Category Archives: Review

Otterbox Defender case damaged my iPhone 6 screen

iphone screen damaged from otterboxTitle pretty much says it all. I bought an Otterbox Defender case to protect my phone when I am out at jobsites or working outdoors when I want extra protection for my phone. I’ve had the phone about three weeks and have used the Defender case a total of three days at the most- usually I have my iPhone in a slim leather case.

Monday I noticed some kind of smudge mark on my iPhone’s screen- I attempted to clean it off but it would not come off. I tried some car wax to try to polish it off- but it did nothing. I could not figure out what would cause the mark- until I looked at the Otterbox case. On the front piece of the Otterbox case is a thin membrane material that covers the home button- exactly the same size as the marks on my iPhone’s screen. This material is not flush with the case, so it rubs against the screen and apparently will damage the protective coating on the screen.otterbox case

I emailed Otterbox some photos and a summary of my issue but received no response. So I put up a video showing the issue- shared my frustration on twitter and got a few responses from folks that have had the same problem.

Otterbox has yet to respond to my email. I did get a response from @OtterboxCS on Tiwitter- “Unfortunately as we are not the device manufacture, we are unable to provide a warranty or replacement on the device itself.” Translation- “Buzz off”.

Needless to say I will never purchase anything from Otterbox in the future. The crappy design of this case made the damage to the screen inevitable. Otterbox not taking 2 minutes to respond to my email, only using a canned twitter reply to deal with my complaint is enough to tell me they could care less if I am happy.  The irony is I purchased their case to protect my iPhone- yet their case has managed to permanently damage my new iPhone’s screen in just a few days.

The customer service folks at Otterbox didn’t have time to respond to my email, however they did take time to look me up on linkedin:

linkedinSo if you want to protect your phone from damage- please avoid using the Otterbox line of cases.

Sample footage from Vievu2


Here’s some sample footage from Vievu’s new wearable video camera, at this point this is as much of a review I can do- they have not finished the iOS app to allow streaming and control of the camera yet.

This short clip shows the quality of video this small camera can produce. Not as good as an iPhone, but considering it’s size it’s decent.

GRE Super Amplifier Review

Anyone who has tried to bring in a 800mhz trunked system from more than 20 miles out can relate to the issues I have where I am at. I live about 60 miles north of Seattle, which lets me get excellent reception of the north control channels of Snohomish County’s trunked system. The south channels are about 20 miles out and the talkgroups associated with them are often choppy or cut out. The Seattle/King County trunked system is something I am lucky to pick up at all, let alone get decent enough reception to monitor communications.

So GRE has a “super amplifier” that is just for this type of problem. It’s an inline amplifier that goes on a BNC antenna mount, with the antenna plugging into it. It runs on a 9 volt battery, or AC adaptor. 

I was not sure what to expect with it, but frankly the performance is very good for the size of the thing. I can easily bring in Seattle and South Snohomish County much clearer than I have ever had in the past. I used it with my PSR-800 and Uniden 396t and both showed a noticeable improvement in reception. The battery gets you about 20 hours of run time. Only downside I see is the battery is a bit of a pain to replace, and the added bulk makes it tough to use with the scanner on the run. 

Here is a brief video review of the amplifier I made this morning:

After playing around with it for a few days I recommend it for those who live in rural areas and want to bring in distant systems. 


Review: Otterbox Defender Case for the iPad 2

I work in construction and often haul my iPad into meetings at job sites to refer to bid documents, excel spreadsheets and to pull up old emails related to the project. Most of these are industrial job sites (refineries, steel mills, cement plants) and the conditions are pretty rough. Needless to say, bringing a “naked’ iPad to these places is out of the question, and frankly most standard cases are not up for this type of duty either.

That’s where the Otterbox Defender case comes in handy. I had one of these on my original iPad and it saved it numerous times from nicks, scratches and drops. The new version is very similar (hard plastic inner case with rubber shell).

It’s a solid case, with good protection for the iPad. Only complaints I have is that it is a pain to put on or take off quickly. It’s rather tedious to go through the multiple steps. The other issue is that it takes all the elegance and clean design of the iPad and hides it under rubber and plastic, and makes it rather bulky. But obviously that’s the only way to offer this type of protection. It cost about $90.00, came with a screen protector and does a great job of making the iPad rugged enough for all but the most severe applications.

The following video I shot gives a pretty good idea of what the case is all about:


Review of Element Case Vapor 4 – Extreme Metals AR15 for iPhone 4

I was browsing different cases for my iPhone and found Elementcase’s website with some distinctive machined aluminum bumper style cases. They have all kinds of different styles, colors and designs, I finally settled on their “AR15V” black case. It was $99, I paid for 2nd day shipping at it came via FedEx in 2 days. It’s a serious case, has a solid, well engineered feel to it when it’s on the phone. It will do a great job protecting the edges from drops and scuffs. I like the look and feel of it, what I don’t like is the tedious install and removal procedure. The screws are tiny and hard to put in and get started. You won’t be doing this on the run or in your car. It also did a good job of dropping my wireless signal around 20%. In areas where coverage is weak, I had no signal.

The headphone and charge cutouts work fine with Apple connectors, but aftermarket chargers may or may not work. Headphones will be a problem, several of my connectors would not fit the opening.

Criticism aside, this is a well designed, high quality case. It’s just not for everyone.

Here is my video review of the case:


Review of the Portenzo Notebook Case for the iPad 2

When the iPad 2 was released the choices of cases was very limited. What I saw at Best Buy and other retailers was pretty weak. I ended up with an Apple black leather smart cover, which was great for protecting the screen but left the back of the iPad exposed.

After reading various reviews of the Portenzo notebook case for the original iPad I decided to order one. They let you customize the case, you can choose the finish, interior color, camera opening, strap or magnetic closure. These are handmade and when you hold it in your hand you can appreciate the work that went into it. The case holds the iPad very securely, and it is a very classy looking case that makes your iPad look much like a moleskine notebook.

The cost was $59.95 and it could sell for twice that- it’s that good. The only downside is that since each is handmade they do take time to arrive. Mine took about 6 weeks but in the end it was worth it- it’s the best case I have found for the iPad 2.


Amazon’s Kindle 3 Cover Replacement Program Fixed My Reboot Problem

I  pre-ordered my Kindle 3 last year along with Amazon’s standard “unlighted” cover. Early on I noticed issues with my Kindle randomly “re-booting” or shutting down when I used it in the cover. It seemed to get better after a couple firmware updates, but it continued to occur on a very random (and frustrating) basis. 

A couple weeks ago someone left a comment on one of my Kindle blog posts, saying that Amazon has acknowledged a problem with the standard kindle covers- and there was a program to replace it with a lighted cover. Apparently where the kindle connects to the cover is metal on the cover- and this causes some type of electrical issue with the kindle- hence the rebooting. I called the Kindle support line- 866-321-8851 and talked with the representative, explained the situation, they were aware of the problem and walked me through the process. They ask if you have used the Kindle without the case and not had issues with rebooting (which I had done), they then refunded the original purchase price of my cover (38 bucks or so) and gave me an instant $25.00 amazon credit. This allowed me to go to Amazon.com and purchase the lighted case with no money out of my pocket.

In two days the new cover arrived. It looks almost the same as the non-lighted cover, just a slight design change on the front, and the addition of the light itself adds a bit of weight and thickness to the cover (lighted cover on left):

When I first purchased the Kindle I figured I would not need the light, as I would treat it like a paper book, reading it in well lighted areas. After having the lighted case I have to say I’m happy I have it, I find myself reading books in bed more, and taking it into rooms that are not ideal for reading and not distrubing others while reading. 

I wish the lighting itself was a little more uniform- it is very bright in the upper right corner, but washes out by the time you get to the lower left of the “page” It makes the page entirely readable though, and being able to read in any light is a plus. The added weight is virtually impossible to notice after using it for a few days. Kudos to Amazon for standing behind their product and taking care of their customers!


Squarespace finally releases the iPad version of their app today.

After months of waiting the iPad version of the squarespace application has finally been released! I’ll spend a bit of time with it and write up a review in the next couple days.


Sanyo Xacti VPC-PD2 vs. Flip Mino HD

I have two Flip Mino HD camcorders that I have shot tons of video with. I recently picked up a Sanyo Xacti VPC-PD2 to carry with me for quick clips. Here is a video showing how it compares with my Flips. They are very close in quality. 

I like the Sanyo’s multiple video resolutions, and the separate battery/memory card feature. If I’m away from a PC for a few days I can use the Sanyo with a couple spare batteries and extra memory card- with the Flip you have to offload the video or you are done. 


Kindle 3 after a week in the real world. My Review

Chillaxing by the pool

I’ve had my Kindle 3 for a full week now and have had a fair amount of time to get to know it. I took it with me on my run to Vegas and it was perfect for reading in the room, by the pool and on the plane. It starts up instantly, the screen is crisp and easy to read in any decent lighting, the page turns are quick. It’s so small it is easy to carry anywhere, the Amazon (non-lighted) leather case makes it feel exactly like a real book. The wireless works fine with my Verizon mifi. (I purchased the wifi only model, not the 3G)  The design is just about perfect, the page turn buttons are right where they need to be. It’s light enough you can hold it easily with one hand and no support without any issue at all. I played with the text to speech on a book and it’s okay, but it butchers uncommon words badly so I wont be using it much. 

Reading on the plane

So far so good, right? Well not exactly, the Kindle 3 has had some issues the past week, and they are serious enough to distract from the positive points I mentioned above. I have had it randomly “reboot” or restart itself at least a dozen times. It has happened while trying to use the browser, reading PDFs, highlighting books, or just sitting on the counter, powered off. It’s not something I can replicate, it is purely random from what I can tell. Apparently this is a known issue and Amazon is working on a firmware update.[UPDATE: Amazon just released a firmware update that will hopefully address these issues]

 [01-30-2011 UPDATE- AMAZON HAS ACKNOWLEDGED A PROBLEM WITH THE NON-LIGHTED COVERS CAUSING REBOOTS]  

I am disappointed they shipped a device with these issues, it’s widespread enough that they had to know about it. When it happens the screen goes blank, the kindle boot up screen flashes on and you have to wait a minute or two to get back to your main menu. And you have lost your place in your book, and if you were not synching with a wireless network you can’t synch the device and find your last page. Highlights are lost. It sucks. In addition to that the clock will randomly lose 3-6 hours and display incorrect time. Why the kindle will not synch with Amazon’s server and get the correct time each time it pings the service is beyond me.

All those issues aside, it is still an amazing e-book device. I tried reading some on my iPad this weekend and the difference is more dramatic than I thought it would be. The Kindle is much easier on the eyes and when reading for more than 20 minutes it blows the iPad away for eye strain reduction.

If you love reading books I recommend you check the Kindle 3 out, hopefully it gets a firmware update in a few days and it will be almost perfect.