Interesting Ideas: “Knock to Unlock” software…

I’ve been using this for a little over a week now and while it does have some issues with the LE Bluetooth connection to my phone (iPhone5), periodically causing me to quit and relaunch both apps (on the Mac and iPhone)… I gotta admit, it’s pretty awesome when it works.

There is about a 10 second lag from when I open up my rMBP in sleep mode to when I am able to knock on my phone (yes, I timed it), but it actually seems much shorter than that. I imagine this would be quite handy for folks out there with iMacs that are always on, locked, with a screen saver. When my computer is sitting there, locked and at the ready? It works like a charm with no wait whatsoever.

Other things I noticed:

  1. People out there flipping out about knocking on an iPhone clearly don’t own one. You’d think they were hitting it with a damn baseball bat instead of the knuckles on your hand! Please calm down. You don’t have to knock that hard at all for it to work.
  2. The initial setup is a breeze once your computer recognizes and pairs with your phone.
  3. True to their site description, your phone’s battery life doesn’t take a hit at all. It is one of the first interesting (and awesome) uses of Bluetooth LE that I’ve seen to date.
  4. Check out their site: knocktounlock.com, there’s some fun stuff going on in there.
  5. Before you buy, make sure your computer and phone are compatible!
  6. If, for whatever reason, your computer doesn’t find your phone via BT, don’t worry, you can still type your password in. Though that admittedly will make you snicker and doubt your purchase.
  7. If this app doesn’t make you hunger for the day that NFC (near field communication) proliferates our lives and devices a bit more, I don’t know what will.

I really hope they continue development for this fun idea! As I said, when it works it’s a lot of fun to watch (not to mention it’s a legit time-saver)!

Sold!! Where do I get it?

  • For your Mac, it’s free here.
  • For iOS, you can find it here, for $3.99 USD.

Hardware: Review of Logitech’s K750 and K760 Wireless Solar Keyboards

Apple Bluetooth Keyboard

For the last few years, I have been using my ever-faithful Apple bluetooth keyboard for my wireless keyboard needs (Laptop, iPad, iPhone, Mac Mini, you name it…). I chose it for the following reasons:

  1. It’s got a good form factor
  2. It is ruggedly built (I have dropped it several times and it has kept ticking without a hitch).
  3. Despite it’s form factor it has got a full size layout for its keys (sans number pad). Which is always important. I hate feeling cramped while typing.
  4. It pairs relatively easily with devices and the Mac-specific hotkeys at the top are quite quite handy (particularly when used with the iPad)
  5. It’s easy to grab and slide into my bag when I need to just go.

But, that all said, there are a few drawbacks. Small stuff mostly, but chief amongst them is the Apple keyboard’s need of batteries to function and it’s ability to have it’s bluetooth connection turned on by accident (draining the batteries of both your device and the keyboard) if the large button on its side gets touched by a feather.

Both of these issues caused me to reevaluate my selection of a keyboard and at least start to research what is out there nowadays for alternative options. Suffice it to say, I found a lot!

 

The best options built specifically for the Mac, that weren’t built by Apple, seemed to be offered by Logitech. They have a great selection with a lot of options, but in the end I settled on their series of solar powered keyboards. They support all of the current Apple command key shortcuts, have zero need for batteries (fully charged, it can be used for three continuous months in complete darkness) and, in the case of the travel version, they have the ability to hot swap between multiple bluetooth devices. Which is handy if you need to quickly disconnect from one device and quickly pair with another (from an iPad to a desktop, for instance).

Here are the two I went with:Logitech K760 Wireless Solar KeyboardFor the iPad I went with the Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K760

Logitech K750 Wireless Solar KeyboardAnd for the Mac Mini I splurged and snagged the full sized Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750 for Mac®

They both perform easily as well as their Apple manufactured counterparts and while they don’t feel as well built as Apple’s aluminum keyboards, they by no means feel cheap in any way.

Function-wise, they both have worked flawlessly. I love that the hotkeys (the “F” keys) that are in the top row of the Apple keyboard, can all be found on the Logitechs (the media-based buttons work even on the iPad!). Also, eco-stance aside, I really love that I don’t have to worry about having my rechargeable batteries around and charged up when my keyboard dies. The solar cell at the top, does change the footprint (and the aesthetic if that’s important to you) obviously, making the keyboard, in both cases, taller. But the exchange for battery life and the simple convenience of putting it in any kind of light to recharge it, definitely trumps these quibbles for me.

The bluetooth hot swapping on the K760? It works as advertised and is pretty damn amazing! Once paired up (easy to do as well) I was swapping between my iPad, iPhone and Macbook with a simple keystroke. It’s fast and way more convenient than I originally anticipated. Definitely not a gimmicky feature! It is the real deal and quite helpful.

One odd difference between the two? The K760 keys are WAY more “clicky” than the K750. So if you are into that, or are obsessive about stealth typing, than you may want to take a note of this. I noticed it right away.

Lastly, the K750 comes with a free app you can snag from the Mac App Store that gives you real time info on your charge and the amount of light/solar energy your keyboard is currently receiving. Pretty neat to bring up and watch, not to mention handy if you need to know how much juice your keyboard currently has left. Again, it’s only for K750, but it is well implemented on the Mac.

So if it wasn’t clear enough yet, I will come out and say it: I am pretty smitten with these keyboards! I’ve used the K750 for a month now and the K760 for a little over week. They have not given me one bit of buyer’s remorse. Quite the opposite actually. I wish more peripherals were made with this kind of utility and function.

Two thumbs up! Way up! Highly recommended!