Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Product review: Ivation Universal Smartphone Camera Lens Kit All Smartphones,10x Telephoto Lens,Fisheye Lens, Macro Lens


This lens kit exceeded my expectations. I am attaching a slide show of the photos taken with the lenses in this kit. I thought the photos came out quite well. I included photos from the same spot with and without the lenses so you can see the difference. My favorite lens in the kit in a fisheye lens, it allowed me to take very interesting photos that I could not take without it, the photos are always sharp no fussing with the lens is needed. 10X lens gives good magnification, but requires manual focus so it takes a bit of work to get crisp photos. But as you see in the photo I was able to take photos of bees on flowers. About half of the bee photos I took were sharp and half I did not quite got right. Photography is one of my favorite hobbies, so I am really enjoying these lenses. Photos with my phone are much more satisfying now!

You can find this lens kit on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Monday, August 24, 2015

Product review: CHILIPET bird feeder


This is a very simple bird feeder. The metal mesh container screws into the round metal top. The seed container is 8" long, and the round top is 8.5" wide. The top has a short metal loop that can be hung on a branch or a sheppard's hook.

We have a motion activated wild life camera aimed at this bird feeder, so we had a lot of fun watching all the critters who discovered the bird feeder.

We filled the bird feeder with sunflowers. We have a couple of other bird feeders and sunflowers seem to be their favorite food.

From experience with other bird feeders we know that birds like to have perches. To add perches to this birder feeder we put three twigs through the mesh. As you see in attached video the birds used them extensively, however sometimes they did just hang on to the mesh without using the mesh. When the bird feeder has perches there is a lot more traffic at the bird feeder. However, the perches are removed by squirrels (see delightful video which captured it) because perches poke squirrels in the belly.

Speaking of squirrel... Does this bird feeder have squirrel proof mesh? No! As you see in attached video the squirrels had no problem enjoying the sunflower seeds. Squirrels are very smart. It took the squirrel several attempts to find the best way to get the seeds, but they figured it out within a few hours. We have three resident squirrels and each one found a slightly different way of using the feeder.

If this is your first bird feeder be patient as it takes birds some time to find the bird feeder. When we put up our first bird feeder it had no birds for about a week. Because we have other bird feeders it took them about two days to discover this one.

You can find this bird feeder on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Product review: Vacuum Head with Turbo Cleaning Brush for the VonHaus 600W 2-in-1 Upright Stick & Handheld Vacuum Cleaner


I love VonHaus stick vacuum. I have been using it for almost a year on weekly basis. It works great on tile and hardwood and weighs under 3 pounds. However its vacuum head does not have a brush so it does not work well on carpets which I noted in my review of the vacuum. The folks at VonHaus decided to address this issue by introducing a new vacuum head with a brush and asked me to give it a try to see if it works better,

Kudos to VonHaus for trying to address the issue, unfortunately, the answer is that the new head is only marginally better. Even on the carpet with a very short nab it took several passes to pick up small pieces of debri. It performed similarly on the carpet with higher nap. When I tried the new head on tile it did not work as well as the original brush because the opening is smaller and some of the hair got tangled on the brush instead of being sucked into the vacuum. I also did not think it was as good on hardwood as I was worried about the brush scratching the wood finish.

Is it better on carpets than the original head? Yes. But not as good as my other vacuums with rotating brushes.
You can find this vaccum head on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Through the years we own a few dash cams which gives me a chance to compare Kehan with other car dvrs. Kehan video quality is on par with the best and it has a couple of unique features. Note that the video included with this review is highly compressed and does not represent what you get straight out of the camera.

♦ The unique feature I value most is that it works with 64G micro SD cards (where as my other dash cams could only do 32G).

♦ The second difference is that the dvr itself is very compact both in thickness and overall size. The buttons that control the action are on the bottom of the camera. The labels are on the front of the camera above the controls. This configuration decreases the dimensions of the dash cam, which I like because it covers less of the windshield.

♦ One other small but nice thing is that I did not have to set the time, the dash was automatically set using GPS as soon as I turned on the camera for the first time.

♦ The video quality is very good. Attached video shows the camera under different conditions: overcast, sunny, driving into the sun, driving when it is totally dark. It has done well even under challeging condition, driving into the sun and at night it was able to adjust for high contrast better than the other dash cams.

♦ I had no technical issues of any kind. All files were readable. The camera writes out video frequently (not one large file at the end as some cameras do) which improves overall reliability. By default the camera writes out files every 2 minutes, each file is 188.9MB when shot in 1920 x 1080 (the default).

♦ This camera has an excellent suction cup mount, stayed on even on rough roads.

♦ The dash cam uses stands micro USB cables, the package includes a chargine cable and a cable with car port adapter. One minor quip is that the USB cord just reaches the usb charger in our car. I would have liked it about 3 inches longer, but replacing a USB cable is so easy that this is really very minor.

♦ The cam has an LED display so I can tell that the cam is aimed correctly, by default displays on so I can see the camera is capturing.

♦ Audio is recorded clearly, the default setting is to record with the microphone turned on.

♦ Keehan camera has an auto turn on/auto turn off feature. It turns on as soon as it gets power so you don't have to remember to turn it on. It can be turned off manually if desired. When it is turned on and turned off it greets you and when you turn it off it says good bye. For me it is a don't care, but for some reason my husband really likes it and talks back to it!

♦ The user interface is straightforward and the manual is one of the better one I have seen explaining every function in a grid table.

♦ Here are a couple of notes on usage that were not in the manual.
- To see the menu you need to hit "ok" to stop recording first
- To get to settings you need to hit the mode button followed by the menu button, then navigate with up and down keys
- While you are driving the microphone can be turned on and turned off by pressing "mode" button, which is the second one from the right when looking at the screen

Overall, I was impressed with the camera and the video it captured.

You can find this dash cam on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


When it comes to keyboards I am a throw back that likes the feel of a mechanical keyboard. It took me a little time to get used to how this keyboard feels with its buzzy feedback to my touch. I would not use it instead of my regular keyboard, however on the road when I travel I am able to use it productively for serious typing. The keys are spaced out very well and the keyboard is quite sensitive to my light tough (I don't pound).

The keyboard is extremely thin and very flexible. It weighs on 3.2 oz and is easy to pack no matter how stuffed my luggage is. Because it so flexible to use the keyboard you have to have something under it - a table or a large book. The keyboard size is 12.25" x 4.375", its thickness is 1/16".

I can type with fewer typos and faster than using on screen keyboard. In the video I am using iPad Mini, but it also paired without problems with my other devices. I had to enter the code a few times as I was getting used to the keyboard, but I got "trained" to do better as I got more practice.

You can find this travel keyboard on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Product review: AVANTEK 20000mAh External Battery Pack Power Bank


♦ size: 6.25" x 3.125" x 0.75"
♦ weight: 1 pound 1 oz
♦ number of ports: 3
♦ flashlight: yes
♦ cables: 1 charging cable

The external battery performed very well charging both my Android phone and Apple iPadMini tablet.

To see how well different chargers and external batteries charge my mobile devices I use a Nexus phone and an iPadMini to test each of them. The current drawn from the battery depends on each device using the battery. The port rated with maximum capacity of 2A does not always deliver 2A, what is actually delivered is controlled by the device based on many factors such running apps, level of charge, and so forth. I always use the same two devices and I do my tests with the devices charged to the same level, running the same applications and using the same cables to keep everything the same. This allows me to do a relative comparison of each battery and identify the ones that do not perform well. Note that these tests are not testing for the maximum current each device can draw on each port as neither of my devices can max out the port.

I check if the cable that came with the battery is a charging cable (i.e. capable of charging at full AC rate) or a data cable (charging the battery at USB rate). This is easy to tell using the current monitor, and this package includes a charging cable.

Samsung Nexus phone:
port 1: 0.99A/5.01V (excellent comparing the performance of the same device with other chargers)
port 2: 0.99A/5.02V (excellent comparing the performance of the same device with other chargers)
port 3: 1.01/5.01 V (excellent comparing the performance of the same device with other chargers)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this phone is 1.00A/5V)

As noted above these tests are not designed to test the maximum capacity of the port, so 2A port not showing 2A is not an indication of a problem

iPad Mini tablet:
port 1: 1.17A / 5.05V (ok comparing the performance of the same device with other chargers)
port 2: 1.13A / 5.04V (ok comparing the performance of the same device with other chargers)
port 3: 1.05A / 5.04V (ok comparing the performance of the same device with other chargers)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this tablet is 1.70A/5V)

The battery has a nice capacity and fast charging rate both both Android and Apple devices. I also use it to run a usb-powered fan and can get several days out of it on one charge.

You can find this power bank on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Friday, August 14, 2015

Product reveiw: DUXTOP UltraThin Full Glass Induction Cooktop


The best thing about this cooktop for me is that it keeps a steady temperature, this makes it much easier to cook some thing without worrying about burning. When searing steaks or making fried chicken the results come out better than using a conventional stove.

A ran a couple of experiments to help me see if the cooktop temperature is accurate and if it in fact holds the temperature at the point I set.

The temperature can be set in increments of 10, so to keep it just below boiling I set it to 200. I let it heat water for 12 minutes while measuring the water with a temperature probe (calibrated to be accurate within 2 degrees). The cooktop kept the temperature between 192 degrees and 183 degrees. This result was consistent on several tries. So even though there was a difference between the temperature the cooktop held and the specified goal temperature the there is difference between the two was consistent I can adjust for the difference (I use 10 degrees). I guess it is like learning a new oven they are all slightly different.

The second thing I measured is how it compares to my gas stove. I used the high powered gas burner and cooktop at its maximum setting (level of 10 and goal of 460 degrees). I used 1 cup of cold water and the same cast iron pan. The cooktop took 1 minute 50 seconds to bring it to boil. The gas stove took 2 minute 25 seconds before the water began boiling.

Another interesting difference was the distribution of heat. The cooktop began boiling in the center and then spread outwards (but still showed a hot spot in the center). On the gas stove the boiling began on the edges of the pan and then moved to the center of the pan.

The cooking surface is heated only when the pot is present. The control system shuts down the element if a pot is not present or not large enough. The cooktop itself does not get hot at all, so nothing gets burned and baked on it and it is very easy to clean by just wiping with a wet cloth.

Not every cookware works with the induction tops. This is because induction works by electromagnetic induction. This means to work on the induction top the pots must be made out of magnetic metal such as cast iron, stainless steel, and enamelled iron. In addition the bottom of the pan has to flat and make contact with the surface of the cook top and not too small (larger than 4.75" in diameter).

What cookware does not work? Heat-resistant glass, ceramic, copper, aluminium because none of them are magnetic.

I was able to cook pancakes at a constant and lower temperature and I thought they came out better this way. For steak I set the cooktop to the maximum temperature and the highest wattage. I was able to get the cast iron pan very hot which, of course, is the key to searing meat. For fried chicken, I set the temperature to 370 degrees (which translate to 380 degrees on the cooktop display) and cook it on both sides for 5 minutes, then finish it in the baking oven for 20 minutes at 375 degrees. The chicken comes out very crispy.

The cooktop is not as precise or as accurate as I hoped, but it is consistent so this is not a deal breaker just requires adjustment by the cook to know how their cooktop behaves. Everyone learns what to expect from their oven so this is similar.
You can find this induction cooktop on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★