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Lynne E. "Lynne E." RSS Feed (California, USA.)

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Cyber Threat!: How to Manage the Growing Risk of Cyber Attacks (Wiley Corporate F&A)
Cyber Threat!: How to Manage the Growing Risk of Cyber Attacks (Wiley Corporate F&A)
by N. MacDonnell Ulsch
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $33.79
39 used & new from $26.54

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Promising Chapter Titles, But Text Doesn't Deliver, October 28, 2014
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CYBER THREAT!: HOW TO MANAGE THE GROWING RISK OF CYBER ATTACKS is another of those business-school management books that is long on generalities (e.g., "More and more we see sensitive information sited in environments that may or may not be secure") and short on practical solutions (e.g., "Make sure that any ISP that is going to become part of the enterprise is fully vetted.")

The book contains absolutely no discussion of technical approaches to protecting a company from cyber attacks. Indeed, when talking about responding to a real, very serious cyber breach, it advises the creation of "a breach management investigation team" consisting of representatives from general counsel, internal security, human resources, corporate communications, risk management, and other company or corporate departments.

More than half of the book consists of disorganized, anecdotal examples of cyber threats (e.g., laptops containing sensitive data are stolen; social media is used to profile bank employees as part of phishing attacks; lots of people, nations, and companies steal information; the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has issued a damning report on China's telecommunications spying). Does a high-level manager who wants to know how to protect his business from cyber threats need to be told at length about these well-known and widely reported occurrences?

The Table of Contents is very promising:

---Introduction: What Every Current and Future Senior Executive Must Know about the Cyber Threat: A Perfect Digital Storm Is Forming
---Chapter 1: The Rise of Cyber Organized Crime and Its Global Impact
---Chapter 2: The Emergence of the Cyber Nation-State and Technology Espionage: Red China Rising and Its Global Cyber Theft Strategy
---Chapter 3: Cyber Al Quada Poses a Threat to Critical Infrastructure
---Chapter 4: What Is the True Cost of a Cyber Attack?
---Chapter 5: U.S. Cyber Public Policy: Don't Rely on It to Protect the Brand
---Chapter 6: Four Trends Driving Cyber Breaches and Increasing Corporate Risk: Technological, Cultural, Economic, and Geopolitical Shifts
---Chapter 7: Social Media and Digital Protest
---Chapter 8: Managing the Brand When the Worst Occurs
---Chapter 9: Managing the Big Risk: Third-Party Vendors
---Chapter 10: Creating Executive Cyber Risk Councils
---Chapter 11: Early Warnings: Something Bad Is on the Way

Unfortunately, the text does not deliver on the promise of these chapter titles. I rate CYBER THREAT! rather generously at 2 stars ("I don't like it" on the official Amazon scale). If you're really interested in knowing about cyber-warfare's disturbing, growing threat to the U.S. government, the U.S economy, and the safety of U.S. citizens, you might consider Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon.

Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon
Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon
by Kim Zetter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.63

5.0 out of 5 stars A Truly Frightening Book--a Must-Read for Those Who Manage Computer Networks or Care About Cyberespionage/Cyberwarfare Ethics, October 24, 2014
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For those (like me) who keep up with computer security issues only casually, COUNTDOWN TO ZERO DAY is a truly frightening book. We all know that there's no such thing as privacy any more (after the Internet), but now that cyberespionage by nations is rampant, there's no such thing as a secure network any more (home, corporate, or government). And there's a real danger that the new cyberweapons being developed by the U.S. will be turned back on the U.S. itself in the form of attacks on the vulnerable U.S. infrastructure controlling dams, electrical grids, and other vital systems.

This book explains clearly how the Stuxnet worm--crafted by the U.S. and Israel, and deployed as a cyberweapon to derail the Iranian nuclear program--operated to spread to USB drives and jump the "air gap" between computers connected to the Internet and PLCs (programmable logic controllers) that monitored and issued commands to the centrifuges used in Iran's uranium-enrichment process. PLCs are used in infrastructures everywhere (e.g., to control robot arms on assembly lines, open and close flood gates in hydroelectric dams, manage power in electricity grids), and are thus vulnerable to attack by sophisticated hackers like the ones involved in creating Stuxnet.

But the book goes much further than that, and explains how agencies of the U.S. government (FBI, CIA) and other nation-states are actively purchasing "zero-day exploits" (vulnerabilities in Windows and other widely-used operating systems that are as yet unknown to the OS manufacturers (e.g., Microsoft) and antivirus companies (e.g., Symantec, McAfee, Kaspersky)). Once purchased, the exploits are kept secret, so that they can be used by government cyberspies to gain entry into supposedly "secure" systems in order to plant "backdoor" programs that will allow eavesdropping and manipulation of the systems without the owners' knowledge. The exploits are NOT disclosed to OS makers so that the vulnerabilities can be patched.

As a writer, author Kim Zetter is truly awesome. She displays both an in-depth understanding of malware and an extraordinary ability to organize complex material, in the course of telling the full story of Stuxnet, Duqu, and Flame in an interesting, readable account that is accessible to any reader who has a minimal knowledge of programming and the broad technical underpinnings of the Windows operating system.

Zetter's account is also valuable for its explanation of how all the nuclear regulatory agencies, government espionage and oversight agencies, and Internet certificate-issuing companies are organized and interconnected. The book is meticulously researched and footnoted, the way that contemporary history ought to be.

COUNTDOWN TO ZERO DAY is an absolute must-read for anyone who uses a computer who has the minimal knowledge required to understand the text. As Zetter writes: "The targets most in danger from a digital attack in the United States are not just military systems but civilian ones--transportation, communication and financial networks; food manufacturing and chemical plants; gas pipelines, water and electric utilities; even uranium enrichment plants." As the nation that is the most advanced and the most connected, the U.S. is the nation that has the most to lose in a cyberwar.

DII 100% Cotton, Machine Washable, Everyday Kitchen Basic Deluxe Windowpane Terry Towel Set of 4, Red
DII 100% Cotton, Machine Washable, Everyday Kitchen Basic Deluxe Windowpane Terry Towel Set of 4, Red
Price: $15.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty Kitchen Towels, Could Be More Absorbent, October 18, 2014
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These DII DELUXE WINDOWPANE TERRY KITCHEN TOWELS are so pretty--what's not to love about classic red and white windowpane plaid? They're standard-sized kitchen towels, made of thin cotton terrycloth. Unfortunately, like similar terrycloth kitchen towels that I've tried, they're not particularly absorbent, and not very good for drying dishes. Mine held up fine through the first washing, but washing didn't improve the absorbency. Because my chief use for kitchen towels is drying kitchen items that need hand washing, I rate these towels at 3 stars ("it's okay" on the official Amazon scale).

The Pierced Heart: A Novel
The Pierced Heart: A Novel
by Lynn Shepherd
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.26
49 used & new from $6.94

2.0 out of 5 stars Boring Excerpts From "Lucy's Journal" Weigh Down Charles Maddox Storyline, October 14, 2014
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I was a great fan of the Charles Maddox series (The Solitary House, A Fatal Likeness), until THE PIERCED HEART (a restaging/reimagining of Bram Stoker's DRACULA) came along. As usual, I enjoyed the Charles Maddox storyline, in which Charles visits the mysterious Baron von Reisenberg's castle, and upon his return to London investigates some serial mutilation murders (beheaded female corpses with hearts removed).

However, I truly hated the "documents" (a reporter's description of an impressive "phantasmagoria", and multiple excerpts from Lucy's Journal) that suddenly interrupted the narrative for no good reason (except for a need to put Charles' storyline on hold for a little while). The excerpts from Lucy's Journal do create a secondary plot line that is intertwined with the main plot, and the secondary plot is necessary to the eventual solution of the London murders. But Lucy's Journal is excruciatingly boring, because her innermost thoughts and feelings are laid bare at such length, in exquisite detail. (The journal reminds me of a romance novel.) Worse, the journal excerpts are just dumped in with no preparation to help the reader--the reader must simply take them on faith, and obediently read them in hopes that the author will make them relevant at some later point in the story.

The Dickensian prose that I so much admired in The Solitary House is barely there. The Dickensian all-knowing-author viewpoint is still present in this third series book, and well done, but much of the prose seems hurriedly written, and lacks the rich descriptive quality of the prose in the first book.

In addition, there seem to be plot details that are never quite tied up. Did Charles ever tell us what he saw on the roof of the Baron's castle that explained everything, just before his calamitous fall? If so, I missed it. Just what did Charles experience at the asylum? The phantasmagoria description doesn't quite seem to suffice for an answer. I do recommend the "Author's Note" at the end, which provides some very interesting facts about the real-life Baron von Reichenbach, on whom the fictional Baron von Reisenberg in THE PIERCED HEART is based.

Charles Maddox fans will not want to miss this book, because there are some extremely important facts added to Charles' background story. However, I won't be reading another Charles Maddox mystery, because this one was just too hard to get through. I rate THE PIERCED HEART at 2 stars ("I don't like it" on the official Amazon scale).

Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life
Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life
by Hermione Lee
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $24.92

3.0 out of 5 stars Detailed Biography of Award-Winning, Late-Blooming Novelist, October 14, 2014
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Penelope Fitzgerald (1916-2000) is an award-winning British writer that I'd never heard of, but I was interested in knowing more about her--as an acclaimed writer who published her first book at age 58. That's remarkable!

Unfortunately, I found this extremely detailed biography, PENELOPE FITZGERALD:A LIFE, to be rather incomprehensible, given that I hadn't read any of Fitzgerald's work. There are lots of references to her family biography (The Knox Brothers), and to her early novels based on her own life (The Bookshop, Offshore, Human Voices, At Freddie's), and to her well-known British relatives (that, coming from the U.S., I'd also never heard of).

Although this is clearly a thoroughly-researched, well-written book, and probably the definitive biography of Penelope Fitzgerald, it is too detailed to give someone like me a sense of what Penelope Fitzgerald was like as a person, or of what motivated her to delay her writing career for so long. The book presents the writer's life strictly chronologically, and isn't particularly readable as the story of someone's life.

Perhaps I will return to PENELOPE FITZGERALD: A LIFE after I've had a chance to read Fitzgerald's masterpiece, The Blue Flower. I rate this book at 3 stars ("It's okay" on the official Amazon scale).

The Lost Tribe of Coney Island: Headhunters, Luna Park, and the Man Who Pulled Off the Spectacle of the Century
The Lost Tribe of Coney Island: Headhunters, Luna Park, and the Man Who Pulled Off the Spectacle of the Century
by Claire Prentice
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.45
44 used & new from $12.98

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Full Story of Dishonest Impresario's Exploitation of Small Group of Igorrotes at Beginning of Twentieth Century, October 13, 2014
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The U.S. Government's "Philippine Reservation" was one of the most popular exhibits at the 1904 St. Louis Exposition. It displayed some 1300 native Filipinos, taken from a dozen different tribes, with the intention of building popular support for the continuing U.S. occupation of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War. The human exhibits of daily tribal living served to illustrate to the U.S. citizenry that Filipinos were innocents who were unready for self-government. When the Exposition closed, the Filipinos were returned to their native land.

A few years later, two impresarios (Truman Hunt and Richard Schneidewind) independently brought small groups of Filipinos from the Igorrote tribe to the U.S. to continue as human exhibits. In Hunt's case, some of the Igorrotes were returnees from the St. Louis Exposition. All of the Igorrotes came willingly, having been promised pay for their performances. Schneidewind treated his Igorrotes well, setting them up in an authentic village that was clean and pleasant. Schneidewind's exhibit also included informative lectures, so that it had a strong educational ethos.

In contrast, Hunt set his Igorrotes up in Luna Park (on Coney Island) and forced them to build fake structures (e.g., a "medicine man's hut" on stilts), to prepare daily "dog meat" feasts (even though the Igorrotes held such feasts only on special occasions such as weddings), and to stage a pro forma "native wedding" to draw in curious crowds. Hunt made up many stories about the Igorrotes' customs for publicity purposes (although it was true that the Igorrotes were head-hunters, and normally wore little clothing). After Hunt landed in considerable legal trouble (beginning with an accusation of a bigamous marriage), he went on the run with some of his Igorrotes and produced a traveling show. Eventually the Igorrotes sued Hunt for taking their money, and a lengthy trial ensued.

THE LOST TRIBE OF CONEY ISLAND tells the full story of Hunt's exhibition and involvement with the Igorottes--from Hunt's selection of Igorottes in the Philippines, to his initial wild success at Luna Park, to the impact of his legal problems on the exhibit, to his final total loss of the Igorrotes' trust, to the messy conclusion of the Igorrotes' lawsuit against Hunt.

The narrative itself is immensely bloated, filled with the author's speculations about the participants' thoughts and feelings at every stage of their disastrous experience. For example, the opening of Chapter 3, "The Journey from the Tropics", about the group's trip from the Philippines to the U.S. on the steamship RMS Empress of China: "The tribespeople bent their heads back as far as they could, but still they couldn't see the tops of her funnels. Tainan felt a fluttering sensation in his stomach. With wide eyes, he jumped up, as if hoping the few extra inches would help him take in the ship's full splendor. . . . Daipan wished her father were there to witness the incredible sight before them. The RMS Empress of China was a huge, hulking beauty . . . ."

To my mind, Hunt's exploitation story is a story that isn't worth retelling--certainly not in a 338-page narrative (exclusive of footnotes). I rate this book at 2 stars ("I don't like it" on the official Amazon scale).

The Best American Mystery Stories of the Nineteenth Century
The Best American Mystery Stories of the Nineteenth Century
by Otto Penzler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.66
54 used & new from $10.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stellar Collection of Stories--Especially for Historical Mystery Fans and Students of Mystery/Thriller Genre, October 13, 2014
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Otto Penzler, long-time editor of the annual "Best American Mystery Stories" series, uses a broad definition of "mystery" when selecting stories for a collection: "... any work of fiction in which a crime, or the threat of a crime, is central to the theme or plot." For him, mystery stories include not only detective stories, but also stories told from a criminal's point of view, and thrillers where the fate of the world, a nation, or other significant entity is at stake. This definition seems to work better for this Nineteenth Century collection than for Penzler's annual collections (for example, The Best American Mystery Stories 2014)--although the difference may simply be the result of having an entire century of stories to choose from, rather than a single year's stories.

BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY is a stellar collection, especially for mystery/thriller fans who enjoy historical mysteries (and thus won't be immediately turned off by the quaint, outdated writing style used in many stories). This is also a great collection for students of the mystery/thriller genre, because each story is introduced by a fine summary of the author's life and literary accomplishments, the story's significance in the overall development of the mystery/thriller genre, and the story's publication history.

Many of the authors were new to me as mystery/thriller writers: Abraham Lincoln contributes a story based on a real-life case; Louisa May Alcott offers one of her pot-boilers written under the pseudonym A.M. Barnard; Daniel Webster shows off his oratorical excellence in a parable on how "murder will out". Other authors were totally new to me: Percival Pollard provides a story featuring Lingo Dan, the first fictional serial killer; NAACP activist Charles W. Chesnutt writes a story about a white sheriff's confrontation with a mulatto prisoner he once "sold down the river".

This collection includes some well-known favorites--Edgar Allen Poe's "Murders in the Rue Morgue" and "The Purloined Letter"; and Frank Stockton's "The Lady or the Tiger". Quite a few lesser-known stories by well-known authors also find a place in this collection--Mark Twain's "Tom Sawyer, Detective"; Stephen Crane's "The Blue Hotel"; Jack London's "A Thousand Deaths"; Ambrose Bierce's "My Favorite Murder"; Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Mr. Higginbotham's Catastrophe".

Mega Bloks Hello Kitty Splash N' Swim Water Park
Mega Bloks Hello Kitty Splash N' Swim Water Park
Price: $29.99
12 used & new from $29.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Building Set Designed for Girls--Charming Details Add to Construction Fun, Post-Assembly Playtime Fun, October 12, 2014
= Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:5.0 out of 5 stars 
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Length:: 1:06 Mins

Assembling this delightful MEGA BLOKS HELLO KITTY SPLASH 'N SWIM WATER PARK is fun, even for an adult, because of the charming details. Included in the big swimming pool/diving board structure are a ladder and a barrel water outlet, as well as a tiny clothes locker, a washbasin, a big mirror, a shelf full of sun lotions, a computer monitor and keyboard, and a changing bench with sunglasses and beach shoes (details all applied with supplied stickers).

The water slide has a rubber inner tube that fits any of the three Hello Kitty figures (girl, boy, baby), and also has tiny water bubbles (more stickers). The food kiosk has it own café sign (another sticker), and offers bananas, apples, and pineapples. The umbrella table has two cups and two chairs; the chaise has a little ribbon bow decoration (another sticker). The chaise and chairs also accommodate the figures.

After it's assembled, this toy water park is interesting to play with (something like a doll house). The figures can sit at the umbrella table. They can take turns on the inner tube water slide, on the diving board, or on the long curving water slide. They can also stand in the pool (which can hold water), or move around in the changing areas.

Something I like very much about this toy is that even though it's intended primarily for girls (hot pink and purple color scheme, lots of flowers and hair bows), it is still a building-block set! The blocks fit together well (not quite as tightly as Lego blocks, but close), and there are a lot of different shapes to be identified and assembled correctly. Also, the pink blocks are "hot pink" (fuchsia, not a bland baby girl pink), and there are lots of green and blue blocks, too.

Younger children will need adult help with assembling this; older children will enjoy assembling it by themselves. Construction should take an adult no more than 5-6 hours. Finding the correct blocks is the most time-consuming job.

The instruction booklet is very clear--it takes you step-by-step through the assembly, starting with the smallest item (the chaise), and ending with the largest (the pool and diving tower). The instructions even have color-coding of the block connectors to help prevent mistakes--for example, when a block with two connectors goes next to a block with three connectors, the diagram will show the two-connector location in one color, and the three-connector location in a different color.

The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler's Men
The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler's Men
by Eric Lichtblau
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.71
26 used & new from $16.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Readable, Well-Researched Account of How Nazi War Criminals Relocated to U.S. and Prospered After WW II, October 12, 2014
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Before reading THE NAZIS NEXT DOOR, I had no idea that literally thousands of former Nazis had relocated to the United States--and prospered--after World War II. Many of these were former Nazis who had been actively involved in planning and executing the wartime program for exterminating Jews, Gypsies, Russian prisoners of war, and other "undesirables".

Some of the worst offenders (e.g., Soobsokov, von Bolschwing, Lileikis) were "sponsored" by the CIA. The immigration applications for these individuals were whitewashed because the CIA wanted these former Nazis' services as anti-Communist "assets" (spies) during the post-WWII Cold War. The CIA also imported many former Nazi scientists (e.g., Von Braun, Rudolph, Strughold) for their value to the U.S. missile program, and to keep their scientific knowledge out of Russian hands.

All of this happened through the CIA's top-secret "Operation Paperclip" (although "ardent" Nazis were supposed to be banned from the program). The CIA simply looked the other way when informed about a particular applicant's involvement with the terrible slave labor conditions at V-2 rocket manufacturing sites, with the hideous medical experiments performed by doctors at concentration camps, or with the orders for execution of Jewish civilians that were issued by non-German Nazi collaborators.

In addition, many thousands of "everyday SS personnel, war criminals and collaborators" relocated to the U.S. as ordinary "war refugees". They easily gamed the inept U.S. immigration system by submitting false documents, by finding U.S. relatives to vouch for them, by changing their names, or by accepting friendly advice from INS interviewers about certain things that were "better not mentioned" on their immigration applications.

Eric Lichtblau tells the full story--of how this happened in the first place; of how the early U.S. Nazi hunters were ignored or had their activities monitored and suppressed by the CIA, FBI, and INS for many years; and of how the U.S. came to finally set up an Office of Special Investigations in the Justice Department to hunt down the worst Nazis, strip them of their naturalized citizenship, and deport them.

This is a readable, well-researched, copiously footnoted account of the former Nazis in America. It's a good supplement to other recently-published books (e.g., Nazis on the Run: How Hitler's Henchmen Fled Justice) that describe what actually became of so many Nazi war criminals who escaped prosecution after WWII.

Dremel 3D20-01 Idea Builder 3D Printer
Dremel 3D20-01 Idea Builder 3D Printer
Price: $999.00

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quiet, Compact 3D Printer Designed for Home Use--Builds Objects in Hours From PLA Filament Without Overwhelming Fumes, October 8, 2014
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Length:: 2:37 Mins

What an astonishing machine! Once it is unpacked, this compact DREMEL 3D20-01 IDEA BUILDER 3D PRINTER requires only 15-20 minutes to set up, then builds an object of your choice (as instructed by the included SD memory card) from thin layers of melted plastic filament in a few to several hours. It's quiet (the noise level is about the same as a bread machine or dishwasher), and the plastic fumes are acceptable (neither overwhelming nor toxic-smelling) when the build is done in a reasonably well-ventilated room. It even has a touchscreen (at the lower right front) that walks you through the steps of every build.

My 3D printer almost seemed to be humming a tune to itself as it worked! It built a pretty "hexagonal vase" (which I'll use as a pencil cup, because it will only hold artificial flowers) in just 4 hours, 40 minutes. (For some reason mine took longer than the 3 hours, 36 minutes build time stated in the project file.) The finished vase has a few minor imperfections, but most of the odd plastic bits pulled off easily, and I can use fine sandpaper to smooth out the rest.

Now that I've personally experienced 3D printing, I understand why so many are saying that 3D printing is the future of all manufacturing and fabricating! If you can create a computer-assisted design for an object, a 3D printer can fabricate the object by patiently laying down thin layers of plastic, or even metal (which is being used in the very newest, million-dollar, 3D printers that are now available to researchers).

Because I've always been mesmerized by software "progress thermometers" (yes, dumb), I was fascinated by watching the printing process as it added thin layer after thin layer to the emerging object. At the beginning, the extruder simply outlined the base, and filled it in with straight lines going across the base area, on top of the build tape and platform. But sometimes the extruder would build a little wall around an area, then go back and forth quickly across the area, in the way that a child uses a crayon to fill in a large area in a coloring book. At other times, the printer would add a layer with little bumps to the top of a growing wall. If there were empty places that needed to be bridged over, the extruder would lay a thin, spiderweb-like thread across the space, go back over it to strengthen it, and add more threads alongside it, until a solid "bridge" was paved and ready to be added onto in subsequent layers.

*** UNPACKING was the hardest part for me, because of the Styrofoam block packed inside the printer. The carton sides drop away when you remove the carton lid, which makes the printer easy to lift out of the carton base with its expected Styrofoam blocks. On top of the printer is a Styrofoam block that holds the Quick Start Guide, the instruction manual, the SD memory card, the unclog tool, the black Dremel build tape, the leveling sheet, the object removal tool, the USB cable, and the power cable.

But packed INSIDE the printer, underneath the non-removeable build platform support, is a huge Styrofoam block that turns out to contain the filament spool and the spool lock. To remove this Styrofoam, you must take out the plastic build platform, and then LIFT the build platform support (the black platform with the clip) that is attached to the columnar rail at the back of the printer. Reach into the printer, grip the build platform support on each side, and gently lift--there will be noticeable resistance, and a soft ratcheting sound--until there is enough space above the Styrofoam block to allow you to remove it through the printer door. You may find it easier to lift the build platform support if you reach in from the top, with the printer lid off. (Unfortunately the unpacking instructions do NOT explain this final step.)

*** SETUP is simple and easy. With the power switch off (or the printer unplugged), you put the filament spool on the holder (inside the printer at the left), then lock it in place by inserting the spool lock and turning it toward you 90 degrees. The filament feeds from the bottom to the back of the printer. You should check to be sure that the filament spool rotates freely.

Next you thread the filament end through the filament guide tube (which looks like a drinking straw attached to the back of the printer case). Finally you insert the filament end in the hole in the top of the extruder. There are clear drawings in the Quick Start Guide and instruction manual that help you to identify the parts and see exactly how to thread the filament.

Now you cover the plastic build platform with a sheet of build tape (the black sheet printed with the word "Dremel"). Remove the backing carefully and apply the adhesive side of the tape the same way you apply a transparent screen protector sheet, making sure that you don't end up with air bubbles under the build tape. (Air bubbles can cause an object not to build properly.) Then replace the covered plastic build platform on the build platform support, using the clip to secure it in place.

On the touchscreen at the lower right, tap "Tools", then "Filament", then "Load Filament", and wait for the extruder to heat. When it's heated, the extruder will draw the filament through. You let the filament come through for about 10 seconds, then tap the return arrow to complete the filament loading process.

Next, you must LEVEL the build platform. You tap "Tools", then "Level". The touchscreen prompts guide you through the process. At three places on the build platform, you slide the leveling sheet (a thin plastic-coated paper) between the build platform and the extruder's brass tip. If the sheet won't go in, or if it goes in too easily, you adjust a knob beneath the platform until the leveling sheet goes in, but with some resistance.

*** BUILDING an object is now very simple. You insert the SD card in the slot alongside the power switch, then tap "Build" on the touchscreen. You use the up/down arrows to scroll and select an object. The SD card contains instructions for several objects (a tree frog, a toothpaste squeezer, a T-Rex head, a school bus, a rhino head, a reindeer puppet, a polar bear puppet, a hex vase, a Dremel logo, a chess set King piece, a game-playing die, and a tie bar). (Instructions for additional objects are available on the Dremel 3D web site). You select the item you want to build, tap "Build", and the 3D printer will begin to build the object as soon as the extruder reaches the proper temperature.

As the object builds, the touchscreen displays the progress (time elapsed, time remaining, percent completed). When the object is finished, the touchscreen will display "Object finished". When the touchscreen shows that the extruder is cool, you hit the checkmark to confirm. Then you remove the build platform with the completed object, and use the object removal tool to help peel it from the build tape. My object popped right off the build tape when I touched it, without requiring a tool.

(My 3D printer actually skipped the "object finished" screen--maybe I hit the touchscreen by mistake--and went back to showing the Build/Tools screen. It wasn't a problem, though. I waited until the extruder had time to cool, and then removed the object.)

*** RESULTS are immensely satisfying! As you can see from the accompanying video slide show, I chose to build the "Hex Vase". It built with only a few flaws, and the finished object looks great.

Surprisingly, I had quite a bit of filament left after building the vase. The filament spool has markings inside to show how much filament remains--apparently I began with 632 feet of filament, and ended with 532 feet. It's important to always have enough filament on the spool to finish an object. If you don't, you'll have to throw away the unfinished object and start all over again from the beginning. Usually you will determine whether you have enough filament to build an object by weighing the filament (be sure to subtract the weight of the spool) and comparing the weight to the weight of the finished object as stated in the build file. Weight, not length, is the best measure of adequate filament.

DREMEL 3D SOFTWARE that lets you build objects from object files downloaded to a PC or Mac is available free from the Dremel 3D site. After installing it on your computer, you connect your computer to the 3D printer with a USB cable (supplied).

The software can load model files (.STL or .3dremel) , and can save the files to your computer or to an SD card (no more than 32 GB). The software allows you to customize the build quality and build time, to view the object from six different angles, to rotate the object on the build platform, to change the object's position on the build platform, and to scale objects up or down. The software also allows you to update the firmware on the 3D printer as updates are issued.

I haven't had a chance to experiment with the software yet, but will add some comments on the software after I build something with it.

*** TECHNICAL INFORMATION that is worth having.

* Build Facts. The maximum build size is 9" x 5.9" x 5.5 " (230mm x 150 mm x 140 mm). The extruder operates at a temperature of up to 397 degrees F (230 degrees C). Each layer thickness is 0.004" (0.10 mm). The printer will work with SD cards up to 32GB in size. The printer should have 8" of space all around to allow for proper ventilation.

* Filament Facts. The 3D printer purportedly works ONLY with Dremel 1.75 mm PLA filament (see Dremel 3D Printer Filament, 1.75 mm Diameter, 0.8 kg Spool Weight). This filament is plant-based, and is biodegradable/renewable. The filament should be stored at room temperature, and shouldn't be unpacked until it is needed. (If you're adventurous, you can try other PLA filaments at your own risk. Of course you must make sure that the non-Dremel filament is wound onto a filament spool that fits your printer, so that the filament will feed properly.)

The instruction manual states that the PLA filament fumes may be irritating to the eyes and airways. I had no problems, though, and I'm very sensitive to the toxic-smelling odors that used to be emitted by computers and peripherals that would require "burn-in" time.

The PLA plastic is NOT suitable for food or drink preparation or food utensils; and you should NOT put PLA plastic objects into your mouth. Such uses may result in illness or personal injury. (Don't use the accessory tray found on the web site for a candy dish!)

* Inappropriate Objects. The 3D printer should NOT be used to create illegal objects or objects protected by intellectual property laws. It should NOT be used to create objects intended for use with candles, liquid fuels, or heat sources. It should NOT be used to create objects intended for preparation, decoration, storage, or consumption of food or drink. It should NOT be used to create objects intended to be used with electrical components or housings of electrical components. It should NOT be used to create objects intended for chemical storage.

* Software. The 3D printer comes with free Dremel 3D software for Windows (Vista or later) and Mac (OS 10.8 or later). The software is downloadable from the Dremel3D web site. The 3D printer works ONLY with the Dremel 3D software, for converting 3D digital files into buildable files.

* Support. The Dremel 3D web site is amazingly well-stocked with helpful videos, with answers to many, many Frequently Asked Questions, and will have firmware updates as they are issued. There is also live chat support available on the Dremel site.

UPDATE 10/9/14:

Basically, the Dremel 3D Software loads model files (.3dremel, .obj, .stl, .g3drem) and converts them to the .3dremel format that the 3D printer understands. It saves the converted files to your computer or an SD card (no more than 32GB). The Dremel 3D software also allows you to change the build quality and build time, to view the object from six different angles, to rotate the object on the build platform, to change the object's position on the build platform, and to scale objects up or down. In addition, the Dremel 3D software allows you to update the firmware on the 3D printer (as updates are issued), or to restore the firmware if a build goes so badly that the printer motors end up out of sync.

There are many, many free, downloadable model files available on the Internet. I was successful in using the software to convert an .stl file from Thingiverse (Paste Pusher Animals) and build a cute animal toothpaste squeezer.

The Sketchup site has model files and free downloadable software for designing your own models. The Dremel3D site also has suggestions and links for 3D model design software.

CAVEAT: It's important to follow directions very carefully with the 3D printer. When I tried to abort a leveling operation by telling the printer to "home", the extruder ended up stuck in the upper right corner, vibrating rather heavily. After trying the reset button, and reinstalling the firmware--with no luck--I fixed the problem by turning off the printer and then gently moving the platform down and gently pulling the moving controllers forward along the rails. Afterwards, I was able to print the Dremel "Tree Frog" with no difficulty.

TIP: If you run out of Build Tape before Dremel has it available, you can substitute wide blue painter's tape, applied without overlapping, with seams close together, to the top of the platform only. And relevel after applying the tape. (This is information received by email from a Dremel representative.)

Happily, the 3D printer does NOT use a lot of electricity. Even though it may take hours to build an item containing a lot of filament, it only heats the extruder to a few hundred degrees. It doesn't take a lot of heat to melt plastic filament.

If you want to make objects that use more than one color, you can. You pause the model, change filaments, and continue. (I haven't tried this yet, but there is a soccer-ball pencil holder model on the Dremel 3D site that uses two colors.)

UPDATE 10/26/14:

I haven't experienced the "spaghetti" issues that other reviewers have mentioned. However, I always level the build platform before starting a build. I use two fingers to push the leveling sheet between the extruder tip and the platform, then adjust the knobs so that there is some resistance when I pull the leveling sheet out. This places the platform at a minimum distance from the extruder tip.

Some of my models have so stuck tightly to the build platform that I had to peel the build tape sheet away from the plastic platform to pop the models off. But they did come off (without any damage), and I was able to replace and reuse the build tape. The tree frog and platypus that I built would probably benefit from sanding to remove some circular lines on the creatures' backs, but they're pretty good toys "as is". I've read that it's quite normal for 3D-printed objects to require finishing.

The Dremel 3D software has worked fine for me (on a Win7 PC). It has imported files without difficulty, and has converted the imported files to files that the 3D printer could read. Something I was a little surprised at, is that some (if not all) of the models on the Dremel site (e.g., the platypus) require you to use the software to convert the downloaded files to "build" files before the 3D printer can use them.

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