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Thomas Duff "Duffbert" RSS Feed (Portland, OR United States)
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Logitech Illuminated Ultrathin Keyboard with Backlighting
Logitech Illuminated Ultrathin Keyboard with Backlighting
Price: $56.99
133 used & new from $37.90

5.0 out of 5 stars Solid keyboard with nice touches..., April 15, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
So I purchased a new keyboard for my home computer for the first time in a VERY long time. My old one had carried through two or three prior computers, and it was pretty dirty. I was tired of having to make sure it never was in the corner of any pictures taken at my desk. Also, during my practice for tomorrow night's SP24 presentation, I was told that my keyboard was "very loud", enough so that it would override the mic in front of my mouth.

This new one seems to be pretty good so far. It's definitely quieter, so much so that I can barely hear it while typing. The keys are not quite as high as the old-school generic keyboards, but it's OK. The angle of the board itself is a bit flatter than what I'm used to, so that may take a day or two for muscle memory to change.

The best thing is that the main keys seem to have offsets and placements that are close to identical to my old one. I don't notice much slowdown or typos that I have to go back and correct. The edge keys, such as Back and Delete, also seem to be close enough to their former placement that I can already use them by touch without problems.

The other benefit (stated in the product name) is that it's illuminated. That was really a much lower need (in fact, I wasn't looking for it at all). The only reason I have it is that the keyboard had some great reviews for key action and layout, and the illumination piece was just a bonus "nice to have" for me.

This didn't start out as a product review like I normally do, but it seems to have turned into one. As such, I'd give it a 4.5 out of 5, and that's only because I don't have a full day behind the keyboard yet. If it performs in the same way it's performing right now, it goes to a 5 with no question.


Smart Weigh ACE110 Digital Shipping Postal Scale (110lb.) with Extendable Cord and Bright Blue Backlight Display, Batteries and AC Adapter Included
Smart Weigh ACE110 Digital Shipping Postal Scale (110lb.) with Extendable Cord and Bright Blue Backlight Display, Batteries and AC Adapter Included
Offered by MeasuRite
Price: $34.99

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to beat this scale for features and price..., April 15, 2014
I prefer having a general idea what my packages are going to weigh (and cost) before I take them to the post office. I was offered a chance to review the Smart Weigh ACE110 Digital Shipping Postal Scale for that purpose, and I'm impressed. This is a well-designed and sturdy unit, with some nice touches that make it a good choice for home/small business weighing needs.

The platform and display are separate and connected by a curly cord that snaps into each piece. While it doesn't appear to be that big of a deal, it matters if your package is larger than the 8" x 8" scale plate. By separating out the display unit and buttons, you can easily get to and view your numbers without trying to reach under the box and use braille to hit the right buttons. The scale goes up to 110 pounds, so you could end up with a reasonably sized box on the scale without any display issues.

The display unit is also well-thought out for needs and use cases. You can weigh in grams, kilograms, ounces, and pounds, and the pounds and ounces can be set to display as fractions of a pound, or as the number of ounces that lead up to the next pound. Taring out the weight of your holding box or container is a single button push, as is the ability to have the scale hold the weight display once you remove the package. The bright blue LCD display is easy to read regardless of lighting conditions.

As I've used this, I haven't yet found a situation where it doesn't do what I would expect. When I combine all the features together and look at this price point, I'd have a hard time *not* recommending the ACE110.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Manufacturer
Payment: Free


HomeFlav Adorables Kitchen Timer Tomato
HomeFlav Adorables Kitchen Timer Tomato
Offered by HomeFlav
Price: $8.99
3 used & new from $3.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Works nicely for old-school Pomodoro-ing..., April 13, 2014
When I accepted an offer to review the HomeFlav Kitchen Timer (shaped like a tomato), it wasn't really for use in the kitchen. I occasionally use the Pomodoro technique for time management, and the original version of it is actually based on a tomato timer. Thus, I wanted to try this out. Overall, it's not too bad...

It's cute, basic, and it works... you wind the timer around to where you want to count down from, it starts ticking, and then it rings like an alarm clock when it gets to zero. There's not much more to it than that. It will dial all the way back around to zero (for sixty minutes), and the time seems to be pretty accurate. Again, it's pretty basic and easy to use.

The ticking (at least to me) seems to be pretty loud. If I answer the phone during a 25 minute cycle (which I know is technically "not right" in Pomodoro), there's a decent chance someone will ask me about the ticking. They *will* ask me about the alarm if it goes off, as it's a loud ringer and will catch you off-guard if you're not careful. There's no good way to "pause" the timer short of adding on more time or pushing it to go off immediately. Hey, it is what it is... you don't get Ferrari features for nine dollars (and you didn't look for them when you bought it in the first place).

This is a decent choice to grab as a kitchen timer if you really want to go old-school and/or love the tomato look to fit in with your decor. If you want accuracy down to the second, get a digital timer or use the microwave (or your smart phone). And if you want to want to rock the Pomodoro methodology with REAL tools, grab this now. :)

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Manufacturer
Payment: Free


HomeFlav Monkey Loves Banana Slicer
HomeFlav Monkey Loves Banana Slicer
Offered by HomeFlav
Price: $9.99
2 used & new from $9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You don't *need* it, but it's fun (and it works well)..., April 13, 2014
OK... nobody really *needs* a HomeFlav Monkey Loves Banana Slicer. In fact, it's the type of device that I'd usually get miffed about my wife bringing home, as it's just one more thing in the drawers that I have to dig through to find what I *really* need.

Having said that... this is really fun. :)

It's easy enough to operate... slip the banana in (that sounds wrong), squeeze the handle down (still wrong...), and you now have six nicely sized slices of banana on the plate. Repeat until you get to the end of the banana or you get through the bananas you need sliced. When you're done, toss it in the dishwasher, and it's ready to go again.

I can see this being nice not only for consistent banana slices, but also for consistent veggie slices so long as it's not a really tough skin or pulp. So maybe check it out with small zucchini, baby carrots, etc. The primary benefit is that the slices are consistent (even cooking) and kids can help out without fear of handling sharp knives.

My life would be no more or less complete based on whether I had owned and used a "Monkey Loves Banana Slicer" (gotta love that name). It *does* make me smile when I use it, though, and sometimes that's enough to keep it around... on top of the fact that it actually works well, too.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Manufacturer
Payment: Free


HomeFlav 10" Non-ticking Silent Quartz Wall Clock
HomeFlav 10" Non-ticking Silent Quartz Wall Clock
Offered by HomeFlav
Price: $16.89

5.0 out of 5 stars Nice looking, and it does exactly what it says it will do..., April 13, 2014
I always seem to need or want a clock in just one more place in the mancave or utility room. I got the chance to try out the HomeFlav 10" non-ticking silent quartz wall clock on the wall behind my desk, and it does exactly what it says. I'm happy with it...

It reminds me of those clocks you used to see in the classroom growing up (OK, I'm old). The numbers are large, and the black/white contrast is such that it's easy to see from a distance (assuming there's light to see it by). The plastic edging looks like brushed chrome, but it's really not (obviously). Still, it looks nice even if you're close up, so I don't have a problem there. I've had it running for a few weeks, and the time is still accurate. I also like the "non-ticking" aspect of it, as the second hand just glides around. We have a clock in the bathroom that *does* tick, and it can be a bit... rude.

I see that a number of other reviewers have commented that it's really not silent, and that the motor/mechanism makes a constant sound that you can hear from a number of feet away. I don't know if it's just mine or if I really *do* need to go get my ears checked, but I hear nothing from it (even up close). Again, it does exactly what it says it does on the box.

I realize this isn't necessarily a fashion statement or right for every decor you might have. But if you're looking for an inexpensive analog wall clock that looks nice, works well, and does what it should, definitely give the HomeFlav a shot.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Manufacturer
Payment: Free


Corsair Flash Voyager GO 32GB USB3.0 micro USB OTG Flash Drive for Android devices CMFVG-32GB-NA
Corsair Flash Voyager GO 32GB USB3.0 micro USB OTG Flash Drive for Android devices CMFVG-32GB-NA
Price: $29.99
36 used & new from $23.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Think of it as a nice 32GB flash drive with a built-in connector to your Android device. :), April 12, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a very cool device that provides extra capacity and uses in a convenient package. The Corsair Flash Voyager GO OTG Flash Drive for Android allow you to easily transfer information off your Android phone/device and onto a regular computer without cables or access to your desktop.

Connecting the flash drive to the Android-type phone was a piece of cake. At 32GB, I could back up or move all my pictures, documents, and other various application files. It doesn't necessarily run at USB 3 speeds, because you're going between different devices and different directions (saving from/to the phone). Since I really want access to it when I'm moving around away from my computer, the ability to attach it to my keychain is a small but nice touch.)

There are definitely a few intriguing use cases here... backing up the phone, backing up important documents, transferring data, and keeping important documents close at hand without storing them on the actual phone (like a cloud you can touch and feel). It's like having a 32GB flash drive that has an extra feature (ability to connect to an Android device) built in. Definitely worth it...

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Amazon Vine Review Program
Payment: Free


The Queerling
The Queerling
by Austin Gary
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.69
23 used & new from $5.24

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to describe, but definitely worth checking out..., April 12, 2014
This review is from: The Queerling (Paperback)
I found this book on our library's RSS list... The Queerling by Austin Gary. Other than to point out that the story is virtually unrelated in any way to what you might think of given the title, all I can say is that this book is *very* different (in a pretty good way).

The Queering made my "put it on hold" list because it's based in Portland Oregon (where I live), which usually adds an enjoyable element to a book for me. I can visualize where the action is taking place, and that adds a lot of context for me (I don't do "subtle" very well). The first thing that makes it different is the style with the plot line. It's a journal written by a kid locked up in a mental hospital with Asperger's Syndrome. He's been "asked" to write this journal to his doctor to help resolve his issues, both present and past. The "present" involves his release of a viral video that appears to involve him getting hit by a car, but with no obvious impact. He claims to know nothing about it, his parents and doctor think he's lying, and he still wonders why it would matter either way.

The second "different-ness" is the dialogue and vocabulary. He's a self-described "memory prodigy" and that gives him wide-ranging abilities to write in a style that quotes from obscure courses, as well as having a edge and cockiness about life that goes in directions that are hard to anticipate, much less keep up with. The closest I can come to explaining it is to imagine someone like Robin Williams at the height of his comic lunacy sitting down to write a journal.

Most of the story feels like a "slice of life" book, and I wasn't sure where it was going or whether the end was actually going to wrap up anything. It actually does have a plot ending, and it's an odd twist (which is in keeping with the rest of the book).

If I were to rate it solely based on plot or story, I'm not sure I could go much higher than a four (and maybe even a bit less). However, the writing style is *so* unique and enjoyable for someone who enjoys words used cleverly... I'd say give it a read (it's not all that long) and see how you feel after about 30 pages. If you're in awe of the dialogue, keep going. If that puts you off, move on to something else. As for me, I finished it. :)

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed


Cell
Cell
by Robin Cook
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.04
87 used & new from $5.72

3.0 out of 5 stars I may be putting Cook into the "only if desperate" category of books..., April 12, 2014
This review is from: Cell (Hardcover)
I may have to stop reading Robin Cook novels. I like the general pattern he uses... take a medical or ethical issue and create a story around it to explore the questions. The question becomes whether it's a really good story that uses that issue, or whether the plot is nothing more than a fragile skeleton to allow the author to soapbox on something. Cook's current novel, Cell, uses that formula to examine the benefits and evils of all-encompassing medical monitoring devices (imagine something like an iPhone for your health). My view is that he (once again) ended up on the soapbox.

The general plot of Cell involves a medical resident whose fiancee mysteriously dies while she's part of a product trial called iDoc. iDoc is a device that does it all, will completely re-write medical care with real-time monitoring and medicine dosing, and will be obscenely profitable to the company that owns it. Shortly after finding out details about iDoc after the product announcement, a number of his close friends also have unexplained deaths that coincide with medical diagnostic tests only days or hours before. Is it paranoia or a real conspiracy? That's the question to be answered...

The problems I have when I read Cook's novels are two-fold. First off, the writing and plot are not the best in my opinion. The dialog seems to be rather simplistic, and I just don't feel the drive to get to any payoff at the end. The second problem is probably more my own, but it's the one that bothers me most. Whatever the issue or topic at hand, the good/evil sides always seem to be the same. Doctors are always on the side of the angels, and insurance companies/big business are always the spawn of the devil. I probably shouldn't be surprised, as Cook is a doctor in addition to an author. But when I know that the bad guy is going to be the insurance company before I even start, I hesitate to wonder if I should even bother to start in the first place.

It's been a seven year gap since I last read a Cook novel. After reading Cell, it might be another seven.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed


Ipevo IPEVO AT-ST Articulating Video Stand for iPhone 4/4s/5/5s/5c and iPod Touch 4/5 - Black (MESX-09IP)
Ipevo IPEVO AT-ST Articulating Video Stand for iPhone 4/4s/5/5s/5c and iPod Touch 4/5 - Black (MESX-09IP)
Offered by IPEVO INC.
Price: $69.00
2 used & new from $69.00

5.0 out of 5 stars You may not think you need one, but you really *do* want one..., April 9, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
A fun aspect of being part of Amazon Vine is to occasionally select items that seem to be "interesting", but you're not quite sure what you'll do with them even if they end up working as advertised. My latest adventure in that category is the IPEVO AT-ST Articulating Video Stand for iPhone. Ok, do I *really* need an articulating stand for my iPhone? When you're making split second decisions on what to review, the honest answer is "probably not". But the picture looked interesting and the concept sounded different enough to try out... Sure, let's give it a shot...

... and it's really cool now that I have one. :)

The Ipevo is designed to clip an iPhone/iPod-sized device into the bracket on one end of the stand. The device holder is spring-loaded and folds open along the back so you can place the iPhone/iPod into the bracket. It then springs closed to hold the device steady via friction. There are also two curved corners on the end that stabilize the device (although the grip seems to be tight enough to hold and secure everything). Once that's in place, you're pretty much done with the "hard" stuff.

The remainder of the stand consists of a weighted base that serves as the counterbalance for the phone, three arm segments that allow you to position the device wherever it makes sense, and a swiveling head on the device clip that rotates it through a full 360 degrees. I thought the stability would be a bit iffy if the stand was fully extended away from the base. Wrong... it's still rock solid on the desk.

Now let your imagination take over...

Need to take videos of something? You have a camera stand that's adjustable and stable. Want to take pictures of documents? Set up the stand with the camera looking down, and start snapping away. Stop motion video? Yeah, that would work...

For me, the "this is cool" moment came when I purchased a new iPhone. My old iPhone 4 didn't have much of a future left until I decided to snap that into the stand. Now I have a solid desk stand and can call up (and leave running) certain iPhone apps that run off my wifi network. For instance, I can open up the Wemo application and control my Insight switches without navigating to the app on my regular phone. I can use it as a small video player if I want something running in the background. Desk clock/timer? That works... Basically, any wifi application that can still run on an older iPhone is fair game to leave open for continual use with this desk stand. One less thing to clutter my desktop (and there's a lot of clutter), as I can put the base of the stand on the corner of the desk and swing the phone closer to where I can reach it.

If someone had asked me a month ago if I needed one of these, I would have just laughed at them. Now, I'd be moderately upset if someone "borrowed" my stand and didn't return it. The longer I use it and discover the "oh, I can now do..." moments, I'm almost thinking I need a second one.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Amazon Vine Review Program
Payment: Free


Hastech® HB045 Wireless portable Bluetooth Keyboard for ipad mini /ipad mini 2 by Solememo (silver+white)
Hastech® HB045 Wireless portable Bluetooth Keyboard for ipad mini /ipad mini 2 by Solememo (silver+white)
Offered by Solememo
Price: $19.99

5.0 out of 5 stars There's a lot of function packed into a small package here..., April 8, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I've been having fun of late playing with Bluetooth keyboards for portable devices. The latest one I'm trying out is the Hastech HB045 Wireless portable Bluetooth keyboard. For form and function, it's designed to work best with an iPad mini based on the way it clips onto the device. Having said that, it's like most all Bluetooth keyboards... if it'll connect, it'll work... and this one works very well.

The iPad mini fits into a friction-based clip at the top of the keyboard. That allows the keyboard to flip down over the surface of the mini and act like a defacto case/cover. The grip is very tight, so it's a safe bet that you're going to have to WANT to remove it instead of it falling off by itself. The opening/closing motion is also very stiff, so it takes conscious effort to open the combo up like you would a laptop. If you're using it with a non-iPad mini device, then you can just fold down the clip and hold/place the keyboard wherever it works best for you.

The keyboard styling looks very sleek with the silver coloring. It's plastic, not metal, but that's OK. It keeps the weight and cost down. The keys are chiclet-style, made of plastic with no rubberized feel to them. They have a fair degree of play for tactile response, so it's not like you're just pressing an image of a key on a flat surface (that's a good thing). I'm not usually a big fan of chiclet keys, but Hastech makes this work pretty well.

What stands out is the large range of key functionality included. Between using the function and other various keys, you end up with most all the functionality of a full-size keyboard shrunk down into an iPad mini form factor. I'm not used to seeing that much included on a Bluetooth mobile keyboard, especially given the size.

While the size/functionality ratio is impressive, the size alone carries the same downside as almost any keyboard like this. The keys are offset like a normal keyboard, but it's still smaller than what your muscle memory expects. I have small hands, and it still took a bit of "getting used to" for me. Someone with larger hands might find it completely frustrating. I found myself needing to frequently hit the delete key for typos, but that usually led to another typo that involved the = key. Again, it's due to touch typing, muscle memory, and familiarity. Over time, I'll adjust to the subtle differences, but it'll take some practice.

For $20, this is an attractive price point for what you get. I think the make-or-break for this keyboard will be how quickly someone can adapt their hands and fingers to the layout. I don't think there's too many "better" iPad mini keyboards that also give you some screen protection along with the large degree of keyboard functions. If I could do fractional stars for a review, this would probably be a 4.75, but I'll round up to 5. It's a very nice unit.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Manufacturer
Payment: Free


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