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Philip R. Heath "Gadgets, Music, & Books" RSS Feed (DFW)
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Blues Deluxe
Blues Deluxe
Price: $14.99
41 used & new from $10.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Nice Recovery From So It's Like That, July 26, 2014
This review is from: Blues Deluxe (Audio CD)
I am continuing my reviewer’s journey from the beginning of Joe Bonamassa’s catalog with a stop at Blues Deluxe. This album is still in the early stages of Bonamassa’s career, and once again, there is little resemblance to the prior album So It’s Like That. However, in this instance, it is a good thing.

For this effort, Bonamassa teams with a new producer Bob Held (who will stay on for next album as well), and the results are much improved. Blues Deluxe is a focused blues rock album, and it avoids the trappings of its predecessor. Bonamassa’s recordings take a tour of his greatest influences including B.B. King “You Upset Me Baby”, Robert Johnson “Walking Blues”, and Jeff Beck “Blues Deluxe”. In addition, Bonamassa’s original and live show staple “Woke Up Dreaming” is also here. The other changes of note are in the supporting cast. Benny Harrison (Hammond B-3) and Jon Paris (harmonica) join Kenny Kramme (drums) and Eric Czar (bass). Together with Bonamassa, they produce a jamming collection of blues rock. Blues Deluxe has a more grit than So It’s Like That, and it lacks the latter’s slick production. The overall effort still has room for improvement. Bonamassa still hasn’t found his vocal sweet spot (this won’t come for a few more albums). Yet, it is not a major detraction, and it pairs well with is continuing excellent guitar play. Unlike So It’s Like That, Blues Deluxe is an album that merits repeated listens. It is not up to par with his best work, but it is still worthy material.

Overall: B-


Tide Gentle HE Laundry Detergent 77 Count
Tide Gentle HE Laundry Detergent 77 Count
Price: $24.02

4.0 out of 5 stars Work Well But Pricy, July 25, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I’ve never used pods in my washer before, but I have used Cascade pods in my dishwasher before. The convenience is nice, and I decided to try these from Tide. I have an LG washer, and it has a try for soap. The instructions on the Tide pods do not address this, but I decided to put the pod in the tray rather than in the bottom of the washer as the Tide instructions directed. This proved to work without issue, and the pods work just as effectively as the liquid. The real issue with the pods is cost. They can be as much as twice as expensive per load. The question you must answer is whether the convenience and lack of measuring and mess is worth it. If it is, you will be happy with these.


Leading Lean Software Development: Results Are not the Point
Leading Lean Software Development: Results Are not the Point
by Mary Poppendieck
Edition: Paperback
Price: $39.50
57 used & new from $18.56

5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read For Lean Transformation Leaders, July 25, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Leading Lean Software Development is book three in the Poppendieck “trilogy” on lean software development, and I have read and reviewed the previous two. I can say with no hesitation that this installment covers valuable ground within minimal overlap with the previous books. However, I would highly recommend starting at the beginning. The previous books provide the foundations that you will need to truly get the most out of this one.

Leading Lean Software Development speaks to a variety of leaders in an IT organization. While managers will benefit greatly, architects will also find great value. Chapter One will appeal greatly to architects or chief engineers that are responsible for driving the vision of products. The great thing about the material here is that it ties everything to business value, and this provides the proper framing for making technical decisions. On the flipside, managers are expected to have a high degree of technical competence that directly relates to the people that they lead. This will be in direct conflict with the practice of many companies where managers come from pure project management or other non-technical backgrounds. While that doesn’t make them bad managers as a matter of course, it will limit their effectiveness in implementing the principles of this book.

There are many ways to skin the proverbial IT cat, and Lean is one of them. If your organization is considering a Lean implementation, read this book. It tells you what you need to know individually, and it will also help you evaluate your chances of success. The biggest warning that the Poppendiecks give is copying practice without understanding the principles behind them. Reading this book will help you (and hopefully by extension your organization) avoid this mistake. The material in here is pure gold. I highly recommend it.


Linksys AC1200 MAX Wi-Fi Range Extender (RE6500)
Linksys AC1200 MAX Wi-Fi Range Extender (RE6500)

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too Many Downsides, July 25, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Good:
+ Increases Signal Strength
+ Music Streaming

The Bad:
- Setup from Tablet Failed
- Decreased Network Speed
- Poor Documentation
- Creates Security Vulnerabilities

Overall: While the Linksys RE6500 Range Extender provides the services advertised, the downsides prevent me from recommended it for general usage.

Setup: The instructions that come with the Linksys RE6500 Range Extender are terse to say the least. I wanted to verify how easy the setup really was, and I tried using my tablet. I got as far as connecting to my router, and the RE6500 freaked out. I was unable to reach it again, and I had to power cycle it to continue. I switched to my laptop, and things worked as advertised.

Documentation: While the initial setup worked as advertised, Linksys provides you with no additional information. Nothing on the box or the product page give any indication how music streaming works. Even the product information page on Linksys’s website is void of information. I had to dig through support before I found the user manual. While I agree with keeping this online, Linksys should have at least provided the URL on their one-sheet instructions.

Performance: I used a wi-fi analyzer to check my connectivity before and after setting up the RE6500 in my living room. I had about 60-65% signal strength prior to setup, and I got 75-80% afterward. I was within 10 feet of the RE6500, and I had a clear line of sight to it. Perhaps my expectations are too high, but I would have expected closer to 85-90%. I had to get within two feet to achieve this. The real downside was that my network speed decreased from 144 MB/s before to 104 MB/s after. I find this unacceptable.

Music Streaming: Another piece of key information is missing from the one-sheeter, the box, and the Linksys’s product page. The music streaming occurs via a DLNA server destination, and your tablet/smartphone must use a player capable of sending its audio output to a DLNA server. This means that Android users will not be able to stream from Amazon Music (Prime or otherwise) because DLNA is not supported. This feature will work from Windows Media Player and iTunes.

Security: This is the double-edged sword of “easy to setup” network devices. There is a web interface to the RE6500, but I only found this by accident while looking up how to stream music to the RE6500. I went to this web interface (192.168.1.24), and it has a typical default credential of no username and “admin” password. It also broadcasts “Linksys Extender Setup” as its SSID by default. So what’s the big deal? Hopefully you have password protected your network with WPA2. If you did, you have to pass this information to the RE6500 during setup. In the most questionable decision on this product, Linksys decided to store your “secure” information with unadvertised default account credentials in plain text within this unadvertised web access. So, the backdoor to the RE6500 is wide open, and it gives the (literal) keys to the front door of your network away with no real effort. If I’ve made your head hurt, don’t buy this device. If you understand what I’ve said, you can secure the RE6500 to an extent. You can change the SSID that it broadcasts, and you can change the password on the device.

Conclusion: While the basic features of the Linksys RE6500 Range Extender work, there are too many downsides. I cannot recommend this product.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 26, 2014 11:17 AM PDT


The Kill Switch: A Tucker Wayne Novel (Sigma Force Novels)
The Kill Switch: A Tucker Wayne Novel (Sigma Force Novels)
by James Rollins
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.96
133 used & new from $4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A Great (But Different) Rollins Novel, July 25, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I’ve read two of James Rollins Sigma novels with the most recent one being Bloodline. The significance of Bloodline is that this is where Tucker Wayne and his military-trained dog Kane first appear. Fans of Sigma novels will need an open mind for The Kill Switch because it does not follow the standard Sigma novel formula.

Let me explain. In Sigma novels, there are typically at least two story arcs running concurrently with multiple members of the Sigma Team involved. This often expands to additional arcs if someone get separated or captured. The Kill Switch is (with the exception of the setup chapters) all about Tucker Wayne.

If you liked the Tucker and Kane duo, you should like The Kill Switch. It has some of the elements of Sigma novels: scientific danger, multiple locations, and villains bent upon destruction. The action flows well, and readers will find the usual amount of luck/unlikely escapes and solutions to problems. However, these are what make Rollins novels fun. I don’t mind suspending reality, and I found The Kill Switch just as enjoyable (although different) than Rollins other work. I’m not sure if the more linear story comes from the addition of Grant Blackwood as co-author, but I have no qualms with calling this a bona fide Rollins novel. I think you just have to have the right expectations going in. Tucker and Kane are the only familiar characters with anything more than a passing reference. Painter Crowe only has what could be called a cameo appearance. Cheers!

Overall: A-


So It's Like That
So It's Like That
Price: $11.49

3.0 out of 5 stars The Dreaded Sophomore Slump, July 23, 2014
This review is from: So It's Like That (MP3 Music)
My next stop in effort to review Joe Bonamassa’s entire body of work prior to the September release of Different Shades of Blue lands at So It’s Like That. It was Joe Bonamassa’s sophomore studio album in 2002, but a lot changed from A New Day Yesterday - and not for the better. Unfortunately, Tom Dowd’s declining health (and sadly his death a few months after this album was released) meant that Bonamassa worked with new producers. The ‘s’ at the end of that last word is significant because this album has a distinct “too many cooks in the kitchen” feel to it.

Consider the wide variety of styles. Sometimes you find a Jimi Hendrix funk (“No Slack”) while others are smoother pop rock like Bryan Adams (“Unbroken”) or Richard Marx circa Repeat Offender (“My Mistake”). Yet additional styles similar to Nickleback (“Under The Radar”) or Collective Soul (“The Hard Way”) lean toward more hard rock. The one stylistic holdover from A New Day Yesterday are the nods to Stevie Ray Vaughn (“So It’s Like That” and “Takin’ The Hit”).

In addition to the plethora of influences, Bonamassa’s vocal delivery is a noted departure from his previous album. While A New Day Yesterday had a very rough edge to the vocals, So It’s Like That displays the smoother, mellower delivery with which present day fans are familiar. The one exception is “Pain And Sorrow”, which uses an odd filter or other effect to alter Bonamassa’s voice. Overall, the vocals are an improvement.

The lyrics, however, are not. All but one of the songs are Bonamassa originals, and he had not yet mastered the craft of penning the words to a song. While there are many examples, I’ll give you this one from “Lie #1” - “The phone is ringing off the hook with dudes looking for you.”

Overall, it is hard to know what to make of So It’s Like That. The one consistent carryover from A New Day Yesterday is Bonamassa’s excellent guitar play. A few of the songs will make appearances on live recordings with “Mountain Time” getting the lion’s share. However, neither it nor “So It’s Like That” or “Pain And Sorrow” resemble the much-improved versions that can be found on the Tour de Force recordings. Luckily, this is as far down as Bonamassa’s albums get. It is not awful, but it is not one that I will listen to regularly in the future.

Overall: C+


A New Day Yesterday (Live)
A New Day Yesterday (Live)
Price: $9.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Live Recordings Improve On The Studio Versions, July 18, 2014
A New Day Yesterday (Live) is stop number two in my quest to review Joe Bonamassa’s entire catalog before Different Shades Of Blue comes out in September. Bonamassa recorded this set in late December 2001 prior to releasing his second studio album So It’s Like That. Bonamassa is the only player who carries over from the studio recording. Eric Czar (bass) and Kenny Kramme (drums) comprise the remainder of the three-piece jam band - this format was reprised twelve years later at the Borderline Tour de Force session.

Bonamassa sticks mostly to material from the studio album, and he performs nine of the 12 (unique) songs. The “new” material is the “Jam Intro” and a cover of “Steppin’ Out/Rice Pudding” are the new material. You might be asking yourself, “What’s the draw?” I assure you that there is one. The overall play is looser than it was in the studio. Also, Bonamassa delivers a number of scorching, extended solos. He was a truly gifted player at this stage of his career. Finally, his vocals are not as ragged as they were in the studio.

Overall, A New Day Yesterday (Live) makes a nice complement to the studio album in spite of the heavy overlap in material. True fans will find alternate takes of the songs with better vocals. I highly recommend it.


Remington F3-3900B Rechargeable Foil with Pivot and Flex Technology
Remington F3-3900B Rechargeable Foil with Pivot and Flex Technology
Offered by Brooklyn Battery Works
Price: $23.49
53 used & new from $16.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Performs Well For The Price, July 18, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have a bit of a unique set of requirements in an electric razor. I have always had skin that is easily irritated and difficult to achieve a close shave. As a result, I have kept a beard for over a decade. Still, I have to shave my throat and the parts of my cheeks for shaping. I had been shaving these areas manually once a week, but I decided that an electric shaver might cause less irritation and help me keep more of a clean look.

Enter the Remington F3-3900B. I have never used a Remington shaver before, but I have not been disappointed with this one. For the first week, I used the shaver on plain dry skin. It worked fairly well, but I wished for a closer shave. During week two, I used pre-shave to make the hair stand up, and I was pleased with the results. It is still not blade close, but it is good enough. I still use a manual razor once a week to clean things up. Overall, I am pleased with the performance of the Remington. I am able to get five shaves on a charge.

One area where the Remington could be is design. Its plastic casing and the foil seem flimsy, and I have some durability concerns. It is easy to clean by removing the foil and using the brush that comes with it. The power cord is long enough to making charging easy.

Overall, I recommend the Remington F3-3900B. In spite of the flimsy material, it is not overly expensive. It would be easy to pay more than double. I guess it comes down to the old fact that you get what you pay for.


A New Day Yesterday
A New Day Yesterday
Price: $9.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Bonamassa's One Collaboration With Producer Tom Dowd, July 11, 2014
This review is from: A New Day Yesterday (MP3 Music)
I was not a fan of Joe Bonamassa back in 2000 when he released A New Day Yesterday as his debut album. I hadn’t even heard of him back then, but I have grown to love his music with more recent material as my introduction. I’ve decided to acquire and review his entire discography prior to his new album coming out the fall.

A New Day Yesterday stands out as a unique album for a number of reasons in Bonamassa’s career. It is apparent from the beginning that he is a talented musician, and ace producer Tom Dowd did a great job of reining in the raw talent that he was working with. On this album, Bonamassa is backed only by Tony Cintron on drums and Creamo Liss on bass. This three-piece band format won’t be seen again until the live show in 2013 at the Borderline from the Tour de Force. Interestingly both “I Know Where I Belong” and “Miss You, Hate You” from this album make an appearance in the 2013 live show. Further, they both stand the test of time.

The one thing that was truly surprising on A New Day Yesterday was Joe’s voice. It is almost like the aging process worked in reverse for him. Whereas many vocalists lose their chops and become raspy after years of touring, Bonamassa’s voice has become full and mellow over time.

However, the big draw for Bonamassa on this album is his guitar playing. While I’m sure he had many influences going into the studio, the two that are at the forefront are Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn - not bad choices for an aspiring young guitarist. Vaughn’s influence can be heard on “Walk In My Shadow” and “I Know Where I Belong” while “Don’t Burn Down That Bridge” has more of a Hendrix feel.

For the album as a whole, the guitar playing never lets you down. The gruff vocals and overall style create much more of a blues rock than pure blues sound. It was a very good debut album from a then 23-year-old kid breaking onto the scene. It is a shame that this was the only album that Bonamassa recorded with Dowd at the helm, but Dowd’s health kept him from working with Joe again before he passed away. Dowd harnessed and focused Bonamassa’s raw talent into a collection of songs that are still good today. The difference in Joe’s voice can be unsettling, but it grows on you. Recent Bonamassa fans should give this a try if they have yet to do so.

Overall: B


Belkin Chef Stand for Tablets
Belkin Chef Stand for Tablets
Offered by GoodPoints Electronics
Price: $8.50
24 used & new from $8.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Just For The Kitchen!, July 11, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
There is only one bad thing that I can say about the Belkin Chef Stand for Tablets: its name makes it hard to find for those in need of a good stand outside of the kitchen. I looked through a bunch of flimsy plastic stands before I got to this one in my search results on Amazon, but I am glad that I kept looking. I have this on my desk at work next to my monitor, and I have my 8” Acer tablet in it at all times as an additional information display/clock - this is a great use for old tablets by the way. This stand has a quality build, and it looks nice in a professional setting. I don’t need to portability of a folding stand, and I couldn’t be happier with this product. Belkin, if you are reading, find a way to market this to a broader use base. I’m sure it’s great in the kitchen, but it’s pretty nice outside of the kitchen too!


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