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Corel Painter 2015
Corel Painter 2015
Price: $398.99
13 used & new from $394.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Painter vs Photoshop or Hammer vs Screwdriver, September 19, 2014
This review is from: Corel Painter 2015 (CD-ROM)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'll be frank. Corel Painter is an EXPANSIVE product and I could write a book, and several have been written, about all of the features and functions of the product. I'll stick to a bit of a comparison between Painter and Photoshop because that's where most of the dilemmas exist for new buyers.

Corel Painter vs Photoshop.
That's a question that many people have. If you're an expert or long time user, you probably already have a favorite and this review and my words are irrelevant. If you're new to the industry you might have some decisions to make. As someone who owns and uses both products, here's some information in the hope it'll help you make a better decision:

Photoshop -- To me Photoshop has always been predominantly a photograph editing program for photographic professionals whose work product looks like a real life picture. It's designed for photographic professionals who have a heavy workload and deadlines to meet. Photoshop automates or streamlines complex but routine photographic manipulations. If your goal is to make pictures look better and you have a heavy workload with schedules to be maintained - Photoshop is likely the way to go because at this, it excels.

Painter -- To me Corel Painter has always been a tool to create art. An artist might start with a photograph or might start with a blank canvas but the end work products doesn't look like a real life photograph - it looks like art. That to me is the core difference between the products. If your intent is to create art vs to manipulate pictures, I'd go with Corel Painter.

With the above said, I will add that there is a phenomenal amount of overlap between the two products and pretty much anything you can do in Photoshop, you can also do in Corel Painter 2015. Both have gorgeous, sophisticated and complex user interfaces. I will say that the Painter Interface is a bit less cluttered and more intuitive for me. I find that I can do more things intuitively within Painter and I find myself looking at How-tos to get things done with Photoshop if that says anything. Both are tremendously powerful programs. Here are a few pros and cons:

Photoshop Pros:
- It's the standard out there and the PSD file format integrates natively with the Adobe Suite
- Lots of how-to videos out there (but you need to have the right version of the videos)
- This is in the top two most powerful photo manipulation programs out there

Photoshop Cons:
- I HATE, DETEST, INSERT NASTY WORD HERE, THE ADOBE SUBSCRIPTION MODEL. It's expensive, it's painful, it's only goal is to SUCK money from your pocket
- There is little consistency from version to version. Tools that were standard in previous version might be gone or entirely replaced in another
- There are so many ways of doing the same thing in Photoshop that sometimes it can be confusing which path to take
- With the creative cloud, I'm going to have to relearn to do things everytime the folks at Adobe decide to upgrade their product. I as a consumer don't have much of a choice.

Corel Painter Pros
- I find the interface slightly more streamlined and more intuitive than Photoshop
- I love some of the brushes and cloning tools that Painter has
- Standard subscription model -- I pay once and I can use the same product 10 years from now without having to give anything to Corel again and no upgrades are forced on me. My product might not be supported a decade from now but if I have a computer that'll run it and I like this version, I can keep using it.
- It's my go to tool for creating art

Corel Painter Cons
- there aren't many to be frank. It has it's own file format RIFF that is a bit less adopted across other tools out there but that's not a big deal.

Photoshop and Corel as complementary products
Quite frankly, I have both and will likely always have both. The two tools work well together and I find myself flipping between the products when I know how to do something in one vs the other. Is it expensive to have both? Yes but sometimes you need a hammer and sometimes you need a screwdriver. There is a lot of overlap in the products but they do have their fortes.

If I were forced to pick one? Right now and in a pinch, I'd go with Corel Painter if for no other reason that I HATE THE ADOBE SUBSCRIPTION MODEL. The buy it model with upgrade paths is a robust model that we had all learned to live with but this subscription model is very expensive and utterly ties you to Adobe. For this reason alone, I do see a possible future where I could wind up with just Corel unless they too adopt the parasitic subscription model.

There you have it, I hope these few words help you gain a bit more perspective on these products.

Autodesk SketchBook Pro 7
Autodesk SketchBook Pro 7
Price: $49.99
7 used & new from $49.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Would you have a desk without a Pencil?, September 17, 2014
This review is from: Autodesk SketchBook Pro 7 (CD-ROM)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It's sometimes easy to fall into the pit and compare all products against one behemoth or towards your favorite tool. I've always been an Illustrator, Photoshop and Painter guy but Autodesk has always held a special place in my heart. Let me explain. Yes, some products are feature rich but almost every tool has roots and a core purpose:

- Photoshop - Photoshop's depth and forte is usually for the commercial photo professional who has a substantial workload and a schedule to keep. Everything in Photoshop has a key shortcut and very complex but routine photo manipulations have some kind of automation shortcut. Yes, you can paint with Photoshop and you can sketch with Photoshop and if you're one of those really talented artists, you can do phenomenal things and my hat's off to you -- What I'm saying is that that's really not Photoshop's product's core capability. I will say this in caps - I HATE THE ADOBE SUBSCRIPTION MODEL! This one thing that Adobe and Microsoft have done very likely has me favoring products that came in a box that I installed and owned a perpetual license for.

- Corel Painter - Painter I have always found overlaps well with Photoshop in many respects but it's largely created and geared more towards the artist who is creating something special. The painter artist will start with a blank canvas or will start with a picture but the end product usually does not look like a picture. It looks like a painting and some of the paintings that come out of Corel Painter are jaw dropping. So to me, if you're going to wind up with something that looks like the cover of a computer game, then Painter is the way to go for me. Yes you could get similar results with Illustrator or Photoshop but Corel has some nice things that are really tailored to the Artist vs the Photographer.

This brings me to Autodesk. Autodesk to me has always been a sketcher's tool and at this it excels. The interface is extremely clean and non-cumbersome unlike the utterly packed interfaces of Photoshop and Painter -- which can be intimidating. You almost need a course on how to navigate those massive interfaces. Now, don't get me wrong, I need many of the things that Corel and Photoshop have on their interface and I use quite a few of the stock interfaces and even modify the interface to add things that I just can't live without. By contrast though, you'll notice the Autodesk to be very clean and streamlined....after all, it's a sketchbook and you can very quickly get to work.

At sketching, sketchbook excels! If you're an artist, illustrator, cartoon drawer or if you're a beginner to medium level painter, sketchbook can get everything done at a much better price point than the other products on the market and with a very clean interface that's very intuitive. There are plenty of professional artists out there who just your Autodesk. There are some very special features like a healthy assortment of brushes, pencils that are pressure sensitive which can really help if you have a pressure sensitive sketch tablet or touchscreen and its all so easy to use. This product is the closest that you get to getting the feel that you're working with paper and pencil in your sketching bar none. I wouldn't use it to create the next cover of Assassin's Creed but if I were creating a weekly cartoon for a paper, hands down, I'd go with Autodesk vs any other tool.

I will add that Autodesk comes with pretty good support. If you have any kind of problems, you can just call them and they will help you through your technical issue. This is something that in this day and age is sometimes sorely lacking.

Finally, I will say that the price of Autodesk is reasonable and this makes it a wonderful tool for educators. If you're teaching computer sketching or if you're on a school board and need to outfit classrooms then this is a wonderful tool to consider for the classroom environment. The layout and interface is wonderful and it has some very nice high end features that you can take students from beginner to some very advanced and professional levels AND it won't break the bank.

I will say that I have Photoshop, Painter and Autodesk and I use them all for different purposes....because just like in your kitchen where you have knives, forks and spoons and in your studio you have pencils, watercolors, oil brushes, etc...your digital studio is the same way. Autodesk is my Pencil and sketchpad and I would never be without a pencil and sketchpad and at the price of Autodesk, I don't have to. If you only have Photoshop or Painter, you're doing yourself a disservice by not having Autodesk installed on your machine as well.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 18, 2014 9:22 AM PDT

Charmin Basic Toilet Paper 12 Huge Rolls (Pack of 4)
Charmin Basic Toilet Paper 12 Huge Rolls (Pack of 4)
Price: $42.57

5.0 out of 5 stars Great TP, as good as some lower end 2-ply - Consider Subscribe and Save, September 17, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Since this is Charmin, I wasn't expecting my grandmother's single ply or gas station toilet paper. I was right. While this is single ply toilet paper, it's very high quality toilet paper. Charmin has always been head and shoulders above the competition in my mind when it comes to toilet paper and in fact it's so high above the competition that many people have switched to cottonelle and other brands out there that provide a high quality product. None approach Charmin though in my mind. Charmin Basic to me is an attempt by the Charmin folks to use the Charmin brand and tap into that other market of people who buy things like Northern etc. At this, Charmin Basic excels in my mind. The price point is better and the quality is very high. What can I say, it doesn't tear and it does the job that it needs to do.

I will say that about the best service out there to buy products like this is the Amazon subscribe and save program. I used to hate having to go shopping for TP and paper products because I generally bought in bulk and when I did, I pretty much couldn't pick up anything else in my shopping cart. It was a trip just to stock up on this. With subscribe and save I schedule deliveries of my paper products - one shipment every 3 months for some and one shipment every 2 months for another. I can tweak it so that I'm not getting too much or too little product and if I need an extra shipment because I'm expecting a lot of guests, it's just one click away. Amazon subscribe and save has completely changed the way I shop for certain consumables that I know I'm always going to need. Now, they just show up at my doorstep. Amazing.

Dr. Scholl's Express Pedi Foot Smoother
Dr. Scholl's Express Pedi Foot Smoother

4.0 out of 5 stars Belt sander for your feet. Great Idea! Needs a bit of work., September 12, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
So that is this?
It's an abrasive battery operated spinning rotor that grinds away your callouses and dry skin. I call it a belt sander for my feet.

The Good
- It works great
- It's fast
- It doesn't have any blades just sandpaper like substance so it's hard to get hurt with this
- The motor is not very strong so if you press hard, it'll stop spinning so you can't hurt yourself.
-antibacterial sandpaper.

The Bad
- It doesn't have a container to catch the dead skin cells. So forget doing this on your couch, bed, chair, or any other location. You basically need do it in your shower before you bathe so that the dead skin goes down the drain. Other than that, you'll need to lay a towel down to catch the dead skin....hint, your dead skin will look like very fine sawdust.


Personally, I will use this and I'll use it frequently. I love it! It's not perfect and I hope that the folks at Scholl's will keep working to perfect this idea. As a guy I have big dawgs and I'm not the kind of person that goes to get a pedicure so this thing is really helpful.....all that's probably one of the better....nonbladed things out there....and I won't use blades on my feet....

but this design still has some work left.

I'll give it 4 stars because it does what it needs to do and its one of the better tools I've found but I can't give it 5 because there are gaps...It needs to at a minimum have a dead skin catcher container which it doesn't. Five stars with a dead skin catcher.

NOCO XGrid XGS4USB 4W Portable Solar Panel and USB Kit
NOCO XGrid XGS4USB 4W Portable Solar Panel and USB Kit
Price: $99.95
11 used & new from $99.92

5.0 out of 5 stars I can't believe I didn't have one of these -- look at their entire family of solar products., September 10, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I just got this thing and I'm quickly realizing that this has been a gap for me. I should've bought one of these a long time ago.

Basically, it's two thin and modern solar panels held together by some very sturdy looking ballistic nylon. The panels don't appear to be made of plastic but rather a strong sturdy polymer. I wouldn't go and try twisting them but they're not going to break readily. The solar panels have a connector that has a USB port. It also comes with a battery pack. Basically what you do is that you put this thing outside where the sun hits it, and you plug the battery pack to the USB. This will charge the battery pack which you can then use to charge various electronic devices.

This is a great compact device that you can use if you go camping. You, can set this thing up in your camp and charge your things. IT also comes with some very sturday eyelets (the red loops) that you can attach carabiners too and attach this to the back of your backpack if you need to charge something on the go. Frankly, it looks a bit dorky so I wouldn't do that unless it was a dire emergency but it's nice to have the option.

This is also a very nice addition to an emergency pak. If the power goes out, chances are that cellphone service will still work. This thing can certainly save you a lot of problems if you lose power and need to charge your phone. It can also be a very nice addition to a boat emergency pak. Finally, I so wish I had one of these when I traveled through Africa on safari. This thing is awesome for situations like that where you're out in the bush for weeks.

It's fairly water resistant and the battery pack has some nice insulation. You can tell this thing was built by engineers that wanted to build a rugged product.

I will say that you should really look at NOCO and all their product lines. This is a 4W unit but they sell 9W ones that are not much bigger. They also have batter packs that are bigger than the one included with this unit. Of course, those products are a bit bigger but what I'm saying is that this appears to be a great company with a whole family of solar charging products. In a pinch, this unit is the perfect size for me to take camping and I'm taking it everytime I go. I actually do feel safer having this thing.

You can also charge the battery from any USB charger and you could in theory plug your devices directly into the solar panel although I likely won't.

Giant (Jumbo) Clear Straws Individually Wrapped 10-1/4" 300/box
Giant (Jumbo) Clear Straws Individually Wrapped 10-1/4" 300/box
Offered by ESKO Direct LLC
Price: $8.99
4 used & new from $8.75

5.0 out of 5 stars They're just about right., September 8, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
These are longer than I thought and not as thick as I was expecting but that's my fault. Overall, they are very good individually wrapped straw. They're not as thick as McDonalds straws and a bit longer. Overall, I would certainly buy again.

I'm a private consumer but it's pretty clear these are commercial straws made for restaurants. Great quality, great service, and great packaging. What else can I say.

OXO Good Grips 6-1/2-Inch Santoku Knife
OXO Good Grips 6-1/2-Inch Santoku Knife
Price: $14.19
2 used & new from $12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars OXO Rocks!, September 8, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Does this really compare to my Zwilling Cronidur? No. It doesn't but it doesn't have to. It costs 10x less, it's sharp, it has a phenomenal handle that feels better than my much more expensive knives.

It cuts great
I'm not afraid to throw it in the dishwasher
It feels great in my hands
Does it have a full tang? Who knows! It's very light.

This is my go to knife for most small cutting chores over much more expensive knives.

A word on OXO. Every single product I have ever purchased from this company has always excelled! Slowly but surely, my kitchen is being taken over by all of their fantastic products. It started with a wine corker and the advance by OXO throughout my kitchen has been relentless. That's a true testament to the quality of the company, the relevance of their products and their price point. In two words: Cheap and Good. I can't say enough good things.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 9, 2014 10:43 PM PDT

Braun Ear Thermometer
Braun Ear Thermometer
Price: $46.50
12 used & new from $41.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars About as easy, and accurate, as it gets, September 6, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
A few things on thermometers. There are really three types that I've come across:
- Mercury - in-mouth/underarm/anal
- Electronic - in-mouth/underarm
- Electronic - forehead
- Electronic - ear

MERCURY - in-mouth/underarm
I have always thought that these were the best most dependable thermometers out there but there are some problems with them.
- you can't use them in mouth with infants for fear of broken glass
- they take a fairly long time to get a reading (under arm or anal)
- they contain mercury (while it's elemental mercury and doesn't really pose too much of a hazard to individuals, disposal and contamination of the environment can be problematic)

The problems with MERCURY thermometers have led to the development of other technologies

ELECTRONIC - in-mouth/under-arm
These thermometers tend to be fairly cheap and readily available. They suffer from some but not all of the drawbacks of mercury thermometers of yesteryear
- no glass
- no mercury
- still take too long to get a reading

I personally went with an Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer MODEL# 2000C when my first child was born. You basically turn it on and rub it on the temple for a bit and you get a pretty accurate reading but it's not perfect.
- I find that I have to do it a few times to get a good reading
- I find I have to do it several times more to really get the reading that I'm comfortable with (average out 3 good readings)
- least intrusive to me of all the technologies out there but I feel I have to average out multiple readings
- No lens caps to buy

However, the Exergen is orders of magnitude better than the other two electronic in-mouth and mercury thermometers

This brings me to this beauty

Electronic - in-ear
These thermometers are probably some of the very best:
- The reading in the ear is extremely accurate
- The reading in the ear is very quick 1-second
- I don't feel that I have to do it 3-4 times to get a good reading
- Not very intrusive on the child, if you don't make a big deal about it, they won't know you're taking a temp or you can make it a game

The only drawback with this is that You do have to have the lens filters and change those for each use. It's not expensive per se but it's something else that you have to buy and keep stock of.

Regarding this Thermoscan 5 IRT6500. There are a bunch of levels to these ranging from the
- IRT3020 - barebones
- Pro 4000 - professional model with all the gadgets and pre-warmed tip

This IRT 6500 stacks up towards the higher end of the model range. It comes with:
- storage case which protects the tip and also doubles as a tip case
- thermometer itself
- batteries (already installed 2-AA)
- 21 tips
- Instruction Manual (not that you need one really, pretty easy to use)
- This thermometer does dome with a pre-warmed tip so it's better for repeat temperature reads
- Comes with a tip ejector for easy disposal at the end of each use
- Designed in Germany / Made in Mexico (for those who care)
- Seems very well built. I wouldn't toss it across the room but if it fell on the floor from a desk onto carpet, I think it would survive just fine.
- One On/Off button
- One temperature read button
- The IRT6510 has a memory function that keeps track of the last 9 temps
- This model, the IRT6500 does NOT have a memory function
- The IRT 6510 has a night light
- This model, the IRT6500 does not have a night light
- It has a battery level meter
- It has a no-tip sleeve alert so you know if you don't have a sleeve installed
- Celsius or Fahrenheit modes (one or the other but not both at the same time)
- Nice big display

As a parent, the night light could be very useful if you're nursing a sick child and the memory keeper could be useful if you're tracking a sick child's temp over a night so that would give a slight edge to the IRT 6510 over the 6500 but the 6500 has fewer buttons and less hassle so sometimes for people who prefer simplicity over a bunch of extra functions then the 6500 is a beauty in form and function simple to use.

I will say that I really like this thermometer even though I only got the 6500 and not the higher end 6510 but I really do like the simplicity and don't really need a light or memory function. I still have the Exegen temple thermometer that I'll use for quick diagnosis but if my kid is sick and I have to report something to the doctor the most accurate reading I feel will come from this thermometer. So at least for me when it comes to accuracy, this is the thermometer I'm going to reach for next time I have a sick kid.

AmazonBasics 4.0 Amp Dual USB Car Charger for Apple and Android Devices (High Output)
AmazonBasics 4.0 Amp Dual USB Car Charger for Apple and Android Devices (High Output)
Price: $9.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't pay more, just get the Amazon Basics version!, September 5, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
You can't beat this car charger for the money. Plug it into your cigarette lighter and you have two USB ports that have enough power to charge pretty much any phone or tablet device. It has an LED light to let you know it's working which is nice.

On the quality front, I've come to trust everything that says amazon basics. Basically, the brand provides the essential items that you need for your devices without charging you extra for them.

Don't pay more, just get the amazon basics version of the product you need (cable charger, tv wall mount, hdmi cable, whatever), the quality is there and you pay less. I can't say enough great things about this charger and all amazon basics devices.

Fisher-Price Imaginext Batbot
Fisher-Price Imaginext Batbot
Price: $64.99
10 used & new from $51.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If I were 9, this would be my dream toy!! And as an adult, I still find myself playing with it ;-), September 5, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a big batcar that transforms into a bat robot. When in robot form it stands maybe a foot tall. Ok here are some details:
- remote control
-- forward
-- transform (from car to robot and back)
-- reverse and turn in one button (the standard remote)
-- seems to be an infrared remote to you have to have line of sight with the toy and the remote

- has a lot of sound effects
- has a disk launcher that launches disks to destroy things
- comes with a batman

This thing will run pretty good on wood floors. Low pile carpets are fine. I don't know how it would do on really shaggy carpets.

As a recommendation, I'd recommend getting a joker playset or something like that so that Batman can have something to batter against.

This is not a cheap toy but considering what you get and the amount of fun a kid will have with this, it will take the place of several toys. I'd recommend getting this thing. It does everything advertised and is pretty cool.

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