RainyDayMagazine's content can now be licensed for your print magazine or web site. Please contact us directly here. If you want to see something reviewed, then drop us a note with a link and we'll be happy to take a look.
We know, we know...it's Monday and the last thing you need is somebody trying to convince you that math is fun. However, with Zome, it REALLY is fun. Computers can make visualizing complex structures easier, but there is nothing like making the structure and holding it in your hands.
A four dimensional hypercube is impossible to construct in our three dimensional world. The closest possible structure we can make is what a 4D hypercube's shadow would look like in a 3D world.
If you are having trouble visualizing it, try the following: first imagine how 3D object's (the cube) shadow would appear in a 2D world (the wall). Now take that one step further...where each corner of a 4D cube is a 3D cube, flatten one of the dimensions and you will get the shadow of the 4D hypercube as a 3D cube above. Don't worry, that explanation didn't help us neither.
Zome construction kits make the creation and exploration of these and other types of complex geometric structures simple, quick, and fun. The wide range of precise connection angles is the key to the connector sphere's flexibility.
The weather cooperated just long enough yesterday for everyone to have had a chance to get out and enjoy the Sheepshearing Festival. Music, food, sheepshearing...fun times!
If you didn't get out to the event yesterday, you can still check out the Sheepshearing festival here. Learn about Alpaca farming, watch an actual sheep being shorn, and read about some of the gear we used in the field to help us bring you the report. - Wan Chi Lau
Spring is the time of the year when our furry interns shed their Winter coat. Traditionally, it is also the time of year when sheep get their Winter coat "harvested." Today, we are going to witness such an event first hand.
It will also be a good chance for us to test some of our new gear. We'll have more to say about all this later today. In the mean time, get outside and enjoy the fine Spring weather :-) - Wan Chi Lau
We spent three hours at the festival, spoke to many merchants, crafts people, and artisans. We also sampled a bit of country fare, petted lots of animals, and generally had a great time.
There will be a full write-up on our visit, complete with videos of the shearing and other interesting bit. For now, click on the image above and get a closer look at the size of those scissors! - Wan Chi Lau
As most experienced photographers know, a tripod is a useful tool for capturing a good image and an essential tool when lighting conditions are challenging. Picking the right tripod can be a difficult decision. Criteria for choosing a tripod for the field are not be the same as that for the studio.
Since we do a lot of photography in both settings, we have amassed a reasonable collection of both types. In May, we'll be doing a series of articles on portable tripods. Some of these tripods have been reviewed by RainyDayMagazine and some have not. For those of you who want to get a jump on May's RainyDayPuzzler, start finding links to the manufacturers of the tripods shown above... hint, hint. We'll be giving away most of what you see to a few lucky readers!!! - Wan Chi Lau
So many of you have written to ask why we didn't offer an area on RainyDayMagazine where you can leave comments and chat with other readers. We know from your emails that there are many of you out there who are interested in building a RainyDayCommunity, but we weren't able to find the kind of tools which made it easy for us to build such a feature into the magazine.
Sure, there is lots of technology available for building these communities and we have looked at many of them. The one which impressed us the most is MyLifeBrand. We think they will be making a big splash in the coming months. You can get a FirstLook now... ahead of the pack :-)
Click on the arrow above, follow the directions, and try out this brand new way of organizing all of your Web life. Remember...this is Alpha, so play with it, try to break it, and tell us what you think! - Wan Chi Lau
TheDraganFlyer is a really fun helicopter to fly. However, if you want to fly four of them at once, it can be difficult even if you are an experienced RC pilot...unless you are these guys. They can do it completely hands-free!
Not only have they rigged up the DraganFlyer to fly autonomously, the software controlling these helicopters will enable them to behave as a "swarm" and track moving objects over a large area. There are plenty of videos on the MIT UAV Swarm project site. Go check it out and get "wow'ed." - Wan Chi Lau
This week is SciTech week in Cambridge, so we thought it fitting we feature some fun science toys on RainyDayMagazine. Zome was first mentioned back in 2004.
Their product are the modern version of the erector set. With Zome, one can explore the micro-structural world of virus or that of the four dimensional hypercube.
The key to Zome's versatility are the globe-shaped connector nodes. They enable the construction of structures which would be impossible to make with other kits.
The folks at Zome have been constantly expanding their offerings for both kids and adults alike. We thought the Glow-in-the-Dark Creator Kit we got is a great addition to the line up. What should be the first structure we build with this kit?- Wan Chi Lau
Mirra Personal Server from Seagate is an always-on network backup solution for the Small Office/Home Office environment. Once set up, Mirra will make automated backup of files of any computer on the network.
The Mirra comes with everything needed (software, hardware, cables) to get it on the network. The system also includes a Mirra.com web account for accessing files from anywhere there is an Internet connection. Over the month of May, we'll show you how to hook up this unit, configure the software, and access you files from anywhere.
The unit we have has only 120GB of storage. While that will store quite a bit of emails and typical text documents, we'll probably increase the drive storage before putting this unit into service. If nothing else, it will make for a good RainyDayProject :-) - Wan Chi Lau
Every year (2005,2006,Carolyn's World) the finches return to their nest underneath the awning over the RainyDayMagazine office's front entry way. This year, we had a Nor'Easter the week they laid their eggs. We had meant to get up there to sneek a shot of the eggs before the storm. Today, the weather was warm enough that we got to take a quick peek.
We are not sure if the finches knew there was a storm coming, but they did build up the nest this year with an extra layer of greenery.
We counted five light blue eggs with little black specks in the nest. It'll be a few more weeks before they hatch. If we had gotten our act together, we would have had the "FinchCam" set up by now. We may still have time.
Buffy has learned that with a bell around her, there is little chance she will ever get close enough to snag one of those flying creatures. Eliot, being young and optimistic, refuses to let a little tinkling bell stand in the way of his hunting instincts. However, Eliot too, is constantly thwarted in his attempts at obtaining a feathery snack...no matter how high he climbs :-)
In fact, many of the flying visitors to the RainyDayGarden are brazenly eating right off the ground in front of the furry interns. They still need to be careful because not all of the hunters in the neighborhood have warning bells on their collars. If you are a cat owner and you let your pet run outside, we hope you will consider putting a bell on them. Your friends in the sky will appreciate it :-) - Wan Chi Lau
A week ago we got a quick demo of the new portable GPS from Harman Kardon called the Guide+Play. We received a unit in the mail yesterday.
All the maps are preloaded in this portable GPS unit, and it is pretty much ready-to-go right out of the box. The Guide+Play is different from other GPS devices we have looked at in the past. Besides being a handheld GPS, it is also a portable media player. It is capable of supporting most of the standard audio and video formats.
The Guide+Play is being charged now and the plan this weekend is to put the device through its paces. It'll be interesting to see how this portable unit stacks up against some of the other ones we have tried in the past. BTW...anyone know how many we've looked at over the years? - Wan Chi Lau
Anotherinteresting item which showed up at the office yesterday was the Neuros OSD. It was great timing because this device will let us easily record and move videos from a variety of sources (DVD, VHS, etc...) from our media library to our new Guide+Play.
Unlike devices such as AppleTV, the Neuros OSD has a unique open architecture design and encourages its users to hack it in any way they see fit. Anyone can come up with additional features for the unit and share those capabilities. We are looking forward to seeing a lot more end-user features/hacks for the Neuros OSD.
We'll have more to say about both of these gadgets once we get them unpacked and have had a chance to play with them some. Sometimes rain is not so bad. - Wan Chi Lau
One of the great joy of woodworking is making stuff you can use. It is even better when one is good enough to make the tools to make woodworking more enjoyable.
A solid workbench is an important tool for a woodworker. There are many good benches available for sale. A well made one can cost several hundreds to thousands of dollars. However, nothing compares to the satisfaction of making your own. If you have ever considered such a project, then you need to check out WorkbenchDesign.
The site is perfect reading for a rainy day. There are plenty of info on designs, materials, constructions, etc... We spent an entire evening looking around on the site. At the end, we were ready to drop everything and go start a workbench project! - Wan Chi Lau
The fun little photo hack we showed last month generated a bunch of emails from readers pointing us to various sites which show how to "simulate" 3D from 2D. The most interesting one was from Henry V who sent us a link to a site called fotowoosh.
The engineers at fotowoosh has taken the 2D to 3D idea a few steps further. They are using texture-mapping techniques to created the illusion of actually "entering " into the photos and "looking around". There are, of course, some artifacts...but the results are still VERY VERY cool.
Some images works better than others. Images with a good perspective appear more convincing. The samples they have on the site gives a pretty good feel of what can be expected in a typical transformation. Check out the video and get "wow-ed!" - Wan Chi Lau
There will be SciTech themed events all over the city. Some will be demos, others will be hands-on, all of them promises to be lots of fun! So check out the events calendar and mark down what looks interesting to you.
Maybe finally we'll be able to settle the long-argued questions of whether the earth is flat and whether evolution is real. Well, you if you lived in Boston, you wouldn't get much debate about the second question :-) - Wan Chi Lau
Recently a few readers have asked us about the Evil Genius series of DIY books, so we got a few from the series, along with an assortment of others to see what they are like. Most of us here at RainyDayMagazine have done our share of hacks and mods, and we are looking forward to checking them out and letting you know what we think.
Some of us were software developers/managers in our past lives. When we heard about the book "Dreaming In Code" by Scott Rosenberg, we were eager to add it to our reading list.
Why? For anyone who has ever wondered why good software is so difficult to design, build, and ship...this book is a great peek into that world. For those of us who have lived it, it is a walk down memory lane.
We are only on page 26 and already find it hard to put down. If you don't see any updates on RainyDayMagazine in the next few days, you now know why! If you want to find out more about "Dreaming In Code", go check it out here. - Wan Chi Lau
It's MarathonMonday here in Boston. Twenty thousand racers from all over the world are in town. This year's marathon will be even more challenging due to the Nor'Easter.
Some of us are in the office finishing up some last minute tax filings. We'll be keeping tabs on the race via the live coverage TV.
Filing taxes is always a chore. One way to make the chore less painful is to pay someone else to do it. Another way is to prepare and file with the help of a good tax filing application, like Intuit's TurboTax.
We have been using TurboTax since 1999. The benefit of using the same software is all of the previous year's information is automatically transferred to this year's forms. This capability alone is worth the price. It is great to see the software improve every year.
In the early days, the software was just an electronic version of the tax forms. The advantage then was all of the computations were done for you as you enter the data.
As the computers got more powerful, Intuit added many interactive help features (videos, interview, audit-reviews, etc...) to the TurboTax software. Using TurboTax now is exactly like answering a series of questions from a live tax preparer.
For millions of Small Office/Home Office (SOHO) users, TurboTax is the preferred option. This has certainly been the case for all of the folks here at RainyDayMagazine for many years!
Yesterday (April 15th...tax day), we called TurboTax's help line twice. Being tax day, we were expecting a long wait, but the calls were answered by a live person within three minutes. Both tech support people were friendly, helpful, and resolved our issues in less than 10 minutes. I think we'll be using TurboTax again next year :-) - Wan Chi Lau
We are just doing some last minute errands ahead of the approaching storm. Judging by this morning's weather map (color yellow = severe), it is going to be a whopper.
Items on the list are: pick up some groceries, rent some more DVDs, and make sure all the furry interns are inside before we hunker down. And yes, we also should finish filing our taxes :-)
Today there are many options available to consumers who want to rent movies for watching at home: BlockBusters, OnDemand from the local cable company, etc... We have tried them all at one time or another over the years.
For the past several months, we have been using a kiosk service called RedBox at a local Stop & Shop supermarket. Renting from RedBox is not as immediate as using OnDemand nor are the selections as numerous as at BlockBusters.
However, RedBox rentals are only $1/day, there is no monthly membership, and the kiosks are conveniently located at the supermarket. As for the selections, RedBox has most of the recent releases, and you can return your DVDs to any Redbox location.
We have been very happy with our RedBox rental experiences and will most likely continue to use them as our main source for DVD rentals. - Wan Chi Lau
Friday night is MovieNight at RainyDayMagazine. We order take-out and everyone gathers in the media room for a screening of a few of the latest DVD releases. This Friday, one of editors, who grew up in the Houghs Neck neighborhood of Quincy (which makes her a "Necka"), chose The Departed along with Little Miss Sunshine for the evening's double-header.
For those who have not seen The Departed, it is a drama set in South Boston, about lives on different paths leading to the same end. Our Quincy girl recognized a number of the locations where some of the scenes were shot... such as the one underneath the bridge.
Some of us were just a touch sceptical that she actually knew which bridge, so today we decided to see if she was right. There were some unique identifying features of that location, such as a local "Red line" train trundling overhead on the bridge. There are only a few places where that actually occurs. She took us to where the scene was shot, but some of us were not convinced we had found it, because we thought we had remembered a road...not a bike path. However, our Quincy girl was certain that that was the spot.
We took some shots of the location with angles similar to what we thought were in the movie so we could compare it to the scenes in the DVD when we got back. Looking at the scenes now , we can clearly see the features matching up. Our Quincy girl was right :-)
The neat thing about today's outing was that we were there when a train was passing over head...just as in The Departed. Take a look (movie, location).
There is a lot more to the Neposet River Reservation than what was in the movie. The entire area is now a large public space with paths, fields, and play area, and is the southern end of the Boston Harborwalk.
Knowing there is a storm the likes of which we haven't seen in 20 years is heading our way this weekend, we took some shots of the marsh and paths during our walk today. If the storm hits and we get a lot of snow, maybe we'll come back tomorrow for some follow up pics. - Wan Chi Lau
RainyDayMagazine got a live look at Harman Kardon's second generation Drive+Play unit recently. We came away impressed! This second generation of the well-designed Gen 1 Drive+Play is setting the bar even higher for in-car iPod controllers in terms of features, ease of use, and ergonomics.
The DP2 has a large crisp color display. The "brain" of the unit is much smaller. The controller communicates with the system via Bluetooth. These three features are reasons enough to upgrade. We'll give you more reasons once we get our hands on a production unit and give it a thorough RainyDayMagazine once over.
Along with the Drive+Play 2, Harman Kardon is also now shipping their first portable GPS device called the Guide+Play. We had a brief chance to play with the unit and found it light in weight, responsive, and with a bright crisp display. Besides some cool GPS functions, the Guide+Play is also equiped with a variety of multimedia capabilities (music, movies, etc...)
We are looking forward to spending some time playing with these units when they are available. Harman Kardon is one of the few companies, like Apple, that is paying attention to user experience in addition to esthetics and build-quality of its hardware. We now have some great reasons to hit the road this Spring and Summer. Someone has to test these new travel gadgets!!! Ah...work, work, work :-) - Wan Chi Lau
We just finished reading April's issue of Business 2.0. They had a section showing gadgets found useful by their readers. Readers of RainyDayMagazine may recognized that ALL of the gadgets (power strip, PicoPad, Jura, CasioG'One) had already been previously mentioned or reviewed here quite a while ago.
Just click the image of the gadgets above to see the corresponding RainyDayMagazine reviews. Since we get most of our review ideas from you readers out there, it is a pretty striking illustration of the time lag between traditional print magazines and online publications such as RainyDayMagazine. Keep those review requests coming!!!
Etymotic is well known for their high fidelity in-ear headphones for iPods and MP3 players. They have also started to leverage that expertise in related gear such as headsets for cell phones and Blackberries devices. This TechThursday we are going to take a FirstLook at the EtyCom headset.
Normally, we wouldn't really pay much notice to wired headset from a technology perspective. However, many readers know we have been searching for a headset for use in the convertible...something which can stand up to the wind noise in the cabin when the top is down.
The EtyCom package comes with the headset, a collection of different size tips, case, and windshields. The in-ear design is to allow for much greater sound quality and ambient noise isolation.
The unit is very light...much lighter than any of the wireless units we've tested in the past. Not surprising as there are no need for batteries, on/off switches, or transmitter/receivers.
The headset comes with an universal 2.5mm plug. It may not work directly with newer phones with just the USB socket. Some devices have both the 2.5mm and USB sockets.
We will let you know how this EtyCom unit check out under various conditions next month. If they sound as good as the ER-6, we may end up using these as our primary headsets.- Wan Chi Lau
Digital imaging has enabled people to easily share not just the pictures taken with their cameras, but also the ones created in their minds. This week, we would like to introduce our readers to Mehmet Ozgur who create digital images out of smoke.
There are twenty three images in his ethereal "Smoke" series. We found them utterly fascinating. Enjoy! - Wan Chi Lau
We were quite intriqued to see how the X-Paste dispenser would fare after a few weeks of use. It took exactly one month for us to empty the first tube. When we say "empty", we meant every last bit of toothpaste was extracted from the tube.
Here are close-up shots of the pump, level, and tip after four weeks of use. It was a lot cleaner than we would have thought, given the amount of use.
We were amazed with the pump's ability to get out all of the toothpaste out of the tube using such a simple design. There is not much that can go wrong with this device...which is exactly what good design is supposed to achieve. To see how the X-Paste works, check out the video from our FirstLook/FirstUse review back in March.
Our impressions of the X-Paste dispenser after four weeks of using it InTheWild is that it is a well-engineered product which exceeded our expectations. Get one and enjoy it. - Wan Chi Lau
The original forecast for Easter Sunday was going to be cloudy. However, the day did start out clear. We decided that even though it was a crisp 30º out, we should take advantage of the day and head outdoors.
There are over 20 miles of trails in this 2000 acre sanctuary. We pretty much had the place to ourselves yesterday...even the chipmunks were still sleeping. However, signs of Spring are everywhere.
The trails were not very difficult. We did have to dress for the colder than expected temperature. We also expected the ground to be somewhat wet. For gear, we brought along the HighGear Enduro, Kombi gloves, and Dunham boots.
The boots turned out to be exactly appropriate for the day's hike. The terrain was quite wet even if the air temperature was in the 30ºs. The Kumbi gloves keep the hands warm and the Enduro watch let us keep track of the time without weighing us down.
There are always things to see no matter what time of the year it is. Sometimes it is just noticing how clear the water is. A quiet hike on a Sunday is quite rejuvenating to both the body and the spirit. We all feel we are now ready to face another Monday :-) - Wan Chi Lau
Bill S was selected as the winner of final Saitek Easter Egg. To all of the winners, if you have not already done so, send us an address and we'll ship it out ASAP. BTW...don't forget to send us pics of you and the prize if you want to enter future contests!
The little chick in the middle is understandably confused as to why his siblings are ignoring him. That's because they are robochicks from SegaToys.
They are modeled after four-day-old chicks, but unlike their biological counterparts, they are free of feeding requirements and the associated housekeeping hassles. - Wan Chi Lau
Congrats goes to our Saturday Saitek winner Steve Chau. Megan F. sent in the first entry for Saturday. We were going to do a Sunday one, but we decided we wanted to review one of these. So we'll do a drawing this afternoon with the "first entry" contestants from all four days (Bill S-Thurs, Shane M-Fri, Megan F-Sat, ???-Sun). Good Luck!
First we are going to go back to the bakery we visited last Sunday for some more of their delicious baked goods. Canto6 is a new bakery in Jamaica Plain, MA...less than a year old, with an extensive array of amazingly tasty treats.
If you like hanging out and reading the Sunday paper, go early because seating is limited. Judging by the steady line while we were there, many have already discovered this neighborhood gem. For a more complete write-up on Canto6 , go check out Carolyn's full review here. - Wan Chi Lau
Oh...and this just in...Dennis L from San Diego was the first to enter today. Drawing for today's winner will be done later today.
A more accurate mouse, such as the optical Saitek unit we have been giving away since Thursday, will speed up the overall feel of your computing experience. However, nothing compares to an over-clocked processor or fast memory modules.
Processor upgrades are not difficult to do. Projects such as our G3 to G4 upgrades have given a brand new life to otherwise obsolete equipment. Expanding existing memory and upgrading drives are also fairly simple for most to do at home. Of course, this trend, taken to it logical end, will mean there are those who will want to build the FASTEST system possible.
There are companies now supplying parts to folks who want to push their systems to the edge. USModular has just announced the ColdFusion memory modules which will handle speeds that will melt other components. If your nuclear simulation application or games require that kind of performance...load up your system with a few of these and go at it. Just make sure the rest of your rig is up to the task. - Wan Chi Lau
Friday'swinner of the Saitek "Easter Egg" hunt was Kristin R from UNM...which incidentally was also the LAST entry of the day!!! The first entry slot went to Shane Meyer. Along with Bill Serrano from Thursday, Shane will have another chance to win on Sunday.
Sometimes an interesting project is just that...interesting. It doesn't have to have much purpose to it. It can be just kind of fun to make, amusing to watch, and doesn't really have to be practical at all.
This Living Interface project by Marc Nonnenmacher uses the same Digital Blue microscope we had review last year. The little organisms in the square cell are attracted to light. By sensing and reacting to their world, the creatures create a trail of sound and light in ours. Very ...interesting :-) - Wan Chi Lau
BTW, congratulations to "Illogical Jess" who was yesterday's winner. Bill Serrano was the first one to enter and will have a second chance to win on Sunday.
Easter is this weekend and we have a basket of colorful high tech "Easter Eggs" to give away. The interns will be hiding them in some unexpected places at random times on each day between now and Easter. Those of you who are keen-eyed, quick, and lucky will have a chance to win one.
They will be hiding a total of four of these colorful Saitek optical mice somewhere on the front page of RainyDayMagazine. When you find it, click on it and follow the directions to enter. We'll pick a winner each day from that day's entries. One day's entries will NOT carry over to the next day, so you will need to enter again on each day...and no, you also cannot win more than one. The FIRST entry of each day (if you didn't win) will also be entered in a special drawing on Sunday for a chance to win the fifth one. Happy Bunny Day :-) - Wan Chi Lau
Everyone has experienced the sensation of falling. Some have a strong aversion to the feeling. Others, like skydivers and bungee jumpers, are addicted to it. Who among us have not had fleeting thoughts of what it would feel like to just step off the edge?
Artist Kerry Skarbakka used the "act of falling" as a theme for an amazing series of photographs and in doing so, has earned himself a place in this week's WowUsWednesday. - Wan Chi Lau
It has been a few months since the MeowMe SleepyPod showed up at the RainyDayMagazine office. Since its arrival, it has seen a lot of use, especially during morning and afternoon nap times. Many of you have asked us how the SleepyPod held up, so we thought Spring would be a good time for the InTheWild follow up.
While one of our furry interns likes the SleepyPod for its "play" value, the other likes it for its primary intended use...a cozy and protected napping spot.
A good test of the comfortable-ility of a napping spot is whether an intern abandons it when...another staff member...disturbs him/her (by perhaps sticking a finger in one of their ears) when he/she is all curled up in it. Clearly, with the SleepyPod, Buffy has decided that nothing is going to disturb her mid-morning nap. - Wan Chi Lau
Tom Bihn bags are well known to the RainyDayMagazine staff and readers. We have looked at quite a few of their bags (eM2, BrainCell, Aeronaut, Buzz) over the past few years. Recently we got our hands on their Imago messenger bag.
Every weekend we spend a few hours at the cafe reading the magazines that show up at the office, and the soft Imago messager bag is perfect for our weekly peruse.
The Imago has big central pocket which easily handles a large pile of newspapers and magazines. There are a few soft pockets for pens and other loose items. The zippered pocket in front is perfect for a wallet, cash, and/or loose change.
We have been using this bag for the past two months and it is fast becoming one of our favorites. The bag has lots of room, lots of pockets, and a soft comfortable strap. The bag is easy to load and contents are easy to access. It is a great bag to grab when we are in a hurry.
There are two side pockets for cell phones and smaller devices. There is also an easy access open pouch in the back for carrying things like newspapers and the like. We would have preferred a velcro closure on this pouch as we have accidentally dumped the contents by unintentially turning the bag over when getting out of the car.
During the month of April, the folks at RainyDayKitchen are going to check out some of the bakeries and restaurants that have opened in the neighborhood.
The first is the Himalayan Bistro in West Roxbury. The Himalayan Bistro serves a mix of Indian and Nepali cuisines. We went during lunch on the weekend and had no problem getting a table.
The space is light-filled and airy, with an aroma spiced with curry, a hint of garlic, and something else which we did not recognize. We didn't have breakfast so we were pretty hungry...perfect since there was a brunch buffet for $10.
We sampled EVERYTHING (chicken curry, lentils, salad, etc...) The Garlic Naan was freshly made and absolutely delicious. The Tandori chicken was perfectly cooked...tender and moist.
The Himalayan Bistro is the first Nepali restaurant in greater Boston. We found plenty of flavorful dishes for both vegetarians and meat lovers alike. It is located on 1735 Centre Street in West Roxbury. There is plenty of on-street parking. We are already scheduling to go back and sample their dinner entrees! - Wan Chi Lau