Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mobile App Review: The Weather Channel, Free App (7.7 Samsung Galaxy, Android)

I regularly use two weather apps: The Weather Channel and Accuweather. I like The Weather Channel better as a mobile app, but the two apps often give slightly different forecasts and I find it helpful to have both pieces of information. The Weather Channel tends to be more optimistic, Accuweather is more likely to forecast rain.

The Weather Channel app is a well designed app that scales to the screen size of your device (I use 7.7 Galaxy tablet), where as Accuweather is designed for a smaller screen of the phone. It does not scale and does not respond to zoom gestures. Thus the font (grey on black) is hard to read. The icon for 10 day forecast is not descriptive, located by itself, and was so hard to find that I was about to give up when I accidentally stumbled onto it.

I am using both apps on 7.7 Samsung Galaxy Tablet (my Galaxy 7.7 review) running Android Honeycomb 3.2 with no technical problems.

Overall, I like The Weather Channel app a lot more, but when it really matters I check both.

This app is free from Amazon Android Store and You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

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

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mobile App Review: Dropbox, Free Mobile App (Samsung Galaxy 7.7, Android)

I recently purchased my first Android device (Samsung Galaxy 7.7 running Honey Comb 3.2) and asked my friends what essential applications they use all the time. Dropbox was one of them. Dropbox allows you to share files and images between different computers. Dropbox supports Windows, Linux, Mac, as well as mobile devices (Android, Amazon Fire, iPad).

Dropbox provides 2 GB of space for free, you can purchase bigger Dropboxes if you need more space. You can also increase your space if you refer people to use Dropbox. Dropbox is secure. It uses high level of security using public key encryption (same type of security used by banks) by using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and AES-256 bit encryption. By default the files in Dropbox are private. But it also provides a way to share files with someone else by dropping your files in the public folder.

Dropbox is very simple to use. You just need to install it on the computers you want to share files, secure it with a good complex password, and it creates a folder on the computers where it was installed. As soon as you move something into that folder it becomes visible on all machines.

This app makes it easier to manage all your devices, and I now use to move things not only between my PC and my tablet, but my PC at home and my PC at work.

This app works well on my Samsung Galaxy 7.7 Tablet (my Galaxy 7.7 review) running Android HoneyComb 3.2. I had no technical problems and the app scales to my screen size very nicely.

I recommend it!

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

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

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Product review: Capacitive Stylus/styli for touch screen Samsung Galaxy 7.7 Tablet

When I purchased these pens my expectations were rather low, but at the low price I figured I would give them a try. But these pens surprised me. They really increased my precision on the keyboard and speedup data entry.

I have a Samsung Galaxy 7.7 tablet (see my review of the tablet). I am fairy new to capacitive touchscreen and it requires some getting used to. I am getting better at moving things and getting the right rhythm for data entry (short pauses between each keystroke). With this pen I am need to pause less and I am more precise especially to pointing to icons in the corners of the screen and inserting letters in a specific spots to correct typos.

Photos for size reference:
(1) One of the pens on the digital scale, it weights 0.4 oz
(2) Photo next to 7.7 tablet

These pens are shorter than a regular writing pen. The top of the pen contains a small hole, so you wanted you could put it on a chain around your neck. The colors are pretty, my favorite is the metallic blue you see in my photos.

I am planning to do a lot of typing on it during upcoming trip and I was a bit worried that it will take a lot of time. However, with this pen this task is going to be much easier. I thought my main use of these pens will be in the winter when I need to wear gloves, but I find myself using the pen much more frequently.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Friday, May 25, 2012

Product review: Arkon Portable Fold-Up Stand for Samsung Galaxy 7.7 Tablet

I purchased a nice folio/stand (see my review of the folio) for the Samsung Galaxy 7.7 tablet (see my review of the tablet). However I noticed that when I use it as the stand the nice soft inside covering of the folio comes into contact with whatever I put it on and picks up dirt that then is deposited on my beautiful screen. So I decided purchasing a nice little stand will be better, and picked this Arkon Folk-up stand based on outstanding reviews. I have to whole heatedly agree that this is a well designed product.

I am attaching a collage of 6 photos which shows the stand from different angles with and without my tablet on it.

The best feature of this stand is its versatility. It can fit a tablet of any size, in both vertical and horizontal orientation. One can also completely control the angle at which the screen is held.
Photo #1,#2,#3,#4 show my tablet in horizontal and vertical orientation from the front and from the back. Photos #5 and #6 show the stand without the tablet.

1. When totally folded the stand is 6 3/4 inches long, 1 inch wide, 3/4 inch thick.
2. The notch on the bottom is 4.5 inches away from the pivot joint.
3. The pivot on vertical part of the stand is 3 inches away from the bottom pivot. In the position I have chosen in the photo it is 2 4/3 of inches away from the horizontal support.
4. The portion above the pivot on the vertical part is 3 inches

The bottom of the legs and the piece that holds the tablet is covered with soft suede-like material for good traction. You can spread the bottom legs to a multitude of positions to fit tables of various sizes, and you can angle the top but to control the angle of the screen.

My tablet is very stable on this stand. The stand itself folds up well and is easy to carry around. It is very easy to set up again, all joints move smoothly.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

I am very pleased with the stand and recommend it.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Product review: Croakies Eyeglass retainer / holder / cord

I have worn Croakies for many years however recently switched to Chums, and like Chums a little better. Below some of the reasons:

I like:

1. Croakies are made out of neoprene and provide a good grip on your frames.
2. Because they are made of neoprene they and are soft they fell comfortable around your head.
3. Neoprene is stretchy and adjust to a relatively wide variety of thicker frames.

I don't like:

1. The retainer is very short as it designed to fit snugly around the head. With age I found I need to switch glasses often for example take off sunglasses to put on reading glasses. With a short retainer this is difficult to do, you need to remove the retainer etc. Chums retainer provides a long leash which is easy to adjust by moving the ball mechanism in the back.

2. I like to hang my glasses around my neck when I don't need them (sunglasses when coming into a room, reading glasses when not reading) and a short retainer puts them uncomfortably close to your neck. Chums with its long retainer solves this problem.

3. Several of my neoprene Croakies unraveled at end the retainer. I cut those parts off but retainer became too short.

4. Croakies did not hold thin framed glasses well.

Bottom line: Depending on how you use your glasses this may or may not be the best retainer for your use. If you like to hang your glasses around your neck or need to switch to different glasses often check out Chums Original Cotton Standard End Eyewear Retainer.

You an find "Croakies Unisex Adult Eyewear Retainer" on Amazon via this link

Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Book review: Dollars & Uncommon Sense: Basic Training for Your Money by Steve Repak

I really enjoyed this book. It is written in approachable manner with a great sense of humor yet without sugaring up some of the tough parts.

This book is aimed at those who live paycheck-to-paycheck and think that they just can't afford to save money. Steve Repak will show them how.  Using his unique mix of skills as a motivational speaker and a drill sergeant the author teachers the readers how to take control of their spending and become a saver.

This book is not abstract and theoretical, the author is very specific and practical. The author builds on a premise that you don't have to make a lot of money to have a lot of money.  And then shows the reader how to do it.  Making more money won't solve people's spending problems. No matter how much more  someone makes, if this someone spends more than they make they will have no money and be in trouble. One needs to learn to spend money differently.

The book starts with strategies for saving and finishes with investment strategies for keeping the money you saved.  It also contains worksheets he uses in the book for monitoring spending and budgeting.  At the end of the book there is a glossary with financial terminology with excellent explanations.  The author also includes a list of useful websites, places where you can find best rates, your credit rating, a site which will help you determine if need flood insurance, and many more.

Steve Repak has been a CPA for 12 years, before he took control of his finances he was deeply in debt and living from paycheck to paycheck himself.  What he discusses in the book is not a theory, it is a situation he can relate to and was able to deal with himself. He is genuine, he straightforward, he is right.

Highly recommend.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Monday, May 21, 2012

Food review: Back to the Roots Oyster Mushroom Kit

These mushroom are fun to watch and tasty to eat! I just cut the package, sprayed twice a day with a provided mister, and in about 10 days got the mushrooms! I got 4 crops out of one package, with each successive crop being a little smaller than the previous one. Note that the mushrooms don't like drafts, so keep them away from fans and air conditioners.

Oyster mushrooms are mild in flavor, have a slightly nutty taste. The oyster mushroom absorbs other flavors well and change their flavor to go well with whatever you are cooking. You can use the whole mushroom the cap and the stem. They are easy to use in many different ways. They taste great just sauteed in butter. I saute and then add them to pasta. I also add them to stews or as ingredient for any sauce I make for cooking chicken. I also found they go great with any Indian sauce, like Pataks: Pataks Vindaloo Curry Paste 10 Oz

In this order you will receive 1 package of mushrooms (even though three packages are shown in a photo). However the product description does say that the total weight of the package is 2.6 pounds, and the title says that each kit is 3-pounds. So the info is there, but could have been more clear.

 The photo show the mushrooms from day #1 when the package is cut to day #10.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Product review: GLOVES NITRILE P/F

I purchased these gloves on I am very grateful to other reviewers for indicating that these gloves run small. I want to confirm this recommendation.

I have small hands and normally always wear small gloves. However this time I ordered medium and I was glad I did. I am attaching several photos to show how the glove fits my hand.

The glove is tight in the palm area (you can see the photo shows it stretched and taught). When I make a fist I feel resistance. The finger tips of this medium size glove are bit too long, the second picture shows me holding my hand in the glove against the box so you can see the extra material folding over at the tips. This is not too bad, and will not interfere with the kind of work I plan to use them for.

The glove material is thicker than the gloves I used before, which is good. I did not detect strong ordor either on the gloves or on my hands after I removed them. I was able to put the gloves on and off a few times for the photo, they became a little harder to put on with each use (less slippery). Even though these gloves are powder free there was something on the inside of the glove that made it easier to put on the first time.

Overall, I am pleased with the gloves and so glad there were reviews that helped me pick the right size!

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Product review: Refresh Tears Lubricant Eye Drops

I have dry eyes that require me to put drops in several times a day. At its worse my eyes were so dry that I had trouble opening my eyelids in the morning, they were stuck to my eyes. I have tried a large number of eye drops, which helped me with various degrees.

My favorite eye drop is Refresh Tears Lubricant Eye drops in a bottle. It does not irritate my eyes, it provides a long lasting effect, it does not blur my vision when it is applied. It works equally well during the day and night. I buy these smaller bottle for travel, and use the larger bottles at home/work. Both small and large containers are great - they dispense the same perfect drop size every time. Whether the container is full or nearly empty the drops come out easily and always the same size. I only can guess that the container is empty by weight or when I get nothing but air bubbles :-)

Refresh Tears Drops for Sensitive eyes single use vials work very well. They have no preservatives and are better for sensitive eyes, however they are more expensive the Refresh Tears in a bottle. Each vial has 4 drops. So I feel I am wasting the money if I use it just once. It is possible to re-close the vial for a second use the same day, but only if you can place the container somewhere it will not be disturbed, since the closure is pretty loose. I use these when my eyes are particular sensitive.

Refresh Liquigel blurs my vision, and when I wake up my eyes a covered with crusty residue of the gell. I don't like it. The packaging of Liquigel looks very similar to Lubricant drops, and at least on one occasion I bought the Liquigel by mistake after I already knew it did not work well for me. I hope this warning helps someone to avoid the same mistake.

Systane lubricant drops irritate my eyes, they become hot and itchy and the eyes need almost constant lubrication. I don't understand why this happens, I don't have any allergies. I have tried this lubricant several times, because my doctor likes it and offers me samples at every visit.

GenTeal Librican Oitment blurs my vision after application, so I can only use it at night. When I wake up my eyes are crusty with the residue of the lubrication.

Genteal Lubricant Gen Aqua does not irritate my eyes, but the effect of the drop seem not to last. I need to reapply these drops much more frequently than Refresh Tears.

Murine Lubricant Drops do not irritate my eyes, but the effect of the drop seem not to last. I need to reapply these drops much more frequently than Refresh Tears.

Visine drops are very inexpensive and work well in my eyes, but my eye doctor told me not to use any lubricant that has `get the red out' in the name. He said it has extra medication to constrict blood vessels in the eye, and he said such drops should not be used for every day use.

On my last visit, my doctor suggested that I try taking 2 triple omega oil pills a day, as he found it really helps eye dryness. I was skeptical, but figured I would give it a try since fish oil has other positive effects. 2 weeks later I really began feeling a difference, my eyelids are no longer stuck to my eyes in the morning. I still use eye drops, it just does not feel as urgent when I wake up.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Product review: Mobility aid Long Reach Comfort Wipe

After a serious back surgery twisting became practically impossible.  Luckily there are various tools that aid personal hygiene for people who have this mobility limitation. When I was in rehabilitation facility they recommended Self-Wipe Bathroom Toilet Aid which I purchased.
That tool worked but it was not ideal.  Then I decided to get a second aid so I would have one in each bathroom and purchased this product.

Long Reach Comfort Wipe works much better! It grips the paper better the other one, the rubbery head (rather than smooth plastic) gives you a better wipe, it uses less toilet paper, you never get your hands dirty because of how the ejection button works.

This is a simpler, cheaper option, that is engineered better!

Almost a year later this tool still works well. I even take it with me when I travel.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Friday, May 18, 2012

Product review: Organize It All Metro Towel Rack Bathroom

This a simple modern looking towel rack which is sized 11.6" depth x 24.4" width x 29.5" height.

I am attaching several photos showing an empty rack as well as a rack with a bath towel. The stock photo has a small towel which might make it appear larger than it is. I am also attaching a photo of a unpackaged box, as the box surprised me by its small size. The box shows the weight of the box and that the product was made in Taiwan.

The rack is chrome colored, some parts of it are plastic (like end caps) silver in color. The rack is very light, lighter than other chrome items I have in my bathroom. The parts do make metal noise when they clank so it is not all plastic, but rather very thin tubing of chrome. Never the less when it was put together it felt reasonably sturdy. I could make it flex if I pushed on one corner, but it did not warble in regular use.

The rack went together amazingly easy. I needed no tools. I just twisted all the parts together as shown on instructions and everything fit easily and perfectly. It took me less than 10 minutes. I am attaching a photo of instruction page as it gives a good idea of what is involved.

I liked

1) I liked the style
2) I liked the depth and the fact that the bars are even (I can use it as a "shelve" when I need a flat surface in the bathroom)
3) I was very impressed with how easy it was put to together and how well everything fit together

I did not like

1) Nothing really, other than I cannot speak to longevity of materials as I only had it for a few days.

Overall, good looking towel rack that makes my bathroom look better than the old one. I recommend it.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Product review: simplehuman Slim Sink Caddy, Stainless Steel

It has been over a year since the purchase. I am still very pleased with it. Though this entire year I had to re-stick it only once. The suction cups hold really well. 

This sink caddy is very well designed. It is roomy (I am attaching a photo showing that it holds 4 of my cleaning "instruments" - two pads and two brushes) yet slim enough not to be in the way. It has holes in the bottom of the caddy so the cleaning pads drain into sink. The hanging mechanism is very good. The hanger rests on the lip of the sink, and the suction caps on the back get stuck to the side of the sink. The instruction say that the hanger is adjustable and can be squeezed to change its height, but I did not have to do it (it was perfect with height it arrived). The caddy is made out of rust-proof material, but of course, I have not had a chance to verify that since I only had it for a few weeks.

6.5" width x 2" depth x 3.25" height
The caddy extends away from the side of the sink depth+suction cups, which is 2.5 inches.
The lip of the hanger is 2". The height of the hanger is adjustable, set to 2" on arrival.

The caddy is convenient, my kitchen sink is more organized, and it has not been in my way once. I placed it at the far right corner (I am right-handed) as shown on the attached photo. This is a nice little gadget and I recommend it.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Book review: Prescriptive Stretching by Kristian Berg

I recently had a serious back surgery and after 4 months of physical therapy was looking for a book that would help me to continue with a stretching protocol on my own. Unfortunately this book was not as helpful to me as I hoped.

What I liked:
1) The book has nice diagrams
2) Does not require special equipment

What I did not like:
1) I found some diagrams and explanations hard to follow, even when I read them many times
2) I would have liked to see more options for each exercise
3) There were not a lot exercises specificity for the back

To help you make the decision about the book here are a bit more details about the content of the book:
* The first 24 pages go over the basics of why you need to stretch, muscular system, joints, general principles of stretching.
* Pages 25 to 39 cover neck stretches
* Pages 40 to 67 cover upper body stretches
* Pages 49 to 77 cover lower body stretches
* Pages 78 to 82 cover obliques
* Pages 83 to 107 more lower body stretches
* Pages 108 to 117 more upper body stretches
* Pages 119-132 diagnosis of pain and symptoms that require professional help

Bottom line: By reading other reviews it feels that this books fits a professional in the field of physical therapy best. But as a beginner with a back problem I did not find this book to be a good fit. I do my best to follow it for the general stretches, but had to get another book for the lower back.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Product review: GE 50 Pint ADER50LN Basement Dehumidifer

I have been using a dehumidifier in the basement to get rid of the "basement" smell. When my old model stopped working I purchased GE ADER50LN based on Consumer Reports recommendation as their Best Buy. Consumer Reports indicated that models that remove 60 to 70 pints of moisture per day (i.e. the larger models) usually remove the moisture faster and thus use less energy than the smaller ones. I just received my first electric bill and I can see that it is lower than with the old model.

What I like:
1) More efficient, lower electricity cost
2) There is a light that tells you when the filter needs changing
3) It has a timer
4) It has a digital display
5) It has frost control


To evacuate water directly into the drain (so I don't have to empty the bucket manually), I purchased a pump. A small tube empties the water from the dehumidifier into the pump (rather than into the internal bucket). The pump pumps the water into a longer tube which drains into the the same drain where the water from the washing machine does. All I had to do is to purchased a PVC drain splitter in a home improvement store and attach it to the drain I had for washing machine.

I am attaching the photo to illustrate my explanation. The white PVC pipe in the photo is the piece I attached, the beige PVS pipe is the original pipe. I cut down the original pipe so the new pipe would be at a similar height after I attached it.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Product review: White Dutch Clover Seed

 Early last spring I purchased 5 pound bag of White Dutch Clover on Amazon.  I have been very pleased with it. The germination rate of the clover I received was excellent during the fist some.  I had a little bit of it left over and replanted the left over seed this spring and they came in beautifully as well.

I took pictures (posted at the end of the review)  with the progress of my clover lawn.
Photo #1: clover lawn after 5 days
Photo #2: clover lawn after 15 days
Photo #3 & #4: clover after 23 days, clover after 23 days close-up
Photo #5 clover after 30 days
Photo #6 clover after 45 days -> appearance of flowers, this is my final photo

I have a lot of lawn and due to back problems limited ability to care for it as well as I should to keep it nice and green. Following a construction project late last fall a large area of my lawn became a patch of clay. After reading about eco lawns I decided to try to reseed the bold patch with clover rather than grass. I selected white Dutch clover because it is low growing (it reaches 4 inches when it matures) and was rated well for the North East region where I live.

I liked that Clover is a perennial and will propagate on its own. I like that Clover helps grass grow. Nitrogen-fixing bacteria that form nodules on the roots of the clover fix nitrogen from the air and increases the nitrogen in the lawn helping the grass to grow. What was important to me that clover grows vigorously even in poor soil, which is exactly what I have.

I read that the ideal time to plant is mid-April before grass starts growing quickly and provides competition for water. It can be planted later in the season as well, by then watering frequently becomes crucial for clover lawn establishment. I planted my clover in the third week of April, seeding some over the new grass that just started growing, some in the clay left by the construction, and some over patches that had dead grass.

Some information I found indicates that you need both clover AND grass to make a "clover lawn" as they are complementary in their ecological functioning and one supports the other. By planting my clover in several ways I will be able to see if I also need to add grass seed to the clover lawn.

The instructions said not to spread them by hand, so I came up with the following solution. I used a large spice bottle (the kind you get at Costco) and opened the side with the round holes and used it as a shaker to spread the seeds.

I watered daily (if there was no rain). The instructions said you only need to do it for 7 to 10 days, but I am watering to insure good growth.

One section of my lawn which included clover is mowed regularly once a week. The clover did not survive many weeks of mowing. It came back a couple of times, but eventually died out completely. A section that has not been mowed still has healthy looking clover.

In the fall the regular mowing ended and I am happy to report that the clover came back in the section which was regularly mowed and where it stopped growing during the summer!

The clover wintered fairly well and I saw plenty of re-growth this spring.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Product Review: Suncast Rust Resistant Metal Garden Hose Guide

I own several sets of Suncast rust resistant metal garden hose guides.  The oldest set is 4 years old and it still looks good, no rust.  In attached photo the image in the garden shows the oldest guide and you see that it still looks like new despite being outside for 4 years.

I use the garden guides not only for regular water hoses (for example when I wash my car and want to guide the hose between the flowers to avoid damaging my flower beds) but also to guide my drip irrigation drip tubes.  These guides are sturdier and more attractive than the typical plastic stakes that are used with the drip irrigation system. I use these metal guides on the drip irrigation lines that don't end with emitters and thus have the water come out with more force.  The small plastic stakes can't always handle the initial force of the water and move a bit from where I want them to deposit water, but these metal guides work great.


1. Photo #1 shows the set of two guides in this order, placed on grid mat for size reference (detailed size info below)
2. Photo #2 shows one of the guides on a digital scale, it comes in as 12.6 oz
3. Photo #3 shows the 4 year old guide holding my drip irrigation line, you can see how I threaded the small holes to place the drip irrigation tubing exactly where I wanted


1. The length of the spike is 11"
2. The width between the two legs of the spike is 3"
3. The big opening for the regular size house is 2"
4. The entire width of the top part is 6.5"
5. The two small openings at the top which I use for the drop line are a bit under 1"

Overall, very pleased the guide and multiple uses I get out of it.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★