Thursday, December 31, 2015

Product review: Northfield Sportswear Men's Camouflage Hunting Camo Waterproof-insulated Jacket

This jacket is made in China but it is true to American sizes and is a good fit.

This jacket is well made, all zippers operate smoothly, it is quite warm, the lining is heavy, and the jacket feels heavy (2 pounds 15 oz). The jacket has 4 pockets. Two on the side, one on the chest, and one on the side. The jacket has a removable hood (attaches with a zipper). The hood can be tightened around the face. If you are a lefty you might like a quirk of this jacket that the chest pocket in on the right hand side, so it is a little more convenient to reach into it with a left hand.

To test how waterproof the jacket is I put it under a faucet. As you see in attached video I put it under a stream for more than a minute and the inside remained dry. Pretty good!

This jacket is provided by Northfield Sportswear.

You can find "Northfield Camouflage Jacket" on Amazon via this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Product review: 50 PCS Reusable Hook and Loop Fastening Velcro Cable Ties with Microfiber Cloth, 5 Color

I have been using ONE-WRAP Thin Self-Gripping Cable Ties by Velcro for many years. I was quite pleased with them and thought they were very good until I tried these cable ties. Turns out I like these cable ties better. They are thicker they are easier to deal with - they keep their shape. They are slightly (1/4") longer than ONE-WRAPS. I like that they come in different colors, which helps me in color-coding the cables I am organizing. I also like how I can tighten them like a belt. They are long enough to wrap the cables and then ties them to something to keep them in place.

These cables are 5.5" long and 1/2" wide.

I received these cables from H-Style for testing and review. These are my new favorite cable ties.

<a rel="nofollow" href="">You can find these Velcro Cable Ties by following this link</a><img src="" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Product review: Cavoli 8 Inch Two-Sided Swivel Wall Mounted Mirror Bathroom Mirror Wall Mount with 5x Magnification

This mirror is so convenient in a tight places! I can put it away when it is not inuse and pull it out when I need it. I am using it a garden shed where I put on sunblock, or need to clear something that got into my ears while working in the garden. The mirror is very clear. One side is a regular mirror the other is a 5X magnification mirror.

It comes with all mounting hardware including hollow wall anchors and metal covers for the nail heads.

I was provided this mirror for testing and review as part of a new product introduction. It is exactly what I expected.

You can find "Cavoli 8 Inch Two-Sided Swivel Wall mirror" on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Product review: VonHaus Vacuum Bags (12 pack) - 12 x Space Saver Bags

Let me start by correcting the description. This bag does not contain 12 vacuum bags of the same kind. 3 smaller bags are compression style bags (which you roll to push out air), and 8 bags are the kind you use with a vacuum cleaner (which sucks out air from a special valve). In my experience compression style bags do not work as well, although they could be useful when traveling and one does not have access to a vaccum clearner. However, the Amazon description should have clearly spelled out that the package contains different type of vacuum bags.

I use vacuum bags to store seasonal clothing. I have used a number of vacuum bags in the past and some of them have stayed compressed for years. The most critical part of the process is to seal the big opening really well. Some vacuum bags come with a clip which you can move back and forth to make sure the bags is closed well quickly. My package was missing these clips. It is possible to seal the bags without the clips by using your fingers and listening for the clicks. When you hear no clicks it means the grooves fit perfectly together. It works, but it takes more time than a sealing clip.

The second step is evacuate air with the hose and then seal the opening. The tricky part comes when you remove the hose and close the clip. Some vacuum bags have a seal which does not let the air escape, this bag does not have such a seal and I heard a hiss of escaping air until I closed the opening and pressed it a few times.

I used several of the bags so far and I would say that I get about 50% compression. How much compression you get depends on how fluffy the things you are compressing are.

I received these bags for testing and review. Getting a free product does not prevent me from speaking honestly about pluses and minuses of the product. These bags work but the product and description of the product have several short comings that I described.

YOu can find "VonHaus Vacuum Bags" on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Product review: Bull Titan Women's Twinface Shearling Lined Foldable Winter Snow Boots

My shoe size is 7.5 and I got these boots in size 8. Sometimes Asian sizes run a little small but these boots are true to size. Size 8 is a little large on me with a thin socks and perfect with a thick wool sock. This is exactly how a size 8 fits me.

The boot is 8 inches tall when measure on the side the sole to the top of the boot with the sheepskin folded down. The shearling lining extends all the way down into the boot and the sole. The sole is made out of synthetic rubber. The sole has some bumps for traction, but it does not provide great traction. For a winter boot I would have liked to see a bit more texture on the sole, The boot does not have much arch support. I am slightly flat footed and plan add my own liner with a bit more arch support. The liner fits well because as I mentioned earlier I got a slightly bigger boot than I need.

I am finding the boots very comfortable and they look similar to UGG boots, but with less traction on the bottom of the sole. I hope the video gives you a better idea of what they look like.

A sample pair of boots is provided by Bull Titan to test the fit in American market. Asian sizes can be tricky but these boots are sized correctly. I used a chart under stock photos to determine the right size.

You can find these boots on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Product review: JENNIE LIU Women's 100% Cashmere Long Sleeve Pullover Black Turtleneck

This is a classic black turtleneck made in luxurious cashmere. It feels very soft. The cashmere is medium thickness not as thin as some but not really thick either, so the turtle neck is good for layering - warm without adding bulk. The turtle neck covers my entire neck and stands straight up so it keeps my neck warm. We just went from nice and warm weather to really cool evenings and this turtle neck has been perfect in the evenings.

The workmanship on the turtle neck is excellent. I am including a couple of photos of the inside seams - the best way to tell how well a garment is made - and they very neat and nice looking. The turtle neck is true to size.

I love black turtle necks they go with so many things, and this has become my favorite among a large assortment.

This turtle neck is provided to me for review and testing the fit by Jennie Liu.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Product review: Global Vasion Electric Battery Powered Heated Gloves / Hand Warmer

I really like these gloves but the description of sizing is not right. It is certainly not XL men gloves. I am a female with small hands and the these gloves are a good fit for me. I normally wear size small gloves.

When measured on the outside the glove is 9.5" long and 4.3" wide at the palm (measured just above the thumb). But the gloves are pretty thick.

There is about 1/2" of space at the tip of the fingers. My hand is 6.5" long (so the there is room for 7" long hand from the wrist to the tip of the middle finger). The width of my hand is 3.25" and it feels roomy without being way too large, guessing there is bout 1" of slack on the inside.

The gloves come with rechargeable batteries and a special charging cord. The back of the gloves has a pocket with a connector for the batteries. There is no on/off switch, the heating element begins working as soon as the battery is connected. I was pleasantly surprised that the heat was not only in the back of the hands but in the fingers as well. The heat was pleasant (i.e. not too hot). I can feel the battery in the back of my hand, but not the heating elements in the glove and in the fingers.

The back of the gloves has a Velco strip it can tighten the fit of the glove and it happens to be over the battery and prevents the battery from moving around in its pocket.

My hands get really cold in the winter, so I am looking forward to being more comfortable this winter. I will post an update if the gloves do not last through the winter.

I received these gloves for testing and review as part of a new product introductions. So far they look promising! They are comfortable, well made, look good and the warmth is at a good temperature.

You can find "Global Vasion Electric Battery Powered Heated Gloves" on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Friday, December 18, 2015

Product review: GROSCHE London Drop In Ultra Fine Laser Cut Stainless Steel Tea Infuser (Brew-in-cup infuser)

I am a tea drinker so I have used many different tea infusers through the years.  The stroing point of this tea infuser is the fine stainless steel mesh, it works even with small cut tea.  I also like the shape which makes it easy to clean - a large opening that I can get easily clean with a brush.

This infuser works with cups 4" wide or less.  4" is the width of the infuser's lip that rests on the rim of the cup.

If I had to find a negative, it is the fact that I can't see the tea while it is brewing so I can't tell the strength without lifting an infuser.  This is not a big deal just different from my other infusers.

This infuser is simple and practical. It makes it easy to try to try interesting teas by shopping in asian markets and speacialty tea shops.

I received this infuser for testing and review. I like it!

You can find GROSCHE London Drop infuser on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Product review: Thinklux E26 LED Filament Bulb 7w LED Light Bulb

These bulbs are shaped just like an incandescent bulb, but they have a 7W LED filament. The rating says that it replaces a 60 watt incandescent. I did not have a 60 watt incandescent to compare it with, so I compared with 60 watt fluorescent bulb which generates a very similar amount of light to an incandescent bulb (in the past I measured the output of incandescent and fluorescent bulbs with a lux meter and the measurements were very similar). To give me an unbiased measurement of brightness I measured the light the LED buls and fluorescent bulb with a lux meter. A lux meter measures light intensity. I took both measurements at 19" and 13" using a ruler under the fixture to keep the light in exactly the same position for each test.

In the attached photo I show my desk under a fixture with each bulb side by side. The LED bulb is slightly brighter and generated slightly cooler light. The measurements below confirm the visual appearance with these numbers:

LED bulb at 13" = 1288 lux
Fluorescent bulb at 13" = 1002 lux

LED bulb at 19" = 768 lux
Fluorescent bulb at 19" = 527 lux

These LED bulb come on instantly. The length of the bulb is 4.25" and the width is 2.5". One of the photos shows the bulb on 1/2" grid mat for size reference.

What a nice bulb! It is brighter than I expected and looks just like good ol' incandescent.

This bulb is provided by Thinklux for testing and review. I hope this comparison will give you a better idea of what expect.

You can find Thinklux E26 LED Filament Bulbs on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Monday, December 14, 2015

Product review: Farm Innovators Model CC-2 Cord Connect Water-Tight Cord Lock

I purchased this lock to protect an extension cord which I need to power my heated outdoor mat. After 100+ inches of snow last year I am hoping it will make it easier to deal with all the snow. We have not had snow yet but so far the lock is keeping the connection dry during the rain.

I got the green lock, which looked bigger than the orange one. What I did not realize is that this lock is adjustable in size I can make it bigger or smaller as needed. Nice!

You can find farm Innovators Model CC-2 Cord lokc on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Product review: FUNOC Leather Women Wallet Purse Credit Card Clutch holder Case

I have been using this wallet for a few weeks and I love how it looks and having a large number of compartments. The wallet has 8 card holders, 3 cash slots, 2 dividers and 1 zip pocket. In addition to 8 card holders there is also a pocket which can be used to hold additional 4 credit cards, so I actually carry 12 cards.

The wallet is made out of leather and has relief embossing.  Amazon description refers to it as genuine leather in one place, and as synthetic leather in another.  If it is synthetic it is a very good imitation because I thought it was real until I noticed the word Synthetic as I was publishing my review.  I selected Black Peony color. It is black with subtle coloring, the colors are less bright than in the stock photo and I like how it looks in person even better than the stock photo.

The wallet is 7.7" long and 4.5" wide. When I stuffed it with all my cards it became 1" thick.

It closes with a gold colored heart charm. Also enclose a 7.5" leather loop. Both have a clasp so you can choose to have both or just one attached to the wallet. I removed the gold charm and attached the leather strap to the zipper.

This wallet is provided by ArcEnCiel for evaluation and review. I like it! It is a very attractive looking wallet with lots of slots.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Book review: Large Print Adult Coloring Book by B. Paulson

This coloring book contains a nice variety of designs birds, butterflies, dragonflies and flowers. The designs are pretty and done with large clear lines. There is a total of 31 different pictures and 65 pages. For each images there are three pages of text. I like the designs, but I did not like that back of the image is not a blank page but the text with an inspiration saying which are visible. If you want to transfer the design to another piece of paper with a lightbox to keep the book clean or to use designs as a templates for other crafts (stainless glass or quilting) the text makes it difficult.

The paper take pastel pencils very well. Wet markers do bleed through a bit to other side of the page. The designs are well suited to coloring - they do not have a lot of shading of their own (if there is a lot shading it makes difficult to color). None of the design are too small to introduce coloring.

I like the templates for the bookmarks with designs at the end of the book. The page on the the bookmarks also had writing. So if someone wanted to cut the bookmarks out they would have a pretty design on one side and cut up text on the other side.

Overall, beautiful designs. The change I would make it leave the back of each design blank and have less text overall.

I was provided a copy of this coloring book for evaluation and review.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Product review: ADATA USA SP550 480GB 2.5" Sata_6_0_gb III Solid State Drive 480.0

I own a couple of SSD drives and always run the same tests on each new ssd so I can compare their performance. The ADATA has an excellent READ speed performance and fairly good WRITE speed performance. There are more expensive SSDs available that have write speeds that are about 15% faster than this one, however in real world use such small differences in write speeds have no impact on system performance.

I tested the ADATA SP550 SSD on an Intel iCore 7 Haswell system running Fedora 23 with 32G of memory. The Adata SP550 SSD has read speeds that are limited only by the SATA 3 interface (excellent results). It has good but not industry leading write speeds. The manufacturer specifies read speeds of 530 Mbytes/second and write speeds of 480 MBytes/second which I confirmed using two bench marking tools, Gnome Disks and Sys_basher.

I took three sets of measurements with Gnome Disks, a set with a 1 MByte sample size, a set with a 10 MByte sample size and a set with a 100 MByte sample size.

Average Read
1 Mbyte sample:______407.5 MBytes/second
10 MByte sample:_____525.5 MBytes/second
100 MByte sample:____534.5 MBytes/second

Average Write
1 Mbyte sample:______230.2 MBytes/second
10 MByte sample:_____359.4 MBytes/second
100 MByte sample:____433.5 MBytes/second

Average Access (latency)
1 MByte sample:______0.13ms
10 MByte sample:_____0.13ms
100 MByte sample:____0.15ms

Another interesting measurement is to measure transfer rates for different file sizes. At small file sizes (less than 256K) the overhead of the operating system has a large impact, as file sizes grow larger the SSD approaches it's maximum transfer rates. Because of the limitations of the SATA 3 bus no SSD has faster read transfers than the ADATA SSD.

' Read performance
Size__________Transfer Rate

' Write performance
Size__________Transfer Rate

I am using this SSD drive for SSD caching using DM-CACHE which is part of Linux logical volume manager. This is a perfect use for SSD because the write do not go to SSD when the files are created, they only go to SSD after a read occurs, which means it is used only for files that I am actually using to make access to them faster. I am seeing a noticable speed up in i/o operations

Overall, this is an excellent SSD drive and my tests confirm the benchmarks provided by manufacturer.

" on Amazon via this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Product review: AFAITH Portable Folding Ultra Aluminum Tripod

I do quite a bit of table top photography and through the years used a large number of small tripods. This tripod has all the features I value:
(1) Sturdy - AFAITH is the sturdiest small tripod I have. Everything tightens nicely, the feet are rubberized. I am using it with 17.1 oz camera. It can support a load up to 6.6 pounds.

(2) Quick plate - FAITH has a nice metal quickplate, because it is metal it will not get distorted if I over-tighten it. A few of my small tripods did not held up for a long time due to quickplate issues when they were made out of plastic.

(3) Quick release legs - AFAITH tripod increases the length of the legs by loosening one knob at the bottom of the leg. They also have a quick release at the top, which allows me to change the angle of the legs. So though this is not a classic quick release lock, this is better than having to extend each joint one at a time. Sometimes I have to fiddle a little with the AFAITH leg knobs to get them to catch but not bad.

(4) Flexible ball head, ability to take pictures at different heights and angles - AFAITH has three knob ball head with a built-in level. It works well. I can extend the tripod to 18". Minimum height is 7" without removing the central column, and 5" with the central column removed. My favorite feature is that I can really tilt it down and take pictures from above.

(5) Light weight - 1.66 pounds.

I received this tripod from AFAITH with a request for an honest review be it good or bad. I have been using it every day for the last two weeks - I like it!

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Friday, December 4, 2015

Product review: FD10 8GB USB Flash Drive Voice Recorder

his is a very simple voice recorder. It looks like a flash drive (2.5" x 0.80" x 0.25"). It has just one button on and off switch. I included several audio clips in my video so you can judge the quality of the recording for yourself.

My video includes four types of clips under different situations:
(1) Speaking right into the recorder
The sound it records has a bit of an echo, but not too bad.
(2) A noisy party
This is a challenging situation. The microphone picks up a lot of ambient noise, many voices, it is hard to understand.
(3) A lecture
During this lecture I was sitting in the first row, about 10 feet away from the speaker. The hall capacity is 330 seats. The voice is recorded at low volume but clear.
(4) The lecture is about music and included musical passages. The recorder is not capable of recording music. The clipping and distortions are severe. The recorder is not suited to recording music.

For simplicity of use this recorder is hard to beat. To start recording flip the switch to ON position, to stop recording push the button into OFF position. To copy the files to the computer insert it into computer just like you would insert a flash drive. The records in are in RECORD directory.

The recorder can be re-charged in any USB outlet. The red light will remain on while the FD10 is charging, and will turn off when charging is completed. It cannot record while recharging or connected to the computer. It runs on built-in 11OMAH Rechargeable Lithium. Full recharge from empty took about 3 hours. The recordings are produced in wav audio file format.

If the battery runs out of juice in the middle of the record the file is automatically saved before it stops. If memory is full before recording is completed it will save what recorded so far.

RecorderGear provided this voice recorder for an honest review be it good or bad. What is the bottom line? I thought it did a decent job for human voice in a quiet environment. The microphone is pretty sensitive so in a noisy environment it picks up a lot of surrounding sounds. It works for recording lectures and presentations where is one clear source of sound. It did a terrible job recording music.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Product review: FLIR Systems MR160 Imaging Moisture Meter

This camera works well detecting wet areas as well as heat leaks. This is not surprised because it works by measuring the surface temperature of different areas. Wet areas are cooler than other areas, heat leaks also show up as a different surface area from areas that are well insulated.

One key thing to know about this thermal camera is that it works by measuring the SURFACE temperatures. It cannot penetrate walls. Its imagery shows the differences between temperatures on the surface - the cooler areas are shown in blue. In addition to the over the air measurements, the meter includes an external pin probe. The pin probe can measure moisture to the depth of 0.75".

The package include a thick manual, however the reason it is so thick that it covers a very large number of languages. Only three pages for each language. A more detailed manual is included in the internal memory of the camera itself under "DOCS" directory and "User Guide" subdirectory.

The camera comes with built-in memory card. The memory card is not removable. To get images from the camera you need to connect the camera to the PC using a USB cable (included). The camera does not support wireless operations.

The camera runs on 3.7 V Rechargeable Li-ion polymer battery. Note that to replace it the camera needs to be mailed backed to manufacturer. Seems like a bad idea, but maybe it is because the camera is waterproofed.

The camera takes still photos and produces small files in BMP format. The photos appear under DCIM subdirectory with names that look like this: "FLIR0001.BMP" The photos are pretty low res as you see in my video, but enough to see what is going on. The camera does not take video, there is no timer for lapse photos, each photo requires a button push.

The camera operates at pretty good distance I was able to get reading from 30 feet away.

The camera comes without a case. It has an odd shape and I have not found a good case for it yet and storing it in a nylon bag. It size is 5.75" tall x 2.75 wide x 1,5" thick. It weighs 11.1 oz.

The camera has no screw for a tripod, you have to hold in your hand when taking measurements.

So what is the bottom line? About 10 years ago we had done a professional thermal analysis of our house which helped us add extra insulation in the right areas. When I pulled out the old report I noticed that photos were taken by FLIR system, although a different model. This camera worked almost as well (the other model provided the actual surface temperatures as it was designed to be a heat leak detector rather than moisture detector and had more colors). I looked at the area which we did not fix because it was hard to get to, and this camera showed the same leaks as the professional report. The professional report cost us several hundred dollars, so even though this camera is not cheap using it a couple of time would put us ahead of hiring someone to do the reading for us.

This camera is provided by FLIR.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Monday, November 30, 2015

Product review: AIBI Waterproof Solid Stainless Case Gold-tone Pearl Dial Quartz Wrist Watch for Women

This is a very nice looking watch. The watch is decorated with crystals (around the dial as well the numbers). I was a little worried that it might look too gaudy in person, but it is not. It looks elegant. It has a stainless steel body. The band's maximum width 9". This is too large for me and I was able to take out a few links with a link removal tool (not included). The face is white with slight pearlescent coating.

The face of the watch is 1.245" wide and the watch is 0.277" thick. The back of the watch states it has Japanese quartz movement. The watch is water resistant to rain and splashing but cannot be submerged into water.

The package include an English manual. The manual covers many watches and none of the faces match this one. But the watch only shows time (no day of the week or any other info) so it is very simple to set. In addition to a normal position the crown can be pulled and in that position it can be used to move the arms to adjust the time.

Overall, this is a very attractive classy looking watch. It comes in nice package, the box has a display pillow so the package would work well as a gift.

This watch is provided by ABBI for review. Getting a review product does not influence what I say, I leave critical reviews as well as positive reviews like this one. I have been wearing this watch for several weeks and it shows accurate time and I like how it looks.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Product review: aLLreLi USB 3.1 Type C Charging Cable for Nexus 5X / 6P

This listing combines several products, my review is for aLLreLi Type C to USB charging cable. I am using this cable with Nexus 6p.

I have been following Benson Leung reviews of Type C cables for a number of weeks prior to buying Nexus 6p. Benson has pointed out that many cables, including this one, violate the USB 3.1 specification that states that the termination resistor that advertises the maximum available current has been set incorrectly at 10K which advertises 3A of current, the correct value should be 22K which advertises 1.5A of current. However many Type A USB chargers are rated at 2.5A and some as high as 3A which are safe to use with this cable. I tried using this cable with a number of different chargers and the Nexus 6p phone. All of the chargers were self limiting to their specified capabilities, i.e. if the charger port is labeled as 1.5A that's what it approximately delivered, and charger ports that were labeled as 2.4A delivered approximately 2.4A.

To identify the maximum draw of the phone, I charged it with depleted battery using Type-C to Type-C cable and a Type-C charger provided by Google. My Nexus 6P has never drawn more that 2.5A when charging from the Type-C Google provided charger. Charging with aLLerLi cable and my various chargers stayed under this number as well. So I feel that the aLLeLi cable is safe for use with the Nexus 6p and a QUALITY charger. I don't want to say that it's safe for all combinations of devices, laptops like the Chromebook Pixel and the Apple Macbook draw more current than a phone, and there may be badly made chargers that lack current limiting and might burn themselves out. However with a quality charger that's rated for higher currents this cable will charge faster than a USB 3.1 compliant cable.

Below are the details of my tests. All test were done keeping all conditions the same: same level of charge for the phone, same apps running, keeping the screen on so I can see the results.

1) Type C to Type C cable that came from Google in Nexus 6p package with the phone discharged to the level at which is does rapid charging to see maximum draw
The phone draws 2300 mAh, the status indicates that it is charging rapidly. The phone battery level is at 61% to 62%.

2) aLLreLi Type C to Type A cable with several wall charger. I am using a current monitor to see how much it draws and compare the results with the cable received from Google in Nexus 6p package
With the battery level at 76% to 78% the phone does not use rapid charging. With non-rapid charging both cables behave the same
- aLLreLi cable 1.32A, Google cable is 1.31A

3) aLLreLi and Google cable with several different car chargers. The phone battery is at 58%, at this level it uses rapid charging if possible.
- aLLreLi cable using Bolse 3 port charger, 2.4A port: 2.31A (charging rapidly), Google cable on the same port 1.73A (charging)
- aLLreLi cable using Bolse 3 port charger, 1.5A port: 1.76A (charging rapidly), Google calbe on the same port 1.52A (charging)
- aLLreLi cable using Bolse 2 port charger, 2.1A port: 2.13A (charging rapidly), Google cable on the same port 1.51A (charging)

Attached are images from my tests that show the results with both cables.

The aLLreLi cable is 40 inches long. The cable inserted without a problem on the phone with a silicone skin on.

I received this cable from aLLreLi for testing and review. Bottom line: aLLeLi cable is not USB 3.1 compliant and does behave differently from a USB 3.1 compliant cable provided by Google in "rapid charging" mode however I see no harmful effect on the phone with good quality self-limiting chargers and I am using this cable on regular basis.

YOu can find "aLLreLi USB 3.1 Type C Charging Cable" on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Friday, November 27, 2015

Product review: H&R Block 2015 Deluxe + State Tax Software

I just finished my preliminary tax return and happy to report that I have not encountered any problems. Overall, the interface looks very similar to last year.

I've used H&R Block's tax software (formerly called TaxCut) every year since 1995. Several times when I saw a promotional deal I purchased both H&R Block and TurboTax to compare. I found that both programs satisfied my needs but H&R Block costs consistently less. I have been buying the Deluxe version of H&R Block because it covers it the mutual funds sales and cost basis calculations are included (Schedule D) and the form for Foreign Tax Credit from mutual funds is present (Form 1116). To get this functionality in TurboTax you need to buy the Premium version of the software.

The price on this package changes often and you can catch some great discounts. I use a nice tool that shows history of Amazon prices. If you enter "Amazon price history alert" in Google it will come up at the top, my favorite has the word "camel" (repeated 3 times) in the name. You can set up the tool to send you an alert when you desired price drop is reached. During the last tax year season the price fluctuated between $20 and the list price of $44.99, and was on the gold deal special a couple of times.

' I had no problems with my install. However in 2013 I helped a friend resolve an install problem on a Windows 8 PC us installing from a CD. I am including what we did again as I know a few people told me in helped with 2014 install. Normally the automatic install runs a file called "tcauto.exe". This file in turn calls another program located under "installers" directory which actually does the work. We were able to by-pass the error by executing the exe program in the installers directory directly, this year it should be called "HR_Block_Tax_Software_2015_Deluxe__State_-_Windows_CD.exe" (it is the only file in that directory).

' If you encounter issues with display, such as not seeing selection boxes, check your screen resolution. Both Windows and Mac minimum requirement for the screen resolution is 1024 x 768 pixels or higher. At a lower resolution H&R Block software will have problem with display such as not properly displaying selection boxes. Screen resolution can be changed on your control panel by change PC's display settings.

' If you are using a digital download you will need a key-code to install the software after you dowload it. The key-code can be located several ways.
Option 1: In the past when my download finished the install started automatically and offered me a choice of two links "View Keys" and "Install".
Option 2: This year the install did not start automatically so I clicked on the install program myself, and on the first screen it asked for "Activation code". When I purchased the software Amazon sent me a message which included a Product Code (note that they did not call it Activation code) which is the number I needed.
Option 3: You can locate it in your Amazon account:
1) Log into Amazon
2) Select Your Account at the top right of the page
3) Select Games and Software downloads which is towards the bottom of the long page you see when you log in
4) Then under H&R software entry you will see the key-code that you need to enter to unlock the software

' If you have a virus scanner it will generate an alert the first time you run the program, change the permission to "Permin Always" otherwise the program will be blocked.

' Does H&R allow to install the software on two PCs?
I found the answer on H&R Block web site FAQ under the topic "Installing Software on Another Computer"
I quote the FAQ answer below:
"There are just a few steps necessary to re-install the H&R Block At Home program from the CD you received in the mail. Follow the steps below to re-install the program or install it on a second computer.
Insert the H&R Block At Home CD into your computer.
Click the Need to Re-install? link on the menu bar at the bottom of the screen.
The Frequently Asked Questions page will open to the first FAQ titled, "Can I install the software on a second computer?"
Enter your activation code and last 4 digits of the credit card you used to purchase the program initially and click Activate.
You can find your activation code in your purchase confirmation e-mail.
Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation."


I purchased H&R Block Deluxe plus State. This version entitles me to 5 free federal e-files. It allows me to print and mail as many returns as I want, there is no limit on printed returns.

One state software is included in the package but the package does NOT include free e-file for the state return (see one exception below). If you want to e-file your state return you will need to pay a fee of $19.95 to e-file each state return. Alternatively, you can print all the forms and mail them using US post office without any additional fees. If you need to file taxes for an additional state, each additional state is $39.95 plus $19.95 e-file fee.

Note 1: NY state residents can e-file state returns for free if their income is $60,000 or less.
Note 2: It is not possible to e-file a state return for New Hampshire, it has to be mailed in.


I just finished my preliminary tax return and below are my observations. Note: the forms are not final until mid January of 2016.

' Pet Peeve: H&R Block starts the interview process with an annoying up-sell pitch, recommending an upgrade from Deluxe to Premium even when it is not necessary. In my opinion, they should wait until the person enters this year's data and suggest the upgrade only if there is something about the return that can benefit from the Premium version. That would have been useful.

What is the difference between Premium and Deluxe? The Premium version offers advanced tools for self-employed and rental property owners: cost basis of home sales, dividends, gifts, and inheritance assets. It has advanced schedule C guidance to maximize deductions for self-employment income. And finally it has guidance for rental property income and expenses. The rest of the Premium package is the same as Deluxe.

Note that the Deluxe package has support for self-employed income as well as stock sale cost basis calculations.

' Pet Peeve: Help is not context sensitive. For example, when you click on "learn more" about a particular topic the general help window opens but it does not show help topics for the specific topic that you were working on. Instead you need to search and know which key words to use locate the relevant topics.

' H&R Block provides you some guidance for completing Form 1116 (foreign tax credit, for example foreign tax paid by mutual funds). However, you need to keep switching between whole-form view to enter data and then back to interview to read the instructions. Even though the form where you can enter data is visible at the same time as instructions you cannot enter data into it until you switch into whole-form view. This is cumbersome, but at least there is some guidance for this form.

' DeductionPro (which helps you put value on your charitable donations) is integrated into H&R Block software running on your local PC. It suggests reasonable prices based on condition of the donated item and it is nice not to have to come up with what is reasonable on my own.

' Pet Peeve: I don't use the default location for the tax returns due to how I set up my backup software. The H&R Block software does not initially remember this new location on the second start of the application, it told me I have no returns. I needed to pick the return manually from the File menu, as it did remember recently used files. The third time I started the software, it finally knew the location of the tax return file.

' For folks trying to download State Forms. The state forms are not available as of 11/20/2015. H&R web site says they will become available in January. To see the latest status you can go to H&R website, click on Dowload software, then hover over "Download Software" on the top banner and select "State Editions". Currently it says "Coming soon in January 2016".

When the state forms became available and teh state software can be downloaded directly from the program.

' At the end of the interview process there is a check step (which you can run at any time, but the interview ends with this check). This step flags problems (e.g. missing information) and potential audit alerts (e.g. unusual deductions) with red flags, and reminders (e.g. things you marked tentative) with yellow flags.

' Sometimes I want to return to some section of my return. The best way to jump to any section directly without navigating through other pages is to use "take me to" button which is displayed at the top of every page, on the same line as H&R Block banner.

' Does H&R has the ability to import TurboTax data from previous years?
Yes. TurboTax files have a .tax extension. Use the Browse button within H&R Block application to navigate to the folder you need and it will import the data from TT return.

' The final tax return can be saved in a .PDF format for future reference.

' Last year there were many reports of thieves filing fraudulent tax returns using stolen social security numbers
If this happens the person who tries to file their own tax return gets the following error:

IRS records show the spouse's Social Security number (SSN) on this return is the same as the primary taxpayer's SSN on another return already filed this year. Double-check your spouse's SSN. Fix any issues and e-file again. Otherwise, you'll have to file a paper return.

What to do if this happens?
1. Call HRB told them of the issue (1-800-472-5625)
2. Call IRS (1-800-829-1040) had them flag the SS#
IRS states that people need to mail completed return, a copy of police report or Form 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit, copy of Drivers License or passport or SS card.
3. Call Equifax and have them put an alert on the SS# (They notify Experian and TransUnion as well)
4. Call Social Security Administration and notify them (1-800-772-1213)
5. File with FTC
6. File a police report of a possible identity theft

I have been a H&R Block/TaxCut user for many years. I keep coming back because it works well for the tax forms I need to do and it is less expensive than TurboTax. If you have a question I have not covered leave a comment and I will do my best to answer it.

You can find H&R Block 2015 Deluxe + State Tax Software on Amazon by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Product review: Cat Window Seat SmartSpeed with Suction Cup

I want to start with a few words about the construction of the seat. The suction cups are LARGE (3.25"), so they provide a secure hold. The string that holds the seat is made out of twisted metal wires, like a heavy duty picture frame hanging wire, so that is also very secure even if the kitty runs its claws over it. The seat is made out of canvas bag with a waterproof lining inside the bag. The top material has a feel of canvas (it is not plush). The plastic tubes are hollow this provides structural strength. So I believe it can hold a couple of heavy cats. Our kitty cats are pretty small (7 and 8 pounds) so it sure holds them well. In attached video you see them rubbing against the wires supports and pulling on them with their paws, we held our breath watching them but the shelf held without a problem. The shelve has been up for more than 2 weeks with the cats going up and down and we did not need to readjust or reattach it.

Assembly was easy. The plastic parts push together to form a frame. The canvas bag is pulled over the frame. The canvas seat has two small holes through which you need to feed the wires that to to the top suction cups. As the cats sit on the shelve it does not remain taught, it kind of sags in the middle forming a nest.

I have to say that our kitties did not take to the shelf right away. They did not like the texture of the canvas. We fixed that by putting a towel over it as we know our cats love any towel. With the towel in place they had an initial fear of the seat, but we enticed them to try it out by placing a couple of Greenies in the middle of the shelf. Our kitties love Greenies so they went for it. Once they were on the shelf they realized it was a pretty good place to be. By the next day they did not need any enticement, and we see our cats taking turns sleeping there as well as looking out of the window. We put the window seat on the windows across from our bird feeders as our indoor cats often look at the birds through the windows.

The seat comes without assembly instructions. My video include the major steps
1) putting together the frame of the seat
2) threading the wires through the seat
3) inserting anchors into the suction cups
4) attaching the seat to the window

This shelf was provided to our feline testers for review. Once they got over their initial fear they like it and told me to give it a 5 star rating. We see them on the shelf quite often, mostly sleeping rather than gazing out of the window, but they like it.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Product review: Rosewill 750W ATX12V EPS12V Power Supply Capstone G750

This is a nice power supply with enough for any personal computer. Its capacity of 750w and a large number of connectors (total of 8 connectors and 10+4 Main plug that is hard-wired). This power supplies provides a lot of room for growth.

Capstone 750 is 6 3/8" x 3.5" x 6". It uses ribbon cables, which are more flexible than round cables.

--> One 20 +4 Main plug, it is hard-wired
It can handle motherboards with both 20 pin or 24 pin connectors.
--> Two EPS12V CPU plug (modular)
The power supply supports two CPUs. It maybe be used for servers that use two CPUs, most desktops use one CPU.
--> Two PCIe (modular)
Supports two SLI graphics cards
--> Four SATA or Molex plugs
2 SATA cables, each with 4 plugs, total of 8 SATA devices
1 Molex cable, four Molex plugs and one floppy plug

I measured the power supply with a power supply tester and all votages are within tolerance. The attached video includes several screen shots that show the power supply tester output. The top number for each rail shows the expected results, the number below (in a slightly larger font) shows the actual reading. 0.5V is the acceptable tolerance. All readings are well within the tolerence. Its a good one!

This power supply is provided by Rosewill.

You can find it by following this link

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Product review: Balichun White Goose Down and Goose Feather Pillow

I have been sleeping on 100% down/goose pillows all my life, so I know exactly how they feel. This pillow is a bit different. It has a spongy center that I can feel. It has a core that feels like foam and goose/down envelope on the outside of the core. What I like about down pillows is that they are not spongy, this pillow has a lot of resilience while a 100% goose/down pillows do not. This is a high loft pillow.

This is not a bad pillow, I like it more than a pure polyester foam pillow, but if are looking for a down pillow that is made totally of goose feathers and down (like The Company Store pillows, for example) this is not it.

I ordered a standard size and the size was spot on - all my standard pillow cases fit perfectly.
Cleaning instructions from the label: do not wash in water, do not dry clean, tumble dry

I received this pillow for testing and review, as part of a new product introduction.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆