Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Pisen 7500 mAh Hand Warmer and Power Bank Review

Many people have cold hands, especially in the winter. One solution that's been around awhile is the battery-powered hand warmer. These don't emit smoke or odor like the "old-fashioned" ones that operate on lighter fluid. They come in various sizes, based on the amount of battery power they have. A standard entry is the 2500 milli Amp hour size. This review covers the Pisen 7500 mAh size, which I bought hoping it will heat for the 3-4 hours claimed. Included with the unit are a very short USB cable, a printed manual written in partial Chinese-English, but no sock. (Many warmers include a sock to insulate the user a bit from the substantial heat the warmers produce. I'm rushing this review now because some of the reviews on Amazon suggested that the unit doesn't work. After I charged the unit up to 100% (in just a couple of hours), I pressed the "Hot" button and nothing happened. At first, I wondered if the reviews were right. I had read through the owner's manual twice, but couldn't find out how to turn it on. After a very careful third reading, I came across a sentence that said you have to PRESS AND HOLD the Hot button for one and a half seconds to turn on the warming function. Same to turn off the warmer. Pressing and holding turns on a little orange light and the warmer works. So far so good. More later.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Ruvati RVM4350 Stainless Steel Sink Review

If it's any indication, my wife practically sang for joy when the Ruvati RVM4350 stainless steel sink was installed. Back story. Wife and I looked at several places for a new sink, (The Blue Store and the Orange Store included). The hardware stores just didn't have what we were interested in, even though for $250 or so, the price was okay. I say that because we looked at some stores with $750 sinks. They were okay, too, but not worth the price. Shopping around was a great educational experience, though, because it refined our preferences: 1. A 16-gauge steel sink is thicker than an 18-gauge steel sink. Just as a 12-gauge wire is thicker than a 14-gauge wire. Go figure. 2. Undermount sinks allow you to sweep the counter into the sink with no lip to worry about. 3. Sound deadening is desirable. It keeps your sink from dinking loudly when it is hit with something (knife, glass, pan). So, I happened to find myself searching on Amazon and came across the Ruvati RVM4350 16-gauge, T-304 stainless steel, low divide, undermount sink with noise reduction (sound attenuation) panels. Included are two rinse grids that fit into the bottom of each bowl. (At one store the $750 sink had rinse grids available for another $65 each.) The rinse grids are great, both for protecting the sink bottom from damage by pots and pans, and for keeping dishes and vegetables up off the the bottom when you are rinsing them. The Ruvati RVM4350 also includes two basket strainers that have a deep strainer that can be pulled out. The strainer baskets can catch quite a lot of debris before they fill up and need to be dumped. This is a real benefit over ordinary sink strainers. The low-rise middle divider is handy for washing large platters and other dishes because it allows you to spill water into both sinks while soaping or rinsing. If you are in the market for an excellent, large new stainless steel sink, you certainly should consider the Ruvati RVM4350. Dimensions: 32.25 inches wide, 18.875 inches front to back, 8.5 inches deep. Bottom line: This is what five stars is all about.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Mini T6 LED Zoomable Flashlight by HausBell--Review

The HausBell Mini T6 LED Zoomable flashlight is a very satisfying product, not only because it is a great performer, but also because the manufacturer understands the semiotics of quality. That is to say, the flashlight looks and feels like a quality tool. With three AAA batteries installed, the heft of the heavy gauge aluminum body makes you think, "This little guy is a serious item." Coupled with the feel of the various textures (crosshatched, smooth, ribbed, angled) and the lotus shaped head, the light seems to speak quality.

Operationally, the Mini T6 hasa pull and push zoom lens, allowing you to vary the beam from spot light to wide area flood light. The rated output is 300 lumens.

The light features five modes:  high beam, medium beam, low beam, strobe, and SOS. However, unlike those irritating lights that make you cycle all the way through every alternative before you get to OFF, a full push on the button (on the back end) turns the light off. If you wait a few seconds, a full push turns the light on with the high beam. Half pushes cycle through the modes. A full push  turns off the light from any mode and another full push in quick succession turns it back on in the next mode.

THE light comes with a wrist lanyard to help prevent dropping it.

Other brands of what appears to be the same body design flashlight are available, but I don't know what differences there are, if any.

The lights are only about five inches long, making them ideal for glovebox, bedside table, kitchen junk drawer, toolbox, or elsewhere.

Highly recommended.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Tp-Link Powerline Adapter AV2000 Gigabit Passthrough Kit for 4K TV and Computers--Review

Powerline adapters make use of your home's electrical wiring to send Internet network signals from one electrical outlet to another. Why does this matter? If you just bought a new 4K UHD Smart TV, you probably want to view some 4K video content from providers such as Netflix. You probably allowed your smart TV to connect to your cable modem/router wirelessly. Therein lies the problem. Many wifi channels in home modem/routers might supply only 10 Mbs (megabits per second). That's fine for HD TV, but for 4K, Netflix recommends a bandwidth of 25 Mbs. And that means a wired connection to your cable modem/router.

Oops. Did you forget to run Cat 6 cable throughout your house when you built it? Drat. Don't you just  hate that? And did your significant other veto running cable along the ceiling and under the rugs? Well, cheer up. Powerline adapters are to the rescue. Here is what I did.

I bought the TP-LINK TL-PA9020P Starter Kit, the fastest powerline adapter in TP-LINK's offerings. The kit consists of two adapters and two network cables. The box claims these puppies can transmit up to 2000Mbs.

First false start. The box said plug one unit into an outlet near your cable modem/router and the other unit near where you need your internet/network signal. Well, that's fine for you to say, but the outlet nearest my modem/router is behind a desk and a rat's nest of wires. So, can't do that. There is an outlet just a few feet away, but too far for the included two-meter-long network cable to go from the powerline adapter to the modem/router. So I just used an extension cord.

The adapter near my 4K TV was down behind the TV, but with sufficient bodily contortions, I managed to plug the adapter into the wall. Connecting the adapters to each other, forming the network connection, is known as pairing. To pair these two units to each other, press the pair button on one and and then within two minutes, press the pair button on the other. The middle LED light will go on, indicating a completed, 128-bit AES encrypted network. Or maybe the middle light won't go on.

I tried pairing the units about a dozen times, first pressing one and then the other. Both had two of the three green lights on, but neither showed a connection (that middle LED).

Okay, so I knew the extension cord was a lame idea, so after some thought, I rearranged the stuff on my wife's desk (just on the other side of the wall), and plugged the unit into an outlet and the cable into the modem/router.

Second false start. This time, when I tried pairing, the middle light on both units lit. Success! I thought foolishly and prematurely. When I visited the "Check Your Network" screen in Netflix. it said Netflix was connected via wifi and not via the internet. The speed check in Netflix showed the wifi speed of 29Mbs. That is marginally enough for 4K, but who wants marginal when someone downloading a big pdf or jpeg can eat into that enough to drop me out of 4K?

So on that screen is a big Netflix help number, so I called that and said I couldn't figure out how to switch Netflix from wifi to wired. The guy didn't even laugh; he was very polite when he told me that it was a matter to be taken up with the TV.

Success at last.  So I grabbed my Samsung Smart TV remote and went into the settings. Did you know you can tell the TV to look at the cable plug for its internet signal and turn off wifi? So I did. Back to the Netflix Check your Network choice. My network feed to my TV now shows 90Mbs!!

The Review.
The TL-PA9020P startup kit is (theoretically) a snap to set up. Plug and play with no software to install. Each unit has two ethernet cable ports, adding flexibility to  the setup. With a little perseverance, it can be installed by anyone, almost.

+ Two ethernet ports on each unit means you can add a computer or gaming system as well as your TV
+Gigabit speed
+Pass through outlet
+1000 foot range between units.
+24/7 toll free technical support
+You can pair more units to the existing two

The unit takes up the entire two-outlet space

The Bottom Line:
Powerline adapters solve a real problem really well. If you need the internet for the TV in the living room or for the computer in the basement--when your modem/router is in the den, then I recommend that you check out powerline adapters. I did a couple of hours of research looking at different brands and features and capacities. These might be overkill, but they are feature rich and great performers.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Glacier Bay 18-inch Concealed Grab Bar Review

The Glacier Bay 18-inch Grab Bar with concealed mounting screws is ultimately a good product, once installed.  However, it is poorly designed for mounting.

As the instructions say, "Studs are usually 16 in apart." However, the grab bar is 18 inches long, which means that the only mounting holes that will align over a pair of 16 inch apart studs are the two underneath the bar, making it difficult to get a screwdriver in.

Worse, the instructions SAY to position the bar over the studs and mark the mounting holes, but the drawing shows pencils marking mounting holes at 18 inches, not 16. And the unlabeled ruler designed to  help you install the bar shows 18 tick marks between the marked mounting holes, not 16.

So I marked the actual stud locations for both ends of the grab bar and drilled 1/8-inch pilot holes as the instructions indicated. But when I used my drill-driver to put in the screws, the screw heads were chewed out when the going got a little bit tough. I tried sinking three screws, using lots of pressure on the drill to prevent cam out, but the screws just chewed up. I had to back out the screws (which were half to an inch left to screw in) with a pair of  slip joint pliers. After that, I used some two-inch drywall screws, and they went in easily. So why is this company including cheap screws?

And why doesn't Glacier Bay make a 16-inch grab bar instead  of an 18-inch?

The bar, once installed correctly, is sturdy, attractive, and handy. The 1.25 inch diameter of the bar makes a nice fit for the hands.

P.S. On the outside of the mounting ring, where there was no stud under the mounting holes, I inserted a 50-pound-load nylon wall anchor into the drywall and then put in a two-inch screw. So the installation is very solid.

Of the ten models listed on the installation instructions, exactly none of them are 16, or 32 inches, which would meet stud needs.

So, I think I will continue shopping for another brand.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Pfister Pasadena 8 inch Widespread Faucet Review and Installation Hints

The Pfister Pasadena 8 inch Widespread Faucet (in various finishes) provides an excellent upgrade to an older bathroom vanity (my upgrade was from a 1998 installation). The water turns on and off effortlessly in a quarter turn.

Installation is easy (taking out the old, rusty or otherwise corroded faucet is the hard part).

Here are some hints to make your experience more pleasant.

1. Instead of  trying to turn the water off at  each supply valve, just turn the water off at the entrance to the house. After a few years, the supply valves (some of which have plastic valve stems) become so corroded that (A) you can't turn them off all the way, (B) they will leak when you turn them back on or (C) both A and B will occur.

2. When installing each valve, you are instructed to make sure the arrow on the bottom of the valve points toward the sink. But as you tighten things up. the valve can rotate slightly. How can you tell without crawling under the sink again? Answer: Use a Sharpie to mark the valve body when it is lined up. See the photos here for clarification;

When the valve body is lined up (note the arrow shape in the red plastic pointing toward the sink), use a Sharpie to draw a line on the top of the valve pointing toward the sink. Now, if you accidentally turn the valve while tightening it, you can see and realign it.

3. When you install the sink stopper unit, it hand tightens underneath. Be sure to tighten it a few extra twists when it feels snug and then check for leaks as soon as everything is hooked up. I had to tighten the unit in both sinks when I thought they were tight enough.

4. I didn't find the included multi-tool to be of much use.

This is a nice set. I have used it only a month as of this posting.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Moen Single Handle Shower Faucet Repair

This is the repair that really drove home the meaning of "retaining clip." This repair also fulfills my advice to "talk about your mistakes."

The shower hadn't been used in more than ten years, so I wasn't surprised to find the faucet knob frozen. I turned off the water, went to the shower, and pulled off the cap, unscrewed the screw holding the knob on, pulled up and out on the retaining clip, and grabbed the valve stem with a pair of pliers. (Actually, they are Channel Lock adjustable pliers, what used to be called water pump pliers.)

That was mistake #1. After some twisting and yanking, I pulled out what I thought was the valve core and headed off to Home Depot to find a match. Mistake #1 was remedied by the helpful HD guy, who told me the part I was going to buy was wrong because I  had removed only the central core of the valve stem. He gave me the right part and I  returned to the shower.

Key Item: In the package with the new valve stem is a nylon tool that fits in the notches of the outer valve core. Put it on and then use the pliers to rotate the entire valve core so that it loosens enough to pull out.

I installed the new valve core (or stem) into the valve after slathering it with silicone grease and replaced the retaining clip. But now the metal cylinder that is supposed to slide over the valve body wouldn't. The top of the retaining clip was sticking up too high. Examination of said clip revealed that it was kind of bent and wouldn't go all the way down. A search of the Home Depot and Lowe's web sites revealed that it was not a stock item. Mail order only.

Mistake #2. I was about to order, grumbling at the $4 to $5 shipping charge on top of a $4 to $8 charge for the clip, when my wife, who isn't much for tools, suggested I try a plumbing supply house. "OK Google" found one only a couple of miles from home.

It was a few days before I could return to the repair site with my nifty, new retaining clip, so of course I had turned the water on again in the meantime. (You can see where this is leading to Mistake #3, can't you?) So I step into the shower stall, grab my needle nose pliers, and yank out that bent old retaining clip. In a quite surprising demonstration of the retaining clip's name and purpose, the entire valve core instantly shot out of the valve body, followed by a fire-hose-like stream of water, aimed directly at my chest. For an old guy of 66, I'm not kidding that I dashed out of the shower, down the hall, through the entry way, out the front door and to the shut off valve for the house.

Cut to the chase. The valve core went back in, the new retaining clip slid all the way down, water turned back on, and all is right with the world.

Installation secret #1: Be sure to push the valve core all the way in so that the retaining clip can slide down. Twist the core to line it up so the clip slides in the grooves on the core

Installation secret #2: To be sure that twisting the knob left makes the water hotter and right colder, make sure the little tab on the knob stem part of the valve is facing up. If not, rotate it up.

Maybe the best idea is to get the whole kit at one time:

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Kwikset Smart Key Rekeying Set

If you have a Kwikset Smart Key lock, this is the perfect solution for rekeying it. The kit comes with everything you need: the Smart Key tool, four new keys, plus two alternate keys, and easy and clear instructions. Rekeying took me about 30 seconds.

The only downside to the kit is getting it open. It's packaged in what seems like bullet-proof plastic. Be careful if you use a box knife to open it. It's tough. Opening the package took me at least five minutes, maybe ten.

A clearer way to describe the included keys is to say the kit includes one set of four keys and another set of two keys, allowing you to rekey your Smart Key lock twice (or change it back and forth). One suggestion is that you can  use the two-key set (the "alternate" keys) to temporarily rekey the lock  so that a repairman can have access to the house. After the repair or whatever is finished, you can rekey back to the other key set.

Finally, considering the cost of having keys made, buying a new lock cylinder, or hiring a locksmith, the price of this set is a bargain.

Highly recommended.

Caveat: You must have a Kwikset Smart Key lock to use this kit.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Epica 4 in 1 Immersion Hand Blender

Having seen and heard about hand blenders, I did some research on them and ended up with this midrange item. The Epica 4-in-1 Immersion Hand Blender sells for in the $40-$50 range. Hand blenders go as low as about $29 and as high as $100+.

The Epica is a nifty tool for whipping up smoothies and blended drinks in a flash. The stainless steel blade unit detaches from the motor and can be cleaned with a short stream of warm water. The unit comes with the blade attachment, a whisk attachment, and a small food processor attachment. I use the blade attachment with the plastic cup.

My drink of choice includes a banana, some blueberries, some pomegranate juice, yogurt, apple juice, sometimes a few prunes, some water soluble fiber, and five or six ice cubes. The blender liquefies this in about ten seconds.

Highly recommended. Excellent quality and performance.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Premium 3 Error Message System Not Fully Protected

Well, I've been around the block a few times on this one. I wanted my PCs to be fully protected, so I upgraded them from the free version of Malwarebytes to the premium version 3. Soon thereafter, my PCs began slowing down, not responding, and showing a Malwarebytes error message saying that Web protection had been turned off. I tried to turn it on, but it would either not respond or just say, "starting," and wander off into bitspace.

I contacted Malwarebytes technical support and they gave different suggestions on three occasions. I reinstalled, tried changing settings, rebooted, and so forth, to no avail.

To the chase: Finally, after a lot of research on the Web, I discovered that this issue has been known since at least 2014. It's this: Malwarebytes and Kaspersky antivirus/ Internet protection simply do not like each other. The solution was to uninstall Malwarebytes.

Question #1. Since this is a years' old issue, why doesn't Malwarebytes technical support know about it?

Question #2. Since this is a years' old issue, why haven't Malwarebytes and Kaspersky gotten together and fixed their incompatibility?

Bottom line: If you use Kaspersky antivirus, don't upgrade your Malwarebytes to the premium edition. If you already did and are getting these error messages and pulling out your hair, uninstall Malwarebytes 3 and ask for a refund.