Gear that improves on what was and changes what might be

Gear that improves on what was and changes what might be

Consider these new products for savvy travelers. (Handout)

hape-shifting innovations put a twist on the familiar in this gear roundup.

Picture perfect

The quality of photos from a smartphone is so good that many travelers leave their clunky camera gear at home. To give you even more photographic flexibility, Pixter has introduced a pack of four compact specialty lenses that clip onto any smartphone.

The Pixter Pro Pack includes a wide-angle lens; a 238-degree super fisheye lens; a 10X macro lens; and a telephoto lens. The lenses come in a padded travel case and have front and back lens caps.

Cost, info: Pixter Pro Pack lists for $154.90 (lenses are about $55 apiece a la carte).

Twofer toy

Pillow Pets

Taking a buddy along can make children happier and when that pal is a plush companion that morphs from a toy into a pillow, you’ll please and placate your child.

Pillow Pets are chenille-stuffed animals (also some cute cars) that widen and flatten into a pillow with the release of a cinch strap. Sizes average 12- to 16-inches-square when fully open. All are machine washable.

Pillow Pets also come as zippered sweatshirts. Bunch up the garment for a nice, fat cushion or use just the padded hood part as a pillow and wrap the rest around your child for an extra-warm hug with pockets.

Cost, info: Pillow Pets run $20 to $25; animal-head hoodies cost about $20.

This bag does tricks

Eagle Creek

Pulling a rabbit out of a hat is just a trick; pulling a backpack out of a wheel-aboard bag? That’s magic.

That’s what the wizards at Eagle Creek Luggage have conjured with the new Morphus International Wheeled Carry-On. With a quick unzip, what had been a single 20½-by-13¾-by-9-inch roller bag separates into a backpack and a wheeled bag, offering about double the space you started with.

Both are made with polyurethane-coated polyester and have top- and side-padded grab handles, double lockable zippers and reinforced seams.

The wheeled bag has thick, treaded wheels; a hinged kickstand keeps the bag upright. The soft backpack has zip-away padded interior sleeves that can accommodate a 15-inch laptop and a tablet, as a well as a nifty built-in cord winder, a key fob and padded pouches for fragile electronics.

The backpack’s two trolley straps can slide over the wheeled bag’s telescoping pull handle. Zipped back together, the bag can be wheeled, or carried using the pack’s back straps.

All this abracadabra isn’t cheap, but it’s a class act, even without the wand.

Cost, info: Morphus International Wheeled Carry-On costs $329.

A bag that suits


Is anything as yummy as curling up in your tent inside a toasty sleeping bag on a chilly night camping? Is anything as awful as having to get out of that warm sleeping bag to go out into the elements?

No problem if you have the new SelkBag Wearable Sleeping Bag, designed to keep you comfy in and out of the tent.

It looks like a giant snowsuit, but lets you be much more mobile. It has zip-off booties, big kangaroo-style pockets and flaps at the wrists that let you quickly free your hands.

It’s made of ripstop nylon and polyester with hollow fiber polyester insulation, and its insulated adjustable hood extends from a high thermal collar.

The zip-off booties let you substitute your own shoes when you are active, and the booties’ reinforced nylon soles and lateral grips for traction make them tough enough for a stroll.

The bag comes in a range of colors and patterns, including Star Wars-themed designs, in adult and children’s sizes.

One quibble: The SelkBag is not equipped with a drop seat so you must wriggle out of the bottoms when nature calls. A fix is in the works.

Cost, info: SelkBag Wearable Sleeping Bag in adult sizes costs about $170 for the Original (warmest) model; a lighter, less-insulated model costs $99. Children’s SelkBags cost $69 to $89.


Apple Improves iCloud Music Library Matching

Apple Improves iCloud Music Library Matching


  • Apple Music identifies songs via an audio fingerprint
  • This prevents errors caused by identifying via metadata
  • The new feature is being rolled out globally

If you have not been using iCloud Music Library because it sometimes deletes your iTunes content, then there is some good news for you. Apple is rolling out a fix that changes how iCloud Music Library identifies tracks.

(Also see: Apple Acknowledges Bug That Deletes iTunes Music; Fix Due This Week)

Instead of identifying songs by metadata tags, the service will now use an audio fingerprint to match iTunes content with Apple Music songs. Apple already uses this technology for its iTunes Match service. The audio fingerprint is a much more reliable way of matching songs since it matches the music stored in the file with the correct track in Apple’s library. This ensures that iCloud Music Library won’t sync a different version of the song in your iTunes account, according to a report by The Loop.

The report says along with much improved song recognition, Apple has stopped auto-deleting songs too. If you were worried about losing your tracks, this feature should will probably make you feel better.

For those who don’t know, iTunes Match is an Apple service that lets you store all of your music in the cloud. This includes songs you’ve recorded yourself or downloaded from CDs. This service is available at Rs. 1,200 per year in India or $25 in the US. Apple Music is the company’s music streaming service that lets you stream and download songs at Rs. 120 per month or $9.99 in the US. iCloud Music Library, in theory, lets Apple Music have access to their entire music library on all their devices.

The Loop’s report says Apple is rolling out the feature to 1 to 2 percent of its users every day, so you’ll just have to wait for a bit if you haven’t gotten it already. Apple Music subscribers will start seeing the word “Matched” in the iCloud Status column on iTunes, when they get this feature, according to the report.

Another problem addressed through this fix is that re-downloaded files matched by Apple Music no longer have copy protection. They are DRM-free. But you won’t be able to play those files if you cancel your Apple Music subscription.

This doesn’t affect those who don’t use iCloud Music Library or just subscribe to iTunes Match. However once the change is rolled out, Apple Music subscribers will get iTunes Match features as well and can safely cancel their iTunes Match subscriptions.

Tags: Apple Music, iCloud Music Library, iTunes, iTunes Match

Global Consumer Confidence Improves, India Most Bullish: Nielsen

Global Consumer Confidence Improves, India Most Bullish: Nielsen

London: Consumer confidence in the United States jumped in the third quarter and improved globally, although people were more optimistic about job prospects than their personal finances, a survey showed on Wednesday.

India remained the most bullish consumer market, while Italy became the most pessimistic, according to the survey by global information and insights company Nielsen.

The survey showed that concerns about the economy and job prospects had eased globally from the second quarter, but in North America and Europe that had been replaced by rising worries about war and terrorism.

European countries generally were the most pessimistic, reflecting the conflict in Ukraine, faltering growth and the risk of deflation in the euro zone. Britain and Germany, however, saw consumer confidence improve.

The Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence Index rose 1 point in the third quarter to 98, according to the survey, conducted between August 13 and September 5.

The index has been steadily rising since the first quarter of 2012 and the latest reading headed closer to the 100 mark that signals optimism among consumers.

US consumers were the seventh most upbeat globally, with their score rising 4 points to 108 as optimism about job prospects continued to surge.

Americans were also slightly more upbeat about the outlook for their personal finances than they were in the second quarter, unlike Europeans, who were more pessimistic, reflecting persistently low wage growth.

“US consumers are now feeling far more confident than in previous years of the recovery due to consistently good job market trends, reflected in steady payroll growth and falling unemployment over the course of 2014,” said Louise Keely, a senior vice president at Nielsen.

“They are also benefiting from lower gasoline prices and a gradually improving housing market. In the coming months, as we start to see more people re-entering the workforce and meaningful wage growth, this is likely to translate into broad-based gains in consumer spending.”

Australia saw the biggest increase in confidence from the previous quarter, by 12 points, followed by Slovenia with a 9-point increase and Thailand with 8 points.

Chile posted the sharpest drop in confidence, by 7 points, followed by the Philippines with a 5-point decline and 4-point decreases for Italy and Ukraine.

The Nielsen survey was conducted online and covered more than 30,000 consumers across 60 markets.\

Copyright: Thomson Reuters 2014


Facebook Launches New Publishing Tools; Improves Domain Insights

Facebook Launches New Publishing Tools; Improves Domain Insights

In a bid to give more teeth to advertisers and those who want to promote posts on Facebook, the social networking site has launched new tools that allow a greater ability to target posts and promote content.

The biggest tool for advertisers is interest targeting that will use Facebook’s data mine to create areas like locations, celebrities and sports teams to add to posts.

Social managers will also now be able to put end dates for when posts should stop receiving promotion in News Feeds.

The purpose of this tool is to encourage news publishers to post more timely stories.

After the end date, promoted posts will remain on Facebook but will not be promoted.

Smart publishing, the third tool which will initially be available only to a limited group, will track stories users are posting to Facebook, and then will then add them to the news feeds of people who like the company.

The tools have been built in collaboration with media partners after requests came for improvements to the publishing platform.

With more and more users, especially on mobiles accessing the website, Facebook aims to use that traffic well and make it pay.

Detailing improvements to insights, Facebook said, “We’ve made a variety of improvements to Domain Insights to show how Pages and social plugins drive traffic to websites. We’ve added a new Top URLs section, which displays URL-level reporting and shows when other Pages and influencers share a post you’ve made to Facebook. For example, if a celebrity shares one of your URLs, you’ll know why that URL may have reached more people than other URLs. We also made the interface more intuitive and provide a way to segment data for specific time ranges, including hourly.”

Written with inputs from IANS

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Tags: Facebook, Social, Social Media