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Profile for William Sommerwerck > Reviews


William Sommerwe...'s Profile

Customer Reviews: 530
Top Reviewer Ranking: 8,628
Helpful Votes: 3899

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Reviews Written by
William Sommerwerck "grizzled geezer" RSS Feed (Renton, WA USA)

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KitchenAid Gourmet Soft Grip Can Opener with Magnet, Red
KitchenAid Gourmet Soft Grip Can Opener with Magnet, Red
Price: $14.67
8 used & new from $12.14

4.0 out of 5 stars a really good opener, November 26, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
To make a long story short -- this is by far the best manual can opener I've used. (It ought to be, given the price.) The handles are easy to get a good hold on. Closing the jaw punctures the can in a decidedly aggressive manner. Little force is needed to crank the long, padded knob.

Now, if KitchenAid would make an opener that cut through the //rim// (making the lid refittable), I'd be in can-opener heaven.

DBPOWER Bluetooth Speakers with Transparent Enclosure, FM Radio, Built-in Mic, LED Display, Support 3.5 mm Audio Jack, Micro SD Card & USB Input(black)
DBPOWER Bluetooth Speakers with Transparent Enclosure, FM Radio, Built-in Mic, LED Display, Support 3.5 mm Audio Jack, Micro SD Card & USB Input(black)

5.0 out of 5 stars behold -- the Peltzer "Bluetooth Buddy", November 20, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is a review of the DBPOWER B1 "black brick" (not the transparent-case model), which was discontinued yesterday. It was given to me as an outright gift, without any requirement for a review.

It isn't just a Bluetooth speaker -- it's also an outstanding table radio, well-worth the asking price. More about that later.

As a Bluetooth speaker, the B1 works as expected. Set it to BT mode, then have your phone search. When it finds the B1, enter the default 0000 passkey, and they link pronto. Once the passkey has been learned, the B1 will automatically locate and link to your phone, without having to repeat the setup.

Once you initiate a call, the B1 switches to speakerphone. You can hang up using the B1's "do-everything" button, or the "end call" button on your phone. (But unlike having a headset attached, closing the phone hangs up, too.) The B1 had no trouble connecting at 10m in my cluttered condo. (Why anyone would downrate the B1 for getting "only" to 5m is hard to understand, as you would normally be sitting near it.)

Which brings us to the mono FM radio. The sound quality is -- forgive me -- amazing. You'd expect the B1 to sound like a nasty little box. It doesn't. It's difficult to describe just how good it is, without going overboard. There are no obvious colorations, and the sound is transparent and detailed. The bass is more a simulacrum of bass, but when a heavy bass passage comes along, you know it. The sound is not quite room-filling, but the B1 has punch and guts, and can play quite loudly without distortion.

The B1 is, in short, an audiophile-quality Bluetooth speaker, about the volume of two Roach Motels. (Other reviewers who listen to classical music are similarly enthusiastic about its sound.) Overall, I prefer its to the Tivoli (the Tivoli having more-but-muddier bass, and less transparency/detail). The only significant problem (other than not being stereo) is that there's no provision for an outboard antenna.

A 3.5mm stereo jack on the back allows connection of any line-level source. The two speakers really are separate. A mouse would hear stereo from a stereo source. Humans will not,

The B1 is a smashingly good product. Perhaps DBPOWER will bring it back.

Clarification: As good as it is, the B1 is no match for the Monsoon MM-2000 planar-magnetic speakers on my desk.

SmartFriend 24/7 Tech Support (1-Month Service)
SmartFriend 24/7 Tech Support (1-Month Service)
Price: $29.99
3 used & new from $29.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This level of service is uncommon., November 6, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Four years ago, I purchased an HP 4530s ProBook. As I, and hundreds (of not thousands) of buyers quickly discovered, the switchable graphics system didn't work. Attempts to change from integral Intel graphics to discrete Radeon graphics caused the computer to crash. Neither HP nor AMD had an answer (that I could find, anyway).

I decided to give it another shot using HP SmartFriend. To make a long story short, a guy from HP called last Monday. I explained the problem, and he told me what to do. It turned out to be correct. I am very pleased. You rarely get this kind of service from any company.

PS: I learned a number of things, including the fact that the drivers HP lists on its support pages for a given computer are the last version HP tested that actually work. (Later versions might work, but there's no guarantee.) That's where I was guided to find the correct drivers.

The Quiet Man (60th Anniversary Special Edition) [Blu-ray]
The Quiet Man (60th Anniversary Special Edition) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ John Wayne
Offered by CineGeek
Price: $15.99
32 used & new from $13.48

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific transfer of a terrific film., November 5, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
#1 in Westerns? Iwo Jima is west of the US, so I suppose that makes "Sands of Iwo Jima" a Western, too.

My problem with John Wayne films is, and always will be, John Wayne. This is one of his less-poor performances. The otherwise exceptionally fine script doesn't give him much to do dramatically, and he succeeds very well at not doing it. Maureen O'Hara, who passed on just 16 days ago (a shock, as I assumed she was immortal), is the real star.

I've seen "The Quiet Man" at least twice before, but was never so impressed with it. The casting is perfect, the script a model of engaging storytelling, and Ford's direction never better. It is a masterfully entertaining film.

It won Best Color Cinematography, but you'd never know it from the miserable prints commonly shown -- dark and muddy, with blocked shadows. If you're worried that this edition will be more of the same -- don't be. It's a 4K scan from the original three-strip Technicolor negatives, and it is magnificent. The rich detail of the Irish countryside is realistic and seductive. The color is generally excellent, but skin tones don't always look natural, and bright colors too-often "pop" in a way not intended. The rendering of red as magenta that occurs in "Pinocchio" also occurs here. * But the excessive contrast and blocked shadows are gone. "The Quiet Man" finally achieves its intended beauty.

The only supplemental material is a 1992 "gush" from Leonard Maltin, about the making of the film. (Yes, the sound and image are out of sync.) It includes excerpts from the original trailer (and film) that show how much this electronic transfer has improved the image.

Strongly recommended.

* Technicolor films were intended to be viewed as Technicolor IB prints -- not in a direct electronic transfer.

CH Hanson 03040 Magnetic Stud Finder
CH Hanson 03040 Magnetic Stud Finder
Offered by Fat Boy Tools
Price: $10.05
32 used & new from $5.50

5.0 out of 5 stars "Use the Force, Luke.", November 4, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I bought this to mount a TV bracket. It's ridiculously simple -- and ridiculously good. Helen Keller would have no trouble locating a stud with it.

Here's a helpful suggestion. If you have trouble centering the finder... CLOSE YOUR EYES and let your kinesthetic sense guide you. Your muscles will tell you when you're centered.

Sometimes the simplest way to do something is the best.

Gatekeeper Wireless Bluetooth Computer Lock, Black
Gatekeeper Wireless Bluetooth Computer Lock, Black
Price: $49.99
2 used & new from $39.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The hardware works fine. The software is a bit quirky., November 1, 2015
This item was provided at no charge in exchange for an honest review. I apologize to Untethered for taking so outrageously long to post a review.

The Gatekeeper is ideal for someone who's often away from their computer and wants to deter prying eyes. Library research is an obvious example.

As such, it works fine (other than the occasional erratic behavior due to fluctuations in signal strength). Unfortunately, the configuration software isn't as helpful as it might be. A bar graph shows the signal strength. You can then use a slider to choose the relative distance at which you want the Gatekeeper to lock the computer (Near, Far, something in-between). There are problems with this.

One is that distance and signal strength don't have any necessary relationship. To state the obvious... In an uncluttered straight line, you've going to have to get much farther from the computer (than you would in an environment with RF absorbing/reflecting surfaces) before the machine locks. It would be nice if the Far/Near display were replaced with a bar graph //showing specific distances// related to the received signal strength. That wouldn't be perfect, either, but it would give a starting point that's better than a guess.

After you've selected a relative distance, you click a button to learn how the Gatekeeper will react (at that unknown distance). Two of the responses are obvious -- the Gatekeeper will lock or unlock the computer. There's a third I still haven't figured out -- no change will occur. Does this mean that's a gray zone where the signal isn't strong/weak enough to unlock/lock the computer?

Be prepared to experiment a bit (and check periodically for software updates). Other than that, I have no trouble recommending the Gatekeeper.

PS: The software compares the password you supply with the operating system password. You can't enter an invalid password.

AmazonBasics 10-Piece Nonstick Cookware Set
AmazonBasics 10-Piece Nonstick Cookware Set
Price: $48.99
2 used & new from $40.42

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars They look good -- but will they last?, October 31, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
My not-stick pans are getting ratty (I've had them more than a decade), and this set looked like a good replacement. (Please note that I received new merchandise. There was no indication that these utensils were in any way used.)

I fried chicken breasts and cooked flavored rice in the sauce pan (rather than a Pyrex bowl in the microwave oven). The results were fine -- no obvious hot spots, and (of course) no sticking.

The true measure of quality is how long cookware lasts. My mother used Revere Ware (copper-coated stainless steel), which lasted at least 25 years. I can't run a life test on these pots 'n pans, but I can make some educated guesses.

The Teflon coating is almost perfectly smooth. It should give reasonable service if you don't use metal utensils. (However, even plastic utensils will slowly scrape off Teflon.)

The handles are covered in a vaguely soft polymer that's rough enough to reduce the chance of slippage. I applied fairly strong solvents -- Goo Gone and Super Wash degreaser. Neither appeared to damage it.

The handles are attached in a less-than prepossessing manner. A chunk o' metal is bolted to the side of the pan. Then the handle is attached to the chunk * with a metal ring that appears crimped in place. This isn't the way I'd attach a handle to //anything//.

Nor am I impressed with the glass lids. The outer rim is metal, rather than a "lip" in the lid itself. It isn't even solid metal, but a band welded at the ends. How long will it stay attached and intact? Who knows? As with the handles' attachment, this is poor design.

The sides are painted black. (It doesn't look like anodizing.) A close inspection shows small dents and marks in the metal. The paint is apparently there to hide them.

As was another reviewer, I was puzzled at the odd "dimpled" pattern on the bottom. It might be decorative, or (I'm speculating) it might reduce warpage (presumably by allowing the metal to heat and cool more quickly). Utensils tend to warp as they age, which does nothing for even heating.

Nor does warpage help with induction cooking, which these aluminum utensils are supposed to be good for. I don't have an induction unit to test them, but it's obvious that an aluminum pot is not going to heat up as quickly as an iron or steel one, because it doesn't "focus the flux"..

This cookware isn't going to give "a lifetime of service". But it appears to be of decent quality, better than one would expect for the low asking price ($8/piece).

* I wanted to call it a billet, but that isn't the right word.

The Engineering Book: From the Catapult to the Curiosity Rover, 250 Milestones in the History of Engineering (Sterling Milestones)
The Engineering Book: From the Catapult to the Curiosity Rover, 250 Milestones in the History of Engineering (Sterling Milestones)
by Marshall Brain
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.55
76 used & new from $15.27

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Of questionable accuracy..., October 28, 2015
When I first opened this book, it fell to the page on "3D glasses". Virtually everything on this page is wrong, starting with the date of invention and the inventor (not to mention that "Bwana Devil" was shown with Polaroid viewers). This necessarily casts doubt on everything else in the book.

Certain topics are missing altogether -- photography in particular. No Daguerre, no Fox-Talbot, no Eastman, no Land. (Photography was developed for a very practical reason -- creating or copying images without having to draw them by hand.) Photography is just one topic (along with powered flight, electrical power, atomic energy, etc) that would justify multi-page treatment. Nope. The ultimate omission is Tesla, who more than any other single person, influenced the modern world. (And where's Clarence Birdseye, who's not far behind Tesla?)

The poor quality of math, science, engineering, and computer books is appalling. If one in ten is any good, that's a lot. Publishers refuse to spend money to have knowledgeable people edit them. It costs money.

Marshall Brain has an annoyingly ingenuous (rather than analytical) writing style, and he "writes down" to readers he presumes know little or nothing about the material. He gives the impression of belonging to that same group.

HERSHEY'S Hot Beverage Machine (CL400BGH)
HERSHEY'S Hot Beverage Machine (CL400BGH)
Offered by NetYourselfADeal
Price: $76.97
3 used & new from $68.00

4.0 out of 5 stars An easy way to make hot beverages from scratch -- but cleanup is messy., October 25, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The original review appears below the dashed line.

When I cleaned up, there was a substantial amount of undissolved cocoa stuck to the heating plate. Even after letting it soak overnight, it did not come free, and required fingernail scraping. (Dawn dissolves petroleum -- but not cocoa.) I spent a good 20 minutes undoing the mess.

This isn't altogether a surprise, as cocoa powder doesn't dissolve easily. The obvious solution is to heat everything else, them add the cocoa powder a little at a time. When I'm in the mood for more cocoa, I'll report back.

Hot chocolate -- especially when whipped up from scratch (rather than poured from a pouch) -- can be a mess. Who wants to keep an eye on a saucepan of hot milk, while periodically stirring? Or peeling off the scum that forms on heated milk?

Hershey’s Hot Beverage Machine ends that. Dump the ingredients, press the high or low button, and walk off. In a few minutes your drink is heated to the correct temperature (Hershey’s idea of correct, anyway) and ready to decant.

With the HBM you can control exactly what you’re drinking. And I assume cocoa powder + sugar is cheaper than premixed cocoa.

I made cocoa this morning. The hard part was measuring out the ingredients. The hot chocolate came out quite hot. A thermostat monitors the temperature. If the liquid cools, the Machine restarts to reheat it. This repeats indefinitely.

IMPORTANT THING NOT IN THE MANUAL The manufacturer recommends pressing the Froth and Dispense button before dispensing. (This whips the drink into a frenzy without heating it.) If you don’t press Heat & Hi Speed or Heat & Lo Speed afterward, you lose automatic reheating.

Two points of criticism. The coupling between the motor and stirrer isn’t perfectly tight, and rattles during operation. The container is easy to clean, but the manufacturer recommends disassembling the dispensing handle. It seems to me that flushing the hot, soapy water you use to clean the container through the dispensing handle should be perfectly satisfactory, as both the drink and the soapy water follow the same path.

If you regularly drink hot chocolate (or other hot beverages requiring mixing), the HBM is worth considering.

PS: There have been complaints about the older West Bend version of this product. I will update this review if required.

Giant Slinky Dog Plush
Giant Slinky Dog Plush
Price: $41.97
8 used & new from $40.74

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some toys are just too good for kids..., October 22, 2015
This review is from: Giant Slinky Dog Plush (Toy)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
...and this is one of them.

A huggable plush version of a classic Slinky toy is an inspired idea. There are no wheels on his feet, but one can easily imagine toddlers pulling his front legs forward, then pushing up the rear legs, over and over, to move him across the floor. Older children will enjoy draping him around their necks -- as will grown-ups. The ability to pose him in many positions means he'll "play well" with other toys. Or you can use his "spring belly" to hold small action figures prisoner.

This is likely to be another "Tickle Me Elmo", in short supply at Christmas.

PS: Who's the jerk who's given most of these reviews a "Not Helpful" ranking? Do you think those of us who spend time writing these reviews aren't going to notice, and be offended?

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