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  • Gadget of the Week - Triby (Source: invoxia.com)

    It’s no secret that our team is a huge fan of the Amazon Echo and its voice-controlled digital assistant, Alexa.

    So we were excited to discover that the power of Alexa is finally being opened up to third-party developers. The first to take advantage of Amazon’s Siri-beating tech? Invoxia’s new Triby, an adorable “family communication gadget” that offers a lot of features for geeks young and old.  

    Meant to be housed in your family’s kitchen, the Triby looks a bit like a cross between an old transistor radio and an etch-a-sketch. It features a convenient handle and magnets (allowing it to be hung in a central location, like your fridge), comes in a variety of bright colors, and boasts an e-ink screen and a large, powerful central speaker.

    But what exactly does Triby do? A lot of things, as it turns out!

  • Gadget of the Week - UV Pro Elite Shoe Sanitizer (Source: myuvpro.com)

    For any Geeks out there struggling with stinky feet, there’s finally a high tech solution that promises to help battle odor and keep all of your favorite shoes clean, crisp, and ready for any situation.

    Ditch the baking soda and newspapers and go pro: UV Pro, that is.

  • Have you ever been working out when, suddenly, you get hit by a brainwave?

    Maybe you were banging out crunches when you remembered that you need to stock up on Cap’n Crunch cereal. Maybe you were in the middle of biking to work when you realized you’d rather be listening to a motivational TED Talk than German death metal.

    It happens! And until now, it could be majorly annoying to deal with issues like these, even with a set of voice-controlled or truly wireless earbuds.

    The problem? Your headphones weren’t smart enough. Enter the Vinci 2.0 system, which promises to be “the world’s first standalone smart wireless headphones.”

  • What is USB-C?

    Our gadget of the week is… a USB cable? Hear us out.

    While it may not be a gadget per se, the USB Type-C (or just USB-C) is set to change the way we think about all of our favorite laptops, tablets, and other devices in the very near future.

    The USB-C started rolling out in 2015. What makes it such a game changer? Let’s let our colleagues at C-Net explain:

  • Gadget of the Week - WINDBLOCKER (Source: windblocker.com)

    We love living and working in the Windy City, but there’s one thing that can get a little bit annoying about it, and it’s, well… all that wind. 

    For Geeks on the go, making a cell call or recording a mobile video from the street, an L platform, or a balcony can be a windswept hassle, a constant battle to be heard over Chicago’s legendary lake effect breezes.

    Fortunately, now there’s a practical, affordable solution for all that wind noise: the WINDBLOCKER.

  • How Are We Using All of Our Screens?

    There are more choices than ever when it comes to digital media consumption. Whereas just a few years ago audiences were bound to desktops and laptops, today there is a glut of options, ranging from smartphones to tablets to “smart” TVs.

    Have you ever wondered just how users are putting all of these devices to use? Us too! Fortunately, the mavericks at Gryffin Media and TollFreeForwarding recently got to the bottom of it, exploring screen usage in an amazing infographic, dubbed “The Multiscreen World.”

    So what are some key things to take away from their findings? Here are some of the most interesting trends and habits from the infographic:

    Smartphones Are Our Default Devices

  • Encrypt Your Hard DriveHard drives hold all kinds of personal data that many would like to keep protected.  The easiest way to protect your hard drive from being compromised is to encrypt it.

    Encrypting a hard drive is essentially giving your hard drive an extra layer of heavy armor that will help prevent attempts at information theft.  Encrypting is a much more secure form of protecting your information than, say, a system password.  It will conceal the data your drive holds and make accessing the files just about impossible for anyone who does not know the password.

    Should you encrypt your hard drive?  The answer is a resounding yes.  Avoid the hassle of fraud and theft of all kinds by encrypting now rather than later.

    Tools to Encrypt Your Hard Drive

    There are a couple of ways you can go about encrypting your hard drive.

    If you are a Windows 7 Ultimate or Business user, it comes with BitLocker which is a tool that lets you encrypt your entire hard drive.

    If you use Windows 7 but don't have Ultimate or Business editions, TrueCrypt is a great free/open-source tool which has the ability to encrypt your entire disk (or a portion of it), or even your external drive.

    For Mac OS X users, you can use FireVault which encrypts your Mac's home folder.  (Or your whole hard drive, assuming you're on OS X "Lion" or newer.)

    Users can also consider buying external hard drives (or flash drives) that automatically include encryption tools.  Some even have built-in fingerprint sensors!

    Guides to Encrypting Your Hard Drive

  • Smartphone SecurityWhen it comes time to sell or donate an older smartphone of yours, it is critical that you wipe all of your data off of it. The common practice is to put your phone through a "factory reset."

    However, a factory reset really doesn't wipe your phone as clean as you may believe. Here's what you need to know to clear your phone of all personal data before you sell.

    A "Factory Reset" Does NOT Eliminate All Personal Data

    In a recent blog in Lifehacker, security researchers were able to uncover a substantial amount of data from phones that were "wiped" in this way.

    In fact, Security software developer Avast!, using very basic techniques, found a treasure trove of information in 20 smartphones that were all "wiped" with the built-in factory reset option. Plenty of the information uncovered was personal, including:

    • More than 40,000 photos, including: 1,500 family photos (with children), 750 photos of women in "states of undress", and 250 selfies of "the previous owner's manhood."
    • More than 1,000 Google searches
    • More than 750 emails and text messages
    • More than 250 contact names and email addresses
    • 4 previous owners' identities
    • One completed loan application

    We're certain this is information you would prefer to keep out of the hands of a stranger. Ensure this by cleaning out your information properly.

    How to Properly Secure Your Phone to Sell

  • “I’m, like, 99% sure my phone is listening to me.”

    Those were the words of my friend Charlie a few days ago, holding up his iPhone and insisting that I look at a screenshot of a Facebook ad.

    Instantly, I got what he was talking about. See, a few days earlier, Charlie and I, along with a few other pals, had held a long conversation about fast food, focusing in on one restaurant’s curly fries in particular. Lo and behold, Charlie had been served up an ad for that chain’s fries on his Facebook feed later that very night.

    And he’s definitely not the only one who’s experienced this phenomenon! In fact, lots of people who receive targeted ads, seemingly out of the blue, wonder about whether the ad was the result of their iPhone or Android device listening in on their private conversations.

  • Amazon Fire PhoneThe 99 cent Amazon Fire phone is no myth. A day prior to the iPhone 6 release, Amazon dropped their $199 launch price to a mere 99 cents (with a 2 year AT&T contract).

    So far, it doesn't seem like the price cut has done much good. Sales have been incredibly low, estimated to have sold a mere 35,000 units.

    It also appears that even loyal Amazon users aren't interested in the phone. In a recent CIRP survey of 500 Amazon Prime customers, absolutely none of them said they owned a Fire Phone. Are they interested just in services and not hardware? It doesn't seem that way, as CIRP also found that, "approximately one quarter of U.S. Amazon customers have either or both of a Kindle Fire tablet and Kindle Reader, and about 5% report owning the new Amazon Fire TV set-top box." 

    So what's the deal? Why aren't users taking the bait? Here are the positive and negatives of the Amazon Fire phone we've seen so far.

    Amazon Fire Phone Features

      • 4.7 inch display with a 1280 x 720 resolution (which is an average display at best)
      • 32/64 GB memory options
      • Layered glass, front and back
      • Dynamic Perspective cameras on all 4 corners of the phone (creates 3D effect)
  • The State of the Tablet

    Did you know that we crossed the mobile tipping point – the moment where we consumed the internet more on our mobile devices than on laptops or desktops – all the way back in 2014?

    We spend more time on our mobile devices than ever before, and the tablet – once thought to be a gimmick – is a huge part of our mobile landscape. In fact, 47% of all internet users own a tablet, according to a study by Global Web Index.

    There’s no question that the tablet is here to stay. But of all the models and brands on the market, how do you know which one is right for you?

    Here’s a look at four of the best-reviewed tablet models to help you make your choice:

    Apple iPad Air 2

  • Android LThe upcoming Android "L" mobile OS release (it follows Android's alphabetical releases, most recently Jelly Bean and Kit Kat) has photo enthusiasts excited - and for good reason. The new camera is expected to have undergone exceptional improvements in performance, control, and image quality, according to The Next Web.

    The Google team is said to be focusing specifically on the OS camera with this update, with a whole slew of new capabilities to be unveiled.

    Details are scarce, but with the L preview now available, we now have some pretty enticing information to share with you.

    The New Features

  • New Google Modular Phone Could Cost as Low as $50We recently wrote about Phonebloks, a modular phone concept that allows phone users to customize and replace parts of their phone, rather than the whole phone.  They have partnered with Motorola (Google) to make their concept a reality - known as "Project Ara" - and we're starting to hear really awesome things about it, like that it could cost as little as $50 to own.

    A $50 phone?!

    Yes, Google wants to release a $50 barebones, customizable skeleton called a "grayphone" that essentially comes with a screen, frame, and a WiFi radio.  Now, we recognize that these parts alone don't make up a great phone, but it is something Google believes will draw in customers.  As Project Ara is fully customizable, users will then be able to switch out and add other parts to make their phone suitable to their needs.  According to Time Techland's interview with Google's Paul Eremenko, users will be able to visit special kiosks with tools and parts to help users build and supplement their own phone.

  • Smartphones You Should Buy for Less than $400

    When Apple dropped the iPhone 7 recently, the overall reaction from the public was, largely, “meh.” That collective shrug wasn’t just due to some weird design choices by Apple (although, really, no headphone jack? What?), but because of a new truth for the mobile marketplace: The flagship smartphone is dying.

    Samsung and Apple aren’t the only games in town anymore! Instead, consumers looking for a powerful phone at an affordable price have more options available than ever before.

    The reality is that we long ago left the era of the “dumb” phone behind; every model released today – and for the foreseeable future – is simply playing variations on a theme. Why shell out big bucks for a gargantuan brand name when there are countless other devices on the market, offering largely the same features and specs, often for just a fraction of the price of the “name” brand?

  • Withings ActivitéSmart watches have been getting a bit of press recently, and they have certainly generated some intrigue amongst the public. A common concern for many prospective consumers has been, however, that smart watches just are too clunky to be worn by the average person.

    According to a recent article in USA Today, however, there may be a new fashion-forward smart watch on the market.

    The Withings "Activité" watch is one that seemingly brings a chic look which the smart watch category has been lacking. This model appears like a classic wristwatch would - no date, no second hand, but additionally no crown necessary for winding it up.

  • The Best New Smartphones of 2017 (Source: pixabay.com - used as royalty free image)

    2016 is almost, finally, mercifully over. Time to look forward to a new year ripe with new possibilities, new opportunities, and plenty of new gadgets.

    We’ve always got our ears to the ground in search of the next big thing in tech, and there are already a few buzz-worthy smartphones that have our hands twitching. What can phone-heads look forward to in the months ahead?

    Loosen up that texting thumb and bulk up your data limit, because 2017 is primed to bring us phones like:

    OnePlus 5

  • The Future of Apple Batteries

    It’s Saturday morning and you’re trying to get the kids off to soccer practice. While trying to plug in the location of the soccer field into Google Maps, your phone starts buzzing with reminders and to-dos. Email after email keeps popping up. Texts from a friend come in and your mom calls for the third time. Sure, your schedule is crazy, but the craziest thing is that the last time you charged phone was Monday. This is the future of Apple batteries.

    We all want that for our phones, and big tech companies are very aware of the drawbacks of current lithium-ion batteries. The yearly release of new operating systems and chips are becoming more efficient for battery life, but we're still only looking at a day or two at most of smartphone usage before having to find and outlet and recharge.

    But there may be hope.

    Intelligent Energy Partnering with Apple to Develop "Super Battery"

  • iWatchThe iWatch has been amazingly elusive from press leaks, especially leading up to the anticipated September 9th release. As we've now found out from Recode, there's a good reason: the iWatch (or whatever the name will end up being) isn't actually expected to hit the shelves until 2015.

    Are we surprised? Maybe a little, as this means Apple won't be putting their new product on the shelves in time for the holiday shopping season (although with a the iPhone 6 on the shelf, they shouldn't have too much trouble.)

    Actually, the wait itself seems to stick with Apple's usual strategy when it comes to unveiling big products. As the Verge chronicles, Apple announced the iPhone in January 2007, while the product itself didn't ship until June 2007. The iPad has a three-month wait between its January 2010 unveil and launching in March 2010.

  • Unlock Your T-Mobile Smartphone With A Single ButtonT-Mobile is apparently working on a way for users to be able to unlock their smartphone with the single tap of a button, allowing the device to run with other carriers (according to a recently article from Techcrunch).

    This could be good news for many users, who assumed you were stuck with your carrier for the life of the phone, or took the arduous journey to free the shackles. Currently would-be escapees have to wade through seemingly-endless online forums or wait on the phone with customer service, to convince them that you're "just going overseas for a few weeks and need a local sim card." That might soon be behind you. Good news, right?

    Well... let's see how this plays out. T-Mobile is currently only testing this service on a relatively run-of-the-mill Samsung Galaxy Avant phone at the moment. And even on this phone, there already seem to be some issues:

  • What's the State of Virtual Reality Technology?

    For decades, virtual reality has been one of the great white whales of the tech industry, an elusive goal that has always remained just out of reach.

    After years of fits and starts – from clunky novelty headsets to inexpensive peripheral add-ons like Google Cardboard – 2016 may finally be the year that virtual reality (VR) goes mainstream.

    Here at Geek, gadgets are a passion, and we’ve been following the steady rise of VR with all the excitement of a kid on Christmas Eve. Let’s take a look at the virtual reality offerings that may (or may not) soon be changing the way we can watch, play, and interact with the digital world:

    Oculus

Jason Finn

Founder & Chief Geek

Jason has nearly 20 years of consulting experience, predominantly in the technology space. Most recently he was the COO and Director of Technology for Rich Casto & Company, a national training and consulting organization in the real estate industry.
As a consultant for IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and Envision Consulting Group (now IMS Health), Jason has served clients of all sizes, including Big Pharma, Fortune 500, and Global 1000 companies:

  • Allstate Insurance Company
  • AOL (America Online)
  • Astellas Pharmaceuticals
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • Ford Motor Credit
  • Wockhardt USA (formerly Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals)
  • Norwich Union
  • PNC Bank
  • Reynolds and Reynolds

Sarunas Budrikas

Creative Director

Sarunas is a web design and development expert with hundreds of successful projects in his portfolio. He is passionate about delivering extraordinary user experiences for every client and consistently goes above and beyond everyone’s expectations. As an SEO expert and strategist, he can optimize your website, or app, to get the most out of it, day in and day out. Sarunas holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from Kaunas Technology University, in Lithuania. Sarunas now lives in Chicago, and calls it home.

Alexandra Olsavsky

Client Experience Specialist

Alex specializes in content generation and social media promotion for Geek | Chicago clients, helping to solidify their presence in the online community. This includes blog writing, graphic design, co-ordination and design of weekly newsletters, and active engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Outside of Geek, Alex is a classically-trained soprano who professionally performs around the city of Chicago (most recently with the Chicago Baroque Band, and with the Rolling Stones for their "50 and Counting" tour).