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December 29,2006(FastCarsFriday)

We got a ton of emails asking about the Wishblade... the a majority of them were from guys.  I guess since this unit is basically marketed to the scrapbooking crowd, we should not have been that surprised.  Many of the questions asked were about the precision and qualities of the cuts.  Now that we are starting to see what the Wishblade can really do...we chose a more complicated image (again from our favorite Porsche Boxster info source...PPBB) for our next project.

The image was imported and cleaned using Photoshop, converted to a grayscale, and the outline extracted using Inkscape.  After putting the file through the usual conversion steps, we hand removed some of the smaller vectors to make the cutting faster.  You can see the cuts better on the one backlit using the screen.  Click on the images below to get a closer view of the actual cut.

The Wishblade was able to handle this complicated cut with no problems.  We knew the machine is able to make really fine straight cuts, but we were really impressed with its ability to handle fairly tight and closely spaced curves!  Our next project will involve making a 3-D sine wave from a bunch of slices...


December 27,2006(WishbladeWednesday)

The Xyron Wishblade arrived at the RainyDayMagazine office in October.  We had been playing with it on and off for the past couple of months.  Our biggest obstacle was setting up a reasonable workflow of designing the outlines on the Mac and cutting the shapes with the PC driving the Wishblade.

The software which came with the Wishblade is fine if you want to cut TrueType fonts or create shapes from scratch.  It was not that useful if one wanted to trace complicated shapes like chinese characters or logos.  After a little work, we discovered that for tracing, most folks use a piece of open source software called InkScape.

After resolving some workflow (Mac->PC) and file format conversions (SVG->DXF->GSD) issues, we finally got what we wanted... a file that would drive the Wishblade and cut a complicated chinese character originally painted using a brush.

The card above was made by removing the inside and using the cutout.  It is also possible to cut and use the "positive" to create a shape.  We did just that with a file (Porsche Boxster S logo) supplied by our PPBB friend UKChris.

With a little creativity and patience, there are a lot of really cool projects which can be done with this Wishblade cutter.  We have just begun to scratch the surface of the potential of this machine. 

Now that we are more familiar with the workflow, we are able to take a shape and convert it into a "cutting file" in just a few minutes on the Mac and have it cutting on the PC.  The flow would be better if the Wishblade software could import SVG / DXF files or if Inkscape could save them in GSD format.  Of course, the ideal situation would be if Inkscape could drive the Wishblade directly from the Mac.  Maybe in 2007 :-)


December 23,2006(SearsSaturday)

Still have some last minute shopping for that DIY guy on your list?  Need some suggestions on useful tools?  You should just get yourself over to the nearest Sears store and just wander around.

One of the newer product you may come across is the Craftsman 7-pc or 14-pc Hex Key Set.  This set with it T-handle is perfect for those tough job which requires just a little more torque.  Click on the images to get a closer look at the other features.

This new set will complement another set which we had picked a few years back.  The Husky set is compact and quite portable.  The keys may be inserted into the handle for when extra leverage is required.

Both sets are fine and will last a long time.  One thing about Craftsman tools is they carry a lifetime warranty against defects... something many other manufacturers do not offer.


December 22,2006(FinallyItsFriday)

So many of you wrote and asked to see more of the OtterBox laptop case that we decided to post these pics before the FirstUse report.  We are still going to drop the case (with a laptop in it) into a swimming pool, but it may be awhile before we can set it up.

Anyway, after using this case for about a month, we are confident this OtterBox laptop case will stand up to pretty much any abuse short of running it over with our truck.

Anyway, the main difference between the OtterBox laptop case and every other case out there is OtterBox's ability to keep water out.  In the pics below, you can clearly see the seal ring surrounding the entire edge of the case.  Also note the drainage holes (red arrow) in the lock rod section.

There are two different sets of corner bumpers in the collection, which can be used in combination depending on the size of the laptop.  There are also two bumpers for side protection.  If properly placed, the laptop should not shift in the case during transport.

The rubber acts both as a grip as well as a shock absorber.  The velcro backing makes it easy to place the bumpers exactly where you want them.

The strap and hook are both very heavy duty.  This combo is not going to come apart when you are running from one end of DFW to the other.  This case is built to take some abuse.

Now you know why we are confident enough to trust our beloved Apple G3 laptop to this OtterBox laptop case and that the case will keep the G3 dry when we toss the whole thing into a swimming pool. Keep your eye out for the video...it'll be fun :-)


December 20,2006(WowUsWednesday)

The RainyDayKitchen folks have been reviewing espresso makers all year.  This is a crowd not easily impressed when it comes to automatic coffee machines.  They have reviewed a wide range of machines, from the $20 AeroPress all the way up to the $3000 Jura.

This week UPS dropped off Le Cube from Nespresso.  We were amazed at how great this machine looks.  It is compact, retro, and high-tech.  The dark grey color blends well into most decors.  The wide selection of pods lets everyone in the office make their favorite blend any time they want.  How great is that?

The package came with the machine, instructions, a box of sample pods, and some espresso glasses.  We also got a sizeable Nespresso Club intro pack: 12 pods, a single espresso glass, a double espresso glass, and saucers to match. 

Before we can use the Le Cube, we had to prime it by running water through it a few times. The pump was pretty quiet and the water heated very quickly.  The temperature of the water averaged around 163º. 

The machine was very easy to use...lift the lever, insert a pod, press a button.  The pics below show the pod after it has been used. It clearly shows how the water was injected into the pod via the two holes at the smaller end and the espresso is pushed out the grid at the silver end.

The first cup we made with the Le Cube looked great...nice crema, rich dark color, great espresso aroma.  The taste was everything we had hoped for...rich and smooth.  This unit is definitely worth checking out (click on any of the images to get a closer look) if you are in the market for an espresso machine this Holiday Season.


December 19,2006(TravelTechTuesday)

Need to travel for the Holidays this year?  Hate to ask for directions? Want to know how the traffic is up the road?  The latest version of CoPilot Live may be exactly what you need.

The folks here at RainyDayMagazine are no strangers to the ALK CoPilot GPS software.  We have been using it since...as long as we can remember.  There is a version for pretty much every device out there (Smartphones, PocketPC, Moto Q, etc.).  Our first version was V2.0 for the iPaq.  The ALK folks just released version 10.0 for the laptop!

The laptop package contains a CD-ROM and a GPS receiver.  The CD contains maps of the US and Canada, a database of over 6,000,000 points of interest, and software for trip planning and guidance.

Installing the software on our Sony XP laptop went off without a hitch.  The software has to be "activated" via a key from the ALK site.  The "activation" is a one time task and fairly painless.  The entire installation process took about 15 minutes.

One of the major advantages of using a PC laptop as a GPS is the HUGE display.  This Sony is pretty small, but it is still much bigger than most dedicated units. 

The larger display is a welcome change to the tiny screens (Smartphone, iPaq) we have used in the past.  Now that everything is up and running, we are going to take this out to the Boxster and go for a drive:-)


December 18,2006(MeowMonday)

Eliot, like many cats, loves enclosed spaces.  In fact, Eliot will climb into a box even if there is no way he could be comfortable in it just to see... see what we don't know.

When the SleepyPod first came to the RainyDayMagazine office, Eliot was all over it.  Today, Eliot is still enjoying his "personal space" as defined by the SleepyPod.  It is also a LOT more comfortable.

Around the same time we got the SleepyPod, we also received this giant "kitty condo".  Eliot loved climbing on it, but we couldn't keep both in the office, so we gave Eliot a choice.  He could have either the giant "kitty condo" or the SleepyPod... guess which one stayed?  

In case you were wondering what happened to the giant "kitty condo"...it went to very good home of a reader with more space and lots of cats :-)


December 17,2006(ShowerSunday)

It is Sunday and everyone here knows what that means... we are going to take our weekly shower whether we need it or not.  Before we can take our weekly shower, we must first complete the the latest RainyDayRenovations project... installing the new SimpleHuman Flip and Fit Shower Caddy.

Attaching the Flip and Fit Shower Caddy is a "one screw" task.  The rubber trim will fit tightly around 1/2" pipe to the shower head.  The only thing to make sure of is that the rail is hanging straight down.  If it is too angled, it will not attach properly at the bottom.

The sliding shelves can be shifted and adjusted to accommodate different sized bottles... even upside down placements!   We liked the left and right configuration best as it allowed the top basket to be lowered enough such that it did not interfere with the water coming out of the shower head.

The rubber ring around the shower head and the pivoting anchor at the bottom allows the unit to be easily centered.  When properly attached, the entire unit is VERY stable and does not shift around.

So if the clutter in the shower is getting to the point where you must take care in turn around in the there, then it is probably time to order one of these caddy from SimpleHuman.


December 16,2006(SimpleHumanSaturday)

Yes...this is a shower caddy.  However, since it is from SimpleHuman, it means it is thoughtfully designed, highly functional, and well engineered.  Just click on the images for a close-up look if you need more convincing.

The top hook has a rubber ring insert and is designed to wrap around the pipe to the shower head.  A screw secures the the hook to the body to prevent it from accidentally unhooking.  The bottom of the unit is stablized by a silicone suction cup/ pin mechanism.  This allows the anchor to shift slightly while keeping everything secured...quite a clever design!

The rail is made of extruded brushed aluminum.  It has a nice smooth satin finish and should look great and last quite a long time.  The baskets are chrome plated steel and should be able to hold full size shampoo and bottles without bending or distorting.

The center photo shows the clasp in the lock position.  When lifted into the unlock position, the basket then may be moved up, down, left, or right.  This allows the shower caddy to accommodate different size bottles and other oddly shaped items.

If you really need directions, SimpleHuman made them both simple and human readable.  Tomorrow, we'll show you how this Flip and Fit shower caddy looks installed.


December 15,2006(Friday)
We thought we would be ready to review some space heaters by now...but the New England weather is tricky.  It was 50º today :-)  So I guess it will be a few more days before we can put these new Honeywell units to the test.

The nice UPS and USPS guys also dropped off a few other items yesterday.  It seems no one had time yesterday to take them out of their shipping boxes.  We'll unpacked them as soon as we are done with our morning coffee. 


December 14,2006(TechTunesThursday)

Want the volume controls directly on the speakers? Want room-filling sound but don't have the space for a subwoofer? The Logitech Z-10 may be what you are looking for.

These are great looking speakers.  The display and touch sensitive controls are underneath the smooth glossy black surface.  The setup looks pretty simple...just one USB connector.  We'll hook it up to a few computers and let you know how they sound.


December 13,2006(WowUsWednesday)

We have been playing with the MindSpa device for the past month.  In fact, some of the folks who were reluctant to use the MindSpa are now converts!

Others have taken the MindSpa with them while traveling and have reported that using it before going to sleep made a big difference in reducing the amount of time it took to relax and actually get to sleep.  We are definitely intriqued by the MindSpa.  Our question now is how to objectively measure its effects.  Any ideas?


December 12,2006(TravelTechTuesday)

Some of us have been traveling quite a bit these past few months.  While we have a nice collection of travel gear we can pull from the equipment shelf, we have consistently chosen certain pieces every time we've travelled.

We've been using the Slappa Fliptop to protect our laptop.  This case is basically a big shoulder bag, which is exactly why it is so versatile.  It's perfect for getting through airport security: the large flap makes it very easy to take the laptop in and out of the case.

The Fliptop is large enough for most 15" laptops.  We paired the Slappa Fliptop with the Pacific Design's Nucleus case.  The Nucleus is just right for papers and other smaller bits.

For transporting clothing and other travel items, we have been using the Slappa Bulkhead.  This case is just big enough for packing three days worth of clothing (2 shirts, pair of pants, etc...) and toiletries.

The Slappa Bulkhead can also be separated into two pieces with just a quick unzip, perfect for slimming down if the trip is just a one-nighter.  While the outer case is better for clothing, it can also serve as a laptop carrier for the day.  

The combination of the Pacific Design Nucleus, Slappa FlipTop Pro, and the Slappa BulkHead makes travelling just a bit easier... and a whole lot more stylish :-)  Go check out the other Slappa and Pacific Design offerings for all of your travel needs!


December 11,2006(HeartMonitorMonday)

We got the DailyCare ReadyMyHeart monitor back in October.  Things got so busy that we have not had time to play with it until now.  The basic unit is about the size of an iPod.  They layout of the unit is very clean and simple. There are two metal contacts on the side, and LCD display in the middle, and three buttons at the bottom (Power, Monitor, Transfer).

The unit also comes with contacts for attaching to the other parts of the body (forearm, chest), a carry case, USB transfer cable, and charting software.  The unit can store up to 30 readings before they have to be downloaded to the computer.

The past few weeks have had us shuttling back and forth between Boston and Dallas.  It has been taxing our our sleep habits and our coronary health...being that whenever we go to Texas, we like to avail ourselves of their fine steak offerings :-)

This weekend, we decided to get some baseline ECG readings before things get too skewed from all of our meat eating:-)  We noticed right away this monitor is really easy to use... just turn it on, sit in a relaxed position, place the thumbs on the metal contacts...and 30 seconds later, the reading is complete.  Check out the video.

There is a tracking and graphing application included with the Daily Care ReadMyHeart Monitor.  We will install the software (PC only) this week and download the data.  The device is well designed, the reading is quick, and the interface is simple to use.  Our first experience with the ReadMyHeart monitor was very positive, which was great...because the last thing we needed was stress from the thing that was suppose to help monitor our health. 

As part of our new health and fitness program (to be started at on Jan 1, 2007), we'll take a heart reading every week for three months to see what kind of data one gets from this device and how it can help us monitor our heart's health.


December 10,2006(WeekendEdition)

Two years ago we went to the SOWA Holiday Show.  We missed it last year and quite a few of you wrote and wondered why.  I don't remember, but we made sure we stopped by and checked it out this year.

This year's Holiday Market was held in the new gymnasium of Cathedral High School on Union Park Street in Boston's South End.  There were 75 vendors showing all different kinds of high quality gifts, such as affordable art by Kimberly of Miximals and handmade books by Rob Charlton of Goosefish Press.

We were particularly taken by the pottery and sculptures by Steve Murphy.  Click on the various sculptures in the image above to get a closer look...there is more than meets the eye.

Of course, it would not be a Holiday Show if there weren't some fun ornaments and related crafts!  The folks at SwirlyDesigns (one of our favorite local vendors) were at the Market with their latest creations.

Our last stop of the day was the booth serving hot cocoa. If you love chocolate, then you should check out the delicious offerings from BestFriendsCocoa.  Their chocolates are all natural, fat free, and kosher certified.  They are also based out of Arlington MA :-)  We are going to have to get some for the RainyDayKitchen!


December 9,2006(WeekendEdition)

The crack reporters here at RainyDayMagazine bring you news of the world of gear and gadgets by...scouring all the other gear sites on the web.  When we want hard, fact-filled world news, we turn to our favorite dynamic duo, The Daily Show and the Colbert Report.

Last July, we made a special trip to NYC, stood in line outside (but under an awning) for two hours, and got to be audience members for an episode of The Daily Show (interesting fact: the taping is only about 15 minutes longer than the actual show).  We hope to be able to do the same with The Colbert Report soon, but hopefully with not so much of the standing in line thing.

RainyDayMagazine would like to congratulate Stephen Colbert for having "truthiness," a word he coined in 2005, chosen as Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year 2006.

The folks here saw that particular episode.   We remembered the exact moment when we heard the term and knew we were witnessing something "special."  Congrats Stephen...from one group of "real" journalists to another...and THAT's the word :-)


December 8,2006(FatStorageFriday)

The Seagate 500GB drives for the RAID project finally arrived.  We now have everything we needed for this big fat storage system (FBSS) project!

The four bay storage tower is from Addonics.  The interface is USB 2.0.  We decided on the USB 2.0 interface both because it is fast and simple.  The decision of what to put in the other two bays have not been finalized.  Any suggestions?

The UPS guy also dropped off this really cool set of speakers from Logitech.  We don't know too much about these Z-10 speakers yet, but we will after this weekend.

The most distinctive feature about these speakers is obviously the integrated display and controls.  We'll have the usual FirstLook and FirstUse reviews ASAP!


December 7,2006(CleanTechThursday)

We got a sample of this "molecular screen cleaner" from Purosol last week.  It seemed like a marketing gimmick so nobody paid much attention to it.

A few days ago, we got some gunk one of the displays. Rubbing it with our fingers didn't make it any better.  We thought we didn't have much to risk by trying this spray :-) 

We spritzed some on and wiped it with the microfiber cloth.  To our amazement, the screen was cleaned on the first wipe. We were quite impressed with the results.  The screen was clean and streak-free. 

There has been no dust accumulation since we cleaned it four days ago.  We are not sure what is in it, but is is definitely more than just water :-)  We are going to have to find out more about this product.  We may also have to do some comparison tests with water, Windex, and some of the other standard cleaners to see if this stuff is really better!


December 6,2006(WowUsWednesday)

It is always fascinating to find how much technology were actually known (and lost) to past civilizations.  One artifact discovery more than a century ago was recently revealed via sophisticated imaging technolgy to be an ancient astronomical computer.

The device was composed of complex gearing and other intricate mechanisms hand-crafted from bronze.  If they were able to construct something this intricate, just let your imagination run and wonder about all of the other "devices" which they may have created... thousands of years before the invention of the mechanical watch.


December 2-3,2006(WeekendEdition)

One of the reasons why we haven't posted in a few days is because we have been traveling.  This weekend, a few of us were up in Portsmouth NH to take in some of their seasonal events (holiday parade, candlelight stroll at Strawbery Banke, etc...).

We arrived on Friday during the pouring rain.  By Saturday, everything had dried and all of the festivities were in full swing.  Possibly everybody from the City of Portsmouth was either in or watching the parade.

We stayed at a lovely place called the Martin Hill Inn, about 10 minutes from all of the above.  Some of us were completely charmed by the fact that the original house is just about 200 years old while others were delighted by it being so close to everything we wanted to do that we could walk to almost whatever we wanted.

The bedroom (called "The Guestroom") had a wonderful four-poster bed and comfy armchairs for reading.  The Winter Parlor was the perfect place to peruse the papers (such as The New Hampshire Gazette - "If it was good enough for John Paul Jones to advertise in, it's good enough for you") while others became a dab hand at, er, absconding with the chocolate-chip cookies in the the Dining Room.

When Carolyn is done with her lounging in the parlor, she will have a full write-up on the Martin Hill Inn and all of our activities from this  weekend over the course of next week.


December 1,2006(FlashFriday)

Lumaray has just introduced an upgrade to there futuristic line of LED flashlights.  The FL12rx is a 12 LED version which has a few options which cannot be replicated by their incandescent counterparts.

We just got the unit in and have not had a chance to put it through its paces yet, but we are quite intriqued by the various options we managed to stumbled upon just by playing with it.  The red LED for night vision preservation (we presumed) will be fun to play with.

Just like the upgraded FL6 head, the FL12 will not fit the older Lumaray body.  The changes were both for reliability and better quality control reasons.  We love the new look, but we still would not try to take one of them with us on a plane :-)


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