Microsoft Replacing Some Surface Pro 4s

Microsoft Replacing Some Surface Pro 4s

Microsoft has now announced their plan to take care of screen flicker issues with the Surface Pro 4. According to a recent article on Microsoft’s Support site, they will be replacing many of their Surface Pro 4s that have the screen flicker issue.

According to their post, Microsoft has noted that a “small percentage” of their Surface Pro 4s have a problem with the screen flickering. Customers have been posting about the issue in Microsoft’s Support section for months. Back in February, The Verge wrote about how some customers were putting their devices in the freezer so they might stop the screen flickering problem (an issue that was referred to by some as “Flickergate”). In The Verge’s article, they noted that at that time, flickering issues had been going on for at least a year, and hundreds of people had been dealing with the issue.

Now Microsoft is doing something about it. Surface Pro 4 owners who go through the replacement process within three years of buying the device can now get a full replacement for free. They do note that the device must be fully updated (to make sure the screen flickering actually does still occur) and that if the device has been damaged through other means (like having someone else try to work on the device) it won’t be eligible.

But if a customer has the screen flicker issue on their Surface Pro 4, they can contact Microsoft, get verification that they’re eligible, send the device back, and get a refurbished device within around a week after Microsoft has received the damaged one.

They also note that if a customer has “already paid an out-of-warranty fee” to take care of this specific issue, the customer can get a refund for the repair. This means people who didn’t wait around for this replacement program won’t be out a lot of extra money that other people didn’t have to pay.

If you have a Surface Pro 4 that’s been plagued with the screen flickering problem, take a look at Microsoft’s article and start taking the first steps toward replacement.

New Alexa Skill Blueprints Offer Further Customization

New Alexa Skill Blueprints Offer Further Customization

Amazon has now given Echo users a new way to make Alexa even more personalized. Skill Blueprints, added this past week, allow Alexa users to program their own customized skills for personal use.

Amazon announced the new ability for Alexa on their Alexa blog last week. Skill Blueprints is a feature that makes it easy to further personalize an Alexa device by creating your own trigger phrases and setting Alexa’s response, building your own trivia game, making personalized stories, and more.

On the Alexa Blueprints website, the feature is explained and the many different Skill templates are described. After logging in to the Amazon account that’s connected to your Alexa device, you can choose from a template and customize your personal skill. These skills are only available on your Alexa devices and aren’t publicly published. You can also have as many Skill Blueprints as you want.

Alexa is known for having some silly quips and fun easter eggs when she’s asked the right phrase. Now you can make your own fun responses with the Q & A Blueprint. You can set up a phrase like “Who’s the best basketball player?” and program Alexa to respond however you’d like. You can also have fun with other Blueprints like the one that “roasts” your guests with custom insults. There’s Family Jokes, which lets you put in your own jokes, as well as Compliments, Trivia, Inspirations (with your favorite quotes), and much more.

Plus you can use these Blueprints to make your smart home easier to navigate. You can use the Pet Sitter Blueprint to enter all the information someone might need to care for your pet (like where to find the food, how often to feed your pet, who to call in an emergency, etc.). And Houseguest has you enter information about staying in your home (and the nearby area) so that if someone is house sitting or visiting, they don’t have to keep texting you with questions about where to find extra paper towels or how to turn on the dishwasher.

There are many other Blueprints available, as well. In fact, there are currently 21 different Blueprints to choose from. Whenever you’ve created a Blueprint, you can go back to it and edit it whenever you want. Amazon’s blog says that your newly-created skills show up on your Alexa devices “instantly,” though it’s important to note that it takes a moment or two for the skills to actually be created. (The Blueprints website asks you to wait as the skill is actually finalized and ready to use—this seems to typically take less than a minute.)

Alexa Skill Blueprints are now available for use in the US. For more information, take a look at the Alexa Blueprints website.

Google, Apple, Samsung Updating Smart Health Products

Google, Apple, Samsung Updating Smart Health Products

Health is an important topic, including in the world of tech. There are many different smart devices and services that can help you track and improve your health. If you use some of them (or are planning to), it’s important to keep track of updates to your options.

Over the past week, news has come out about updates for Google’s Wear OS, Apple’s Health app, and Samsung’s Gear S2. Read on to learn more about what’s changing!

Google’s Wear OS updating, will extend life of battery

Wear OS by Google, previously known as Android Wear, is getting some updates soon. Google’s Developers Blog has posted their developer preview and outlined some upcoming changes to their Wear OS, specifically previewing it on their Huawei Watch 2.

One major part of the preview is its emphasis on extending battery life. Three of the five points on their outline focus on updates that will “improve power.” Specifically, certain features will be limited or turned off to make batteries last longer. According to the blog post, background apps will only be able to run if the watch is currently charging. If the watch is off the body for a long enough time, the watch will also disable services like WiFi and Bluetooth. And in the future, when Bluetooth is disabled, the watch won’t connect to WiFi automatically.

All of these features are intended to make the watch need to be charged less often. They also note other changes, including a darker theme to make the watch easier to look at quickly.

Apple Health app adding access to some medical records

Apple’s Health Records is making it a little more convenient to see some medical records from an iPhone. Apple has posted a blog detailing the new feature added to Apple Health. If you use Apple Health and are a patient at one of the health services connected to the feature, you can see some of your medical history. Not only can you see your records, you can even get an alert if or when the information is changed or added to. For those worried about privacy, don’t get too worried. Apple is stressing in their blog that the information is encrypted. You’ll also need to use your passcode to see the data. The blog post also lists some of the health systems that currently support Apple Health Records.

Samsung’s Gear S2 updated with more health features

Samsung’s years-old smartwatch is getting an update. The Verge reports that many new changes have come with the update, including some new features for fitness and health. One new health-oriented feature is the ability to set a routine. You can then get alerts that encourage you to stay active. You can also track things like your exercise, calorie intake, and heart rate. These are just a few of the changes included in the update.

Smart Assistant Updates

Smart Assistant Updates

A number of different updates about smart assistants and smart speakers have been announced recently (including current and upcoming updates). Google, Amazon, and Facebook have all provided updates on their smart assistant plans. Here’s some of what you might have missed this week!

Google Home now lets you play through Bluetooth speakers

When comparing smart speakers (as I did recently; read about it in my article from last month), people typically take a closer look at the smaller, less expensive versions of the products. For instance, the Amazon Echo has the Echo Dot and the Google Home has the Google Home Mini. One of the things that set the Echo Dot apart from the Home Mini was that the Echo Dot could connect to other Bluetooth speakers. This meant that the less amazing speakers in the Echo Dot weren’t a deal-breaker, because the Dot could be connected to a better Bluetooth sound system.

Now the Home Mini can also improve its sound. The Verge is reporting that the smaller version of Google’s smart speaker can now connect to Bluetooth speakers. Previously, the Home Mini had a lot of great features but had the drawback of featuring unimpressive sound. Now that it can do what the Dot was already able to do, it’s even more of a competitor. If you already have a nice Bluetooth speaker, you no longer need to worry about the Google Home Mini’s sound quality.

Amazon’s Alexa plans to integrate more with your home products

Amazon has now announced their plans for more upcoming devices with Alexa built in. In their post this past week, Amazon detailed three upcoming products that will have Alexa enabled. These “white-box solutions” are part of Amazon’s plan to be more fully integrated into homes.

One product stands out in particular. The Lamp Speaker from Adition mostly looks like the typical smart speaker from Amazon: it’s a tall cylinder. However, it’s also a lamp. This means even typical household devices, like light sources, will soon be able to respond to voice commands and perform the Alexa capabilities we’re used to.

Facebook’s upcoming smart speaker announcement pushed back

You may remember the news at the beginning of this year about Facebook’s planned smart speaker. As I wrote in my article, Facebook has been planning to release a smart speaker currently referred to as ‘Portal.’ The smart system is supposed to include cameras and a screen for video chatting, and the focus is on social connection.

However, The Verge has reported that Facebook’s planned announcement about the smart device has been stalled. According to most reports on this postponement, it’s likely due to Facebook’s current data scandal fallout and its negative connection to user data and privacy.

Tech Spotlight

Tech Spotlight

Hello again! It’s time for my Tech Spotlight. In this series, I scout out great tech-related finds and share them. Each week brings three new tech products you can find on Amazon right now. This week, I’m talking about a device for cyclists, a wireless keyboard, and a wi-fi enabled Roomba vacuum.

Have a look at this week’s items before heading over to Amazon for a closer look!

Beeline – Smart Compass Navigation for Bikes

Beeline is a product meant to make routes easier and more fun for cyclists. If you ride a bicycle, Beeline can improve your experience.

This item is a GPS device that helps you find routes and get from one point to another using one of its navigation styles. Cyclists can use Beeline to get a bicycle-friendly route to their destination. They can also choose to input their destination and use the device as a compass, letting it point cyclists in the right direction and find their own unique path.

Beeline attaches easily to a bike’s handlebar. It’s made to resist water and shocks, be easy to view in sunlight, and last quite a while on one charge (up to 30 hours when being used or a month when not in use). This means you can ride in just about any elements without worrying about the device.

This device works through its accompanying app. In the app, you can track rides and distance, add places to your favorites, share your information with other people, and more.

Beeline makes it easier to navigate on a bike with its small and easy to use device. If you bike, take a closer look at the details on Amazon!

UHURU Wireless Full-size Keyboard and Cordless Mouse

This keyboard and mouse from UHURU offers a different design and an easy, wireless way to use your device.

The keyboard does not feature the typical square or rectangular keys. Instead it uses rounded keys that are clearly separated from one another, making them comfortable and easy to use. They also make the keyboard look vaguely vintage, like old typewriters with rounded keys. And there are a dozen hotkeys for you to easily navigate to things you use regularly. The mouse is designed to be soft and comfortable while also lasting a significant length of time. It can also be used just fine without a mousepad, eliminating the need for one on your desk.

This keyboard and mouse use AA and AAA batteries. Battery life is extended through the product’s power-saving design that allows a year or more of use before needing new batteries. And the keyboard and mouse work with many different devices, including Macs and PCs.

If you’re in the market for a new or better keyboard and mouse, consider this pair from UHURU!

iRobot Roomba 690 Robot Vacuum with Wi-Fi Connectivity

If you’ve heard of Roomba, you likely already know quite a bit about how these small, roving vacuums work. But you might not know you can use wi-fi to control the vacuum from anywhere at any time.

This Roomba is designed to vacuum up all kinds of different things on your floors. It doesn’t just pick up small debris, it can also pick up larger things. It can tell when an area is especially dirty, as well, and go over the area more thoroughly. It works on carpets and hard flooring, and it even has a special brush to knock debris away from walls.

This wi-fi capable vacuum also connects well with smart devices. You can use the connected app to control the Roomba whenever you’d like. If you’re away from home and need to run the vacuum, you can do it right from your phone. You can also learn more about your Roomba’s activities through the app. And if you have a smart assistant like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, you can start the Roomba using a voice command.

The Roomba is a well-known and popular vacuum choice. Take a look at this wi-fi connected model on Amazon!

Nest Now Offering a Temperature Sensor

Nest Now Offering a Temperature Sensor

Nest, the popular smart device company, is now releasing a temperature sensor.

Nest has been well-known in the smart home arena for some time now. They offer a variety of smart home products. They have smart thermostats, smart cameras, smart doorbells, smart security systems, smart locks, and more. Their focus is on offering products that can combine to make one well-connected smart home for easy security and control.

Nest’s devices are quite popular, with their products regularly showing up in articles featuring the top smart products on the market. The Nest Thermostat is particularly popular. Their thermostats are designed to save energy and make controlling your home’s temperature more convenient. You can control the thermostat from your mobile device, set it to turn down when you’re not home, and more. With the pricier models, you can even let your thermostat learn what temperature you like at certain times of day so that it can adjust itself automatically.

Now Nest is releasing the Nest Temperature Sensor to work with their smart thermostats. Using the Temperature Sensor, you can help your Nest Thermostat keep track of the temperature in specific rooms. You can set the sensor in a room (or attach it to the wall) and make sure that room’s temperature is regulated the way you want.

Nest’s website mentions using multiple Nest Temperature Sensors to keep track of different rooms. You can then decide which rooms are most important to keep regulated and at what times. This means if you want to make sure your living room is a certain temperature while you’re home during the day, but you also want to make sure your child’s room is a certain temperature while they’re sleeping at night, you could use multiple sensors to plan your temperature schedule.

The Nest Temperature Sensor is currently available for pre-order. One sensor costs $39, while you can get three sensors for $99. You can learn more about the new Temperature Sensor on Nest’s website.

Tech Spotlight

Tech Spotlight

It’s that time again—time for Tech Spotlight! I’m keeping my eyes open to spot technology you should check out. In the Tech Spotlight, I describe three different products you can find on Amazon right now. This week, I’m talking about a helpful little clock, a showerhead speaker, and tech for better sleep. Have a look at what I’ve found before you add them to your Amazon cart!

Clocky, The Original Runaway Alarm Clock on Wheels

If you’re ever late to work or class because you slept in too late, Clocky is the answer. This clock makes it much harder to go back to sleep once the alarm has gone off.

Clocky’s concept is pretty straightforward, but it’s also a fantastic idea. Clocky has wheels that allow it to “run away.” If you hit the snooze button, Clocky will run away while beeping loudly at you. It can drop off of nightstands and roll across the floor. This means you’ll be forced to get out of bed if you don’t want to hear Clocky beeping insistently.

If you happen to have a day where snoozing is okay, you can also turn Clocky into a normal alarm clock by disabling its wheels. You can also customize it by deciding whether to allow some snoozing or disabling the snooze.

If you’re a habitual oversleeper who loves to hit the snooze button too much, check out Clocky and see how you can make it easier to force yourself awake in the morning!

KOHLER K-9245-0 2.5 GPM Moxie Showerhead and Wireless Speaker

This device is two products in one. Looking for a new showerhead? Want a speaker so you can sing along to music in the shower? Moxie does both.

As a showerhead, Moxie is meant to provide a good showering experience. Its full spray is achieved through its “60 angled nozzles,” meaning you won’t just get an unsatisfying trickle of water. You can also choose from five different colors, keeping it simple with white or making things lively with a bright blue, red, or one of the other color options. And the showerhead is just as easy to install as a typical showerhead; there’s no added difficulty just because it’s also a speaker.

The speaker uses a lithium-ion battery that’s built in, and it can be taken out of the showerhead for charging purposes. Bluetooth devices can connect to the speaker, and KOHLER promises as many as 7 hours of playing before the speaker needs to be charged again.

If you’re interested in getting a new showerhead, and if you don’t really want to take your Bluetooth speaker into the bathroom where it’ll get all steamed up, take a look at Moxie from KOHLER!

S+ By ResMed Personal Sleep Solution

If you think you could be getting a better night’s sleep than you are, you might want to look into a device like S+ By ResMed.

With this device, you can learn more about your sleeping habits and your surroundings. S+ uses its sensor to learn about your breathing patterns and movements as you sleep. It specifically focuses on your chest moving as you breathe in and out, as well as how (and how much) you move as you sleep. You don’t need to be touching the device, and you don’t need anything special for your bed. It just uses its sensor to gather information.

It also takes note of things like sounds, light, and temperature as you sleep. After it gathers all its information, it analyzes it and provides suggestions for better sleep. It can take into consideration your environment overnight and then suggest environmental changes that will improve sleep quality.

S+ from ResMed is a straightforward and easy way to learn about how you sleep. If you’d like to get a better night of sleep, learn more about the S+ on Amazon!

Google News Roundup

Google News Roundup

As is often the case, Google appeared in the news quite a few times over the past week. Google has a wide range of services and products they’re regularly improving and changing, so there’s always plenty to talk about.

This past week, Google made some helpful changes to Google Duo and Google Home, while they also added a really cool feature for those interested in historical photos. Take a look at just a few of the things that put Google in the news recently.

Now you can leave video messages on Google Duo

Users of Google Duo will now be able to leave video voicemail messages for the people they call. Google Duo is Google’s video calling app. Now, according to The Verge, a feature is being rolled out that allows for video messages. If someone decides not to answer or isn’t available, a video message (up to 30 seconds long) can be left. The video messages can be downloaded—otherwise they’ll automatically be removed once a day has passed.

The Verge is reporting that this feature is already rolling out and will be released for everyone very soon.

Free calling now available on Google Home in the UK

Google Home users in the UK will now be able to make free calls. CNET is reporting that the feature is now available in the United Kingdom. This feature was already available in the US, and is now available in the US, UK, and Canada.

Making calls through Google Home uses wi-fi, so you don’t have to worry about the service on your phone (or even having your phone by you).

Google makes Life photos searchable

Images from Life magazine are now searchable thanks to Google. Google Arts & Culture now has a database that has gathered Life magazine images and made it possible to search using keywords. According to CNET, this was made possible by object detection that properly cataloged the photos. The database, which can be found on the Google Arts & Culture website, has millions of photos available for viewing.

Tech Spotlight

Tech Spotlight

Hello, and welcome to the newest Tech Spotlight! This week, I’m continuing to highlight some of the tech that’s caught my eye and raised my interest. Like every week, the items I’ve found are cool, fun, incredibly useful, or all of the above.

The items I’ve found this week are an Echo Dot accessory, a TV touchscreen projector, and a solar light. Take a look at what I’ve found, then head on over to Amazon to take a closer look and add them to your cart!

The Spot by Dot Genie

The Spot is an accessory you’ll want if you have an Echo Dot or one of more than half a dozen other small speakers. This accessory allows you to keep your speaker at the ready while mounting it out of the way.

The Spot is a speaker holder that mounts your speaker using your outlet. You place your speaker in the holder, which holds it in with small tabs, then plug it into a wall outlet through the mount’s designated spot. This allows you to have your speaker mounted on the wall instead of taking up space on the countertop or desk. They’ve also designed the mount to prevent sound from being muffled.

This accessory also helps eliminate some clutter. You use your speaker’s plug, but the Spot comes with its own shorter cord that connects to the plug and makes things less messy. This accessory can plug into vertical or horizontal plugs. It’s also designed to avoid blocking the outlet above it, so it only takes up one space.

Speakers like the Echo Dot are small and convenient, but they can be even more convenient with an accessory like the Spot. It comes in five different colors, so check it out and choose the colors you need for each room!

Touchjet WAVE Android Tablet Virtual Touchscreen TV System Projector

This is a product you’ll want if you work with others in meetings, run a classroom, or want to use a smart device with the whole family. The Touchjet WAVE can turn your flat screen TV or monitor into a giant touchscreen device.

The WAVE attaches to the top of any flat screen TV or monitor (up to 65”) and projects a touchscreen down onto it. It uses the Android operating system, and it comes preinstalled with some apps already, including some games and a Chrome browser. You can then add more apps that you want.

This device works well in many different situations. It allows people to work together—everyone can easily touch the screen, unlike using a regular tablet. Using the accompanying app, everyone can share what they’re looking at on their devices. And it can be fun for a family, because you can all play games together on the large touchscreen. It also makes it easier to stream your shows, because you can add your favorite streaming apps to the WAVE instead of having to use a separate device.

Whether it’s at home, at the office, or in a classroom, the WAVE can be a fun or incredibly useful addition. Learn more about how it works, then add it to your cart!

Sun King Pico Portable Solar Lantern

This small lamp makes it possible to stay well-lit in the outdoors or at home without any plugs or batteries. The Portable Solar Lantern is a small solar-powered lantern with a sturdy stand.

The lantern is a small, round, yellow lamp that comes with a detachable base. It’s solar-powered, with its charging area located on the back of the lamp. You can leave the lamp on the base to charge it, or you can detach the lamp and easily set it in any windowsill to let it charge while you’re not using it.

The lamp is convenient in many ways. You can get up to 70 hours of use from the lamp with a full charge. It also has three brightness settings—low, normal, and turbo. It’s light, weighing only 150 grams (which, for comparison, is just slightly heavier than a baseball). And it’s water resistant and durable, so you don’t have to worry about breaking it during a camping trip.

Even if you’re not on-the-go or in the great outdoors, this solar lantern is a small battery- and cord-free way to add some light to your home. Head over to Amazon to take a closer look!

Tech Spotlight

Tech Spotlight

Welcome to this week’s Tech Spotlight! As always, I’m sharing three tech-related products with you that are fun, interesting, useful, or all of the above. And as usual, you can find all of these items on Amazon. After you’ve read about my finds, you can head straight over to Amazon to place an order with your Prime shipping. This week I’ve found some highly useful tech accessories, as well as a fun new clock for your smart home!

OMOTON Ultra-Slim Bluetooth Keyboard

This keyboard from OMOTON is a highly rated Bluetooth keyboard that works with Bluetooth-capable devices. It’s specifically designed to work best with iPads and iPhones—the keypad has hotkeys that are customized for these devices. However, though the hotkeys aren’t guaranteed to work with other devices, you can still use the keyboard just fine with many other devices.

This keyboard makes the Tech Spotlight because it’s a well-reviewed keyboard with everything that’s necessary for typing on your devices. It doesn’t need a ton of bells and whistles—it just works well. It’s Bluetooth, so there are no cords to worry about. It has the keys and the layout you’re used to, so there’s no need to relearn where all the keys are. And the hotkeys can do things like let you control your device’s music and screen brightness.

The Ultra-Slim Bluetooth Keyboard uses two AAA batteries, so you might want to consider buying some rechargeable batteries. However, OMOTON notes the keyboard has a long battery life (as long as half a year) because of features like its automatic sleep mode.

Having a Bluetooth keyboard can make using a tablet or smartphone much more convenient. If you’re looking for one, take a look at the Ultra-Slim Bluetooth Keyboard from OMOTON!

Seneo Fast Wireless Charger

The Seneo Fast Wireless Charger is a super quick way to charge your device without having to plug it in. It works best for Samsung Galaxy devices, but it can also charge newer iPhones.

This charger can provide a standard charge for an iPhone, but it is able to fast charge Samsung devices when connected with a fast charge adapter (for instance, the one that came with your Galaxy phone). The charger is plugged into the wall, allowing for wireless charging of the device itself. All you have to do is place your phone or tablet horizontally or vertically on the charger.

The charger is also a stand, so instead of laying your phone flat, you can actually see what’s on your phone easily while it’s charging. It also has a light that changes color as the charger connects to your device and then begins charging.

It is important to note that you do need your own adapter to plug the charger into the wall. You also can’t plug the charger into the USB port of your computer. And Seneo makes a point to note that some phone cases will interfere with charging, so you may need to remove your case before charging. However, your case may be thin enough to avoid needing to do this.

A wireless charger like this one from Seneo is a great way to charge your phone without looking for the cord to plug in, and it even makes it easy to continue using your phone as it charges. Head over to Amazon to learn more and add this Fast Wireless Charger to your cart!

LaMetric Time Wi-Fi Clock

This clock from LaMetric is a unique and fun way to keep up with the time and much more in your smart home. The LaMetric Time Wi-Fi Clock uses an artfully pixelated display to show you many different kinds of information, all depending on what you enable.

The clock works on its own, but it’s programmed using the accompanying app on a smartphone. This clock can be programmed to do much more than just tell the time. It can display a large number of other things from the thousands of choices. It can show the weather forecast, email notifications, calendar events, and information from smart devices (like your smart bulb or smart plug). It even connects with Alexa.

The different clock faces include fun pixel art, so each feature you connect adds a little flair to the clock. It also has a speaker, so you can do things like set internet radio stations to play when you wake up. And you can come up with your own clock faces by using LaMetric Developer for customization.

This clock is a cool addition to a smart home. If you want to connect your smart devices to one aesthetically pleasing clock, take a look at the LaMetric Time Wi-Fi Clock!