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May 31,2010- Memorial Day...

While we should remember our fallen soldiers everyday, we set aside today to recognize their sacrifice and honor their memories.

They served when asked, defended when challenged, and gave their life when necessary for the ideals represented by this country. We salute them. [Permalink] - Memorial Day 2010


May 28,2010- Introducing Milo...

We have been looking for a new intern for RainyDayMagazine and "hired" Milo Seutonius Barney MacFarquarson last Sunday. Milo "graduated" six weeks ago in the back of a car. He is very curious, surprisingly strong, and is currently napping. Milo came highly recommended from a nice person who took Milo and all his brothers and sisters (six, all black) in from the cold.

Milo may not yet be up-to-date on his shots, but he is current on the latest technologies. We hope he will be able to start contributing to RainyDayMagazine very soon. Have a great Memorial Day weekend. [Permalink] - Milo


May 27,2010- Invisible Shield...

We have done a lot of invisibleSHIELD installations on many different devices. So when we get emails asking whether the invisibleSHIELD is as easy to install as we make it out to be, we always reply in the affirmative. However, after some consideration, we have to admit we were not sure. Maybe it was easy for us because we have done it many times. It could be because we weren't afraid to get the film really wet before slapping it on. It may really be because we have always done the installation projects using the gadgets owned by the interns. We don't really know. Recently, however, we had an opportunity to find out. Our friend Toby wanted a thinner cover for his Droid. We got him the invisibleSHIELD and asked if the would give us his take on the how hard it was to put it on. Toby had some interesting observations and gave us a detailed account of his installation experience.

A month ago, we met up with our friends from Spain (Patrick and Finora) when they came to New York City. The iPad was not yet released in Europe, so they were eager to check out ours. After playing with our iPad for about ten minutes, they bought their own at the Apple Store in NYC. Patrick mentioned that he was worried about damaging the screen. We thought, "Hey, here is another opportunity to continue our InvisibleShield installation experiment!" We struck a deal with Patrick where we would get him an invisibleSHIELD if he would... [more] -InvisibleShield Installation by a first-timer


May 26,2010- Cold Blooded X Jacket FirstLook...

Clothes that are worn often should fit as well as possible so that we will be comfortable, be made of better material so that they last longer and function better, and should look great...because who doesn't want to look great as often as possible? For a piece of clothing to satisfy all of these parameters it would have to be tailor-made. Since proper measurements and skilled labor are required for a good fit and proper construction, custom-fit, tailor-made clothing is typically quite expensive. It is no surprise that tailor-making is reserved for things like really nice suits or formal wear (tuxes, wedding gowns, and the like). Rarely would someone bother going to all that effort and expense for a fleece or Gore-tex jacket. However, we maintain that it actually makes sense to have something custom-made if one plans on wearng it often. And this can be be an economy - if it fits well and is made well, then a piece of clothing will be worn often and for a long time, no replacement needed.

BeyondClothing, with the assistance of CAD-CAM tools and the reach of the Web, is able to bring the cost down to a point where custom-made outdoor wear is quite affordable. Using custom software and the latest in laser-guided technology (see their videos of embroidery and cutting), Beyond is able to offer a fit not possible with off-the-rack gear. Granted, there's a lot of questions to answer and measurements to provide when ordering, but sizing parameters are inter-dependent and having more info will enable the software to... [more] -Cold Blooded X Jacket FirstLook


May 25,2010- LCD TV Hunting...

Last month we purchased a broken 46" Samsung LCD TV for a DIY repair project. When we realized that fixing the screen was cost prohibitive (i.e., way, way too expensive), we managed to sell it for parts (at a profit, no less) to someone looking to swap out some boards in another unit that had a working screen. This past month, the interns have been scanning Craigslist looking for another unit for a repair project and they started seeing something interesting: more and more working LCD units were showing up at very reasonable prices. The sizes ranged from 40" to 52" with prices from $400 to $750. The LCDs for sale were not off-brands neither. They were Sony, Samsung, Sharp, etc...

We found another surprise when we emailed many of the sellers. Most of them were open to further price negotiations. And then it dawned on us: it was the end of the university school year and many of the students realized that moving a large-screen TV would be both... [more] -LCD TV Hunting


May 24,2010- Vaja ivolution FirstLook...

Can a protective case for a gadget make you want to buy the gadget just so you can justify buying the case? If the case was made by Vaja, it just might. Vaja products may cost more than similar products on the market, but they command a premium because they are thoughtfully designed, made using high quality materials, and are expertly hand-crafted. Vaja has now released the ivolution line of covers for the iPad.

We got a Vaja ivolution in house last week and was blown away by it as soon as we opened the box. The ivolution comes in two pieces, a front and a back cover. It is possible to get just the back cover, but if you are going to invest in a Vaja case, get the set (we'll show you why later). Vaja uses only full grain cowhide for the covers. They do not alter their leather, thereby retaining its natural character, markings, and qualities. Leather has many advantages over other materials. It is a very durable, non-allegenic, and unlike synthetics, will... [more] -Vaja ivoluiton FirstLook


May 21,2010- Traveling with the iPad ...

Our friends from Spain came to the States for a visit last month and asked if we would meet them in NYC for dinner. Never to pass up a reason for a road trip, we agreed to pop down for a night. Since it was a only an overnight trip, we cashed in some points and got ourselves into a nice hotel. We also booked ourselves on the LimoLiner so we didn't have to drive. We packed light because we would not be checking into the hotel right away and so would have to carry our bags around for the day. Normally we would take at least one laptop, but we decided we'd leave all of them at the office. Instead, we brought along the iPad. We were curious to see how we would get along with just it and nothing else. We took the Kata ErgoTech and the Built bags to see which worked better for the iPad.

We have taken the LimoLiner to NYC before, but from the Back Bay departure point (outside the Hilton in Boston). This time, we thought we would catch it from a Framingham to see if was any more convenient. For folks leaving from the city (or any place that has easy access), the Back Bay location is the one for you. The Framingham pickup is more for folks who live in the suburbs. The advantage of catching the LimoLiner at Framingham is... [more] -Traveling with the iPad


May 20,2010- ClearSteam Micron FirstUse ...

On Monday we did a FirstLook of the ClearStream Micron indoor antenna. In that write-up we discussed a few of the advantages of pulling TV signals directly from the air, the most obvious being that they are free. We do recognize that most people who watch TV probably have either a cable or satellite subscription. So in today's Micron FirstUse review, we thought we would show another reason why one would want a ClearStream indoor antenna.

Adding TV capability to a computer used to be a bit of a hassle, but the digital TV conversion has made it a much simpler task. We have done a few articles in the past on this topic (Plextor, EyeTV, ClearStream C1). While the plug-n-play EyeTV tuner module made it easy to watch TV on a laptop, but it was still a pain to actually hook it up to the signal source. The C1 antenna was pretty small and could pull in a signal fairly well, but it was designed for outdoor use and looked like the outdoor antenna that it was. The newer ClearStream Micron, however, with its... [more] -ClearStrem Micron FirstUse


May 19,2010- MultiTools ...

The front steps of our office are really starting to show their age. The interns had promised they were going to scrape and paint them last year, but managed to wiggle out of it by doing "work" instead. We can appreciate their reluctance because painting is preceded by priming and priming can't occur without scraping. Scraping is a hands-on task. It is manual, time consuming, and messy. If we have any chance of "enticing" the interns into helping out, we thought we had better come up with an easier way to accomplish the tasks. In order to do that, we need some motorized options.

After a bit of research, we have determined that the easiest way to get the front porch prepped for painting is with the aid of a multi-tool. What is a multi-tool? It is a handheld power tool capable of cutting, sanding, and scraping. It operates by vibrating like a... [more] -Battle of the MultiTools


May 18,2010- SoWa Open Market ...

South of Washington Street (SoWa) Open Market got off to a great start this weekend. The market hosts a nice variety of vendors. We found plenty of original art from painters, sculptors, and photographers. There were artisans of hand-crafted jewelry, clothing, and handbags. Sprinkled amongst all of the creative types were also a few florists, bakers, and local farmers with fresh produce and tasty treats! The weather was perfect all weekend and the shoppers responded by packing the market on both days.

The organizers of SoWa know how difficult it can be to park in the city, which is why they have arranged for free parking at two large open lots close to the market. It completely eliminated the parking hassle. The personal nature of open market offers the opportunity to meet the artists, vendors, and those behind the work. It is fast becoming part of the South End's well-known artist's community.

One of the artist we met was Robert Rossel of Symmetry Tile Works. STW kilns are fired by propane to a temperature of 2300ºF. The intense heat and flames, as well as their special glazes, are responsible for the brilliant colors and unique variations in their tiles. We, and apparently plenty of others, were pulled in by the tiles' amazing colors and nature-inspired designs. They were also... [more] -SoWa Open Market


May 17,2010- RainyDayGarden Update ...

The weather in Boston was all over the place at the beginning of May, but it has finally settled down. Everything we planted in mid-April survived the frost-warnings and 30º temperature gyrations in day/night temperatures. We also got some nice stretches of rain. The precipitation really helped get everything nice and green.

The tulips and the other early bloomers have mostly faded. Their blooms were replaced by the clematis, azaleas, and alliums. Many of the plants have started to fill out, but some of them are not quite ready to flower. It will be another week or two before the... [more] -RainyDayGarden Update


May 14,2010- ClearStream Micron ...

All US television broadcasts went digital on June 12, 2009. While cable and satellite TV subscribers did not have to do anything to make the switch, those with analog TVs had to either add an adapter box to convert the signal or get a new TV with a digital tuner/receiver. We did a few articles last year about Antennas Direct's ClearSteam line (C1, C4) of antennas specifically designed for over-the-air reception of digital TV signals. Eleven months post-digitalization, we are here to update readers with a new addition to the ClearStream family of DTV antennas. Gone are the "rabbit ears" of old. The ClearStream Micron is a compact antenna engineered and optimized for indoor use.

Cable and satellite signals are compressed so they can cram more data over the same pipe, but local broadcast signals typically are not. By using an antenna to pull the local broadcast signals directly out of the air, one can avoid the loss of picture quality from the compression/decompression that is inevitable with signals from subscription services. The ClearStream Micron has very forgiving aiming characteristics. It has more than a 70º of beamwidth across the main area of sensitivity. It also has a relatively large secondary rear sensitivity area. This means... [more] -ClearStream Micron


May 13,2010- StrappedForTime ...

Wristwatches are a gadget which, technically speaking, none of us need any more, but we (like many of you) can't seem to give them up. The correct time is readily available from our cell phone, Blackberry, or any number of other gadgets we carry with us. However, if we were only allowed to have one gadget on a desert island, a wristwatch would seriously be considered. Well, either a wristwatch or a good multi-tool.

If it was going to be a wristwatch, we would want it to have an "adventure-ready" strap: comfortable to wear, able to handle harsh conditions, and looks great all the time. The place to go to find such straps is StrappedForTime. They have a huge selection of styles that can turn any watch into an adventure-ready watch. One can choose amongst waterproof leather bands, military-style bands, and a host of other materials and styles. We picked a few great looking rubber ones to see which would... [more] -StrappedForTime: Adventure-ready straps


May 12,2010- iPad InvisibleShield Install...

When we got the iPad, we wanted to cover it with the InvisibleShield right away. We held off because we wanted to see how well the oleophobic coating of the iPad itself performed InTheWild. The special oil-repelling coating was supposed to make it easier to wipe off fingerprints and other oily residue. Smudges and fingerprints did seem to wipe off easily. We are also happy to report that after a month of "normal" use and with no particular efforts to protect the screen, it remained scratch-free.

Some here argued that we may not need to put the InvisibleShield on at all. They posed good questions of what the iPad would be like if we were to install the InvisibleShield:

  • Will it be difficult to get the large cover on properly?
  • Will the brightness of the screen be affected?
  • Will it change the "feel" of the screen?

All of those were great questions and truth-be-told, we didn't know. It was because we didn't know that we decided to go ahead and install it, just to see. We won't go into details on HOW to install the InvisibleShield. Zagg has some excellent instructions and videos on their site. What we will say is... [more] -iPad InvisibleShield Install


May 11,2010- iPad Covers ...

An iPad cover is one accessory that many new owners are probably considering for their newly acquired tablet. A few weeks back we showed readers how to get by with what they already had around the office, including how to make a cover out of an old composition notebook. Today we'll take a look at a few commercially available options for the less DIY-inclined. There are a LOT of iPad covers on the market. We are going to cover a few general ones in this write-up. It will be basic enough to serve as a guideline for evaluation covers for different needs. We'll continue to review specific covers when we find ones which are unique, innovative, or in some way worthy of consideration.

We look for three things in an iPad cover: the kind of protection it offers, whether it makes the iPad easier to carry/transport, and if it has any feature that makes the iPad easier/more comfortable to use.

First up are the basic covers. They offer padded protection for iPads while in transit. These covers should be light, slim enough to fit into a backpack or briefcase, and allow quick access and easy removal of the iPad. One case which fits the bill are the sleeves from Slappa. Slappa sleeves have a nylon outer shell that shields against moisture, an outside pocket for cords and such, and is... [more] -iPad Covers


May 10,2010- SleepyPod CraterDot ...

The floors of the RainyDayMagazine office are solid maple hardwood. Maple stands up well to foot traffic and we certainly have our fair share of that. However, some find it less comfortable as a sleeping surface. The people at SleepyPod have the perfect solution for this problem. They know that cats love defined spaces. Put a piece of paper on the floor and a cat will soon settle on it and our intern Eliot is no different. SleepyPod created the Crater Dot for owners (and employers) who want to provide a comfortable lounging area for their furry friends (and interns).

The Crater Dot's soft plush center is made of polyester, is attached via velcro, and lifts easily for cleaning. The Crater Dot's base is polyester fabric over a moulded foam form contoured to provide both... [more] -SleepyPod CraterDot


May 7,2010- Navigating a Touchscreen UI ...

The iPad is a great example of how difficult it is for some folks embrace new/different things. For the first time in thirty years a new computer interface has been created, Nintendo PowerGlove, Wii controller, etc. notwithstanding. In recent weeks, we have seem many attempts to "convert" the iPad into a portable laptop. Not only do we see these efforts as folly and doomed to fail, we believe they are a hindrance to the development of a better computing interface.

The multi-touch user interface made a huge splash at the TED conference on February 2006 in Monterey CA. A different and more limited version of multi-touch technology became widely available with the release of the first iPhone. With the iPad, Apple has pushed multi-touch interaction a few more steps toward general acceptance. Trying to make the iPad LOOK and WORK like a laptop is silly and the user experience will be frustrating. Besides showing a total lack of imagination, trying to remake the tablets into laptops will ultimately end in failure. Instead, we should be exploring and expanding the boundaries of the touch interface and the tablet form factor.

A touch-based user interface is very different from the mouse/pointer centric one. The concept of "hovering" does not exist in the multi-touch world (yet). This has created a host of problems for sites with... [more] -Navigating a Touchscreen UI


May 06,2010- The perfect tablet ...

Hardware companies think that writing software is easy (Sony) and software companies think that building hardware can't be that hard (Microsoft). Apple has been doing both as an integrated discipline for a few decades. Apple has created a culture that embraces both software and hardware, and replicating that culture is not as easy as some would think. This is the main reason why even though "tablet PCs" have been around for almost ten years, they never got out of their niche markets. Yes...they can do everything a regular laptop can do, but they are heavy, expensive, and have crappy battery life. The Apple iPad is the exact opposite of all of that. It can't replace a laptop, but it is light, inexpensive, and can last for days between charges.

What got us onto this topic was a recent discussion on a few blogs with some very knowledgeable folks. We were trading thoughts with some other posters about the HP Slate, HTC, JooJoo, and what our idea is of the "perfect tablet."

In the course of the discussion, the following transpired which we thought was worth sharing:

The challenge:

"OK, let's do this. I will compare my netbook against an iPad: HP Mini 110, $300, 10-inch screen, 1GB HDD, 1GB RAM, 1.66Ghz Atom, 3 usb ports, TV out, Various media card slots, Windows 7, Webcam, Keyboard, the ability to... [more] -Building the perfect tablet


May 5,2010- CeivaPro Digital Photo Frame...

We have always been fans of the digital photo frame (DPF). Images look nicer than their printed counterparts because they are brighter even if their resolution is not as high. DPFs have and additional advantage in that they can display more than one image. Of course, the analog frames still have a few features not yet matched by the DPFs: they can be wall-mounted, do not require any power, and their size can be greater than 8x10. However, with the huge in-roads LCD TV has made into the home, those advantages may not exist in a few years.

Yesterday, we took a FirstLook at the CeivaPro Digital Photo Fram. Today, we are going to take a closer look at the PicturePlan service that separates the Ceiva apart from all the other digital photo frames in the market. Both the CeivaPro and CeivaShare frames require the Cieva PicturePlan service to work. The frames are not functional without an active account. This may rub some people the wrong way, but if one sees the frame as a service rather than a... [more] -CeivaPro Digital Photo Frame


May 4,2010- CeivaPro Digital Photo Frame...

Mother's Day is this weekend. A call, a card, or a nice flower arrangement for mom are the typical gifts for this occassion. In recent years, digital photo frames have been a big seller for this event. However, some are realizing that some moms just were not all that into all of the steps needed (hooking up the USB cable, organizing the images, uploading them from the computer) to get images into these devices.

The folks at Ceiva, those clever cats, have always known this. Their ten-year-old business is not just about the selling of digital photo frames. They provide a convenient, easy to use, end-to-end photo sharing capability. No other digital frame company offers both the frame and a service like this.

The early Ceivas service did allow folks to send images to "mom" remotely, but it had limitations: low resolution; restrictive placement options; bulky frames. Their latest offering, however, is fully "mom-friendly," assuming mom has... [more] -CeivaPro Digital Photo Frame


May 3,2010- MSR MIOX water purifier...

Lack of clean water is a reality for one out of every six people living today. In some parts of the world, half the population does not have access to safe drinking water. In the United States, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets the allowable level of certain contaminants in tap water provided by public water systems. Contaminants in untreated water may include microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria.

Clean water was a sought-after commodity in Boston this weekend. A massive underground pipe rupture which left two million residents without drinking water was a blunt reminder of something most of us take for granted but which many in the world go without everyday. The official city-wide warning went out Saturday afternoon. Boston and 30 surrounding municipalities instructed their residents to boil all water before drinking. This "boil order" was issued because the backup water supply quality was comparable to "untreated pond water," acceptable for bathing and flushing toilets, but not for drinking or cooking.

Fortunately, making water clean enough for drinking was not difficult for us, as we have the MSR MIOX purifier in house. The MIOX will kill much of the harmful biological contaminants in less than 30 minutes: viruses in 15, bacteria in 15, protozoa in 30, and cryptosporidiumin four hours. It does this by creating an oxidant solution which is then poured into the water to destroy any... [more] -MSR MIOX Purifier


May 1,2010- FirstGrill Event...

This weekend's FirstGrill event was a lot of fun. The weather was perfect, the food was fantastic, and the guests all appeared to have enjoyed themselves. In honor of the 136th Kentucky Derby, Kathy and Dave arrived early and started making mint juleps for everybody. It was amazing we didn't all fall down before things came off the grill!

We had four grills going this year (3 outside, 1 inside). The two gas grills were used for the pork, chicken, and burgers. The charcoal grill had the hottest fire so it was reserved for grilling the steaks from Morgan Ranch. the The new Cuisinart Electric grill was dedicated for grilling the vegetarian burgers and other none-meat items. Having all the different grills going at once made it a lot easier to... [more] -FirstGrill Event


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