Archive for the ‘Product Reviews’ Category.

Annoyingly Incomplete Research Breeds Annoyingly Alarmist Message

Annoyingly Incomplete Research Breeds Annoyingly Alarmist Message

I saw this article at ExpandedConciousness.com

“Why You Should Take Your Shoes Off Before Entering Your Home, Backed By Science”

It opens with:

While it may be commonplace in most Asian countries, the cultural norm of taking your shoes off before entering your home has yet to catch on in Europe and America. In Asian cultures it’s easily understandable as to why people remove their shoes before coming into a home as their meals are typically eaten on mats on the floor, and they sleep on rolled out futons at night.

A new study has researchers suggesting that maybe we might want to be more aware of what exactly we’re bringing into our homes via our shoes.

Bacteria in the home – Research conducted at the University of Houston found that 40% of shoes were carrying around the Clostridium difficile, or “C.diff”, bacterium. Infections caused by C.diff are highly resistant to antibiotics, which can lead to difficult and lengthy recovery times for anyone who becomes infected. C.diff is also able to survive in most areas of the household, including toilets, tops and surfaces, and wherever floor dust is found. Ready to take off your shoes yet?

Kinda scary, right? I’m always going to take my shoes off at home so me and my baby don’t get sick!
The trouble is, the article intentionally sensationalized and misrepresented the results of the research.

I read the research paper. The data and conclusions of the research did not match what the article implied. To paraphrase, the research said, “C.diff can get you sick. 1/3 of all our samples in homes had that bug on them. 40% of shoe bottoms had it, 30% of bathroom surfaces, 30% of floor dust. Wow, that’s a lot… we think… maybe.” And that’s where they left it.

So my takeaway is: don’t lick the bottoms of my shoes, the floor, or my toilet. Thanks for the tip, guys.

If they had compared rates of contamination in the different areas of the house, they might have come to some great conclusions. For example, maybe people that have shoe bugs are more likely to have bugs elsewhere in the house (IE, maybe people track the bugs in on their shoes) . Or maybe not. They’ve got the raw data, why didn’t they crunch the numbers?

They didn’t have a control group. They said that floor dust was contaminated, was tabletop dust contaminated too? Maybe if they had tested silverware, frozen pizzas, and kitchen tables they would have had the same 30% contamination rates. But we’ll never know because they did bad science. I know all about bad science, I did some just last month.

Frickin’ grad students and their research projects.

Frickin’ sensationalist websites and their fear mongering.

 

You can find the abstract (a short summary) of the research here. You can find the full paper via a library that has access to scholarly journals. I used my San Jose State University library access.

Chicco Keyfit 30 Car Seat Advertising is Intentionally Deceptive

Advertising for the Chicco Keyfit 30 Car Seat is intentionally deceptive.

chiccoshopThe Chicco website says that it holds a baby “from 4-30 lbs” but they never mention that there is a very important height restriction. This is a dangerous and deceptive lie by omission. (See the Chicco website) (local archive). But the manual is very clear that it supports a baby “4-30 lbs, 30 inches or less.”
30 inches

You might be thinking, “Yeah, whatever, that is a small matter.” No, it isn’t.

The average baby outgrows the car seat by weight when they turn 30 months (2 1/2 years) oldBut the average baby outgrows the car seat by height at 12 months old! (see the CDC height and weight tables) Our baby was 30″ tall at 9 1/2 months!

The manual dictates that the product lasts 60% less than its marketing claims. That is deceptive advertising. Imagine buying a car that had a 10 year, 40,000 mile warranty! Would you feel cheated?

The Amazon ad doesn’t mention this height restriction either (local archive).

We’ve had our Chicco Keyfit 30 Car Seat for a few months now and it has performed well. But our daughter outgrew it more than a year and a half sooner than we were led to believe by Chicco.

It is a fine product, they don’t need to stoop to this deception. This deception is dangerous for children because if you were to only read the marketing information, you might use this seat long after it was safe to do so.

 

Automotivetouchup.com Review

Automotivetouchup.com Review: Terrible.

My car got some scratches in September. I tried a scratch repair kit that I found online, Automotivetouchup.com. Their website looks professional but don’t be fooled.

The instructions for how to apply the paint were mediocre, especially considering they spent the effort to make a pile of good looking 30-second-long “look how easy it is!” videos enshrined on their website that skip steps to entice suckers. Go ahead and take a look at their instructions. (local copy)At a glance they look alright enough but read them closely. Could you actually follow them? Compare the instructions to their jazzy promo video on the subject.

The color match was poor. See these before and after photos (click to enlarge)
IMG_20150913_171109884 auto touchup IMG_20151002_121652207_HDR auto touchup IMG_20150918_110956838 auto touchup
Their customer service was nonexistent. I sent them messages on their website on 10-13-15 and 10-24-15 asking for help and I got no response.

Today I googled “Automotivetouchup.com review”. Ugh. They get embarrassingly bad reviews from resellerratings.com. 33 reviews, 3.6 out of 10. Poor reviews for their product and customer service. I don’t have time to deal with this crap.

I know that scratch repair paints aren’t miracle cures. I was just astounded at how hard they are working at making a poor consumer experience.

Prius C Review

A friend asked if Megan and I liked the Prius C we bought a few months ago. It’s a 2012 Prius C Model 2. Here’s the review I gave her.

 

“Bill” at Toyota of Berkeley sold it to us. He was “pretty good”. Of course it’s his job to say that every car we test drove was the best. The folks at Oakland Honda near Macarthur BART were insane (in a bad way). Some lady in the Honda Fremont Auto Mall was also awful. The used car consignment place… Buggy Bank in Berkeley was good but they’ve got a limited selection, and all used.

The Prius C is a great city car, pretty good highway car, a little noisy on the highway, 50+mpg highway (my record so far is 86mpg in a 10 mile stretch), 50+mpg city. It feels zippy (the honda fit 2009-2014 is sluggish get and gets mediocre MPG but the 2015 is zippy and gets better MPG).

The Mazda 3 just about crosses over into “sportscar” territory while being similar.

I squeezed 3 full size guys with 2 folded bikes in the car with no problem (that kind of amazed me)

The honda fit has fantastic views of the road, it’s like driving in a glass car. The Prius C has “very good” views of the road. I found the regular prius to have dangerous blind spots where the “A” pillar is. But your experience will probably be different because you are a much different height.

It’s little bit more expensive than the Fit but since Toyotas (and Hondas) keep their value so well, it wasn’t a stretch. We liked the interior design of the Prius a little more than the Fit. Our 2012 Prius C with 30k miles was about $18k, $19k after taxes etc..

There’s a couple models, the 1, 2, 3, and 4 with different options. I recall thinking “don’t get a 1”, I think it is lacking cruise control. Our “2” is good. I think the “3” has keyless ignition which would have been sweet but it’s like a $2,000 jump in price. And I wouldn’t bother with the navigation package since your phone is probably better than it (though I haven’t tested the prius navigation)

Munchery is Amazing Dinner at Home in the Bay Area

We’ve had Munchery a couple times now and it’s pretty freaking amazing. $10 entrees delivered to your door, ready to be heated into amazing dishes. https://munchery.com

It’s a limited menu and you’ve got to order early in the day. Worth it. Amazing food.

 

Laser Printers

When I started grad school this fall, all us students were talking about how much we had to print out for class… so many journal articles and class readers! Some folks complained at how expensive their inkjet printers were to run and I went into my laser printer rant. Here is the latest incarnation of that rant.

Short form:
laser printers = fast, inexpensive ($0.05/sheet), reliable, high quality
inkjet printers = cheap to buy but expensive to operate ($0.20/sheet), almost as high quality as laser, almost
print shop = expensive ($0.20/sheet), inconvenient

Long form:
First I have to admit that I killed my awesome HP Laserjet P1606dn by running cheap sticky labels through it the wrong way. I’ll tell you exactly how at the end, suffice to say that a normal person wouldn’t make such mistakes.

So I needed a new printer. I’ve now had the Brother HL-2270DW for about 3 months.
Pros:

  • prints double sided
  • prints fast
  • wireless
  • inexpensive (about $0.05/page fully amortized with paper and everything)
  • consistently excellent quality

Cons:

  • It can’t print on 3-holed paper, it jams, so I bought a 3-hole punch

Throw away your ink jet printer. It’s the old “give away the razor sell the blades” scam all over again. Buy a laser printer instead.

Here’s the one I bought on Amazon
Brother HL-2270DW Compact Laser Printer with Wireless Networking and Duplex

Be sure to buy the TN450 High Yield Black Toner for $50 as well. The toner cartridge that comes with the printer is only a “demo” with like 500 pages worth of toner in it

printer $100 amortized over 5000 pages (a conservative guess) $0.02 per page
toner: $45/ 2600 pages = $0.017 per page
paper: $0.016 per page
final cost $0.05 per page

Now the dumb story of how I killed my printer with sticky labels. I bought these cheap sticky labels that used wax paper to hold the sticky sheets in place (better ones use some wonderfully slippery plastic. The sticky label has 2 giant 5″x8″ labels on it. I printed 1 of the labels and then put the sheet through the printer again. I told the printer to print on the wax paper. Oops! After that moment, the ink refused to be fixed to the paper. I assume I wrecked the drum on the printer, gumming it up with wax. Maybe I could have fixed it but who has time for such things? I just bought a new printer.

Fandango or MovieTickets.com

Megan and I saw the new Captain America movie with Michael K last night. Action Action ACTION! My two favorite moments:

  • a super-baddie jumping on top of a speeding car and ripping the steering wheel off, much to the dismay of our heros driving the car
  • A flying aircraft carrier slowly careening into a skyscraper… CCCccrRRUUUSSHHHRRAAAAAAAaaaAAACK!

My review: 2 1/2 hours of roller coaster ACTION!

I was a bit miffed that two promo codes Megan and I had gotten from buying stuff over Christmas on Fandango.com had expired. After looking at the original coupon again I now see the expiration date buried down at the bottom, but it feels pretty buried. Grrr. And I don’t know, I’ve got this feeling that the nature of a movie ticket, a fun non-necessity, shouldn’t have such harsh terms of use.

I wrote to them and their response was “tough noogies.” Screw them, I discovered another ticket-buying website: MovieTickets.com. They’ve got all the local theaters and their fees are a bit lower. I’m switching.

Pre-Download Gmail Images

Here is a suggestion I just sent the Android Gmail team:

If an email sender has been previously approved to display images, the images should be loaded when the email is downloaded to my phone.

Right now the images are loaded when the email is viewed for the first time. This means I have to wait for the images to download and depending on my internet connection that could be a while. If I’m checking my email where there is no service (on subways, elevators, about 1/2 of Berkeley CA) the experience totally sucks.

If images are pre-downloaded, it will break “web bug” functionality built into email images. But web bugs have never been a web standard, just a clever, if unreliable hack at gaining metrics. If you’re totally excited about it, you could build a new web standard for when web bugs get viewed. Also, nowadays, if a user cares enough to have emails go to their inbox (and not unsubscribing, or marking it as spam), they are probably interested in reading the email, so web bugs aren’t that important any more.

Thanks for your consideration!

Groupme Emoji

Groupme is a group-texting app for smartphones and dumbphones. I use it all the time to chat with Megan because it’s faster and more reliable than texting with my Virgin Mobile phone (ugh, I know).

I just sent a message to Groupme support with my biggest gripe:

Since the promise of Groupme is (from the homepage) “the best way to chat with everyone you know”… “works on every device”… It would be great if the emoji were similar on the 3 main platforms me and my friends use it on: iphone, android, website. It is frustrating when the emoji I send isn’t the emoji they receive.

Keep rockin

A Phone That Lasts All Day

I haven’t seen a smartphone (android or iphone) that has a long enough battery life yet. This is asinine. My successful workaround is to buy a backpack battery from http://www.seidioonline.com

I am using an Android HTC EVO 4G 3D phone on Virgin Mobile ($35/month) with the Seidio backpack battery. With the stock (1700mah) battery, my battery sometimes runs out as early as 9pm under “normal” usage. With the (albeit somewhat bulky) backpack battery (4000mah), I can geek ALL day and not run out of power, I can get 2 full days of light-use.

I dunno about rootability yet. The internets says “yes” but I haven’t tried it.

The 3D camera and 3D Lenticular screen on the phone is a pretty cool toy too.

Previously I had a Samsung Galaxy S Android phone on AT&T. I got a Seidio backpack battery for that one too and was quite happy with the battery.