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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Product review: Blusmart 12MP HD Infrared Hunting Trail Game Camera


My expectations for this camera were very high because I own Blusmart ASIN: B00SM4DOPY and it had captured a lot of wild life, it runs for 1 week on one set of batteries, and it is fairly easy to set up. This camera is a bit cheaper so I expected some features to be missing at a lower price but overall I expected a similar experience. Turns out the cameras are very different and I found this camera to be disappointing.

Setting up the camera is very tricky because of the primitive user interface. It has no LCD screen to show what the camera is seeing or to display menus. Instead it has an LCD display which displays codes (see video for an example of what it looks like). After many attempts I was not able to set it up in a way that would trigger any videos. Fortunately, the camera has two pre-sets: "A" for time lapse photos and "B" for motion activated video. The pre-sets do work. The quality of the video is not as good as my old Blusmart. The worst thing is that the camera runs only 1 day on a set of eight new AA batteries. This is not a fluke, I have gone through three sets of new batteries to convince myself that this is just how it works. The camera shows the battery level on the front display.

SET UP
~~~~~~~
The mode is controlled by a slider inside the camera. The slide has 5 positions:
Left to right:
Set
Off
A
B
Manual

Set (left most switch) allows you to modify settings, including time and showing you were the camera is pointing by red laser beam. I had hard time switching into time changing mode until I turned off the camera while the setting was set to "Set" and then as I turned it on it immediately went into time change mode - blinking "T" which allowed me to change hours, minutes, months and year. I could not get Manual mode to work. "A" and "B" work fine. I mostly use "B" mode which records 10 second motion activated videos.

GENERAL NOTES
~~~~~~~~~~~
The video quality is highly dependent on lighting. To get decent video the lighting has to be perfect (not too bright, not too dark, sun should be behind the camera).
This camera is robust, brown in color, and blends in with the bark of tree fairly well.
The camera records video on SD card (up to 32G). The camera produces AVI and JPG output. It generates files under a standard directory structure DCIM then 100MEDIA then SYNP0001.JPG or SYNP0001.AVI.
In addition to the camera and the case, the package include USB cable, TV cable, strap for attaching the camera to objects (say a tree) and a user manual.

Attached is a video of the camera and the video taken by the camera to illustrate my review.

If you deciding between several Blusmart cameras we are much (much!) happier with this Blusmart camera. It takes much better videos and the batteries last much longer.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★☆☆☆



Saturday, May 30, 2015

Product review: Polaroid Zip Instant Mobile Printer


This is a pretty neat printer. It does not need ink. The images appears by heating special Zink paper in different ways. No ink makes the printer small plus when the photo comes out it is totally dry, you cannot smudge it. The print feels thick and very glossy. Unlike regular glossy photo printer Zink paper does not show finger prints. Zink paper is pretty impressive.

The quality of the prints is good. The color is not rendered perfectly but acceptable for the type of usage I see for this little printer. At the end of my video I show the wall print I photographed and the print generated by Polaroid printer side by side. Even though you see slight different in colors the results are pretty decent. The printer comes with 10 sheets of paper, each one 2" x 3". Zink paper refills are available on Amazon at about 50 cents per sheet.

The printer's size is 4.5" x 2 3/4" x 7/8" and its weight 6.7 oz.

The printer easily paired with my phone. I loaded Polaroid Zip app which allows me to print pictures from the gallery or create name cards from my photos. There is also and option to do some primitive editing (brightness, contrast, crop, a few filters). This little camera can be a lot of fun at the party. I can see it also being useful to generate name cards/business cards when you need to give someone contact info.

The printer takes 10 paper sheets at a time, and you need to put the paper with the shiny print side of the paper up. Make sure that the printer is on as it turns off automatically.

The printer run on a rechargeable battery and it takes 2.5h for me to recharge it. The printer can be used while it is being charged.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Product review: Selens 168 LED Dimmable LED Light panel


I own several light panels and Selens has several features that made it the one I use most often.

The most useful feature to me is the ability to change the amount of light that the panel generates with a simple turn of the knob. This allows me to have perfect lighting in different situations. In the attached video you can see how easy it is to find perfect lighting.

The second thing that I find very useful is the two filters that are included with the panel. The one I use most is the yellow filter that give me warm light. I really like that the filters fit snugly and stay in even if you turn the light upside down. In my other light panel the filter can slide out of I tilt the light and I had to tape the filter so I don't drop it as I move the lights.

The light panel can run using several different types of batteries: six AA batteries, NP-550,LP-E6,EN-EL15. I am using it with rechargeable AA batteries. Another useful feature is a battery test button on the back - I can tell how much juice the batteries have. I can recharge the batteries in advance of a long photo session if needed.

The light panel generates continuous light. Once you turn it on the light panel stays on. This panel does not communicate with the camera like a flash. It can be mounted it on the camera shoe, but I use it mounted on tripod so I have more control of where the lighting goes and my camera is lighter for a steadier shot. In my video you see how I use this light on a small tripod for the table top photography.

The photo panel is 6" by 3.75" and 2" deep. The light weighs 1 poin 0.3 oz (with six AA batteries installed). It has 168 LED lights.

Overall, I like this light very much. It is easy to set up and easy to change the amount of light I get to fit any situation.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Product review: UNU Ultrapak Tour 10000mAH External Battery Pack


This battery performed pretty well with my phone and iPadMini tablet (I am including a couple of test results below), however there is a couple of cons that made this battery pack not very convenient for me.

First, to charge the battery you need to use a large power adapter with a round connector. The battery cannot be recharged using an USB cable. The plug takes up more than one spot on the power strip, so I am finding hard to find a good place for it to be plugged in. It is also too large for travel. I prefer power packs that use standard USB cables so I can plug it into a regular USB adapter.

It has a nice easy to read digital display showing the capacity of the battery, however this read out appears not to be reliable. What I mean is that it goes from showing a decent amount if charge left to empty so quickly that it is not predictable.

The battery has two ports and a flashlight. The flashlight is quite small and very dim (see video). It is not useful.

Size: 5 3/8" x 2 3/4" x 3/4"
Weight: 9.3 oz
Capacity: 10,000 mAh
Charge through charging: yes (i.e. can charge while being charged)

To see how well different external batteries charge my mobile devices I use a Nexus phone and an iPadMini to test each of them. The current drawn on each port depends on each device using the charger. The port rated with a maximum capacity of 2A does not always deliver 2A, what is actually delivered is controlled by the device based on many factors such running apps, level of charge, and so forth. I always use the same two devices and I do my tests with the devices charged to the same level, running the same applications and using the same cables to keep everything the same. This allows me to do a relative comparison of various chargers and identify the ones that do not perform well. Note that these tests are not testing for the maximum current each device can draw on each port as I don't have a device that maxes out the output.

Both my devices did well. I am including the details of the tests below for those who like to see the technical details.

★ Test Results:
======================

✔ Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone
--------------------------
port 1: 0.99A / 5.01V (good)
port 2: 0.98A / 5.01V (good)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this phone is 1.00A/5V)

✔ iPadMini
--------------------------
port 1: 0.93A / 5.01V (typical for 1A port)
port 2: 1.36A / 5.01V (good for 2A port)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this tablet is 1.70A/5V)

Even though I am getting pretty reasonable charging out of this battery the cons I listed at the start of this review make it just an okay power pack in comparison to other battery packs I am using.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.


Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Product review: Outlite A100 (with Rechargeable 18650 Battery) LED flashlight


This is a very bright flashlight. My favorite feature is a variable focus. On its largest setting the spot light is quite large and still very bright. I show how variable focus works in my video - all you have to do is slide the barrell up or down. The flashlight is 5.25" long, made out of aluminium alloy, it feels sturdy weighing 6.5 oz. The flashlight is waterproof but should not be submerged in water (i,e, okay in rain only).

It runs on one 18650 Li-ion battery rechargeable battery and the package includes one lithium a battery and a charger. It can also run on three AAA batteries (which are not included). The flashlight includes jackets so either battery type has a good fit in the flashlight. It took me about 4 hours to fully recharge the battery. The lens of the flashlight is plastic,

The flashlight has 5 modes: bright, medium, low light as well as fast strobe and SOS. To change the brightness I need to press the button once, to get into strobe modes I need to press the button twice in a row.

Attached video shows the flashlight in use to give you a better idea of what to expect.
You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Friday, May 22, 2015

Product review: iPowerBuddy 10000mah Dual Port USB Portable Charger External Battery Pack


This is a 10,000 mAh external battery with two ports and a flashlight. The flashlight is fairly bright but generates a narrow beam (see video). The power pack has a very nice and clear charge level indicator - a digital display with the amount of remaining power. The charger performed well with my Android phone but charged iPad Mini at 1 amp rate on both ports including the port rated as 2.1 amps.

Size: 5 3/8" x 2 1/2" x 3/4"
Weight: 7.9 oz
Capacity: 10,000 mAh
Charge through charging: no (i.e. can charge while being charged)

To see how well different external batteries charge my mobile devices I use a Nexus phone and an iPadMini to test each of them. The current drawn on each port depends on each device using the charger. The port rated with a maximum capacity of 2A does not always deliver 2A, what is actually delivered is controlled by the device based on many factors such running apps, level of charge, and so forth. I always use the same two devices and I do my tests with the devices charged to the same level, running the same applications and using the same cables to keep everything the same. This allows me to do a relative comparison of various chargers and identify the ones that do not perform well. Note that these tests are not testing for the maximum current each device can draw on each port because I do not own devices that can max out the current draw.

I am including the details of the tests below for those who like to see the technical details.

★ Test Results:
======================

✔ Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phone
--------------------------
port 1: 0.94A / 5.01V (good)
port 2: 1.04A / 5.01V (excellent)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this phone is 1.00A/5V)

✔ iPadMini
--------------------------
port 1: 0.93A / 5.01V (typical for 1A port)
port 2: 0.94A / 5.01V (typical for 1A port)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this tablet is 1.70A/5V)

★ Summary
------------------
This battery performed best with Android devices.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★☆


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Product review: Handi-Bag Super Value Pack, 8gal


We purchased these trashbag for a 13.5"H x 11.5W" trash bin EasyPAG Round Wastebasket. Each trash bag is 24" tall and 21 3/4" wide. The stock photos seem to show an older version of these bags, the ones I got have flaps which are nice for tying up the bag (I show them in the video).

The bags are large enough to flap over the edges so I can put a large rubber band that holds the trash bag in place. They are a good fit for my 13.5" tall bin!

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★



Monday, May 18, 2015

Product review: LELEC 1200W Steam Mop


I like this steam mop. It does a good job cleaning and it is quite light (4 pounds).

The mop went together nicely, all pieces fit together easy, the piece felt solidly connected, I did not need any tools. The instruction were very clear (words and diagrams). The only somewhat tricky part was attaching the water reservoir as the bottom of it is open and the water spills out a bit as you tilt it down. I did it over a sink and I was glad I did to avoid a puddle.

This mop is designed for sealed hard wood floors, tile, and vinyl floors. It also comes with a glider that can be attached to the bottom to use on carpets. The cleaning pads attach to the mop by Velcro. The bottom of the mop has heavy duty built-in Velcro strips that grab the Velcro on the bottom of the pad. I suppose with time they will pick up dirt and will not hold as well, but so far the hold is very secure, the pad did not come off during cleaning and took a strong pull to remove it. The mop came with two micro fiber pads.

The handle is adjustable and from the floor to the tip of the handle is 47.5". It comes with a nice long cord which is 114".

I thought the mop did a fine job cleaning. The steam level can be adjusted by controls on the body of the unit, right above steam control is an on/off button. When the steam is going full force the steam reaches the buttons and one needs to be careful not to get scolded. It might have been better if the controls were on the handle away from the steam. Pushing the mop on the tiles floor were easy. The mop head is fairly large (10.5" inches across) and there were some places where I wanted to clean but could not fit in in.

I liked that the steam level can be controlled and I can tell the difference when I use +/- buttons. The steam function works well and the mop does not leave the floor too wet as you can see in attached video.

I liked most things about the mop. The summarize the minor nits I have are

1) The water container is tricky to put back as the water spills a bit.
2) Control buttons are the area that get steam vapors

Overall, I thought the mop did a nice job. It was easy to use, it did a nice job cleaning.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Product review: Foxnovo F08 8-Slots Li-ion Ni-MH Ni-CD Universal Intelligent Battery Charger



This charger is trully a universal charger. It charges Li-ion, Ni-MH, Ni-CD batteries in large variety of sizes.
Ni-MH /Ni-CD: A, AA, AAA, C, SC
Li-ion: 26650, 22650, 18650, 18500, 18490, 17670, 17650, 17500, 16340, 14500, 10440

It charges batteries individually and up to 8 batteries at the same time. Some of my devices use odd numbers of batteries and it is useful to be able to charge one or three.

Foxnovo charger is pretty large: 8.5"L x 5"W x 1.5"H. The AC cord is 80".

✅ Foxnovo Charger shows individual status for each battery. The indicator blinks while the battery is charging , and is steady when the battery is stopped charging.

To test if it really works I took a AAA battery and a AA battery which my La Crosse charger showed "fully charged" and one of the AA batteries from my mouse which my computer told me needed changing because they were down to 14% full. Foxnovo charger stopped blinking for the 2 full batteries in 2 minutes, and continued charging the empty battery. The empty batteries were recharged in under 3 hours.

✅ I tested the charger through the charging cycle and it remained fairly cool through out.

✅ I found that spring loaded slider that holds the battery is quite stiff and the battery in the bay does not always make good contact as the slide pushes slightly to the side. I always make sure the light is blinking and adjust when the contacts do not line up right. This is not a deal breaker, but could be better.

Overall, I like this charger a lot. I like not having to charge my batteries in pairs and I like being able to charge different size batteries at the same time.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★




Thursday, May 14, 2015

Product review: VonHaus Corded Oscillating Multi Tool Kit


This is a nice tool for cutting, scraping and sanding. I used to remove peeling paint and it was a lot faster and easier than using a rotating sander attached to my drill.

The oscillating tools comes in a nice plastic case. It includes the following attachments:
1. Sandpaper pads with different coarse level (total of 9)
2. Scraping attachment
3. Half Moon Saw
4. Cutting blade

The tool with the sand paper attachment attached weights just under 3 pounds. Even though the handle is fairly thick I did not find it to be uncomfortable to hold even though my hands are fairly small. I felt the vibration but always felt that I was in total control of the tool and my grip on it. On/off switch is comfortably located right on top of the tool.

The heads securely attach with a washer. It is tightened by a hex key which comes as part of the kit. The heads can be attached in one of 12 positions - which ever angle feels most comfortable for a particular job. I thought the triangular shape of the sanding pads worked really well and let me sand even in tight corners I could not reach with my circular sander.

What can be better? It comes with a 6 foot cord. I found it to be too short and had to use an extension cord. It would have been nice if the cord was longer.

I liked working with it and looked to see if replacement sandpaper pads are available on Amazon. I found an accessory kit which includes more pads VonHaus 38 Piece Multi-Tool Accessory Kit but no sanding pads by themselves. I contacted the manufacturer to ask if a product with just the pads is available, and was told that pads by other manufacturer fit this unit as long as the size of the pads is the same, for example these pads fit Bosch SDTR120 Triangle 5-Pack. This 5 pack is $3 at the time I am writing this review.

Overall, I like it! It will make this spring time clean up a lot easier.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Product review: Trackimo trk12m Universal Personal GPS Tracker



This GPS tracker is 2"L x 1.75"W and 7.8" thick )including the magnet plate or clip). It weighs 1 oz. The size might work for a large dog when using a clip, but mostly it is meant for sticking to a metal surface like a car or having it in backpack/pocket.

Some GPS devices only work when they are in the open and see the sky. This is not the case with Trakimo. I tested it indoors, hidden under the seat of the car, inside of my purse, under the car chassis. It was able to track in all those situations. It must be doing triangulation by determining its location from the position of the near by cell towers. When I initially turned on the unit for the first time I intentionally kept it inside the house for a couple of hours before taking it outside, at first it was about 7 miles off (the display noted it was an estimate) and in about 2 hour it got my location exactly right without even being outside.

You can track the device either from the website or from the phone. I am using an Android app, and I thought it was pretty nice. The app gives you an option to track every minute, every 5 minutes, and so forth up to every 2 hours. You can also see the history - last hour, last day, last week, or a range of dates. The tracking information is shown on Google maps so it is very clear, you can zoom in, see the satellite view and so forth.

The setup of the unit was pretty simple with one "gotcha" step. Once the device is charged all you need to do is turn it on and activate on the web site. As you register the device on the web site you need to enter the device id number. The image shown on the screen looked like the back of the unit, however my unit had no 7 digit id on the back. By the time I thought of looking at the box the device came in the box was already in the trash... but luckily the trash was not taken out. The id number was on the back of the box which was not mentioned anywhere in the documentation or the web site. I provided my feedback on this setup step to the manufacturer, hopefully it will be noted in the future. So don't through out the box until you register the device!

What can be better?
One of the likely uses for this device is "stealth" (for example, a cheating significant other). It would be better if the unit did not have a logo which says "Trackimo". If it was a plain black box without any markings it would reduce the likelihood that the cheating spouse would discover the box and know immediately what it does.

I did not find SOS function all that useful. When button is pressed it sends a message that the button was pressed. You know where the button was pressed but you don't know why.

This tracking device is provided by Trackimo. I am impressed by how well it functions both the hardware and the app/web site. I hope my video gives you a better idea on what to expect.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Product review: Ukonnect 48w 4-port Family-sized Desktop USB Charger


What I like about this wall charger is that it has an extra long cord. The charger has a large power supply, however this allows the charge to be light and compact: 4.25" x 1.75" x 7/8". The power cord from ac outlet to the power brick is 45" and from the power brink to the charger is 58". This long cord allows me to plug the cord into the wall, let the brick lay on the floor, and put the small charger on my desk.

The performance of the wall charger is very good for both my Android phone and iPad mini tablet. I use these two devices to test all wall chargers so I can compare them to each. I test each with a current monitor with the devices charged to the same level, running the same apps, using the same charging cables - this allows me to compare how the chargers perform under the same conditions. This means I can quickly weed out poor performers. Note that my test does not test the maximum capacity of each port, because what the port draws depends on the device being used and other factors such apps being run and the level of charge. The test determine how the charger performs relative to its peers which can be generalized in my experience testing additional devices beyond the specific phone and tablet I am using.

Samsung Nexus phone:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
using cable that came in the package
port 1: 1.00/5.10V (excellent rate relative to wall chargers with this phone)
port 2: 1.02/5.09V (excellent rate relative to wall chargers with this phone)
port 3: 1.02A/5.10V (excellent rate relative to wall chargers with this phone)
port 4: 1.03A/5.08V (excellent rate relative to wall chargers with this phone)

(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this phone is 1.00A/5V)
Note: these tests are not designed to test the maximum capacity of the ports

iPad Mini tablet:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
port 1: 1.18/5.06V (pretty good relative performance for the same device with other chargers)
port 2: 1.27A/5.05V (pretty good relative performance for the same device with other chargers)
port 3: 1.42A/5.05V (pretty good relative performance for the same device with other chargers)
port 4: 1.27/5.05V (pretty good relative performance for the same device with other chargers)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this tablet is 1.70A/5V)

I have been using this wall on daily basis for over a week. It works well without getting warm. I like that it takes up only one on my power strip.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Friday, May 8, 2015

Product review: AFENDO® 3000mAh Mini Alluminum Power Bank Ultra-Compact Portable Charger Lipstick-Sized External Battery Charger

   



I like "lipstick" size power banks, I always have one in my purse and one charging so I can rotate them. It is nice to have a bit of emergency power if the phone runs out of power. My second favorite use for this lipstick battery is to use them with my Sansa Clip MP3 which has non-removable rechargeable batteries. If I have it constantly charging from a small battery I don't have to stop listening while it recharges.

Afendo 3000mAh external pack is 3.75" long, 7/8" in diameter, and weights 2.6 oz. The charging indicator is not as tiny as some of the other lipstick batteries I have, I can easily see if it is still working. The light is red when the battery is charging, and blue when it is charging on a device. The battery turns on instantly when I plug something in.

Even though its capacity is not huge, it charges my phone reasonably fast. It is a 1A charger so it did not charge iPad Mini at the optimal rate, however it did as well as any 1A charger can charge the tablet.

The battery does not support charge through charging (i.e. it can not charge while it is being charged).

If you are interested in the details of the tests I am including them below. Summarizing the results I can say that it measured up well against batteries of similar size and capacity.

➨ Test Results:
======================
✔ Galaxy Nexus Phone
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Current monitor: ~~~ 0.87A, 5.04V

✔ iPad Mini
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Current monitor: ~~~ 0.93A, 5.04V

Bottom line: I found this charger to perform well and I like its size.


You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★




Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Product reviews: AFENDO® 15000mAh Ultra-Slim Dual USB (3A/3A Output) External Portable Rechargeable Compact Emergency Backup Power Bank


♦ size: 4.25" x 7.125" x 0.375"
♦ weight: 11.3 oz
♦ number of ports: 2
♦ flashlight: no
♦ pass through charging: yes (i.e. the battery can charge while being charged itself)
♦ cables: 1 charging cable
♦ Special note: to turn on this power bank you need to swipe your finger from left to right over the two lock icons

This a nice looking battery, its finish makes it look like a leather bound notebook. To turn it on you need to swipe a finger left to right over the charger level indicator. This battery's capacity is 15000 mAh. I charged a totally discharged Hyperion 3800mAh Extended Battery to 100% in less than 3 hours and the charge indicator went from 4 lights to 3 lights.

To see how well different chargers and external batteries charge my mobile devices I use a Nexus phone and an iPadMini to test each of them. The current drawn from the battery depends on each device using the battery. I always use the same two devices and I do my tests with the devices charged to the same level, running the same applications and using the same cables to keep everything the same. This allows me to do a relative comparison of each battery and identify the one that do not perform well. Note that these tests are not testing for the maximum current each device can draw on each port.

I also tested to see if the battery supports pass-through charging (i.e. whether the battery can charge mobile devices while it is being charged). This battery supports charge through charging. It can not charge while being charged.

Samsung Nexus phone:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
port 1: 0.98A/5.05V (excellent comparing the performance of the same device with other chargers)
port 2: 1.00A/5.06V (excellent comparing the performance of the same device with other chargers)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this phone is 1.00A/5V)
Note: these tests are not designed to test the maximum capacity of the port

iPad Mini tablet:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
port 1: 0.93/5.08V (average for 1A port for the same device with other chargers)
port 2: 1.23A/5.10V (good comparing the performance of the same device with other chargers)
(for comparison the best charging monitor result for this tablet is 1.70A/5V)

The battery has a nice capacity, some of the battery capacity is always lost to heat, voltage conversion, and operation of the power bank itself. I always estimate that 30% of the capacity will not be available for the charging of the device.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.




Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Monday, May 4, 2015

Product review: iKross Compact Flexible Camera Tripod with Smart Phone Holder


I am a big fan of GorillaPod tripods, I have been using one for a couple years almost all the time. This tripod is similar in its ability to arrange legs to clamp around things and bend to any angle you need.

It comes with two holders: one is a quick release for a regular camera screw mount, another is the the holder for phones. The holders attach the tripod using a quick release plate.

The tripod 10.5" tall and weights 3.8 oz.

The tripod is able to hold my phone (6.7 oz) and my SONY NEX 5N camera, which is 17.1 oz with its 18-55mm lens.

I like the that quick release does not require any special tools to tighten (Gorillapod tripods require to have a penny on hand to tighten the screw).

I am impressed that the tripod's scrawny legs (scrawny by comparison to GorillaPod) are able to hold my 17 oz camera quite steady. I also like this tripod for holding my light panels - this tripod makes it easy for me to place the light exactly where I need it. For my camera and light panels this tripod works extremely well. The telephone holder is very tight and did not fit my 3" wide phone, on a smaller phone it works fine.

What can be better? The quick plate is made out of plastic. It is easy to over tighten it and enlarge the screw hole making the whole thing wobbly. There is only one screw which needs to share between the two holders it would be better to have two so one can quickly switch between the two holders.

Overall, a very handy tripod design.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★


Saturday, May 2, 2015

Product review: GULEEK i8 Quad-Core Windows 8.1 with Bing Smart Mini PC w/2 GB RAM


I was surprised how small the GULEEK box is. In attached video you can see it next to my smartphone, they are just about the same size: 6"L x 3.5"W x 3/8"H. It weighs 7.8 oz.

The set up was very simple. I attached two dongles for a keyboard and mouse, attached HDMI cable to my TV, and finally the power. I pushed a small on/off button on the front and for a minute or two nothing happened. I began flipping through the small leaflet that came with GULEEK to see what I missed and by the time I looked up my TV was displaying the set up menu. I expected the front of the box to light up (it looks like a glass display) but it remained black. The back of the unit has a small red light to indicate that it is turned on. The set up was straightforward. To install apps from the Windows app store you need to have a Microsoft service account, but if you don't have it right away that's okay. The set up will allow you to continue and create the account later. The Windows account is needed to install Windows app. You can download and install regular Windows applications (like another Browser) by downloading and installing them directly.

Once everything is running you are presented with the Windows 8.1 interface. I thought the performance of the OS was snappy, everything rendered on my TV very well, there were no display or sizing issues. I was able to install Firefox and Chrome and use Google for search from these browser, so even though it comes with Internet Explorer and Bing search you are not limited to using them if you don't want to.

Mini PC comes with 10 GB disk. As soon as I setup the box before downloading any apps I looked at the available disk space: 6.34GB is used by the operating system, 4.27GB is free.

I installed OOKLA speedtest and it showed decent WI FI performance: 37 Mbps download and 15 Mbps upload.

Some of the changes I have made
1) To improve performance I changed the performance setting to "adjust for best performance". This removes animation of icons and the overall response time of the user interface improves noticeably.
2) To improve security I changed "allow remove assistance" from default of yes to no. This closes a port that allows someone to access your computer with administrator privileges.
3) I change power saving mode from the default (which turned off mini PC after 10 minutes of inactivity) to always on.
4) I installed TightVNC server. Which allows me to access the mini PC from my desktop, using my main monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Once this was configured, I removed the keyboard, mouse, and HDMI cables from mini PC. Now the mini PC has just one cable attached to it - the power cable. Performance over TightVNC is good. This also freed up two USB slots to be used for any other purpose I might need.

Any limitations? I found two things so far:
1) I was not able to boot in BIOS. Why did I want to get into BIOS? Ability to run Linux from a USB stick a standard "rescue" technique when something goes wrong with Windows. BIOS is needed to change the boot order.
2) I was not able to use a USB hub to increase the number of USB slots - it did not recognize anything plugged into the USB hub (I tried several USB hubs with and without power supplied to the hub, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0).

Despite the two limitations I found so far this is a pretty impressive little box!

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.



Ali Julia review ★★★★★