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Reviews Written by
Thomas Duff "Duffbert" (Portland, OR United States)
(REAL NAME)   

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Jumbl™ Mini Hidden Spy Camera Radio Clock w/Motion Detection & Infrared Night Vision - Built-In Screen, Speaker, Micro SD Slot & AUX Line In - Standalone Operation w/o Need for Computer for your Home, Kids & More - Black
Jumbl™ Mini Hidden Spy Camera Radio Clock w/Motion Detection & Infrared Night Vision - Built-In Screen, Speaker, Micro SD Slot & AUX Line In - Standalone Operation w/o Need for Computer for your Home, Kids & More - Black
Offered by Canadian Shoppe
Price: CDN$ 99.99
3 used & new from CDN$ 90.20

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting features, but the interface and documentation could use some work..., Aug. 24 2014
I've often wondered what the cats may be doing when we're not around. The Jumbl Mini Hidden Spy Camera can help resolve that, as well as keeping an eye on areas where you don't want people to know that there's a record of what they were doing when "no one's around"...

The Jumbl looks like a regular (albeit small) clock radio. The radio is a cube that's only 3.5" long and 2" deep. The buttons at the top control the volume as well as the menu display for the various features. The back of the unit has the on/off switch, the mini-USB slot for charging, a line-in port for streaming from something like an iPhone, a headset port, and a slot for a micro-SD card. The sound quality is decent, and it looks like it should do what is obvious when you look at it.

The non-obvious feature is the fact that it is also a video camera. By pressing the two volume buttons for three seconds, a hidden display comes up that controls the camera in terms of recording quality, auto-recording, IR usage, etc. It can also play back the recorded video that gets stored on the microSD card. While recording, the display goes back to the digital clock display so that its function is basically hidden unless you know what's going on.

While I like what the unit can do, the interface is extremely confusing. The manual is eight pages that are smaller than the clock with a very small font type. It doesn't go into any of the options in depth, and even after playing with it for 20 minutes or so, I still had problems getting it to do basic things. I also found that I'd accidentally set something (like locking the display), and then I would have a horrible time trying to get it back to normal. I realize with this size and form factor, the actual interface will be sparse, and some tradeoffs need to be made. However, in those cases, the written instructions should do a lot more than these do.

If I could give half-stars, I'd go with 3.5 stars on the rating, primarily based on the documentation. For the list price, I'd want more I got.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Manufacturer
Payment: Free

Bolse® Wireless Presentation Presenter with Red Laser Pointer
Bolse® Wireless Presentation Presenter with Red Laser Pointer
Offered by T.M. Enterprise
Price: CDN$ 39.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful design..., Aug. 24 2014
I'm going to be doing my first live presentation in a while, so the offer to review the Bolse Wireless Presenter with Laser Pointer was perfect timing. I've used a number of wireless presenters over the years when I've been on stage, but I always seem to misplace the receivers over time. This pen is great in that it helps avoid that, as well as being comfortable to use... and I can annoy the cats with it between speaking gigs. :)

The pen itself fits naturally in my hand without feeling like I'm trying to hold something in a certain position. The line of four buttons are laid out how I would expect to press them without a lot of thought. The one at the top (closest to my thumb) is the forward button to advance the slides. The next one controls the laser pointer, followed by the third button which is the back button. The button furthest away will cycle through the open windows on your computer, as well as click on hyperlinks on the slide. I likely wouldn't use that during a presentation, so I like having it completely out of the way. With certain button combinations, you can also increase/decrease sound on a presentation. Again, not something I would normally use, but really nice to have.

The "missing receiver" should be a thing of the past now. The small USB dongle fits into the cap of the pen and sits flush with the surface. Not having two separate things to keep track of is essential in making sure this lasts around here. When I'm done using it, I can drop the dongle back into the top of the pen, and it's ready for the next time I need it.

This is a great presenter, and I'm looking forward to my next session with it.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Manufacturer
Payment: Free

Bolse® High Output 3-Port USB Car Charger (25W / 5A), Build-in Micro USB Cable, Provides Maximum Power For 3 Devices At Once With SmartIC Technology for iPhone 5, 5S, 4S; Samsung Galaxy S5, S4, S3, Galaxy Note 3, 2; iPad Air, 5, 4, mini; LG G2
Bolse® High Output 3-Port USB Car Charger (25W / 5A), Build-in Micro USB Cable, Provides Maximum Power For 3 Devices At Once With SmartIC Technology for iPhone 5, 5S, 4S; Samsung Galaxy S5, S4, S3, Galaxy Note 3, 2; iPad Air, 5, 4, mini; LG G2
Offered by T.M. Enterprise
Price: CDN$ 29.99

5.0 out of 5 stars This puts out a lot of power for the size..., Aug. 24 2014
I like this Bolse 3-Port USB Car Charger, as it gives me a number of capabilities, not the least of which is the ability to charge three things at once. It's a hard combination to beat, especially if you're a person who has a mobile device that uses micro-USB plugs.

The Bolse charger is very compact at only 2.5" long. Once plugged in, there's not a whole lot sticking out. A unique feature of this charger is the attached coiled cord for the micro-USB connector. If you have an Android-style phone or if you want to charge your Kindle, everything is attached in one package. No extra cords floating around. However, there are also two regular USB ports on either side of the cord base. The charger has intelligence to push the amount of needed power to the three ports based on what's plugged in. With 5A total power, I have been able to charge two iPads with no problem, and I could also put my Kindle on it and all three would charge the way they should.

While this would work best for someone with an Android phone, it's still a solid option for other devices (like Apple products). I'm happy with how it works and how it looks.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Manufacturer
Payment: Free

Resistant
Resistant
Offered by Macmillan CA
Price: CDN$ 14.39

4.0 out of 5 stars I'm going to miss Dr. Lou Welcome..., Aug. 17 2014
This review is from: Resistant (Kindle Edition)
I'm sad that Resistant by Michael Palmer is the last episode of Dr. Lou Welcome that I'll ever have the pleasure of reading. Palmer passed away as the book was being finished, so this will serve as his final work. I read that his family worked to finish it up and get it published, and I wonder if that's responsible for a few of the nagging issues I had with the story.

The overall story line involves the emergence of a bacteria that is resistant to all antibiotics that doctors have available. Patients who end up with the Doomsday Germ start out with a small infection that rapidly turns toxic, leading to amputations and usually death. The question is where did it come from? The answer lies in a shadow terrorist group known as One Hundred Neighbors, a group that has tentacles throughout government and industry. They have an agenda, and they are willing to use germ warfare to accomplish their aims. Dr. Welcome gets involved when his best friend and AA sponsor seriously injures his leg in a trail run. Welcome is able to get him to a hospital in time, but when Cap gets the Doomsday infection, Welcome shifts into overdrive to try and find a way to keep his friend from dying. Unfortunately, there are a number of people who are just as committed to making sure he doesn't.

I picked up the book yesterday at the library, and finished it early this morning. I haven't done that in a while with a library book. For me, the main driver was the characters that Palmer created. Dr. Welcome is a fun blend of sarcasm and loyalty, willing to do anything he can to help and protect those he cares about. One of the other major characters is also unique, as he has severe cerebral palsy, Palmer handles that with a lot of respect for the person under the disease.

Where I had some issues is with the One Hundred Neighbors plot driver. On one hand, having a "powerful mystery group" allows you a lot of leeway in where you can go with the story. It also allowed Palmer to keep the reader guessing as to who was the good guy vs. the bad guy when dealing with various organizations. But the agenda portion of the group almost seemed to be a soapbox for the author (although I hope he wasn't really that far right-wing). He also didn't do much in terms of detailing much about how the group was holding the government hostage to accomplish their goals. Other than "we've done this and been responsible for that, and if you don't do this next thing, we'll do this other thing", it was all sort of vague.

I'm also OK with some level of "suspension of belief", but a few items in the story pushed that a little too far. For instance, if someone took a bullet to the head, would they *really* be allowed to leave the hospital after only a couple of days *and* be allowed to resume work immediately? I'm guessing... no. But even with those problems, I still enjoyed the book (and "couldn't put it down").

Mr. Palmer, thanks for the many hours of reading enjoyment you're given us. You'll be missed.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

So Now You're a Zombie: A Handbook for the Newly Undead
So Now You're a Zombie: A Handbook for the Newly Undead
Price: CDN$ 9.49

4.0 out of 5 stars How to be successful in your next "life"..., Aug. 17 2014
I didn't go to the library to get this, but it happened to be on display as a "recommended read"... So Now You're a Zombie: A Handbook for the Newly Undead by John Austin. I thought it might be a fun read and twist from the normal zombie reading material I've looked at. With it's tongue-in-cheek approach to zombie "survival", it was entertaining.

Contents:
Introduction - The Road to Brainville: Zombie Assessment; Safety Precautions; Zeds' Disclaimer
What the Hell Am I?: Screw Responsibility!; Zombie History; Not in the Family
Your Zombie Body: Body Parts of Importance; Use Your Head!; Body Language; What's Your Body Type?; Post-life Expectancy; Body Q&A
Know Your Enemy: Human Needs; Humans Will Make Mistakes; How to Kill a Human
Hunting for Brains: Lunch, Dinner, or Midnight Snack?; Tracking; Hunting Techniques; Waiting for Food; Human Structures; Obstacles You Will Face; Terrain Types; I See a Human - What Should I Do?
Transportation: How to Stop a Vehicle; Human Extraction; How to Hitch a Ride; Rides to Avoid; One-Brain Vehicles
Attacking: Holding Techniques; Use Your Body as a Weapon; Zed Melee Weapon; Defensive Strategies; Avoiding the Bullet; The Flame; Hand-to-Mouth Combat; Combat Quiz
Human Buffet: The Preferable Flesh; Feeding Etiquette; Absorption; Ordering Off the Menu; Other Foods to Avoid
Infecting: Administering an Infection; Stages of Zombification; Worldwide Infection; Infecting Animals
In the End: Never Give Up!; Escaping Captivity; Zombicide
Appendix: The Zombie Code
Final World: A Message for the Living

OK... Just to acknowledge the elephant in the room for those who don't do humor very well... Yes, I know you could not read this book if you were a zombie, nor could you plan or execute some of the techniques outlined in the book. Just get over it, OK? This isn't meant to be real-life.

I enjoyed looking at zombies from the perspective of what a zombie would have to know to "survive". Everyone (and every book, movie, and TV series) has their own angle on how zombies act and what they need to survive. It was interesting to see how some of those different views were blended into the material. For instance, I flashed back to episodes of The Walking Dead more than once when I was reading.

If you like the zombie genre, you'll probably like this for what it is... an entertaining look on what it takes to make it as a walker. Who knows? If a zombie outbreak ever *does* occur, maybe you'll remember enough of this to make your next life a bit more successful. :)

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

Jumbl™ Mini Portable Car Jump Starter Power Bank w/12,000mAh Capacity - Supplies Car Battery w/Boost of 400 Amps - Features LED Light & Dual USB Device Charging Ports
Jumbl™ Mini Portable Car Jump Starter Power Bank w/12,000mAh Capacity - Supplies Car Battery w/Boost of 400 Amps - Features LED Light & Dual USB Device Charging Ports
Offered by Canadian Shoppe
Price: CDN$ 99.95
2 used & new from CDN$ 99.95

5.0 out of 5 stars This is an incredible device..., Aug. 16 2014
This was truly a surprise... I didn't think that something as small as the Jumbl Mini Portable Car Jump Starter Power Bank could actually do what it touts... jump start a car. It's only 3" wide, 7" long, 1" high, and less than a pound. Really? Well, it does that and a whole lot more.

I was able to test this out with a friend that needed a jump start. Much to my surprise, it worked! This is SO much easier than having to haul out heavy jumper cables, maneuver another car into a place where the jumper cables will reach, hook everything up, etc. In less than a minute, this is hooked up and ready to go.

If that wasn't enough, it does even more. It has two USB outlets that you can use to charge mobile devices just like you would any other external battery pack. The USB cable comes with a number of adapters (including a lightning adapter), so it really doesn't matter the brand or style. The unit has it's own wall charger, but it also has a car adapter that you can use to charge up the unit if you're on the road. And not that I'll use them, but they even have adapter plugs for the wall charger so that you can use it with European two prong and UK three prong outlets.

Finally, for safety purposes it comes with an LED light that cycles from steady to slow flash to SOS flash. I'm not sure someone would recognize the SOS signal as opposed to the slow flash setting, but that's not a big deal. If you're on a dark road and you want to see what you're doing or signal down a passing car, this has you covered.

This is now a "must have" in the car, and I've put a repeating reminder on my calendar to make sure the charge is topped off every three months. I'm not cancelling my AAA membership, but I'm going to be real happy to not have to wait on them if someone leaves a light on in the car.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Manufacturer
Payment: Free

Lethal Code
Lethal Code
Price: CDN$ 5.44

4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read (if you don't get hung up on technical details)..., Aug. 11 2014
This review is from: Lethal Code (Kindle Edition)
I went through Lethal Code by Thomas Waite while on vacation a couple weeks back. I had some plane and bus rides to get from point A to point B, and the book did a good job in passing the time. While I liked the cyber-thriller angle of the story, there was a fair amount of "suspension of belief" that was necessary to buy into the plot. There are definitely vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers, but not at the level you see here...

The story line revolves around a cyber-attack on the US that cripples nearly everything... power grids, control systems, nuclear facilities, etc. The terrorists make their initial show of force by turning off the power across the entire country for a 24-hour period, and tens of thousands die in various accidents and fires. But that's just the beginning, as they are not content to stop there. The plan is to eventually annihilate the country with their own nuclear missiles, and it looks like there is little that can be done to stop them.

But that wouldn't be much of a story if that was it. A small (and unlikely) team of security and intelligence experts (and one person who was originally fingered as the mastermind of the attacks) are put together to head to the Middle East to infiltrate the suspected organization that is running the hacking operation. They have to do what no one else has been able to pull off... find the site of the hacking attacks and stop them before America becomes a heap of radioactive rubble.

I liked the characters and the pacing of the story. I had no problems with feeling like things were dragging or that I didn't care what happened. I had more issues with the technical aspects of the story. Everything was just too perfect in terms of what the hackers could do. Things were done at a massive level with pinpoint precision, but many of the systems that were affected wouldn't have been accessible from the outside to begin with. While it might be possible to plant viruses in missile systems and such, there's no way that you could control them from an external site over the 'net. Also, knowing the technical state (or lack thereof) of many critical systems, the thought of being able to hack and control all of them at once is... non-existent.

Having said all that, it was still a fun read. Techies might get overly hung up on the details, and as such would have a hard time enjoying it for what it is. But if you're willing to let that go and "go with the flow", it's good.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Amazon
Payment: Purchase

I Am Pilgrim: A Thriller
I Am Pilgrim: A Thriller
Offered by Simon & Schuster Canada, Inc.
Price: CDN$ 14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great first novel for Hayes..., Aug. 10 2014
I received the book I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes as part of a Klout promotion a while back. I hadn't heard much about it, but a free thriller is always good. When I started reading and noted the font size and the number of pages (600+), I wondered if I was getting myself hooked into a long read that might not be worth it. Add to that the fact it's Hayes first novel, and warning signals were going off all over the place...

... but I ended up pleasantly surprised. Hayes did an excellent job in building complex characters in an interesting story. Although he goes into detail frequently when it comes to various scenes, the pace doesn't suffer as a result. And as the story works towards the climax, it's really hard to put down.

The story revolves around an intelligence agent who is pretty much done with his career. He inherited a large amount of money from his step-father, and his primary goal now is to keep his past life hidden from others who would like to even scores. But that quiet life comes to an end when a New York cop uncovers his history and figures out he's the author of a book that is sort of the bible of crime investigation. Their tenuous relationship jumps to a new level when he's called back into service to help find a terrorist who, if not stopped, could take the lives of millions and devastate the United States (if not the entire globe).

One of the elements I liked about Pilgrim is that some of the situations feel like they were pulled from today's headlines. It's not hard to understand the motivations of the characters as Hayes builds their backgrounds, and it made me wonder just how often these situations are actually playing out right now (and will haunt us down the road).

I Am Pilgrim is not a fast read, but it's worth the time. I hope Hayes follows up and turns this into a series, and it would turn into a "must-read" for me.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Promotion
Payment: Free

Bolse® 60W (5V/12A) 7-Port USB Wall/Desktop Charger with SmartIC Technology for iPhone 5, 5C, 5S, 4S, 4; iPad Air, Mini, Retina Mini; iPad 4, 3, 2; Samsung Galaxy S5, S4, S3; Galaxy Note 3, 2; HTC One (M8); with Detachable 5FT/1.5M Power Cord
Bolse® 60W (5V/12A) 7-Port USB Wall/Desktop Charger with SmartIC Technology for iPhone 5, 5C, 5S, 4S, 4; iPad Air, Mini, Retina Mini; iPad 4, 3, 2; Samsung Galaxy S5, S4, S3; Galaxy Note 3, 2; HTC One (M8); with Detachable 5FT/1.5M Power Cord

5.0 out of 5 stars This is *perfect* for your home office as a full-time charger..., Aug. 8 2014
This just became my new permanent USB charging unit on my home office desk... the Bolse 60W (5V/12A) 7-port USB wall/desktop charger. It has a lot of power, it adapts to the different power loads of each device, AND it's easy to reach and use...

This has, by far, more USB ports than any other charging unit I have. What I like most about it is that I can use just one device (and one plug on my power strip) to be charging various items at the same time, like my iPhone, iPad, Kindle, and whatever else needs to be charged. The unit adapts each port to the actual power needs of whatever is plugged into it, so it's not like I have all the 2.1A ports used and the 1A ports are going to waste. I really like that feature...

I also like the fact that with that many ports, I can leave a variety of cords plugged in for instant use. For instance, I have two lightning cords plugged in all the time, as well as a mini-USB and micro-USB cord. Therefore, I can quickly start charging my devices without having to hunt down the associated cables. It also means I have three additional ports left over for those less-often-used devices. No more hunting down a second charging unit and trying to fit it into the power strip.

And speaking of "fitting it into the power strip"...

Unlike most charging devices that plug directly into the wall or outlet, this actually has a power cord with a normal plug. At first I thought it would be just one more cord I'd have to manage, but it actually is a major benefit. I don't have to worry about the charger blocking multiple power strip plugs, as it's just another power cord. It also means that I can set the charger on my desk while the power strip is on the floor. No more trying to reach down/under the desk to plug and unplug cords. It's extremely convenient to use.

I won't be using this one during travel, as I just don't see a need to have to charge that many things at one time while on the road (and it definitely weighs more than a two- or three-port unit). But when it comes to something to leave plugged in at my desk, it's a no-brainer.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Manufacturer
Payment: Free

Mini Magical and Portable Multifunction Wireless Bluetooth Speaker Great for Listening Music, Taking Photos, Answering phone, Mobile Anti-losit (green)
Mini Magical and Portable Multifunction Wireless Bluetooth Speaker Great for Listening Music, Taking Photos, Answering phone, Mobile Anti-losit (green)
Offered by Maple Style
Price: CDN$ 27.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Much better than I expected..., Aug. 5 2014
I was very surprised at how well the Mini Magical portable bluetooth speaker performed when I started playing around with it. I expected low sound quality and little functionality for something so small, but it far exceeded those expectations.

The bluetooth paired up with no issues (JTL-8 on my device list) once I pressed the multi-function button on the speaker (sits flush on one end of the unit). It actually has a voice interface to tell you it's waiting for pairing and that it found the mobile device (that was a surprise the first time I heard it). It also tells you when it powers off. I mention the voice as turning the device on and off will not be a silent affair. :)

Using my iTunes play list, I ran through a number of songs that had a variety of styles and ranges. For something so small, the volume and sound quality was impressive. Granted, it's not a Sonos speaker, but that's not what I would expect from something this size. It's a nice external speaker for a mobile bluetooth-enabled device, and it also serves as a mic for hands-free calling if you want to use that function.

A couple things to mention on the down side... The instruction sheet is very sparse, and it's translated English (which means the wording is amusing/confusing). It's also *very* small print in a light grey coloring, so it's extremely difficult to read unless you have a lot of light and/or great eyesight. Finally, the camera trigger function only works on Android phones, and that's the "app" they keep referring to in the directions. If you have an iPhone like I do, then don't get your hopes up in that area.

Overall, this is a pretty good bluetooth speaker/microphone if you're looking for something very small and portable.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Manufacturer
Payment: Free

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