MixCder ShareMe Pro bluetooth Headphones Review

The mixcder ShareMe Pro headphones, besides being a pair of reasonably priced, bluetooth, full-size headphone, it has a secret feature: If you have two of these, you can linked them together, and two people and listen to the same music/sound source at the same time.

With two kids in my family sharing one iMac, there is a constant headphone usage dilemma going on. They need to plug and unplug their own personal headphones as they use the computer. Then if they want to watch a youTube together, they have to unplug the headphone to use the speakers. A lot of audio jack action reaching behind the iMac. Having two pairs of ShareMe Pro headphone may just solve my problem.

Unboxing and Construction

I am slightly spoiled by the mixcder ANC-G5 active noise canceling headphones’  premium packaging which I also have. The ShareMe Pro in contrast arrived in a simple box with a basic plastic tray holding the headphones. When I open the box, the included cables were placed in the bottom of the tray, promptly dropping onto the floor. One positive is that it does come with a reasonably length USB charging cable, as well as a 3.5 audio cable for connecting the headphones directly to a earphone out port.

The construction of the headphones however are very good. At this price point, the headphone is mostly made from plastic. The adjustable ear cups rides on a steel band with plastic rails in the middle. The ear cups are covered in a very soft padded leatherette ear pads. The headband is also covered in a similarly padded material.

Comfort

These headphones are very comfortable. The clamping force is low. The ear cups swivel just over 90 degrees — from flat for storage, to just over 90 to  conform to different head shapes. I find that I can wear them for a long time without problem.


Sound Quality

These headphones uses 40mm drivers with 32 ohms impedance. Being bluetooth, I expected them to be driven nicely by the large internal batteries. I was slightly disappointed with the overall sound quality even after 20+ hours of burning in. I am listening via bluetooth using my Retina Macbook Pro playing iTunes music m4a files.

When I am listening to simpler jazz vocal pieces: Vienna Teng’s Eric Song, Autumn Leaves by Partricia Barber, Save Me by Aimee Allen, they sounded over during the quieter passages. Once the vocal and instruments play together, the over sound became muddled. I moved on to some classic rock tracks like Angie by the Stones, and With or Without You by U2. Similarly the headphones seem to get overwhelmed and lost clarity.

I also tried the same tracks with the headphone connected via the audio cable. There is no any noticeable difference.

I resorted to add EQ to the audio — boosting the 1K and 2K band fixes the sound enough so that it is passable. However I don’t think these will be my goto audio bluetooth headphones. But it is fine for casual listening. My kids find them perfectly usable for youTube listening.

 
 

Design Notes

I have some minor usability issue with these headphones.The headphones have volume and power buttons on the left ear cup, and track forward/backward/pause buttons on the right. These buttons feel a bit cheap when you press them. And the order of the volume buttons are: volume up / volume down / power. I really would prefer the power being in the middle. At the beginning I keep pressing the power button when I want to turn down the volume. Finally I realized that the volume buttons have little dimples on them, so I can to feel for them and not press the power button by mistake. But that is more work than necessary.

If you ever want to use the headphones with wires, the jack on the ear cup is at an angle, so the audio wire sticks out toward the back awkwardly. However I do not see why you would need to use them with wires as the batteries performance is great.

Batteries

I normally do a charge time and discharge time test. But these headphones have such large batteries that I have yet to get a measurable discharge time. That is, once charged, they play for days, which is wonderful. The only drawback is that there is no way to chat the battery levels. So sometime in the future I expect they will just stop working and I have to charge them back up.

Bluetooth performance

These are headphones with bluetooth 4.1. The range is similar to other bluetooth headphones that I have. With line of sight, 20+ feet is fine. With two walls in between, the headphones will cut out at about two rooms apart on my first floor. It is nice that the audio will simply stop when it is out of range, so you won’t get static or random sound. Once back in range, the audio will restart nicely. The headphones do not seems to support multi-point connection. So you can only pair them to one source.

The link two pairs of ShareMe Pro together, I find that the best way is to move away from all other bluetooth sources. Then I can put both headphones in pairing mode, and they did pair with each other automatically. Once that is done, you need to make a note as to which one of the two is the primary one, because that is the one that needed to be pair to your audio source.

This is important because there are times you only want to use one pair of headphones. In that case only the primary pair works.

Finally, perhaps because of the sharing feature, there is a noticeable delay in the audio stream. When I watch a movie, the audio stream is perhaps 100ms to 200ms slower than the video steam. It can be annoying for watching movies or TV shows. I tried re-pairing the headphones several times, as well as with different computers, and the result is the same. I hope mixcder will come out with a software fix in the future.

Conclusion

Given the sharing function and the price point, I think it is a unique product that has a place for a family wanting to share audio in private. My kids are using them as I write this review watching a youTube together.

Note: I received the product from the manufacturer at a reduced price for review, but the opinions are entirely mine.

MixCder ANC-G5 Noise Canceling Headphones

The ANC-G5 active noise canceling headphones can be had from Amazon for 60 USD. How does it compare to the number one noise canceling headphones, the Bose QuietComfort QC20i?

Comfort

The ANC-G5 is surprisingly comfortable. The design of the ear tip is oval in shape and it does not fully insert into the ear canal. There is a fine balance of not having a very tight seal for comfort, but have a good enough seal to eliminate sound leakage. The Bose’s design is great for that. The ANC-G5’s tip is a lesser quality soft rubber, but never the less it works well.

The earpiece is not too heavy. It has a similar designed wire-as-ear-loop as the Bowers & Wilkins C5. I find that the ear loop is simply not necessary, not I can get it to actually fit into my ear. So I just kept the loop small and the headphone stays in anyway.

In terms of comfort, the ANC-G5 is as good as the Bose. I do worry that the ear tip rubber eventually will degrade. It is very thin. It is also oval in shape because it is stretched into the oval shape by the port on the earpiece. Compare to the Klipsch headphones for example, the Klipsch ear tips are oval as molded.

There is a minor annoying with the ANC-G5. The controller “box” is at the headphones end. That means the weight of the controller is pulling on the headphones all the time. I have no choice but to clip it onto my shirt. Compare to the Bose controller box, which is at the very end of the wire, on the plug end. I can just leave it in my pocket or on my desk.

Noise Canceling Performance

Since this is a pair of noise canceling headphones, the most important factor is how well does it actively cancel environmental noise? I tested it three different ways. I tested it against a brown noise generator .The ANC-G5 cancels out the brown noise without problem, as good as the Bose. I tested it against a coffee house background noise generator . The ANC-G5 successfully blocked out most of the background noise and effectively made the human voices more audible.

I then tested the ANC-G5 in my day to day office environment. The headphones successfully cancelled out the low frequency hum of our office AC, leaving me with a nice and quiet workspace.

Sound Quality

I tested the sound quality mostly with the noise canceling  feature switched on as that should be the normal mode of use. I fed the headphones from my retina Macbook Pro running iTunes. I largely listen to jazz and vocals.

After burning in the headphones for 24 hours (I ran the burn in without the active noise cancelation), a listen to Autumn Leaves by Partricia Barber. Her vocal against the deep double base comes through cleanly. While I don’t expect it to reproduce the very low notes perfectly, it did an more than adequate job.

I moved onto Vienna Teng’s Eric’s Song, a track with very clean vocal against piano. I can hear her breathing in between notes.

Moving onto Brandi Carlile’s Wasted, more of a rock track - female vocals against piano, drums, electric guitars and precessions. The soundstage is good but it is noticeably compressed compare to higher end headphones. (OK maybe it is not fair to compare it to a pair of RS-1 driven thru an amp). Overall I definitely enjoy listening to my styles of music as I work in the office.

I also tested using it for two Skype calls. The microphone works fine as well.

Design Issues

Besides that the controller is at the headphone end as mentioned before, the only thing that annoys me is that it uses a micro-A USB connector for charging. All other non Apple equipment I have uses micro-B USB connectors. This means that I cannot use the various charging stations that I have setup both at work and at home to charge this pair of headphones. I have to use their charging cable.

 
$59.99 $69.99
 

Battery Test

After completely ran down the batteries, I charged and ran down the headphones twice to time the charging and usage. Both times the headphones charged to full charge in about 1 hour 30 minutes. The discharge ran way beyond 11 hours both times, however I do wonder if the battery life will be shorter if it was doing heavier noise cancelation in an noisier environment than my house.

Conclusion

For the money this pair of headphones is a no brainer purchase if you need active noise cancelation. The Bose QC20i is slightly better in all features, but it is four times as expensive. If you must have iOS/OSX volume controls on the headphones than you have to look else where or wait for Mixcder to come out with an Apple compatible version. Otherwise it is affordable, sounds great, comfortable, and most importantly cancel background noise well.

Note that while I received this unit from the distributor for review, the opinions expressed are completely my own. 

Bose SoundSport Wireless Headphones

I own a lot of wired and bluetooth headphones, AKG701, Grado RS1, RS2, Jabra Move, Jabra Stealth, Anker Soundbuds, Klipsch X11i, Bose QC20i, Bose soundsport wired, and more. If you are looking for the best wireless (bluetooth) headphones to date? Get the Bose.

These are the best wireless (bluetooth) headphones to date for both sports and indoor use. Since Bose products seldom sell below MSRP, you might as well pick up a pair from Amazon now if you want to try them out.

Fit and Comfort

The Bose ear tip, they called it the StarHear+, does not insert completely into the ear canal. That means there is less pressure on your ear, and you can wear it longer. The tip shape is oval, like the klipsch.  The wireless version’s ear tip has a outer layer that seals better than the wired version (see photo). This is the design they have on the QC20 noise canceling earbuds. The ear tip also has a soft wing that you tug into the ridge of the ear to help keep the earbuds stay in place.

All of that means the ear buds is going to stay put comfortably. On a 5K run, I did not have to adjust the earbuds once. Compare to the Anker for example, I would get loose all the time. The only downside is that if you like sound isolation, you are not going to get that with this design. I like to not completely tuned out my surroundings when I run outside, or in the office. So I actually prefer this design.

For immersive music listening I would use my Klipsch x11i or other full size headphones.

Bluetooth

Wireless headphones are as good as their bluetooth implementation. The connection for this Bose earbuds are very good. In a semi open house layout, I can walk the entire first floor without and connection drop out. Similarly in an office environment I can walk at least 30 feet away without dropped connections.

The Bose bluetooth implementation have a nice feature that I have not hear before — the headphone will announce the names of the one, or two devices that it is connected to. Assuming it gets the device names from the devices themselves, when I switch on my Bose, I hear: "battery at 100%. Connected to <PK iPhone 5S> and <My Laptop Hostname>"

Multipoint

The bluetooth is multipoint, which means it will stay connected to, and switch between two devices. You can have more connections registered with the headphone, and it will seek out the most recent two devices on the list.

For example, I have it connected to my iPhone which is with me all the time, and then my work and my home MacbookPro, which only one of them is around at any time. So when I get home, when I switch the headphones on, it will connect to my iPhone first, but it will not skip the work computer, which was the second previous connection and try to connect to my home MacbookPro. This is standard behavior for multipoint device. At this point you can either use the bluetooth menu to initiate the connection on the MacbookPro, or

Bose Connect App

this is the Bose new feature — Bose has an app for the iPhone. I can use the app to tell the headphones to connect to any of the devices in it’s list.


Build quality and General Desig

The Bose build quality is top notch. The cable is not fashionably flat, but it is thick enough that I feel it is going to last. It has a soft matt rubbery finished that feels great.

The in line control on the right side has a curved body. At first I find it strange, but I after using it a bit I think it helps bend the wire back towards the back of the neck when you wear the headphone.

The buttons on the inline control are all under a soft rubber cover. They takes a bit of force to activate. The + and the - buttons are higher than the middle, so pressing them by feel is easy.

There is a single clothes clip at the middle of the cable. It works well - if you clip it onto the back of your shirt collar, it will hold the earbuds on your neck if you removed them from your ear and just have them dangling in front.

The only questionable design I find is the circular “button” with Bose brand name on it on the earbud. I find that visually it makes the earbud looks big.

The earbuds come with a zipped circular carrying case. It looks just like the one that comes with the wired sound sport. The quality is ok, very slightly better than the no name Chinese cases that you can find on eBay or amazon.

Conclusion

They are expensive, but if you want to spend the money, this is the best bluetooth headphones on the market right now. I honestly do not see why anyone would get a jaybird X3 or freedom when this is available. If you really want to go affordable, get the Anker Soundbuds when they go on sale, sometimes for $20. Otherwise, get the Bose!

 

Vanquest JAVELIN 3.0 VSlinger Bag Review

I have already reviewed the 2015 model, the 2.0 version extensively. Here are some photos showing the differences between the two versions.

My Very Old Swiss Army Knife

Having moved from country to country, I have very few possession that I kept with me over the years. This Swiss Army Knife is one. My father bought this for me when I was very young. I do not remember when exactly but checking the stamping on the blade against this webpage, it is a pre-1973 ecoline model.

I remembered my dad taught me how to sharpen it on his wetstone, and I have sharpened it many times. There is a chip in the main blade but I do not remember when I chipped it. I have kept this in actual use with me as I moved from Hong Kong to England to America, as well as a lot of trips overseas. Recently I decided to "semi-retired" it to my desk drawer at home, so that I can pass this on to my kids.

Vanquest JAVELIN 2.0 VSlinger Sling Bag Review

After a lot of research, I bought the Javelin 2.0 from Vanquest as my first “tactical” bag. Chances are you will not see me using this sling bag in the woods. Instead, I am using it daily to and from the office, and running around with the kids on weekend. There are a lot of great features on the Javelin. It is a mid size sling bag that carries a good amount of stuff, great for daily EDC for work, or as a camera bag. It has amongst many things:

  • a front small zip pocket, perfect for a wallet, that can be optionally “locked down” with a snap closure
  • the front admin pocket and the main compartment is designed to be accessed primarily when the bag is swung to the front of the body while the bag is on your shoulder, or from the top if the bag is standing up like a bag pack 
  • a CCW back pocket that fits my iPad, or can be used with a hydration pouch, with all the routing necessary for the feeding tube
  • lots of hook and loop and molle attachment points on the outside of the bag
  • removable dividers for the main compartment — I use them when I use the bag as a camera bag

Some of the especially nice things about this bag are:

  1. quality — the build quality of this bag is top notch. Threads are straight and well sewed. Zippers are smooth — in fact getting smoother with usage. Plastics on buckles are strong and well molded. We are in contacts with the bags we carry all the time, and the quality feel adds to the enjoyment of the bag.
  2. design — There are a lot of nice details in the design of the bag that make it very functional. One particular — the C shape zipper opening of the main compartment — makes getting items in and out of the bag while on body or off body very easy. I love this design. Placement and padding of the top carry handle, the bottom grab handle for pulling the sling forward while on body, are all very well designed and executed.
  3. The orange interior color — I like bright color interior. It helps locate items in the bag.
  4. Carry comfort — the sling strap is wide and padded. The strap geometry is just right. This is one of the most comfortable bags I have.

While there are no real problems with the bag. Here are a few items that could be improved, at least from my usage pattern:

  1. The bag is not wide enough for carrying a 13 inch macbookPro and a lot of other items. The MBP will fit, but stretches the main compartment enough to make carrying a lot of other items difficult. The bag is also not wide enough to carry letter size paper portfolio (which tends to be slightly wider than letter sized).
  2. Too much velcro — while I understand that for a sling bag, internal compartments have to be useful in two directions. Therefore a velcro closure on the large internal pockets make sense. However, for use in an office environment, the velcro is loud. Also it is hard to open, particularly the big pocket inside the main compartment one handed or in one go. I often have to “tear” the velcro with two or three pulls. For my use I would love to see a zipper closure instead — while understand that a zipper makes the opening and ease of putting things in and out a bit harder.
  3. Minor personal usage issue: because I use this as my office EDC, I would like to have a little less molle on the front of the bag
  4. There is no water bottle pocket — I understand for a sling bag it is hard to design in a water bottle holder that works in two different orientation though.

Conclusion

This is a great bag that became my main EDC bag weekdays and weekends. I can’t wait to get my hands on the 3.0 version — and hoping that it is expanded in width as Vanquest has said so that it can more easily carry a laptop and paper. 

Anker SoundBuds Sport Headphones Review

I was interested in this blueteooth earbuds for a long time. I finally brought them when they are on Amazon’s daily deal for $20. The bottom line: If you are looking for a pair of bluetooth headphones for workout or sports, it is worth it !

Pros

The built quality is good. The cable is nice. I tested one from MPow and they were much worst. The plastic feels ok. The buttons are very mechanical feeling with little damping. The earbuds are very lightweight and they do stay in my ear once I get them pushed in properly. The sound quality is fair. It is a bit boosted in the base and the highs are muddled. Hard to compare this to my Klipsch X11i for literally 10 times the price.

Finally it comes with a nice soft pouch with a spring loaded top that works really well.

Issues

Anker does very nice USB charging devices. Looks like their product design department took many ideas from other headphone manufacturers and implemented them, poorly:

There are magnets in the headphones so that you can clip them close around your neck when you are not using them (like the Jabra Rox), but they are weak, and they do not turn the headphone off.

It comes with a optional cable clip to shorten the cable for the back of your neck, but it clips the cable with a single fold (see photo). A tri-fold design works much better. A single fold just makes the cable stick up in the back of your neck.

All the controls are on the earbuds themselves. They are on the long side of the body, so when you try to insert the earbuds into your ear, you end up pressing the buttons. This is problematic especially for the power button on the right.

The bluetooth range is fair as long as it has line of sight. Once I go behind a wall 15 feet away, the connection starts to drop.

The bluetooth connection does not support multipoint. It will only connect to the last connected devices. Most newer headphones will automatically switch between two latest connections (like the Jabra stealth).

The ear gel tips are very fragile. They are super thin. I tried to remove them for the photos and ended up leaving them on as I am afraid that I will tear them. Again compare them in the photo with the Klipsch. The size of the port is quite large — I am not sure I can swap them out for comply or other ear gels.

The software gives out audio notes to indicate that it is powering on (low-high tone), powering off (high-low tone). This reminds me of older generation of other bluetooth headphones that I had.

Finally, the mic quality is poor. I used my iPhone voice memo to record from different headphones. My Jabra Stealth headset sounds perfectly fine, and that is the one that I use normally for taking calls. The SoundBuds volume is low, and crackly. The mic is a single pin hold on the right earbud, which faces almost directly into my face at the ear level. As such seems like it is having a tough time picking up my voice.

Real Life Test

I took the earbuds out for a 11 miles bike ride. The cable free experience is great. I had my iPhone 5s in a sling behind me, and there were no bluetooth connection problem. The earbuds stay in my ear almost all of the time. My ear did not get too sweaty from wearing it, and having music along the ride is definitely great.

Conclusion

In conclusion — for the money it is a great pair of earbuds for use in the gym or outdoor. The non multi-point and the microphone quality problem mean that I cannot use it in the office for music and phone/conference calls. I hope they upgrade their bluetooth software soon. V2 will probably be a great product, as Anker seems to improve their products all the time.

 

The Rosie Project

I just finished a romance novel, recommended by Bill Gates. Really.

$9.51

Are you highly organized? Do you have your weekly scheduled on a whiteboard? Do you mentally route your errand trips to optimize driving time? The main character, Don, in the Rosie Project does. And his ways of life is surprisingly (or not) a major hurdle for him to complete his “Wife Project”. Will he find the right girl? Will he win her over? Is this a completely impossible task? (Don thinks so after his calculation of the probability).

The book is a easy read. It reads like a movie with fast moving scenes. Later I found out the book started out as a screen play, written by Graeme Samsion, who was an IT guy. Go figures. I read it as my first book in 2016. Give it a try. Bill Gates and I recommend it.



Best Wrist Watch for Kids

A good wrist watch for kids is surprisingly difficult to fine. For a younger child with a smaller wrist, most watch band will not fit, and the watch face is too large. If you look for watches specifically market for kids, they are usually high on the cute/commercial branding/ factor, and low on usability and style.

After trying a few different ones, this Timex Unisex Expedition Watch with a Velcro strap is the clear winner. The winning design has:

  • small watch face that looks good on a child's wrist
  • velcro wrist band that adjusts to small wrist
  • large digits on the watch face for easy reading
  • multiple alarms
  • stop watch
  • and a cool Timex EL Backlight that actually works
  • Finally, it is reasonably priced.

On Amazon there is a blue and a plum version. My daughter has the blue version which looks great on her wrist. See the 42mm Apple Watch in comparison:

Note: This watch is different from the Timex IronKids watches. Those are ok, but this version is much better because the user interface is more intuitive, and the display is large while the watch size is the same.



IKEA dot grid notepad - FULLFOLJA

If you are a pen and paper enthusiast, you will be happy to find that the new FULLFOLJA notepad / note cube from IKEA is a great find. The paper has a dot grid that unfortunately lines up diagonally, but the paper is super fountain pen friendly. The back of the paper is plain. At $2.99 for 500 sheets, it is a no brainer. The paper size is just over 3 inches x 3 inches. The paper has rounded corners. Both fountain pen ink (see photo) and ink from a Signo 207 gel writes well with no bleeding.



Review of Speak Like Churchill, Stand like Lincoln by James Humes

When I give a speech, it is usually on a technical topic that I know well. My approach is usually "just do it" with some prep work of 3x5'ing key ideas for practice. Reading this book, Speak Like Churchill, Stand like Lincoln, completely changed my mind.

This book, written awhile back in 2002, is a little out dated in the advice of clothes (power point number 3). I wish it has more examples from women speakers (Margaret Thatcher was quoted a few times). Other then those minor issues, the 21 power tips are helpful. Number 12 is the best.

Here is a short summary of them:

1. Power Pause

  • Start your speech with a pause
  • Generate anticipation
  • Amplified authority

2. Power Opener

  • Do not starts with "It is a pleasure to speak at your event, thank you for inviting me...".
  • Start with something powerful

Example:

Churchill May 10, 1940, opened his talk to members of Parliament:

"I speak to you for the first time as Prime Minister in a solemn hou for the life of our country, of our Empire, of our allies and, above all, for the cause of freedom."

3. Power Presence

This is one of the chapter that did not appeal to me too much. It talked about choice of clothes, props and styles.

4. Power Point

  • "Find the message first and the words will follow" - Cato
  • Must find the one single key message and form the speech around it

5. Power Brief

  • less is more
  • tell a story, not a speech

6. Power Quote

  • Keep a collection of quotes
  • do not use unfamiliar quotes from unfamiliar authors
  • be comfortable with the quote
  • the name should be recognizable and quotations short, except if you frame a stage a unknown (personal?) quote
  • Cross quote (your opponent)

7. Power Stat

  • statistics, on their own, is not useful
  • reduce, round and relate the statistics
  • compare to the familiar

8. Power Outage

  • do not relying on props (slides, etc)

This is now pretty standard style as influenced by many Apple and TED talk presentations. The tips in the book is slightly obsolete, like "do not use pointers", but in general, use simple imagery with large caption/title only.

9. Power Wit

- Humor not jokes, humorous antidote good, stale jokes bad
- tell a humors story that you know, don't read jokes

10. Power Parable

  • parables provide picture of abstrations
  • stories, stories, personal stories

11. Power Gesture

This is about the use of non verbal cues, actions, or props.

12. Power Reading

The act of speaking is actually an act of conversation. Do not read, have a conversation. I got a lot out of this tip. Unless your speaking venue have very good teleprompter support, this "see, stop, say" technique is extremely useful:

  1. look down on your paper/iPad and take a snapshot of the text
  2. look up and pause
  3. say the words

This technique seems counterinituitive, you would think this makes the speech very slow and broken, but actually this is the most natural way. When people are having a conversation, they pause a lot. The "see-stop-say" rhythm is very natural.

To convince myself that this works, I had my 10 year old tried it while I video tape him, and it works beautifully. He used this in a recent class presentation and it worked wonderfully.

13. Power Poetry

  • speech is verse
  • speech is for the ear, so it has to be written, layed out on the page, in verse form, layout like written poetry
  • type out your speech in bit size phrases to help you set the rythm

14. Power Line

Here are five techniques to help craft a main memorable power line.
Use the acronym C-R-E-A-M :

Contrast

Examples:

  • There is only one answer to defeat and that is victory -- Churcill
  • Never leave that for tomorrow which you can do today -- Ben Franklin

Use these word pairs as a clue:

  • Present/Past (or future)
  • Beginning / End
  • Dark / Light
  • Mountain / Valley
  • Rich / Poor
  • Friend / Foe
  • Gain / Loss
  • Hope / Despair
  • Victory / Defeat
  • Day / Night
  • Win / Lose
  • Sunshine / Shadow
  • Turth / Lies

Rhyme

Example:

Injustice _anywhere_ is a threat to justice _everywhere_ -- Martin Luther King
Early to bed, early to _rise_, makes a man _healthy_, _wealthy_, and _wise_. -- Franklin


Rhyming Nine

These nine word parts are the easiest to create rhyming words:

  1. AME: aim, blame, claim, fame, name, shame, same, game, reclaim, proclaim, flame
  2. AIR: bear, care, dare, fare, fair, share, aware, swear, pare, declare, where, scare, prayer, beware
  3. ITE: bite, cite, fight, fright, height, light, night, right, quite, sight, write, delight, foresight, ignite, tonight "To do it right we need to keep our goals in sight"
  4. AKE: ache, break, fake, sake, shake, stake, take, make, awake, undertake, mistake  "Make no mistake, much is at stake in this new venture"
  5. OW: dough, flow, foe, glow, go, grow, know, low, show, slow, throw, ago
  6. AY: day, pray, stay, say, way, pay, play, away, stray, they, array, display
  7. ATE: ate, date, fate, great, late, state, slate, straight, wait, weight, abate, donate
  8. EEM: beam, cream, dream, gleam, steam, scheme, seem, stream, team, theme, esteem, redeem
  9. AIN: gain, pain, plain, reign, stain, strain, wane, vein, attain, retain, regain, explain, remain, sustain

Echo

Echo is powerful, lots of famous examples:

  • "Ask not what your country can do for you, but rather what you can do for your country" -- JFK
  • "The only thing we hav to fear is fear itself" - Franklin Roosevelt
  • "... that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth" -- Lincoln

Three ways:

  1. Repeat a word in the second phrase that you used in the first. e.g. "God helps those that help themselves" -- Ben Franklin
  2. Repeat the noun
    "What is our aim? I answer in one word. Victory - victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be, for without victory these is no survival" -- Churchill
  3. Repeat the verb e.g. "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."

Alliterate and Activate

Note that consonants are better for alliteration than vowels, and the best of the consonants is "P". e.g. "Thta we shall pay any price, bear any burden..." JFK inaugural

Try looking up theaurus for alternative words to build alliteration

Metaphor

Search for imagery in nature (take a hike), or explore the familiar, everyday routines

15. Power Question

  • A question forces the listener to *react*, whereas a declarative sentence does not.
  • use a series of questions
  • rhetorical power: "The only question left to be settled now is this: Are women persons? -- Susan B. Anthony

16. Power Word

  • stress or emphasize one word
  • use a delierate pause before the word

17. Power Active

This is a pretty standard tip: Use active voice

18. Power Dollar

This chapter is about asking for donation. No sure this fit into the book very well, but the four D's are useful:

  • Defiance: be a little cocky -- believe you are doing your potential donor a favor
  • Design: paint a picture (of the product)
  • Donation: double what you think you should ask for
  • Duel: (like a gun fight) do not ask too soon
  • Ask your prospect for advice - a way *in*

19. Power Button

* The Power button is the phrase that illuminate the power phrase that follows

20. Power Closer

For a strong ending, Churchill said you have to appeal to the emotions:

  • Pride -- pride in the company, pride in the community, pride in one's profession or occupation
  • Hope -- a vision for the future, hope for tomorrow, new opportunities, expanded horizons
  • Love -- love of family, love of country, love of god
  • Fear (sometimes) -- the disaster that might happen if stpes are not taken immediately

Some of your best closings may come from your own experience.

21. Power Audacity

  • Surprise your audience: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall! --Reagan

Ti2 Design TechLiner Pen Review

The Ti2 TechLiner pen differs from my other fav Kickstarter pens in that it uses magnets to hold the cap to the pen. How cool is that? My Titanium with gonzodized (by Brad Martin) finished arrived today. What a beautiful finish ! It is hard to describe it in words. Checkout the pictures.

The grip section is really comfortable. The pen is thiner than, say the Tactile Turn Mover, and it is a little lighter. Overall I find it very comfortable to hold and write with. The magnetic cap is neat, but it also makes capping and uncapping quicker. Useful. I do not know if the Signo 207 refill will dry out if left uncapped. Anyone knows?

I bought the extra lanyard cap. I think it looks much nicer. I find a small issue with it - the cap has a slight give when capped, which does not happy with the standard cap. I wonder why.

The magnets are really strong so there is no danger in the pen getting uncapped accidentally. In fact is is really fun to play with the cap and pen. Note that polarity matters. So when you take the pen apart, make sure you put the magnets back in the right orientation.

Take a look at this diagram (drawn with the TechLiner) below. There is a filler and a magnet in the back of the pen. When I took the pen apart to see the refill, they fell out and I nearly lost them. So be very careful when you disassemble the pen. There is also a small ring in the front that acts a little like a shim. Do not loose that!

Over all, this is going to be my fav pen now. It uses a very nice Signo 207 0.5mm refill. Since there is a spacer in the body, other refills may work also. Stay tune for an update.

Tactile Turn Titanium Mover Pen Review

My Tactile Turn Mover in titanium arrived today ! I have been looking forward to getting this pen I backed on KickStarter for a while. My favorite maker of this class of hand machined pens is of course Karas Kustoms. However one problem with my Karas Kustoms Retrakt is that it is too smooth. I find it hard to hold the pen for a long time. The Tactile Turn pens are famous for their special spiral machined into the grip section that makes holding the pen comfortable, so I backed their project.

How does it compare?

  • Because I have the Titanium Mover vs the Aluminium Retrakt, the Mover is slightly heavier, but not uncomfortably so.
  • The groves in the grip section really works well. The pen is much easier to hold and write with
  • The Mover comes with a really nice "case" (see photo). I think that is really smart packaging
  • The click machanism looks just like the one used in the Ratrakt

So are there any negatives? A few small ones:

  • The threading on the body (when you open the pen to access the refill) is not as smooth as the Retrakt.
  • It does not come with any additional spacers and springs. When I got the pen it comes with a Pilot G2 0.38 gel refill which is nice, but I prefer the Pilot Acroball refill (BRPV-10EF). I swapped it right away and used the spring I got from the Acroball body. Kara Kustoms ships their pen with extra springs and spacers.
  • The pen arrived with the refill clicked "in", and some ink has leaked out because of it
  • Finally - this is the only flaw that I find -- because of the spiral grove, the end of the pen has a sharp edge to it (see picture). I think that should be smoothed out.

Conclusion

Still love the pen. I think I will use this more than my Retrakt now. I really hope they fixed the edge problem going forward.


Essick Air 821 Console Evaporative Humidifier Review

It is winter in New England. A humidifier can really improve indoor comfort level at home. Which humidifier to buy? We switched from a small Vornado Vortex 4 gallon evaporative humidifier to the Essick Air 821 Console 9 gallon evaporative humidifier because it has more capacity, and easier to fill.

You can view my full video review of the Essick Air 821 unit below. A quick summary? It is terribly designed, but it does work. So I reluctantly recommend it.

 

Short list of issues and solutions

Filter placement - it is really unclear in the instructions, but the filter needs to have the tallest part facing the front of the unit. The front being where you add water to the unit.

Water Level - fill the unit up to about half way, marked by both a small sticker on the inside that says "Fill Here" (but it really should say "fill to here"), or marked by the wavy protrusion  on the filter.

Water Level Detection - The float rod never engage the small microswitch to tell the unit that there is water in the unit. Apply my "index card" fix to make this work. Full details in the video above.

Jabra MOVE wireless headphones review

Jabra MOVE Wireless Headphones Review

I have been using the new wireless headset from Jabra, the MOVE, for the last few days. If you are looking for a pair of wireless headset for use in the office or go walking while taking phone calls, listening to podcast or music, I recommend it.

Packaging

The MOVE came with a black box with a magnetically closed front flap. Openning the flap shows the headphones stored in a foam cutout underneath a taped down plastic cover. The packaging is simple and good looking. The only downside is that the small instruction booklet and the charging and optional cables are simply taped to the bottom of the box underneath a sheet of foam.

For some strange reason, the user manual for the MOVE is not included in the packaging. You can easily download it from the Jabra website. 

Look and Feel

When I picked up the headphones, I was pleasantly surprised by the built quality. The headband is metal, with a lightly padded cover in nylon. Mine is black and grey. The earcups are covered with a very soft and well padded leather like materials. I like that the headphone is not too heavy,150g according to the specifications but 160.5g according to my own digital scale. The clamping force is light. I wore it for several hours at a time for testing, and it was comfortable. Sound leakage is very low -- if you use it in a quiet office your office mates will not hear what you are playing. The sound isolation is fair. You will hear muffled chatter around you, which I personally think is a good thing. When you have to have noise cancellation, go with the Bose QC20i.

Sound Quality


To give some context: my other pair of headphone I use in my home office is the Grado RS1, handmade in Brooklyn NY, powered by a DAC + Headphone amp. The entire setup costs 10x of the Jabra MOVE. Does the MOVE sound 10x worst? Not at all. I played jazz vocals, pop, rock and classical pieces on my Macbook Pro using iTunes and lossless (ALAC) files ripped from my own CDs. With the bluetooth connection, it is perfectly adequate. The lows are slightly muddled. The soundstage is not as wide as the Grado. But it is still respectible, especially for a pair of closed back headphones. When I plugged the MOVE directly into the Macbook Pro using the supplied cable, the sound quality improves slightly.

Bluetooth Connection

For me, this is the most surprised thing about the MOVE. The bluetooth range is amazing. I am used to my bluetooth headset I used for my iPhone to cut out when I move to the other side of my open planned first floor. The MOVE not only stayed connected throughtout the entire first floor of my 800 s.q. first floor, it retained the connection when I was up on the third floor!

The paring process is super easy. There is no "code". Once placed in the pairing mode, by sliding the on/off/pair button to the top and hold it there for 3 seconds, it is easily discovered by both my iPhone and my Macbook Pro. The MOVE can be connected to both devices at the same time. I have not quite figure out how it decided to take priority between the two devices. I have music playing from the Macbook Pro, and when I use my iPhone, the iPhone audio takes over.

Battery Life

After charging the headphones for about two hours to reach a "green light", I used the headphone non stop for the whole day hoping to run down the charge. Instead after about 8 hours, the headphones still report "battery level full". I had to leave it on for a full 24 hours to get "battery level low" from it.

It seems like the MOVE will not auto power off on its own. I guess that is the preferred behavior, especially if you want to use it to take and make calls on a phone. So do not forget to switch it off at the end of the day.

Siri and Phone Use

The MOVE does work with Siri. When I hold down the center of the volume rocker, Siri comes on from my iPhone 5s. In fact the MOVE is smart enough that, I can be playing music from my Macbook Pro connection, and a long press will still invoke Siri on my iPhone.

For phone calls, I can hear the other party as well as a pair of wired headset. They can hear my fine without any complains. Add to the range of the bluetooth this makes the MOVE a very nice headset for phone calls. There seems to be just a single microphone on the bottom of the right ear cup. So I do not think there are any active noise cancellation.

 

Conclusion

I have used the MOVE in the office when I want to listen to music and podcast and do not want to disturb my co-workers. I have used it on my excercise walks. The sound quality is good. The light weight and being wireless really won me over. I was eyeing the Sennheiser MM 450-X at one point but that costs three times as much. At this price point I think it is a good pair of headphones. It will be interesting to see if there are more competitors come on the scene.

Disclaimer: Jabra provided me with this pair of Jabra MOVE for review, but the opinions are entirely my own, without bias.

wise-walker OS-01 urban day bag review

I have always interested in getting a Nomadic wise-walker bag. Jetpens sells some online, but from the description it didn't seems to fit my needs. Luckily I am in Hong Kong and found the right bag for myself. Here is a review of the wise-walker OS01 bag.

Why is this bag so good? It looks small on the outside, but the carrying capacity is great. It is comfortable to carry, and it is secure.

The bag has a large rectangular main compartment, and a ton (well maybe 14) of organizing pockets and areas. When travelling or commuting, a lot of the items I crarry are small. They will all fit outside of the main pocket, leaving the main compartment for the larger items like laptop or camera and a sweater.

The bag is comfortable to carry. I like to carry these bags messanger bag style, with the bag resting on my lower bag. This bag has the air meshed in the back to reduce sweatiness, important when in Asia. The shoulder strap has a padded pad in the middle.

The bag is designed to keep its content secure. This is especially important in some cities like Hong Kong. I can keep wallet and ID cards etc in areas of the bag that is very difficult to be pick pocketed.

How to Use

When running around the city:

  • I carry my Olympus E-M10 for pictures, a polo shirt for when entering crazy air conditioned restaurants and malls, and sometimes my kindle, in the main compartment
  • My battery pack for my iPhone also goes into the main compartment
  • My field notes and pen goes into the back compartment with my wallet
  • Sun glasses, lip balm goes into the front compartment under the flap

When flying:

  • Amazingly, same items as above, plus
  • my travel wallet in the back main compartment
  • currencies goes into the secure compartment
  • when going through security, all my metal items goes into the front compartment under the flap temporarily

Details

The shoulder strap pad is sewn on as part of the strap. It is not movable. As a result it will not slide back and forth. This I think is a good design, but there are two related problems: one is that sometimes I like to slide the bag from my back to my front, for example when I am on a crowded subway train. Because the pad location is fixed, when the pad is set right for the back, it will be wrong for the front.

Most of the inside organizer pockets are made with a semi transparent mesh. So you can see what is in them. The ones that are not made with messed are padded.

Packaging -- look at the little "tab" that is used to wrap the strap in the packaging. Nice touch.

There are 10 pockets according to the product leaflet. In fact there are more. Check out these little touches:

  1. inside the front outside zipped pocket, there is two small shallow pockets that are good for subway pass cards.
  2. under the front flap, the lower zip pocket is for plane tickets
  3. the second zip pocket is double zipped, has three meshed organizer pockets
  4. the zip openning on the pocket is 2/3 high of the actual pocket depth. So things are not likely to fall out after the zips are opened
  5. the main compartment under the flap is about three inches deep, which is what I like about this bag compare to others. A 13 inch MBP fits into it with no problem
  6. the back zip pocket is double zipped, and the openning is 1/2 of the height, again good for not having things fall out
  7. inside there are two mesh pockets across the very back (outer side), three slightly padded pockets and two pen slots on the other side, and two meshed pockets behind them.
  8. There is a headphone cord openning right at the center of the back of the bag
  9. The back of the bag has the "airmesh" type materials. I can tell you it really makes a difference after testing it out in the hot humid (33C, 70% humidity) Hong Kong environment.
  10. There is a "security" pocket in the back of the bag between the back pocket area and the main area of the bag. Why it is a security pocket? It is closed with velcro across the entire length of the bag. If someone try to reach into there it will be difficult, and you will definitely hear and feel the "ripping" of the velcro
  11. and finally, there are two water bottle pockets on either side of the bag, and they are large enough for 500ml size bottles.

Problems

  1. I wish the bag has either little feets on the bottom, or maybe a different materials on the bottom, for when I need to put the bag down on the floor
  2. This is the only medium size problem -- the bag has a flawed side wing design in the main compartment. In theory when the front flap is closed, the side wings will fold inwards to make sure rain will not get into the bag. But I find that most of the time the wings ended up folding outwards instead (see pictures).
  3. Finally, the none movable strap padding problem as I mentioned above. I may replace the strap with something custom or more comfortable

But seriously this is a very well thought out bag. I highly recommend it. However I seems to not be able to find it online in the US, nor in Shanghai. 

Goodbye old friend -- A review of my new Levenger Road Scholar Travel Wallet

 My Old Travel Wallet

My Old Travel Wallet

Hong Kong: I was fourteen years old, about to leave my home and my parents for boarding school in the UK. From that time on, I travelled the world on my own. Flying back and forth between the UK and Hong Kong, and many other trips in between.

My parents bought me a black leather travel wallet. It has been my traveling companion for the last 30+ years. I flown over one million miles since. It is still in serviceable shape. These days I travel sometimes across three countries and needed to carry a bit more ID's and other travel documents during my trip. I needed something a little larger. I have never found a travel wallet that fits my needs until I found this Levenger Road Scholar. It fits all my updated requirements:

- zipped closure, to not loose things as I pull the wallet in and out many times during transits
- enough card slots for all the cards
- large enough passport area to store two passport types document (including my resident permit from China)
- pen slot so that I don't have to reach for a pen separately, when filling in forms -- I put the best travel pen in there - a sharpie fine point (B002M7Z338), which is slim and writes on different surfaces
- not too thick and large -- for example, the Tumi version is 9.75 x 5 x 0.75, whereas the Levenger is 9 x 4.75 x 1
- has an outside pocket for boarding passes - the Levenger has two.

The leather on the Levenger is quite nice. It has a bit of texture. The zipper pulls around smoothly. It has some extra features -- like a detachable inner wallet that holds a little bit of coins, cards, and currency. The detachable wallet is attached via magnet on top and bottom. I probably will just leave it out to reduce weight and thickness.

Finally a bit of strange distribution channel issue - Levenger charges $14 for ground shipping. But the same item is available on Amazon. With amazon prime it is free two day shipping. I used it for the first time last week flying from Boston to Shanghai via Tokyo. It worked wonderfully. Recommended.

L.L. Bean Underseat Commuter Bag Review

Running from one gate to another at the airport with minutes to spare. Laptop, jacket, bag of chargers, kindle all stuffed into my Tumi messenger bag. By the time I made it to my seat, my shoulder hurts, my back aches. That is no way to start a 15 hours flight to Shanghai. It is time to get a small wheeled carry on bag.

Here comes L.L. Bean

Tumi makes a few wheeled brief cases, but the cheapest one, the T-Tech network is US$400. When I found this $169 L.L. Bean Commuter Underseat bag, I bought it.

Organization

A bag is all about organization. Too little pockets and everything gets lump together, making retrieval difficult. This is particularly bad while traveling. Sometimes I just need to get to my headphones, or passports, or whatever while standing in the TSA line or stuck in a cramp seat on the airplane.

Too many pockets is not good either. How would you remember where things are? And if any of the pockets are too large or too small, they just become not useful. How does this L.L. Bean bag perform?

Main Storage Area

The main storage area zips open like a mini suit case. On the "bottom", it has a deep storage space complete with a tie down strap on the bottom, useful for holding down clothing's. This is where I put most of my travel items. A package compression thing  just fits inside.The area is covered by a zip around mashed cover. The main area is just large enough to fit an Eagle Creek Travel Gear Pack-It Folder 15 (the smaller one). I managed to pack for a two day business trip, travelled by train in China, using this bag with the Pack-It kit.

The "top" of this main area has a padded computer storage area, and a smaller lined area, perhaps for an iPad. The computer area is quite large. My 13 inch MacBook Pro fits in it with a lot of room to spare. I think you can fit two 15 inch MacBook Pros in there if you need to.

There are a few issues with this main storage area:

  • If you place the bag on it's back and open the main area, the laptop and any thing else tends to slide down and out of it's space (see picture). So you should make sure you strap down the velcro tab to protect the laptop.
  • It seems natural at first to put any paperwork, folders etc in between the front and the back of this main area. But because the meshed cover of the back area, if you try to insert anything stiff, like a file folder, into the bag while the bag is upright, it will likely get caught by the mesh cover.

One big improvement for L.L. Bean will be to add another document pocket, or a stiff divider, in this area.

Small pockets on Top

The bag has two horizontally zipped small pockets on the top. One is lighted with a soft white water resistant material. This pocket is quiet deep. The other is lined with a felt like material. Both area is great for phones and other small items. I use them to hold small items like headphones, phone and wallet when I have to empty my pockets going through metal detectors.

Sides

One side of the bag has a grab handle and a hidden luggage tag. The grab handle is really handy when you have to retrieve the bag from overhead bins. This is one of the great little design touch of the bag.

The other side has a zipped pocket that is slightly too small even for a small water bottle. Maybe it is for a compact umbrella?

Front Section

The other storage area is a zipped open front section that contains the usual organization pockets for pens, business cards etc. There is a small zipped meshed pocket at the front, good for storing more valuable things like passports and wallets. The sides of the half entire front section has "wings" that prevent things from falling out while the section is opened - good design.

Miscellaneous Features

One very nice thing about this bag is that both handles are very well padded. When you have to lift the bag to a overhead storage bin, or pick it up to walk up long flight of stairs much easier.

There is a little attachment point on the front of the bag, presumable good for attaching a small flash light or something. I have yet to use it.

There is a pass thru strap on the back of the bag that allows you to slide the bag over the pull handle of another luggage. I find that it does not fit over the very wide handle of my travel pro roller board.

The zipper pulls on the main compartment have eyelets for a lock. The zipper pulls on the smaller front compartment do not.

Telescopic Handle


The telescopic handle is hidden under a zipped opening, which is nice. The handle pulls out easily, but I find that I always have to give it an extra tug to get it fully extended and locked in place. Once extended, together with the very smooth rollerblade type wheels, it rolls easily. I dragged the bag over a mile of cobble stoned sidewalk of shanghai and it worked fine.

Conclusion

I have taken this bag on a few long haul flights, a few short haul flights, and one train trip. It has been holding up. It is definitely better than a messenger bag in terms of comfort and capacity. Even with the minor issues noted above, I recommend this bag.

Jack Spade Work Twill Haversack Review

I have a small Jack Spade messanger bag that I bought from the Greene Street store from a very long time ago. I use it my weekend city bag all the time. Now that I am in Shanghai, I do not have a car and I run around the city a lot more on foot and subway. I need a slightly larger bag to carry my stuff. So when Jack Spade ran a secret sale earlier this, I bought myself a new bag -- a grey work twill Haversack messanger.