Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Product review: Car Window Shade Sun Shade To Protect Your Baby in Rear Seat

On long trips where I am the passanger in the cat I have been using a plastic sun shade held down by suction. These shades are typically used for babies but I have been using it on the passagenger side window.  Suction cups do come off every now and then and a fabric door sleeve sounded like a better idea in theory.

I have tried it on the doors of small size SUV and a small size sedan.  The sleeve I shaped to the car door shape, sloping on one side, taller on the other.  It fit on the rear door of both cars.  It was too small for the front door of wither car.  However, even though the shade is not larger enough to fit over the front door that actually works out fine because it leave the side mirror uncovered and it does not obscure the mirror from the driver's view. 

This sunshade is made out thin nylong fabric. The sun shade does not totally block out the sun, it dims it.  In attached video I show a few comparison with and without the sun shade so you can see the difference.  It does obscure the view through the window, you can see things but not clearly.

If you are using it for a baby in the back seat it works better as you don't need to worry about exposing the side mirror, shaded view out of the window.

The shade size is 20.5" x 31"

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★

Monday, January 30, 2017

Food review: Barber stuffed chicken breasts - Creme Brie Apple

This is my first experience with Barber Foods and I bought Creme Brie and Apple because it sounded like a unique combination of flavors that I am likely to like.   I was not disappointed!  The chicken tasted fresh, the stuffing was creamy and slightly sweet with cranberries adding a bit of tartness.

Making it could not be any easier - just unwrapped and put in the oven.  35 minutes later it is ready to eat.  Each box contains 2 breasts, each breast is 270 calories.  I really liked the flavor and I will be trying other stuffing as well.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Product review: AT&T 1740 Digital Answering System - video review

I purchased this AT&T answering machine for my elderly mother. I had two key requirements: simple to use and something that could be made  totally silent when the caller is a recording a message.  Apparently the silent mode was removed on this answering machine at some point in time as some reviewers reported, however the unit I purchased in January of 2017 can be silent as I demonstrate in attached video.  The sound is recorded clearly, not garbled in any way.

The answering machine is fairly simple to use.  The set up is simple, the minimum set up requires just setting the clock.  You can optionally record your own greeting but the default one is very reasonable as well.  The answering machine hook up: the answering machine is plugged into the wall, the phone plugs into the answering machine.  The phone is not needed for the answering machine to work, but we have the phone plugged in.  The answering machine does not ring as a phone would, it does make a beep when it starts recording. You can see how this works in my video. Note that the incoming call ringing comes from my phone that is hooked into the back of the answering machine.

If you have caller id it will announce the phone number (not the name) of the caller. If you are using the phone and another call comes in the answering machine will not record. Call waiting function works as before the answering machine was attached. The answering machine can hold 60 minutes of messages.  The old messages can be deleted one at a time (as you listen to them) or all at once.

The answering machine comes with AC adapter. It has a built-in backup battery for the clock. When I unplug the answering machine to move it to another location the clock remains set.  But this battery works only for a short period. When I left the answering machine unplugged for a few days it forgot the date and time. 

There are two small things I don't like: (1) the phone cord does not plug into the machine, it is built in.  So if the cord tongue breaks you can't easily replace it. (2) The play button is the large silver area near the display, it does not look like a button and it is not clearly marked as "play". My mother had trouble finding the play button is on her own. All other buttons are better marked.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Product review: Solar Radar Motion Sensor Lights, 48 LEDs

This is a fairly bright solar light. It has three settings off, dim light when no one is around, and bright light when motion is detected.  The unit is sealed and the batteries cannot be replaced or recharged outside the unit.

It  has aluminum alloy finish and has a silver finish. It looks more attractive than black plastic that is common and I have used in the past.

To turn the light on you need to use a pin (included in the package along with hanging hardware) and push it into a very small hole at the top part of the plastic lens covering the LED lights.  This needs to be just one when you want to activate the light.

The template for mounting the light is included in the package as well as the mounting hardware.  It is a nice light but does not have my favorite mode of operation "On only when motion is detected" which uses less power and works better in New England climate as we don't always get long sunny days to fully recharge the battery.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Friday, January 27, 2017

Product review: EKEN H9, Ultra HD 4K Waterproof Action Camera

The colors are excellent during the day when not shooting directly in sun.  Shooting in the sun is a challeging situation for any camera and this camera like many other overexposed the video if the sun is shining directly into the les of the camera. In attached video you can video taken with the camera during the day and at night. Night time video does not have a lot details in total duckness but with a little bit of light you can see what is going on.

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 pots, 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 name of the app that is compatible with this camera is EZ iCam App which is available from GooglePlay. There is also an iPhone version of the app which I did not try. The name of the hot spot is "ICAM-Hg(R)". The camera is exactly the same size as GoPro camera and accessories designed for GoPro fit it.

The camera is comptable with 16G and 32G micro SD cards, and I am using 32G 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 charge.  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.

The package includes a large number of clamps and holders as well as a waterproof case.  My video shows close up of all accessories.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Product review: Cat7 Shielded Ethernet Patch Cable 100ft Black

I am using this cable to run the connection from the server room on the second floor to the lower level in the house. Cat 7 cable is best for such long distances.

Before running the cable through the wall I ran several tests to test cable's reliability. I ran iPerf which is a Linux utility that measures TCP/IP bandwidth. I ran it in bidirectional mode for 60 seconds between two Linux systems via a 24 port switch. I used ethtool, which is the Linux Ethernet adapter configuration tool, to determine if any errors occurred and the test showed no errors. The cable works reliably. At the end of the review I am including the details from the tests for those who are interested in the details.

Some of my non-techie friends sometimes ask me if the length of the cable matters. In general CAT7 cables are rated for Gigabit Ethernet for over 100 meters, CAT6 is rated for 100 meters, CAT5E is fine for shorter distances such as 35 feet. However the longer the cable the higher are the chances of errors. TCP/IP protocol used over the Ethernet connection is written in such a way that it expects errors and corrects them so as an end user you are likely not to see any problems but correcting errors takes extra time. The general rule is that you want the shortest cable that will work for you.

CAT7 is designed for as a standard for Gigabit Ethernet over 100m. It is considered more durable and provides better shielding for its twisted pairs than CAT6.

One other thing I look for is the construction of the clip on the end of the cable. I like the clips with a catch to prevent snagging the clip and to reduce the chances of it being broken off accidentally. This cable has a nice catch, firm but not too firm that it is difficult to operate.

The package also includes four Velco strips and some hanging hardware.

This cable was provided for me for evaluation and running some Ethernet reliability tests. If this makes you skeptical about what I say examine my record and you will see that I have a long history leaving critical reviews when products deserve it. The bottom line is that the cable performed well in my tests.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Technical details from the cable reliability tests:
iperf -t 60 -c servername -d
Server listening on TCP port 5001
TCP window size: 85.3 KByte (default)
Client connecting to servername, TCP port 5001
TCP window size: 289 KByte (default)
[ 5] local port 47070 connected with port 5001
[ 4] local port 5001 connected with port 51212
[ ID] Interval Transfer Bandwidth
[ 5] 0.0-60.0 sec 6.51 GBytes 931 Mbits/sec
[ 4] 0.0-60.0 sec 6.48 GBytes 928 Mbits/sec

On the Scientific Linux 6.8 system that is connected directly to the test cable,

ethtool -S eth1
NIC statistics:
tx_packets: 6197000
rx_packets: 5957289
tx_errors: 0
rx_errors: 0
rx_missed: 0
align_errors: 0
tx_single_collisions: 0
tx_multi_collisions: 0
unicast: 5956399
broadcast: 219
multicast: 671
tx_aborted: 0
tx_underrun: 0

On the Fedora 24 system that connects via the switch,

ethtool -S enp0s31f6
NIC statistics:
rx_packets: 6190843
tx_packets: 5947836
rx_bytes: 8560555338
tx_bytes: 8564916288
rx_broadcast: 407
tx_broadcast: 8
rx_multicast: 167
tx_multicast: 63
rx_errors: 0
tx_errors: 0
tx_dropped: 0
multicast: 167
collisions: 0
rx_length_errors: 0
rx_over_errors: 0
rx_crc_errors: 0
rx_frame_errors: 0
rx_no_buffer_count: 0
rx_missed_errors: 0
tx_aborted_errors: 0
tx_carrier_errors: 0
tx_fifo_errors: 0
tx_heartbeat_errors: 0
tx_window_errors: 0
tx_abort_late_coll: 0
tx_deferred_ok: 0
tx_single_coll_ok: 0
tx_multi_coll_ok: 0
tx_timeout_count: 0
tx_restart_queue: 0
rx_long_length_errors: 0
rx_short_length_errors: 0
rx_align_errors: 0
tx_tcp_seg_good: 125498
tx_tcp_seg_failed: 0
rx_flow_control_xon: 0
rx_flow_control_xoff: 0
tx_flow_control_xon: 0
tx_flow_control_xoff: 0
rx_csum_offload_good: 6190756
rx_csum_offload_errors: 0
rx_header_split: 0
alloc_rx_buff_failed: 0
tx_smbus: 0
rx_smbus: 0
dropped_smbus: 0
rx_dma_failed: 0
tx_dma_failed: 0
rx_hwtstamp_cleared: 0
uncorr_ecc_errors: 0
corr_ecc_errors: 0
tx_hwtstamp_timeouts: 0

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Product review: 46 LEDs Waterproof Solar Powered Motion Sensor Lights

This is a very bright solar light. It has three settings off, dim light when no one is around, and bright light when motion is detected.  The unit is sealed and the batteries cannot be replaced or recharged outside the unit.  I opened it up out of curiosity and including a photo so you can see what it looks like on the inside.

To turn the light on you need to press a button near motion detector and hold it down for a few seconds.  This needs to be just one when you want to activate the light.

Mounting hardware is included in the package.  It is a very nice light even though it does not have my favorite mode of operation "On only when motion is detected" which uses less power and works better in New England climate as we don't always get long sunny days to fully recharge the battery.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Product review: symGLASS 16-Ounce Unbreakable Pint Glass

Just like Plexiglass is not glass, symGLASS is not glass but a plastic material. Description says it is made with Tritan, which I was not familiar. I looked it up and found that it is a clear polymer developed by Eastman company and is safety tested for food products. Eastman web site has a lot information about this material and its safety tests for those who are interested. It is rated for food.

The glasses look nice, but I could immediately tell they are plastic by look, feel, weight and the noise they made when they clanked. So the marketing description is a little overstated. However, if you are looking for non-breaking high quality plastic drinking glasses these glasses are what you are looking for. In my video I dropped them onto a tile floor from the height of the kitchen counter with no ill effects - the glass did not break and had no scratches. Each glass weighs 8.9 oz.

They work well not only with cold drinks but hot drinks as well. Because plastic is less conductive than glass these glasses do not feel hot when they are filled with hot water for hot tea or coffee.
You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Monday, January 23, 2017

Product review: Image Fitness Tracker with touch screen

This watch has just three functions date/time, steps, and distance and it is very simple to use. Just touch the finger print icon and it flips between time, steps, and distance.  This is exactly what I want during a work out.  Some fitness trackers have a lot of options and menus and  a complex navigation path to see the what I want to see. All I want is steps, distance and time and this is exactly what this watch gives me.

To recharge the watch you need to pop it out of the band and attach a special recharge dongle which plugs into USB port.  I do this several time a week.  So far no signs of the band stretching out. Time will tell how it holds up over time. 

To latch the band with one hand I insert and tighten the tongue first and then push down on the tab. This watch is extremely light (0.8 oz) and it is waterproof.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Product review: Crenova WIFI Endoscope - view on Android, iPhone, PC

The quality of the Crenova endoscope is pretty good.  In attached video I show a text in a magazine as I move the camera from touching the page to being about 10 inches away from the page.  It has a sweet spot for sharpness of the image in the middle of that range, but you can read the text at all distances.  The wire of the endoscope can be bent and it holds its shape as you move the wire around, this allows you to aim it at an angle not just pointing down.

The endoscope comes with app (available from GooglePlay). The name of the app is PLX_WifiCamera. The app also has iPhone version which I have not tried.  Once I plugged in the camera into the WIFI unit I immediately saw the camera hotspot under WI FI connections on my phone and was able to connect to it with the password specified in the manual. The name of the hotspot is PLX_Camera. If you turn off the phone or the endoscope, you need to reconnect to the hotspot (not automatic re-connection).

The endoscope has a light on the end, which is very handy when you are looking at the dark hidden away places. The light switch is built into the cable attached to the camera.  The switch is at the end nearest to the WIFI unit, so you can release the entire long cable and still be able to control the amount of light at the other end.

The app allows me to view the action on the phone. When I select I can take photos or record video.

The camera comes with a couple of accessories: a hook, a magnet and a mirror. The accessories lock onto the camera.  The mechanism is a bit finnicky and does not look very robust but it does work.  You can see me locking and unlocking the accessories in the video.

The documentation is fairly is not very detailed but it was enough for me to figure out how to connect the camera and turn it on.

Bottom line? This is a handy tool for hard to see areas, reasonable video quality, good price, it is a little tricky to control the aim. I hope the video helps you get a good idea of what to expect.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Product review: Neewer 400W Strobe Light for Canon and Nikon

Neewer 400W Strobe Light for Canon and Nikon

I am using this strobe with Canon Rebel SLR camera. The package include the strobe itself, the case, the battery and the battery recharger, cap for the strobe and  Bowens Mount Adapter.  The only thing I am not using is the  Bowens Mount Adapter.  It can be used to mount a defuser.  Defuser was not included in the package and I have not purchased one yet.

The remote trigger and the probes worked with my camera without any problems.  By default both were set to channel one and communicated in variety of modes I have tried.  My video includes a demonstration of set up and my high speed photography session to generate photos of droplets.

The case and the probe feel very solid.  Together they weight 10 pounds 2 oz.  The case is lined with foam, the fit is very tight.  This is both good and bad. It keeps the strobe very secure once you get it in, but it is hard to put the strobe in without pushing down the foam.

The package includes two manuals. One for the trigger and for the foam.  The manual for the trigger is better.  The manual for the foam is detailed about some things, but not about others.  For example, it does not show how to mount and remove the battery.  This is probably the most awkward part of using the strobe. It takes me a few attempts to mount the battery.  Removing it is easier.  The manual does not mention how to remove the probe's cap - is it a screw top or pushes on?  The cap is a push on cap and it is very tight.  Initially it did not budge either when I pushing or when I twisted.  Eventually I won!

Overall, on the positive side the strobe works well with my camera, the battery lasts a reasonable amount of time. it feels solidly made and I like the protective case.  On the negative side, the battery pack is awkward to mount, the foam padded case is a bit tight and it takes time to fit the probe in.  The pluses oby far outweigh the minuses.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Friday, January 20, 2017

Product review: Unger Pro 961350C Moss Rubber Floor Squeegee with Poly Propylene 22 in

I am using my squeegee on the deck not only to dry it but to push snow off the deck without damaging the wood surface with a shovel. I like that it is made out of heavy duty plastic, it does not rust like the metal squeegee.  It is sold without the handle, and fits any standard broom handle. I got mine squeegee at a local Home Depot - same price but I could put it to work faster.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Product review: Tiergrade 3 port Car Charger Adapter

We usually travel with a lot of gadgets so a 3 port car charger is very useful to us.

I checked each port using Nexus6p while its battery was 33% full keeping all other variables (what apps are running, whehter the screen is on or off, and so forth the same). At 31%-33% full level Nexus 6p uses rapid charging if possible.  Nexus 6p does not suppor QC charging so that port performed the worst, the 2.4A port quite well.

QC 3.0 port: 1610 mA / 4.077V
middle 2.4A port: 2300 mA / 4.14V
top 2.4A port: 2270 mA / 4.15V

The charger fits into the port tightly and does not unplug easily. Overall, pretty good charger.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Product review: Nonscents Odor Control Cat Litter Deodorizer

 We have been using the kitty litter deodorizer for four weeks and it does deodorize well.  The key to any kitty product is for the cats to accept it.  We have two cats and both of them had no problems with it.  We started with a clean box and after a few weeks my sensitive nose typically picks a bit of a scent normally.  With the deodorize sprinkled on top it stays scent free longer.

The bottle is just like a large spice bottle, it has opening at the top which control how much falls out when you shake it.  Pretty good stuff!

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Book review: Dealing with Relatives: Your Guide to Successful Family Relationships

This book is OK. Some sections of the book are useful (not just theory) and can be acted on such as discussion of blending - minimizing the differences between people. The authors did identified an area I was particularly interested in - how to deal with a person who only wants to talk and does not to listen to others. The authors only offered solution to the person who is reading the book (i.e. make pauses, repeat what the other person said, ask questions) but it does not help the person who is the talker, the person who is not pausing or hearing the others.

The book does not address how to deal with all areas that cause family problems such as alcoholism, drug abuse, co-dependency, and other more serious disorders. It mostly deals with the personality issues. The book is most helpful for self-improvement, it helps YOU to be a better relative.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆

Monday, January 16, 2017

Product review: lethmik Infinity Scarf Rex Rabbit Hair Knit Scarves Winter Warm Neck Scarfs Multicolor

This scarf is woven out if rabbit hair.  Rabbit hair is combined with wool to form "hairy" wool.  This is not a skin of the animal, just like a scarf woven out of plain wool it is not solid and has small holes in the weave.  The hair is pretty dense so unless you look at it through the light you do not see the holes. I wondered if such construction would shed, but it does not shed. It looks pretty full, until you touch it you can't tell is woven. It feels very soft on top, and knobby from the knitting if you press down.

The scarf is an infinity scarf and is 56" long. This length allows me either wear it long as is or wrap it around twice, which then puts it right against my chin. The soft and silky fur feels very nice against my neck and it looks good. The only negative I can say that it has a bit of a scent. It is not a moldy smell, probably some sort of anti-moth scent used for storage. After airing it out for 2 weeks the scent is gone. I looked up tips for scent removal for fur and used this method: use a vinyl garment bag and fresh coffee grounds. Hang the fur scarf in the vinyl garment bag, put a container with fresh coffee grounds in the bottom of the bag. Zip the garment bag closed, and leave the scarf in the bag until the scent goes away. Every now and then the coffee grounds should be stirred. In about a week the scent was gone. The scarf did smell like coffee but after airing out in a well-ventilated area the coffee smell dissipated and the other scent did not return.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Product review: Comfort Zone Personal Heater

On the positive side this heater works fairly fast, I measured that it raises the temperature in a 12' x 16' feet room by 2 degrees in 15 minutes (low heat settings). It is reasonably quiet especially on the low setting. On the negative side it draws quite a bit of power so it is fairly expensive to use.

My power meter shows:
High heat setting: 931.3 watts
Low heat setting 522.5 watts
Fan setting 12.5 watts

Because this battery draws a lot of power it has to be plugged in. The instructions say to plug the unit directly into AC outlet (not using an extension cord). Certainly do NOT use an extension cord used for lamps which is 16 AWG which is not heavy gauge, if you use an extension hard you need to buy a heavy duty cord (12 AWG).

It has a dial thermostat to control the desired temperature. It is not temperature base just high to low.

Because of its high power consumption I use it in a bathroom (small room for a short time). We keep the house pretty cool in the winter so I use this heater to warm up the bathroom when I take showers so I don't freeze when I get out of the shower.
You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Product review: VH Ultra-Quiet USB Powered Portable Desk Fan, Touch Switch with Smart Sensor by Crazo

After using this fan for a couple of weeks on my desk I noticed that speeds up and slows down on its own without me touching it. It seems to have a mind of its own. It is not a total deal breaker because the difference between the two speeds is not significant.  What is worse that sometimes it is hard to stop or start.

This fan is pretty different from any other fan I own. Its strongest feature is that it is quiet. The air flow is reasonable for a very small fan, i.e. I can feel it if it is on a desk close by.

On the negative side, you cannot aim it. It works only one one position and any aiming is done by moving the fan, or putting something under it if you want to raise the angle. The on/off mechanism is touch based. For example, if you touch it to move it you will change the setting. The setting cycle one touch low flow, next touch high flow, next touch off, next touch low flow. The fan only can be controlled when it is in one position (resting on the leather-like strap). If you hang it by the strap (rather than rest on the strap), then you cannot change the air flow. Hanging is really not a very practical option because it does not hang or blow straight down. The fan hangs on an angle so you need a configuration where you want air from above on an angle. Someone might find it useful, but it is not very general purpose.

The fan's size is slightly under 4" x 5" (measuring the fan's cage). The USB cord is built-in (i.e. cannot be removed and swapped for a longer one) and is 40" long.  Overall - too many short comings, I am not a fan of this fan.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★☆☆☆

Friday, January 13, 2017

Product review: Heat Holder Women's Original Thermal Heat Holders Socks

My feet always get very cold in the winter. I even purchased electric booties to warm up my feet when they get painfully cold. Since I purchased Heat Holders I have not had to resort to the electric booties. These sock's warmth exceeded my expectations. On outside they look like regular socks, on the inside they have a very thick plush pile. In attached video I show the outside and the inside of a sock.

✔ The socks material content is 91% Acrylic, 5% Nyln, 3% Polyester, 1% Elastane.
✔ The socks are fairly color fast. I did the first wash by hand to see if they will bleed indigo blue, but they did not. The discoloration of water was minimal.
✔ The socks are fairly thick, so they may not fit into tight slippers/shoes/boots.
✔ The sizes run large. My shoe size is 7. I purchased Women 5-9. By the end of the day the sock stretches out and the sock heel is no longer in the right place. But they are so warm that I don't care where the heel is, I bought several more pairs.

The only thing I do not like about the socks is that they are shipped stapled through the sock with a plastic staple which can cause damage to the sock, which is what happened to the first pair of the socks I received..  When I attempted to issue an Amazon return for the first pair, it was marked as non-returnable item. However a chat with Amazon representative and the fact that the socks were still in original packaging got me a return label. If the Amazon return does not work for some reason, another option is to contact customer service directly at Heat Holders web site, the web site name is included on the back of the packaging.

My feet are very happy in these socks. Since my original purchase I ordered 2 more pairs. I now own black, grey, and blue. Also note that all three colors are color fast.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Product review: HoneyGuaridan CG-8120 Electric Coffee Grinder

This is a powerful grinder. The grinder is 6.5" tall (with the cap on).  Its capacity is only 30 grams (for coffee beans it means 4 coffee scoups of beans) but it does an excellent job and fairly quickly too.

The package includes two small brushes to clean the grinder - they do a really nice job!  I show how well they work in the video.

Overall, pretty nice grinder!

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Product review: LCH Measuring Tape Measure, 26ft(8m)

This is heavy duty measuring tape. It feel very solidly made and it weighs 1 pound 2.7 oz.

It can measure up to 26 feet or 8 meters.  I like its metal catch on the end of the tape. It is larger than my other tapes, it sticks out 1/2" and it has two small magnets built into it.  If you are measuring from something metal the magnets latch on.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Product review: Aluminum External DVD Drive USB 3.0 Ultra Slim Portable CD Player Burner CD/DVD-ROM by Smallcar

This a nice looking slim external DVD drive. It comes with a power cord and a data port, both plug in to separate USB port of the computer. Documentation states that you should not run it from a USB hub, which means you have to make sure you have two free USB port on the computer or laptop.

I tested the DVD speed by doing a copy the same DVD using a built in DVD reader and Smallcar external DVD reader.  The external DVD was significantly slower.  The copy on internal DVD took 15 minutes, the copy on external DVD took 45 minutes.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★☆☆

Monday, January 9, 2017

Food review: Newtons Fruit Chewy Cookies, Whole Grain Triple Berry

My new favorite Newtons Cookie

On my last trip to the local supermarket I thought I grabbed a box of Fig Newtons and only when I got home I realized that it was a box of Triple Berry Newtons instead of my old favorite.  When I bit into it I was pleasantly surprised - the texture and taste were similar to my old favorite but with a slightly tarter flavor. I love it! 

Triple Berry Newtons
Service cookies 2 cookies (29 gram)
Servings per Container 12
Calories 100 (calories from fat 15)
Total fat 1.5g 2%
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 100mg 4%
Potassium 45 mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 21g 7%
Protein Less than 1g

This is now my new favorite cookie!   The only problem for me now that they so delicious is hard to stop at just one or two.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Product review: La Cle LA-033 Cow Leather Handbag - foldable

There are a couple of things about this bag that I really like.  First, as you see it has rather striking coloring.  I often gets comments on how this bag looks.  Second, this bag folds to be be flat.  This is very handy when travelling, I can fold it flat in the luggage and carry a large carry on bag. Once I arrive to my destination I can take out my nice cute bag.  The third thing that I liked that it came with two shoulder straps.  Not sure if it is a packing mistake or if it is designed to be this way but the two straps give me an option to carry this bag behind my back (like a back pack). If my hands are busy carrying groceries or something else, I use this bag as a backpack and don't have to worry about it slipping off my shoulder.

On the inside it has one large open compartment, and three pockets: one zipped and two open.

It is made out of leather. What allows it to fold is that it is made out of panel of leather connected by  canvas.  The only down side of this design is that the bag is not water proof.  The water can get in through the fabric channels between the leather panels.  Cleaning recommendations are to clean it with a dry cloth.  This bag does not like water!

Overall, cute, has a couple of unique features, but keep it packed away during rain.
You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Book review: Clear Seeing Place: Studio Visits by Brian Rutenberg

Ever wondered what the artist is feeling and thinking as he creates the art?

I loved the style of Brian Rutenberg writing. It reminded me of the writing style one of my favorite authors, John Irving, where simple thoughts are expressed so well (and would I say beautifully) that I want to read it slowly so I soak in every sentence.   My only disappointment with the book is that it did not include more of Brian's art, and that a few paintings that were included were in black and white. After a few chapters I went to visit his YouTube videos and it really added to my enjoyment of the book because I could picture what he is talking about.

If you ever wondered what the artist is feeling and thinking as he creates the art this book lets you understand the process of at least one artist. Turns out Brian does not think when he paints.  It is not something I ever imagined to be the case but I understood why this is so after reading the book.

I really enjoyed reading the description of his visit to the Jackson Pollock studio. It was interesting to read what was important to him and what he looked for in the studio. Only another artist would have expected what caught his attention.  I also enjoyed his thoughts and process on creating original works. Limiting your perspective may sound counter intuitive but again it began making sense after reading his thoughts about it.

This book lets me get into the head of an artist. It surprises me. It entertained me.  It educated me.  It made me want to read it slowly so I can enjoy it longer. 

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Friday, January 6, 2017

Product review: Cord Connect Water-Tight Cord Lock - Green

I purchased this cord lock to protect an extension cord which I need to power my heated outdoor mat. I used it all last winter and it stayed dry inside through rain and snow.   I took inside for the summer and just put it out again.

This lock is adjustable in size, I can adjust its size to fit a variety of plugs and make it larger or smaller as needed. It is made out of heavy duty plastic and looks as good as it did before spending the winter outdoors.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★★

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Product review: Maverick ET-733 Long Range Wireless Dual Probe Meat Thermometer

I have been using Maverick thermometer for a week, including cooking the Thanksgivings feast.  The highlights for me were its accuracy and the fact that the receiver worked well at a long distance. I could would how my turkey was progressing in a room 40 feet away from the oven.

Despite key great features it is not perfect.  In this review I will highlight its strengths and weaknesses.

The first thing I did is to measure the accuracy of the thermometer.  My video shows this test.  Checking accuracy of the thermometer is very easy because we know the temperature at which the water boils at sea level is 212°F degrees.  The video shows the reading of both the transmitter and the receiver.  The thermometer final reading is 214, which is 2 degrees higher than boiling water.  This test shows that the thermometer is accurate within 2 degrees, which is acceptable. It shows this measurement consistently during several tests.

I like that the thermometer comes with two units: the transmitter which has the probes attached, and the receiver a unit which you can place where it is convenient so you can see and hear what is going with the temperature of the probe.  It will communicate with the transmitter up to 300 feet away.

The package includes a clip stand which attaches to the back of the unit, so it is easy to see.

The sensors are heat resistant for up to 716°F and come with wires that are 3 feet long. Enough to put the transmitted on top of the oven when the probes piece the meat. 

The transmitter unit is water tight, to open the battery compartment you need a small screw driver.  The receiver unit is not water tight, so the battery compartment has just a sliding cover.  The unit comes with batteries, but they were carbon batteries that we decided not to use and used our own alkaline batteries.

On the negative side, the initial sync function did not work smoothly.  The documentation says it should have happened automatically, but it did not. It took multiple manual attempts until it finally worked.  This is the steps:
1) Turn off both units. Then turn on the receiver by holding the on button for 2 seconds.
2) The turn on the transmitter by holding the on button for 2 seconds.
3) Then hit the sync button on the back of the transmitter for 2 seconds until the receiver shows the same temperature.  This function did not work when I had only one probe inserted. When I inserted both probes it worked.  Initially I was only planning to use one probe, but with two probes I was able to get the temperature from two different parts of the turkey.

"Taste" button controls the wellness of the meat.  For turkey there are no options, the only available temperature is 170°F.  I expected the thermometer to beep when it reached 170°F, but it did not.  The temperature just went past 170°F. I would have preferred an alarm to let me know that it is time to stop cooking.

I also wanted to use the temperature probe to measure the temperature of scallops which was I was defrosting.  The probe was not able to measure the temperature when it was below freezing. It displayed "LLL". It did work properly when it reached the 32°F.

Overall, pretty good, I wish it would beep when the goal temperature was reached and this is why I rate it good (4 stars) rather than great (5 stars).

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★★★☆

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Product review: Home-X Salt and Seed Spreader

This salt shaker was a disappointment. I imagined that it was similar to a spice shaker where I can cover the holes of the shaker by twisting the cap in some way, and open the holes when I need to use the shaker. Turns out that this salt shaker cannot be closed. The cap has permanent openings. This means if the shaker tips over the salt spills out of the shaker. In addition the salt cannot be stored in this container as it will turn into a brick by absorbing moisture. Finally, I hoped that the shaker would be made out of heavy duty plastic, but the plastic is pretty thin.

My plan for the shaker was to keep it in my car so I can have it ready in case the steps to my house ice up when I arrive home after a day at work. So I needed to come up with solution that would keep the salt from spilling out in the car. I found a thin piece of plastic that I could insert under the cap and still be able to twist the cap. Before using the shaker I need to remove the cap and remove the plastic. The plastic needs to be replaced every few uses as it gets torn by the threads of the cap.

The shaker is 10.5" tall, and 3.5" wide. In attached video I have it next to a half gallon jug of water for comparison. The holes are 1/4 in diameter and work well with Calcium Chloride Pellets but are too small for rock salt. Pellets came out in a nice amount (not too much not too little), but rock salt is a bit too large so I got only a few smaller rocks with each shake.

Looking at how this shaker is built one can create their own shaker from an old coffee jug (or any similar container) by drilling 1/4 inch holes in the jug cover. And if you have multiple jugs covers for that container you can switch between them: use one to store the salt and one to dispense the salt when needed.

With my "fix" it is usable, but overall I am disappointed. A local home improvement store has a shaker full of salt with a closing lid for $10. I hoped I was getting a better shaker but I did not. When time comes to replace this shaker I will be looking for a different model.

You can find it on Amazon by following this link.

Ali Julia review ★★☆☆☆