Restaurant Offers Diners Discount For Conversing

texting It’s not uncommon to be at a restaurant where patrons are texting on their phones, tweeting on their iPads and Skyping on their laptops. Well, one Los Angeles restaurant has had enough of people going out together, only to not even converse with each other. In fact, Eva Restaurant Los Angeles is offering a 5 percent discount to diners who leave their cellphones with staff while seated.

On Tuesday, owner Mark Gold told KPCC Radio he hopes the policy will create an environment where diners can interact without the interference of technology. Gold also added the initiative was not implemented to satisfy patrons who get annoyed by the noise and light of smartphones.

According to the UK’s Daily Mail, the discount is offered to guests when they are seated by staff. So far, nearly half have taken advantage of the offer, many even expressing gratitude at the opportunity to disconnect from their cellphones.

While technology can be helpful for travelers, we’re hoping establishments continue to encourage socializing in real life and not just online.

What’s your opinion on restaurants encouraging diners to put away their cellphones?

[Image via Dan Zen]

Gadling gear review: Supertooth HD Bluetooth car speakerphone

The Supertooth HD handsfree deviceOne of the best accessories for any road trip these days is a good handsfree Bluetooth device that allows drivers to take and make phone calls while keeping their hands firmly on the wheel. An increasing number of new cars come equipped with these systems, but for those of us not fortunate enough to own such a vehicle there are a number of options available that deliver similar functionality. Take for example the Supertooth HD, which packs a lot of features into a small, easy to use device.

The Supertooth HD comes with a built-in clip that securely fastens the device to a vehicle’s sun visor. This keeps the unit conveniently close at hand for when the driver needs to access the controls and helps to more clearly pick up voices when on a call. The device also features a powerful speaker, which makes incoming calls sound loud and clear, while two integrated microphones help to reduce background noise for the person on the other end of the line. A large jog-wheel makes it a snap to adjust volume without taking your eyes off the road and several well-placed buttons grant access to some of the Supertooth’s more advanced features with just a click. Some of those advanced features include the ability to voice-dial contacts, announce incoming caller ID and read texts and emails.

On paper the Supertooth HD seems like the perfect handsfree device for those looking to get the most out of their smartphone while on the road. It does feature good sound quality, both incoming and outgoing, and is a breeze to pair with a phone. It took me just a minute or two to connect with my iPhone, for example, and I was making calls shortly there after. Some of the other features are not as easy to use, however. For instance, to get the most out of the voice dialing system you’ll have to program it with specific numbers ahead of time or rely on the built-in voice dialing on your specific phone as a fallback. The device also has the ability to read incoming text and email messages for you, although that particular feature is only available on Android and BlackBerry devices, and not the iPhone.The Supertooth HD speakerphone One of the other big features of this device is that it can compose and send outgoing texts, emails, tweets and Facebook status updates using just your voice. It is a useful feature to have at your fingertips while driving, although it does require the Handsfree Assistant subscription service, which comes at an added expense. Using the service can take a bit of getting use to, and at times it can be slow to respond, but in my testing I found that it was accurate and reliable, for the most part.

Powered by a built-in rechargeable battery, the Supertooth HD is good for 20 hours of talk time and a thousand hours of standby. Those numbers seem fairly accurate from my use of the device, which can be recharged with the included USB car charger. Supertooth has even included the ability to inquire about the status of the battery at any time through a simple voice command.

For the most part, the Supertooth HD is easy to recommend for road warriors looking for an inexpensive and easy to use handsfree speakerphone for their vehicle. It offers excellent sound quality, easy set-up and the ability to connect two phones at the same time. Android and BlackBerry users will get a bit more functionality out of the device, although iPhone owners will find a lot to like as well. It even works well with Siri, which can trump some of the features that are a part of the subscription service.

If you’re in the market for a Bluetooth speakerphone system for your car, then the Supertooth HD should be on your shopping list. It delivers a lot of value for the $129 suggested retail price.

Gadling Gear Review: Mobius Solar iPhone Battery/Charger

I kind of hate how much I love my iPhone. It’s not right and yes, I’m addicted to it and shut up, don’t you have something else to give me a hard time about? Like my social media addiction, which also, you could leave me alone about because it’s a critical part of how I make a living, so back off already.

Plus, it was super cool when, thanks to the wonders of my phone, a roaming data plan, and the fact that Tanzania is dotted with cell phone towers even though there seemed to be a scarcity of power outlet, I could shoot video of the landscape in the Serengeti or the road to Arusha and then, whoa, upload it so my pals on Twitter could see it, like, right away. That’s just freaking magical.

The thing is, that social media/cell phone addiction keeps me tethered to a power source and that can be kind of limiting. Hey, even when you’re in a highly developed place, sometimes the rental car doesn’t have an outlet and you forgot your car charger and you’ve burned up your battery trying to find directions to the B&B. What I’m saying is this: It’s easy to chew through the juice you’ve got on your phone and not always easy to re-juice it.

I actively disliked the last solar charger I tried, it didn’t work well as a case and it took too long to grab what limited power we get from the sun in the winter at home. I was keen to try out something new, that’s how I ended up with the solar iPhone charger/case/battery from Mobius. I like this one considerably better, but it’s still got some flaws.

First, the good stuff. It works well as a case. It’s got a fairly efficient solar panel compared to the other model I tried. It charges over a standard mini to USB connector so you can use your laptop or that little USB plug thingy that comes with your iPhone to charge it. It’s a little bulky, but because you can use it to hold your phone, it’s not just some random extra gadget kicking around. It doubles the usage you get out of your phone — nice if you’re shooting video, uploading fat files, playing lots of music and podcasts, the “beyond phone calls” stuff that keeps junkies like me handcuffed to our cell phone overlords.Now, the stuff I didn’t love. I keep wanting these things to be smaller — it’s a little bulky. I realize I may be just waiting for the future, I’m aware of that. The phone gets confused if I connect the charger cable while the case is in it and tells me that “charging isn’t supported.” This means if I want to charge the batter via an outlet, I have to remove the phone. I wish it used the connector that Apple uses because man, I am tired of dragging hundreds of yards of connector cables around the planet.

All that said, I think the Mobius charger is a great improvement over my last test run on a similar gadget. And I love that fact that it helps free me from the dearth of outlets that’s a scourge on my power and media addicted soul. If I’ve got the case out in daylight, it’s doing its bit to recharge and keep me connected. I like that. Whether that’s a good thing or not is another issue entirely, but as far as enabling my addiction goes, this device is doing its job.

Shop around. If you buy it directly from the folks that make it, it’s about 80 dollars, but I’ve seen it for 60 in other online markets.

Could your cell phone make you an in-flight killer?

Could my Kindle have the potential for murder? Mayhem? Needless to say, I may think twice before firing it up during takeoff on my trip to London at the end of the month!

I’ll be the first to admit that I thwart airline rules about turning on electronic devices during takeoff and landing. I don’t like reading print, and a year and a half after getting it, I still have a comfortable yet steamy love affair with my Kindle. I just can’t resist flipping the switch at the riskiest of times during my flights.

According to a report that ABC News got its hands on, though, I might be putting many, many lives at risk. ABC picked up a confidential industry study that indicates the safety issues could be real. Very real.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) studied survey responses from 125 airlines from 2003 to 2009 and found … “75 incidents of possible electronic interference that airline pilots and other crew members believed were linked to mobile phones and other electronic devices.” Twenty-six of them, a tad more than a third, “affected the flight controls, including the autopilot, autothrust and landing gear.” Another 17 hit navigation systems, with 15 affecting communication systems.
Of course, the report “stresses that it is not verifying that the incidents were caused by PEDs,” according to ABC News.

Some of this stuff is straight out of horror flicks: clocks spinning backwards, GPS devices malfunctioning and “altitude control readings changed rapidly until a crew member asked passengers to turn off their electronic devices.”

Scary stuff, no doubt.

So, is all this real?

Apparently, it’s hard to say. According to ABC News’s aviation guy, John Nance:

“There is a lot of anecdotal evidence out there, but it’s not evidence at all,” said Nance, a former Air Force and commercial pilot. “It’s pilots, like myself, who thought they saw something but they couldn’t pin it to anything in particular. And those stories are not rampant enough, considering 32,000 flights a day over the U.S., to be convincing.”

The feedback is mixed, it seems, leaving each of us to decide whether to roll the dice.

Mountaineer summits Everest, tweets from the top

The first ever tweet from Everest was sent yesterdayYesterday we mentioned that the Sherpas had finished fixing the ropes to the summit of Everest, clearing the way for all the commercial climbing teams to soon follow. We predicted that the big push to the top of the mountain was still a week away, but a British climber took advantage of good weather and empty slopes, to rush to the summit yesterday. Once there, he not only savored the view from the highest point on the planet, but he also took time to send the first ever tweet from the top of the mountain.

Mountaineer Kenton Cool, who climbs with the Dream Guides company, set off for the summit two days ago, not long after getting word that the Sherpas had finished the route. He reached the top at 7:30 AM local time, notching his ninth successful climb of the mountain. Cool was sponsored by Samsung on this expedition and he used one of their smartphones to send the following tweet from the summit:

“@KentonCool: Everest summit no 9! 1st tweet from the top of the world thanks to a weak 3G signal & the awesome Samsung Galaxy S2 handset! @samsunguk”

Cool was able to send his tweet thanks to a 3G cell tower that was installed near Base Camp last fall. That tower has provided very spotty service to the climbers this season, but is still a marked improvement over years past when only expensive satellite phones were able to provide any kind of communications from Everest. The tweet is also excellent advertising for Samsung’s Galaxy S2, allowing the Brit to give his sponsor the recognition that they were surely looking for.

Does anyone else find it annoying that climbers can now make phone calls, send texts, and tweet from one of the most remote places on the planet, while I still get dropped service on my nightly commute home?