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Samsung Electronics 32GB EVO Micro SDHC with Adapter Upto 48MB/s Class 10 Memory Card (MB-MP32DA/AM)
Samsung Electronics 32GB EVO Micro SDHC with Adapter Upto 48MB/s Class 10 Memory Card (MB-MP32DA/AM)
Price: $19.99
8 used & new from $14.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Works with my HTC One M8. Adapter not as fast as advertised. Check prices., July 22, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
When I got my new HTC One M8 I immediately bought a Class 4 chip to put in it for music MP3s (from another manufacturer, whose name is French for "without disk"). When I tried to save video MP4s, however, the phone complained.

This chip works with no complaints for videos taken using my HTC, including fast and slow motion, high def, and "zoe". Transferring a five minute video from the phone to my laptop using the adapter takes about 30 seconds (26 fps, 20040 total kbps, file size about 720 Meg), which is about half the 48MB/s the device claims. How much of this is my (fairly slow) Lenovo laptop, or overhead? Don't know. Most downloads will be via USB, not the adapter.

Amazon prices for the various Samsung Micro SDHCs can vary, so it's worth checking the cost for the larger and faster chips before buying. But as a HTC user, I have no complaints with this one.


Universal Smartphone Holder and Flexible Mini Tripod for iPhone 5 iPhone 5C 5S Samsung Galaxy S5 S4 S3 Galaxy Note 3 Nexus 5
Universal Smartphone Holder and Flexible Mini Tripod for iPhone 5 iPhone 5C 5S Samsung Galaxy S5 S4 S3 Galaxy Note 3 Nexus 5
Price: $18.18
9 used & new from $16.38

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Works great with my HTC smartphone, and with my Lumix camera. One annoying flaw., July 9, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I was a little concerned that the clamp on this tripod wouldn't be able to handle my (ginormous) HTC One M8, but it fits beautifully, and is a substantial advantage when using the phone in both stereo and camera mode. The tripod also works well with my Lumix DMC-SZ1 (an actual camera). Nothing is perfect, however.

The tripod is actually three devices:

* Bendy legs, which work like giant twist-ties to wrap around chair arms, bannisters, or anything else of similar diameter, and which are stiff enough to stand alone, with nice non-skid feet and little ball joints at the tops for more flexibility. There is also a large locking ball joint above the legs so you can orient your device in portrait or landscape mode.

* A clamp to hold your phone, with rubbery jaws that open up to more than 3.25 inches, and another lockable ball joint at back to provide more tiltablity.

* A mounting bolt and platform to attach the clamp to the legs, or to attach a camera to the legs directly. The bolt screws into the tripod socket on the bottom of your camera, or into a similar socket on the clamp. As with a full-sized professional tripod, there is a quick-release plate holding the bolt, with a tightening screw that holds the plate onto the platform. And herein lies the problem: The tightening screw is the (literally) weakest link. Not because it doesn't hold, but because it's tiny, cheap, plastic, and really hard to grip. On a full-sized tripod these are usually made of metal, with some kind of handle, and ideally spring-loaded. It looks like the designers just copied the bigger version, without thinking about size and ergonomics. It's also not clear to me why the clamp assembly doesn't have its own plate built in.

I still use and enjoy the tripod (it's a perfect accessory for the HTC). I really hope the designers will add a grippy metal screw to the next iteration.


MonsteriSport Strive In-Ear, Black
MonsteriSport Strive In-Ear, Black
Price: $49.95
6 used & new from $34.98

3.0 out of 5 stars Nice sound response, some comfort issues, July 9, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Monster has something of a "reputation" in the audio marketplace, so I wasn't sure how much I would really like these earbuds (excuse me, "In Ear Monitors"). I found the sound to be really good for the price, but I don't think the earbuds are particularly comfortable.

NOISE ISOLATION/COMFORT - as the package notes, these buds have "partial" noise isolation, which means they block out some sound but not all. (if you want more isolation, get the iSport Victory buds instead). The speaker part sits very loosely in the ear, not as an earplug - the buds are held onto your outer ear by the little stub thingy, which you have to press down, put the buds in place, and then let up. I didn't find this to be particularly comfortable, inasmuch as the fit has to be fairly precise, and I apparently wear a small-and-a-half. There's also a little hard tab in the silicone that was pressing in a bad place on one of my ears, but not the other. YMMV. (And as a Bose user, I originally put the buds on backwards - once I figured out they were Andorian not Vulcan that was OK). If you have sweaty ears, or intend to wear these in a high-motion workout like jogging, they probably won't stay in.

CORDS/MICROPHONE - The cord is 47" long, flat, and with an angled plug. It is still possible to tangle the cord, but the shape does help somewhat. The microphone is just a mic, no controls. Will it let you answer a call hands-free? The package insert says you should go to the website to download the instructions but the manuals aren't there yet - I'll update.

SOUND - I found the sound on these to be very good, not only for voice-range music like ballad and country (typical for buds), but also for things like classical and disco. My Bose SIE earbuds have a richer bass (imaging, not just volume), and the the Monster buds also have some foreground/background compression compared to the Bose, but considering the difference in price the response is quite respectable. The imaging is better at higher volumes, so will likely improve at the lower as the buds break in. I would note that most of my music is at 256k, on an iPhone, and that my definition of "high" volume is in the middle of the volume slider.

EXTRAS - The buds come with three sizes of eargels (typical) and a little - but overengineered - drawstring bag. They are packed in a nice, solid- but overengineered - cardboard box (dig out the magnets before recycling this) with a recyclable plastic insert. According to the promo insert, the eargels are supposedly antimicrobial and washable. I assume you'd have to take them off the speaker part before washing, but I'm still waiting for the manual.

Overall, these have a nice sound at a reasonable price, if they work for you. I'll be sticking with my old Bose MIE earbuds, however.


European Building Construction Illustrated
European Building Construction Illustrated
by Mark Mulville
Edition: Paperback
Price: $55.62
62 used & new from $29.75

4.0 out of 5 stars Nice book, much overlap with the non-European version, July 8, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Any student of Architecture or Interior Design is probably familiar with Francis Ching's work. This book is a re-working of his classic Building Construction Illustrated, with the focus shifted to the EU. There is also a small final chapter on building construction in the Middle East.

A lot of the text in the book is taken wholesale from the original American version - a paragraph-by-paragraph comparison of the first few chapters gave me more than 90% overlap, and the ending chapters covering HVAC and materials appear to be almost identical. There are some differences in naming - "Wood" is called "Timber," "Gypsum board is called "Plasterboard," measurements are in metrics, and so on. Much of the difference in actual content, however, arises from new green and sustainable building technology.

In Chapter 1, "The Building Site," 32 sections have the same title. The EU version adds: "BREEAM," "Carbon Reduction Strategies," "The Passive House Standard," and (oddly) "Drawing Conventions." The US version adds: "The 2030 Challenge," "Regulatory Factors," and "Zoning Ordinances," as well as three sections that are addressed elsewhere in the EU book: "Slope Protection," "Retaining Walls," and "Site Description." In Chapter 5, on "Wall Systems," the EU version has sections on Hemp and Straw Bale construction, while the US version covers Glass Block and Structural Clay tile. In Chapter 6, "Roof Systems," the EU version has a section on GluLam beam roofs not in the US version. Chapter 9, on "Special Construction," adds a section on prefab Pod Systems. And so on.

Is it worth buying this book just for the divergent sections? That question is up to the reader. Certainly the new information is interesting. I do wish the publisher had taken sustainability into account, however, and just published the upgrade.

(I also wish the publisher had used a more readable font, as many other reviewers of this round of Ching's books have noted).


George Takei Lions and Tigers and Bears Poster
George Takei Lions and Tigers and Bears Poster
Offered by TSE Apparel
Price: $19.99

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars May the farce be with you, July 6, 2014
Not since Yoda sent Dorothy back to Kansas on the Shuttlecraft has a book had such a profound influence on my life. And this poster is the icing on the synthahol. Nanu Nanu Uncle George.


Denon AH-C120MA Studio Quality In-Ear Headphones with 1-Button Smartphone Remote
Denon AH-C120MA Studio Quality In-Ear Headphones with 1-Button Smartphone Remote
Price: $99.00
3 used & new from $99.00

4.0 out of 5 stars A nice pair of $50 earbuds, July 2, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'm always on the lookout for excellent earbuds, so I was happy to get these to compare to the others in the household. I found them to be much superior to the cheapo ones that came with our various phones, and about on-par with various other mid-priced earbuds, but not as responsive as my Bose MIE or Polk AM4110-A buds.

- EAR PIECES - The bases of the earpieces are relatively tiny and gumdrop shaped. The ear gels are three sizes of silicone bulbs (plus one foam set), and the middle size made a solid seal with my ear canal (too solid - the day I wore these with a clogged eustachian tube I wound up in horrible pain from the pressure waves). The gels wouldn't stay in your ear during any kind of exercise, though the foam might.

- CORDS - the cords on the Denon are almost 55 inches long, compared to roughly 45 for the Polk and the Bose, and quite thick and stiff (more al-dente spaghetti than capellini). This would definitely help with tangle-resistance. There is an adapter included for Sony phones, which I didn't test. There is no slider. The jack is at a 90 degree angle, not straight.

- CONTROLS - The controls and mic are high up on the left side, which is not what I'm used to but not a dealbreaker. There is only one button, which on my iPhone 5 gives me pause with one click, forward a track with two, and back a track with three. On my HTC One I only get pause and play. (This is typical functionality for one-button controls).

- CASE - There is a very nice little zippered case included.

- SOUND - The buds sound spectacular on voice-based mid-range music like opera and ballad, but don't have quite the same level of imaging for classical and instrumental music as the Bose or the Polk. I was originally underwhelmed by the bass and high-end response, but after giving them some break-in time, and switching to the small size gels, I'm revising my opinion. There is a downloadable Denon music app that I didn't test, so I may still not be giving these their full workout. As the "Studio" denotes, the buds are designed for a flat response across the audio spectrum.

So, if you're looking for a tangle-resistant set of earbuds for sedentary use, and don't listen to complex music, and can find these on sale, go for it.


InterDesign Axis Over Cabinet 9-Inch Towel Bar, Black
InterDesign Axis Over Cabinet 9-Inch Towel Bar, Black
Price: $8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Pros and Cons and Measurements, June 23, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
- The Bronze color goes nicely with our walnut (actually walnut colored Formica) bathroom cabinets
- There is padding inside the hooks to keep the rack from scratching
- The hooks including the padding are just a hair under 1/8-inch thick, which fits nicely between cabinet or drawer fronts
- The hook interior space is about 7/8 inch, which should fit over thicker (Shaker style) doors
- The rack is braised, or maybe soldered, onto the hooks, not welded, so I wouldn't put something very heavy on the rack, or use it for a grab bar.

That is all.


Commonly Asked Questions in Physics
Commonly Asked Questions in Physics
by Andrew F. Rex
Edition: Paperback
Price: $27.99
42 used & new from $19.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Definitely not the "For Dummies" edition, June 18, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
As a science nerd from way back, the recent uptick in interest in all things technical warms my heart. This book largely fans those flames, with a few caveats for non-scientific readers.

The book starts with classical mechanics, but covers a wide range of topics - matter and energy, atoms and solar systems, particles and waves (with some discussion of dual-nature implications). The writing is mostly accessible, with some topic headings that were clearly intended to appeal to a lay audience - "What does your blood pressure mean?," "What makes an atomic bomb work?" (Don't get your hopes up - the book won't help you build one.). There are lots of real-world examples used throughout, including everything from curve balls to x-rays.

Lay audience notwithstanding, however, the explanations in the text refer to things like polar coordinates and partial differentials, with the assumption that the reader knows what those are, and the formulas use Greek letters freely (for readers who aren't up on their rho's and tau's, it will be helpful to print out a Greek alphabet for reference while reading, if only so you know how to pronounce the equations). As a visual thinker, I do wish there had been more diagrams, or even a video. (Maybe a companion guide viewable on a 3D device?).

Looking at the book with an editor's eye, I was sad to find some typos of the type that a spell-check program would miss (including a figure reference in Chapter 4 that I'm pretty sure was off), and some odd sequencing of topics - in particular, the text discusses quantum mechanics before optics and atoms, which, among other things, meant that diffraction gratings were referred to before they were introduced. There is an index, which helps somewhat, but I wish there had also been a glossary. The chapter on quantum mechanics is one of the harder ones, and I also wound up completely confused at one point while reading it, until I realized that the "K" I was reading in the current equation meant "kinetic energy," while the previous "K" had meant "Kelvin." It helps to take frequent contemplation and comprehension breaks.

Foibles notwithstanding, I found this to be an interesting and valuable work, and a bit of a brain workout (NTTAWWT).


CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X7
CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X7
Price: $415.54
30 used & new from $399.95

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars But can it really deal with your old Adobe CS files?, June 11, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Anyone who's been following the software market knows that Adobe shot itself in the foot with its new rent-to-not-own software pricing scheme. And anyone who's evaluated this Corel suite knows that Corel has set out to eat Adobe's lunch. Not only does the software take in Adobe files, CorelDraw offers a "workspace" that emulates the look and feel of Illustrator, and Photopaint offers a similar workspace for Photoshop, as well as some recently added path-friendly capabilities. Searching for Adobe on the Corel site turns up much advice on how to handle the transition.

So, how well does the Corel suite really handle Adobe files?

* ILLUSTRATOR TO CorelDRAW *

I prepared a file in Illustrator (CS5) with two art boards, two main layers, and eight sub-layers (some were created on the fly as I added text). Into this project I placed a daring spline-defined squiggle, some gradient-filled shapes, and text in both Arial italic (which both programs offer), and Accent SF, which is only available in Adobe programs. I saved the file as an Illustrator file (.ai).

Upon first opening the file in CorelDraw, I was informed that Accent SF was unavailable, and offered the option of replacing all instances with another font (one was suggested), either this one time, or in general. All text remained editable, as did the shapes and the squiggle, including re-splining. All good. (The Corel site offers more complete information about what kinds of effects are brought forward, and what isn't).

While the content translation was good, however, the workspace translation was not. The art boards were transformed into pages, which in Corel are tabbed, not side-by-side, and the main layers were retained, but not the sublayers. Most people won't care. Wizard-level Illustrator users will be frustrated. (Using the Adobe-style workspace doesn't really help, though "page sorter view" will show you all your pages).

* PHOTOSHOP TO PHOTOPAINT *

To test the Photoshop/Photopaint transition, I prepared an eight-layer drawing in Photoshop from my CS5 package, in 32-bit RGB (Corel offers 24 and 48 bit), including one weird spline-based curve, and using some hard-to-replicate glows and shading, and some text again in Arial and Accent SF. I rasterized and smudged some of the text in one layer just to be ornery, and stretched the text in another. Then I saved the file in native (.psd) Photoshop mode.

Opening the file in Photopaint, I was delighted to see a very accurate rendering of the original, somewhat brighter, and now in 48-bit (one of the choices for color here is "Adobe RGB." Bravo). Corel's "What the font" feature even managed to identify the Accent SF font, with a little help from an online database. Editing the text was another story. Maybe because Photopaint opened the file as the background? Corel's Help file counseled me to use "Import" instead. Ok. Nope. I still got only one Photopaint "object" (what Photoshop calls a "layer," according to Photopaint Help, though there isn't really a 1:1 correlation here). Using the magic wand mask tool let me (tediously) separate the graphics into separate layers/objects, but (maddeningly) left some drop shadows behind, and the text was still unrecognized. Yet, the Photopaint help file says that Adobe text is imported as a text object, and therefore editable. Maybe if you save each text layer as its own file? I give up.

* OTHER TRANSLATIONS *

Just for grins, I opened the Photoshop file in CorelDraw, which produced an error message suggesting I use "Import" instead. Kudos to Corel. Importing, however, produced the same problems (no separate layers/objects, so no ability to select or edit text), as well as some awful distortions. Opening the Illustrator file in Paintshop Pro (X5) gave me a nice rendering, and I could then use the magic wand tool to salvage the graphics, though the text was a lost cause. Unfortunately, Paintshop Pro isn't part of this package. (Further online research indicates the best option may in fact be Corel Painter, which I unfortunately don't own).

* CONCLUSION *

Overall, I think this Corel suite will be useful for general users who don't want to (repeatedly) shell out absurd amounts of money for Adobe software. Real high-end graphic artists who want to continue to be able to access their own work, done in Adobe, are between a rock and a hard place. Adobe is in the process of alienating the entire industry, and Corel doesn't quite cut it (yet...).


HTC One M8 Harman/Kardon Edition, Black 32GB (Sprint)
HTC One M8 Harman/Kardon Edition, Black 32GB (Sprint)
Price: $679.99

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What can't it do?, June 5, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It's telling that the Getting Started guide for the HTC M8 has a section titled "Your first week with your new phone." Because I've had this device for way more than a week, and I'm still finding features. Some highlights:

* USER INTERFACE/CUSTOMIZATION - The phone has a free 6-month screen-replacement warranty, which is a good thing, since the first time it vibrated in my hand I almost dropped it. Vibrate is used as tactile feedback for input, which I personally hate, but this can be turned off, as can the "Blinkfeed" news and social media app which is the default homescreen (HTC is quite proud of Blinkfeed. YMMV.). Coming from an iPhone background, I found many small delights, like the fact that the analog clock icon not only keeps time, but can be made double-sized to make it more readable. Widget management is in general remarkable. The phone also comes pre-installed with many Google apps, but, like Internet Explorer on Windows, it's easy to download more palatable options.

* MUSIC - The audio on the M8 doesn't so much raise the bar as launch it into low-earth orbit. Coming from an iPhone background, as noted, I was thrilled by the two user-facing speakers, and amazed at the sheer volume they could produce from such a tiny box, with relatively minimal distortion (also relatively minimal bass response, but nothing is perfect). The speaker sound is notably better if the phone is on an slightly absorptive surface (a wooden desktop or book, for example, instead of granite countertop). Populating the phone with my music involved copying MP3 files onto a microSD chip (using my laptop, via micro/mini SD adapter), and then putting the chip into the phone. No synch, no iTunes, no translation, and trivially upgradable. I'm not the type to profess romantic attachment for inanimate objects, but I am sorely tempted.

* Harman/Kardon Music - This edition phone adds some additional music features, namely two filters (Clari-Fi, which enhances low bit rate mp3s, and LiveStage, which supposedly creates a more life-like experience when using headphones). A set of Harman/Kardon headphones is included. The phone also has the ability to play non-lossy formats like FLAC (and if you've ever priced a FLAC-dedicated player, you understand the value here). I did find that the filters made a difference when listening to most audio, though "difference" isn't necessarily "better' (LiveStage makes stuff louder and brighter, which isn't always what I prefer). Since I typically use Bose MIE earbuds I took this opportunity to compare them to the HK buds, and found what I usually find when comparing Bose and Harman/Kardon, namely that HK enhances the midrange and foreground, and lets the ends of both the pitch and volume spectrums fall back. This means that the Bose renders things like the glockenspiel in Danse Macabre or the bass line in Desert Rose with much more clarity and better imaging than the HK (the HK buds pretty much ignore deep bass). In Harman/Kardon's defense, this also means that dialog and speech will be more comprehensible. So, Bose for classical music, and HK for videos. (The HK are also earplug style buds, though that's not sufficient to explain the differences in rendering)

* WATCHING VIDEO - The crystal clarity of the screen and user-facing speakers make watching video a pleasure. My pleasure was dampened slightly by the fact that the device doesn't support Amazon streaming video, or perhaps vice versa (Jeff, can you get on that? Thanks). The volume rockers are on on the right of the phone in portrait mode, which means when they are on the top of the device in landscape mode they are backwards - left is up and right is down. A minor annoyance. More of an issue is that the default is for the volume buttons to pop the phone into camera mode when the phone is in landscape mode, which is not what I want when watching YouTube. Fortunately you can turn that off.

* CAMERA - For basic camera work, the phone rivals my Lumix (an actual camera). There are two lenses on the back of the device (thus providing parallax and the potential to focus after the shot), along with a dual flash, and one user-facing lens for selfies. I was particularly delighted to find a picture-in-picture mode, where you can put a selfie in a lower corner of the larger shot. This phone supposedly sacrificed some pixel density in favor of low-light capability, but most people won't miss it (I'm guessing one of the use cases was "nightclub"). The phone can in fact save pictures and video (and "Zoe" video) to the removable chip, and warned me that my music chip wasn't fast enough for optimal video. Nice.

* PHOTO FIXING - Once you've taken the shot, the phone offers after-effects, for example different decorative frames, filters like tints and black and white, and an itty-bitty paint program with cut-and-paste, straighten/tilt, and a handful of brushes and colors to use to draw on the photo. I was surprised, given the brushes, that there was no function to place and enter text. Right now the photo manipulation is a nice social media toy, but there are users out there (insurance investigators, architects, etc.) who would happily embrace the ability to label photos as a serious work tool.

* GAMING - Not since my old Game Boy Advance has a handheld gaming device felt so big and comfortable. My only beef is that the power button is a bit too easy to accidentally push if you put a little too much english on an angry bird, and that the edges of the enormous screen are a little too easy to accidentally activate. Both of these issues can be fixed with a nice case (I personally prefer the Otterbox Commuter).

So, what can't it do?

* Well ... erm ... uh... It's not so great as a PHONE. Not because of the audio or microphone (which is actually a bit too sensitive), or the contact management (which will import your iPhone data, along with anything else it can get its little electronic hands on), but because of the form factor. First, the device is huge, almost 3"x6" (see my picture above), smooth, and thin. As such, it's really uncomfortable to hold to your ear receiver-style, and hard to pick up from a smooth surface, which confounds the ergonomic niceties like automatically decreasing the ringer volume when the phone is moved, or muting the ringer when the phone is flipped from face up to face down (a great idea, BTW, but not useful if I have to fumble to pick the phone up in the first place). Second, the headphone jack is on the bottom (and the HK buds have a straight plug, unlike the Bose). Which means you can't use the device in standard cellphone position - held in the hand, hand resting on table or desk or stomach. (Autorotate is three-way, not four). You also can't have headphones attached when the phone is in a charging stand, which in my case seriously interferes with using the phone for Skype. The iPhone 5 also has this non-feature, so there must be some kind of rationale for it, but I can't image what.

So, this is a great player, gaming device, and camera. But (sorry folks) only an OK phone.

(Oh, and for those who care, the packaging is mostly pressed paper, and there is an envelope included to send your old phone back to Sprint for recycling. All good.).


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