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June 30,2010 - Julbo Zulu: FirstLook ...

Sunglasses are standard equipment for many of our rigorous outdoor activities: backyard BBQ-ing, looking for fried clams, and top-down driving. To those ends, we have reviewed quite a few pairs of sunglasses (180s, Oakleys, etc...), especially the ones with more than just great looks. The three greatest sunglass innovations were probably: polarization (for glare reduction), polycarbonate (for strength), and photochromic lenses (for auto-darkening). It has been a while since we have seen something new under the sun (excuse the pun) when it comes to sunglass technology.

Traditional light-sensitive lenses are actually responding to the amount of UV light. This was fine as UV light is usually mixed with visible light in most situations. However, this is NOT true when driving some modern cars, because some modern windshields have a built-in... [more] -Julbo Zulu: FirstLook


June 29,2010 - Wacom Bamboo Craft: InTheWild ...

Wacom is the acknowledged leader in graphics tablets. There are other tablet makers on the market, but none of them can compete with Wacom in terms of features, sensitivity, and variety of offerings. We have been using Wacom tablets since the early 1990s. It has been interesting to see how Wacom has grown, adapted, and maintained their lead in this product category. They made tablets affordable, reliable, and convenient to use for the graphic artist. The key differentiator between Wacom and its competitors has been and continues to be their proprietary wireless input technology. It has enabled Wacom to make lighter, more sensitive pens and mice, none of which need to be charged or require batteries.

We have reviewed many Wacom tablets (Graphire, Intuos, Bamboo) over the years. The most recent was a FirstLook review of Wacom's Bamboo Craft in November 2009. The Bamboo Craft is a $130 tablet that can do double duty as a giant multi-touch trackpad. This capability is uniquely available from Wacom, and its utility was something we had not fully appreciated. Until recently, our Bamboo did not get much use because it was attached to a Mac which mainly functioned as a media server. Most of the graphics work was done using the larger Wacom Intuos tablet attached to the Macbook Pro laptop. An office clean up and equipment reorganization gave us the impetus to optimize the layout of a few workstations. We realized it made more sense to move the... [more] -Wacom Bamboo Craft : InTheWild


June 28,2010 - Backyard Biotech: Microscopes ...

Back in the beginning of the year, we started a new topic called Backyard Biotech for the RainyDayScience section of the magazine. The interns did some research and quickly realized there was a growing movement of DIYBio enthusiasts on the Net. This is a group of DIYers, tinkerers, and curious individuals (very similar to the early days of computer hackers) interested in playing around with DNA, building thermocyclers, hacking the genome. So, for the better part of this week, we'll be showing you what we've learned, what we would like to do, and where we are going with this.

One of the interns' tasks was to come up with a list of projects. The #7 issue of MAKE magazine made their task ridiculously easy. The first thing before doing anything else is to build a lab, and the first piece of equipment for any biotech lab is a microscope. OK, maybe the first thing is a decent workbench, but we already have one...so we started with the microscope. We have looked at digital microscopes (QX5, Brando) before, but we wanted a unit small enough for the... [more] -Backyard Biotech: Microscopes


June 25,2010 - Caulfield Lens Installation ...

We are starting a tradition of replacing our Oakley lenses on the Solstices (Summer, Winter). Summer officially started on Monday, but we didn't get around to it until today. We replaced the OEM lenses we had on these Oakleys in November with lenses from ExoVista because they had gotten scratched up pretty badly by our not using the microfiber case when stashing them in the door pocket of the car: the sunglasses bounced around and got nicked up enough to obstruct the view during wearing. We were more careful these past six months and the ExoVista lenses those came through unscathed.

In March, we told you about the Oakley replacement lenses made by Caulfield of New Zealand. They were the least expensive ($35) replacement lenses available on EBay. So we were naturally curious as to how they would measure up. The FirstLook was promising. Now it's time to see how well they... [more] -Caulfield Lens Installation


June 24,2010 - iPad Armor ...

When we slipped out to pick up some late-breaking gadget info at our local dead drop, someone slipped into our hotel room and attempted to gain access to the contents on our iPad. Fortunately, the palm scanner security program, not recognizing their hand print, denied them access

Just to confirm that the iPad had not been compromised, we followed protocol, activated scanner, and ran a Level One security check on the content. The sweep came back clean. None of the security layers were breached, no files or programs had been added, deleted, or accessed. The iPad was clean. We have to be careful as we all learned a valuable lesson from... [more] -iPad Armor


June 23,2010 - Bird watching ...

Bird watching is a great way to spend a day. It is also a great way to justify the purchase of those REALLY big telephoto and zoom lenses to the accounting department. Our friends Andrew and Candace told us about a heron rookery out on an island just off Manchester-by-the-Sea and asked if we would care to join them in checking it out. Looking for any excuse to get out of the office, we didn't have to be asked twice.

On the way to the rookery, we stopped off in Hamilton to get a peek at some hawk hatchlings which were big enough to venture from the nest, but had not yet taken flight. It was a good opportunity to practice with our equipment, try a few body/lens combinations, and see if we needed the TrekPod or not.

The image of the hawk on the left was taken with a D90 and the Sigma 80-400mm lens without the aid of a tripod. The one on the right was taken by Andy using his D700 and the Nikon 200-400mm on a tripod. The difference was pretty striking once we had a chance to take a closer look at the... [more] -Bird watching


June 22,2010 - Piel Frama iPad Case...

When the Apple iPad was released many of the makers of iPod cases had to scramble to redesign their offerings for the new larger multi-touch device. This was because Apple did not release the final specs of the iPad ahead of time to any of the accessories vendors. We knew there would be a deluge of skins, sleeves, and covers all clamoring to be reviewed shortly after the launch. Since we have limited personnel, we have to be very selective in our choice of covers to review. For skin-tight scratch protection, the obvious pick was the InvisibleShield. For travel protection, we opted for the Vaja iVolution. We liked the two-piece design because it gave us the option of going with either the front or rear cover when a thinner profile was desired. A few readers asked what would be our choice for a one-piece design. Today, readers will get a FirstLook at our recommendation.

Piel Frama got their start in manufacturing leather covers for gadgets with mobile phones in 1984, but have been a maker of leather goods since the Forties. They purchase their leather locally in Spain so they can hand select for quality. To ensure the high standards of their products, the company currently employs over 150 skilled craftsmen and... [more] -Piel Frama: iPad Case FirstLook


June 21,2010 - Whales Tohora ...

Whales have roamed the oceans for millions of years. Their relationship with man has historically been one of tension. Man has hunted whales for their oil, slaughtered them for food, and brought them to the edge of extinction. The more we understand about these massive creatures, the more we realize how much more we have yet to learn. While most the world has come to prize these somewhat elusive creatures for what they can teach us, there are still a few nations (Japan, Norway, Iceland) who cling to the barbaric practice of and killing these magnificent beings. The issue will come to a head in Morocco this week among pro- and anti-whaling nations at the annual International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting. Japan, and its unjustifyable practice of whale killing, will be the main topic of discussion. Japan's resistance to ending this horrific annual practice is more from pride than business. Let us hope that international pressure can shame them into joining past whaling nations like New Zealand to become another champion of whale study and protection instead of continuing as their destructors.

For New Englanders hoping to learn more about whales, the timing for the Whales Tohora exhibit at Boston's Museum Of Science (MOS) which opened on Sunday could not have been better. What do we really know about whales? This hands-on exhibit helps visitors explore the biology of these giant mammals. The exhibit spans a variety of topics including whale evolution, diversity, sounds, and reproduction. Created by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and presented by Boston Harbor Cruises, Whales Tohora features... [more] -MOS:Whales Tohora


June 18,2010 - Summer Reading List...

Summer is a great time for relaxing on the beach and catching up on some reading, or in our case...some listening. To readers looking for amusing detective stories, we would recommend the Spellman series from Lisa Lutz. Those with a hankering for something adventurous or fantastical, we could not think of anything better than Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. We have listened to the audio versions of both series multiple times. Each time was more enjoyable than the last.

Current research are confirming the large body of anecdotal evidence that our health, well-being, and happiness can be directly influenced by how we CHOOSE to perceive the world around us. Our responses (positive or negative) will have a direct impact on not just our brain, but also our body. The more we understand how this mind-body connection works, the better we can... [more] -Summer Reading List


June 17,2010 - LapWorks iPad Recliner...

iPad accessories have been coming at us from all directions since April. We could tell you about all of the gear we have seen, but then we would not have time for anything else. Instead, we like to filter out the noise, screen out the unworthy, and cut though the clutter. The gear that make it past the gaunlet are the ones we tell readers about. While the iPad is designed to be used while being held, sometimes you want to put it down somewhere, especially when typing or using it to watch a movie. In those situations, it is best to put it on a stand. We looked at one a few months ago. Today, we'll take a look at another.

Today is our FirstLook at the LapWorks iPad Recliner. No, it is not a comfy chair from La-Z-Boy. However, with it you can sit back, put your feet up, and position your iPad in a variety of positions. The Recliner cradle is molded from high impact plastic. It has an angled... [more] -LapWorks Recliner


June 16,2010 - Brooklyn Bridge...

NYC is known for its skylines, landmarks, and tourist destinations. We are often in the city on business, and so we do not often taken advantage of the opportunities to the sights. In the past, readers have suggested it would be interesting for us to do a series on some points of NYC interest. We gave the request some thought and decided we will, on each trip down, take some time out and visit one POI.

One of NYC's most famous icon is the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge connects the lower part of Long Island with the Financial District at the Southern tip of Manhattan. The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States. Completed in 1883, it spans the East River. At 5,989 feet (1825 m), it was the longest suspension bridge in the... [more] -Brooklyn Bridge


June 15,2010 - Brando Digital Video Watch...

Camera and video recording devices have been getting smaller ever since things went digital. Designers were able to eliminate all mechanical parts from the devices once flash memory became available. Without any moving parts, cameras and digital video recorders could be reduced to pin-hole size and could be hidden in ANYTHING. Most of today's cell phones and laptops have digital video capabilities, but even everyday devices such as pens, watches, and teddy bears can be made video-capable.

This sporty-looking watch may look like a high-end chronograph, but it is actually a camera/video recorder from USB gadget master Brando. The camera is capable of image resolution of 3264x2448 and video resolution of 1280x960 pixels at 30 FPS. It is powered by a... [more] -Brando: Digital Video Watch


June 14,2010 - Corvette Day ...

Yesterday was Corvette Day at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline. We had a full plate on Sunday, but managed to make a quick stop in the morning to check out the line up. We had an occassion to ride in a recent model Corvette when we were last in Texas on business. Our friend Mike showed us what the modern 'Vette could do on an open stretch of the Dallas highway. We were duly impressed and it renewed our interest in this American motoring icon. One of the best ways to follow up on that interest was to attend the LAAM's excellent lawn events. This Sunday, we had the perfect opportunity to do just that.

Quite a few Corvette enthusiasts had already registered their cars for the show and were doing some clean up and detailing when we arrived on the museum grounds. We wandered around and chatted with some of the owners about their vehicle. Most of them were local to the area, but a few of them were... [more] -LAAM: Corvette Day


June 11,2010 - Rushing around ...

We all wish we had more time to do the things we want. In trying to do as much as we can, we rush around multi-tasking and often end up taking longer to accomplish less. A few years ago, we gave a mention to Carl Honore and his book "In Praise of SLOW." Last July, we asked readers what did they really want to get out of their time? A few days ago, we stumbled upon a three-year old Washington Post article and the following video clip:


It was a typical January morning in 2007.  A young man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about an hour at a... [more] -Rushing Around


June 10,2010 - Cuisinart Griddler FirstUse ...

Sometimes a piece of equipment takes a little getting used to before it works itself into the flow, other times it starts pulling its weight from the get go. Our new Cuisinart Griddler is one of the latter. We brought it out to cook the veggie burgers and tofu hotdogs for FirstGrill. However, we quickly realized that this Griddler could do so much more. The flat griddle was perfect for frying eggs and sausages/bacon for breakfast, the ridged side for grilling burgers for lunch, and in combination for searing vegetables/steaks for dinner.

The Cuisinart Griddler is exceptionally well suited for making panini and grilled sandwiches and it is this feature which we want to highlight in the FirstUse review. We had one piece of Morgan Wagyu (Kobe) Bavette steak left over from the FirstGrill. OK..."somebody" put one aside and hid it in the freezer. That same someone "found" it the other day and "sacrificed" it for this Griddler FirstUse article. We whipped up a quick marinade (soy sauce, fresh ground pepper, and salt), let the steak sit in it for a few hours, and cut it up into nice thick slices for grilling.

Grilling the kobe beef on both sides at once seared in the juices. The meat was ready in less than thirty seconds. To get a nicely toasted crust on the French bread, we liberally brushed on some olive oil prior to grilling. There was no need to clean the grilling plates because we wanted the... [more] -Cuisinart Griddler FirstUse


June 09,2010 - Container Garden Update ...

We had a couple of really hot days in May, which we thought might be too much for our new plantlings out in the garden, but the amount of May rain kept the plants happy and thriving (with just a few additional waterings from the hose). Currently, all the early tulips have bloomed, as have the Japonica, Forcythia, and most of the irises. The day lilies and lamb's ears have started sending up their flowering stalks. They should start to flower in another week or so. The peonies popped a week ago, but were battered around a bit by a thunderstorm. We harvested as many as we could and brought them inside to enjoy.

The new raised-bed vegetable garden really took off last month. The tomatillos and tomatoes flowered in mid-May and have started to fruit. The early peas were true to their name. The pods formed and we have already had our first harvest (ie, standing in the garden and eating them right out of the pod). The zucchinis have flowered but the fruit has yet to form. We have learned that zucchinis, while often thought of as a vegetable, is actually an immature fruit.

We acquired some winter melon seedlings when we were last in NY. They have been planted and are getting acclimated to their new home. Hopefully, they will establish themselves and provide us with... [more] -Container Garden Update

June 08,2010 - Vanderbilt Museum ...

We were down in NYC last weekend for the World Science Festival. The 90º temperature in the city had us looking for cooler diversions on Saturday. After a bit of searching, we came up with the Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport, Long Island. It was less than an hour's drive from NYC, and 43 acres of rolling hills was a nice escape from the "concrete jungle."

This museum was built by Willian K. Vanderbilt II on his Eagle's Nest Estate. The 24-room Spanish-Revival mansion was built in three stages off and on from 1900s to 1930s. We did not have time to take the house tour or see all of the grounds on this visit, but managed to hit many of the museums and some of the gardens.

As a person of means, William Vanderbilt II (he was the great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt) fed his curiousity of natural history by mounting specimen-collecting voyages to the Galapagos and other exotic destinations. He opened his personal museum to the public in 1922. The photos here are just a small sample of the artifacts from his extensive travels and expeditions. On display were an impressive and varied array of... [more] -Vanderbilt Museum


June 07,2010 - World Science Festival...

A full-scale model of the world’s most powerful space telescope was in New York City last week as part of the World Science Festival. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, when launched in 2014, will allow scientists to "see" the very first galaxies formed in the Universe and discover hidden worlds around distant stars. For the past six days, a full-scale model of this successor to the Hubble Space Telescope was on public view in Battery Park, on the tip of Manhattan. It was as close to a first-hand look at the telescope as most people will ever get, so on Friday we drove down for a gander.

In addition, we drove down because we didn't want to miss the “From the City to the Stars” party. The anchor of the event was the spectacularly lit Webb telescope model. Leading scientists were on hand to talk to everyone about the design of the telescope, the challenges, and the anticipated discoveries.

The James Webb Space Telescope is the next-generation space observatory, exploring deep space phenomena from distant galaxies to nearby planets and stars. The telescope will give scientists clues about the... [more] -World Science Festival 2010


June 04,2010 - Mac mini temperature control ...

Last August we posted a possible reason and a temporary fix to our Mac mini's WiFi problem. Our solution worked only if we kept the Mac mini in front of a fan. Obviously, it was not practical to have the computer in front of a fan during the New England Winter. So, our Mac mini's WiFi worked until the machine got warmed up, which typically was around five minutes. This was not a huge problem as we mostly used the Mac mini to burn DVDs, convert movies for playing on the iPod, and other such tasks. However, now that we have a large screen LCD in the office, we want to use the Mac mini as a media server for our new LCD TV. As part of its media serving function, we want to be able to access Hulu, Netflix, and other video streaming sites. To do that we needed to REALLY find a solution for the Mac mini's spotty WiFi problem. So, over Memorial Day weekend, we decided to revisit the problem, work through some possible solutions, and see if we could come up with a more permanent fix.

The first thing we did was to move the Mac mini from its current location underneath the table to the top of the desk. It was mounted below to save desktop space, but we thought the better air circulation on top may be... [more] -Mac mini temperature control


June 03,2010- Hang&Level FirstUse ...

When we brought a 46" screen in to the office, we realized the logical place to put it was on the wall. The only suitable wall already had a bunch of frames on it. Relocating the frames would not be a difficult DIY project, but re-aligning them would be a chore. Getting the frames just so had always been a lot of trial and error. Fortunately, we got a Hang&Level picture hanger a few months back, and this is the perfect opportunity to give it a FirstUse test.

To properly hang a group of frames, we used to measure, mark, nail, and readjust the frames many times before we were satisfied with how they looked. The issue was two-fold: the right spot for the nail was located behind the frame, so centering the frame and marking the spot was difficult. There was usually slack in the wire in the back of the frame, and that made aligning and spacing of the frames difficult.

The Hang & Level tool was invented to address these problems. The steps were simple and intuitive. The frame to be hung is placed on the tool. The frame/tool is placed against the wall. Once we were satisfied with the frame's placement, we removed the picture from the tool but... [more] -Hang&Level FirstUse


June 02,2010- Multiple monitors ...

We were distracted by the flurry of iPad-related stuff coming into the office and neglected our iPhone (and now iPad) programming studies. However, the Memorial Day weekend gave us some focused time to work on the last bit of Chapter 3 and to begin Chapter 4 (multiple view apps).

The various teaching techniques of this book is starting to have their effects. Tons of graphics keep our brains engaged. The conversational style helps us pay attention to the "dialog." The various challenges, exercises, questions, and activities are surprisingly... [more] -Multi-monitors


June 1,2010- Articulated LCD Mount ...

We used to have a huge projection TV screen in our office. While it was great to watch movies on it, it weighed over 200 lbs and took up an entire corner of the room. When it stopped working, we had to take it apart in the room in order to get it out to the trash. A week ago, we got ourselves a nice 46" LCD panel television via Craigslist. The great thing about LCD TVs--even with larger ones--is that they are relatively thin (less than 2" thick) and comparative light (less than 50 lbs). Even though they are thin, they still take up quite a bit of room on the desk.

One solution to the problem is to mount the LCD panel on the wall, something which was not be possible with CRTs and projection TVs. We reviewed a few different types of LCD mounts last month, but we needed something a little more adjustable for the 46" Sony Bravia screen. Because we plan on putting the tv above the desk, we need an articulated mount with tilt, angle, and extension adjustments. The one we got was this one from... [more] -Articulated LCD Mount FirstLook


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