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Monday, December 30, 2013

Product review: Citrus Herb All-Natural Soap Old Man Murray

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As soon as I opened the box the scent was fantastic. I love soaps that smell so nice, while they wait to be used I store them in my underwear draw. So nice to put on something that smells so pleasant.

The soap bar is sized 3.375"W x 2"L x 1"H. It weighs 4.4 oz. The bar itself is very plain, but scent is complex and wonderful. It smells very nice as it sits on counter and as you wash you hands, but does not linger on your hands.

I like that it is all natural, no parabens, no artificial dyes, no artificial fragrances.

I received a set of 6 soaps from Old Man Murray for testing and review. This gives me an opportunity to compare the different scents for those who trying to decide which scent to buy:

★ Citrus Herb lemongrass, rosemary, lime is very lemony and fresh. I would describe as soap with a light scent and I think it would be gender neutral in its appeal. It is light yellow in color.

★ Lavender with comfrey root is a feminine Lavender scent. Among Old Man Murray soaps I would describe it as strong scented. It is purple in color.

★ Kerouac patchouli and orange peel has a masculine scent. I would describe it as earthy and woody with a slight bitterness when I first smelled it. Interestingly enough I did not smell any orange peel. Among Old Man Murray soaps I would describe it as strong scented. I It is beige in color.

★ Bouquet Garni has a fairly light scent. To me it smells like herbs with a hint of mint mixed in. I see it being appealing to both men and women. It is green in color.

★ Everything nice oats, clove, spice. This soap reminds me of freshly baked oatmeal cookies. Among Old Man Murray soaps I would describe it as medium strong scent. Anyone who likes oatmeal cookies would love this soap. It is beige in color.

★ Sanguinello blood orange and bergamot: I can detect faint orange scent in this soap and scent that makes me think of Earl Grey tea. I would describe as soap with a light scent and I think it would be gender neutral in its appeal. It is dark red in color.

I loved all the soaps, if I had to pick my favorite it would be a toss up between the Citrus Herb and Lavender.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Product review: Lighting EVER® 7W Dimmable LED Desk Lamp


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The best feature of this desk lamp is its ability to pivot both the neck and the light panel in many different angles.  It gave me a lot of options for shining the light exactly where I need it, even in some challenging locations. The stem of the lamp can be adjusted 90 degrees horizontal to vertical, and the light panel can be adjusted 180 degrees from horizontal position in one direction to horizontal position in the opposite direction.  The lamp's neck is 16" tall and the light panel is 14" long.  The base is 7.25" by 5.5".  The weight of the lamp is 2 pounds 2.3 oz.  It has 3 brightness levels.

The lamp's cord is 55" long and plugs into the base on one of the sides.  If there was anything I wanted to change about the lamp it would be the length of the cord.  I would have found a longer cord more convenient, I would have liked it to be 6 feet or longer.  The cord ends with a plug with a transformer, but the plug is long and narrow and takes up only wall slot on the old-fashioned style power strip which has the slot positioned parallel to the strip.

Because the light has a long light panel the desk light cast a pretty big area of light. In attached video I show the light cast on 16" by 9.5" hard cover book and you can see that it is totally in the light.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Product review: Hype Mini Capsule Bluetooth Speaker

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In the last year I have tested a lot of small bluetooth speakers, I rank HYPE Mini Capsule speaker sound quality as good overall. It has good mid-tone and OK bass. The sound is louder and richer than the built-in speaker of my tablet, but even at the max volume HYPE Mini Capsule speaker is not as loud as some of the other small speakers.

I am attaching a video which has several short snippets of music to demonstrate the speaker's sound. As one of the top reviewers I get asked to test and review a fairly large number of speakers. This allows me to compare a large number of speakers to each other. To help me make this comparison I always use the same two pieces of music, so I can compare speakers using "apples-to-apples" comparison. As a stress test for the bass I use Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor. I use Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No.1 to test the mid-range. The HYPE speaker performed well in these tests.

In the video I switch between the tablet's built-in speaker and HYPE speaker so you can compare the sound. You can hear that the speaker produce the sound that is richer, fuller, and louder sound the the built-in speaker. However this speaker does not have a super loud sound even at its max. In the video both the speaker and the tablet have the sound set to its maximum volume.

HYPE speaker is 2 1/8" tall. It weighs in at 3.1 oz. Its fairly small size makes a good travel companion.

The speaker comes with a charging cable.

A note on pairing: The initial pairing works well but even though the speaker remain connected if you turn it off and then turn it back on, so you still need to manually reconnect the audio by clicking on the device in bluetooth settings.

I received HYPE speaker from the manufacturer for testing. Based on other speakers of similar size/price I rated this speaker as 4 stars. The HYPE speaker performed well with music without strong base as well as when I listened to spoken human voice (e.g. news), bass sounded fairly good for a speaker of this small size.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Product review: SHARKK LIGHTNING 8 PIN 3 in 1 SD Card Reader Camera Kit Connects Cameras, USB, & Memory Cards To The New Apple iPad 4Apple iPad Mini

I tested this 3 in 1 card using my SONY NEX-5N camera, USB memory stick, and SD card with iPadMini. I am attaching a photo collage that I will be referencing in this review, which can be found by following 'customer photos' link under the main photo.

Attaching the camera with USB cable just worked. If you are out in the field taking photos or videos with my camera and want to transfer them to you mobile device there is nothing extra you have to do.

Copying random photos, videos and other files from a memory card/stick (i.e. not directly from a camera but from another external memory) also works if you follow the rules that iPad Mini expects. I describe these rules below.

Sometimes I need to copy files to my iPad Mini while I don't have a Wi Fi or my PC with iTunes handy. I want to be able to insert a memory card and copy the files to my iPad Mini. 3-in-1 card reader allowed me to do this, but it required me to figure out how to use what iPad Mini allows me to do to accomplish my desired goal.

I discovered that not every memory stick works in the card reader. Some memory sticks generate an error message "The connected USB device requires too much power". See photo #1 in collage of photos I am including for reference in this review. The smaller older memory sticks tend to work better. None of my large memory sticks worked, however one of the old non brand name 1Gig memory sticks worked (an old 1Gig SanDisk did not).

The 3 in 1 Card Reader documentation says "When you insert U-Disk/TF/SD card into the reader your iPad automatically opens the photo app which lets you select which photos to import." This is how it worked when I used it directly with the camera. However, when I copied several photos to a memory stick and inserted it in to the card reader and nothing happened.

Turns out I had to follow a very specific format for naming my files and the directory structure where I place them:

✔ 1. Use FAT file format on the USB drive (this is the format used by cameras and thus expected by iPad)

✔ 2. Create a folder on your memory stick called DCIM.

✔ 3. Copy your files into that folder. The files have to be stored directly in the DCIM folder of the memory card or memory stick. No sub-folders are allowed, images at the top level are not seen.

✔ 4. Name the photo images following the camera image conventions:

"_DSC" followed by 4 digit number followed by ".JPG", for example, _DCS0001.JPG.
You can also transfer movies by naming the files with an 8 digit number followed by .m4v extension, e.g. "00000001.m4v"

✔ 5. As soon as I renamed the files on my card/stick to follow these conventions iPad Mini immediately began showing thumbnails of the images that are on the card. When the transfer process is done you'll be asked if you want to delete the images that were just transferred or if you'd prefer to keep them on the memory stick/card.

This technique could be used to move files other than photos or movies, as long as you have an iPad app that knows how to open such files. For example you can zip text files into a zip file myfile.zip and then rename the zip file to be called myfilezip.pdf. When Photo app starts you can import your PDF file. To get the PDF file out of the Photo import folder, you need to open it with an app that knows how to handle pdf extension (for example, Files Pro). Then you can rename the file back to myfile.zip and extract your files.

➨ ➨ Warning: do not leave the card reader plugged into the iPad (even without a memory stick) if you are not using it. I left it in for the day and it totally drained my battery. Without the card reader plugged in I only need to recharge my iPad Mini every few days.

I received this card reader from the manufacturer for an honest review. All in all 3 in 1 Card Reader is a useful gadgets at a very good price. I hope my tips will help you get the most out of it.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★
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Monday, December 23, 2013

Product review: SURPAHS Ultra-Thin Anti-Fingerprint Stainless Steel Digital Kitchen Scale, Food Scale

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This digital kitchen scale matched my digital postal scale (which has been calibrated) in accuracy pretty closely (see video).  It runs on four AAA batteries (which are included in the package).  It capacity is  11 pounds and 4 oz, 5000 g, 176.35 fl.oz, 5000 ml.

This kitchen scale is quite precise. Its graduation is 0.1 oz, 1 g, 0.1 fl.oz, 1 ml. If the battery runs low the scale displays "LO" indicator, if you try to measure more weight then it can handle it will display 'Err'.

The scale has on/off button. It turns off automatically after 60 seconds of not being used.  Changing the units of measure is done by pressing "unit" to cycle between g, ml. oz, and fl.oz. 

The scale measurements are 5.25" wide x 7.875" long.  Because the scale platform is totally flat I was able to measure items much larger than the scale platform.  The read out has nice larger numbers, they are 0.75" large, and easy to read.

I thought the scale is very attractive. It has a beautiful smooth stainless steel finish and a sleek look. It showed accurate results in comparison with my postal scale. I would recommend it.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Product review: Surpahs Bamboo Cutting Board (Large, 17"x11", 16:9)

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I really like bamboo cutting boards, this is my third one.  I like bamboo because it is hard, lasts a long time and they look good.  This Surpath cutting board is a very attractive board. It has a beautiful light brown natural finish.  It has a channel for catching juices. I also like a channel because I can place an egg on a channel and know it will not roll away.

The board generously sized:

☼ 17 inches long, 15.5 inches from the channel to channel
☼ 11 inches wide, 9.375 inches from channel to channel
☼ It weighs 3.3 oz

Cutting board care:
☼ Cutting board is not dishwasher safe. It should be washed with hot soapy water and dried in between uses.
☼ Manufacturer recommends applying mineral or vegetable oil to the surface after each use

I thought the board is well made, nicely finished, and looks beautiful. I would recommend it.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Product review: SURPAHS WAVE Bamboo In-Drawer Knife Storage Block

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This bamboo knife block is very attractive and practical. I like the horizontal orientation of the knife block. It meant to be an in-drawer knife block but I keep in on the kitchen counter, under the cabinets where a vertical knife block I had before did not fit well. I like bamboo because it is hard, lasts a long time and look attractive. This knife block has a beautiful light brown natural finish.

The video include a photo of the block with various knives I own. You can see that the block can accommodate various sizes including a ceramic knife in its sheath.

Here are the measurements:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
♦ 17" long
♦ 5.25" wide
♦ 5 long slots
♦ 6 shot slots
♦ It weighs 2 pounds 15.4 oz

Bamboo knife block care:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
♦ Knife block is not dishwasher safe. It should be washed with hot soapy water
♦ Manufacturer recommends applying mineral or vegetable oil to the surface

I thought the knife block is well made, nicely finished, and looks beautiful. I would recommend it.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Friday, December 20, 2013

Product review: LOFTEK® EP4 4 Port USB Wall Charger Station

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Loftek 4 port charger comes with a 44 inch cord and a regular sized plug. I was able to replace two dual chargers that took up three slots on my power strip with one regular size plug which is connected to this 4 port USB charger.  I am always running out of slots on my power strips so this charging station a big space saver for me.

The charger has two 5 volt 2.1 Amp ports and two 5 volt 1 Amp valts.

The unit's size is 4.5"L x 3.5"W x 1.25"H. It weights 8.2 oz (including the cord).

I charged my Galaxy Tablet on each of the slots and I measure the current with a current monitor to see what power is delivered on each port.  Results are pretty good and consistent!

➨ How I tested this charging station:
======================

I have been testing chargers for a long time, and people often ask me why results differ so much from charger to charger and often port to port. The results are different because they are affected by a number of factors. To help with a numerical explanation of the differences I began using a USB current monitor which shows the voltage and the current flowing between the battery and the device.

The amount of energy transferred from the charger to the device is calculated by multiplying voltage and current. Most of the chargers are 5V devices and most devices show the voltage very close to 5V. The interesting number is the current as it varies from unit to unit and from port to port.

The current varies based on what the device requires and what battery provides. This communication happens using different protocols depending on OS. Newer Android OS versions have adapted their protocols to get better performance from ports aimed at Apple devices. An addition variable that effects performance is whether a data cable or charging cable is used to charge the device. The charging cables short the two data connections together (rendering them useless for data transfer), but this fools devices to see the cable as an AC power connection, and thus accept the higher current of the charging source.

The 10 minutes test consists of charging each mobile device on each port of the battery pack for 10 minutes and measure how much each unit was charge in that 10 minute period. Since the charging speed is non-linear I start charging each device from approximately the same charge level. I use Battery App by Elvison to determine how each device recognized the charging source. '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.

➨ Test Results:
======================

✔ Samsung Galaxy Tablet
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Port 1: 5V ~ 2.1A ~~~ 10 minute test: ~~~~~~ AC rate ~~~ 4% in 10 minutes (charging cable)
Port 1: 5V ~ 2.1A ~~  current monitor: ~~~~~ 1.65A, 5.07V (charging cable)

Port 2: 5V ~ 2.1A ~~~ 10 minute test: ~~~~~~ AC rate ~~~ 4% in 10 minutes (charging cable)
Port 2: 5V ~ 2.1A ~~  current monitor: ~~~~~ 1.59A, 5.03V (charging cable)

Port 3: 5V ~ 1A ~~~~~ 10 minute test: ~~~~~~ AC rate ~~~ 4% in 10 minutes (charging cable)
Port 3: 5V ~ 1A ~~~~  current monitor: ~~~~~ 1.57A, 5.03V (charging cable)

Port 4: 5V ~ 1A ~~~~~ 10 minute test: ~~~~~~ AC rate ~~~ 4% in 10 minutes (charging cable)
Port 4: 5V ~ 1A ~~~~  current monitor: ~~~~~ 1.61A, 5.10V (charging cable)

I really like this charger.  It charges quickly and I like that it takes up just one slot on my power strip.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Product review: Car Black Box -Timetec Road Hawk 1080P HD Car Vehicle Road Traffic Accident/Incident Dash Windshield Dashboard Video Audio Camera Recorder Camcorder

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Road Hawk is a HD video recorder which is designed to be mounted in your vehicle and record video, GPS, and audio. It records in the continuous loop, so when there is no more space on the SD card it overwrites the oldest files. It has two modes "normal" and "event". Normal mode means it records all the time, "event" mode means it starts recording when an impact is detected. The camera records full HD 1080p video, the quality of the video is excellent.

The camera comes with the software which displays the recorded video along with the speed, coordinates of the vehicle, and a map which shows the position of the vehicle with street names. The video files can be displayed with other software, but then GPS information (speed, coordinates, map) are not shown.

In attached video I show both screen shots of the Road Hawk software as well as MP4s recorded by Road Hawk played directly with Amazon video player. The video contains recordings made over 2 days. The first day the camera was forward facing, the total trip was 4 hours. The next day we took a 2 hour trip and had the camera mounted on the rear window. When the camera runs out of room it overrides the oldest video, however the 6 hour of 1080p video did not overwrite any information. The video includes recordings made during day light as well as night time. I also show how the camera was mounted for both trips.

The Road Hawk package includes the camera, 8 GB SD card, cables to plug into the car outlet and GPS, mounts for the camera and GPS, CD card reader with a USB connection, the manual, and the CD with the software. The camera supports cards up to 64 GB. The camera has 127ยบ Wide Angle Lens. The cords for power and GPS are extremely long. The power cord is 196 inches long, the GPS cord is 198 inches long.

The package was thoughtfully put together, I especially appreciated the SD card reader as I installed the software on the laptop which does not have a built-in SD card reader.

The only thing I did not like about the package was that the mounts were the type that required them to be permanently adhered to the car with a sticky tape. Instead of using Road Hawk mounts I used my own screw mounts with a suction cup. This allowed me to move the camera when I needed to do so.

The documentation refers to the camera as forwarded facing. One of the reason to have this camera is to help your case if you are involved in an accident. However, according to Massachusetts (where I live) traffic law the vehicle that is behind is always at fault no matter what, so a forward facing camera can only help convict a person living in Massachusetts. So we decided to try to mount the camera facing backwards. It worked just as well as you see in the included video.

Installation tip: the GPS antenna has a push in connector. Initially I tried screwing it in and it was not going in. Oops! User error!

Software tip: You need to start Road Hawk software connected to the internet. If you connect after you started the software much of the functionality does not work - you cannot select segments to play and you do not see the map.

Overall, I was impressed with the camera and the video it captured. The only thing I did not like were the mounts which required permanent attachment. I used my own screw-mount windshield mount, which allowed me to easily move the camera from the front to the rear window.

Manufacturer of Road Hawk asked me as one of the reviewers who have a history of writing informative reviews to test this dash cam and post a video review to make it easier for future potential customers make their buying decisions. I was asked to write an honest review whether positive or negative and I have included both positives and negatives of my experience with the camera. I hope the video helps you see what to expect.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Product review: TaoTronics® Business Card Scanner Colour USB Handyscan

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This mini scanner scans images the size of a business card. It can scan small photos or small sections of text. If you need to scan full pages in a book or legal size sheets of paper a flat scanner is better. However, if you need to scan business cards or receipts this small scanner will do a nice job.

In order to work the scanner needs to be attached to a computer running Windows (USB cable is provided). The software package that comes with the mini scanner is used to configure the scanner, put the scanner into "scan" mode, and post process the image (save the image or run OCR software). To scan the image you need to pan the scanner device by hand over the text you want to scan. As you pan you need to hold down a "scan" button on top of the device. The package includes a tray which makes it easier for a business card to stay in place while you are scanning. When the scan is completed the image will appears on the computer screen. Once you see the image you can choose your next step: save the file or OCR (optical character recognition). OCR converts the image to a text file you can edit.

I found that the image scanning software works very well. The OCR software is not as good as the other OCR packages I have tried. It does not auto-rotate so you need to put the scanned image in the orientation it expects otherwise the recognition does not work at all. Even when text is oriented correctly the recognition it is not 100% if the text uses script font or has non-white background.

In attached video I show the installation of the mini scanner software, and then using it to scan two business cards. After scanning each business card I post process both with the OCR software. The first business card is white with simple font and OCR generates accurate results. The second business card is yellow and uses a script font. The resulting text has many errors.

Manufacturer of this mini scanner asked me as one of the reviewers who have a history of writing informative reviews to test this scanner and post a video review to make it easier for future potential customers make their buying decisions. I was asked to write an honest review whether positive or negative and I have included both positives and negatives of my experience with the scanner. I am not paid to review, however the manufacture provided this product free of cost for testing purposes.

This scanner is most useful for scanning business cards and receipts, especially if you need to keep track of these things while you are travelling where its small size is a big asset.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Monday, December 16, 2013

Product review: iFlash® Ultra Slim 3200mAh Portable Power Bank Backup External Battery


Ultra Slim 3200mAh External Battery Pack looks very slick, it is quite thin. One unique feature of this external power pack is that it has a micro USB cable built into the side of the unit (see attached photo collage). It pops out of the side on a coiled cable, so if your mobile device takes a micro USB connector you don't need to carry any extra cables. This built-in cable delivers very rapid charging (see test results below). The power pack also has a port which allows you to connect other connectors, so it works with devices that have proprietary connectors as well.

I tested Ultra Slim 3200mAh External Battery Pack with Galaxy Nexus Phone (running ICS 4.0.4), Samsung Galaxy 7.7 Tablet (running ICS 4.0.4) and iPad Mini.

I received this power bank from the manufacture for an honest review be it positive or negative. Top reviewers are often asked to review new battery packs and one of the benefits of being asked to test different power banks is that it gives me an opportunity to compare them to each other using the same charging test, so I can compare them using "apples to apples" comparison. This set of tests allows me to provide unbiased results as the numbers speak for the performance of each unit.

I received two identical units black and white, having two of them allows me to test for consistency in manufacturing. Ideally I want to see the same performance numbers for both units, and this was the case with the two Ultra Slim power packs .

My methodology is to charge each mobile device on each port of the unit for 10 minutes and measuring how much each unit was charge in that 10 minute period. In addition I tested charging two mobile devices at the same time. Each line in the table below represents a separate 10 minute test. I use Battery App by Elvison to determine how each device recognized the charging source. '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.

➨ General features:
======================

Ultra Slim 3200mAh external battery weighs 3.2 oz. Its size is 2.25" x4.25 " x 0.375". The pack has one USB output port and one built-in micro USB cable.

In addition to the built-in micro USB cable Ultra Slim comes with a charging cable and two tips - micro USB and iPad. It did not have tips for Samsung Galaxy Tab or lightening connector for iPad Mini and I used my own charging cables during the tests. I am attaching a photo of the Ultra Slim 3200mAh during one of the test next to my tablet for size reference. You can find this photo by following 'customer photos' link under the main photo in this listing.

Ultra Slim 3200mAh looks very slick: it is thin, has a nice finish, and in general has a look and shape of a smart phone. It shows the charge level by displaying 25%, 50%, 75%, 100% on panel. When it is charging, however, this indicator gets turned off. But the charging continued even when the lights were off. This is a little different from how other external power pack indicators work (they stay on when you are charging),so I wanted to mention it. In addition to the charging capabilities, Ultra Slim has a built-in flashlight.

➨ Test Results:
======================

✔ Galaxy Nexus Phone
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White unit: AC ~~~~~ 6% change in charge in 10 minutes (built-in mciro USB charging cable)
Black unit: AC ~~~~~ 6% change in charge in 10 minutes (built-in mciro USB charging cable)

White unit: AC ~~~~~ 2% change in charge in 10 minutes (separate charging cable)
Black unit: AC ~~~~~ 2% change in charge in 10 minutes (separate charging cable)

✔ Samsung Galaxy 7.7 tablet
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
White unit: AC ~~~~~ 1% change in charge in 10 minutes (separate charging cable)
Black unit: AC ~~~~~ 1% change in charge in 10 minutes (separate charging cable)

✔ iPad Mini tablet
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
White unit: AC ~~~~~ 1% change in charge in 10 minutes (separate charging cable)
Black unit: AC ~~~~~ 1% change in charge in 10 minutes (separate charging cable)

➨ Key finding:
======================
✔ This power pack has great performance with built-in micro USB cable.
✔ Using your own charging cables the power pack works with both Galaxy 7.7 Tablet and iPad Mini but performance is on the slow side.
✔ I observed the same performance for both the black and white model, which is good and reflects consistency in the manufacturing process.

I highly recommend this power pack to people who can take advantage of the built-in micro USB cable.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Product review: Kinivo BTX180 Wireless Bluetooth Mini Portable Speaker

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During the last year I have tested a lot of small bluetooth speakers, I would rank Kinivo BTX180 sound towards the top of the pack but not at the very top. It has good mid-tone and OK bass.

I am attaching a video which has several short snippets of music to demonstrate the speaker's sound. As one of the top reviewers I get asked to test and review a fairly large number of speakers. This allows me to compare a large number of speakers to each other. To help me make this comparison I always use the same two pieces of music, so I can compare speakers using "apples-to-apples" comparison. As a stress test for the bass I use Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor. The second piece of music (Tchaikovsky) does not have a lot bass and allows me to test the mid-range. Kinivo BTX180 speaker did well on the mid-tone test, it did OK at the bass range, but not as good as Kinivo BTX270. On the other hand Kinivo BTX270 is a bit larger.

In the video I switch between the tablet's built-in speaker and Kinivo BTX180 speaker so you can compare the sound. You can hear that the speaker produce the sound that is richer, fuller, and louder sound the the built-in speaker.

Kinivo BTX180 speaker is 2 3/8" tall. It weighs in at 5.8 oz. Its small size makes a good travel companion.

The speaker comes with 2 cables - charging cable and an audio cable. The speaker supports 3 EQ settings: Normal mode, Bass mode and Treble mode. Play time is 4-5 hours, standby time is 900 hours (according to the manual)

A note on pairing: The initial pairing works well and the speaker automatically reconnects if you turn it off and then turn it back on.

This speaker has a couple of features I did not like:

✔ The speaker has a voice confirmations "Power on", "Connected", "Power Off", and so forth. After the initial "Oh!" the voice prompts grew tiresome, I prefer a blinking light to a voice. These voice alerts cannot be disabled.

✔ The speaker has light effects, so if you like listening to music in the dark or when you fall asleep this speaker may not be the best choice as it generates a light show.

I received Kinivo BTX180 speaker from the manufacture for testing. Based on other speakers of similar size/price I rated this speaker as 5 stars. The Kinivo BTX180 speaker performed well with music without strong base as well as when I listened to spoken human voice (e.g. news), bass sounded pretty good for a speaker of this small size.

In addition to the video I am also posting a photo of the speaker, which can be be located by following 'customer photos' link under the main photo.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Product review: GO ID Emergency Medical ID Kit

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GO-ID is an emergency ID which gives first responders essential information about you.

I have a friend who is an EMT and decided that the most useful review I can give will be to include feedback from the professional in the field who will be working with these alert tags.

Here are the key points from our conversation as he examined the GO-ID tag:

✔ EMTs are trained to look for Medic Alerts as jewelry or as a wrist band
✔ What is the best way to wear GO-ID alert? He said he would put it on a gold chain around the neck. Wearing under the watch would be fine.
✔ Where is a bad place to put it? EMTs do not look in the pockets, so putting it on a key-chain is not a good idea. Attaching to a backpack/pocketbook is not a good idea as they look at the body only.
✔ Who needs a medical alert? Should everyone wear one? People that need medical alerts are people with special medical conditions: allergies, diabetic, pacemaker... any condition that an EMT would need to know to keep a person alive.
✔ Do not use alerts to specify emergency contact, EMTs do not look for this information. Their job is only to keep you alive not to contact anyone.
✔ If you don't have a special condition you do no need a medical alert.
✔ EMTs look for alert tags only when dealing with unresponsive patients who are alone as part of the assessment process.
✔ GO-ID tags were new to my friend and since they are new they are less recognizable than the Medic Alert bracelet.

Now, for my experience with GO-ID.

The GO-ID kit consists of the metal tag, a silicone holder, and spring lock which can be used to attach the holder to a key ring, and a set on double-sticky labels which stick to the metal tag an contain the personal information you want to relay to EMT. The metal tag 2" long and 1.125" wide. I decided that it sticks out a bit too much when placed under the watch (see attached photo), so before I talked to my EMT friend I thought I would put on my key-chain. After talking to my friend I decided that attaching to the shoe laces is best, since it does not look like something you would wear on a chain as jewelry.

The content of the tag can be printed on the GO-ID web site. The GO-ID web site required me to register. Once you sign up the web site send you your login ID and password in the clear via email, so don't use a password you use for secure web sites.

When I used Firefox I ran into an issue editing the form for creating the label, but was able to complete this task using Chrome Browser. Printing of the label is a little tricky. It involves printing a template, attaching a special GO-ID label to the template, printing the actual label, and removing the circle which has a sticky side that attaches to the tag. I printed a couple of test labels which did not line up perfectly.

When it was time to create the real label I decided to hand print the information: I could line it up better plus I did not want to enter my personal information to be stored on the web site. I wish the registration was optional and that my personal information was not stored on the web site. If registration is required then a better security practice is to generate a random password and send to the user if the password is forgotten rather than sending the user's password via email in the clear.

I am attaching a collage of several photos:

✔ Photo #1: Everything that came in the package
✔ Photo #2: The tag with the silicone holder removed
✔ Photo #3: The tag with information and silicone holder
✔ Photo #4: The GO-ID on my wrist for relative size

I received GO-ID from the manufacturer and told him that my review will be based on what my EMT friend's feedback on the id would be. Overall, my EMT friend liked a big medic alert bracelet best. He felt nothing is more noticeable. He thought GO-ID tags were OK if worn around the neck, wrist or shoe laces. They could be life saver for people with underlying conditions, but not needed by people without any special conditions.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆

Update

I received an email from the manufacturer of GO-ID bracelet with clarification that the only information stored on GO-ID web site for each user is their email/password. The information you enter to display on your GO-ID is not stored.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Product review: iFlash Dual USB 8400mAh 2.6A External Battery Pack


I tested iFlash Dual USB 8400mAh External Battery Pack with Nexus 7 Tablet, Samsung Galaxy 7.7 Tablet, Samsung Galaxy Nexus cell phone and iPad Mini Tablet.

I received this power bank from the manufacture for an honest review be it positive or negative. Top reviewers are often asked to review new battery packs and one of the benefits of being asked to test different power banks is that it gives me an opportunity to compare them to each other using the same charging test. This set of tests allows me to provide unbiased results as the numbers speak for the performance of each unit.

I received two identical units, having two of them allows me to test for consistency in manufacturing. Ideally I want to see the same performance numbers for both units when testing the same device. The two iFlash Dual USB 8400mAh units showed small differences in performance, but the differences were not too bad.

My methodology is to charge each mobile device on each port of the unit for 10 minutes and measuring how much each unit was charge in that 10 minute period. In addition I tested charging two mobile devices at the same time. Each line in the table below represents a separate 10 minute test. I use Battery App by Elvison to determine how each device recognized the charging source. '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.

➨ General features:
======================

iFlash Dual USB 8400mAh external battery weighs 6.5 oz. Its size is 3.75" x 2.5" x 0.875". The pack has two USB output ports labelled OUT 0.6A and OUT 2A. The external battery comes with two charging cables (7 inches and 28 inches long) and 6 tips - including micro USB, mini USB and iPad. It did not have tips for Samsung Galaxy Tab or lightening connector for iPad Mini and I used my own charging cables during the tests. The package also includes a two compartment pouch which fits the power pack, cables and tips.

➨ Test Results:
======================

✔ Nexus 7 Tablet (using provided cable)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Unit#1 /OUT 0.6A: AC ~~~~~~ 2% change in charge in 10 minutes
Unit#1 /OUT 2A: AC ~~~~~~~~ 2% change in charge in 10 minutes

Unit#2 /OUT 0.6A: AC ~~~~~~ 4% change in charge in 10 minutes
Unit#2 /OUT 2A: AC ~~~~~~~~ 5% change in charge in 10 minutes

✔ Samsung Galaxy Nexus cell phone (using provided cable)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Unit#1 /OUT 0.6A: AC ~~~~~~ 6% change in charge in 10 minutes
Unit#1 /OUT 2A: AC ~~~~~~~~ 7% change in charge in 10 minutes

Unit#2 /OUT 0.6A: AC ~~~~~~ 4% change in charge in 10 minutes
Unit#2 /OUT 2A: AC ~~~~~~~~ 5% change in charge in 10 minutes

✔ Samsung Galaxy 7.7 tablet (using my own Galaxy tab connector cable)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Unit#1 /OUT 0.6A: AC ~~~~~~ 1% change in charge in 10 minutes
Unit#1 /OUT 2A: AC ~~~~~~~~ 4% change in charge in 10 minutes

Unit#2 /OUT 0.6A: AC ~~~~~~ 2% change in charge in 10 minutes
Unit#2 /OUT 2A: AC ~~~~~~~~ 4% change in charge in 10 minutes

✔ iPad Mini tablet (using my own lightening connector cable)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Unit#1 /OUT 0.6A: AC ~~~~~~ 1% change in charge in 10 minutes
Unit#1 /OUT 2A: AC ~~~~~~~~ 1% change in charge in 10 minutes

Unit#2 /OUT 0.6A: AC ~~~~~~ 2% change in charge in 10 minutes
Unit#2 /OUT 2A: AC ~~~~~~~~ 2% change in charge in 10 minutes

✔ Nexus 7 Tablet and Samsung Galaxy Nexus cell phone at the same time
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Unit#1 /OUT 0.6A: AC ~~~~~~ 3% change in charge in 10 minutes (tablet)
Unit#1 /OUT 2A: AC ~~~~~~~~ 4% change in charge in 10 minutes (phone)

➨ Key findings:
======================
✔ The iFlash Dual USB 8400mAh power packs worked well with all devices. They were not the fastest of the power packs I have tested, but I like their compact size. iFlash Dual USB 8400mAh is the smallest 8400mAh capacity power pack I have tested.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Product review: 300LM Mini Ultra High-Flux Cree XR-E Q5 LED Adjustable Flash Light

video

This is a pretty bright LED light flashlight. It has two modes: a steady light and a strobe. The flashlight runs on one AA battery (not included).

I am attaching a video which demonstrates the flashlight in action.

The length of this flashlight can be changed from 4 inches to 3.5 inches. This such a small difference that I don't really see the point why it is made this way. It is not a negative but I did not find the difference in length to be significant enough to be useful. The flashlight has a pen-like clip which could be handy both in storage and attaching during usage.

Overall, I liked the flashlight but I found the battery compartment hard to open. After a bit of struggle I managed to do it once to put in the battery, but when I wanted to do it again for the video I could not open the battery compartment again.

I received this flashlight for testing and review from the manufacture. I wrote to the manufacture to ask them if there was a trick to opening the battery compartment. No. There was no secret button. They suggested putting a drop of oil on the threads. If you have trouble opening it too keep this suggestion in mind. I will try this again when it is time to change the battery. Since this is a LED light flashlight I hope this will not happen for a very long time.

Other than the battery compartment glitch, I am pleased with the flashlight.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Friday, December 6, 2013

Product review: iFlash® Ultra Slim 3200mAh Portable Power Bank Backup External Battery Charger

Ultra Slim 3200mAh External Battery Pack looks very slick, it is quite thin. One unique feature of this external power pack is that it has a micro USB cable built into the side of the unit (see attached photo collage). It pops out of the side on a coiled cable, so if your mobile device takes a micro USB connector you don't need to carry any extra cables. This built-in cable delivers very rapid charging (see test results below). The power pack also has a port which allows you to connect other connectors, so it works with devices that have proprietary connectors as well.

I tested Ultra Slim 3200mAh External Battery Pack with Galaxy Nexus Phone (running ICS 4.0.4), Samsung Galaxy 7.7 Tablet (running ICS 4.0.4) and iPad Mini.

I received this power bank from the manufacture for an honest review be it positive or negative. Top reviewers are often asked to review new battery packs and one of the benefits of being asked to test different power banks is that it gives me an opportunity to compare them to each other using the same charging test, so I can compare them using "apples to apples" comparison. This set of tests allows me to provide unbiased results as the numbers speak for the performance of each unit.

I received two identical units black and white, having two of them allows me to test for consistency in manufacturing. Ideally I want to see the same performance numbers for both units, and this was the case with the two Ultra Slim power packs .

My methodology is to charge each mobile device on each port of the unit for 10 minutes and measuring how much each unit was charge in that 10 minute period. In addition I tested charging two mobile devices at the same time. Each line in the table below represents a separate 10 minute test. I use Battery App by Elvison to determine how each device recognized the charging source. '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.

➨ General features:
======================

Ultra Slim 3200mAh external battery weighs 3.2 oz. Its size is 2.25" x4.25 " x 0.375". The pack has one USB output port and one built-in micro USB cable.

In addition to the built-in micro USB cable Ultra Slim comes with a charging cable and two tips - micro USB and iPad. It did not have tips for Samsung Galaxy Tab or lightening connector for iPad Mini and I used my own charging cables during the tests. I am attaching a photo of the Ultra Slim 3200mAh during one of the test next to my tablet for size reference. You can find this photo by following 'customer photos' link under the main photo in this listing.

Ultra Slim 3200mAh looks very slick: it is thin, has a nice finish, and in general has a look and shape of a smart phone. It shows the charge level by displaying 25%, 50%, 75%, 100% on panel. When it is charging, however, this indicator gets turned off. But the charging continued even when the lights were off. This is a little different from how other external power pack indicators work (they stay on when you are charging),so I wanted to mention it. In addition to the charging capabilities, Ultra Slim has a built-in flashlight.

➨ Test Results:
======================

✔ Galaxy Nexus Phone
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
White unit: AC ~~~~~ 6% change in charge in 10 minutes (built-in mciro USB charging cable)
Black unit: AC ~~~~~ 6% change in charge in 10 minutes (built-in mciro USB charging cable)

White unit: AC ~~~~~ 2% change in charge in 10 minutes (separate charging cable)
Black unit: AC ~~~~~ 2% change in charge in 10 minutes (separate charging cable)

✔ Samsung Galaxy 7.7 tablet
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
White unit: AC ~~~~~ 1% change in charge in 10 minutes (separate charging cable)
Black unit: AC ~~~~~ 1% change in charge in 10 minutes (separate charging cable)

✔ iPad Mini tablet
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
White unit: AC ~~~~~ 1% change in charge in 10 minutes (separate charging cable)
Black unit: AC ~~~~~ 1% change in charge in 10 minutes (separate charging cable)

➨ Key finding:
======================
✔ This power pack has great performance with built-in micro USB cable.
✔ Using your own charging cables the power pack works with both Galaxy 7.7 Tablet and iPad Mini but performance is on the slow side.
✔ I observed the same performance for both the black and white model, which is good and reflects consistency in the manufacturing process.

I highly recommend this power pack to people who can take advantage of the built-in micro USB cable.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Product review: iFlash 5600mAh Backup External Battery Source/Charger

I tested iFlash® 5600mAh External Battery Pack with Samsung Galaxy 7.7 Tablet (running ICS 4.0.4) and iPad Mini.

I received this power bank from the manufacture for an honest review be it positive or negative. Top reviewers are often asked to review new battery packs and one of the benefits of being asked to test different power banks is that it gives me an opportunity to compare them to each other using the same charging test, so I can compare them using "apples to apples" comparison. This set of tests allows me to provide unbiased results as the numbers speak for the performance of each unit.

I received two identical units black and blue, having two of them allows me to test for consistency in manufacturing. Ideally I want to see the same performance numbers for both units when testing the same device, and this was the case with these two units.

My methodology is to charge each mobile device on each port of the unit for 10 minutes and measuring how much each unit was charge in that 10 minute period. In addition I tested charging two mobile devices at the same time. Each line in the table below represents a separate 10 minute test. I use Battery App by Elvison to determine how each device recognized the charging source. '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.

➨ General features:
======================

iFlash® 5600mAh external battery weighs 4.4 oz. Its size is 3.75" x1.75" x 0.875". The pack has one USB output port. It comes with a pouch which fits the power pack, cables and tips. It has a built-in flashlight.

The external battery comes with a charging cable and 5 tips - micro USB, mini USB and iPad (and two others I don't recognize). It did not have tips for Samsung Galaxy Tab or lightening connector for iPad Mini and I used my own charging cables during the tests. I am attaching a photo of Flash® 5600mAh during one of the test next to my tablet for size reference. You can find this photo by following 'customer photos' link under the main photo in this listing.

➨ Test Results:
======================

✔ Samsung Galaxy 7.7 tablet (using my own Galaxy tab connector cable)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Blue unit: AC ~~~~~~ 2% change in charge in 10 minutes
Black unit: AC ~~~~~ 2% change in charge in 10 minutes

✔ iPad Mini tablet (using my own lightening connector cable)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Blue unit: AC ~~~~~~ -1% change in charge in 10 minutes (discharged)
Black unit: AC ~~~~~ -1% change in charge in 10 minutes (discharged)

➨ Key finding:
======================
✔ It works well with the Galaxy 7.7 Tablet, although charging rate is not the fastest I have tested. This power pack does not work with iPad Mini. I observed the same performance for both the black and blue model, which is good and reflects consistency in the manufacturing process. Overall rating: OK.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Product review: iFlash 5600mAh Backup External Battery Source

I tested iFlash® 5600mAh External Battery Pack with Samsung Galaxy 7.7 Tablet (running ICS 4.0.4) and iPad Mini.

I received this power bank from the manufacture for an honest review be it positive or negative. Top reviewers are often asked to review new battery packs and one of the benefits of being asked to test different power banks is that it gives me an opportunity to compare them to each other using the same charging test, so I can compare them using "apples to apples" comparison. This set of tests allows me to provide unbiased results as the numbers speak for the performance of each unit.

I received two identical units black and blue, having two of them allows me to test for consistency in manufacturing. Ideally I want to see the same performance numbers for both units when testing the same device, and this was the case with these two units.

My methodology is to charge each mobile device on each port of the unit for 10 minutes and measuring how much each unit was charge in that 10 minute period. In addition I tested charging two mobile devices at the same time. Each line in the table below represents a separate 10 minute test. I use Battery App by Elvison to determine how each device recognized the charging source. '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.

➨ General features:
======================

iFlash® 5600mAh external battery weighs 4.4 oz. Its size is 3.75" x1.75" x 0.875". The pack has one USB output port. It comes with a pouch which fits the power pack, cables and tips. It has a built-in flashlight.

The external battery comes with a charging cable and 5 tips - micro USB, mini USB and iPad (and two others I don't recognize). It did not have tips for Samsung Galaxy Tab or lightening connector for iPad Mini and I used my own charging cables during the tests. I am attaching a photo of Flash® 5600mAh during one of the test next to my tablet for size reference. You can find this photo by following 'customer photos' link under the main photo in this listing.

➨ Test Results:
======================

✔ Samsung Galaxy 7.7 tablet (using my own Galaxy tab connector cable)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Blue unit: AC ~~~~~~ 2% change in charge in 10 minutes
Black unit: AC ~~~~~ 2% change in charge in 10 minutes

✔ iPad Mini tablet (using my own lightening connector cable)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Blue unit: AC ~~~~~~ -1% change in charge in 10 minutes (discharged)
Black unit: AC ~~~~~ -1% change in charge in 10 minutes (discharged)

➨ Key finding:
======================
✔ It works well with the Galaxy 7.7 Tablet, although charging rate is not the fastest I have tested. This power pack does not work with iPad Mini. I observed the same performance for both the black and blue model, which is good and reflects consistency in the manufacturing process. Overall rating: OK.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆

Monday, December 2, 2013

Product review: Rabbit V.I.P. Electric Corkscrew

video
After a couple of back surgeries my hand strength is pretty bad. One of the things that is difficult for me is opening wine bottles. When Metrokane asked me to test and review Metrokane Electric Rabbit Wine Opener I eagerly agreed knowing I will be one of their weakling testers.

I finally found the wine opener that is easy for me to use! All I have to do is press the bottom button on the wine opener and wait until the motor stops, and then push the top button to eject the cork from the wine opener. No strength needed at all! At the 4th of July gathering we opened a few bottles using it, and they all worked equally well.

Attached video starts with the use of the foil cutter - one has to squeeze and turn it to cut off the foil. Then the video shows extracting the cork, and finishes up with ejecting the cork.

The bottle opener comes with a charger. It takes 5 hours to fully charge the opener. The top of the opener has a digital display which shows how many bottles you can open with the remaining charge. The fully charged unit can open 30 bottles.

I am attaching a collage of photos (which can be located by following 'customer photos' link under the main photo).

✔ Photo #1 shows the use of the foil cutter
✔ Photo #2 shows wine opening removing the cork
✔ Photo #3 shows the cork coming out of the wine opener
✔ Photo #4 shows the cork being ejected
✔ Photo #5 shows the wine opener being charged (just starting, so it shows 0 bottles)

The Metrokane Electric Rabbit Wine Opener comes in an attractive round box. It would make an attractive gift.

Electric Rabbit Wine Opener has a 1 year warranty. It can be returned for repair or replacement to Metrokane (proof of purchase is required) to the following address:
Metrokane Consumer Service
150 East 58th Street
New York, NY 10155

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★