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Customer Reviews: 280
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Edward Barnett RSS Feed (Cambridge, MA United States)

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GE Lighting 20433 LED 15-watt (60-watt replacement), 975-Lumen 12-Inch Indoor Flush Mount Ceiling Fixture, Direct-Wire, Soft White, 1-Pack
GE Lighting 20433 LED 15-watt (60-watt replacement), 975-Lumen 12-Inch Indoor Flush Mount Ceiling Fixture, Direct-Wire, Soft White, 1-Pack
Offered by Big Ass Warehouse
Price: $59.99
2 used & new from $58.80

2.0 out of 5 stars Flush mount fixtures require drilling holes in ceiling. Bad design., July 28, 2015
There are multiple products listed on this Amazon product page, so you'll have to read carefully to see which product is being reviewed. This review is for the 9- and 12-inch flush mount ceiling fixtures -- the ones that are designed to mount into a junction box, not the ones that install into a recessed light fixture. My issue with the GE flush mount fixtures is installation. Most ceiling lights install into a junction box and use a strap to support the weight of the fixture. These lights are different. The wiring is done in the j-box, but the fixture itself is supported by drilling holes directly into your ceiling and using drywall anchors. So if you change the fixture down the road, you're left with visible holes in the ceiling. I'm glad I went to the local hardware store, opened a package, and checked the installation instructions before ordering a bunch of these. Not a good design

The Shadow of the Ship
The Shadow of the Ship
by Robert Wilfred Franson
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
73 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative, fresh, and very well written. If you're a connoisseur of classic sci-fi, dig in., July 27, 2015
This is one of the freshest, most engaging sci-fi stories I've read in decades. The concept is novel and intriguing, and the author's writing craft is admirable.

Imagine taking the old TV show "Wagon Train" (epic journey, with new dangers around every bend), crossing it with the "Canterbury Tales" (every character has a rich and unique backstory), then combining the mix with the original "Star Trek" (boldly going where no man has gone before) and a bit of steampunk (hi- and lo-tech intermingled), and you'll get a picture of what's in store as you read "The Shadow of the Ship." It's innovative, and in the hands of a weak author it would become a jumble, but Franson knows his craft and weaves together a wonderful tale.

This book is not quick reading. I'd suggest buying the Kindle version (which is how I read it), so you can look up words as you go. Also, many passages must be read, re-read, and returned to later. Especially early on, the novel is laden with artful but ambiguous adumbration, so you have take time to ponder the passages. In many ways, this novel reminds me of the Foundation trilogy, Neuromancer, Wool, etc. -- a well-crafted story that visits timeless human themes in a setting that's much more imaginative than standard "folks on a spaceship."

One of the joys of the new world of publishing is that it offers us the opportunity to discover works like this that we missed thirty years ago. If you missed this in 1983, as I did, here's your second chance.

Life Annuities: An Optimal Product for Retirement Income
Life Annuities: An Optimal Product for Retirement Income
Price: $0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Hugely valuable for retirement planning. Unbiased, solid research and analysis., July 26, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This book was recommended to me by a financial planner and a PhD economist. The Kindle edition was free, so I downloaded and started reading. The payback was swift and significant. This relatively short book explains annuities better than anything else I've read. Importantly, this is not a sales pitch. Rather, it's an academic review of annuities that defines terms and clearly explains how annuities work, what benefits they offer, and when they are best used. Along with Laurence Kotlikoff's book on Social Security, "Get What's Yours" (, and the bogleheads site for understanding bond ladders, this is one of the three sources that have most helped me understand how to structure a retirement portfolio.

Swiffer Sweep and Vac Floor Vaccum Starter Kit
Swiffer Sweep and Vac Floor Vaccum Starter Kit

3.0 out of 5 stars Good concept, but relatively weak suction, July 26, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This vacuum is designed strictly for hard floors (vinyl, hardwood, tile, etc.). It's sort of like a DustBuster-style hand vacuum attached to the front of a Swiffer dry duster. The idea is that the vacuum will pick up thinks like sand or Cheerios, leaving the Swiffer cloth to sweep up finer particles like dust. In concept this is a good idea, since it means you're not pushing around sand/Cheerios/etc. as you're dusting the floor. In practice, the performance is OK, but not great. The suction is pretty weak, and there's no beater bar, so the vacuum only picks up fairly light things. Taking into account the downsides of the vacuum relative to a regular Swiffer duster (e.g., you have to clean out the collection cup and filter, it's bigger and heavier than a plain duster, it has to be charged, and it makes a gratuitous chiming noise ever time it's turned on), I find that I largely leave this vacuum in the closet and just use my old manual Swiffer duster in the bathroom and hallways. Good idea, but doesn't have strong enough suction to really make it worthwhile.

Xcellent Global Newest 3D Padded Men's Bicycle Cycling Underwear Shorts Underpants - FS014M
Xcellent Global Newest 3D Padded Men's Bicycle Cycling Underwear Shorts Underpants - FS014M
Offered by Xcellent Global
Price: $13.69
4 used & new from $13.68

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Best pad design I've ever ridden in; but runs small and short, July 19, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Despite the low price (about twelve bucks at the time of this review), these are really good bike short liners. The padding is an (unnecessarily) thick layer of foam and a thinner layer of gel. The gel makes a huge difference in terms of absorbing shocks. I can ride longer over rougher trails in these and feel much better afterward than with my Zoic liners, which are otherwise better made but don't have the gel. The other major innovation in the "new style" liners relative to other shorts that look comparable is the design of the front side of the cushioning in the men's version. As you'll see in the product picture, the front padding has a channel, rather than being a solid piece of padding. This simple change makes a huge difference in terms of comfort relative to traditional padding design. It keeps everything in place over bumpy trails, without squashing important equipment. I'm amazed somebody didn't think of this sooner.

These liners run really small, so definitely order a size larger than usual. Seriously. The medium felt like it was actually about a 28" waist.

The liners also run quite short compared to most biking liners. Most liners come down to mid thigh, and many run even longer than that, running past the middle of the quads toward the knee. These shorts on the other hand fit more like briefs. Because the very short legs don't have gripper bands, they tend to ride up the legs, so they really do end up fitting like briefs after a short time riding. Not a big deal, and in some ways more comfortable than traditionally long biking liners, but takes some getting used to.

AspectSolar DUO-Flex2 Package Pro Solar Charger and Power Bank Battery (Pack of 2)
AspectSolar DUO-Flex2 Package Pro Solar Charger and Power Bank Battery (Pack of 2)
Price: $179.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well designed, powerful, all-in-one bundle, July 3, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I own a number of portable solar panels of this type, including models from Goal Zero, Eton, and Instapark. They all have their pluses and minuses. Based on my use to date, this AspectSolar is one of my favorites. Here's the scorecard (+ for good, - for not so good).

+ The 4 solar panels put out a lot of power, 13w. That means the panels charge up a battery much faster than 1, 2, or 3 panel units. On a bright, sunny day in early July in New England, I was able to charge the included 10,000 mAh battery from half full to full in a few hours at mid day.
+ The case design is unique and clever. It has a 355 degree floating double zipper, which means you can unzip it so that the long edges of the two sides form the hinge, or so that the short edges of the two panels form the hinge. At first I thought this was sort of gimmicky, but the first time I used the panel I saw the value. The design lets you unfold the panels into either a long rectangle or more of a squarish configuration, whichever is easiest to prop up and get the best sun angle where you're located. This clever design really does help position the panels for optimal sun exposure, which is key to getting maximum power.
+ The case has eight integrated D-rings and comes with four carabiners, making it easier to hang the panels at the right angle.
+ Construction quality is good. Good sturdy stitching all around the case and rings.
+ The case has an integrated, external, stretchy, water resistant neoprene pocket to hold the battery and your phone/device. The charging cable exits into this pocket, so you can plug the battery in, zip up the neoprene pouch, and pretty much forget about it.
+ The bundle comes with the solar panels (with integrated zip-up case and micro-USB charging cord), battery, and a separate plug-in charger and cord so you can charge the battery off A/C power. The separate A/C charger is a really nice feature, since it means you can fully charge the battery while you still have A/C power, and start your trip (or power outage) with a full charge. Nice touch.

I have found that having a battery with panels like this is essential. It's very hard to charge an iPad or even an iPhone directly from the panels, since they don't deliver consistent enough power. Also, having to leave the phone/tablet out in the hot sun along with the panels is asking for trouble. It's much better to use the panels to charge a battery, then use the battery to charge your devices. So I'm glad this bundle includes a decent battery. But this also leads to my biggest issue with this product:
- The cable from the panels ends in a male micro USB plug. This fits into the female micro USB input port on the battery, and the battery then has two standard size female USB ports, into which you can plug the charging cables for your devices. I would have preferred to have the built-in cable be a standard size female USB port, so that I could charge devices directly without the battery (even though, as I noted, this is a challenge with many devices) and so that I could charge other batteries that don't use a micro USB as input. The AspectSolar configuration works fine, but I'd like more flexibility rather than always using their battery with the panels.
- One other negative is that the price of this bundle is higher than the cost of buying comparable panels and a battery separately, especially if you shop wisely. As I mentioned, this bundle includes other goodies, like an A/C charger, but you pay a premium.
- The instructions show how to insert the battery vertically in the neoprene pocket, insert your device to the right of the battery, and pass the cords between the pockets such that you can charge the battery from the panels and charge your device from the battery simultaneously, using the battery as the buffer against non-constant power when there are clouds, etc. Great idea. One small problem, though, is that the height of the pocket isn't quite great enough to fit the battery in vertically with the charging cord attached. It's a small detail, and you can fit things in sideways, but it's an annoying glitch in an otherwise very smart design.

Bottom line: A bit pricey, and I wish the built in cord was a female USB rather than a male micro USB, but overall this is a nicely designed, well constructed, powerful solar panel with everything you need in one bundle. Excellent for camping, backpacking, and for power outages.

Makita 192108-A 3/4-Inch ID/1-OD  diameter by 10-Foot Hose
Makita 192108-A 3/4-Inch ID/1-OD diameter by 10-Foot Hose
Price: $28.99
7 used & new from $25.22

5.0 out of 5 stars Works great with my B04550 (with the 410870-A Adapter), June 26, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I bought this hose to use along with my Makita Model B04550 Finishing Sander. I also bought the Makita 410870-A Adaptor For Model BO4551 to connect the hose to my sander. The combination of adapter plus hose fits perfectly and works great. The other, larger end of the hose fits into 1 1/2" hose on my shop vac. The connection between this Makita hose and the adapter is a good snug fit for horizontal sanding, but not snug enough to stay connected in vertical applications like sanding walls. When sanding walls I have to wrap some duct take around the connection to keep the hose from dropping off while I'm using it. The combination of Makita Adapter and Makita hose with a shop vac on the other end dramatically reduces sanding dust. I sanded all four walls of a room we're renovating and was astounded by how little dust escaped. The thirty five bucks I spent on the adapter and hose were a great investment.

Makita 410870-A Adaptor For Model BO4551
Makita 410870-A Adaptor For Model BO4551
Price: $3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Works great. HUGE reduction in dust when used with shop vac., June 26, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
What a difference this makes! I'd been dreading sanding the plaster walls in a room we're renovating. I didn't want to invest a fortune in a dust collection system, but I also didn't want to deal with clouds of dust. So I looked for a simple solution and found this. I bought it, together with the hose that Amazon listed under the "Often bought together" section (Makita 192108-A 3/4-Inch ID/1-OD diameter by 10-Foot Hose). The combination cost me about thirty five bucks. The adapter fit perfectly on my Makita palm sander, model BO4550, and the hose fit perfectly on both ends (one end into the adapter, and the other end into the regular hose on my shop vac). I did have to duct tape the hose to the adapter to keep it from falling out when using, but no big deal. In terms of results: I was amazed at how effectively this simple setup sucked the dust away before it could get into the room air. It worked beautifully! If you want to reduce dust and don't want to invest in an expensive system, the combination of this adapter and hose with a Makita sander is a surprisingly effective system for just thirty or forty bucks.

Fruit of the Loom Men's 6 Pack Crew T-Shirt, White, Medium
Fruit of the Loom Men's 6 Pack Crew T-Shirt, White, Medium
Price: $17.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Inexpensive and well made, but very thin fabric, June 21, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a good basic T-shirt and offers the best quality you'll get at this price point. On the positive side: The T-shirts are well made with even seams and stitching; the tagless design improves comfort; and the shirts are about 3-4 inches longer than my T-shirts from Hanes and Lands End, which does help keep them tucked in when wearing under a business shirt. On the downside, the fabric is very thin and not particularly soft right out of the package. They don't have the same comfort and absorbency as beefier T-shirts, and I don't expect them to last as long.

Bottom line: If you're looking for inexpensive T-shirts to wear under dress shirts, and if you plan to buy new T-shirts every year or two anyway, these shirts are a good value for your dollar. The fabric is too thin to wear alone -- they're definitely underwear. Personally, I prefer a beefier T-shirt fabric, even for underwear, so for me these are just three-star T-shirts.

SNUPI Technologies WallyHome Water Leak Detection System
SNUPI Technologies WallyHome Water Leak Detection System
Price: $299.00
2 used & new from $280.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Best solution on the market. Has paid for itself many times over., June 20, 2015
[Note: As you'll see from the review, I bought the WallyHome system a year ago when it first came out, have used it continuously since then, and love it. I'm cutting and pasting my review into this product page for the new version of the system since this is the page that now shows up when you search on SNUPI or WallyHome on Amazon. The new system looks to be very similar to the original, but presumably with some enhancements and refinements. I've been very, very happy with the WallyHome system, which on several occasions has provided me with early warning of what could have become serious problems.]

I've tried a number of sensor systems for monitoring my household environment (temperature, humidity, and water leaks) when I'm gone for extended periods. I haven't found any perfect system, but the Wally system is definitely the best I've found. After several months of use, I've found ways to work around the system's shortcomings and it's become my default system for home environment monitoring.

[Important Update: In my initial review, which was posted after a month or two of use, I noted that I was having trouble making reliable connections. I think I found out why. I had some repair work done in the basement shortly after setting up the Wally system. Apparently the electrician unplugged the Wally hub from the "dumb" extension strip and plugged it into a power strip that has a surge suppressor. I just noticed this yesterday. Since the hub was taken off the surge suppressor and plugged into a regular extension cord, the performance has been close to flawless. The sensors still have to be "near" house wiring, but "near" can be several paces away from any obvious outlets. This is a huge improvement, and I'm raising my rating from to five stars. The Wally manual says to avoid plugging the hub into a power strip with surge suppression, and they mean it. Now, back to the original review ...]

+ Exceptional battery life. Most other sensors either have to be plugged in or chew through batteries. My Quirky+GE Spotter sensor, for example, chews through batteries, and the Spotter is designed to turn off half the sensor functions unless it's plugged into an A/C adapter.
+ Design. The sensors are very small (about the size of a credit card and about as thick as my iPhone) and have a nice, unobtrusive shape. They can be tucked away almost anywhere.
+ Setup. Adding a sensor via the web interface or iPhone app is trivially simple, as long as the sensor can get can communicate with the hub.
+ Accuracy. The readings match well with my regular thermometer and hygrometer.
+ Interface. The sensors feed data to both an app and also to a web site that can be accessed with any browser. The web page and app both have a very clean, intuitive, easy-to-use interface. Also, very importantly, Wally is clearly investing continuously in the web dashboard and app. They have pushed continuous updates to the app, and the latest web site design is outstanding.
+ Connectedness. Alerts are easy to customize and can be sent to smartphone or email. Most leak sensors just sound a buzzer on the device if they they detect water, which doesn't do any good if you're not home. Others work only with a dedicated app or send text messages to only one phone. Wally wins for flexibility; it pushes alerts and email notices, and you can pull status information from any browser on any device.
+ Intelligence. The website/app don't just display current readings, they also store a year's worth of history, so you can track conditions over time in problem locations (e.g., to see what times of year a basement space is prone to high humidity).
+ The conditions that trigger an alert (e.g., high and low boundaries for humidity) can be customized for each sensor, and the system pushes three types of alerts (email, alert notifications via the smartphone app, and alert badges on the monitoring dashboard) when conditions go outside the bounds you set. Very customizable to avoid false alarms, and the redundant alerts raise the odds you'll know about a real problem quickly.
+ You can add sensors and they all report through the common dashboard and app.

- Wally's "special sauce" is that it sends signals through house wires, rather than having to maintain a high-powered wifi connection (which is how the sensors get such great battery life). My guess is that whether you are satisfied or not with this system will depend on whether you need to put a sensor in a specific location that doesn't have any house wires nearby. [As mentioned in the update, my "problem locations" are all now communicating with the hub just fine, once I plugged the Wally hub directly into a dumb extension cord rather than into a power strip with a surge suppressor.]
- Part of Wally's value proposition is that it doesn't just measure and display your temperature, humidity, etc., it also analyzes the data. For example, they say they'll send me a message if conditions in my home suggest I might have a problem with mold, and will even suggest contractors who might help. That could be helpful, but I'm guessing this is also part of their model for making money. I wish they would give me control over my data and what stays strictly private.

[UPDATE Summer 2014: We were away for a week, visiting the parents. While we were away, I started receiving alerts from the Wally sensors, saying that the temperature and humidity were above their ranges. I thought the system was glitching, since this was my first summer after installing the sensors. When we got home, we found that a mouse had gotten into the air conditioner, chewed on the wires, and shorted out the system. We got home late Friday afternoon and weren't able to get repair service until Monday, and it was a very hot and humid weekend. If I'd believed the Wally sensors, I could have called the repair guy from my folks' house and had the system up and running again before we got home. I should have trusted the sensor system.]

[UPDATE Spring 2015: The Wally sensor system just paid for itself! We had just left for a weekend getaway when I received an alert on my phone, saying that a Wally sensor in the basement near the water tank had detected a water leak. I had never received a false leak alert, so I turned the car around and headed back home to check. Sure enough, there was a fresh and growing puddle on the basement floor. I was able to identify the source of the leak, do a quick temporary repair, and arrange for a plumber to come on Monday to do a permanent repair. The leak was spraying out water at a pretty good rate. If it hadn't been for Wally, we would have come home from our weekend vacation to find a flooded basement. Traditional water sensors (the kind that sound an alarm when they get wet) wouldn't have done any good, since there wouldn't have been anyone home to hear the alarm. Thanks, SNUPI/Wally, I owe you guys.]

[SPECIAL NOTE FOR ANYONE HAVING CONNECTION ISSUES: Back when my Wally hub was plugged into a surge strip and I was having troubles with connectivity, I fiddled around until I could make connections under the worst of circumstances, and I thought it might be helpful to share my workaround. For example, before I figured out the surge suppressor issue, I was having trouble getting signals from two of the sensors in my basement, relatively far from any house wires (there are only two outlets in the basement). So I took a heavy gauge 25' extension cord and ran it from a wall outlet straight across the basement floor. Then I put the Wally sensors along the extension cord. It wasn't a first-best solution, but the sensors reliably and continuously sent data even when the Wally hub was being blocked by the surge suppressor. Nothing was plugged into the extension cord, so I just fastened the open end up high on the opposite basement wall, so there wouldn't be a problem if there was a water leak in the basement. If you're having troubles with dead zones, and if you've already made sure your Wally Hub isn't plugged into a surge strip, then this might be a workaround for you.]

Bottom Line: Unobtrusive sensors (beautiful design). Extreme battery life. Accurate readings. Excellent alerts. Great reporting interface. Excellent smartphone app. This is what a home sensor system should look like and work like.

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