Let’s [Quickly] Open: AEDILYS Motorola Nexus 6 USB Dock

This is so close to being a good charging stand, except that the USB port is used to hold the phone in place!

Its design is quite simple, as it’s just a USB 2.0 pass-through from a micro-USB port on the back of the dock to a male micro-USB on the front.

There’s not much more to say about it in text, so check out the video to get a full look at it! And this does have the benefit of being one of my shortest videos, so you only need to invest about 2.5 minutes into it. :)

Let’s Open: Japan Crate Review

Hey look! A crate from Japan! (California, technically.)

Japan Crate sends a box of surprise Japanese candy, chips, and other edibles to your door every month. For a fee, of course.

The missus got a 3-month subscription for me as a birthday gift, and I’ve been sitting on the third crate for over a month waiting to do a video on it (much to her chagrin). It’s now come to pass.

I like the Japan Crate crates quite a bit, to spoil the whole review right now.

Update: In retrospect, I probably should have tried everything on camera, and then just edited out the uninteresting items.

The stuff that I thought was root beer flavored hard candies were in fact similar in texture to very rapidly dissolving Smarties that tasted like maple syrup and butter. Basically it was like licking the top of a stack of pancakes from I-Hop. I didn’t care for it, even though in theory I like those two things. What it needed were the pancakes.

My friend Vin (the Kit Kat guy) points out that my detail on the matcha and condensed milk candies was lacking, which is fair enough. But I don’t know how to accurately describe the taste of matcha because it’s fairly unique. It’s got an earthy taste, I suppose. That’s really not enough to go on, so next time you’re in a Japanese restaurant ask if they have green tea with matcha. Ever since I had it for the first time at Arata Sushi in Syosset, NY, I can’t drink regular green tea anymore. It just doesn’t compare.

And I probably should have shown this DIY thing from the previous month’s crate:

It’s called Nomucco Jelly, and comes with a bag of powder plus the plastic dish and straw you see in the video. Add a little bit of water and stir and a minute later you get… melon flavored mucus!.

The texture only becomes unpleasant when you think of it as mucus, a fact of which Amanda reminded me quite gladly. The flavor is lightly melon-y, though, and “pretty good”.


Note that I’m not paid to endorse this, and have no vested interest in Japan Crate. I just happen to like it.

Let’s Open: Creation Crate’s 1st Monthly Project (an Electronics Project Subscription Service)

The folks over at Creation Crate got in touch and asked me to do a review of their monthly electronics project subscription service. I like the whole “crate” concept, and I like electronics, so figured I’d go for it.

This is an unboxing, review, and assembly of the whole thing, cut down to an unusually-short 16 minutes or so.

Overall, I like the Creation Crate, though there are a couple of minor points with which I took issue. But if you’re looking for a gift that’s educational and fun (for those that find electronics to be fun, at any rate), then you could do a lot worse. I’m kinda basing this on my own childhood, but this seems like it would be perfectly suited to pre-teens and early teens, but would be good for anyone just starting out with basic electronics and programming.

If you’re interested, they can be found at mycreationcrate.com.

And in full disclosure: The kit was provided to me for free by Creation Crate, but this is not a promotional video.

I would have made the very same video and said the same things if I’d paid for the kit, and at a value of ~$30 bucks it’s not exactly enough for me to sell myself. On the other hand, if anyone from Tesla ever reads this, I will guarantee you a good review if I get to keep the car.

Choosing a Disk Drive: HDDs, SSDs, and Then Some

This video covers almost everything you need to know about HDDs and SSDs to make an educated choice before pulling the trigger on a purchase.

Well, almost everything. This video is primarily directed at the home user trying to get some additional storage, whether that be an extra drive in their workstation, a NAS, or a full file server. If you’re trying to choose between SAS drives for a large-scale datacenter installation, then you probably know this stuff already.

As I promised in the video, here’s some links to my HDD TCO worksheet from 2013 (though I may have updated it in the interim with a couple of “new” drives). Please download the Excel version and use this for any drive that you want. If you make any interesting changes or large scale updates, I’d love to see it, so please let me know!

I also added a bunch of notes so you know what I meant with all the field names.

HDD Total Cost of Ownership Worksheet (Google Sheets – View only)

HDD Total Cost of Ownership Worksheet (Excel – View and edit)

Let’s Open: Cheap “Smart” Watches from AliExpress: Ken Xin Da W1 and U Watch U80

This is a quick very long video about two “smart” watches, one which isn’t all that smart and another which is more of a phone than a smartwatch.

In case you want one for some reason, here’s where I got ‘em:

Bluetooth U80 Smart Watch (AliExpress)

KEN XIN DA W1 Smart Watch Phone (AliExpress)

Don’t take those links as an endorsement, though I do kinda enjoy the Ken Xin Da watch for music and emergencies on the go.

Let’s [Quickly] Open: Crappy NiMH Cells from AliExpress vs. Panasonic Eneloop Cells

A look at some possibly-fake random “NiMH” AA cells from AliExpress, comparing them to Panasonic Eneloop cells.

From my somewhat limited testing, these little green guys had an actual capacity of about 342mAh, which is less than 10% of their claimed specification of 3800mAh (which is probably impossible anyhow for AA-sized NiMH cells.

The part about them perhaps not being real NiMH cells? That’s not the weirdest thing. Unlike most of my AliExpress purchases, these shipped from The Netherlands, despite the seller being called Shenzhen DeKang International Trade.

Random Green Chinese Cells - Packaging Label

Let’s [Quickly] Open: ORICO 4-Port USB Charger + Teardown

I had been looking for a cheap and cheerful USB power supply for general charging of phones, tablets, and plenty of etcetera. Hence I ordered this ORICO 4-Port USB Charger with high hopes!

I never have too much optimism when it comes to crap from AliExpress, but not only did this ship from California, it also seems to be a really good buy.

Some of the testing I did on this was inspired by Clive at bigclive.com who does an absolutely obsessive number of teardowns on his YouTube channel. If you haven’t heard of him and you like that sort of this, give it a look! (Plus he has a much better accent than I do.)

And finally, as promised in the video, here are some full-size macro shots of the PCB:

_MG_2245_MG_2256_MG_2257_MG_2260_MG_2253_MG_2252_MG_2250_MG_2249_MG_2248

Let’s Open: Intel Mini PC G2 (from AliExpress)

This video features a review and teardown of the Intel Mini PC G2 manufactured by — uhhh — Random Chinese Company 5000.

Did it ship with tons of bloatware and malware? Is it too good to be true that it comes with a full copy of Windows 10? Are the specs worth a damn in the real world? Watch me ramble on about it to find out!

If you want to buy this cylindrical masterpiece mediocrity, a link to the original AliExpress listing is below (which may be way out of date by the time you read this). Note that this is not an endorsement and I don’t receive one penny if you do end up buying it.

http://www.aliexpress.com/item/In-stock-High-Quality-Windows-10-MINI-PC-Host-32G-Memory-Bay-Trail-CR-2-4G/32596403800.html

Not every product from China is crap, but in the “Let’s Open” series I’m buying stuff that seems really good on paper, but has a whiff of the toilet about it.

Let’s [Quickly] Open: Outtek Qi Charging Stand

Lets Open - Outtek Qi Charging Stand

What follows is pretty much the script for the video. I mention this in case you have a sickening hatred for the medium of video, my voice, or are at work. Perhaps like you, I bought the Outtek charging stand for my night table. I usually charge overnight, and use my phone as my alarm. A stand like this would give me a much better view of the time and snooze/cancel controls in the morning. In the Amazon listing it looks quite sleek, and in person it doesn’t disappoint… too much. In real life it looks pretty good — though it lacks the luster of the pics in the listing, of course — but it also reminded me of one … Continue reading

LG Nexus 5X for Google’s Project Fi: Unboxing and Initial Setup

Another Nexus Phone?

If you’re interested in Project Fi or the Nexus 6 you might’ve seen my other video on the subject. This new Nexus 5X isn’t for me, but to get my wife off of the dreaded Verizon and onto Fi.

One thing I’d like to note for the historical record: At this time there is no “family plan” or its analogue with Project Fi. Fi is still invite-only (though Missus’ invite came through in about 2 days) and is strictly one subscriber per account.

And in case you’re interested in a cost comparison:

Cost of our Verizon plan w/2 lines: $147 / month (w/subsidized phones)

Combined cost of our Fi plans: $112 / month (includes phone payments)

Our Verizon plan had a shared 2GB/mo. cap, and each of our Fi plans is 1GB/mo. But we never used all of our Verizon data (less than half, actually) and the cost for Fi shown above does not include any refund for unused data. We should be looking at about $10/mo. refunded between us.

Of course, that doesn’t tell the full story: We had a contract with Verizon which allowed us to get subsidized phones every two years. While I’ve included the 24 months of phone financing payments into the Fi cost, the Verizon cost of $147/mo. does not include the roughly $500 spent on both of our previous phones. When you factor that in over a 24 month period the actual cost of Verizon service was $168 per month!

So here’s the complete value proposition, including an estimated unused-data-rebate and the cash portion of the Verizon phones amortized over 24 months:

Verizon: $168 / month

Project Fi: $102 / month

Of course there are probably cheaper and more efficient plans than our previous one with Verizon. In fact, Verizon has recently ditched contracts and is also offering zero percent interest loans for phone hardware just like Fi. Nonetheless, that’s how the economics worked out for me in changing providers.