Showing posts with label Electronics Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Electronics Reviews. Show all posts

Monday, September 9, 2019

Favorite Fall Lawn Gadgets Reviewed

Oh no! What happened to summer? I say that every September though most of September is technically still summer.

September is actually I think the best month for the northern United States. The air is crisper, the humidity has decreased and the leaves are just beginning their journey through the colors. Fall also means lawn work, garden clean up, Fall planting and preparing the lawn and garden for a snowy winter.

My Favorite Fall Lawn Gadgets 

The Bagster - On Demand Debris Removal

If Fall clean up involves heavy materials whether it be concrete, wood or trees then The Bagster is a great alternative to dispose of heavy loads. Simply purchase The Bagster bag either online or at a big box store, fill the bag and schedule the pick up!


Find the full review here and see if your area qualifies for The Bagster.


Greenworks Leaf Blower

This is one of my favorite lawn tools of all purchases. The lightweight Greenworks Leaf Blower is so versatile.

I use it all year to blow leaves and debris off the driveway or deck, blow leaves to dispose of in the Fall and even use it for a Car Hack to blow dust out of the car.

Read the full review here of this easy to maneuver Leaf Blower.

City Pickers Raised Garden Bed

I really enjoyed this garden bed on wheels during the summer and will transition this raised bed garden for Fall planting. Maybe a pumpkin?!? I plan on rolling the bed into the Florida room for the winter and begin herb planting come spring.


Read the full review here of this rolling garden bed perfect for the yard, deck or patio.


Blue Shoes Disposable Shoes

Fall means rain, mud and leaves in my area of the country. Do you have trees with those itty bitty leaves which stick to everything and every shoe?

These affordable disposable shoes I have found invaluable for yard work in any weather. Pop the shoes on and dispose of in a jif if needed. If the conditions are dry the shoes can be used as a cover and then reused.

Read the full review here of these little shoe savers.


Top Ten Hallmark Christmas Movies

I know, these are not a lawn gadget. But Fall means Hallmark Christmas Movies are in the near future. As I recall the Christmas movies began at Halloween last year.


Find the full review here.

A few new favorites from last Christmas to add to the list:

  • Christmas At Pemberley Manor
  • Christmas At The Palace
  • Christmas On Honeysuckle Lane






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Monday, July 22, 2019

Defiant Wireless Motion Sensor Solar Light Review

Need an outdoor light but no electrical outlet? The wireless motion sensor solar light by Defiant can assist. I recently needed to light an outdoor walkway which was marooned between electrical outlets and hard wiring the area was not an option.


I purchased the Defiant Wireless Solar Light to solve the no electrical outlet, need light problem and have been very impressed with its' performance. 


Brightness

Brightness
Motion Sensor

x
This is a bright light! It is not for subtle soft lighting along the deck, patio or home. The solar light has the equivalency of 20 LED lights.

The unit actually has two lights. The main light facing out and an interior back light behind the main light. The two lights are synchronized to provide the full brightness. The motion sensor feature then regulates how the lights are dimmed after activation.




Motion Sensor


I found the motion sensor to be very accurate. The small unit is deceiving as to how quickly it will pick up motion. Activity to trigger the motion sensor is up to 26 feet with a 120 degree radius according the the specifications.

There are two settings for the motion sensor:

1. When motion is detected the front and back light turns on to full brightness. After 10 seconds of no motion both lights turn to low brightness.

2. Standby mode. When motion is detected the front and back light turns to full brightness. After 10 seconds of no motion the front light turns off and the back light turns to low brightness.

The light does not have an option for both lights to be turned off after activation. 


Solar Light & Wireless

The solar light takes eight hours of charging to provide 12 hours of continuous light during the night. 

The wireless feature is perfect for areas of the home, deck, landscape or yard which are not located near an electrical outlet. The unit is easy to install as it is lightweight and requires two wall screws (included.) However I liked the portability of the unit due to its' lightweight and shape so I positioned the unit on the deck stairs to face the sun.

 

 

More Home Reviews





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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Apps to Help You Learn German in Small Doses: A Review

The Best Way to Learn German or Any Language


The best way to learn a new language is to immerse yourself in it and use it daily. Language is definitely a case of  "Use it or lose it." That's why my two years of college German had almost completely disappeared in the 45 years I didn't have any occasion to use it. A few years after graduation special circumstances compelled me to teach a bit of German to some select elementary students, but then I stopped teaching and started selling books and blogging. Spare time was scarce. I simply wasn't motivated to study when I'd rather be using my leisure time to read. But now I'm motivated since I discovered these two apps for my new Galaxy Note 9 phone.

Apps to Help You Learn German in Small Doses: A Review of Drops and DuoLingo

Small Doses of Language Work Best for Me


Both of the apps I use, Drops and DuoLingo, have very short daily lessons. Both have positive reinforcement built into their programs. You know immediately whether your answers are right or wrong. I have been using both of these for about two weeks now. I got tired of the ads so I bought the paid versions after trying them out. Both programs encourage you by keeping track of what you've accomplished.

In the image above are two images from Drops. The first, in purple, is my page at the end of a session. It shows me how many words I've learned so far and how long my session lasted. It also shows which level I've achieved in my current topic. Underneath the time is a brief review of the words I've learned and reviewed during this session. This is really handy, since some words need more practice than others. Sometimes I haven't quite gotten the pronunciation down. If I click on an image in this section, I will see the English meaning and hear the German pronunciation again. If I still didn't catch it, I can tap again and I will hear the word again --  more slowly. I use this feature a lot.

The second Drops image shows the current topic I'm working on. The yellow lines show how much progress I've made. The yellow stars on the red row of squares underneath indicates that I've mastered the words in those topics.

How Drops Works

I have the premium plan and no longer see ads. I also can choose the length of each session. I think the session length begins at five minutes. I am now doing fifteen minutes a session and often I do two or more sessions a day if I have time. It's fun. It keeps my brain exercising. At the beginning of each session you receive a word drop. It looks like a large water drop and it brings you a new word you haven't yet seen. You also see a picture that represents it and the English meaning as you hear the the pronunciation of the German word. If you don't want to practice that word because you already know it, you swipe it up. If you want to learn or review it, you swipe it down. 

Apps to Help You Learn German in Small Doses: A Review


The next screen shows you the word again and two pictures (far left of image.) It lets you choose the one picture it matches. You hear the German word again. After that you may have any of the other exercises pictured drop down. The rust-colored exercise helps you look more closely at the word and put the parts of the word into the blank spaces below. If you hesitate, they give you a hint of where to start by wiggling one of the ovals. If you've worked with the word a couple of times before they may add another group of letters that isn't a correct part of the word just to make it more challenging.

The blue screen shows one of my least favorite exercises. It's a word search. You get the first letter and have to tap the others in order to spell the word correctly. I've learned how to cheat when I don't know the correct article form and there's a choice. I find the blank oval and tap to get to it because I know it comes right after the article. It's tricky, though. Even if you know how to spell the word (which I often don't) you may have the same correct letter in two different positions you can choose. You have to look ahead to see which leads to spelling the rest of the word. If you guess wrong, the program will correct you until you make the right choice.

There's another spelling game I didn't show you. It has the picture and you have to keep picking letters from a group of a few letters on the bottom until you spell the word. When you pick a letter, another moves into its place, so you don't see all the choices at the beginning.

My favorite game is the last one -- the matching game. I don't have to spell anything for this one. I just tap the pairs that match. No matter which game, once you make the correct choice, you will hear the word that is the correct answer repeated again. Approaching the word in so many different ways -- as a whole, as an image, letter by letter, section by section, and as sound -- helps your brain cement it in your memory. Words you studied at the beginning keep reappearing in later lessons so that you don't get a chance to forget them. You can probably tell I really like this app. You can use it easily on a phone or a computer.




What I Don't Like So Much about Drops


Overall, I enjoy using Drops, but there are a couple of things I don't like. Part of the reason is in the program itself and part of it is my own lack of knowledge. I have a problem with the artwork. Now I definitely could not do better myself, but I have trouble figuring out what some pictures are supposed to be. Here are some examples in the screenshot below.

Apps to Help You Learn German in Small Doses: A Review of Drop and DuoLingo
Screenshot from the Drops App. Get more information here.

I had no problem with the words and pictures on the left side of this screenshot from the review at the end of the session. But I had a tough time figuring out just what that man on the right top corner was doing. I thought maybe he was doing some sort of dance. I had to check the English translation, which was "I like." Yes, his thumbs are up. But when I hear the words, this is the image with which I associate it. Verbs are hard to illustrate.

My other problem was probably one I inherited from my mother who used to keep a novel inside her geography book during class. I'm not very good at identifying countries other than my own by their map shapes and/or flags. So it's only the German word that helped me recognize Greece (lower right corner of image.) When we learn the words for nationalities instead of the countries, we keep the flag and instead of the map there is a common object or a building often associated with the country. I had no trouble figuring out that bagpipes were Scottish, but many buildings in Eastern European countries seemed similar to each other. So I had to learn flags, country shapes, and architecture along with the language. I suppose that's good, but it confused me. That's why I started to pull out the old German books from college and the children's illustrated German dictionary  I used to sell. Those books  were great supplements to the apps.

Visual dictionaries for children are very good even for adults beginning the study of a foreign language. Here are two of the best available now. Mine are out of print.



DuoLingo or Drops?


I find DuoLingo boring. There is little color as far as I've gotten. It's more like doing textbook exercises on the computer. I understand the logic behind it, but maybe I should be at a more advanced level than I chose. It seems the several short sessions I completed never got past various ways of mixing these words (in German and English, in and out of sentences) : man, woman, men, women, boy, boys, girl, girls, is, are, he, she, it, you, they, the, a, and that. They were used in questions and statements. I realize this is establishing basic sentence patterns and teaching forms of the verb "to be" and singular and plural nouns, pronouns and articles. It's still boring. More color and variety in activities would go a long way to making this more fun.  Below is the screenshot of a scorecard after a brief review exercise. These are the instructions and the right answers. 


Apps to Help You Learn German in Small Doses: A Review of Drops and DuoLingo

Below is a screenshot of the correction screen for one of the exercises above. This is about as visually exciting as it's gotten so far. I'll let you guess which app I use most often. 



In all fairness, I have not explored all the options in this app yet, even though I have paid for the premium version. I have not joined a club  to practice with other people. I can't find one in my community, and now I'm beginning to wonder if I misunderstood that. 

I did check out the stories -- one reason I got this version. They aren't very exciting.  More like the dialogues in beginning textbooks. Bilingual children's books are much more interesting and colorful. Check out the wide variety on Amazon. Many of them are available to read for free on Kindle Unlimited. That's how I've been able to read so many of them this week. Some with very familiar stories are only in German. I will need to improve my skills before I'm ready to read those, but they are on my wish list.

In my opinion Duolingo is like a textbook put on a computer. You hear or read German and write what you see or hear in English. Or you do the opposite. I can only use this program on the computer because I can't seem to switch to a German keyboard on my phone. To be able to hear and speak comfortably I need to be on my MAC because my headsets for speaking and listening on my PC are somewhat uncomfortable for a complete session.

I probably would not buy the paid Plus version of DuoLingo if I had it to do over. It does give me a kind of practice Drops doesn't have, but it is more academic than I wanted in an app. Drops is much more fun and I seem to learn better with that kind of practice. I have a stack of German texts if I want to study the subject academically. 


Apps to Help You Learn German in Small Doses: A Review
My College Texts and German References with Other Books I've Picked up Since Then
© B. Radisavljevic



My Current Plan for Studying German


My daily routine includes at least one session of using the Drops app a day, and I do it first thing in the morning on my phone before I get out of bed. That's the only way to make sure I get it done. I  also keep the Beginner's German Dictionary close to me in case I want to use it for visual review. It's a picture dictionary I used to sell. It's now out of print. For visual learning it's hard to beat Usborne books, but you can only get most of them used now. I don't think one book in my stack above is still in print, since I've had most of these for over fifty years.

Books in my stack are good for reference and review, but I need to update the dictionary. Many words have been added to the language since 1964. Here's my wish list to supplement my references. I didn't really see an adult dictionary I want yet. I will stick to the one I have until I find a more useful one. The DK Visual Dictionary (below) will have some of the more modern words in it. It will serve my purpose since it is intended for adults.

I also will keep downloading German or bilingual picture books I can read for free on Kindle Unlimited.  There are also many books there on how to learn German that I have downloaded to evaluate. When I have a bit more vocabulary, I will get the story book below. I need more experience with using the language. I hope to find my German Christmas carol book I got in college and start singing the carols again. I have some on CD's and can also listen to German music free as part of my Amazon Prime Membership. I've already found some great children's songs in German.


The most recent thing I've done is start following people on Instagram who speak German . This allows me to see how Germans actually speak informally to each other and I can read the German memes and jokes they post. I have found some real goodies so far. One of the most helpful accounts I follow is German for Mummies. Every day it posts a cute cartoon drawing with labeled thematic photos. Most of the posts include simple sentences using words in the drawing. Here's one of my favorite posts from the feed: a frog in a pond.

 I hope if you want to learn German, too, some of my ideas, reviews, and recommended materials may help you. Feel free to ask questions in the comments or talk to me on Instagram or Twitter. And don't forget to follow this blog, Review
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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 Review from a First Time Smartphone User

Why I Finally Bought a Smartphone 


I have been using a flip phone since the 1990's. I only bought it because  I traveled on business and needed a way to communicate on the road. There weren't any smartphones then. The little phone fit easily in my purse or pocket and I used my landline whenever I was home. I only gave family members and very close friends my cell number -- and, of course, services that insisted I get two-step verification by text message. I don't really text anyone myself -- yet.

Almost everyone I know seems to have a smartphone and  many seem addicted to them. But I didn't want one. I hate typing on tiny keyboards with my arthritic fingers. I like to work on a desktop where I have it all. So I happily blogged on and resisted the smartphone. I processed my photos nicely without one and took a digital camera on my photo walks. Then came Instagram and I couldn't join the party. Unless I got a smartphone. So five days ago I finally got one.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9  Review from a First Time Smartphone User
My Galaxy Note 9 with Accessories


Why I Bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 9 Instead of an iPhone


My brother and many of my friends have iPhones and love them. My husband has a Galaxy S7. I've seen people do amazing things with smartphones and I thought they were using iPhones. One day I was at a winery with a friend and had forgotten to bring my phone. I borrowed hers and it took fantastic photos. I had seen my nephew scan a document by taking a photo with what I thought was an iPhone. I was all set to get an iPhone. But when I double checked with my nephew and my friend, I discovered they both had Galaxy phones. The camera I had borrowed was on a Galaxy Note 8 or 9

I wanted to buy the phone with the best camera. My plan was to start making more videos where I could just talk to people, so I needed a front-facing camera. I also wanted to get great nature and product photos and videos for my blogs and for making Zazzle products. And, of  course, I wanted to be able to post to my Instagram account with my own phone -- not Hubby's. I was using my PC to like and comment on posts from my friends, and I wanted to join the fun and post more. Now I can. If you like nature, books, gardening, or a simple lifestyle, you can follow me on Instagram and see the quality of what I've posted so far from my new phone. I'm barbradis on Instagram.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9  Review from a First Time Smartphone User
Cyclist in Riverbed of Salinas River in Paso Robles Taken with Galaxy Note 9


I decided on the Galaxy Note 9 because it had great cameras. Yes, the iPhone camera is also a good one, but for my purposes, the Galaxy Note 9 tops it. There is also a lesser reason. I have both a Windows PC and an iMac. Both have been sick. While my PC was really sick, I used the Apple almost exclusively, even though it was really slow. I couldn't find anything. I called our local guru to come fix it and he confirmed that Apple just hides things and you have to know the tricks to get around that. I like a clear file path. I think in Windows, not Apple. I understand Google better than Apple. I thought over the long haul I'd be happier with Android.


The Learning Curve


If I had already been a smartphone user just trading up or getting a different brand, I don't think the learning curve would have been as steep for me as it's been these last five days. I'm used to the space and options I have with a desktop. I work with forty tabs open in Chrome, four notepads to cut and paste from, and several Windows Explorer windows open at once. Although the Galaxy Note has a larger screen than many phones, it doesn't come close to the 21 inches my computer monitor has.

The Note 9 lets me open several apps at once and flip between them, but I had some trouble getting an email with a pin I needed to put in a registration form for Verizon or Samsung -- I forget which. Once the email came in through the GMail app, I couldn't get  back to the form where I was supposed to enter it. I think that would have happened on any smartphone. So most of my learning curve is just learning to use a smartphone instead of a PC -- not something unique to the Galaxy smartphone. It's a totally different way of working. It will take time to really get good at this.

The thing that bothered me most was that tiny keyboard. It's hard for me to hit only one key at once -- even though the Galaxy Note 9's keyboard is larger than most. I have two work-arounds for that. First, I use that little microphone on the keyboard and talk instead of type when I can. I also have a small wireless keyboard I bought to use with another device. It plays nicely with my Galaxy Note 9, as would just about any portable Bluetooth keyboard. So if I'm free to talk without disturbing anyone, I make my Instagram captions and hashtags with my voice and correct most of my mistakes using the keyboard. The speech recognition does confuse to with too or two. I have to speak slowly. It mistook my friend Celia's name for silly. But I can live with that as it learns to better understand my voice.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9  Review from a First Time Smartphone User
What Happens if You Hold the Volume Button Down Too Long  While Taking a Photo

What I love about the Galaxy Note 9

  • The large 6.4" screen
  • The ability to type with my voice instead of my fingers
  • The quality of the front and back cameras
  • The way the phone camera handles lighting differences -- what's in the shade shows better than it does in my Canon PowerShot photos if the photo subject is partially shaded. 
  • When I shoot videos while walking, they are less shaky than the ones I shoot with my Canon PowerShot SX410 IS. I'll show you one of my photo walks below.
  • Easy updates for software
  • Ease of installing the apps I want
  • Easy flipping between apps
  • The ability to take multiple photos in quick succession by holding down the volume button. I learned this accidentally. 
  • Clear voice reception on calls. I called my landline and my husband just to make sure.
  •  Easy contact management, but I confess that I used my little bluetooth keyboard to help enter the names and numbers.
  • Fast charging and long battery life.
  • Flaps that cover the ports for the charger and headphones to help keep them safe from water and dust during everyday use. 
  • The S-Pen with its many amazing features, only some of which I've tried so far. I can't do it all in five days. So far I've found it very handy when I have to use the keyboard since I can better control what I click. A video I watched showed many more pen features I have yet to try. The S-Pen can even control some phone features remotely. 
  • The ability to make a monitor act like a PC if you have the right cable, monitor, and the S-pen. It will work with your monitor if it has an HDMI port and you have an HDMI to USB Type C cable 
  • I can use the Do Not Disturb setting to keep away all notification sounds during the hours I sleep. While I'm trying to fall asleep I can play relaxing music for as long as I set the timer for -- all while my phone is charging.  


A Video of a Photo Walk I Made Yesterday

I made this video with the Galaxy Note 9 in the morning during a lull between rainstorms. 


Here's the Camera and Accessories I Use With It

This is my phone color. I also bought the case and screen protector to keep my investment safe. I already had a portable keyboard to use.



What I Didn't Love as Much

Much as I love my new phone, there are some things I don't love as much.


  • The phone is somewhat heavy because of its size.
  • The shape of the phone, though similar in shape to most other smartphones, is harder for my arthritic hands to hold while trying to take a photo than a camera is.
  • If I want to take a horizontal photo, it's really easy to press the button that will make the phone take multiple shots in a row as long as the button is held down. I'm learning to be careful how I hold the phone. 

Selfies

I have never yet found a camera that made selfies I liked. I'm afraid the problem is not the camera but the subject. Nevertheless, I made a selfie so I could photograph the screen for you. The weird colors are the result of the artificial lighting in the room that my Canon couldn't handle well. Flashes leave light bursts I didn't want. You do see the editing icons here. I don't normally edit photos except to crop them or add text, but I think I'll learn to use some of those available apps that remove wrinkles, etc. 

Since I haven't learned to use those apps yet, I'm hiding behind the camera. The editing icons are above the circle-shaped camera icons. The bottom row of icons are for the whole phone. The quality of this photo has nothing to do with the smartphone camera, since I didn't know how to use the Note 9 to take a photo of itself. It probably would have done a better job with the lighting. I think I  did use one filter and kept it because it changed my hair from gray to the blond I was born with.

Apps

Once I got my Note 9 smartphone, I started adding more apps. It's almost impossible not to when you see all that's available to play with. The thing that's hard is organizing those apps so you can find them again. The Note 9 gives me the Apps Edge. Most of the time it sits almost invisibly on the right edge of my screen, but I can slide it out whenever I need it. I can choose ten apps to put there, so I included what I use most. I guess they are also put in files. If I click the files icon (far left under open apps screen below) it will show me every app that's currently open and I can go back to working in it. Handy! I love both these features. Perhaps other smartphones also have them, but I only have experience on this phone.

So far my favorite free app besides Instagram is Relaxio. It gives me a choice of sixteen kinds of white noise I can listen to alone or combine with other sounds. I can choose from city traffic noises, falling rain, ocean waves, birds, crackling fire, wind, a flowing brook, night nature sounds, coffee shop, and a few other white noise sounds I haven't figured out. I love this app for falling asleep, since I can set a timer for how long it will play. I let it play beside my bed while the phone charges at night. 




Comparing Photos


This morning I decided to photograph some books in a bookcase in my office. The only light source was across the room and partially blocked with my iMac monitor. I made the shots as identical as I could except I used a flash for the shot from my Canon PowerShot SX410 IS. The phone, of course, needed no flash. I didn't guess accurately the number of books included in each shot, but I think it's close enough for you to get the idea. Except to crop and size these for Instagram and add a background color in PicMonkey, I did no photo editing to change tone, lighting or anything else. I added no effects. Here are the shots, as I will post them to Instagram later.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9  Review from a First Time Smartphone User


Samsung Galaxy Note 9  Review from a First Time Smartphone User

As you can see, I didn't edit as much extraneous stuff out of the phone shot as I did the Canon shot. I'd never tried putting backgrounds on before in PicMonkey and I wound up using FotoJet to crop the photos when I hadn't gotten the images the right size for the background. I've never used layers before and PicMonkey just added them to their app. In the end I put the wrong photo in the shot above, not the one that trimmed the lower shelf out. I think you still have a fair comparison between the Canon and the Note 9 cameras.

My Recommendation


If you need a phone with an outstanding camera, I can't think of a better one than the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. I bought it for the camera, but also love the pen and the ability to use it to  turn my phone into something very much like a PC should I ever need to. Just tonight I downloaded the Amazon Music app and discovered I also get great sound quality for the songs I love when I play them on the Note 9.

Now if my Note 9 could only take a selfie! There's probably an app for that, but I still need to find it. My advice? Get yourself or someone you love a Galaxy Note 9.


Don't miss our other contributor's reviews of electronic products on this site. 



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Monday, December 3, 2018

Reviewing the Anker PowerCore Portable Charger

Anker PowerCore Review
Anker is becoming a brand name that I trust and depend on. And the PowerCore portable charger is no exception. Whether you travel and do not want to have the security risk of plugging in to public charging stations or you spend time off-grid but still want to keep that cell phone charged for emergencies, the Anker is an excellent choice for portable, secure, and dependable charging.

I bought one for myself but I think this little gadget would be a great gift idea.


What is an Anker PowerCore Portable Charger?


My description of the PowerCore is a rechargeable battery that is small enough to fit in my coat pocket but holds enough power to fully recharge my phone (and Kindle) many times. 

Even though it is an electronic gadget, it is foolproof. 

Three easy steps:

  1. Plug it in to charge the battery using the USB cord (using my laptop or the same plug I use to charge my phone and my Kindle)
  2. Remember to put it into my purse, coat pocket, or camping tote
  3. Plug my phone (or Kindle) into the PowerCore to charge as needed.



The Description from the experts:

  • Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 (24w) with Anker's proprietary PowerIQ and VoltageBoost technology - fastest possible charge to almost any USB device. 
  • 7 days of power (fills the iPhone 7 almost seven times, the Galaxy S8 more than four times, and iPad Air 2 one and a half times) 
  • Quick Charge input, a full recharge is over in half the time of standard portable chargers. (written by Anker about the PowerCore 20000 Quick Charge 3.0)

Why I Chose the Anker PowerCore 20000 Quick Charge 3.0


I go camping at my cabin for days on end. I own the Anker PowerPort Solar charger and love it. It is dependable and perfect for off-grid living (see my review here). Perfect, except for when it isn't. 

This year was a record-breaking rainfall year in my area. Rain means solar charges aren't able to work properly (if at all). Lack of sunlight was causing either no charge on my phone or a walk (in the pouring rain) to the Jeep to charge (slowly) my phone. Due to all this rain, I bought the PowerCore "battery".  I charge it fully at the apartment, throw it into my camping tote, and I have a dependable way to charge my phone - rain or shine.

I depend on the Anker PowerPort Solar charger - except during a season of record rainfall.

I chose the 20,000 based on the higher number of charges it provides (compared to some of the more compact PowerCore chargers) and the price tag was as high as I wanted to spend that day.  

My PowerCore came with the charger, the USB cord to charge it, and a slightly padded travel bag. It did not come with the plug that is used in a wall outlet. But I already had several of those. 

There are many Anker PowerCore choices, smaller/less expensive and larger/more expensive.  I love that Anker provides so many options.





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Monday, August 27, 2018

Saving Money with the Insignia Roku 32" LED TV

Just a few viewing options on my Insignia Roku TV.
My television stopped working and couldn't be repaired. It was a sad day that sent me out looking for a replacement. My #1 criteria while looking for a replacement TV was expense. I wanted to spend as little as possible. Fortunately, I found the Insignia Roku 32" LED television.  The out-of-pocket price tag was slightly higher than I wanted to pay but in the long run, I'll continue to have significant savings because I'm refusing to buy cable or dish services at this point in my life. I've had this Insignia TV for almost a month now and I'm loving it. If you are looking to stop making yourself cable-poor, this may be an option that works well for you too.


Insignia 32" Roku LED Television



I window-shopped at several stores, looking to buy a television at $100 or less. Then I found the Insignia Roku 32" LED TV at Best Buy. I thought about it for a bit and asked around.  

With this television, I could continue to watch via antenna (which is my preference, and why I thought I'd get a TV for under $100).

Also, with this television, I could watch my Sling channels and YouTube.

I could also watch Roku, which my son keep telling me to check into.

The official features of the TV are listed as:
  • Roku Smart TV - access to stream 500,000+ movies/television shows.
  • 31.5" screen - measured diagonally from corner to corner.
  • 720p resolution for quality HD images
  • LED tvs perform well in all lighting conditions and provide rich colors.
  • Built-in Roku smart platform (ability to stream from Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Plus, or choose from 3,000 other streaming channels
  • Two 8w speakers
  • 3 HDMI inputs (cable not included)


I unboxed the TV and attached the legs. I plugged it in and attached my antenna. The television prompted me to connect my Wifi.  I also easily followed those prompts to add my existing Sling TV account, Amazon prime video library, and YouTube channel. 

Because the Roku TV has so many viewing options, I find it slightly cumbersome to remember to toggle from the two menus (the one on the left of the screen that lists things such as: home, My Feed, Search, Settings, and more) to the visual menu on the right that lists such things as: AV, Antenna TV, Netflix, Prime Video, Sling, YouTube, and etc. But that is a mild annoyance, and something I am becoming accustomed to. And an exceedingly small price to pay for a huge amount of free (or nearly free) entertainment.

I gotta tell you, I LOVE watching my YouTube crochet tutorials on the television screen. I could sit all day and watch the DIY channel on Sling. And what fun to watch my Amazon prime movies on a screen bigger than my laptop screen!


Antenna TV


Except for a 2 year (approximately) period of time that I gave cable a second chance - a chance to redeem themselves and a chance they squandered, I have watched television via the channels broadcast over the air. To do this, I use a little antenna that screws in to the back of the TV. Easy peasy and free local channels. 

This indoor antenna is the new and improved version of the antenna I've used for the past few years. 




Verizon Jetpack



The least expensive internet connection that I have found, and that suits nearly all my needs, is the Jetpack by Verizon. It is a portable, mobile hotspot device that I use at home or when I travel. The "unlimited" data isn't fully unlimited. I do have internet connection for the entire month but if I do a lot of streaming, after a certain point I experience "bandwidth throttling". Which means they set me at slower speeds. It is occasionally annoying but not enough to cause me to purchase one of the other packages.

Unfortunately, my Verizon Jetpack does NOT work while I'm at The Shack. Hopefully, by the time I relocate, Verizon has stepped up and provides service in that area. Otherwise, I'll have to figure something else out. 

I'd hate to make changes since this set-up is working so well. But I have some time to figure it out. 


Sling Tv


Fortunately, Sylvestermouse Cynthia introduced me to Sling via her review Get Rid of Cable TV and Still Have Live Major Network TV with Sling TV in 2015. Since that time, I have been able to watch DIY, Hallmark, FYI, Food Network, Travel, Cooking, Disney, HGTV, and more on my laptop.

I pay a minimal monthly amount ($30) for Sling TV. I could pay less but it is "al carte" television and the channels I chose create the amount I pay. Now, with my Insignia Roku television, I can watch all of those channels on the television screen!

The savings by using Sling TV, other streaming entertainment options, and my Verizon Jetpack is significant (at least to me it is). When the cable company increased my monthly bill, it was approaching $150 a month.  In my current situation, I'm paying $30 a month for Sling TV and the Verizon Jetpack is a part of my phone bill which totals $110 a month. Cutting that cable bill saves my budget approximately $1,400/year. 


Related Link:


If I were not pinching every penny in order to rebuild The Shack, I would have chosen a better, bigger television. I would have chosen an HDTV. The quality of the picture is so much better.

Our Bev Owens reviewed her purchase, a Samsung MU6300 HDTV.  This would be a great television to own!  I love the colors and clarity of the picture on an HDTV.


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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Save Money with Powerextra Camera Batteries: A Review

Don't Miss That Perfect Shot Because of a Dead Camera Battery


Most of the time my photo walks take less than an hour. But sometimes I venture farther or stop to take more pictures than usual. That's when it really pays to have extra camera batteries. Here's why I bought my set of Powerextra batteries with chargers included.




It was a perfect day to walk by the Salinas River.  It was rainy season and the river was full. I decided to walk all the way to a bridge at least half a mile away. I knew that the river would be wider there and I could get a unique shot. It was a fairly warm day for spring, and the walk was longer than I usually take. (You can see highlights of the walk here.)

There I encountered many scenes I wanted to photograph as I walked toward the bridge. I got distracted by wildlife, signs of human activity, trees, shrubs, and, of course, the river itself. I had taken over a hundred photos, and I hadn't started with a fully charged camera. I hadn't expected to take so many photos.

I  was pretty hot and tired by the time I got to the bridge. I walked from the trail to street level to get on the bridge. Here's where my path approached the bridge.

Review of Powerextra Camera Batteries

I was almost to my goal. Once on the bridge, I took my first shot, the first of many I had planned, but not the special shot I had really wanted. And that's when my camera battery died. Along with my hopes of getting not only the other shots from the bridge, but also more shots I'd  been planning to get on the walk back to my car.

Choosing Extra Batteries


That night I decided it was time to buy some extra battery packs.  I can never predict how many photos I will want to take. Obviously I didn't correctly predict it for this walk. So I went right to Amazon as soon as I had time. My camera is a Canon PowerShot SX410 IS. See how I tested it when it was new.

When I looked up the replacement battery Canon made for my camera, the price blew me away. At $42.25 as I write this, it still blows me away. For just one battery! So I checked for alternatives. I discovered the Powerextra battery for my camera. And not just the battery, but a whole battery kit with two batteries and an extra charger for the house, as well as a car charger. For about one fourth of the price of one Canon battery!





Naturally I was suspicious! How could I get so much more for so much less? Oh! The Powerextra is made in China. But so is the camera and the Canon battery. Frugal as I am, I decided to buy the Powerextra kit and try it. I'd only lose about twelve dollars if the batteries didn't work. I could still purchase the Canon batteries if necessary. It was worth the risk. It paid off for me.

I have been using both the house charger and the batteries for over four months. They all work well. I can now have one battery charging and one extra in my camera bag so that I will always have a charged battery when I need one. I don't have to skimp on pictures for fear of losing power. And I won't have to miss the shot I want most.

 I have not yet tested the car charger because I haven't been on any drives long enough to try it out. I will add the results here after I do have the chance to test it.

I highly recommend the Powerextra batteries if you want to save money. They are available for most major brands and models of digital cameras. I think they offer great value for the price.








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Monday, June 4, 2018

Reviewing Kindle Paperwhite E-Reader

Reading on the balcony with my new Kindle.
I received my new Kindle Paperwhite e-reader nearly two weeks ago and I'm loving it! I was very hesitant to upgrade as I don't like change and often have trouble figuring out new electronic devices. I started researching current e-reader options as my original Kindle (a Kindle Keyboard, remember those?) was starting to have some serious malfunctions after all these years. I felt forced to shop for a new e-reader before my old one just stopped working. I have to say that so far I'm very excited about my purchase. My new Kindle is awesome! I like it so much that I wanted to share my thoughts with you.

New 6" Kindle Paperwhite E-Reader 


My new Kindle has a 6" touchscreen. It is slightly smaller than my first Kindle, and easier to pack in a small bag or purse.

This Kindle has built-in lights - no need to buy a separate, external light.

My new Kindle is advertised as having a resolution of 300 ppi. Now, that doesn't mean a single thing to me except that it is easy to see that compared to my original e-reader, the images are GREAT.

I had briefly considered purchasing a Kindle Fire so that I could also read magazines and have color photos. But I'm really glad that I stuck with the Paperwhite for two main reasons: 
My eyes. I am already familiar with how easy Paperwhite technology is on my eyes in general, in the dark while camping, and there is no screen glare when outside during the day. Computer screens strain my eyes. The Paperwhite does not.
Awesome battery. I require the long-lasting battery life of the Kindle Paperwhite. I want to read everywhere I go. That includes camping at The Shack, hiking, and waiting for appointments. There's nothing worse then reaching for an electronic device with a dead battery.

The Kindle I chose:




There are only two things that I'm concerned about so far. Both have to do with the touch screen:
No Buttons. I miss the buttons on my Kindle Keyboard that turned the pages. However, I'm becoming accustomed to turning the pages by tapping the side of the screen. But so far, I still wish for those buttons to turn the pages.
Oops! What Language is That?!  When I unboxed my Kindle I plugged it in to charge and I put it in the cover I bought. During that process, I touched the touchscreen and voila, all of my display turned to a different language! I had the hardest time trying to find anything in the online owner's manual that helped me to visually find the language settings so that I could change it back to English. Finally, with a video review and a lot of guesswork, I was able to make the language change I needed. I think the online owners manual should have more visual aids to go along with the written instructions.

The awesome cover I chose:




My Love Affair with E-Readers


I was aghast when e-readers were first introduced. Who in their right might would want to replace their beloved books with an electronic device?! Oh the horror. You wouldn't be able to read your books outside, or while camping, or while at the beach. What a terrible invention.

Then my son surprised me with a Kindle (3rd generation I think).  I bought a lighted, leather cover to protect it and to help me read it while camping. And I fell in love. I replaced my hoard of books with a single small item. And I found that even at the beach, I just place my Kindle in a gallon sized baggie and it is protected from the sand. Much better than soggy, gritty books after a day at the beach!

The only thing I didn't like about that first Kindle was the images didn't translate very well. Books with maps or drawings didn't always show up well. Or were too small to be read.

I think Kindle e-readers are awesome. They allow me to read anywhere and anytime. I always have my entire library with me. And I'm sure there are plenty of functions that I am not even aware of that others would enjoy. If you've considered buying a new Kindle Paperwhite, I encourage you to do it. I think you'll be glad you did.


Postscript:

Each and every time I've considered updating my Kindle, I've thought of Susan Deppner. She was a Review This contributor and a friend to many. I thought of her as the best Kindle advisor there was. I did refer back to the Kindle Reviews she had written for guidance. 

Susan, you may be gone from this earth, but you are not forgotten. I know you'd be as excited about my purchase as I am.






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Review This is Dedicated to the Memory of Our Beloved Friend and Fellow Contributor
We may be apart, but You Are Not Forgotten

Susan DeppnerSusan Deppner