASL and how a hard-of-hearing person would interpret the hand gestures.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: Free to view to

Stockists: The music videos can be viewed here:

Visit the next page to read about The Answer Series app for education, an app that allows users to manage their money regardless of their bank, the hApp-e-tax app for VAT, and an app that handles car buying and selling.

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Security gets an upgrade – with a few glitches

Video doorbells are all the rage in the USA. Can they work in South Africa? SEAN BACHER tries out the Ring Video DoorBell 2 and Floodlight Cam.

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IP cameras have become synonymous with both business and home security. They are readily available, fairly inexpensive and, in many cases, easy to install.

Many are wireless, allowing one to place the camera anywhere within Wi-Fi range. As a result, they are a solution that can be customised to suit any type of security situation.

A world leader in doorbell security, Amazon subsidiary Ring, has recently extended its range of security devices, which now includes doorbells, floodlights, and Wi-Fi extenders, all designed to enhance and complement existing security beams and electric fences.

First up is the Ring Video DoorBell 2

It doesn’t look much like your normal intercom system, except for the miniature eye that keeps track of mischief that may be happening.  

Setting up is fairly easy. All one needs to do is connect it to the network by pushing the connect button, create an account on the downloaded smartphone app and get started with customisation and certification. Features like sensitivity, alerts, and numbers where these alerts need to be sent can all be preprogrammed. It is then just a matter of positioning the doorbell to get the best video coverage.

Getting the correct position may take some time, though, as cars and pedestrians may set it off. 

Next up is the Floodlight Cam

This works much the same as the doorbell. However, it needs to be mounted to a wall. Ring has you covered there: in the box you will find drill bits, screws and even a screwdriver to help you secure the camera. 

You will have to set alerts, phone numbers, and sensitivity. The spotlight allows you to change what time it should light up and shut down, and the package also includes an alarm, should its beams be broken.

Although this all sounds good, there are a few drawbacks to the Ring solutions. Firstly, unlike the United States, where doorbells are stuck in the vicinity of a front door, allowing them to connect to a network easily, many houses in South Africa have gates that need to be opened before one can reach the front door. This means that the bells are on or near the gate, and they are unable to connect to a home or business network.

Now, however, Ring has launched a Wi-Fi extender, but this requires an additional set-up process – and a fairly expensive one, considering the camera cost.

The Ring devices come with Protection Plans that automatically upload any triggered recordings to the cloud, allowing you to view them at a later stage. This trial period only lasts for 30 days, after which the plans can be extended from R450 for a three month period, up to R1 500 for a twelve-month period.

In practice

The attention to detail in the packaging and the addition of the tools really does put the Ring in a class of its own. No short cuts were taken in its design, and you can immediately see that it’s no rip-off. However, the Protection Plans need to be looked at carefully in terms of their costs.

Aside from this challenge, I found the devices very handy inside my house. For instance, a few times my external alarm or fence would sound, at which stage I would get a notification from my armed response – while I was away. But I easily logged in to Ring from my phone to check if anything strange was happening – all in a matter of seconds and while I was sitting all the way in Berlin.

The devices are rather expensive, though, with the Video Door Bell starting at R3 500 and going up to R7 990, and the Floodlight Cam going for R5 000. It all adds up quickly.

The cost means these solutions may not be quite ready for the South African consumer looking for a complete external perimeter security system.

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