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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Food review: Poland Spring Sparking Lemon water / Poland Spring Direct

I find the taste of Poland Spring Sparking Lemon water refreshing. It really satisfies my third on hot days. I hear that some people take time to grow to like the taste but I liked it right away. Poland Spring Sparking Lemon water has no sugar or sweetener of any kind, it has slightly bitter lemony flavor which is pretty subtle, and it is bubbly. 

I found that Poland Direct offers 24 bottle cases of the half liter bottles (16.9 oz) for $11.49 a case along with free delivery to your home.  The water is delivered to my house once a month.  I don't have to be home when they deliver.  I asked them to delivery the water to the back of the house and place it next to the basement entrance.  I store the cases in the basement and this way I need to carry them just a short distance. The only minor thing I don't like about the home delivery is that they deliver on a specific date every month, rather on the same day of the week.  I can be home early on certain days of the week, so if I could have arranged that the cases would not have to sit outside for too long.

Zero calories and a taste I like - thumbs up!

You can find this case on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Product review: IHOME iHM79SC Rechargeable Mini Speakers


I am attaching a collage of four photos number 1 through 4 under  that I will be referencing in this review.

My husband originally bought these speakers to amplify sound on Nexus 7 Tablet and Samsung Galaxy Nexus cell phone in the car, when the tablet or phone are used for Navigation.  The sound was clear and loud, but the wires were in the way and he replace them with a blue-tooth speakers that worked better for us in the car, while I took over these speaker to use with my kitchen TV. This Samsung TV has very weak built-in speakers and even at the highest setting I cannot hear this TV well over the sounds of running water and other kitchen noises.   These little speakers totally solved the problem.  I now have the TV volume half way down and sound is much louder and better than it was before.  I am very pleased!

* The speakers are fairly small. Photo #1 shows them next to a ruler and photo #2 shows them next to a pen for size reference.
Their width is 2 inches, their height is 3 inches.

* Each speaker is 4.2 ounces (photo #3 shows one of the speakers on a digital scale)

* When the power is low these speakers distort sound.  Since I use them in a permanent spot the speakers are permanently plugged in and the sound quality is always very good.  However, the speakers came without an AC plug, only with USB plug. I purchased a dedicated USB plug for these speakers for under $10.

* The speakers have three sets of wires: the wire from the speaker to the TV is 27 inches, the wire between the two speakers is 27" inches, and the wire to the power outlet is 27".

* At the bottom of each speaker there is a very bright LED light. It is blue when the speaker is fully charged, and red when the speaker is charging.  Since the speakers are permanently plugged in the LED light turns red almost as soon as the TV is turned on.  Photos #1 and #2 show one the lights turned red, while the other one was still blue.  I found these bright lights distracting when watching TV.  I positioned them slightly turned and somewhat behind the TV to minimizes the glair from the lights. 

* Each speaker can be turned on and off independently. In my TV set up I use both speakers.  When we used them in the car we tried one as well as both speakers, both configurations worked well.

* Photo #4 shows the speakers in their compact form as well as extended. If you plan to use these speakers for travel it is a useful feature to have.

* When the speakers are fully charged the sound quality is very good: crisp, undistorted, and they can be made quite loud.

These speakers really improved my TV! I can wash dishes and do chores and still be able to hear the TV.  Thumbs up!

You can find these speakers on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Product review: Monster MP OTG400 WH Outlets To Go Power Strip



I travel with a lot of gadget that require recharging, so the first thing I check out in a hotel room are the outlets. With Outlets to go I don't have to worry if there are enough and if they are positioned conveniently. 

I am attaching a collage of 5 photos that I will be referencing in this review.

This power strip has a dual-side design, each side has two outlets (Photo #1 and Photo #2 show both each side next to a ruler).  The strip if 6 inches long, just under 2 inches wide, and weights 6 oz (photo #5 shows the strip  on postal digital scale).  The cord is 10.8 inches long (see photo #4) and wraps around the the strip length and plugs into itself when not in use (see photo #3).  This makes into small neat bundle without sharp points. All these features make it perfect for taking along when traveling.

The outlet on the strip are very well spaced out. Photo #6 shows two of my Sanyo Eneloop recharges side by side fitting perfectly next to each.  Photo #7 shows my Samsung Galaxy Tablet charging next to the Sanya Eneloop recharger with plenty of room to spare.

This is such a well designed strip that I now use it not only when I travel but also everyday for the rechargers I use every day. I used to do my charging on a circular charging schedule, but with this strip in play I no longer have to worry about the charging schedule.

Excellent product! I highly recommend it, and not just for travel!
You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Friday, August 24, 2012

Product review: PowerGen Dual Port USB 2.1A 10W AC Travel Wall Charger with Nexus 7 Tablet, Samsung Galaxy 7.7 Tablet, and Samsung Galaxy Nexus cell phone, and SanDisk Sansa Clip+ player


I tested PowerGen Dual Port USB 2.1A 10W AC Travel Wall Charger with Nexus 7 Tablet, Samsung Galaxy 7.7 Tablet, and Samsung Galaxy Nexus cell phone, and SanDisk Sansa Clip+ player.
I received PowerGen wall and car chargers for testing from the manufacturer to write an honest and unbiased review and you will find both pluses and minuses of my experience in this review.

I am attaching a collage of 5 photos labeled with numbers 1 through 5 that I will be referencing in this review.

The first thing I noticed that this wall charger is fairly small, it takes up only one slot on the extension cord. Photos #1 and #4 show this plug on two different power strips.

The plug has two ports labeled "A" and "NA" which stands for Apple and Non-Apple devices. I own all Android devices but I tested both ports to see their behavior with my devices. The charger comes without a USB cord, so tested it with the USB cords that came with my devices.

I used Battery App to determine how each device recognized the external battery pack. 'AC' status means the charging is at full charging rate. 'USB' status indicates charging at a lower charging rate. 'Discharging' status means that the charging rate is below the power that the device is consuming so it slows down the discharge rate but does not re-charge.

The key findings:
(1) Samsung Galaxy 7.7 cannot be charged with this wall charger with either port
(2) "A" port provides reduced power for some non-Apple devices and does not work for others
*** Update 1/9/2013 ***
I repeated the test with Nexus 7 running Jelly Bean 4.21 and both ports are now charging it at AC rate.  The original test which showed poor performance on Apple port was Nexus 7 running Jelly Bean 4.1.
I also retested Galaxy Nexus Phone running CyanogenMod 10.1 version of Jelly Bean 4.21, but it showed no improvement. It still gets only USB charging rate on Apple port.

The table below summarizes my findings:

Nexus 7 Tablet (photo #4 and #5, note that the left port is labeled "A" and the right port is labeled "NA")
--------------
A port  -- discharging (Nexus 7 running Jelly Bean 4.1.)
A port  -- AC (Nexus 7 running Jelly Bean 4.21)
NA port  -- AC
Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone
--------------------------
A port -- USB
NA port -- AC

Samsung Galaxy Tablet 7.7
--------------------------
A port -- discharging
NA port -- discharging

SanDisk Sansa Clip+ MP3 Player
------------------------------
A port -- charged at USB rate
NA port -- charged at AC rate

The behavior with Nexus devices was consistent and good on "NA" port. Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone gets USB rate on Apple "A" port.  After upgrade to Jelly Bean 4.21 Nexus 7 gets AC rate on both ports.

Samsung Galaxy Tablet 7.7 did not work (was discharging) in both ports.

The MP3 player worked in both ports, but as USB rate in "A" port and at "AC" rate in in "NA" port. When I charge Sansa MP3 with a standard AC charger (photo #3), the MP3 player goes into charging mode, displaying the charging animated icon, the MP3 content is not played. When MP3 was plugged into the PowerGen plug (photo #3) it continued to play the content. I listen to books on my MP3 player so this caused me to move forward in my book and I had to manually reset my position by a few chapters to get back to where I was when I started charging. The positive side of this, is that is possible to continue listening while MP3 is recharging.

To summarize:

I liked:
---------
1. Good behavior with Nexus devices.
2. Solution for MP3 player with built-in battery
3. Can charge two devices (but one at a reduced rate for non-Apple devices)

I did not like:
--------------
1. Did not work with for my Samsung Galaxy tablet
2. For non-Apple devices one port has less power or does not work
3. For non-Apple devices the less useful plug takes up a little extra room

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Product review:PowerGen Dual USB 3.1A 15w High Output Car Charger review for use with Nexus 7 Tablet, Samsung Galaxy 7.7 Tablet, and Samsung Galaxy Nexus cell phone, and SanDisk Sansa Clip+ player


I tested PowerGen Dual Port USB Car Charger with Nexus 7 Tablet, Samsung Galaxy 7.7 Tablet, and Samsung Galaxy Nexus cell phone, and SanDisk Sansa Clip+ player.  My original test  for Nexus devices was using Jelly Bean 4.1, I repeated the tests for Jelly Bean 4.21 and saw a significant difference.  I updated this review to show the differences between two releases.
I received PowerGen car charger for testing from the manufacturer to write an honest and unbiased review and you will find both pluses and minuses of my experience in this review.

I am attaching a collage of 3 photos labeled with numbers 1 through 3 under customer photos that I will be referencing in this review.

The first thing I noticed that this car charger is fairly short (3 inches in length, 1 inch by 1 2/8 in width). Photos #1 shows this plug plugged in.

The plug has two ports labeled "A" and "NA" which stands for Apple and Non-Apple devices. I own all Android devices but I tested both ports to see their behavior with my devices. The charger comes without a USB cord, so tested it with the USB cords that came with my devices.

I used Battery App to determine how each device recognized the external battery pack. 'AC' status means the charging is at full charging rate. 'USB' status indicates charging at a lower charging rate. 'Discharging' status means that the charging rate is below the power that the device is consuming so it slows down the discharge rate but does not re-charge.

The key findings:
(1) Samsung Galaxy 7.7 cannot be charged with this car charger with either port
(2) "A" port provides reduced power for some non-Apple devices and does not work for others
*** Update 1/11/2013 ***
I repeated the test with Nexus 7 running Jelly Bean 4.21 and both ports are now charging it at AC rate. The original test which showed poor performance on Apple port was Nexus 7 running Jelly Bean 4.1.
I also retested Galaxy Nexus Phone running CyanogenMod 10.1 version of Jelly Bean 4.21, both ports also show charging at AC rate.


The table below summarizes my findings:

Nexus 7 Tablet
--------------
A port -- discharging (Jelly Bean 4.1)
A port -- AC (Jelly Bean 4.21)
NA port -- AC

Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone
--------------------------
A port -- USB (Jelly Bean 4.1)
A port -- AC (Jelly Bean 4.21)
NA port -- AC

Samsung Galaxy Tablet 7.7 (photo #2 and $3 show Galaxy tablet is running battery app and showing "discharging" on both port)
--------------------------
A port -- discharging
NA port -- discharging

SanDisk Sansa Clip+ MP3 Player
------------------------------
A port -- charged at USB rate
NA port -- charged at AC rate

The behavior with Nexus devices was consistent and good on "NA" port. After upgrade to Jelly Bean 4.21 both Nexus devices are charging at AC rate on the Apple port.

Samsung Galaxy Tablet 7.7 did not work (was discharging) in both ports.

The MP3 player worked in both ports, but as USB rate in "A" port and at "AC" rate in in "NA" port. When I charge Sansa MP3 with a standard AC charger (photo #3), the MP3 player goes into charging mode, displaying the charging animated icon, the MP3 content is not played. When MP3 was plugged into the PowerGen plug (photo #3) it continued to play the content. I listen to books on my MP3 player so this caused me to move forward in my book and I had to manually reset my position by a few chapters to get back to where I was when I started charging. The positive side of this, is that is possible to continue listening while MP3 is recharging.

To summarize:

I liked:
---------
1. Good behavior with Nexus devices.
2. Solution for MP3 player with built-in battery
3. Can charge two devices (but one at a reduced rate for non-Apple devices)

I did not like:
--------------
1. Did not work with for my Samsung Galaxy tablet
2. (Not applicable after upgrade to Jelly Bean 4.21) For non-Apple devices one port has less power or does not work
3. (Not applicable after upgrade to Jelly Bean 4.21) For non-Apple devices the less useful plug takes up a little extra room

Overall, after upgrade to Jelly Bean 4.21 this plug has an excellent performance on both ports for Android devices.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Product review: Covergirl and Olay pressed powder


I have been using The Covergirl cosmetics for a long time.  I recently tried two new to me Covergirl products.  This is a review of the Covergirl and Olay pressed powder.  You can find the review of the Covergirl and Olay foundation here

 I have a dark spot on my cheek that I always try to cover up with make up. The Covergirl & Olay powder  overall did a nice job covering up my problem dark spot. I am attaching a photo of before and after photo, and you can see the more even color of my skin.

On the negative applying powder took a bit more work than the liquid foundation. The powder came with a nice applicator which really helped make powder invisible on my face, but after the first application I noticed a bit of powder specs visible to the naked eye. Then I read the instructions to see if I did it wrong, and yes I missed a step. After the powder is applied with an applicator sponge you need to work the powder into you skin with the tips of your fingers.  After that step the powder specs were gone!

The Covergirl & Olay foundation comes in 6 shades of color from Fair to Medium/Dark, so everyone should be able to find a color that works well with their skin.

Overall, I am quite pleased with the results and will continue using it after the test period is over.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Product review: Covergirl & Olay Foundation


I have been using The Covergirl cosmetics for a long time.  I recently tried two new to me products. This is a review of the The Covergirl and Olay foundation.  You can find the review of the Covergirl and Olay pressed powder here

The Covergirl & Olay foundation does a nice job on rough surfaces. In addition to the color the foundation has ingredients that hydrate the skin, so when I removed the make up at the end of the day my skin felt soft.  The foundation comes in an elegant bottle with a smooth action pump that gave me an even amount of make up every time I used it. The first photo shows make up in my hand so you can see its color and creamy texture.


When I put foundation on my face it felt nice and not greasy and spread evenly. I have a dark spot on my cheek that I always try to cover up with make up. I am attaching before and after photos, and you can see the more even color of my skin.

On the negative side the coverage did not last all day. I needed to reapply the foundation once. My dark trouble spot is an area that I am likely to brush when I use the phone, so I suspect that what caused it to come off during the day.

The Covergirl & Olay foundation comes in 14 shades of color from Ivory to Soft Sable, so everyone should be able a color that works well with their skin.

Overall, I am quite pleased with the results and will continue using it after the test period is over.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Monday, August 20, 2012

Product review: DBEST London PS4001BT Solo Bluetooth Rechargeable Mini-Speaker


This speaker was purchased to use with the Nexus 7 Tablet and Samsung Galaxy Nexus cell phone when the tablet or the phone are used for navigation. The built-in speakers in both devices produce very weak sound even at the maximum setting and cannot be heard well over the music when we are driving. This little speaker totally solved the problem.  The sound is excellent, we have the volume set at about 1/3 level and it is clear, crisp and loud.  It produces no distortions and the sound quality is good not only for voice but for music as well.

I am attaching a collage of three photos under customer photos number 1 through 3 that I will be referencing in this review.

1. Despite the large sound the speaker is quite small. Photo #2 shows it my hand.

2. The speaker has a small loop at the top, which can be used in many ways to hang the speaker in the car: from the mirror, from the GPS mount, or as shown in picture #1 from the hook on the side of the car.  This puts the speaker next to the driver's head and making the sound a bit louder to the person who is driving.
Photo #1 shows the loop clearly, photo #2 shows the speaker attached to the hook with two wire ties.

3. To pair the speaker with the device you need to turn the speaker on, then scan for blue-tooth devices on the your tablet/phone, when the speaker is found, all you have to do is select it. That's it.
Photo #3 shows Nexus 7 navigating while giving us instructions over the DBEST London mini speaker.

4. Works about 20 hours wireless (40 hours when plugged in)

5. Comes with a USB cable for recharging, no AC recharging cable. We purchased a USB plug so the speaker can be recharged at home from an AC outlet.

Small gotcha:

After a stop in driving, even when the speaker is left on, when we resume driving the blue-tooth pairing does not happen automatically. Turning the speaker on and off does not fix the problem.  We need to use to re-scan blue-tooth devices on the Android device to get the speaker connected again. It feels like a problem with the Android OS (running JellyBean OS in our case) rather the speaker.  However, compared to the great sound, no wires, and convenient options for hanging this is a relatively small annoyance.

This is the third speaker we auditioned for this job and we finally have a winner!
You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Music review: An incredible performance by Tansel Akzeybek in The Elixir of love, Opera North, Lebanon New Hampshire


I had a pleasure of being at a wonderful performance of The Elixir of Love this week (Opera North, Lebanon, New Hampshire). The leading role was peformed by Tansel Akzeybek who, in his North America debut, absolutely mesmerized the audience by his beautiful voice. The audience went berserk after he sang "Una furtiva lagrima" and began screaming "ancora! ancora! ancora!" ("again!"), he nodded and repeated the entire aria one more time right in the middle of the show.  I've never encountered or heard of anyone doing this before.  I was so glad he did!

I found that his Opera North performance of  "Una furtiva lagrima" was available on YouTube and hope other people will enjoy it as much as I did.

"Una furtiva lagrima" ("A single secret tear") was composed by Gaetano Donizetti, the libretto was written by Felice Romani. English Translation
A single secret tear
from her eye did spring:
as if she envied all the youths
that laughingly passed her by.
What more searching need I do?
What more searching need I do?
She loves me! Yes, she loves me, I see it. I see it.
For just an instant the beating
of her beautiful heart I could feel!
As if my sighs were hers,
and her sighs were mine!
The beating, the beating of her heart I could feel,
to merge my sighs with hers...
Heavens! Yes, I could die!
I could ask for nothing more, nothing more.
Oh, heavens! Yes, I could, I could die!
I could ask for nothing more, nothing more.
Yes, I could die! Yes, I could die of love.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Product Review: Retractable Extension Cord ( White, 2 outlets)


The description of this cord does not specify its length. If I knew it was only 56 inches (4.5 feet) I would not have bought it. The stock photo shows it replacing a very long cord, and one might think the photo that shows the cord has most of it retracted, but in fact you see the entire thing. I am including a collage of 4 photos which I will be referencing in this review.

Photo #1 shows this extension cord in fully extended length wrapped around a 12 inch ruler. You can see its entire 56 inch length.

Photo #2 shows that I was able to use to regular size plugs next to each other. However the outlet is VERY tight, it was quite difficult to insert and remove the plugs. I hope it will loosen up with use. A slightly larger black plug next to the cord could not be plugged in along with another plug, it only could be used alone. The position of the two outlets is poorly designed - they should have been placed further apart to make it more useful.

Photo #3 shows the retraction mechanism upside down, and Photo #4 shows how retraction works. It is a mechanical retraction device that you need to turn to retract. It does not retract by tension like some of my other retractable cords. I found that I was not able to retract the cord when something was plugged into it, I had to unplug retract and then put the plugs back in.

I use it with a fan which is not used all the time. I constantly wish the cord was longer to reach the ideal ventilation spots. I found I use the cord at full length and stretched out which makes it a tripping hazard. Since plugs are tight and I need to remove them to retract I don't bother with retracting when the fan is not in use.

To summarize:

I DID NOT LIKE:
------------------
1. Too short to be useful as a retractable cord (56 inches)
2. Plug positions are too close together
3. Outlets are extremely tight and it is very difficult to insert/remove plugs
4. Retraction mechanism is mechanical and needs to be set when the other cords are unplugged

I LIKED:
-------------
1. It does works

I would have given this cord a 3 star score if the description clearly stated its length so I knew what I would be getting.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★☆☆☆

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Product Review: Akron windshield mount SM517 for use with Nexus 7 Tablet, Samsung Galaxy 7.7 Tablet, and Samsung Galaxy Nexus cell phone


We have been using GPS units for a long time and went through a large number of units and even larger number of mounts. Arkon window mount is one of the best mounts we tried.
I am attaching a collage of three photos which I will be referencing in this review.

Here are the features I look for in a good windshield mount and how Arkon mount measures up

1) Good suction, quick and easy to mount, stays on, does not jiggle. Arkon mount is better than most. We have been using it for a number of weeks. It has not fallen down even in rough terrain. This is a low vibration mount - it generates almost no jiggle of the unit.

2) Good positioning of grippers that hold the device. This is especially important when using a phone or tablet (rather than a dedicated GPS device) as those units have volume and on/off buttons on the sides.  Arkon mount does very well in this department.  We did not have to do any fussing, it just worked.

3) Flexibility in holding multiple devices. Arkon comes with with 4 short and 2 long grippers. The long grippers worked perfectly for 7" Nexus tablet (see photo #1) and the short grippers worked well for Samsung Galaxy Nexus cell phone.

I also own 7.7 Galaxy tablet, which is slightly wider that the Nexus 7 tablet. My Galaxy 7.7 tablet did not fit into the mount (see photo #2). Photo #3 has two tablets side by side, where you can see the diffeence in height.

Overall, this is a very good mount and we are very pleased with it.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Product review: PowerGen Mobile Juice Pack 5200mAh External Battery Pack High Capacity

I tested PowerGen Mobile Juice Pack 5200mAh External Battery Pack with Nexus 7 Tablet, Samsung Galaxy 7.7 Tablet, and Samsung Galaxy Nexus cell phone, and SanDisk Sansa Clip+ player.
I received 8400mAh and 5400mAh external battery packs for testing from the manufacturer to write an honest and unbiased review and you will find both pluses and minuses of my experience in this review.

I am attaching a collage of 6 photos labeled with number 1 through 6  that I will be referencing in this review.

The first thing I noticed when I opened the package is that brick looks slick and well made. Its dimensions are 3.66" x 1.69" x 0.87" (smaller than a deck of cards). Photo #1 has it next to a pen for size reference.

The box contained two USB cords 7" and 27" and adapters to fit different devices (Micro 5pin, PSP, Nokia DCP 2.0, Mini 5pin, iPhone/iPad, Samsun 20 pin, LG, SONY Ericsson). Photo #1 shows the entire content including all adapters. The adapters are a weak point of the design, they feel a bit flimsy and it is easy to loose all the small pieces. The minimum configuration for my devices is two connectors: one that goes into the AC plug to charge the external battery and the second (mini USB) that goes into the devices for charging. You can see the large connection bundle it creates best in Photo #1 where the cable is shown with the adapter for the AC plug.

The blue lights on top of the battery pack indicate the level of power in the battery: 4 circles indicate full charge, 3 circle indicate 75% and so forth. To turn on the device you need to press the button on the side of the unit. To turn off the device you need to press and hold the button for a few seconds (this is not documented, I found it by experimenting).

The 5400mAh PowerGen has one USB outlet. I tested my four electronic devices using both my own USB cable as well as the manufacture cable+adapter.

The provided adapters fit Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone, Nexus 7 tablet and Sansa Clip MP3 (as they take regular USB-to-micro USB cable) but none of the provided adapters fit Galaxy Samsung 7.7 Tablet. The Amazon product description mentions Samsung Galaxy and does not explicitly state that Galaxy Tablets are not supported so I hoped it would work, but it did not.

I used Battery App to determine how each device recognized the external battery pack. 'AC' status means the charging is at full charging rate. 'USB' status indicates charging at a lower charging rate. 'Discharging' status means that the charging rate is below the power that the device is consuming so it slows down the discharge rate but does not re-charge.

The key findings:
(1) Using PowerGen cables vs generic cables that came with my devices made a difference.

(2) Samsung Galaxy 7.7 cannot be charged with this battery pack

Why using PowerGen cables makes a difference:
PowerGen cables are charging cables, not data cables. This is achieved by shorting the two data connections together (rendering them useless for data transfer),  but this fulls Nexus to see it as an AC power connection, and will accept the higher current of the charging source.

The table below summarizes my findings.

Nexus 7 Tablet (photo #2 and #3)
--------------
Regular cable -- discharging
PowerGen cable -- AC

Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone (photo #4 and #5)
--------------------------
Regular cable -- USB
PowerGen cable -- AC

Samsung Galaxy Tablet 7.7 (photo #6)
--------------------------
Regular cable -- discharging
PowerGen cable -- no adapter, cannot be used

SanDisk Sansa Clip+ MP3 Player
------------------------------
Regular cable -- works (USB rate)
PowerGen cable -- works (AC rate)


The behavior with Nexus devices was consistent and very good when used with PowerGen cables. Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone was more forgiving and worked even in 2 AMP outlet with my own cable at USB rate. The Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone with 3800 mAh super battery Trexcell Samsung Galaxy Nexus 3800mah got charged from 81% to 100% in less than 2 hours. The charging started at 3:18pm, at 5 pm it was at full charge. It stayed at 100% with the battery going down to about 3/4 full when I checked at 9 pm. At 6:15 pm the next day (27 hours later) the phone was at 100% and the battery pack was down to 1 light (25% full).  Finally, at 8pm the next day last light on the battery pack went off, and the phone began discharging. Pretty good!


Samsung Galaxy Tablet 7.7 did not work (was discharging) with this external power pack. I got slightly better results with 8400mAh power pack (for details see my review of PowerGen 8400mAh).

The MP3 player recognized the power pack, however it behaved differently than charging from AC recharger.
When I charge Sansa MP3 with a standard AC charger, the MP3 player goes into charging mode, displaying the charging animated icon, the MP3 content is not played. When MP3 was plugged into the PowerGen external battery it continued to play the content. I listen to books on my MP3 player so this caused me to move forward in my book and I had to manually reset my position by a few chapters to get back to where I was when I started charging. The positive side of this, is that is possible to continue listening while MP3 is recharging. This turned out to be immediately useful, as 30 minutes after I finished testing a thunderstorm knocked out my electric power for 9 hours and when my MP3 battery died I listened to it attached to the PowerGen battery while it recharged.

To summarize:

I liked:
---------
1. Good behavior with Nexus devices.
2. Solution for MP3 player with built-in battery
3. Looks sleek, feels solid, is compact

I did not like:
--------------
1. The multiple piece connectors are flimsy and easy to loose. I already ordered a one piece replacement.
2. Documentation are hard to read: it is in microscopic font and written in broken English.
3. Did not work with for my Samsung Galaxy tablet

Overall, I am pleased with this unit and recommend for the devices I tested with the exception of Samsung Galaxy tablet.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


11/12/2012 Update:

I just finished testing and wrote a review of the new 9000 mAh PowerGen power pack that works with Samsung Galaxy table, and provides AC performance for Nexus devices.

I also just finished testing and wrote a review of the new 6000mAh PowerGen power pack which similar to this one.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

From product description this external battery is compatible with:
Apple:iPhone 4S / iPhone 4 / iPhone 3GS/ ipod touch/classic/nano/ iPad/ iPad 2 [OEM CABLE REQUIRED]
HTC Sensation XE XL / Thunderbolt / EVO 3D / EVO 4G / Incredible S / Evo Shift 4g
Samsung Galaxy S 2 / Epic 4G / Galaxy S 4G / Galaxy Nexus
Blackberry Curve / Storm 2 / Tour Style / Bold
Motorola Atrix / Bionic / Droid X , X2, 2 , 3, 4, Pro , R2D2 / triumph
Nokia N900 / N8 / N97 / C6 / C3 C7 / E7 / X6
LG Optimus , 2x , V , S , T / Quantum / Vortex
Sony Experia ARC Arc / Neo / Play / Mini
Amazon Kindle Fire, and all other kindles
Others Nook Color, NDS, Portable Wifi, PSP (NOT compatible with PSP vista)


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Product review: Barely there crop bra / Bali comfort revolution bra

I have been a huge fan of "Barely there" crop bras. They are the most comfortable bras I have ever owned. I can fall asleep in one of these bras and not know I have it on, yet they give you reasonable support. They are also great to wear when it is hot, they do a good job absorbing sweat.

The first crop top bra I bought is over two years old and is still holding up well after a lot of use. I now have these bras in multiple colors so I can wear them with any top.

Note on color: I am very pleased with the colors, however the colors were not exactly what I expected based on the words "pink" and "blue lavendar". Pink is really better described as beige. Blue Lavendar is grey. These colors go well with my wardrobe, but in case you really want pink and blue I wanted to make a note of the Barelythere color scheme. Black and white colors, however, are exactly as one would expect.

I recently decided to ordered a new batch of these bras. I ordered them from Amazon from the same product page, which still said it was Barelythere bra, but in parenthesis said label "(Replaced with Bali 103J)". I wrote to the seller to ask her if this was the same bra or not, so I can be sure of the fit. She wrote back that it was the same bra. When I received the order I saw that the branding was different. Instead of Barelythere label, it had "Bali comfort revolution" label.

The design of the damask print knitted in on strap and center front of the bra seemed a little different but the fit was the same.

So, it appears to be the same bra... but why do they changed such a perfectly good unique name with something much harder to remember and find?
You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Friday, August 10, 2012

Product review: Zeta Touch Stone - Stress Ball


In a typical day I spend more than 12 hours a day at the computer for work and play and often my right hand hurts at the end of the day from repetitive use of the mouse. I received an evaluation copy of Zeta ball to provide honest review of the product and you will find both pluses and minuses I encountered in my 3 week evaluation.

The small Zeta ball is 1.5 inches in diameter and it is made out of hard resin with a nice color that makes it look like stone. It comes with a nice plastic stand which is handy to keep it from rolling around when it is not in use.

First, I noticed that the stock photo currently used with this product is showing the larger version of the ball sold in a different listing. I am attaching a collage of three photos under customer photos which I will be referencing in this review.

Photo #1 shows the zeta ball next to a ruler for size reference. You can also see it resting on the plastic stand included in this offering.

Photo #2 and #3 show the ball in my hand. I have small hands, typically wearing size small women gloves. I used poses similar to to stock photo, and you see the ball is smaller in my hand than the ball in the model's hand. This is not a negative - for a small hand a small size ball fits better!

The ball can be used warm or cold. The ball absorbs heat/cold temperature very quickly. The plus of this that you can bring the disc to the desired temperature quickly. The down side of this is that it does not stay at the desired temperature for a long time. I found I like using the ball best at a room temperature. I use by rolling between my palms. In a typical day I spend more than 12 hours a day at the computer for work and play, and rolling the ball between my hands provides a nice massage for my hands. I do it a couple of times a day and my hands feel less tired at the end of the day. The massage combined with the movement of my hands is a nice break from holding the mouse and typing. To prevent repetitive stress injuries the doctors recommend not to do the same movement for a long time and the ball is nice reminder and aid that forces you to change what your hands are doing.

My second favorite use for it is to roll it by sole of my foot. Again, it provides a nice massage and it my foot feels nice.

Overall, at minimum it reminds me to change what I am doing with my hands. After three weeks of use I had fewer days when my hand hurt at the end of the day. For that alone I recommend it!

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Product review: PowerGen Mobile Juice Pack 8400mAh External Battery Pack High Capacity Power Bank

I tested I 8400mAh PowerGen external battery pack with Nexus 7 Tablet, Samsung Galaxy 7.7 Tablet, and Samsung Galaxy Nexus cell phone, and SanDisk Sansa Clip+ player.
I received 8400mAh and 5400mAh external battery packs for testing from the manufacturer to write an honest and unbiased review and you will find both pluses and minuses of my experience in this review.

I am attaching a collage of 5 photos labeled with number 1 through 5 under customer photos that I will be referencing in this review. I am also attaching a user manual as photo #6.

The first thing I noticed when I opened the package is that brick looks slick and well made. Its dimensions are 3.8" x 2.5" x .87" (only slightly larger than a deck of cards). It weighs 6.5 oz by itself, and 7.4 oz with the charging cable. A photo of the unit is included in 4 out 6 pictures I posted.

The box contained two USB cords 7" and 27" and adapters to fit different devices (Micro 5pin, PSP, Nokia DCP 2.0, Mini 5pin, iPhone/iPad). Photo #1 shows the entire content including all adapters. The adapters are a weak point of the design, they feel a bit flimsy and it is easy to loose all the small pieces. The minimum configuration for my devices is two connectors: one that goes into the AC plug to charge the external battery and the second (mini USB) that goes into the devices for charging. You can see the large connection bundle it creates best in Photo #5. Photo #1 shows the cable with connector for the AC plug.

The blue lights on top of the battery pack indicate the level of power in the battery: 4 circles indicate full charge, 3 circle indicate 75% and so forth. To turn on the device you need to press the button on the side of the unit. To turn off the device you need to press and hold the button for a few seconds (this is not documented, I found it by experimenting).

The 8400mAh PowerGen has two USB outlets: 0.6 Amp and 2 Amp. I tested my four electronic devices using both my own USB cable as well as the manufacture cable+adapter. In addition I tested charging two devices using both outlets at the same time.

The provided adapters fit Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone, Nexus 7 tablet and Sansa Clip MP3 (as they take regular USB-to-micro USB cable) but none of the provided adapters fit Galaxy Samsung 7.7 Tablet. The Amazon product description states that Galaxy Tablets are not supported, but I actually got it to work - more on that below.

I used Battery App to determine how each device recognized the external battery pack. 'AC' status means the charging is at full charging rate. 'USB' status indicates charging at a lower charging rate. 'Discharging' status means that the charging rate is below the power that the device is consuming so it slows down the discharge rate but does not re-charge.

The key findings:
(1) 2 Amp outlet is aimed at Apple devices and did not work as well as 0.6 Amp outlet for non-Apple devices.
(2) Using PowerGen cables vs generic cables that came with my devices made a difference.

Why using PowerGen cables makes a difference:
PowerGen cables are charging cables, not data cables. This is achieved by shorting the two data connections together (rendering them useless for data transfer),  but this fulls Nexus to see it as an AC power connection, and will accept the higher current of the charging source. 

The table below summarizes my findings.

Nexus 7 Tablet (photo #3)
--------------
Regular cable -- 0.6 AMP outlet -- AC
Regular cable -- 2 AMP outlet -- discharging
PowerGen cable -- 0.6 AMP outlet -- AC
PowerGen cable -- 2 AMP outlet -- AC

Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone (photo #3)
--------------------------
Regular cable -- 0.6 AMP outlet -- AC
Regular cable -- 2 AMP outlet -- USB
PowerGen cable -- 0.6 AMP outlet -- AC
PowerGen cable -- 2 AMP outlet -- AC

Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone and Nexus 7 Tablet together (photo #3)
--------------------------
8400 PowerGen was able to handle charging of both devices using two different ports, the charging levels are same as in the two tables above,
variying based on cable used and outlet.

Samsung Galaxy Tablet 7.7 (photo #2)
--------------------------
Regular cable -- 0.6 AMP outlet -- AC or discharging (I got inconsistant results, 1 out of 5 times it worked)
Regular cable -- 2 AMP outlet -- discharging
PowerGen cable -- no adapter, cannot be used

SanDisk Sansa Clip+ MP3 Player (photo #5)
------------------------------
0.6 AMP outlet -- works
2 AMP outlet -- works

Behavior with Samsung Galaxy Tablet 7.7 was inconsistent. The Amazon product description says that Galaxy Tablets are not supported by PowerGen external pack and the USB cable that fits this device is not included. Yet, I got it to charge with my own cable (photo #2 show "AC" status) and it charged my Galaxy Tab from 75% to 100% in 2 hours and 7 minutes. However, the next few times I tried the charging level indicator stated 'discharging'. It significantly slowed the discharge rate in that state but did not re-charge. So far I have not determined the specific conditions when the power pack is recognized as 'AC'.

The behavior with Nexus devices was consistent and very good when used with PowerGen cables. Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone was more forgiving and worked even in 2 AMP outlet with my own cable at USB rate.

The MP3 player recognized the charger on both outlet, however it behaved differently than charging from AC recharger.
Photo #4 and Photo#5 show the difference. When I charge Sansa MP3 with a standard AC charger, the MP3 player goes into charging mode, displaying the charging animated icon. When it was plugged into the PowerGen external battery it continued to play the content. I listen to books on my MP3 player so this caused me to move forward in my book and I had to manually reset my position by a few chapters to get back to where I was when I started charging. The positive side of this, is that is possible to continue listening while MP3 is recharging. Update: This turned out to be immediately useful, as 30 minutes after I posted this review a thunderstorm knocked out my electric power for 9 hours and when my MP3 battery died I listened to it attached to the PowerGen battery while it recharged.

To summarize:

I liked:
---------
1. Good behavior with Nexus devices.
2. Solution for MP3 player with built-in battery
3. Looks sleek, feels solid, is compact

I did not like:
--------------
1. The multiple piece connectors are flimsy and easy to loose. I already ordered a one piece replacement.
2. Labels and documentation are hard to read: 2A and 0.6A labels are white on white and are hard to read. The documentation is in microscopic font and written in broken English.
3. I wish it worked consistently for my Galaxy tablet

Overall, I am pleased with this unit and recommend for the devices I tested with the exception of Samsung Galaxy tablet.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Update 11/12/2012
I just finished testing and wrote a review of the new 9000 mAh PowerGen power pack that works with Samsung Galaxy table, and provides AC performance on both ports for Nexus devices.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★

From product description this battery is compatible with:
Apple iPhone 4s, 4, 3Gs, 3G, 2G / iPod Touch / iPad [OEM CABLE REQUIRED]
HTC Sensation XE XL / Thunderbolt / EVO 3D
Samsung Galaxy S 2 / Epic 4G / Galaxy Nexus [NOT Compatible with Galaxy Tab series or Asus Transformer]
Blackberry Curve / Storm / Tour / Style / Bold / Torch
Motorola Atrix / Bionic / Droid Razr, X , X2, 2 , 3, 4 / triumph
Nokia N900 / N8 / N97 / C6 / C3 / Lumia 800 900 700
LG Optimus , 2x , V , S , T / Quantum / Vortex
Google Nexus One / Nexus S
Sony Experia / X1 / X10 / X8 / Arc / Neo / Play / Mini
Amazon Kindle Fire, and all other kindles

Monday, August 6, 2012

Product review: Gilmour 876R Pattern Spot Sprinkler


This is a very simple sprinkler. You control it by increase or decrease water pressure by how wide you open the spigot of water to which the hose is attached. How much of the area is covered depends on how strong your water pressure is at its max. The biggest area I can get is about 10 feet square. And, of course, anything less is obtained by just by turning down the water flow.

This sprinkler works well for spot watering. I have two small areas in the front lawn that I need to water, so I move the sprinkler a few times to get the entire area covered.

Since it has no moving parts this is going to outlast all my other rotation and oscillating sprinklers that I use in the back yard. The only down side of this sprinkler that it is very light, so if the hose does not want to lay flat (which is often the case) this sprinkler will not stay flat, it cannot fight what the hose wants to do.

There is a little loop of metal at the very tip which can be used to pin the sprinkler to the ground. If you push a nail through the hole and into the ground at a slight angle it will provide some resistance to the twist from the hose.

I bought a square and circle of this sprinkler. Frankly, it appears to me that they water the same shape, mostly controlled by how the wind blows. I am attaching a photo of this sprinkler next to a pen, so you can see the relative size of it.

This is a good economical solution for a small area.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Product Review: Velcro Reusable Self-Gripping Cable Ties

This package contains 4 rolls of Velcro ties. What makes them different from velcro that you can buy at any sewing store (for less money) is the shape they are cut into. I am attaching a photo which shows the shape that allows you thread one end into the other for tightening. Each ties is 1/4 inch wide and 7 1/2 inches long. However they are not separated in the roll, so you can detach two ties as a unit, making a whole unit 15 inches long (and so forth in units of 7 1/2 inches).

The benefit of Velcro ties over plastic ties is that they can be reused. They are easy to adjust in size by wrapping them a few extra times or loosening.

I found many uses for these ties. From obvious ones to somewhat creative:

- keeping my computer cords tidy and untangled
- attaching outdoor art to the black iron rod railing
- keeping wrapping paper from unrolling
- for bundling ski poles, garden sticks, and other long objects in the basement for storage
- keeping glasses attached the visor in the car
- keeping my phone inside a pouch without slipping out (yet either to remove when needed)
- securing a cargo net in the back of my car
- attaching a loop that holds the cable to recharge my tablet at table level while plugged in (otherwise it was on the floor when not in use)
- several loops that are attached to my textile loom, which holds shuttles and scissors when they are not use, but right there when I need them
- used as tarp fastener to keep the tarp over objects under my deck while construction on the deck was going on

Good stuff - I recommend!


You can find this pack of Veclro wraps on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Product review: SKIL 2364-02 7.2-Volt Lithium-Ion Drill/Driver

I have had this drill for over a year. It is still holding its original charge despite being used for all the small chores that need a drill around the house. I am very pleased with it.
I am attaching a collage of 3 numbered photos under customer photos that I will be referencing in this review.

I LIKE:
----------
1. This drill is light, easy to hold, and easy to work with even in awkward places. Photo#1 shows this drill on a postal scale, and you can see that it wights 1 pound 7.1 oz.
This is the main reason I bought the drill (due to back surgery it was painful for me to hold the bigger heavier Black&Decker drill I have) and it totally lived up to my expectations.

2. The shape of the drill is very compact and ergonomically comfortable. Photo #2 shows me holding the drill. I wear gloves size small for size, so my hands are pretty small.

3. This drill has excellent battery. It has Lithum-Ion battery Holds a charge for up to 18 months. I have had it well over a year, used it for a number of small projects, used it again this weekend it still works.

4. I recharged it this weekend, and liked that it has an indicator when it is fully charged. My old drill just has an indicator that it is charging, and never tells me when it is done. (Drill charger is included in the set)

5. This drill has a nice number of clutch settings, and lets me set driving power perfect for a specific task.

6. The drill has has 2 speeds

7. I like having forward and reverse indicators to be sure I have the right setting

8. It comes with a nice canvas carrying case 9.7 x 7.8 x 2.8 inches, which I show closed in in photo #3, and opened in the background of photo #2. The case has Velcro to hold the drill and the charger. And a mesh pocket on the cover to hold the bits.

I DON'T LIKE:
----------------------

1. This drill cannot handle a 3/8 chuck for 1/2 inch drill. In a couple of my projects I needed a bigger chuck and had to go back to the big old drill. I know, they probably could not keep it this small if it needed to handle 3/8 inch chuck but I did not realize this restriction when I bought the drill.

2. It does not have a neutral position. It only has forward and reverse. My Black and Decker drill has a neutral position: if the switch is in neural position when I squeeze the trigger the drill does nothing so I
cannot engage it accidentally. This options is not available in SKIL 2364-02.

Overall, I am very pleased with this drill and recommend it.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★