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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Product review: Parall Ultra-Slim Wireless Charger Portable Charging Pad

video

I have been using Qi chargers with Nexus 5 for over a year. I love the technology, it is convenient and does not stress the micro USB connector by constantly needing to connect and disconnect it. I own several Qi chargers and through experience found several features that make some Qi Chargers work better in day to day use than others.

➀ Speed of charging

Some charger charge my phone faster than others. Speed is always important to me. I compared charging Nexus 5 with Parall Qi Charger to the same test run with the other chargers and found that it was one of the fastest. It charge the phone 7% in 10 minutes. I run the test at the same charge level, running the same apps, and keeping everything the same for an "apples to apples" comparison.

I also measured the charge rate with a current monitor. The current monitor showed ? A, which was again among the best.
current monitor: ~~~~~ 1.21A and 5.05V (Excellent)

➁ The size of the sweet spot
This is an area where the charger did not perform as well as the others. It has a very small sweet spot. I show this in the video for a better illustration of what I mean. I show both the phone on the charger and the current monitor which shows the rate at which the phone is charging. When it is perfectly aligned it draws an optimal charge. If the phone is moved a little bit the charging drops from an optimal rate to lower rate, and when it is moved a little more it draw no current and then the charger turns off. So if you accidentally brush against the phone and it moves it may stop charging. This is particularly important if you have small kids or pets who may touch things.

➂ How well the phone stays on the Qi charger

The phone can be easily knocked off the sweet spot of the charger unintentionally. The charges that handle those unintentional bumps best are the ones that have non-slippery finish. Parall has a very shiny and slick surface. It looks very nice but not ideal for creating friction. In addition the size of the charger is smaller than Nexus 5 which it slightly harder to align it perfectly.

My trick for charging on the go: When I need to charge the phone on the go (i.e. when it cannot lay flat) I double wrap a rubber band around the phone and the charger. This keeps the phone on a sweet spot charging in a pocket/purse. I like it better than having a micro USB connector which can be damaged if the phone/battery are jarred. The rubber band trick works very well with this Qi Charger because it is square and thin.

➃ How easy it is to see that the phone is charging

I like being able to see a visual indicator that the phone is charging. If the phones stops charging I like having a quick way of telling this without having to look at the phone charging status. Nexus 5 is 5.43" x 2.72" x .34" in size, Parall charger is 4.875" x 2.25" x 0.25" so Parall is smaller than Nexus 5. The indicator lights are faily large but can be seen only if I look under the phone.

➄ Is the battery using standard cables

I like the chargers that use a standard micro USB cable, so I don't need to worry about losing a special cable. Parall uses the standard micro USB cable. Excellent!

Bottom line? I thought it was good. Its thinness and shape makes the battery work well with my rubber band trick and that is very important to me for charging on the go. The charging is speedy. The small sweet spot is smaller than I like and requires extra attention to make sure the phone is aligned well.

You can find this qi charger on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Product review: Arlo Smart Home Security Camera System

video

There are things about this camera that I absolutely love and then there are things that I did not like however after over 2 weeks of continuous use I found a way to work around them.

I own a number of IP cameras (they helps us take care of an older relative) and I can say without hesitation that the video quality of this camera is better than all the others I have tried. Perhaps because of this really high quality of the video the response on the mobile device is quite slow. However, I found the performance using Arlo web site is much better and now I only use the mobile app when I have no access to my desktop. The second aspect of the camera that is excellent is the mount. I was able to mount the mount with adhesive tape outside. The camera attaches to the mount magnetically, so it is easy to point where I want it to point and is easy to remove it to change batteries. Speaking of batteries, the camera has been running slightly over 2 weeks on the same set of batteries and I have not had to change it so far. I will post an update when it runs out of juice. I love not having wires and the camera has no problem communicating with the control station (basically a router) which is in the computer room on the floor above where the camera is mounted. The router is in the middle of the room not next to the window.

I like
~~~~~~
1. The video quality is excellent. Very crisp, good color, high resolution. It can also capture good quality audio.
2. The set up was easy and the manual is well written
3. The package includes two cameras. The cameras look really slick, and the entire package looks and feels "high end"
4. Totally wire free (no power cable as it runs on batteries and it is WIFI). Each camera runs on four RCR123A. I purchased rechargeable batteries so I don't have to feed the camera new batteries. So far it has been 15 days and it is still running on the first set of batteries.
5. A magnetic mount which makes it easy to remove the camera to change the batteries or position the camera like you want it. I mounted the magnet mount with sticky tape as I placed it hanging down above the back door so I can see who is coming to the door.
6. I can see the video from the mobile device and from the Arlo web site
7. Good security. Requires a complicated password, uses a security question, the UI leads to set the password right away. Clearly these folks understand and care about security. I have encountered IP cameras that only allowed numbers in the password or only alphabetic characters. No such red flags here!

I did not like
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
1. There is a significant delay between the action and what the camera shows. See video where I show both the action and the mobile screen to demonstrate this.
2. The mobile app screen often display "buffering" and "please wait". The web site response has some delays but not significant.
3. There is no choice to change the resolution of the camera. I would be willing to give up some of the resolution if it would improve response time. I found only one reference to video quality. On Arlo web site, under camera settings, and power management I was able to change from "balance between video quality and battery life" to "best battery life" which in parenthesis told me it may reduce video quality. I still see "buffering" message and the video quality is still very good.
4. I am not able to control where the camera is looking by swiping my finger across the screen as is possible in some of other cameras. Once you position it the angle is fixed.
5. Motion activation sends alerts but could be made smarter. It sends an alert for every 10 second segment. It would have been better if send an alert only if there was a big gap before motion was detected and not send alerts for sequential 10 second segments. It needs to monitor the time when the last message was sent and suppress an alert if the gap is less than say 5 minutes (or even better make it configurable).
6. Annoying permanent up-sell messages which cannot be hidden and take up half of the screen on the mobile app. If it was shown once and then disappeared I would have found it acceptable. Permanently? No. Taking up half of my mobile display? Not good.

The Arlo web site provides three subscription options. The free option supports 5 cameras and stores video for 1 week (you actually get 8 days, 7 day history and the current day). More cameras and longer storage (30 days and 60 days) costs $9.99 per month and $14.99 per month. I find the free version totally sufficient for my needs.

What's the bottom line? Despite the flaws I mentioned I really like it.

You can find this video camera on Amazon by following this link


Ali Julia review ★★★★★


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Product review: JENNIE LIU Women's Cashmere Silk Long Sleeve

video

I love the way this shirt feels it is soft and silky at the same time. What do you get when you combine two most luxurious fabrics silk and cashmere? A shirt that is very thin and warm for it weight, and that feels great to touch. It has a wide deep V-neck so it works well as foundation layer during the winter (not visible), and it is pretty enough to wear on its own.

Sometimes when I get clothing on Amazon the sizes do not match American sizes and are too small, but Jennie Liu shirt is sized correctly. The shirt fits me well.

✿ Materials: 70% Cashmere 30% Silk
✿ Cleaning: Hand wash or dry clean

My video includes showing the shirt inside out. Looking at the seams is good way to see how well the garment is constructed. Jennie Liu construction is top quality: neat seams, no hanging threads, no imperfections. The shirt has smooth inside seams, the side seams are finished facing outside, but they are so neatly done that if I was not a seamstress myself I might not have noticed how it is constructed. This construction gives you a feeling like the shirt is seamless against your body, which is great if you are using it as an inner layer for sports activities - nothing is rubbing against the body.

It is top notch quality.

You can find this sweater strip on Amazon by following this link


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Friday, June 26, 2015

Product review: The Tower by The Art of Power 30 Inch Standing Power and Charging Station

video


This power strip is excellent. I found it even more convenient than I imagined - it works so well in cramped areas when reaching the power strip on the floor is difficult.

The tower is 29" tall, it reaches up to the height of my table. The AC outlets are spaced out widely, you can fit 4 large plugs into it. I also like that it has an on/off switch so I can turn it off when it is not in use.

It has an optional cradle for phone/table. My phone fit without falling out and my Nexus 7 tablet fit both in horizontal and vertical orientation.

It looks good, but more significantly it works great. I measured how well it chargers my devices with a current monitor and got excellent results.

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 on each port depends on each device using the charger. The port rated with a 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 various chargers 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.

I am including the details of the tests below for those who like to see the technical details.
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✔ Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone (the only device charging)
--------------------------
Port 1: 1.01A/5.01V
Port 2: 1.04A/5.01V
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this phone is 1.00A/5V)
--------------------------
✔ iPad Mini (the only device charging)
--------------------------
Port 1: 1.50A/5.05V
Port 2: 1.63A/5.05V
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this tablet is 1.70A/5V)
---------------------------

Excellent power station overall.

You can find this elevated power strip on Amazon by following this link


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Product review: Blusmart® Game Trail Scouting Survelliance Camera 12MP HD Infrared Hunting Camera

video

I was excited to get this camera because we see a lot of wild life in our area, the neighbors even claim to have seen a bear and they said he was sleeping in our back yard. Maybe they were pulling my leg, but maybe not. I thought it would be really neat if we could see some of our visitors.

To get the camera to do what I wanted took some experimenting. Documentation is sparse and not very clear. For example, "motion detection" mode did not do what I expected. Only created videos when I moved the camera, not when something walked in front of the camera. What I wanted is to have the camera record only when something moves in front of it, so I did not have to look through a lot of uninteresting footage. For that you need to use "video" mode not "motion activated" mode.

The second issue I ran into is that the fresh set of batteries ran out in 1 day when I was using "motion activated" and "alarm" setting. It would have been very expensive to keep the camera going if I had to replace 8 batteries every day. However, in "video" mode the battery use is quite good - 64% full after 1 week of continuous use. Started on Sunday at 100%, next Sunday morning 69%, next Monday morning 64%.

I am using a WI FI card in the camera. I hoped to be able to monitor what the camera recorded without having to open the case. But the camera turns off WI FI fairly quickly to save on battery life. This means when I want to check what is on the card, I need to open the case and flip the on/off button to turn WI FI back on. WI FI also turns off during long downloads even when the card is being accessed, it is purely time based.

The video quality is highly dependent on lighting. In the day light it is very good (see cat video taken in doors and squirrel video taken outdoors), at night it turns on the light panel and is also quite good (see raccoon at night), however at dusk or right into the sun the video is okay but not as good as say my SONY NEX5 camera. In my video you see deer photos taken in time lapse mode, they were taken at dusk when it was getting dark.

This camera is large, robust, has a great camouflaged case. This camera itself is 6" x 3.5" x 2" in order to house eight AA batteries. The camouflaged case is waterproof and is 6.25" x 4.25" x 2.75".

The camera can run in "test" mode or real mode. Test mode allows you to see what the camera is recording using the LCD screen. In the test mode you can also change settings via menus displayed on the LCD screen. The interface is intuitive and controls are nice (a joystick like control with up, down, left, right).

The camera accepts two memory cards. The SD card is used to record video and the micro SD card is contains the sounds you want to play as an alarm (could be a call if you want to attract animals, or another noise if you want to scare animals away). It comes with several pre-recorded animal sounds and, of course, there are plenty of other available on the internet.

The set up was simple. The only thing I found a little confusing during the set up is that the camera comes with a USB cable and I thought I could use it to power the camera. When I had USB plugged in and turned on the camera I saw a warning on the LCD screen "waiting" and then the camera would turn off, then turn on again with a warning "waiting". Turns out USB cable is for data transfer only. I could power the camera by AC cable (not included) but the round plug from my LED desk lamp turned out to be the right power plug to use for this camera. As soon as I plugged it and switched the camera to the test mode, the camera displayed the menu.

I tested various modes video, hybrid, alarm on, motion detection. Everything but motion detection worked as expected. The sound is quite loud. It startled me when the camera began squealing like a pig.

The camera produces AVI and JPG output. The only unusual thing that it stores all while under SYCAM subdirectory not the standard DCIM directory.

The camera records 1080P video and images up to 12MP.

* Image Sensor: 12.0 Mega Pixels
* Picture Size: 12MP=4000x3000 / 8MP=3840x2160 / 5MP = 2944x1656 ,2MP=1920x1080 (JPEG)
* Video Size: HD: 1920x1080,1080x720 ,24fps (AVI)
* Memory: TF-card/SD-card up to 32GB
* LED & IR distance: 42PCS(850nm or 940nm),0-25m/85ft
* PIR (Passive infrared sensor) Angle: 65°
* Lens: F=2.4; FOV=60° ;Max View 62°; Auto IR-Cut-Remove (at night)
* Trigger Time: 0.6-1 s

In addition to the camera and the case, the package include USB cable, TV cable, strap for attaching the camera to objects (say a tree) and a user manual.

You can find this camera on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Product review: Wireless Qi Charger by TechMatte

video

I have been using Qi chargers with Nexus 5 for over a year. I love the technology, it is convenient and does not stress the micro USB connector by constantly needing to connect and disconnect it. I own several Qi chargers and through experience found several features that make some Qi Chargers work better in day to day use than others.

➀ Speed of charging

Some charger charge my phone faster than others. Speed is always important to me. I compared charging Nexus 5 with TechMatte Qi Charger to the same test run with the other chargers and found that it fell in the middel of the pack, not among the best and not the slowest. It charge the phone 5% in 10 minutes. I run the test at the same charge level, running the same apps, and keeping everything the same for an "apples to apples" comparison.

I also measured the charge rate with a current monitor, which also also puts the charger in the middle of the pack.
current monitor: ~~~~~ 0.82A and 5.05V (below optimal, but above USB rate)

➁ The size of the sweet spot
The sweet has an average size. I show this in the video for a better illustration of what I mean. I show both the phone on the charger and the current monitor which shows the rate at which the phone is charging. When it is perfectly aligned it draws an optimal charge. If the phone is moved slightly the current rate drops from an optimal rate to lower rate, and when it is moved a little more it draw no current and then the charger turns off. So if you accidentally brush against the phone and it moves it may stop charging. This is particularly important if you have small kids or pets who may touch things.

➂ How well the phone stays on the Qi charger

The phone can be easily knocked off the sweet spot of the charger unintentionally. The charges that handle those unintentional bumps best are the ones that have non-slippery finish. TechMatte has has a matte finish which works well because it creates friction with the phone. In addition the size of the charger is slightly larger than Nexus 5.

My trick for charging on the go: When I need to charge the phone on the go (i.e. when it cannot lay flat) I double wrap a rubber band around the phone and the charger. This keeps the phone on a sweet spot charging in a pocket/purse. I like it better than having a micro USB connector which can be damaged if the phone/battery are jarred. The rubber band trick works very well with this Qi charger because it is square and thin.

➃ How easy it is to see that the phone is charging

I like being able to see a visual indicator that the phone is charging. If the phones stops charging I like having a quick way of telling this without having to look at the phone charging status. Nexus 5 is 5.43" x 2.72" x .34" in size, TechMatte charger is 5.875" x 3.123" x 0.125" so TechMatte is slightly larger than Nexus 5. This is ideal.

➄ Is the battery using standard cables

I like the chargers that use a standard micro USB cable, so I don't need to worry about losing a special cable. TechMatte charger uses the standard micro USB cable. Excellent!

Bottom line? I thought it was good. Its thinness and shape makes the battery work well with my rubber band trick and that is very important to me for charging on the go. It charges with an average speed but its non-slip surface and its size make it a practical charger for me.

You can find this Qi charger on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★


Monday, June 22, 2015

Product review: Memoscan U380 OBDII Car Diagnostic Scanner Trouble Code Reader

video

I just got a replacement unit. Unfortunately the second unit also generates "Linking Error!". It appears that the seller has a bad batch of these. I have reviewed another OBD II scanner (a bluetooth unit) and it worked it both cars, so I know the connectors are not faulty. This connector is always on according to documentation. Just in case I have tried running it with the engine off, with the engine on, and with the key on ACC setting.

Original review:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Memoscan scanner did not work with either of our cars even thought both were listed as compatible.

Both Honda CRV and Chrysler 300 work with another OBD II scanner but with Memoscan we get "Linking Error!" which indicates that Memoscan has trouble communicating with the vehicle.

All cars and light trucks built and sold in the United States after January 1, 1996 were required to be OBD II equipped. The connector is very distinctive looking, I am including a picture of it in my video for reference. In both of our cars this connector is located under the dash, under the steering wheel.

The scanner displays information on a small screen on the hand held unit. The scanner works as soon as car is turned on. There is no need to turn on the engine. The scanner goes through a series of messages (see video) but for both of our cars the sequence ends with "Linking error!"

Memoscan comes with an impressive manual. It is well written and easy to understand and includes 36 pages of trouble codes.

I received this device from the manufacturer with a request for testing and review as well as some documentation on how to use the device. The manual and the device look impressive, but it was not able to give us any readings. Note that both units were received via Fulfilment by Amazon, which is my requirement for evaluation products so I could get random sample not a pre-tested unit.

You can find this car scanner on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★☆☆☆☆