Monthly boxes of random coolness (and sometimes crap)

I realized as I was sitting in the dentists office waiting for my son and daughter to finish that it had been a while since I had posted anything about the random unsolicited boxes of products I have received.

Some of these boxes I expect every month from subscription services hoping for publicity like the great folks at GeekBox and Wet Shave Club.  Others show up out of the blue, like the tshirt and sweatshirt that arrived with the "Last Star Fighter" logo shortly after I reposted an article about a sequel to that amazing movie being in the works.  Sometimes the contents are worth keeping, sometimes they are worth passing on to Jimmie and other friends, or handing to the wife and kids. Once in a while they are barely worth the room they take up in the trash can. 

Here come the pictures and descriptions, I'll come back through when I get time and add links where I can tomorrow.  Enjoy! 

This liquor infusion kit from TongueSpank Spice Co. was a welcome arrival

This liquor infusion kit from TongueSpank Spice Co. was a welcome arrival

This hoodie and matching tee came from the production folks behind the new Last Starfighter movie

This hoodie and matching tee came from the production folks behind the new Last Starfighter movie

These are just some of the tees to arrive from the guys at pop-up-tees this month

These are just some of the tees to arrive from the guys at pop-up-tees this month

Zac Brown Band sent us a few copies of their newest album.  If you haven't yet, buy it now. 

Zac Brown Band sent us a few copies of their newest album.  If you haven't yet, buy it now. 

May's monthly box from the guys at Birchbox included no-show liners from the folks at Taft in addition to the normal variety of grooming samples

May's monthly box from the guys at Birchbox included no-show liners from the folks at Taft in addition to the normal variety of grooming samples

This month finally brought the release of the Nüüd for iPhone 6 Plus from the folks at Lifeproof.  I've been amazed at how long it has taken some companies to get precision manufactured cases on the market for the 6 Plus, but this is by far the most durable case you will find, especially when combined with a ballistic glass screen protector. 

This month finally brought the release of the Nüüd for iPhone 6 Plus from the folks at Lifeproof.  I've been amazed at how long it has taken some companies to get precision manufactured cases on the market for the 6 Plus, but this is by far the most durable case you will find, especially when combined with a ballistic glass screen protector. 

GeekFUEL's theme this month was Teams, and featured items surrounding comic and movie teams like the Avengers and TMNT

GeekFUEL's theme this month was Teams, and featured items surrounding comic and movie teams like the Avengers and TMNT

As I've written about before, one of the most important items in my gear bag is a large battery pack to keep my devices charged.  This aluminum number from EliteBuy was on sale for just $30 on Amazon and is rated at 10000mAh, or around four full charges for your iPhone.  The color didn't win me over but construction was solid

As I've written about before, one of the most important items in my gear bag is a large battery pack to keep my devices charged.  This aluminum number from EliteBuy was on sale for just $30 on Amazon and is rated at 10000mAh, or around four full charges for your iPhone.  The color didn't win me over but construction was solid

This pack from Aukey, who are quickly becoming one of my favorite accessory companies was on sale for $20 when they sent it for review.  It features auto sensing technology that adjusted the output on the USB ports to charge devices as quickly as they would take power, and more importantly reduce output when your device gets closer to fully charged or is a lower powered device.  Very important to prevent overheating, especially when they are carried together in a gear bag. 

This pack from Aukey, who are quickly becoming one of my favorite accessory companies was on sale for $20 when they sent it for review.  It features auto sensing technology that adjusted the output on the USB ports to charge devices as quickly as they would take power, and more importantly reduce output when your device gets closer to fully charged or is a lower powered device.  Very important to prevent overheating, especially when they are carried together in a gear bag. 

This cool tabletop BX Bluetooth speaker from GoGroove is part of their BlueSYNC line.  While it's dual drivers and multiple input sources are pretty standard, and it's wood grain finish helps it fit in nicely on my night stand, GoGroove is hopeful that what will set this product line apart from the masses is the addition of a removable and rechargeable battery that is interchangeable with the other speakers in the lineup. 

This cool tabletop BX Bluetooth speaker from GoGroove is part of their BlueSYNC line.  While it's dual drivers and multiple input sources are pretty standard, and it's wood grain finish helps it fit in nicely on my night stand, GoGroove is hopeful that what will set this product line apart from the masses is the addition of a removable and rechargeable battery that is interchangeable with the other speakers in the lineup. 

The newest kid on the "lets throw together a box of stuff geeks and fanboys will like every month and see if they will pay to get surprised" block is NerdBlock, and they didn't do too bad with their first box.  I'll reserve final judgment on the company as a service until we get six months in, but I'm not upset by what I've seen yet. 

The newest kid on the "lets throw together a box of stuff geeks and fanboys will like every month and see if they will pay to get surprised" block is NerdBlock, and they didn't do too bad with their first box.  I'll reserve final judgment on the company as a service until we get six months in, but I'm not upset by what I've seen yet. 

The Foldio 2 from the folks at Orange Monkie is the perfect mobile photo studio

The Foldio 2 from the folks at Orange Monkie is the perfect mobile photo studio

Well, that was most of the assorted stuff that came in May.  I have some other reviews to get caught up on, and some great recipes to post for you guys.  Stay tuned. 

Gizmodo has all the best CyberMonday deals in one place

As always, Gizmodo and Kinja have teamed up to put together a comprehensive list of CyberMonday deals for all things tech and geek, I'll post deals as I find them but their list is a good place to start today.

 

Source: http://gizmodo.com/the-best-cyber-monday-d...

Great deal on one of the worlds best coffee makers

Amazon has discounted the price on the AeroPress, voted numerous places the worlds best coffee maker and one of our personal favorites.  Normally $30, it is now $25 and a great deal for the coffee lover in your life this holiday season.  We reviewed the AeroPress here early in the life of Fat Boy Heaven, you can check out what we had to say about it there and follow the link below for a great deal.

AeroPress


 

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Review: Amazon FireTV

Amazon delivered my FireTV today, and I just have had a chance to hook it up and run through the welcome before watching a show I left off watching on my ROKU a few minutes ago.

The first thing you will notice when you inbox the unit is how basic it looks. Much like the other network streaming boxes on the market there is not much to connect. Since I am on a wireless network and not hooking up to surround sound on this TV it was two cables, power and HDMI.

Once connected to the wireless network the FireTV wanted to update it's software, which took 3 minutes and then the system restarted. Boot up was amazingly quick. It shows the benefits of the quad-core 1.7GHz processor right away.

Playback is smooth and quick, and the voice search which seemed to be just a gimmick actually works very well. The system just like all other Amazon electronic products shipped linked to my account, so there was no need to sign in to Amazon for access to Amazon instant video and Prime video content.

I'll have more after I try more apps and the interaction with the Fire HDX tablet as a second screen.

First Look: Kindle Fire 7" HDX

The newest version of the Kindle Fire from Amazon.com started arriving at homes across the country today, and mine has been here for a few hours now.  First thing you notice is that Amazon put some time into packaging this time around.  Previous Kindle units have arived in a brown cardboard box with very few frills.  This time around we have stamped foil and full color graphics.  This is not critical, but it signals that Amazon is taking the fire far more seriously now than they have in the past.  A lot of that may be their sales in other retail stores, but I think with the HDX and all of the innovation it brings Amazon is finally where Jeff Bezos and his team always envisioned the Kindle would be: a single digital portal to everything the company offers in terms of entertainment and service.

The Fire HD that we saw last year was a decent Android tablet, but the Fire HDX is lightyears beyond.  The polish in this the third version of the KindleOS (now dubbed Mojito) is clear.  Add to this the hardware improvements and you start to see just how important this device can be.

The Welcome screen guides you through using the KindleWhen you power the kindle on you are guided through the setup process.  This is simplified if you have bought it online from Amazon as the device has already been registered to your Amazon account.  As you can see in the background of the picture above, my most recent book downloads are already there waiting for me to start reading once I complete orientation.  The wide range of entertainment options available through Amazon's cloud services is very comprehensive, and anything you have ever purchased is available to be downloaded or streamed immediately.  With the included PRIME membership you also gain access to free ebook rentals, streaming TV, and movies.  If you have never had the PRIME treatment before, this is a wake up call that you do NOT want to let the subscription lapse.

Now the important thing, use.  i obviously haven't had it long enough for a comprehensive review, but the speeed and elegance of this tablet is not to be ignored.  Sound is crisp, clear, and much louder than before.  The enhanced resolution of this model (1920x1200) means it has one of the crispest displays you will find in a tablet of this size.  In all there is no way to be disapointed in the hardware.

Many have been critical of the fact that Kindle devices do not have access to the Google Play store, but unless you have already invested money in Google's store I don't think you will miss the "Official" android marketplace.  Amazon has built their own OS from the skeleton of Android, it will not resemble any version of the "Official" AndroidOS you have ever seen.  However I think that Amazon does one thing better than any other player in this game:  they know what their customers want.  For the vast majority of Kindle buyers what is wanted (and needed) is something that is easy to use and understand.  Add the new live concierge support that the "MayDay" button brings and you have a recipe for great customer experience.

I'll have a full review in a few days, but right now I can't think of anything that I will find that could possibly change my take on this device.  If you've been waiting for a new tablet and aren't waiting to see what Apple announces next week, get this one before supply is limited.

Breaking: Amazon announces new Kindle Fire HDX

The new Kindle Fire HDX features full 1080P HDAmazon today has announced the latest in their Kindle line of tablets, the Kindle Fire HDX 7" and Kindle Fire HDX 8.9" tablets.  The 7" features a 1920x1280 display at 323ppi, Quad Core 2.2Ghz processor, dedicated video chip, and 2GB of RAM and will start at $229 when it goes on sale Oct. 18, 2013.  The 8.9" version upgrades the display to 2560x1600 at 339ppi and will start at $379 when it ships Nov. 7, 2013.  Both are available in 4G versions for $100 premium, and this time are available both on AT&T and Verizon.

Amazon is also adding a new feature to the HDX line, something they are calling the "Mayday Button".  Pressing this button will connect you to a live video chat with support personell and gives them the ability to see your Kindle's screen and even draw on it like a telestrator to show you exactly where to touch.  Not a new concept in support, but definately new to the tablet world.

In all this new offering looks amazing, and as always I'll be recieving a unit on launch day to review.  Stay tuned, this should be good.

 

Review: Kindle Fire HD 7"

It was about a year ago that I started this website with a review of the Kindle Fire.  A lot has changed since then.  Tablets have grown to a point where the iPad sold more than any BRAND of PC last year.  Expectations have been increased to monumental proprtions that few devices have a chance of living up to.  Google worked with ASUS to release the Nexus 7, and still didn't capture 10% of the global tablet market.  With all of these facts, Amazon announced their new Kindle Fire HD line.  The first device to arrive in consumer hands is the 7" version.  

The Fire HD improves on every aspect of the original, without increasing the price. The Kindle Fire HD 7" is $199 for the 16GB version, $249 for the 32GB variety.  The new Fire HD is much faster, resolving all of the actions attempted more than twice as fast as the original.  All of the problems I had with the original have been resolved, much to my enjoyment.  The Book app now allows for changing the background color, font size, and font quickly and effectively.  The addition of hardware buttons corrects the most glaring flaw of the original.  Most importantly, Amazon's app store offerings are now much more robust, with many applications already updated to take advantage of the improved resolution of the HD.

Starting at $299, the new Kindle Fire HD 8.9" is likely to cause the biggest stir when it arrives in November.  At the price points Amazon is able to deliver, the competition is not easily going to be able to compete.

Look below for pictures of the unboxing and getting started guidance.

 

Amazon to release new Kindle units over the next several months

On Wednesday, Amazon held a press announcement in Southern California to announce the roadmap for Kindle device releases through the end of November.  Coming in at a variety of price points, here is the new line-up:

 

1. Kindle, 6" E Ink Display, Wi-Fi - Includes Special Offers

The basic Kindle has been updated with better fonts, 15% faster page turns, and improved wi-fi.  Oh, and they improved the price....the Kindle is now just $69 and is available now.

2. Kindle Paperwhite, 6" High Resolution Display with Built-in Light, Wi-Fi

Amazon announced a new front-lit e-ink reader to compete with the Nook Glow-Touch.  From the images we've seen and the demo on Wednesday it looks like a winner, and comes in almost $30 dollars less than the Nook at $119 for the Wi-Fi version.  It is also available with 3G at $179.  The PaperWhite will ship the first week of October.

3. Kindle Fire HD 7"

Amazon announced a new HD version of their popular Fire tablet, bringing a faster processor and 720p video to the platform, while doubling memory capacity from 8GB to 16GB.  The amazing thing was the announcement that the price would remain $199, and the original Fire would be upgraded slighly while reducing the price to $159.  The 7" HD will begin shipping Sept. 14th.

4. Kindle Fire HD 8.9"

The big news of the day was the announcement that they were "Going Big".  Jeff Bezos and company announced an 8.9" tablet in the Fire line.  Boasting 1080p video with HDMI output, 32GB of RAM and a processor that it claims has 2x the performance of the Tegra 3 Chipset, the Kindle Fire 8.9" HD is making a very strong play.  The important part of this announcement isn't the specs though, it is price point.  Starting at just $299 it is going to provide stiff competition to Apple's iPad line, coming in $200 lower than the entry level iPad.  Amazon also announced a 4G LTE version of the 8.9" tablet, with the offer of 250MB of 4G data for just $50 a YEAR.  Compared to the $25 monthly charge of the lowest priced Apple tablets and you have a solid counter punch to sway budget-minded consumers your way.  While 250MB of data isn't much and there still has not been any announcement of other data plans, this could be huge for Amazon this holiday season.  The 8.9" units will start shipping in late November.

 

We have all 3 new units on their way, and I'll post reviews as soon as possible.

Kindle Fire Review Part 1 - Dad's Take

OK, the Kindle Fire arrived this morning.  

The first thing you notice when you turn it on is the small things.  As soon as it connected to Wi-Fi, it popped up with my name and a welcome.  No registration (Amazon took care of that before shipping), no login to my Amazon account.  It just knew and worked.

The Carousel already had all of the books I have ever bought from the Kindle store ready to download.  It knew I was a Prime member and video streaming was ready as soon as I tapped on the video link.  Selecting music brought up not only music bought from the Amazon Music Store, but also the music and audio books I have uploaded to my cloud drive.  Sometimes the small touches make all the difference, and just like with the original Kindle Amazon gets them right.

The weight is on par with other tablets of this size, which is to say it is heavier than expected but not uncomfortably so.  This is the part where most reviewers would recap the specs and compare them to the iPad, or the Nook Tablet that is being released today.  I don't think the target audience of this tablet really cares though, so I'll keep this easy.  The screen quality is great, whether reading a book or watching video or playing a game.  The sound from the speakers is good and can get loud enough to be heard.  Overall it is a serious device, and comes across solid and well executed compared to other tablets I have tried.

Looking deeper into how things work in normal use, there are a few choices that Amazon made that are interesting to me: 

First, reading (which the Kindle brand is known for) is easy.  However, one of the features I love from the iPad version of the Kindle Application is nowhere to be found.  There is no way to change the background or text color that I can find.  While black text on a paper white background is ok, I find a sepia type background easier on the eyes.  I can make the change with two taps on the iPad app, but it isn't anywhere that I can find on the Fire.  Adjust the brightness makes it easier on the eyes, but still a curious decision.  

Second, Applications, which I would have thought would be better refined (highlighting the applications made specifically for the Fire) were anything but.  Bestselling applications are front and center, rather than applications made for Fire.  Not good or bad, but an interesting choice.

Third, Newsstand needs work.  I downloaded Car & Driver magazine as a test, and was less than impressed.  Once the magazine loaded there were large blank grey spaces at the top and bottom of the page.  When zooming in to read, movement to the next column actually moved to the next page, which was again reduced to the point that it was unreadable.  They are going to have to get this better to compete with Zinio.

Overall, I think Amazon will do well with the Kindle Fire.  It's price point sets a new bar in the Android tablet game, and Amazon's reach and mind share will bring it to a far broader audience than the others in this space have been able to garner.  Add all of this to the fact that Amazon has an ecosystem in place to handle all of the consumption of media and applications the common user could ask for and you have a recipe for success.