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Mar 31, 2011- Spring? ...

It's the last day of March and many more green things have started to poke out of the ground. The irides and crocuses are happily warming themselves in the sun. We don't remember planting them, but are delighted that they have found a home in the RainyDayGarden.

The best thing about a perennial garden is that just a little bit of work is all that is needed to keep things blooming year after year. We have been working on it for over ten years. Plant a little here one year. Move some stuff over there another year. Split them when they... [more]- Spring?


Mar 30, 2011- Tekkeon TekCharge DualPort...

Battery technology (lifespan, reliability, etc...) has improved so much that leading edge companies like Apple has designed out user-replaceable batteries from their products (laptops, iPads, etc...). Some see this as an issue, but we feel the actual benefits (stronger cases, lighter devices, less maintenance) far outweigh the potential lost of flexibility. However, this does not mean that having a backup solution is not a good idea. For those who like to be prepared, Tekkeon has been the go-to source for reliable, long-lasting, external rechargeable batteries.

Tekkeon has a whole line of portable battery packs for all kinds of applications. They have units which can power up laptops, DVD players, and other power hungry devices. They also have smaller power units for... [more]- Tekkeon TekCharge DualPort FirstLook


Mar 29, 2011- OtterBox Reflex Series...

Nobody knows more about protecting iPods, iPhones, and iPads than the folks at Otterbox. They got their start in the late 1990s making protective waterproof cases for outdoor enthusiasts. Over the years they developed into a company known for form-fitting custom-molded armor for personal electronics. Starting in April, a brand new approach to iPhone protection from Otterbox will make its debut. This new series is called Reflex and there is nothing else out there like it.

The Otterbox Reflex case is made up of two molded pieces that LOOK similar to a typical split shell case. However, the case is made of two different kinds of materials: hard plastic shell, shock-absorbing rubber. The novel part about the Reflex is... [more]- Otterbox Reflex Series FirstLook


Mar 28, 2011- Philips Wake-up Light...

Some people wake up to the sun; others wake up whenever they please. Most of us wake up when the alarm clock goes off. However, research is starting to come out that being jolted out of a deep sleep may not be the best for one's health. Fortunately, research also shows that exposure to the right type of light can help align our daily rhythms and can make us feel more energetic.

The National Sleep Foundation has chosen the Philips Wake up Light as its Official Light Therapy Product in recognition of the benefits it provide in helping people wake-up better. The Wake-up Light works by... [more]- Philips Wake-up Light FirstLook


Mar 25, 2011- iPad hand strap...

When Apple first announced the iPad, most peopel thought it would be a good alternative to a second or third computer for the home, and the iPad was an instant success. The recently announced iPad2 is looking to be even more popular than its predecessor. Such widespread success is causing businesses to look to the iPad as a laptop replacement.

The current iPads does not have enough computing power to be the sole computer for those who need to run business (Excel, Word, etc...) and content creation (Dreamweaver, InDesign, PowerPoint, etc...) applications. However, it can be a reasonable alternative to laptops for displaying slideshows and presentations at tradeshows, sales meetings, and other similar situations. It is a lot easier to prep and bring along a bunch of iPads for a tradeshow than... [more]- iPad Hand Straps


Mar 24, 2011- Gaggia Vision Platinum...

Caffeine is what keeps us going all day long here at the RainyDayMagazine office. We occupy two floors of a duplex, but have three separate espresso machines; that should tell you a little bit about the pace around here. A GOOD cup of espresso, cappucino, or coffee is never more than just a few steps away. Recently, one of the machines started acting up. We thought..."Great! A DIY repair article for the interns." Fortunately for them, a Gaggia Platinum Vision espresso machine showed up at the office. So, instead of a DIY article, the interns got to play with the new machine for a FirstLook report.

Gaggia S.p.A. is an Italian maker of coffee and espresso machines designed for both commercial and home use. Gaggia began in 1948, a decade after Achille Gaggia filed a patent (number 365726) on a machine which eventually evolved into the modern day espresso machine. Gaggia's first home espresso machine, the Baby Gaggia, was created in 1977, specifically for home use. Even today, many still regard it as... [more]- Gaggia Vision Platinum FirstLook


Mar 23, 2011- Fab@Home...

Love making stuff? Need a special part? Want it NOW? These are just a few of the reasons why Fab@Home is the gathering place for DIY-ers the world over. What began as a project for a couple of Cornellians back in 2006 has turned into a global hangout for those who likes to get their hands dirty.

The heart of the Fab@Home movement is the computer numerical control (CNC) machine. A CNC device is a computer controller that reads instructions and drives a machine tool which can "make" things with precision and repeatability. CNC machines used to be available only at large manufacturing facilities (auto, aerospace, etc...). Today, CNC machines are affordable for small businesses and shops, but are still out of reach for the... [more]- fab@home


Mar 22, 2011- Logitech Performance Mouse MX...

There are a lot of companies that specialize in computer peripherals (keyboards, mice, speakers, etc...). Some of them make products for the budget-conscious consumers. Others cater to those who value style above all else. Then there are a few who are true innovators. They push the boundary of features, ergonomics, and quality for users who appreciates both form and function. Logitech, which has been around since 1981, has shown itself to be such an innovator.

Logitech's first product was a mouse called the P4. Thirty years later, they have shipped over a billion mice. We have owned our share of them. They have since branched out to other peripherals (speakers, webcams, etc...), but they still lead the field when it comes to the core products: keyboards and mice.

When the interns went searching for a wireless keyboard at the beginning of the year, they came back with the Logitech K800 illuminated keyboard. We loved it so much that we wanted to... [more]- Logitech Performance MouseMX FirstLook


Mar 21, 2011- First Day of Spring...

Spring has finally arrived, and not a moment too soon. With a record-breaking amount of snow in January, we, like everyone else in New England, are ready to see some green. Even though the temperature was in the 30s this weekend and might even snow today, we noticed some bulbs starting to poke through the soil.

Knowing that clean up would be more difficult once the plants got bigger, we sent the interns out and they did a first-pass cleanup of the RainyDayGarden. Once the garden was cleared of the... [more]- First Day of Spring


Mar 18, 2011- CRKT Flux...

Growing up, some of us always had our trusty Swiss Army knife in our pocket...just in case. As we got older, the Swiss Army knife was replaced by a Leatherman multi-tool. Today our pockets tend to have a few more items. The desire to be boyscout-prepared (flashlight, compass, magnesium shavings) vs being practical and unencumbered (cellphone, keys) are in constant and dynamic tension. "Everyday carry (EDC)" is a phrase often heard around the RainyDayMagazine office. It refers to the must-have items (phone, money/credit cards, etc...) many of us take with us when we step out of our our ivory-tower and into the real world. Today, we would like to introduce readers to a few new items from CRKT for EDC consideration.

CRKT, an innovative knife company from Oregon, has redefined the multi-tool with the addition of the FLUX System to their I.D.Works line. The idea is simple yet brilliant. There are five different... [more]- CRKT: Flux FirstLook


Mar 17, 2011- Tornado Alley...

Spring is in the air. The temperature in Boston has been in the mid-50s and may even break 60º this weekend. The giant piles of snow from the innumerable Winter storms have disappeared. We spotted the first crocus bloom in the RainyDayGarden yesterday. While Spring in New England is generally mild, for our friends in the mid-west it marks the start of tornado season. "Tornado alley" stretches from Texas to Nebraska, and every season brings anxiety, danger, and destruction.

What, exactly, is a tornado? One of nature's most violent storms, tornadoes are fast-spinning columns of air that extend from the base of a thunderstorm down to the ground, with wind speeds up to 300 miles per hour. They can appear suddenly and without warning. With paths in excess of... [more]- MOS: Tornado Alley


Mar 16, 2011- PockeTweez...

Every once in a while, we come across a gadget so ingenious that, if it weren't for our editors, we could easily spend a week talking about it. PockeTweez is such a gadget. PockeTweez is a pair of tweezers, but they are no ordinary tweezers. PockeTweez is a precision stainless steel instrument that leaves ordinary tweezers in the dust with regard to performance, durability, and looks.

PockeTweez is manufactured in the USA by Precision Metalsmiths, Inc. using investment casting, a process often used in jewelry making. The 416 stainless steel is heat-treated by Stack Metallurgical Services for durability and hardness. The ingenious and elegant design enables the tweezers to... [more]- PockeTweez FirstLook


Mar 15, 2011- Cuisinart "Waffler"...

Last month we posted a FirstLook at Cuisinart's new waffle insert for their Griddler. Today, we report on our FirstUse efforts with what we are affectionately calling the "Waffler."

We have never made fresh waffles so we have no family recipe (secret or otherwise) on hand for the FirstUse test. We know that waffles made by any waffle iron is only as good as the recipe used to make the batter. We did a quick search on Google and got... [more]- Cuisinart "Waffler" FirstUse


Mar 14, 2011- Buyology...

We were at the Chestnut Hill Mall Apple Store for the iPad2 launch last Friday. The iPad2 went on sale at 5PM and by 6:30PM they had sold out of all versions. When Apple made their iPad2 announcement on March 2nd, we predicted that it would be another "home run." There were some who were not so certain, but this weekend's iPad2 sale figures will most likely prove them wrong. To us, the interesting part of all this is not that Apple has another hit on its hands (that much was obvious), but how Apple continues to create the kind of opening day wait-in-line buying fervor (Burlington, Boston) that makes every other company green with envy.

Sure, insanely great products help. However, if one compares the specs (as Apple detractors often do), they are sometimes better, but often times they are less spectacular than their competitors. Maybe they put something in the water or maybe they have a deep understanding of the... [more]- Buyology


Mar 11, 2011- Flip Video Underwater...

Wow, this could not be easier: a video camera the size of my cell phone, and very clear instructions for its assembly and use! We were going on vacation in the Caribbean so we easily packed and transported it. Also provided was an underwater housing so we were able to take it with us on our dives. Andy is an underwater still photographer and I would never dream of carrying all the equipment necessary for that (two 60 gallon coolers full of cameras, housings, flashes, and lots more) but this little mini marvel could be fun.

After a little practice on dry land filming the locals and some of the guests at the bar and in the pool, I realize that this is way, way beyond easy. There is on-off, start-stop, zoom in- zoom out and... [more]- By Candace Storm


Mar 10, 2011- Spring in the Netherlands...

Our friend Patrick forwarded us an email containing some images of the tulip fields of northen Netherlands in Spring time. They were a lot like those from the Flower Fields of Carlsbad, CA. The images also reminded us of one of our favorite Hockney paintings. The Dutch landscape in May is a patchwork of purple, yellow, red, pink, orange and green. Each year, more than three billion tulips are grown there, with two-thirds of the blooms destined for export to the U.S. and Germany.

Anyone who has taken Econ 101 knows of the great Dutch tulip bubble of 1637. At it's peak, a single highly-desired tulip bulb could fetch a price 10x higher than the annual income of a skilled worker at the time. Crazy! Like all bubbles, it... [more]- Spring in the Netherlands


Mar 9, 2011- DIY iPad Brush...

A few review requests have come across our desks recently regarding iPad styli. We have ignored them, mostly because the whole idea of a stylus is pretty silly when the iPad, unlike a Wacom tablet, has no ability to detect pressure. In our opinion, without that key parameter, replacing the finger with a stylus makes little sense. Still, companies press on and offer up styli and brushes (Pogo Sketch, Griffin Stylus, Nomad Brush) for the iPad. After seeing the video of the Nomad Brush in action, we became a bit more intriqued with the potential of such an instrument, even with the lack pressure-sensitivity.

Based on our understanding of how the iPad touchscreen works, a "stylus" can be made out of ANYTHING conductive (metal, foam, skin, etc...) as long as it makes contact with the surface of the iPad screen in such a way that it spans a certain distance to register as a touch. iPad stylus are so easy to make (we made one in a few seconds with some copper foil and a wooden dowel) that... [more]- DIY iPad Brush


Mar 8, 2011- Groupon Excursions...

If you love trying new restaurants but also like to live within your means, you have undoubtedly have heard of Groupon. We have been a member for several years and can enthusiastically recommend it. Groupon is free to join, there are no obligations to buy, and the offers come to you daily. Best of all, the deals are fantastic and are a win-win for everybody (merchants, customers, and Groupon). It is an absolutely hassle-free way to try out new restaurants, services, and other local offerings for cheap less.

Today, we will talk briefly about two of our recent Groupon excursions. The first is an outing to Osushi, a sushi restaurant located in Boston's Back Bay. We have lived in Boston for over twenty years and thought we had been to... [more]- Groupon Excursions


Mar 7, 2011- Plasma ThunderBall FirstLook...

What is plasma? This glowing, ethereal condition is often known as the forth state of matter. More specifically, Plasma is the gaseous state of matter where gas has been energized to the point that some of its electrons have broken free from--but still travel with--the nucleus of the molecule. Things glow when the molecules calm down, and give up some of its energy in the form of light.

The plasma lamp was invented by our hero, Nikola Tesla. His research into high-frequency and high-voltage phenomena led him to create what he called the Inert Gas Discharge Tube. Most of us know it today as the fluorescent tube. The construction is fairly straight-forward: a glass enclosure containing... [more]- Plasma ThunderBall FirstLook


Mar 4, 2011- "Bigma" 50-500mm zoom...

A long zoom lens is helpful when you can't, don't want to, or are otherwise legally restricted from getting too close to your subject. The zoom lens we use on a daily basis is the Nikkor 18-200mm with vibration reduction (VR). Getting REALLY close to a hawk, especially when you can't fly, was made easier with our Sigma 80-400mm zoom. The Sigma 80-400mm zoom has optical stabilization (OS) which makes handheld shooting with the big heavy lens possible. However, after a few outings, what we learned was that while OS is a great feature, a big lens like the Sigma 80-400mm really needs to be on a tripod.

So, when Sigma upgraded their 50-500mm zoom with onboard OS, we kept our eye out for used non-OS units on Craigslist. After a few months of diligent scouring, we finally scored. We picked this unit up from a local photographer. He originally purchased it for... [more]- "Bigma" FirstLook


Mar 3, 2011- iPad2 FirstThouhgts...

The iPad2 was officially unveiled yesterday. True to form, Apple hit it out of the park...again. We have been saying the following for a long time..."no other company is going to be able to compete with Apple until they can do both hardware and software." In the one hour press conference, Apple undid all of the effort expended by Motorola, RIM, and that company (who's name escapes us at the moment) with the 7" tablet, in trying to compete with the iPad. The iPad2 will be the dominant tablet for the rest of the year. Those companies might as well pull their tablets from the market and go back to the drawing board(s).

The iPad2 is a worthy successor to the almost 1-year old original device. It is faster, smarter, and can do more than ever before. It comes in two colors (Black, White), has both a front and a rear facing camera, and...wait for it...it costs the same as the original iPad. Oh yeah, it is also thinner and lighter. Apple is not satisfied just with putting a major damper on the hopes and dreams of their competitors, they also want to look good while... [more]- iPad2 FirstThoughts


Mar 2, 2011- PhotoStuio In-A-Box...

Proper lighting is the key to getting "the shot." Controlling light is a lot easier with the right tools. Different situations require different tools. A bounce flash will go a long way for portraits, head shots, and other situations. Photographing a smaller object is trickier, especially if it is shiny or reflective.

Setting up a space to photograph small objects properly is made quicker and simpler with a set up such as Photo Studio In-A-Box (PSIAB). The "studio" is a portfolio-style case with pockets to carry the gear (lights, tripod) needed for a photo shoot anywhere anytime. The kit came with... [more]- Studio-In-A-Box FirstLook


Mar 1, 2011- Headlight Maintenance...

There are a few simple things every car owners can check to ensure their vehicles are operating safely: properly inflated tires, good brakes, and bright headlights. We have shown a few DIY RainyDayGarage projects on those topics (Litronics upgrade, headlight restoration, brake pad replacement) over the years. Once in a while, we have an opportunity to go back and repeat a project using a different approach. The headlight restoration is such a project.

Our decision to repeat the headlight restoration project was initiated when one of our editors complained that her lights appeared really dim. We took a look and realized that not only was one of the bulbs burnt out, but the lenses of the headlights had yellowed again. Instead of just replacing the bulb, we decided to... [more]- Headlight Maintenance


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