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August 31,2006 (TimerThursday)

Readers of the RainyDayKitchen section of this magazine will immediately recognize the item on the right, but they may not know who makes the device on the left.

Here is a hint...it is by an innovative American company. Here is another hint...we have reviewed one their products before. If you think you know, send us an email with the subject line "I've got the time." In the email include the link to that product from their site. We'll randomly pick a winner tomorrow and send you something randomly picked from the pile on our intern's desk:-)

Just a reminder that the Canon S2 digital camera deal ends tomorrow.  The deal is so good that we ordered one for the magazine!  We'll do a full review of it when it arrives. 


August 30,2006 (InTheWildWednesday)

RainyDayMagazine got a couple of SureFire flashlights in back in May 2005.  It has now been over a year.  We thought it was time to take a look at how they held up InTheWild.

The main thing we noticed was they looked almost new!  We have not been gentle with these units.  They were used, tossed around, dropped, and suffered all manners of mishandling.  However, they appeared none worse for wear. Go here for the full InTheWild report on these SureFire tactical flashlights.

We finally managed to exceed our alloted minutes on our T-Mobile cell phone plan. Like most who have had the pleasurable experience of trying to decode their cell phone bill, we got dizzied in our attempt.

This was the first time in four years that we really LOOKED at the invoice. We understand and applaud T-Mobile's effort to save trees by shrinking down the pages so multiple pages fits on a single sheet. What we don't get is why they feel it's better to flip the orientation of the pages in such an odd fashion? God forbid if you get the pages out of its original sequence...reordering the stack is better left for those who can piece together the strips after a page has gone through the shredder.

Wirefly (InPhonic) 

Getting a bill that is twice our usual amount was the incentive we needed to do some comparsion shopping. We'll see if there are any better plans out there other than the one we signed up for 4 years ago :-)


August 29,2006 (TechOfficeTuesday)

Back in March 2005, we mentioned a device from Philip which reminded us of a prop from one of our favorite TV series (Earth:The Final Conflict).

Looks like the day when we'll have such a device is getting closer!  A reader sent us this link after he remembered reading about it on RainyDayMagazine.

This video of a working prototype shows the concept pretty well.  The display is a flexible piece of electronic ink paper which rolls back into the handle when not in use.  ePaper only uses power when the text has to change...perfect for small devices such as this.

Sharp-eyed readers have been asking about the new speakers on our 19" monitor. They are not new.  We posted the FirstLook on these Altec Lansing speakers last month.

All we did was mounted them so they wouldn't take up any desk space (see why here).  The speakers were designed to be placed on a flat surface or mounted on the wall, but not to the side of things. 

The problem was solved using some strong 3M double-sided foam tape. This 1-minute hack was the perfect solution to the mounting problem and gave back quite a bit of desktop.

If you had purchased a camera lately, than you will most likely need some Flash memory.  We scrounged around and found some AMAZING deals on Flash...the cheapest had to be this CF card from Tigers Direct...just $2 after rebate for a 512MB CF card!!!

However, before you buy...know which type of memory your need.  Is it CF, SD, SmartMedia, MemoryStick, etc...  Yes, it is a major pain in the butt.  We standardized on CF cards a few years back, but we have since started to move toward SD cards.  We can still use them in our CF slots with this SD-CF adapter.

The Aeron chair is designed for SERIOUS office work.  Apparently it is pretty comfortable for napping as well, at least for Eliot.  We knew we would be spending a LOT of time sitting and we wanted chairs which would promote good posture and last a long time.

When we furnished the office, we got Aeron chairs for everybody.  Herman Miller's Aeron chair is probably one of the more recognizable office chair around.  This chair is unlike any other...the mesh material, the support system, and the adjustibility are all unique to the design.  Take a closer look at the Aeron here.

If your small office is anything like the RainyDayMagazine office, then every inch of space counts.  To use our space efficiently, we have been replacing older machines with new ones which can do multiple jobs.  One such new addition is the Canon Pixma MP150 Printer/Scanner/Copier. 

The multi-function design of this unit is perfect for any space challenged small office/home office (SOHO) environment.  The only problem with a multi-function machine is if any one function goes on the fritz, then you will lose all the functions.


August 28,2006 (InputModesMonday)

Besides the great Deal of the Day on the Canon PowerShot S2 ($262.50 after w/ coupon code), there are also a few other Canon Powershot deals (S3, SD650, SD700, ZR700, Harmony 880) from Dell.  Go here for the RainyDayCodes.  The deals end on 9/1.

Frequent readers of this magazine know we love to get outside. They also know that we like to bring our laptops and other digital gear with us when we go. Therefore, we are ALWAYS interested a well made bag to protect our stuff while we are on the road. Our latest find is this SecurePack from MobileEdge.

The SecurePak has a amazing amount of padding on the back panel. There is an integrated handle at the top of the pack. Inside are tons of pockets and bags for various items (cables, connectors, power bricks, etc...) as wells a large padded compartment for the laptop.

For a bag with such a slim profile, this thing can carry a LOT of stuff. The bag's design is different from most others on the market. The access to the main compartment is from the back. This makes it impossible for someone to reach into the bag when you are carrying it. We have not yet loaded it up to see just how much it can hold or how comfortable it really is out in the wild. Our FirstLook at this bag will be before Labor Day. We should have some data by the end of September.

Interacting with our computer has not changed much over the years.  With the exception of the graphics interface and the mouse, the primary mode has been the keyboard.   Some may use a trackball, a graphics tablet, and maybe even voice input, but the majority of us use the keyboard/mouse method.

For faster scrolling, we have added a few dedicated extentions to the keyboard (Belkin Nostromo, PowerMate).  The Belkin Nostromo keypad was developed for the gamers to facilitate rapid firing in FPG such as DOOM, but many have discovered that it is also perfect for surfing the web.  The keys are all programmable and can be different for different applications.  Griffin Technologies PowerMate was developed to enable the user to easily change the volume via a dedicated control.  However, like the Nostromo, this controller can do different things in different applications (changing volume, scrolling in a browser, scrubbing video, etc...).

The one problem with having all this gear on the desktop is they take up room.  Recently, we got a keyboard from MyKeyO which was designed to create MORE room on the desk.  Well, maybe not create more room, but may help in decreasing the clutter!

The MyKeyO keyboard has the usual complements of multimedia and navigation keys (click on the images for close-ups).  The keyboard also has a hidden feature below the keys.

The storage compartment has a spindle for CDs, pens, paper clips, or other loose little things which may be cluttering up the top of the desk.  Things which may be of great interests to cats or other curious creatures.  Lifting the keyboard to get at the items is not a big problem.  We would like to see a drawer version of the same product for those who like to pile papers on top of everything :-)


August 27,2006 (S2Sunday)

If you are looking for a good digital camera, you might want to consider the Canon PowerShot S2 IS.  This camera has a 5 MegaPixel CCD, 12x optical zoom, and uses standard AA batteries.

Don't confuse this unit with the older S1 or the newer S3...both are good units.  However, in our opinion, the S2 is the best value for the money.  The S2 has improved image stablization compared to the older S1 but it is not as expensive as the S3.  Canon has the incentive to clear out the inventory now that the S3 has been released.

Here are some reviews of this camera:DP Review, DC Resources, ZD Net. The list price on this unit is $499, it is available here now for $350, but if you want to save 25% ($263 + shipping), come look for a special discount code on Deal Of The Day on August 28th!!! This offer will be good only until September 1st. You will not find a better deal anywhere... not even on EBay :-)


August 26,2006 (SalesSaturday)

We get notified of a lot of deals by various manufacturers.  In the past, we have made these bargains available only to subscribers.  After much discussions, the decision was made to make them available to ALL RainyDayMagazine readers on the new RainyDayDeals section.  Note that many of the deals are time sensitive and the amounts may be limited. Subscribers will still get early notification of coupon codes and other specials.  Happy bargain hunting!!!

Apple has a deal going on right now for college students...buy a Mac & get a FREE iPod nano!  This offer is good until September 16.

After about three months of harvests, the lettuce plants appeared to be ready for the compose pile :-)  Actually we have been waiting for this moment because we wanted to see just how much work it would be to clean the unit!


August 25,2006 (FixItFriday)

The guys in the RainyDayGarage have a rule about tools they may not need everyday..."when you need it, it has to work."  Our 1988 Pathfinder is starting to show its age.  With a little bit of work, it has always served us well in the New England Winters.  Even though the RainyDayGarage is pretty well equiped, we thought we should have some portable gear if we ever needed to service it on the road.

So when the guys went looking for a portable battery jump starter, they went straight to Clore Automotive.  Sure there are less expensive portable power sources out there, but would you care when you are out somewhere and your battery needs a jump or your tires need air?  No...you just want your gear to work. 

Clore Automotive tools are used by professional...so you know they are built to take the abuses of being in a shop.  However, they are actually very affordable for the home garage.

The JNC AIR unit is a jumpstarter, a portable power source, and an air compressor in one compact unit.  The unit is about 25lbs, but it is surprisingly easy to carry thanks to the balance design and curved handle.

The battery of the JNC AIR is what differentiates it from the less expensive units.  The JNC AIR's PROFORMER battery has very high peak amps (1700 A) and can deliver enough current to jump start quite a few times before needing a charge...especially important when it is cold out!  We'll have a FirstLook of the JNC AIR in early September.  The FirstUse review will be when we do our Winter prep routine later in the Fall.


August 24,2006 (TechThursday)

It must be getting closer to Fall and the start of the crazy holiday shopping season as camera announcement are starting to rush into the RainyDayMagazine office. 

Everybody (Nikon, Canon, Fuji) with the exception of Olympus announced new digital cameras today. They all wants to get out in front with their new units. The problem is when so many announcements hit the wires at the same time, they just kind of create one big blur.  We are not even going to try to sort them out today, but if you want to see all the new stuff, then click on a camera of interest and we'll take you to their press release.  We are going to sort through the hoopla and find one unit that we like best and review it for you in October.

There are LOTs of iPod speakers on the market.  God knows we have a lot of them ourselves (GrandScale, mm28, mm50, OnTour, SoundSticks II).  The iPod nano is a svelte piece of gear.  An external set of speakers for the nano should be equally slim.  Unfortunately, most external speakers for the iPod line were made to accommodate as many versions of the iPods as possible.  None, we thought, complimented the nano well...until now.

The inMotion iM500 speakers from Altec Lansing combines the latest in both amplifier and speaker technologies (Class D amp, NXT speakers) to create a portable package that is just 0.7" thick and weighs just 12 ounces!  We'll have a more detailed FirstLook on the iM500 in a few weeks.

While we were in LA, we got a package from a company called PowerBookMedic.  It was the G4 processor for our Apple Pismo laptop. We have been wanting to do this 'brain transplant' for a few years now, but thought that the other upgrades would be easier projects to tackle first.  Most of the companies offering processor upgrades required that we send in our laptop...which kind of defeats the purpose of a DIY project.

Dan, one of our over caffeinated Aussie readers, suggested we check out the offerings from PowerBookMedic.com.  According to Dan, they offer a G4 processor upgrade that is basically a plug-n-play solution.

The processor card is a direct swap with the one in the machine...no other changes are needed.  These PowerBookMedic guys have EVERYTHING one would need to max out an Apple laptop.  Go check 'em out here!

We did the G4 processor upgrade in a total of 10 minutes.  The machine booted with no problems.  Check out the full upgrade article here.

This upgrade was the last remaining task left in our G3 Pismo upgrade project.  Can anyone tell us just how many things we did to this Apple Pismo machine?  If you think you know send your answer to us with the subject line "Upgrade 'til you drop."  We'll pick a random winner on Friday. 

No matter how large the internal drive in the laptop is, there will always be a need to have some external storage.  When we upgraded the G3's 12GB internal drive to 100GB, we got a case for the smaller disk, and made it into an external USB drive.

The only thing which would make this setup better is a more storage in a smaller form factor.  With EdgeTech's diskGo drives, we were able to do just that!  EdgeTech has been releasing a series of drives which are making it easier to carry large chucks of data around.

We had mentioned the tiny DiskGo! back in July. These 1" drives come in 4GB, 6GB, and 8GB sizes.  The next step up are the 2.5" diskGO units.  These diskGo units have capacities ranging from 40GB to 160GB.

The diskGo housing is both thinner and smaller compared to the i-Rocks case.  When connected to a USB 2.0 port, the unit can draw power directly from the socket.  There is also a power connector for backwards compatibility with USB 1.1. 

Now that our Pismo laptop is fully tricked out, it is time to concentrate on one of our older Apple desktops.  There are plenty of things we could do to upgrade the unit, but we thought we would start with some peripherals.

First up is replacing the old Apple keyboard with something that has a bit more flash and functionality.  We originally got this Saitek for our PCs, but we wanted to see if it will work on the Mac.

Neither the Saitek site nor the box indicated that this unit would be supported on the Mac, but since we are typing this on the Saitek hooked up to the QuickSilver G4 running OSX, I guess it works!  There are a LOT of features to this Saitek Eclipse II keyboard (laser-etched keys, media controls, wrist rest, variable backlighting, etc...).  However, the coolest feature is the user adjustible color!!!  It doesn't make the machine run any faster, but now we can coordinate the color of the keyboard with our...tie :-)


August 23,2006 (WideoWednesday)

Sarah, our RainyDayLA intern, has created a video with her friend Chase.  We are not sure exactly what it is...but we are old.

Interns...you just never know what they are up to, but one thing is for certain, they are having more fun than we ever did when we were growing up :-)

Speaking of fun, we are gearing up for some fun contests in the Fall.  If you have won in the past, remember to do like Chris and send in a pic of you with your prize if you want to enter again.

Chris...you name has now been removed from our RainyDayContest filter and spambot.  Feel free to waste as much time here as you want and enter our contests again!!!


August 22,2006 (TravelTuesday)

We all had a great time in LA courtesy of Kristin, but it was time to head back to see what the interns in Boston have been up to.  The LA office will take a few months to get going.  Kristin will be on her own until then :-) 

We are sure she will be up to the task!  The new office has an awesome view.  The ride that came with it is not too shabby either.  Kristin assured us that everyone who is anyone rides in a limo in LA.  We defer to her judgement.  Kristin will have periodic updates to keep everyone current on her progress.

To make sure things stay on track, we left behind one of our trusty RainyDayMagazine interns.  Sarah will be there for the next few years.  Sarah will also be writing for the Unaccompanied Minor section of RainyDayMagazine.  Look for her first contribution in Wednesday's edition!


August 20,2006 (SandSunday)

The pier and the beach are just a few blocks away from our hotel.  We spent the day walking around checking out the area.  It does look like a great place to set up shop.  Of course, we'll have to get use to the cafes, the 75º weather, and the good looking people everywhere.  One thing is for sure, we'll have to learn how to surf.

One amazing thing about the beaches here is there aren't any biting insects in the sand...unlike the ones on the East Coast! No flies with giant green eyes, no tiny invisible gnats, and no fleas in the sand.  Amazing!!!

What they do have are some pretty cute volleyball players...all over the place.  All right, we are SO moving here.


August 19,2006 (ShadeSaturday)

Our base of operations in LA this weekend will be at the Shade Hotel in Manhattan Beach.  This boutique hotel was discovered by Kristin, our new Contributing Editor for RainyDayLA. 

We have a full weekend planned...dinners, shows, and a small wedding later today.  Should be quite a good time :-) We'll have a complete write-up of Shade once we get back to the office.  In the mean time, check out the room here!


August 18,2006 (FlyingFriday)

A few of us flew out to LA to flight to LA was out of JFK.  We had to stop by the the NY RainyDayMagazine office to pick up a few folks for the trip.

The trip gave us a chance to test out a few of our clear travel cases from OtterBox.  The cell phone and RazrWire went on board with us in the 1000.  We had the DV camcorder in the OtterBox 3500 and was going to bring it through the security line, but had to put it in the check luggage at the last minute.  The gear and the case survived the trip with no problems.

The brown haze over LA was a bit more pronounced today due to the lack of wind from the ocean moving it out of the valley.  Still, it was dry, 75º, and sunny, so it is going to be a great weekend :-)


August 17,2006 (TechThursday)

We have tried a LOT of different Bluetooth headsets and speakerphones over these past few months (Jabra, BlueAnt, Plantronics, O ROKR, etc...).  Unfortunately, none of them had exactly what we were looking for...convenience, good sound, great looks for use while driving a convertible.  

This set of RazrWire showed up at the office on Monday.   Finally, we think we can stop looking for a while.  Unlike the O ROKR, these RazrWire does not have stereo, but they also don't scream "ultra-geek" neither.

Oakley and Motorola have managed to combine a small, great sounding, Bluetooth headset with a light weight and good looking pair of sunglasses to make device that is perfect for top-down driving use.

The hinge is specially designed for the Oakley's triangular shaped metal frame.  All of the controls are on the bottom of the headset.  We have the same user interface complaint with the button design as we had with the O ROKR.  The main "answer phone" button should be separated from the other button to make it easier to remember.  Ideally, it should be a LARGE button...perhaps the "O" on the side???

With that issue aside, this combo is pretty close to perfect in design and implementation for our top-down driving needs.  Not having the headset stuck into and resting on the ear is actually quite a relief during extended wear.  We'll have more observations and a full write-up after our trip out to LA later this week.


August 16,2006 (WowUsWednesday)

Tired of the paint on your car fading?  You wouldn't have that problem if it was gold-plated.  One of our RainyDayGarage fans forwarded this little gem to us just now.  Yes...it is a gold-plated Porsche Boxster!

Some Porsche owners are very picky about where they park for fear of getting dinged...we can just imagine how far away from other car they would have to park this to feel safe :-) We don't think we'll have a DIY project similar to this effort anytime soon. 

If you want an electric car, but still want the performance of a sports car, then Tesla Motors' Roadster may be just the ride for you. This $100K sports car is 100% electric, goes from 0-60 in about 4 seconds, can get from Boston to NYC on one charge (about $2.50 in electricity compared to $37 in gas!)

The only problem is if you want one, you will have to wait until the next production run.  The first 100 cars have already been spoken for!

Most readers know that we have been testing some Bluetooth speakerphones for use in the Boxster.  Our problem was when the top is down, most hands-free cell phone answering solutions have been less than adequate. 

We have been testing the Jabra and the BlueAnt Bluetooth speakerphones on several long trips.  Both units worked quite well when the top is up, but still was not really adequate when the top was down. 

Wind and road noises were the main problem...even with the devices built-in noise reduction signal processing capabilities.  The volumn on the speakers themselves were also occassionally not loud enough to be heard over the interior noise.  We think both of these units would be great for most cars, but for a convertible with the top down, we will have to continue to look for other options...perhaps something like these options below?

Can anyone tell us the difference between the two sunglasses and headphone pairing shown above?  It is a bit subtle, but does actually make a difference.  If you think you know, tell us via email with the subject line "Stick It In Your Ear."  We'll randoming reward a winner tomorrow with something that they can stick wherever they like.

We reviewed the Oakley O ROKR and felt that it was a good first attempt at integrating a few often used pieces of gear into one unit.  There were definitely some design and UI improvements should the Oakley folks decided to pursue this product line further.

A less expensive version showed up at the office today.  This unit does not have Bluetooth for connecting to a cell phone, but does have a built-in MP3 player and ear buds.  This Brando unit felt every bit as well made as the Oakleys, but at about a third of the price.  We'll load up some tunes and see if the sound quality is comparable.  Dog The Bounty Hunter can definitely carry off the look, but we are less intimidating and looked a bit over-powered by these glasses.  If you think you have the stature to do these MP3 sunglasses justice, then pick up a pair here.  We'll have more on them shortly.


August 15,2006 (TastyTuesday)

We were watching the Food Channel on Monday night and got this incredible craving for Chinese Roast Duck.  So today we got Toby and his friend Francesca and headed to Boston's Chinatown for some tasty treats!

If we were in the mood for DimSum, we would have gone to the Imperial Tea House.  If the craving was for an egg custard, then it would have been to the Hing Shing Pastry shop at the corner.  However, since the craving was for roast duck...then the only place to go is to the Vinh Sun BBQ Restaurant.

The owner used to have a small store front on the opposite side of Beach Street.  We had been purchasing ducks from him since 1982.  The restaurant opened in 2004 and has been our favorite whenever we get that hankering for things barbecued.

Vinh Sun is both a shop and a restaurant.  You can just pop in and get what you need or stay and enjoy one of their deliciously authentic dishes.  We opted for the latter.  Lunch lasted for a bit longer than we had planned...especially with the 2 hour nap which followed :-)  We'll be back for dinner with a larger group in the future!


August 14,2006 (MakeoverMonday)

When we travel, we like to bring along a good flashlight.  The FL6 2006 would just be too difficult to explain to the TSA folks, so we usually bring our SureFire flashlight.  It is small, bright, and virtually indestructable.

The new SureFire U2 Ultra just arrived at the office.  It also came with the accompanying paperwork and an "export restriction." Hmmm...does this thing have a "light saber" mode or something?  We'll probably leave this one in the office until we have fully read the user manual.

The interns were busy this weekend revamping the various sections of RainyDayMagazine based on our recent subscriber's poll.  For all the readers and vendors who participated, we thank you very much for your suggestions. Over the course of the next few months, new features will continued to be rolled out after they have been successfully tested.

The first of these are the RainyDayNews pages.  The menu on the left of the RainyDayMagazine's front page used to link directly to the product review sections of RainyDayMagazine.  They now link to the RainyDayNews page of that section.  The product reviews are now under the "Reviews" menu item for a given section (RainyDayKitchen, RainyDayGarage, RainyDaySports, etc...)

All of the relevant articles have been gathered in these sections for easy reference.  Readers who were polled preferred it to an index.  It made for much quicker searching either by using the "Find" feature of the browser or by the Google search box at the top of the page.

Frequent RainyDayMagazine readers will notice a brand new section to the left.  If you know which one it is, drop us an email with the subject line "It's All New Again." 

All correct answers by the end of day Tuesday will be tossed into a hat and a winner will be selected at random for this RainyDayGoodie directly from Otterbox.

UPDATE:  Congratulations to Jon R., our first international winner from the UK, for his correct answer.  Jon's name actually fell out of the hat.  The interns took it as a sign that Jon should receive the OtterBox 3250.  The new menu item is RainyDayPhotography!  While the page has been available to subscribers and testers for a while, it was new to the front page of RainyDayMagazine. 


August 12,2006 (SecuritySaturday) 

Air travel used to be fun, now it is more frustrating than anything else.  Still, there is no faster option when we have to get some place more than a few hundred miles away.

One way frequent travelers have dealt with delays at the airport and luggage hassles was to travel light and never check their bags.  However, with the recent craziness, carry-on bags may someday become a thing of the past.

Everyone knows there are some gear one should avoid putting in their checked baggage...things like cameras, iPods, cellphones.  However, we may have to check them in the future if security measures continues to be tighten.

A good way to both protect our gear and to make it easy for the folks at airport security to check over our stuff is to put them in a clear protective case.  The ones we use are the strong polycarbonate cases from OtterBox. 

The OtterBox cases are strong, water-tight, and CLEAR.  It makes for a much easier time in the security line.  Should we need to check the items, we know the boxes can take a beating when our bags are being tossed around by the luggage handlers.  Go here to check out other ideas for protecting your gear when trying to get from point A to point B.  If you have tips of your own, share them, and lets see if we can make going through the security checks a little easier for everyone.


August 11,2006 (FoodFriday) 

We REALLY wanted to call it a day, but the mail just came and this cool little item showed up on our desk.  We thought you would want to get a look ASAP!

This multi-tool packs a lot of functionality in a pretty small package.  Quick...someone tell us the name of this thing and how many tips there are in the package!  We'll toss all the right answers in a hat and pick a lucky winner. 

Your prize will vary according to the whims of our interns.  Wait...the interns have decided...they are going to give the winner one of these multi-tool!  The winner will be announced on Monday.  You have until Sunday midnight EST to submit your answer.  Just send an email with the subject line "Call me by my REAL name".

UPDATE:  Congradulations to "CainRok" ... Carolyn picked your name out of the "virtual" hat this morning.  We'll get a LoggerHead ImmiX20 out to you as soon as you send us your info.  Also, a reminder to all our winners...if you want to play again,


you MUST send us a digital pic of you with your prize for our upcoming "Winners" page.  Otherwise, your name will continued to be filtered out by our email bots.

Can something as simple as a Chinese Wok go high tech?  All Clad thinks so.  They have created a stainless steel version of the wok with some very impressive specs.   This wok should be available in stores starting in August.

We did the FirstLook on All Clad's Stainless Steel Wok at the beginning of the Summer.  This past weekend, we had a few folks over at the RainyDayKitchen and gave the All Clad Wok a full workout (steaming, stir-frying, etc...).

The general concensus is the All Clad Wok heats up evenly and retains heat a lot longer compared to the traditional iron wok. This made it great for frying and steaming. 


Due to the wok's stainless steel multi-ply construction it is also a lot heavier than the traditional wok.  The extra weight made the wok a bit harder to handle.  The heat retention took a little getting used to, especially when making several dishes and clean up was required between each one. 

The even heating quality of this wok really showed when we made the Kung Pao Chicken dish.  It is easy to burn the Kung Pao sauce, but we had no trouble making the dish in the All Clad Wok.  Overall, we were quite happy in our FirstUse with the performance of the wok.  Go check out the details here.  We'll try it with a few more dishes and will have an InTheWild update after Chinese New Year. 

When we cook, sooner or later someone will have to clean up...just WHERE are those interns???  SimpleHuman has made it easier with a precision soap pump.  Loading the soap is easy...just slide back the cover and fill.

Using it is also pretty simple.  This pump is single-hand operated and can dispense up to 2cc of soap with one push. In fact, you don't even need opposable thumbs.

The entire unit appears to be very well engineered...smooth lever action, cast metal housing.  SimpleHuman backs it up with a 5 year warranty on the whole thing.  We'll let you know how it stands up to the crew in the RainyDayKitchen!

Oh and just in case folks are wondering just "what IS at the end of a rainbow?"  The guys in the RainyDayGarage were surfing on PPBB and found this...have a GREAT weekend :-)


August 10,2006 (SportsTechThursday) 

When we first saw the Firefly, we thought it was a cool idea.  Now that we have had a few days to play with it, we think it is a brilliant idea.  The Firefly will fit over any wide-mouth container and turn it into a lantern.  The brightness level is adjustable by holding down the On/Off button. The amount of light given off is surprising considering the size of the LEDs in the cap. 

The cap is a self contained unit (batteries, LEDs, switch, tether) and is very portable.  It's powered by 3 AAA batteries sealed in the cap.  The tether loops around the opening of the container and is secured by clamp. 

The one drawback is a hex key is needed to make any adjustments.  Since a key is needed, it also would have been more convenient if the screws (Philips) on the lid used the same key for fastening.

Click on the videos below to see the Firefly in action.  Note the change in brightness as we cycle through the different settings.


The only other improvement we would ask for is if they could figure out a way for us to access the water without having to unscrew the cap...so we would finally stop knocking over our glass of water at night :-)  Go check out the details of the Firefly here.


August 9,2006 (InTheWildWednesday) 

Now that RainyDayMagazine is almost two years old, we have finally put in enough time with the gear to file some extended use updates to our reviews.  Starting this month, every Wednesday we'll update a past review with an "InTheWild" report. 

Last June we reviewed a pair of Keen Taos on RainyDayMagazine.  We have received a ton of emails asking when we would do an update on how they held up.  It has been 14 months since we first put on those Keens.  We must have put at least 500 miles on them by now.

The Taos held up extremely well to all kinds of abuses (city hiking, trails, snow, etc...).  We also put them through the wash (image below) to see how clean we can get them after a year. 

Considering the amount of use these shoes have seen, we think they held up extremely well!  We have no reservations in recommending these Keen Taos to those interested in a pair of durable and versatile footwear. Go here to check out the full InTheWild update.

One of our reader, Trevor H, was kind enough to send us a link to an anti-static gun when we mentioned that we were looking for one.  I don't remember what we paid for it 25 years ago, but I'm pretty sure I didn't pay $75 for a ZeroStat :-)

However, what it did was made me send the interns down to storage and dig through all the boxes until they came up with the ZeroStat.  I'm happy to report that our LP cleaning kit is now complete. 

BTW, Trevor, the mystery item from yesterday was not just a Nalgene bottle (that would have been way too easy), but a FireFly by Guyot Designs...as hinted at by the clue

Seth M from Utah did pick up on it and was the first out of over 700 emails with the correct answer...thus, is the winner.  Seth, we are working on getting a FireFly for you! If we can't, I'm sure Eliot can find you something fun.

Another item which generated a lot of email was the ReelSmart.  Most of the emails were requests was for a video showing this thing in action...a lot of you were VERY skeptical.  We decided to break with our usual FirstLook/FirstUse format and just post some quick vids now to give our email server a breather.

The left video shows the normal extraction of the hose from the storage unit.  The right video shows the ReelSmart's auto rewind feature. 

Frequent RainyDayMagazine readers know we won't pass up a chance for a fun little contest :-) We decided to change some things in the two videos.  Watch 'em really carefully and see if you can spot them all.  Send us your answer with the subject line "Changed for the better" when you think you have found them all.  We'll announce the winner...when we have one.

UPDATE...Trevor H is the winner to the ReelSmart contest.  Trevor's wasn't the only correct answer, but he went the extra mile and mentioned he noticed the user was wearing the Keen Taos.  The judges felt THAT was worth the extra point and it pushed him over the top.  Also, Trevor has been submitting answers for months now and have not managed to pull off a "win"...so, CONGRATS! Trevor!  We'll see what we can come up with worthy of your efforts.


August 8,2006 (HomeTechTuesday) 

When we were away last week, a whole bunch of gear came for RainyDayKitchen and RainyDayGarden.  We'll get to them in more detail later this week, but we thought we would give you a quick preview of what's coming.

Flavia fusion is a new beverage station we'll be trying out this week.  We'll see how it compares to some of the others we have reviewed in the past.  For cleaning up, we got a new soap pump from SimpleHuman and some specialty surface cleaners from Method.

For the RainyDayGarden, we got this interesting device called ReelSmart which is suppose to automatically reel in our garden hose when we are done watering...and it does it with water power!  We'll hook it up and show you whether and how well it does what it claims.

BTW, there was one item pictured that we haven't mentioned...if you know what it is called, tell us, and we'll reward you handsomely for your efforts.  Send us an email with the subject line "You light up my life" and the link to the manufacturer's site if you know the answer.  Before you get too excited, just remember...beauty is in the eyes of the beholder :-)

For those of us who were around during the time when LPs ruled the music landscape, the arrival of CDs and digital laser technology was a two edge blessing.  Yes, we could get clean sound, but now we'll have to repurchase all our music on CDs...and what about all those disco dance tapes on cassettes???

If you are like us and have put off the repurchase for the past twenty years, ADS Tech has created the "bridge" you need to convert the LPs into Audio CDs and MP3s.  It is called InstantMusic.

We'll are digging the record player out of storage right now.  There will be some Joan Biaz and Jackson Brown being piped through the 6.1 surround sound system today!!!  It was a good thing we never tossed that Discwasher.  Now if I can just find that anti-static gun... look for a full review in late August.


August 7,2006 (MeltdownMonday) 

Laptops that burst into flames or meltdown while in sleep mode are hitting the news lately.  A Dell laptop burst into flames in the middle of a conference in Japan was one of the more dramatic incident reported. 

Apple laptops (right photo) are not immune to this problem neither.  There have been numerous incidents of batteries going "poof" while in use...and now apparently just when the laptop was just sitting around.  A lot of it have to do with defective batteries which overheat and catch on fire.  Li-Ion and Li-Polymer are the battery cell material of choice.  The problem is some of these batteries create their own oxygen when ignited, making it very difficult to put out.

Maybe our interns were on to something when they suggested we upgrade our Apple G3 laptop instead of getting a new one! So far, we have upgrade the internal hard drive from 12GB to 100GB, memory from 512MB to 768MB, and installed the latest version of OSX.

This weekend, we upgraded the DVD-ROM drive to a slot-loading DVD burner.  The installation was pretty straightforward. We got the Pioneer DVD drive (DVR-K05) from Centrix International.  These drives were specially made for Apple.  We are not sure if generic slot-loading drives will work, but for the price that Centrix is asking ($80), why even worry about it? Save yourself the hassle, get it from Centrix, and be done with it.

We have also completed the memory upgrade to 1GB. The write-ups will be posted later this week (memory upgrade, DVD upgrade).  Later on this month, we'll show you how to upgrade the internal processor from a G3 to a G4.  The amazing thing is even with all of these improvements, the laptop will still cost about half of the price of a new Apple. 


August 6,2006 (SoRichSunday) 

Imagine our joy this morning when we learned that we had simultaneously won $2.6 million in the RAND International Sweepstakes, and that there is $35 million and $56.5 million waiting for us in two separate South African banks! All we had to do was send them our bank account info so they can deposit these fortunes into them.  Wow...we may not have to come in to work on Monday!!!

Well, Mr. Nkhosi Peters, Mr. John Thulani, and Mr. Eric Brown--strangely all in Johannesburg (good thing they are not from Nigeria or we would be suspicious)--the staff had a chance to talk it over, and we came to the conclusion that so much money would just cause us to lose perspective.  Therefore, inspired by the generosity of Bill Gates and Warran Buffett, we have decided to give all the money away!  Please transfer the funds to the Gates Foundation at your earliest convenience.

It is amazing that these scams actually works.  If a guy comes up to you on the street and offers to give you $35 million but only if you give him your bank account number...most people would pass.  What makes an email so much more convincing?  We are not sure, but the Nigerian or "419" scams have netted billions and are constantly evolving.  There are even scams to scam victims who are interested in recovering some of their money...just hand over your bank account so they can directly deposit the recovered funds.

This is the main reason why we only "pay" our interns with knowledge (don't click on email links to win money, enlarge or prolong anything, or get a Masters degree based on your knowledge of sports) and the occassional company lunch.

Some are starting to organize and fight back against the 419 scammers by "baiting" them and messin' with their heads.

Wired News has an article on the latest in this effort.  Personally, we think it would be easier to just hit the "delete" key in our email program.


August 5,2006 (SoCalSaturday) 

RainyDayMagazine's satellite office in New York is coming along: we got word that the DSL lines have been activated.  We are not sure if bitchin' and moanin' on the front page had anything to do with the service being up one day after we finally managed to order the lines...but we are not complaining now:-)

In the latter part of August, we'll be heading out West to start up RainyDayLA.  This new section will launch on January 1, 2007.  It will cover all of the happenings in LA and surrounding area.  The main reason for starting this up?  We wanted a nice place to go when it is cold here in Boston :-) 

If you live in LA and feel like going to parties and gala opening and such, drop us a line...we'll be happy to give you any extra tickets which we can't use.  In return for this largesse, you will have to write up that evening's event by the next day. Also, since it "never rains in Southern California," when it does, our plan is to give away something REALLY nice! 

BTW...if you are interested in covering events and happenings in your part of the world, drop us a line and let's talk.  You won't get paid, but it'll give you a chance to show off your writing skills.  We may also be able to get you into some really nice parties :-)


August 4,2006 (FunFriday) 

On the way back from NY, we realized that Siggraph was in Boston and it was the last day...so we stopped by and checked it out.

In our hurry to get in, we left our camera in the car.  So all the photos in this segment were taken with the Motorola PEBL's camera.

Wacom was showing their new Cintiq tablet.  Unlike most graphics tablets, the Cintiq lets the artist work directly on the display.  We love the idea of being able to work right on the screen and can definitely see how it would be an incredible tool for graphic artist. 

Our only issue is the price.  The screen is beautiful and very high res, but if someone had, say, already spent $2000 on an Apple 22" display, it would be hard to pay another $2500 for a tablet.  Wacom does have a "payback calculator" to show how quickly the increased workflow would translate into savings...thus helping to justify the purchase.  What we would love is for Wacom to make a transparent layer which could be placed over any screen...making it a drawing tablet!

There were also lots of other great stuff like new UI technology, panoramic VR goggles, 3D printers for rapid prototyping, and some very cool large projector technology from an MIT startup. 

The MIT guys figured out how to take multiple low-cost projectors and seamlessly mesh their output to create a scalable projection display system.  Their technology will work with curved walls and other ultra-large display challenges.  Anyone thinking a 300" projection TV for home or office?  We'll have more on Siggraph 06 in a separate write-up.

We were in NY setting up another RainyDay office.  Of course, the interns in Boston had a field day while we were gone...but the one thing they didn't do was open up any of the packages that arrived while we were away.  The reception area looked more like a loading dock.  We are going to have to do a better job screening the intern applications.

We'll go through the items today and see what cool new products are coming this Fall.  Who knows, you may even get some of them if you are accurate with the answers to the RainyDayPuzzlers :-)

The AeroGrow herbs have definitely taken longer before they were usable (as compared to the AeroGrow lettuce).  The herbs seemed to take longer to grow and are meant to be used before they flower. We think it might be the two basil plants have a faster growth cycle than the others--cilantro, dill, chives, mint, and parsely--and so might be blocking the other herbs' light. Perhaps the outside spots might be a better location for the basils... 

We are currently on Week6 and the folks in the RainyDayKitchen have used all of the herbs for something...including the mint for a few mojitos!  The dill never did sprout.  Hopefully we'll be able to have the garden going all Winter. 

Next Friday (8/11) Naneu Pro will be debuting their revamped website.  Since we REALLY like their bags, we want to help them get the word out!  To provide some added incentive for you to go check it out, RainyDayMagazine will send this to one lucky reader.  All you have to do is send us a screen shot of the home page on the redesigned Naneu Pro site.  Use the subject line "Here's my new home" in your email.  Eliot will pick a winner out of all the entries on Saturday (8/12).


August 3,2006 (TooolThursday) 

Bumping may be unknown to most people at present, but it has the potential to make you rethink just how secure you should feel behind a locked door.

The Open Organisation Of Lockpickers (TOOOL) has been highlighting this issue... " A technique called 'bumping' can open most mechanical pin-tumbler locks damage free, in little time, with little training and using only inexpensive tools. Even a number of high security locks can be rapidly opened damage free with this technique." You can bet we'll start looking into electronic locks for our main entry way today.

RainyDayMagazine is going to officially launch a new section this FALL called RainyDayRenovations. Originally we were planning on launching it back in June, but like any renovation project, it got unexpectedly delayed. You can get a preview of it here.

We have been following the renovation of a house in Somerville, Msaachusetts for the past six months. The renovation project should be completed by the end of Fall. RainyDayRenovations will have a complete section dedicated to covering that project. We'll also have reviews of tools and products for tackling home renovations, DIY projects, and other related topics (ex: installing electronic locks!).


August 2,2006 (WowUsWednesday) 

Billy J. sent us this link about an amazing remote operated vehicle (ROV) built with PVC pipes and other parts. We were so "wow'ed" that we decided we had to send Billy something for his tip. Thanks Billy!

We may have to build this thing so we can see what is in some of the ponds in Boston and the Charles River. What a great DIY project for $300.

Normally we don't like to jump into religion vs. science discussions...mostly because it is a waste of effort to argue faith against testable theories. Also, we would be preaching to the choir :-) Still, we feel compelled to speak up (and urge others to do so) when pseudo-science attempts to creep into our educational systems. The efforts by the simple-minded to inject the bizarro world of Intelligent Design--which is neither "intelligent" nor "design"--into Kansas' educational system has turned Kansas into a joke for late-night TV. This is unfortunate, because we really LIKE Kansas :-)

It just stuns us that with all the scientific advancements made during the last century, we still need to waste time and effort keeping our schools from falling back into the "dark ages."

We, for one, are looking forward to the next stage of our evolution... which interestingly enough, may actually be "by design"!

New ideas, even when good, can be hard to accept in such a traditional place as Massachusetts. But a recently constructed house in this Commonwealth might be changing the historic "We will always do what we've always done" attitude. Instead of throwing away the concrete slabs from the temporary structures of the Big Dig, they were reused as the foundation for this contemporary home. Recycling construction waste from the Big Dig, what a concept!

It is often much more efficient to reuse than to discard...something Big Dig officials seem to have trouble grasping, even when shown a real live example. Other states seem to be more receptive to the concept, and are beginning to consider (which is like beginning to think about thinking about it...) recycling as part of their public works specifications.


August 1,2006 (TimeTuesday) 

Some things get better with time, some just get more scratched up. To guard against the latter, we have found the InvisibleShield to provide the best protection from scratches for all our digital gear. There are other companies with similar products and we have used them with good results.

What is different about ShieldZone, the makers of InvisibleShield, is that they continue to add value to their product to make it easier to use. The package now comes with an applicator and the wetting liquid.

They also offer a custom shield for just about every screen and surface imaginable. If they don't have it, they will make one for you! This Fall we'll have the one year update on how well the InvisibleShield has worked on protecting our iPod nano. Look for it in September.

We have had the YES watch for a few weeks now. Someone has worn it each day. When we compared notes on our user experience, we all agreed that the interface on this multi-function watch has been surprisingly well-conceived.

The YES Zulu is a sophisticated timepiece. The design allows the wearer to instantly see seven pieces of temporal information at once. From looking at the watch, we can tell: it is 8:02 AM; sunrise was at 5:20AM; high noon is at 1PM; the sun will set at 8:00PM; the moon will rise a bit before noon and will set around 11PM; and the phase of the waxing moon is about 30%.

As to the function of the Phase Elapsed Time...the PET can be set to count down to or past from an event up to 9999 days (27 years) either way...good for knowing exactly when you'll retire or the next important planetary alignment :-) Apparently, I can retire in 6333 days, 9 hours, and 13 minutes...from now. We think it would be more appropriately named the Personal Elapsed Time.

We have also been wearing the Cozmo. The Cozmo has the same functions as the Zulu but is constructed with different materials... stainless steel instead of titanium and mineral glass instead of sapphire crystal. We'll have more on the Cozmo this month.

One thing we have not figured out yet is the meaning or function of the marks on the bezel of the Cozmo. If you know, send your answer with the subject line "This time I know" to us. If you are the first with the correct answer, we'll shower you with one piece of something from our bin of giveaway goodies :-)

BTW...a reader sent this article on Verizon's second quarter profit announcement to us after reading about our saga... "second-quarter profit dropped by 24 percent as customers switched to rival providers. Cable companies such as Comcast and Time Warner lured away many of the defectors with package deals for phone service, TV, and high-speed Internet access." Apparently, we are not alone in our frustration with their service.


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