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L. F. Smith RSS Feed (E. Wenatchee, WA)
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Pedco Ultrapod Grip Lightweight Tripod
Pedco Ultrapod Grip Lightweight Tripod
Price: $20.64
5 used & new from $17.54

5.0 out of 5 stars A very good light tripod, February 1, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a very good light tripod. As is the case with all technology, we have to work within the design limitations of the device. This is not-- and it's not meant to be-- a tripod for large, heavy cameras, long lenses, telephoto images, etc. It's an easy-to-carry, compact, quick to set up general purpose tripod. It's perfect for hiking, camping, family outings, etc., where you want to be able to get the shots that become available with a minimum of hassle, but you don't want to carry around a lot of gear.

Other reviewers have made remarks about the plastic in this tripod. They're right; it's almost all plastic. However, there's plastic, and then there's plastic. This unit seems very durable, and the plastic construction makes it very lightweight. The legs are pretty thin, but it's fine for small cameras. How durable is it? It seems pretty sturdy, but I don't know what would happen if you banged in on a rock so something similar.

My bottom line: This is a very good light portable general use tripod at a reasonable price. I recommend it highly.


Escort Coiled SmartCord Combo - Red
Escort Coiled SmartCord Combo - Red
Price: $22.95
8 used & new from $11.87

3.0 out of 5 stars Overpriced, but there's a work-around-- maybe, January 29, 2016
The price of this replacement power cable is shocking. It's very hard to believe that it could cost anywhere near $30 to produce it. However, if your original unit malfunctions, you're stuck-- maybe. My problem was at the small plastic connector that plugs into the detector, which my cat chewed on. I got some RJ-11 connectors for just a few cents each and borrowed a crimping tool from a friend. There are cheap ones widely available, too. I cut off the damaged connector, VERY carefully arranged the four colored wires in the new connector in the same order, and crimped it. Ignore the order of the wires, and you could turn your detector into a smoking lump.

Mine worked perfectly, at a tiny fraction of the cost of a replacement cable. It's worth a shot.


Cloop Magnetic Cable Keeper, 3 Small & 3 Large
Cloop Magnetic Cable Keeper, 3 Small & 3 Large
Price: $21.98

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They're FAR superior to twist ties, January 29, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
These Cloop Magnetic Cable Keepers are one of those little things you don't know you need until you actually use them.

They're an ingenious way to keep thin cables (earbuds, charging cords, usb cables, etc.) neatly coiled. They're FAR superior to twist ties, velcro straps, etc., for two reasons. First, they close with pretty powerful magnets without the need to do anything more than bring the ends together. Second, and much more important, they stay on the cable even when it's in use.

They won't work well with stiff or thick or stiff cables that resist coiling. That's because such cables will overcome the magnetic closures. Like all technology, you have to live within the design limitations.

The one downside is the price. At this writing, the price here on Amazon for a package of three small and three large ones is about $22. That's pretty steep. They do work extremely well, though, so it's a question of whether the convenience and quality justify the price. That's something everyone has to decide for him- or herself.

Bottom line: A great product that provides real convenience, but it's pricey.


Uni-Ball 307 Gel Pens, Micro Point, Blue, 3-Pack (1947847)
Uni-Ball 307 Gel Pens, Micro Point, Blue, 3-Pack (1947847)
Price: $9.36

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent bargain, January 29, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
These Uni-Ball 307 Gel Pens are an excellent bargain.

They are gel pens, but they actually write much like a fountain pen. The ink flows very smoothly, without the blobbing and skipping that afflicts many gel pens. Even better, the 307 pens will write on glossy surfaces, like thermal receipts, unlike the 207 pens they replace. They really are fine writing instruments, which is an amazing thing in a disposable pen.

These are also "security" pens. That is, the ink resists the various "washing" processes that thieves use to alter checks and other documents. This is a big advantage over other gel pens and even ballpoint pens.

Bottom line: These pens are very easy to write with, they feel good in the hand, and they offer security-- all in a low-cost disposable pen. Now if I could just figure out how to keep people from taking them off of my desk...


Escort Max 360 Radar Detector (Black)
Escort Max 360 Radar Detector (Black)
Price: $648.95
7 used & new from $629.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding radar/laser detector, January 6, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is an outstanding radar/laser detector. I've owned several detectors over the years, but I hadn't upgraded to anything close to new technology in a long time. It's hard to imagine what features and capabilities a detector could have beyond what the Max 360 offers.

The range and selectivity are excellent. I haven't been surprised by a radar trap "just over the hill" with this machine. It alerts in plenty of time to slow down. Equally important, it can learn about the road speed signs, motion detectors and automatic door openers that are now so common. Those have become so numerous that they render an older detector useless; there's no way to discriminate among the signals in order to pick out the real radar traps. The range for laser traps is very good, too. It seems to be less than that for radar, but still sufficient.

We have two notorious speed traps here, which produce a significant fraction of the city's annual revenues. They're a tough test for a radar/laser detector, because they're near businesses with automatic doors, and the hiding places for the police cars are impossible to see until you're right on them. However, the Max 360 gives me plenty of warning in time to slow down, and it quickly learned to filter out the false signals. I'm really impressed.

The display is very comprehensive. It indicates what radar band is active, whether it's radar or laser, the direction the signal is coming from, etc. It's a pleasant blue, which is not distracting or glaring at night. The machine itself is pretty large, but not excessively so, considering all that's built into it.

This is definitely not a cheap detector. For that reason, it's very important to mount it where you can easily and quickly disconnect it and stash it out of sight. The power cord needs to be unplugged and stashed, too, since leaving it hanging is an advertisement for car prowlers. There's an extra-cost accessory cord that allows you to hard-wire it, but I'm not doing that.

My bottom line: This is a high-quality device that will almost certainly meet every need for nearly every driver. It's not cheap, but in this case, you really will get what you pay for.


Teach Yourself VISUALLY iPad: Covers iOS 9 and all models of iPad Air, iPad mini, and iPad Pro (Teach Yourself VISUALLY (Tech))
Teach Yourself VISUALLY iPad: Covers iOS 9 and all models of iPad Air, iPad mini, and iPad Pro (Teach Yourself VISUALLY (Tech))
by Guy Hart-Davis
Edition: Paperback
Price: $28.49
50 used & new from $18.03

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great quick-start resource, January 6, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'm an experienced iPad user, but I wanted a quick guide to the new features in iOS9. That's exactly what this book is.

This is an excellent introduction for new users and a great refresher/update for experienced users. All of the "Teach Yourself Visually..." guides are no-nonsense, non-technical books. They're intended to get a user started and along the right path as quickly as possible. To that end, they're written in plain, clear English, with no technical language. For every instruction, there's a very clear, neatly labeled screen shot that shows what you should be seeing after following the instructions. It would be extremely difficult to get messed up following this guide. (I'd like to say impossible to get messed up, but I taught high school for nearly three decades, and I know how ingenious some people can be when they're failing to follow instructions.)

My bottom line: If you need a guide for the iPad and the new iOS9 software, there's no better one than this book. Clear, comprehensive, and even reasonably priced. Five stars for sure.


Personal Finance After 50 For Dummies
Personal Finance After 50 For Dummies
by Eric Tyson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.95
59 used & new from $11.81

4.0 out of 5 stars A good introductory guide, December 2, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a very good introductory guide to personal finance for those approaching 50. It covers a lot of ground in a pretty compact book, including making basic money decisions in retirement, deciding how to integrate Social Security and Medicare into one's finances, estate planning, and so on. This is good, because its very important to deal with all of these topics together. However, the downside is that covering all of these topics requires the book to skim across the surface of all of them.

This means that the book is most useful as a way to get started with personal finance just before and in the early stages of retirement. It would be best to use the book as a way to organize oneself for working with a financial advisor. This isn't at all a criticism of the book; rather, I'm pointing out what I see as its strength. It's a good general introduction to a complex and important part on one's life.

One very good thing about this book is that it avoids the "cutsiness" that afflicts many of the "...for Dummies" books. The authors are professionals, and they treat the topic and their readers accordingly. The information is presented in easy to digest bites, but they never talk down to the reader.

My bottom line is that this book can be valuable to someone who is approaching retirement or someone who has recently retired, especially if he or she hasn't really done much planning. I recommend it highly for that reader.


Teach Yourself VISUALLY OS X El Capitan (Teach Yourself VISUALLY (Tech))
Teach Yourself VISUALLY OS X El Capitan (Teach Yourself VISUALLY (Tech))
by Paul McFedries
Edition: Paperback
Price: $28.49
57 used & new from $17.63

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introductory guide, December 2, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is an excellent introductory guide to the new El Capitan operating system for the Mac. It's really intended for those who have never used a Mac before. It deals with the basic operations of the OS in a simple, step-by-step manner. Like all of the other "Teach Yourself Visually" books, it includes dozens of carefully labeled screenshots that illustrate exactly what you will see as you follow the instructions. It's hard to imagine someone using this guide and not getting a good result.

The book is extremely well designed for ease of use. The various chapters are color coded, and all of the screen shots are adjacent to the instructions they illustrate. The illustrations are all very clear and easy to see. There's an excellent index.

It covers all of the essential operations, such as saving and opening files, printing, connecting to a network, web browsing, setting up email, managing contacts and the calendar, playing music and videos, etc. It's important to understand that all of this coverage is at a pretty basic level. It will get anyone going, but if you want more detail-- or any detail, actually-- you'll need a real guide. A good one is "OS X El Capitan: The Missing Manual," by David Pogue.

My bottom line: This is an absolutely outstanding introductory manual for OS X El Capitan. It's also useful for those upgrading from previous Mac operating systems. I recommend it most highly.


ZAGG Messenger Folio Tablet Keyboard Case for iPad mini 2 / iPad mini 3 - Black (IM3BSF-BB0)
ZAGG Messenger Folio Tablet Keyboard Case for iPad mini 2 / iPad mini 3 - Black (IM3BSF-BB0)
Price: $59.99
7 used & new from $38.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A great keyboard case, December 2, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a great keyboard case for the iPad Mini.

The mounting system is a model of good design. It uses plastic clips to hold the iPad into the case. Getting the tablet in to and out of the case is quick and easy. This is FAR superior to the elastic bands that are used on some other cases. There's no worry at all that the iPad will drop out of the case, no matter how you hold it or move it around.

The keyboard works extremely well. Of course, it's narrow-- the same width as the iPad mini-- which means the keys are small. However, they're very easy to get used to, and the tactile feel of the keys is excellent. I used it with several apps, and it worked perfectly with every one of them. I've always used the virtual keyboard, which I think works fine, but this keyboard works better, especially for longer documents. Once you get used to its compact size, using it is just like using a regular computer keyboard.

It communicates with the iPad via Bluetooth, and the initial connection and pairing worked perfectly. There is, however, an issue: There are no directions for charging the keyboard included in the box. There is a very minimal Quick Start Guide, but it offers no details about charging the keyboard or operating it at all. I just plugged it in with a micro-usb cable, and it charged. On the plus side, it seems to hold a charge for a very long time.

This case includes the magnetic switch in the cover to shut down and turn on the iPad when you open and close the case, which is a very good thing. However, you have to take care to close it just right on the little notches at the corners in order to make the feature work. It's not a deal-breaker, but it is something to be aware of.

My bottom line: If you need a more serious, nearly production keyboard for your iPad mini than the virtual keyboard, this is an excellent choice. It works perfectly, and the price is a real bargain. I recommend it most highly.


Kill Any Exam With Power Of Time: Change the way you study
Kill Any Exam With Power Of Time: Change the way you study

2.0 out of 5 stars Pretty obvious ideas, November 16, 2015
This short book isn't so much a method for doing well on exams as it is a collection of test prep ideas. And most of them are pretty obvious: Attend class, listen to the instructors, do the reading, turn in the assignments, don't hang around with slackers and losers, prepare for tests well in advance, etc. They're all good ideas, to be sure, but they'real all pretty obvious, too.

There are also a few odd ideas. My favorite is that if you like music, you should only listen to one or two songs on your way to the exam, not to lots of music. Why? I'm not really sure. I read the explanation a couple of times, but the reasoning escaped me.

My bottom line: This isn't a bad collection of ideas about how to study. But there's really nothing in it that the typical student hasn't already heard or seen, probably many times.


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