Archive for the ‘Scott McGrew’ Category

Gadget Friday: Instant Video Surveillance System

January 16, 2009

Scott McGrewThis gadget will help you keep an eye on things at home. Home security cameras have been around for quite awhile, but this setup from local company AVerMedia has won awards because it’s so easy: four cameras and a DVR.

Plug the DVR into the wall, turn the cameras on, put them where you want (they’re wireless), and you’re all done.

You can monitor all four cameras at once like a mall cop.. or you can zoom into just one.

Model: Avermedia EB1704HB WiFi-4 Hybrid DVR/NVRs
More info:
List Price: $1599 (we’ve seen it available for $1279)


Gadget Friday: Ssshhh! The Super Secret Camera Spy Lens

January 9, 2009

Scott McGrewThe Super Secret Camera Spy Lens, or SSCSL from here on out, is a lens that screws onto your exisiting threaded camera lens. Inside is a mirror. The mirror allows the SSCSL to act as a periscope – while it would APPEAR you’re pointing the camera in one direction, the picture you’re taking is actually at 90 degrees.

So if you have a familiy member who absolutely freezes up into a stupid posed grin every time you point a camera at them, you can pretend to be taking a picture of something else and catch them in a nice unposed shot.

Now, if you look closely -or even casually- at the lens, you see the trick. But the truth is, most people won’t pay any attention to what you’re doing.

Works with any SLR, and any other camera with a threaded front. 37mm, 49mm, 52mm, 55mm, 58mm, 62mm, 67mm, 72mm, and 77mm

Cost: $55
More info:

Scott McGrew
NBC Bay Area Business & Technology Reporter

Gadget Friday: BackTrack

December 13, 2008

Scott McGrew:
Scott McGrewBushnell BackTrack ($74)
Watch video of Gadget Friday Segment

The Bushnell BackTrack is a GPS enabled device that allows you to set three points of interest and then find them again. So, for instance, you could mark the place you parked your car and then consult the device when you return to the parking lot.

Holding it horizontally, an arrow will indicate what direction your car is, and the distance in yards to it. Just follow the arrow and you’re back where you parked.

It only works outdoors (which is generally true of all GPS devices) and is a little large for my tastes – about the size of an Olympic medal. So, it’s not something you’ll carry in your pocket. But it might be nice to carry in your glove compartment for the next time you park in overflow parking at the Giants game.

It also works as a digital compass.

Runs on two AAA batteries, not included.

Scott McGrew
NBC Bay Area Business & Tech Reporter

Gadget Friday: The Easy Bloom Plant Sensor

November 21, 2008

Scott McGrew:
Scott McGrewCost: $60

The Easy Bloom Plant Sensor is one of those devices that make me glad I cover high tech. It incorporates smart design, the Internet, and sophisticated sensors to help you figure out why your plants are dying.

So many times I see gadgets that either fail to fill a need, or fill too MANY needs (like the car GPS unit that also plays back MP3’s. What’s up with that?)

The Easy Bloom does just one thing: helps you plant stuff. You take the device, which looks like a large plastic flower, and stick it in the ground in your garden. It measures sunlight and soil moisture over the course of a period of time. You then pull the device apart in the middle and plug the now exposed USB port into your computer.

The sensor communicates back to Easy Bloom headquarters with your particular data. A huge database there – created by botanists – then gives you recommendations based on your particular situation.

There are three ways to use this. The best way is to put the plant sensor where you want to plant in the FUTURE. The device (and the database) will tell you what will grow best in your particular spot. Petunias in the backyard, roses in the front yard.

Alternatively, if you’re already trying to grow something, and failing, you can use the sensor to tell you what’s going wrong. Plant the sensor next to your failing impatiens, and it will figure out why your flowers are so unhappy. (too much sunlight, not enough water, etc).

Lastly, you can take the sensor around the house and stick it in various houseplants, and it will tell you right away whether they need to be watered.

The Easy Bloom will NOT measure soil acidity or fertilizer levels.

Scott McGrew
NBC Bay Area Business & Tech Anchor

Gadget Friday: Flip Minio HD

November 14, 2008

Scott McGrew:
Scott McGrewFlip Minio HD $229

We’ve seen the Flip video camera before. It’s that video camera that’s about the size of a pack of cards and uses no tape – it plugs right into your computer.

Flip has had huge success with its cameras. They’re cheap, easy to use, and pretty shock proof. They’re very small, meaning they’ll fit in a pocket, and because (in the past) they’ve been so inexpensive, you can take them to the beach and not worry that much about damaging or losing it.

That formula has translated into great success for Flip, which now has a majority of the market share in video cameras.

The latest, the Minio HD, changes things a bit. It’s expensive – $229. So, I’d be pretty bummed if I dropped it in the water at the seashore.

For the extra expense, though, you get high definition video. It’s really quite amazing when you think of it – an HD video camera that fits in your pocket for a little bit more than $250.

It easily hooks to your computer so you can burn the movie to dvd or send the video to a video service like SmugMug. You can’t easily email HD video – the files are just too large.

Note when I say “HD”, it’s 720. That may not mean much to you, but *true* HD (the kind NBC shows are broadcast in) is 1080. CBS and Fox shows are 720, and you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference. But I thought I would point that out.

Scott McGrew
NBC Bay Area Business & Tech Reporter

Gadget Friday: He’s iTeddy, the DMCA Violating Cuddly Bear!

November 7, 2008

Scott McGrew:
Scott McGrewSo rarely do I get to see a fuzzy toy that will, I suspect, attract the interest of sunglasses wearing federal agents and corporate lawyers.

I’ll get to that in a minute.

iTeddy is a cute as all get out stuffed animal with a media player in his tummy. Yes, I said tummy. One look at him and you can’t help but say tummy.

Parents can load songs, mp3’s, audio stories and whatnot on the bear through a USB connection to the computer. Then hand the bear over to the toddler and he or she has a cuddly friend who also sings songs.

It’s a big hit in the UK, where it was invented. Here is a British commercial about it.

So, it’s headed over here to the good ol’ USA. And that’s where it may run into a problem. The iTeddy includes software that allows you to copy DVD’s to your child’s toy. And why not? That would fun, to put a Barney DVD on the bear’s tummy.

The problem is in Hollywood’s view copying a DVD directly violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or DMCA. While no one seems to have objected to iTeddy yet, it may be because Hollywood hasn’t heard of iTeddy yet. Witness what happened to Real Networks when it tried to create software that did much the same thing.

Company website:
Price: $79 on

Scott McGrew
NBC Bay Area Business & Tech Reporter

What if Some Voters Really Do Believe Politicians?

November 5, 2008

Scott McGrew:
Scott McGrewOn this, the day after the election, I wonder to myself about campaign promises. We’re all used to politicians not living up to their promises – “They’ll say anything to get elected” is a common voter refrain.

George HW Bush said he wouldn’t raise taxes. And he did. Bill Clinton said he would reform healthcare, and did not.

But the campaign promises I’m most curious about involve the other side – the losing side. I wonder to myself after every election about the Joe the Plumbers* of the world. Those who really, truly believed in their cause, but lost.

Joe claimed an Obama win would spell “the end of Israel.” Joe claimed Obama was a Marxist who would “spread the wealth.” Sarah Palin claimed Obama “pals around with terrorists who would bomb their own country.”

Joe even believed – entirely incorrectly – that Obama would raise his taxes.

Now, I realize that some of what’s said in elections are hyperbole. I realize most voters listen to such claims and dismiss them.

But just as there are voters who really, truly believe the candidate they support will live up to all his or her promises, I speculate there are gullible people like Joe, and politicians like Palin who really, truly believe the candidate they DON’T support WILL cause all the problems their side predicted.

So, either Joe was kidding all along, just riding the wave of popularity, or he’s in Ohio right now, planning on paying more in taxes to a Marxist president who will not support Israel. There’s a governor in Alaska who really does believe the White House will be open to terrorists.

The question is, will they be disappointed or relieved when they find out how wrong they were?

*Joe the Plumber is not, and has never been a licensed plumber. Our news organization – and every other news organization – still called him that. Thus, from here on out, I would like to be known as Scott the Ophthalmologist. I have no license to practice Ophthalmology, but I do wear contacts. Thanks.

Scott McGrew
NBC Bay Area Business & Tech Reporter

Gadget Friday: Guitar Hero Gets Real

October 31, 2008

Scott McGrew:
Scott McGrewPlay actual music on your Guitar Hero guitar – Free!!

This is so much fun – a total hit among the neighborhood kids – that we take a departure from our “gadget” in Gadget Friday to take a look at free software that will turn your Guitar Hero or Rockband plastic guitar into a real musical instrument.

If you’re experienced with computers, and you’re good at following instructions, you can have this up and running in under 15 minutes. If installing software or dealing with your computer’s file folders is beyond you, you may need a teenager’s help.

You need a couple things

1. A guitar from the game Guitar Hero or Rockband. Ideally, it should be from the Xbox360 version, because they have the easy to use USB connectors. If you’re trying to use one from a Playstation game, you will need an Playstation-to-USB adapter. There’s more information about adapters here.

2. A computer. PC, Mac, doesn’t matter.

Go to The Guitar Zeros website. Here you will find an actual band that plays Guitar Hero guitars live on stage!

Check out their videos, then scroll down to the bottom of the home page on further instructions on how to set up your guitar.

I *promise* if you follow the exact instructions, you’ll be rocking in no time.

For a great article about the band “Guitar Zeros” and instructions on how to make other weird instruments, check out the latest issue of Make Magazine.

Scott McGrew
NBC Bay Area Business & Tech Reporter

Gadget Friday: Data Dots

October 24, 2008

Scott McGrew:
Scott McGrewData Dots are very small (100 times smaller than a dime) dots that you paint onto a small section of something you own. The dots are invisible except under UV light, and can be read with a regular magnifying glass.

You paint the dots onto your laptop or cell phone in a place where they won’t easily rub away, such as inside the battery compartment. Your dots contain a unique numeric identifier, which you register online at the company’s website.

Add a sticker that reads “protected by DataDots” and the police know they can find the dots on any recovered stolen items by putting them under a black light. They can go online (the website is actually right on the dot) and type in the number, and get your contact information.

Whether this actually works or not is unclear – the company does not mention any success stories, but then again it’s a fairly new idea.

The sticker that says “protected by DataDots” may be as valuable as the dots themselves – after all, it’s easier to discourage burglars than it is to foil them.

Cost: $29.95
Company website:

Scott McGrew
NBC Bay Area Business & Tech Reporter

Gadget Friday: Hauppauge HD DVR

October 17, 2008

Scott McGrew:
Scott McGrewWatch Gadget Friday Video

The truth is you will either say to yourself, “Wow, I could totally use the Hauppauge HD DVR!” or “I have NO idea what you would need that for.”

It’s like red and blue states – they’ll never see the other guy’s point of view.

The Hauppauge HD DVR is a box that sits on top of your DVR (or DVD, or xBox, or whatever) and records everything that runs through the device.

So – get ready for this – it’s like a DVR for your DVR.

The video signal (from your DVR, your DVD, your xBox, whatever) passes through the unit and continues on to your TV. You watch as normal, but in the background the device is recording the video and transcoding it into the QuickTime H.264 format, which is a very high quality but low size digital file.

You can play this sort of file on your iPod. That’s one of the things you might use it for to record TV to your iPod. Or, you could use it the way I’ve been using it, to record game video from an xBox (which I then show on TV). You could record your games and email your great kills to friends.

You COULD record a Blockbuster DVD to your iPod but that would be illegal. 🙂

Cost: $249
More info:

Scott McGrew
NBC Bay Area Business & Tech Reporter