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October 31,2006 (StorageTechTuesday)

Terabyte RAID storage systems were reserved just for big businesses.  Today, with the price of a 500 MB drive hovering around $300- $400, they are no longer out of reach for use in personal computing. 

RainyDayMagazine's Media Center project was completed at the beginning of Fall. Even though we had plenty of storage for the videos and music files, they were stored on drives all over the place.  We realized what we needed was a large storage system which we could move around at will.

A quick Google search came up with a lot of RAID storage options, but Addonics' case quickly popped to the top of the list.  We decided on the 4-Bay USB 2.0 External Aluminum Enclosure (ST4IDEU2) with the built-in JBOD USB  adapter.

This is going to be a really fun project to put together.  We have the four drives 250GB drives for this project, but we are starting to think maybe 1 Terabytes is not going to be enough!  Come back next Tuesday for an inside look at the Addonics case.

Now that we have experienced the pleasure of Etymotic sound isolating earphones, we wanted to see what else is out there.  A few emails suggested we check out Shure's line of earphones.

After checking out Shure's offerings, we got a pair of the E4C.  These earphones are similar in principle to the Etymotics we have been playing with for the past few weeks.  We will compare these Shure E4C with the Etymotics counterparts and let you know if we can hear any differences under various real world conditions.   One of these days, we are going to have to get a real job :-)


October 30,2006 (MusicMonday)

iPlayMusic promises to teach you guitar and let you sing with your kids.  We here at RainyDayMagazine wanted to find someone who had a guitar AND kids to check it out.   Jeremy, user interface expert and guitar playing reviewer, fit the bill.

According to Jeremy, this software is a good example of what can be accomplished when you have good video content and use the Mac’s quicktime toolbox.  Go check out his full review here and see if it could help you and your family make beautiful music together!

A few weeks ago we mentioned that we will be reviewing the Etymotic ER-6.  One of our readers, Sonny C of Raleigh North Carolina, wrote and gave us a tip which we have discovered to be very valuable advice.

"I see that you'll be reviewing these fine ear phones.  Note that there is a break in period for these phone, but I can't recall how long ... I remember when I first got mine I couldn't figure out what the fuss was all about, then magically the next day I was hearing things in music that I had never heard... In my opinion these are a much better solution for frequent flyers as opposed to any active noise cancelling headsets."

We now know what Sonny was talking about.  After using the ER-6 for a few days, either our ears got used to having something in the canal or the electronics were "broken-in."  In any case, they now sound GREAT.  To show Sonny our appreciation, we'll be sending him an Invisible Shield for his iPod.  Thanks guy!


October 29,2006 (SetClockSunday)

If you are wondering why everyone is an hour late or you seem to be an hour early...it is because DayLight Savings Time went into effect last night.  So go now and set the clock back an hour or you will be an hour early to work tomorrow :-)

Last weekend we took in the beautiful Fall weather with a walk around Walden Pond.  We wanted to get back in time for the giant PumpkinFest in Boston, but we ended up bouncing around Concord instead.

Some of the folks in the office were disappointed that we were not on hand to witness the record pumpkin lighting event in Boston, so were determined to find something similar.  What they came up with was a ride on the Great Pumpkin Express at Lookout Farm in South Natick, MA.

The first "train" ride starts at 6PM.  We got there around 7PM. The crowd was pretty light and we got on the train without having to wait in line. Good thing too since it was about 40º out.

There are anywhere from 3000 to 5000 pumpkins on display at any given time.  Click on any of the images to get a closer look.  The crew at Lookout Farm is constantly carving new ones.  It takes about 15 people about 90 minutes to light all the pumpkins every night.

Many of the amazingly carved pumpkins are made by artists from around the country.  We saw a wide variety of themes and styles...some scary, some funny, all were beautifully done.  The Great Pumpkin Express was quite a treat and got everyone here in the right frame of mind for Halloween!

The Great Pumpkin Express will run until Halloween (Tuesday).   There are events going on at the Outlook Farm all year around.  Check their calendar if you are looking from something fun to do for the whole family.


October 28,2006 (StoreOpeningSaturday)

Today is the grand opening of the RainyDayStore!  This great new shopping feature on RainyDayMagazine is powered by Amazon.com.  This means besides getting great handpicked deals by the folks here at Rainy Day Magazine, you also get the confidence, convenience, and security which comes with shopping on Amazon.com!!!

We are working hard to have a different store for each section of the magazine...hopefully in time for all of your holiday shopping!  Let us know what you think and what you would like to see added.  You know we are always happy to hear from our readers :-)


October 27,2006 (Friday Already?)

This week just flew by!  A lot of gear have been coming into the RainyDayMagazine office.  We hardly had a chance to get out and enjoy the last tastes of Fall.  Ever since the interns went back to school at the beginning of September, we have been feeling their absence.  It appears they were actually doing something around here after all :-)

As promised, we are going to wrap up the Dual XDVD8182 BenchTest series with a look at how to connect up a live video feed to the unit.  The most useful application is probably to use the video connection to hook up a rearward looking camera to eliminate any parking blind spots, especially if you have a large SUV type vehicle.

We would love to add a IR camera for night vision applications, but active IR cameras are quite expensive.  Still, one of the projects on the books is to see if there is something we can do with a good CCD camera and an IR source.

The RCA connector to for the VideoIn is clearly labeled...nice!  In fact, all of the RCA connectors' functions are labeled.  This really will be a big help come installation time.  We plugged in the camera, powered up the unit, selected the video, and we were live!  Wow... that was painless :-)

The picture from the videocam was surprisingly bright on this Dual's screen.  We had tested this camera with our current touchscreen and found it to be quite a bit dimmer.  Click here to see a clip of the camera in action.

Besides showing live video, this unit also has a built in CD/DVD player which will handle pretty much any format currently available.  The brightness and response time of this LCD panel appears to be much better than the unit currently installed in the project car. 

Playing a DVD while the car is in motion is not allowed by law in many states.  The Dual unit has circuitry to detect if the hand brake is engaged (if appropriately connected).  We bypassed this connection for the sake of this BenchTest.

Having a touchscreen is really convenient for accessing the DVD functions.  Just tap and go :-)  Video playback is crisp and clear.  There are two separate VideoOut connectors in case you want to pipe the signal to the rear passenger's LCD panels or other displays.

If we had one feature we wish we could added to this unit, it would be to be able to use this Dual for both the car's audio and carputer application.  Unfortunately, this Dual can only handle a composite video signal, thus will not be able to take a direct VGA signal from a computer source.  I guess we'll just have to have two separate screens in the car for the time being.

After a full week of playing with this unit on the bench, we are eager to get it wired up for the Boxster!  We still have to do a sound check and some other tests (remote control, VideoOut, etc...)  We hope you have enjoyed this brief overview of the capabilities of this Dual XDVD8182 unit.  Drop us a note if you have any questions. 


October 26,2006 (TunerThursday)

Frequent visitors to our RainyDayGarage section of this magazine would be familiar with our many iPod to head unit projects.   In just a years time, we have gone from hacking together a cable and using the Aux-In to the Boxster stereo, to an external controller of the Harman Kardon Drive + Play, to a dedicated iPod connector built into the Dual XDVD8182.

Connecting the iPod to the unit was very simple.  There is a white connector at the rear of which will connect to supplied iPod cable (also white).  All versions of the dockable iPods are supported.

The unit powered up on the first try without problems.  The front panel showed there is an Aux In device, but that was just the mode the unit was in when we powered off.  To access the iPod, just push the Mode button unit it cycles to the iPod setting.  Another way is to bring up the touchscreen and access it directly.

With the touchscreen activated, to select the iPod as the signal source, just tap on the iPod icon.  The big icons will be a big advantage over the Mode button for making selections while driving.

The screen on the iPod itself changes to show a Dual logo when in iPod mode.  This is small detail is a nice feedback to let the user know that the devices are successfully communicating:-)

Scrolling through and selecting a song from the Playlist is pretty obvious.  We'll have to see how well this interface compares to the control knob of the Drive + Play when we are driving.

All of the iPod screens are supported in this interface.  There is a side scroll bar for navigating up and down.  Making a choice is done by tapping on the item.  We should mention that there is also a remote control for this headunit.  We have not played with it much yet, but will have more to say about it in the next series of article.

Tomorrow will be the last segment of this BenchTest series.  We'll take a look at how to connected up a video camera.   There will also be a quick look at the DVD playback features of the unit.  The next series on the Dual be focused on installation of the unit into our Porsche Boxster Project Car.  There are a lot of configurations and options this headunit will support.  We'll start of with a basic installation and expand on the system over time.  It should be a fun series of projects.  We hope they will inspire you to give it a try!


October 25,2006 (WowUsWednesday)

We have been readers of Wired Magazine since Day One.  There is a complete collection in our library.  In all that time, we have enjoyed many of their covers, but none intrigued us more than this current issue.  Will this new approach help end one of the most divisive issue in many cultures?  What kind of new problems will it create?

The wonderful thing is while it is interesting to debate (sometimes vigorously) about it, at some point each one of us will have the personal opportunity to know for sure.  Just like taxes, there is no way to avoid it :-)

Here is a preview of what is coming next month.  Readers who want to put off discovering the answer to the question posed above for as long as possible may find this product useful.  We are going to take a look at a device from DailyCare which is designed for folks who wants to take a more active role in the monitoring of their heart's health.

The best way to keep the heart healthy is to eat properly and exercise regularly.  However, that is sometimes not enough.  It is also useful to monitor the heart's status and to detect if there are any changes over time.  We will take a look at this device from DailyCare, show how it works, and monitor a few of us over the next year to see if it lives up to our expectations.


October 24,2006 (TouchScreenTuesday)

When driving a car, most folks don't have time to fuss with the tiny buttons on a car's stereo headunits.  This problem is less of an issue with the controls on touchscreen panels... the on-screen virtual buttons are usually quite a bit larger.

The Dual XDVD8182's 7" TFT touchscreen is retracted when the unit is powered down.  The screen will slide out of the unit with the push of a button.  Push the "OPEN" button in the image to see the video clip of the touch screen opening and closing. 

When the screen is in the open position, the entire surface becomes active.  To select a choice or function, just tap it with the fingertip.  The angle of the screen can be tilt for optimal viewing.

We'll go into more detail on the various screens over the course of the week, but here are a few of basic setup screens for sound and picture.  Click on any of them for a closer look.

The transport mechanism of the unit sound quite a bit smoother than the other unit we have.  All of the components are made of metal.  No plastic gears or slides here. To see side-view videos of the unit opening and closing, click here and here.

Tomorrow we'll take a look at how easy it is to connect an iPod and video camera to this Dual XDVD8182 unit. 

Oh..."Save the cheerleader, save the world." Spread the word.  While you are at it, tell a friend about RainyDayMagazine!


October 23,2006 (MotorizedMonday)

This week the folks at the RainyDayGarage will be taking a closer look at the Dual XDVD8182 headunit.  They have been working with another motorized display unit as part of the Mac Mini Carputer project.  This Dual combines a many of the features of the carputer project and the Harman Kardon Drive+Play iPod controller.

Before the guys install anything in the project car, they always bench test them using a 12V power supply.  It is an easy way to test all of the functions and hook up without having to crawl around underneath the dash.

Another technique they often do to make the hook up easier is to get a specific wiring harness to connect to the car's wiring.  This way, none of the car's wires need to be spliced to the wires from the headunit... it all becomes just Plug-N-Play!

Following the wiring diagram, it was not difficult to wire up the unit and to get it functional.  Once the power supply was properly connected, we got a nice greeting and the unit sprung to life. 

Tomorrow we'll take a look at the motorized display and the touchscreen functions.  Clever readers can get an advance look if they manage to push the right button.


October 22,2006 (Weekend@WaldenPond)

Today was one of those amazing New England weekends.  The temperature was perfect for a top-down drive.  We didn't want to spend the entire time on the road, so we packed up the car and took a forty minute drive out to Walden Pond

We also thought it would be a good opportunity to give the "foliage" setting of our new Canon IS2 camera a workout.  After a day of shooting, we were quite impressed with the IS2's responsiveness, especially with the speed in which it was able to autofocus and capture the shot of the Great Blue Heron flying across Walden Pond.  The shutter lag was so minimal that we were able to compose and shoot reflexively... a key factor in capturing action/nature shots.

The "foliage" setting worked well with reflected colors as well as high contrast shots.  Some of the brighter areas did get washed out, but there was still quite a bit of detail in the darker sections.  Quite acceptable for an "automatic" setting.

On the grounds is a replica of the 10x15 "house" which Thoreau built in 1845 for $28.  The plans are available in the gift shop ($30) should you want to try your hand at building one.

If you have time and can get out to Walden Pond, we would highly recommend it.  The colors are intense and the trails are quiet.  Spend a few hours experiencing what Thoreau must have felt over 150 years ago, then go get a latte at Starbuck's and get ready for Monday.


October 21,2006 (WeekendWatch)

Some of our international readers will recognize this watch because it is for sale in their part of the world.  For readers here in the US, you will have to wait until 2007.  This is when this line is scheduled to officially be launched.  This series is a bold new direction for the company that makes "the watch that can take a licking and keeps on ticking."

We love the watch's overall high tech styling, bold sculptural lines, and fine pilot inspired detailing.  No wonder... the watch's designer is the famous Giorgio Galli. 

The watch's proprietary six-hand movement is driven by four independent motors.  The crystal is sapphire and the case is stainless steel.  This is definitely one watch we'll want to wear everyday...not just on the weekends!  We will give you a first hand look of this awesome looking timepiece when the line is launched in the US in 2007.  The maker?  It is Timex... amazing, isn't it?


October 20,2006 (FoodFriday)

Like other automatic coffee machines we had tested in the past, the Impressa Z5 must be primed before using it for the first time.  The "priming" step brings water into the system.  It is always smart to follow the manual (we know some folks don't like to read them) instead of just plowing ahead. Good thing we checked because the one thing we thought was obvious, and would have been wrong, was we would have installed the water filter before priming the machine. 

Priming the unit was pretty simple.  In fact, it was the simplest of all of the system we have reviewed to date.  All we had to do was fill the water tank and hit the power button.  The prompts were clearly displayed in the LED panel at the front of the machine.

We weren't sure how much liquid would be pumped through the system before it was primed, so we decided to measure it.  Water was pushed through both the main dispenser and the hot water tube.  The instruction said to discard the first two cups.  In total, we captured about 6 oz of waste liquid.  Now we are ready for our First Cup!!!

The best part about this machine, it is ready for that second cup in just a few seconds.  No need to clean the grounds or grind the beans.  Everything is done with just a push of the button.  If you wan to see just how fast the Impressa Z5 is, check out the video of the First Cup.

We will have more updates on the machine as we continue to use it over the course of the next several months.  We are interested in how easy it is to clean and maintain.  We'll also make some other coffee drinks and check out the various accessories in our update in about a month.

Next week... a detail look at the Dual XDVD8182, the next generation of in-car entertainment.


October 19,2006 (TunesThursday)

Ipods and MP3 players have dramatically changed the way we enjoy our music.  Etymotic Research has been quietly changing the way we hear it.  They have been leveraging their auditory technology in various hearing products for over 20 years.

We first experienced a pair of Etymotic earphones at the Boston Macworld in 2005.  We just got our hands on a pair of ER-6 Isolator earphones.  The ER-6 earphones are not like the typical pair which comes with digital music players.

The ER-6 Isolator earphones are designed to fit INSIDE your ear.  The soft eartips create a sonic barrier in the outer portion of the ear canal.  There are two purposes in this approach: the first is to filter out external noise; the second is to allow the high-fidelity sonic reproduction of the ER-6 to really come through.

In the package are additional eartips that allow the wearer to select one for the perfect fit.  We'll let you know how things sound in a few days.

So many of you have written and said you really like this new "extended" review format that we are going to try another one.  Next week we are going to take a detailed look at a piece of audio/video gear for the car.  We briefly introduced it few weeks ago.  It is the Dual ZDVD8182 headunit.  It connects to everything, plays a ton of different formats, and it is price extremely competitively for the amount of features it brings to the table.

The Dual XDVD8182 has been on the test bench all week being put through its paces.  We'll have FirstLook reviews of the unit all next week.  We think you will be as impressed as we are with its capabilities.

Tomorrow, we'll finish up the Impressa Z5 review with a look at the brewing process.  Thanks to all the great questions this week.  We would love to reply to all of them individually.  Hopefully we will have addressed them in the FirstUse review.  If not, feel free to ping us and we'll see if an update is in order.  BTW, we have been known to send little "thank you" gifts for questions/suggestions which we felt were "extraordinary" in some ways. Hint, hint :-)

We wish we could share with you the wonderful taste of the espresso, but you will just have to get one and experience it yourselves :-)


October 18,2006 (WowUsWednesday)

This may look like any old Fiat, but the owner has made some modifications that make it just a tad different.  Check out the video to see what they are...

The folks in the RainyDayKitchen have set up and tested a lot of different coffee makers during the past year.  But the arrival of the Jura Impressa Z5 was the first time we can remember them actually having to read the instructions before pressing a single button. 

While the setup was quite simple, it was still important to understand all the steps before hitting "brew."  The unit came with a lot of accessories, none of which was needed to set up the unit and brew an espresso.  Today, we'll take a quick tour of the Impressa Z5.  Tomorrow, we'll go through the steps of priming the unit and making that magical first cup.

The top front of the unit is the main control center.  Most of the buttons are self-explanatory.  Click on the images to get a closer look. 

The rear of the unit houses the grinder.  There is also a secondary chute for adding a different kind of coffee for a single cup...perfect for that occasional"decaffeinated" visitor.

Water for brewing is stored in a removable unit on the left side of the machine.  The container has a built-in handle for portability. 

However, we find it easier to fill it using a pitcher rather than take the unit to the tap...less splashing and spilling.  There is a clear water gauge (red arrow) on the side of the container, making it simple to check on the level.

Since the Impressa is an automated espresso maker (beans are ground just before brewing), there is a bin for catching the grounds.  The bin is accessed from the front by pulling out the drip tray.

Friday we'll press the power button for the FirstUse review and a video of the brewing of the first cup.  In the meantime, go check out all the other machines in the Jura line here.


October 17,2006 (TechTuesday)

Quite a few readers wanted to know more about the Jura that our young barista was using to make the espressos.  We will have the FirstLook and FirstUse reviews of the Impressa Z5 posted over the course of the next few days.

Today, we are just going to get our coffee taste buds tingling.  Get a closer look at images by clicking on the shot of our first cup.  As the instructions said: when running the machine for the first time...toss the first two cups, the third one will be perfect.  It was.  More tomorrow.


October 16,2006 (MovieMonday)

We just saw another GREAT episode of a new show on NBC (9PM Monday nights) called "Heros."  If you didn't catch it, you can watch it here online.

The show has a great premise with an engaging cast.  The combination of comic book characters and good story lines make the hour pass in a blink.  We can hardly wait until next Monday! 


October 15,2006 (SausageFestSunday)

Everyone had a great time at yesterday's SausageFest.  Now that we have sponsored this event four times, we have come up with the perfect SausageFest flow: Guests register their sausage entries upon arrival, then are led out back where they choose which grill they will use for cooking their own sausages.  This frees up the RainyDayKitchen staff to actually enjoy the event.

As always, all of the sausages from the Buffalo Guys were gone in a flash.  Our Man Gordon brought his Chinese-style sweet sausage (below), a previous two-time "Crowd Pleaser" champion (now officially retired).

Coffee drinks were served up by Sebastian, one of our young RainyDayIntern baristas.  The Jura Impressa Z5 is so simple to use that anyone can make a perfect espresso...which, of course, was exactly what everyone needed to complement the Simply Divine Brownies

Today is officially TDATDB (The Day After The Day Before) and we are spending it digesting. The event had tons of food, and most of it managed to find good homes (in people's tummies) by the time the event was over.  There is already talk of "secret sources" for next year's ultimate sausage competition!


October 14,2006 (SausageFestSaturday)

Products from The Buffalo Guys are always a HUGE favorite at the RainyDayKitchen events.  For SausageFest, we featured four different kinds of Buffalo Sausages (Bratwurst, Polish, Andouille, and Hot Dogs).  Just click on any of the images if you want a closer look.

For guests who want a little more heat with their meat, we have salsas and mustards from Dave's Gourmet.  Dave's Gourmet flavorings are just "insane!"  We have been reading some pretty great things about grapeseed oil.  So this year, instead of olive oil for the cous cous salad, we are using lemon-flavored grapeseed oil from Salute Sante

BTW... our new QuadTimer (gadget on the left) also got quite a workout today.  It was especially useful when we had multiple things cooking on top of the stove...by different people! The QuadTimer let everyone track their time without confusion.

There is, of course, plenty of beer and soda to wash everything down.  Guest are always welcome to mix up their favorite flavor using our Soda Club machine.  This year we have the new Apple + Peach flavor for the event.

Sausage IS a competition.  This year we had three different grills going at the same time.  Guests can choose their favorite style from our collection of grills (charcoal, open flame gas, or griddle).  They were responsible for cooking up their entries.

We will have to count up all the entries, but needless to say, as typical of past SausageFest events, there are a LOT of different types of sausages.  We are also indoctrinating the next generation of sausage lovers at this year's SausageFest. 

We would post more, but we are all in a bit of a food coma right now...


October 13,2006 (FoodFriday)

The RainyDayKitchen folks are hosting the Fourth Annual SausageFest this weekend.  There will be the usual varieties of amazing sausages on the grill.  In addition, for dessert, we'll have a bonus treat for our guests.

This year everyone will have a chance to taste some amazingly delicious Simply Divine Brownies.  We met the folks from SDB at the Fancy Food Show this past Summer.  As soon as we had a taste of their samples, we knew we had to have them as a part of our next 'Fest.

The story of the Simply Divine Brownie is a wonderful one.  We encourage our readers to visit the Simply Divine Brownie website to see the large assortment of flavors (and shapes!) they have available.

Whatever you do, you MUST NOT kid yourself about sampling a small bite.  We told the RainyDayKitchen folks that we just needed to take a brownie out of the wrapper for a "better" shot.  We then convinced ourselves that YOU, the readers, would want to see the inside of the brownie.  Well...you can guess the rest :-)

If you can't join us this weekend, we can still share the taste of these wonderful brownies with one of you.  Just tell us the names of all the different brownies we'll be serving this weekend. Send the entry via email with the subject line "I need a chocolate brownie fix."  Get your entry in by the end of the day.  We'll have our guests pick somebody's name out of the hat during SausageFest. 


October 12,2006 (TunerThursday)

Ever wonder who are the suppliers to the various components in your car?  If you car is a Porsche Boxster, here is a graphics we came across while surfing around on PPBB which will tell you :-)  We are not sure what it is good for, but we found it pretty interesting... so here it is!


October 11,2006 (WowUsWednesday)

After three days of using the Kata Ergo-Tech, we all agreed that this is a well thought out and versatile day pack for today's gadget- loving traveler. 

While the outside of the pack is made of a stiffer shape-holding material, the inside is fully lined with a felt-like layer.  This allows velcro to stick to it easily and is gentle to the shiny surface of some of today's digital gear. Note the special pockets for flash chip storage and strap for securing the camera.

The pockets on the shoulder straps are made of an elastic material.  It will conform to the shape of the intended device (phone, ipod).  Sometimes it can be a bit tricky to get the phone out of the pocket quickly...obviously not an issue if you have a Bluetooth headset :-)

All our vacations are working ones, and the few days we spent in Maine was no exception :-)  Besides the Kata Ergo-Tech, we also brought along a few other pieces of gear for testing. 

The vacation gave an opportunity for everyone to test the StowAway keyboard with a couple of the new Bluetooth-enabled devices we just got in.  It was also a chance for us to try out some of the celestial features of the YES Cozmo (sunrise/sunset, tide, moon phases, etc...).  Some us appreciated the "sunrise alarm" feature of the timepiece, others were less enthusiastic about it :-)

Another piece of gear we had a chance to check out was a laptop case from Pacific Design.  The specific unit we took with us is called the Nucleus Portfolio.  We took these photos before we left the office.

We wanted a laptop case that is as slim as possible but still offered some padding.  The shell of the case is made of molded foam.  Fittings are refine, but heavy duty.

The case is large enough to securely protect our Apple G3 on the trip up to Maine without taking up any more room than necessary.  If you are looking the a minimal case which can offer some decent protection.  You definitely have to give this Nucleus Portfolio a look.


October 10,2006 (TechTuesday)

Yesterday we gave you a look at the outside of Ergo-Tech.  Today we are going to examine the sectional design of the Ergo-Tech.  The main compartment of the Ergo-Tech pack are composed of two spacious sections. The top portion has enough room for a lot of different gear (notebook, water bottle, snacks etc..)  There are also pockets for pens and other loose bits. 

The bottom portion has a removable zippered bag, perfect for cables and things of that nature.  It also has a few other special purpose pockets.  Click on the images to get a closer look.

The largest pocket in the Kata Ergo-Tech runs the entire length of the back.  This pocket is for carrying a laptop.  The zipper runs the entire length of the compartment, making insertion and removal of the laptop easy.

Carolyn took the Ergo-Tech out for a hike (no laptop on this trip) when we were up in Maine.  We'll have more comments on the this pack when we let a few more of our staff have a go at it.


October 9,2006 (ColumbusDay)

It would not be a RainyDayMagazine weekend if we did not bring some gear with us to check out!  The main piece of gear we brought was a brand new ErgoTech pack from Kata.  Some readers may remember that we had introduced this pack in mid-September.

The ErgoTech is the first general-purpose pack from Kata.  This pack is very different from others we have used.  First, the shape of the pack conforms extremely well the the body. 

Next, it is well padded, retains its form even when empty, and has tons of special pockets for all kinds of gear.  These dedicated pockets are "stretchy" and will hold the device securely during the most vigorous of activities.  Tomorrow we'll give you a look at the insides of this innovative pack.


October 8,2006 (ColumbusDay Weekend)

One of the reasons we rented this unit was the view.  The entire back of the house looks out over the Wells marsh.  Depending on the time of day, the tide can bring the water almost right up to the property... along with all kinds of wildlife.

After a day of lounging on the deck watching the tide, we had worked up quite an appetite.  Even though some of us had lobster for lunch yesterday, the lobster dinner (for those of us who don't mind ripping into our food) is one of the group's Columbus Day weekend traditions. 


October 7,2006 (ColumbusDay Weekend)

We have a tradition of going up to Maine for Columbus Day weekend.  It used to be Monhegan Island, but we started stopping further South...mostly because we didn't want to drive that far.  Last year we rented a place called the Rock House in Ogunquit.  This year we found a great place in Wells, Maine.

This rental had everything we were looking for.  A great kitchen, lots of lounging space, amazing views, and a two minute walk to the beach.  Another great advantage is Wells is less than a hundred miles from Boston...less than two hours door-to-door when the traffic is clear.

Food is, of course, a huge part of the weekend.  For lunch, some of us went in search of the ultimate lobster sandwich.  We found a pretty good one at the Fisherman's Catch a few miles away.

For Saturday's dinner, Irfan cooked up an amazing Indian spread.  Incredibly, all of us still managed to find room for pie :-) We would post some of the recipes if we could convince Irfan to share them :-)


October 6,2006 (FoodFriday)

Still having trouble making the perfect espresso? Well, you can keep honing your skills or spend some cash and get the new Jura Impressa Z5.  This unit is for those SERIOUS about their coffee drinks.

This unit arrived late yesterday so all we have done is unpacked it and took a quick look.  We will be looking at it a lot closer over the next few weeks.  BTW...some of us are heading up to Maine to check out the foliage this holiday weekend.  We are thinking of bringing the Impressa with us :-)


October 5,2006 (TunerTechThursday)

Car stereo tuners have advanced by leaps and bounds in the past few years.  It wasn't long ago when units with retractable screens costed over $1000.  The folks in the RainyDayGarage installed a unit last year for around $500.  That unit still required all of the supporting gear (amp, tuner, DVD player, etc...) for it to be functional. 

On September 19, Dual announced an amazing new piece of in-car entertainment gear... the XDVD8182.   This new unit is powerful, jam-packed with features, and designed with connectivity in mind.  If you are thinking of upgrading the entertainment capabilities of your vehicle, start with the Dual XDVD8182 as the nerve center and build around it.

The Dual XDVD8182 delivers 200 watts of power (50Wx4 channels), has touchscreen controls, and will play/connect to pretty much anything currently out there in gadget-land.  We'll have a lot more on all this head unit soon.

Just how much stuff can be attached to this head unit?  Click on the images above to see connectors up close.  If you want a more detailed description, check out the wiring diagram :-)

Our plan this Fall is to have a series of "How To" articles on the installation of this head unit into our Porsche Boxster project car.  The follow-on series for the Winter will be to see how we can max out the possible connections with all kinds of cool gear.  This should be a fun project :-)


October 4,2006 (WirelessWednesday)

In July we reviewed a cool little set of speakers from BlueAnt.  The only problem was we could not properly test the coolness factor with the technology we had in house at that time.

Thanks to a little device we just got, we now have all we needed to give the BlueSonic a more thorough FirstUse review.  What is this missing piece?  Well...that's today's RainyDayPuzzler!  If you know what it is and who makes it, drop us a note with the subject line " I'm connected".  Include the product link from the company's site in the body of the email. 

Who knows, if you are the lucky winner, you may find yourself "wirelessly connected" with one of these colorful X3 from BlueAnt:-)  The X3 stays connected within a range of 30 feet and provides up to 7 hours talk time and 180 hours standby time.  All we are missing now is a small stereo version of these Bluetooth headsets.  The day is coming when we will no longer find our interns needlessly entangled in wires!


October 3,2006 (FoldingTechTuesday)

Folding keyboards have been around for a few years now.  The only problem with them were they were designed for a specific device.  We have tried them and liked them, but never liked paying $100 for an accessory that we knew would have a limited use and lifespan.  Bluetooth technology changed all of that.

Folks here got new Blackberrys so we can check email when we are out of the office.  We quickly found out that we didn't like the "thumb-board" on the Blackberry because it is not really designed for typing a lot of text.

We found the Anycom StowAway Bluetooth keyboard and got one last week to see if it would be a more convenient input option for our new Blackberry.  The StowAway is a marvel of engineering.  The shell is made of aluminum, the keys have full travel, and the full size keyboard folds up thinner than the Blackberry.  There is an integrated device-stand built into the unit.

Here are a few pics of our Blackberry with the StowAway.  This setup could be the ideal combo for travel if you must be as light as possible. We should be able to get our emails, make cell calls, surf the Web (somewhat), and type relatively large articles...all without a laptop.  We'll put that theory to the test this month as we send a few of our intrepid interns out into the field with no other gear but the Blackberry and the StowAway.  Let's see what they can post from the road :-)


October 2,2006 (MediaCutterMonday)

The weekend was beautiful, but we spent most of it inside playing with the new WishBlade Personal Media Cutter that cuts three-dimensional patterns in different sizes on all kinds of materials.   

Xyron has created a machine called the Personal Cutting System is a stand-alone tool, that has a finite, pre-designed set of patterns. For scrapbookers and crafters craving more control and flexibility, the versatile WishBlade is an excellent option.  The WishBlade does require a computer in order to function, put it allows you to design your own patterns.  Think of it as a "printer" for 3-D craft patterns you want cut out.

In the FirstLook review, we will examine the WishBlade cutter and all its parts.  In our next installment of this review series, we'll take a look at the software installation process and the software application's feature set. 

In the FirstUse review, we'll walk through the process of actually using the cutter for a 3-D popup card project.

Puzzler Update: Congratulations geos to Wendy S. on her entry in the "I wish upon a star!" drawing.  We were amazed that of over 1500 entries, over 80% were from female readers. 

Wendy's parting gift is a Xyron Adhesive Runner.  There is 28' of permanent adhesive in each cartridge.  The best thing about this gadget...no mess! Wendy said she knows exactly what she is going to use it for.  We just want pictures :-) 

If you didn't win this time, take note...there are a still few unclaimed puzzlers still out there from past months.  You may have to read carefully to find them, but they are there :-)


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