Thursday, March 26, 2015

Product review: Self Healing Totary Cutting Mat by Calibre Art


I am a quilter so I have a number of rotary cutting mats in various sizes, I can't imagine quilting without my rotary mats and my rotary cutter. Most of my mats are self-healing Olfa mats. They have a life span of about 4-5 years of frequent use. Eventually they lose the self-healing properties. CalibreArt Mats are noticeably thicker than any of my other mats. In my video I show one of my Olfa mats next to CalibreArt Mat so you can see the difference.

My Olfa mats have markings on one side and are plain green on the other side. CalibreArt Mats have inch markings on one side and centimeter markings on the other side. Even though centimeter are not useful for me to quilting, they are useful when I just need to lay fabric on a straight line. I find double sided mat more useful than having a totally unlined side like Olfa mats.

One of Olfa mats does not lay flat, it has a bit of a wave which presses down when I cut. CalibreArt mat is much thicker and heavier, it lays totally flat. Calibre mat's thickness (measured with a digital calliper) is 0.115". Olfa mat's thickness is 0.062".

I got the large size (24" x 36") it covers almost my entire sewing table and it really makes cutting easier, I do not have to reposition and move the fabric. This is a very nice mat!

Can anything be improved? Yes. My Olfa mats show the measurements on all 4 sides of the mat. CalibreArt mat shows numbers only on the left and bottom. Sometimes the fabric covers the bottom and left side and it is harder the tell the measurements. It is a minor nit but I am including it in hope that the manufacturer is reading reviews and might make this great mat even better in the future.

Update 2/28/15: Manufacturer contacted to let me know that they will add additional measurement markers for these mats. Nice to hear when manufacturer is so responsive to customer suggestions.

You can find this rotary cutting mat on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Product review: Hame H16 11000mah Ultra Compact External Battery Portable USB Charger Power Bank


♦ size: 3 5/8" x 2 1/8" x 1 1/4"
♦ weight: 9.7 oz
♦ number of ports: 1
♦ flashlight: no
♦ pass through charging: yes (i.e. the battery can charge while being charged itself)
♦ cable: 11" charging cable
♦ comes with a silicone sleeve

This battery has a fairly large capacity (11000 mAh) in a relatively compact size. It has one charging port. For a battery with 11000 mAh capacity I really prefer to have two or more ports because I always have more than once device that needs to charged, and its capacity certainly would allow for more than one device to be charged.

To see how well different chargers and external batteries charge my mobile devices I use a Nexus phone and an iPadMini tablet to test each of them. 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 compare them to each other in a fair way. I use the current monitor to see what current is delivered to each device which tells me how well each external battery is working.

This battery worked with both of my devices, but charged both of them below average speed. At the end of the review I include th exact measurements for those who are interested in the nitty gritty numbers.

I also tested to see if the battery supports pass-through charging (i.e. whether the battery can charge mobile devices while it is being charged). This battery does support charger through charging. It can charge while being charged.

In addition to testing with my own cable (to keep everything the same during tests), I also test the cable included in the package to see if it is a charging cable or a data cable. This package includes a charging cable. Most of the time external batteries come with a charging cable, but every now I run across a manufacturer that encloses data cables with external batteries. It is not easy to tell what cable you got unless you have a current monitor. I always include this test in my reviews so people can improve the performance of the battery by switching to a charging cable.

Samsung Nexus phone:
0.89/4.99V (below average)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this phone is 1.00A/5V)

iPad Mini tablet:
0.92A/5.01V (average for 1A port)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this tablet is 1.70A/5V)

Overall, this is not the speediest battery but it has a fairly compact shape for its capacity. When size matters more than speed of charging this battery is a reasonable choice.

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

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Product review: Pawtec Retractable Micro USB 2.0 A Male to Micro B Cable High-Speed Charge and Sync cable


I have seen a number of cables that claim to be charging and data sync cables but they charge devices only at a slower USB rate. This is not the case with this retractable charge and sync cable. It charges my Android phone at the optimal rate and it is capable of data sync of the phone with my PC. I got both the white and the black version of this cable and both showed the same excellent results when tested with the USB current monitor. Consistent performance between different units is a sign of good quality.

Many cables are made using a thinner wire (28/28 gauge), this cable uses a thicker 28/24 gauge. 28/24 gauge is 60% thicker than 24/24 gauge and can deliver more current to the device. A thicker cable is also less like to break and last longer at the connector, where general use stresses the wire by compressing it.

The re tractability of the cord is handy especially for my MP3 player with external speaker which I have permanently plugged into a power bank. This cord helped me got rid of the dangling wire. When the cord is extended to its back it is 36" long. To retract it from that position you need to yank on both end to trigger the retracting mechanism.

Current monitor results:
black cord: 1.02A / 5.05V (excellent)
white cord: 1.02A / 5.09V (excellent)
(for comparison this is on par with the best charging monitor result for this phone 1.00A/5V)

You can find this cable on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Friday, March 20, 2015

Product review: E-PRANCE® D101 FHD 1080P Video DashCam


I own a couple of dash cams and each one of them prior to this one had something that did like: a permanent mount, did not record well in the dark, non-micro USB charging cable... E-prance seem to have made the right decisions in each of these areas:

1) video quality - good during the day day and during the night
2) mount - should not require a permanent mount
3) non propriety cables - micro or mini USB
4) wide angle lens
5) have LED display so I can tell that the cam is aimed correctly

E-Prance is compact. It size is 3 3/8" x 2". It has a wide angle lens (170 degrees). It record video, GPS, and audio. It 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. It is powered by a regular mini USB cable, so even though it is designed for a car if you want a general purposes recorder that records to a micro sd it can do that job as well. This video recorder has many options: video quality, recording in a loop or stopping when disk is full, recording all the time or only when motion is detected, and so forth. The camera records full HD 1080p video, the quality of the video is excellent.

In attached video I show video of E-Prance as well as the video recorded by E-Prance.

The E-Prance package includes the camera, 135" inch power cord that plugs into the car cigarette lighter output, and a mini USB cable. The maximum size of the micro SD card supported by the camera is 32G.

The camera has a suction mount. I greatly prefer a suction mount to permanent mounting. It can be moved between our two cars, plus if the car has to be left parked in a bad area the mount can be removed so it is not obvious that the car has interesting electronics in it.

The user interface is straightforward and even though the manual does not contain details for each button and each option, it contains a picture where each button's function is labelled. I found the manual sufficient to configure my video cam. All defaults were very reasonable.

Overall, I was impressed with the camera and the video it captured, even night time video shows everything clearly.

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

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Product reveiw: Ready SIM Talk+Text+Data 7 Day: Unlimited Talk+Text + 500MB Data 4G


When we have visitors from outside US I get them a Ready Sim card. I like this specific card because it includes both data and talk/text.

The setup is very simple. I get the card in advance as it starts the count only when the card is activated. When the guests arrive I insert the SIM card into the phone, send a text message to Ready SIM which contains our zip code. A few minutes later two text responses arrive. One contains the phone number, another the expiration date. The documentation states that the phone number will be local to our location, but that is not always the case. Sometimes I get a number with an area code in another state. This has not been a problem for me, but I wanted to mention it in case it is important to someone else. The carrier I get is T-mobile which is a carrier with least extensive network so the coverage is be spotty at times.


1. I inserted Ready SIM into the phone and turned in on.
2. When I turned on the phone I received a prompt that a new SIM card was recognized
3. I sent a text message to the Ready SIM shortcode 7850. The message body contained just my zip code.
4. Ready SIM sent back a phone number plus the expiration date of the service. The response took several minutes to arrive.
5. My data plan was automatically turned on. I was able to turn off WI FI and browse the internet without additional setup steps.

The fact that my data service was automatically turned on was a pleasant surprise. In the Ready SIM FAQ I read that some phones require a manual step to turn on data service. Some phones need to create a new Access Point Name (APN), which is located under Settings-Mobile Networks-Menu-New APN. Ready SIM documentation include the info for the new APN:
Name: "Ready SIM"
APN: "wholesale"
APN type: Internet+MMS

Overall, Ready Sim is a good solution when I have a short term need for phone and data service.

You can find this SIM card on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Monday, March 16, 2015

Product reviews: HandAcc Flashlight Torch Light


This is a very bright flashlight which can double as bike light. The package includes a flashlight and a bike mount. It runs either on three AAA batteries or on one 18650 battery.

I started using this flashlight with AAA batteries and I really liked the brightness of this light (rated at 500 lumens) and the fact that it has an adjustable focus area. I also liked that it is waterproof.

Then I decided then to switch to 18650 battery so I could compare how it functions with the large battery in this review. To use the battery with 18650 you need to remove the cartridge that holds AAA batteries and insert 18650 directly into the body of the flashlight. This is where the things went wrong. The spring that creates contact with the cap broke off and the flashlight no longer works. The spring was held together by bead of solder and the connection was so weak that the act of taking the cap off and on twice broke it.

I thought it was a nice bright light until it broke. Workmanship of my flashlight was not good.

You can find this flashlight on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★☆☆☆

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Product review: D-Link Wireless Day/Night WiFi Network Surveillance Camera


We purchased a number of IP camera in the last few years to watch over an older relative who has a tendency to fall and not press her emergency alert button. Given my experience with a large number of cameras I thought this video camera is ok - it works but did not quite measure up in several areas to our other ip cameras.

1. The camera does not have a very wide angle and cannot be controlled to turn using the camera app as our most useful IP camera. The camera has a very flexible mount so you can position it in many different ways but once it is mounted this is what you, you cannot change the angle, you cannot zoom, you cannot zoom out. For comparison, Annke IP camera allows the greatest flexibility for turning the camera around from the phone app.

2. The app frequently loses contact with camera and the contact needs to be re-estblished. I am using the mydlink lite app, the free app that came with the camera. The camera can also be access through a browser, but I find the phone more convenient as I am not always near a computer when I need to check the camera feed.

3. The microphone is not very good. You can hear the sound but not very clearly. If you are near the camera the your phone gets a lot of feedback. I have not encountered this with any of the other cameras.

4. The camera has three modes: day mode, night mode, or auto. When I set the mode to auto it goes into the night mode when it is fairly light outside. The night mode is infra-red and the resulting image is black and white and not as clear as the day time color image.

5. Power cord connector has a propriety connector. I prefer a USB cord so if needed I can use a longer cord of my own.

The setup of the camera was very easy. The camera can be set up using WI FI or Ethernet. The camera can be free standing or mounted on the wall.

In attached video you see the camera recording the action and seeing what is happening on my phone. As you see the phone shows the action with a slight delay because the video goes to D-link cloud and then back the phone for display.

I received this video camera for testing and unbiased review. I tried to cover the pluses and minuses of the camera and if there are aspects I did not cover leave me a comment and I will do my best to answer it.

You can find this IP cameraon Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆