An interesting way to keep track of your stuff with Tile

An interesting way to keep track of your stuff…

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About 20 months ago, Tile – a new company initially funded as a Kick Starter project has started shipping its product. I was really hot-to-trot for them, as the solution they offered provided a quick and easy way for you to find things you often misplace. For $50 bucks, you got four Tiles (three plus one bonus tile). I jumped on in January 2013, a number of months after the program had been initially announced in either late 2011 or H1 2012. (However, my timing may be slightly off. Please correct me if I’m wrong in the Comments, below…)

The process was fairly simple, you attach a Tile to an object, pair it with your smartphone and then if you lose it, you can use your phone to track it down. The app on your phone provides you with the last known GPS location of the Tile; and use play a game of Hot-Cold until you actually find the object that the Tile is connected to.

Tile recently began shipping their products to its initial backers, and I received mine a few weeks ago. I’ve had a chance to stick one on my keys (of which I am CONSTANTLY misplacing..!) and I have the following commentary on the app and the product; and I have a few suggestions for Tile as well…

My Biggest Use Case
Tiles product itself is pretty ingenious. It uses Bluetooth 4.x and BT-LE to help you find the object you’ve attached the actual Tile to. As long as the Tile isn’t over a year old (more on that later) and as long as the Tile is in range of your smartphone, you’ll be able to find what you’ve lost.

This was a HUGE deal for me, as my family has a HORRIBLE habit of misplacing the universal TV remote in the family room. The kids don’t put it back where it’s supposed to be, it gets shoved between couch or chair cushions, the baby walks it to another room, or some other weird result. I often spend more time looking for the remote than I do actually watching my beautiful, 51″, plasma HDTV.

I have about 5 TV’s in the house and a universal remote for each. None of them are the same brand, so each remote is really tied to the TV it’s paired with. Unfortunately, the family tends to take remotes from one room to the other (as the cable boxes all use the same signals)

I thought this was going to be the best thing in the world! I could attach a Tile to the remote and then instead of spending hours looking for it, I could simply track it down with my iPhone and start watching TV. My Backer’s shipment of Tiles even included a way to attach a Tile to my often wayward remote. I really thought I would be ecstatic with this solution. This was really the only reason why

Tile – It’s a [Huge] Mamma-Jamma
When you back something on Kickstarter or other crowd-source funding site, you really have no idea what you’re buying or funding. I love the idea of Tile, but I’ll tell you this – I’m very disappointed. The darn thing is HUGE! I thought it would be about half the size it actually is.

The concept is right: a water-tight, one piece BT-LE widget that easily attaches to items, allowing you to track them down if they get misplaced. If your spouse forgets their purse or wallet at a diner you stopped at while travelling down the road, you can go back and easily find it. If you’ve lost your keys, but you know they’re SOMEWHERE in the house, you can quickly track them down. If your granddaughter walked away with the universal remote in each room and she’s not quite two, and doesn’t speak sentences yet… You get the picture. It’s pretty awesome.

Unfortunately, the devices themselves are very large – about 1.5 to 2.0 inches square, with a large hole in the upper left corner allowing you to put them on a key ring or other fob. They’re also about a quarter of an inch thick. When I said they should be about half that size… Yeah. You see what I mean. These things are LARGE.

The device can’t be end user serviced. It has a battery in it, but they last about one year and then need to be replaced. The letter “E” serves as a button for the device. It allows you to turn discovery on and then be paired with your smartphone. The devices also have an electronic speaker that plays a cute little melody to let you know where it is.

Tile also provides you with two different pieces of specially shaped and sized two sided tape that will allow you to attach your Tile to the side of something you want to keep track of – like my remote – so you don’t have to worry about fixing it to something so that it can be successfully paired without falling off of the object you want it to help you locate.

Don’t get me wrong. The devices work. They work well. However, they’re about two times as big as they should be. I understand that these are 1.0 versions of this hardware; but you’d think that we would be able to engineer a smaller device that fulfilled its charter.

The speaker on it also isn’t very loud, so if you’re hard of hearing (like me), you may have trouble hearing it as it calls out its location to you. It’s a good thing that your smartphone can determine distance (but not necessarily bearing) from your current location. Just remember that if you frequently use the device to shout out its location, its battery may not last its stated year of life; and at $20 bucks PER Tile, the replacement costs are a bit steep, too.

The Tile App
Unfortunately, I’m not entirely happy with the app, either. While it again, does a decent job, I expected a bit more. I’m not ENTIRELY certain just WHAT that was… maybe a better UI and/ or design. I’m not certain. However, it doesn’t do that Hot-Cold thing I mentioned earlier, and I really thought that it would.

The app shows you a GPS location, and that’s nice; but if I KNOW my keys are in the house and I’m just not sure what room they’re in, a GPS or map location isn’t going to help me. I need to know how close I am (or am not) to my target. Having some sort of “compass-styled” locator or other UI that would give me a “warmer… warmer…, cooler, colder…” kind of look would be better.

The musical tones and chirping that Tile does is nice, but if the thing you’re looking for is underneath some couch or chair cushions, you may not hear it. Having some kind of real time directional locator as part of the app would really be much more value-added and a bigger help. Having my phone vibrate also doesn’t help. All that tells me is that “it’s close.” It doesn’t tell me exactly where it is.

While the Tile app will give you a GPS location of the Tile’s last known GPS location, it won’t tell you where it is if what you’re looking for grew legs and decided to walk away. If someone took your purse or wallet from that diner and drove away with it, Tile won’t broadcast its GPS location to your phone and let you know where it is. That could be problematic, and would be really cool if it did do that. Unfortunately, there’s no way for your Tile to “call home” if it goes out of range of your smartphone.

Conclusion
I’m really torn here. I want to like these so much; but Tile has three big problems going against it.

1. They’re big
2. They need to be replaced annually
3. They’re expensive

When I bought these, I imagined something, as I’ve said, about half its current size. Tile adds a huge amount of bulk to an already crowded key ring. I don’t have unnecessary or old keys on my ring. I use each one, almost every day. If all I had was a car and a house key, that would be one thing, but with office keys, car keys, house keys and filing cabinet keys on my key ring, a 2×2 square, plastic widget takes up a lot of space.

If you look at the Tile website, you get the impression that each Tile has a 12 month life span. From the way their documentation reads, you get the idea that on each Tile’s anniversary, they stop functioning whether their battery dies or not. That’s totally NOT cool. I know Tile has to have some sort of working business model, but I honestly wouldn’t have bought into these if I knew they had a 12 month shelf life.

At $50 bucks for four Tiles, that’s $12.50 a Tile; and a bit much in my opinion. At regular price, these are $19.99 for one. That’s way too much (and $30 more a year for the original 4 I bought.) I’d rather see these priced at $9.99, since they have to be replaced annually.

Don’t get me wrong. I hate that I have to turn my family room upside down to find my remote for my TV nearly every day. I don’t like misplacing my keys. However, it’s unlikely that either of those conditions are going to change. I was wishing for something like this when Tile came around. The only thing that I can say is that I hope version 2.0 is much improved over version 1.0.

While Tile fulfills its mission, its current version software can use a huge upgrade and its hardware should be sent to a fat farm. The app should do a lot more than it does in terms of local location. I’d like a better hot-cold UI than what I have now. It would also be cool to see Tile do more with Location Services. The initial GPS and map data that Tile captures after it locates a device is nice, but having it phone home would be much better for those things that can grow legs and walk away.

Tile works and does a decent job, but its hardware size makes it a bit impractical for some of the things I’d really like to track with it. Having a smaller form factor would make it easier to attach to my universal TV remote… and easier to hide. I’m also not pleased with the shelf life or their cost.

It’s a good accessory; but I’m not as happy with its execution as I thought it would be. I also think that the effort will ultimately fail, as the annual cost won’t be seen as value added as it would or should be at a lower price point. Tile is a nice to have convenience; but not much more than that.

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Ammyy Admin – Take Control.

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Take control of a remote PC with this great remote control app for Windows.

Working with computers is what I do, all day, every day. Most of you who frequent Soft32 know that. I know I probably mention it way too much. However, when you work with computers as much as I do, you often find yourself with many different needs, many different reasons to get to one or another PC on a local or distant network. For that, you need Ammyy Admin. It’s a remote control app for Windows.

Remote desktop software allows you to take control of a desktop PC. Ammyy Admin does just that; and its kinda cool. It can be used for remote administration, remote office arrangement, or remote support. Ammyy Admin gets you access to a remote PC via the internet without firewalls or NAT problems. You can work with remote PCs as if you’re sitting right in front of them. In order to keep all of your data and your activities safe and private, Ammyy Admin uses advanced AES and RSA encryption for each remote session.

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Ammyy Admin is reliable, trustworthy and affordable. One of the best things about it is that it doesn’t require installation or admin access to use. The remote desktop is available within a few seconds after the app has been started.

Ammyy Admin is a really easy to use, important piece of software. Controlling a PC that you don’t have physical access to can be a huge plus and advantage, especially if you have to provide some kind of support or advice to users who need your help. For me, apps like this can make or break my ability help friends and family as well as do my job.

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The biggest thing here, is that the app doesn’t require any installation in order to be used. Put it on your PC and go. That’s it. You get a secure, fast, easy way to control a remote PC that can easily get past NAT and firewalls. It also has built in voice chat and a file manager that will allow you to grab files and talk to friends and family as you try to give them a hand. 

Ammyy Admin offers a great deal and the price is more than right. Plainly put, the app is a winner.

download Ammyy Admin

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Connect to your PC or Mac from anywhere in the world with LogMeIn

logmein-iconLogMeIn is fast, easy-to-use remote access software that allows you to control your desktop from anywhere. Its in-browser provides a minimal latency portal to your PC desktop, which you can access from any Mac, PC or hand-held device, including iPads, iPhones and Android Smartphones. You can remotely start up a sleeping computer and with a password protected, 256-bit SSL encrypted connection, you can rest easy knowing your access is secure and safe. Best of all, this is freeware and once you’ve created a LogMeIn account you can instantly start accessing your PC remotely, 100% free.

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With a quick and easy in-browser interface, LogMeIn is a truly impressive way to access your PC remotely. Signing up for a new account is a fairly easy process, though the installation itself might take a little longer than you might expect. Once LogMeIn is up and running though, you’re going to be very pleased with the results. You can wake up your computer remotely and even in-browser it’s a similar experience to having your desktop right there in front of you. And while some features are reserved for the company’s paid offering, the price isn’t too steep ($70 per year) if you want access to HD streaming, file syncing, audio-streaming or printer access.

For the basic level with a free-price tag, this is the best offering you’re going to find without paying for your remote access. Highly recommended.

Downloag LogMeIn for WindowsDownloag LogMeIn for Mac

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Remember things big and small from your everyday life with Evernote

One of the most important things that you can do with your mobile device, your computer or laptop is take notes. If you’re a student, educator, or business professional, then you know what I’m talking about. Keeping track of action items, assignments, lesson plans, etc., is something that everyone has an interest in. That’s one of the reasons why I like Evernote. This multifunction tool has specialized functionality in order to keep you organized.

Evernote makes it easy to remember big and small things from your everyday life, using your computer, phone, tablet and the web. With Evernote, all of your notes, web clips, files and images are made available on every device and computer you use, anytime, anywhere. All you need is a connected device and available bandwidth. Evernote does the rest.

With Evernote, you can remember the things that YOU like. You can instantly save everything cool and exciting you see online. You can snap a photo, record some audio and save it to a note and have that note, with that cool content sync to every one of your connected endpoints. As such, you can take notes anywhere. If you’re always on the move, your notes and important information should be too. With Evernote, those important items are on every computer, phone and device you use.

Since notebooks sync instantly, Evernote makes it easy to work with remote friends and colleagues. You can share your notes and collaborate on projects with friends, colleagues and classmates regardless of their location, time zone, etc.  Evernote can be used to bring project information and teams together regardless of who is working on which parts, and can centralize all your information.

Read full Review | Download Evernote for WindowsDownload Evernote for Mac

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Streaming vs. Download – What Happens when the Cloud Evaporates?

It’s all well and good until the darn cloud is gone…so which is better, streaming or downloading?

The cloud is a wonderful thing, and it can mean and be many different things to many different people.  However, no matter what it is, no matter what it does, the cloud has one big problem.  Users must rely on the internet to get access to it and its resources.

This means different things to different people, depending on your location.  In Europe, with the requirement for ubiquitous 3G coverage throughout the European Union, and with high speed internet coming from cable and satellite providers, people can get access to the cloud and its technology from just about anywhere.  In the US, it’s a little different.

There are still many states that are without complete 3G coverage and, in some cases, without broadband internet.  The problem with all of this is that many new and soon to launch services, like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and iCloud rely on internet access to provide the service.  Slower speed services like dial-up, DSL/ADSL and EDGE don’t handle the download requirements well, and performance of these services over these slower access services, is poor. So, there’s a problem with these streaming services when service is inconsistent.

When service simply stops – i.e. when your network connection is totally interrupted via a power outage or a service outage, when the cloud evaporates – there’s a huge problem.  There is no service.  Without a local copy of whatever resources you’re trying to access, you’re out of luck.

Services like Netflix, Hulu, Pandora and Amazon Prime – those that rely on streaming for service delivery (with or without any kind of local cached data) – aren’t functional when network service is interrupted.  Services like iCloud, which run through iTunes and may have a complete, local copy of the content you are trying to enjoy, may be better, provided they switch to the local copy if communication with the host service is interrupted.  At the very least, you could restart the media and fast forward the audio or video on the local copy to the point you were at on the streamed copy provided you can put your hands on it.

The problem is consistent, high speed network access and the fact that it isn’t available everywhere, all the time.  The problem is also storage space on your PC, laptop, smartphone or tablet.  SD & HD video can often vary in size from about 1GB to 4GB.  When many smartphones and tablets often have 8GB to 16GB of storage to start, it makes it hard to store a complete movie or TV show on your device. If you do, you run the risk of running out of needed space for mail, pictures or other items.

The bottom line is this – until internet access reaches utility status (like water or electricity), users are going to have to choose between using your internet access and streaming content to where ever you are, or carrying it with you. If you stream and you bump into a connectivity problem, you won’t get your content. If you store locally and need space later, you may not be able to add content (like pictures) on the fly.  You’re going to have to be willing to choose one or the other and be aware of its limitations.

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