FTC Disclosure

Life is complicated enough without getting into hotwater with federal agencies so: TAKE NOTE Many things I review I got at no charge in exchange for an honest review. Consider this as informing you that ALL things I review may have been gotten at no charge. Realistically about 60% but in order to keep things above board just assume that I got the stuff free. Words like, “sponsored,” “promotion,” “paid ad” or even just “ad” are clear ways to disclose that you’re being paid to share information and links so BE AWARE that some of what I write can be described as an AD by the government. BTW I will NEVER say a product is great, super or even acceptable if it isn't whether I got it free or NOT!

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Please check out my other blogs
Pick of the Literate 
or Azure Dwarf’s Horde
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Friday, July 30, 2010

Kindle Fights Back


Thar's a new sheriff in town and he's a'fixin to grab market share.   The new kindle has been announced, WiFi only for $139.00.   Zdnet's article does a good job on describing it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

CDN BBQ Fork Thermometer Model DBBQ212

The fork appears to be durable but I still prefer my tongs for steaks. It does a good job on temperature measurement. My big gripe is that it is slow and too short. Short could be overcome if it gave you an instant temperature reading. However when it is slow and short there is a tendency to lose all the hair on your knuckles. This is making the rash assumption that you have hair on your knuckles. I do and burnt hair is in no way aromatic.

So for the price it is a good deal. I got it at Amazon for a whopping $12.49.
It does the job for which I purchased it. Given a choice I would prefer a longer handle or a faster temperature reading but again for the price it is a good value for the money.

I received no compensation for this post.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Augen’s The Book

5/15/11 UPDATE  Zero Tech Support must disqualify my recommendation  on  this unit.

I’ve been toying with the idea of an eBook reader for months. When Barnes and Noble came out with the Nook I was almost hooked. The features and price were good.

As always, I dithered and reading last Sunday’s paper I saw an ad at Kmart for an eBook reader for $89.99 with a color LCD screen. I tried to get some data on it but the web was surprisingly empty of info on Augen and their products. The Aguen website is a veritable wasteland, practically no information.

I stewed over it for 24 hours and went over to Kmart to look at one, decided what the hey and bought one.

Initial impressions are important. The packaging was good and the book is nicely wrapped in a leather case. The manual is a bit of a joke. I’ve gotten more information on battery toothbrushes.

The unit has a nice feel to it. It isn’t too heavy and the screen is very clear and sharp.

The wi-fi connection was easily established but don’t plan on this being your web browser. The wi-fi was fairly slow. Google gmail was painfully slow as was Yahoo. I found substantial lag on many movements. However I will continue to point out, this is primarily an eBook reader not an all purpose pad.

The Calibre software is nice looking but doesn’t work smoothly with this device. Since I don’t have any other eBook readers I don’t know if Calibre is less quirky with other readers. It works but you need to persevere. I downloaded the Adobe Digital Editions software and tried downloading a free eBook off of Amazon. It was a DRM file and supposedly the Adobe software would recognize the free aspect and manage to put it on my eBook. Didn’t work. Since I don’t like the entire DRM policy, I haven’t pursued trying to make it work.

I loaded some mp3 files and it plays them just fine. If you want any sound out of the internal speakers you need to take the reader out of the leather case. Headphone jack is standard and the headphones sounded just fine.

I tried a couple of videos. A video I shot loaded but it was very choppy. I commercial video I downloaded wasn’t even recognized. Since I didn’t plan on watching videos on this I haven’t pursued that area but I am not impressed with the video aspect.

I like the option of adding an SD card but I can’t even imagine ever having that many books on it. I may try a video on that when I have the time.

The battery seems to hold a charge well. I have only charged it twice in the last 6 days.

The text editor works but I am not sure what you would use it for. Even with a full keyboard it is still a tiny keyboard although compared to my phone I guess it is huge.

The best feature of this reader is the actual reading part.

The words are clear, you can change the font, you can go from portrait to landscape. I sat out on the deck and watched the kids swim until well after dark. I was able to read with no issues. It would be nice if the paging button was back lit as I periodically lost the button when chastising the swimmers in regards to their behavior.

I loaded my book up with all my Baen free library books. If you like scifi Baen should be on your favorite/bookmarks list. It is a great site and there are some super books on it for free download. The reader comes with a bunch of free books. Loading the books wasn’t seamless but it worked ok.

Overall this is a very good unit particularly for the price.

Features and Specifications:

•E-Book Reader
•Wi-Fi Connectivity with Full Web Browsing Capability where available
•Built-In Speaker for sharing
•E-Book Conversion & Content
•File Management Software
•Content Provider Partner “ebooksmedia.com" with DRM/SDK9 license
•Can also play MP3 Audio Files
•Can play Video files
•2GB Internal Memory - Stores up to 1400 Books
•Standard SD Card Slot - allows memory Expansion or inserting audio and video files downloaded from your PC or Digital Camera
•Rechargeable Li-ion Battery
•Includes Leather Carrying Case
•includes WordPad for Note Taking/ Text Editing
•Read in Landscape or Portrait View
•Zoom In/Out Function
•Includes 150 pre-installed books
•Screen: 7" diagonal 800 x 480 Pixels color TFT
•Unit Dimensions: 8.9" x 5.1" x .5" / Weight: 10 ounces
•Formats: ADE for DRM content plus TXT, PDF, HTML, CHM, RTF, EPUB, FB2, MOBI/PRC
•Expansion capability using Optional choice of SD MMC SDHC card up to 8GB
•Accepts Image Files: JPG, BMP, GIF, PNG
•Sound File capabilities: MP3, WMA, FLAC, AAC
•Video: WMV and MP4
•TTS (Text to Speech) supported
•Rechargeable Li-Ion battery 2100mAh (up to 8 hours in e-reader mode)
•QWERTY Keyboard
•CPU: Ingenic 4755, Arm9 400 MHz
•OS: Linux 2.6.24
•Also includes: User manual; Leather Carrying Case; UL Certified AC Adapter

This was not a paid blog.


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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Does PC Boot Up Lag Make You Want To Throw Up?


If you want to pull out your Louisville Slugger and waffle your PC every time you boot up, there may be a FREE solution. Sometimes it seems to take forever to boot up your computer. This is generally due to software applications battling to see who’s up first and who gets the resources.

Soluto is a company that claims to have a solution called PC Boot and they are offering it for FREE. There was a good article on nytimes.com  that detailed the companies work. Their goal is to eliminate the frequency and duration of the dreaded Windows hour glass. They feel they can sell these solutions to corporate entities that can benefit due to  the cumulative time saved by employees who are now seated, staring aimlessly in space waiting for the blankety blank computer to respond.

I’ve tried their free application. It took my laptop a whopping 6:58 minutes to boot prior to installing their free applications. It took 19.45 minutes after installation to analyze my system and for me to decide which applications really needed to be in my boot up. After running the application it took 2:52 minutes to boot. This is a startling savings of 4:6 minutes. I have not seen any detrimental behavior in the laptop since running PC Boot. Anything that frees up my time is of value. You may want to check out this free application.

This was not a paid blog.



Saturday, July 17, 2010

Belkin Dual USB Car Charger

This is a very cool device. I have a car charger for all my current devices but if I didn’t I would jump on this item. It plugs into the 12V cigarette lighter/power socket in your car and provides two USB charging ports. Belkin claims they are quick charge ports but it also makes the use of your devices by plugging them in and saving your battery when you are away from your car.

Belkin says it is for the iPod and they do include an iPod/iPhone charge cable which is a good value all by itself. They also include a Mini-USB cable for non-Apple devices like phones and game players.

For the money, this is a no-brainer for your gadget box.

Belkin F8Z280 Dual USB Car Charger for iPod $19.86 at Amazon.


BTW another company called Griffin Technology has a similar product for $13.22. I have had good experience with Belkin so I would feel safer with them but Griffin Technology may be perfectly fine. Their product got 58 out of 73 either 4 or 5 star reviews on Amazon so it seems like it is a better deal than the Belkin.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cellular Signal Repeaters


Again, this is not merely a cell phone rant blog. At the moment it may seem to be one, but that is not my goal.

In my last post I discussed (disgust) my feelings about Verizon’s vaunted cell phone signal coverage. I mentioned that the local Verizon store told me that they don’t get a good signal at their location. I didn’t mention that he then suggested I purchase a signal booster. He said it was normally $350.00 but it currently had a $100.00 rebate. I asked if they had such an item why didn’t they have it in their store so people could get a good signal at their location. To me that seemed like a good idea and would help them sell more phones. He told me he had no idea why they didn’t use one or why they didn’t stock it.

I have several posts that mention that Verizon has such a device but I could not find it on their web site. I did read that they don’t charge you anything for using it which seems reasonable since it is their signal you can’t receive. I think they should give you the darn thing if they can’t provide a decent signal in your location.
Compunoodle
Repeaterstore
Tomsguide
Sprint has a similar device but they charge a monthly fee to use it.
There are multiple third party products that range widely and wildly in price.
Powerfulsignal
Amazon
The Amazon product is the least expensive one I found.

So if you live in a dreaded dead zone as I do, you may find one of these products will give you a useable cellular signal.  If I ever succumb to the lousy reception fix ugre I will review whatever one I get.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Droid X, Who Cares!

So who cares what the newest smart phone may be? The cell phone owners that live in Verizon’s bogus green zone reception areas aren’t going to get any better reception with a smart phone than they do with their dumb phones.

I’d love to have a smart phone and would be willing, albeit grudgingly, but willing to pony up the $30 per month data plan if, that’s IF I could get decent cell phone reception where I live.

Some how the Verizon solution of installing a cellular repeater for a couple of hundred bucks so I get a signal where I live, seems to run contrary to their advertisements of their great cellular coverage. I’m far to ornery to spend that money on getting cellular service I’m already suppose to have from my carrier

So I repeat myself, until Verizon truly has great coverage who cares what new smart phone is being released, sob, regardless of how much I might want one.  

There is no  love so sour as the love that is unrequited.  Someday, someday as Steve Jobs is my witness, I'll have cellular coverage in my home and a smart phone in my pocket!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Verizon’s Bogus Coverage Claims

My intent isn’t for this blog to become a cell phone rant fest. However looking at my past few posts, I am beginning to wonder if that is where I am going. I keep reading these great articles about how AT&T service is horrible and how great Verizon’s cellular coverage is. One article at PC World  was very convincing on why you should switch to an Android based phone and choose Verizon for your cellular coverage. I can only say, "Come stand in my front yard and see what kind of vaunted Verizon coverage you get. It just ain’t here!"

Please note that I do not, repeat do not live in a cave or some kind of remote area. I am in a populous suburb in not so rural Bucks County, PA. When I went to the unofficial but nevertheless labeled Verizon Wireless store with the Droid Incredible I returned I could not get one bar of service consistently. The clerk told me that they don’t have good signal strength at that location. The store is in the county seat of Bucks County hardly a bucolic bumpkin village and yet the vaunted Verizon coverage is weak at best.

So for the record, Verizon your cellular coverage does NOT measure up to your advertised performance.

Monday, July 5, 2010

My Droid Incredible just wasn’t incredible.

I have suffered with Droid envy for months. It used to be iPhone envy but that would have entailed a move to the dark side. I could cheerfully move to the Droid but reluctantly to the iPhone. The $29.95/month data plan was also a hang up. (pun intended) However I succumbed to my desire and ordered the Droid. When it didn’t arrive on the time schedule the Verizon rep had told me to expect, I called. Five frustrating calls later I found out it was not “really” in stock but would be soon.

Finally the anticipated day arrived. I felt like a 8 year old on Christmas morning. My frustration with activation is detailed on previous post. After activation I added a couple of neat applications. I added a bar code feature that allowed my phone to capture a bar code and then do a Google search online for the product. That was pretty cool and this is just a small peek into how retailing is going to be fraught with change.

I liked being able to set up my music as ring tones. That seems like that should be on every phone but at least I was finally able to attach the music I wanted to people who evoked memories of that song.

I downloaded a couple of books and used the pdf feature and read one of them in the Dr’s office while I waited, definitely a very good feature that made a lot of sense to me.

I was a little disappointed when I edited a photo to use as wall paper and the Droid did not like the edited photo. It displayed it but very, very blurred. I tried many different formats and sizes to no avail. I did not resolve this issue.

I am highly concerned about the number of folks who seem to feel talking on their cell while, smoking, eating and driving is reasonable. Since I hate to include myself in that category I decided to order a new hands free speaker phone. I got the Motorola T505 which allowed me to send the call through the car stereo. I was really tickled with that feature since you can then crank the volume up to finally hear some of those hard to hear calls. The Motorola paired easily and I could even play the music stored in the Droid on my car stereo. I could receive a call and answer with the Motorola and the Droid Incredible. Then I tried placing a call with the hands free mode. No luck. I paired the Motorola with my LG Dare and all features worked just fine. So I called Motorola and to be brief (really this is the succinct version) after a few dead ends I was told to talk to Verizon. I called Verizon tech support and was told to call HTC, the manufacturer of the Droid Incredible. The Verizon rep also suggested I go to the Verizon brick and mortar store for tech support. I never was able to get to HTC tech support. After 45 minutes of bad on hold music I gave up.

The next day I went to the local Verizon Wireless store. There I was told that they had no idea how to solve my problem. They weren’t an “official” Verizon Wireless store and I would have to drive another 15 minutes to get to the “official” Verizon wireless store.

Upon signing in at the “official” Verizon wireless store I was told to sign in for tech support. After a reasonable wait, made more reasonable by my ability to read a book on my Droid Incredible, I was taken. I explained my problem to the “official” Verizon tech who promptly told me, “none of the Droids support voice dialing” in the manner of the previous Verizon phones. He told me I could put their Voice Dial icon on my main screen and use it to voice dial. He knew of no way to use a voice dialing hands free device on the Droid. At this point I asked how to return the phone. He told me to go to the front. At the “front”, the woman asked me if the tech had transferred me to her. I admitted I had no idea and since she didn’t have my name on her screen, she told me I would have to sign in again. My pique may have shown so she asked what did I want? I asked how to return the phone and she told me the original packaging and such but she would be charging me a $35.00 restocking fee. I took umbrage to this and she said, “well if you got it online you can return it online with no restocking fee.”

I pondered my decision on the drive home.

I really liked the 8 mega pixel camera, I loved being able to read pdf files on the Droid. I was surprised to discover I could upload MS Office files and read them on the Droid too. The bar code application was really cool but….

I get no stinking signal at home. The only place I showed full signal bars was at the “official” Verizon store. At the unofficial Verizon store I didn’t show any bars and 1 bar was pretty much normal every where else. The 3g data worked fine as long as I was tied into my WIFI. Elsewhere my experience with Internet was iffy at best.

Perhaps I am a closet Luddite when I expect things to work the way they are advertised.

The decision made, I finally got a delightful woman named Diane at Verizon who listened sympathetically and told me how to return the Droid (not so) Incredible.

I’m not going to return the Motorola hands free unit and will review it after I have some use time. It works just fine with my two year old LG Dare. I’m stuck with the very cool, neon green, silicone glove I got to protect my new Droid and the clear screen covers I bought to protect the touch screen.

Since my Verizon service is just barely acceptable with the LG Dare it’s possible that my Verizon Dead Zone home contributed to the lack of incredibility of the Droid Incredible.

Considering the number of locales that have banned any cell phone use in the car without the implementation of a hands free unit, it is simply astounding to me that “none” of the Droids are capable of using voice dialing through a hands free unit.

As a pda the Droid Incredible is incredible, as a phone it is abysmal.

There needs to be some attention by Verizon to see that their signal strength meets their advertising copy and their phones work well as phones as well as multipurpose connection devices. Perhaps my next venture into the smart phone world I will rent a space next to the Verizon “official” store so I will at least have the signal strength to justify the smartness of the phone and it’s $29.95/month data plan.

Alas this prolonged epiphany has no happy ending, my Droid Incredible just wasn’t incredible.

Friday, July 2, 2010

10 Ways to Save Money On Electricity Bills


I got an email from these people and they suggested I link them to my blog.   It is a folksy kind of blog and I liked the post so here is their post on 10 Ways to Save Money On Electricity Bills

Thursday, July 1, 2010

APC Back-UPS ES 350G from CSN Stores

Power fluctuations both brown outs and blackouts are the biggest culprit in damaging your computers. Frankly brown outs are more insidious since you may be blithely unaware of their occurrence. CSN
approached me and asked if I would pick out a product to review from one of their stores. Since I had 4 short blackouts that very day, I decided to order a battery backup unit. These units are often referred to as UPSs. (uninterruptible power supplies) The unit I ordered was from American Power Conversion. (APC) I wanted one strong enough to keep the computer running when a blackout occurs. My intent is not to continue running during a blackout but to protect the computer from a crash when the power goes out. When a blackout occurs, a UPS gives you time to orderly close up your computer and thusly maintain your data integrity. I hate when I lose a file that I spent any time on, let alone any appreciable time.

I’ve copied the specs of the unit from the APC site and listed them below. Simply it has 6 outlets, 3 are battery and surge and three are just surge. Keep in mind we are talking two different things. The battery part allows you to shut down, the alarm will drive you nuts until you do shut down. The surge part is on all 6 outlets and that protects your from the dreaded power spikes. Believe it or not, we were struck by lightning once and lost a bunch of household electronics. At the time I only had my computers on surge suppressors. I lost a well pump, fridge, stereo, TV ect. I did not lose either computer. Both surge suppressors were fried but I didn’t lose either computer. So the surge part is very important. BTW I now have surges on practically every electronic device in the house and I put a whole house surge on the breaker panel. I am a true believer!

This unit was only $62.99 including shipping. Note due to the battery they are heavy so if you are price shopping you should make sure you are getting free shipping if you find a better price.

I ordered the UPS from CSN on Thursday and got it on Monday. I plugged it in overnight to charge the battery. I tested it this afternoon by plugging a 150 watt light bulb into one of the battery outlets. I got 4 minutes and 31 seconds of protection before the unit shut off the light. That may not seem like a lot but keep in mind your average laptop doesn’t draw more than 35 or 40 watts and my desktop uses 120 watts. (I used Microsoft Joulemeter to figure that out.)
This unit will give you adequate time to shut your system down. I want to thank CSN stores for giving me the unit to test. They did not make any attempt to influence the review. One caveat on their web description of the BE350G, they indicate it has AVR (automatic voltage regulation). I could not find that feature mentioned in any of APC’s documentation.

Conclusion:  If you want battery backup protection and surge supression for slightly more than you  will pay for just surge supression, this  is a good choice, a good bang for the buck.  

BE350G Features :

Battery failure notification
Provides early-warning fault analysis on batteries enabling timely preventive maintenance
Battery-protected and surge-only outlets
Reserves power capacity and run time for connected equipment that require battery back-up while providing surge only protection for less critical equipment
Cold-start capable
Provides temporary battery power when the utility power is out.
Hot-swappable batteries
Ensures clean, uninterrupted power to protected equipment while batteries are being replaced
Disconnected battery notification
Warns when a battery is not available to provide backup power.
Dataline Surge Protection
Provides protection of connected equipment from power surges on the data lines.
Automatic self-test
Periodic battery self-test ensures early detection of a battery that needs to be replaced.
Audible alarms
Provides notification of changing utility power and UPS conditions.
User-replaceable batteries
Increases availability by allowing a trained user to perform upgrades and replacements of the batteries reducing Mean Time to Repair (MTTR)
Transformer-block spaced outlets
Protect equipment with input transformer blocks without blocking access to other receptacles.
Intelligent battery management
Maximizes battery performance, life, and reliability through intelligent, precision charging.
Safety-agency approved
Ensures the product has been tested and approved to work safely with the connected service provider equipment and within the specified environment.
Lifetime data recovery warranty
Provides peace of mind by providing professional data recovery services in the event data is lost due to the failure of the unit.
Battery replacement without tools
Allows quick, easy battery replacement.
LED status indicators
Quickly understand unit and power status with visual indicators.

 Money Saving Tech Tips