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June 30,2006 (FunFriday)

All of us are looking forward to the 4th of July weekend.  The holiday is actually on Tuesday, but we've decided to give everyone the entire week off.  This weekend is the RibFest event here at the RainyDayKitchen.  Folks will likely need the rest of the week to recover :-) 

If you are in Boston on the 4th, here are two free events you may want to attend: the annual turning of the USS Constitution and the fireworks on the Charles.  They are two of Boston's signature events.  Definitely come on out for them if you are in town.

We took these fireworks pics last July 4th in Kendall Square.  If you are planning on heading down to the Charles to see the fireworks, do NOT bring your car.  Parking is impossible and it'll take you 3 hours to get home (all the streets will be closed).

Oh, and here is our tip of the day...the three basic things to remember about shooting photos of fireworks? Use a tripod, use a tripod, and use a tripod. 

Those of you following our LED lightbulb project...here is one made using one of the LED pens from a trade show.

Some of us will be around and will post if something interesting snaps us out of our nap.  Have a great 4th of July!!! 


June 29,2006 (TechThursday 5:16PM)

Some folks here don't like to change.  When they find something they like, they will use it until...well, let's just say "a long time".  The FedEx guy dropped off a new Motorola PEBL phone this morning.  The PEBL is so good looking that our last analog holdout finally agreed to trade in the FlipPhone for it :-)

The PEBL feels great in the hand, the keypad layout is simple, and even at this small size there is still a built-in VGA camera.  What's amazing is the first feature we encountered sold us on this phone.  

Opening clamshell phones to make or take a call has always been a bit awkward and often much easier with two hands.  Motorola has created an elegant one-handed "slide-to-open" mechanism.  Just use the thumb to push the cover down (red arrow) and the cover will flip open.  Beautiful.  We'll have the FirstLook next week.

Yesterday, a reader asking why we take so much time in doing our reviews.  We thought that was such a good question that we felt we should talk about it on the front page.

We know there are MANY sites out there with late breaking gear and gadget info and posts as soon as the press releases hit the wire.  At RainyDayMagazine, we have decided to go in a different direction.  We don't want to just post what is in the press releases.  That information is useful and talks about the features of the product, but we wanted to actually use the gear in everyday situations and report back on how it performs in real life.

We also don't want to review every product under the sun.  We only want to look at gear which we find interesting AND we would actuallly want to use.  So, if you see it reviewed in RainyDayMagazine, you can be sure we have it in house and are using it for real.  We hope this approach adds something useful to the enormous wealth of information on the Web and to help you past the time on a "RainyDay" :-)

Some projects we do require a knowledge of electronics.  Some just look like it does.  We read about this great idea on MAKE about how to "clean out" a burnt out lightbulb and use it for various projects. We thought it would be fun to clean out one of the broken bulbs we had around the office and replace the internal mechanism with an LED and make a freestanding LED light bulb.

Go here is you want to see the details of the construction of this LED light bulb.   We followed what John posted on TeamDroid for clean out the bulb.  We made a small addition which we think helped with containing the glass chips.  The LED assembly was something we pulled from one of our tradeshow goodies.

The whole project only took 10 minutes, but the end result was pretty cool.  The bulb is light enough ot be hung anywhere.  The weight of the batteries acts as a counter balance to the bulb.

The whole idea here is to remind folks that not everything has to be made from scratch.  There are probably tons of stuff you have laying around which would be great for quick little projects.  Send us you best efforts...if we post it, Eliot will send you something from his pile of tradeshow goodies!


June 28,2006 (WowUsWednesday 1:53PM)

To all of you who have emailed us asking when we'll be taking a look at the Mindstorm NXT, the answer is SOON :-)  We, like everyone else eager to get their hands on this highly anticipated robot building kit from LEGO, have tapped all available resources...and the word is SOON...end of July, beginning of August?

In the meantime, head on over to the Lego Mindstorm site and see how you will be spending all your free time in the Fall.  Check out some of the crazy robots built by the folks in the developer's program.

The key to the versatility of the NXT is the powerful programmable "brick".  LEGO had made it simple to command the NXT creations by choosing a programming environment based on LabVIEW

LabVIEW commands are prodefined "modules" which you can connect together, much like LEGO blocks, to form a chain of actions or responses to external input from the various sensors.

If you want one of the first units coming off the production line, then signup now.  If the Mindstorm NXT is anything like the first version of Mindstorm, the first run will sell out pretty quickly!

This weekend is the RainyDayKitchen's 4th of July RibFest.  Lucky readers chosen at random who have received their invitations should expect a finger lickin' good time!  We'll be featuring a few recipes made using spices and rubs from Dave's Gourmet

As always with any RainyDayMagazine events, no one leaves until all the food is gone :-)


June 27,2006 (ToolsTuesday 1:12PM)

When we first reported on the BionicWrench, we did a detail review comparing it to standard wrenches and pliers.  The same analysis still holds for the BionicGrip.  The obvious difference is LoggerHead Tools has addressed our one issue with the original BionicWrench...its inability to grip pipes due to its closed loop design.

Squeezing the handle of the BionicGrip will cause the teeth to exert even pressure on the object.  Unlike the BionicWrench, the teeth on the BionicGrip are serrated to better hold onto things like tubes and pipes.  The BionicGrip will be shipping in July.  We have only had the BionicGrip for two days and we already know it'll have a permanent place in our tool box.

Everyone knows ShopVac is the name in Wet/Dry vacuum for cleanup the garage and workshop floor.  What some may not know is the vacuum itself does not always have to be on the floor.

The ShopVac Hang-Up series of vacuums are perfect for places such as garages and basements where floor space are a premium.  The unit is designed to hang on the wall of the shop or the garage.  The main vacuum hose is much longer (18') than the ones which comes with most typical shop vacuums.

The motor has plenty of power (4.5 hp) and the canister will hold about 5 gallons of dirt and debris.  The ShopVac Hang-Up comes with various accessories for most clean up (wet or dry) jobs around the shop. 

If you had been wanting to convert your Dremel tool into a press, then Dremel WorkStation is exactly what you need.  We have been using this accessory for the past month and it has been an awesome addition to our XPR-400. The unit is easy to transport, quick to setup, and simple to use.

The Dremel WorkStation is made up of three main parts: base, post, and sliding press.  The base is made from casted aluminum.  The post is made using two pieces of stainless steel.  The press is a pre-assembled unit consisting of a Dremel tool holder, a sliding press mechanism, and a rotatable mount.  The FirstLook report on the Dremel WorkStation has been posted.  We'll have the FirstUse review soon.

We read this on Gizmodo... some clever advertising folks have found a way to creep us out AND get us to buy things at the same time. 

This reminded us of the wide-angle lens we made out of a peephole for the digital camera last week.  We realize we can use that lens to get just the right distance for making these peephole ads :-)

With a standard photo frame, it was simple to move it back and forth to see what the proper distance is for the desired effect.

So, you now can have anyone outside your door all the time.  OK, we have managed to really creep ourselves out now...we are not posting anymore for the rest of the day.


June 26,2006 (MusicModsMonday 10:24AM)

Because it was raining this weekend, folks who came in to the office were looking for a quick little project to past the time.  We had set up the CTA GrandScale System last week.  CTA included clips for securing the speaker wires to the support posts, but some thought they could be hidden in the support post. 

We knew some of our DIY readers would appreciate a more "finished" look, so we took out the Dremel and did a quick little modification to a few pieces.  In the end, we were able to hide most of the wires in the stands down to the base.

This modification was not a lot of work, but you do need to have a drill and correctly sized bits.  We used a bench clamp to hold the steel tubing while drilling.  In all, this modification took about 15 minutes, and we think it was worth the time.  It made for a much cleaner-looking setup.

BTW, nobody got the right answer to the giveaway on Saturday.  Since it has stopped raining, here is the answer.  The four iPod products are: nano iPod, DLO nanoTune, CTA GrandScale, and the InvisibleShield (on the iPod).


June 24,2006 (StillRainingSaturday)

It is still raining here in Boston, so we are going to give away another piece of gear.  This time there will be two possible winners.  The first winner gets to choose, the second winner gets what's left.

To win, just name all the products in the photo below...

Hint: there are four.  Some you can see, some are invisible.  If you think you know the answer, then send your answer before it stops raining with the subject line "RainyDayFreeStuff". 

The prize is one of these Slapper NBA (76ers) themed iPod cases below.  The one on the left will hold a full size iPod, the one on the right is for the iPod Shuffle. 

Please include your prize preference in the email... otherwise, we'll pick one for you.


June 23,2006 (FoodFriday 3:51PM)

We set up another AeroGarden in the RainyDayKitchen.  This one is a newer model with some improved timer programming, some cosmetic updates, and a different color...black. 

There are seven (mint, two kinds of basil, dill, cilantro, parsley, chives) different herbs in the seed kit.  Some should germinate a a few days while others may take up to a week and a half.

The black color blends in well in the kitchen especially if the device is out in the open.  All of us are quite eager to see how well the AeroGrow works for growing herbs.  Our lettuce growing experience with the first AeroGrow unit was incredibly successful.  Three months later, we are still getting lettuce from our first planting.  We really like the idea of having a constant herb garden in the kitchen... we will try to keep this unit going to see if we can have fresh herbs from now to next Spring :-)

Fresh herbs are great, but keeping the wine and Champagne fresh is what the Epicurean Preservation System is all about. 

The Epicurean Preservation System is a hand held pressure / vacuum pump designed for simple one handed operation.  The system comes with the EPS pump, charging base, a couple of wine stoppers, a stopper/pourer, and a Champagne stopper.  Once we have the unit fully charged, we'll crack open a few bottles and give this a test :-)

We have decided that whenever it is raining in Boston, we'll give something away. 

Since it IS raining, the first person to correctly tell us what this is and who makes it, gets it.  Send your answer with the subject line "RainyDayFreeStuff".

UPDATE:  David Puffer is the winner... "Slappa Gripper Boston Celtics NBA themed case for the iPod Shuffle"


June 22,2006 (TotalSurroundThursday)

The JVC RX-D301S Surround Sound receiver for our MediaCenter project showed up at the office yesterday.  The receiver is so we could properly drive the HK 6.1 surround speakers.  We spent the rest of the day reworking the AV hook-up in the media room.

This AV Receiver is a refurb unit, but since it was discounted over 60%, the price was definitely right :-)  Hooking it up (6 surround speakers, 2 DVD, VCR, TV, and cable) and programming the Harmony 880 remote was a little more difficult than we had first thought. 

Our first attempt met with limited success...we got video, but no sound.   After a bit of thinking and some more deciphering of the instruction manual, we finally got sound to come out of the surround speakers :-)

Our final task was to reprogram the univeral remote control so anybody can use this set up.  Programming the Harmony remote is done via the web.  All of the codes are available from the Harmony website.  Try as we may, we could not get the Harmony remote to control the AV receiver.  The problem was solved when we decided to try programming the remote using the code for a JVC RX-D302B instead of the RX-D301S...not sure why, but that set of codes worked, the other proper set does not.  

Anyway, we'll be spending the rest of today optimizing the speaker placements :-)  Once we have it, we'll run the wires in the wall and mount them permanently.


June 21,2006 (WetNWildWednesday 4:22PM)

Like the Mion website states... these are "performance footwear for a water planet".  As such, these shoes are designed (open-slot shell, threaded lacing, and super gripping sole) to work well in the water. 

These Mion Current sandals are like nothing else on the market.  The look is both high tech and highly organic... a cross between a robotic hand and something spongy.  Totally wild.

With the word "Rain" in the name of our magazine, you know we would be interested with products such as these from OtterBox!

We usually pack our gear in clear plastic baggies.  To insure good protection, we usually double-bag it.  This has worked pretty well, but it does make it somewhat cumbersome.  When we came upon this clear series of crush resistant water-tight boxes, we were eager to give them the once over.

BTW... the first reader to correctly identify all of the items in the big case will get something chosen by our guess editor Eliot.  We'll post the list when the prize has been won or at the end of the Summer... whichever comes first.   If you don't see the list, there are still more stuff to be found.  The usual haphazard lists of rules applies.  Send your ONE entry with the subject line "I'm OTTER here Puzzler " when you think you've got them all.  "Huge" clues may appear and disappear at various times over the Summer.

Today is the official start of Summer.  We expect a sunny 80º day here in Boston.  When the heat is on, it is very important to stay hydrated.  Nalgene is the first name which come to our minds when we think "containers".

The Nalgene OTG bottle is slim and will fit in most openings (car cup holders, bike water bottle cage, etc...) and carriers (hip packs, backpacks, etc...)  Opening of the cap is a one handed operation.  The cap can easily flipped back with a press by the thumb. 

Sometimes we like our hands free but the water still close at hand.  The Nalgene Swift Hydration Pak is perfect for those times.

It's mainly geared toward cyclists, much liked the CamelBak Lobo.  There are some difference (magnetic valve clip, insulated container compartment, etc...) when compared to the Lobo.

The magnetic catch is a nice usability addition as it make stowing the drinking tube a simple one-handed operation.  The most notable is the clear water level window for checking how much liquid remains.

The storage compartment of the Nalgene Swift is large enough for some small items (notepad, map, IDs, keys, etc...).   Larger items such as a jacket may be tied to the cord on the outside of the pack.

As with other products inspired by ones already on the market, the Nalgene took what works and made evolutionary improvements to make it even better.  The Swift's additions appeared to be a well conceived and should make the pack a great piece of gear to have on the road. 


June 20,2006 (TechTuesday 10:20AM)

The CTA GrandScale Speaker System is probably one of the largest accessory you can get for your iPod :-)   This system was designed not just to bring out room-filling sound from a dockable iPod, but to enhance the decor as well.  The GrandScale is simple to set up, easy to move around, and will fit pretty much anywhere. 

We tried the CTA GrandScale in a few different places around the RainyDayMagazine office to see where it would best fit.  In the end, we decided the large meeting room was the most appropriate location.

As with any subwoofer/satellite speaker system, the large bass speaker can be placed anywhere.  We have hidden it behind the large plant for a cleaner look.  Some argued that it seems a shame to hide it since it is so good looking.

So if you want a lot of music without a lot of hardware, consider the iPod and CTA GrandScale combo.  We'll have a more detail FirstLook write-up posted soon.

Still want the BIG sound, but want more of a generic speaker system?  Perhaps the Altec Lansing FX6021 would be just the thing.  The nice silver finish was designed to blend with the Apple G5 and PowerBooks.

This unit can be part of a desktop system, a gaming system, or a TV/stereo setup.  Since the lower bass frequencies are omnidirectional, like the CTA GrandScale, the Altec Lansing FX6021's larger subwoofer (center) unit may be placed anywhere in the room.  We'll swap out the H/K SoundSticks 2 and check out the sound of Altecs next week.

We have reviewed a few Bluetooth devices (headsets, transmitters, GPS) here on RainyDayMagazine.   The Australian company BlueAnt has taken Bluetooth devices one logical step further by incorporating the short range wireless technology into a set of speakers they call the BlueSonic.

We just unpacked the BlueSonic unit and have not had a chance to set it up yet.  One thing we know for sure... we are not going to have to hide any wires :-)


June 19,2006 (MFAMonday 6:26PM)

We spent a fabulous morning in Paris and just got back this afternoon...hence the lack of actual updates on today's issue until now.  Boston MFA's upcoming exhibition, Americans In Paris (June 25th to September 24th), is an incredible collection of works from American artists who lived and painted in Paris from the 1860s to 1900.

This exhibition is a joint effort by the MFA, the Met, and the National Gallery London.  The tour started in London.  The US debut is here in Boston at the MFA.

There are about 100 works in the exhibit from painters such as Cassatt, Whistler, Sargent, and Homer.  Many of these are "signature pieces" and many are assembled in one place for the first time.

John Singer Sargent's Mrs. White, Madame X, and The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit are all present in the exhibit.  Click on any of the thumbnails below to get a closer look.


This exhibit will be at the MFA from June 25 through September 24, 2006.  Be sure to check out the hotel packages and related events as well.  There are TONS of special restaurant related celebrations all over the city as part of the American In Paris celebration.  Be sure to check them out!!!


June 18,2006 (Weekend Edition)

This weekend's outing was a Sunday hike in to the outdoor garden of one of Boston's more famous buildings, the Prudential Tower. 

The outdoor garden was installed a few years ago to replace the long-defunct skating rink.  The rink, which was built at the same time as the Pru, ceased operations almost immediately, because the builders situated the skating rink such that the reflection from the windows of Boston's first true skyscraper constantly melted the ice. Something about a southern exposure...

After a morning of walking around, we are happy to report that the Nalgene Swift and Tom Bihn Buzz packs were just the right size for UrbanHiking. 

The Julbo Dolgan sunglasses looked like they were designed for expeditions to mountain summits.  However, their wrap-around features were also perfect for hiking around the city.   We didn't have time to take the ride to the top of the Prudential Tower.  Next time we'll head to the Top Of The Hub for a look around.  We hear the restaurant is pretty good :-)


June 16,2006 (FoodFriday 12:56PM)

Everybody wants to go to the party but nobody likes to stay and clean up.  We realized it was time to clean the grills from the FirstGrill event, especially since the July 4th RainyDayMagazine RibFest is fast approaching!

Today is going to be a clear 80º day... perfect for this outdoor task.  Our trusty Summer helpers were assigned the job while the rest of us stood around and had our morning coffee.   Cleaning the Coleman RoadTrip LXE at first looked like it would be pretty messy... mostly because food was able to fall between the slots of the grill. 

The Thermos Grill2Go had a grease trap on the side which got filled with water from the rain.  The surface is a one piece and should be very easy to clean.

However, cleaning the Grill2Go's grease trap turned out to be a problem.  Folks here have some ideas on how to "modify" the container to make it easier to clean this grease trap.  We will post our results later today.

If you want to just enjoy a great meal without all the clean up, the L'Epicureo restaurant at the Hotel Providence in RI is hosting their first Wine Dinner on June 20th to celebrate their new location at 311 Westminster St.  It is a seven course dinner with a wine pairing for each course....yummm.

Tickets to the event must be purchased in advance.  Give Bethany Robert a call (401-490-8119) if you are interested.  Tell her you read about it on RainyDayMagazine :-)

We saw these cool looking USB lamps on Gizmodo and thought... RainyDayProject!  Remembering we had a Kensington laptop lamp and a string of outdoor party lights around somewhere , the race was on to see if we could get it done before the sleepiness from our just finished lunch overtake us.

Well that didn't take long.  Just in time too...because it's REALLY nice out and folks are already calling it a day.  Some of us may continue to work, but a nap is definitely on the schedule.


June 15,2006 (TechTipsThursday 2:46PM)

Getting good close up photos with a digital camera is not that easy.  There are a few issues (lighting, shutter speed, focus) which can ruin a shot.  We have been using a little $10 trick for the past few years and have found it to be quite effective.

To get that good macro shot, we paired the camera with a standard 8x loupe normally used for examining 35mm slides. 

All of the images below were taken using the loupe and the Canon Digital Elph S-100 in macro mode.  Click on thumbnail to see the full size 2 MegaPixel image from the S-100.  Note the circular drop off in sharpness near the edge of the image.  It is a reasonable trade-off considering the quality of the closeup...and the price :-)


If you need to go super wide angle, then take a look at the tip posted by Slacy on MAKE Magazine yesterday.

It is a 160º wide angle lens made out of a peep hole viewer ($11).  We are heading to Home Depot now to pick one up!  Awesome idea!!!

OK...the interns came back from Home Depot with a door viewer from Schlage.  It cost $9.46.  I'm not sure why I didn't get any change for the $20... something about a double venti something.  Anyway, this one does not appear to be as large in diameter as the one used by Slacy.  The diameter of the hole is 9/16", but it does claim a 190º view! 

Sure enough, just shooting through the barrel of the viewer works pretty well.  You do have to hold it against the lens and it does move around a bit.  The shot was taken using the same Canon S100 used for the macro shots.  Click on the image to see it in full resolution.  We'll have to rig up a slip-on mount so the lens will be easier to use.

We knew there was a reason why we saved those 35mm slide canisters!  They would be just right as a mount for the wide angle lens :-)

We cut it to size and added two silicone pads (red arrows) inside the canister so the whole thing would stay on the camera without us having to hold it.  We decided to mount it on the cap because we had this grand vision of being able to swap different lens onto cylinder.

Some work is still needed to get the distance just right so the camera's lens will sit flat against the wide angle lens.  Also take care NOT to shut off the camera before removing the cylinder.  In our  case, the grip was strong enough that it prevented the lens from retracting into the camera.  The camera worked fine after a reset, but this could potentially damage the mechanics of the auto focus mechanism.


June 14,2006 (WowUsWednesday 7:27AM)

After seeing our little SmartCandle cover, one reader (thanks Emily) sent us this link to Adam Frank's beautiful line of oil lamp shadow projectors made of etched stainless steel.

We are going to see if we can do something similar with some patterns and the SmartCandles today.

While not exactly the same, we did a quick little shadow-related project with some frosted EtchArt vinyl and a blank window.  The vinyl sticks to the glass by static.

The etched glass effect is good during the day, but it is also pretty cool at night.  The backlighting is provided by the street lamp.

The entire project took about 10 minutes from start to finish... a quick way to add a little whimsy to a blank piece of glass :-)

Here is another 10 minute project for those with an interest in geometric puzzles.  A Tangram is an ancientChinese puzzle made of seven pieces of wood.  I remember getting one when I was about 5 years old.  I may have ate one of the pieces accidentally.. there are varying accounts of this in the family lore. 

For this project, if you can cut a straight line, you can complete it in about 10 minutes. There are thousands of possible shapes of animals, people, etc... Send us your favorite. 


June 13,2006 (TunesTuesday 7:08AM)

First to correctly name all three cases gets something in the mail from our guest editor Eliot.  Since we are on East Coast, readers here usually get the first crack at the puzzlers, but today we are going to post it at midnight EST... so on this puzzler, our readers on the West Coast may have a bit of an advantage :-)

Send your answer with the subject line "TunesTuesdayPuzzler" to us hereUPDATE:  Adrian Quan was the fastest with the correct answer (C6 Mfg, DLO nanoTune, A-1).  Adrian will be getting a sheet of the BestSkinsEver for the nano. 

Like the InvisibleShield, the BestSkinsEver has the same precision die-cut for the front, back, and the clickwheel. We have found these skins (InvisibleShield, BestSkinsEver) to be a great protection for the iPod nano.  We have had a layer for almost a year and it has worked amazingly well.

The DLO nanoTune arrived at the RainyDayMagazine office yesterday. This case may be the last case you will need for the nano... or perhaps the first one you should buy if you don't have a case.

It is a desk stand, a hard case, a radio tuner, an amp, AND a FM transmitter.  It also has a pass-through connector so the iPod can be charged while in the case. 

That is a LOT for this little case.  We did have a little trouble getting the nano to work with the nanoTune (would not stay on), but resetting the nano seemed to have solved the problem. We'll play with it today and let you know more in a few days.

The RainyDayMagazine MediaCenter is getting a sound upgrade this week.  We got these Harman Kardon 6.1 surround sound speakers (HKTS-8) a few weeks ago, but we have not had the time to mount them. 

This week, we are going to run the wires and figure out where to mount the six speakers for a truly surround audio experience.  We will also need to find an upgrade our receiver to drive everything.  We have a few units on the list.  The question is should we go with a 6.1 or 7.1 surround sound capable unit.


June 12,2006 (MathMonday 11:18AM)

We came across this cool little "how-to" on making a Tensegrity Coffee Table this weekend when searching for ideas for 3D stained glass sculptures.

The whole idea of tensegrity is pretty interesting.  It is based on two "systems" in balance...one is continuously pulling and the other is discontinously pushing.  The easiest way to think about it is to visualize a balloon: the skin is "continously pulling" while the air molecules inside are "discontinously pushing."  We think these structures may be cool as a framework for mounting stained glass.

While we have not decided what to do about a tensegrity based stained glass project, we did spent the afternoon playing with the simple structure outlined by the article above.   We made ourselves a fun little cellphone holder out of a few sticks and some fishing line.

We had a few false starts, a couple of complete failures, and learned a few things about tensegrity based structures from making this little scale model.  These structures can are VERY stable once there is a load on it.  We are going to spend the rest of the day making these little structures...now, where did I put that box of rubber bands???

Ring tones that only teenagers can hear?  The sound was was originally developed by Compound Security Systems in the UK to drive away pesky kids from the front of stores and other areas. It was hailed as a break-through because it won't drive away the "older" and more like "paying" customers.

Well, in the world of unintended consequences, some kids recorded the sound and have turned it into a ring tone called TeenBuzz.  It is available on the net.  Supposedly it can only be heard by kids (ie: students), but not by older adults (ie: teachers).  So...kids can now have cellphones ringing in class without the teachers hearing it.  What?  Kids don't have cellphones with a vibrate mode?


June 11,2006 (ScrapbookingSunday)

Adding your own touches to cards is one way to further personalize a note or gift for that "special" someone.  Some of us are creative and dextrous enough to cut patterns with scissors or an exact-o knife, but others can use a little help.

Xyron has created a machine called the Personal Cutting System (PCS) to help with precisely cutting patterns in different sizes on all kinds of materials. 

The Xyron Personal Cutting System is a standalone device.  The patterns are selected from a collection of "Design Books". 

We have been using the Xyron PCS to cut shapes for all kinds of quick little projects.  One simple creative use was as a decorative cover for the SmartCandles... don't try this on a votive holder with a REAL flame :-)

Bear with us as Eliot has insisted we link to this article on a cat chasing a...well, you can read it on Boston.com if this is your kind of thing:-)

The speck of orange at the end of the blue arrow is Jack...Eliot's new mentor.


June 10,2006 (SpringCleaningSaturday )

Spring is over and we wanted to move into Summer with a clean office.  With the rain keeping us all inside for the past week, we took the opportunity to do some much needed cleaning. 

There are a few furry creatures (no...not the interns) running around the RainyDayMagazine office.  Getting their hair out of the office furniture has always been a challenge.  One of the easiest product we have found for getting cat hair off the office sofa is called StickySheets.  They measures a large 23" x 35" and come three sheets to a package.

All you have to do is unfold a sheet, peel back the paper, press / lift and you are done.  Each sheet is good for a few "pressings." 

We also discovered, because of its large size, the StickySheets were perfect for quickly cleaning lint off the Porsche Boxster's convertible top. 


June 9,2006 (FotoFriday 4:02PM)

Before the days of digital cameras, many of us captured our precious moments using a chemical process involving silver halide coated celluloid matrix...in other words, on Kodak Film (FujiFilm for those who wanted really bright greens).   Most of us accumulated a LOT of images in one or two major formats... 35mm negatives film or 35 mm positive slides.

For the past 15 years, we have been meaning to scan and convert these analog memories to digital.  It is not as straight forward as one would imagine...there are issues of scanning resolution, storage, scratch/dust removal, color correction, etc... All of which meant we have not done a thing.

Plustek has made it easier with the introduction of their high resolution OpticFilm 7200i film and slide scanner. At 7200 dpi, this is one of the highest resolution scanner available.  At around $300, it is within the budget of many amateur and all professional photographers.

How to handle dust, scratches, and other defects on the physical film is one of the major issue with the conversion process.  This scanner has the ability to use infrared scanning (iSRD) to automatically remove dust and scratches from the film. 

Currently, the scanner is Windows only... which is a bummer for some of the Mac folks in the graphic department here at RainyDayMagazine.  Still...we are VERY excited and are looking forward to giving this Plustek 7200i unit a thorough testing.  We are starting a rumor that Plustek will have drivers for this awesome looking scanner for the Mac soon :-)

MonsterPod, the "grip anywhere" tripod which was a hit at March's PMA Expo is edging ever closer to being in production. 

We had reviewed a device called the StickyPod a while back.  The StickyPod is based on good old fashion industrial sized suction cups.  This MonsterPod device is based on something completely different... viscoelastic morphing polymer.  It has the ability to stick to an amazing number of surfaces.  Go check it out on the MonsterPod site.

The thing about having all the cool photographic and video gear is you need something to carry them while out on the job.  We have found a few companies which make great gear bags.  For carrying our camera gear, our favorite bag is from Kata.

So when we needed equipment bags for our video gear, we didn't even look anywhere else.  We went straight to the Kata site and found these two beauties.  The large one (MC-61) is a full size shoulder bag.  It will accommodate most of the larger 3 CCD video cameras.  The smaller one is the waist/shoulder bag (WS-604) which will allow us to shoot from the hips.  We'll have a lot more to say about these bags in a few weeks.

Just when everything was calm with our world...a new product shows up on our doorstep which raises the bar a notch.  We had firmly stated this morning that Kata-Bags are our favorite...and they are.  This afternoon, FedEx dropped of a Naneu bag which may challenge that position currently occupied by Kata.

Like the Kata R102, the Naneu Mini GoomBah is sized to handle a serious amount of gear.  There is plenty of room inside the main compartment for camera bodies, lens, and accessories.

There are also external pockets for smaller items.  In the center are straps and pocket (red arrow) for tying down a tripod.

The Naneu MiniGoomBah is a cross between a photographer's backpack and a rolling travel case.  There are straps for putting the entire pack on your back or rolling it around on the floor.

The backpack mode will be perfect for quickly getting off the plane.  Once in the terminal, extend the hidden telescopic handle and rolling the gear out to the car. There is a lot more to this piece of gear.  You will just have to wait for our FirstLook review to see it all :-)

It looks like we will have enough packs for our photographic and video gear for the Summer Outing.  We'll also be bringing a few portable grills along with us for the trip :-)


June 8,2006 (TiredThursday 7:40AM)

Eliot, our guest editor, thought it was going to be an easy gig when he signed up for the job.  I believe his exact words were ..."What??? Play with gadgets all day and send interns to fetch coffee?  How hard could THAT be?"

Eliot surfed all week but only manage to get one kitten related bit from the web he thought was worth sharing.  The Mac... it is so easy to use even a kitten can do it.

While our guest editor was fast at work napping, some of us have been busy trying to finish the Da Vinci Code so we can all go see the movie together.  We ordered the CDs from Jiggerbug, the audio player from PlayAway, and got the book from a local book store.  The book showed up at the office on Saturday, the audio book came on Wednesday, the CDs have yet to make their appearance.

I started the book on Monday night, got about nine chapters through the book when the PlayAway version showed up in the office yesterday morning.  It was pretty clear it would take me another two weeks to finish reading the book so I switched to the PlayAway audio version.

Well...16 hours and three AAA batteries later...I'm done with the audio book.  Aside from a few small UI issues with the player, using the PlayAway to listen to the story has been an excellent experience.

I was able to use the PlayAway audio book right out of the box.  I didn't have to worry about tossing it around.  I was able to listen to it while doing all the normal things during the day.  Best of all...now that I'm done with it, I can just put in a new battery and pass it on to the next person at the office.  Some might say why not just download it from places like Jiggerbug or Audio.com?  For some, that would be the way to go, but for a lot of folks...the PlayAway is the no hassle way to enjoy the benefits of technology without having to actually bothered with the technology!  I, for one, am sold on the PlayAway:-)


June 7,2006 (WirelessWednesday 12:05PM)

Our SMC wireless router went on permanent vacation last week so we sent one of the interns over to the MicroCenter in Cambridge to pick up a new one.  She came back with a Linksys router at twice the price...$50 instead of the $25 for the SMC.  She insisted that the Linksys was a better router.  We did get it up and running in about 15 minutes.

Today she forwards this link and said "See!  It can be turned into a $600 router...try THAT with the SMC."  Wise-ass kid...I guess now we'll HAVE to pay her for working here.

Tired of getting entangled with the wires of your earbud headphones?  Cut the cord with the Saitek A-350.  These wireless headphones will turn any audio player into a wire-free setup.

Just plug the transmitter into the headphone jack of your favorite audio player (CD, walkman, iPod, MobiBLU, etc...) and you are good-to-go!  Yes...it will even work with the PlayAway audio books.


June 6,2006 (TunesTuesday 3:34PM)

Sonic Impact shook the audio world when it introduced an audio amplifier for under $30 which rivaled those costing 10x more. 

They have now released the Super T-Amp which is an update version of Classic T-Amp with a machined aluminum case, metal knobs, and overall better parts.  Our FirstLook review will cover all of the built features of the unit.  We'll, of course, take it apart to see what's inside. 

Yesterday we mentioned the O ROKR was on its way.  Well, the FedEx guy dropped it off first thing this morning.  We are a little apprehesive about it after reading some of the earlier reports of this gadget.  However, after taking it out of the box, playing with it a bit, and having various folks try it on, we think it is going to be great to use with the convertible!

We have tried a lot of different devices for answering the cell phone while keeping both hands on the wheel.  The Plantronics Bluetooth headsets have been the best so far.  Still, we are eager to give this O ROKR a try...besides, we LIKE the way these glasses look.  It's got that retro Elvis thing going on.  We have to find the right combination of Bluetooth gear to send music to the O ROKR from our iPod, but we are pretty sure it would have worked with the Verizon version of the RAZR...maybe we should have held on to it for a few more days!


June 5,2006 (MotoMonday 5:08PM)

We have been big fans of Motorola cell phones ever since they came out with the StarTac.  When we saw the RAZR, we knew we had to check out this phone.

The RAZR has gone in a different direction compared to the other "clamshell" Motorola designs we have had in the past ( T-720, E815, MPX220).  Go check out our FirstLook of the RAZR now.

One of the biggest problem with upgrading the cell phone is moving the information from one phone to another.  With the T-Mobile version of the RAZR, we had less problems compared to the Verizon one because of the availability of the SIM card.  However, there are still drawbacks to storing the info on the SIM card.  We just got a device called the CellStik from SparkTech which may solve all of our problems for future upgrades.

The CellStik is a Flash based device which will download the data stored in the phone and transfer onto the computer or to another phone.  Most of the newer phones are supported.  Do note that different manufacturers use very different connectors.  Depending on the phones, you may need more than one CellStik to make the transfer work.

We reviewed a few of Speck's iPod nano covers and found these whimsical cases surprisingly protective.  Speck now has a new line of the cases for the wildly popular Motorola RAZR cell phones.

The Speck SkinTight case comes with a one piece rubber covering and a frosted multi-position belt clip.   The rubber cover stretches and slips over the RAZR to form a ... you got it ... skin-tight shield.

Three different color (Dark Gray, Clear, Red) cases came in the SeeThru collection.  You can mix and match if you like or go with just one style.   We liked both the dark gray and the clear.  The red didn't really work that well with the two RAZRs we had.

Go check them out and find just the right one for you...or get a bunch of them and change them to fit your mood of the day!

Our friends at ALK just informed us their awesome CoPilot software will be available for the new Motorola Q.  We have been using various versions of the CoPilot software on our PDA for the past six years and have found it to be an excellent product.

The Motorola Q is aimed squarely at the Blackberry and the Palm Treo crowd.  With added functionalities such as the CoPilot GPS software, it might just take some market shares away from the established players!

Companies such as Oakley have hooked up with Motorola directly to incorporate Moto technologies directly into their products.  The O ROKR and RazrWire are such items.

We were just informed the O ROKR is on its way to us.  The O ROKR is a Bluetooth stereo headphone integratd into a pair of high end Oakley sunglasses.  Hopefully we will have a FirstLook for you before the sun comes back out.  The first reader to correctly tell us whether the O ROKR will work with any of our Moto phones (you'll have to figure out what we have) will get a little something in the mail.

In the mean time, we'll tell you about a few Bluetooth headsets we have been test with the Moto phones for the past several months.  Both units are from Plantronics.

We have been using both the Plantronics Voyager and Explorer Bluetooth headsets for the past few months.  We would have written things up quite a bit sooner had we not kept getting different Motorola phones for testing.  Each time we were ready to write it up we got in a new phone and someone would say "let's try it with THIS one, then we'll write it up!"  We have finally managed to stop... so here is the FirstLook.


June 4,2006 (ScienceSunday10:51AM)

The Diet Coke and Mentos phenomenon is well known, but it took the folks at Eepybird to show us what can be done at a large scale!

They also have a few other videos of the Diet Coke / Mentos experiments... also worth watching :-)


June 3,2006 (SimulationSaturday 8:18AM)

We had mentioned a game called Spore about a year ago.  This game was conceived by the same guy (Will Wright) who created the wildly popular PC game SIMs.

Spores has recently won a bunch of awards at the 2006 E3 conference.  The essence of Spore is still based in simulation, but instead of a city, you can now create entire worlds from spores, direct their growth, and let them evolve into creatures.

These different creatures can interact, fight, form societies, and do all kinds of crazy, unexpected, and sometime very familiar things.  Eventually, they will develop space travel capabilities and move off-world...aah, colonization.

If this was all it would be great, but some are pushing to have the game go online.  Players can then explore worlds created by other players and interact with them.  Resistance is futile.

SummerStuffPuzzler Update: As a few hundred readers discovered, clicking on the image of the Summer Gear will bring up a huge version where all of the items can be clearly identified.  Most of the entries had correctly identified between 10 to 13 items.  Nobody got all 16 items correctly. 

Congratulations goes to Howard Stone for naming the most: 15.  Howard... please select the OtterBox which most fits your needs and we'll get it out to you after our FirstLook and FirstUse reviews.

Eliot, our guest editor, has (between naps) decided that past Puzzler winners may submit entries for new RainyDayPuzzlers ONLY if they send a JPEG of themselves with their latest prize.  He wants to publish the pics for the new Winners Gallery.  The goal is to have the Gallery up by the end of June.

BTW...we found something wrong with our email filter after a few of you told us you had sent in entries which we never received.  Apparently the filter was sending everything to the mailbox for the PorschePuzzler until Monday.  To prevent this from happening in the future, we are only going to use one subject line for the puzzlers... RainyDayPuzzler.  Hopefully, this will keep all the entries in one place.  We might still have a few kinks to work out, but we'll get there!


June 2,2006 (StressFreeFriday 10:41AM)

UrbanHikes are something we have been promoting this Spring.  It lets us forget about the stress of paying high gas prices just so we could get outside of the city and hike around.  The idea is to hike the city as we would out in the woods.  Sometimes we would take along a GPS, other times just a compass.  It is a chances for us to hone our navigation skills without straying too far from an espresso machine.

We were looking for a multi-purpose navigation device which is as comfortable at the office as well as out in the wild.  We think the Enduro has what it takes to survive in both jungles.  Go check out our FirstLook here.

The importance of proper breathing is not new.  Most martial arts stress the importance of proper breathing in order to generate power.  Other arts like Tai Chi, yoga, and meditation use controlled breathing as a means to calm the mind, focus the body, and release stress.

Most people know "how" to breathe, but interestingly many do not know "when" to breathe for optimal mind/body control.  Helicor has created a device called the StressEraser.  Its purpose is to show the user when it is the best time to breathe for optimal relaxation.

A few of our guests had a chance to play with the StressEraser at the FirstGrill event.  Most of them found the device interesting, but realized they couldn't really evaluate it properly during a party.

The ability to relax is a learned skill.  The StressEraser cannot MAKE you relax.  To paraphrase Morpheus, this device can only show you "door" to relaxation, it is you who must go "through" it.  Take a look (FirstLook, FirstUse) at our StressEraser reviews and decide for yourself if this is something which will help you get into that TGIF mode anytime when you really need it.

Another way which helps some folks here relax is to go work in the garden.  Because of all the rain this year, the RainyDayGarden has been thriving...even without much work.  

Some of the Spring blooms have exploded (clemetis, alliums, and some irises).  Others are just getting ready to show their colors (peonies and lillies).

Boston is expecting more rain this weekend.  This has been a very wet Spring.  All this moisture has been a problem for some, but it has been great for the RainyDayGarden.


June 1,2006 (ToysThursday 3:36PM)

Evan is one of our newest testers here at RainyDayMagazine.  For a 3 yr old boy, Evan knows a lot about cars... enough to be able to name the make and model of most of the cars he sees in a parking lot :-)  Evan also loves playing with cars.  So when we got this Matchbox Dragon Castle for testing, Evan was the natual "go-to" guy.

The Matchbox Dragon Castle adventure set comes with two Matchbox jeeps, a dragon, a castle, all integrated into its own portable storage case. 

Evan took to the adventure set right away.  He has been playing with it for about a month (a long time for a 3 year old) and it is now one of his favorite toys.

The best part about the playset is the whole thing is constructed as a giant popup.  There are only about 3 separate pieces to the whole thing... Evan loves it because he can add his favorite cars to the set.  His parents love it because it is quick to set up, there aren't a lot of pieces to lose, and everything packs into a easy carry case. 

So if you want to fire up the imagination of a three year old and keep them busy this Summer, go check out the Matchbox Adventure series.

The guys at the RainyDayGarage also got a new toy to play for this weekend.  The guys always wanted to add a backup camera to the Boxster.  This last Memorial Day weekend, the local MicroCenter had a sale on their Swann digital security cameras.  The price?  Normally it is $50, the sale price was just $10 after rebates!  Even if it doesn't work out as a rear view cam, it will still be good for lots of other RainyDayProjects!  The sale ends today... so there is still time is you hurry.

This tiny device is a color video camera.  It came with an AC power adapter, 9V battery adapter, and two lens (45º, 90º).  We'll let you know what the quality is like once we get it hooked up later today.

The RainyDayGarage guys did get a chance to hook up the video camera to the Boxster today.  The task was pretty simple since they had already ran a video line out from the retractable LCD screen when it was installed for the Carputer Project.

All that was needed was a coupler and a battery and they were good to go!  They didn't bother to hook up the audio (the camera also has a built-in mic) for this test.

The camera came on right away.  They had to manually adjust the focus, but the image was not bad for a $10 video camera.  It will certainly be fine as a backup camera.

Conveniently, there was an unused magnetic mount already on the dash.  It was originally for a speakerphone, but that thing has long since died.  We had been meaning to remove the mount, but I guess it will stay on until we have a chance to cut a proper camera mount in the rear bumper.


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