Will This App Make Sleeping on Airplanes Easier?

Have trouble sleeping on an airplane? There may be an app for that. AIRSLEEP is an iOS app that combines nature sounds, ambient music and “slow wave” audio to hypnotize you into sleep. The combination is supposed to cancel out cabin noise and match your brain’s low-level “delta waves” as you fall asleep. The app itself is free and comes with some basic sounds including rain, beach waves and desert wind, but you pay to expand your “sleep library” with additional sounds such as “monk chant,” holiday sleep sounds (think snow falling and the crackling of a fireplace) and a “control freak” customizable program.

Does it work? There are only a few reviews on iTunes so far, and they are a mixed bag.

The “slow waves” seem to create a good bit of reverse feedback in addition to the ambient sounds to cover up background noise, and the sounds are definitely soothing. When you open the program, you agree to a standard disclaimer that you will not use while operating heavy machinery and such, but also not under the influence of alcohol, which many of us use to help sleep. If you are someone who has used a sleep sound machine with success at home, this might be the app for you. If the wind chimes make you feel like you’re locked in a candle shop, you might be better off with noise-canceling headphones.

Try it yourself at www.air-sleep.com. Sweet dreams!

Orbitz Releases iPad-Optimized App For Flights, Hotels And Rental Cars

Orbitz For iPadTravel-booking service Orbitz had released an update to their popular iOS app, bringing full iPad optimization to Apple’s tablet for the first time. The new version of the app now runs at the iPad’s native screen resolution and taps into the device’s more powerful processor to provide faster search results to consumers. The app also presents users with special mobile-only discounts that aren’t available through the company’s traditional web portal.

Much like the former iPhone-only version, the new app lets users find and book discounted flights, hotel rooms and rental cars. The search results are then displayed on the larger iPad screen allowing travelers to compare the details of different flight options or view hotels in both a list and map view. These features help make the search process much easier and simply aren’t possible on the smaller screen of a smartphone.

Streamlined searching of travel options isn’t the only thing the app brings to the table. It also allows travelers to save their itineraries for offline viewing and even adds important dates and times to the iPad’s built-in calendar. Additionally, it will provide updated information on flight delays or gate changes and grants access to exclusive deals for hotel rooms, often at as much as 50 percent off the normal price.

In celebration of the release of the new iPad app, Orbitz is giving away a trip for two to Chicago. The contest winner will receive first-class, round-trip airfare and two nights stay at the swanky Peninsula Chicago hotel. To enter to win, just visit the Orbitz Facebook page.

And to download the new iPad version of the app hit the App Store.

[Photo Credit: Orbitz]

Gadling Gear Review: Eye-Fi Mobile X2 Wireless Memory Card

The Eye-Fi SD memory card adds wifi features to any cameraOne of the features that has been appearing on new camera models with increased frequency is built-in Wi-Fi functionality. Wireless capabilities on the camera allows users to sync with their computer and upload images to Flickr, Facebook or other photo sharing services without ever using a cable. It is incredibly convenient and fun, particularly for travelers who may want to share photos from their adventures while on the road. But did you know that you could add Wi-Fi capabilities to any camera? The Eye-Fi series of memory cards can actually turn even your old digital shooter into a high-tech, wireless wonder, giving you the same capabilities as newer cameras without forking out a lot of money for a new device.

We first took a look at the Eye-Fi two years ago when the cards were still relatively new. Much has changed since then as technology has continued to evolve, but a lot has also stayed the same. At the time we were impressed with how easy the Eye-Fi was to set up and use, and once configured it worked as advertised, automatically uploading photos, geotagging locations and sharing images on Facebook and other sites. I’m happy to say all of that has remained the same and the memory card is still a breeze to get working. The included Eye-Fi Center software takes all of the guesswork out of configuring the card and you’ll have Wi-Fi working on your camera in a matter of minutes. It’s so easy in fact that you’ll probably be surprised at how simple it is.

Since that initial review, the Eye-Fi memory card has learned a few new tricks that make it an even better travel companion. For example, new apps for both iOS and Android devices makes it possible for your camera to wirelessly transfer images to your iPhone, iPad or other tablet. This is great for photographers in the field as it allows them to back up their images to another device or clear space off the card by transferring the files. By utilizing the Eye-Fi in this way, a relatively small 4 or 8GB memory card can be used to take a lot more photos than its size would imply.Transferring the files is quick and easy, and it is great to review your shots from throughout the day on a much larger screen. The images are added to your device’s main photo app, which means they are available system wide. That makes it a breeze to share them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or just about any other social network. It also means that if you use an app like iPhoto or Photoshop Express you’ll be able to edit your shots on the go. That is something professional photographers will absolutely love and amateur shutterbugs will appreciate too.

The Eye-Fi memory cardSyncing with other devices isn’t the only new feature for the Eye-Fi. Since we first took a look at the tiny device a few years back, it has also gained the ability to sync to the cloud. That means that when connected to a wireless network the images are also automatically backed up to the Eye-Fi website and can be accessed there for up to seven days. An Eye-Fi premium account, which costs $50 per year, gives users unlimited access beyond that initial week, but even if you simply use the free account, it’s good to know that you have a “just in case” backup, even if it is for a limited time.

The Eye-Fi card line-up has been simplified and made more affordable over the past two years as well. There are now just three options to choose from with the entry-level “Connect X2″ model offering 4GB of storage while the “Mobile X2″ has 8GB. Those cards cost $39.99 and $79.99 respectively. The “Pro X2″ model also has 8GB of memory but includes the ability to geotag images and upload professional level RAW files, a format that most amateur photographers don’t use. It carries a price tag of $99.99.

If you find you love your current camera but wish it had the ability to share images more easily, then the Eye-Fi is definitely a great option. Not only do each of the models provide plenty of storage, but they also add Wi-Fi capabilities to any device. Considering how much we enjoy sharing our photos these days, I think that is functionality that a lot of travelers will be interested in. The Eye-Fi was already simple to configure and worked great; Android and iOS compatibility is simply icing on the cake – icing that gadget-loving travelers will certainly benefit from.


Gadling Gear Review: iZon Remote Room Monitor

The iZon Remote Room MonitorHave you ever been away from home and wished that you had the ability to look in just to see what was happening back at the domicile? If so, then Stem Innovation has a product that may be of interest to you. Whether you’re in the room next door or halfway around the world, Stem’s Izon Remote Room Monitor is a simple, inexpensive way to monitor what is happening around your house.

At its core the iZon is essentially an always-on wireless webcam that is configured and controlled by an iPhone and iPad app. The unit is small and inconspicuous and once configured it only needs power to stay active. The camera’s built-in base allows it to be swiveled to just the right angle, while a single green LED light indicates that it is in operation.

The initial set-up of the iZon is fairly straightforward provided you follow the included instructions. That process begins by downloading the Stem:Connect app and installing it on your iOS device. From there, users create a Stem account, which is used to log in to the app and register your devices. Stem:Connect actually allows you to control multiple cameras and the personal account helps to keep track of each of them individually. Those different cameras can also be assigned unique names, such as “Bedroom” or “Office,” which makes it easier to differentiate them from within the app itself.

After installing Stem:Connect and creating a personal account, you’ll next need to connect the camera to your wireless network. That is also accomplished through the app, which gives you the ability to select your Wi-Fi network and type in the password needed to join. Once that process is complete, the iZon will restart itself and begin broadcasting video and sound.Once the configuration process is complete the app serves as the monitor as well, allowing users to see whatever the iZon sees. Logging into Stem:Connect gives you the option to select the camera you want to view and then begins streaming video directly from that device. The quality of the video is average at best and isn’t likely to wow you, although it does serve its purpose just fine. The images are definitely improved in well-lit environments and on faster network connections, just don’t expect high definition quality.

Besides simply broadcasting live video, the iZon has a few other tricks up its sleeve as well. For example, you can configure it to send you an alert when unexpected motion or sounds occur on camera. This is handy when you are using the device to monitor a baby’s room, for instance, and you want to know when the child has stirred. Stem has also given the iZon the ability to upload video directly to a YouTube account making it a breeze to capture and share some of the best moments you see on the cam. These options add versatility to a device that already provides quite a bit of functionality for its $129.95 suggested retail price.

The iZone certainly is an affordable option for those looking for a video monitoring system for their home or office but it doesn’t come without compromise. As mentioned, the video quality isn’t particularly outstanding and there is a pronounced lag between what happens in front of the camera and what is displayed on the screen. Even using it on my fast home network, I often experienced a delay of 30 seconds or more between when something actually occurred and when it appeared on my iPad. That delay is worse when you shift to a remote Wi-Fi network or are using a 3G or 4G connection.

Connecting from those remote networks can be a challenge too. The iZon is designed to be plug-and-play, and while it was easy to configure the device and get it working on my personal Wi-Fi network, I had issues being able to connect to the camera while I was away from home. What good is a remote monitoring system if you can only use it while you’re actually at home? Fortunately, I was able to resolve the issue by opening the proper ports on my wireless router, so a rudimentary knowledge of networking can help make the process easier. To their credit, Stem Innovation has released regular updates to both the device’s firmware and the Stem:Connect app, which have helped alleviate some of the challenges of getting the camera working. Just be prepared to dig in a bit deeper if the iZon doesn’t function as expected out of the box.

In terms of an inexpensive and easy to configure remote room monitoring system, it is hard to beat the iZon. It is small, works well with an iPhone or iPad and has a low cost of entry. If you can live with the compromises in video quality and broadcast lag, this is probably the best way to monitor what is taking place around the home without breaking the bank.


National Geographic releases Trail Maps app

National Geographic Trail Maps app for iOSLast week, National Geographic added yet another offering to their growing list of mobile apps available for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. The newest app, entitled Trail Maps, offers a host of options for navigating both urban and wilderness environments, while also remaining useful even when you wander outside of cell service coverage.

The app uses both topographical maps from the U.S. Geological Survey and high resolution satellite imagery provided by Microsoft Bing. The software comes pre-loaded with maps of Yellowstone National Park, and surrounding areas, but you can also download highly detailed maps of just about any other place in the lower 48 States, and add them to your library. The files are quite large – about 100 MB each – but having them installed on the device allows you to use the maps even while you have no data connection.

The amount of detail on the maps is highly impressive to say the least. The app allows you to quickly, and easily, zoom in and out using typical iOS gestures, such as pinching and double tapping. When zoomed out, you get a nice overview of the region the map covers, but as you slowly zoom in, more and more details emerge, right down to topographical lines for indicating slope and elevation. You’ll also find the locations of hundreds of landmarks, including campsites, rest areas, and even mountain peaks, or – in the case of Yellowstone – individual geysers. If the map you add to your device is for a city, you’ll find even more points of interest.

Of course, detailed maps aren’t the only thing that National Geographic brought to the table. The app also allows for live route tracking using your device’s built in GPS chip. It also provides detailed reports of your treks, both urban and wilderness, charting speed, altitude change, direction, distance and so on. There are also built in tools that allow you to measure distances on the maps, place waypoints, and even navigate by compass. In short, everything you need to find your way around just about any place in the U.S.If you already own an iOS devices, you probably know that there are a plethora of navigation apps available, including Apple’s very own Maps app that comes pre-installed. The Trail Maps app is specifically designed for hikers, backpackers, and campers however, giving them the option to download insanely detailed maps for use in the backcountry, where they are not likely to have any kind of data connection or cell service at all. That alone makes it unlike any other navigation tool in the App Store.

Over the past few days, I’ve had the opportunity to play with this app, and I’m quite impressed with the GPS tracking functionality and the level of detail on the maps. However, while those details are fantastic, I didn’t actually see any trails listed, which is surprising since the app is called “Trail Maps.” The maps are also confined to the 48 contiguous States at the moment as well, which means those wanting to go hiking in Hawaii or Alaska are out of luck. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but using the GPS also drains your battery rather quickly, which has the potential to be problematic while using the app in the wilderness. If you’re using Trail Maps while on an extended hike, you’ll need a way to charge your device while away from civilization.

Those shortcomings aside, the potential to have all those USGS topo maps on a portable device is pretty impressive for any hiker or backpacker. With a price tag of just $2.99, Trail Maps offers a lot of value for anyone in need of backcountry navigation.