Archive for Product Reviews

Air Port Express (2nd Generation)

  • Dual Band (separate 2.4GHz and 5GHz antennas)
  • AirPlay that works reliably
  • still a two second lag, but it’s predictable. Native music app is able to pause instantaneously while non-native apps still have a delay when pausing.

That’s it. Can’t complain. Controlled by iOS device. Not much configurability, but it gets the job done

Verdict: Kept.

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Gripes about Apple TV 2

Nice things:

  • Slide show is great - the transitions (including Ken Burns) are really nice
  • Airplay can wake it from sleep mode
  • Airplay (but not good enough in it’s current iteration)

Bad things:

  • fonts looks unaliased to me
  • Airplay doesn’t always “just work”. maybe it’s because i’m using both the hdmi and optical output (so i don’t have to have the tv on to listen to music)
  • Airplay sound quality is lacking — for non-dynamic range compressed albums like classical music, in quiet passages you can hear clicking sounds
  • video quality of airplay mirroring is still not good enough for me
  • lag. uncompressed wave files (which is how airplay works) shouldn’t have 3 seconds of latency
  • too much loading time - flickr, etc takes too long to load (it should be buffered more)

Verdict: Returned.

Comments (2)

Phone Cases

Yeah, it’s a lame problem. Which case to get for phone. On the original eyePhone, I didn’t use one. So I did an Amazon smorgazbord and got 5 cases:
iphone 4s cases

Mini-review:

Incipio NGP:

  • Good protection, especially front glass lip
  • Good tight fit
  • Fit is a little loose near top and bottom (can see the bowing)
  • Volume buttons too stiff

Speck GeoSkin:

  • Didn’t realize there were bumps on the back

Speck PixelSkinHD:

  • Can’t decide between blue and grey
  • Larger opening for camera (less flare according to some reviews)

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10K. Done.

I finished my first 10K last weekend. In VFF Bikilas. Unfortunately, I injured my right ankle due to doing too much too soon. My previous longest run in VFFs was 2.5 miles where I stopped due to a hotspot. 2.5 -> 6.2 is overkill. But I was at the point where I hated running in regular shoes. I did one run around the block in regular shoes and they just felt heavy and clumsy on my feet. I ended up taking them off and running home barefoot. Another time I ran to the park in shoes for softball practice and ended up running home afterwards in socks. So I had a dilemma for the week prior to the race. Should I run in shoes or VFFs? Shoes just didn’t feel natural or comfortable but I had not practiced enough in the VFFs. I brought both to the race and in the end decided to wing it in the VFFs. So what if I couldn’t finish due to a blister? (which I thought would be my biggest problem).

Turns out I would be late to the race and start 5 min after the gun went off. The first 3 miles were a breeze. It’s fun to pass people. Gives you good motivation. I worked on keeping my cadence up “One, two, three, one, two, three…” Felt really good. The weather was just right. Mile 4 was great. Mile 5 I felt like the hotspot was slowly coming back so I tried to find grass wherever I could to run on instead of the pavement. Nearing the end of mile 6 I could sense my form was starting to go down due to the irritation in my ankles. The hotspot however didn’t get worse. But I think my joints were starting to feel it. So I slowed my pace down until after I passed the 6 mile marker and could see the finish area. Then the sprint began. It was strange - my ankle was the limiting factor. Everything else - my lungs, upper legs, feet bottoms felt great. So I toughed it out and sprinted to the end. Not one of those sprints where you can barely tell you’re sprinting. But a full on 40-50% faster than previous pace sprint. It was great. Passing people like a blur :P Crossed the line. And then started to limp. RICE’d it these past few days. Did some research on the criticisms of RICE. Some say it delays healing and some say it promotes it. I’m just gonna go gingerly on it and not run for the next week or so.

First 10K. Under 60min. Minor ankle tendon injury. I can live with that!

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My 2nd State of Home TV/Audio Address

First a little follow-up on the UMC-1. There’s a popping sound when changing volume. At least it passes 24P content.

Thoughts on 24P:

It still looks somewhat soap operaish to me at this point.

DVDO Edge and Gefen Dolby Digital D/A Converter:

Wow, the switching is fast on the Edge. And there are no sync issues when changing the inputs. 1:1 frame rate lock is nice. The zoom is very nice if you want to fill-up your 16:9 display with anamorphic (2.40/2.35:1) content. Input renaming is convenient. Input priority auto switching is awesome. I can have Wii > PS3 > TV and it’ll auto switch based on what’s turned on and switch back when that unit is off. And if there are no inputs on, it’ll turn itself off. Very nice. Couple that with auto-on based on inputs, and you basically don’t need to mess with the device after it’s setup. Which is exactly what I want! Now to the negatives, which are few, but are pretty egregious. When using the toslink output (which is the only other option other than HDMI — again, I really wish they had analog audio out!!!!) and the Gefen D/A there is severe popping when switching inputs. It even happened when changing channels on the DirecTV tuner. I was able to rectify that by turning off Dolby digital surround audio on the DirecTV and it stopped — which makes me question whether I should get the non-Dolby digital Gefen D/A since this one can’t handle source changes without popping. Another about the Edge is if you have audio outputted on the toslink output, it won’t put it out on the HDMI either. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but I have an HDMI splitter going to another TV that doesn’t use a separate audio system. Not helpful. It’d be nice if it could put out audio on both.

Next up, I will try the D/A directly from the toslink output of the TV since it seems to have no problem muting its built-in speakers when changing inputs. If that works, then it’s harder for me to justify having the Edge, whose primary purpose was to convert the Wii component imput to HDMI so I wouldn’t have all these cables clutter up the TV. Which I guess was hard to justify in the first place since I also got a Gefen Component -> HDMI unit to try out. (I wanted to compare the output qualities). If only there was an input priority HDMI switch like the one Oppo stopped selling. Boo.

Followup:

Using optical out from TV to Gefen D/A = perfect results! No popping or squelching. Switching channels - no problem. Switching inputs on Edge - no problem. Next, using the Emotiva UMC-1 strictly as a D/A. Two ways, one using HDMI audio and the other using optical Toslink. As Toslink, switching inputs on Edge results in slight squelching. Barely acceptable. As HDMI audio only, switching inputs results in high frequency buzzing. Moderate bass popping on occasion. Changing channels, HDMI no problems. Toslink no problems as well. Overall, much better than using Edge -> Gefen D/A, but still only barely acceptable. Why don’t these companies work more on polish and finish. These little details matter!

Post postscript:

Using optical out to Gefen D/A, there is a bad turn-off bass pop. Sigh, still not appliance like (in having no glaring problems and working day in day out). I’ll have to stick to turning off the audio portion before turning the tv off.

3rd postscript:

New Gefen D/A (non DD 5.1):
This one works even better than the DD D/A that Gefen makes. No turn-off pop when connected to TV. Will try it out on the DVDO edge to see if it makes noise when changing inputs. Result: No noise. The regular non-surround D/A works like….an appliance!!!

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Toilet Primer

As I continued to go through my house doing small repairs and upgrades, the toilet was next up in the queue. What was wrong with the old one?

  • Getting old and the¬†flush valve was leaking, so it was wasting water and topping of the tank every 30min or so.
  • Fill valve becoming unreliable. Refill speed was slowing down and the float was starting to stick
  • Non-elongated bowl. For guys, this is an annoyance.
  • High water usage. I think it used 3.5 gallons per flush.

So I started doing my usual research. I knew that the new toilets had to be 1.6gpf or less, and there were even some out there that were 1.28gpf. These new 1.28gpf are called High Efficiency Toilets (HET), and in some municipalities have rebates. That got me intrigued. What I found were some good things to have in a toilet.

  • Flushing ability. They actually have testing to see how many grams of waste a flush will take away. Above 500grams (slightly over 1 pound) of waste removal is more than adequate.
  • A large water spot. This is the amount of surface the water covers the bowl. The larger the better, to keep your “kids” under the pool, as opposed to stinking up the room by hanging out “by” the pool.
  • Rim/bowl washing ability. Sometimes you splash, or leave bits out on the sides, so you want the flush to clear away every inch of the bowl.
  • Low water usage.

I stuck to gravity fed units as other pnematic or mechanical assists will probably have more repair costs. Part replacement was also a factor, but not as much as many of the 1.28gpf units have more proprietary flush valves. I ended up choosing a Kohler Cimmeron 1.28gpf two piece toilet with Class Six Flushing Technology. What is class six? It’s an improvement on class five, which is just a marketing term Kohler made up to differentiate its line of 1.28gpf toilets. Basically, the class five had good flushing power, but poor rim wash ability. Class six remedies this. See the video on class five and six. Toto also makes a good 1.28gpf toilet called the Drake II. It’s a bit pricier than the Cimmeron, which I got for $238 plus tax at HD.

A few thoughts on removal/installation

It’s basically pretty straight forward. You’ll need an adjustable wrench, a small putty knife (very handy) to remove the caulking (on a hard floor after you remove the bowl) and the wax ring. A hacksaw to cut the bowl bolts back so the caps can fit. And locking plyers to hold that bolt steady — optional but I found it helped because the bolt is not very secure (it locks into PVC on the floor). Buy two new fill hoses. One the size you think you need, and one the next size up. You’ll probably need the longer one. A large sponge and a disposable bucket (unless you want to clean it) to soak up residual water in the tank and bowl (there’s water in there even after the last flush). A good idea is to wash the toilet before you actually start the removal process. I neglected to do that and wish I did. Scrub the inside and outside (as people often miss and there’s dried stuff on the outside).

Update:

Toilet Shims. If your toilet isn’t level, there are plastic shims available that you can use to level and keep the bowl from rocking. Simply insert them into place and cut away the excess and caulk around the bowl.

Also, as a rule of thumb, do not caulk all the way around the back. Leave it open in the back so you can see leaks puddle on the floor before they flood the downstairs room (if you have a downstairs).

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Need a Humidifier?

A humidifyer is good to have around during the dry winter months, especially during resting hours. It’ll keep the nasal passages nicely moisturized so you don’t wake up with respiratory ailments. I was searching for a new one after last year’s gift broke. The ultrasonics never seem very reliable, usually breaking down after one season. And with the evaporative units, you can’t ever find a place to get new wicks.

Basically, there are two methods for getting moisture into the air — through evaporation or forcibly breaking the water molecules into such small particles that they become water vapor, e.g. an ultrasonic humidifier. The evaporative is usually a wicking element with a built-in fan. However there’s a new type being manufactured called air washers, which are similar, but they use a cylindrical plastic element that has a grid, kind of like some types of plastic colanders and rotates in a pool of water. They claim this washes the air and also regulates the air humidity without over saturation since it’s based on evaporation.

I decided to go with another ultrasonic unit since the air washer was too expensive (>$200USD). A very nice review was found on the net comparing two mid-level units. I ended getting the Venta since it was 35% cheaper than the Air-O-Swiss and was available locally at Bed Bath and Beyond. It also has a built-in water filter to minimize white dust, which is a common trait of all ultrasonic units since they basically vaporize all the elements still dissolved in your water including the minerals, which are the source of the white dust. Plus the filter is significantly cheaper than in the Air-O-Swiss units. So far I think it’s helping a bit, but nowhere near their claim of 0% dust. The warming feature is a bonus since it’ll keep the temperature from dropping too much in the room. I find that keeping the setting between 30-35% RH is a good idea. Like the review says, the built-in hygrometer under-reports the humidity level. I ended up with a digital hygrometer as well to monitor the unit. All in all seems like a good buy, so far. We’ll see if it can last into next winter…

Edit: After doing a little more research, it looks like the EPA has a write-up on humidifiers as well. I’ve been wanting to try distilled water to see if that works better.

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