Great Phone Unites Cell and Landlines

I went shopping for a decent cordless phone. But happily I ended up with a great deal more!

Until recently I was not aware that some cordless phones offer Bluetooth connectivity. That means you can answer a call on your cordless phone no matter whether it’s coming in on your landline or your cellular line. This isn’t a common feature, but I have discovered it’s well worth looking for.

After a little shopping around I found a handful of phones that offered this feature. Most of these phones included answering systems, DECT 6.0 technology and came with two or three additional handsets. I read reviews and researched cordless phones with Bluetooth made by Panasonic, V-Tech and AT&T. The units from V-Tech received the highest marks for quality, ease of use and reliability. I have owned their products in the past so I was already familiar with their reputation.

After some deliberation I ordered the VTech DS6321 model with three handsets.

I unboxed the set, read through the quick start and installed the batteries. My initial impression was very favorable. The handsets have a nice feel. The answering system is digital, which is pretty common nowadays, and the sound quality of incoming messages is very good. Optional ringtones can be selected for each of the handsets and an intercom feature means an end to the cross-house screaming sessions. The system is expandable up to 12 handsets.

The 6321 will “pair” two cell phones. It took about 10 minutes to set it all up and go through the pairing process (a one-time event) with both of our phones. The clarity is very good, better than using my cell phone directly. Range for the Bluetooth is about 30 feet, which I find quite acceptable. Now whenever we’re home we just sit our cell phones on the counter near the base unit of our new cordless phone set. After a few seconds it will connect so that any cell calls can be answered using one of the VTech handsets. You can also add two Bluetooth headsets into the mix, but I haven’t tried that yet.

I’ve been using the new VTech for about a month now and we love it. Be aware that you will want to adjust your cell’s voice mail feature to coordinate with the answering machine. But it’s a simple matter of setting the preferred number of rings. It’s also worth mentioning that a landline is not required!

My wife and I each have cell phones and both are paired with the cordless phone now. When a cell call comes in we just pick up the closest phone- I actually prefer talking on the cordless now!

LG600G: Good Phone with Email Trouble

I recently ordered a new LG600G cell phone and was quite happy with it. Until I snapped a photo and tried to send it.

Turned out I could no longer send or receive emails as I had done with my old Tracfone. Of course my minutes were still deducted as if I had sent a message! Calls to technical support were pretty frustrating and ended with a promised update that might take “up to 72 hours to arrive.” Not surprisingly it never arrived.

Get an LG 600G phone for $19.99 and receive double minutes for life!

After digging into the problem a little more I discovered that my phone was on T-Mobile network. That explained why I wasn’t receiving any emails- my old Tracfone was on the Cingular network and used an ATT.net domain. When I sent a message to [email protected] it arrived almost instantly.

A little more research and I came across this blog post about sending mail through an SMS gateway use 36245. That spells “email” for you non-texters like me. I tried it and still couldn’t send- but when I tried 500 outbound email worked. Fortunately that lengthy and arcane procedure is not necessary for this phone. The LG has an Email Gateway setting in the menu. Here’s how to navigate to that setting:
Menu > Messages > Message Settings > Text Message > Email Gateway

Whew.
Once I entered 500 here my phone was able to send email text messages. MMS messages still don’t work but hopefully this information will help other frustrated Tracfone owners!


Tracfone Wireless

We’re Big on Roku

A few weeks ago I set up an account on Blip.TV for the Two Wheel Oklahoma TV show. By uploading to one single source my programming can automatically find it’s way to iTunes, Flickr, Vimeo, Facebook and yes- even YouTube. What I did not know at the time was Blip can also distribute my viddy to viewers who own a Roku.

What’s a Roku?
We’re longtime Netflix junkies so I was familiar with the Roku Player. It’s a device that allows you to watch certain Netflix selections on your TV. No waiting for a DVD to arrive in the mail. Over the years they have expanded the choices to include Amazon Video-On-Demand and the Major League Baseball channel.What I did not know at the time was a new feature, introduced in November, allowed people to watch T.W.O. on their television.

Roku Channels
With the introduction of Roku Channels the little box can deliver a wide variety of videos and music from providers like Revision3, Blip.TV and Pandora. These are all free and will soon be reviewed in detail.

Soon after the Roku HD Player I just ordered arrives.

Watch Two Wheel Oklahoma on….

Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000

I recently made the leap to a non-tape video camcorder.

Working with HD has really changed my perspective on formats, archiving and editing. About a year ago I bought a Canon HV30 camcorder and started shooting HD on Mini DV tape- often referred to as HDV.

I had always preferred working with tape because there would be an archive copy of the whole shoot in case it was ever needed. No extra step was required, just store it safely and your archived copy was done. The downside is capturing from tape happens in real-time, which wasn’t really such a burden for me. Heck, you have to watch it before you edit it anyway.

But stepping up to HDV brought with it a host of issues. The first problem was all my footage required transcoding so my version of Premiere Pro could edit it. Suddenly the step of capturing footage from the tape was taking 2 to 3 times longer than it had when I was shooting SD video. This cold be overcome if I wanted to upgrade my software- which cost more than the HD camcorder.

Flash!
The alternatives to tape are camcorders that use small hard drives, burn a mini DVD or record to flash memory. In the past these camcorders used file formats they were difficult to edit or proprietary. That’s slowly changing, although editing HD footage takes a lot of computer horsepower regardless of format.

Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000When I started shopping for a new camcorder I decided on a flash-based unit, preferably using SD cards. I kept coming across reviews of a strange looking Sanyo called the HD2000. It’s unusual pistol-grip design was definitely different, but also very compact.

Xacti?
Not sure what Xacti is- or even how to pronounce it. But I went ahead and ripped open the box and fired it up. My first reaction was how heavy this little bugger is. Probably because it’s stuffed with so much HD goodness. If you’re used to handling similar looking units from Aiptek or Flip this will feel like a boat anchor. It’s a similar size, but a full featured camcorder with 16x optical zoom that shoots full HD at 1080p. And it takes pretty decent stills at 8 megapixels, or 12 interpolated.

The footage is stored as MP4 files and play without any extra steps or transcoding. For editing my old version of Premiere Pro still needed help. Instead I decided to try out Sony Vegas Pro 9 and it seems to work great. So far I’ve only shot about an hour of video and done a few minor edits. Here’s a sample video from the Dallas Motorcycle Show (not the greatest example but it’s the first clip I’ve uploaded to YouTube).

I think the video quality is great- and I don’t even have it cranked up all the way! I’m shooting 720p and stills at about 5 megapixel. For the price it has some upscale features like external mic and headphone jacks and a shoe attachment on top (not powered). The box also included Nero software that allows you to make minor edits and burn your movies to DVD. It also includes a feature called Xacti Library that allows you to copy footage to an external hard drive without a computer

But the little Sanyo is not perfect. Although an icon claims that a motion stabilizing feature is turned on, there is no evidence in the footage. Steadiness is a must- and requires some practice if you’ve never used a pistol grip camcorder. Ergonomics are not a strong suit either- the zoom control is unhandy and many people have trouble keeping their thumb off the power button. The charger base is required to connect to a computer or television- although you can charge it without the base adapter. And the menus have been heavily criticized.

But overall I’d say it’s a compact, easy to use camcorder. It’s a perfect choice for anyone wanting to shoot stills and video, then quickly export or edit it.

Go Karting Grows Up

I recently had the pleasure to visit a Pole Position Raceway on a group outing for my birthday (below). If you typically yawn when someone mentions go-karts then this place is for you! When we arrived I think my coworkers were a little intimidated. After signing several liability releases and removing open-toe shoes we were instructed to don balaclavas and full-face helmets.

Coworkers look on as we prepare to take the wheel.First off, this is not the typical amusement park foot-to-the-floor stuff. There is no way to make a complete lap with the pedal to the metal. At least I couldn’t! The cars are electric, but don’t let that fool you. These are not toys for toddlers to tour the yard turf. They are capable of 45 MPH on straight and level and handle… well, like a go kart.

The track we visited in Las Vegas was a 1/4 mile long with about seven turns. Two of the turns were very tight and require some real skill to maneuver swiftly. Track sessions last for twelve laps, which gives you plenty of time to get a feel for the track and the way the cars work. Our group did the Grand Prix Package which includes three of those 12-lap sessions- a practice, a qualifier and the main event. In the main event we lined up on the grid and started from a standing start. Just like Formula One!

In the end I blew it in the second to the last turn on the very last lap! After setting the fastest lap in each session and whittling my time down to 27 seconds, I spun out mere feet from the finish line. Chris managed to slip by for the top spot on the podium (right).

A rematch is being planned.

Pole Position has locations in California, Las Vegas and Oklahoma City. After the great time we had in Vegas I definitely plan to visit the location in OKC soon!

Through November 8th race for only $10 with this special coupon

Check it out!