Lee Recommends Toys

Man, time flies… When I wrote this 8 years or so it was useful, fun stuff. But now I’ll just relegate it to the data pile. I updated it in 2005 but… feh, don’t read this, it’s old and most of my recommendations don’t hold true any more.

Lee Recommends Toys

[last reviewed (poorly) 9-16-05 – Lee]

Here’s a list of many of the “good things” I enjoy.

Tivo – bought 11-01 – It just plain works. This thing has allowed me to watch exactly what I want, exactly when I want. The recorded picture quality is indistinguishable from live tv… Did you hear that? A perfect playback of tv. Your old VCR is going to start gathering a lot of dust. And the program guide is…. why didn’t they come out with this thing 50 years ago?! It’s so intuitive and easy and… gush gush gush! Suffice to say, I like my Tivo. I bought a suped-up one on eBay. It has an extra 80 gig hard drive giving me 80 hrs or recording time on “high” quality. I would get 200 hrs on “basic” but the picture quality there is ucky. I’d say that 50-80 hours of recording time is the minimum you’d want to get your Tivo with. You think that sounds crazy but it isn’t. It’s important to have enough space on it so that you don’t have to watch your favorite programs before they expire… and have some space left over so you can sample new programs, record entire mini-series, movie marathons, etc…
Bread maker – bought 12-96 – Breadman Ultimate. See my cooking page. I -still- use it all the time.

Sharper Image Quadra air filter – bought 1-01 – It really works to reduce allergy problems, it’s quiet and saves money over filters. I sold mine a while back and haven’t bought another because I don’t feel like I’ve needed it.

Pocket PC Cassiopeia E-125 – bought 5-01 – I used to have a Palm III but I got tired of my eyes getting tired with the crappy screen. I’m happy with it. I use it 10 times a day every day. With Avantgo, I get to read the newspaper while I’m on the train every day. That’s cool. 9-9-07 update: I haven’t used it in a while. I just use my cell phone or my home computer. I’m -still- waiting for a cell phone/PDA that fits in my pocket. :-(

Avantgo for the Pocket PC. So there I am reading the newspaper every morning on the train, but my “paper” is this tiny (but legible) thing! The electronic newspaper has arrived! 9-9-07 update: I haven’t used it in a while only because I only used it on my Pocket PC.

Vindigo for the Pocket PC – started 12-01 – Vindigo was the best thing I had for the Palm… now it’s available! Wee! It’s great! 9-9-07 update: I haven’t used it in a while only because I only used it on my Pocket PC.

Canon Ultura mini-DV video camera – bought 12-99. 9-9-07 update. I’m still happy with it. Though I use a digital still camera far more often. I use the still-mode and video mode on the digital camera. It is just more convenient.

Nikon 775 digital camera – 9-9-07 update. This camera went wonky on me a little while back so I bought the 5 megapixel Canon Powershot. That one got accidentally left in the Albertsons in El Cerrito just before Burning Man so I’ll be shopping for another soon. The Nikon 775 was a good camera.

Here’s my original review (with updates)

bought 12-01 – I figure that what I really
want is a 35 megapixel camera (1200 dpi 3×5 photos… a real film camera) and they’ll be available in 5 years, Moore’s law (5 years later and we’re only up to 7 megapixel :-( ). This 2 megapixel camera works quite well enough for now. After having this camera for a while, probably the most important features are:

  • small size. If it’s not small enough to bring with me everywhere, I won’t!
  • reasonably durable. I passed over cameras that didn’t have automatically closing lens caps and too many protrusions.
  • a good case. I’ve got this little aftermarket pack that keeps it safe and nearby. It’s really really worth the $30 and looking around for just the right size.
  • easy uploading to my PC. Mine is USB. You plug it in and Zoop! it’s in my computer
  • good editing software. I use Jasc Paintshop Pro 7.0 to fix shots with bad color and red-eye. (I now use Picasa for most straightforward edits. It’s easy to use)
  • good viewing software. I haven’t found -really- good viewing software yet but I use ACDSee 4.0 (Picasa is the one!)
  • good printing setup. I haven’t printed any pictures yet but I might use ofoto.com, fototime.com, or one of the new (as of 7-02) $180 photo printers. I still don’t print photos often. I like PSPrint.com)
  • at least a 32 meg memory card. My 32 meg card holds 64 images in 2 megapixel mode. The price of memory is falling rapidly… get a 64 meg or 128 meg card. Remember that when you’re on your next 2 week vacation, there won’t be any place to buy new “film”. (now I have a 2 gig card :-)
  • movie mode is kind of nice but not essential. If you get it, it should record sound too. (movie mode is essential!)
  • rechargeable battery. These cameras can eat batteries like nobody’s business

FRS Radios

9-9-07 update: I haven’t used my FRS radios in a long while. They don’t have the range needed to be useful in many places… large events, Burning Man, etc.. Cell phone coverage keeps getting better such that there aren’t many places that aren’t covered any more. And the single-duplex talking gets on your nerves after a while as opposed to a telephone.

Here is my previous review:

Family Radio Service radios are just like the walkie talkies you had when you were a kid, but all grown up. The sound is crystal clear for between 1/2 and 2 miles. Perfect for keeping together on a road trip, at a convention (warning, at the Las Vegas Convention Center, they had a range of like 75 yards. Combined with the ambient noise in there, they aren’t worth it) , festivals, camping, at flea markets, etc.

I like them because they’re cheaper than cell phones. A set can cost you $80, that’s 2 months cell phone service. But these radios will last for years. They work where cell phones don’t, in the country, or when service is flaky.

If you are buying an FRS radio, the most important features to consider are:

  • Power button that doesn’t accidentally push while in your bag. It sucks when your batteries are dead before you even get there!
  • Rechargeable batteries. Radios last 12-18 hours on a charge, which is a full day. But then buying another 6 AA batteries for tomorrow kinda sucks. You got these things because they are cheaper than cell phones and you want to keep them that way.
  • Privacy codes are nice. They keep the random static to nill.
  • Call buttons and Vibrate modes are good. Just like a cell phone!
  • A good belt holster.

I have a pair of Cobra FRS-305s with rechargeable NiMH batteries. After I put some cardboard over the power switch so they wouldn’t accidentally switch on, they work very well (thanks to the guy in Staples for that suggestion!). The holster isn’t perfect either, but it’ll do. I also have a pair of Motorola Talkabout 250s. They eat batteries, turn on accidentally, turn off accidentally, have a poorly placed Talk switch, and mediocre holster. Wanna buy some radios, cheap?


  1. Free says:

    Yeah, Avantgo and Vindigo have now died.

  2. Don’t think you couldn’t sneak in a compliment without us noticing. PsPrint likes you too!

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