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Quartet 4-Count Broad Dry-Erase Marker Kit, 1 Eraser, 2 oz. Spray Cleaner (51-659672Q)
Quartet 4-Count Broad Dry-Erase Marker Kit, 1 Eraser, 2 oz. Spray Cleaner (51-659672Q)
Price: $11.38
5 used & new from $2.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Great, cheap set!, August 7, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There are many sets of dry erase markers and erasers on Amazon. This one is a stand out for also including the spray cleaner.

PRO
* The markers work well and don't have an overpowering smell
* The tips are well made, and don't depend on writing angle as much as many others do although a variety of line widths is possible
* The included spray works great on dry erase markings that have been on boards at length. No more running off for a damp rag or rubbing alcohol! It seems to be gentle on my cheap white board as well

CON
* The eraser is a little on the small side. It's nice in that it stays on a white board ledge fairly easily without the usual sideways balancing act, but it does mean erasing takes a few extra passes.
* I wish they included a second black marker, as is common in some other sets. Most people will use that color more than the others and will run out of it sooner.

I'm happy with the set overall - this was a pleasing acquisition.


Quartet Magnetic Combination Board, 17 x 23 Inches, Dry-Erase and Cork, Black/Silver Frame (79370)
Quartet Magnetic Combination Board, 17 x 23 Inches, Dry-Erase and Cork, Black/Silver Frame (79370)
Price: $20.69

4.0 out of 5 stars Decent for home use - not office quality, August 7, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This isn't like traditional whiteboards. The white board portion appears to be a thick sticker applied to regular old cardboard. This makes it very light weight, but also quite flimsy.

PRO
* Cheap, usable whiteboard
* The size will fit perfectly on the freezer portion of the refrigerator found in most homes (freezer on top, refrigerator on bottom)
* Includes a marker, a mini eraser (on the marker cap), a couple magnets (not included in the product picture for some reason!), and the cork portion for thumbtacks is a nice addition
* Includes just enough double sided tape to hang it well

CON
* Because it's just a sticker on cardboard, it's very flimsy. Be careful where you place this. For example, a garage would be a bad idea given the varying humidity. It also won't stand up to much abuse at all.
* The provided eraser (on the marker cap) is TINY and not good for much use. Plan to buy a separate eraser or keep towels on hand. Mine went smeary after trying to erase a full board just a few times.
* The provided marker dries on a bit too well. It won't erase well without adding a little moisture to an eraser or rag.
* The built-in cork board is very thin, and tacks usually go through to the cardboard, compromising the stability of the thing with every new hole made.

You'll be happy with this in your kitchen or in a personal office space. But don't plan on putting it in most other environments.


ökocat Natural Pine Cat Litter, 7.8-Pound, Pine
ökocat Natural Pine Cat Litter, 7.8-Pound, Pine
Offered by UNPLUGGED
Price: $3.00
4 used & new from $3.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Not a traditional clumping litter - some benefits and deficiencies, August 7, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
To be clear, this is not a traditional clumping litter. If that's what you're looking for you should examine other options. Instead, this is a very coarse litter designed to absorb urine and wick the moisture off of feces well enough that it stops smelling after a while. The wood scent is meant to cover ther est up.

PRO
* This approach produces very little dust. If you're trying to control dust, this may be a good solution for you.
* The pine (I think there may be other wood smells too) smell is not overpowering, and it does an okay job of covering poo smells eventually, but it does take time.

CON
* The cats track the large wood pellets everywhere. This happens to all litter to an extent, but I found them everywhere in my apartment. They really hurt when stepped on, versus litter that settles into carpet and gets picked up by regular vacuuming.
* Scooping is a challenge. The wood pellets are much larger than regular litter, and I couldn't find a scoop with slits large enough to allow me to sift this. I ended up throwing a large amount of litter away with every scoop.
* The pellets do absorb urine somewhat, however it doesn't stop liquid from getting to the bottom of the litter box. You can get away with rarely or never cleaning a litterbox with clay litter. With this, expect to scrub the box by hand a couple times a month.

I ended up not using all of the litter. Despite the extra dust, I greatly prefer clay litters. It's easier to balance a vaccum cleaner hose on the litter box when scooping clay than it is to have to fully clean a litterbox and cope with the feces smell that takes longer to subsude.


Labrada Nutrition Lean Body Hi Protein Meal Replacement Shake, Natural Chocolate, 24 Ounce
Labrada Nutrition Lean Body Hi Protein Meal Replacement Shake, Natural Chocolate, 24 Ounce
Price: $28.07
11 used & new from $25.56

4.0 out of 5 stars Tasty but questionable as a meal replacement, June 26, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is tasty and has a good texture to it. There's no chalkiness, as with many protein powders, and it mixes very easily. It didn't take much stirring to get rid of all clumps whether mixing this with milk or water.

It has real sugar and stevia, which aren't exactly healthy but may be better for you than many artificial sweeteners. Digestion should be fairly easy between the natural sugars and the extra bit of fiber this includes. Compare this to other protein powders which often include inverted sugar alcohols which are only digestible by gut bacteria and lead to intestinal distress.

I don't know how to qualify how good the protein is. There's a lot of disagreement in body building forums about which proteins are best, so look at the ingredients and make your own decision. Mixing up protein sources is believed to be one of the better approaches, and this can fit in with that approach.

The only down side is that the vitamin content isn't very high overall. I see this more as a supplement than a meal replacement. It's good for energy and protein, but you wouldn't want to make a habit of replacing one of your daily meals unless you're eating more than three meals a day. Some bodybuilders believe in 5 smaller, high-protein meals a day. If that's your approach then this may be perfect for one of them.


Belkin NetCam Wi-Fi HD+ Camera with Night Vision (The Latest Version), Works with Belkin WeMo
Belkin NetCam Wi-Fi HD+ Camera with Night Vision (The Latest Version), Works with Belkin WeMo
Price: $129.99
13 used & new from $112.50

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Easy to configure, nice extra features, but mediocre performance, June 23, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The good:
* Easy to set up with a mobile app. When you power on the camera, it creates its own wi-fi network. You tell your iPhone or Android device to use that network, run the free mobile app, and associate it with your normal wi-fi network and an online account.
* Cheap. Wi-fi cameras are really coming down in price, and this is in the middle of the low end price range
* Mobile app works well at home and away. It's smart enough to use peer-to-peer if the mobile device and camera are on the same network, and it relays through a third-party service if one is away
* Integrates with the WeMo app. It can be used as a motion detector to trigger power on/off rules on other WeMo devices.
* The IR vision actually works. Often these are muddy and unusable on low-end cameras. Here it's decently crisp
* 1280x720 resolution (720p) makes the camera quite usable even at a distance of 20-30 feet
* Built in microphone works fairly well, even when subjects are 10 feet away
* A website is provided for viewing the camera in a regular browser. Flash is all that's required.
* The mobile app can save snapshots and video clips directly to the camera roll (tested on iPhone) - the video integration was a nice surprise

The bad:
* No matter what, you're not getting a decent framerate out of this. It looks like 8-10fps despite the listed specs, even when little is changing in the frame. There's also a significant lag (2-3 seconds) that you just won't get rid of with the web view. Less on the mobile app.
* Big mobile app annoyance: Every time one switches to the mobile app, it plays a pointless animation. Every. Single. Time. If you toggle between the camera and text messaging for example, you will watch this animation for what feels an eternity. It doesn't even resume the last active camera view, even if only leaving the mobile app for 2 seconds.
* Wide-angle view that you can't disable. It works relatively well for up-close objects. But there's significant fish eye on anything even 5 feet away. This is definitely a surveillance camera, not usable for chatting or other such uses.
* The built-in two-way audio feature is nearly useless. Audio from the camera to the mobile device works fairly well, but the speaker in the camera is difficult to hear. It has loud midrange and little else, making it sound like a typical drive-through speaker. Don't expect to be able to use this to talk with kids from far away, and it scares the hell out of my cats.
* Little adjustability for the motion detection. My cats set off the motion detector constantly, so I can't use it for security or notification about human visitors. Some other cameras allow setting triggers based on the type or amount of motion, while also allow rejecting motion low in the frame to deal with pets.
* The website squashes the aspect ratio to 4:3 despite this being a 16:9 aspect camera.
* The website disconnects after about half an hour and needs a new login each time. It does not work as a peer-to-peer connection even if on the same network, unlike the mobile app.
* There doesn't seem to be any support for third-party camera software, or a way of viewing multiple camera feeds at once without manually opening a bunch of browser windows.

Verdict:
If you want a cheap temporary surveillance camera that's easy to set up, requires no wires apart from the power cable, and have an existing wi-fi network, this is a decent choice. Don't expect to make good use of this with multi-camera setups, always-on surveillance, two-way communications, or for any other advanced use.

Note:
I didn't count this as a negative since it's not how most home networks are set up, but I did have some trouble with the wi-fi configuration on a network that had multiple wireless base stations in order to extend range. (An example of this would be multiple Apple Airports, each wired to ethernet, and each configured to broadcast the same SSID and use the same password.) The Belkin app repeatedly failed to configure the network when I would pick the SSID from the network list, where the same SSID was also shown multiple times. Choosing the option to attach it to a "different network" and then manually typing the SSID worked. If you have a similar whole-home setup with multiple base stations, this may save you some grief.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 3, 2014 6:27 AM PDT


South Beach Diet Gluten Free Dark Chocolate Raspberry, 5 Count
South Beach Diet Gluten Free Dark Chocolate Raspberry, 5 Count

4.0 out of 5 stars Tasty and satisfying, but an odd texture, June 19, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
If you're expecting something with the texture of a regular snack bar or granola bar, this isn't it. The texture (not taste) is almost like crispy bits embedded in a chewy molasses. It's confusing at first, but once you taste it you rapidly adapt to it. By the second bar, I was looking forward to the snack. They managed to make an interesting texture without incorporating glutens or some of the weird grain substitutes in other bars.

The taste was spot on. It's sweet but not overly so, and the dark chocolate and raspberry really come forward. It's got a full taste that lasts throughout the bar. It's not like other chemically sweetened bars where the taste hits hard and tapers like a bad candy.

I'm normally a bit sensitive to meal replacement and high nutrient snack bars, with energy spiking at first and then leaving me sluggish after a while. Instead, these seem to have a nice mix of low glycemic index ingredients which left me feeling satisfied and healthy for hours after eating.

All around, pretty darn good. I knocked off a star only because I think they could work on the texture a bit more. I adapted to it and even learned to like it, but I worry others might balk at the foreign texture.


Belkin Stripe Tab Cover / Case for iPad Air (iPad 5) (Ink)
Belkin Stripe Tab Cover / Case for iPad Air (iPad 5) (Ink)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Belkin's best case to date!, June 19, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've used a number of Belkin cases, and so I was excited to give this one a shot. The verdict? There's literally *nothing* to complain about!

Much like an Apple flip cover, it has a built in magnet that can wake the iPad when opened. If you don't like this behavior, it can be disabled in the iPad system preferences.

The case is very light, which gives it a flimsy feel. Initially I was going to treat this as a spare case, so I abused it a bit, pulling and trying to tear at the seams. It proved surprisingly strong. It showed no signs of give. I believe it will wear well, and in the end I'm using it as my main case after all.

Unlike many cases, this was already a good fit. There doesn't seem to be any kind of breaking in period. Belkin seems to have machined this with tighter tolerances than any other case I've used, save perhaps Apple's own. The iPad stays in well, yet it's not difficult to pop the iPad out of the case.

I love the color choice. It's fun, but not gaudy. I wish Apple offered this particular color as well.

You can look at my other Vine reviews. I don't gush about everything where they send me a review product, but this one has earned the privilege.


Corning 10m (32.8') Thunderbolt Active Optical Cable for Self-Powered Peripherals
Corning 10m (32.8') Thunderbolt Active Optical Cable for Self-Powered Peripherals
Offered by Kellards
Price: $299.00
4 used & new from $299.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Works every bit as well as a normal cable, no measurable speed loss, June 16, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I'm using this for an array of SSDs which are in a fairly noisy enclosure. This lets me put the RAID in my closet, 30 feet away from the computer.

Before anything else, I tested and benchmarks were identical with this, compared to the 1 meter Thunderbolt cable that came with the RAID enclosure. If there is any performance drop, it's smaller than the few megabytes per second difference I get between successive runs of the benchmark on identical configurations.

The cable really does allow tight turns without any sense of fragility. It arrives coiled fairly tightly, and you're not likely to route the cable at a tighter radius in normal use. Still, given the price of the cable you might use extra caution. With that (and my cable-munching cat) in mind, I ran it with some network cables and used zip ties to contain the whole set in some loom tubing. You can find small diameter tubing at a small fraction of the price of this cable. The extra security is worth it, IMHO.

Note that this does require a self-powered Thunderbolt device on both ends. Both ends contain an optical transceiver that needs power. That said, even in power saving mode Thunderbolt devices should power the cable. So you shouldn't have issues with waking peripherals from sleep or similar.


Tidy Cat Scoop 24/7 Performance Light Weight Litter, 8.5-Pound, 2-Pack
Tidy Cat Scoop 24/7 Performance Light Weight Litter, 8.5-Pound, 2-Pack
Offered by Petco
Price: $13.99
4 used & new from $13.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice surprise! Not so dusty!, May 22, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I was apprehensive about giving this a shot, but I'm glad I did. Lightweight litters are known for being more dusty than regular litters, but this was not the case here.

I couldn't find any significant tradeoff between this and regular litter. Dust levels were ordinary - as with any litter, I was able to control it by using my sifting scoop close to the surface of the litter to the litter didn't fall far through the air. This litter clumps every bit as effectively as regular clay litter. It has a strong but not overpowering scent, doing most of its odor control by rapidly wicking away moisture. Beware some multi-cat litters that smell like perfume bombs. Scooping is a little bit easier than with regular clay litter, both because the scoop weighs less when full, and because the clumps push through the lighter litter more easily.

The only down side I experienced was that the cats seemed to track the litter a bit further from the box with this than with ordinary litter. Cats sweat from their paws, and so litter clings. My speculation is that the cats may not have felt this litter on their feet so readily as with other litters, and so they may not have worked as hard to wipe it away. If you have a litter mat or other measure to control tracking, this shouldn't be an issue. Otherwise, you might have to sweep the floor farther from the box than you normally would.

On the whole, I like it. Being able to order a light litter on Amazon versus carrying it from the grocery seems like a good deal, and it doesn't even look like it would cost me a premium to do so.


Kettle Potato Chips, Chili Garlic Sweet, 5 Ounce (Pack of 15)
Kettle Potato Chips, Chili Garlic Sweet, 5 Ounce (Pack of 15)
Price: $34.44
2 used & new from $34.44

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strong flavor, extremely sweet, bring napkins, May 22, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
These chips are very flavorful. As the name implies, they're sweet. It's not a cloying sweetness but much more pleasant and nicely complemented by the chili and garlic. The combination is almost addictive. If you have trouble putting away a regular bag of chips unfinished, or if you have a sweet tooth, you're unlikely to resist finishing these medium sized bags.

The good news is they're much less salty than regular chips. If you're on a low sodium diet or you just don't like being thirsty after a snack, that's a plus. I was pleasantly surprised in comparing the salt content with other chips.

The bad news is these are also much messier than regular chips. In addition to being a little greasy, the chili and sugar add a bit of a grainy texture and a colorful smear to anything you touch. It's like Doritos in this regard (but arguably healthier). Bring plenty of napkins.

I also had a little bit of heartburn, possibly from the combination of chili and sugar. Admittedly I'd had these chips several days in a row. Space these out and that shouldn't be a problem. If you're especially susceptible to stomach distress then do know that these may be a trigger, however.


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