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Dec 18,2013- RainyDayGiftGuide: Garage...

A lot of people have garages to store their car. Some even have enough space that they can work on their vehicles while protected from the New England weather. However, many city dwellers are not so fortunate. Most have to park on the street, and a few lucky ones can park in a private driveway. Those with such parking conditions have to choose their automotive tools with a bit more selectivity. The tools have to be portable, rugged, and if possible multi-purpose. It is with these criteria in mind that we put together the 2013 RainyDayGarage Holiday Gift Guide.

Many of the items we have on this year's list are from Clore Automotive. Their gear has restarted our cars, filled our tires, and brought our dead batteries back to life. In all the years that we have used these products, they have never failed us. So this Holiday Season, we wanted to give Clore a special shout-out and highlight some of the items which we've found to be particularly... [more]- RainyDayGiftGuide: Garage


Dec 17,2013- RainyDayGiftGuide: Home & Garden...

Home and garden gifts are the easiest to select. There is so much to choose from that we like to recommend a good place to shop in addition to offering a list of items. Those looking for a good source should head over to Gardener's Supply Company and look around.

Gardener's Supply Company has expanded their offerings from their inital gardeny things to now include inside-the-home stuff. Many items are exclusive to them, orders are processed quickly, and they ship fast. For the Holidays, orders made before Dec. 19 noon EST will be delivered before Dec. 25! Those looking for specific recommendations, read on :-)

For the home:


Dec 14,2013- RainyDayGiftGuide: Kitchen Gear...

Yesterday we posted a collection of gadget gift suggestions for the kitchen. Today we continue the kitchen-based list with some gear. Some of the items made the list because we have found them to be excellent tools for those who love to cook. Others got the nod because they are innovative, have great design, and promise to make cooking more enjoyable. Either way, we are excited about the choices and are sure that you will find them so as well.

Induction cooking technology is amazing. Induction cooking uses magnetic fields to cause the cooking vessel to heat up, as opposed to using heat transfer from electrical coils or burning gas as with a traditional cooking stove. It is more efficient, much safer than electric coils and gas, and is... [more]- RainyDayGiftGuide: Kitchen Gear


Dec 13,2013- RainyDayGiftGuide:Kitchen Gadgets...

We love gadgets for the kitchen. Not only are they fun to use, but after "playing" with them, we usually end up with something tasty to eat or drink! How great is that? When putting together a Holiday Gift Guide, we always end up with so many recommendations that it takes two issues to present them all. This year is no different. Today's issue focuses on smaller kitchen gadgets and stocking stuffers. Tomorrow's will be on the bigger items. We hope you will find them as enjoyable to peruse as we did in putting them together!

For espresso lovers who also love gadgets:


November 15,2013- Boxster Winter Prep...

We know that winter is coming, but the folks at the RainyDayGarage like to disregard that inevitability for as long as possible; if the convertible top of the Boxster can go down without causing the rear plastic window to crack (from the cold), it will be retracted. However, mid-November is about as deep into Fall as we dare to push our luck.

The temperature was 50º+ on Veteran's Day. We decided to take advantage of the good weather and do the Winter Prep on the Boxster. Like past years, the Prep involves... [more]- Boxster Winter Prep


October 16,2013- Dropcam HD...

Webcams have been used as security cams ever since they came onto the scene. The idea of using them as security camera is an excellent one. However, the actualization of this idea by various for-profit companies has been a little on the disappointing side. The problem was not with the video-recording aspect of the technology, but with the amount of effort required to set it up.

When a few readers recommended that we check out the Dropcam HD, we initially decided to pass, but not because we didn't think the Dropcam was going to be any good. The camera certainly has excellent specs:

  • Color, 720p HD (1280x720 , 30fps)
  • Field of view: 107º
  • Zoom: 4X digital
  • Low light vision (IR LEDs)
  • Audio
  • WiFi: 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz (WEP, WPA, WPA2 security support)
  • On-camera encryption / SSL encryption-secured access

We passed because we didn't want to spend the time futzing with setting one up. However, the same readers who made the original recommendation countered our objections with explanations of their experiences using Dropcam's "easy setup" and strongly suggested we... [more]- Dropcam HD FirstLook


October 7,2013- Makers Faire: Somerville MA...

Union Square in Somerville, Massachusetts was turned into a DIYer/makers playground this past weekend. Artisan’s Asylum hosted a gathering for artists of all types so that they could show off their creations to the community. The RainyDayProject folks stopped by for a look and ended up staying the entire afternoon. Ok, part of it was because there was some excellent Octoberfest beers being served, but there was also a lot of interesting stuff being exhibited.

The buzz for DIYers this year has been the emergence of "affordable" 3D printers. We first reported on 3D printers in 2006. Back then 3D printers were strictly for companies like Nike and Apple because they were the only ones who could justify using them for rapid prototyping because of the... [more]- Makers Faire: Somerville MA


October 4,2013- BirdCam Pro FirstUse...

We set up the new BirdCam Pros this week, invited our Blue Jay friends to stop by, and ran through some of the camera's features to get a better feel for how they compare to the original BirdCam. After working with the Pro for a few days, here is a summary some of our FirstUse thoughts.

BirdCam Pro features and what they mean for the user:

  • Improved weatherproof casing: longer camera life
  • Higher resolution 8MP camera: more detail
  • LED flash: useful for night shots
  • WiFi SD card compatible: convenient for hard to reach setups
  • Physical buttons for often used settings: quick and simple setup
  • Precise focus adjustments: see discussion below
  • Color LED display: see discussion below

Getting the focus set precisely is now possible with the Pro. This is because the focus ring is no longer constrained to four click settings. However, some trial and error is still required to... [more]- BirdCam Pro FirstUse


September 30,2013- BirdCam Pro...

The Audubon BirdCam has made it easy to get snaps of visitors to the bird feeders in the RainyDayGarden. Wingscapes, the maker of the BirdCam, released an update to that amazing automated camera a few weeks ago. Today, we are going to take a FirstLook at what is new about the BirdCam Pro.

The BirdCam Pro now has a higher resolution 8 Megapixel sensor and a built-in LED flash. Like the original BirdCam, the Pro will take photos when the infrared motion-detector is triggered. However, the Pro's triggering capabilities have been extended to include a timer. So now it will be possible to not only capture birds visiting the feeder, but flowers opening, spiders web-spinning, and... [more]- BirdCam Pro FirstLook


September 6,2013- BirdCam Mount...

We had been thinking about how to set up the Audubon BirdCams in the garden. We could have used the stretch cords which came with the camera to mount it on a tree, but we wanted to position the unit closer to the action. There are a few different bird feeders in the garden, and our intention is to point the BirdCam at each of them for a few days and see what we get. The best way to do this is with the Wingscapes mounting arm. It was designed exactly for that purpose.

The mount arrived before Labor Day weekend and we posted a FirstLook of it earlier this week. Today we will show the installation and some of the... [more]- BirdCam Mount


September 2,2013- BirdCam Accessories...

We have been having a lot of fun with the Audubon BirdCams. The one we set up on a TrekPod on the second floor has been capturing some very candid pics of visitors to the feeder (sparrow, blue jay, cardinal). The other unit is slated for the outside but its setup has been on hold awaiting the arrival of some accessories.

The BirdCam pointed at the window feeder on the second floor is powered directly from the AC outlet via an AC/DC adapter. The adapter is able to output a variety of voltages from Radio Shack. We find these variable-voltage adaptesr to be a better value than device-specific ones because of their versatility. However, they are not for outdoor use. As we want to put the second BirdCam out in the RainyDayGarden we need a way to power the unit which is... [more]- BirdCam Accessories


August 19,2013- Ceiva wins...

There are a lot of options for displaying digital photos, such as slideshows, photobooks, hard copies, and the like. Our personal favorite has always been the digital photo frame. The idea is simple: show photos on an LCD screen and change them periodically.

As with most things, the devil is in the details. There are a lot of digital frames on the market, but they are not created equal. Actually, many of them leave a lot to be desired. When they were first introduced many of them did not have 24-bit, high resolution displays, and those disappeared from the market quickly. Today, all digital frames have... [more]- Ceiva wins!


August 16,2013- Wingscapes: Audubon BirdCam...

A couple of Audubon BirdCams arrived last week. Finally, the interns will be freed from standing behind the blind waiting to snap photos of visitors to the new feeder! We posted a FirstLook of Audobon's weather-resistant motion-activated camera on Monday and spent the next few days determining how best to set it up.

The BirdCam can run on batteries (four D-size ones) or off of an AC adapter (9v-12v). We wanted to try things out inside first, so we decided to go the AC route. The weather-resistant case has a standard-size socket (1/4-20, which means one-quarter of an inch with 20 threads per inch) at the bottom for attaching the unit to a tripod. However, we ran into a slight problem when we first tried to mount the BirdCam. We found that the platform of many of our tripods made it impossible to mount the BirdCam when the AC power plug was in its socket. After a bit of head-scratching, we finally realized the TrekPod would be perfect for this application. The TrekPod worked because its magnetic discs that attached the... [more]- Wingscapes : Audubon BirdCam FirstUse


August 12,2013- Wingscapes: Audubon BirdCam...

Setting up an automated camera to capture visitors to the various feeders we have around the RainyDayGarden has been on our ToDo list for years. The problem was triggering the shutter when birds landed. We could hack a motion-detector from a security system or use a pressure-sensitive perch to do the job, but we never got any further than the brain-storming stage with those ideas. We have seen the efforts of others who have gone the DIY route with webcams and small point-n-shoot cameras. They were educational from a "how to" perspective, but seemed rather cumbersome and kludgy.

After not finding a build-it-ourself solution that we liked, we researched what commercial options were available. By far the most popular unit appears to be the Audubon BirdCam made by... [more]- Wingscapes : Audubon BirdCam


August 5,2013- New Kitchen Gear...

It is lot more comfortable temperature-wise to cook outside during the Summer. Even if it wasn't, the tastiness of grilled food makes the effort worth it. So it should come as no surprise that since we acquired the TEC infrared grill the staff here have been firing it up every chance they can. Naturally, this got us thinking about what would make the outside cooking experience even more convenient and/or enjoyable, because while the TEC is fantastic for grilling, it is not suitable for everything (simmering,sauces, etc). So to complement the TEC we looked for something that we could use along side it. Someone suggested getting an induction cooktop. We are in the planning stage for an end-of-Summer cookout and that seemed like a perfect opportunity to try one out.

Induction cooking technology is not the same as an electric hot plate or rangetop. Both use electricity but instead of relying on the heat generated by electrical resistance in coils under the pan, the induction method uses a magnetic field to "excite" the molecules in the pan itself. The heat generated by the "excited" molecules in the pan is transferred to the food, thereby cooking it. This approach combines the benefits of gas (energy efficient, fast) and electric (flameless, safe). Induction technology has been around for decades, but unlike the microwave, it never caught on big with the general public, mostly because of... [more]- New Kitchen Gear


August 2,2013- Flavored Ice Cubes...

When the temperature in Boston hovered above 90º and stayed there in July, instead of just cranking up the AC, we looked around for other ways to cool ourselves down. A nice ice-cold drink was the most popular solution here at the office. Besides helping us stay cool, drinking a lot of liquids ensured our hydration.

Inspired by a friend's comment, we began experimenting with flavored ice cubes. However, the cubes would crack and splinter when we tried to get them out of the tray. After a few unsuccessful attempts, we realized the problem was our trays. The best way to make ice cubes, we have found, is with a... [more]- Flavored Ice Cubes


July 29,2013- BlackVue FirstUse...

After a month of use we thought it was time to share some of our impressions on the BlackVue dashcam hardware and software. The short version is, if you are in the market for a dashcam, you should seriously consider getting one from BlackVue. We were surprised how much it added to the driving experience. Having a record of each drive will clearly be helpful in a dispute, but we think knowing there will be a record also made us drive with more care. We have no reservations recommending the BlackVue DR500GW.

When the RainyDayGarage folks installed the BlackVue DR500GW-HD dashcam in the project car a month ago, they opted to forego putting in the Power Magic Pro for regulating juice to the BlackVue. Instead, they powered the camera off the same cigarette plug which ran the Cheetah mirror. It took everyone a few trips to remember to switch on/off the camera when getting in/out of the car. While the extra step is now second nature, we may still... [more]- BlackVue Camera FirstUse


July 15,2013- LED Lenser FirstLook...

We have quite a few flashlights (LumaRay FL-6, FL-12, Surefire, U2 Ultra, TigerLight) and they get used more than one would think. While we like them, use them, and there are a lot of different flashlights on the market, we don't review them too often. However, when we come across a vendor or a unit worth talking about, we are all over it. A few months back, a reader told us that we should check out the LED Lenser M7RX. We took a look and the M7RX was something we thought our readers might find interesting.

LED LENSER was founded by two brothers (Rainer and Harald Opolka) in Germany in 1994. When LED technology started becoming mainstream, the Leatherman Tool Group acquired the company in 2011. Yup, the same company that created the Skeletool, one of our favorite multi-tool. We think it was a... [more]- LED LENSER M7RX FirstLook


July 8,2013- RainyDayGarden Update...

In the Spring, we put up some cottages for the birds, hung a bamboo house for the Mason bees, and built a new feeder for the birds. Now that we have moved into the dog days of Summer, we thought we would bring readers up to date on the goings on in the RainyDayGarden.

May: While the rain fall for the month of May was about normal (3.22", whereas the average is 3.37") the temperature was far above the norm (77º vs. the average of 62º). Because of the warmer conditions, many of the plants kicked into gear early.

Last year, for some unknown reason, the lilac bush did not bloom at all. It was not the case this year. The sweet scent was quite evident in the garden during the entire month of May. While not as fragrant as the... [more]- RainyDayGarden Update


June 28,2013- BlackVue Installation...

Earlier in the week we posted a FirstLook at a cool little video camera called the BlackVue DR500GW-HD. The BlackVue is a new class of video camera designed specifically for recording footage from the inside of a vehicle. It is perfect for a variety of purposes: insurance claims, security/remote monitoring, car-at-the-racetrack day. The camera is able to communicate with WiFi-enabled devices such as the iPhone and iPad for viewing. Data on the removable MicroSD card can be download to any computer for review and archival storage.

Today, we will show you how we mounted the BlackVue in our project car. As RainyDayGarage readers know, we have installed quite a few things in the Boxster over the years (Carputer, Escort radar detector, touchscreen, Cheetah Mirror, etc). As a result, the area around the rearview mirror is a bit crowded. Also, there are now wires running up both sides of the windshield and no room to run a third set. In order to power the BlackVue, we had to... [more]- BlackVue Camera Installation


June 24,2013- BlackVue FirstLook...

It is a fact that cameras are everywhere these days. Some see it as a good thing, others consider it problematic and an invasion of privacy. However, there is no denying that having the ability to look back in time and reconstruct a sequence can oftentimes be helpful. One of those times is when we are in a vehicle on the road. This is the thinking behind an innovative product from a company with a line called the BlackVue.

At first glance, readers may mistake the BlackVue for a typical webcam (Creative, Logitech) or an actioncam (GoPro, Sony, Contour). The BlackVue has the specs of a high-end webcam and works in ways very similar to that of an actioncam. However, the BlackVue has features which uniquely set it apart from everything else currently on the market. The BlackVue camera is... [more]- BlackVue Camera FirstLook


June 10,2013- Tiny Terrariums...

There is nothing like a few days of steady rain to give us some space to think up new DIY projects, such as homemade terrariums. We came up with a 10-minute RainyDayProject of making little desktop terrariums out of small jars, tiny cups, and whatever little bottles we had laying about. The best are the glass ones with a lid or a stopper.

When the sun finally came out and things dried up a bit, we ventured outside and looked for moss suitable for the project. Once we started looking, we found interesting growth everywhere. Without really knowing which... [more]- Tiny Terrariums


May 31,2013- IKEA Socker Hack: Bird Feeder...

Using items from IKEA for DIY projects is something of a phenomenon on the Internet. A quick search brings back thousands of hacks and ideas. When we first came across IKEA's Socker portable greenhouse, we knew that this little gem would be perfect for all kinds of projects. Today we would like to share one of them with our readers.

There are a lot of feeders in the RainyDayGarden. While we get plenty of visitors, the feeders are a little too far away from the office windows to get a good view of our visitors. We tossed around ideas on making a feeder which could be placed close/next to a window. There are a few builds of such feeders floating around the Web. Some of them look like they work, but they all seem a bit clunky AND more work than we were willing to put into such a project. The ones available for purchase are very nice, but can cost over $100. IKEA's Socker greenhouse solved all of those problems in... [more]- IKEA Socker Hack: Window Bird Feeder


May 28,2013- Mason Bee House...

After we posted in early April that we had put out some bird cottages in the RainyDayGarden, a few readers suggested we also put out a house or two for Mason bees. While we know nothing about keeping bees, we have always been intrigued by the thought. Mason bees get their name from the way they seal their nests (after laying their eggs) with a mortar-like application of mud, like masons with masonry.

There are a lot of DIY ideas for making Mason bee houses, but we found a very attractive ready-made version from Gardener's Supply Company. The house is made entirely from... [more]-Mason Bee House


April 29,2013- Boxster Spring Prep...

The Spring Prep ritual for the Boxster was completed this weekend. We swapped out the Firestone WinterForce snow tires for the Hankook Ventus summer ones, checked the battery, and did a bunch of maintenance procedures (tire pressure, 4-wheel alignment, control arm lubrication, etc.) to get the car ready for top-down weather.

The Firestone WinterForce performed quite well this Winter under all kinds of condtions: really cold; slushy wet;, heavy snow. We had full confidence driving the Boxster whether we were in the city or on the highway. However, they were definitely not designed for the 60º weather we had been experiencing last week. We took advantage of the beautiful weather and swapped them out for the Hankook Ventus. BTW, the Kurgo TireTotes we got back in 2007 are still... [more] - Boxster Spring Prep


April 24,2013- Hanging The Bird Cottages...

When we found these whimsical bird cottages, available exclusively at Gardener's Supply Company, we knew that they would be perfect for the RainyDayGarden. They come as a set of three (one of each color), have a metal roofs, and are perfectly sized for song birds such as nuthatches, titmice, wrens and chickadees.

The blooms on the trees and vines in RainyDayGarden have started coming in. We thought it best to get the bird cottages up ASAP, but the weather did not cooperate. Things finally cleared on... [more] - Hanging the Bird Cottages


April 12,2013- Birdbath and Birdhouses...

Spring is definitely on its way. The temperature outside has been fluctuating between 40º and 60º+. April showers have been signaling to the plants that it is time to get busy. The daffodils, tulips, day lilies, and others have started to poke through the wet ground. Crocuses have been popping up, some in the oddest places, all over the RainyDayGarden. The forecast for this weekend is warm and sunny, so it will be the perfect time to clean up the garden and put up some of the new items we found at Gardener's Supply Company.

The items that caught our eye were the birdhouses with the metal roof and the metal birdbath with the three-legged stand. Both items are exclusive to... [more] - Birdbath and Birdhouses


February 25,2013- Kenmore Washer Repair...

We don't think about washers and dryers too often. We expect them to work every time we use them, but otherwise we hardly ever give them a thought. A bolt had came loose in the washer's mounting a few years ago and a belt had to be replaced on the dryer last September. Other than that, our Kenmore washer/dryer pair has been providing us maintainence-free service for over twenty years.

Recently, someone noticed the agitator was not working quite right, and that there was a definite whiff of burning rubber. So it did not come as a complete surprise that a few days later the washer stopped working altogether. The good news was that it wasn't completely dead. While the agitator no longer agitated and... [more] - Kenmore Washer Repair


January 28,2013- Superbowl Prep...

While most of New England (us included) is still recovering from the trouncing the Patriots received from the Ravens a week ago, it does not mean we are not excited to watch the annual spectacle that is the Super Bowl. While fans will maintain that football is best watched on a giant screen (we don't dispute this), there are many other screen options available to those who want to watch the game.

We have talked about how to record live TV using digital recorders so you can rewind and see the action again in slow motion; we have discussed how we freed ourselves from cable TV and got higher resolution signal free off the air; we have even showed how easy it was to set up the laptop to watch the game should that be your screen of choice. But that was a year ago. Today there are a few more options:

If you have more than one computer on your WiFi network and would like to be able to stream the TV broadcast to them, you can now do it with the HDHomeRun. This little box is a TV tuner for your entire... [more] -Super Bowl Prep



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