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Customer Reviews: 1846
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Daniel G. Lebryk RSS Feed (Chicago)

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Sony Movie Studio 13 Suite
Sony Movie Studio 13 Suite
Price: $104.99
26 used & new from $104.63

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Video Editing, Excellent Audio Editing, June 18, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Sony Movie Studio 13 Suite is the Big Kahuna movie editing package. It is four completely unrelated pieces of software you can use to make movies - video editing, sound editing, sound capture, and DVD authoring. A person would think these four things would be related and have a consistent user interfaces. A person would be very wrong; each package has its own steep learning curve.

Sadly every single program has a unique serial number and requires activation over the internet. There is a small booklet of serial number, best to never lose that booklet. The bonus content, NewBlue, and two iZotope plug ins have their own booklet with serial numbers.

The simple one to review is Sound Forge, the audio editing software. This is one of the most powerful sound editing packages around and probably one of the easiest to use. I've used CuBase, or tried to use Cubase, one of the industry standards for sound editing. Sound Forge maintains the same level of detailed and precise editing without making life needlessly complicated. I like Sound Forge a lot.

The second easiest part to review is the horrible DVD Architect. For the life of me I could not understand this package. I took about 45 minutes of AVCHD video (around 3 GB) and simply put it into DVD Architect. I wanted super simple menus and nothing fancy. I followed the wizard. The software decided to transcode the whole video, only using two of my 4 physical and 4 hyperthreaded cores (not even pegging those cores), and taking around 3 hours to render the video. The finished DVD was letter boxed around the video, essentially creating a much smaller video in the center of my screen. Oh, yeah the video was perfectly rendered and smooth - except it was the wrong screen size. That exact same video converted to DVD from the video application, rendered in less than 30 minutes and produced the correct size image on a DVD.

There are an incredible number of controls and options in the DVD Architect. In fact that is the downfall of this program. There is way too much control and too much confusion. I had absolutely no luck with this piece of software.

Acid Music Studio is an awful lot like Garage Band, or a massive multi-track recording studio. It assumes that you have already captured the music somehow, either through the 3.5mm microphone jack or an analog to digital mixing board. The software is crazy powerful.

The final piece of software is the video editing package, actually called Movie Studio Platinum 13. This software alone is worth the price of admission. Sony has tweaked the video editing software over a lot of years. They are really great at this core function. They advertise simple and advanced mode editing - simple isn't really all that simple. Don't expect the kind of drop clips onto a timeline and expect the software to create a masterpiece (like Corel and iMovie sort of try to do). No this is a real live editor, one that can do amazing things.

I've used Corel VideoStudio and Pinnacle Video editing software for years. I have finally figured out how to make those packages do what I want - they are quirky and require a strange way of thinking to use. Stepping over to Sony Movie Studio, I wish I had never learned all those bad habits with Corel. Trimming and rearranging video is so much easier with this package.

When it comes time to output the video file, rendering is very fast with this software. It pegs all 8 cores on my computer. There is a simple mode to creating DVDs or Blu-Ray discs, with or without menus. I like this path so much better than the DVD Architect.

The software doesn't allow burning a DVD to a hard drive (make the file folders or an ISO). I've had a little bit of trouble with DVDs not playing on a PS4. There is something strange about the DVD burn engine that causes an occasional problem. I've worked around that by copying the DVD back to my hard drive and then burning with another program - those copies work just fine on everything (I don't see this as a negative, it is a quirk of the PS4 and I usually make multiple copies of the DVDs I burn, so it isn't a wasted step).

QuickTime videos are a serious problem with this program. The software can use small clips, it manages to convert them and use them in the timeline with no problems. However, when you put too many clips in or clips that are too big, the software crashes. I think this is a licensing issue with Apple, not a problem with the software itself. I do not have a QuickTime Pro license, so I can't say if that fixes the problem. Bottom line, if you are making some quick videos from an iPhone, that are around 5 minutes long, you'll have no troubles at all. I was making a 30 minute video composed of about 60 thirty second clips. The software really hated that.

My computer is pretty beefy, an i7 3770K processor (3.5GHz on 4 hyperthreaded cores), Windows 7, 32 GB of Ram, and a 250GB Samsung SSD (I use standard mechanical drives for the video files). I do not have a graphics card, I use integrated graphics only. I imagine a graphics card would speed up rendering; I just go have a cup of coffee while the computer works for around 20 minutes. The software starts very quickly from an SSD. Starting from a mechanical drive might be slow - I can see a lot of files loading and things being done after starting the software.

Sony included a group of third party plug ins for the video editing. This is the same package Corel offers. I didn't see much use for these restricted free versions of plug ins. I get tired of being nagged by BorisFX to purchase their bigger suite of plug ins.

The two workhorses - Video Studio Platinum and Sound Forge are well worth the cost of this package. They are super solid programs that do exactly what you need them to do. Acid Music is good if you are producing music. DVD Architect is a piece of junk that shouldn't even be here. Overall, this is an outstanding package, even if it is four completely unrelated pieces of software.

Bird B Gone Enviro-Spike Bird Spike, 10-Feet
Bird B Gone Enviro-Spike Bird Spike, 10-Feet
Price: $15.00

5.0 out of 5 stars It Works, June 18, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is the real deal, the kind of spikes used on commercial buildings to prevent birds from nesting. Instead of stainless steel, they are made of clear polystyrene plastic, perfect for home use. These spikes work beautifully. They are pretty wide, so it can be tricky to have enough space to attach them.

Mounting can be done with small screws, adhesive, or double sided tape. Each section of spikes is divided so it can be cut to the appropriate length.

Birds aren't injured with these spikes. They simply cannot land anywhere near the spikes. For home use I like these better than the thin stainless spikes. The clear plastic disappears when viewed from the ground.

V-MODA XS On-Ear Folding Design Noise-Isolating Metal Headphone (White Silver)
V-MODA XS On-Ear Folding Design Noise-Isolating Metal Headphone (White Silver)
Price: $199.99
7 used & new from $178.19

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, June 18, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
V-Moda has another winner on their hands. These headphones are like jewels and they sound as good as they look.

These on ear headphones sound spectacular. They are some of the best sounding V-Modas I have used (Crossfade LP, and M-80). The sound is less colored, cleaner, and more accurate than the other V-Moda headphones. They aren't B+W precise, just darn close.

I really like the white version, they look good. The case is so tiny, I'm used to the great big V-Moda clamshell. This is about half that size. The case is rugged; I can throw this in my carry on bag with no hesitation. The headphones fold up into this nice little package. You have to be a little careful to fold them a particular way so they don't dig into the foam on the ear cups. They are solidly built and will last a long time - there is metal where it should be.

The only criticism I have of these, if you are moving around a lot, they tend to fall off my head. I have a big head and if I lean down with them on, they slip off. You'll never notice this sitting in an airplane or relaxing with them.

These weigh next to nothing. They fit nicely on my ears and are comfortable even after wearing them for hours. They were comfortable even with glasses on.

These are a great pair of headphones at a good price.

CaddyDaddy Golf X-34 Duffel Bag with Wheels, 34-Inch
CaddyDaddy Golf X-34 Duffel Bag with Wheels, 34-Inch
Price: $59.99
3 used & new from $59.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Duffel - Not a Golf Bag, June 18, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is not a golf bag, or a bag to put golf clubs in. This is a great big heavy-duty duffel bag on wheels. As a duffel bag, this thing is amazing.

From the product name a person would thing, yeah duffel bag that doubles as golf bag, and one I can use to ship my golf clubs. Ah, the disappointment that this has nothing really to do with golf. Instead this is one of the best made reasonably priced duffels on wheels I have ever met.

I like the construction a lot. The woven nylon material is extra thick, the zippers are big and heavy duty (they don't work as smoothly as more expensive zippers), and the seams are all reinforced. The back of the bag has a solid heavy-duty frame to hold the wheels and pull handle. The other five sides of the bag are soft nylon material that will allow expansion as you pack the bag.

The bag is nice and tall. The handle extends a short distance, even that added leverage makes the bag easier to handle. There are a ton of pockets in this thing, two big exterior side pockets for small things, a small pocket beside the handle, and a gigantic side pocket. The main compartment has a flap that opens fully on two sides making it easy to pack. Inside there are a few mesh pockets and a small side pocket. This thing holds a ton of stuff.

The bag can be used for a lot of things. Airplane travel comes to mind, just be careful to stay under 50 pounds (or check your airline limit for checked luggage). It would be too easy to overfill this bag it has so much room. This would make a great sports / team bag for baseball, hockey, or soccer. The wheels aren't quite big enough to navigate grass or a muddy field, however they are sturdy enough to work on parking lots or sidewalks.

This is a great looking, monster duffel bag. At the current price of $60, it is a really good deal. I just wish they would remove Golf from the product name.

Vornado PCO300 Silverscreen Enhanced HEPA Air Purifier
Vornado PCO300 Silverscreen Enhanced HEPA Air Purifier
Price: $399.99
3 used & new from $322.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Loud, June 17, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Vornado PCO300 air purifier is one of the nosiest air purifiers I have ever met. Vornado makes some of the loudest air circulators around. There is some sound science behind the way this air purifier kills bacteria and destroys organic particulate, it does a good job cleaning the air, and it looks pretty nice. I just wish it was built better and didn't make so much noise. This unit joins a big stable of air purifiers from Holmes, Airocide, Winix, and Fellowes.

This air purifier combines HEPA filtration, activated charcoal, and catalyst / UV technologies. The HEPA portion is no different than just about every air purifier on the market. They all use a similar pleated filter that traps over 99.99% of submicron particulate. These filters require a lot of air being sucked over them to work. Vornado added a foam gasket around the edge of the filter - that might be a benefit. It uses a single HEPA filter. The filter needs to be replaced roughly once per year at around $40.

The activated charcoal in this unit is unique. They chose particulate charcoal in a honeycomb style cartridge. Seems like a lot of extra work and resources compared to the standard random weave activated charcoal filter. I don't much like this version of the charcoal filter - the standard simple ones are cheaper and work just as well. The charcoal filter needs to be changed roughly every three months at $15 a filter. That is the same price as four standard filters.

The catalyst / UV system is the game changer or reason this air purifier is so expensive. The science is absolutely sound - organic compounds stop on a titanium dioxide catalyst (the silver screen), combined with UV light, and disintegrates the organic particle. This is effective for organic compounds, dust, and viruses. The big problem with Vornado's implementation of this system is residence time. The air flow has to be slowed way down so the reaction can take place. When the air purifier is running at moderate speed, there just isn't enough residence time for the reaction to work every time. Bottom line, as the air is full of more particulate and the fan ramps up, the silver screen process doesn't work as well. Compared to similar systems the parts are inexpensive. The silver screen catalysts last around 5 years - at $35 a pair, this isn't too bad. The UV bulb is supposed to work for 9,000 hours or roughly 1 year turned on continuously. The bulb is around $25.

It is fairly easy to replace the expendable parts. The front panel is held on with magnets and a nice set of catches. I absolutely hate the silver screen and UV lamp drawers. They are really cheap plastic castings and are somewhat hard to get seated exactly right. The two filters are easy to remove and replace. The filter holder is well designed and secure.

I have two gold standard air purifiers, Winix and Fellowes. I put the Vornado in the same room as these other purifiers and ran them all for a month. The Vornado ran at medium speed way too frequently. It didn't respond to kitchen odors very well (an air purifier should ramp up when it "smells" odors; the Vornado has an insensitive nose). At low speed it is much louder than the Fellowes or Winix. The idle noise is very close to a central air conditioner. At medium speed the Vornado sounds like an in window air conditioner or the wall unit air handlers in hotels (Holiday Inn Express comes to mind). The Fellowes responded quickly to kitchen odors, ramped up the air flow quickly and high, then ramped down to silent. The Vornado lagged way behind, eventually ramped up, and then got stuck there for hours.

Bottom line for this air purifier - my son would walk by and turn it off, it made that much noise.

If I really needed an air purifier that destroys bacteria, organics, and viruses - the catalyst / UV portion - I would spend more money on the Airocide purifier. The Airocide is smaller, quieter, more effective, and beautiful, although it is a lot more expensive to buy and maintain.

The Vornado is fairly expensive to run. The HEPA filter is $40, four carbon filters is $60, the UV lamp is $25, and the annual cost of the silver screen filter is $7; for a grand total of $132 a year in expendables. In comparison, most air purifiers are around $50 a year in filters.

Overall, I'm not a big fan of this air purifier. I wish it was quieter and more responsive to odors (I'd live with 5 minutes of tornado noise as opposed to a half hour of loud noise). I'm not totally convinced the UV / catalyst system works as intended. This is an expensive air purifier. It does look nice in a Darth Vader kind of way.

Italy: 100 Locals Tell You Where to Go, What to Eat, and How to Fit In
Italy: 100 Locals Tell You Where to Go, What to Eat, and How to Fit In
by Gigi Griffis
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.99
11 used & new from $15.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Book, June 17, 2014
Italy: 100 Locals Tell You... is not your standard travel guidebook, it is something special and different. It is a bit like Anthony Bourdain's The Layover series, the part where selected locals talk about their city. Just like Bourdain, Gigi Griffis has chosen reliable people to talk about their city.

This is the book for somebody that wants to understand a city better, experience it more like a local, and has a more authentic experience than is possible following Rick Steves, Frommer's, or Lonely Planet. As the author explains, Italy: 100 Locals Tell You, is a supplement to standard guidebooks. The person that wants to feel more like a local will love this book, they will be taken on a rich experience.

The book appears simple, using a standardized set of questions, interview people about their city. In fact this had to be a difficult project - how to find that many people in so many different cities and then edit down their interviews. The interviews are organized around, what is special about their place, beautiful locations, what to do, where to stay (not necessarily hotel recommendations, but general areas of the city), special foods, and where to eat.

The genius behind this book, each person is described by the types of things they love to do - artist, biker, chef, outdoors person, etc. Looking at that short description puts their answers in context. If I don't like outdoors activities and like eating big elegant meals, I probably won't follow the advice of the bicyclist that loves hiking and hostels. On the other hand the chef probably has the advice I will find the most useful.

My method for evaluating guidebooks is to read about places I know well. There was a time when I spent a lot of time working in Genoa - I was there a week at a time about every third week for nine months. I got to know a number of locals. I can comfortably say the section on Genoa is absolutely accurate. Unlike a lot of guidebooks, Genoa isn't over sold. There is excellent advice about how to visit towns in that area (some of these places are packed solid with people in the summer). They also mention towns that aren't in guidebooks - places that locals go for vacation or the summer; alternatives to the guidebook itineraries.

The book is divided into two broad sections - by activity and by location. Both sections work well and they do not overlap repeating the same information.

The paperback book is standard Create Space, or trade paperback. The book is not very rugged or very pretty. Instead of glossy pages with a lot of photographs, the author focused on content. I'm a tactile person when it comes to books; I would have loved better binding, finer printing and paper, and better page layout. At the end of the day, it is all about content, and this book delivers. Frankly, the Kindle version is probably the best way to purchase this book.

There is one minor criticism; the book could have used a little more editing. The author chose odd language for the standardized questions. The book would be easier to read if there was simply a headline for each question asked, Food, Beautiful Picture Location, Where to Stay, etc. The interviews were probably translated from Italian or they are direct quotes, so odd language or phrasing can be tolerated. The author set the stage for the book beautifully with the introduction.

This is an excellent book for somebody looking to enhance a trip to Italy. The author has captured things that can take months to learn.

I was provided a review copy.

Love Clouds
Love Clouds
Price: $4.45

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Get in the Mood Music, June 13, 2014
This review is from: Love Clouds (MP3 Music)
Love Cloud "What happens over Vegas stays above Vegas." They specialize in professional and discreet pilots that fly six seat planes with four seats removed and replaced with a big private comfort zone. The key is flying one mile above Las Vegas.

Love Clouds would be the perfect soundtrack to use during that flight. Yeah, it is Luther Vandross 80s urban smooth music meets 00s electronica. The roughly thirty minute EP is the at one mile flight time. Perfect for a mile above the earth event.

If you love smooth remix get in the mood music, this is heaven. Others have done this before.

Ping: The Rescue of Eden
Ping: The Rescue of Eden
Price: $3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Good Book, June 5, 2014
Ping: The Rescue of Eden is targeted towards young adults. It is a seemingly simple fairytale that holds within it space for endless interpretation. Told from the perspective of a frog, the book talks about climate change and how human actions have adversely impacted the planet.

Ping the frog lives in an idyllic pond called Eden until one day he senses something off in the air. No other animals at the pond notice it until he points it out and even then many ignore it. When ping travels up stream he notices that all the fish and frogs are dead, the water has turned murky and thick. Pigs have taken up residence. When Ping asks why they are destroying the river, the pigs explain that humankind has destroyed their home and driven them out. Humans are deforesting the entire world.

Ping mounts his friend Komo the duck and they fly high into the sky to see this for themselves, but the smoke emitted from the human factories is too much for them to see and they need to return.

Ping begins a pilgrimage to the highest mountain in the world to find the answers to saving his world and preserving the future, and finds that to save the future; he needs to save the present. This revelation is too late; humans have destroyed the world in the many years Ping takes on his pilgrimage. In this time, his friends die and he meets with their decedents and discusses what to do to save the world. The book ends as Ping meets with Komo's son and Ping heads back to the devastated wasteland that used to be Eden.

Yorkim® 2014 newest, 4th Generation, 20pcs ,W5W 194 168 2825 T10 Wedge 5-SMD 5050 White High Power Car Lights Bulb,Brighter,Green Energy, Lower Heat, Eco-friendly,Better Quality,Longer Life
Yorkim® 2014 newest, 4th Generation, 20pcs ,W5W 194 168 2825 T10 Wedge 5-SMD 5050 White High Power Car Lights Bulb,Brighter,Green Energy, Lower Heat, Eco-friendly,Better Quality,Longer Life
Offered by Ec Pro Tech
Price: $15.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Good Lamps at a Great Price, June 4, 2014
Length:: 0:21 Mins

The gold standard in the automotive world for LED lamps is SuperBright LED, they make the best, the most expensive, and the largest variety of lamps you could ever imagine. I've redone two cars with their lamps and am a very happy customer.

YorkimBay has broken great ground with these LED lamps. The most enticing reason to try these lamps is cost; they are one fifth the cost of SuperBright (around $6 a lamp for this 194 wedge bulb versus just under a dollar a lamp for YorkimBay at the time of this review). That just under a dollar price is almost less expensive than a standard incandescent wedge bulb.

Unless the lamps perform, it doesn't matter how little they cost. Well these lamps are outstanding. They are a tiny bit dimmer than SuperBright - you can only see the difference side by side. The LED configuration is identical. And YorkimBay has a better base - plastic with bendable wire contacts. In practice the wires work much better than the soldered tabs on the SuperBright lamps. Because the base on LED lamps is thinner than the glass lamp, sometimes they don't fit into the socket exactly right. I've had to wiggle LED lamps around to get them to work right. With those small wires on the YorkimBay lamps, you can bend the wires out just a little bit and force them to contact the socket better.

LEDs are the best thing in the world to use inside a car. The light is pure white and therefore looks much brighter in the car. LEDs generate a lot less heat than incandescent lamps, meaning plastic lenses will last longer without yellowing. They are instant on. And they use almost no electricity at all to run. If you accidently leave the dome light on in your car overnight, it will not run your battery down. Theoretically, LEDs last a lot longer than incandescent bulbs - so you won't have to change the bulbs out probably ever in your car.

There is a lot to love about LEDs inside a car. These bulbs are mostly used for interior and trunk lighting. This particular lamp is not for turn signals or brake lights under any circumstances.

LEDs are a little bit different from regular bulbs. If you put them in backwards, they won't light. There is no way to tell in advance what is forwards or backwards. If you put the lamp in and it doesn't light, flip it around. If it still doesn't light, pull the lamp out of the socket just a little bit. If it still doesn't light, try bending the little wires out just a little bit away from the plastic body. This last step always works. The LEDs are pretty rugged, you don't have to treat them delicately.

To figure out if you can use this style of lamp in your car, the first stop is your owner's manual - replacement lamps are usually listed there. Sometimes Google is your best friend. YouTube is another place to find out how to replace your lamps - sometimes removing the covers can be very tricky. The absolute best way is to just go to your car, and pull out the lamp. If it is around an inch long, and you could pull the lamp straight out of the socket - that is probably a 194. These will almost certainly work with any dimmers or computer control in your car.

These are good lamps at a great price.

I was provided a review sample.

Silicone Kitchen Utensil Set (5-Piece) - Hygienic Solid Silicone Design - Cherry Red - 100% FDA Compliant - Premium Kitchen Utensils Including Silicone Spatulas, Silicone Whisk, Silicone Turner, Basting Brush - Non Stick Cooking Utensils Set - Heat Resistant Cooking Tools, Flexible, Easy to Clean Kitchen Tools - FREE Cooking eBook - LIFETIME No Fuss Guarantee
Silicone Kitchen Utensil Set (5-Piece) - Hygienic Solid Silicone Design - Cherry Red - 100% FDA Compliant - Premium Kitchen Utensils Including Silicone Spatulas, Silicone Whisk, Silicone Turner, Basting Brush - Non Stick Cooking Utensils Set - Heat Resistant Cooking Tools, Flexible, Easy to Clean Kitchen Tools - FREE Cooking eBook - LIFETIME No Fuss Guarantee
Offered by StarPack Products
Price: $39.99
4 used & new from $19.13

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Set, June 4, 2014
The pastry cook's starter set of tools - two spatulas, a turner, pastry brush, and a whisk; a very nice set of tools indeed. These are made of silicone - a great product that won't scratch non-stick pans and can go in the dishwasher. Old school silicone spoons were all floppy and pretty useless. These have a steel core inside them that makes the spoons super solid and not bendy.

All the tools work well. I'm not a huge fan of the pancake turner. I like a sharper edge and a fatter flat part (I've worked in a restaurant on big grills, so I'm badly biased). I figure most people will find the spatula workable. The pastry brush is nice and functional. There is another variety that has nubs on the end that hold more liquid when brushing. The only downside to that brush, it has an acrylic handle compared to the all silicone of this brush.

The one weak point of the set for me is the whisk. I'm pretty old school about my whisks, they need to be springy, and conform back to their original shape. With the combination of silicone and softer steel underneath, the whisk blades tend to bend and then not go back to their original shape. Personally, I like all stainless steel the best. If I need to whisk in a non-stick container, I prefer an all silicone blade - it is floppy, but goes back to its shape.

What I particularly like about these, I can throw them in the dishwasher. Wooden spoons aren't technically supposed to go in the dishwasher - the heat and soap dries out the wood making it eventually crack. I also like the full one-piece design. There isn't a place for food to get trapped and harbor bacteria growth.

I was provided a review sample.

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