Archive for November, 2006

Washing Machine Flood Protection

November 21, 2006

Look at your washing machine hoses.  Do they resemble the same hoses you would use in the garden?  Since the water hoses going to washing machines are usually left under pressure all the time, the pressure and constant vibrations could eventually cause a leak.  Years ago a colleague had this happen and it made a huge flood.  Many people do use armored hoses for their washing machines.  That probably helps quite a bit, but I found something better from a company called Watts.

 

In addition to being armored, these hoses can sense a leak and shut off.  I was a little skeptical, but at around $32 for a pair, I thought it was worth the peace of mind.  That is of course if it works.

 

When the hoses arrived, I had to know whether they could really sense a leak.  I connected them in place of a garden hose and attached a sprayer.  The sprayer worked normally.  I proceeded to unscrew the attachment to represent a leak.  As advertised, the hoses shut off quickly.

 

Although I have no data on the longevity of this product, I was impressed and strongly recommend this Watts product. 

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Forever Flashlight III by Excaliber

November 12, 2006

I have picked up two of these flashlights for my house. Living on the Gulf Coast as I am hurricanes are a nagging concern and I got these as part of my hurricane preparation kit though they would equally well in routine blackout.

The flashlights operate on the Faraday principle with the conducter- coiled copper wire moving though a magnetic field by shaking the flashlight. The resultant electricity powers the LED and provides light. When I first started looking at these I was concerned about the light intesity. In the stores it can be difficult to tell if the flashlight is even on.

I happy to report thought that in the dark the resultant illumination is more than sufficient to provide light for walking around. Just don’t expect spotlight intensity. The advertising indicates 5 minutes of illumination for 15 to 30 seconds of mechanical work but in my experience the intensity of the light fades after a couple of minutes so I wind up shaking it sooner. Still there is no need to worry about dead batteries making it ideal for emergency situations.

I had also considered “dynamo” flashlights but these do contain a battery, a rechargable one (a fact that is not always clearly shown on the packaging materials), and presumably over time this rechargable battery will lose its ability to store a charge.

The flashlights run from 20 to 30 dollars on average and can be found online but also in places like Bed,Bath and Beyond, The Sharper Image and Brookstones.

The Plantronics Voyager 510 Bluetooth Headset – excellent

November 7, 2006

I recently bought the Plantroncis Voyager 510 headset for about $60.

It is by a wonderful, reasonably priced bluetooth headset.  It connected easily and without difficult the my Palm Treo 650.

The headset controls (Call Control, Volume up and Down, on/off) are very easy to differentiate both visually and by touch.

Pairing was a little tricky only because I didn’t wait long enough for the red light to blink and the blue light to blink – actually I was holding the call button + the down volume button instead of the volume up button – but despite that gaff, it was easy to link and set-up.

Call quality is excellent.  In my car, a few people have mentioned my voice was a little quiet – but most have been very happy with the microphone’s quality.  Somehow blue tooth sounds better than a tethered microphone.  The 6 hour talk time exceeds the battery on my Treo.

All in all, this is an excellent single function product.  It beats the pants off the motorola ear piece my phone dealer sold me for $100.

Enjoy, gadgetology.

LibraryThing.com

November 3, 2006

LibraryThing is a social networking site for book collectors and bibliophiles. Once you open your free account (which requires divulging no personal data), you can catalog two hundred books for free. This process is so easy and fun that you could fill your free account in an afternoon. LibraryThing has a powerful search engine that is built on top of the Z39.50 protocol, which is an international search standard used by libraries and large retailers like Amazon. LibraryThing.com allows you to search from over sixty libraries, so no matter how obscure your title, you are likely to find it.

LibraryThing is more than just a book catalog. Once you find your title and optionally tag and rate it, LibraryThing will alert you to others in the system that own the same book. It will also recommend books to you based on matching your titles and tags with those of other users. Also, you can write your own review of any title, as well discuss books with other users, in complete anonymity.

For a lifetime membership and the ability to catalog an infinite number of books, LibraryThing charges individuals $25.00; a yearly membership costs $10.00.

Verizon FIOS Service

November 3, 2006

There is a fight between cable companies and phone companies.  Cable companies are getting into the phone business and phone companies are getting into the cable business.  Until recently I received my Internet connection and cable from my cable company and my phone from my phone company.  Verizon is my phone company and offers a relatively new product called FIOS, which will ultimately include all three services.  Instead of having individual wires for each, Verizon puts all three on fiber optics.  I chose to take the plunge and move my phone and Internet connection to fiber optics.  Verizon does not yet have approval in my area for cable tv. 

Even though many cities have been wired with fiber optics, not too many individuals have fiber to the home yet.  My phone lines used to come in over copper wires.  Whenever it rained, I got static. One of the benefits I saw with making the switch was to get rid of the static. 

Although Verizon has a spotty reputation for customer service, the representatives for FIOS were great.  They answered all my questions and installed everything quickly.

The whole system has been in for many months with very few problems.  As I had hoped, the static is gone.  The Internet connection is a little faster than my previous Internet connection over cable.  Not everything is perfect with fiber optics.  Power failures can bring down the whole system.  Phone companies power their phones lines over their copper wires.  Since fiber optics are made out of glass and glass is not conductive, the system has to be powered by the homeowner.  In other words, when the power goes out, the homeowner is responsible for the battery backup.  A few weeks ago I lost power and my phone lines did not last many hours.  With the explosion of cell phones, this downside may become less and less important.