Monday, April 30, 2012

Product review: Ames True Temper Decorative Free Standing Metal Hose Hanger

This decorative hanger looks good, but I found it to be hard to install. Photo of installed hanger with annotation comments is attached under customer photos.

The hose hanger comes in two sections. The bottom part is about 12 inches. You have to drive in first, then insert to the top part, screw down the two screws (at the point you are working at ground level) and then need to drive down assembled hanger some more to hide the screws. The spike ends with a pretty blunt edge, so you need to push hard to drive it into the ground. I was using the hammer and 2 by 4, but eventually found that stepping on top of it and putting all my weight on it worked best. Screwing the bolts requires a wrench to turn and wise grips to hold the nut. Working at the ground level was very difficult, I actually had to dig a hole to give me better access to the bottom bolt. After the hanger was assembled both bolts were still visible and the entire hanger was somewhat wobbly. I wanted to drive it down another couple of inches, but was unable to do so despite working on with a hammer (over 2 by 4) for quite some time.

The hanger itself looks rust resistant, but the bolts and nuts are not. Both are above the ground (one at the ground level, the second one about an inch higher), so they are visible and exposed. They are somewhat unsightly and I suspect they will rust.

Despite being somewhat wobbly it looks good and holds the water hose very conveniently. It takes me less time and less effort to put away the water hose, than using a water hose caddy with a crank I used before. After a back surgery I had trouble bending down to crank, and this stand allows me to coil the hose without bending.

If the spike had a sharp point, or if it had a step on which you can step to drive it down the installation would have been easier. For that reason I am rating the hanger with 4 stars.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Product Review: RHA MA-350 headphones for MP3 player, tablet, phone

RHA MA-350 are now my primary headphones for my MP3 and are being used every day. I am attaching a collage of 2 photos under customers photos that I will be referencing in this review.


I found these earphones very comfortable. They fit perfectly right out of the box. They came with 2 additional rubber tips bigger and smaller for additional fit options. The profile of the buds is very flat, so I was able to rest my head on the pillow without feeling them sticking out of my ear. They work perfectly while traveling. Photo #1 shows the headphones from the back and from the side so you can see the profile. You can also see the additional rubber tips in both Photo #1 and Photo #2.

The earphones have a fabric covered braided cord, which worked great to prevent tangles. I normally wrap the cord around my MP3 player and when I take it out again I have to spend several minutes untangling the cord. It took a lot less time with these earphones. The cord and earphone feel well made and like that will take a lot of abuse.

The earphones come with a nice cloth bag which is big enough to house not only the headphones but my MP3 player. In my daily use I now use this bag to carry both these headphones and my MP3 player. Photo #2 shows the cloth bag.


I was pleased with the sound. The sound was full and rich at high and low volumes. I enjoyed the sound of both bass and mid-tones. The sound isolation is very good. I went for a walk while listening and ambient noises did not bother me.


These earphones were provided to me by the manufacturer for evaluation without any obligations or conditions.
I am very pleased with sound quality as well as fit and comfort. I recommend them.

You can find "RHA MA350 In-Ear Headphone" on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★ 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Product Review: DIG hose timer for watering

I have a two zone drip irrigation system, which uses two different timers: this DIG timer (green on in the photo) and an Orbit 91213 timer (blue one in the photo). DIG timer stands for Digital Irrigation and is available from The Drip Store either on Amazon or on their web site. The DIG timer has been in use for 3 summers so far. This DIG timer is better in a number of ways described below.


1. Programmable options are extremely flexible. I can complete control on how frequently the watering occurs within one day as well as how many minutes it lasts
2. Despite all the options it is simple to use
3. It has a manual override if I need to give the plants a little extra water
4. It works on one 9 volt battery, I am able to use rechargeable 9 Volt batteries.
5. It does not use a lot of juice, rechargeable 9 volt battery is not discharged by the end of the summer
6. The time is well built, it long lasting, this will be my fourth summer using this timer
7. I have zero leaks from it (I use teflon tape on each connection)


1. nothing at all

COMPARISON with ORBIT 91213 in side-by-side use

1. Orbit programmating is very limited. The minimum time period you can set it up for is every 6 hours. It has to be exactly 6 hours apart, that means it will water 4 times a day. However, I do not want to water in the middle of the night as might promote root rot. What I want is to water more frequently during the day, but not at night. This timer does not give that type of control, where as DIG timer does.

2. Orbit timer eats batteries at a very fast clip. It could not last on re-chargeable batteries more than 2 weeks. I had to switch to regular batteries and change them once a month. I went through 3 sets of non-rechargeable batteries last summer (the first year I had a two timer system).

3. Orbit timer has a bigger LCD screen, and I find it to be a bit easier to read. This is useful as I need to keep an eye on it to know when to change the battery!

4. Orbit time shape (flat) is a little easier to work with when the timer is not mounted.

I am attaching a photo of my irrigation system with two timers side by side.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Friday, April 20, 2012

Product review: Black and Decker shovel

I was surprised to see that Black and Decker makes shovels but when I took in my hands I was impressed with how well made it felt. Sturdy, heavy duty, and it felt very comfortable in my hands.  This weekend we used it in the garden to dig holes for the new bushes and it did an outstanding job even in a somewhat rocky ground.  The only way it could have been better if it could dig holes on its own without any help from me!

This is a nice tool to have around the house.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Product review: Portable Travelchair Slacker Chair

 Perfect after a simple fix!

After several surgeries on my back I have trouble walking for a long time without sitting down to release the stress on my back by sitting down for a few minutes. I purchased this chair so I would be able to walk without having to worry that I would have no place to sit down.

This chair is almost perfect. It has only one major flaw. Both the flaw and the solution to the problem are detailed in the second half of the review.

My review will be referencing several photo collages. Each photo is numbered 1 through 7.

The chair turned out to be more comfortable and more stable than I imagined from the photos. I sit on it as I would sit on a bicycle seat (see photo #6). Imagine that the top part of the photo is the pointy end of the bicycle seat, so my butt is on the wide part and it feels pretty comfortable. Not armchair comfortable but not unpleasant.

The slacker chair is pretty light. Photo #4 shows it on the postal scale, and you can see that it comes in at 1 pound 14.1 oz. Photos #5 shows the construction of the seat. Photos #7 show the feet. The feet generate pretty good friction and don't slide.

The chair is 24" long when folded. and when I wrap my measuring tape around its width the  circumference is 7". When it is open, the seat is 17" from the ground. I am short and I find that height very comfortable. My husband thinks it is a little too short but not bad (he said it was like sitting on a toilet).

So now, the big flaw. What makes this chair valuable to me is the ability to carry it around. I need it to be very comfortable to carry around. However the strap is so short to comfortably carry it over my shoulder even for small person like myself. And what I really wanted is carry it like a sling across my back. I want it rests on my back and be totally out of the way. 

Photo 1 through 4 show my solutions to this problem.

The strap before alternations is 21.5 inches long. The distance before anchors for the strap is 19". So you get only a couple of inches of slack. This lack of slack is the problem. To fix this problem, I cut the strap (see photo #1) and extended it with a regular black strap you can buy any craft store.

The key to working with these straps is to singe the edges of them so they don't unravel. The strapping material does not burn, it melts. This forms a protective coating on the edges so you don't need to worry about them coming apart. Also it allows you to connected the two straps with minimum bulk, you don't need to fold them under. You see a close-up of the treated edge in photo #2.

After singing all 4 ends I connected the two straps with my sewing machine. I made the strap long enough to be comfortable for both myself and my husband, which required doubling its original size. I can make the strap shorter by feeding the access strapping material into the buckle. I also attached an extra Velcro strip in case I wanted to tuck away the dangling strap while I am sitting in a chair and not bother with the buckle.

With this simple fix the slacker chair is absolutely perfect! I can now take long walks like I did before my back problems.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Product review: Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 Leather Folio Case for Tablet Black Cover Protector

Perfect Fit for Samsung Galaxy 7.7!

This black leather case is a perfect fit for my Samsung Galaxy 7.7 Tablet (see my review of the tablet).  It is made by Generic and I purchased it on Amazon for $16.99 plus $4.99 shipping. I was looking for a simple thin leather case which will protect the tablet and could be used as a stand. Overall, I am pleased with this case. It is good looking, simple, provides reasonable protection, works well as a stand in landscape position, however it is not a good stand in portrait orientation (very wobbly).

I am attaching a collage of 8 photos under customer photos to demonstrate various features of the case.

Photo #1 shows the case opened, and photo #8 show the tablet being slid into the open case. You can that is has a tab that folds and goes behind the tablet to hold it in place.
Photo #2 show the empty cased opened with the back side towards the camera, you can see the opening for the camera, the flat that holds the stand, and the texture of the leather. I am not sure if it is real leather or faux leather. It feels nice but has no leather smell. I think it is a good quality imitation leather.
Photo #3 shows the case closed with the tablet in the case. You see that it does not cover any of the buttons or holes. The case is held closed by magnets on the corners of the case. There are no fasteners.
Photo #4 shows the case as a stand in the landscape orientation. This is pretty much the one angle it has, but it is steady and comfortable.
Photo #5 and Photo #6 show the case as a stand in portrait orientation. As you see it is leaning and is wobbly. I will not be using it this way because I don't want to risk the tablet falling.
Photo #7 and Photo #8, where the case opened, show the round circles on the left hand side. Those are the magnets that hold the case closed.
Photo #7 shows the table in the case. It is pretty tight, but quite easy to slide in and out. A perfect fit!

I am very pleased with the case. It provides good protection for the glass without adding a lot of bulk or covering any portion of the screen. The textured leather provides good non-slippery surface to hold on to.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Monday, April 9, 2012

Product review: Samsung Galaxy 7.7 Tablet WiFi Only

Almost Perfect!

I purchased Samsung Galaxy 7.7 with Prepaid month-to-month data plan from Verizon. I plan to use the tablet as a WiFi only, but if I need I can activate broadband as needed with no activation fees or termination fees.

This was an expensive way to get this device ($699.99), compared to an international version with WiFi only which is currently $549.99. But Verizon unit is not grey market, has US warranty, and I do have an ability to get broadband if I need it. I have a personal deadline for the purchase due to a trip, and there is no information when the WiFi only unit (non-international) will be available.

A word of caution if you decide to purchase one at the Verizon store. Some sales staff is not aware that it is possible to buy a prepaid device without purchasing a contract. Even though I stated I was interested in WiFi only and purchased prepaid no-contract device, the sales clerk charged me both an activation fee and first month service (an additional $86 saying that I can cancel after one month without a cancellation fee). Both charges were a mistake on his part (pre-paid devices never have an activation fee, and I was not required to buy one month service). I was able to correct this problem by speaking to the manager, but it required me to know that he was in error and he was sounded very confident about both charges.

While making my purchasing decision I compared IPad 3, ASUS® Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF201 10.1, Galaxy 10.1 Tab, Galaxy 7" Tab, Galaxy 7.7" Tab, and Amazon Fire.

I wanted a tablet for accessing internet while I am traveling, specifically I want to be able to sell on Ebay, access my email, use Google maps, use Open Table, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Priceline. Secondarily I want to be able to read Kindle books. Thirdly I want to develop apps for my pad.

Originally, I thought I'd buy Amazon Fire because I am big Amazon fan, have a lot of Kindle books, and the price of Amazon Fire is very attractive. However when I did hands-on experimentation with various devices, I realized that my internet needs were more important to me that my media needs and Amazon Fire browser was a bit slower than the others, and some of the apps did not run on it.

The 10.1 inch tablets felt a little large, I wanted something that I could easily fit in my purse. The Amazon Fire and the Galaxy 7" tab felt about the size I wanted. However, Galaxy 7" screen resolution made the keyboard cover most of the screen and data entry typing (which I will need to do quite a bit of) was difficult. But when I saw Galaxy 7.7" in a Verizon store it was a hands down winner. The screen is totally amazing, both the resolution and the colors. In side-by-side comparison with iPad 3, Galaxy's display was better. The tablet itself is very slim and weights 12 oz (see photo #2 in a collage of images I posted under customer photos).

The AMOLED screen is the best feature of this device. Sharp, crisp, bright. It was the best screen on all devices that I compared before this purchase. LCD Native Resolution: 1280 x 800 pixels.
Photo #1 in my image collage shows the screen, but does not give it full justice.

Capacitive touchscreen requires some getting used to (it is my first device with this type of interface). I am getting better and placing things where I want them, but sometimes it takes several attempts. I like the keyboard, it has a nice feedback and once I got used to the timing (you need to slightly pause between keystrokes) I am not making a lot of mistakes. The most difficult operation is to insert the letter in the middle of the text. Due to high resolution of the screen it is possible to use the keyboard in horizonal orientation and still see enough of the screen to make it usable (something I could not do well in my tests of Galaxy 7.0)

I consider the tablet's size its second most important to me feature. Big enough not only to play but do some work, yet small enough to be portable.
Size (LWH): 7.74 inches, 5.2 inches, 0.31 inches
Weight: 12 ounces (photo #2 shows Galaxy on the postal scale)

Galaxy 7.7 has Li-Po 5100 mAh which is rated for 1200h of stand-by time.
After charging it over night, the next day I used it continuously in disconnected mode for 8 hours. This was 8 hours of heavy usage: installing, testing, and uninstalling apps. After 8 hours of non-stop use the battery went down to 20% (at which point it gave me a warning beep). I put it back into the charger and in 3 hours the battery was back up to 96%.

The unit came with 16GB and has microSD memory card slot which accepts up to 32GB.

It has a regular USB connection. When attached my computer it appears as drive and I can access as any USB device for copying content. It can also be charged this way, but a slower rate than the dedicated charger.

The tablet has stereo speakers 3.5mm jack, and the sound it generates is very good. The volume with and without speakers has a large range. I enjoyed listening it to it with and without headphones.

The cameras on the tablet are not the strong point of this tablet. It is okay in a pinch, but I don't see using either one of them much. However, I am serious photography amateur and have several fairly good cameras so I have a certain bias when evaluating this feature. I am attaching 2 photos taken by the tablet. One with a flash and one without a flash. As you see the one taken without a flash is a little soft.

Kindle reader app looks the same as the PC Kindle Reader. For usability, I actually prefer the Amazon Cloud reader, which also works by connecting to it from the browser.


Not much so far!

1. Galaxy 7.7 still runs on Honey Comb 3.2 but slated to upgrade to ICS (date unknown). So it is missing some capabilities that are available in ICS. So far the one that mattered to me is that Chrome browser is not available for Honey Comb, and there is no perfect tool for syncing your bookmarks at no additional cost. Chromemark light is not integrated with the browser. Xmarks and Chromemark commercial versions are the non-free alternatives.
2. The touch screen takes some getting used to. You need to learn to delay between keystroke when typing. Positioning on a specific letter to correct a spelling mistake is not that easy.

COMPARISON of some basic features between Galaxy 7.7" and Galaxy 7" Tabs:
7" Galaxy:
Size (LWH): 7.62 inches, 4.82 inches, 0.39 inches
Weight: 12.16 ounces
7.7" Galaxy:
Size (LWH): 7.74 inches, 5.2 inches, 0.31 inches
Weight: 12 ounces
7" Galaxy:
Honey Comb 3.2 plus TouchWiz
Dual Core 1.2 GHZ CPU
7.7" Galaxy:
Honey Comb 3.2 plus TouchWiz (announced it will get ICS)
Dual-core 1.4 GHz CPU
7" Galaxy:
LCD Native Resolution: 1024 x 600 pixels
7.7" Galaxy:
LCD Native Resolution: 1280 x 800 pixels
Display Type Super AMOLED Plus capacitive touchscreen
7" Galaxy:
3.0 MP rear camera, 2.0 MP front camera
7.7" Galaxy:
3.15 MP rear camera, 2.0 MP front camera

So far I am quite pleased with Galaxy 7.7, it is just the right size for my needs and the screen makes it a pleasure to work with even for my presbyopic eyes.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Links to reviews of other products I purchased for the 7.7 Galaxy tablet:
Leather Folio
Fold-Up Stand
Capacitive Stylus
Car charger that keeps up charging even while navigating

You can find reviews of mobile apps I use under Blog Label "Galaxy 7.7 Tablet" on the left navigation pane of the blog.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Product review: Pop-Up Umbrella Greenhouse

Pop up green house really works!

I have been grown tomatoes on my deck in pots for a number of years. For the first few years  I waited to plant my tomatoes plants until the end of May as cold frosty night we get kill tomatoes that are planted too early.

But a few years ago I began using a pop-up green house to see if can extend the growing season in the cold North East. Small plants were planted in the green house in early April.

My plants were watered by a drip irrigation system on a timer. I did not open the green house other than every two weeks to fertilize the plants. The plants grew rapidly and survived well through a number of frosty nights we had since early April. By the beginning of May my tomato plants had flower clusters.

I was concerned about pollination, since my plants were covered and no well meaning bee could get to the flowers. After doing a bit of research I found that either insects, wind or hand shaking of the flowers would carry the pollen from the anthers to the stigma. I found that some people use electric toothbrush placed near the blossoms to simulate buzzing bees. But I went with a simpler method: shaking the plant gently once a week for self-pollination. The tomato pollen is not in the exterior of the anthers like most flowers but is produced internally and then released thru pores in the anther. Motion is required to release the pollen, and the greatest quantity is released by sonication of the "correct" frequency. When you shake the plant by hand try to mimic the natural resonances of sonicating bee. Shaking should not be violent, just as close to the right frequency as possible. Note that using implement like a cue tip or a brush is not very effective because the tomato's pollen is not on the surface.

In the last week of May last year I noticed the first tomatoes on my plants which is pretty incredible for the cold North East! I felt like a proud mother since I pollinated the plants myself with a technique described above :-)

Last year I noticed my first green tomatoes on 5/21.  I live in the Northeast, close to New Hampshire/Massachusetts border.  The tomato plants were about 3 feet tall by 5/21 and have several flower clusters. A friend of mine and I bought the same variety of tomatoes on the same day, but he does not use a pop green house. I visited his house the same weekend and his tomatoes were still little dwarfs compared to mine! This pop-up greenhouse really works!

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★