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June 8,2008 (WeekendEdition)

The weather people were correct.  This weekend got HOT here in Boston!  It was definitely too hot to be in the office.  So when we heard that there was an Arts Festival in a Brookline, we decided to go check it out. 

There were a lot of vendors out.  The temp was hovering around the low 90s.  Some were lucky and had tents in the shade, but the sun was beating straight down on most of them.  It was a good thing they all had white tents!

The quality of the goods were much higher than the typical local festivals.  There were a lot of creative stuff (prints, bowls, arts, crafts), colorful silks, and shiny jewelry.  Go here to check out the links to the various artists at the show.

The Coolidge Corner Arts Festival was fun, but it was not a break from the heat.  It was too hot to be outside.  Instead, we realized what we needed was a place with air conditioning, free WiFi, and coffee:-) [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau


June 7,2008 (WeekendEdition)

A few years back we did a bunch of reviews on the Brunton SolarRoll, Tekkeon powerpaks, and XPower portable chargers.  We had always wanted to combine the gear and see if we can really be "off the grid" for small devices when we are out in the wild. 

Brunton must have had the same thoughts as they are now offering a new line of foldable solar panels (Solaris) and portable power storage packs (Solo) designed to do just that.

We got both Brunton units (Solaris 2.6, Solo 15) in house in May and will be taking a closer look at them this month.  We will also compare the foldable unit with the rollable unit.  In July, we'll plug-and-play with them and see if they will "play nice" with some of the other portable power paks (MyPowerAll, TekCharge, XPower) on the market.

One of our goals in this RainyDayPower series is to get a better understanding of just what can be powered up when we are beyond the reach of the extension cords. If you have units or combinations you want to see compared, drop us a note.  We'll be happy to take a look and consider including them in the review.  [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau


June 6,2008 (FiskarsFriday)

Another week has flown by and the weekend will soon be upon us.  Today the temp here is in the low 60s, but tomorrow is suppose to get HOT!  Like 90s hot.  Maybe too hot to work out in the garden.  For those of you who may still want to do some garden work, we thought we would answer some of the emails regarding the actual cutting abilities of the Fiskars loppers we had reviewed last weekend. 

We will be lopping of pieces off a bush which did not make it through the Winter.  The branches ranged in thickness from 1/4" to 1.5".  Click on any of the images to get a closer look at the cuts.

The 15" lopper easily took care of the smaller branches.  The cuts were clean and crisp.  The leverage afforded by the long handles will enable anyone to use this in their garden, but will be especially suitable for those looking for lighter weight tools which can still handle tough jobs.

The 17" lopper has two steel cutting blades and made short work of the 1.5" thick branches.  Very little arm strength was needed.  This is due both to the long handles and the well designed cutting blades.

We had a very positive FirstUse experience with these Fiskars loppers.  We have an InTheWild follow-up in a few months.  Next up will be a look at the Fiskars hand pruner.  We are eager to see if the "rolling" grip will enable us to trim for a longer period before getting hand fatique. [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau


June 5,2008 (TechProjThursday)

As we have said many times (G3, Mac mini) in the past, the most important and cost effective upgrade to any computer is to install more RAM.  Whenever we want more memory, we head to RamJet.  Why? Fast service, great prices, and a lifetime warranty!

Apple has made it much easier to get at the memory slot in the 12" Powerbook than in the Pismo or the Mac mini.  The 12" Aluminum Powerbook has only one memory slot and it is accessible from the bottom of the laptop.  The only tool required is a small Philips screwdriver.  We use a needle-nose plier to pick up the screws.  It is always advisible to remove the battery when working on a laptop. 

The steps are simple: remove the four screws holding the cover in place, pop out the old SIMM, insert the new module, and put everything back together. 

To remove the old SIMM module, use the screwdriver to push the locking pins out to the side.  The SIMM will pop up at an angle.  Once up, the module may be pulled out.

The new module may then be inserted, taking care to properly align the notch and push down to lock the SIMM in place.  This is one of the easiest upgrade we have ever done.  The entire upgrade may be done in less than five minutes!  Anybody can do this.

Our next task will be to replace the keyboard.  The problem with the current one is there are a few non-working keys (Return, Shift) which, while not a huge problem, did tend to start getting on our nerves :-) [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau


June 4,2008 (WowUsWednesday)

One cannot be anything but hopeful about America. [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau


June 3,2008 (TechTuesday)

We let the BodyGuardz dry for a few hours before handling the iPod (not that it really would have mattered).  Here are a few shots of the cover to give you a sense of what to expect when it has dried.

Below are three generations of iPods (32GB iTouch, 60GB Video iPod, 4GB iPod nano) each covered with a film of some kind.  The two older iPods were covered using the InvisibleShield.   The new iTouch has the BodyGuardz. 

We have found these films to be effective protection against screen scratches.   They also do not reduce the brightness of the display in any noticeable way.  Definitely a good project for a rainy day :-) [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau


June 2,2008 (MoreGuardzMonday)

Readers have sent a LOT of emails asking how the BodyGuardz compared to the InvisibleShield since our FirstLook back in February.  We are pretty sure the BodyGuardz is made from the same 3M stuff used for the InvisibleShield and others.  Last Friday, we picked up a brand new 32GB iPod Touch.  It seemed the perfect opportunity to give the BodyGuardz a try. 

RainyDayMagazine was one of the first to post a write up on the InvisibleShield and had posted a follow-up one year later.  Here is a look at InvisibleShield protected iPod nano three years after the installation.  Amazingly, the cover still looks new.

There is a difference to the "glossy-ness" of the device with these covers applied.  None of these shields are completely smooth.  At certain angles, the bumpiness of the film is noticeable on close inspection when the device is off.  It is NOT apparent when the display is on.  This is one of the trade-offs users must resign themselves to when using these protective films.  We definitely think it is worth it.

The BodyGuardz comes with two sets of covers, a spray bottle of application fluid, a plastic card, and directions.  A complete kit certainly would have made it a lot easier then when we applied the first InvisibleShield :-)

The most important step is to start with a really CLEAN surface.  ANY dust or fingerprints will be noticeable underneath the cover.  You WILL see it and you WILL NOT get used to it. 

The next most important step is to follow the directions.  The liquid is sprayed on the hands and cover, not the device.  The wet hands let you handle the film without sticking to it.  The wet cover keeps it from sticking to itself.  The liquid lets the film slide on to the device easily.

Once the cover is on, squeeze out the bubbles using the plastic card,  sop up any excess liquid, and let dry.  The entire process takes less than a few minutes if you don't let things dry out before you are finished.

You may notice a slight haze on the cover until everything has completely dried out.  This was the same with the InvisibleShield.  We will take a few shots of the BodyGuardz-protected iTouch in a few days.  We really like this complete kit: cover, solutions, card.  It is nice that they supplied two sets of covers.  The directions were easy to follow and the film slided on with no problem.  One tip... use plenty of solution! [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau


June 1,2008 (WeekendEdition)

We told you about the four Fiskars loppers and pruners last week.  Today we took the them out to the RainyDayGarden for a FirstUse.  The collection was perfect for the various tasks we had in mind. 

Before we get to the actual trimming, we thought it would be helpful to take a closer look at the business end of these loppers and pruners.

The blades are made from harden steel.  The handle and gears are made of a light weight synthetic material.  The extra joint in the handles give the user additional leverage for easy cutting. 

The blades are shaped to slice cleanly without slipping or crushing. The 15" lopper has a single blade. It is for smaller anvil type cuts.  The 17" lopper has a dual cutting blades.  One of the blade is curved for hooking around a branch as wide as 1.5" in diameter.

The most surprising unit in this Fiskars collection was the pruner.   The bottom handle "rolls" to close the blades.  This allows for a much stronger cutting grip and is amazingly comfortable to use.  We will have some cutting examples in the second part of this FirstUse report. [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau


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