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Syma X5HW quad copter review

I previously owned a Syma X5WSW and had a bunch of fun with it. Sadly it met an early demise when it got sucked into a vortex and found it’s last resting place in a neighbors tree 😦 Ooops. I then played with an X8, an X5 on steroids, but that one had no end of reliability issues. I’ve stayed away from drones ever since, almost a year ago now. And then an ad for a selfie drone caught my attention on facebook. It was a JJRC H47. But after doing a bit of reading and watching reviews I decided to go back to the Syma.

Now let’s be clear, all of these I have played with are at best toys. Inexpensive disposable, smile to the penny … So my expectations are not that high. For example the camera that came on this one is .3 mp. What’s that about 1990s tech? But I do have an XDV action camera that if I can figure out how to mount it on the drone will more than take care of video needs. The biggest challenge with finding a mounting point for an action camera on this drone is on the underside there isn’t enough clearance, on the top the drone is round making it challenging. Or so I thought. Once I got it mounted, and it took a bit of time I discovered the motors do not have enough power to lift the extra weight. Ooops.

I had a few spare parts left over X5WSW I previously had the props, prop guard (something easily broken during even minor collisions) all fit. They have changed how the props are mounted, there is now a screw involved instead of just a friction fit. The battery on the other hand uses a new connector so the old ones don’t physically fit. There are converters between the two but they are almost the same price as the battery. The remote from the old copter did not recenter when let go on the left control, so this too is not usable on the new copter.

There are two new tricks up the sleeve of the X5HW. The copter has two power modes. These amount to changes to the amount of pitch you can get out of the copter, which yields differing amount of fine control you have on the copter. In low mode it is intended for low to no wind, or indoor. In this mode you have a much finer control over the copter. But get caught in low mode in the wind and you will find yourself out of control. In high mode you can visibly see a lot more pitch to the copter. I flew the copter in winds of 24-36km/h and it was still able to be handled. This seems to me to be a lot more agressive/powerful than the older copter and makes it much more of a rounded flyer for indoor/outdoor use. The mode (H/L) is displayed on the LCD display on the controls

The second big change is altitude hold … Now this is a HUGE improvement. What it has is some kind of a sensor, I can only guess some kind of barometric altimeter. The control for altitude (left handle) can be let go (in which case it comes to the center) which tells the copter to hold current altitude. This means for the most part you can fly this with one hand. This works shockingly well and makes this a LOT easier to fly. No this isn’t perfect to say the least there are times the copter can be seen literally bobbing up and down even indoors. And tip the controls on hi mode to max and you will see the copter go up or down and you have to compensate. But even with this, I would call this a must have feature going forward for me.

One of the things missing is an emergency off. You can push and hold the left control all the way down for three seconds and this constitutes an emergency off but three seconds in a panic situation is an eternity. Your better to simply turn the remote off and the copter will shut right down. There’s also no one button to take of and no one button to land. Although as the battery is getting low the copter does start to bring itself lower and lower in altitude, ignoring your commands until it finally shuts off.

Charge time is around 2 hours for a flight time of 7 mins or so. Additional batteries can be had on Amazon or ebay, but be careful to get the right one or they are useless.

Syma include a clip that can hold your phone in landscape mode while you handle the remote. This particular copter sends back over wifi the video to your phone. They call this a first person view and they envision you can fly the copter as if you were in it by watching the screen rather than watching the copter. This is the reason the camera is so low quality to reduce the bitrate. The pics/video you take are all stored on your phone. Interestingly enough the ad on Amazon calls this an HD camera. Ya right .3mp is HD on what planet? There is another version of the copter the X5HC which includes a higher res camera and the pics/video are stored on an SD card on the camera. In retrospect I believe this would have been a better choice for a mere $15 more.

Within it’s limitations this copter is a bundle of fun for the price. Super easy to fly. The biggest let down would be the camera. You might want to opt for the higher res X5HC.

Here’s a great video review by Quadcopters 101 on Youtube!

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October 15, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

XDV 4K action camera

Ok, every now and then I give in, and without research, just impulse buy something. It more often than not turns out to be a bad decision but sometimes you just have to say WTF, why not. And thus we have this gadget. It came across Factory Direct’s mailer as a special for a mere $70 plus taxes. Well first off, I have to say Factory Direct’s return policy for defective product is less than convenient. I had to take it back to a store? So what’s the purpose of buying it online? They ain’t no Amazon. And now you wonder why I had to look into the return policy … well the WIFI on the first one I got was dead. So back to the store I went. Took another one, sure enough … another one with dead WIFI. By the time I got to the third camera I finally got one that the WIFI worked on. So I guess this is an omen for what I can expect for quality on this device. Anyway, while it’s working let’s get on with the review …

The camera is a plastic, styless brick. Not uncommon with these action cameras. It came with a plethora of mounting clips, and brackets. Everything from a waterproof enclosure, to a clothing clip, zip ties, sticky tape, and even velcro straps. I really was quite impressed with the amount of stuff in the box. What didn’t come is something that you could use to mount it in a car. More about the car in a bit.

The camera itself has a typical fish eye lense with no optical zoom.

(Photo shamelessly pilfered from Pevly who also has a great review of this gadget).

What this camera does not come with is much of a manual, or much any software for that matter. There’s no photo editing software for your PC. Nada. Your left to sort it out on your own. There is a phone app you can use to control the camera remotely and setup settings. The app relies on WIFI to create the connection. It sets up a hotspot on it’s own (press and hold the volume up key or press a bunch of menu buttons), you connect your phone to the WIFI, and then start the app.

The camera has a screen that covers pretty much most of the back of the camera and is likely a scratch magnet. The front of the camera’s fish eye lens is also waiting to be scratched. My overall impression is that this is not going to be a durable device. Control of the device is by 4 buttons, power, ok, up and down. The menuing system is simple enough and fairly straight forward. The camera can take a uSD card and is charged by a standard micro USB port. Shockingly an AC adapter was included. You need to make sure your uSD card is fast enough to support writing at speed. The camera is pretty much useless without a uSD card. No internal storage even for pictures. You can use this for still photos, but I can’t imagine why you would. Any point and shoot, not to mention phone, would take as good or better pictures. And no flash to boot …

The battery for the device is behind a super cheap door but it can be removed if you can figure out how to get it out. It’s a 900 maH battery, no idea if you could find spares.

I got about 1 hr 15 mins of battery life. You could add an external battery back to it and get longer running time (without the waterpoof case of course). In colder weather (10C) battery time dropped down to just under an hour (52 mins).

There are lights on the front of the display for power, charging and one on the top of the camera for when WIFI is on. On power on and off the camera gives a goofy noise and shows a goofy hi and bye message. The camera does not have any light to show it’s recording, and in bright sunlight the screen isn’t the easiest thing to see. And in the waterproof case you can’t hear much either, so it’s a little hard to know if you have started it recording or not. And it’s super easy to hit the stop button (a simple press stops it) so all in all it would be very easy to miss recording something you really wanted to record.

Nauseating detail alert 🙂
According to the factory direct listing the camera uses a Sony 179 sensor. The sensor according to specs is a 8Mp, or 3280×2464. So 16Mp which is what is advertised is at best an embellishment. 4K video is 3840×2160 so this too is not as advertised. 2.7K is 2704×1520, 1080p is 1920×1080 and 720p is 1280×720 so they are possible with this sensor. With a pixel rate off the sensor of 260MHZ this means at the max resolution it can just barely meet 30 frames per second. The camera says 4K is recorded at 30 fps but based on the specs this would absolutely be at the edge of the sensors specs. For high action shots(this is supposed to be an action camera after all) you want higher frame rates, 30 is barely passable. Choosing 1080p 60 fps, or 720 90/120 seems a lot more realistic, but 2.7K 30fps might also be ok.

When plugged into a PC the camera gives you three choices, charge, USB to read off the uSD card or PC camera. I tried repeatedly and couldn’t get the PC camera mode to work. It just dropped back out. USB works fine. If this device is firmware upgradeable I don’t see how.

Size wise it is: Camera Dimensions: 29.8 x 59.2 x 41 mm, and weighs 58g with battery.

There is a car mode in the menus. In this mode using it like a dash cam when the power comes on the camera comes on and immediately starts recording. But I didn’t find it stopped or shut off when the power shut off. Of course this relies on the fact that your car’s lighter plug goes on and off when the car does (which neither of mine does). So all in all this seems half implemented and thus not usable.

So let’s have a look at 1080p 60 fps. I think that is going to the place I want to focus on. Acceptable resolution, good frame rate. I did a 15 min video, and it ended up 3.29GB. This translates to 3.7 MB/s. On a 64G card this would allow you to store up to 290 mins or about 4.5 hours of video (once formatting losses in FAT are taken into account). The video taken seems good enough for what I want.

So now let’s look at the results. First off is using the clothing clip with it on my belt. With no image stabilization the video is clear but there’s so much jiggle watching it could almost make you sea sick. Higher end cameras include some image stabilization. Sample (hosted on a super slow link be patient).

Next up lets have a look at using it as a dash cam. In low light the results are practically useless. And this is on a city lit street with headlights on. Making almost anything of any consequence out is going to be challenging.
Sample (hosted on a super slow link be patient).

In brighter daylight but with the sun in your face the results are better except when you go into and out of brightness it struggles pretty much as expected.
Sample (hosted on a super slow link be patient).

Mounted on the deck of my kayak was super easy and it worked very well in this mode. In gentle waters the camera captures crisp clear videos. Works well in this mode, which is actually what I bought it for!
Sample (hosted on a super slow link be patient).

On the handle bars of a full suspension mountain bike the results are not too bad. Again the lack of image stabilization is a limitation. Detail and motion even at 60FPS are good.
Sample (hosted on a super slow link be patient).

If your looking for a free simple video editor
NCH Video pad
works well.

The camera splits files just under the max 4G limit of FAT64. For 1080p, 60fps this ended up being 15 min chunks.

Now one of the reasons I bought this camera was price. Of course it’s worth pointing out that it was an impulse (non researched buy). I notice now that GoPro Hero+ camera which are at least on par with this one are available refurb on Amazon for around $159. In retrospect, I think I’d belly up the extra cash for the GoPro. But in all this camera is better than I expected and for $70 why not …

October 4, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nice2 Bone conducting headset (mini review)

These are somewhat of a knock off of more expensive bone conducting headsets like the Trek Aftershokz at about 1/3 the price. The idea of these is to be able to hear music and your surroundings at the same time. Think for example riding your bike in the city. Interestingly they come with a set of ear plugs you can use to block out ambient sound when you want to. These sit just in front of the ear and conduct the sound through the bone rather than the ear drums.

In the back of the unit is where the electronics are. There’s a standard micro USB charge port with a rubber cover to make them more waterproof. Technically it might be possible to swim with them, but I can’t imagine it. There’s a slide switch that will turn the unit off when not in use. An LED to show the connection status, and volume buttons. The location on the volume buttons makes them virtually useless. There are buttons on the side of the headset for accepting calls, push and hold for SIRI (on an iphone) and play/pause. The buttons are not the easiest thing to press and end up pushing in on the head uncomfortably. The design of the over ear hooks means you can wear these with glasses, but as with all of these over ear hooks I find them uncomfortable in short order. Positioning on the cheeks seems to fit quite naturally but move your jaw much and you get a really bizarre almost echo. Sound quality is not great, these will not get confused with a high end headset. They do all in all hold in place with walking. Getting these to coexist with bike helmets, glasses etc will definitely be a challenge.

There’s a band around the back of your head that when adjusted correctly it keeps the headset in the right place, but unfortunately as you move your head up and down, the positioning on the head moves and I found the ear getting pinched.

These headsets can be paired with multiple phones at once, always a nice touch. They are compatible with the iPhone battery status app so you can see how charged your headsets are at any time. According to their web site the headsets should get 5.5 hours of streamed music, so pretty on par with most bluetooth headsets.

In the end there is not a chance I could wear these for any period of time.

September 28, 2017 Posted by | Other reviews, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

8 Cups digital water bottle

My sister got given this at a conference and wasn’t sure what to do with it so she gave it to me to play. So what the heck is this thing? A digital water bottle that tracks the amount of water you are consuming during a day and reminds you to take a drink. Now give me one of these that measures beer or wine and now we are talking 🙂 It sells for $129 (no idea what currency that is) from the company’s web site. The box is pretty simple and the included manual is minimalistic. Your going to have to figure stuff out on your own. It comes with a wireless charging pad which is a nice touch (I tried it on a standard Qi wireless charging pad but it just flashed at me), as well as a USB to microUSB cable, no AC adapter is included. The company says it can charge in 3-4 hours and lasts 4 days. The water bottle has no buttons on it whatsoever, and just one light.

And so on we go … the minimalistic approach continues into the iPhone app. It asks you a bunch of personal questions, age, sex, weight, height and then later asks for access to the iPhones healthkit information (which it could have got that data from there). The app starts up and you make your account. There is no web portal to see your data. Each time you take a drink it blinks to say heh thanks for having a drink and eventually syncs to your phone. The bluetooth connection to my iPhone 6 was flakey and I had to repeatedly close and reopen the app to keep it connected. The bottle has no buttons so it can not be turned off. There is a washing mode that you can put it in, in which case it stops counting.

The biggest miss on the app, amongst others, is the inability to add/remove or edit the amount you’ve drunk. I mountain bike and carry a camel back when I ride. There’s no way to enter that amount of water. Nor is there a way for it to adjust to the fact that because of exercise in the heat that I should drink more. I forgot to turn the bottle into wash mode, rinsed the bottle and next thing I know the data for the day is skewed. I’m at work during the day, home at night, am I going to carry this bottle with me at all times? Have two maybe? All this makes the data out of the app useless.

The bottle itself is super small in how much water fits in it, 11 ounces, or 1.4 cups. The design of the bottle, tall and skinny, means it is easily tipped. And I did just that on day one. And of course the app counts that spilled water as drank.

Looking inside the bottle they made the inside clear, so you can see the electronics. Not a comforting thought when your looking into something your going to drink out of.

It does blink when you should take a drink, but if you aren’t facing the LED, you can easily miss it. There’s no buzz.

The app does not even include a find my bottle button.

I’d love to say this is the best idea ever … I’d love to say they have done an incredible job. Sadly what you have is a silly idea, half baked implementation, and so many flaws in whatever might have been the thought process as to be laughable.

If you ever think of buying one of these, give the money to charity, you’ll feel better for it and it will have a much greater impact on your day/life than this bottle could EVER make.

August 21, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Blackberry Passport mini review

I know … your thinking … what? Ya I know … I got a chance to play with a Blackberry Passport from a friend (thanks Lance). So I was bored so I decided to play. First and foremost the lay of the land at this point is that any BB10 based devices which this is, are for all purposes DEAD. They will continue to work but to expect any form of evolution path for these is delusional. Blackberry as a company has moved onto Android based phones manufactured by a Chinese company. With that out of the way …

Ok so let’s start with the number one reason people choose BB … the keyboard. This particular one is unique in many ways. First off the keys are rectangular rather than square. So the spacing is odd. So you need to retrain your brain to use it. And the feel is nothing like say the old bold. The overall results is an eccentric feeling keyboard. Couple this with a line of soft keys above the keyboard and you have a weird experience that is going to take time to get use to.

The screen on this device is definitely the highlight. It’s big and largely square making it perfect for reading email etc. The ppi is very good at 453 which actually better than the iPhone 6. The screen is bright, crisp, vivid and big.

The other benefit to how big this phone is, is that the battery is equally big at 3450 mAH, compared with an iPhone 6 (for example at 1810). The net result is you have a multi day phone. As important as battery life is, charge time is equally important. The included charger is only 1A charger. With a 2A charger I was able to get it to draw 1.4A and that projected out to a full charge in 2.4 hours. Not great but not horrible either, but that would be really slow on the 1A charger. I found the passport to be a little more picky than others when it came to cables/chargers.

Weight and thickness of the phone are good and overall the device feels good in the hands.

The number one weakness of all BB10 devices is apps. BB brilliantly added Android compatibility a while back but stopped short of solving the problem. BB did NOT provide access to the Android Playstore and expected Android app makers to port their apps into the BB App store. This enmass did not happen. You can add the Google Playstore to BB10 pretty easily but then you run into the next major hurdle, there is no way to get Google Play services on BB10. So without this a LOT of Android apps just don’t work, are buggy, freeze, lack functionality and the like. The net result is a suite of apps that’s like a piece of Swiss cheese with all kinds of missing apps. The chances you could ever exist on this device ONLY as a power user are Nil. Some Android apps do work, but don’t get your hopes up.

Functionality of Google/Microsoft/Exchange etc are of course excellent. This includes, mail/contacts and calendar. This is one place this device shines, and frankly if it didn’t I’d wonder about BB as a company. If there is anything missing it is the Google priority inbox. The BB Priority hub is really not well done and is missing OBVIOUS things like, if they aren’t in my contact this, they aren’t a priority. The lack of this means you get bothered constantly with junk mail. And notifications can’t be set for things only in the Priority hub so all in all it was poorly implemented.

LTE radio is excellent as is the hotspot on this device, battery life on the hotspot is also quite good. Unlike an iPhone that after a period of inactivity turns off the WIFI part of the hotspot the Passport soldiers on making it much more of a set it and forget it hotspot.

All in all I like the passport. It’s a great upgrade from Q10 who’s miniscule screen is laughable for anything other than super short emails. Should you run out and grab one? Ahhh nope. But if you were given one it is an excellent device.

August 18, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nikon AW120 waterproof camera review

I love taking pictures. I’m not a HUGE camera buff, but love having the pics to share with friends and have a memento. Having recently added Kayaking into the mix and my new Kayaking blog I’ve been fussing with what I wanted to do to take pictures while kayaking. So many beautiful images waiting to be captured! At first I started using my iPhone in a waterpoof bag. This was clumsy and overall the pics while adequate weren’t great. I dug out an older Canon SD450 I had stopped using and figured if it ended up in the drink so be it. This improved the picture quality over the iPhone but this camera’s days are long past. I’d love to take my Canon rebel XS DSLR but the idea of it ending up in the drink would make me want to cry. If I can come up with a way to carry it around, and get it in and out easily while in the kayak I’ll eventually do that, but for now … For comparison, my main point and shoot is Canon ELPH 330 HS. By the way, the AW120 is by no means a current camera, it’s at least 4 years old, I bought it used off Kiji. There is a newer AW 130 but there’s shockingly little new in the 130.

Let’s start with some simple comparisons:

SD450/330HS/AW120
5 / 12 / 16 mp
4 / 10 / 5 x zoom
4.94 / 4.41 / 7.5 oz (weight)

This camera could replace the SD450, on paper at least, but the 330HS is still a better camera IMHO.

Physically the camera is a bit on the chubby side, compare to my Canons. To make this camera waterproof all of the moving parts of the lens are hidden inside the camera, it’s one of the reasons why the zoom is so low. There is digital zoom you can use, but this has always seemed silly to me, just crop it afterwards. Fortunately it can be turned off. The lens is nicely recessed to protect it, but there is no lens cover or auto closing shutter on the front. The positive side of this is that the camera jumps to life almost instantaneously whereas the Canons all have a slight delay while the lens opens up. This may seem trivial but as a bird unexpectedly jumps into flight that delay can result in missing the picture.

Like most of these waterproof cameras all of the ports (micro USB, micro HDMI, SD slot and battery) are all hidden behind a rubber sealed door. The camera attempts to detect when this isn’t sealed properly and alerts you to reseal it.

The battery for this camera is a EN-EL12 and it can be replaced, or you can carry a spare. They are readily available on Amazon. The battery is charged using a standard micro USB cable. There is no external battery charger although you can buy it as an option if you wish. According to Nikon it charges in about 2 hours. This same micro USB cable is also used to transfer the images off the camera without removing the SD card. Once plugged in (on Windows) the camera shows as usual as a media device and you can simply and easily copy off the pics. The camera can not be powered on while charging, so you will need to wait until charging is done to play …

This camera is packed with sensors/features … let’s jump into them briefly.

Barometric altimeter displays on the screen your current elevation/depth. A neat add, but the data is NOT stored in the meta data. Electronic compass is displayed on the screen and the data is stored in the log files of your pictures, but not in the picture itself. More about the logging in a bit … There’s even a GPS in the device to add Geotagging automatically to your pics meta data. I love this, and would be an incentive to upgrade my current camera. It gets suprisingly quick locks. I’m sure it has impact on the battery life, and you can turn it off if you wish, but I love this feature. GPS can also be used to set the clock automatically which would also take care of time zone changes …

Update: To create quick position locks for geotagging, the GPS is always on. Past cameras I am told were notorious for ending up with constantly dead batteries. On this one I brought the phone in the house in between uses and got 3 weeks before the battery was showing half dead. When in the car however when there was constant motion the camera was dead in a week. So if you think your going to be not using the camera for a while and don’t want to come back to a dead camera when you need it, turn off GPS or always have a spare battery!

The camera has WIFI, well sort of. The ONLY thing you can do with the WIFI is use it to connect to a smart phone. Connecting is SUPER clumsy and poorly implemented. Nikon could learn a thing or two from EYE-FI. To use it you have to first set it up on the camera/phone. Once setup you need to initiate from the camera the connection to the smart phone, then go to the smart phone (I’m on an iPhone, no idea if Android is any better), start up the Nikon app, then manually transfer the files you want. If there is a way to make this happen automatically to keep your camera backed up to your phone, I sure don’t see it. You can also use the WIFI connection to remotely take pics, a nice touch. Lastly you can see the exact battery level of the camera on the phone.

There’s internal storage on the camera (320MB) but it’s really not meant for using. When there is no card present WIFI is disabled, a bizarre combination. Images stored on the internal storage are copied over by the camera itself when you insert an SD card. But other than that the only way to get images off the camera would be the USB cable.

Most of the back of the camera is dominated by a large screen. It’s a HUGE scratch magnet. If you buy one of these cameras your going to want a screen protector, a case or both. The buttons to control the settings are all fairly small. Almost impossible with any form of glove and challenging if you have large fingers. Fortunately the zoom control is on it’s own and relatively easy to control.

Turning the camera on shows you the battery status (in a small indicator) as well as the number of shots left. Pretty standard stuff. There are a MYRIAD of icons all showing the status of the camera and it’s sensors. I mean a LOT!

There are mount points for lanyards on both sides of the camera, allowing this point and shoot to be carried using a shoulder mount. There’s also an optional floating strap that will provide enough buoyancy to make sure the camera doesn’t sink if dropped into the water. If yours didn’t come with one you can find them on Amazon. There’s also a tripod mount on the bottom of the camera, a must in my mind!

The camera shoots pretty quickly onto internal storage, and then seems to write it back to the SD card. If you try and view the image before it’s done you will be told to wait 🙂

The camera has an interesting log mode, that uses the internal GPS and takes and stores bread crumbs of where you were that day. This can be viewed on a map. It also logs anywhere you took photos. An interesting feature that would take some sorting out to figure out what to do with it.

Scene shooting modes are super limited at just Easy Auto mode, Scene mode, Special effects, smart portrait and auto mode. Flash can easily be turned on, off or auto, something Canon buries behind a number of menus for some BIZARRE reason. Self timer is easily accessible from a dedicated button. Very well done.

Overall this is a good camera, but honestly if I paid full price for it, around $350 I would likely return it. At the price I paid it just now depends on if the resulting image quality is good enough … The edges of the picture once zoomed in are definitely soft as you can see below.

Complete list of specs.

Here are some sample images, my use case is 100% outdoors …

There is no macro mode on this camera so super close ups are not as good as other cameras.

August 3, 2017 Posted by | Other reviews, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Advancedframe® Expedition AE1009 inflatable Kayak (mini review)

I recently purchased/reviewed an Advanced Elements AE1012 inflatable kayak, and I love it. It has opened up a whole new sport to make it accessible without the issues of storage and handling of a regular kayak. A friend, Susan, bought the Expedition and let me give it a whirl and thus you have this post. This post will cover off what’s different between them. From a specs point of view:

As you can see the major difference is in the length, with the expedition being 2.5 ft longer. This added length is quite visibly noticeable. It also means it takes a little longer to inflate as the chamber is larger. This added length allows more leg room, something some may need over the AE1012. The longer front deck also means this boat does a little better in waves. I’ve found, on occasion a wave will break over the deck of the 1012, but even in 2 foot swells the Expedition did better. There’s also a adjustable foot rest, along with positioning of the back of the seat that you can use to position yourself where you want to be in the cockpit of the kayak. It’s a little finicky to get set just right, but once you’ve got it set right your good to go assuming you don’t have more than one person using the boat.

There’ also some additional storage space behind the seat to store stuff. To call this an expedition ready kayak is a bit of a stretch IMHO.

This boat was made in 2008, it looks like later models added some dry storage in the back of the boat that would be helpful.

Once inflated the boat handles a little differently than the 1012 due to the added length. I would say it takes a little more effort to paddle, but to be honest that is a perception, it is not quantifiable. The expedition seemed to be a little more rigid front to back the AE1012 and thus flexed less in the waves. It was noticeable.

The boat we got also seemed to have the optional lumbar supported seat.

There is an optional rib you can buy they call a backbone that will increase the boats rigidity as well as make it track better.

There’s also an optional hard floor you can buy that they call the dropstitch floor also designed to increase rigidty.

Here’s a great video showing these two optional components.

All in all the Expedition is a nice boat, slightly larger than the 1012. It’s not a night and day difference.

Here’s a comparison of all of their models.

July 24, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Advanced elements AE1012 Inflatable kayak

Ok I know this is a little off my normal topic, but thought I’d share anyway. I have loved kayaking every time I have tried it. The major stumbling block to buying one has been putting a roof rack on my car. Those of you that know (and some of you who love me :)) know I am a bit obsessive about my car. And the thought of on my own lifting a clumsy, 40 lb+ kayak over my head onto the roof rack just sounded like a pulled back waiting to happen. So I haven’t bought one … And then a friend (thanks Val) last fall introduced me to products from this company. And to make matters even better another friend (thanks John) offered to lend me one to try! Can you believe my luck!

Advanced elements web site

So what I am looking for is a kayak to take on short trips in rivers near me. 1-2 hour trips near home in gentle flowing rivers. The kayack is about the size of a hockey bag folded up and weighs 36 lbs. The newer hockey backs come on wheels, this could use that idea 🙂 The bag even includes a pouch for the manual. A nice touch would have been to include a laminated picture, sadly they didn’t.

Setting up this kayak is as simple as it appears in the videos on Youtube. I won’t bother making one there are tons out there already. Here’s one for a slightly different model. The first time I tried to set this up after watching the videos it took me 15 minutes, and deflation even less. It really is as simple and easy as it seems. A standard high capacity pump just like you’d use for an air mattress is all you need. Absolutely no need for a power pump, don’t waste your time, money and hearing (the damn things are loud). There is one trick, these pumps have an inflation and a deflation port allowing you to suck the air out of the kayak to make disassembly even faster. The vales on the boat include a switch between inflation and deflation making it easier to pump it up and then remove the pump loosing little to know air. Finding each of the tubes to inflate can be a bit challenging and they could have done a better job in the manual to show them. The caps for the inflation ports are tethered to the boat so you don’t loose them, but unfortunately they are pretty easy to snap off (I did on first use). Now your challenged to not loose the cap 😦

The bottom of the boat is covered in a rubber coating over the firm front and back of the boat. But this can easily be damaged dragging the boat so be careful. They could have made this more robust … I would consider this the Achilles heal of the boat. In the front they added a drag protector but not at the back. And in the front where the boat beaches is also quite susceptible to damage.

Once in the water the boat because of it’s width is surprisingly stable. More so than other Kayaks I’ve been in. Getting in is made easier if you undo the front zipper.

There’s an adjustable seat back that makes the boat a whole lot more comfortable. I’m not all that tall at 5’9, with a distance of 40 inches from my toes to my waste and my feet are at the end of the boat with the seat mostly to the back. So if your super tall this boat might not fit. There is a bit of storage on the back of the seat, but not all that convenient to get at.

The boat has a little keel and hard parts in the boat that make it track as well as, and as fast as a normal kayak. I have to say I was thoroughly impressed. Even in a fairly windy day (24km/h) it stayed on track and was easy to handle. I don’t have all the right words and phrases, I’m a beginner when it comes to kayaks, but this had what I wanted from a performance point of view.

If there is one thing missing it would be a water proof storage compartment for your gadgets and a bottle holder. You can buy your own and strap them into the front of the boat but this seems like a simple thing they could have added

Folding it up and getting it back in the bag was simple and easy, easier than I thought. The hard parts of the kayak make it obvious where to fold it up. The bottom inside of the kayak has a rubber coating making it easy to dry off the boat. I wish they had used the same coating on the deck of the boat. When your paddling the water from the paddle gets the deck quite wet.

This boat does not have a lot of end to end rigidity so would not be the best in rough waters. You can get an optional hard floor for it that would improve this somewhat. The boat does very well in very shallow waters too.

The boat all in all is amazing, there are always things that could have been improved, but that said this is an impressively designed and executed product. Something you don’t often hear from me 🙂

Owners manual

As an interesting side note, the Garmin Fenix 3 that I love has a rowing mode. In this mode you get lots of stats about your rowing, as well as a nice map of your trek. Here’s a sample of the data you get from it.

And another interesting side note, I did three different types of exercises and compared the calorie counts. The results are interesting.

If your looking to pick one of these up Atmosphere, The Paddle Store as well as Steveston Marine (in BC)here in Canada carry them.

If your looking at used I got this from their forums: Each kayak has a number on it that identifies it. This is called the Hull ID Number. The Hull Id # is located on the kayak and begins with XZE. The last two digits are the ones that will tell us what year it was made in. It will look something like this….XZE0186AA202. The “02” tells us that the kayak was made in 2002. It should be this way with all of the kayaks unless you bought a sample model or any other non-production model.

By the way, I’ve found customer support from Advanced Elements to be excellent, prompt and efficient. While they don’t on their web site support clients from countries other than the US, I contacted them and they shipped to Canada parts for reasonable fees.

I also found out from them that if you need more glue to repair holes (the boat came with a repair kit, but very little glue) you can use M Essentials Aquaseal Urethane Repair Adhesive, readily available on Amazon.

If you need to restore the waterproofing on the deck I found this product Woods Instant Waterproof Spray which I was able to get at Canadian Tire worked well.

What do I need to get into kayaking?
To start off lets make a statement of the obvious, your going to get wet. And while tipping a kayak isn’t an easy thing to do, it’s by no means impossible. Get it sideways in a wave and you could be tipping. An unfortunately placed sharp rock or brank and it could be torn (although unlikely). So you need to wear clothes that are ok in the wet, and you can swim in them if you had to. Since there is no dry storage in the boat you may want to buy a dry bag or dry box to put stuff like cell phones or cameras in. I bought a waterproof bag for my phone. It comes with a tether and a place for a key. It works well.

Safety wise you need a life jacket, and you should get a whistle to call for help if you needed it. You will need a paddle. This boat is a little wider than some and a little higher so you need a longer one. I bought a 213 cm long one and it was too short. I moved up to a 230 and it is much better, I think 240 would be even better. The one I ended up with is a Protex Logan. Cheap at Sail. One of the previous paddles I tried came with a nice soft grip on the handle and I really liked it.

For your feet since you will need to get wet a pair of water sandals I found work best and are the most comfortable. Undoing the front zipper makes getting in and out of the boat easier. And taking the sandals off once in the boat is just more comfortable. You will need a high volume pump if your boat did not come with one. Be sure and get one that is double action so you can deflate the boat more quickly. There are foot pumps, but the they move less air.

And if your a gadget guy like me a Fenix 3 can help you track your route, get stats on the trip and be used to navigate. It can also be used for live tracking.

June 12, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Jumbl Bluetooth headset/receiver

I know, I know, not another bluetooth receiver … As you maye have guessed I am having trouble finding one to do exactly what I want. I find it odd, because with the move of iPhone 7 to removing the 3.5mm jack I would have thought these would be become even more popular. What do I know … So I now try this one … Nice and small with nice BIG (sort of) buttons. And this time they made sure volume controls are two of them. Is that not blatantly obvious? Moving on … The device has a standard 3.5 mm audio plug and is compatible with both 3 pin stereo and 4 pin stereo and mic headphones. It charges with a standard micro USB charger. This unit seems to be sold under a number of names (judging from physical appearance). This includes a Noisehush and Griffin iTrip, from a preliminary look, there may be others.

The unit clips to clothes with what appears to be a fairly robust clip that just might not break as easily as others in the past.

Spec wise they quote: “On a single charge, the built-in 120mAh rechargeable li-polymer battery keeps you going for 8 hours of music playback, 10 hours of hands-free call time, and up to 150 hours of standby.” The unit from dead took just under two hours to charge and you can use it while it’s being charged. It claims to be the newer bluetooth 4 spec, but there is no mention of APTX support. The iPhone doesn’t support APTX so not an issue for me.

It is compatible with the iPhone bluetooth battery headset widget. In case your new to this it’s a widget called battery that you can see by swiping to the left from the home screen. If the bluetooth headset is attached you will see the battery status of the headset in what appears to be 20% increments (for this headset anyway). There is no alert of an almost dead headset and I didn’t find any apps that you can use to do this. I found the count went from 100% to 80, then 60 and then dead with only a brief warning. I got approx 7 hours streaming battery life so the 8 seems possible. But the misleading 60% to dead is disappointing. Not sure how common this is. The widget also does not show the state of charge of the headset.

Pairing the device was easy, push and hold the center button until the two lights flash and away you go. Turning it on requires you to push and hold the center button but just long enough to turn it on without putting it in pairing mode. I found this hit or miss. The easiest way is to carefully listen to the beep or watch for the blue LED to come on, takes about 2 seconds. Once powered on you need to wait a bit of time, what seemed longer than most other bluetooth headsets before you could use it for streaming music. And sometimes in spite of being connected as a phone headset the music would not stream to it and I had to turn it off and back on and try again. I found this buggy at best. Once connected it works well and sound quality is good, with no drop outs.

When a call comes in you simply press the center button to accept and end the call and then your back to your music. It works smoothly.

There does not seem to be a way to call up SIRI … pooh.

When pressing the buttons on the outside (volume or fwd/rwd) it’s pretty easy, especially with gloves, to hit the play pause instead.

All in all this is a good device, not perfect, but it does work, has good battery life and sound quality is good.

June 2, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mengk bluetooth headset Eurobird HM2000

I was looking for an inexpensive bluetooth headset to replace my iKross BT19 which is no longer available. I saw this one and decided to try it.

Size and weight are good, buttons are very minimalistic, so much so as to make this device super clumsy to use. There is a fwd/rwd button that if you push and hold act as the volume up and down. Seems to me one would use volume more so why it isn’t the one that does not require holding is beyond me. The button on the front turns the unit on, and changes between streaming bluetooth and FM and powering off. Getting the front button right is all about pushing and holding just the right amount of time. Too long and you just powered it off. It’s irritating

The 3.5mm audio plug is NOT compatible with 4 pin stereo/mic headsets, only stereo ones. Sound quality is really not great even in blutooth streaming.

FM radio is reasonable well done and includes simple to use audio prompts in english.

The device can not be used while charging so it is useless as a permanent bridge.

In the end I returned this device due to poor audio quality, the lack of support for a 4 pin audio plug and maddening usability.

May 27, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment