I was emailed an offer to try out the Rachio Iro sprinkler system, described as easy to set up and use. "As for the sprinkler, you plug it in where your old controller was and then it helps create a customized watering schedule with your home Wi-Fi network. You then can change or update it from your phone anywhere you have a signal."
Sure enough, it was pretty much that easy.
This isn't one of those plug-'n'-play devices, there are instructions for the setup, including step-by-step instructions and video tutorials on the website, which are a great help.
Since it did involve electrical work (connecting wires) I had a friend over who has much more electrical knowledge than I, although after watching him connect it, there's nothing to it. Rachio gave a recommendation to take a photo of the wiring before you do anything, which is a great idea.
With the Rachio Iro system, you need a constant Wi-Fi signal hitting the box. That allows control of the system from any smartphone, tablet or computer anywhere in the world.
Before you begin the physical setup, you may need to relocate your Wi-Fi router or extend your existing Wi-Fi signal to reach the Rachio box.
The box has flashing LEDs to indicate whether you have a good signal.
I've always wanted the greenest lawn on the street, and controlling the water schedule is always a challenge.
The Rachio system replaces your existing controller without needing to
do anything to the sprinklers.
Once you're hooked up, set up your zones for which days you want it to run and for how long.
If you're on the other side of the country and get a warning for heavy rain coming on a day the sprinklers are set to turn on, no problem. Just turn on the app (free at the Apple App Store and Google Play) and shut down your system for the day.
It's that easy.
Epson photo paper
The only problem with Epson's new luster metallic inkjet photo paper is I liked it so much that I kept printing and printing and printing. That meant using more and more ink, but with the look of this metallic paper, it was worth every drop.
When metallic photo papers were first introduced to the consumer market it raised a lot of eyebrows. But it certainly gets the WOW factor when you see the finished prints.
If you're not familiar with metallic paper, this description, as printed on the outside of the box, will either explain it well or make your head spin.
"Designed with an incredible Dmax and rich color gamu, this semi-gloss E surface, photographic paper features a unique metallic surface that provides extreme sharpness and depth."
What this high quality paper does is make colors incredibly vibrant. In some ways, you can say it has a 3D look.
Either way, the colors are so vibrant it kept me printing for hours.
The paper is available with luster or glossy finish in sizes from 8.5 x 11 inches, 25 sheet packs for $24, up to 36 inches x 100-foot rolls for $359.
Seven-port charging hub
Not that far back I wrote that if you can have four USB charging ports instead of two, it's twice as good.
With the new VisionTek High Power USB Seven Port Charging Hub ($49.99), you get seven ports for fast charging of smartphones, eReaders, tablets, gaming devices, Apple, Android, etc. or anything that needs a USB charge. All at once.
It's built with four 1A and three 2.4-amp ports to enable charging for the most power hungry devices.
There's no need for a computer connection; all you need is an AC wall outlet to plug it in along with your own USB cords for the devices needing a charge.
Just imagine how popular you would be at an airport where everyone is looking for a charging port.
VisionTek also has a new four-port hub ($19.99) and a seven-port USB 3.0($54.99) for higher speeds.
Gregg Ellman, gadget guru, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @greggellman.