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MWebb RSS Feed (Berkeley, CA)

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Roku Streaming Stick (3600R)
Roku Streaming Stick (3600R)
Offered by Shelby Home Rentals
Price: $39.00
27 used & new from $39.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No on-screen or on-remote control volume level control, otherwise, AMAZING, June 8, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
5 Stars means "I love it." But this is a love-hate relationship - it's the best streaming hardware out there, superfast in this latest model, it's super cheap at under $40, and it has an incredibly simple iPhone/Android/WinPhone app for listening privately through headphones.

Why the "hate" then?

Like apparently every other piece of streaming hardware, it has no built-in volume control.

This is a serious problem for me since I listen at my computer and the HDMI feeds into the monitor with audio out through a headphone jack. The headphone jack runs direct to my self-powered monitor speakers (JBL) and thus the ONLY way to control the volume is through the knobs on the back of EACH speaker OR the more usual way, via the on-screen controls.

Except Windows 10 has on-screen controls, my Asus Chromebit has on-screen controls and the Roku - NONE, not on the remote, not on the Roku screen.

I don't think most of you will have this problem, so I didn't in good conscience delete a star (it's terrific hardware). BUT if you aren't running this through an amplifier with a remote to control the volume, you will be left high and dry.


Ontario 8908 Joe Pardue Utiliac Folding Knife (Black)
Ontario 8908 Joe Pardue Utiliac Folding Knife (Black)
Offered by Red's Gear
Price: $27.56
28 used & new from $26.74

5.0 out of 5 stars Pure tactical design, works as EDC but "eye catching", May 7, 2016
This is a review of the Ontario 8908 Joe Pardue Utilitac - the non-tanto version, satin finish blade, coffin handle.

At under $30, this is an incredible value in a tactical design folding knife. Joe Pardue is the son of long-time knife designer Mel Pardue, who (Mel) has done some pretty classic designs in his time - my favorite being the Benchmade 530/531 series, which I first encountered when it was liner-lock, now reincarnated as an Axis lock. One of the thinnest, lightest "mini-tac" folders in existence, and one of the finest gentleman's or soldier of fortune's letter openers.

Take the thin, short, and light 530 and head off running in a 180 degrees opposite direction and you have the Utilitac II. Both coffin-handled, but while one is thin and light enough for James Bond to carry at his ankle held up by no more than a sock, the modern interpretation is bulky and brutal - thick, overbuilt, utra-wide blade with more of a Bowie than stilleto "feel" to it. A knife that would provoke a "now THAT'S a knife" comment at the campfire.

I don't know how to begin to describe the look and feel (the handle looks awkward, as though your hand would ride up on it, but in reality feels very comfortable and the reverse angle of the coffin-shape both helps add to that comfort and helps to keep the handle solidly positioned in your grip). You pretty much need to get one and try it out yourself!

The design is so singular you will either fall in love with it, and daily-carry it, or say to yourself "interesting...interesting...but I'll stick my (insert the name of your current favorite EDC) instead." Not a love/hate design, more like a knife that is SO HIGHLY PERSONALIZED by the designer, that you will either jump on the bandwagon, or not - but respect it either way.

If this were $300 - it is designed and built like a $300 small factory "custom" - you would want to read all the reviews and maybe even buy bricks and mortar so you can handle it first. Same if it were $100, or even $49.95. But it isn't - it's usually sub-$30, sometimes even $25 with free shipping. So buying blind isn't the big risk you may think it is, even given the "one of a kind," potentially polarizing design.

For your $25-$30 you will get an extremely high quality-control knife (currently) made in Taiwan, not mainland China where most of the other "new wave" of sub-$40 knives come from. You get an unabashedly tactical design - no way around that, it will provoke oohs and aahs from tac fans, and hate from sheeple - from a thought-provoking designer. Once you play with this, the light will go on - both as to why Joe Pardue chose to design it in this unconventional way, and why other designers make other choices. If I had a relative heading to a war zone - this is the knife I would gift them. It won't work miracles, but it is so much more than a Buck and so much cheaper than an Emerson.

I'm not a fan of liner-locks. This one is carefully designed to avoid accidental "fat of the hand" unlocking from a panic squeeze. And the liner that does the locking has incredibly tactile scalloping where you press to unlock, strictly speaking unnecessary, but an indication of the poetry of the design.
I don't like liner-locks principally because there is no built-in "spring" to re-close the blade if pocket movement opens it a tad. And because the initial thumb "pop" required to clear the blade from the closed position with a liner-lock is substantial, compared to a typical lockback design. But liner and frame locks are pretty much the way you need to go to keep costs down - they are more solid than most lockbacks (but not more solid than Cold Steel's Triad lockback). And liner-locks are pretty much self-cleaning - the open frame of this knife lets lint and sand fall through, the liner lock "sweeps" the rear of the blade at the engagement area free of lint and sand. Hence good for rough use in the field.

Black is better for offensive use, since it minimizes visibility of the blade both in daytime and nightime - but actual tac operators know that and will probably spent the big bucks on the Emerson's anyway, or go with an infinitely better fixed blad. Silver is better in terms of wear and tear, and better in terms of a soldier on guard duty getting someone to back off by deploying the blade - you WANT visibility in that situation, so somebody getting in the soldier's face doesn't mix up a non-lethal flashlight for a lethal knife.

So, in a nutshell, buy this for the pure joy of experiencing a new knife designer's best thinking. Carry a less intimidating EDC for opening your Amazon boxes.


Anker Lightning to USB Cable 6ft / 1.8m Extra Long with Compact Connector Head [Apple MFi Certified] for iPhone, iPad and iPod (White)
Anker Lightning to USB Cable 6ft / 1.8m Extra Long with Compact Connector Head [Apple MFi Certified] for iPhone, iPad and iPod (White)
Offered by AnkerDirect
Price: $17.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Cheaper & more robust than Apple, fits more cases than Amazon Basics, May 4, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
.5 star should maybe get deducted for the thicker-than-Apple plastic surround on the Lightning end of this cable. HOWEVER this will fit into the Rhino bumper case on my iPhone 5s, that the Amazon Basics wouldn't fit.

So let's backtrack a little. Here's the basic problem:
Official Apple-made cables are flimsy.

Here's the Anker solution:
A more robust plastic housing on each end of the cable. A more robust stress-release extender out of the plastic housing on each end.

Bonus points:
Cheaper than Apple.
Comparable to Amazon basics, which is equally tough but won't fit some phone and iPad cases.

This 6ft version has a thicker cable to reduce the voltage drop (due to electrical resistance, which is worse on thin cables) over the longer 6ft length.

This is Apple MFi certified to meet Apple specifications. Since all Lightning cables need a unique processor chip to hook up properly, this certification IS important. It is totally Apple approved, in terms of design specs. Anker is well-regarded by reviewers in terms of the other important qualification - quality control.

$8-10 is the price range you should expect to pay for the 6ft Anker. Order directly from Anker Direct as an Amazon Vendor, or from Amazon itself - click through on "Anker Direct" on the product page to see why.


Skdy Inkd Mic Greeney/Lime
Skdy Inkd Mic Greeney/Lime
16 used & new from $12.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Too good to lose, so inexpensive you can afford to lose them, April 30, 2016
This is a review of the BLACK version of the latest Ink'd 2.0 Mic 1 that I purchased directly from Skullcandy's own website last week (April 2016) for $20.99 with free shipping.

Skullcandy also sells the Ink'd 2.0 with no microphone/control for a barebones $15.99, the best bargain in all of earphones world.

Skullcandy considers the Ink'd to be its entry level earphone, BUT it is also Skullcandy's best-selling earphone, so Skullcandy's reputation rides on the Ink'd's quality of construction and sound quality - and they deliver on both. Skullcandy claims, with a straight face, that the Ink'd 2.0 Mic1 provide "Supreme Sound" which is "attacking, powerful bass; warm, natural vocals; and precision highs" and while the aspiring audiophile in me wants to say something snarky, I have to admit that listening to Prince on Crazy, 1999, Red Corvette is, in fact, a rockingly good listening experience, and action movies like Watchmen deliver full audio impact.

I think the Apple Ear Pods - the funny shaped ones - are slightly more detailed (and still have a solid bass), but the hard plastic housing won't stay sealed in m ear canal unless I hold them in place with my fingertips. The Skullcandy, on the other hand, make an excellent seal thanks to the soft silicone tips (they are fitted with medium large and come with small for a total of two different tip sizes).

There shouldn't be any "old stock," first edition Ink'd's floating around. If you see "Discontinued" on an Ink'd 2.0 or Ink'd Mic1 Amazon pages, it probably means that color has been replaced by a newer color, not that the Ink'd has been discontinued or replaced; so be careful if Amazon redirects you to a totally different Skullcandy model. If you aren't sure, check on Skullcandy's own webpage first. Their page even lists Ink'd Mic1 on its "New Arrivals" page, go figure! (Probably for new colors.)

To make sure you DID get the current, second edition Skullcandy - look for a FLAT cable instead of the original round cable.

The flat cable is great by the way - fewer tangles, a little less rubbing noise, looks to hold up much better at the gym and in a bag. (Although the Skullcandy website touts the sweat resistance of their Smokin' Ear Buds while remaining silent on the Ink'd.)

The one-button microphone "bump" on the LEFT earphone piece works like this:
*Single click plays or pauses music. (The instruction sheet says that "single click" also answers or hangs up calls, but I couldn't get that to work on my test Skype call - maybe that's a non-cell phone call quirk).
*Double click for next track. Works.
*Triple click for last track. Works, when you master the right speed to click.
*Long hold for Siri or OK Google - didn't test.
The microphone seemed to pick up my voice fine when I called Skype's "Echo" test call line to make a test recording then listen to myself. Keep in mind the iPhone and most other phones have a secondary noise-cancelling microphone for noisy outdoor conditions (like wind noise) and built-in earphone microphones, even expensive ones, don't have this.

As in the past, the microphone/push button housing seems a little plastic-y. Probably fine in terms of durability if not "feel", but it won't inspire confidence like the solid aluminum housings on more expensive headphones.

On the other hand, at least Skullcandy wised up and changed the almost invisible R-L individual earphone labels to much improved, but still easy-to-overlook, R-L markings (the mic is on the left earphone; maybe not so important for most music, but critical for movies).

And oh yeah, Skullcandy claims ALL microphone features are now "Universal" for both Apple and Android. All earphone makers should do this.

Compared to the $10 more expensive Smokin' Buds - these sound more accurate. The Smokin' Buds, at least the first gen ones I have, deliver artificially boosted bass.

MOST IMPORTANT TIP: these things have some trippy colors and designs, including Plants vs. Zombies editions! I'm a every color is fine so long as it is black kind of buyer, but you owe it to yourself to check out the full range of available colors before you buy.


HP x3000 Wireless Mouse, Black (H2C22AA#ABL)
HP x3000 Wireless Mouse, Black (H2C22AA#ABL)
Price: $7.99
62 used & new from $7.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HP x3000 2.4ghz dongle-based wireless mouse is priceless, at $8.45, April 23, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
5 Star based on current $8.45 selling price.

Doesn't have "soft side rubber" grip panels as described - just plastic, but nicely dimpled.

Uses a AA battery, the easiest to find while traveling. (Some use one, or even two, AAA's which is a more expensive and harder to find alternative.)

Pairs easily; I'm using it in tandem with a a Logitech TV keyboard (K400 Plus with built-in touchpad) which also runs off a 2.4gHz dongle - there isn't any interference between the two.

The Logitech keyboard plus this HP x3000 mouse are currently paired with an Asus Chromebit which is "ChromeOS (or, Chromebook operating system) on a stick" and the setup works fine - I was worried ChromeOS wouldn't be able to pair with two different pointing devices from two different companies with two different dongles, but it did. As for Win8/10 - the packaging says works with Win10 so I trust it does.

One compatibility caveat: ChromeOS Beta 50 version, the most current version as of my review date, has NO granular controls for mouse performance on desktop ChromeOS (peachy keen controls on actual Chromebooks, abysmal on ChromeOS desktop devices). This means scrolling with the scroll wheel isn't as fast as I'd like, but cursor movement is a little speeded up since this is a 1600 dpi mouse (a lower rez mouse would probably move the cursor more slowly).

AT $8.45 A SCREAMING BARGAIN IF YOU WANT A MOUSE FOR EASY USE WITH A TABLET OR LAPTOP.

The top reviewer for this product said his (2013) version is chintzy; so is my version (even though I suspect the product is slightly different since it is no longer soft-touch on the sides). Not on the top - the scroll wheel is fine, the clicking smooth (and quiet, unlike his - it's quieter than my Logitech mice). But underneath - compared to my Logitech sub-$30 wireless mice, the underside looks like a $5 no-name, shipped from overseas, disaster. Doesn't affect use, but not confidence inspiring.

Mice don't seem to come in very standard sizes anymore. I am attaching a photo of three other mice. This one is middle sized, front to back and left to right, but taller than most other mice.

IN THE ATTACHED PICTURE, left to right:
Microsoft basic corded mouse; this HP; Logitech travel/mini mouse M187; generic wireless mouse from Dell that came with my desktop (but says "Logitech" underneath).
Comment Comment | Permalink


iPhone SE Case, RhinoShield [CrashGuard] 11 ft Shock Absorption Ultra Thin Bumper Frame with Lifetime Warranty & FREE Back Transparent Skin. Slim Heavy Duty Protection. Also for iPhone 5 / 5s - Black
iPhone SE Case, RhinoShield [CrashGuard] 11 ft Shock Absorption Ultra Thin Bumper Frame with Lifetime Warranty & FREE Back Transparent Skin. Slim Heavy Duty Protection. Also for iPhone 5 / 5s - Black
Offered by Evolutive labs
Price: $24.99
3 used & new from $21.24

5.0 out of 5 stars The "Cadillac" of Protective, But Slim and Light, Cases. Rear shield included., April 23, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I'm not about to climb up on a ladder and hurl my phone to the ground to test how well this case works - but David Pogue did (search "Pogue Yahoo" for his tech page and scroll down) and his phone survived. I'm going to assume a drop on the kitchen floor will be a piece of cake, if I'm every fumble-fingered.

WHAT I LIKE:
* Only slightly thicker than my stock Apple Store bumper on my former iPhone 4s (I have the Rhino on an iPhone 5s, and it fits nice and snug despite being sized to fit on the5 SE as well).
* Meaningfully taller edges than the Apple bumper look to provide better protection for front and back.
* Easy to operate sections for on-off and volume. (The silent slider is in an open cut out as shown in the picture.
* Ample room for stock Apple Lightning cable tip and most standard size earphone tips.
* Matt black looks classy - no plastic "flashing" or "mold marks." Even twin subtle "edges" for a little design around the perimeter.
* Smooth (but not slippery) finish allows easy sliding into my pull-tab case (stock Apple bumper is a little grabby).
* Includes clear plastic "screen protector style" film for the rear of the SE or S phone body - 3 sections for easier application (with cut outs for camera and flash). Includes small microfiber and adhesive strips to help clean the pack, and a little plastic "bubble smoother" if your technique leaves a couple of stray bubbles to smooth out. You don't have to install this, if you use a case, but I did.

MEH:
* Amazon Basics Lightning cable has a larger than average charging tip and will only fit if you use enough force to snap it in, which bows out the top and bottom edges of the case a little. So I guess I will be using a stock Apple charging cable or a 3rd party design with a more "Apple-sized" charging spade.
* This is some type of "wonder plastic" that absorbs shock better than silicone semi-gummy, semi-hard plastic as used in the Apple factory bumper. It's not slick, but it's also not as grippy as the old Apple stock bumper, or the rip-off imitation silicone bumpers.

A guestimate on durability:

My wife used a baby blue stock Apple (purchased at the Apple Store, so definitely not a fake) and used it for three years on her iPhone 4s. During that time, it discolored either from body oils or the (minimum) amount of sunlight it got exposed to. At the end of its life - and it DID have an "end of life", which is the point - it was weakening at the upper right hand corner where a silver push plate was built-in for smoothly operating the on-off toggle.That was a weak point due to that cut-out (albeit filled with a chrome plate) being near the corner. The stock case actually split apart at that location. Remember, the case was rarely removed, only for SIM changes which were infrequent.

I also had in iPhone 4s, and put a stock Apple bumper on mine too - black. I used mine for a much briefer service life. It showed no signs of deterioration, but we had learned to remove it from the bottom and not from the top by then.

IMHO this RhinoShield should have along and happy life. It is much more robust than the Apple bumper, and while there is a molded push toggle over the iPhone's actual on-off toggle, it's not a cut-out with a push-plate reinserted back in - it's molded into the rim, and provides significant structural rigidity in that otherwise vulnerable corner of the phone.

In short, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THE RHINOSHIELD. I'm really glad they issued a "universal fit" edition for the5, 5s (my phone), and for the new 5 SE.

Did you catch the reference to "Get Shorty" in the review title? When Travolta gets stuck with an Oldsmobile Silhouette minivan despite requesting a Cadillac, and starts referring to it as the "Cadillac of minivans?"
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 26, 2016 11:54 PM PDT


AmazonBasics 2.0 Micro-USB to USB Cable - 6 Feet (1.8 Meters)
AmazonBasics 2.0 Micro-USB to USB Cable - 6 Feet (1.8 Meters)
Price: $3.78

5.0 out of 5 stars A+++ for sturdy, 6 foot length has slight voltage drop read review, too large for some phone cases, April 19, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Version reviewed: 6 foot - 3 foot is recommended instead, if you have a "voltage drop" problem.

Usual top quality and low price for a pretty standard micro USB charging (and data transfer) for Android phones, Windows phones and many tablets, HP 11 Chromebook by Google.

BUT - and it is a pretty big "but" - the micro end is too fat to fit some phones with cases on - take a look at the "big block" at the end of the small tip.

ALSO my HP Stream 7 is fussy with this cable - if I use a "nominally" higher voltage charger, like the Ada Fruit (5.2 rated volts instead of the "standard" 5.0 volts) it will charge with this cable. But if I use the charger that came with it, it won't charge due to the drop in voltage over the 6 foot length. The only 6 foot length cables that work work for me with fussy devices are the Monoprice which uses up-sized 24AWG wire for the power lines.

SO if this works on your device, rejoice, it will last almost forever, it is sturdy. If it doesn't work, try the cable that came with your device, or the 3 foot version of this cable, or a 24AWG Monoprice cable.


Creative Sound Blaster Jam Ultra-Light Bluetooth Headset
Creative Sound Blaster Jam Ultra-Light Bluetooth Headset
Price: $38.98
51 used & new from $29.24

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre sound quality, headband too tight., April 10, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Mediocre sound, in a world where even budget headphones are getting really, really good. For example, the Monoprice Hi Fi Lightweight Solid Bass Clear and Articulate Acoustic On Ear Headphones with In Line Controls and Built In Microphone sound much better (although they lack cordless convenience of the Logitech).

Also, the spring band is too tight. Maybe good for aerobics, tiresome for laptop use.

Usually Logitech offers better value. If these had a more comfortable fit and better sound, they are 5 star in terms of price and compact size. Hopefully the next edition will nail it.


TechMatte USB-C to Micro USB Adapter Convert Connector for HTC 10, LG G5, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, OnePlus 3 with 56k Resistor; Approved to Meet USB Type-C Standard (2-Pack, Black)
TechMatte USB-C to Micro USB Adapter Convert Connector for HTC 10, LG G5, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, OnePlus 3 with 56k Resistor; Approved to Meet USB Type-C Standard (2-Pack, Black)
Offered by TechMatte
Price: $29.99
2 used & new from $7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Work; work SAFELY; handy as heck; easy to misplace, save the tiny bag it comes in., April 5, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Compact, Benson Leung tested for USB-C safety compliance (I bought directly from Amazon to ensure fresh stock), work perfectly with power adapters and cables I've tried, embarrassingly easy to lose.


Logitech Wireless Touch Keyboard K400 Plus with Built-In Touchpad for Internet-Connected TVs
Logitech Wireless Touch Keyboard K400 Plus with Built-In Touchpad for Internet-Connected TVs
Price: $29.98
72 used & new from $17.49

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great trackpad, ok but not good keyboard, great for travel, Asus Chromebit has weak support for media keys, April 5, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I'd never thought I'd say the tiny trackpad on this keyboard is actually better than the typing feel of its keys - but that's the case here. I have also extensively used a Microsoft wireless keyboard and a Dell wireless keyboard (which is made by Logitech according to the label underneath!) - and unfortunately keyboard feel varies from one Logitech design to another, and this particular Logitech has sub par typing "feel."

UPDATE 4-9-16: Downgraded from 4 stars to 3 stars due to space bar failing to register my strokes about 50% of the time. Since I have 3 other active-use Logitech keyboards that never miss a space bar tap, and since I am using this on my desk (with an Asus Chromebit) I have to assume either the space bar is poorly designed (in terms of connector/register) or defective. I have contacted Logitech and will see how they handle a warranty claim; I will report back on whether a replacement works better (in which case I will upgrade the star rating). Also noted: Google Chrome does NOT have very good trackpad support. The trackpad on the K400 Plus will do 2-finger scrolling, but unlike built-in trackpads on Chromebooks, I can't "reverse" the scrolling direction (same issue with a separate mouse, can't reverse scroll-wheel direction). Likewise, ChromeOS does NOT support the media keys on the function row (but the volume up, down, and off keys, just above the trackpad, DO work).

However, I will keep it because it is also my lightest, smallest solution when traveling - no separate mouse required, 2-finger scrolling, decent - but not "good" - keyboard is enough in that scenario.


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