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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Product review: comparison of 4 different lip balms: Burt's Bees Mango Butter, original ChapStick,Blistex raspberry lemonade and Mentholatum Natural Ice Medicated Lip Protectant

I often have dry lips and have been using ChapStick for years. Recently I got a bit bored with the old reliable choice and tried several different lip balms.  I experienced significant difference in satisfaction with them, and I thought a comparison between them might be useful to others.

The original Chapstick provides a very good moisturizer, it spreads well and provides long lasting effects.The flavor however is not exciting and that lead to this experiment. My most favorite turned out to be Burt's Bees Mango Butter. It provided a very good moisturizer for my lips, which was long lasting.  The mango flavor is very pleasant yet light.  Blistex raspberry lemonade has a strong but nice flavor. When you just put it on it taste like a burst of lemon and raspberry almost like licking a candy.  This strong flavor does not linger however, it mellows out pretty quickly.  I liked the flavor, but found that the moisturizing effect on my lips  did not last as long as some of the other balms. It also has more many chemical ingredients than the other lip balms. Mentholatum Natural Ice had a flavor that I really did not like, it was hard to spread, and the moisturizing effect did not last.
________________________________________________________
★★★★★ Burt's Bees Mango Butter / Burt's Bees Mango Butter on Amazon
--------------------------------------------------------
Sunblock: None
Taste:.................Mango, light and very pleasant
Effect:................Long lasting
Stick:.................Fairly soft and easy to spread
Cost:..................2.25 per stick
Ingredients:...........helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil, cocos nucifera (coconut) oil, cera alba (beeswax, cire d'abeille), aroma (flavor)*, ricinus communis (castor) seed oil,  mangifera indica (mango) seed butter, lanolin, ammonium glycyrrhizinate, tocopherol, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf extract, glycine soja (soybean) oil, canola oil (huile de colza), limonene, linalool. *natural flavor
________________________________________________________
★★★★★ ChapStick, Original / ChapStick on Amazon
--------------------------------------------------------
Taste:.................Light almost not noticable
Effect:................Long lasting
Stick:.................Fairly soft and easy to spread
Sunblock:..............None
Cost:..................1.40 per stick
Ingredients:...........Active Ingredients: Padimate (1.5%), White Petrolatum (44%). Inactive Ingredients: Arachidyl Propionate, Camphor, Cetyl Alcohol, D&c Red No. 6 Barium Lake, Fd&c Yellow No. 5 Aluminum Lake, Fragrance, Isopropyl Lanolate, Isopropyl Myristate, Lanolin, Light Mineral Oil, Methylparaben, Octyldodecanol, Oleyl Alcohol, Phenyl Methicone, Propylparaben, Titanium Dioxide, Waxes.
________________________________________________________
★★★★☆ Blistex raspberry lemonade / Blistex Raspberry Lemonade Blast on Amazon
--------------------------------------------------------
Taste:.................Strong raspberry lemon, burst of nice flavor, almost like candy for a second
Effect:................Not long lasting
Stick:.................Fairly soft and easy to spread
Sunblock:..............SPF 15
Cost:..................1.21 per stick
Ingredients:...........Active ingredient: dimethicone 1%, octinoxate 7,5%, oxybenzone 2.5% Inactive ingredients: alumina, beeswas, diethylhexyl adipate, ethylhexyl palmitate, ethylhexyl stearate, flavors, glyceryl stearate, hydrogenated coconut oil, isopropyl myristate,
isopropyl palmitate, isopropyl stearate, jojoba esters, microcrystalline wax, myristyl myristate, phenoxyethanol, phenyl trimethicone, polyethylene, polyhydrixystearic acid, saccharin, silica, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, titanium dioxide, tocopheryl acetate.

________________________________________________________
★★★☆☆ Mentholatum Natural Ice  / Mentholatum Natural Ice on Amazon
--------------------------------------------------------
Taste:.................Medicinal and Minty
Effect:................Not long lasting
Stick:.................Hard and hard to spread
Sunblock:..............SPF 15
Cost:..................1.17 per stick (note when I bought it on sale for 60 cents per stick)
Ingredients:...........Active Ingredients: Dimethicone (1%), Octinoxate (7.5%), Octisalate (5%). Inactive Ingredients:..Fragrance, Lanolin, Menthol, Mineral Oil, Ozokerite, Petrolatum.
________________________________________________________


   
If I had to pick a winner in this comparison it would Burt's Bees Mango Butter.  It is all natural, great flavor, and it works well as a long lasting lip moisturizer.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review

Monday, January 28, 2013

Product review: Yubi Power® YP840A 8400mAh External Battery Charger Tested with Nexus 7 Tab, Galaxy Nexus Phone, Galaxy 7.7 Tab and Sansa Clip+ MP3

In the last 6 months I have tested 6 different power banks using the same set of tests so I can compare them to each other. Yubi Power® YP840A performed better than any of the power banks I tested so far. The best performance before Yubi YP840A was PowerGen PGMPP12000, which charged my Android phone 5% in 10 minutes. As you will see in the table below Yubi did better.

Description of my tests:
-------------------------
I test each devices by charging each unit for 10 minutes and noting how the charge % change.

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.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone
-----------------------------------
Port1______Yubi cable________AC source_____7% charge in 10 minutes
Port2______Yubi cable________AC source_____8% charge in 10 minutes

Nexus 7 Tablet
-----------------------------------
Port1______Yubi cable________AC source_____4% charge in 10 minutes
Port2______Yubi cable________AC source_____3% charge in 10 minutes

Nexus 7 Tablet and Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone at the same time
-----------------------------------
Port1______Yubi cable________AC source_____7% charge in 10 minutes (phone)
Port2______Yubi cable________AC source_____3% charge in 10 minutes (tablet)

Port1______Yubi cable________AC source_____4% charge in 10 minutes (tablet)
Port2______Yubi cable________AC source_____8% charge in 10 minutes (phone)

Samsung Galaxy Tablet 7.7
-----------------------------------
Port1______Yubi cable________AC source_____3% charge in 10 minutes
Port2______Yubi cable________AC source_____3% charge in 10 minutes

Port1______Samsung cable_____discharging___0% charge in 10 minutes
Port2______Samsung cable_____discharging___0% charge in 10 minutes

Disconnected__________________discharging___2% discharge in 10 minutes

SanDisk Sansa Clip+ MP3 Player
-----------------------------------
Port1 - worked
Port2 - worked

The MP3 player recognized the charger on both outlet, however it behaved differently than charging from the charger it came with the player itself. 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. This is very handy for Sansa MP3 player since it has built-in battery that cannot be swapped for a charged one. I used to have to stop listening to have it recharged and now I can continue to listen while it re-charges. I was very happy to have this feature during hurricane Sandy when I lost power and my books on MP3 player were my only source of entertainment.

 

Notes:
1. The manufacture is offering a free connector tip for Samsung Galaxy Tablets. This connector is not available as part of the standard package, but is made available to Galaxy owners free of charge per request (documentation includes a note about a free P1000 connector for Galaxy). I tested my Galaxy 7.7 Tab with this connector and it worked very well. With my Samsung charging cable the unit was only able to slow down discharging, not recharge. The retail package includes a 30 pin Apple connector which looks very similar to P1000 Galaxy connector but does not fit the Galaxy port. I am attaching a collage of several photos. Photo #2 and Photo#3 show these two connectors next to each and show the subtle difference between the two.

2. After using the micro adapter tip successfully on 7 tests (total of 70 minutes of use) the micro adapter tip stopped working. I isolated the problem to the tip by tested the cable with another micro adapter tip (that combination worked) and then this tip with another working cable (that combination did not work). I contacted the manufactor to find if there is a policy for handling bad adaptors and he said that customers who encountered this problem should contact the manufacture for a free replacement. The product comes with 1 year warranty. Another option is to replace the multi part charging cable with a single piece generic charging cable.

Difference between a power cable and a data cable:
Charging cables short the two data connections together (rendering them useless for data transfer), but this fools devices to see them as an AC power connection, and thus accept the higher current of the charging source. Both my generic cable and PowerGen cables used in my tests are charging cables.

3. The unit is nice looking black brick, its size is 4" x 2.5" x 3/4". Its weight is 7.3 oz.

4. The box contains 4 adaptor tips: micro USB, mini USB, Nokia 2mm round, and 30pin Apple. 30 pin Galaxy adaptor as avaible free upon request. The box also contains one 7" USB cord. You can see the entire content of the package in Photo #1.

5. Yubi power bank has two USB ports. They are not labelled. Documentation states that you can change devices requiring 2.1A and 1A from both outputs. Both ports behaved the same in my tests.

6. Some power banks included LED flash light as part of the unit. Yubi YP840A does NOT.

7. The blue lights on top of the battery pack indicate the level of power in the battery: 3 lights indicate full charge, 2 lights indicate 2/3 of full power and so forth. To turn on the device you need to press the button on top of the unit. The device can be turned off by pressing the button on the top of the unit again.

8. The Warranty period for Yubi YP840A is 1 year (as stated in Amazon product description). The manual I received stated that the warranty period is 6 months. I contacted the manufacture to clarify which number is valid, and I was told that 1 year is correct and the newer versions of the manual will have this information corrected.

Yubi YP840A showed the fastest re-charging of all the power bank I have tested to date. But the adapter tip died prematurely. I debated whether I should deduct a star for this defect. All power banks use these tips so they can work with multiple devices. The adapter tips are the weak points of this design and I think failures will happen in some random number of devices. I decided that based on 1 year free warranty replacement policy, the overall excellent performance of the unit, and availability of the Galaxy adapter tip (which none of the other power banks I tested offered) this unit deserves a 5 star rating.

I received a sample unit for testing and writing an unbiased and honest review. I described the positives and negatives of my experience with the unit. If you have questions about my tests or features I have not addressed, I am happy to answer comments.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Product review: E-Z Ancor Tap-N-Lock Utility Hooks

I picked up a set of Tab-N-Lock ancors for hollow walls at a local store. The pictures shows that 3/4 of an inch of the green plastic will fold and will form a fairly long anchor compared to the other models of anchors I have tried. That sounded like a good idea,

Before starting the job I checked for studs. The area I needed to put the hook in did not have a stud. The instructions said to just tap in the green ancor without pre-drilling. I made a small pilot hole just so the anchor went in exactly where I wanted. Then I began tapping in the anchor. The ancor went in about half way but as the ancor got thicker and had more resistance from the wall it would not budge. I pounded it harder and was able to get in more but the thick head of the anchor  just would not go in. I attempted to remove the anchor first my hand, then with pliers. At which point the head of the anchor broke off, leaving a couple of mi-limiters of green plastic sticking out of the wall, and chucks of the anchor head in my hand (those chucks are included in the photo). Then I had to spend a lot of time sanding the plastic and re-speckling the wall. I tried again in a new spot with similar results - the thick part of the anchor is just no strong enough to go through plaster. At least the second time I was able to pull out the ancor without leaving plastic in the wall. After another re-speckling session, I went back to the standard anchors and the job was completed quickly.

These anchors sounded like a good approach unfortunately in practice they do not work.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★☆☆☆☆

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Product review: 2013 Daily Planner / Organizer from Tools4Wisdom

I am a list person. Each day I keep a list of tasks I need to accomplish that day, crossing out the ones I have completed and adding new ones through out the day. When this planner arrived in the mail I had a list of 17 tasks on a sheet of paper. Even though I work with computers every day and love my tablet, I prefer paper-based lists. It seems that I remember things better when I write them down, and there is serious satisfaction in crossing things out from the list when the task is done!

When the Daily Planner arrived in the mail I transferred my 17 tasks to the daily planner and lived with it for several days before writing this review so I can fully evaluate how it is working for me.

The Daily Planner is 8.6" by 11" spiral bound notebook. It is made out of high quality matte paper that is easy to write on. Its weight is 1 pound 5.4 oz on my digital scale. I am attaching a collage of 2 photos. You can see the organizer on the postal scale in photo #2.


The minder has several sections:
(1) A monthly section shows one month at a glance. The days are labelled with a day of the week but no Month or Date labels, which allows you to use it for any year or month you want after you add labels yourself into the provided spaces.
Each month fits on one side of the organizer, so you can see two months if the organizer opened (i.e. not folded in half). There are 12 pages that show the monthly layout.
(2) Monthly goals and ideas section allows you to identify top goals for the month. It also has a section to write down steps to accomplish these goals. Each month goals/steps take 2 pages. This section follows the 12 month layout pages, and there are total of 24 pages for goals/steps.
(3) Daily planner section follows the monthly section. The daily planner pages take 3/4 of the book, as obviously you will be using them up faster than the other pages. This section allows you to break down your daily tasks in to three sections: top priority, important but not urgent, and not important and not urgent. It also helps you to determine the top goal for the day and specific steps to accomplish it. This section takes the top half of each page. The second half of the page contains continuous improvement questions, e.g. "what will I do to improve my mental focus?" At the bottom of the page there is an hourly chart, spanning from 9 am to 7 pm where you can mark things that have to happen at a certain time.

After living with the daily planner for a number of days here are my observations

I LIKED:

1. I loved how the daily planner forced me to sort my daily tasks into three priorities. This is my favorite feature of the book as it helps me organize thoughts and priorities about the tasks for the day.
2. I liked the time line at the bottom of the daily page, as I could see my entire day schedule quickly
3. I liked the spiral binding of the book, it stays open on the day you want and it is easy to flip back and look at the previous days. It is easy to lose loose paper pages, the daily minder keeps them all together.
4. I liked that I can tear out pages without damaging the construction of the minder.
5. I liked how the goals of the month lead you into dividing your project into smaller steps, making the task less daunting.

I DID NOT LIKE:

1. I wish my favorite section - the three columns of the daily tasks - was longer. When I transferred my 17 tasks to the daily planner I had hard time fitting them all in. The three columns currently have 8 lines each. Each column is 1/3 of the page, so some task descriptions I had took more than one line (sometimes I had a phone number associated with a task or some additional info that did not lend well to abbreviation). On the other hand the continuous improvement questions section was not that important to me, so I would have been okay giving it up to have a larger area for tasks.

MY ADDITION:

1. I tied a ribbon to the back of the spiral of the organizer. This gave me a bookmark that I keep on the current day so it is easy for me to open the minder to the right page. (See photo #2 which can be found by following 'customer photos' link under the main photo)

I received a copy of this minder from Tools4Wisdom for the purpose of evaluation and an honest review.
As a person who likes making (and completing!) lists I enjoy working with this minder. There are a few things that could have made it fit how I work better (e.g. allow for longer tasks lists) and I wrote my suggestions to the manufacture who was very receptive to new ideas, clearly they care about their products and customers. I recommend this organizer!

You can find 'Daily planner' on Amazon by following this link


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Product Review: SimplyShred FHC512D 12 Sheet Cross Cut Paper DVD Credit Card Shredder

SimplyShred FHC512D is Level 3 security shredder. What is the difference between Level 3 and Level 4 security shredders?
This is best illustrated by looking at the output each shredder produces.

 
I am attaching a photo collage that shows the output of two shredders side by side so you can see how these different security levels compare.

The photo labelled L3-1 shows shredded CD, shredded paper, and shredded credit card from L3 level security shredder (this shredder). Photos labelled L4-1, L4-2, L4-3 show shredded CD, shredded paper, and shredded credit card from L4 level security shredder (SimplyShred PSC310D). You can see that the paper and credit card are shredded into much smaller pieces, CD shreds looks about the same.

I am also attaching a video which SimplyShred FHC512D in action. The video shows the shredder handling 10 sheets of paper, a CD, and a credit card.

video


FUNCTIONALITY

✔ SimplyShred FHC512D shredder easily handled 10 sheets of paper at once (it is rated up to 12 sheets of paper of 20 lb weight)
✔ It handles CDs and credit cards in addition to paper.
✔ The shredder's operation is fairly quiet and fast. The shredding speed is 8.5 feet per minute. The noise level and speed are best illustrated by the video.

SIZE INFO

✔ This shredder's size is 17" heigh x 13.75" wide x 9.5" front to back
✔ The bucket height is 13". Its capacity is 5 gallons.
✔ The opening of the entry for paper is 8.86". If the paper is wider than the opening the manual instructs the user to fold it, rather than have it crickle on the edges automatically.
✔ The size of shreds produced by this paper is 0.5" x 1.5"

The shredding mechanism of this shredder works as a cover for the bucket. To empty the bucket you need to lift off the shredding mechanism, put it aside, and empty the bucket. The shredding unit has a handle, which I found to be very comfortable and convenient. I own a similarly designed Fellows DM-6C shredder, which does not have a handle and it is much harder to empty. The bucket has a glass window in the front of the shredder so you can see when it is getting full. Photo L3-2 best shows this feature of the shredder.

Shredding starts automatically when you insert paper,credit card, or CD when the unit is set to 'on'. If the shredder jams the front panel has forward and reverse buttons which can be used to backup the paper and unjam. Shredding of papers with labels is not recommended as it can gum up the blades.

The manual has a nice tip on how to oil the shredder. It recommends applying oil to a sheet of paper in a zigzag pattern and feeding it through the machine, rather then applying the oil directly into the opening of the machine.

Comparing SimplyShred FHC512D to my Fellows DM-6C Shredder.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
✔ The biggest difference is in easy of emptying the bucket. Because SimplyShred FHC512D has a handle, it is much easier to deal with it.
✔ SimplyShred can handle credit cards and CD where as Fellows does not
✔ Fellows Shredder has a lip around the top of the shredder so it is easier to move the entire container by putting my fingers under the lip. SimplyShred has no handles which allow to lift the bucket along with the shredding mechanism. But the entire unit is fairly light so this is not a big deal.

Comparing SimplyShred FHC512D to SimplyShred PSC310D:
----------------------------------------------------
✔ SimplyShred PSC310D is Security 4 level shredder, so it cuts the paper and credit cards into much smaller pieces.
Security level 3 produces shreds of 0.5" x 1.5" size, and severity level 4 produces shreads of 0.12" x 0.31" size.
✔ To empty the bucket in SimplyShred PSC310D you can remove the bucket while the shredding mechanism remains attached to the frame.
✔ SimplyShred FHC512D is easier move around than SimplyShred PSC310D due to PSC310D larger size
✔ SimplyShred PSC310D is more expensive than SimplyShred FHC512D

SimplyShred FHC512D does a good job at a reasonable price. SimplyShred PSC310D does a great job but at a higher cost.

I received this new shredder model for testing, evaluation and providing an honest review. I described both positives and negatives of my experience with this shredder. I hope you found my observations, measurements, video and photos helpful. If you have any questions I have not addressed I am always happy to answer comments.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.
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Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Product Review: PowerGen PGMPP12000 12000mAh External Battery Pack High Capacity Power Bank Charger Triple USB 3Amps output for Apple and Android Nexus

I tested I 12000mAh 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 am attaching a video and a photo that I will be referencing in this review.


The first thing I noticed when I opened the package is that juice pack looks slick and well made. The photo shows a close up of the power pack on a gridded mat, next to a ruler and a pen for size reference. Its dimensions are 3.25" width x 3.75" by 0.88" thick. It weighs 8.9 oz (without cables).

The box contained two USB cords 7" and 27" and 5 adaptors to fit different devices (Nokia 2mm round, Playstation Portable 4mm round, mini USB, two micro USB). The adaptors are a weak point of the design, they feel a bit flimsy and it is easy to loose all the small pieces. The minimum number of adaptors needed for each of my devices is two: one that goes into the AC plug to charge the external battery and the second (mini USB) that goes into the devices for charging.

The blue lights on top of the battery pack indicate the level of power in the battery: 4 lights indicate full charge, 3 lights 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 video shows turning the juice pack on, charging the juice pack, charging a device, and turning the juice pack off.

video

The power pack also has an LED light, which generates a pretty good bright light and can be used a flashlight.

The 12000mAh PowerGen has three USB outlets: Out A 2 Amp(best for iPad or any Apple device), Out S (best for non Apple devices), Out 1 Amp (best for iPhone and iPod). I tested my four electronic devices using both my own USB cable as well as the manufacture cable + adapter. In the documentation booklet PowerGen states that PowerGen cables provide better performance for non-Apple devices on the 2Amp (Apple port) and I wanted to see the difference between the cables.

The manual says that non-Apple devices for which adaptors are provided will charge at full speed. The provided adaptors 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 adaptors fit Galaxy Samsung 7.7 Tablet so my in my tests for Samsung Galaxy I used the cable that came with my tablet.

I used 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.

The key findings:
================
(1) 2 Amp and 1 Amp outlets is aimed at Apple devices but worked fine with Nexus devices, and did not charge Samsung Galaxy 7.7 tablet (but slowed its normal discharge rate).
(2) S outlet worked for all Android devices, including Samsung Galaxy 7.7 tablet
(3) Using PowerGen cables vs generic charging cables made a positive difference.

Difference between a power cable and a data cable:
Charging cables short the two data connections together (rendering them useless for data transfer), but this fools devices to see them as an AC power connection, and thus accept the higher current of the charging source. Both my generic cable and PowerGen cables used in my tests are charging cables.

Description of my tests:
-------------------------
I tested each devices by charging each unit for 10 minutes and noting how the charge % change.
Note that I have been running the same tests with several PowerGen Juice packs, so if you are interested in the difference between the juice packs you can compare these test relative to each other.
The tests were run with the following permutations:
--- on 2A Apple port, 1A Apple port, and S port
--- using PowerGen cable and using my own charging cable
--- For Samsung Galaxy that was discharging attached to PowerGen on two Apple ports, I compared the discharging rate attached to PowerGen and normal discharge without the juice pack

The table below summarizes my findings.

Nexus 7 Tablet
-----------------------------------
1Amp Apple port ..... generic cable .... AC source .... 2% charge in 10 minutes
1Amp Apple port ..... Powergen cable ... AC source .... 2% charge in 10 minutes
S port .............. generic cable .... AC source .... 3% charge in 10 minutes
S port .............. Powegen cable .... AC source .... 4% charge in 10 minutes
2Amp Apple port ..... generic cable .... AC source .... 2% charge in 10 minutes
2Amp Apple port ..... Powergen cable ... AC source .... 5% charge in 10 minutes

Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone
-----------------------------------
1Amp Apple port ..... generic cable .... AC source .... 3% charge in 10 minutes
1Amp Apple port ..... Powergen cable ... AC source .... 5% charge in 10 minutes
S port .............. generic cable .... AC source .... 5% charge in 10 minutes
S port .............. Powegen cable .... AC source .... 5% charge in 10 minutes
2Amp Apple port ..... generic cable .... AC source .... 5% charge in 10 minutes
2Amp Apple port ..... Powergen cable ... AC source .... 5% charge in 10 minutes

Samsung Galaxy Tablet 7.7
-----------------------------------
1Amp Apple port ..... generic cable .... discharging .... 0% discharging in 10 minutes
S port .............. generic cable .... AC source ....... 5% charge in 10 minutes
2Amp Apple port ..... generic cable .... discharging .... 0% discharging in 10 minutes
not attached......... N/A................discharging..... -4% discharging in 10 minutes

SanDisk Sansa Clip+ MP3 Player
-----------------------------------
1Amp Apple port ... works
S port ............ works
2Amp Apple port ....works

The MP3 player recognized the charger on both outlet, however it behaved differently than charging from the charger it came with the player itself. 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. This is very handy for Sansa MP3 player since it has built-in battery that cannot be swapped for a charged one. I used to have to stop listening to have it recharged and now I can continue to listen while it re-charges. I was very happy to have this feature during hurricane Sandy when I lost power and my books on MP3 player were my only source of entertainment.

To summarize:

I liked:
-----------------------------------
1. Good behavior with Nexus devices.
2. Galaxy tablet consistently works at AC rate on S port (some of the PowerGen packs I tested in the past did not give me consistent results)
3. Solution for MP3 player with built-in battery
4. Looks sleek, feels solid, is compact
5. Labels for the ports are now in black font so they are easier to read (Thank you PowerGen for listening to feedback!)

I did not like:
-----------------------------------
1. The multiple piece connectors are easy to loose. I prefer a one piece charging cable I bought as a replacement, even though its performance is slight slower

I received 12000mAh external battery pack for testing from the manufacturer to write an honest and unbiased review and I hope you found my tests useful.

Overall, I am pleased with this unit and recommend it.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.
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Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Product review: Accessorise Executive Ballpoint Pen with Stylus and 8GB 2.0 USB Flash Drive

This pen combines three functions: in addition to a ball point pen, there is a memory stick in the cap of the pen, and a stylus at the tip of the cap. The pen comes with two additional ball point pen refills.

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


Photo #1 has Accesssorise Memory stick Pen next to a regular size pen and next to a regular Cruzer memory stick for relative size/thickness comparison. As you see this pen is a little thicker than a typical ball point pen. My pen wrote well with an even distribution of ink, however I found a thicker pen not very comfortable when I did a lot of writing. It is totally fine for a few quick notes. My husband has bigger hands and found this pen comfortable to write with.

Photo #2 has the memory stick part separated from the pen and next to the Cruzer memory stick for relative size. They are about the same in length, and then pen memory stick is a little thinner. As it serves as a cap the memory stick part has the clip. This is very handy! I tend to lose my memory sticks and the clip really keeps the memory stick in place so it is easy for me to find it every time I need it!

The third photo is the cap inserted into my computer. It fits and works perfectly.

The stylus works well on our two tablets (Nexus 7 and 7.7 Samsung Galaxy).

I have used this pen for a couple of weeks before writing this review and found that I use it a lot, mostly as a memory stick. Turns out the thing I like most about this gadget is the clip on memory stick, I always know where it is.

This pen makes a nifty 'Secret Santa' gift: it looks sleek and attractive while being a bit unique, not very expensive but does not look cheap. This is the type of thing I look for when getting a 'Secret Santa' gifts for my co-workers.

I was provided an evaluation copy of the Accessorise pen with stylus and memory for testing and review. I described both positives and negatives of my experience with the pen in this review. I hope you found my comments and photos useful. If you have any questions I have not addressed I am always happy to answer comments.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Friday, January 18, 2013

Product review: Accessorise Padded Neoprene 7 Inch Tablet Zip Sleeve Case Cover with Built-in Landscape / Portrait Viewing Stand

I tested Accessorise Neoprene Sleeve with our two tablets: 7" Nexus Galaxy tablet and 7.7" Samsung Galaxy tablet. I also compared this case with the cases that are currently in use with the tablets prior to this case. I am attaching a collage of 7 photos that I will be referencing in this review.


The first thing I noticed about this sleeve that it is well constructed: the zippers operated very smoothly, all seams are finished well, there are no loose threads or blemishes. The case comes with a wrist band which can be optionally attached with a spring lock.

The sleeve's size is 9" by 6.25". It is made out of neoprene. I typically think of neoprene sleeves as being soft and pliable, however this case is made out of two layers of neoprene with plastic insert between them, so it is fairly stiff with some flex it in. It provides more protection than a single layer of neoprene. The inside layer of neoprene has round bumps which provide a big of extra cushion. The inside of the case is best seen in photo #2.

The outside of the case has a 5.5" by 3.37" compartment with an opening which is a slit. The slit has no closure mechanism. This compartment is best to carry something that can be clipped to it (like a pen or a stylus), or perhaps a cord that would stretch it and thus stay in. This slit is visible in the photo #3, it looks like a blue line in the photo which shows the top of the case.

The dimensions of this sleeve are such that it fits both of our tablets: the smaller 7" Nexus tablet as well as the larger 7.7" Samsung Galaxy Tablet. In fact, I was able to fit 7.7 Samsung Galaxy not only "naked" but also while it was in its leather case Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 Leather Folio Case . It fits quite nicely and snugly into the case either "naked" or with the case.

Photo #1 and Photo #2 show the 7.7" Galaxy tablet on top and inside of the sleeve so you can see the fit.

Photo #3 and Photo #4 demonstrate the 7" Nexus tablet fit. The photos show the Kroo sleeve and Accessorise sleeve next to each other, with the tablet on top of each in turn. 

Kroo Neoprene Sleeve Case
by comparison is made out of one neoprene layer. The fit of the Kroo sleeve is snug, the fit of the Accessorise sleeve is a bit loose. This is generally not a problem, unless you want the tablet to fit into your pocket. My husband likes carrying Nexus 7 in his pockets (jacket pocket or even pants pocket). Photo #6 and photo #7 demonstrate how he inserts the sleeves into his pocket - Kroo sleeve goes in without any issues. Accessorise sleeve does not fit.
  
Photo #5 shows how the sleeve can be used as a stand. There was no documentation to explain how the sleeve can be used as a stand, it took a bit of guessing to figure out that the tabs were meant to be spread out and used to hold up the device. It worked, but I have to say that I did not feel secure about leaving the tablet under flexed tension of the sides for a long time. I would not want to risk to have the tablet pop out of it, and I was not sure how the case will hold up if it was flexed for a long time.

We decided that the sleeve is a better fit for the 7.7" tablet than the 7" tablet. I like using my tablet while it is in its leather folio case a bit of extra protection, so I have been using the neoprene case to carry the tablet (by its wrist band) while it is in its leather folio.

Overall, I liked the case but I did not like the stand mechanism. Double neoprene layer construction provides more protection than a typical one layer neoprene case at the cost of being slightly bigger and thicker.

I was provided an evaluation copy of the Accessorise Neoprene Sleeve Case for testing and review. I described both positives and negatives of my experience with the sleeve in this review. I hope you found my comments, measurements and photos helpful. If you have any questions I have not addressed I am always happy to answer comments.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Product review: 2 DVD set Les Miserables: 10th Anniversary Dream Cast (2012)



I received this DVD a day after watching the movie "Les Miserable". While the movie was fresh in my mind I was eager to hear the the musical production. I can tell you that I enjoyed the signing on the DVD significantly more than the signing in the movie. This is not all that surprising since the 10th Anniversary Concert features the top stars from both the London and Broadway productions. The concert was performed on October 8, 1995 and brought together over 250 best performers from various worldwide productions. The finale features 17 'Valjeans' from productions around the world singing in their native languages.

This set includes two DVD disks (one with the concert, one with the extras about the process of making the concert), 12 page commemorative booklet which includes several photographs from the concert, and a replica of the ticket to the London after party. I am attaching a collage of two photos which show the DVD set opened with the entire content visible.

I'm very grateful to BBC Worldwide for sending me a sample copy of this DVD for review purposes. The timing of getting it was perfect, it allowed me to enjoy the cinematography of the movie and then to enjoy the music and singing of this DVD even more. I am not compelled to see the movie again, but I already listened to this DVD several times and undoubtedly will enjoy it again.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★



Monday, January 14, 2013

Product review: Evriholder IOM-FNL Iron on Mat with Funnel

In my spare time I am a quilter, so my ironing board in the study is always out with the iron is on it. I also use my ironing board for doing art layouts as it allows me to do so without bending down (important because of my back problems). Since I am around my ironing board a lot I have knocked down the iron to the floor quite a few times. Not good for the iron (had to replace at least one iron) and not good for the floor (have a gouge in the wood floor).

I have tried several iron rests, which improved things but did not totally resolve the problem until I bought this silicone iron rest pad.

Not only the silicone iron rest pad is heat resistant, it is non-slip. Since the iron sits on it with the business side down (not its end) it is very stable, it is pretty impossible to knock down. As an added bonus the pad is water proof, so when you use steam and iron has water in it, if a little of it leaks out it stays on the pad. I am attaching a collage of two photos. In the photos you can see the pad with my iron on it in two different orientations, so you can see how it fits.

The pad size is 14.1 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches. It weights 2.4 ounces

This iron pad is designed to resist hot temperatures for short periods of time only. The warning on the package says that it should not be used with temperatures of over 500 F (260 C) even for short period of times. It also warns not to use it if the pad gets cuts or pierced. The pad itself does get heated up with a hot iron on it, so let it cool off before handling. One of the pad ends has a funnel that is normally collapsed and flat. It can be used to make it easier to add water to the iron without spills. I have not found much use for this feature although the funnel does pop out nicely and does fit into the opening. This product is made in China.

Overall, I am very pleased - a very inexpensive solution to a really annoying problem.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Product review: RHA SA950i On-Ear Portable Headphones with Remote - Titanium Speakers - 3 year warranty RHA SA950i On-Ear Portable Headphones with Remote

RHA MA-350 produce good rich sound.  I found bass as well as high frequencies to be very good listening to classical music.  I also tried it with audio books and they produce very clear voice sound as well.

The headphones fit comfortably and snugly on my (fairly small) head.  My head is 14" (measuring from the center of one ear to the center of the other ear over the head). To help you determine if they are a good fit for your head I am including detailed measurements of the headband.  The headphones leather band is 9" (measured on the inside, the part that touches the head). The adjustment mechanism can be expanded from 7/8" to 2" on each side.  The total head band can be adjusted from 13.5 inches to 16 inches (measuring from the center of one headphone to the other, where the band connects to the headphones, on the inside).

I am attaching a collage of 2 photos (that can be located by following customer photos link under the main photo) which shows the close-up of the adjustment mechanism.  The adjustment mechanisms are the chrome-colored bars which are between the headband the earphones.

The cups of the earphones are 2.75" by 2.25".  The leather is very soft and cushy. They formed a comfortable and good seal on my ears.

I really liked the cord it comes with. It has volume control built into the cord which I found very convenient, and cable is covered with corded fabric which produced no echo in the headphone when it rubbed against something.  I also found that the cord did not tangle as much as my other cords.  The cord is 61 inches long.

The headphone plus the cord weight is 4.2 oz, and I found that I could wear them in a noisy office all day without getting tired.

I received an evaluation copy of RHA SA950i On-Ear headphones to write a comprehensive and unbiased review and I hope the measurements and photos will help you in your buying decision.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Product review: Davidsbeenhere: Hanging Travel Toiletry Bag

When I travel and live out of the suitcase I like being organized. I typically travel with the content stored in various plastic bags to keep things organized. This Toiletry Bag is going to replace quite a few of my plastic bags! One feature that I really like that it has a hanger so you can hang it in the bathroom rod. This solves a problem with cramped bathrooms which do not have enough room to lay things out!

The bag is made out of light nylon. When it is empty if weights 7.9 oz. It has a total of 4 compartments.

I am attaching a collage of 4 numbered photos that I will be referencing in this review.



Here are the details about the bag compartments and dimensions:

1. Photo #1 shows bag closed with just the hanger pulled out of the middle compartment. I hang it this way in the hotel bathroom when it is not used.
When the organizer is closed it is 16" by 11" by 2" in size.

2. Photo #2 shows the expansion zipper. One of the compartments can be made bigger or smaller by use of this expansion zipper. It gives an additional 2.5 inches of room in one of the side compartments.
If the zipper is closed the right compartment is 1" (width) x 2"(height) x 10.5" in size, with the zipper opened it becomes 3.5" (width) x 2" (height) x 10.5". If you look at picture #3 and #4, this compartment is the first one on the right.

3. The second compartment from the right is 2.5" x 2.5" x 10.5"

4. The third compartment flips open and has two mesh pockets. One of the mesh pockets has a zipper, the second one ends with a rubber band. This compartment is 7" x 10.5" x 2" in size.
Photos #3 and #4 shows this compartment opened.
The hanging hook as well as the handle are attached to this middle compartment. The design is such that allows to hang the bag either opened or closed, which is pretty handy!

5. The fourth compartment (left most in picture #3 and #4) is sized 3.75" (width) by 10.5" by 2" (height).

I received an evaluation copy of this travel toiletry bag from Davidsbeenhere to write an honest and unbiased review.

I found it to be a well designed and thought through organizer. It is light, the zippers work well. It kept me well organized and made it easy to find things even when there was not a lot of surface area in the hotel bathroom. I have no hesitation in recommending it!

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Product review: Davidsbeenhere: Travel Passport Wallet Organizer Davidsbeenhere: Travel Passport Wallet Organizer

This organizer really helps you keep organized. I am attaching a collage of three photos which I will be referencing in this review.



The organizer is made out light nylon and has 15 compartments.
When closed its dimensions are 5.5" by 9.5" inches. When opened it spans 10.75" inches by 9.5".
It has one outside compartment (see photo #3) where you can insert tickets or anything else that needs to be accessed quickly.
The organized has one big zipper that closes the organizer, and one small zipper that closes a small compartment on the inside. Bottom left of photo #1 and photo #2. I stored my earrings in that compartment when I was not wearing them.

On the left hand side:
1. The top compartment is very deep it spans the length of the entire organizer (in photo #2 I inserted a ruler into it so you can see that it is about 9 inches deep)
2. The next 4 compartments are shallow, the depth is good for credit card size items (in photo #2 I inserted a business card into one of the shallow pockets)
3. The compartment above the zipped pocket is 3.5 inches deep
4. The zipped pocket is 3 inches deep

On the right hand side:
1. The top compartment is a deep compartment which is 9 inches deep
2. Next we have a flap which is also 9 inches deep
3. The outside of the flap has 4 shallow compartments which hold credit card sized content
4. The last compartment is a clear pocket which 3.5 deep. I kept my passport in it (in photo #2 you can see how it fits).

I received an evaluation copy of a product from Davidsbeenhere to write an honest and unbiased review.

This is a well designed and thought through organizer. It is light, zippers work well. It kept me well organized, no fumbling around looking for stuff.
I have no hesitation in recommending it!

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Product review: Yard Butler HCWM-1 Wall-Mounted Hose Hanger Hose Caddy

I was looking for a no-frills hose caddy. This caddy fits the bill at a reasonable price. This is a metal no-frills hose caddy. I noticed that some reviewers mentioned that in their experience this caddy rusts. So when I received the caddy I closely examined its finish. I see why it rusts prematurely: the finish has many imperfections and bare spots. I am attaching a collage of 4 photos  outlining several areas of defective finish. I painted the caddy with a clear coat acrylic paint before using to keep it rust free longer. The caddy came without mounting hardware. On the positive side it is very sturdy.


Here are the dimensions of the caddy:
It has 10 inches span
It is 5.5 inches wide
3.25 inches from base to rail

Overall the design, sturdiness and price were what I was looking for. But I deducted a star for poor finish which required me to paint it before use.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Friday, January 4, 2013

Product review: Bolse Mini Windshield Car Mount Holder iPhone Nexus Android Phone

I tested Bolse Mini Windshield mount with Galaxy Nexus phone with an extra large battery which makes it significantly fatter than a standard battery. The phone also has a skin on that adds to its sickness.

I am attaching a collage of 5 photos that I will be referencing in this review. You can find the photos by following 'customer photos' link under the main photo of this listing.

Bolse windshield mount is pretty compact and I was not sure how well it would fit the phone as with its extra fat battery and skin it is pretty big. Photo #5 shows the fit. To my surprise it worked! I would say this pushed the capacity of this holder to its limit. If the phone was any larger or thicker I would be worried that the grip would not hold.

Photo #1 shows a close up of the grip of the holder. I put a circle around the arm that expands to grasp the phone. The mounts grasps the phone on the sides while leaving ports exposed. This means the phone can be plugged in if you are using it as a GPS that uses a lot of battery power.

The way this holder mounts on the windshield is different from other mounts that I have tried. Others create suction by a lever, this one is attached by rotating the base. The mount comes in two pieces, the base and the grips. I found that I got the strongest hold when I attached the base first, then mounted the phone to the grips (photo #5) and then mounted the grips onto the base. I have a small piece of soap stored in the car, which together with my spit gives my windshield mounts a good grip.

I really liked the flexibility and ease with which I could rotate and angle the mount. Photo #2 and photo #3 show the phone positioned in different orientations as well as with different angles. The mount gives you full 360 degree of freedom for positioning the phone.

Update after several weeks of use: Bolse phone cradle mounts very close to the windshield, it has a shorter extension than the other windshield mounts we own. Depending on the slope of your windshield this could keep your phone fairly far from the driver. My car's electric plug is positioned fairly close to the floor level and the length of the charging cord for the phone also restrict where I can attach this mount. The combination of these two aspects puts the phone into a position that makes it hard for me to make out street names on the map if I use the phone for navigation. Someone with good eye sight will not have any issues, but my I wanted to update the review to add this note for those who don't have great eyes.

The mount also comes with a second option for mounting with an adhesive disk (which also has tiny screw holes) to mount the holder on the dash permanently. I don't like using permanent mounts for a number of reasons: I don't want to damage my car with permanent screw holes or hard to remove glue. I also rather not have anything permanent suggesting to passers by that the car might have "interesting" electronics hidden away. I have not tried the adhesive disk and cannot comment on how well it works.

I received an evaluation unit for test from manufacture to write an honest and unbiased review. I have described positives and negatives of my experience with this unit and if you have any questions on the features I covered I am always happy to respond to comments.

Overall I am pleased with the unit, particularly how easy to is to change the orientation and position of the phone. So far I have not had issues with the mount loosing suction (tested with the weather in the 50s).

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Mobile App Review: Battery HD, Free App (7.7 Samsung Galaxy Tablet, Nexus Table, Nexus Phone, Android)

I use a lot of different battery apps and I was surprised by how much functionality this battery app provides. It also has a couple of minor drawbacks compared to my favorite battery app (Battery App by Elvison).

The HD battery app has four pages of screens (you can switch between them by clicking on four dots on the bottom of the page) as well as 4 pages of settings (you can locate them by clicking on 4 icons at the top of any page).

Page 1:
The first page shows a large graphic of the battery with the remaining charge percentage. It also shows an estimate of much you can do on that charge: standby time, music playback, video playback, internet browsing, talk time. This information is based on community data, and you can calibrate it for your own device (under gear icon).

Page 2:
It shows you
  •  how much time it would take to fully recharge the battery using AC charge source or using USB charge source.
  •  how much time you can use GPS without recharging or play Games (2D or 3D separately)
  •  how much time you can use the device as a flashlight
  •  how much time you can use the device for reading

Page 3:
Show you how much you can use
  • video chat 
  • take photos 
  • record video 
  • listen to on-line radio
  • do voice recordings

Page 4:
This page shows battery health, technology of the battery, temperature of the battery, voltage, and time since last charge.

Settings Icon:
Show the percentage of power used by each of the currently run applications (this is a short-cut to the same info as what you see under Settings of the device)

Graph Icon:
Shows the chart of your power usage on the grid that has percentage on y-axis and time of the day on x-axis.

Gear icon:
  • You can select battery color from a color wheel
  • You can select to show the charge level in the Notification Bar (for me this shows when I hit settings not on always visible notification bar)
  • You can set how and when you are notified about charge levels. You can choose a ding or you can choose a human voice to tell you the level. My tablet emits lots of dings and sometimes I am not sure what it is trying to tell me, so having a voice tell me my battery is low is quite nice.
  • You can choose to have the app automatically open when you start charging.
  • You can run a set of tests which calibrate your tablet power usage rather than using the generic community data. This is a very extensive test - be prepared to give up the use of your tablet for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
  • This is also where you can choose to upgrade to a pro version of the apps to avoid seeing ads (which are discretely displayed at the bottom of the page).

SOURCE of Charge:

I frequently use various battery apps to determine how my tablet sees the source of the charge (AC or USB). My favorite app for this is Battery App by Elvison. Elvison app shows AC, USB or discharging status. '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. It also shows me the time when it began charging.

Battery HD app shows this information by displaying a graphic on the battery AC plug or USB connection. It does not show when the device is attached to the power source but is discharging because it cannot draw enough power to charge. HD battery does not show when the charging began.

COMPARISON of results with the Battery App by Elvison.

I decided to test this app using PowerGen PGMPP8400 8400mAh and PowerGen PGMPP9000 9000mAh external power packs whose performance I extensively tested with Galaxy 7.7. These external power packs have two USB ports labeled A (Apple) and NA (non Apple).
Why are no all connections equal? Android devices use a USB Battery Charging Standard where as Apple devices use a proprietary USB connector. Because of this difference USB connections wired for Apple devices do not provide AC power to Android devices even when a charging cable (rather than the data cable) is used.

Test Notes:
  •  I kept the display powered on to make sure that powering display was the same in all tests as it is the biggest power hog.
  •  I am using a charging cable rather than the data cable during the tests.

Elvison Battery App: PowerGen PGMPP8400 8400mAh with Samsung Galaxy Tablet 7.7
--------------------------
Regular cable -- 0.6 AMP outlet -- AC
Regular cable -- 2 AMP outlet -- discharging

HD Battery App: PowerGen PGMPP8400 8400mAh with Samsung Galaxy Tablet 7.7
--------------------------
Regular cable -- 0.6 AMP outlet -- AC icon
Regular cable -- 2 AMP outlet -- AC icon (graph shows a flat line, no charge)



Elvison Battery App: PowerGen PGMPP9000 Samsung Galaxy Tablet 7.7
-----------------------------------
2Amp outlet ..... generic cable .... discharging .... 1% discharge in 10 minutes
.06Amp outlet ... generic cable .... AC source ...... 1% charge in 10 minutes

HD Battery App: PowerGen PGMPP9000 Samsung Galaxy Tablet 7.7
-----------------------------------
2Amp outlet ..... generic cable .... AC icon ...... 0% charge in 10 minutes (graph shows a flat line, no charge)
.06Amp outlet ... generic cable .... AC icon ...... 1% charge in 10 minutes

OBSERVATIONS:
Battery App by Elvison has three modes (USB, AC, discharging). HD Battery app shows USB or AC and then you need to look at graph to determine if the device is drawing enough power to charge. You will also notice this when the charged percentage does not go up.

I am attaching a few screen shot that I thought might be interesting.
  • #1. A screenshot with permissions requested by this app
  • #2. A chart showing the power usage, note the flat lines which correspond to charging Galaxy 7.7 on Apple USB port.



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

Overall, HD Battery app makes it a bit harder to see when am Android device is accidentally plugged into an Apple USB port and is not getting enough power. However the app provides a lot of other interesting information, I found this app a useful one to have on my tablet.

You can find this app on Amazon by following this link.
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Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Product review: Logitech Wireless Keyboard K360 Compact Portable Laptop

When I was shopping for a compact keyboard I could not find the exact measurements of this keyboard, so I will start with measurements:
Logitech K360 keyboard is 15 inches long, 6 inches wide, 1/2 inches tall. It weights 1 pound and 4.2 oz.

I am attaching a collage of two pictures. Photo #2 shows this keyboard next to a regular sized keyboard for relative size. It is placed on 1 inch gridded mat for additional size reference.
Picture #1 shows how USB transmitter is packaged. It is tiny and attached to the box. I put a red square around it to highlight it.

The keyboard has a nice heavy feel and pretty good feedback when you touch the keys. This keyboard uses the tiny USB receiver that has unifying capabilities. This means you can use one USB slot to control up to 6 USB devices that have unifying technology. In my current set up I am not using the unifying capabilities as my mouse is older and does not have has unifying feature.

This keyboard runs on two AA batteries. The keyboard has an on/off switch which is handy for a keyboard which is not used all the time.

The description of this keyboard says it is Windows compatible, but I am using it with Linux without any problems. This keyboard is used to control a small netbook computer running Linux that is used as a DVR and computer to stream internet content to the TV.
When not in use the keyboard fits into a cabinet draw (that's why the exact size was important to me, I was looking for a keyboard that would fit into a draw which was too small to fit a full sized keyboard)

The keyboard comes with Windows software that maps function keys to special functions. This software is a convenience for enabling functionality that is part of any operating system. Since the included software is for Windows, I am including instructions on how to do it for Linux. I use this keyboard on a computer that streams internet content so I decided it would be useful to map the function keys to commonly used URLs - for example links to several specific shows I like watching on Hulu. All I had to do is select System - Preferences - Keyboard Shortcuts through Linux desktop UI. When Keyboard Shortcuts dialog comes up, I clicked "Add". The next dialog asks to give a short cut a name (e.g. "Hulu") and a command (this is where I entered the direct URL link to whatever I wanted the key board short cut to do). This adds a new row to a list of existing shortcuts. Then I selected the new row and click the function key that you want to associate with the new command. Done!
One nice thing about the function keys on this keyboard that it has icons (musical notes, envelope, etc.) in addition to the standard F1, F2. These icons work as a reminder of what keys I mapped to what show URLs.

Overall, I am very pleased with this keyboard, no complaints at all.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.
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Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Product review: Polder Strainer/Steamer Basket for Pasta or Vegetables Stainless Steel

I often use a colander when cooking pasta or vegetables. In the past I used a two piece strainer which had the bottom as a separate piece. Every few years the bottom would dislodge itself and I would need to replace the strainer. The last time it happened I decided to look for a new model and headed to a local kitchen store. I found Polder and I am very pleased with it. I paid $21 (more than Amazon by a significant percentage) but was able to eyeball it to make sure it fits my favorite pot, the Reverware 8 quart.

I am attaching a collage of 4 photos to demonstrate how this strainer fits into the 8 quart pot.



The Polder strainer has 9.5" diameter, it is 7.5" in height. The handle is 6" if I measure from the rim to the tallest point.
The 8 quart pot is 9.5" in diameter, 7.25" in depth.
Photo #1 and Photo #2 show the pot and the strainer next to each from different angles.
Photo #3 shows the strainer inside the pot. You can see that its rim is just above the rim of the pot (this is 0.25 inch difference in height between the two).
Photo #4 show the view from the top. You can see that feet of the strainer are resting on the bottom of the pot.

It is nearly a perfect fit. I say nearly rather than perfect, because if you put a lid on top of the pot, it does not quite fit. It rests on top of the colander. In most cases this is ok.

I really like the design of this colander:

(1) One piece design means I will not have to worry about dislodged bottom piece as was the case with the previous model I was using
(2) The silicone handle makes is comfortable to lift the strainer from the pot
(3) The colander feels solid and well constructed

I hope my review will help you determine if it is a good fit for your pot. If it is a good fit, I highly recommend it.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★★★