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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Product review: TopFit Back Cushion Lumbar Support Pillow Memory Foam With Fastening Strap Gray

I have a bad back so I have become a reluctant expert on lumbar supports. This lumber support is comfortable. It fits the my back very well. Its firmness feel comfortable - the foam is firm but not hard.

It is 15" wide and 16" high. At the widest point it is 4" wide. It has a rubber band with a closure in the back to attach to a chair. I am able to stretch it to 32" to go around my fairly large office chair. The strap is elastic and has a buckle so it can be shorted. 32" width is pretty close to its max. The cover is removable and can be washed in the washing machine on a gentle cycle and dried in the dryer using low tumble setting.

This is a very comfortable lumber support. If there was anything I would want to change it is to make it taller. My old (ratty looking) lumber support is 21" tall so it can support my upper back which gives me a better posture.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Friday, November 17, 2017

Product review: Synergee Gliding Discs Core Sliders. Dual Sided Use on Carpet or Hardwood Floors.

I was introduced to glider disks by Bender Ball Pilates Evolution exercise disks. The gliding disks add variety to exercise and make some exercises more challenging. Glider disks come in two shapes elongated or round. In majority of exercises (when only the toes or the heels rest on the disk, not the entire foot) you can use round disks. When you need to rest your entire foot on the slider the elongated disks work better.

The disks are used with the felt side down if you are using them on the wood floor. I have high polish floors and if they caused any damage I would see it right away. They do not. The felt side does not scratch the floor. On the carpet they can be used with the plastic side down (the felt side down does not slide on the carpet).

An alternatives to glide disks are "Furniture Movers for Heavy Furniture", however they are slightly smaller in size. Another option is to use paper plates instead of glide disks. They are more likely to cause damage to floors with high polish, however for carpets that offer a cheap alternative. I think the the paper plates do not work quite as well as real glide disks, but it is a cheap way to see if you like this type of exercises without spending any money.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Product review: Rosewill Quark Series 1000 Watt Full Modular 80 Plus Platinum Certified ATX12V/EPS12V

Rosewill offers several versions of the power supply. My review is for Rosewill Quark 1000. This is an excellent power supply with enough power for any personal computer. Its capacity of 1000w and it has a large number of connectors (total of 10) that gives lots of room for growth. Its size is 7.25" x 3.5" x 6". Quark 1000 uses heavy duty round cables (i.e. not ribbon cables). All connectors are modular rather than hard-wired. I prefer modular power supplies so the case has only what it needs and thus is less crowded, so this is a big plus.

The power supply can handle motherboards with both 20 pin or 24 pin connectors. It supports two SLI graphics cards. It is very quiet.


(1) One 20 +4 Main plug (modular)
(2) Two EPS12V CPU plugs (modular)
It supports two CPUs. This is useful for server systems, desktops have 1 CPU.
(3) Four PCIe plugs (modular)
It supports four high power PCIe cards, typically SLI graphics cards but there are other cards requirind extra power.
Most PCIe cards use only the power from the PCIe plug, but high performance high performance graphics cards use this plug (e.g. gaming graphics cards).
(4) Five SATA or Molex cable plugs (modular)
They use the same plugs and package comes with different cables that can be used as needed.
4 SATA cables, each with 4 SATA plugs for a total of 16 SATA devices supported
2 Molex cables, each supports 4 IDE drives or FANs

I measured the power supply with a power supply tester and all voltages are within tolerance. The attached video includes 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 tolerance.

Its a good one!

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Monday, November 13, 2017

Product review: Paper Bidet - Flushable Wipes 30 Individual Packs

Once I tried wet wipes there was no going back to dry only. At home I use Costco Kirkland baby wipes which are thick and generously sized and are perfect for adult wipes. But they come in bag packages which do not travel well and I wanted to have some along for work and travel. Paper bidet wipes are pretty good. They have a light aloe scent I don't mind, but the are not totally unscented like Costco wipes. They have the right balance of wetness - not too dry but also not too wet and sticky. They are smaller and thinner that the Kirkland baby wipes but they are good enough.

I like that they come in foil packs which keeps them moist, the foil pack is fairly small in size 3.75" x 2.5" and the packaging is not too loud. The foil packs come in non-resealable plastic bag. I moved them to a plastic bag with a zipper so I can keep them all together in a draw at work.

Overall: good even though not as good as Costco Kirkland wipes, but those do not come in individual packages.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Friday, November 10, 2017

Product review: Gvode Kitchen 3-Piece Pasta Roller and Cutter Set for KitchenAid Stand Mixers

In attached video you see Gvode Pasta Roller & Cutter Attachments  with my Kitchen Aid mixer.  It fit well and feel sturdy while working.

It has three attachments. Pasta Roller  rolls 5.5-inch sheets of pasta with 8 thickness settings to adjust to your desired sheet thickness. This helps me make different thickness of fresh pasta, Ravioli, Tortellini, Lasagna, and Noodles. Spaghetti Cutter cut pasta sheets into classic Spaghetti noodles. Fettuccine Cutter Cuts pasta sheets into  Fettuccine noodles or linguine.  In addition to the three attachments the package includes a cleaning brush to help clean the attachments

In attached photos you see pictures of each of the attachment on the kitchen scale and they weigh between 25 oz and 26.25 oz.  Note that cleaning instruction say not to clean these attachments with water, only to brush them clean.  It explicitly says to wash the attachments in the dishwasher. Instead it instructs to clean attachments by hand or cleaning brush, or dry soft cloths. Perhaps not the entire unit is made of stainless steel.  The good news is that nothing got stuck to either the roller or the cutter and I felt okay dry cleaning them.

As you see in the attached video the attachments work very well.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Product Review: Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

The firestick works by connecting to WI FI of your home network. The two absolute requirements are that you have to have high speed internet and a WI FI connection. You don't have to Amazon Prime to use it, but then you will not have access to Amazon Prime Video and Music. You can connect it to other services you already subscribe to, such as Netflix or premium channels from your cable provider (such as HBO).

The overall installation process goes like this:
1. plug in the firestick into the TV
2. when it boots it prompts you to log into your Amazon account
3. then you can enable individual channels (the activation instructions will be displayed on the screen)

You can control the user interface with the remote included in the package. You can use arrows on the remote to navigate or you can use voice commands. The voice recognition is pretty good.

I am able to move the fire stick between several TVs. I am able to watch Amazon Prime content as well as Verizon FIOS channels I subscribe to. So far only one channel (Discovery) did not support Verizon FIOS. Prime content and whatever you already subscribe is free, if you select a channel that is not free you will have a chance to decline activation before you get charged. If you don't sign up for anything with extra charge, there is no additional monthly costs. Note that in-app purchases are enabled by default, and I disabled them in settings.

To power the firestick it comes with a standard micro USB cable which is long enough to reach from the back of TV to the floor where the power strip is located. The remote runs on two AA batteries (included). To open the battery compartment you need to slide the entire back of the remote. Be aware that it is tight and sliding it open is a little difficult.

To download apps you can either select them on the firestick from Apps menu (it took about 15 minutes for all of them to show up on the screen) or to install them my logging into digital content on your computer and selecting to deliver them to firestick as the digital device. I have done it both ways and both worked fine.

Overall, a convenient option to watch content on your own schedule. Enabling the channels could be easier but you only need to do the activation step once for each app.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Monday, November 6, 2017

Product review: portable bidet squeeze bottle

I purchased Portable Bidet after a surgery when I was not allowed to take showers for several weeks.  This portable bidet allowed me to feel clean without taking a shower and without getting the floor wet.  The best part of it is that it generates a good stream at the right angle without having to squeeze the bottle.  So if you are looking to use it while traveling (like an airport bathroom) rather than at home it makes no noise from escaping air or from squeezing.  It holds just enough water to give me a good rinse.

What makes this bottle bidet work is a special valve on the bottom that lets the air escape as you turn the bidet upside down.  The angle of the nozzle generates a stream at a good angle that makes the water go only where it is needed. No drips on the floor.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Product review: Pearl Necklace Freshwater Cultured Pearls with Heart Anniversary Gifts for Women - VIKI LYNN

This is a very nice pearl necklace made out of natural pearls.  The pearls are well matched but they do have the tiny variations is shape and size which is typical of natural freshwater pearls.  What I really like about this necklace is that both ends of it have a clasp and they latch on to the hear shape piece.  It is much easier to clip that other clasps - I can do it without having to look at it.  It is also possible to remove the heart and insert a different piece of jewelry or just clasps two claws together.

The size of the earring is rated as 7mm to 8mm and my digital caliper shows 8.83mm (measuring in the  direction) and 7.28 (measuring in the short direction). The silver heart has S925 stamp as well as VIKI LYNN logo. I think the necklace looks very classy.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Product review: Clorts Women's Suede Waterproof Hiking Shoe Walking Sneaker Trail Shoes HKL828

The is a super comfortable shoe, but it runs small. I normally wear size 7.5 and based on description recommendation to order 1/2 or 1 size larger I ordered 8.5 and it is a perfect fit. I can wear them with regular or hiking socks.  They weight 11.9 oz and feel pretty light.

The shoe is a combination of suede and mesh. Suede is the dark and the medium grey, the mesh is the light grey color.  The sole is knobby and has good traction.   The shoe has slight arch support and the shape of the sole is very comfortable, it feels slightly cushy.

The packaging was good, the shoes had paper inserts so they were not deformed in shipping.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Product review: ZELITE INFINITY Utility Knife 6” - High Quality Japanese VG10 Super Steel

Zelite utility knife is midway in size between a Chef's knife and a Paring knife. in the past, I have not used utility knife as often as my chef knife or my pairing knife. But this knife is so sharp and maneuverable that I am using it quite a lot. My most common use for it is for cutting cheese and meats for making sandwiches. It also works well on cutting tomatoes for those sandwiches. I use it when a paring knife feels too short, and chef's an overkill.

Zelite utility knife is very sharp, and its handle fits my hand very well. The knife feels sturdy but it is not heavy. The knife weighs 5.2 oz.

It has a beautiful pattern on the blade. This is because the knife's blade is made out of laminated stainless steel. The higher quality of Japanese knives use laminated steel which has this beautiful pattern. The use of laminated steel improves the strength and rust resistance of the blade (and it looks beautiful).

A note on packaging. I don't often comment on packaging unless there is something special about it. This knive comes in a very attractive packaging, the box packing is sculpted to the knives shape and is made out of red velvety material. The presentation of the knife is suited for a gift.

It is a nice quality knife and good to work with.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Product review: SWHITE Freshwater Cultured Pearl Necklace Irregular Handmade Baroque

I really like this necklace. It has a very unique look. It is made out of irregular shaped pearls. No two are the same in shape or color. The only thing these irregular pearls have in common is that they have have non-spherical shapes. Each pearl has a lot of character: from almost round shape to curved, pinch, and lumpy. I have never seen pearls like that before and looked up to find that they have a name. They are called Baroque pearls.

Both ends of the strand have a claw closure, so I can wear the necklace as a long strand (15" long) or clip it in the middle to form a different shape. The necklace has gold colored balls (made out of stainless steel) as spaces. They are small and set off the irregular shapes of the pears very well.

The package include a box and a cleaning cloth.

I measured a few random individual pearls with a digital caliper. I picked two what I thought were representative of the smaller and larger pearls in the necklace and got: 14.34mm mm and 12.84 mm in size respectably.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Friday, October 27, 2017

Product review: LIMAM Storage Ottoman, Folding Stool Linen Multi-function Storage Stool

I got the large ottoman. It is 30" wide x 15" long x 15" tall.  It is gray in color on the sides and top, and black on the bottom. What I did not realize that it folds together as accordion (see photos) and expands when you want to use it.  The sides are hard stiff cardboard. The top is stiff and padded.  The cover is actually heavier than the entire body of the storage.  The bottom is nylon material and is soft, however when you open it you place cardboard (covered in fabric) in the bottom of the box so it does not collapse.

The cardboard is strong. How strong? I had my husband sit on the empty ottoman and even though he is close to 200 pounds in weight the ottoman did not have any problem holding him.  Since the ottoman was empty there was nothing else to help support his weight but the sides of the storage.  The description says that it supports up to 220 pounds and I believe it.

I would not call this ottoman attractive, but it is sturdy and functional. I am keeping off season clothing in this box and it is working quite well.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Product review: SEREE S2-BL Ultra HD 4.0K 360 Degree Action Waterproof Panoramic Sport DV Camera

The camera has a fisheye lens which produces 360 degree video. Overall, the video quality is pretty good under many conditions but not all. It overexposes video when the camera is shooting in very sunny conditions and it does not compensate well when you move from shadow to the sun (like when you come out from under the bridge into the full sun). I show small clips which show the camera at its worst and at its best in attached video. Under good lighting the color rendition is good and true to life. It also takes pretty decent night time video. The camera microphone is worse than other sports cameras I have used. You will hear sound distortions in my video. Keep in mind that Amazon compresses video, so it is best to watch it as postage format so the compression effects are not visible.

The camera user interface is menu driven, but you can only see two lines. The documentation is not detailed and not good, so I am finding myself fumbling with the keys a bit as I navigate through menus even after several weeks of using the camera. The navigation and keys are not obvious in many cases. All buttons are overloaded with several functions depending on what mode the camera is in.

This camera support WIFI mode where live video can be see on the smart phone. The app for live product is called "XDV360°" (by Shenzhen Pisoftware Technology). The app is not great, but at least it is available from Googplay and the manufacturer did not ask me to load the app from an untrusted site. Downloading software from untrusted site is not safe and I never down load apps from manufacturer web site unless it is a well known trusted company.

The camera supports micro SD cards up to 32GB (the micro SD card is NOT included). To recharge the camera takes about 2 hours from empty, I am getting about 2 hours of video on one charge.

The package includes a large number of clamps and holders as well as a waterproof case. Windshield suction cup mount is not included, and because of the shape of the camera none of my old window suction cup mounts fit the camera facing forward.

The manual is very sparse. The manual is very small and only has a few basic operations. It does not have instructions for every button. Plan on doing some experimentation to figure out controls.

I really like the fisheye lens. The video quality is very good under many conditions, but not all. The sound recording is not good. The user interface is not as user friendly as some other sports cameras. Overall rating OK.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Food review: Cha Wu Grade A Dragon Ball Jasmine Pearls Tea

This Jasmine tea comes as pearls - tightly rolled pea size balls.  It has a very lovely Jasmine flavor.  I have tried a number of different Jasmine teas in the past and this one tasted a little different to me - the taste is more round and sligtly sweet.  It leaves a very pleasant taste in my mouse once I swallow.

I like drinking it cold with lemon on hot days. It is probably not the traditional way to drink it, but it is very refreshing this way.

There is no one world wide standard system for grading tea, the grading system used for this tea is called Cha Wu Grading and it ranges from D (lowest quality) to SS (highest quality).  This is the order from low to high: D, C, B, A, AA, S, SS.  I got the Grade A.

This loose teas come in vacuum packed foil lined bag with a lock at the top (similar to coffee pack bags).  I use an electric kettle that lets me select the temperature and I use 90℃ (slight below boiling) and steep for several minutes. The resulting tea has a light golden color as you see in the attached photos.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Monday, October 23, 2017

Product review: BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBDII Scan Tool for iPhone, iPad & Android

I originally purchased BlueDriver in 2015 and was not particularly happy with the app.  However by January 2016 the app had several revisions and have become excellent.

The original review was fairly critical giving 5 stars to the hardware and 2 stars to the BlueDriver app. For a number of months I had to use an alternate free app (Torque) because BlueDriver just did not stay connected long enough to be useful. However, after a number of updates the app is now excellent and provides a lot of information that the free app does not. It provides clear readout for engine light on (I am including an example from EGR Valve problem). It also correctly showed a recall for the air bag before the manufacture notified me in a letter many months later.

Because of the dramatic improves I felt compelled to replace the critical review with this 5 star review.

The scanner is simple to install and simple to use. A lot simpler than I expected, frankly. All cars and light trucks built and sold in the United States after January 1, 1996 were required to be OBD II equipped. Once I looked up what the OBD-II connector looked like it was easy to locate it. The connector is very distinctive looking, I am including a picture of it in my video for reference. In my car the connector was located under my dash, slightly to the right of the steering wheel.

The OBD II scanner is fairly small: 1.75" wide, 1.74" tall, and 0.875" wide.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Food Review: Cha Wu Grade A and Grade B Fruity Tieguanyin Oolong Tea

The taste of Oolong ranges hugely among various sub-varieties.  It can be sweet and fruity, or woody and thick with roasted aromas, or green and fresh, all depending on the horticulture and style of production.

I got Tie Guan Yin of two variety Grade A and Grade B. There is no one world wide standard system for grading tea, the grading system used for this tea is called Cha Wu Grading and it ranges from D (lowest quality) to SS (highest quality).  This is the order from low to high: D, C, B, A, AA, S, SS.

I like both teas but definitely can taste the difference between the two teas, which is especially pronounced when I drink the tea cold. Both teas feel very refreshing.   Grade A has a sweet flavor, no bitter after taste.  I thought it tasted similar to the teas in a Chinese restaurants, but a little less astringent.  After I swallow there is a pleasant after glow taste in my mouth. 

Grade B had a unique flavor, I have not been exposed to it before. It has a slight more tart and slightly bitter taste and the tea was slightly deeper color (I seeped them from the the pot and for the same amount of time). The flavor dissipated faster than the Grade A tea.

These loose teas come in foil lined bags with a lock at the top (similar to coffee pack bags).

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Product review: ZELITE INFINITY Santoku Knife 7 Inch. Japanese VG10 Super Steel

This is a terrific knife. This a general purpose knife for dicing, slicing and mincing. The name translates from Japanese to mean "well-balanced" and is designed with the weights of the blade and the handle to be equally balanced. This balance in combination with the rounded design of the handle makes cutting and dicing with it quick and easy. It is very sharp, everything I cut feels as easy as cutting soft butter.

The Santoku has a limited "rocking" travel in comparison to a Western-style chef's knife. When the blade rests on the cutting plane there is very little clearance above the cutting plane from heel to the tip. The Santoku design is shorter, lighter, thinner, and more hardened (to compensate for thinness) than a traditional Western chef's knife.

The "scalloped" sides that give this knife its unique look create small air pockets between the blade and the material being sliced and reduce cutting friction. The higher quality of Japanese knives use laminated steel which has a beautiful pattern. This knife has this laminated finish. The use of laminated steel improves the strength and rust resistance of the blade (and it looks beautiful).

It can be washed in a dishwasher, but I prefer to wash it by hand so it will last longer and there's no risk of them cutting the plastic coating on the appliance racks.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Product review: 4 Way Hose Splitter - KMASHI Garden Hose Connector with long handles

I like that most of this hose splitter are the long shut-off handles.  They are very easy to open and close. The splitter is made out of metal encased in rubber. The quick connects are plastic, but the other fittings are zinc alloy and give me a tight seal.

On the negative side the water outlets are tightly packed. This comes into play if you are using timers. A timer on this splitter covers up two outlets. Some four way splitters have connectors that are angled and they allow an outlet next to the timer to be accessible. For my gardening needs I have multiple timers as well as hoses, so I could not use this splitter in the back of the house. However, in the front I am using one timer on this splitter which means I had to give up one of the outlets as it is blocked.

The package includes 10 additional washers (plus one more is already in the hose splitter).

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Product review: Rosewill VALENS-700M Modular Design 80 PLUS Gold Certified ATX12V Active-PFC Power Supply

This is a nice power supply with enough for any personal computer. Its capacity of 700w and a large number of connectors (total of 5 connectors plus 3 hard-wired plugs). This power supplies provides a lot of room for growth.

Alens 700 is 5 5/8" x 3.5" x 6". It uses ribbon cables, which are more flexible than round cables.


--> One 20 +4 Main plug, hard-wired
It can handle motherboards with both 20 pin or 24 pin connectors.
--> One EPS12V CPU plug, hard-wired
The power supply supports one CPUs. It is designed for desktop use only, as servers often have more than one CPU.
--> One PCIe plug, hard-wired
--> One PCIe plug, modular
Supports two SLI graphics cards
--> Three SATA or Molex plugs
2 SATA cables, each with 3 plugs, total of 6 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 tolerance. Its a good one!

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Friday, October 13, 2017

Product review: Flexzilla Garden Lead-in Hose, 5/8 in. x 3 ft.

I bought the Flexzilla 3-foot lead-in house in the spring, so it had been in use for three months. It formed a water tight connection without teflon tape and I like the sleeves that protect the connection from kinking. As a lead-in hose into a four way switch it is always under pressure and has not any leaks so far.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Product review: Meking 300w Bulb , 20"x28" Softbox , 29.5"x9.8"x11.4" Photography Zipper Bag,78.7" Lighting Stands Photo Video Studio Light Kit

There are many things about these studio lights that I like, but they have one serious flaw. They come with Type C electrical plugs common in Asia and South America (two round prongs, not two flat prongs known as Type A we use in USA). I happen to have plug converters from when I used to travel a lot so I am able to use them, but I wanted to start my review by drawing attention to this requirement.

- These studio lights generate nice natural light. In attached photos I set them up in complete darkness and the lights filled the room with a non-harsh light. The lights use Tri-phosphor light bulb 150w 5500K 110V E27.

- The umbrellas and the diffuser shields are nice. They collapse and pop up easily. The diffuser shields have fitted corners so they go on easily and stay on well, they also have Velcro to grab on to umbrella better.

- The electrical cords have in-line on/off switch. My old lights had a switch next to the light and it would always get ultra-hot. This is a much better design.

- Everything is pretty easy to set up and disassemble. When the lights are not in use they fits into the carrying case included in the package. The bulbs (if you want to keep them in the cartons like I do) do not fit into the carrying case, but everything else does. The bag has handles lengthwise as well as at the top end of the case. I use the handle on the top to hang the bag from a ceiling hook in the basement and the case does not take up much space while being easily accessible.

- The stand is collapsible. The screws and the stand are metal, but the fittings are plastic. This is likely to be the weak point of the system over time. However, no problems so far.

Here are a couple of minor cons:

- The stands are okay but they are a little top heavy when fully assembled. The legs could have been made to spread wider to provide more stability.

- The electric cord of each stand is only a little longer than the stand itself. I need to use an extension cord to plug in the lights. I would have liked each cord to be 5-6 feet longer so it could be used without an extension cord.

So what's the bottom line? The light kit is not aimed at the American market, so even though I am able to use them with two converters and the light the lights generates nice light I am not able to rank the kit as good. If it is re-wired to have type A plugs that work with American outlets I would rank it as a 4 star product. I notified the seller of the problem and he said he will address it.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★☆☆☆

Monday, October 9, 2017

Product review: HP LaserJet Pro M477fdn Multifunction Color Laser Printer with Built-in Ethernet & Duplex Printing (CF378A)

I am using this laser printer in a home office with Linux, win10, and win XP computers. All three operating systems connected without trouble.

1. Linux - I had to install HPLIP from repository, support for the driver is built into the Linux OS. I was able to connect the printer both as USB printer and network printer.

2. Windows 10 - the driver for win10 is included on the CD ROM that came with the printer, searching for the network printer during configuration found the printer and configured it.

3. Windows XP - the driver for XP is not included on the on the CD ROM but it is available from the HP website.

The quality of the print is nice and crisp. The black color is not as bold as the old laser printer, but very clear. The colors are bright and clear. Both the scan and the print are fast (the first scan/print has a short pause for the printer to warm up, but the rest of the pages are very quick.) The FAX (the sending part) is fairly slow, but that's the FAX limitation not the printer. What is nice is that HP provides a test FAX number on their web site (search for test FAX number HP), so I was able to send a test FAX to confirm everything is working.

When not in use the laser printer goes into sleep mode. When I start to scan or print it wakes up automatically, but there is an extra pause to warm up a printer after sleep.

To activate the warranty one needs to find the serial number. It is printed on the box, it is also easy to get it the driver once the printer is installed (this information is available from device info). After I registered my printer I checked the status of the warranty and saw that it says 10 months remaining rather then 12. I had to contact support to have this corrected. Perhaps this is the date HP shipped to Amazon warehouse? The printer did NOT look like a returned product that was registered by someone else. The support told me they will correct the warranty period after processing my Amazon receipt. This is heads up to check your warranty period to avoid problems down the line.

The printer is pretty heavy. In its packaging is about 60 pounds long. It does have handles on the side of the carton to get a grip. The front is 18.5" wide, the depth is 16.5", the height with the cover closed is 16". How much clearance is needed to use it? To open the cover to slide a document into a crack the minimum you need is 19". If you need to totally open it to scan a book you would need a minimal clearance of 25".

Overall, I like the printer. There are, however, a few small things I do not like:

1. Not all cables were included in the packaging. When I pay $400 for a printer I expect the package to include all the cables I need. However, this printer did not have either the USB cable nor the Ethernet cable. The package included a power cord and a telephone cord for the FAX.

2. Multi-page tray does not always feed documents straight. Sometimes the output of the scanner is slightly askew.

3. The warranty issue I mentioned earlier is a concern. It would have been very easy for me not to check the status of the warranty and lose two months of coverage.

4. The on/off button blinks brightly, quickly, and continuously when the printer is not in use (sleeping). The button is solidly on when the printer is in use. The fast blinking is in my field of view when I sit in front of the computer and found it distracting enough that I had to put a black sticker over it. I can still see faint light around it so I know when it is on. This is a poor design, a solid light when not in use and blinking when working would have been a much better design (my old laser printer worked this way).

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Product review: Silicone Skins for Arlo Smart Security

I have been using the Arlo security system for over 1 year without a jacket and now a couple of years with Wasserstein jacket.  Looking at the stock photo I was a bit worried that the jacket will make the magnetic hold weaker and I was not sure if I would like it.

Turns out the jacket has three holes (stock photos do not show this, but my video does) - one for the camera lens, one for the magnetic hold, and one for the battery door. The camera jacket is easy to put on and it fits well.

I selected the brown color that matches my trim and I think the camera is less noticeable and looks better in the jacket. The camera is waterproof so I don't think the jacket is needed to protect from rain, but it seems to provide a little bit of insulation for cold weather and prolongs the battery life in the winter.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Product review: RecorderGear FD50 USB Flash Drive Voice Recorder 8GB

At the time I am writing this review the price of this recorder is around $90 and for the price I expected a better all purposes recorder. It did a reasonable job recording human voice, but did a very poor job recording music. The recorded music is clipped and sounds distorted. When I held the recorder in my hand the recording picked up a lot of crackling. I did not purposely do anything to generate that noise but as you hear in attached audio the difference between me holding the recorder and having it put down is dramatic.

The recorder looks like a regular flash memory stick. To make it discrete looking the interface that makes it work is not obvious. The recording switch looks like a loop for hanging the recorder on a key chain. The switch has three positions left, center, right. The center position is off, and left/right are the two modes. The two modes are "continuous recording" and "voice activated recording". They are indicated by a small dash and two small dots on the front of the recorder. The markings are black on black and are barely visible. The dash indicates continuous recording and the two dots indicate voice activated recording. The charge level indicator is barely visible as it points down when you plug the recorder to be charged. When it is charging you see an occasionally shadow of a red flash. I took about a dozen photos and on one of them I managed to time my photo and captured this flash of red light, so you would know where to look to see it.

To set the time and to see the recorded files you need to use a Windows computer. Normally fat32 flash drives can be read by Linux desktop, but this flash drive is not seen by my Linux computer so it is doing something non-standard. My Windows laptop has no problem accessing the memory stick.

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) Two clips with human voice
The recording has some echo, but not bad.
(2) Classical music
Clipped and distorted, not acceptable
(3) Pop song
Clipped and distorted, not acceptable

The recorder can be re-charged in any USB outlet. It runs on built-in 180mA rechargeable Lithium. Documentation states that battery lasts da day on stand-by. The recordings are produced in MP3 audio file format.

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. If it was priced in the $20-30 range I would have rated it as 3 star - ok for lecture recording. For $90 (the price at the time I am writing this review) I expected a more general purpose recorder which produced better results.
You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★☆☆☆

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Product review: Astonish Cleaning Paste

Astonish paste did a pretty decent job.  In the attached video you see me cleaning the stove top and the bottom of a skillet.  The results are pretty good, although not perfect and not instant. Overall, it did a job better than other things I have tried.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Product review: Window bird feeder

We have a large number of bird feeders including four different window bird feeders. This bird feeder one key feature that our feathered friends like. The birds love the little perch. In my video you can see how they use it to crack the seeds. We have another window bird feeder with a different style which does not have a perch and it was less popular until we glued a perch made out of a twig. As soon as we added this twig the bird feeder became more popular.

This a pretty large (wide) bird feeder. Several birds can visit it at the same time. Many birds do not mind sharing. Some do, and it is fun to watch the bully birds that make other birds leave - I captured one of these episodes in the attached video.

The big size of the bird feeder makes it very comfortable for squirrels to feed from it as well. As you see in attached video, it is big enough to hold two squirrels. The suction cups hold really well, as they are able to hold not only two birds but two squirrels. Squirrels are very clever they manage to get food out any bird feeders even the ones that are designed to keep them out, they always find a way. The one that close under their weight, for example, the learned to shake to get the seeds out. These window birders are very easy for them to get into. We just accepted this and feed all creatures that visit us. Spoiler: watch out for the squirrel jumping from the bird feeder onto the camera, she will be coming straight at you. Those little surprises are always fun to find in the video!

This bird feeder is 12" wide, 5.5" tall, and 4" front to back. The bird feeder is held by three suction cups. They provide sufficient suction power to hold the feeder, the seeds, and the birds. The installation instruction recommend cleaning the window and rubbing the suction cups with your fingers to deposit some oil on the cups for a better hold. Our old bird feeders of similar style have not fallen off once (in more than one year) even when squirrels visit it. The feeding tray of this birder is removable, which is useful for cleaning. It also has a little water tray, which does not seem to get used for drinking, I have not seen any of the birds drinking from it in the video. At the end of the day it gets filled with seeds - these guys are messy eaters.

Does the rain get into it? Yes. But the birds do not seem to mind. They are used to wet seeds on the trees.

What fun to see the birds so up close! If this is your first bird feeder it will likely that the birds will take a week to find it. For the first window bird feeder nothing happened for entire week, and then after a week my husband spread some seeds under the bird feeder and that seemed to help the birds find it. Now that we have a couple of window bird feeders it did not take them long to find the new one. The bird's favorite seeds are sunflower seeds. We spoiled the local bird population with sunflower seeds and if we put out the mixed seeds it barely gets touched where as the sunflower seeds disappear very quickly.

It looks to me that both the birds and the squirrels are giving it 5 stars as we need to refill it every day.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Product review: Rinlong Artificial Green Hydrangea Silk Flower

These artificial hydrangeas look pretty good, from a distance the flowers look quite real, the leaves looks a bit more artificial mostly because they are shiny. I ordered 5 stems and some of the small flowers broke off the main flower during shipping.  However, this made each blossom slightly different in size (I mean fullness) which made them look more real.

The flowers were slightly squashed in shipping and as the instructions suggested I fluff them up by hand while blowing them with hair dryer. I found that low volume on the hair dryer worked best. 

To fit the vase I wanted to display them I needed to shorter the stems.  I was able to cut the stems  by this method:  using regular scissors I cut the skin and then fatigued the metal wire inside of the stem by bending it back and forth as you see in my video.  The flowers are pretty.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Friday, September 29, 2017

Product review: Action Camera, SEENTRON 4K Ultra HD WiFi Waterproof Sports Camera

This action camera generates pretty decent video for such a small camera. The colors are good during the day when not shooting directly in sun.  Shooting in the sun is a challenging situation for any camera and this camera like many other overexposed the video if the sun is shining directly into the lens of the camera. In attached video you can video taken with the camera. My full size Cannon digital camera takes better video, but it is big and heavy and as a small size action camera the video quality of this camera is quite good.

This is a 4K camera.  On a 1080p monitor you cannot tell a difference between 1080p and 4K video, but if you own a 4K TV/monitor then you can take full advantage of 4K video.

The colors in the video are bright and accurate. Keep in mind that I am posting compressed video due to size limitation for the video clips, so viewing it as a thumbprint gives you the best approximation of the real thing.

The camera has an intuitive menu-driven interface, it also has WI FI that allows me to see what the camera sees on phone.  The camera comes with a nice set of accessories - I especially like the remote control to start/stop video and take photos.  It also include an extra battery and battery charger, as well as a spare battery for remote control. The package includes a large number of clamps and holders as well as a waterproof case. The camera is exactly the same size as GoPro camera and accessories designed for GoPro fit it.

The camera is take micro cards up to 64K class 10 card.  The card is my own, micro SD is not included in the package.

To recharge the camera takes about 5 hours from empty, I am getting about 3 hours of video on one battery, and this package includes two of them.  The camera can take video while charging if it is switched to the "auto" mode, so it can be used as a dash cam on a long drive.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆