Product review: Whirlpool WHER25 RO system

When we bought our house in South San José, I learned that we were on Great Oaks water. Having experienced that when I lived in my first condo, I knew the water was hard, and had a “taste”. (it is well water)

While there was a filtration system, it was a simple cartridge system, and by how frozen the cartridges were to the manifold, it was clear that it had been installed and neglected for a long time (so long, that the cartridges went end of life and couldn’t be replaced).

I looked for a little better system, and bought a Whirlpool Reverse Osmosis system for the under sink filtration. I will admit defeat on the installation (I hate plumbing), so we hired a handyman to get it fitted in July 2015. Continue reading →

Review: Doc Martin

Doc Martin

Netflix had been offering me as a “recommended” show to watch a series called “Doc Martin”. I had successfully ignored it for months, when one evening, as I was scrolling (and scrolling and scrolling) looking for anything decent, I saw it roll up again.

What the hell, I fired it up, expecting it to be like many of their recommendations. However, it quickly sucked me in with the story, and the cinematography.

Set in the seaside village of Portwenn (actually Port Isaac) in the Cornwall region of England, it is the story of a once masterful surgeon who developed haemophobia (fear of blood), and having given up his senior posting in London, became the GP of the village. Continue reading →

Review: Full Contact

There are a few things in my computing life that have been constantly chaotic. Top of the list: my contacts.

Looking at how my life has bounced around like a pinball, I have 3 active Google mail accounts, I have my Mac Address book, where all my added contacts from my iPhone dribble in to, and an old application and card scanner that wasn’t really compatible.

In short, it was a mess. Then I noticed that one of my twitter contacts is working for this company called “Full Contact” that promises to process all your various sources of contacts, to merge them, de-duplicate them, and then scour the various social media sites to fill in the gaps. Continue reading →

Restaurant Review – Sinaloa Cafe

Restaurant Review – Sinaloa Cafe

When I lived in San Jose in the past, one of my favorite places to eat was a little Morgan Hill staple, Sinaloa Cafe. Solid Mexican cuisine, fun atmosphere, and packed on Friday and Saturday nights. Sadly, their original building burned down a few months before we left San Jose for Tucson, and I lost touch.

I heard that they rebuilt, and moved closer to downtown Morgan Hill, but hadn’t made the trek.

Well, we moved back in 2014, and finally I got the chance to try it out.

First, the interior is a bit cleaner than the old place (not that it was “dirty”, but it was a well visited restaurant with 40 years of history). We went on a Wednesday night and arrived at about 6:45. No wait, and we sat in the front part near the bar. The chips and salsa arrived almost immediately, and it was how I remembered it, freshly fried chips, and a tangy salsa, not chunky. Yum. Our first round was their “Cadillac” margaritas, and they were delish.

We ordered, a Chile Verde burrito for me (wet), and the Enchiladas Especial for Barbara. I also ordered a side of guacamole to nosh on.

Food was hot, and while I can’t speak for the enchilada’s, I can say that the pork chile verde was delightful. It was zesty, the pieces of port were succulent, and the sides (rice and beans) were a perfect complement. A fabulous meal.

The second round of drinks was a bit more reserved, a margarita for Barbara, and I had a Pacifico, as I had to drive.

In summary, it was much how I remembered it, the quality remains high, and we will definitely be returning to the new location. Next time I will buy a new t-shirt, as my old ones are about to fall apart.

I see that Yelp has them rated at 2.5 stars. Definitely a bum rap.


Bike Review – 2015 Specialized Crave Expert

Having sold my old mountain bike in the move from Tucson to Chandler, I found that there was something missing in my life. Having caught the mountain biking bug in the late 1980’s, and having thrashed the local trails here in the south bay mercilessly, giving it up left a hole.

To fill that void, I splurged on a Specialized Crave Expert. It is a hardtail 29’er, with pretty decent components. Having ridden it a few times, with some good miles in the saddle, it is time for my first review of this steed.

Riding Impressions

Continue reading →

Product Review: Canon G12 camera

I have long been a photographer. I began back in high school with my grandfather’s old Canon from the ’60’s.  I shot a lot of B&W film in high school (it was super cheap, and we learned how to process it ourselves, so it was a no brainer.

I have stayed true to Canon over the years, with several film cameras, and not I am fully in the digital realm.

Last year, on a whim, I bought a Canon Powershot G12. My wife had one of the compact cameras that she loved, but I wanted a little more versatility. I talked to a couple friends who have the predecessor of the G12 (not surprisingly the G10 and G11) and they spoke highly of the platform. So I took the plunge (I used my AmEx points to buy it.)

I wasn’t sure of what I expected, but it is a viewfinder camera with the option of looking at the LCD screen to compose pictures as well.  It has a reasonably fast lens (F2.8) and a pretty large optical zoom range. It is snappy and easy to use, and it actually takes gorgeous pictures.

An in between camera that can be a great addition to your kit.
An in between camera that can be a great addition to your kit.

One huge benefit with this camera is that it has one of the HS sensors that greatly improve its performance in low light, so you can get clear, blur free pictures without a flash. I can attest that this really works, and that it does lead to some gorgeous pictures.

Since I often use this camera to grab quick pictures at work of small parts, and our tools for the documentation and manual, it is good to note that it can do a pretty reasonable job of focusing in the macro realm.

Other things to note: You get a fair amount of flexibility with the system.  A series of auto programs for portraits, landscapes or action pre-set conditions to make the shot easy to get, but you also have the ability to go to aperture, or time over ride and get your creative on. In these creative modes, you also have the option of saving the pictures as RAW files, that facilitates post processing quite well. The battery is pretty beefy, and I find that I don’t have to charge it too often. I haven’t felt the urge to buy a second battery to swap with. There are some optional mounts that let you add filters to the camera. Not as flexible as a DSLR, but it does give you some options. (note, I haven’t bought these yet)

While it isn’t going to replace my 5D and the L series lenses, it is a convenient knock around camera that nicely fills the void between the point and shoot variety, and the full on prosumer DSLR. I can highly recommend this for your everyday camera.

My first Android Device – Nexus 7

About 7 months ago, I splurged and bought a Nexus 7.  Ostensibly, I bought it to test the websites I work on in an intermediate resolution (I already use an iphone and an iPad to test different mobile sizes).  I figured that I would give Android a fair shake, but alas, I have used it sporadically.

Nexus 7 - Google's 7" tablet with ANdroid
Nexus 7 – Google’s 7″ tablet with ANdroid

Naturally, I used my gmail account to set it up, and I have done my best to set it up, and keep it up to date. It is still stock, I haven’t rooted it or sideloaded any apps or changed the rom’s.  I wanted to get a good feel for Android, and I thought that using a stock Google branded device would give me the best of the experience. (I hear that for those who want to keep Google at arm’s length, you can set it up without a Google account, but I am already in for a pound)

The Nexus 7 isn’t a bad piece of kit. It has a rubberized plastic back, and 16G of flash memory (32G was an option).  It was one of the first devices shipping with “Jelly Bean”, and it has had several updates.  I must admit that Google does a good job distributing updates, and keeping it current.

The Apps.  The Gmail application and integration is pretty tight.  Really easy to use, and I will admit that it is a hair better than on my iPhone.  It just “fits”. It comes with gtalk (now Hangouts), Google Earth, among other Google standards. Of note is the Music application. I liked the fact that it picked up on my collections that I sync’d with Google, so I had access to all my tunes (more on this later).

I did add some applications, a solitaire game (I tend to piss away hours playing solitaire, a weakness), an eBook reader (Aldiko) and applications for 1Password, Dropbox, some other games (angry birds space, monopoly etc), hootsuite for my Twitter use, and Facebook.  They all work OK, and I can’t complain too much for the integration and interface. However, one thing that was somewhat annoying is that at times, the UI gets balky.  What I mean by that is that it just becomes unresponsive. It can take 2 or three “taps” with the finger to get the application to respond. There are some threads out in the world on this, it is just different how Android prioritizes UI actions than iOS.  (Naturally, I am an Apple fan, and I have both an iPhone and an iPad, so there is definitely some bias here.)

The past week, I have endeavored to use my Nexus more. It does have a better display than my iPad, and it is a convenient form factor (my iPad is a second generation, non-retina display version). Of course, I could use it to be a little bigger. My eyes are not young anymore, so I would appreciate Google using their resolution to make larger text a joy to read, but that is hardly a fault of the device.

Unlike many Android devices, it lacks a SD card slot to increase memory. However, I haven’t found a reason to need more memory.

Google Play.

The music player, and media player are based on the Google Play service. It comes with a full length movie (Transformers 2, not really my type of movie) and it streams well (WiFi to a Cable modem with a business class bandwidth package).  I haven’t felt the need to rent or buy any more videos, and I haven’t bothered to figure out how to play a media file from my extensive collection on it (I am sure it is possible, but I usually don’t watch videos on my devices).

The music player is nice. I find that the navigation and creating/managing of playlists is a bit cumbersome, but that is likely because I have become immersed in the iOS (and iTunes) way of managing my music, so I won’t hold it against Google.

However, there is a wart. I have mentioned in other posts that one of my reasons why I don’t rely on Google Play to stream music to my work PC (since it is limited in storage, I prefer to keep it media file free) is that it stutters, stalls, and in general is a poor (and distant) second to my go to streaming service, Spotify premium. I gave it one more whirl this weekend with the launch of Google’s “All Access” streaming service that is similar to Spotify’s service. However, I am sorry to report that on WiFi, on a great cable connection (plenty of bandwidth and low latency) it still stalls, hiccups, and stutters.  It can go 2 – 3 songs perfectly, then it will be really crappy for a minute or two.

As a book reader.

The Aldiko application, combined with DropBox, and I have all my (DRM Free) ePub books on hand. I like that, no need to sync like I do with iTunes.  I have bought several books from the Google Play book store.  find their selection excellent, and the price fair. It uses the standard Adobe Adept DRM, so it is easy to strip (I use Calibre) and then I load them with Aldiko.  I also use the Google book reader application, and it is quite good (and it is just like the Google book reader on my iPad.)

Lastly, I was an early Sony Reader adopter, and I have probably 40 – 50 books I have bought from the Sony store. There is a Sony application that makes it trivial to access my library.

The hardware does quite well as a book reader. It is a good size and form factor, the text is crisp, and the applications let me scale the text to be friendly with my gradually declining eyes.


The hardware is pretty solid. It is light, and easy to hold and carry. When you plug it into a PC (or my Mac) it is mounted like a file system so you can poke around. It does have a front camera, but I haven’t used it. With the new Google Hangout application, I suspect I will have some occasion to use it. Even with moderate use, I still have plenty of flash storage remaining. I am not missing the SD card slot.

Gaining root access is trivial. It is in the setup, and easy to find. I haven’t felt the need to allow applications loaded from stores/repositories other than the official Google store. I am at a point in my life where I can afford to buy my software, and I prefer to not have to worry about malware.

The battery life is so-so. On my iPad (now more than 2 years old), I get 4-5 days on a charge, using it a couple hours a day. Even light use of the Nexus 7 seems to drain the battery much quicker.  I haven’t timed it, but I figure that if/when I start to use it more I will be charging it every other day or so.

I hoped that using the Google app on a google device, with a good connection would make the music streaming much more robust, but alas, it is not to be.  I will probably not be replacing Spotify with All Access.

My iPad has the cellular option, so I can get data when I am traveling (it is disables now, but I can turn it back on), and I probably would have bought this with a cellular radio for that same access.


I have dabbled with the Nexus 7, now that I have spent some serious time with it, I can say that I like it. But I am probably not going to be giving up my iPad or iPhone anytime soon. I am probably not ever going to be an Android fanboy, but I now have a better appreciation of the ecosystem, and the charm.