October 2018 Tech Trends Product Reviews

Boy have we got some cool reviews for you this month. From the latest Coffee tech to Vape pens and secure USB keys it’s all right here.

Vype ePen 3

It is all the rage these days and this new ePen 3 from Vype is easily the best-looking vape pen out there. It is small and slick looking when the average pen looks more like an industrial breathalizer kit. It slips nicely into a jeans pocket and the tasty replaceable pods are easy to change and bring a clean new mouthpiece with each load.

I tried it out with Tech Trends new Crypto Correspondent, Richard Andrews who is currently kicking the rollie habit by vaping and he was impressed. We both concluded that despite its low price and slim design it really packs a punch. Give it a go if you want a low profile vape pen that gives you plenty of bang for your buck.

Available online from Vype for £14.99 down from £17.99 at the moment.

More Bike, less BS

People don’t really need to be sold on the advantages of getting on your bike where it comes to urban mobility. Compared to driving, cycling is better for the environment, cheaper, fewer issues with parking, and any time there is traffic you’re likely to get to your destination sooner than the cars anyway. And unless you really enjoy getting up-close and personal with random strangers every day, commuting on public transport can quickly lose its appeal, even if we forget about price rises, strikes and random delays. Read the full story here.

WILD ONE — Pet Accessories

In the past decade, Gen Z and Millennials accounted for more than half of the growth in the pet owner population. In fact, the 57 million pet owners under the age of 40 account for 41% of all pet-owning adults in the United States. It’s estimated that in 2018, Americans will spend $72 billion on their pets, $15 billion of that specifically on pet supplies. In New York City alone, there are roughly 425,000 dogs in homes across the five boroughs. That’s a lot of poop bags!

As the owner of three dogs, yes three, I was excited to hear about Wild One, a new line of design-conscious pet essentials that has announced its first retail pop-up shop in NoLita, 242 Lafayette Street, New York. Located just around the corner from the new Amazon 4-Star and operational from October 20 through January 1, the immersive brick-and-mortar shop will serve as a dog-friendly community hub, designed to simplify and enhance the pet shopping experience and encourage visitors to relax, meet fellow pet parents, and enjoy the space. Wild One will also host a series of interactive experiences and events such as Wild One Wednesday Happy Hours, movie nights, collaborations with Sofar Sounds, and more.

While unable to jet my pooches to NY to try out the Sofar Sounds (whatever they are?) I was able to try out some Wild One products and found them well made, sturdy and modern looking. No leather or chains here, more of an Ikea or Apple feel to everything.

Wild Ones Products:

Inspired by technical apparel and subtle style, Wild One applies performance materials and clean design to pet gear, focusing on form and function in equal measure. All of the brand’s items are designed to heighten ease and practicality, making it simple (and fun!) for people to incorporate their wild ones into their busy lives.

Check them out online and the Wild One pop-up will be open through the end of 2018.

Nescafe Dolce Gusto Infinissima Coffee Machine

I am regularly up into the early hours hacking away at articles or digital projects and need a quick hit of caffeine. My usual coffee making routine is wonderful but it takes a long time, grinding the beans, boiling the kettle, setting up the paper filter plus warming the milk. Yes, I take it rather seriously! So I was very pleased when the Nescafe Dolce Gusto Infinissima Coffee Machine by Krups arrived along with a couple of boxes of capsules. Now colour me sceptical about quick coffee but this little machine was not bad, not bad at all.

Apart from looking a lot like a toy duck that spits out coffee, it is a tidy little machine and when charged with some strong pods and some filtered water puts out very nice if small cups of coffee. I normally take my coffee like I take my beer, in pints but the sheer tastiness of this Nescafe coffee has opened my eyes to quality over quantity.

My recipe for heaven using this Infinissima Machine is take a small espresso-style cup, add half a teaspoon of brown sugar and a splash for milk. Pop it in the microwave for 20 seconds while you warm up the Coffee Duck and charge with an Espresso Intenso pod. Flick the switch to hot and wow, the resulting macchiato type beverage will rock your world.

Nescafé Dolce Gusto Infinissima manual coffee machine by Krups

The Infinissima is very reasonable and Available at Debenhams for £100 and takes up very little space on the counter so give it a go, you might end up drinking more coffee but hey, so what.

Tech That Every Poker Player Should Own

Playing online Poker is great, but it can get even better with some help from modern-day tech. From having the proper noise-cancelling headphones to owning a travel-friendly cigar humidor, here are ten things that will bring your game to a whole new level. Read the full story here.

Inateck Camera Bag & USB 3 SSD Drive Enclosure

As well as editing Tech Trends I work around the world as a photographer for clients including Samsung and HP so travelling with a tonne of kit plus the valuable digital files I produce is a serious pain. I’ve never had a bag or kit case that could fit everything I needed and be comfortable to carry so I was happy to get my hands on the Inateck 3 in 1 DSLR Camera + 15.6 inch Laptop & Travel Backpack. It’s a multifunctional water resistant rucksack with a rain cover and tripod holder.

I can get my camera, five lenses, cables, batteries and chargers plus a bunch of accessories and a 15 inch MacBook Pro in this thing and it is still comfortable and fits in overhead luggage racks. I can strap a small tripod to the outside and the rollout waterproof cover can be deployed quickly in downpours. Can you tell I like it? Well, I do, it is awesome and also has a quick access flap so you can get your camera out the side of the rucksack very quickly without opening the case via the main compartment or zips.

I have used this Inateck rucksack on location in New York, Barcelona and Berlin and have had no problems at all. Another point worth noting is that it doesn’t look special or technical, it looks like any normal bag so no one can tell you are carrying thousands of dollars of kit around. My old hard case was a bit too Mission Impossible and I always expected to get mugged and my hand sawn off at the wrist to release the nuclear codes!

However, the images themselves are what I get paid for and keeping those backed up, safe and easily accessible is another challenge. Along with the rucksack I tested out the Inateck external USB 3.0 to SATA SSD hard drive enclosure and Inateck’s USB-A Male to USB-C 3.1 Gen2 nylon braided cable.

This combo delivers the flexibility and transfer speeds I needed in a practical, low profile setup. The drive case is optimised for 9.5mm/7mm 2.5 Inch SATA SSDs so I could stick one of my own super speed 1TB SanDisk SSDs in there and know that it would be reliable. The case is slim and would fit in a pants pocket but one extra touch I loved was the on-off button recessed into a slanted corner. This avoids possible corruption issues when swapping the USB powered drive between computers and was a very neat touch.

To go with it and link to my Mac The USB A to C cable was perfect and fast as lightning. The connectors are sturdy and the braided cable more flexible than boring old rubber. The reality of cell phone networks means that on location you never get a good enough signal to back photos up to the cloud so a fast portable set up like this is vital to ensure you don’t lose any images. Did I say it was fast? Yes, the bottleneck in this set up is the USB 3 port but that is plenty fast enough in real-world use.

Available via Amazon here in the UK at the links below these Inateck products are reasonably priced and excellent quality, recommended by me!

Inateck 3 in 1 DSLR Camera/15.6 Inch Laptop/Travel Backpack — £47.99
Inateck USB 3.0 to SATA Hard Drive Enclosure External — £9.99
Inateck USB 3.1 Cable USB-A Male to USB-C 3.1 Gen2 Nylon Braided Cable — £5.99

BlitzWolf Bluetooth 5.0 Wireless Earbuds

These are the first BT 5.0 headphones I have tested and in reality, this new 5.0 classification probably just means better battery life rather than improvements to audio quality. Not that this is to be sniffed at, better battery life is always a plus and I can say these earbuds from Blitzwolf lasted for 3 hours between charges for me, so pretty good. The charging case is also small and well designed and carries a claimed 12 hours of charge.

Unlike other earbuds I have used, these make contact with your ear in a couple of places rather than just slipping in your ear canal. This is a bit strange in use but you quickly get used to it and they don’t look as strange in use as the xFyro xS2s I reviewed last month. Sound was pretty good, full, with a nice balenced profile. They were pleasant to wear and connected to my smartphone quickly. Nothing to complain about here, a good pair of BT buds.

Available from Amazon here in the UK for £36.99

Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 3NX — USB 3 Flash Drive

I was really quite excited when the lovely Jon Fielding from Apricorn let me know the next generation of their secure key: the Aegis Secure Key 3NX was out! The last version of this handy little USB key got an excellent review from me earlier this year and has gone on to be the core of my personal digital security. My taxes, finances, insurance and all manner or boring but necessary records live merrily on my old Secure Key 3Z and I have 100% confidence they are safe there. This is the fourth generation of Secure Key and brings some next-generation security features and up to 25% cooler operating temperatures, which is a good thing as to be honest the old 3Z got bloody hot. Maybe most importantly the new 3NX comes at an even lower price with my new 128GB sample costing a very reasonable £189 while the base unit has dropped from £70 to $59.

As before the 3NX is software-free, 100% hardware-based 256-bit AES XTS encrypted, onboard keypad PIN authenticated with ultra-fast USB 3.1 (3.0) data transfer speeds. All Data is encrypted on the fly and the device’s PINs and Data remain encrypted while the drive is at rest. Completely cross-platform compatible and OS agnostic the 3NX thrives in Windows, Linux, Mac, Android, Chrome, embedded systems, and equipment possessing a powered USB port and storage file system. All internal componentry is protected from physical tampering with a layer of hardened epoxy, and locked-down firmware brings immunity to malware attacks such as BadUSB.

The polymer-coated wear-resistant onboard keypad stays the same and the drive is unlocked by entering a PIN on the keypad and not the host computer’s keyboard. Until the device is unlocked via its keypad, it remains invisible to the host. The embedded keypad circumvents all hardware and software key logging attempts to capture passwords by excluding the host system from the authentication process. Polymer-coated buttons are wear-resistant and designed to not reveal most commonly used buttons.

The FIPS 140–2 Level 3 Validation (pending 4Q 2018) meets the U.S. government standards for information technology and computer security. NIST FIPS 140 is the cryptography standard program required by the US federal government for protection of sensitive data. I am a huge fan on the unattended auto-lock feature, a programmable period of Inactivity permitted before drive locks Itself. All Aegis Secure Drives will automatically lock once disconnected from a computer’s USB port or the power to that USB port is interrupted or after a pre-programmed period of inactivity. Super handy!

The awesome self-destruct PIN also remains so when programmed and activated, performs a Crypto-Erase and becomes a new access PIN. The last line of defence for data security when the device’s physical security and your personal safety are at risk. The self-destruct PIN defends against these physically compromising situations by erasing the key’s contents, leaving it in normal working order appearing yet to be deployed. Suck on that MI6! or is it MI5?

The Brute-Force defence is also a useful real-world security measure. Select the Number of Consecutive Invalid PIN Attempts Permitted (4–20) Before Crypto-Erase. All Aegis Secure Drives are unlocked (authenticated) by entering a PIN on their own onboard keypad. Since the PIN is not entered using the host computer’s keyboard, they are not vulnerable to software or hardware-based key-loggers or software-based brute force attacks. However, if the device comes under a physical brute force attack, your data is protected with a programmable “Brute Force Hack Defense Mechanism” which, if the programmed number (between 4 and 20) of consecutive incorrect password entries has been attempted, the device will delete its own encryption key and destroy the ability to decrypt its stored data.

With a shiny new 3NX in my hand, the least I could do was pass the old 3X to my dear wife so the drive reset feature came in handy. All Apricorn devices can be reset and redeployed over and over. Activating drive reset clears both the User and Admin PINs, destroys the data, creates a new randomly generated encryption key and allows the drive to be reused repeatedly, with an infinite number of randomly generated encryption keys, allowing the admin and or user to reset the drive as often as is needed. I just don’t know how I got by without one for so long!

For more info on all the incredible tech built into this tiny device check out Apricorn’s website. In this day and age, everybody needs one of these and the self-discipline to use it and regularly back their shit up. No excuses with this price drop! The Aegis Secure Key 3NX is available from Apricorn starting at $59.00

Technology writer for FastCo, Quartz, The Next Web, Ars Technica, Wired + more. Consultant specializing in VR #MixedReality and Strategic Communications

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