Review – AUKEY USB Charger (42W 3-Port QuickCharge 3)

Introducing the AUKEY USB Charger

I travel extensively, and while I have numerous power bricks and cables for my home office, I needed something that would be light and portable for the road, able to charge multiple devices, and support QuickCharge for the devices I carry that support it. My search lead me to the AUKEY USB Charger, formally known as the AUKEY 42W 3-Port USB Desktop Charging Station, found here on Amazon for $25.99.

The AUKEY USB Charger

Disclosure: This product was purchased with my own funds and was not provided by any manufacturer or vendor.

Initial Impressions

The AUKEY USB Charger is compact and relatively lightweight, but with enough heft to make it clear you’re getting something with the ability to properly charge multiple devices simultaneously. At 7*4.8*2.6cm / 2.76*1.89*1.02in (L*W*H) it’s not particularly large, and at 106g/3.7oz it’s not going to weigh down your kit, especially considering how many power bricks it can replace. The power prongs fold into the body of the device, keeping it nice and compact during travel.

I’ve paired this adapter with a short MicroUSB cable and a short USB-C cable for charging my Lumia 950XL and other devices and it makes for a nice compact kit for all my charging needs.

Charging Power

This adapter certain can handle plenty of power draw, especially when using the Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0 port. I’ve tested it with a RAVPower 20100mAh Power Bank and found that it can bring the unit to a full charge from fully depleted a full third faster than a 3A USB-C charger, and it would certainly be even faster than a standard 2.4A MicroUSB charger. In real-world use that is a full charge in 5 hours instead of 7.5 hours. While I don’t have a QuickCharge 3 end device to test with, I’d have to say the results I’ve seen with be similar with QC3.0 smartphones.

The AUKEY USB Charger works well when charging multiple devices, and I didn’t see any impact on charge times when charging multiple devices.

Conclusion

The AUKEY USB Charger is not only a decent price for what it provides, but is good value for the money. It provides a nice portable and lightweight charging solution for the frequent traveler who carries multiple devices, and also has the internals to carry multiple devices at home.

Get it at Amazon.com.

Review – Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter V2 (2016 Version)

Introducing the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter V2

Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter V2
Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter V2

The original Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter was released in 2014 and has been part of my travel kit for some time. It was compact, functional, and was usable with Continuum on my Lumia 950XL, at least most of the time.

In early March 2016, Microsoft introduced the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter V2 (product page), a successor and improvement to their previous offering. With this revision Microsoft has made several improvements to the Wireless Display Adapter, both for Continuum and mobile users with other devices.

Disclosure: This product was purchased with my own funds and was not provided by any manufacturer or vendor.
 

Physical Updates

The first thing you notice when you compare the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter V2 to its predecessor is the change in how the device is arranged:

Comparison of The Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter V1 and V2

While the original V1 of the Wireless Display Adapter placed all the electronics in a single unit with a USB connector on a one foot wire, the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter V2 has split the internals into two units and placed them on opposite ends of the wire.

The benefit to the new design is that it helps ensure the adapter can fit behind monitors and televisions that are mounted to the wall. Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter V2 with Extension CableThe new adapter ends up being around one inch shorter than the V1 adapter, but that can be made up with the included extension cable.

The extension cable adds six inches to the adapter’s sixteen inch length, making it suitable for most TVs and monitors. Microsoft made an interesting choice with V2, providing a USB Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter V2 connected to a hotel TV.extension cable instead of the HDMI extension cable provided previously. I’d say the choice was made because the larger size of the previous adapter required an HDMI extension for tight spaces behind TVs, where this one does not.

 

UI Updates

The previous version of the adapter would show a very basic screen:

Default Connect Screen

While this was enough to get going, the new UI really is a step up:

Start Screen for Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter V2

This new screen makes it very easy to see which adapter you are connecting to (useful if you have more than one adapter nearby), as well as clear instructions on how to connect to the adapter (assuming you’re using Windows 10).

Continuum

One noticeable improvement (among several) with the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter V2 is when using it with Continuum with a Windows 10 mobile Device, such as my Microsoft Lumia 950 XL.

My Windows 10 Continuum Workstation

The V2 adapter has less lag when working with a phone in Continuum mode than the previous V1 adapter. I find the V2 adapter doesn’t provide any noticeable lag in my use. It’s far closer to the dock experience even with video running through Microsoft Edge, using both Netflix and Youtube in my testing.

Using the V2 adapter, combined with my Microsoft Arc Mouse and Foldable Keyboard I have a very compact, lightweight workstation that can be attached to any HDMI display with a nearby USB port (and there’s always USB extension cables and Wall Chargers if you don’t have a port nearby).

Other Devices

I was also able to use the V2 adapter with my Windows 10 laptop to wireless project to my TV without lag or any other issues. Where previously I used a longer cable plugged directly between the laptop and TV to send watch streams and video, the wireless adapter proved to be a much better choice, and being able to run the wireless display as a second stream made things easier when I wanted to watch a stream and catch up on some email, all without lag!

Conclusion

Microsoft Wireless Adapter V2, Closed.The Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter V2 is an incremental, but quite welcome upgrade to the previous V1 version. It eliminates the lag of its predecessor while assuming a form factor that is easier to use in cramped quarters like those found behind a wall-mounted screen.

If you are using the adapter for strict display mirroring to watch videos and display pictures, the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter V1 is on sale for $29.99 (available here) and may be more economical, but if you are planning to use Continuum with a Windows Phone or mirror a display for gaming or more interactive use, you’re better off buying the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter V2 for $49.95 (available here).

Twilio: Rolling My Wife’s Eyes in 31 Lines of PHP

And then she gives you that look
The Look - Flickr user Nabo, used under CC license

For some reason a certain number of my little side projects result in “The Look”, that rolled-eyes expression that let’s me know I’m such a nerd. Given that Valentine’s Day fell on a weekend this year and I had a little free time this Sunday morning, the look was inevitable.

Today I finally had a few minutes to try out Twilio, a new web services provider that helps to telephone-enable applications through an easy REST API. In the case of PHP it is made even easier through a helper library provided by Twilio on their developer site.

Twilio is free to sign up and they provide a generous starting credit to begin exploring their service in a sandbox environment (they let you use their sandbox number for incoming call tests and put a watermark message on the front of all your outgoing communications). You can send and receive calls, add interactive menus to the calls, use recorded voice clips or text-to-speech and even send and receive text messages, all through their APIs and XML formatted speech scripts.

My Hello World test for the morning was simple; I wanted to call my home number and deliver a Valentine’s Day greeting. To do so I first signed up with Twilio, then went to my Twilio dashboard for my API key and to download the twilio.php helper library.

I then created helloworld.php with the following:

<?php
require "twilio.php";
 
/* Twilio REST API version */
$ApiVersion = "2008-08-01";
 
/* Set our AccountSid and AuthToken */
$AccountSid = "ACxxxxxxxxxxxxxx";
$AuthToken = "xxxxxxxxxxxx";
 
/* Outgoing Caller ID you have previously validated with Twilio */
$CallerID = '2223334444';
 
/* Instantiate a new Twilio Rest Client */
$client = new TwilioRestClient($AccountSid, $AuthToken);
 
/* make Twilio REST request to initiate outgoing call */
$response = $client->request("/$ApiVersion/Accounts/$AccountSid/Calls",
    "POST", array(
        "Caller" => $CallerID,
        "Called" => '4445556666',
        "Url" => "http://mysite.com/helloworld.xml"
    ));
    if($response->IsError)
        echo "Error: {$response->ErrorMessage}";
    else
        echo "Started call: {$response->ResponseXml->Call->Sid}";
?>

Initiating a call just requires a number to “call from” (in reality it’s just the number the Twilio system presents as caller ID), a number to call to, and the Account ID and token. The URL specified in the request to call out is an XML document that defines what happens during the call, using a format referred to as TwiML:

<Response>
        <Say>Happy Valentine's Day!</Say>
</Response>

In this case things are pretty straightforward, the system also has the ability to play mp3 files, take responses and branch based on keypresses and perform a number of additional actions. It looks like one could easily build a menu system or a survey system.

All in all an interesting offering that I’ll be tinkering with more in the future.

Review – Joe Celko’s Trees and Hierarchies in SQL for Smarties

When I started looking into managing hierarchical data I found a lot of short articles that provided bits and pieces of the big picture, but nothing gave a good in-depth review of everything I needed to know to handle hierarchies.

One trend that began to develop was that the best information on the subject was coming from Joe Celko, a rather prolific author/speaker on all things SQL.

Joe Celko has a book in publication called SQL For Smarties, and this book had some basic information on handling hierarchies, which he followed up with Trees and Hierarchies in SQL for Smarties, a truly excellent book on the subject.

This book is not for the faint of heart, but it really is a must-read for those who are looking to handle hierarchies in SQL.

The book only addresses MySQL once, and while in that section it repeats Joe’s opinion of MySQL not being a real database, users of MySQL 5 can rest assured that the stored procedure examples in the book work without modification (thanks to Joe and MySQL 5 both using the standard PL/PSM stored procedure syntax).

Overall this is an excellent book for those looking to implement hierarchical data in SQL.

Cinematic Titanic – East Meets Watts

East Meets Watts is the latest installment from Cinematic Titanic and the first live DVD made available since Cinematic Titanic started performing live, and it’s a blast! The DVD starts out with a camera covering the entire stage and then cuts to a composite image that places the performers at the sides of the movie so that the movie image is nice and sharp. This approach takes full advantage of the DVD aspect ratio and unlike a shadowrama performance ensures that the movie is never obscured (for better or worse).

With East Meets Watts (AKA Dynamite Brothers) we have a performance that’s been honed over a number of live performances and the performers seem to be really settled into their groove. The riffs are as fast and furious, more so than the on-screen action and while the episode lacks some of the skit segments of its predecessors it’s nice to actually see the performers for one (a synchronized spit-take partway through is better with a live camera).

Instead of a shorter trailer, Cinematic Titanic instead published a five minute segment to YouTube, so you can see for yourself how the live version works:

I’d suggest picking it up, either on DVD or instant download.