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Daniel Howard RSS Feed (San Jose, CA USA)
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VIZIO M701d-A3R 70-Inch 1080p 3D Smart LED HDTV (2013 Model)
VIZIO M701d-A3R 70-Inch 1080p 3D Smart LED HDTV (2013 Model)

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very, very good budget TV with passive 3D, December 15, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I really like this TV but, after 6 months of use, I have to admit that it is a budget TV, not a high end TV. The picture and colors are very good but, honestly, I feel that the TV is more of a workhorse than an artiste. Everything is very effective on this TV but just not really designed for the connoisseur.

3D: It's passive 3D with theater style polarized glasses. The glasses are light and easy to wear; they are like cheap sunglasses and look that way but still sturdy. When viewing 3D content from the correct distance ( > 7.5 feet or so ) and at a reasonable angle, the 3D picture is full 1080p (1920 x 1080) with no jagged artifacts on the 3D content itself. HOWEVER, if you view 3D content abnormally close ( 3 feet or so ), you can disrupt the 3D effect and see the interlaced black lines such that it is essentially 540p (1920 x 540 for each eye) which makes the picture appear low resolution. Image fusion, which allows two lower resolution images to mix in the viewer's brain to create a high resolution 3D image, works in real life. Even though the 3D content is high resolution, the resolution cut can be seen on 2D content on the same screen; specifically, if you look at the Play icon on the Playstation 3, it will be in low resolution because it isn't in 3D. I've watched lots of 3D movies on this TV, Avatar, Dredd, Despicable Me 2, Megamind and more and this TV gives a vivid 3D experience when viewed properly. 3D pop-outs and pop-ins are depicted accurately on this TV. 3D pop-outs and pop-ins are controlled by the content; better 3D TVs do NOT pop-out more. But, when all is said and done, I'd consider a 4K TV with passive 3D as of now (late 2014).

Smart Apps: I've used the Smart Apps a lot, mostly Netflix (daily) and Amazon. Both apps are pretty reliable but have occasionally be finicky. Sometimes, if you try to access the apps too quickly after starting the TV, the apps can crash or the Internet cannot be accessed. The cure is to turn the TV off, then on again and wait a little longer before starting the app. Even though I have a Playstation 3 to access the same apps, I've found the Smart Apps on the TV faster, more convenient and to have a slightly better interface. I don't think that you should buy this TV for the Smart Apps but, since they are there, they should be useful and effective.

Remote: I have used the Vizio remote on occasion. This TV's remote is both an infrared and Wifi remote and a firmware update a while back turned on the Wifi capability. However, I mostly use a programmable Logitech activity (infrared) remote. Unlike other people, I've found the accuracy of the (infrared) remote to be average, usually working and only occasionally missing the remote command. My Samsung TV upstairs is slightly less sensitive to its remote so, by comparison, this TV's remote is a little better. If you are using the remote that comes with the TV, it's possible that it may switch into Wifi mode and, if you have a lot of Wifi traffic around your house, the remote might not work very well. The Wifi remote works by the TV broadcasting itself perpetually as a Wifi router and the remote acting as a Wifi client. The Wifi connection is custom and not general purpose so no other clients can use it.

I did a warranty replacement on the optical cable connector because Acoustic Research brand optical cables go into this TV easily but are nearly impossible to get out. The connector broke. It's just a quirk: neither the TV nor the cable are to blame, just a weird incompatibility between the TV and the cable. After sending Vizio a picture, Vizio authorized a free on-site replacement (due to the size of the TV) and the third party service company was fast and convenient. TV is as good as new now.


Kumho Solus KR21 Tire - 235/70R16 104T SL
Kumho Solus KR21 Tire - 235/70R16 104T SL
Price: $109.98
7 used & new from $68.24

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Scam, July 10, 2014
I've had three sets of Kumho Solus KR21 tires on two different cars so I know these tires. These tires last between 35K - 50K; absolutely impossible for them to last for the 85K warranty. Kumho always cheats on the prorated warranty with some new scam. Just today, Kumho claimed that they prorate "average wear" so, if the edges are 3/32s and the center is 5/32s, the tire is prorated to 4/32s. That's dangerous and ridiculous.


Mount-It! Single Arm Extra Extension Swiveling Tilting Articulating Full Motion Cantilever Wall Mount Bracket for Plasma LCD LED TVs with FREE HDMI Cable
Mount-It! Single Arm Extra Extension Swiveling Tilting Articulating Full Motion Cantilever Wall Mount Bracket for Plasma LCD LED TVs with FREE HDMI Cable
Offered by Value Max
Price: $71.99
4 used & new from $59.99

1.0 out of 5 stars A diabolically bad mount in some ways, June 29, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
For me, the lag bolts that came with this mount were silvery metal, not black metal, seemed of good quality and worked fine. But, from installing other mounts, I know that the black metal lag bolts are no good and should be replaced.

The swivel mechanism works fine allowing a full 180 degrees of positioning of the TV. That works great. The tilting mechanism (which goes from 0 to -15 degrees) relies on friction (!) to keep your TV tilted at the desired angle. That's diabolically bad.

Let me explain. If the majority of the weight of your TV is below where the mount attaches to your TV, your TV will want to fall to 0 degrees. If you tip it to -5 degrees (so it's facing down a little), it will want to slide back to 0 degrees. So, there is a screw which you tighten to squeeze two pieces of metal together to keep it at -5 degrees. Smooth metal slips so that will never stay for very long. The uneven weight will always loosen that screw, the metal will slip and your TV will "fall" back to 0 degrees. But, if your TV is like mine (Vizio 70 inch) where the bulk of the weight of the TV is above where the mount attaches to your TV, the TV will always loosen the screw and the TV will suddenly tip forward to -15 degrees (facing downward) as the metal slips. So, in theory, this TV mount allows you to adjust the tilt between 0 and -15 degrees but, in practice, your TV will always fall to either 0 or -15 degrees, depending on the weight distribution of the TV. That's useless and horrible, even worse than no tilt at all. In fact, the only solution is to drill holes (in metal) and add a few screws to force the tilt to be what you want ... unless your TV just naturally goes to the position that you want.

The holes in the parts of the mount that attach to the TV seem inaccurate so they just don't match up to my standard TV. Again, extra holes can be drilled in metal but, with better design, this part could handle many more TVs.

It's possible that you'll just get lucky with this mount and the mount will happen to work well with your TV. But, for my TV, this mount is terrible.


Little Tikes Jump n Slide Dry Bouncer
Little Tikes Jump n Slide Dry Bouncer
Offered by Wayfair
Price: $246.64
31 used & new from $148.36

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still going strong since 2007, June 22, 2014
We bought this Little Tikes bounce house in 2007. For a few years, we pulled it out at every birthday party and it was always the life of the party. We also used it a lot in summers, inflating and deflating it each day in a grassy area in front of our house. After being stored in our garage for a few years, we pulled it out recently for a few days and it's still fun for our 10 year old. Now, only two kids can go in at a time (weight limit is 250 lbs) but they still have fun, yelling, throwing (very soft plastic) balls at each other and bouncing.

It's a really good size, not too big and not too small.


Developing Backbone.js Applications
Developing Backbone.js Applications
by Addy Osmani
Edition: Paperback
Price: $29.98
60 used & new from $15.99

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A tough introduction, September 4, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I like this book but I don't care much for the layout. It starts with an introduction, crams Backbone.js basics into a single chapter, presents two solid Backbone.js examples and then uses the rest of the book to cover Backbone.js extensions (e.g. Marionette, Thorax, Paginator) and other JavaScript libraries (e.g. RequireJS, jQuery Mobile, Jasmine, QUnit, SinonJS). It's unnerving that 60%+ of the book only has a tenuous connection to Backbone.js. The author probably wrote this book to show how he develops single-page applications and the Backbone.js-focused title was bolted on to help with marketing.

I've been working my way through the code samples. As expected, there are a few places where the code has editing/syntax errors, there are a few places were the code works but it does not do much to improve understanding (and could be improved to make it crystal clear) and there are a few places where Backbone.js has since changed since the book was published. The Backbone.js basics chapter is long but, in several cases, glosses over important topics, especially the Backbone.js REST support. Through trial-and-error and continued reading, I have gotten to understand them but I would have preferred the book to explain them thoroughly and in one place. The Backbone.js basics chapter is tough and tedious to work through and required several attempts. It is tough and tedious because I am actually typing and executing the code and, due to the errors, lack of clarity and Backbone.js changes, I need to spend 1/2 hour to enhance and experiment with the code every 1/3 of a page.

The two Backbone.js chapters with sample applications (a To Do list and a Library) are significantly easier and a bit better than the Backbone.js basics chapter and the Library sample goes into more detail about Backbone.js REST support. Still, the book would have been better if it had done a line-by-line explanation instead of just summarizing and glossing over details. It's a missed opportunity: rather than dissect Backbone.js for all to see and nail down the details once and for all, the book settles for drive-by explanations.

The Marionette and Thorax chapter is written with co-authors. They read like blog posts and are completely disconnected from the previous chapters. The Marionette part is difficult and full of unexplained code but almost understandable. The Thorax part is only 6.5 pages and largely incoherent. This chapter is filler.

I'm not done with the book; I'll try to remember to update my view when and if I finish.

Despite what I've said, I recommend the book because it is helping me to learn Backbone.js.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 18, 2013 8:26 AM PDT


Effective XML: 50 Specific Ways to Improve Your XML
Effective XML: 50 Specific Ways to Improve Your XML
by Elliotte Rusty Harold
Edition: Paperback
Price: $39.59
42 used & new from $3.64

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dated but interesting, May 31, 2013
This book was written almost 10 years ago so it is somewhat dated.

The introduction is brutally dull. It's tempting to quit right there. But skip it or slug it out because the actual ways to improve your XML are more practical and interesting.

Most of the ways to improve your XML (which there are 50) are useful, interesting and worth considering. Reading the book inspired me to investigate further and, in some cases, see if the author's advice had panned out the way that he expected way back in 2004. I suspect that some of the standards that the author references have fallen by the wayside and been forgotten.

The last few suggestions of the book, though, seem to be grasping, just to make a total number of 50.

Still, it's a useful and interesting book, especially if you want to peek into the corners of XML.


Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family
Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family
by Condoleezza Rice
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.59
163 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Shallow, May 23, 2013
Why did Condoleezza Rice become a Republican? Her parents were Republicans (but they voted for JFK and loved RFK), she was disgusted with Carter's worldview and liked Reagan's worldview and Republicans ignore rather than patronize minorities. She gives one example of something dumb that Carter says on TV but, other than that and these facts, that's all she says.

She admits that the tenure system at universities has flaws but we should keep it exactly as is with no changes. (Page 240.)

The book recounts events and her feelings but has very little analysis. Often, she will tell that she gave a presentation, that an important person was impressed but she will not say why the person was impressed or what the primary argument of her presentation was. Many of her arguments, including why she became a Republican and why she supports the tenure system, leave the reader with large, unanswered questions. It is very shallow and lacking in insight.

Her parents were wonderful people. She skipped a few grades and went to college early. Her family lived in Birmingham (during the Civil Rights era) and then Denver. That's the first 2/3 of the book: her pre-adult life.

The last 1/3 is about becoming a Soviet expert at Stanford, working in the first Bush Administration (her Soviet expertise was rare and important during the lead up to and collapse of the Soviet Union), working as the provost (a 2nd in command) at Stanford and a few short chapters on joining the Presidential campaign of George W. Bush.

If this truly is a picture of Condoleezza Rice, I respect her past, her family and her accomplishments. But I question how somebody could be so self-unaware and express points-of-view with only a shallow and incomplete explanation.

I was ready for arguments or insights on discrimination, affirmative action, the Soviet Union, tenure, becoming a Republican and/or the first Bush Administration. But they never came.


Imperial Gazetteer: Ghouls and Vampires of the Midgard Campaign Setting
Imperial Gazetteer: Ghouls and Vampires of the Midgard Campaign Setting
by Wolfgang Baur
Edition: Paperback
Price: $17.33
27 used & new from $9.94

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A super imaginative product, May 21, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I rarely buy gaming books but the concept of an empire run by undead really caught my imagination. This book really delivers on that promising concept, giving an interesting and logical setting for role-playing games.


Live At Filoli
Live At Filoli
10 used & new from $12.14

5.0 out of 5 stars Great Jazz, May 18, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Live At Filoli (Audio CD)
I bought this CD for my wife and she really loves it! She's into jazz and she really enjoys playing this CD and getting to know the songs.


Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension - Playstation 3
Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension - Playstation 3
Offered by Outlet Promotions
Price: $15.65
43 used & new from $9.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Great for elementary school kids, March 30, 2013
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
For adults, this game is meh. But, for elementary school kids, this game is perfect. The Phineas and Ferb bonus episodes are a bonus for everybody.

For elementary school kids, this game is not too hard and not too easy. That's a really difficult balance to attain. Too easy and there is no sense of challenge or accomplishment. Too hard and it is frustrating and boring. But, for my son, this game strikes the perfect balance. He's played through the entire game four or five times but he still finds it rewarding to complete the game. For most scenes, it's exciting but just a matter of mashing buttons enough times. For one or two scenes, though, it is very challenging and barely within his ability. That's really great.

We rented this game several times from Blockbuster but my son liked it so much that we got it for his birthday.

In the PS3 version, there is a bug. In one of the later levels, you can't start in one player mode; you have to start in two player mode. Once the level is started, though, the second player can drop out. That's an annoyance and, if you've only got one controller, a showstopper.

Still, it's a great game for kids. And, since the game is based on a movie of the same name, kids can watch the movie and understand exactly what's going on the game.


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