Category Archives: Electronics

Low Profile and Accurate – Brecknell Digital Postal Scale

Brecknell Electronic Postal Scale – Model # 311

Salter Brecknell 311 11-lb.Weight-Only Scale, 11-lb x 0.1 oz. capacity, 5-3/4 dia. Platform

See it at Amazon 

(5/5)

Pros: Tare, auto-off feature, comes with batteries, compact, lightweight, easy to operate

Cons: optional AC adapter not included

We needed a new postal scale at work.  All it had to do was accurately weigh items.  No fancy bells or whistles; I didn’t even need to know the amount of postage required.  I also wanted scale that didn’t hog desk space.  After some research, I bought the Brecknell Electronic Postal Scale – Model # 311.

Description

The Brecknell scale is termed “low profile” since it sits low on a flat surface.  Overall measurements are 9 1/2” x 7” x 1 1/2” high.  A round base measuring 5 3/4″ is the weighing area   Three push-button controls are to the right of the LCD display.  The LCD shows the weight in pounds and ounces or in kilograms and grams.  The scale will weigh items up to 11 pounds.  Four AA batteries are included.  Note that this scale does not come with an AC adapter, though there is a port for one.  It comes with a slim instruction pamphlet in multiple languages.  No calibration is needed at setup.

My Experiences

This Brecknell scale is simple to use and works well for us.  I placed it on my desk so that it is in a central location for anyone to use.  If needed, the scale is slim enough to fit in one of my desk drawers.  Since one of my job duties is to handle mailings and shipping, this scale comes in handy.  The scale is well constructed and sturdy.

The scale is also lightweight and easy to move if needed.  It is one piece with the battery compartment located on the bottom.  It was convenient that it came with four AA batteries.  I like that this scale has an off button to conserve battery power.  It also has an auto-off feature as a power-save backup.  When the batteries need replacement, the scale displays the letters LLLLL.  I’ve been using this scale for quite a while and have not had to change the batteries.

The three press-buttons include the off button, the On/Tare button, and a button to switch between pounds and kilograms.   For those who are not familiar with tare … the term refers to the weight of an empty container (ex: shipping box).  The scale weighs the empty container, and then the weight of the container with the goods being shipped inside it so that the actual weight of the goods can be determined.

I wasn’t sure how often we would use the tare feature, but several of our departments find it handy.  Place an empty container on the scale (such as a box).   Press the On/Tare button.  The scale then shows zero, eliminating the container weight.  Fill the container with the goods being shipped and place on the scale.  The net weight of the item is displayed on the LCD screen.  Remove everything from the scale, and the display shows a negative weight.  Press the On Tare button again to remove the tare weight and to return the scale to zero.

We find this scale accurate.  It was also one of the more affordable electronic scale options. The LCD numbers are large at 1-inch high.  The numbers are easiest to read when viewing them head-on; however, they are also easy to read if one is a bit to the left or right of the display.  Should you need an AC adapter, the instructions say it takes a 6-volt DC, 100 mA with center positive.

I’ve kept the scale clean by simply dusting it.  Should something spill on the scale, do not soak it, which can cause a short circuit.  The manufacturer recommends spraying a mild soap solution onto a cloth to wipe down the equipment.

Summary

This Brecknell Electronic Postal Scale was a great purchase.  Affordable, it is accurate and easy to use, plus the compact size fits on my desk.   I like that the design is slim, and the machine is lightweight.  Everyone who has used this scale is happy with it.

I hope you found this review useful.

Enjoy the day,
Dawn
http://dlstewart.com

Copyright 2016 Dawn L. Stewart

   

Postage Stamp Dispenser                                   DYMO Label Printer 450

Durable Leather Cover for my Kindle

mCover Leather Folio Case for Kindle – Aqua

See it at Amazon 

(5/5)

Pros: durable leather cover, ports and controls easy to access, simple to clean

Cons: won’t fit every Kindle style

When my first generation Kindle performed its final Swan Song, I needed a replacement.  I’m a confessed book-a-holic and wasted no time dashing to the Amazon.com website to scout out the Kindle offerings.  Unfortunately, the Kindle had changed size, so my old Kindle cover would not adequately protect the Kindle I purchased.  After some research, I bought this mCover Leather Folio Case for Kindle in the aqua color.

Description

As you are probably aware, there are many different styles of Kindle eReaders, and they come in different sizes.  This particular leather cover is designed to fit the Fourth Generation Kindle with the 6-inch display screen and the 5-way controller.  (The case will not fit the Paperwhite model with the 6-inch display screen.  It will not fit earlier generation Kindles either.)  Available case colors are: aqua, black, blue, green, white, and pink).

The leather cover is a lovely light aqua color.  It has an inner pocket on the left inside cover.  The inner right side holds the Kindle with four corner protectors.  When the cover is closed, it can be fastened shut with a color-coordinated elastic cord, which is attached to the cover.  There is a groove on the front of the outside cover that the elastic cord fits into so that the cord doesn’t slip off.  The cover is also designed to fold backward so that the case can be held for easier reading.

Read my review of the Kindle Fourth Generation Here:
http://www.veryhelpful.net/2014/04/is-a-refurbished-kindle-like-new/

My Experiences

I wasn’t pleased to discover that the Kindle had changed sizes between models.  But I do enjoy that the newer Kindle is lighter and more streamlined.  It still has the same great display, and I can easily maneuver the controls to access my list of books.

The mCover Leather Folio Case has openings for the controls and ports.  I can easily access everything without needing to shift the Kindle or remove it from the cover.  Note that the exterior of the cover is leather as well as the interior pocket and corner pieces that hold the Kindle in place.  The rest of the interior cover is of a durable flat fabric with a brushed texture.

There are four corner leather pieces that securely anchor the Kindle into the right side of the cover.  Even though my Kindle has slipped a few times and taken a tumble, it has never fallen out of the mCover case.  I have never used the interior pocket.  If anything, it serves as a place to insert my fingers when I flip the left side to the back of the Kindle so that I can hold the eReader easier.

I like that this cover is well made.  It has solid stitching around the cover, too, which has not come loose.  Even though I fold the cover, the central area between the front and back covers that receives the most stress during the folding has never ripped or cracked.  The leather is simple to clean, too, with the swipe of a damp cloth.

Summary

The mCover Leather Folio Case for the Kindle was a great investment.  I read my Kindle a lot, and have used this cover for over a year.  The cover has no cracks or worn areas.  The elastic is still attached and in great condition.  I expect this cover will last the lifetime of the Kindle.  Time to read another book!

Enjoy the day,
Dawn
http://dlstewart.com

Copyright 2015 Dawn L. Stewart

Kindle Glare-Free Touchscreen: 

Kindle Voyage:

Kindle Fire:

The Lutron Toggler CL: Dimmable Brilliance

Lutron Toggler CL Dimmer for CFL and LED Bulbs – Model # TGCL-153-PH in Ivory.

71cYvDqMPGL__SL1200_

See it at Amazon 

(4/5)

Pros: Works with compatible LEDs – as well as with most lesser, obsolete bulbs.  Toggle style resembles a standard switch.  Low-end of dimmable range is adjustable.  Satisfies single-pole or 3-way applications.

Cons: Multiple product revisions require consumer research before purchasing – early production runs had quality issues.  Consumer must match LED/dimmer compatibility by brand and model.  Like LED bulbs, premium prices prevail.

The appropriate selection and application of lighting can enhance whatever period or style of abode you prefer.  When constructed, my current contemporary surroundings were fitted with the most basic of fixtures, due to cost overruns incurred by the original owner.  Since taking possession, my challenge has been to execute a quality lighting upgrade to enhance the interior’s architectural assets.

Recessed ceiling cans provide an economical, effective light source - but their lack-of-character screams 1980s.
Recessed ceiling cans provide an economical, effective light source – but their lack-of-character screams 1980s.

Bulbous Banter

The current state of LED lighting is one of perpetual flux.  The high cost of LED bulbs is easing as research and development costs are recouped by manufacturers as the technology improves.  Superior in nearly every way, the LED (light emitting diode) has rendered the incandescent and compact fluorescent technology to that of the 8-track tape player, circa 1980.

Mid-Century Mania

My level-3 dining area is part of an open-concept floor plan.  The former owner hung a huge Art Deco fixture over the dining table that over-lit the space and blocked the site-lines toward the mountain views beyond.  Fact is, I strongly disliked it and hardly ever put it on.  I recently changed this out for a more compact, Atomic-era down-light pendant that would make George Jetson proud.

The Glow-In-The-Dark Retro Atomic Pendant Light is the current light of my life.
This Vintage, Glow-In-The-Dark Retro Atomic Pendant is the current light of my life.

Glow And Go

My LED of choice was the 2700K, 15-watt Philips A-21, delivering 1180 lumens (equivalent in output and color temperature to a 75-watt incandescent).  Due to design discrepancies among manufacturers, dimmable LEDs require the use of ‘leading edge dimmers’.  I chose the Lutron Toggler C-L dimmer because of its broad availability (Amazon, Home Depot and Lowe’s) and the inclusion of the A-21 on the Lutron list of compatible bulbs.

The Philips A-21 in orbit.  [Image:  Philips via Amazon.com]
The Philips A-21 prepares to dock. [Image: Philips via Amazon.com]
Toggling-On

Both the switches for the dining room pendant and the recessed bar cans share a plastic 2-gang box.  Until recently, the dimmer switch for the bar’s ceiling lights shared space with a standard switch.  With the dining room pendant now in play, the challenge was to fit the pair of wider dimmers into the box.

My 2-Gang gang in their new home.  The subtle difference between the Ivory [left] and the Almond [right] seems to have escaped me at the time of purchase.
My 2-Gang gang in its new home. The subtle difference between the Ivory [left] and the Almond [right] seems to have escaped me at the time of purchase. Note black dim-adjustment dial upgrade to the right of the switch.
[Image:  mathix.org]
[Image: mathix.org]
Using both sides of the 16 x 16-inch sheet of trilingual instructions, I successfully wired and installed the new dimmer.  Not only did the new UFO-inspired fixture shine bright upon the tabletop, its frosted, plate-glass rings of Saturn glowed in all directions.  My formerly gloomy corner was now space-alien approved.

Buyer Beware

Due to early production bugs, the Lutron Toggler C-L 153-PH has been subjected to at least three revisions since its introduction.  I was never totally satisfied with the first dimmer purchased.  At certain settings, the Lutron-approved Philips BR30 LED Floods would exhibit a subtle flicker – though they never experienced drop-out or buzzing, as some consumers have claimed.

The Philips 13-Watt BR30 at rest.  [Image:  Philips via Amazon.com]
The Philips 13-Watt BR30 at rest. [Image: Philips via Amazon.com]
There was also a quality issue with a failure of the inadequate dim-range adjustment wheel, which is used to fine-tune a particular bulb’s lowest possible setting.  The latest model upgrade sports a more durable and practical black adjustment dial and a green ground wire in place of the original white wheel and green ground screw.

The simplest method of verifying a dimmer’s update status is to check for the presence of a black adjustment dial.  A slight separation of the packaging’s flexible plastic cover will allow for this inspection – the dial is located to the right of the switch.

White Dimmer Adjustment Wheel indicates undesirable early production version.
White Dimmer Adjustment Wheel indicates undesirable early production version.

While installing the new dimmer, I changed-out the problematic, early-production model for one of the current generation.  Both of the new dimmers have a more quality feel to the slide and allow the LED to deliver a stable illumination throughout the dimming range.

 

Don’t Be A Dim Bulb

Early Production Green Ground Screw was replaced by a Green Ground Wire - which makes more sense in a 2-Gang application.
Early Production Green Ground Screw was replaced by a Green Ground Wire – which makes more sense in a 2-Gang application.

The key to success lies in the details.  Find the style of dimmer you prefer, then check the ratings and LED compatibility for that brand and model.  For example, if you click on the above Amazon link and scroll down to Technical Specification, you will find two PDF lists that are organized alphabetically by bulb brand and model.  All brands of dimmers will feature a similar list at their respective websites.

The Lutron Toggler C-L 153-PH is currently available at Amazon.com in White and Ivory.  These colors plus Almond are available at the aforementioned Big Box Hardware outlets.

The Mother Ship upon re-entry.
The Mother Ship upon re-entry.

A One-Year Warranty is standard with a complimentary 2nd year granted upon product registration.

The One-Year Warranty becomes a Two-Year just by registering your Lutron Dimmer online.  [Image:  Lutron Electronics]
The One-Year Warranty becomes Two just by registering your Lutron Dimmer online. [Image: Lutron Electronics]
www.lutron.com/ecoregistration

Lutron Electronics Co., Inc.
Coopersburg, PA  18036
1-800-523-9466
www.lutron.com

A Cheap-and-Easy Way to Play (MOST) “NES” Cartridges Through an “SNES” Console

Retro-Bit RetroPort “NES-to-SNES” Cartridge Adapter

RetroPort

See it at Amazon 

(3/5)

Pros: Affordability. Compactness. Convenience. This adapter works “satisfactorily” (i.e., at least “tolerably” decently, and often “satisifyingly” decently) with most NES games.

Cons: Via this adapter, the video and/or audio quality of some (a fairly small minority of) games isn’t acceptable. [Moreover, according to several customer reviewers elsewhere, there are certain game titles (not in my collection) that are entirely or virtually nonfunctional via this adapter.] Also note that the AV signals aren’t conducted via your SNES console’s own cabling but via a separate (included) AV cable that must likewise connect with your TV’s ordinary composite (“RCA”) video and audio input jacks [but RadioShack or other vendors stock affordable AV switchboxes to make achieving this easy and convenient].

 

According to Wikipedia, “in 2009 the Nintendo Entertainment System [a.k.a. NES] was named the single greatest video game console in history by IGN out of a field of 25….” Though more than a few of today’s gamers might warmly dispute that ranking, there’s no denying that the “NES” [whose earliest incarnation had been introduced in mid-1983 in Japan as the “Family Computer” or “Famicom”] almost single-handedly resurrected the popularity of video gaming in America in 1985 and ‘86. Moreover, not only do many of today’s veteran gamers still fondly recall playing NES games in their heyday, but also there are presumably more than a few of today’s youngsters who could relish some of the 800-plus NES-compatible titles that have been released.

However, unearthing an original (well-nigh 30-year-old) NES console – perchance via eBay – could prove problematic. Reportedly, many extant specimens of that venerable “side-loading” system have cartridge slots that are no longer reliably functional.

By contrast, many surviving specimens of the NES’s top-loading successor – the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (a.k.a. SNES), which was introduced in 1991, remain in reliably usable condition. And I presume that this is especially true for the downsized Model SNS-101 (a.k.a. “mini”) SNES version, which was marketed during the final three years of the ‘90s. This brings me to the primary subject of this review:

The Retro-Bit RetroPort “NES-to-SNES” Cartridge Adapter

I sold my original NES console in 2003, and I don’t miss it. But I do still have my original “mini” SNES console; and there’s a select number of NES game titles – some of which remain “exclusives” – that I’d long wished were compatible with my SNES system. Therefore, when I recently discovered that this Retro-Bit adapter was available via Amazon.com for only $19.79, I promptly placed an order.

The thin-cardboard product box contained two pieces: the above-pictured adapter itself (which, per my hands-on inspection, weighs 2.7 ounces and measures about 2 & 7/8 by 5 by 13/16 inches); and an approximately 58-inch-long AV cable (to connect the adapter to your TV’s ordinary “RCA” audio and video inputs).

I was slightly surprised that no “instruction manual” booklet was enclosed (perchance this omission was merely an aberration with my particular specimen); but, heck, such instructions are scarcely needed. For, assuming you’re already aware of the need to keep your SNES console turned OFF whenever inserting/removing a cartridge, all you need to do is plug the single “minijack” end of the AV cable into the pertinent port on the RetroPort adapter’s left edge, and then connect the opposite, “three-pronged” end (yellow, red and white “RCA” plugs) to your TV’s corresponding (composite) video and audio jacks. Of course, you also need to plug the RetroPort adapter’s cartridge-like bottom into the cartridge slot of your SNES console. Finally, you’ll plug an original NES cartridge into the top (slot) of the RetroPort adapter. And then turn on your console.

Fortunately, I’ve found that the fit of this RetroPort adapter’s “bottom” or “top” isn’t worrisomely “tight.“ In other words, I find it easy to plug this adapter into my SNES console’s cartridge slot; and it was likewise easy to plug the typical NES cartridge into this adapter’s own, upper slot. Similarly [especially in contrast with my Hyperkin “Retron 5” console’s sometimes “viselike” NES slot], it was easy enough to remove this RetroPort adapter from the SNES console’s slot; and it was likewise reasonably easy to remove a NES cartridge from this adapter’s own pertinent slot.

This adapter draws its electrical power through your SNES console; moreover, your console’s connected hand controller is what you’ll use to play NES games. Otherwise, though, you can think of this “RetroPort” device as being equivalent to a miniaturized NES console; accordingly, its audio and video signals are conducted via its own (included) AV cable, not your SNES console’s AV cable. Therefore (in lieu of continually unplugging my nearby PlayStation 2 console’s RCA jacks from my old two-way AV switchbox), I recently replaced that former switchbox with a new RadioShack four-way switchbox, such that I can keep the Retro-Bit adapter’s dedicated cable conveniently “permanently” connected and selectable via a designated button on the switchbox.

So, just how satisfactorily does this adapter actually work? Well, the results are mixed with the following 14 NES game cartridges that I tested with this adapter (in conjunction with my 2010 Samsung LCD TV): Kirby’s Adventure; Sky Shark; Jackal; Abadox; Adventures of Lolo; Blaster Master; Commando; Dr. Mario; Kid Icarus; Life Force; Pinball Quest; Star Soldier; The Lone Ranger; and Xexyz.

Let’s first get the bad news out of the way. Three of my 14 NES game cartridges exhibited video and/or audio characteristics that – to my fairly tolerant sensibilities – were unacceptable. Those pertinent titles were: Kirby’s Adventure; Sky Shark; and Jackal. With Kirby’s Adventure and Jackal, the somewhat darker-than-usual video looked at least “borderline tolerable,” but the audio sounded badly “clipped” and muted. With Sky Shark the audio was all right, but the video’s intricate, scrolling backgrounds exhibited an extremely annoying degree of “flickering.” [Note: None of those aberrations occur when I play those same cartridges through my aforementioned Retron 5 console’s own “NES” slot. Indeed, via the latter console all 14 of my NES game cartridges play with remarkably high video and audio quality.]

That said, my 11 other NES game cartridges – via this RetroPort adapter – play at least tolerably well; in several instances the audio is fine but the aforementioned video-background “flickering” effect occurs – but in a more subdued (at least tolerable) degree. And in all other instances, not only the audio but also the video are essentially “normal,” i.e., comparable to (or perhaps even better than) what you’d expect from a still-functional vintage NES console played through a very good CRT television.

Even so, this low-cost RetroPort adapter isn’t in the same proverbial “league” as Hyperkin’s multifaceted “Retron 5” console, which incorporates (among its various cartridge slots) an “NES” slot and provides first-rate, high-definition video and audio quality. [In fact , the enhanced audio and the “HDMI-only, 720p-upscaled” video of the Retron 5 are so superior to what this RetroPort can muster that there’s really “no comparison”!] However, I’d be remiss not to report (based on not only my hands-on experience but also numerous reviews from kindred owners] that that Hyperkin console entails its own set of likewise “more or less tolerable” shortcomings, including: a tendency for its NES slot to feel inordinately “tight” whenever you remove a cartridge; and a tendency for one or more of its NES slot’s many metal “pins” to remain conspicuously bent upward or outward (out of normal alignment) after a modicum of usage. Hence there’s a “long-term-durability” or “build” concern with that Hyperkin console that (at least so far) doesn’t appear to be present with this RetroPort’s analogous cartridge slot’s construction. [Thus, with either product – for different reasons – it’s basically a case of “caveat emptor.”]

Bottom line, I view my specimen of this “RetroPort” as chiefly an auxiliary (i.e. “emergency-backup”) device that could be resorted to in the event that my largely superior Retron 5 console were to cease functioning in “NES” mode.

Get rid of pesky insects with this nifty compact zapper!

OneShot Home Plug in Bug Zapper

Bug Zapper 5

See it at Amazon 

(4/5)

Pros: Compact, visually striking and it works!

Cons: Drawer and retractable plug can be hard to open.

I like to fry an insect as much as the next guy, and living out in the country North of Houston we see a lot of annoying bugs and flying insects we would not normally see in the city. Especially mosquitos and flies!

We were looking for a small indoor bug zapper that we could plug in near our living room and/or our computer room that wouldn’t take up much space or have a cord to trip over, because we were getting eaten alive by mosquitos and bombarded by stupid gnats. While browsing WalMart several weeks ago we came across this nifty OneShot Home Plug in Bug Zapper. Being under $10 we decided to purchase one to try it out. We found them later on Amazon.com also.

Bug Zapper 4
The light is not purple as the photo suggests. It is deep blue. Note ours has nabbed a few insects in this picture!

They are a small device with a two-point plug that plugs into any standard power point. It consists of a plastic casing with a metal grid plate screwed inside that conducts the 900 volt jolt to end the life of any annoying insect. It’s kind of an odd shape but contains no sharp corners. It’s 4” long and stands out 2¾” from the socket. Basically it’s the size of a bar of Dove soap, only thicker.

It is illuminated with a brilliant deep blue light to attract insects near and far, although why they chose blue instead of any other color I don’t know. I guess blue seems pretty standard on bug zappers these days.

Bug Zapper 3
With the insect-catching drawer pulled out.

It does throw out a hell of a lot of light, although it makes for a dim night light because it isn’t very harsh on the eyes. It still throws out a beam of blue light for several feet across the floor, but we have ours plugged in at floor level; you can plug it anywhere you wish. Kitchens and living rooms would be great or even bedrooms. Basically wherever you see annoying insects is a good spot to use it.

It only has two features – a fold-up prong that retracts neatly into the device, and a tiny pull-out drawer in the back that is supposed to catch the insects when they are zapped. Both features don’t need to be there and seem to be for novelty purposes only.

Bug Zapper 2
With prong retracted. This is quite hard to pull out without fingernails!

Once retracted (which is how it comes out of the box) I found the plug prong difficult to pull out again. You really need strong fingernails to do this, which I don’t. It’s not stiff to move; I mean it’s just hard to get it started. A knife will also do the trick. I did like the pull-out drawer at the back; I thought it was nifty, but it too was hard to get my nails in there to pull it out.

To tell the truth, it didn’t really catch many mosquitos in the drawer. Oh the device killed a few alright. I didn’t hear it zap but I found several dead mozzies inside. Upon opening the drawer they would mostly fall out the back of the tray and back into the device. No problem though, as a quick shake got them to fall out of the drawer cavity.

For heavy infestations you will need to clean it out every day or two. For only a few insects here and there like we are experiencing you can go a few weeks without cleaning it out. Cleaning it is as easy as shaking it out, or use a tiny brush if the insects are stuck to the metal grid. So far, ours have fallen off easily enough with a shake of the device. Of course it goes without saying; unplug it before cleaning lest you want to turn your fingers into French fries!

My overall impression is positive. The zapper does work nicely; the blue light will attract mosquitos. It is quiet, doesn’t use much power, zero harmful chemicals and throws out a pleasing light. It’s for small insects only from mosquitos, gnats and flies. Anything larger than that might have a little trouble fitting through the openings on the plastic cover. As to replacing the bulbs behind the grid if it stops working, I don’t know. Amazon describes it as “Never replace bulbs”. I guess they are designed to never fail or perhaps they mean that it is cheaper to buy a replacement zapper than replace the bulbs!

Overall, the OneShot Home Plug in Bug Zapper is a good buy for under ten bucks and I hope to get a lot more use out of it.

Blasphemy: “Play your Sega Genesis cartridges through your Super Nintendo console!”

RetroGEN adapter

Retro-Bit RetroGEN “Genesis-to-SNES” Cartridge Adapter

 

See it at Amazon 

(4.5/5)

Pros: This affordable, compact adapter lets you play virtually any Genesis/Mega Drive cartridge – from any region – via your trusty old SNES console’s cartridge slot.

Cons: A few games are (tolerably) less loud than when played via an original Sega Genesis console [and – reportedly – a very few titles aren’t compatible at all]. AV signals aren’t conducted via your SNES console’s own cabling but via a separate (included) AV cable that must likewise connect with your TV’s ordinary composite (“RCA”) video and audio input jacks [but RadioShack or other vendors stock affordable AV switchboxes to make dealing with this easy and convenient].

 

Back in the day,  many gamers passionately deemed themselves staunch adherents to either the “Sega” or the “Nintendo” camp. But nowadays retro gamers can easily afford to be more eclectically open-minded.

Prefatory paragraph (feel free to skip ahead):

Some weeks ago I bought Hyperkin’s long-awaited “Retron 5” videogame console; and – initially – I was altogether pleased with that uniquely multifaceted system’s compatibility with Famicom, NES, SNES, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Genesis, and (provided you optionally connect Sega’s “Power Base Converter”) Master System cartridges. Unfortunately, however, after a couple of weeks my Retron 5 specimen suddenly, repeatedly (even after multiple restarts of the system) failed to function reliably, if at all, with four of its five cartridge slots (the consistently happy exception being the slot for the aforementioned three “Game Boy” formats). Then – equally unexpectedly – my Retron 5 (just one day later) suddenly became largely functional again with all five slots. That said, considering such occasional/potential behavior; and considering the quite visible degree of inauspicious, upward/outward “bending” of several of the metal contacts in, specifically, its excessively tight NES and Famicom slots, I’ve concluded that it’s probably too soon for me to be either endorsing or damning the Retron 5 (for the benefit of prospective consumers). Accordingly, I recently deleted my pertinent product review [something I’d virtually never done before!]; and I’ll wait till much more time has elapsed before maybe trying again… someday. [Even as it presently stands, the Retron 5 does embody various undeniably admirable features; and my hope is that Hyperkin will be continuously striving to improve the presently not-so-good features.]

Meanwhile, the primary subject of this review is a product that appears to be much simpler and fully trustworthy: Retro-Bit’s RetroGEN “Genesis-to-SNES” Cartridge Adapter.

You see, during my Retron 5’s aforementioned “briefly broken” phase, I’d immediately googled alternative means for playing my recently purchased batch of NES cartridges. This quickly led me to Retro-Bit’s RetroPort “NES-to-SNES” Cartridge Adapter [which I expect to receive (and possibly review) soon], which would allow me to play “Nintendo Entertainment System” (NES) cartridges via my Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) console (i.e., my late-1990s “mini” or “junior” version of the original SNES console). And it subsequently caused me to discover the availability of this analogous Retro-Bit adapter for playing Sega Genesis cartridges via my SNES console:

RetroGEN adapter2

I ordered this product from Amazon.com for $22.52. The thin-cardboard product box contains three pieces: the adapter itself (which, per my hands-on inspection, weighs 2.8 ounces and measures 2 & 7/8 by 5 by 13/16 inches); an approximately 58-inch-long AV cable (to connect the adapter to your TV’s ordinary “RCA” audio and video inputs); and an instruction manual (i.e., a modest, folded sheet of paper with a single page of English text, plus four analogous pages in other languages).

Actually (assuming you’re already aware of the need to keep your SNES console turned OFF whenever inserting/removing a cartridge), the printed instructions are nearly superfluous. For, all you basically need to do is plug the single “minijack” end of the AV cable into the pertinent port on the RetroGEN adapter’s left edge, and then connect the opposite, “three-pronged” end (yellow, red and white “RCA” plugs) to your TV’s corresponding (composite) video and audio jacks. Of course, you also need to plug the RetroGEN adapter’s cartridge-like bottom into the cartridge slot of your SNES console. Finally, you’ll plug an original Sega Genesis (or Sega Mega Drive) cartridge into the top (slot) of the RetroGEN adapter. And then turn on your console.

Thankfully, I found that the fit of this RetroGEN adapter’s “bottom” or “top” isn’t worrisomely “tight.“ In other words, I found it sufficiently easy to plug this adapter into my SNES console’s cartridge slot; and it was likewise easy enough to plug the typical Genesis cartridge into this adapter’s own, upper slot. Similarly [especially in contrast with the aforementioned Retron 5 console’s “viselike” Famicom and NES slots!], it was easy enough to remove this adapter from the SNES console’s slot; and it was likewise reasonably easy to remove a Genesis cartridge from this adapter’s pertinent slot.

This adapter draws its electrical power through your SNES console; moreover, your console’s connected Nintendo hand controller is what you’ll use to play Genesis games. Otherwise, though, you can think of this RetroGEN adapter as being equivalent to a miniaturized Sega Genesis console; accordingly, the audio and video signals are conducted via the included AV cable, not your SNES console’s own AV cabling. Accordingly (in lieu of continually unplugging my PlayStation 2 “Slim” console’s RCA jacks from my present two-way AV switchbox), I’m feeling increasingly compelled to (soon) replace that two-way switchbox with either a three-way or four-way switchbox, such that I can keep this RetroGEN adapter’s own AV cable more conveniently “permanently” connected and selectable via its own designated button on the switchbox.

So, just how nicely does this RetroGEN adapter actually work? Well, it works very nicely indeed – at least with the vast majority of Genesis game titles. [Reportedly, an extremely tiny minority of titles (e.g., Virtua Racing) isn’t compatible.] For example, I encountered no really noteworthy problems with any of the below titles, which I hastily, randomly grabbed from my collection:

Truxton; Viewpoint; Phelios; Thunder Force II; Subterrania; Super Monaco GP; Lightening Force; Pac-Mania.

With each of those games – via my billiard room’s Samsung LCD TV – the video quality was uniformly excellent, and the audio was almost always comparably fine. Oh, I did notice that one or two of those titles weren’t 100% as loud via this adapter (as via an original Sega Genesis console); however, in those instances the discrepancy was so modest or tolerable as to make scant difference to me (and, after all, a TV’s volume control is easy enough for a finicky user to adjust).

I don’t doubt that essentially all of the remaining Genesis carts in my collection will play likewise satisfyingly via this RetroGEN adapter.

The only “control” on this adapter is a tiny black four-way sliding switch (on the right edge). Via that four-position switch, you can play not only North American “Genesis” cartridges but also their “Mega Drive” counterparts from other global regions (including even Japan). From top to bottom, the selectable settings are legibly labeled with white, uppercase letters:

NTSC (North America – the “factory-default” setting);

PE (PAL Europe);

NJ (NTSJ Japan);

PA (PAL Asia)

And since (unlike my North American Genesis console’s cartridge slot) there’s nothing surrounding this RetroGEN adapter’s own upper slot that would hinder inserting a conventionally “Japan-only” Mega Drive cartridge, I look forward to getting at least one such long-coveted, vintage “SHMUPS” game ASAP.

Considering its low cost, compactness, and ease-of-use, this Retro-Bit “RetroGEN” is a product I can pretty confidently recommend to virtually any SNES console owner who’d relish playing – gasp! –“Sega” via “Nintendo.”

Clearstream 2V Long Range HDTV Antenna: Mixed Signals

Antennas Direct Clearstream 2V Long Range HDTV Antenna  Model # C2-V-CJM

Clear Reception @ Amazon

(4/5)

Pros: Price @ Amazon.  Works as claimed – especially when transmitters are grouped within a 70-degree window.  Build-quality sufficient to withstand exterior applications.  Supports 1080i HDTV.  Picture and sound quality inherently superior to that of cable.

Cons: Rural reception requires the use of an optional in-line amplifier.  Hilly terrain and obstructions will adversely affect reception.  Alleged 50-mile range conditional – stations with inferior signals didn’t get that memo.

In the realm of home entertainment, there are two camps – those who live for the thrill of the latest HBO series and those who would rather read a book and generate their own pictures.  I fall into the latter group for a couple of reasons.

As a kid who subjected his growing brain to endless hours of televised drivel, I now find most mainstream visual media inadequate or unbearable to sit still for.  This could be the result of developmental-teen TV-overload, adult attention deficit or a combination of both.

3 BC

In the three years before cable at my new location, my down-time was more productive.  Reading, writing and cooking sessions were constructive, fulfilling and relaxing.  After cable arrived, I lounged, ate junk food and watched shows pertaining to reading, writing and cooking.  When the promotional price ended, so did the cable TV.

Terk vs. Clearstream

Before cable, my Terk digital rabbit-ears pulled-in all the major networks.  Trouble was, every station required a different location around the living room – making the Terk‘s telescopic footprint an unsightly, ever-moving obstacle.  I needed an attic antenna that would be powerful enough to receive what was out there, while being much less intrusive.

Cute as a bunny and remarkably efficient for its size, the Terk indoor digital antenna lives large when its telescopic ears are extended.
Cute as a bunny and remarkably efficient for its size, the Terk indoor digital antenna lives large when its telescopic ears are extended.

Mindless Drivel Redux

Of the five cable channels I enjoyed most often, three are receivable over-the-air in the Portland, Maine market.  The only channel that was consistently unavailable to the Terk is the local CW Network (hybrid of the failed WB and UPN).  Have I developed a sudden craving for routine portrayals of low-wattage teen-angst?  No… it’s just that the transmitter attached to the CW (Completely Worthless) affiliate broadcasts the coveted retro Me-TV Network (Memorable Entertainment Television) on its lone digital sub-channel.

Some Assembly Required

The Clearstream 2V Long Range 1080i HDTV Antenna is designed to receive both UHF and VHF signals.  It arrived in a spiffy box with clear, glossily illustrated instructions even I could follow.  An initial inventory of parts confirmed they were all accounted for – including a versatile J-mount mast that greatly simplified my attic installation.

The included J-mount makes quick work of a standard attic installation.  [Image: Antennas Direct]
The included J-mount makes quick work of a standard attic installation. [Image: Antennas Direct]
 Assembly took less than 15 minutes.  Depending upon your installation method, some inclusions will end-up in the parts-bin – my attic venue did not require the use of the ¼ x 50mm mounting bolts or the four sticky, roof sealing pads.  Keep in mind that the only coaxial cable included is custom-sized to connect the figure-8-shaped UHF Loop Element to the top-mounted VHF Dipole Kit.  The antenna’s overall 18 x 34-inch footprint simplifies installation in tight spaces.

I made use of my home’s existing cable-TV wiring by disconnecting the television cable from the signal splitter and threading it onto the appropriate Dipole Kit connector.

Twist And Shout

Antennas Direct stresses the need to maintain your assembled antenna’s flexibility to achieve proper reception before final installation.  Using drywall screws, I temporarily mounted the antenna vertically to a section of 2 x 6 and clamped it atop a 6-ft. aluminum stepladder – allowing for unlimited rotation and subsequent television channel rescan.

When favorable atmospheric conditions prevail, I have received channels with the Terk from as far away as Providence, RI  – 170-plus miles to the south.  As a test of the Clearstream 2V, I began with a scan to the SSW and the Boston-Providence television market – with no success.  However, pointing the Clearstream due east, I was able to receive nearly every channel in the Portland market clearly with the antenna set in a single position – including the local Fox affiliate, which is located almost 50-miles away.  The introduction of a Winegard LNA-200 in-line amplifier has strengthened each signal sufficient to prevent atmospheric and weather-related inconsistencies.

Unlike some exterior-rated antennae, the Clearstream 2V appears built to withstand the elements.
Unlike some exterior-rated antennae, the Clearstream 2V appears built to withstand the elements. [Image: Antennas Direct]
 My Samsung television allows not only for an overall scan, but for manual individual channel selection.  Repeated attempts to attract the one channel for which I would trade all the networks was flat-lining – proving the signal from the local CW to be Conspicuously Wretched.

Why Are You Calling?

With the mistaken notion that the Antennas Direct Helpline could perform miracles, I called their toll-free number (which is irrelevant if you’re using a cell phone with a minutes plan).  Perhaps they could recommend a stronger, more appropriate antenna to better suit my particular application?

My short wait was continuously interrupted by a robo-voice with the assurance I was next in line.  The representative I eventually spoke with did what I had done – used the internet to locate my position at antennapoint.com and lament the specs. in regard to the weak and worthless signal emitted by my most desired channel.  Despite my coherent questions and explanation of the situation in a reasonable fashion, the rep kept asking why I was calling.  After I’d hung up, I asked myself the same thing.

I Want My M(e)TV

The Clearstream 2V has now been moved to its permanent home in a storage area behind the central chimney.  It is mounted low enough to avoid interference from the metal roofing materials, yet high enough to get the job done.  My home’s location at 763 ft. above sea level could be an advantage that creates the exception, but, with adequate amplification, this antenna works for me – though not for Me-TV.  Perhaps Perry Mason can eventually solve The Case of the Woeful Wavelength.

The Clearstream 2V is covered by a Limited Lifetime Warranty.

Made in Taiwan

Antennas Direct
16388 Westwoods Business Park
St. Louis, MO  63021
Helpline:  877-825-5572

www.antennasdirect.com

JUST AS IMPORTANT AS A SMOKE ALARM!

First Alert CO 605 Carbon Monoxide  Plug-In Alarm with Battery Backup

 

See it at Amazon  – $24.21 ( On sale from $41.99)First Alert CO605 Carbon Monoxide Plug-In Alarm with Battery Backup 

(4.5/5)

Pros: Battery Backup, Low-Battery Warning, Clear, loud Alarm

Cons: If I come across any – I’ll update

I may have mentioned in an earlier review how terrifying the idea of a house fire is – to everyone, I assume. But according toConsumer Products Safety Commission ” Carbon Monoxide detectors are as important to home safety as smoke detectors”. 

A few weeks ago my carbon monoxide detector began ‘chirping’, signaling it was time to change batteries. After installing new batteries, I was unable to put it back together as it had been. There were crisscross metal tabs inside the case that seem to work on a spring-loaded action, but it just wasn’t going back together properly. I put it in my truck intending to run by the local fire department to see if they could tell, or show me, the problem. In the meanwhile, another reviewer suggested I invest in a new detector, as the older one may have been compromised from fiddling (my words) with it.  

Wikipedia ( my go-to site for just about every search) explains that “Carbon monoxide is a product of incomplete combustion of organic matter due to insufficient oxygen to complete the oxidation to carbon dioxide (Co2).” Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless, tasteless and, in the short-term, non-irritating. Unfortunately “short-term” (referring to minutes) generally isn’t the case – many deaths occur during sleeping hours when we are least aware and therefore, most vulnerable.

Some of the sources of carbon monoxide.

PARTIAL LIST!!!

  • Gas-powered tools ( i.e. weed whacker)
  • Portable heaters
  • Older motor vehicles
  • Some cooking equipment ( i.e. barbeques)
  • Faulty furnaces
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Wood-burning stoves
  • Electric generators
  • House fires

 Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning:

Dizziness, headache, nausea, vertigo, flu-like symptoms, convulsions – and eventually, if not removed from the exposure, death. Fetus’ are severely effected by carbon monoxide.

The following is an exposure chart giving times and resulting symptoms. Thirty-five ppm ( particles per million), a very low dose, can result in headache and dizziness within 6-8 hours.

100 ppm – 2-3 hours – headache

200 ppm – Headache and loss of judgment

800 ppm – Dizziness, nausea, convulsions, insensible within 2 hours

3200 ppm – Death within 30 minutes

6400 ppm – Death within 20 minutes

12,800 ppm – Death within 3 minutes

The article did not state which source produces the greatest amounts of CO, but it seems sensible to use caution when around these sources, especially since the gas is, as stated, odorless, tasteless and colorless.

First Alert CO 605 Carbon Monoxide Detector uses an electrochemical carbon monoxide sensor to detect this deadly gas. The 85 decibel alarm will begin sounding when the level of CO reaches 50 ppm.

Features:

  • 120-volt AC plug-in carbon monoxide alarm with battery backup
  • 6′ cord
  • Weighs just 1.1 pounds
  • Low-battery warning
  • End-of-life timer
  • Silent test button
  • Includes one 9-volt battery
  • 7-year warranty
  • 4-star review on Amazon

The Consumer Products Safety Commission suggest at least one alarm per household, or, preferably, one on every level of your home or work environment. The unit should be replaced every five years.

First Alert, Inc.

3901 Liberty St.

Aurora, IL  60504

 

 

UniqueWare Electronic Luggage Scale – I’m allergic to paying extra fees!

UniqueWare Electronic Luggage Scale

pic1

See it at Amazon

(5/5)

Pros: easy to use, portable, accurate

Cons: none, as long as what you’re weighing has handles

Remember the old days… when you packed your suitcases without a care in the world about how much they weighed? After all, weight limits (if the airlines even had them at the time) were plenty high and seemingly never enforced, at least not that I can recall.  However, the world has changed.  And now, the airlines are serious.  When they say 50 pounds (or even 40 pounds) they mean it!  Go over, and you’ll have to pay.

So, it’s vital (well, vital might be a bit strong, but for those of us who are allergic to paying excessive fees, it sure seems vital) that our luggage weigh in the acceptable range.

Weighing the luggage at home is simple.  Step on your bathroom scale twice.  Once by yourself and one holding the suitcase.  Subtract, and you have your answer.

But what about the return flight?  If you’re in a hotel, or on a cruise, you might not have access to a bathroom scale.  Of course, if you’re returning with the exact same items as you came with, then it’s no problem.  But if you do some shopping while away, you might have added some significant weight to your baggage.  Of course, you can wait until you’re at the airport.  They’ll be happy to weigh the suitcase, and give you time to start moving items around, perhaps move your jacket from your suitcase to your carry-on, or swap your heavy sneakers from one suitcase to another.  But isn’t it just easier if you can figure this all out before you head to the airport?

That’s why I frequently bring my UniqueWare Electronic Luggage Scale with me, when I travel.  It’s very light-weight (just a couple ounces) and just a few inches long, thus easily portable.  Best of all, it’s easy to use, and accurate.

How does it work?  It has a cloth handle with a hook.  Loop the handle around your suitcase’s handle, then latch it closed.  Press the “on” button, wait for the scale to initialize, then lift.  Just a moment later, the digital read-out will stabilize, and you’ll be able to read the weight of your luggage in pounds or kilograms.

The only thing I must point out is that whatever you’re weighing must have closed-loop handles.  In other words, this device is useless if you’re trying to weigh a carton (although if you can place the carton in a bag with handles you’ll be OK).

Best of all, the readout is on the top of the scale, not the side, like my previous model.  This means that the numbers can be easily read by the person lifting the suitcase.  With my old model, it was always a two-person job – one to lift, and one to read.  UniqueWare solved this!

In my experience, the scale is accurate.  It matches what the airport later tells us, within about 2/10 of a pound (so leave yourself a small cushion).  It uses a lithium cell battery (included), and shows a low-battery indicator.  Capacity: 50 kg / 110 lb.  The scale also tells you the temperature in Fahrenheit or Celsius.  I didn’t know it included a thermometer when I bought it, and, frankly, I don’t really understand the connection.

A terrific product, very useful, and pays for itself the first time you save yourself an over-weight fee!

 

 

An affordable 6.0 DECT cordless 3 phone set – with limited range

AT&T CL82353 – 3 Handset Cordless Phone Set with answering system

http://scene7.samsclub.com/is/image/samsclub/0065053002493_A?$img_size_380x380$

$69.95 at Amazon  

(3/5)

Pros: Light weight – Very Good Sound Quality – Long life NiMH batteries

Cons: Poor range

I needed 2 new phone sets, one for my house and one for the home office.  There were no negative consumer ratings at the time of purchase, all were 4 & 5/5 so I felt this would be a great deal at only $70.  After charging the phones for 24 hours we programmed them, set up the answering message and were set to go in just a few minutes. Very intuitive set up process without having to reference the owner’s manual. My only complaint is with the limited range. I live in an adobe home with walls that are nearly 12 inches thick. The set I have in the home-office is used only on our fax line and for making outgoing calls only – so no problems, I’m keeping the one set. On the other hand I have the main house line with the base unit in our master bedroom.  After walking 20 feet away or three rooms from the base the phone starts breaking up then losing its signal altogether. Thinking we had a defective unit I switched out the home office set – including the 3 phones with the house set. Same limited range issue.

That said I believe the only downside this model has would be it losing its signal entirely in my style of home. My only other peeve is that when you set the phone back into its charging station, there is no audible acknowledgement, just a very dim red LED (upper left near the earpiece). There’s also a small 3-bar battery status level icon on the LCD screen.

The handsets are of decent quality, easy to read LCD. The silver dial keypad buttons are orange backlit and very responsive.  I’ll list a few more of the phones features with are typically found on higher priced sets….

  1. Caller ID Announce: Much clearer than our older Panasonic. –
  2. 10 Ring Tones: All of which are very generic with #8 being my choice. The ringer setting is much louder than any cordless set I’ve ever purchased.
  3. HD Audio with Equalizer: Just a gimmick, there are 2 optional bass settings and 3 treble. All can be controlled by pressing the bottom right button on the keypad. Mine sounds just fine on default or regular mode.

Finally, as you can see in the picture the base unit is smaller than average taking up very little space and is wall-mountable as well. With the strong point being audio and audible quality, I would recommend this purchase to those who are hearing impaired. My only true disappointment is the range of the CL82353 but that’s in part due to my environment.