HotelPower.com claims to offer the best hotel rates, usually available only to industry insiders. We searched on the Southernmost Hotel in Key West. Microsoft’s Expedia had it for $482. HotelPower had it for $379. Other hotels that were sold out on Expedia were available here.
- Ballotpedia.com: Find out who’s running for office and what issues are on the ballot. The site includes school board and judicial elections, which takes you to sister sites, such as Jugepedia.org.
- Bing.com/elections Microsoft’s “Bing” search engine makes election predictions.
- Voter411.org has personalized ballots and information on candidates and issues. It’s sponsored by the League of Women Voters.
What are smart watches good for? Not much. The dirty little secret of smart watches is that you have to have a smart phone in your pocket or bag or they don’t do much. Sales, as you might expect, have been less than torrid. For the forthcoming Apple Watch, next year, for example, you’ll have to have an iPhone too.
Smart watches are best for answering phone calls, getting the weather report, news and music. You ask the watch, the watch asks the phone, the phone asks the worldwide web and bingo!, something comes in. Those who are not in love with the latest and greatest would probably suggest using the smartphone in the first place.
With some watches, like the Samsung “Gear Live,” Motorola “Moto 360″ and LG “G Watch –” you can talk into your wrist and command some music from iHeart Radio, a free service with over 50 million subscribers. This saves you the trouble of getting your phone out of your pocket or bag. We like iHeart Radio; it has comedy, news and a wide range of music. Their classical selections lack the associated information you get from a service like Spotify, but we can do without that. We sometimes listen to iHeart on our computer while we’re in the office. No ads.
Go to Android.com/wear for general info. On your phone, go to g.co/WearCheck to see if it’s compatible with the latest Android smart watches. It told us we needed an Android operating system of 4.3 or higher, which we don’t have on our Samsung Galaxy S3. That prevents us from using the G Watch, or the Moto 360. However, the Samsung Gear 2 Neo is compatible, as is the “Pebble,” and a few others.
The Gear 2 Neo is getting mainly positive reviews, although we were alarmed by some of the negative comments. The watch is constantly connected by Bluetooth to the phone in your pocket, a major drain on your phone’s battery. In that situation we would use an app like Battery Doctor, which minimizes all other apps. Some have complained they had trouble getting the Neo watch to connect with their phones. This is still early days, and Dick Tracy is on the case.
WhatisMyIP.com instantly tells you your I.P. (Internet Protocol) address. Go to the site and a screen appears telling you where you live and who provides your Internet connection. You sometimes need to know the number to connect to services or equipment. It also tests your Internet speed.
Heavens-above.com follows satellites and constellations. There are many dozens of satellites in orbit around the Earth and this will tell you which is which, and where. There’s even a satellite for amateur radio operators. Also has information on stars and constellations.
Redshed.co.uk/blog/how-do-credit-card-numbers-work will decipher the meaning of that long string of numbers on your credit card. The first number, for instance, is the type of institution that issued the card, such as a bank. This is a garden supplies shopping site in England but has interesting information.
“Trace & Draw” is a free app from Crayola for iPhone/iPad and Android devices. Place a piece of paper over your screen and a drawing underneath shines through, allowing you to trace it. The opening screen tells you to buy a $20 Crayola clip to hold your paper, but that’s unnecessary. Besides this app, you can get lots of images to trace for free from Images.Google.com. Search on “black and white clip art.” Ordinary paper works fine if you turn up the brightness setting on your tablet.
“Timely Tutor” is an app for iPod/iPad/iPhone that asks children to take a break from playing video games and take a quiz. You can set the questions to appear every five minutes or every hour or any time period. Each set of questions in areas such as geography, science and math, costs 99 cents, but there are hundreds of them for each grade level up to the sixth grade. It’s up to you whether the kid is stopped from playing his game until he takes his quiz or whether he just gets a gentle reminder. You also decide how long the quiz is and what constitutes a passing grade.
“Downtonisms” is a 99 cent iPhone/iPad app for fans of the PBS series “Downton Abbey.” Pick a favorite character and listen to her best lines, while enjoying a slide show of snapshots from the show. Tag a line to add to favorites or share on social media. Here’s a line from Maggie Smith’s character, Violet: “I wonder your halo doesn’t grow heavy. It must be like wearing a tiara round the clock.”
It’s called the “BrightLink Pro,” and though it costs $2100 and up, depending on features, its power awed us. Besides turning your wall into a giant iPad, it can be used as an interactive whiteboard that colleagues can scribble on from 15 remote locations. Whatever they draw or write on the screen shows up on the same page everyone else is looking at. The display is in full color.
A small box mounts on the wall. It has lots of ports and all the necessary software already on board. Plug in your computer or a flash drive and run any program it has just by tapping a command on the projected icon. If you run out of space for a presentation, just add a page, up to 50, with all previous pages saved and ready to return to with a click.
The BrightLink won a “Gold Stevie” award for the best new business product. Don’t confuse this BrightLink Pro with the one reviewed by PC Magazine in 2013. Same name but new product.