TaoTronics Bluetooth Transmitter

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Several months ago I decided to purchase a set of Bluetooth headphones so I could, on occasion, watch TV in the bedroom late at night without disturbing my wife. At one time I had a wireless headphones set that worked well for this purpose but they were simply very bulky (both the charging unit and the headphones themselves). I attempted to use a jail-broken iPod as well but I wasn’t satisfied with that either.


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The TV itself doesn’t support Bluetooth so I decided to purchasing a Bluetooth audio transmitter. In this case, one manufactured by TaoTronics, which is small and reliable. Overall the device is very good but there is a slight delay in the audio that is noticeable relative to the action on TV, especially with dialog, though I grew accustomed to it rather quickly.

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Simultaneously Pushing Audio to External Speakers and Bluetooth from a Mac

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A couple of months ago I had the idea to see if there was a simple way to play iTunes music from the built-in iMac speakers while also playing it through a Bluetooth speaker (in this case a JBL speaker). My goal was to have the music playing from the computer in one room and also playing from a Bluetooth speaker in the dining room. Sure enough, OS X has a way to do this (I’m running 10.9 so I don’t know how widely this feature is supported across older versions of OS X).

Thanks to user Eric Ross in the Apple Support Communities I didn’t have to do much searching to find the answer. As detailed in his response, the solution is to open the Audio Midi Setup application located in the Utilities folder and then simply create a Multi-Output Device that has both speaker types selected. Note that in order for this to work the Bluetooth speaker needs to already be connected to the Mac.

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At this point we’ve only created the multi-output device. One additional step is required – setting it as the current output device (System Preferences -> Sound -> Output) :

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I originally did this with my iMac but the screenshots in this post were created using my MacBook Air.

And that should work. The Bluetooth audio (at least with the settings I used) will have a slight delay in comparison to the system speakers. Bluetooth has a relatively short range so the practical applications of this method may be limited by obstructions within one’s home and the receiving capability of the Bluetooth device that is used.

 

JBL Portable Bluetooth Speaker

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A couple of months ago I finally decided it might be convenient to have a portable Bluetooth speaker that I could use to play music from my phone or other device. The idea was that it would be something I could use when we’re playing a card game or outside grilling. After scrolling through numerous reviews on Amazon I encountered this little device, which I eventually received as a gift from my wish list.

The JBL Micro Wireless Ultra-Portable Speaker provides amazing sound considering its size. According to the documentation it will run on battery for about five hours, though some reviewers have experienced longer usage times. It’s also possible to use the device while recharging it.

Considering its size and relatively low cost (about $50), I am very impressed by this piece of tech. So was my wife. The first time I tried it out she immediately stated that she wants one. Friends have made similar comments when showing it to them.

There are other very similar JBL models. This particular one has a built-in bass port.

It’s been useful in cases when I didn’t expect it. For example, the turn-by-turn navigation instructions from Google Maps sounded excellent.

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Pebble Smartwatch

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I’ve carried an iPhone around for some time (probably since a year after they were first released). Overall, it’s been a good choice for me and most of the initial annoyances I dealt with have been resolved over the course of several generations. However, one problem I’ve dealt with is sometimes not realizing when I’ve received a text message or have an incoming phone call (I usually carry my phone in my pocket).

This wasn’t a constant problem but it did happen often enough to be an issue. A couple of years ago I started searching for a wristwatch with Bluetooth capability that would vibrate or provide some other form of notification that was obvious. I did find devices that were almost what I was looking for but they were too expensive (several hundred dollars), had poor reviews, or they looked more like bracelets than watches. I had no interest in wearing two devices (for example, a watch and a device just for notifications) so I didn’t bother acquiring any of the devices available at the time.

Then I become familiar with the Kickstarter project for the Pebble Smartwatch. Sometimes I’d read about the progress of the project on tech sites or hear it mentioned in the TWiT podcast. I was interested, but not interested enough to become an early adopter so I waited. I also wanted to see the watch in person before deciding to find out just how big the watches really are.

This year the Pebble went into full production and was eventually available for sell at Best Buy stores. On a recent visit to a store I remembered to look for one. Sure enough, a couple were in stock. After seeing it in person I decided it wasn’t too large to wear (I didn’t want to walk around with a clunky box attached to my wrist) and finally purchased one. In Best Buy stores they sell for about $150. They are also listed on Amazon but are usually much more expensive.

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Using a Belkin Bluetooth Car Hands-Free Kit with an iPhone 5

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I recently switched from an iPhone 4 to an iPhone 5 and as a result I now have access to Siri. I’ve seen others attempt to use Siri and until I upgraded my phone I didn’t have much of an interest in using it. However, after a week I realized that it is very useful in one situation: driving.

In order to use Siri while driving I would have had to touch the phone. Not only is it distracting and potentially dangerous, it’s also illegal in the state that I live in. Unfortunately, I do receive phone calls and text messages while driving so I decided to look into purchasing a hands-free kit to use with the phone.

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Bluetooth Sliding Keyboard Case for iPhone

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Several weeks ago my wife gave me a $25 gift certificate for ThinkGeek. It took me a while to decide what to buy using the gift certificate. Eventually, I decided to get a Bluetooth Sliding Keyboard Case for iPhone, which cost about $35 before shipping. I’ve never been especially happy with the iPhone on-screen keyboard. It’s not terrible but I thought a physical keyboard might be more useful for writing longer e-mails or notes.

Unfortunately, I haven’t used it since the first week after it arrived. In the end it just isn’t as convenient as I was expecting. It’s lacking two features that I think might have made it useful. First, the keyboard (at least on this version) isn’t backlit so it’s useless in low lighting conditions. The other reason, which might have made it more useful in the dark, is the lack of any kind of bumps or other markers on certain keys that would provide a form of touch-typing. Instead, I spent the entire time looking at the keyboard while typing because all of the keys feel the same.

The product certainly works as expected, but it doesn’t have enough features to make it more convenient to use than the on-screen keyboard. Quite frankly, I would have been more satisfied if I had purchased something else from ThinkGeek.

Updated 11/18/2012: I tried using this product again several months ago but it just isn’t practical.

Updated 12/10/2012: I sold it in a yard sale for a few bucks.

Using a PS3 Bluetooth Controller with a Mac

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The Short Version: Download and install a program named PS3Controller. Enable Bluetooth. The pairing code for PS3 controllers is “0000”. I had to connect via USB first to make it work. Read the entire post for additional issues. Note that I’ve only gone through this process using OS X Lion.

See an additional update regarding Mountain Lion and Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga at the end of this post.

A while back I managed to get the PS2 version of Shadow of the Colossus working in an emulator for Windows. Using a different driver, not referenced to in this post, I was able to use the PS3 controller (at the time I was only able to get it work via USB).

Recently, I decided see if I could get a PS3 controller working in OS X Lion in order to use it with several different console emulators. This turned out to be relatively simple using a piece of software named PS3Contoller.

One benefit to using this driver is that it supports Bluetooth, which is the wireless protocol used by the PS3 controllers. I did have some issues getting it to connect when working in the OS X Bluetooth system preference. When I plugged the controller in the red LEDs flashed continuously but it wasn’t detected as a Bluetooth device. However, if I had the controller connected via USB and then hit the PS button while the Mac was looking for devices, it usually found it (the controller stops flashing once it connects).

The pairing code for PS3 controllers is the standard “0000”.

Note that in my case I had to connect it via USB first. Otherwise, it didn’t seem to detect it. In addition, it seems that each time I wanted to use the controller after shutting down the Mac or putting it into stand-by, I had to reconnect it via the Bluetooth system preference. However, once it was connected it stayed connected throughout that session of use.

If you’re planning to set this up within Bluetooth range of the PS3 then I recommend that you flip the power switch on the back to the OFF position. Otherwise, the PS3 will turn on when you hit the PS button on the controller.

I was able to have two PS3 controllers connected via Bluetooth at the same time. However, I wasn’t able to get Sixtyforce to detect two PS3 controllers at the same time (though I could connect a GameStop USB controller and a PS3 controller and use both for different players). I suspect that the ability to use two PS3 controllers for different players is determined by the program and not the driver.

Updated 09/30/2012: I recently purchased a new 13″ MacBook Pro. It came with a free upgrade to Mountain Lion, which I installed. Since this was a new system it hasn’t had any of the drivers/software installed that I’ve mentioned in this post.

It’s possible that Mountain Lion has built-in support for a PS3 controller, but I haven’t tested it with other software. However, I do know that I don’t need to install any software to use a PS3 controller (wired) with Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga. The game detects the controller and works with it perfectly.