Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Eton/Grundig Microlink FR150 Emergency Radio

The best stocking stuffer I got this year was an Eton FR150 Radio from L.L. Bean. It’s a self powered emergency flashlight/radio/cell phone charger all in one neat little package. With all the extended power outages we've had in the Northeast lately, this little baby may come in handy.

This ultra compact emergency radio is made by Grundig and distributed by Eton through L.L. Bean. It’s an AM/FM Weather Band radio, with surprisingly good reception and sound quality for a radio this small.

The unit is covered in shatterproof polycarbonate, with rubberized buttons and port flap to protect it from the elements. It also doubles as a very bright 3 LED flashlight. The best part though, is that the unit can be recharged 3 different ways. Via USB cable, hand crank or solar power. Even better, you can plug your cell phone into the cell charger port and crank some life into it!

I love the set of 3 lights on the tuner window. There's one for tuning, it lights steadily when the radio is receiving maximum signal from a station. There’s also a light to indicate that the batteries are charging, and it goes on the minute you get the radio near sunlight or start spinning the crank. The third one indicates that you’re in the Weather Band mode. Small things, I know, but they indicate that a lot of attention to detail went into this little guy. Grundig really knows how to make a radio!

Two small caveats with this product. It doesn’t come with a USB cable, you have to supply your own, and it needs to be USB to mini USB. This isn’t too big a deal, as most people with a digital camera already have one. Also, the instructions seem to indicate that there’s a charger available, there isn’t. Doing some research on Eton’s FAQ page, I found a section where they clarify this by explaining that you plug the USB cable into your computer to recharge the radio, just like you would with your iPod.

The other confusing thing is that the instructions tell you to connect the tip that matches your cell phone to the included cell phone charging cable. I found the cell phone charging cable, no problem, but I couldn’t find any interchangeable tips. This time I found the answer in a user review. There’s a card folded up with the warranty info that you fill out with your cell phone type and return address. Mail it in, and Eton will send you the correct tip, and register your product for warranty purposes. It’s a pretty good way to get people to return their warranty paperwork, but the instruction booklet should be clearer.

So, the radio strikes out in the instruction department, but hits a home run as an emergency device. It comes in a variety of colors from L.L. Bean for $29.95.

You can also order a Red Cross version of this same product through the Eton site, or on

Monday, December 29, 2008

Patriots Go 11 And 5 But Miss Playoffs

The Patriots finished off their regular season with a 13-0 win over the Bills and an 11-5 record, but it just wasn’t enough for a playoff berth in the hotly contended AFC.

The Dolphins clinched the AFC East Division Championship when they beat the Jets today, even though they finished the season tied with the Pats at 11-5 overall and 4-2 in their division, by virtue of a conference record tie breaker (Dolphins 8-4, Pats 7-5).

Chances of a Patriots wildcard spot went down in flames today also, when the Ravens beat the Jags, finishing 11-5 and clinching one of the two wildcard spots by virtue of the same conference record tie breaker (Ravens 8-5). The Colts had already locked up the other spot.

Although I’m bitterly disappointed that the Patriots season is over, especially since the craptastic Cardinals made the cut with a 9-7 record, I have to give the homeboys credit. They did way better than we could have expected this season, and had really jelled into a first level team, finishing off their impressive 11-5 season with a 4 game winning streak. I’ve said before that I’ve seen some pretty bad Patriots teams in my day, and this isn’t one of them.

Kudos to Matt Cassel for a season well played. He grew into his roll a little more each week, and was playing like a veteran down the stretch. He’s certainly a better quarterback than most that will start next week. The Patriots stable of standout receivers helped out a great deal, but it still comes down to on field decisions, and the kid is getting very good at them. He becomes a free agent now, and I hope he does well for himself and gets the payday he deserves.

That being said, if Brady is the least bit questionable for the start of next season, the Pats have got to franchise him. 14 mil for one season isn’t too shabby...

So, thanks to all the players and coaching staff. They gave us their all, even though the season looked dismal from day one. Hey, it sucks having the season end so early, but if we know anything about this team, it’s that they’ll be back next year with a vengeance.

For now, I’m holding out hope for a Falcons-Dolphins Super Bowl showdown. How can you not love Ryan and Pennington? It would sure beat an all Manning Bowl. I'd have to smash all my TVs if that happened.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Give Your Geek A Cool Yule With A New Nano Or Touch

This year’s crop of iPods have all been tweaked up a bit, especially the 4th gen Nano and the 2nd gen Touch, and either one would be a great gift choice for that discerning geek on your Christmas list.

The Nano has been redesigned, again. It’s gone back to (roughly) its original size and shape, but with a few new curves. It’s also got a longer screen coupled with an accelerometer chip that allows you to flip it sideways and view it in wide screen mode. The chip also makes it possible to shuffle your music with a shake of your hand, and control game play with a simple tilt of the device. Too cool!

Once again, Apple has doubled the memory of the Nano, this time to 8 and 16GB, while retaining the same price points, $149 and $199, and introduced yet another palette full of weird and wonderful colors.

The new 2nd gen Touch has undergone a few changes also. It’s my personal favorite, and by far and away the slickest personal media device on the market this holiday season. It’s still a bit pricey, but if you’re looking for a gift with wow factor, this is the one. Billed as “The funnest iPod ever” by Apple, it lives up to that claim and more.

From a design standpoint, the biggest change is that it’s grown external volume controls and an internal speaker, and yet gotten even sleeker than the previous model. Add in improved video, ultra responsive touch screen, push email, and the availability of a dazzling array of applications, and you’ve got quite the package.

From a pure media player standpoint, the audio and video on the 2nd gen are excellent, but this device is as much a handheld computer as it is a traditional MP3 player. The WiFi has outstanding range and response time, and the device is loaded with useful apps right out of the box. Google an actor while you’re watching a movie, find out what channel the big game is on while you’re parked on the couch, look up a recipe on the web while you’re cooking, or check and respond to your email without having to boot up, pay for a monthly plan, or worry about running down your cell phone. How sweet is that?

The add-on apps are pretty amazing also. Download Shazam, and you can hold the player up to another music source and it will identify the music being played and retrieve it from iTunes Mobil, or store the info until you’re in WiFi range, or until your next sync. Stream Internet radio with the Pandora app, or grab a game that takes advantage of the accelerometer like Labyrinth or Super Monkey Ball.

The Touch comes in 8, 16 or 32GB models. Its OS takes up about 1.5GB, so if you have a large media library and plan on downloading a lot of apps, you’ll want the 16 at least.

Check out the video review here on Cnet, and be sure to forward the link to Santa!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Lost - Season 5

Season 5 of Lost is coming soon to a living room near you. Grab the Lost widget for your homepage or website, and you’ll be “in the loop” for all updates and teasers.

Also, iTunes has the new season 5 trailer and the new music video by The Fray, “You Found Me”, available as free downloads. There are a couple of Easter eggs hidden in the Fray video, a logo for Ajira Airways, and a Dharma Initiative logo superimposed on Jack.

If you Google Ajira, you’ll find it has a website that is announcing “The skies have no limit with our new destinations launching January 21st, 2009”, and suggests that you sign up for updates. Check it out.

And if you need a little brushing up before the main event, be sure to visit our Lost section on for past seasons episode recaps, screen captures, theories and links.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Music Sharing, Malware, And You

I want to talk about music sharing. Not about the ethicality of it, that’s just a waste of breath. People are adamant about their beliefs on the subject on both sides, and I’ve found it’s useless to try and change anyone’s opinions on it. I want to talk about the consequences of music and/or file sharing, and I don’t mean the consequence of getting caught.

P2P (peer to peer) file sharing can be a very valuable tool. It’s central to quite a few things we take for granted, like SMTP email, which uses a P2P configuration between it’s mail transfer agents (or mail servers), coupled with a client-server connection with the end user (you). It also allows many users to share many files without the need for huge central servers, which can cave under the pressure of a sudden multitude of simultaneous downloads. All in all, it’s a pretty slick concept.

The problem is, when you install a P2P client such as BitTorrent or LimeWire on your home PC to share music and video, you open yourself up to a plethora of problems. Up to 30% of all music files available to download from your peers are infected, and no matter how careful and smart you are, sooner or later you’re going to hit a file that’s carrying a virus or malware that your protection software doesn’t yet have a definition for. A raging infection or two, combined with the added cpu usage from file sharing requests, can bring your system to it’s knees quick, fast and in a hurry.

Also, improper set up on installation with regards to files or folders to share, can leave you wide open to information theft. Here’s a link to a great article on InformationWeek, where the reviewer used LimeWire Pro to search out keywords such as “ssn”. The amount of personal information he culled from other users was downright scary. Now think about a double whammy, picking up malware that changes your file sharing settings, steals your personal info, then leaves the door open for others to find that same data. Oh yeah, and trashes your computer while it's at it. Yikes!

All this being said, if you do decide to venture into these murky waters, be sure to have a rescue plan in place. Take the time to make sure that your system is properly protected and backed up. Here’s a link to a simple guide, just to get you thinking in the right direction.

And if you do get hosed up, don’t call me. I know that you’re going to reinstall the P2P client as soon as you get the machine back. Don't give me that innocent look, you will, and I just don’t have the time or patience these days for that kind of “Ground Hog Day” like behavior.

That is all.