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Nathan Andersen "Gadget lover and author of Shadow Philosophy: Plato's Cave and Cinema" RSS Feed (Florida)
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   

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Artist Creative Stylus Paintbrush for Touchscreens, iPhone, iPad Stylus Drawing | Nomad Brush Mini2 Black
Artist Creative Stylus Paintbrush for Touchscreens, iPhone, iPad Stylus Drawing | Nomad Brush Mini2 Black
Offered by Zali
Price: $35.00
7 used & new from $27.66

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A unique stylus, but as far as I can tell the actual brush doesn't offer much more range in sensitivity than the rubber tip, November 13, 2014
This is a very unique kind of stylus, that has a comfortable grip like an elegant pen and a rubber stylus tip on one end, with a retractable brush on the other.

I like it, and prefer it to other styluses I've used with my iPad. I really like that the brush retracts easily with a twist. At the same time, the brush itself isn't as flexible or nuanced as I might have hoped.

The brush, as far as I can tell, doesn't really offer any more flexibility in painting or drawing than the rubber stylus tip.

I've tried it in a variety of apps: SketchBook Express, Paper 53, and Zen Brush, to name a few. It may be that the programs aren't designed to capture the differences in size that come from tapping gently versus stroking, but when I touch very lightly it doesn't register and when I press hard it registers exactly the same as if I was using the rubber tip.

So: while I really like the idea, and I really like the feel of the brush in my hand, and it adds a bit of novelty over a standard generic stylus, it doesn't really operate like a brush with any of the apps I've tried using it with on my iPad and my iPhone.

It's a great idea, but if you expect it to work like a real brush on an iPad, you will probably be disappointed. (Sample provided for the purpose of a review.)


Stork Craft Avalon 3 Drawer Universal Dresser, Cherry
Stork Craft Avalon 3 Drawer Universal Dresser, Cherry
Price: $242.71
5 used & new from $231.49

4.0 out of 5 stars An elegant dresser that is easy to put together and will likely last a long time - designed for infants but works for anyone, November 12, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a very nice-looking, solid piece of furniture. It's not one of those lightweight and cheap dressers made of fake wood that will break after a few month's of use. (I know about those, since I bought a couple of them from a local superstore when I was much younger, and they didn't last at all. This one, I'm confident, will.)

It's designed to complement Stork Craft's crib, and would be a great way to store baby clothing and supplies. It's solid enough, though, that it will easily outlast their infant and toddler years, and could be a dresser that grows up with a child through their teens.

There are three spacious drawers, and if you add a pad, the ledge on top will function as a changing table for babies.

It takes a little while to build it, but comes with all of the pieces, very well packed and the instructions are easy to follow. It comes with a hex wrench, but you'll need to also supply a phillips screwdriver to finish the job.


The new INGEAR Energy-efficient LED Mini Flashlight. Only 1 AA battery is needed to power its CREE Q3 LED bulb! A Small Light with a Big Beam. Equipped with a High-powered Magnet. Useful in various Situations. 95 Lumens.
The new INGEAR Energy-efficient LED Mini Flashlight. Only 1 AA battery is needed to power its CREE Q3 LED bulb! A Small Light with a Big Beam. Equipped with a High-powered Magnet. Useful in various Situations. 95 Lumens.
Offered by INGEAR
Price: $41.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A compact and durable pocket flashlight that gets very bright and casts a long light -- but it's LED so it will last longer too, November 10, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is a very solidly built, compact, LED flashlight that gets much brighter than you'd expect.

It fits easily in the pocket, and also comes with a lanyard so you don't drop it in the dark.

It takes one AA battery (not included). Just unscrew the top and drop in the battery, and it delivers serious light, and the battery will last much longer than in a conventional flashlight, because the LED lamp doesn't draw a lot of power. Plus, unlike with flashlights that use incandescent bulbs, you aren't likely to need to change the lightbulb in the lifetime of the flashlight, because LED lights last a very long time.

One of the disadvantages I had seen in the past with LED light, though, is that it doesn't usually get as bright or cast directional light as far as an incandescent bulb. Somehow they've managed to address that with this flashlight, which gets much brighter than the slightly larger maglight I used to carry around in my pocket.

Another very cool feature of this little light is that it has a fairly strong magnet on the back. That means you can stick it to something (like the hood of your car) for hands-free use.

The only complaint I have about this flashlight is that the only on-off switch it offers is to tighten the seal on the battery to turn it on and loosen it to turn it off. That means there's no way to adjust the brightness of the light - and most LED lights I've used give you a few brightness options. It also means that when it's off it's not entirely sealed and tight. That means it's more susceptible to getting waterlogged and also leaves the possibility that the cap will come entirely loose if it is jostled around.

I'm most likely to keep this in my pocket when I'm out using it, so that's not a huge problem, but it's something to be aware of, since it might be a concern for some.

Overall, though, this is a fantastic light, that is more durable and brighter and likely to last a lot longer than other pocket flashlights. I had a chance to try a sample of this product for the purpose of testing and review, and I am happily surprised by how much I like it.


[Apple MFI Certified] Cambond Lightning USB Sync Charger Data Cable Cord Data 3.3Ft / 1M for Iphone 5 / 5C / 5S / 6 / 6 Plus, Ipad Air / Mini / Mini2, Ipad 4th Generation, Ipod 5th,and Ipod Nano 7th Generation Charging and Syncing Compatible with IOS7(Full Gold)
[Apple MFI Certified] Cambond Lightning USB Sync Charger Data Cable Cord Data 3.3Ft / 1M for Iphone 5 / 5C / 5S / 6 / 6 Plus, Ipad Air / Mini / Mini2, Ipad 4th Generation, Ipod 5th,and Ipod Nano 7th Generation Charging and Syncing Compatible with IOS7(Full Gold)
Offered by Cambond
Price: $31.00
2 used & new from $14.55

4.0 out of 5 stars Distinctive-looking, certified Lightning cable, that is built to last & works great for charging & connecting my iPhone and iPad, November 10, 2014
This is a very sturdy cable, that I use to charge and connect with my iPhone 5c and my iPad Air.

It works great. It's also much sturdier than the cables that came with those devices. I have lots of Lightning cables, and almost invariably with the Apple brand cables, at some point the plastic/rubber sheathing starts to wear and fray right where the wire meets the connector.

These braided cable are designed to avoid that. They feel at once very sturdy and quite flexible. If you are in the market for a replacement or an extra cable for your Apple device, I'd recommend going with this one. It's less expensive and much more likely to last than the Apple branded ones. The braiding also helps avoid tangling and getting tied into knots.

Plus, there's the added benefit that it stands out in the "crowd" of cables. I have a family of Apple device users, and we often plug in next to one another. It's nice to be able to identify one cable as mine in the tangle of wires. (Sample supplied for the purpose of testing and review.)


The ScrubbaTM Wash Bag
The ScrubbaTM Wash Bag
Offered by Advanced Rescue Products
Price: $54.95
3 used & new from $52.95

4.0 out of 5 stars A handy way to wash a change of clothing, with minimal water and no electricity - great for a camping or survival kit, November 8, 2014
This review is from: The ScrubbaTM Wash Bag (Kitchen)
This is a very useful, compact, bag for washing clothes on the go, without electricity and with only a little water. It would be great for camping, and perfect for a survival kit. Probably also great for a dorm room, for when you just need to wash enough for the next day, or have run out of quarters...

Even if you have a river or a lake nearby when camping, you don't want to pollute it with laundry detergent, and this offers a way to avoid that. I'd say, even at home, if you have a sink or a bathtub -- unless you happen to have a washboard, it's easier to thoroughly scrub things in here. Even if you have a washboard, I bet this is less abrasive and easier on clothing. (It's been a long time since I've used a wash board, as a boy scout, and I don't have one now, so I can't really make a direct comparison.) It's not huge, you can only wash a few items at a time, but it only takes a few minutes. It's pretty much one change of clothes: socks, underwear, shirt, shorts, maybe a pair of pants. I bet this would be great for a dorm, if you didn't have time to do a full load and just needed to clean an outfit for the next day, this would do in a pinch.

I like that it includes very simple instructions on the bag: how much water to add, how to seal the bag, release excess air, scrub, rinse and dry.

Pretty much, that's what you do: (1) add clothing, soap, water; (2) seal the bag, by rolling down from the top and then folding it over and snapping it shut; (3) open the valve and squeeze out excess air; (4) rub it back and forth, almost like you're kneading dough, for anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes; (5) pour out the soapy water, add more water and rub it around a bit then pour it out again, then add water one more time to fully rinse; (6) squeeze dry the clothing; (7) hang it out to dry.

It works well, and seems to be built to last. It folds up small, so it would easily fit in the backpack. I was offered a chance to try one of these for the purpose of this review, and while I haven't had a chance to take it on a trip, I tried it a few times at home and was pleasantly impressed.


Dromida Kodo UAV Quadcopter RTF with Camera
Dromida Kodo UAV Quadcopter RTF with Camera
Price: $58.63
21 used & new from $51.01

4.0 out of 5 stars A cool hobby copter that flies well (after a bit of a learning curve) and takes surprisingly good video, November 8, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a very cool little copter, that can take surprisingly decent-looking video, and, once you get the hang of it, can fly quite well.

It's small. The body can actually rest on my hand, though the propellors extend out a bit more than that.

It comes with the propellors installed, but you need to take them off in order to install the bumpers. That's not strictly necessary for it to fly, but I highly recommend it because the bumpers both protect people from getting buzzed by the propellors and they protect the propellors from breaking in the event of a (very likely, especially when you get started) crash. I made the unwise decision to learn how to fly this thing in the house, and ended up breaking two propellors (even with the bumpers installed), before I decided to take it outside on the lawn to learn how to fly it. Luckily, it comes with a set of replacement propellors.

Once you've fit on the bumpers (it is a bit tricky, and you really have to push and twist to get them on there tight) and the propellors are re-installed (and you have to install them correctly, since the four propellors are different, and you have to put each one in the right slot), you need to charge up the battery. There's a charger for the battery, that plugs into a USB socket on one end, and connects to the battery via a special kind of connector. Once it's charged, you insert the battery into a little slot on the back of the copter and then hook it. I wish it didn't have the unique little plastic connector and could charge up and connect to the copter with a standard micro-USB slot. That way, if I lose the charger it would be easy to replace. Plus, I find it a bit tricky to disconnect the little plastic connector on the battery from the charger when it's charging and from the copter when I need to charge it up again. It almost requires tweezers or pliers. I can do it with my fingers, but I keep worrying that I'm going to accidentally pull the wires loose.

The set also comes with a micro SD card, that fits into a little slot just below the battery. They also included a reader so that you can download your video and photo files afterwards.

Once it's all ready and the battery is charged, you plug it in and it lights up. There's no on-off switch on the copter. When you plug the battery in, it's on. That would be okay, if it weren't such a pain to unplug the battery. Still, you get used to it. Don't plug in the battery until you're ready to fly. You only get about 5 minutes of flight time from a single charge - so if you plan to take this to the park be sure to bring the charging plug and either a laptop to charge it with, or even better bring a heavy duty USB charger. I've got one that I carry around to charge up my iPhone on the go, and it works perfectly to charge up my copter battery. It might not be a bad idea to buy an extra battery from Dromida, so you can charge one while the other is flying. They do sell all the parts separately, which is a good thing since you're likely to want to have some additional spare props around.

Once the battery is plugged in, you turn on the remote and it will beep indicating that the remote's signal is getting to the copter. To get it primed for flight, push the throttle all the way up and back down. It will beep twice, signaling that it's ready to go. Then you gently lift up on the throttle and it will lift off! If it veers too much to the left or to the right or forwards or backwards, you can adjust things by pressing a buttons on the right front of the remote or just to the left of the directional joystick on the right side of the remote. If it twists, or if the throttle is too strong, you can adjust that with knobs on the left side of the remote. I found the instructions about this to be a bit confusing, but it's all fairly intuitive once you play around with it a bit.

Anyhow, the throttle is controlled by pushing up and down on the left joystick. Pushing to the left or right on the left joystick sets the copter into a spinning mode. Turning to the left or to the right or veering forwards or backwards is all controlled by the joystick on the right side of the remote. One kind of tricky thing to get the hang of is that the directions on the joystick are all relative to the front of the copter. So if the copter's front is facing you, the left side of the joystick will veer it to the right, and so on... For learning, I avoided doing anything with the spin controls, I adjusted the buttons so that the throttle moved just up and down with very little drift, and then I tried to keep the front of the copter faced away from me so that right was right and left was left, etc. After playing around a bit, and getting used to just keeping it level and up in the air, I found I got a bit more used to being able to move it where I wanted.

Once you feel a bit more comfortable flying, then you can try out the photo and video controls. There's a button for shooting video, and you press it once to turn on video recording and once again to stop it. There's another button for taking photos. Just press once and it shoots. I wasn't very impressed with the photos this takes -- they look a lot like blurry video screengrabs rather than photos. The video, by contrast, is pretty good. It's not high definition, and it's a bit choppy, but it definitely captures situations quite well. I flew up over my house, and got some very nice aerial footage of my yard, for example.

It's a very stable flight, and with a bit of practice you can really get some good control over this copter. It flies smoothly and elegantly, and takes pretty good video. I'd say this is a very good starter copter for a young hobbyist or an older guy like me who likes to play around with gadgets. Not recommended for small kids, though. Ideal for the responsible teenager and up.


Dell S Series S2715H 27-Inch Screen LED-Lit Monitor
Dell S Series S2715H 27-Inch Screen LED-Lit Monitor
Price: $274.97
33 used & new from $237.89

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent picture and good sound make this a fantastic external monitor for my Macbook Pro, November 7, 2014
This is a very large and very lovely, well-built, lightweight and thin monitor. It comes with a tiltable deskstand, but you can also mount it on a wall or anywhere else using standard VESA brackets.

It's somewhat limited in its connectivity options. You can hook it up to your system via VGA or via an HDMI/MHL slot. (MHL cables plug into the micro-USB port of most non-Apple tablets and phones, and allow you to display the content on that device through the HDMI slot on the monitor.) You can hook up headphones on the left side of the monitor, but it does have 9 Watt speakers, that sound pretty good. (One thing I don't like is that you can't control the volume of the speakers from the computer -- even if you have the USB hooked up -- to control the volume you have to go into the touch control panel on the lower front of the monitor. That might be different for PCs, since there is a driver that you can install on PCs -- but there is no driver for the Mac. It works as an excellent display right out of the box, but there is no way to adjust any preferences for the screen from the Mac.)

I can hook this up to my Mac either through the HDMI cable directly or using the HDMI cable and running it through an HDMI to Thunderbolt adapter. I guess I could also connect via a VGA to Thunderbolt adapter. The flexibility is somewhat useful for me since I usually have two external monitors connected to my Mac -- and I've even tried hooking up three monitors, using an HDMI port and the two Thunderbolt ports on my MacBook Pro.

The Dell S2715H also has two USB slots, that you can use to hook up, say, a mouse or other item to your computer -- but in order for these to be usable you need to connect the monitor to your computer using the supplied USB-B to USB-A cord. I was hoping that these two USB slots would function at least to charge items like an iPhone without the other USB cord being connected to a computer, since I can always use a few spare charging slots, even when I don't need the slots for an additional connection to my Mac ... but, no dice: they don't do anything unless you have the monitor hooked up to your computer via the USB-B slot (the one that's square with grooves at the end, rather than the rectangular ones). What that means is that this only gives you one extra slot, since one slot on your computer will be taken up just getting the slots on the monitor to be functional.

This is an IPS monitor, with an active matrix LCD screen. It's very thin and much lighter than you'd expect given how big it is. It's a full 27" and the screen fills up the space, since the bezel edge around the display is very small. It's practically invisible. I really like that -- it gives things a more immersive feel.

It's very bright, with little glare. I have another monitor in which the mirror image of what's behind me sometimes overpowers what's on the screen, but this one doesn't do that. The colors are quite rich and detailed. It shows off full HD 1080p blu-ray movies, as good as they can get.

You control the monitor's functions (volume, picture settings, custom settings, etc.) via little touch buttons at the bottom of the screen, next to the on/off button.

I am very happy with this monitor. I've actually tried a few different external monitors in various price ranges. This one looks as good as any and better than most -- and seems to have no problem handling whatever signals I throw at it. I'm very happy with it. The only thing someone might complain about is the lack of a driver for the Mac, that might allow someone to adjust things remotely, without needing to use the onscreen menu -- and possibly also the lack of a DVI port, which some might prefer to HDMI or VGA.


Star Wars Command Star Destroyer Set
Star Wars Command Star Destroyer Set
Price: $33.49
53 used & new from $27.46

3.0 out of 5 stars A pretty cool set for Star Wars lovers - comes with a Star Destroyer and 6 figures - but the remote is a bit wonky, November 6, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a pretty cool toy, and young kids into Star Wars are likely to love it.

Still, it's got a few problems, and I was a bit disappointed.

First off, out of the box, you have to put it together. That was easy enough. The top chamber has to snap in, and the side wings have to snap in, and then you have to add batteries (4 AA for the destroyer, 2 AAA for the remote - none are included). Then you fill up the torpedo chamber with the four energy torpedoes (they're green transparent balls, about the size of tennis balls.) Then turn on the Destroyer and one side of it lights up red. (I thought that was odd, since it would make sense for both sides to light up.)

The remote control fits easily in either the left or the right hand. Depending on how you orient the controller, when you press the button it will either move to destroyer forward, move it in reverse and turn at the same time, or will shoot one of the torpedoes. It takes a little while to get a hang of it, since the gestures don't seem to work exactly as they're described in the manual. But they work more or less like that, and after a few minutes playing around I figured out how to get it to follow whichever of the commands I wanted. (Still, sometimes I'd press the button and it would just behave erratically, regardless of how I oriented the controller.)

Still, it is a bit wonky, and I bet a 5 year old would get frustrated when things didn't do exactly what it seems they're supposed to. I also found that one of the wings kept falling off whenever it would crash into anything.

Mostly, though, this is for imaginative play, when a kid and his friends get to pretend they're either Jedi or bad guys. It comes with three rebel troops, three stormtroopers, Luke and Darth Vader. Overall a pretty cool set.


Polaroid POLC3 Cube HD Digital Video Action Camera Camcorder (Black)
Polaroid POLC3 Cube HD Digital Video Action Camera Camcorder (Black)
Offered by GadgetBasket
Price: $99.99
8 used & new from $89.97

4.0 out of 5 stars A fun little action camera that captures surprisingly good video, November 5, 2014
Length:: 0:39 Mins

The Polaroid Cube action camcorder is a cute little camera device, that you can carry around in your pocket, but it captures surprisingly good video and decent sound.

The images are very crisp, and you can shoot in either 720p or 1080p mode. It's got a built in battery, and it records to removable micro SD cards.

It's got a fairly wide angle lens, which means that when you are shooting close ups you'll get a lot of fisheye distortion, but it does allow you to capture very wide and vibrant scenes.

There's a program built in to the memory, that allows you to adjust a few different settings on the camera, but this is a fairly simple item, designed not to require you to learn a lot of settings. You shoot photos or you shoot video, and then you stick it in your pocket and go.

Out of the box, it doesn't come with a lot of mounting options. There's a magnet on the bottom, and you can stick it to a metal surface like the top of a car and it'll stick, but the problem is that the magnet is only one one side of the cube, so whatever surface you connect it to, you'll be shooting at a 90 degree angle away from that surface. I wish there were a standard 1/4" mounting hole that you could use to connect it to a tripod or other mounting system. Panasonic does sell a range of accessories that can be used to mount this - and even a waterproof case for it -- but without an additional investment your mounting options are limited.

Still, it's a very cute little handy camera, easy to carry around and always ready to go. I had a chance to try this out for the purpose of this review, and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the image it produces.


truRoots Organic Quinoa 100% Whole Grain Premium Quality, 4 lbs
truRoots Organic Quinoa 100% Whole Grain Premium Quality, 4 lbs
Offered by LUCKY SALES
Price: $30.20
18 used & new from $22.51

4.0 out of 5 stars A nice-sized bag of tasty organic quinoa, November 3, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is good tasting organic quinoa, at a fair price.

I bought the 4 lb. bag about a month ago, and have gone through most of it.

It isn't as nutty as some of the darker varieties of quinoa, but it's still quite tasty.

I know that there are all kinds of recipes that you can use this in, but I tend to eat it plain or stirred in with some Greek yogurt. This works great for that.


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