- Koko and Dunbar not included.
When I was offered the opportunity to review a toy train set, I thought it would be interesting to try it in conjunction with my expert team of train set testers – my sons, Franklyn (7) and Matthew (4). They willingly agreed to work with me on the project and share their feelings. In the past, they have played with wooden Thomas sets as well as electric train sets. Trains are in their blood, as their grandfather has been a model railroader for decades and has constructed railroad layouts that have been featured in magazines and videos. When it comes to trains, there’s no judge in the land that wouldn’t qualify my sons as experts. They are also quite knowledgeable in stress and durability testing of toys.
With my testing team in place, we opened the Chuggington Die-Cast 10-in-1 Layout Track Pack made by Tomy. This is a large track set, not a complete train set, as it does not include any engines or cars. Fortunately, the people at Tomy were kind enough to send a couple of their engines along for my test engineers to utilize. My team found the engines (“Dunbar” and “Koko”) to be well-suited for testing and began ripping…err carefully inspecting the contents and preparing to create their first layout. Read More →
On Wednesday the U.S. Department of Justice filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Apple, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Group USA and Simon & Schuster. (Note: Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster have tentatively agreed to a settlement and, if approved, should be removed from the list of defendants.)
In the past couple years our favorite gadget news sites have sometimes resembled legal reporter sites because of all the inter-company lawsuits, but this lawsuit is significantly different than those lawsuits. It also gives us a view of the effects of digital technology in the book industry, while shedding some light on Apple’s mindset when it comes to competition. Read More →
An e-reader should be pretty simple to review, one like the Kindle Touch that has only two buttons even more so. Amazon‘s ebook reader has one primary task: displaying the pages of the reader’s books. Sure, there are other features of importance like availability of content, size and weight, and overall usability issues. But in a world where we expect our mobile phones to do everything from telling us where we are and how to get where we want to go, to capturing high-definition video, playing 3D games, maintaining contact with multiple remote servers, and even making the occasional phone call, an e-reader is downright simplistic. Read More →
When the opportunity to review the high-tech Home Chef Apron by iRepel came around, I volunteered immediately. Before I was foolish enough to go to law school and join the computer/online industry, I worked as a chef for a few restaurants. This meant I spent a great deal of time turning kitchen whites and my clothes underneath into greasy, stained rags. I was all ready to put my superior skills as a kitchen slob to work and show the folks at iRepel it was time to head back to the drawing board. Read More →
Photo by Janet Cloninger
Those of you considering upgrading their E-Readers (or those that bought new and have relegated your old E-Reader to the closet) may want to check out Sony’s highly-regarded PRS-T1 “Reader WiFi”. Sony just reduced the price to $129 (from $149) and is also running a trade-in program that could get you a $50 Sony Gift Card. My Amazon Kindle 2 qualified for the trade-in even without including the charger which I kept for use with my new Kindle Touch.
While the Sony won’t display Amazon’s proprietary E-Books they have their own book store and it appears that an Open Source package called Calibre will allow many other formats to be imported (I read conflicting reports of success/failure converting Barnes & Noble’s to the Sony device). Of course, with Sony’s own bookstore holding over two-million books that might not be necessary. The Sony Reader is also compatible with most major library lending services.
At $79 ($129 – $50) the Sony Reader PRS-T1 appears to be an excellent value.
Sivlerlit did well when they named this toy the 3D Twister because my play (err…I mean precise testing methodology) mostly involved watching the car skitter around our home and later our concrete driveway literally flipping, spinning, hopping and jumping around. At full throttle the car looks more like a frenetic animal than a toy car, so much so that a squirrel actually charged it a couple of times while we were playing (err testing). Read More →
Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings announced that the plans to split their DVD distribution business into a separate company (Qwikster) has been cancelled because of customer feedback. While I’d love to believe that the many emails and articles like this one were the reason for the reconciliation I believe it may also have involved Amazon’s recent activities.
Perhaps, someone at Netflix asked that all important question, “Why are we going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, de-value our brand and disrupt a successful operation?”
There was no logical answer and Mr. Hastings has elected to change his mind. I guess that’s just a CEO’s prerogative.
Whatever the reason…one website, one search, and a lot more than one happy customer!
About three years ago I started moving our family towards a cable/satellite free lifestyle. One of my first projects was building a Home Theater Computer. AMD had recently introduced the 780g chipset that would allow me to build an inexpensive, quiet machine that would handle streaming HD video without the need for an internal video card. The build went well and I settled onto my sofa to enjoy a little Netflix. I then realized that holding a full-sized wireless keyboard wasn’t going to work. So, it was off to the internet in search of the perfect HTPC keyboard.
Much to the delight of several web retailers I have now purchased close to a dozen different solutions. Everything from a decent Adesso Wireless keyboard to some no-name eBay “finds”. None of them really fit the “sofa experience” though…so my search continued. Eventually, I came upon an ad for Lenovo’s Multimedia Remote, a fan-shaped mini keyboard with a trackball and some dedicated keys. I broke out the credit card and a few days later I was pretty happy with the purchase and only had a couple of complaints. Read More →
With Amazon set to announce its new tablet that reportedly will include a subscription to the company’s streaming video service, “Prime”, CEO Jeff Bezos announced that 20th Century Fox had agreed to license much of its TV shows and movies library for streaming. The library will include approximately 2,000 titles including a slew of movies like Mrs. Doubtfire, Speed, Office Space, All About Eve and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), and TV shows including 24, Arrested Development, The X-Files, Ally McBeal, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Wonder Years. Read More →
Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, sent me an email apologizing for the way Netflix communicated their most recent price increase. Some of you (okay maybe 20 million of you) also received a similar message. Mr. Hastings opened up and told us about his deepest fears and then he broke the bad news…it would be better for all concerned if the happy family of DVD and streaming content split up.
We’ll see the re-named, “Qwikster” every few days when we receive our beloved red envelopes and now they’ll even include video games. We’ll stay with Netflix and its streaming movies and TV shows. Mr. Hastings told us that this divorce was necessary so that both companies could provide us with better service. Read More →
About a year and a half ago Steve Jobs introduced the iPad and declared that we were now in the “Post PC Era”. I purchased an iPad, then I bought an Asus eee Transformer (with dock) and finally bought an HP TouchPad. They all do about the same things with various strengths and weaknesses; overall all of the tablets are pretty much the same when compared to the functionality of a PC. (For the sake of this article a PC is a desktop or notebook running Windows or Mac OSX.)
Tablets have allowed me to move easily away from my desk to read email, read some websites, check Twitter, Facebook, watch some videos, use apps and, of course, play games. This increased mobility is great and this has provided both entertainment value and, in some cases, productivity gains over a PC. Tablets can be a useful tool.
Now, if that’s all you need from a PC then Mr. Jobs is correct and for those people it is the “Post PC” era. But I believe a great many of us do quite a bit more and would suffer major productivity losses if we found ourselves without PCs. Read More →
I like keyboards; I like big, full-sized keyboards like my Logitech G15 on down to my one-handed Lenovo N5902 Multimedia Remote. I could barely play “Chopsticks” on the piano and when it comes to 0n-screen keyboards. I’m all thumbs…in the wrong way. We have three tablets in our home (Apple iPad, Asus Transformer and HP TouchPad), all of them are paired with keyboards that make typing anything over a few words much more pleasant. Read More →
Recently I updated the firmware of my Jawbone Jambox speaker to take advantage of a new feature called Live Audio. While I didn’t notice it sounding all that much better the volume output was significantly lower. Turning the new feature off didn’t correct the deficiency and what was once a booming little speaker had been converted into the “whisper woofer” even when set to full volume. I was able to temporarily solve the problem by purchasing an Android app that boosted the volume on my smartphone, but that had sound quality trade-offs. The Jambox had gone from great gadget to shelf ballast in short order. Read More →
Well, it appears that someone in the tablet industry watched what happened last month with the HP TouchPad and may have taken notes. Engadget is reporting, and Fusion Garage has confirmed, that the Grid10’s previously announced prices of $499 for their 16-gigabyte WiFi model, and $599 for the 16-gigabyte 3G/WiFi models were reduced to $299 and $399 respectively. Reportedly, pre-orders placed before the price decrease have been adjusted accordingly. On the bad news side the shipping date was pushed back to October 1 from September 15.
Some of you will remember the unique ad campaign that Fusion Garage ran prior to their product announcement on August 16.
I’m hoping this is a sign that some of these tablet manufacturers are beginning to understand the current tablet marketplace. Apple has the brand, marketing and reputations for quality to allow it to charge top-tier pricing for devices like its iPad. Newcomers to the market need to either launch with a product that is demonstratively superior to the iPad or at a significant discount. I believe the TouchPad would have sold considerably better if HP had priced it at $299 and would be on its way to building a user base and developer interest in webOS.
All that being said, a spokesperson for Fusion Garage told Engadget that they had intended to launch at the reduced price all along and had announced the higher pricing because of business negotiations. Let’s hope they’re better at building a tablet than they are at spinning a news story.
The new Lenovo Multimedia Remote Keyboard (N5902)
Over a year ago we cut the cable/dish around here and began using Home Theater PCs, and various extenders and it has worked out much better than I had hoped. My wife and two sons have been delighted with the selection of content available and we’re saving almost $125/month by not having DirecTV.
All went smoothly in the transition, building the HTPCs was easy, putting the Rokus, Popcorn Hour , Microsoft XBox360 and Thecus NAS on the network wasn’t a problem either. The only real issue we had was finding the right remote keyboard. I tried a slew of them and could never find one that was easy to use, small enough to fit in one hand and accomplished all the functions necessary to fully utilize the Windows 7 based PCs that were acting as the heart of our system. Read More →
I’m not sure why I’m writing so much about the HP TouchPad lately. I like the device and I like webOS, but the tablet is really my wife’s. I’m kind of stuck on my Android-powered, Asus Transformer. Nevertheless, the story of the HP TouchPad seems to be continuing with more twists, turns and odd occurrences than a season of “Fringe”. Here’s a recap.
A few years back Palm, Inc. started working on a new operating system to replace their aging PalmOS to better compete with the then new kid on the block, the Apple iPhone. They created webOS and launched it on a couple of smartphones (Palm Pre and Palm Pixi). Unfortunately, for the company it was too little, too late and their investors sold them off to Hewlett-Packard in mid-2010. Read More →