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About Paul Banas

Paul Banas is happy married dad of two great kids living in San Francisco. He writes now about kids, new technology and how the two interact for GreatDad.com and for Pregnancy Magazine (pregnancymagazine.com) where he is also the publisher.

Here are my most recent posts

Review: Raumfeld One S wireless speaker system

I had a chance to sit down with the nice guys as Raumfeld who have the latest entry into the wireless speaker system category. During a morning meeting, I saw their full line of speakers which is similar to the basic set for competitors like Denon and Sonos. Like it’s competition, Raumfeld also has a play bar to accentuate TV sound, a sub-woofer and then three levels of speakers that can be used as single speakers or dual speakers to create home theatre sound or fill rooms big or small. Raumfeld does have a larger range than other manufacturers, so more choices but also more customization to your living situation.

The biggest draw to these speakers is that you can avoid re-wiring the house if you want to control sound throughout, or finally get rid of the clutter of an older system. The latter is what prompted me to dump my old college receiver and speakers in favor of a SONOS system two Christmases ago. I don’t think any manufacturers promise to deliver better sound quality than an analog stereo system using big speakers, but you do get nice looks, connection to music services and full control from mobile device or laptop.

All the marketing materials for the wireless speaker companies make big promises for even their small speaker’s abilities to fill a room with sound. However, a small speaker, even from the best company, can only do so much. The trick, or financial challenge, is to buy the size of speaker or speakers you need to fill the room you have rather than hope that a $199 single speaker could somehow duplicate your current big speaker system.

I don’t pretend to be an audiophile, but I do like what I consider good music: jazz and classical with a smattering of pop thrown in. The Raumfeld demo I heard provided rich sound, good bass and improved TV. If you’re really serious about sound quality — the last 1% of sound difference — look to experts to delineate between the sound in different systems. What we can help with is ease of use, attractiveness of cabinetry, and additional features.

The guys at Raumfeld gave me a Raumfeld One S, just now available for sale in the U.S. to try out the features in my own house.

* Ease of use: a Raumfeld system was very easy to set up. The iPhone app interface walks you through a few simple steps to connect to your WIFI and you’re done.

* Appearance: All speakers have a black front but you have the option of white or black trim. The unit is a standard box size, which is good if you need to fit into a bookcase.

* Price: Competitive with SONOS Play 1 ($199) at $249 at Amazon.

* Features:

  • As of February, SONOS and Denon have a big lead in the race to add music services. Raumfeld has just added SoundCloud and will add Google Cast including Pandora, iHeartRadio and other popular services this Spring.
  • What Raumfeld has that (all?) other speakers don’t is a series of buttons on the top of the speaker which can be used for preset music services or radio. Sometimes you don’t want to pull out your phone to change the channel. Like its competition, box-top controls also feature volume up and down.

I like the Raumfeld look and sound and would recommend it among options in the category. If your favorite music service is not among those offered by Raumfeld, it likely will be at some point. On the other hand, it’s worth checking out the current list to avoid disappointment after you plug it in.

GreatDad.com Review Policy: The featured product for this review was provided to us, at no cost, by the manufacturer or representing PR agency for the sole purpose of product testing. We do not accept monetary compensation for reviewing or writing about products. We only review products that we have personally tested and used in our own homes, and all opinions expressed are our own.

ThinOPTICS reader glasses for far-sighted dads

ThinOPTICS reader glasses are super small “reader” glasses perfect for dads who suddenly need a little help to read small print. I’m luckily not among those who need these (yet) but I have been nearsighted for most of my life so I know what it’s like to be frustrated by not being able to see. I saw these at CES 2016 and was impressed by how these were created to be affordable, portable and convenient for dads (and moms) who might need glasses only for certain occasions. These are so small, you can attach them to the wall near the phone, or even in a wallet (perhaps not under your butt though). The bridge fits over all noses and sticks thanks to fine grade sandpaper that makes them comfortable to wear even though they don’t have “temples” to fit around your ears. You can move them up and down your nose to get the right focus.

The glasses come in different fashion colors and include a “pod” for easy storage. They lie almost completely flat.

Amazon sells them for $25.

Love Handle iPhone grip

I don’t know why nobody has done this before, but I just saw the

LoveHandle phone or tablet grip at CES and while it’s a simple little device, it gives you a little security that you’re not going to lose your phone or tablet while you’re taking picture or clumsily texting.

Two things are key here. First, the adhesive is rated at 50 pounds so the handle is not going anywhere. Second, you can easily remove the LoveHandle with no residue if you decide it’s not for you.

At $7.95, this is just what I need, if only for those times I’m on a roller coaster or zipline and don’t want to skip the shot for fear of losing my phone.

Griffin Survivor Apple TV remote cover

Griffin Survivor case for Siri Apple TV remoteIf you’re looking for a great gift add-on item for your new Apple TV, or just something to protect the cool Siri remote, get this Griffin remote cover. It slips on in a flash and protects the sides of the remote, but importantly, helps protect the glass trackpad from some collisions.

If you have the new Apple TV, you know that the remote gets used in ways that it didn’t before, especially for games. This silicone cover is a good investment in protecting a small device clearly prone to accidents.

Griffin Survivor Play Siri Remote for Apple TV – $19.99 from Griffin store.

GreatDad.com Review Policy: The featured product for this review was provided to us, at no cost, by the manufacturer or representing PR agency for the sole purpose of product testing. We do not accept monetary compensation for reviewing or writing about products. We only review products that we have personally tested and used in our own homes, and all opinions expressed are our own.

Be careful when shopping for your Christmas tree

What happened to us after we chose our tree shocked us, but we hear it’s not all that uncommon.

We always shop for our tree as a family, from the early days when smaller members had to be carried into the tree lot. Now they bound around out of sight, but it’s still a family ritual. To avoid frayed nerves, we only go tree shopping and plan for no other events.. We don’t even pretend to have the focus or energy to buy a tree, carry it in AND decorate all in one night. And on this cloudy Friday evening, our aspirations were even lower because it had been a long week. The only way I could convince my wife to even go was by promising that we wouldn’t even carry the tree into our house, but would leave it on the car in the garage until the next day.

So off we went, squabbling a little about after-tree dinner choices, but in general, in a holiday mood of peace and togetherness. We arrived at the tree place, found a great parking spot and aimed ourselves toward the seven to eight-footers. “Did you bring the stand?” my wife innocently inquired. Whoops! No stand. We have to go back home.

“We’ll stay here while you drive home and get the stand,” I heard someone naively suggest.

“Everyone back in the car,” was my response and 15 minutes later but still in surprisingly good moods, we parked again and carried our stand toward the forest of trees. My daughter and I gamely tried to make a deja vu moment even more deja vu by trying to repeat our earlier conversations. I love the way kids will enter into games like that just for fun.

We searched for five or six minutes and found the “perfect” tree, like a special snowflake in a mountain of snow. “Wrap it up. We’re getting this one,” I told the South African sales guy (for some reason a good part of the crew was South African, as if their Christmas is held in July during their Winter and now they were free to work during ours). I handed him our stand while he scribbled our name and price down on a tag he then tied on the tree. We went inside a tent where we paid for our tree and garland, and I threw in some mistletoe, forever optimistic that an artificial green branch might net me more holiday action than I deserve.

Still in fine spirits, the only thing left to do was have the guys wrap the tree in netting and tie it to our car. I had a ten spot in my pocket wadded up for a tip. I sent my wife and the kids to wait in the car and I stood around for five minutes patiently waiting for the tree to be ready. After a bout of tree recognition anxiety, I realized our tree was gone!

A shorter version of our tree wearing an imitation of the family tree stand sat forlornly at the end of the parking lot. Could someone have grabbed our tree as a taller upgrade and left it’s shorter brother on the field of battle? As we and the crew searched the lot, the reality that our tree was probably already being erected elsewhere had to be discussed. I finally had to go tell the family the sad news. With flagging energy, I couldn’t imagine walking around again trying to find the perfect tree amongst the ones we’d already declined. My son, however, took the stolen tree as a symbol of a stolen Christmas that could never be put right.

The tree guys were great about the loss. While they surprisingly had very little memory of us, our stand, or our tree (after all, it had been 5 minutes), they put us on priority and let us pick from any tree on the lot. While in my son’s eyes, nothing could replace the tree he had made a life-long bond with, my wife wanted the 9-footer momentarily forgetting how hard a 7-footer is to get into the house.

Hours later, with the tree comfortably resting atop the car in the garage, we all could relax and plan for the next day’s adventure: making some cookies. But first, we’ll have to get that tree off the car and up three flights of stairs before we can finally be sure it’s ours.