Category: Reviews

Otamatone, that fun weird musical instrument

Otamatone, that fun weird musical instrument

The Otamatone, it’s this weird looking musical instrument. It is a singing toy whose body is shaped like an eighth note (it also somewhat resembles a tadpole, “otamajakushi” being Japanese for “tadpole”), with sound emerging from a “mouth” on the notehead.

I got this for my daughter for her 10th birthday as a fun gift, but she was quickly taken by it and has been learning to play it, even listening to songs on her headphones and converting them to Otamatone.

There are a lot of youtube videos like this one ^ as well which show what you can do with this interesting little toy.

It’s fun to play with and learn new music on, and the wide variety of colours make it even more interesting.

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You can find the Otamatone for sale on:

CloudFlare launches new public DNS service: 1.1.1.1

CloudFlare launches new public DNS service: 1.1.1.1

CloudFlare has just launched a new public DNS service called 1.1.1.1

Matthew Prince wrote a nice post on it in the CloudFlare Blog:

The problem is that these DNS services are often slow and not privacy respecting. What many Internet users don’t realize is that even if you’re visiting a website that is encrypted — has the little green lock in your browser — that doesn’t keep your DNS resolver from knowing the identity of all the sites you visit. That means, by default, your ISP, every wifi network you’ve connected to, and your mobile network provider have a list of every site you’ve visited while using them.

[…]

But it’s been depressing to us to watch all too frequently how DNS can be used as a tool of censorship against many of the groups we protect. While we’re good at stopping cyber attacks, if a consumer’s DNS gets blocked there’s been nothing we could do to help.

[…]

We talked to the APNIC team about how we wanted to create a privacy-first, extremely fast DNS system. They thought it was a laudable goal. We offered Cloudflare’s network to receive and study the garbage traffic in exchange for being able to offer a DNS resolver on the memorable IPs. And, with that, 1.1.1.1 was born.

Also of note was this review by Wojtek Pietrusiewicz:

I just checked 1.1.1.1’s performance and it appears to be the fastest DNS out there, avergaing 14.01 ms worldwide and 11.34 ms in Europe over the last 30 days. Google’s 8.8.8.8 and 4.4.4.4 is significantly slower, clocking in at 34.51 ms and 24.43 ms respectively.

This looks like a pretty interesting new service from CloudFlare to compete with Google’s Public DNS and OpenDNS.

Setting it up is pretty straight forward (along the same lines as other similar services), you just change your DNS servers:

  1. Set the primary DNS server to 1.1.1.1
  2. Then set the secondary DNS server to 1.0.0.1

I’ve found the speeds to be along the same lines as CloudFlare mentions

The Wirecutter’s Apple HomePod review: “It only sounds great”

In its current state, the HomePod is not the device that Apple originally announced in 2017. In particular it’s missing a few marquee features, such as the ability to connect multiple speakers in multiple rooms. Overall, the HomePod is neither as versatile nor as affordable as most of its competitors, and it’s not compatible with as many non-Apple devices. The HomePod is likely to be updated with more features and perhaps more compatibility, but Apple isn’t offering a timeline or roadmap for updates, so anyone buying a HomePod now is taking a gamble

[..]

An unhappy discovery after we placed a HomePod on an oiled butcher-block countertop and later on a wooden side table was that it left a defined white ring in the surface. Other reviewers and owners (such as Pocket-lint, and folks on Twitter) have reported the same issue, which an Apple representative has confirmed. Apple says “the marks can improve over several days after the speaker is removed from the wood surface,” and if they don’t fade on their own, you can basically just go refinish the furniture—the exact advice Apple gave in an email to Wirecutter was to “try cleaning the surface with the manufacturer’s suggested oiling method.”

I’m holding out some hope for the HomePod, since Apple products tend to be great, but I don’t think I’ll be getting this first iteration of it.

I’ll stick to my Google Home in the meantime.

Nintendo introduces Labo, DIY interactive cardboard toys for the Switch

Nintendo introduces Labo, DIY interactive cardboard toys for the Switch

Yesterday, Nintendo introduced a brand new product category with Labo,a suite of cardboard accessories for the Switch that you construct yourself and then play using the Switch console screen and controllers.

Pianos, fishing rods, little robots, and big robot suits….

Nintendo introduces Labo, DIY interactive cardboard toys for the Switch

Nintendo introduces Labo, DIY interactive cardboard toys for the Switch

Nintendo introduces Labo, DIY interactive cardboard toys for the Switch

I love that Nintendo is creating these product line, while the original Wii also inspired a bunch of accessories (who didn’t play star wars with the lightsaber attachment?), the DIY aspect of Labo helps show players what other fun things they can do and takes it a step further.

Although now that I think of it, I did notice that there was no sword in the kits.

You can preorder the Labo Variety Kit (cars, bike, house, piano, fishing rod) and the Labo Robot Kit ( (a wearable robot suit) on Amazon…they come out on April 20.

An eight-year-old reviews the Nintendo Switch

An eight-year-old reviews the Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch is the new-and-improved game system for gamers like me. When I’ve gone over to my friends’ houses, I explored the Xbox, and PlayStation 3 and 4. But these game systems are nothing compared to the Nintendo Switch. My grandmother just bought me the game system this summer, because I got a good report card.

If you have an Xbox or a PlayStation, you can’t bring it on a trip with you. You have to leave it at home. But if you have a Switch, you can take it on the airplane. If you really want to finish something in your game, you can bring the Switch instead of leaving it at your house. The Nintendo Switch makes me happy, because I don’t have to wait to go home to play.

You can use multiple controllers to play with your friends. I mostly play by myself, and sometimes I play with my friends or my parents. When I was on vacation, I played with my friend Evan and it was really cool to have competition. It was the first time I got to play with another kid. I can’t wait to play with my best friends Liam, Shrey, and Jackson when we all get back from summer vacation and have a sleepover.

My favorite part of the Nintendo Switch is the graphics. These graphics are the best graphics I’ve seen Nintendo make. They have really good-looking colors, and the ideas are presented in a clever way.

I almost got my 9 year old to do this when I wrote my original switch review, seeing these game systems from their point of view is always refreshing.

Rogers Smart Drive

Rogers Smart Drive

Rogers has just released their Smart Drive unit for tracking your driving and car status.

In a press release, Leroy Williams, Vice-President of Rogers Communications had this to say:

Consumers are looking for more ways to stay connected wherever they are. Of the 24 million cars on Canada’s roads today, over three-quarters don’t have Wi-Fi or any connectivity features.

We’re excited to be the first carrier to introduce this kind of device to Canadians. Now, families can have peace of mind about their car maintenance and safety and can connect to the things and people they love worry-free.

I’ve spent the past week testing it out and other than one or two small annoyances, it’s worked pretty well.

Setting it up is easy, you simply plug it into your car’s ODB II (on-board diagnostics) port and let it connect to your cell provider via its onboard SIM card, then it starts tracking driving habits and how your car is doing.

With the Smart Drive installed, you can:

  • Track your car’s location and set alerts to monitor vehicle speed
  • Turn your car into a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 5 devices to a time (just remember, this uses your data)
  • Diagnose car trouble
  • Get maintenance reminders
  • Be alerted of disturbances, like being hit while parked

Rogers Smart Drive

The mobile app contains quite of bit of info from each trip you do, making it handy.

The biggest annoyance is if you accidentally knock the unit lose when you get in or out of the car. This happened three times, once I was able to merge the new car into my existing car, but the other two times I had to completely start over with a new car and lose all previous history.

I can get past this though as it was my fault, I was the one who knocked the unit lose because I wasn’t entirely paying attention as I got in or out of the car.

Actually, that’s really the only annoyance so far. It’s worked well for tracking my driving, or telling me how my car is doing.

The Perfect Cooker: perfect for teaching kids to cook

The Perfect Cooker

I first came across the Perfect Cooker for sale at my local Walmart, and decided to pick it up thinking that if nothing else it would be a good rice cooker.

And I was right, it is a good rice cooker, it’s also great for pasta, and even makes a decent meatloaf.

The reviews vary but I’ve found that it really depends on the liquid, etc. Make sure you add the right amount of water or sauce and you can cook everything perfectly.

But where I’ve found the perfect cooker excels…With kids!

My daughter loves making mac and cheese in this cooker, and has also made lasagna in it, but has made mac and cheese more.

She reads the included recipe book, and adds all the ingredients, she’s even started coming up with her own.

For example, the lasagna recipe is the standard one but she prefers chicken alfredo lasagna, so she’s replaced the beef with sliced chicken breast and added alfredo sauce to get a nice dinner.

If you have kids that want to get into doing more in the kitchen, then pick up a perfect cooker.

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You can find the Perfect Cooker for sale on:

Reviewing The Nintento Switch

Reviewing The Nintento Switch

I had started to write my review of the Nintendo Switch, but Myke Hurley did a great job pulling together this video walkthrough of it, and nailed just about everything I had planned to write, so I’m sharing it here.

If you are interested in the Nintendo Switch, then you need to watch this video.

The Nintendo Switch is an interesting take on console gaming, play it plugged into your TV or grab it and take it on the go.

The Switch blurs the line between home and portable gaming, which makes what it can do more powerful.

As far as game play and graphics go, for what is essentially a tablet, this is a nice package.

As more games come out, it will be an even better experience but as far as current game play goes, Zelda is a great game right now.

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You can find the Nintendo Switch for sale on:

Reviewing The Farberware 7 in 1 Programmable Pressure Cooker

Reviewing The Farberware 7 in 1 Programmable Pressure Cooker

The Farberware 7 in 1 Programmable Pressure Cooker

Let me tell you about my latest kitchen gadget, it’s one that I’d been eying for a while and finally decided to pick up.

The Farberware 7 in 1 Programmable Pressure Cooker is a handy electric pressure cooker. I’ve owned pressure cookers for years, but they
were always the usual stovetop variety which involved quite a bit of work to use it as you had to watch for it to reach maximum pressure and then reduce heat, etc.

This pressure cooker, you just plug it in, load up the food you are cooking and select your mode and time to cook.

Once done, it switches to keep warm mode, just like a slow cooker does, in fact, there’s even a slow cooker mode if you want your food to take longer to cook, or you can use the delayed start mode to have it turn on at a later time and start cooking.

The food this cooks is fall off the bone tasty.

It does involve a little playing to figure out all the right settings, for example searing.

When you sear meat before adding liquids, you have to use the right oils. Olive oil is a huge no no as it doesn’t have a high smoke point and once it reaches the high heat will just start exploding out of the pot, so you want to use either canola oil, avocado oil or coconut oil.

That’s a general rule for all pressure cookers, so keep that in mind.

One of my favourite pressure cooker dishes is chicken breast, I add a cup of chicken broth, half a cup of water, some salt, some pepper, some paprika and garlic and top it off with some lemon juice and let it cook.

All I had to do was set it to the chicken mode, and leave it at the default time of 20 minutes. Once done, it went to keep warm mode and made tasty chicken.

I give this pressure cooker a 10, and highly recommend you grab one for your kitchen.

Features

  • 6 Quart Capacity: Ideal for families or groups of 4-6 people
  • 9 Preset Cooking Functions: Allowing you to enjoy your favourite meals with the push of a button.
  • Safety Pressure Release Valve: Automatically releases pressure from inside the pressure cooker when the pressure levels become too high. This safety feature not only protects you, but also your food!
  • Stainless Steel Construction: Crafted from premium stainless steel, you can rest assured that you will be able to use this pressure cooker for many years to come.
  • LED Display: Making it simple to read the menus and make the right selections.

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The KoalaSafe Family Friendly Wireless Router

The KoalaSafe Family Friendly Wireless Router

KoalaSafe Family Friendly Wireless Router

I’m a parent, and I like to look at how to keep my daughter safer online, as well as being able to set schedules for when she’s allow to use the Internet, homework (or chore mode), etc.

I spent some time looking at various kids routers before deciding to go with the KoalaSafe and I’m happy with the result.

Once the router arrived, I plugged it into our existing router and used the iOS to pair it. Then I configured family members (in this case, my daughter), first by forgetting our main router from her eletronic devices and then by adding them under her name in the app as she connected. This part took about 10 minutes total if that since it also needed to download a new firmware update to the router.

Once that was done, I played with the settings, and they are nice, simple but nice.

There are various filters you can set for content, such as youtube, facebook, instagram, netflix, etc, and you can also create a schedule. The schedule has two modes:

  1. Primary mode: This is the mode for the rest of the day, and you can schedule when primary mode is active or not.
  2. Homework mode: This mode is used for what is set aside as homework (or even chore) time, during these scheduled blocks of time, the kids can only access certain websites, or even none at all.

You can also set filters for each mode, so if the schedule says homework time, then you can close out access to most websites, and have them open when it is primary time. You can also restrict the Internet ac

All schedules and filters are handled for each family member, or you can choose to use a universal schedule.

It’s also handy being able to hit a button and restrict Internet altogether, and it also lets you choose how often to restrict it for. To the opposite side, there is a parent mode which lets you enable Internet access for a fixed period of time.

What’s most handy though, is you can use the mobile app from anywhere you have Internet, and it will talk back to the KoalaSafe router at your home. So you can change the schedule, block Internet, add new filters from anywhere and it changes the router settings at home for you.

I highly reccommend checking out the KoalaSafe Family Friendly Router for yourself.