SolarTab Review: A bright spot in outdoor charging solutions

Let’s get this out of the way right up front: The SolarTab is the best solution I’ve seen for using solar energy to charge your gear in the wild. The problem is, with the ubiquity of cheap, high-capacity external batteries, I’d pretty much written off solar chargers as obsolete. But more on that later.

A bright spot in solar charging

The SolarTab combines a high-capacity 13,000 mAh battery with a 5.5W, mono-crystalline silicon solar charger. The “mono” part is important. Older solar chargers use poly-crystalline panels—the ones with that fish scale look. Mono-crystalline chargers are much more efficient at turning light into energy.

The company says the SolarTab’s turns 21 percent of the sunlight it receives into energy; that’s right near the top of the charts for consumer-grade — even residential — panels. Commercial grade and “concentrator” panels have higher efficiency, but you wouldn’t want to carry them around, even if you could afford them.

It’s also the best packaged solar charger I’ve seen. You’d be forgiven for mistaking it for an iPad — its dimensions are almost identical, and in its protective case, it’s a dead ringer for one. This makes it a breeze to slip into a backpack or travel case — if you can fit your iPad, you can fit a SolarTab. It’s a sleek, slim alternative to the traditional canvas, foldable solar chargers that dominate the market.

Read the rest of this article on The Mac Observer.

Apple car and other rumors on BTNS ‘Mac Show’

A happy change in scheduling meant I was able to rejoin my colleagues on the British Tech Networks “The Mac Show” last week. We had a great time as usual, with the added bonus of having tech luminary Andy Ihnatko join us.

As usual, we did a lighthearted round up of the week’s Apple news, which included more rumors about an Apple car, how long Apple expects you to use its devices (and a conspiracy theory about how they might enforce that) and of course — a slew of “cool things.”

Another rumor is that I might be coming back to the show on a more regular basis. (I can neither confirm nor deny any such rumor.)

I hope you’ll give it a look.

Pre-review PSA: Solartab solar charger/battery combo at 25% off

I’ll have a full review shortly, but I like the Solartab portable solar charger enough already to pass along the news that it’s currently on sale for 25% off its list price. The iPad-sized solar charger has an integrated battery powerful enough to recharge even an iPad.

Solartab Premium Portable Solar Charger for Phones and Tables
$97 (25% off) at Amazon.com

BTN Mac Show: ‘Greenie’s Arse’ (and content blockers)

On the latest episode of The British Tech Network’s “Mac Show,” host Ewen Rankin was kind enough to wait for my return to discuss a topic I really wanted to discuss: Content Blockers. New to iOS 9, content blockers prevent ads from loading and stop websites from tracking you — among other things. It’s a fairly controversial subject, with advertisers (and some content creators) calling foul. I sympathize with the content creators, but increasingly obnoxious and intrusive ads have made this day inevitable. Ads that cover up what you’re trying to read and make it intentionally hard to close make reading some sites feel like a bad game of whack-a-mole. My hope is that this will be a wake up call to the ad industry, but I fear it’s just the next round in a game of cat and mouse.

There’s a lot more to the conversation — it’s worth checking out.

On The Mac Observer: Home Wi-Fi Weak in Areas? Use TP-LINK’s Powerline

Let’s all agree that Wi-Fi is a marvelous thing. It sets us free, untethered — literally — from cables and walls. It’s usually easy to set up, too — plug a router in, connect your cable modem (or whatever gets you to the Internet), answer a few questions and boom — you’re good to go.

Unless of course you travel to a room in your house that’s too far from your router, or you’re behind a concrete wall that doesn’t let the signal through, or you have an older device that doesn’t have Wi-Fi, or you’re in an area where a hundred other routers create congestion, or…you get the picture.

The short story is: Wi-Fi is great until it isn’t. As a result, wired networks still have their advantages, and the best network usually offers a mixture of wired and wireless options. Unfortunately, running network cables through your home can be a messy, expensive and difficult affair.

Read the full article on The Mac Observer.

On Macworld: How to set restrictions on the new Apple TV

The new Apple TV provides lots of options for bringing all sorts of content to your television, but not all that content may be suitable for everyone in your home. To deal with that, Apple gives you tools to control what can be downloaded and displayed on your TV. Unfortunately, those tools aren’t consistently applied across all content sources yet and don’t always work as expected. Even so, it’s better than nothing. Here’s a walkthrough of how these features work.

Read the full article on Macworld.

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