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One-Click Bluetooth with ToothFairy by C-Command Software

I’m a sucker for inexpensive, well-conceived macOS utilities, and at $3, ToothFairy by C-Command Software certainly fits the bill. I learned about the app from the show notes of this week’s episode of Mac Power Users.

I’m always switching between Bluetooth audio devices on the Mac, usually sending music to my AirPods, Bose SoundLink II over the ear headphones, or even my Amazon Echo Dot. Unfortunately macOS doesn’t always do a great job of connecting and switching between them.

ToothFairy lets you create little menubar icons for each of these devices and then toggle them on and off as you wish:

Device Icons in ToothFairy
Customizing your device icon in ToothFairy.
AirPods icon in the menubar.
ToothFairy fills in the AirPods icon to let you know it’s active.

And ToothFairy works great. I’ve been testing it for the past few days and it’s been super solid. Snag it on the Mac App Store for around $3.

The Doxie Go SE

In the past I had the opportunity to review both the Doxie Go WiFi and the Doxie Q, and this time the folks at Apparent sent me their newest scanner, the Doxie Go SE, for review. As the name implies, the Go SE represents an incremental evolution over the Go WiFi design.

But it’s more than that. Simply put, the Go SE my favorite Doxie scanner yet. Let me tell you why.

Hey There, Good Lookin’

First off, I do prefer this form factor over that of the Q:

I particularly like Go SE’s rounded corners and edges. There’s a certain warmth and friendliness to that style of industrial design which feels right at home here in 2018.

And the stickers. Now I don’t mind if you want to adhere labels on your product to help educate the user on unboxing, but those dang things better come off when I need them to. Thankfully that was my experience with Go SE: they came off clean as a whistle.

A Quick Scan

We don’t often have huge stacks of paper to scan in — thank goodness for statement PDFs delivered via email — so a single-sheet feeder works just fine for our needs (compared to the Doxie Q’s tray feed system).

With Go SE you’ll be scanning in documents face up, and they go through the rollers fast. I also appreciate the nice, but firm tug you experience when pre-feeding your paper into the scanner.

In terms of transferring scans to the desktop, I’m always partial to using an SD card because my MacBook Pro still has an SD card slot (that will not always be the case). Thankfully one version (in this case, the one Apparent sent to me) of the Go SE offers a WiFi transfer option like its predecessor.

What’s New?

Here are a few additional changes I noticed with Go SE, as compared to the previous models:

  • Go SE has a replaceable battery (🙌🏻) and it no longer requires a power block/brick for charging. Just plug the included cable into any USB port and you’re good to go.
  • The scanner will take a wider sheet of paper, possibly even the A4 format used for sheet music, which is a big bonus for me. I’d love to go all digital with my sheet music.
  • There’s an SD card in the box, and it packs 8 GB of storage.
  • You can transfer scans via a new USB tethered mode.

Wrapping Up

As I mentioned earlier, Doxie Go SE comes in two models ($199 and $219). Both can transfer scans over USB or via an included SD card, but only the more expensive $219 model can communicate with your computer (or iOS devices) over WiFi.

(I should also note the current Doxie promotion on Amazon. At press time your Doxie Go SE will ship with a bonus pair of Doxie socks, so that’s fun.)

For the moment I don’t need the WiFi option, but I can see it coming in handy as laptops (Apple’s machines, anyway) continue to abandon everything but the latest USB-C ports. And at only $20 extra, I think it’s a solid investment in future-proofing your Doxie Go SE.

C’mon people, go paperless! With the exception of just a few legal and other important documents, there’s just no reason to keep stacks of paper lying around and cluttering up your home. Good luck, and happy scanning!

The kind folks at Doxie were gracious enough to provide me with a complimentary Doxie Go SE unit for the purposes of this honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Panobook by Studio Neat

I’m back with my review of another brainchild from Tom & Dan, the good guys at Studio Neat in Austin, TX. This time it’s the Panobook ($20), their latest Kickstarter success and the first notebook from SN.

The Panobook first caught my attention for its form factor — depending on how you’ve got it set up, it’s both taller than most notebooks in “portrait mode”, and its girth in landscape surely suggests the origin of “pano” prefix in its name.

In short, the Panobook is exactly the note pad you’d expect from Studio Neat, as it is both beautiful and functional. Let’s take them each in turn.

Hey There, Good Lookin’

First things first: according to the specs documented on Panobook’s insert, the front & back covers are Neenah LaCrema 617 Charcoal on 50 pt Black Chipboard. I’m no printer by trade, so I won’t confess to know much about what that paper description means, but I can tell you how it looks & feels: dang good.

The cover stock is smooth to the touch, like a soft leather. And it’s thick. You won’t worry about throwing Panobook in your backpack — it’ll be just fine.

cover the Panobook

The insert itself is a sort of minty green, replete with suggestions for how to use the dot grid paper (more on that in a moment), a type size reference to help with sketching layouts, and as I noted before, list of specifications for the notebook.

And lastly we have the dot grid itself. You get 50 sheets for a total of 100 pages, and at 71 in.² per page, you won’t be hurting for writing space. The grid paper itself reminds me a lot of my favorite bound journal/notebook, the Baron Fig Confidant.

If you feel like going full Mister Rogers with regard to the Panobook, check out this video Tom & Dan shot on their visits to The Odee Company, their printing & manufacturing partner in Dallas:

Making It Work

At first I didn’t really know where Panobook would fit into my workflow, but now that I’m using the Baron Fig Planner 2018 to capture my “Big 3” tasks for the day, Panobook has become the perfect “right hand man” next to the Logitech K780 on my desk. Here’s what I’m using it for:

  • Writing out checklist items for to-dos I need to finish in one sitting
  • As a tally sheet for recruiting calls & emails
  • For capturing new to-dos at meetings
  • While planning out schedules and timelines

And what’s more — I’m not even utilizing the neat little touches Studio Neat designed into each page:

  • Subtle corner guides for drawing three portrait-orientation rectangles or six smaller boxes (think storyboards or thumbnail sketches)
  • Notches at the midpoint of each side of the grid that allow you create four equal sections on the page

So I’m not going full tilt with all of Panobook’s design affordances (yet!), but I do think I’m going to grow into it. And when I’m done with this Panobook, I’ll store it safely in the included slipcover, make note of its lifespan, and move on to the next one. I’ll be happy to start a fresh Panobook in the future, and Studio Neat even offers an option for buying them in a bulk 3-pack or on a subscription basis.

Panobook in the Wild

As I was preparing to write this review, I thought it would be fun to scan Twitter for mentions of how folks are using Panobook now that it’s out. Here are some of my faves:

Putting This One on the Shelf

If you like nice things (who doesn’t?) and don’t mind paying for them, you’ll be happy with the Panobook. I’ve found it to be super versatile, and I look forward to seeing the next paper good designed by Studio Neat.

The kind folks at Studio Neat were gracious enough to provide me with a complimentary Panobook for the purposes of this honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Upside Travel

I was lucky enough to stumble upon Upside when they launched their beta back in 2016 (I came across it via a sponsored Facebook post, of all things). Co-founded by Jay Walker (Priceline), Scott Case & Jon Ellenthal, Upside’s premise is simple: book business travel packages, and in exchange for being flexible about details like airline/hotel brands, travel times and hotel proximity, your company saves money and Upside also rebates you some of those package savings in the form of gift cards.

I have the responsibility of making my own travel arrangements for work, and in total I’ve used Upside to book airfare & hotel for three different trips (two others were cancelled due to weather). While our company offers some guidelines for pricing, I also feel a responsibility to be a good steward when it comes to keeping costs low. And in comparing package costs vs. booking á la carte, Upside definitely makes sense for me & my company.

While I am partial to Delta for flying and the Hilton family of brands for hotel accommodations, booking travel through Upside has caused me to branch out a bit. I’ve had great experiences flying with United & American, and I’ve stayed at some cool hotels beyond the standard Marriott and Hilton brands (to be fair, Upside offers the most popular hotel brands as well, and some even tack on their loyalty points as well).

While airline options are limited to American & United, Upside offers many, many hotel brands.

In exchange for this flexibility and for booking as a package, I’ve earned a total of $490 in gift cards for these business trips. (To be fair, there were some big gift card bonuses for being a beta customer.) You can redeem your gift cards electronically at brands like Amazon, Target, Panera, Lowe’s, and AMC. Each of my gift card redemptions has worked flawlessly, and fast — it’s really awesome.

On top of the gift cards, Upside is all about providing incredible customer service. Here are a few examples of what I’ve experienced:

  • surprise seat upgrades from economy to economy plus
  • special booking promotions like a $200 Netflix gift card
  • awesome chat & phone support when I had to cancel and rebook a trip due to weather
  • a free $5 Starbucks gift card for you to snag coffee on every trip

All of these features are available on both Upside’s website and their accompanying apps for iOS & Android.

Upside’s iOS app lets you do pretty much anything the website can do, including redeeming rewards and chatting with customer service.

What can I say? I’m an Upside fan. The type of business travel I do varies so widely that I don’t need to book these big packages all the time, but when I do, Upside is the perfect fit. And the company has continued to improve since launch, adding features like rental cars through Hertz, one-way flights, and even loyalty points from certain hotel brands. (One upcoming feature I’m super-excited about is multi-city trips, as it would be great for some business travel I have coming up later this year.)

So that’s my take on Upside Travel. It’s a fun way to earn a little extra when you’re booking business travel, and I’ll definitely continue to use it in the future.

Use this link (affiliate) to earn a minimum of $100 in gift cards on your first trip purchase of $600 or more.

The Hidrate Spark 2.0 Smart Water Bottle

We’re tracking all kinds of health data these days — workouts, steps, weight, sleep, water… you get the idea. I’ll go ahead and credit Fitbit for starting this craze. Fitbit’s premise was simple: clip a little gadget on your belt or wear it on your wrist and suddenly you have easy access to basic data about the way you’re moving (or not) throughout the day. I’m an Apple Watch wearer these days, but I’ll credit my original Fitbit Flex with getting me thinking about all this stuff. Why have these trackers become so popular? I think automation is the answer.

Sure, you could put pen to paper and take down a daily journal of your activity, but you’re not actually going to write down every single step you take. It doesn’t even matter how much Sting & The Police want you to. Yes, one distinct advantage of modern technology is that we’re being gifted more data about our lives than ever before. And the easier the data is to come by, the more we can do with it.

Side note: I studied vocal music in college, and one of the key tenets of our day-to-day was this: drink tons of water, avoid caffeine, repeat. Well, as soon as I graduated and ended up working in a more typical office setting, coffee happened to me. And as the years have gone by, I’m not drinking less coffee, but more. As a result, I’ve had some workdays in the last year where I don’t know if I drank a single drop of water until dinner. Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Not good.

Enter the Hidrate Spark 2.0.

For the last couple weeks I’ve been testing what I’d call the Fitbit of water tracking. Hidrate is a smart water bottle. It’s a 24-ounce water bottle with a soft outer coating — it’s oddly nice to hold — that contains a Bluetooth-enabled sensor stick. You drink your water, and it sends that data over to the Hidrate app on your smartphone. That’s it.

Now, us humans are easily distracted, but don’t fret: the sensor stick will glow (somewhat ominously) inside the bottle when you need to drink more water. Sure, your coworkers will wonder what the heck is going on, but it’ll make for a great mid-meeting conversation starter, right?

Hidrate syncs with Apple Health, Fitbit, MyFitnessPal and more to pull in your weight, height, and daily activity, which means that it can give you a suggested water goal that’s different every day. And Hidrate’s companion Apple Watch app will help you stay on track as well.

In short, Hidrate works just as advertised. The per-swig calculations are surprisingly precise, and I’m definitely drinking more water. However, I do think it’s worth bearing a couple of things in mind:

  • The sensor stick has to be affixed to the bottle cap just so, and you’ll need to take a few minutes with the instructions to get it right.
  • Hidrate’s sensor stick runs on two of these watch coin cell batteries, and there’s a certain weirdness about dangling some batteries in your water bottle. If you follow the directions, Hidrate makes it clear that the stick will be water tight, so I guess I’ll just have to trust that.
  • The fact that the bottle lights up is fun and helpful, but slightly on the gimmicky side. Push notifications from the app would be good enough, IMO.

Here in 2017 there is no shortage for premium water bottle options. Nalgene kicked it off 20 years ago with both style and durability. CamelBak took the reins somewhere along the way. And S’well & Hydro Flask are the new hotness (and coldness). In short, consumers are willing to pay more for a bottle that brings something new to the table (literally).

At $55, Hidrate Spark is too expensive to be the water bottle for everyone. But given the current fitness tracking craze, there must be a huge market for it nonetheless. What’s more, if used properly, Hidrate Spark should last for a long time, making it a better value than its retail price would suggest. One thing is for sure: if you want to drink more water and want a little help to get there, you’ll be happy with Hidrate Spark.

The kind folks at Hidrate were gracious enough to provide me with a complimentary Hidrate Spark unit for the purposes of this honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Material Dock by Studio Neat

Recently I’ve been testing out the Material Dock for iPhone & Apple Watch. It’s made by Studio Neat, a company comprised of designers Tom Gerhardt and Dan Provost.

The Material Dock is a tidy little platform for charging any Lightning-powered iPhone alongside an Apple Watch and its little charging puck. (There’s an iPhone-only version as well.) Studio Neat’s website is clear: there’s some assembly required. But as with everything I’ve observed from Tom & Dan, no detail — including assembly — has gone unconsidered.

When you open the box, you’re greeted by a thoughtful smiley face and a pleasant ‘hi there’ on a paper insert. There’s a note to head over to Studio Neat’s website and check out these assembly instructions. You’ll also find a helpful video that walks you through the assembly process.

All in all, it’s a simple package. There’s the walnut base, cork inserts, a tiny Phillips head screwdriver, and a plastic capsule containing necessary hardware. First reaction: knowing what I know about Studio Neat, I’m not surprised by the attention to detail here. The free screwdriver is weighty in the hand and feels like far more than a cheap add-on. And the hardware container seems even nicer than it should be. How accustomed I’ve become to those crappy plastic baggies from IKEA.

I have to say, I enjoyed the process of putting together the Material Dock. How often do you actually ever put something together before using it? I like making things, and I found it very gratifying to walk through the process at my kitchen table.

The walnut base is super attractive and the cork inserts are a nice complement. Although by its very nature the cork feels less solid than I’d like. While the Apple Watch cork piece is in the same spot for all, the other cork bumper slides to match the phone’s width. As long as Apple retains the Lightning connector — which it should, at least in the near term — you’re good to go.

With its micro suction base, there’s a certain amount of permanence to using the Material Dock. Sure, you can move it, but once in place, Material Dock stays put. You’ll need to bring your own Lightning phone charging cable and Watch charging cable. I travel for work sometimes, so I had to go ahead and buy another Watch cable to keep in my bag. An extra cable is always a good thing to have on hand.

My only quibble with the setup process was the how my Apple Lightning cable fit into the base of the dock. Fun fact: Studio Neat designed in cable channels to allow the dock to sit flush on the surface. But you end up with a 90° angle where the Lightning cable comes down and makes its turn into its channel. My cable was pretty stiff, so I’m concerned about the strain that might be putting on the wire at that right angle. It’s not like I plan to move the dock all the time, so I’m guessing it won’t be an issue.

I suctioned my Material Dock to the corner of my nightstand and within arms’ reach. I bump the table and get Nightstand Mode to light up on my watch, which is perfect. And the phone is far enough out of reach that silencing my alarm is the right amount of annoying to get me out of bed.

All in all, I’m impressed by what Studio Neat has made in the Material Dock. It works as advertised. I’ve been a fan items made out of wood since I watched Norm Abrams rock out on The New Yankee Workshop on PBS when I was a kid. Using modern tech with all its metal & glass alongside the warmth of materials like wood & cork is a treat.

If you’d like to pick up the Material Dock, you can buy the iPhone + Watch version for $70 and the iPhone-only edition for $45.

Tom & Dan from Studio Neat were gracious enough to provide me with a Material Dock for the purposes of this honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Raden A28 Check Luggage

Earlier this year I was able to travel with the Raden A28 Check suitcase, and all in all, it was a fantastic experience. Here’s why.

A Brief Word on How I Travel

I travel a decent amount for my job, but I’m not one of those road warriors who leaves early on Monday and flies back on Friday or even sooner. I admire the way these people operate. I see them in the airport, toting an impossibly small carry-on with all of their essentials, laptop bag hugging the suitcase handle.

I am not one of these people.

When traveling through the airport I am all about dropping off my luggage with the friendly bag check people as quickly as possible. I want to be walking around the airport unencumbered by any sort of wheeled suitcase. Nope, it’s just me and my Herschel Supply backpack. That is all.

In the Box

With that in mind, the team at Raden was kind enough to send me their A28 Check suitcase in matte black. As the product name implies, the A28 is – yup – 28 inches long. It’s a good-sized piece of luggage, but it’s not like some of these trunk-type bags I see people lugging up to the counter at Gerald R. Ford International. And at just 13 pounds, the A28 Check is quite light for its size.

The A28 Check comes in a box, but inside it’s packaged in a very nice drawstring bag, which itself doubles as a laundry bag when you’re out on the road. There’s also a nice welcome card which directs you to a Welcome Aboard page on the Raden website. It’s all very welcoming. Plus, they’ve included some other little travel accessories as well.

The App Side

I followed the steps to power up the built-in 7800 mAH battery pack and other integrated electronics and then proceeded to download the Raden app (App Store link). First up, my bag had a software update! After installing I got started with checking out the Check’s unique functions.

Charging

The case has two USB ports for powering up your various devices, but I can see this being way more valuable for the Carry version, as it’s a carry-on and you’d have it with you at all times. I actually never used this feature, but I might have had I been waiting for a Lyft ride once I arrived at my destination.

Weighing

A28’s handle has a built-in scale that displays the weight of your luggage on the app. Wonderful feature. Before heading to the airport I knew exactly where I stood with regard to the 50-lb. limit.

Locating

Raden uses Bluetooth proximity to notify the app when your luggage is close to your phone. I was able to confirm this during setup, but the suitcase never notified me when it came through the flaps at baggage claim. I hope to try this again on a future trip, as I suspect it’s extremely useful.

Giving it the Old College Try

I enjoyed traveling with the A28 Check! The suitcase looks great, it’s made to be strong, and I loved having 360° wheels on the bottom. Rolling the case upright next to me was pretty awesome.

You can fit a ton in the case. One thing that took getting used to is that when you open it up, both sides of the suitcase are basically the same dimension. Each side also has a zippered lining to keep it self contained. I was able to fit everything I needed for a week away, including a suit jacket and three pairs of shoes.

I was expecting the case’s trip through various baggage handling facilities to do a number of its exterior finish, and well, it kinda did. However, a quick wipe-down with a damp paper towel was all that was necessary to bring back Raden’s original finish and minimize any scratches it had sustained.

Packing Up

At $395, the Raden A28 Check is not an inexpensive piece of luggage, but I do believe it’s a good value for the money. The case is solidly constructed, attractive, and highly functional. If you’re looking for something a little smaller, check out the A22 Carry ($295), or snag the whole set for $595.

The kind folks at Raden were gracious enough to provide me with a complementary Check unit for the purposes of this honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Some Sweet Camping Gear for Your Summer Travels

It’s that time again! This weekend we’re getting the Starcraft ’89 out of its winter home and decking it out for at least three camping trips this summer.

With that in mind, I thought I’d share some of my favorite gear for making the most of your camping experience. Shocker: it’s mostly gadgetry for enhancing your food & drink. You’re welcome.

Coleman Camp Propane Grill/Stove+

Oh sure, you could cook over an open fire, but that’s so much work! Plus there’s nothing quite like the sound when you fire up this grill/stove combo from Coleman. (Seriously – it’s like a jet engine.) I like this model because it has both a burner and grill grate so you can do two different things at the same time. (Don’t forget the extra propane!)

$64 on Amazon.

Texsport Heavy Duty Barbecue Swivel Grill for Outdoor BBQ Over Open Fire

Hey, I told you not to cook over an open fire!

Okay, okay, if you insist. Not only is this product’s name a mouthful, but you’ll be serving many mouthfuls of wood-fired food from its 384-square-inch grate. Yes, the cooking surface is vast, but it’s also flexible. The grill height adjusts to 17 inches, and you can also swing it around 360° to get it away from the flames. Nice.

$36 on Amazon.

Rome’s Round Pie Iron with Steel and Wood Handles

In my mind the signature feature of camping is taking the best parts of life and making them more difficult. So if you like eating pizza but prefer the preparation to be as inconvenient as possible, you should try making “mock pies” in these round pie irons.

Recipe:

Slather the irons in liquid Parkay or another of your favorite trans fats, and then make a pizza sandwich between two slices of your favorite bread. Stick your pie iron in the fire, and then sit back and relax as your friends & family criticize your efforts. In minutes you’ll either be slogging through cold pizza (and not in a good way), or better, you’ll be burning your mouth on that mock pie’s molten cheesy center. Ain’t camping grand?

$14 on Amazon.

BLACK+DECKER Family Sized Electric Griddle

So it’s Sunday morning and that means it’s… pancake time. Whether you’re cooking for your family or planning to feed the entire campsite, you’d better be flapping jacks on one of these.

$27 on Amazon.

Aerobie AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker

For me, late nights around the bonfire and early mornings (because, kids) mean that I wake up stumbling around for my first cup of coffee. Sure that old drip coffee maker could graduate from its heralded place in the kitchen and head on into the camper, but for my money, the AeroPress is a far superior way to go. It’s both wonderfully portable and fully capable of making a great cup o’ joe.

Want to see how it works? Stop reading and go watch this portrait of its inventor.

$34 on Amazon.

Stanley Mountain Vacuum Coffee System

Or, if you’d prefer a more compact coffee system for the camping trip, you’ve got to look at this one from Stanley. It’s all of these things in one handy unit: two cups, dry storage for coffee, French press, flip-up handle, and thermos. It’s my go-to for camping coffee these days.

$35 on Amazon.

Coleman 12 Oz. Enamel Mug

With its smooth finish and trademark blue speckles, this is the quintessential camping coffee mug for me. And if you want to make your java the old-fashioned way, be sure to pick up this guy’s matching percolator.

$4 on Amazon.

Red IKEA Pressa Hanging Dryer

Your little kids are going to love this. The genius Swedes at IKEA have devised this gem: it’s an octopus and on the end of each of its legs are two – count ’em — clips for your various hand towels, washcloths and so forth. Hang it under your awning and you’re good to go.

$12 on Amazon.

The Withings Aura Connected Alarm Clock & Sleep Sensor

I’ve been interested in the Withings family of products since they released their smartphone-enabled original baby monitor. They had some of the first connected home devices on the market and were since acquired by tech giant Nokia in 2016. I love to see the intersection of health and consumer technology, and previously I reviewed Withings’ Activité Pop fitness tracker.

Enter the Withings Aura Sleep System. In short, Aura is a device for tracking your sleep and promoting a better night’s sleep all around. Hey, we all need better sleep, right?

Getting Started with Aura

Inside the box for Aura you’ll find:

  • the main alarm clock unit
  • an AC adapter with various plugs for different regions
  • the sleep sensor

(Note: the system is sold in three different configurations: (1) just the alarm clock, (2) the alarm clock plus one sensor, and (3) the alarm clock plus two sensors. The one I received for review was setup #2.)

Setting up Aura is pretty straightforward, although I’d recommend doing so closer to bedtime. I got mine all ready and then had nothing to do.

I suppose I should have taken a nap. Shoot.

The clock plugs into the wall with the included adapter and from there you configure Aura using the Health Mate app from Withings.

A few notes on the setup process:

  • It took a little while for the device to appear on my iPhone, and making the connection was a bit of a struggle.
  • I ended up having to do a Google search for a factory reset. Turns out you have to unplug/plug in the device 5x, and after that it’ll arrive back at its factory settings.
  • Once the unit was connected to our home WiFi (configured via the app), it found a software update right away and went about its business. I suspect this could have fixed any lingering connection issues, as I haven’t had any problems since.

And now, some random first impressions:

  1. Do not look directly at the light. It’s more than bright. Take my word for it.
  2. The sleep sensor emits a faint buzzing sound as it calibrates with the main unit, and that process takes about 10 minutes.
  3. From the pictures I would have thought the big dome on the front of the alarm clock to be some kind of convex-shaped cover, but it’s actually completely concave.
  4. I was quickly bummed to learn that Aura does not function as a regular Bluetooth speaker. It can stream as a connected device for Spotify Premium customers, and it can play internet radio stations, but that’s it. Kind of a bummer, if you ask me. I’d love to play my podcasts on Aura while I’m putting laundry away or making the bed.

The First Night

To use Aura you need to tell it that you’re headed to sleep – either for the night or just for a nap. You’ll designate:

  • When you’d like to wake up, including a “Smart Wake-Up” buffer that’ll recognize where you are in your sleep cycle and wake you up at just the right time.
  • The sounds you’d like to fall asleep to (I like the ocean waves).
  • Music for when you wake up. You can choose from many, many internet radio stations (BBC3 Classical is my jam, although opera at 5 a.m. can be harrowing) or a custom playlist on Spotify Premium.

Once you do, get ready! A hearty orange glow bursts from the alarm clock, and it’s designed to stimulate the production of melatonin – a hormone that lets you body know it’s time to go to sleep. Personally, I felt a little bit like Kramer in the Kenny Rogers Roasters episode of Seinfeld:

Now to be fair, you can adjust Aura’s brightness, as well as the volume of your going-to-sleep sounds. In fact, all of that is touch-controllable, right on the outside of the main unit. And both the brightness and volume decrease automatically as you’re falling asleep.

In the morning you’ll be transported to the Avatar planet Pandora with a soft blue light designed to reverse the effects of melatonin and tell your body it’s time to wake up. I actually like the blue, but I’m not sure my wife appreciates it. It’s pretty bright, even at its dimmest.

Good job! You slept with Aura, so to speak. Now what?

If you’ve got the optional sleep sensor or one of Withings’ activity trackers, you’ll be presented with some pretty charts and numbers telling you how you slept. I’m usually clocking in somewhere around seven hours.

Conclusions

There’s a lot to like about the Withings Aura Sleep System. From soothing sounds at bedtime to smart alarms in the morning, I believe it does what it says it will do. It’s a shame you can’t use it as a Bluetooth speaker during the day, but it’s nice to have the option of waking up with your favorite Spotify Premium playlist in the morning.

As my wife will tell you, I have absolutely no trouble falling asleep at night, but when it comes to actually getting out of bed in the morning, well, as comedian Jim Gaffigan puts it, “why not start the day with a little procrastination?”. Yes, the snooze button is my nemesis.

Well, Aura may not keep me from hitting the snooze button, but it’s a welcome addition to my daily routine. I think I’ll go take a nap now.

My thanks to the team at Withings for providing me with an Aura Sleep System unit for review.

The Doxie Q Portable Document Scanner

I had the chance to review Doxie’s last model, the Doxie Go Wi-Fi, in 2014, and since then I’ve been excited to see what Doxie would do next.

This December Doxie soft-launched the Doxie Q, a new version of their familiar line of document scanners. At first glance Doxie Q looks a lot like its predecessor. But look more closely and you’ll see the company moving in a different direction. Or should I say, dimension. (Okay, that was kind of dorky.)

Meet Doxie Q

The most noticeable change is the addition of a paper feed that folds out and extends from the top of the unit. This is the design change I’ve been waiting for and in itself makes Doxie Q a significant upgrade from the scanners that came before it.

Earlier Doxie models were always hampered by a major limitation: you could only ever feed through and scan one piece of paper at a time. Not so with Doxie Q. The flagship model can now accept up to eight pages of paper at once, and that’s a big deal when you’re trying to get through a stack of statements, receipts, and your kid’s artwork.

Doxie Q accepts sheets of paper through the top feeder, or you can put receipts and photos through a special “Direct Feed” slot on the back. However, I’m afraid Doxie Q still doesn’t include the feature I’ve been waiting for – duplexing. Higher end scanners are able to scan both sides of the document at the same time, meaning the paper only ever has to go through the machine once.

Yes, duplexing is notably absent from the Doxie Q and all other Doxie scanners, and it’s a shame. Instead you’ll have to take the stack of paper, turn it around, and feed it through again. Bummer.

I reached out to Doxie to ask them about this missing feature and they explained, in so many words, that adding an additional image sensor would keep Doxie Q from being the truly portable ADF (automatic document feeder) scanner folks are looking for at this price point. Can’t argue with physics, I guess.

To be fair, Doxie’s companion apps for Mac, Windows, and iOS can collate the pages using an Interleave feature. But in my experience this only really works if the pages you’re scanning all belong to the same document. (After all, Doxie Q is smart, but not smart enough to know that piece of paper is a day care receipt and that one is a retirement statement.)

If you don’t order the papers beforehand, then you’ll end up with single PDFs containing pages from different documents. Not exactly what we’re looking for here. So you’ll need to take some care to make it all work.

What’s In the Box

Again, this is the third Doxie scanner I’ve owned and the second I’ve reviewed, so allow me to focus my impressions on what it was like to open the box and get started with Doxie Q.

In the box I found the familiar Doxie Getting Started instruction card, the Doxie Q unit, micro USB cable, and various adapters for a universal power plug. The more common DC power input has been replaced by micro USB, which means you can charge Doxie Q by connecting it to any available USB port.

After following the instructions for setup, I flipped up the sheet feeder, only to find two more stickers on the inside of the unit. Bad, bad stickers. I tried removing them and they left behind a trail of adhesive. That drives me crazy. Maybe I was supposed to leave them there, but if so, that wasn’t clear.

Doxie Q in Use

As I wrote in my Doxie Go Wi-Fi review, my main use case for a portable scanner like this is to make sure that the paper that enters our house exits just about as quickly as it comes.

I’m not running a small business or anything like that, so I don’t have gobs and gobs of material to scan. But I do end up with batches of statements, receipts, and the like that need to get scanned and filed in Dropbox.

Along those lines, here are some quick hits, or reasons you’ll like Doxie Q:

  • It’s the fastest Doxie scanner I’ve used. Both the tray feed and Direct Feed slots push paper through fast.
  • Like the original Doxie, the Doxie Q has a dedicated Scan button. I much prefer this to the game of chance that was pushing documents through the Doxie Go Wi-Fi.
  • These will be the straightest Doxie scans you’ve ever seen. To be fair, the Doxie app does good job correcting for straightness. But that can’t really compete with physical guides to keep the paper aligned correctly.
  • Option for transferring scans via WiFi or SD card. My Macs still have SD card slots (this will not always be the case), and popping the card in and out certainly the fastest way to get scans off Doxie Q. But with WiFi transfer built in, Doxie Q is ready for the promise of a truly wireless (and port-less) future.
  • Doxie Q doesn’t leave our house, but it doesn’t take up a lot of space, either. When it’s not in use, I just put Doxie Q in our old-timey secretary desk.

Okay, that was some of the good. Unfortunately there’s a little bit of bad (okay, and ugly) as well:

  • The fold out paper feed design is pretty clever, but it feels far more fragile than I’d like. Doxie Q is rated for just 8 pages at a time, so this isn’t too big a trade-off. But I just don’t want to break the thing.
  • Lack of duplexing stings a bit. Doxie’s Interleave software feature is somewhat convincing, but it’s only a small evolution from any of the previous generation Doxie scanners.
  • Okay, this one’s a little ticky-tack, but: c’mon, what’s with the sticker residue? Outside decals: fine. They come off cleanly. Inside stickers? Not so much. This drives me batty.

My Final Thoughts

I like Doxie Q for the same reason I liked the original Doxie scanner – with its size, speed, and cost ($299), it’s an accessible path for getting into a paperless workflow for the first time. Open the box and you’ll be scanning documents in minutes.

Doxie Q is obviously the most mature of Doxie scanners to date. Its crowning feature is the ability to scan multiple pages at once, and that’s a big win. Onboard control of document output type and resolution and a dedicated scan button are pleasant improvements to the user experience. And at under two pounds, there’s no reason why you couldn’t throw Doxie Q in your backpack or suitcase.

Doxie Q sits at the top of the Doxie line, but relative to the mobile scanner market, it’s competitively priced. I believe it’s a good value for the price you’ll pay.

But if I’m being honest, I continue to wonder: what it would be like for Doxie to go all-in on a desktop workhorse scanner? What could they offer at a $399 or $499 price point? In short, I’d love to see Doxie’s playful personality in a professional-grade scanner.

In the meantime, Doxie Q is a fine fit for my paperless process. I’ll just fold in its cute little arms, flip down its lid, and wait for the paper to pile up so Doxie Q can go back to work.

(My thanks to Doxie for providing me with a Doxie Q unit for this review.)

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