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April 30,2010- FirstGrill gear...

We mentioned yesterday that there will be some new gear making an appearance at this weekend's FirstGrill event. Both items are from Cuisinart. The first is a 5-in-1 electric panini machine with both grilling and griddle capabilities. The second item is an improved ice cream maker which can make frozen treats in less than 30 minutes. We thought we would take a quick FirstLook at both today and put them through their paces this weekend...sort of a trial by FirstGrill fire :-)

The Griddler packs a lot of grilling into a very compact size. We have lots of room in the RainyDayKitchen, but we wanted to check out the Griddler because of its versatility. With five separate cooking options (contact grill, panini press, full grill, full griddle, half grill/half griddle), the Cuisinart Griddler can handle breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The floating cover and reversible plates makes setting up the exact Griddler configuration fast and simple. The front-mounted dual temperature controls allow precise adjustments and ensure everything is perfectly cooked.

The floating hinged cover and panini-style handle automatically adjusts to the thickness of the items being cooked. The integrated drip tray collects grease from the drainage at the rear of the grill. The tray is located underneath, slides out from the side, and is... [more] -FirstGrill gear


April 29,2010- FirstGrill ...

This weekend is the 5th annual FirstGrill event. The folks here are looking forward to hosting our various guests from Providence, NYC, and Los Angeles (and of course, Boston). As with all RainyDayMagazine events, it is the perfect opportunity for our guests to get a first-hand look at some new gadgets in the RainyDayKitchen. On hand will be the new ZeroWater filtration pitcher, Soda Stream Penguin soda maker, and a couple of items from Cuisinart: Frozen Yogurt-Ice cream-Sorbet Maker(ICE-21), Electric Griddle (GR-4N). We'll have a more detailed FirstLook at both Cuisinart items after FirstGrill, but thought we would give them a quick mention today.

The ice cream maker has a large capacity (1.5 quarts) double-insulated bowl lined with a cooling liquid that eliminates the need for ice, and a unique paddle that mixes and aerates at the same time. Cuisinart's claim is that the combination of these two features enables the unit to crank out frozen desserts in less than 20 minutes. We plan on giving it the FirstUse test at thel... [more] -FirstGrill 2010


April 28,2010- Energy Savers...

We can all do things to reduce our carbon foot print. We can use use less energy; we can use it more efficiently. Today we have a FirstLook at two items which will help us use less energy and to use it more efficently.

We have floor vents for both the heating and AC systems. This never made much sense to us. A heating vent in the ceiling meant all the hot air stayed at the ceiling. An air conditioning vent on the floor meant the cold air stayed around our ankles. These systems should be done as two separate systems: AC vents only from the ceiling, heat only from the floor registers. However, we can still... [more] -Energy Savers


April 27,2010- LCD TV Repair...

The TV screens we watched as a child almost never broke. Why? They were thick, heavy, and things were almost never thrown at them. The new LCD screens are thin, light, and very easy to break...especially if you love playing with your Wii. Our editor Carolyn has termed the break-your-tv-by-mistake condition "Wii woes." LCD screens are being damaged in sufficient numbers that an emerging business is, uh, emerging, in LCD television repair fueled by parts from all the broken sets available on Craigslist.

We thought fixing one would make for an interesting DIY repair article. So we found a broken 47" Samsung on Craigslist a few days ago and bought it for less than $100. The unit clearly had something wrong with the LCD screen. Apparently, LCD screen are very expensive to replace and it is not really cost-effective to replace a broken one, the main reason being that most of the TV manufacturers use screens manufactured to their specification. So it is next to impossible to take one maker's LCD screen and use it with another maker's electronics unless... [more] -LCD TV Repair


April 26,2010- iPad Protection ...

The Apple iPad display is amazingly bright and viewable. The main reasons are the ipad's In-Plane Switching (IPS) LCD and its LED backlighting. The two technologies gave the iPad impressive brightness and a large 178º viewing angle. IPS was developed over ten years ago by Hitachi to address some inherent issues of LCDs: poor viewing angle, color inaccuracies. The advantages of LED backlighting are its low cost, long life, immunity to vibration, low operational voltage, and precise control over its intensity. The main drawback is that it requires more power than many other backlighting methods (ELP, CCFL, WF). Click on the various iPads in the image below to see the screen at increasingly obtuse angles to see what we mean.

Unlike a laptop screen, the iPad's screen was designed to touched. In order to keep the smudging to a minimum, the screen has a fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating similar to the iPhone 3G. From the Apple pamphlet ... “iPad has an oleophobic coating on the screen; simply wipe iPad’s screen with a soft, lint-free cloth to remove oil left by your hands. The ability of this coating to... [more] -iPad Protection

April 23,2010- Planting tomatoes in April...
One of the advantages of a raised-bed garden is that the above-ground soil has an opportunity to heat up during the day. The warmer soil allows vegetables to be planted earlier than would be possible otherwise. We sprouted beans in March and planted them on April 8th. They have been in the ground a few weeks now, have clearly established themselves, and have begun sending out climbers. This encouraged us to think about getting some tomatoes and other plants into the GrowBed.

April 13th was another above-65º day. We didn't have much on our schedule and thought it would be a good time to make a Home Depot run. Fortunately for us, it was also the day of their first delivery of vegetable plants from their supplier. We had "first pick" of plants as they were being unloaded from the truck onto the shelf. Home Depot's supplier is Bonnie Plants of Union Springs Al. All of the seedlings looked vigorous and were... [more] -Planting tomatoes in April


April 22,2010- Vespa Battery Installation..

Our Vespa battery started showing its age last Fall. We obtained a replacement battery from YUASA because we could see the writing on the wall. We knew our old battery would not survive an entire Winter out in the cold, but apparently it couldn't make it through inside, either (we removed it from the Vespa and brought it in when we were done riding for the year). When the temperature in Boston got over 70º a few weeks ago, we uncovered the scooter, put the battery back in, and tried to fire it up. It cranked a few times, but did not turn over. After a more attempts, the starter went silent. We knew it was time to activate the YUASA battery.

Lead-acid batteries are great for cars, motocycles, and scooters because they all need a burst of energy to start them. and that's what those batteries excel at. The chemistry for lead-acid batteries has been well known for over 150 years. The reversible chemical reaction can both store and discharge energy. The battery uses a combination of lead plates or grids and... [more] -Vespa battery installation: YUASA


April 21,2010- LCD TV Wall Mounts...

LCD televisions that are 50 inches and larger have become affordable in recent years. Televisions 40 inches and smaller are now available for under $500. Unlike projection TVs and the first crop of 50-inch LCD TVs, which weighed over 200 pounds and dominated an entire corner of a room, the current crop of 50-inch LCD TVs weigh no more than 70 pounds. This means that if the user does not want to put the TV on a stand, they can safely mount it on a wall. A heavier unit can also be mounted on a wall provided the bracket is secured to the studs in the wall. We have received quite a few questions regarding types of mount and how to put one up. We thought this was a general enough question that we would cover it in a DIY series.

We took a look at what was available in stores, on Craigslist, and EBay. What we found was a wide variety of styles, options, and qualities. Fortunately, they television wall mounts group into a few categories: thin profile, fixed, angle-adjustible, and articulated. We will take a look at the first three types in this write-up and save the articulated type for a later date. All of the mounts have a few things in common. There is usually a... [more] -LCD Wall Mounts


April 20,2010- Cuisinart Elite Food Processor...

Last Fall we gave our FirstLook at the Cuisinart Elite food processor. The unique Elite Collection™ 12-Cup Food Processor is Cuisinart's next generation of kitchen appliance. It features a unique 4-cup work bowl nested inside the larger bowl, an adjustable 6-position slicing disc, and reversible shredding disc. This updated Cuisinart is like having multiple food processors in one.

The Elite's basic features are:

  • 12-cup Large Bowl and 4-cup Small Bowl
  • SealTight™ Advantage System
  • Push-Button Release
  • Stainless Steel Adjustable Slicing Disc (1 to 6mm)
  • Stainless Steel Reversible Shredding Disc (fine/medium)
  • Large and Small Stainless Steel Chopping/Mixing Blades with BladeLock System
  • Dough Blade
  • Cuisinart® Supreme® Wide-Mouth Feedtube and Cover Assembly
  • Electronic Touchpad Controls – On/Off/Pulse with Blue LED lights
  • 1000-Watt Peak Power Motor

As part of the FirstUse experience, we thought we would make two of the recipes from the Cuisinart's enclosed cookbook, spinach-stuffed mushrooms and fresh hummus. We chose the... [more] -Cuisinart Elite Food Processor FirstUse


April 19,2010- YES Luna...

Time was thought to be constant until Einstein demonstrated it was actually relative to the observer. This understanding launched a field of physics which may some day reveal the fundamental construction of the Universe. In this new understanding, time and space are connected in a four dimensional construct called Space-Time. While most of us travel through space-time on a vessel called Earth, some of us may some day be able to go faster. If we had to pick a watch for such a relativistic journey, the YES Luna would be high on the list.

The LUNA's case is oval ( 42 x 36 x 11 mm) and has a matching 18mm tapered bracelet with a butterfly locking clasp. The LCD window measures 28 x 21 mm, is covered by an anti-glare sapphire crystal, and the digital numbers are 6 mm tall. The case is sculpted out of a solid chunk of hypo-allergenic titanium and has a duo finish (polished and satin) that indicates... [more] -YES Luna FirstLook


April 16,2010- ePublishing for the iPad...

The iPad has sold more the 500,000 units since it went on sale two weeks ago. Its success has surprised even Apple, and it has pushed back the overseas release date of the iPad by a month to satisfy US demands. We have spent quite a few hours getting to know Version 1.0 of the Apple iPad. One thing is for certain, this device is a game-changer for ePublishers.

As both PDF and EPUB are standards, there are many ways to get documents into those formats. On the Mac, just about any text file can be converted to .pdf format via the "Save As PDF" command under the standard Print function. We have already shown how simple it is to convert a .pdf file into a EPUB file via CALIBRE. The process to create eBooks for the iPad is... [more] -ePublishing for the iPad


April 15,2010- Boxster Spring Prep...

Today is Tax Day. Yesterday, we could've either detailed a Porsche Boxster or done our taxes. We don't know what others would have chosen, but we picked the Boxster. Not that we didn't WANT to do our taxes, but the recent flooding in Massachusetts gave everyone in its federally-declared disaster-area counties an additional month to file (with no need for an extension, either).

The warm weather in early April allowed us to swap out the snow tires. Every time we swap tires we are reminded of how much of a pleasure it is to have the Tire Totes. The tires are stored in the basement. Getting them out of storage and carrying them up and down the basement stairs used to be a MAJOR hassle. The TireTote handles are beefy and make the tires easy to handle. The wide side covering means protection for the wheels and no... [more] -Boxster Spring Prep


April 14,2010- ZAGG inivisibleShield...

The design of the Droid phone is sleek and compact - it feels durable, except for the obvious danger of its big, exposed screen. The Droid is a little heavier than the Blackberry and the iPhone, so if it got dropped or took a whack to the screen, it might suffer more. Barring the trauma of being dropped, this unit's only Achille's heel would be having a lot of surfaces that can be scratched and having an awkward construction that requires complicated body protectors. Whe we got our Droids last December, there were three options available at the Verizon Wireless retail outlets:

  • Black "Body Glove" brand cases with a "fuzzy" coated metal structure covered in a diamond-plate textured rubberized external coating ($28)
  • Generic aluminum cases, with plastic-coated interior and mildly rubberized exterior, in a variety of colors (~$20)
  • transparent plastic cases, in a variety of colors (~$20)

The plastic case did not look very sturdy and did not appeal to my visual taste, plus, the plastic retaining teeth that held the parts to the phone looked like they could easily wear compared to the metal teeth of the other two cases.

The generic case was my choice because it was the least-bulky of all the options and protected the flat surfaces from normal wear and tear. It has a square hole on the back, located above the Motorola logo and a long rectangular hole (maybe to accommodate a belt clip?) for the Droid's rear speaker. Because it's essentially a new layer of metal in direct contact with the phone, this case offers... [more] -Droid invisibleSHIELD by Toby Bazarnick


April 13,2010- RainyDayGarden's MarchMadness...

March was a very odd month this year. It started out dry, but got very wet very fast. Record-breaking rains (twice in two weeks) turned the Northeast into a giant puddle the old timers said they haven’t seen for more than a 50 years. Staggering amounts of rain fell in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Rhode Island suffered the most with some areas recording 10 inches in just a few days.

On March 6, the weather folks announced that rain was on its way. Newer technology had made their predictions a lot more accurate, so the interns heeded the warning and got things cleaned up before the storm. It was a good thing they did because the rain did come, and... [more] -RDG's MarchMadness


April 12,2010- Paradise City Craft Show...

With Spring time comes some top rated Arts and Crafts Festivals along with open studios and markets. This weekend is CraftBoston the Society of Arts and Crafts event at Seaport World Trade Center, 200 Seaport Boulevard Boston, Massachusetts 02210. It runs 10-6pm on Friday and Saturday and then 11-5 on Sunday. Go here for more info.

Last month was The Paradise City Arts (PCA) Festival. It remains one of Rainy Day's favorites arts events for several reasons. First the 175 os so artist-exhibitors who are there are top caliber. A number who we chatted with had completed MFA's or rigorous apprenticeships. Many had pieces in noted galleries or musuems. Second the show's sponsors attend to the details with food that is a cut above (this year's deserts, especially the chocolate eclairs, had our endorphins buzzing) alongside a jazz quartet ambience. As well the variety of media has something for every taste including jewelry, clothing/accessories, paintings, art glass, ceramics, sculpture and furniture.

We sent two of our gadabout writers, Lisa and Jay, to report back on the Marlboro Ma. event. If you're intrigued by some of our profiles from this year's show you can note on your calendar the remaining Paradise City Arts shows this year. The next PCA show will be in... [more] -Paradise City Craft Show: by Jay Rogers


April 9,2010- Boston Nature Center:SpringFling...

We have been frequent visitors to the Boston Nature Center (BNC) for years. It is an urban sanctuary, located on the grounds of the former Boston State Hospital. We often use it as a testing ground for outdoor gear we review. The BNC offers public programs year-round. Through its Boston Schools Initiative, the BNC provides environmental education programs to local elementary schools weekly.

Over two miles of handicap-accessible trails and boardwalks traverse the meadows and wetlands. Wildlife such as coyotes, pheasants, and many species of migratory birds can often be seen. The sanctuary’s George Robert White Environmental Conservation Center is one of the “greenest” buildings in Boston, teaching environmentally sustainable design by example.

A few weeks ago, we attend a BNC event at our friends Bill and Irfan's home. We had the opportunity to meet Julie Brandlen, Director or the BNC, and many of the other friends of the BNC. The event was to introduce some of the folks in the Back Bay and Boston to this fantastic urban resource. We heard from folks who helped envisioned, designed, and built the center. We also had a chance to chat with many folks active in the Massachusetts Audubon Society as well as... [more] -BNC SpringFling


April 8,2010- Garden prep...

The release of the iPad on Saturday sucked everyone into a digital black hole. After a few marathon review sessions of all things iPad, we defied known physical laws, climbed our way back up to the event horizon, and managed to extricate ourselves from the gravitational field-distorting pull of our shiny new iPad. The unseasonably warm 90º weather helped. To make sure that the "real" world was indeed still analog and to help us regain our bearings, we decided to do some gardening.

When we last left the RainyDayGarden, we had assembled the GrowBed from our friends at the Gardener's Supply Company. We were trying out various shapes for the bed and decided a chevron configuration was the best fit for our existing garden layout. The next step was to fill the GrowBed with garden soil. The size of the GrowBed is 3'x6'x10", so 18 cubic feet (CF) should be sufficient. To help us keep our cost down, we decided to get 12 CF of top soil ($1.50/CF) and 6 CF of gardening soil from MiracleGro ($4/CF).

The MiracleGro's claim is that stuff grows twice as big if planted in it. We didn't set up a double-blind test bed (next season) so we won't be able to say. However, it is more than twice as expensive as regular top soil, so let's hope they are at least a little better:-) Also, instead of... [more] -Garden prep

April 7,2010- Free iPad Apps ...

The iPhone has been a success in part because of the large number of third-party apps available for it. Likewise, the usefulness and ultimate success of the iPad (beyond the early adopters) will depend heavily on what developers create for this new form factor. We expect to see a flurry of activity now that the iPad is out "in the wild." We also expect the pace of app releases to snowball as we head into the Fall.

The iPad came with a set of standard apps:

  • Safari browser: Surfing the Web
  • Mail: email program
  • Photo: Image viewer/organizer
  • iPod: Music Player
  • Calendar: Time and Task organizer
  • Contacts: Addresses and Phone Numbers
  • Notes: Writing pad
  • Maps: Google Maps application
  • Videos: Movie player
  • YouTube: Clip viewer
  • iTunes: Find, buy, and download music
  • AppStore: Find, buy, and download iPad Apps
  • Settings: preferences for apps

At launch time, there were already over 3,000 apps written specifically for the iPad. The price of an iPad app is averaging a few dollars more than iPhone apps, although many of them are free. We scanned the AppStore and downloaded a bunch of free but promising-looking ones. We expect this set to change. As with anything free, some are worth the cost, some not so much (really, some of them we should be paid to use). We have culled the list and settled on a set which... [more] -Free iPad Apps


April 6,2010- iPad accessories you already have...

Whenever a new Apple gadget shows up on the market, what follows is an inevitable deluge of gadget-specific accessories. The iPad will be no different. It will spawn an entire ecosystem of iPad-specifc screen protectors, carrying cases, docks, extended battery packs, and attachments. However, well-gadgetized geeks may already have many of those accessories in-house. Yesterday we showed how a mouse pad could double nicely as an iPad stand. Today, we took a quick look around the RainyDayMagazine office and came up with half a dozen things which could be repurposed for the iPad. Some gear was relatively new, and some were surprisingly old and no longer actively used.

The mouse pad with a wrist rest worked as a stand because the friction of the pad kept the iPad from sliding. However, as the back of the iPad is curved, pretty much any soft wrist rest would work just as well as long as... [more] -iPad Accessories Your Already Have


April 5,2010- iPad FirstLook..

Now that our iPad has been unboxed we thought we would provide a quick tour of the unit and offer a few observations about the physical aspects of this device:

  • Height: 9.56 inches (242.8 mm)
  • Width: 7.47 inches (189.7 mm)
  • Depth: 0.5 inch (13.4 mm)
  • Weight: 1.5 pounds (0.68 kg) Wi-Fi model
  • Display: 9.7-inch LED-backlit glossy widescreen Multi-Touch
  • Resolution: 1024-by-768-pixels at 132 pixels per inch (ppi)
  • Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating
  • Dock connector port
  • 3.5-mm stereo headphone jack
  • Built-in speaker and microphone

The frame is made from a single piece of aluminum. It is tapered out from the center to the edges, giving the iPad a much thinner overall appearance. It is not just a nice visual trick, the curve also makes the iPad more comfortable to hold. The first thing we noticed was that the feel of the iPad is much more substantial compared to that of the Amazon Kindle. The finish of the back is smooth but matte so fingerprints do not show. The glass of the LCD has an oil-resisting (oleophobic) coating to minimize the amount of fingerprints. This is not to say the... [more] -iPad FirstLook


April 4,2010- iPad Unboxing..

Our Apple iPad showed up late in the afternoon yesterday. We had a previous commitment for the evening so we had to wait to do the "unboxing," but, wow, the wait was worth it. We ordered the 16GB WiFi version of the iPad, which is the least expensive model of the iPad line. Many people consider it a risk to buy the first generation of anything, especially if it is something completely new to the market. In our "previous" life, we were Newton MessagePad developers, so being on the bleeding edge of technology is not uncomfortable for us; actually, it's when we are the most excited. So nobody was surprised that we had no hesitation in plunking down $500 for a device no one had never seen before...especially since the gadget was from Apple.

Having unboxed quite a few devices from many different vendors over the years, we are always struck with the particular attention Apple always gives to this aspect of the user experience. The joy of owning an Apple product starts the moment it is unpacked from the shipping container. The product box is visually clean, nicely proportioned, and always well-presented. Apple manages to create an emotional bond with the buyer with the just the simple act of lifting the box cover to reveal the product.

The box's content was neatly organized, well laid out, and easy to remove. There were no ugly twist-ties, rattling pieces, or loose bits to spoil the mini-ceremony. Even the process of removing the... [more] -iPad UnBoxing

April 3,2010- iPad Delivery..

The much anticipated iPad delivery date has arrived. We had been tracking the package's progress since March 29th, when it left Shenzhen China, and followed its progress across the world to its final Boston destination. UPS last updated its delivery status as having left East Boston at 8:09 A.M. We expected to see the truck pull up to the office sometime this morning...

However, the morning came and went, but no iPad delivery. It wasn't until much later in the afternoon that the UPS truck pulled into our delivery dock. Ours was his last iPad delivery of the day.[Permalink] -iPad Delivery


April 2,2010

Today is the opening day of the NYIAS. This annual event will see over a million visitors wander through the Jacob Javits Convention center over the course of this weekend. The amount of organization, coordination, and physical labor which goes into pulling something like this together is simply staggering. Today, we want to give some credit to the all the onstage and backstage folks (set constructors, booth babes, etc...) who work so hard to make the show a fun and exciting event for all who attend.

The use of eye-catching displays is a time-tested method of drawing showgoers over to a vendor's booth. Slick video walls, touch panels, and interactive kiosks were out in full force at the show. We saw one made using a few dozen iPod Touches which was pretty innovative. How well they hold up to... [more] -NYIAS: Opening Day


April 1,2010

The main reason we go to the NYIAS is to see what's new with Porsche. Clearly they had a few things under wraps for the 2PM press conference. The booth space his year was a lot larger than previous years. Not sure if it was because they now are part of VW and was able to negotiate a better price. In any case, it was nice to be able to sit down, chat with some of the folks, and enjoy a few espresso all courtesy of Porsche.

We were hoping to get a look at the 918 electric concept. It is one of the few cars we would consider when we are ready to trade in our beloved Boxster. Another may be the Boxster Spyder. The 918 was not on display, but we got a... [more] -NYIAS: Porsche News


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