Edit Groups of Photos Simultaneously in ios 10 With OneEdit Pro App

Including All the Secrets & Tricks I Use to Save Time While Editing A Lot of Photos at Once

A few months back I wrote a post about my all-time favorite photo editing apps and how I make sure that I keep the highest image resolutions possible with my photos while using these apps. This post addresses many of the same topics…but it approaches the whole subject from the opposite perspective. Instead of keeping the best digital images that are possible using an iPad or iPhone, here I’m more concerned with how to keep ‘good’ but not great quality…while I accomplish many different editing tasks quickly and efficiently.

My end product needs to be good enough for illustrative purposes on my websites. All of the images I’ve included in this post were generated as I wrote this, using the techniques I talk about here so that my readers can see exactly what kind of photos will result from using the tools I’m highlighting here.

Below, my post on my  favorite photo editing apps & maintaining great photo resolutions

Maintain the highest resolution possible using my all-time favorite ios photo apps

Introduction

This post is geared towards anyone who needs to edit a lot of images and get them into great looking ‘final forms’ for presentation purposes…regardless of whether or not the end goals are for personal or web publishing purposes.

As anyone who publishes a website or blog online already knows, it’s really important to have good images…and ideally lots of them. They can help to make your information more readable and user friendly, as well as give graphic examples of your information and also be used for illustrative purposes.

This can end up requiring the use of quite a lot of images if you publish on a fairly regular basis. Images which need to both look good and not impact the overall performance of your site….especially the page loading speed! That means you need to find or create images and then add borders and oftentimes text too.  Last you need to resize them to decrease the resolution enough so that your site loads quickly. Doing this one image at a time takes an inordinate amount of time when you consider that the pictures themselves are really secondary to the information you’re presenting. Yet…the images are crucial for the quality of your website.

Above are 2 Online Tools I Use to Optimize Images for Web Publishing are jpeg-optimizer’ beta version & TinyPng…I use jpeg more because it has user defined size alternative…whereas TinyPng’s free service is ‘one size fit’s all!’

That’s why I searched for almost 2 years to find an app that could batch edit photos well on an iPad…because that’s what I do all my work on. Finding a great batch editing photo app for ios is no easy task! 

OneEdit Pro by Tiger Ng

I first discovered  OneEdit Pro about 2 1/2 years ago after trying out a few single purpose batch resizing photo apps that were difficult to use, time-consuming and just didn’t perform well. When I first began using OneEdit I found it difficult to learn and buggy. But then I discovered that the developer had a few videos on his support site that helped me to figure out some of its aspects and I began to use it a little more productively.

Below is an App Store screenshot of OneEdit Pro, which is $2.99
OneEdit Pro Batch Editing Photo App

The Learning Curve for OneEdit Pro is Steep Because the App Has So Many Features

It took a year perhaps for me to really grasp how extremely powerful and feature-filled the app really is. In time it became the one app I use almost constantly. It would be unusual for an app of this magnitude to not have a few glitches in it…and OneEdit does although it’s developers release updates periodically which are primarily for addressing those. In its present state there are just a few small ones which I address in the appropriate sections below.

What’s more surprising to me than recognizing a few glitches remain today is the app’s price which is $2.99. As long as I’ve been using OneEdit I think this price has remained consistent. At the time I first purchased it $2.99 was on the steep side of app prices for me…but now it seems like a true bargain for the vast variety of functions it performs. I recently paid much, much more for 2 other apps that are equally powerful in their niches. I recently paid $24.99 for Ulysses which is a powerful writing and mark down app I use for writing my posts and $19.99 for LumaFusion Pro which is an equally powerful video editing app for iPad. The 3 apps in my opinion are similar in terms of their productivity value for me, making OneEdit a real bargain!

One other aspect of OneEdit I love is the ability to ask questions of the developer either in app or just via email. I’ve always received helpful replies back within a reasonable amount of time, which is a benefit not many apps offer.

Once I’d mastered* OneEdit I immediately wanted to write about it and share my views on how amazingly helpful it is for me. But I held off because of the learning curve. I felt like it was a bit too large for most people to want to undertake. So I’ve been trying to come up with a way to demonstrate various aspects of it. Personally I learn best by watching how other people do things, so I’ve focused my efforts on figuring out a way to create video tutorials.

*Mostly mastered is a more accurate statement really because there are still some features I’m unfamiliar with and haven’t had any occasion to learn or use yet.

I haven’t really come up with a good answer yet for creating tutorials to speed up the learning process of OneEdit Pro. I’ve tried a few things…but nothing that’s worked out great enough for me to want to use on an ongoing basis to demonstrate the many features of the app.

Some of the 80+ Filters Included in OneEdit Pro

Filters in OneEdit Pro

Video Demonstrations Seem to Be the Best Answer

While I do have a YouTube channel…it’s pretty amateurish and I don’t have the equipment or the expertise to produce polished videos for this purpose. Primarily because to do the subject justice, I’d need to produce approximately 10 videos. Much of the content of the videos would actually be me using the app, along with showing the appropriate screens and menus needed to accomplish various tasks. If Apple allowed people to create apps which let you capture videos of your ios screen while you were working on tasks, I think that would be the best way to demonstrate using OneEdit Pro.

But for some unknown reason Apple has decided that this capability isn’t one that they want their users to have. Ironically you can do this using a Mac computer…but it isn’t an easy or streamlined process by any means…therefore it’s not really something most people will bother with.

I find it really ironic that one of Apple’s most recent marketing campaigns has focused on positioning the iPad as an equal to computers in functionality…all while actively working to keep that from ever becoming a reality.

I say this because Apple has clearly made their wishes known when it comes to allowing apps into the App Store that let users record their device’s screen activity. Apple does not allow it plain and simple. So anytime someone manages to get an app listed in the App Store that includes this feature…which is usually done in a sort of secretive fashion…as soon as Apple discovers it, the app is immediately removed.

Apple's Recent iPad Pro Commercial

Apple’s Recent iPad Pro Commercial

Side Loading Apps & My 1st OneEdit Pro Demo Video

This has led to the side-loading app phenomenon. With ios 10, Apple finally gave user’s the ability to install apps on their ios devices that didn’t originate from the App Store. There are a few websites that have either free or low priced apps that you can install on your device now without going through the App Store and without voiding it’s warranty. The one I used is emu4ios. emu stands for ’emulator’ and the best of,the apps I tried is AirShou.

But for me so far the apps haven’t proven to be very polished yet.  They can be both difficult to figure out and dangerous to install and use.
In desperation I did try a few different screen recording apps to begin a OneEdit Pro series of videos. But I ended up finishing only one, not so great video. It’s way too long (12 minutes) because I discovered after I shot it that the footage was virtually uneditable. No video editing app I tried seemed able to work with the video footage that the screen recording app recorded. I still don’t know why that was the case but you can see that video here . The one thing that it has going for it is, you can actually learn how to use some aspects of OneEdit Pro. 

Part 1 in the OneEdit Pro Series of YouTube Videos

In this video in addition to learning how to navigate around within the OneEdit app, I thoroughly cover how to add multiple frames or borders to groups of images very quickly. By quickly I mean to say that you can accomplish that task very quickly…not learn it quickly…because the video, at 12 minutes…isn’t very quick!

Shooting a Video Using My 9.7″ iPad Pro in One Hand & While Demonstrating  OneEdit Pro with the Other Hand

My 2nd OneEdit Pro video is one that I made today using a different approach. In this one which is about how to batch crop photos and then add borders to them, I tried to record my actions with the iPad I was using to shoot the video in my left hand while I performed the necessary actions with my right hand. But it’s awkward trying to keep the left hand iPad steady enough to keep the right-side iPad in frame for the duration of the video. Here’s the link to Part 2 in the series.

Part 2 in the OneEdit Pro Series of YouTube Videos


You might be wondering why I tried to shoot this using my 9.7″ iPad Pro in my left hand. I know I would wonder that myself! The reason is because I had already tried doing the same thing using my iPhone as the camera, and I quickly discovered that because my iPhone is so small relative to the size of the iPad …that it would constantly wander off-frame so much that they video footage was virtually useless.

Tiger Ng from OneEdit also has a demonstration or preview video for OneEdit Pro

What Else Can You Do Using OneEdit Pro?

The primary function that I use OneEdit Pro for is to crop and add borders to photos for my website. But oftentimes I resize them in the app too…to keep the overall files size small for page loading purposes. The app isn’t perfect and it does have a few glitches…and one of these is that the final image size reported by the app isn’t necessarily the true file size. So, while I use OneEdit for resizing (they call it scaling) I still use a few other apps to determine what the actual file is. If the finished file size is too large, then, rather than resizing it again in OneEdit Pro, I’ll usually use one of the apps I referred to above called Big Photo to resize it a little more…often just for expediency because that’s where the photo is a that moment in time.

Big Photo App Store screenshot

Using the Big Photo App in Conjunction With OneEdit Pro

The reason I love Big Photo is because it performs 2 essential functions really well for me. First it tells me what exactly a photo’s meta data, file size and resolution are. Surprisingly these aren’t easy things to discover using an iPad! 2nd, it scales images both smaller and larger without hurting the resolution much better than any app I’ve ever tried before.

Whenever you scale down the size of a photo you end up hurting the final resolution of it too. Depending upon how much you resize it will determine how much of an impact there is upon final resolution. But the basic rule of thumb for me is if I scale something to smaller than 80% of its original size using OneEdit Pro, then the final resolution might end up being too blurry. But using the Big Photo app, which has a free version btw, I can usually resize it down to about 60% without degrading the final resolution too significantly. Sometimes when I scale a group of photos in OneEdit Pro a lot…meaning I reduce their size a lot…I immediately add another edit to my group of batch edits that sharpens the overall resolution of the images.

Sharpening, which is called Sharpen Luminance in OneEdit is found under the ‘Filter’ menu item and it’s one of more than 80 photo effect filters that you can apply to a group of photos in one fell swope.

Example’s of History & Merge to Montage Features | Horizontal Montage

Example's of the History & Merge to Montage Features

Closeups of the History & Montage Features…tap or click on each to enlarge.

Some Additional Editing Features I Use Frequently with OneEdit Pro

Occasionally I use a feature that allows you to add text or watermarks to your photos. I also use a lot of the advanced exporting features. In addition to being able to export to most of the popular cloud services like Drop Box, OneDrive, Box and Google Drive, you can export directly to Facebook and Flickr too. You can also use your edited images in some pretty creative ways. You can merge them together in different manners like in the grid manner I used in my screenshot that shows the 80+ filters above. You can also merge them together to create long files either horizontally or vertically. And last you can merge all of the photos into a PDF.

Conclusion

OneEdit Pro is unparalleled in power relative to any other photo editing app I’ve found in Apple’s ios App Store. Believe me when I say I’ve tried a lot of them! Between my husband and myself I’d venture to guess that we’ve used at least 50% of all the photo editing apps that exist for ios devices.

I’d love to figure out a better way of creating video tutorials for learning to use the app because I’ve developed  a lot of great workflows that save me a ton of time. If any of my readers can suggest better methods for recording my iPad’s screen’s activity that don’t involve hooking it up to a computer, I be really interested in hearing your ideas.

Comments

If you have anything to add or any questions to ask…now’s the time. In the interest of preserving reader’s privacy any comments you make here can be done in complete anonymity…or not…it’s up to you. Just use an alias for your name if you don’t want your real name displayed publicly.

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Learn About GPS Versus Bluetooth Tracking Devices | TrackR Bravo Review

What Are GPS or Bluetooth Trackers & Who Needs One?

TrackR on Keys

TrackR on Keys

Answering the 2nd part of that question is much easier than the first..

so I’ll address that first.

Who Needs a Bluetooth Tracking Device?

Anyone who frequently misplaces objects that they rely upon could benefit from attaching a tracking device to those objects. It would help them to find it the next time it’s misplaced. Someone who worries about leaving something behind…their purse, an umbrella, or forgetting their wallet or cellphone at home…could benefit from using the kind of tracker that alerts you when you’re too far away from an object you’ve connected to the tracker. People with pets that stray can also use these devices to prevent them from straying too far.

TrackR Bravo protecting a bike

TrackR Bravo protecting a bike

What Exactly are Bluetooth or GPS Trackers?

The term GPS tracker is primarily used today to describe a tracking device with built in bluetooth technology that allows it to pair to a cell phone or a mobile device for the purpose of keeping track of the prized possessions they fear they may lose. These comprise a whole genre of gadgets that’s been on the market for roughly the past 2-4 years.

But use of the GPS label is actually erroneous because while these devices do provide assistance in locating possessions they don’t accomplish that using GPS technology. While true GPS trackers do exist they comprise a smaller market. Almost every device that you’ll encounter in 2017 that’s referred to as a GPS tracker, in fact really isn’t…these are really bluetooth trackers pure and simple.

One way to differentiate between the two is price. Bluetooth trackers range in price from around $8-35 whereas trackers which use true GPS technology tend to run over $50.

What is TrackR?

TrackR is the main product line of one brand of bluetooth tracking device. I recently acquired several TrackR BravosTrackR’s flagship model is the Bravo. My acquisition has introduced me to this whole new world of bluetooth tracking devices.

You might think that these newer gadgets are simply key locators…because many of them resemble products sold specifically for that purpose. However, these newer devices differ from their older predecessors…like the key locators…in that they include bluetooth communications or BLE for short. Therefore most of these tracking devices also have companion apps which you use to manage and track your things with.

Below is a screenshot for Tile’s product line…one of the most popular brands currently.
Overview of Tile's Product Line

Overview of Tile’s Product Line

Some other popular brands of tracking devices that directly compete against the TrackR brand includes Tile, which appears to be hands down the best one that’s currently available, as well as Chipolo, Pixie, Mynt, Voilà, Tintag, iBeacon, Pebblebee Honey, Protag Duet, XY FindIt, iTag’e Nut Mini, Great Vibez, and Pally Smart Finder.

Since the one that I own is a TrackR brand device…more specifically it’s a 2nd Generation TrackR Bravo…that’s the one I’ll explain how to setup and begin using.

TrackR Bravo Gen 1

TrackR Bravo Gen 1

How I Discovered TrackR

I was engaged in my daily review of current tech news on Twitter when I happened upon an info-ad for an intriguing device called TrackR. This was really intriguing for me because I misplace far too many things…something I blame on my severe ADHD. More intriguing still was the beautiful design of the Bravo.  But the clincher for me was the quantity discounts that were offered for buying multiple Bravos. I can’t pass up an amazing deal and I really thought everyone in my family needed these!

Although these trackers belong to a whole new genre of devices there's still a lot of people using them as key finders.

Although these trackers belong to a whole new genre of devices there’s still a lot of people using them as key finders.

I wasn’t exactly sure what I’d be using them for yet…but I definitely knew that I needed something like this!

Here’s a great introduction to the TrackR brand of bluetooth trackers.

TrackR’s Introduction to Their Brand & It’s Founders

TrackR's founders are Chris & Christian

TrackR’s founders are Chris & Christian

What is TrackR Bravo?

TrackR Bravo, made be the company TrackR is a $28 device (on Amazon) that you attach to items that you might lose. It’s TrackR’s bread and butter product, although they’ve expanded their product line to include:

  • TrackR Wallet (it fits inside your wallet)
  • TrackR Pixel (similar but smaller and with lights)
  • TrackR Atlas (a whole house whole family solution) too.

TrackR Atlas and Pixel are currently only available for pre-order. All TrackR’s devices help to prevent loss in 2 main scenarios. Indoors (or at home) and outdoors (or out in the world at large.)

The TrackR device itself connects using bluetooth to your cellphone via the TrackR app. After pairing it with your phone, you can attach the little TrackR device to things that you’re worried about losing with the enclosed double-sided sticker or using this little ring that’s sort of like a key ring that’s also included, or even just by placing the tracking device inside of something like a wallet or a purse. Then you use your phone and the app to locate the missing item if it does indeed go missing.

These are the setup screens for adding a new TrackR

These are the setup screens for adding a new TrackR

Indoor Use | How Well Does TrackR Bravo Work?

When you attach TrackR to something you misplace frequently, the next time that happens you can locate it by walking around your house with the app open on your phone or tablet. As you walk the app tells you if you’re getting closer or if you’re moving farther away from it. When you’re pretty close to it…say within about 40 feet, you can have the TrackR app initiate the little tracking device to play an audible alert sound that helps you to better pinpoint its location.

You can even use TrackR on your pet!

You can even use TrackR on your pet!

It took me a few months to figure out what I should use as my test case for the TrackR Bravo. At first I couldn’t think of anything I really needed it for despite my certainty that I needed 8 of them.

But now it’s springtime and as I was hauling out all our house fans I remembered one thing that I’m constantly losing are the remote controls to our house fans…because I only buy fans that come with remote controls! For some unknown reason fan remote controls are always disappearing from our house. Maybe it’s because the remotes themselves are usually tiny and they can easily slip into couch cushions, onto the floor, or end up in someone’s pocket.

But that will no longer be the case at my house!!!

Because from now on every remote that we tend to misplace will have a TrackR attached to it. When you add a new TrackR device you name it, so they are easy to tell apart.

Using it for our fan’s remote controls is a perfect use for it, imo. That’s because of the inherent limitations of bluetooth. Being a near field communication means that you need to be pretty close to something in order for it to communicate. Usually the missing remote is in the same room as the fan. But they are often so tiny that they are easily overlooked. It was this exact scenario that gave me the idea to test out TrackR for this purpose. Once I located a missing remote control I’d been searching for, I attached a Bravo TrackR to it using the included double stick tape.

4 TrackR Bravo's I'm Sending to My Sons

4 TrackR Bravo’s I’m Sending to My Sons

When I had the remote prepared I conducted my test. I left the room and walked pretty far away, and then opened the app and made my way back towards the room the remote was in. I was halfway down a long hallway leading to the room when the TrackR showed on my iPhone. I’d say I was about 35 feet away from it…which frankly didn’t seem very far to me!

But that brings up another inherent limitation of bluetooth…or really of the radio signals bluetooth relies upon. Radio waves have difficulty penetrating thick exterior walls, and it just so happens that the wall between me and the remote in question was formerly an exterior wall. In fact, because we’ve added onto our house several times and we have quite a few situations like that.

So in the end, while I think my TrackR Bravos will function well for remote controls in our home…it may not work as well for other kinds of potentially misplaced items. I’ll need to do some more testing to see if these kinds of devices will work out well in our house on a larger scale.

Key features for TrackR Bravo

Key features for TrackR Bravo

Outdoor Use | 2 Intriguing Aspects

I’ve just explained how TrackR Bravo works indoors…but it works outdoors too and it can perform well even at very great distances. You might be wondering how that’s possble since bluetooth is near field communications which only functions at maximum distances of about 100 feet.

It does so using a newer innovation they call ‘crowd sourcing.’ Part of what I found intriguing was that these different brands of devices utilize a crowd sourced feature which helps to locate items that have really been lost. But here too there are some inherent limitations with that technology which impacts all of the brands equally.

Crowd Sourced Locating Explanation

The way the crowd sourced feature works is this. If I have a TrackR connected to any item and I do happen to misplace it, as long as the battery in the TrackR still has juice, if my TrackR encounters other people’s TrackR’s or their app-enabled cell phones, their sheer presence will bring about a logging event and my app will ultimately be updated showing an approximate location for the missing item. As a general rule, although most device makers claim their batteries last for a year’s time…reading reviews reveals that 4 months appears to be the true sweet spot for most of them.

Here are a few more things to know about these crowd sourcing features aside from the fact that I think overall it’s a really cool concept!

In discussing other brands I talk more about below, this crowd sourced functionality is one key aspect which helps to differentiate between the lo-tech but modern-day key finders and the newer personal tracking devices. When I include crowd sourcing as a feature throughout this post, I’m referring to a user community based service in which all user devices crowd-assist to locate any lost item connected to a tracker. Also, the ultimate success of this concept is highly dependent upon the popularity of the brand.

So in the case of my TrackR, it’s ability to find a lost device will be dependent upon where the item is lost and how many other people might be around it who are also using TrackR brand tracking devices. While the chances for success are better in larger metropolitan areas than anywhere else primarily because there will be more people around using TrackR’s…unfortunately, you can’t always choose where you’ll lose something!

TrackR has a webpage that you can use to see how many devices may be located in your area. When considering buying different brands of these devices, the chances are greatly improved that this crowd sourced feature will be useful to you, when you get a tracking device from a company that’s doing really well both the industry as a whole, and also in your locale…which it appears TrackR is for me.

TrackR's webpage for searching your locale for number of devices

TrackR’s webpage for searching your locale for number of devices

Testing Out the Crowd Sourced Feature

In order to test out the crowd sourced functionality I ended up creating a 2nd account for the 2nd TrackR I attached to a fan remote. Truth be told I hadn’t thought of this initially but discovered it after reading a user review of TrackR’s ios app that stated you’re not allowed to use symbols in your account password for the app. But the app doesn’t warn you of this and accepts the password. So when I went to connect with the 2nd TrackR to my account I wasn’t able to even connect to my account again. I was forced to set up the second account. This is a huge problem for TrackR and one they need to fix…but I’m sure I’ll get it straightened out when I bother to try. In the meantime it gave me the perfect opportunity to check out the crowd sourcing feature.

Here's the notification I received from one TrackR

Here’s the notification I received from one TrackR

I’m pleased to say that crowd sourcing worked beautifully! Within an hour of setting up the second TrackR I got a notification from TrackR that one of my TrackR’s had been located via crowd sourcing. That was actually me…but now I know the crowd sourced location feature actually works!

How Popular Are TrackR’s Currently?

Right now, from all the research I’ve conducted it appears to me that there are 2 brands that really stand out in this category…Tile and TrackR.

Tile holds the distinction of garnering the highest praise in both written and YouTube reviews. Next in line comes TrackR…but my perception could be faulty. I say this for 2 reasons. First, it’s clear that right now TrackR is having difficulty fixing its apps. The problems appear to be universal or across all apps.

TrackR’s biggest problem right now?

Their apps don’t actually locate anything accurately…which is a HUGE problem for a product that’s sole purpose in life is to find things!

2nd, while there are more reviews written and videos shot by far for both Tile and TrackR…both also appear to have a lot of dissatisfied customers!

One good way I discovered to see how happy user’s are with their brand is by reading their companion app reviews.

Reviews for all 3 of TrackR's Apps Currently

Reviews for all 3 of TrackR’s Apps Currently

Tile reviews are either great or really bad

Tile reviews are either great or really bad

TrackR’s Tablet App Could Be a Hidden Gem

While refreshing my memory of all the TrackR’s features on their website I discovered something that I don’t think I realized before…there’s a separate free TrackR app for ios devices, that’s above and beyond the main TrackR app that you’d install to manage a new TrackR device. Below is a link to what I read.

Link to Trackr’s Tablet app website

I may have seen this before and discounted it, thinking ‘but I use Apple’s ‘Find My Phoneapp already…how is this different?’ There’s really only one small difference…but I now realize that it could make a huge difference for someone.

Why TrackR’s Tablet App May Be Amazing!

The difference is that you don’t need an internet connection to find your lost device using the TrackR app for ios. So, unlike the ‘Find Your Phone‘ app, if your device goes offline, it can still be tracked and located.

How do I know this could make a huge difference? Because a friend of a friend had his iPhone stolen while using mass transportation in Mexico last weekend. His brand new, very expensive iPhone 7 was taken along with several wallets of friends and some other things. Most of the items were retrieved because some Mexican cops arrived on the scene immediately and shook down the perps…can you tell I watch too many cop shows? But the iPhone wasn’t recovered. He wiped his data from it once he had an internet connection…but he couldn’t use ‘Find My iPhone‘ at the exact moment of the theft because he had no other internet capable ios device on hand.

If he’d had the TrackR app installed on a friend’s device he might have been able to discover exactly who had his phone while the arrest was occurring by having the friend who’d also installed the app initiating the phone’s ringer until it was located. Another reason the app may be so great is because you can have up to 10 other ios devices paired to also be tracking your device…in this case your iPhone. If you’re using the Android app you can pair up to 3 devices. Although it’s unclear to me whether or not you could pair the ios app to an Android phone…I tend to think that’s possible from everything I’ve read so far.

If I’m correct, there’s a whole wealth of free utility there that would be wonderful for young adults who are backpacking through Europe or enjoying their Spring Break’s in Florida.

So the ios app offers some interesting utility. Of course if the device’s battery is dead you can’t use the ‘phone ringing’ alternative…although you could still track it as far as it’s last known location.

TrackR's ios Tablet App's Features

TrackR’s ios Tablet App’s Features

Some of the Best Bluetooth Tracking Devices on the Market Today (May 2017)

The reason I stated in the title ‘today‘ is because this is a rapidly changing marketplace that appears to be beyond saturated…which is really odd since very few people actually know about or use these devices that I know of! But there are tons of them and the competition is fierce! Each model is continually updating their technology to outperform their perceived competitors…which is good for us, the end user. But that reality doesn’t make picking one of these devices out to actually buy a very easy endeavor!

I did research things a bit before I got my 8 TrackR’s…but that was a few months ago, and like I said, this marketplace is a moving target! If I were buying one of these today, I’d be inclined to get iTag’s Nut Mini at $14.95 or a 4 pack of them for $40.

Why? Because the Nut Mini does everything that the TrackR Bravo does at half the price and 3/4’s of the size. In reading Amazon reviews of it, one person said it was so small they put it on a mini drone. I happen to have a mini drone too…and they are really tiny! I doubt that I could hang my TrackR Bravo from it. Another person said they put it on their Roomba. I thought that was funny because I have an older model Roomba too. Mine never got lost because it never worked all that well…but I liked the review and it made me think of a few more ways someone could use these devices.

Below are just a few of what I think are currently the best bluetooth GPS tracking devices…but remember…if you’re reading this even a few months after May 2017…these may not be the best ones anymore.

Number 1

First is the Tile because it’s universally ranked as the best by virtually everyone who matters. Maybe that’s because Tile was the company first to market with this kind of device?

Tile Mate seems to be the most popular model of Tile currently priced at $24.99 for 1 unit. I cover some of Tile’s feature information in the screenshot below and more in my comparison between Tile and TrackR immediately following this section.

The new Tile Mate is 25% smaller than its predecessor

The new Tile Mate is 25% smaller than its predecessor

Number 2

I have to include TrackR Bravo…because it’s what I have and it’s the whole reason I even wrote this article. So far the 3 Bravo’s I’m using have been fine although other than checking to see where they are occasionally I’ve not done too much with them. One problem I did have was that I had to setup a 2nd user account I think because I used symbols in my password for the 1st.

TrackR Bravo Gen 2 is mine and one purchased alone is $26.67 at Amazon

An 8 pack of Bravo’s is where you save a lot and that’s what I got. An 8 pack at Amazon is currently $150, which comes out to $18.50 per. But I got mine directly from TrackR’s website. When I got mine it was during some kind of promotion and they had 8 for $116 or $14.50 each…so that’s what I paid…and shipping was free. It seems like they always have some kind of promotion going on.

For example, I received this Share URL from TrackR after I set up my account. If it’s used by someone else, the person using it gets 1 free TrackR with their purchase of one and I then also get one free too!

Another example is at their website currently if you buy 10, it’s $180 with free shipping so it’s $18 per unit, or just a little better than the per device price of their current Amazon offering.

Links to TrackR’s Apps:

Link to TrackR ios App for Bravo

Link to Android App

Link to TrackR’s Android Bluetooth Headset Finding App

Link to TrackR’s Tablet App for ios for Finding iPads & iPhones

Number 3

As I discussed above it I was going to be starting afresh with these I think I’d be getting iTags Nut Mini’s.

A single Nut Mini is currently $14.99 at Amazon.

A 4 pack of Nut Mini’s is $40

One reason I really like the Nut Mini is because they are cute…I think because if their tiny size. The photo below doesn’t really give you an idea of it’s size however. But my main reason is they appear to offer all of the same features as the more expensive TrackR & Tile Mate. Here’s a pretty decent video review of the Nut Mini.

Despite their size the Nut Mini's do include crowd sourcing

Despite their size the Nut Mini’s do include crowd sourcing

Number 4

This next one…the Great Vibez Smart Finder Bluetooth Tracking Device at $19.99 I was impressed with because so many people switched to it from Tile.

Great Vibez Smart Finder Bluetooth Tracking Device $19.99

Buy 2 Get 10% Off so $18

This is what the Great Vibez looks like

This is what the Great Vibez looks like

I discovered Great Vibez while reading ios apps reviews for apps related to the TrackR app. It was really the reviews for the Great Vibez that were so compelling for me. Not just the product reviews alone, but the fact that so many of them were from former Tile users. Also their app has great reviews.

The app for Great Vibez

The app for Great Vibez

All the great Amazon Reviews for the Great Vibez

All the great Amazon Reviews for the Great Vibez

Comparing the Tile and TrackR Brand Tracking Devices

Because Tile and TrackR are the number one and two brands on the market currently I’d be remiss in not discussing the differences between the two. Both brands have similarly priced trackers and both brands have a product lineup that includes several different trackers for different purposes. For example, they both offer a flat credit card sized tracking device that’s designed to either go inside a wallet or to be attached to a laptop.

Both offer batteries in their devices that they claim last for about a year. But there is one significant difference between their batteries. The Tile battery is a sealed battery, therefore when the battery dies your device no longer functions. You need to get an entirely new tracking device from Tile. They do offer a ReTile program however which provides discounted models to their existing customers. They also offer a warranty on their devices and batteries, so that if your battery dies before a year’s time has elapsed they will replace your Tile tracker for free. The battery in the TrackR device on the other hand is user replaceable so even if it doesn’t last for a year, it’s somewhat superfluous because the battery costs about a dollar.

There is one other significant difference with the two batteries however that is the Tile’s battery is rated specifically as waterproof whereas TrackR’s battery they say is water resistant but they don’t provide an actual specification for that. They do however offer for sale a little waterproof silicone sleeve that you can buy an add on to your TrackR.

In the bigger picture overall currently Tile seems to offer a better product. Their product has louder sound alerts, it offers a farther distance range, and they offer overall better reliability and consistency with their products. TrackR’s products right now seem to have a lot of problems. Yet review after review consistently ranks Tile as number one and TrackR as number two.

The one other difference between the two brands is that the TrackR brand offers one feature that the Tile brand doesn’t. That feature is a separation alert function when you move too far away from an item that you’ve attached a tracking device to. Tile does offer an alert that TrackR doesn’t offer however and that is an alert to tell you when your battery is beginning to die.

So while it appears that currently Tile is vastly superior to TrackR all the reviews really don’t support that theory. Nor does my own experience with TrackR… except for the problem that I have with my passwords. I mentioned this somewhere else with my post but I’m mentioning it here again because it’s an important problem to know about.

I read in iOS app review for TrackR that TrackR does not allow you to use symbols in your passwords. I use DashLane as my password manager and I had DashLane generate a password for me that had symbols in it because I hadn’t read that review yet. When I went to set up my second tracker, I wasn’t able to log into the account that I had set up for the first tracker. So I believe that the ‘no symbols rule‘ does apply, yet TrackR fails to mention that anywhere in their literature and I’ve got a little bit of a mess to straighten out with my accounts.

So heed my warning if you’re a new TrackR user right now and do not use symbols in your passwords.

Some Key Features of Most Bluetooth Tracking Devices

Some Key Features of Most Bluetooth Tracking Devices

Some Key Features of Most Bluetooth Tracking Devices

One Modern Day Key Finder That Doesn’t Have Crowd Sourced Locating Available

I decided to include what I thought was the best of the key-finders, so you could see how difficult it is to tell the true blue-toothed tracking devices with crowd sourcing from what is essentially a regular old key finder, albeit one that’s been updated and looks pretty cool, apart.

Tekameka Key Finder and Phone Tracker Device $17.95

Tekemeka Key Finder

Tekemeka Key Finder

I Was Curious About What Differences if Any, Exist Between GPS Trackers and Bluetooth Trackers

The easiest way I found to understand the key differences is to see some of them. So below I’ve included the best GPS trackers I could find currently at Amazon.

Main Features of Top Selling GPS Trackers on Amazon

The main difference between a true GPS tracking device and a bluetooth one is that true GPS trackers include a physical piece of hardware in them known as a GPS receiver. This is necessary to receive the radio signals that are broadcast for GPS purposes. Because bluetooth trackers are always connected by BLE near field communications to a mobile device such as a tablet or a cellphone, the inclusion of a GPS receiver in them isn’t necessary…the mobile device already has it.

So you can think of it like this. Bluetooth trackers need a companion device to connect to whereas true GPS trackers don’t. They function as standalone devices, therefore they are both more expensive initially and more expensive to operate because they also require an ongoing cellular plan to operate.

Below I’ve outlined some of the key differences:

  • Most GPS trackers include an optional no-contract monthly data plan alternative beginning at $19.99 per month
  • Instead of utilizing the built-in data plan included when purchasing a GPS tracker, many people opt to get their own SIM cards for much lower priced alternatives
  • Most batteries in GPS trackers last about 2 weeks before recharging is required unlike bluetooth tracker batteries which tend to last anywhere from a month to a year, depending upon the brand and model.
  • Most GPS trackers are designed specifically to monitor driving behavior (especially for new teens or elderly drivers) but many are adaptable to a lot of different uses as shown in the detailed information for the Spy Tec model.

    First a combined image of the top three at Amazon

    Amazon's Top Three Real Time GPS Trackers

    Amazon’s Top Three Real Time GPS Trackers

    The most popular GPS tracker by a big margin is the Spy Tec STI GL300 Mini Portable Real Time GPS Tracker w/ $25/mo Data Plan $49.95

    Spy Tec STI GL300Mini Portable Real Time GPS Tracker

    Spy Tec STI GL300Mini Portable Real Time GPS Tracker

    The 2nd top selling GPS Tracker is the Optimus Real Time GPS Tracker w/ $19.95/mo Data Plan

    Product Description for the Optimus Real Time GPS

    Product Description for the Optimus Real Time GPS

    The 3rd ranking GPS Tracker at Amazon based upon sales and good customer reviews is the MOTOsafety OBD Tracker Device with 3G GPS Service Locator w/ $19.95/ Data Plan

    Product Description for MOTOsafety OBD Tracker

    Product Description for MOTOsafety OBD Tracker

    DarkMetal Fabrication YouTube Channel Has Several Detailed Videos on TrackR & a Great Video About GPS Trackers

    That’s how I discovered his channel. But they’ve also have done an excellent video on the different kinds of GPS trackers for cars which I highly recommend if you’re in the market for that kind of tracker.

    iota tracker is One Hybrid Solution I Discovered Which is Expensive But Quite Intriguing

    The Iota Tracker is made by a Redwood California based company Iotera, Inc. Redwood, CA is a short 25 minute commute to Apple Corp.’s home base in Cupertino as well as firmly ensconced in the heart of America’s infamous technological center known as Silicon Valley. I point this out because my perception is that the unique ways that the iota tracker merges its use of networking technology makes this tracker a real stand out in the industry.

    This is one product that should seriously be considered by those who seek a solidly performing tracker beyond the capabilities of bluetooth trackers but without the ongoing expenses of GPS trackers.

    The Key Difference Between iota tracker & Other GPS Trackers is Much Lower Ongoing Costs Because No Cellular Data Plan is Required

    Features of iota tracker

    Features of iota tracker

    Here’s some of the most relevant information from their website:

    “Introducing iota, the smallest real time GPS tracker, activity monitor, and motion sensor with a long-lasting, rechargeable battery and no monthly fees. Perfect for pets, seniors, kids, vehicles, bikes, and more!”

    It’s waterproof, it can be shared amongst several users, it uses crowd sourced location and it can send an alert when the battery needs to be charged.

    What devices work with the iota?

    The iota app works with devices having iOS 8 or later (iPhone 4s minimum), or Android 4.3 or later.  For set up, you will need a device that has BLE capabilities.

    Check out this list of BLE devices to see if your smartphone is compatible.

    The Iota Tracker system is composed of 2 units. A Home Base and the Tracker device. Below is a little more information about each.

    What is a Home Base?

    The Home Base is the device that links your iota to the internet from up to four miles away.  Simply plug the Home Base in, download the iota App, and pair your Home Base to your WiFi network, and you instantly have your own long-range wireless tracking bubble.  Multiple Home Bases in one area combine to give users an even larger bubble for tracking. The Home Base can connect to thousands of iotas. But they all need to be using the same account. The home base can communicate with iotas that are 0.5-1 mile away in urban or heavily-wooded areas, and further in sparse, suburban or rural areas.

    What is an iota tracker?

    The iota tracker is the all-in-one, rechargeable tracking and monitoring device. The iota can report its GPS location, and ring when commanded to through the app. The iota also delivers alerts when it has left a designated area, or when the battery needs a recharge. The iota’s GPS locations are typically within 30 ft. of accuracy.  Accuracy can be limited by trees, roofs, or other obstacles between the iota and the sky.

    One Interesting Iota Review

    One Interesting Iota Review

    What happens when my iotas go out of range?

    When the Home Base network notices your iota has gone out of range, the iota App will let you know that your iota could not be found, and give you the option to be notified when your iota is back in range.  Meanwhile, the app will continue to show the last known location and all alerts will be delayed until the iota comes back within range of a Home Base.

    How to Buy It?

    The system is only sold through their website from what I can tell.

    A complete system, which includes both the Home Base unit and one iota Tracker is $149.99

    Iota Tracker Starter Kit

    Iota Tracker Starter Kit

    Last, here’s a link to their ios app. And a link to their Android app. Reviews for both are excellent!

    As I was Conducting My Research on the Difference Between Bluetooth & GPS Trackers I Also Discovered Some More Obscure But Fascinating, ‘Unique Use’ Tracking Tools

    I’m including these ‘narrow focus‘ or single use types of trackers here for certain family members of mine who might not know about their existence, and might be interested in these. While the need for a cellular data plan is the one main distinction between true GPS trackers and the newer and more popular bluetooth trackers, it appears to be the case with these more expensive devices that are targeted towards specific activities that no cellular data plan is required. In each instance it seems to me that whatever communications technology is being utilized by these, that it’s included in the price and no additional expensive outlays are necessary.

    An Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon or EPIRB

    ACR GlobalFix Pro 406 2844 EPIRB Category II Rescue Beacon with Manual Release Bracket & Built-in GPS $467.49

    An EPIRB device generally only provides for a one-time use. After it’s been deployed and served its purpose, that of saving lives in the event of a boating accident, this kind of device needs to be sent back to its manufacturer for overhauling to prepare it for future service. But in reading the Amazon reviews for these, anyone who has had to deploy it is well versed in these kinds of limitations. Also, EPIRB devices are only deployable when they come in contact with water or actually when they are submerged in water…I think.

    ACR GlobalFix Pro 406 2844 EPIRB Category II Rescue Beacon

    ACR GlobalFix Pro 406 2844 EPIRB Category II Rescue Beacon

    A Personal Locator Beacon

    These too are most often used in boating environments. But they have a much broader scope of user base too. In addition to being used by boaters and pilots as personal beacons, they are also popular among hikers, climbers and generally any outdoor adventure seekers too..especially in solo situations.

    ACR PLB-375 ResQLink+ Buoyant Personal Locator Beacon $249.00

    ACR GlobalFix Pro 406 2844 EPIRB Category II Rescue Beacon

    ACR GlobalFix Pro 406 2844 EPIRB Category II Rescue Beacon

    A Handheld GPS by Garmin…Garmin By Far Dominates the Personal Handheld GPS Market

    Garmin is widely recognized as a leader in the GPS industry and was probably the first to come out with standalone GPS units for cars. I had one of those, it was called a Garmin Nuvi, back in the days when most cars didn’t offer these as readily and prior to cellphones were in wide usage. It was great and I held onto to it for years after I no longer needed it because I felt it performed so well it seemed like a shame to just get rid of it when it might end up being useful again. Ultimately I gave it to my brother who either used it or sold it on eBay…I forgot to ask those followup questions because I didn’t get to see him that often, and when I did I didn’t think of it.

    These handheld GPS devices are useful for both trip planning and during trips to the wilderness. They are most often used by hunters, hikers, and campers, and they provide a broad range of services including trip recording, maps and location assistance, and even function as remotes for Garmin’s action cameras which appear to be competition to the widely popular GoPro brand. While this particular model was brandished with Amazon’s ‘Most Popular‘ banner, potential buyers should carefully read all the user reviews for this model. This model appears to have some potential problems and there are quite a few very similar models by Garmin at Amazon too.

    Garmin GPSMAP 64st, TOPO U.S. 100K with High-Sensitivity GPS and GLONASS Receiver $276.04

    Garmin GPSMAP 64st, TOPO U.S. 100K with High-Sensitivity GPS and GLONASS Receiver

    Garmin GPSMAP 64st, TOPO U.S. 100K with High-Sensitivity GPS and GLONASS Receiver

    Some of the Best Recent Articles About Bluetooth Tracking Devices

    I’ve really only scratched the surface in this post, choosing to dedicate more time to the various types of technology and then to how the TrackR actually works at the expense of thorough coverage on the large number of bluetooth trackers out there. One reason for doing so is because there are already several really great resources which provide exactly that kind of information, which I’m including below.

    I love this article by the VergeThe Slippery Slope of Bluetooth Trackers’ because it sounds exactly like me and what will happen as I begin to use these little gadgets. In a matter of a day I’ve already out 3 in place!

    And this app extensive comparison by the Wirecutter is by far the most comprehensive comparison I’ve run across.

    Tom’s Guide to the Best Key Finder’s in 2017 is another exhaustive coverage article in which they’ve personally conducted testing on each of the products they discuss.

    My last recommendation is a YouTube channel by ModernDayFamilyMan. This eoguy seems to be obsessed with bluetooth trackers…which for review purposes isn’t a bad thing. So the video I’m sharing is his ‘Tracker Versus Tile – the Ultimate Showdown‘ one. From there you’ll be able to see all the others that he’s produced.

    TrackR's can be engraved

    TrackR’s can be engraved

    Conclusion…Save Your Money & Try the TrackR Tablet Free ios App

    I can’t heartily recommend any of these devices currently…although if you have a bunch of them handed to you I’d definitely give them a go. But right now, reviews everywhere for TrackR are less than glowing…and all of the other devices, including Tile seem to have similar problems, on and off again. One notable exception is the iota tracker. I really love the concept behind this tracker and I don’t think it’s price is outrageous given what it does, but I checked their local coverage map and there are very few users of the system in my area. Therefore the crowd sourced feature, which is a big part of it wouldn’t really be available to me.

    One possibly brilliant strategy might be this. You can set aside the inherent problems of bluetooth it seems to me when considering use of TrackR’s free ios app that they call TrackR Tablet which appears to work exactly like their standalone devices do. Which leaves me thinking that if you’re planning on using this for your cellphone, why not just use their free app rather than buy one of their tracking devices? You can even extend it’s use to protect your purse for example, because your phone would always be in your purse when you’re out and about.

    There’s such a plethora of devices out there, and so many have very minor differences but then again in some cases there are some major feature differences, that I think if you have a specific purpose in mind it might be worthwhile to check at a place like Amazon that offers a huge selection of these for whatever single purpose use devices might be available. But in terms of buying a whole slew of anyone of these models right now to protect every important thing you own…as warned against in the Verge article I linked to above…I’d seriously advise against it.

    Amazon Associate Disclosure: I’m an Amazon Associate therefore I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through my link. This has no impact on price or any other consequence for you.

    Comments

    I love to get feedback from my readers…so leave a comment if you feel inspired!

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Find Which Folder an Apple Note is Stored In


I Googled answers to the question “how can I find out which folder an Apple note is in“…but couldn’t find any answer. Since this question crops up for me repeatedly, I thought I’d publish my own solution.

IMG_1423

Apple Notes Folder Structure

I love several aspects of Apple Notes but the one I love the most is speed while multitasking. Unlike my other favorite note taking app Evernote, which doesn’t function very quickly while multi-tasking, which granted is partially my own fault because I keep my notes locked with a passcode, using Apple Notes to jot down quick things I need to remember is amazingly fast! But because I use it a lot for things like that, I end up with a ton of notes, which I try to organize in some fashion into notebooks.

This is all done on the fly in a somewhat haphazard manner, meaning that not a lot of thought goes into it. So occasionally during one of my infrequent bouts of trying to organize and cleanup the mess, I’ll mass move many notes into a notebook which could have gone into a different notebook too. And then I can’t find them again. What’s worse is if I want to put a new note on the same subject with others I know I have, but I can’t find at that moment.

Apple Notes Search Tool Isn’t Always Great, and Doesn’t Show You Notebook Names When it Works

Sometimes Apple Note’s search function is great…but sometimes it isn’t. I haven’t yet noticed a pattern for this. Maybe it’s bandwidth related, or RAM related or battery related…but whatever the cause…sometimes Apple Note’s search function fails to find any of the notes I’m searching for.

If an Apple Note’s search is successful for me and if I do manage to find a note using it, finding out which notebook that note is contained in, up until now has proven to be impossible for me.

But today I had a Eureka moment and figured out a way to do this!

How to Figure Out the Notebook Name of a Note

My method works regardless of whether nor not I’m using the search tool. The key is to pretend like I’m going to move the note. When you’re moving a note Apple Note’s greys out the name of the notebook that the note currently resides in, as shown in the screenshot below.

Screenshot displaying the notebook location of the note I'm moving.

Screenshot displaying the notebook location of the note I’m moving.

How to ‘Pretend’ Move a Note

The next 3 screenshots describe the process of ‘pretend moving’ a note.

First tap on the word 'Edit'

First tap on the word ‘Edit’

Next place a check mark in the box of the note you want to locate.

Next place a check mark in the box of the note you want to locate.

Look for the 'greyed out' notebook title.

Look for the ‘greyed out’ notebook title.

Conclusion

So there you have it…my new method of finding out which notebook a note is in. It did dawn on me while writing this that this method is so simple, it’s quite possible the reason I never found it when Googleling it is because no one bothered to write out these steps…but for some reason I don’t think that’s the case. Only time will tell when I see my Stats a few weeks from now!

Comments

Please leave any comments here.

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Why You Should Never Use Public WiFi’s & My Tiny Hardware Firewall Review

My New Tiny Hardware Firewall

My New Tiny Hardware Firewall

Introduction

I’m writing a very long article on Firewalls because we just replaced our home Firewall and I was researching my options before selecting one. I was surprised to see how many new categories of Firewalls there are now. Many for home use and even some for travel…which is the category that Tiny Hardware Firewall falls into. Or, perhaps portable is a better term.

I’ve known for several years that using public networks was dangerous…but I never completely understood the extent of the danger. Nor did I know of an alternative if I had to use one.

Which is why I’m writing this post. I learned about a great solution for when you need to use public networks.


If You Don’t Want to Read Everything Just Scroll Down to Watch the Video I Label ‘Must See‘ Towards the Bottom and Read the Article Immediately Following it.


What’s a Public Network?

A public network is any network that is available for use without a password…meaning it’s unsecured and anyone can join it. So Starbucks, the airport, a business convention you might be at…any network that lets lots of strangers join it might be a better definition.

What I didn’t realize was that other public networks which may require passwords like at a hotel, hospital or a large clinic’s like Mayo in Rochester, and even onboard an airplane, may be equally dangerous. Because just a password only isn’t the thing that protects you…or the determining factor really. It’s whether or not the network is encrypted. And if it has a password there’s a better chance it’s encrypted. But non-password networks can also be encrypted…so it gets confusing. I think the safest way to think about a public network is that it’s any network that allows a lot of strangers onto it. Because for sure, it’s all those strangers that raise the risk factors a lot.

Although I didn’t understand how, I’d always assumed that when you entered a password to join a network that somehow made the network safe to use. But I was wrong…and the fact that my Facebook account has been hacked multiple times while on vacation and while using hotel networks with passwords should have been my clue.

I also learned that oftentimes using apps is even worse. Because so many apps don’t bother using secured communications. Pinterest and EBay are 2 good examples of completely unsecured apps. Last I learned that you can get into trouble even if you don’t use a public WiFi…just by leaving the WiFi receiver on your device turned on. You can learn more about that in this Time Magazine article. So if you’re using an ios device you can either turn WiFi off completely when you’re out. Or, turning on ‘Ask to Join Networks‘ if you need to leave WiFi on is better than nothing.

Why are Public Networks Dangerous?

Once again I don’t understand the exact logistics of how hacker’s do the things they do on public networks…but I do understand some of the risks…although it’s quite possible that I’m not aware of them all.

These are the main risks I know about:

  1. Your account credentials can be seen as you enter them and therefore stolen…which is how my Facebook account was hacked twice.
  2. Your personal information can be taken as well. Whether or not that occurs as a result of your actually typing it in or entering it while visiting a website…I’m not sure. But regardless this is a worrisome enough aspect for me to think twice about using a public network.
  3. Your web browsing activities can be watched.

The risks are probably greater than just those above…but I can only speak to things I know for a fact to be true. If you’re interested in seeing just how easy it is to hack someone’s device you can watch this YouTube video which demonstrates the 10 best Android hacking apps for 2017.

How to Protect Yourself on Public Networks

The obvious answer is to not use them. But that’s not practical for things like vacations when you need to rely upon hotel networks. Because generally your only alternative is your cell plan’s network which isn’t intended for high volume things like uploading lots of vacation photos, and can therefore become very expensive quickly.

You can take a hotspot with a better cell plan along with you and we do that too. We bought a Verizon hotspot and it’s great…but it’s expensive too. We have a small $50 per month plan because it’s monthly and many months we don’t use it. We could increase it for vacations…but we run the risk of forgetting to decrease it when we get back home…so even this isn’t a great solution. We also tried 2 different ones that we just paid for when we used them…but they had huge problems. The monthly plan options just seem to work a lot better.

I recently discovered a much better solution which is the 2nd main subject of this post…using a portable Firewall which also includes a VPN. That’s exactly what the Tiny Hardware Firewall is.

Example of how my Tiny Firewall protects me

Example of how my Tiny Firewall protects me

How Does a Portable Firewall with a VPN Protect You?

The way you use a portable Firewall is by connecting it to a network and then connecting your devices to it. Because it stands between you and any dangers it can protect you in numerous ways which depend upon your preferences. It can offer security services which examine all of the incoming and outgoing traffic to decide if it’s safe or not before allowing it. It can include ad blockers and malware blockers. Last, with the addition of a VPN, it can keep all of your data hidden so no one has access to it.

Think of the VPN part like this. The Firewall connects to the public network then it uses the VPN to create a protected tunnel for all your communications to go through. So even though your data is traveling on a public network…it’s doing so inside this protected tunnel. No one can see it or access it. Your data is completely hidden.

Why is a Portable Firewall the Best Solution?

The main reasons boil down to speed and cost. When you use a cellular hotspot you’re using cellular network speeds…when you’re using a firewall you’re using true network speeds like those that are provided by broadband, DSL or Fiber. Cellular plans are expensive too and recurring. You never know in advance how expensive though because you can go over your plan’s limits easily and end up incurring huge charges for that. I know this from personal experience too.

A few years ago we arrived home from a Mediterranean cruise to a $13,000 cell phone bill!

During our cruise I had been in constant contact with our cell provider to make sure that we weren’t incurring large, unknown costs. I spent (really wasted) so much time doing that…because it took hours sometimes to even reach someone at our cell provider’s international division. But my actions were our saving grace too. Had I not done that our cell provider would not have ultimately reversed all those charges.

Aren’t VPN’s Expensive?

There is an ongoing cost for using a VPN but it’s pretty reasonable when compared to a cell plan. Our Tiny Firewall’s chosen VPN costs about $100 a year. Because I can have up to 4 users on my Tiny Firewall at the same time, it’s like I’m getting 4 VPN subscriptions for the price of one. That’s equivalent to 2 months of the cost for our Verizon Hotspot’s service…which is the lowest priced plan Verizon offers.

Are VPN’s Slow and Hard to Use?

That’s what I always thought. But I guess things have changed a lot. I think a VPN’s speed is actually determined in great part by the speed and bandwidth of the network you’re using. So our network at home gives us 300 Mbps down and when I tested out the new VPN on it we ran two iPads simultaneously streaming YouTube videos. The speed was amazing! There was no buffering and the display quality was excellent!

Using the VPN inside our Tiny Firewall is super easy too. We just turn it on with a little slider button.

Tiny Hardware Firewall's website

Tiny Hardware Firewall’s website

My Review of the Tiny Hardware Firewall

Using the VPN was super easy…but setting up the Tiny Firewall initially wasn’t. Luckily I had help in the form of the network consultant who was installing our new home Firewall.

I’m super lucky that I had his help, because I learned a lot about how these work and  what’s involved in the setup. Now that I understand the process, I know I could do it…but I would have struggled before.

It took about an hour for he and I working together to get it all set up. Then after he left I played around with it for about a half hour to make sure I knew how to use it. I wrote a Step by Step guide for myself to remember how to use it, which I thought I would share here.

I probably could have setup the Tiny Firewall myself…but it probably would have taken me much longer to do. Maybe around 4 or 5 hours total. I did end up having to go through about half the setup again the first time we traveled using it, because no one but me could join the network it broadcast. In my efforts to discover the cause of the problem, I reset much of what our firewall guy had accomplished. So in the end I had to learn almost everything about the setup process myself too. The Tiny Firewall’s 27 page User Guide was my only resource and it assumes a lot of networking expertise I lack. But the guide is comprehensive and after rereading it multiple times I finally understood enough to get ours functional again.

Using the Tiny Firewall is Easy & Seamless Once it’s Setup

So here’s my primary review:

The Tiny Hardware Firewall is simple to use and amazing once it’s setup. When you want to use it somewhere you first join the firewall’s network with your device, and then use a browser to have the firewall join the public network you’re near. While doing that step you also enable the VPN. The whole process takes less than a minute.

It’s well worth the price of $132 that I paid for it. Part of that price is the $91 for the VPN which we’ll need to renew in 1 year’s time. The VPN which is HotSpotVPN is excellent and there is a support link for that if you run into trouble. WiFi Consulting, the company that makes the Tiny Hardware Firewall (THF) also owns and operates this VPN too. Which probably explains why the 2 work so seamlessly together.

The Firewall itself is also excellent…it’s got so many great features and it does some really cool things. That’s why I think the setup was hard, because despite the User Guide being excellent and long…27 pages…it’s probably a little too long for the average user to sit down and read in it’s entirety. Especially because it’s pretty dry reading and it uses a lot of network terminology that most people don’t understand.

You can’t fault a product for being too excellent!

For example, the Firewall operates in 3 main modes…Client Mode, Access Point Mode and Wireless to Wireless Mode. There are descriptions of what these are and even diagrams, but for people who’ve never done much networking, even those things aren’t really enough. Everything about the Tiny Firewall is based upon those 3 modes, so understanding them and which one is most appropriate for your own use is critical.

My understanding of what the 3 modes are. 

Client Mode

Client Mode is a wireless connection between two routers only. A router in Client Mode connects to another wireless Access Point (the host router). It uses its wireless connection as the WAN interface, and shares the internet connection only to the LAN ports. It’s used in networking a lot as a bridge, but for the Tiny Firewall’s purpose, this mode is primarily used for the initial setup.

Access Point Mode

AP mode is most often used to turn a wired connection into wireless one. The Tiny Firewall has 2 Ethernet ports…one for LAN and one for WAN. If you’re in a setting like a hotel where only wired internet is provided, you can use AP mode to create your own wireless network.

Wireless to Wireless Mode

This is the mode we primarily operate the Firewall in. It means that our Firewall device connects to a public network wirelessly and then we in turn connect to the Firewall wirelessly with our mobile devices.

My Suggestion to Tiny Hardware Firewall’s Developer

Personally, I think the developer should create a YouTube video that explains the setup process. It doesn’t need to be fancy or long, but it should show the screens involved and explain how and why average users would use the various features.

How to Use the Tiny Hardware Firewall

This is how I used the Tiny Firewall my first time on a recent family vacation. Once the Firewall was all setup, we used it in Wireless to Wireless mode. Which meant I connected the Firewall to a hotel’s wireless network, turned on the VPN and then had it broadcast a new network for my family to join.

The Steps We Follow Each Time We Want to Use the Firewall

Me Only – First login to the router to enable the VPN:

  1. Give the router power by plugging it in.
  2. Wait about 3 minutes for it to boot up.
  3. Join the wireless network it creates. (I gave this wireless network a randomly generated ssid and password during the setup process.)
  4. Go to the IP address for it using a web browser.
  5. Connect it to the hotel’s WiFi
  6. Turn on the VPN

How Other People Get On to The VPN & Firewalled Network

  1. Go to network settings on your device and look for the wireless network the Tiny Firewall broadcasts.
  2. Join the network by entering the password (so far all the passwords I’ve seen it generate are in all caps 
  3. On ios devices turn off ‘Ask to Join Networks‘ so your device stays on the protected network.
The TOR Browser uses an onion for a logo

The TOR Browser uses an onion for a logo

Some More Cool Features of the Tiny Firewall | The TOR Network

My model allows up to 4 devices on the network at the same time. There are 2 smaller versions which I believe are single user. With mine, internet connections can be hardwired using an Ethernet connection or wirelessly. There’s also a TOR network included which I’ve never tried but have always wanted to explore. TOR is the way hackers get onto the deep web…it’s a highly protective browser that keeps you extra safe and hidden and virtually untraceable. You can read more about TOR here and visiting the dark web here. From what I’ve read recently though the dark web isn’t really around much anymore, since Silk Road an infamous market for criminals was taken down about 3 years ago.

In October 2014 a popular Wired Magazine writer, Andy Greenberg, wrote about a device very similar to the Tiny Firewall in what turned out to be one of the most read articles of the month at Pocket, a widely used Read it Later service. His article, ‘With This Tiny Box, You Can Anonymize Everything You Do Online‘ talked about a new Kickstarter campaign for a similar type of device by anonabox which was developed and refined for the sole purpose of running the open source software Tor, considered the best and most secure way to access the Internet anonymously. All traffic coming out of or going into your computer or network is encrypted this way. The result is strong, secure anonymity. Using the anonabox hides your location, as well as all the other personal data that leaks through ordinary Internet use. In the end the anonabox device had a lot of problems and didn’t end up becoming the panacea everybody had hoped for. There are several other brands of similar devices now that offer various features, but all are intended just for TOR access primarily. So, while many people including me believed TOR is used only by criminals, it’s actually used by regular people too who just want anonymity online.

The Wired article states that “no tool in existence protects your anonymity on the Web better than the software Tor, which encrypts Internet traffic and bounces it through random computers around the world. But for guarding anything other than Web browsing, Tor has required a mixture of finicky technical setup and software tweaks. Now routing all your traffic through Tor may be as simple as putting a portable hardware condom on your ethernet cable.” At that time he described similar efforts to develop devices of that nature with varying degrees of success, all priced similarly to that of the Tiny Hardware Firewall’s price of around $40 for the base unit without the VPN service.

Now, 2 years later with the addition of the TOR network as a feature bundled along with a fast, reasonably priced VPN, the Tiny Hardware Firewall appeared to me to be the one standout amongst tech-minded individuals, which is why I chose it. There might be easier solutions…but I wanted the best and I was willing to put in the time learning to have it.

Where to buy the Tiny Hardware Firewall

I purchased mine from the developer’s website. I got the most expensive version which allows 4 users both wired and wireless…and mine has an antenna. We discovered setting it up that the antenna really does make a difference too. Mine was about $132 including shipping. That price also includes a one years subscription to their VPN service. There are smaller, less expensive models too…there are four in total. Ours arrived in about 3 days via UPS and we had to sign for the delivery.

Here’s a link to the website where I purchased ours from.

4 models of the Tiny Hardware Firewall

4 models of the Tiny Hardware Firewall

2 Great ‘Must See’ Tools if You Want to Quickly Learn How Easily Public Networks are Hacked & How to Stay Safe

If you don’t have a lot of time to spend learning about ways to stay safe, this section includes 2 links which together should bring you up to speed on everything you need to know to understand the threats and to keep yourself safe. So, consider these links together as a mini course about public WiFi safety.

This excellent 20 minute YouTube video demonstrates an easy method hacker’s use to hack public networks with a device similar to my new Tiny Firewall (which is basically a tiny router.) At about 17 minutes in he shows how to use a device like the Tiny Firewall for good to protect yourself.

This great article written by the FTC adds some more information you should know about for keeping safe.

Additional Resources

Here’s a great YouTube video that tells you a lot more about the Tiny Firewall

Here’s a link to the Tiny Firewall’s User Guide

A link about how to find out what kind of encryption a WiFi is using

WiFi Consulting offers another portable firewall called the BlackHoleCloud. When I got mine I was familiar with this but I didn’t entirely understand the differences. Since I had more information at my disposal on the Tiny Hardware Firewall, that’s the one I went with. But now I recognize that this might be an even better, faster solution so I’m including a link to a great review about the BlackHoleCloud Firewall.

Make Sure Your Home Network is Secure Too

Even when you’re not traveling you could be exposed to hackers if you haven’t bothered to secure the network that you use everyday. It’s not difficult to secure your network and it can be done in less than half an hour all by yourself. Nothing additional is needed other than you’re taking a little time to learn about why it’s important and how to do it. I wrote this guide for securing your home network, after I realized that somehow ours had become unsecured. Which tells me that this is something I need to check once in a while just to make sure my security is still in place.

If you’re wondering why securing your home router is so important, you can read my article about why I write this blog and how I became an unwillingly participant to the world of cyber security initially when our home network was taken over by a Botnet.

My Family’s Awful Experience Invaded by a Botnet Led to the Creation of vsatips

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Comments

Please leave a comment if you feel inspired! I’d especially love to hear about other solutions you may have tried.

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