Saturday, September 2, 2023

Power Bank Bargain

Generic AUKEY phone power bank
Generic is really AUKEY

Update: Sold out on Amazon. Check eBay.

power bank is a big battery that can be used to power and recharge electronic devices when AC power is not available. Keep one charged to power phones in emergencies, when on an airplane without seat power, when camping or sailing, etc.

Unfortunately, they only last 3-5 years before losing so much capacity that they need to be recycled and replaced. Worse, it's hard to find a high-quality power back with good capacity, longevity and features at a good price.

At the moment, the best power bank for phones (not tablets or laptops) is the
AUKEY PB-N93A USB C Power Bank 20000mAh, PD Ultra Slim Power Bank with 18W PD. It has enough power for 3+ recharges of a typical smartphone and a wealth of good features. But the $60 price is too high for such a simple device that costs little to make.

There's a generic power bank on Amazon for only $16 that looks identicalPB-N93A USB C Power Bank 20000mAh, PD Ultra Slim Power Bank with 18W PD | Amazon.

The best part is that it's not just identical to the AUKEY, it is the AUKEY. 

If you need a phone power bank or a thoughtful gift for someone, $16 is an incredible price!

p.s. It can charge or power a device while itself recharging, so it can be used as a mini-UPS.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Rapid COVID Test 2022

Roche Pilot
Roche Pilot home COVID test

Previous post: Rapid COVID Test

Roche Pilot at home COVID test at CVS

  • Previously available in Europe and U.S. government distribution.
  • Clinical study results [excellent]: 
    • False-negative rate of 6.8%.
    • False-positive rate of 0%.
  • CVS to stock it.
  • New #1 recommendation, dropping ACON FlowFlex to (close) #2.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Lumix DMC-FZ2500 Video

Lumix DNC-FZ2500
Lumix DMC-FZ2500
The Lumix DMC-FZ2500 is great for sports action video!

Panasonic makes two great large (1") sensor Lumix bridge cameras with excellent Leica-branded superzoom lenses:

  • DMC-FZ1000: great stills camera that also does very good video.
  • DMC-FZ2500: great video camera that also does very good stills.
While the FZ2500 has a rich and powerful video feature set, its still image heritage makes the optimum video setup a bit tricky. For example, the viewfinder display in "S" Creative Video Mode shows the shutter speed but not the aperture. (Go figure.)

Action Sports Recommendations

  • MP4 LPCM FHD 50M 60p
    • Recording Format. Choose either MP4 LPCM or MOV (which are essentially identical) based on your own workflow. If in doubt, choose MP4 LPCM.
    • Frame Rate. For action video, 60 fps (frames per second) gives smoother results than lower frame rates. That limits resolution to 1080p Full HD (FHD, not 4K), but that's usually sufficient for most purposes.
    • Bitrate. 100M (Mbps) gives highest quality, but 50M is probably fine if you won't be doing heavy post-processing. 200M ALL-I is not recommended because quality is actually lower than 100M. 
  • Mode. For smooth video, use a shutter speed twice the frame rate, so with 60 fps, use a shutter speed of 1/125 sec in Shutter Priority (S) mode.
  • Aperture. Unfortunately, the FZ2500 lens suffers increasingly from diffraction softness at apertures smaller than f/5.6, so aperture should be no smaller than f/8.
  • ND. Thankfully, the FZ2500 has built-in ND (neutral density) filters that can be used to keep the aperture large enough for sharp images. In general, 1/4 works well in outdoor sunlight with 1/125 sec shutter speed. Unfortunately, the viewfinder does not display the aperture in "S" Creative Video Mode, so either shoot video in Shutter Priority (S) mode, or switch temporarily to S mode to check the aperture set by the camera.
  • Sample video with these settings: SailGP Practice, San Francisco Bay, 25 Mar 2022 - YouTube
  • Stills. Shutter speed of 1/125 sec is often too slow for action sports. For different settings:
    • Use Shutter Priority (S) with ND on for video.
    • Use Aperture Priority (A) with ND off for stills, with lens wide open
    • Unfortunately, unlike FZ1000, FZ2500 has only one Mode dial setting for Custom mode, so switching between Custom modes is a clumsy menu operation.

SanDisk Extreme PRO


  1. Except as noted, default settings are recommended.
  2. Continuous Autofocus (AFC) works well in tracking moving subjects.
  3. i.Dynamic Auto can help on dynamic range.
  4. Diffraction Compensation is just extra sharpening and should not be used.
  5. AF/AE Lock can help when lighting is variable.


Happy shooting!

Friday, December 24, 2021

Rapid COVID Test

Flowflex at home COVID test
Flowflex COVID test

Rapid COVID tests help prevent transmission and community spread.

To do your own rapid COVID test at home, there are two tricky parts:
  1. Choosing a test that can detect the new omicron variant.
    We don't yet have enough data to be sure, but these seem the best bets based on what we know now (in priority order):
    1. Flowflex. Latest technology, only a single test required, just $10. Recommended.
    2. iHealth. Two tests required, $18 on Amazon.
    3. QuickVue. Two tests required, $24 for a kit.
    4. BinaxNOW. Similar to QuickVue,
  2. Finding them in stock.
    • Try: AmazonCVS,* Rite Aid, Target, Walgreens, Walmart.
    • * CVS:
      1. Open test product page on CVS website; e.g., Flowflex.
      2. Click Check nearby stores.
      3. Enter ZIP code and select Show stores where this item is available.
      4. Call store to be sure, ideally when it first opens.


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

KF94 Masks for COVID-19

LG Airwasher
LG Airwasher
Previous post: COVID-19 Masks

While (genuine) N95 (USA) and KN95 (China) masks are still recommended, another good option is KF94, the Korean equivalent to N95 and KN95. Important reasons:

  • Readily available
  • Designed for extended wear
  • Inexpensive

TL;DR: Top recommendation: LG Airwasher KF94 Disposable Face Mask
  1. High filtration
  2. Good fit and sealing (excellent nose wire, adjustable earloops)
  3. Easy breathing and talking
  4. Lightweight
  5. Comfortable
  6. 3D shape (will not collapse onto nose or mouth)
  7. Does not fog glasses
  8. Inexpensive (reusable, replace weekly)
  9. Authentic

Runner Up:

Friday, August 27, 2021

Mini UPS for Modem, ONT, VoIP, Router

TalentCell SL3400 Mini UPS
With VoIP telephone service, battery backup of the modem, ONT (Optical Network Terminator, like a modem for fiber), and VoIP adapter are important to maintain telephone (and Internet) service during a long power outage (e.g., during an earthquake or other disaster, which can knock out cell phone service).

Unfortunately, conventional 110VAC UPS units won't provide extended runtime. (They are typically good for only 2-4 hours even with a small load.) What will work is a "mini" UPS designed to directly power 12VDC equipment; e.g., modem, ONT, VoIP adapter, and/or wireless router.

If you have a wireless router for your Internet service, either rented or purchased, while it may be able to share a mini UPS with a modem or ONT, it's better to put it on its own UPS so as not to reduce modem or ONT runtime.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Manage Passwords

KeePass Password Safe

Use a Password Manager on PC, Android, and more.

Because remembering passwords can be a huge hassle, many people make the mistake of using a single password for multiple uses. That's a really bad idea because if one use is compromised, which happens all too often, that compromised password can then provide access to other uses, contributing to identity theft and serious harm; e.g., your compromised social networking password giving bad actors access to your online banking.

The best way to protect against this risk is to use different, strong passwords for different uses, so the compromise of any one use affects only that one use. That may sound like a huge hassle, but it doesn't need to be: a Password Manager can easily generate and manage lots of strong unique passwords. Then you only have to remember one strong master password that you don't use for anything else. Your other passwords are safely stored in a securely encrypted file. You can also increase security with multi-factor authentication.

If you use more than one connected device (e.g., computer, tablet, smartphone), you can have your passwords available on all of them by storing your securely encrypted password file in a "cloud" storage service like Google DriveMicrosoft OneDrive, or DropBox.

Password Managers can be either proprietary or open source. The problem with proprietary is that privacy and security cannot be verified—you are instead relying on hope and trust, and that's not a good idea, as evidenced by weaknesses and compromises known and unknown. By contrast, open source software can be verified easily by experts and corrected or modified as needed or desired. So look for FOSS (Free and Open Source Software).

Note: Be skeptical of reviews and ratings, especially on the Internet. 
Most are not written by real experts. Many are just paid promotions. 
This site receives no consideration for its recommendations.

Best Password Managers (FOSS)

  1. KeePass. Limited native functionality, but rich in plugins and ports.
  2. Password Safe. Simple and basic. Written by expert Bruce Schneier.

Honorable Mention

  • AuthPass. Compatible with KeePass. Has potential, but suffers from teething issues.
  • Bitwarden. Slick, feature rich, and open source, but freemium and dependent on Bitwarden servers.

Better than Third Party


Strongly recommended. Do it. Today.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Security Cameras

Dome Security Camera
To protect yourself from bad actors:

  1. Deter. Encourage them to hit someone else instead.
  2. Defend. Make it harder for them to do you harm.
Catching bad actors after the fact is unlikely, and only rarely of much comfort or real value.

Thus the primary benefit of security cameras is deterrence, and to maximize deterrent value, they should be obvious. Even a fake security camera has deterrent value.
You don’t have to run faster than the bear to get away.
You just have to run faster than the guy next to you.

Recommended Outdoor Security Cameras

These are professional grade cameras which have advanced Sony sensors with high resolution.

Recommended Memory Card

Note: This site receives no consideration for recommending these products.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Allergy Relief

Get Relief and Save Money with these Unbiased Recommendations 

There are so many allergy relief products on the market with extravagant and competing claims, often at high prices, that it's hard to figure out what really works and is still a good value. Part of the problem is that so many online recommendations are essentially just paid promotions. By comparison, no incentives, fees or commissions are earned from these recommendations.

Important Notes

  1. This is not medical advice. Check with your own doctor.
  2. Different products may work better for you. 
  3. Generics work just as well as branded but cost less.
  4. OTC: over the counter, available without prescription.
  5. Prices current as of May 2021.
  6. Buy online only from reputable major sellers because counterfeits are a huge problem.


All product names, logos, and brands are property of their respective owners.
All company, product and service names are used for identification purposes only.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Blood Pressure

Managing hypertension can help ensure a long healthy life.

Omron BP652N
Omron BP652N

Why It's Important

From the CDC: "High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, both of which are leading causes of death in the US. Nearly one-third of all American adults have high blood pressure and more than half of them don’t have it under control..."

When your blood pressure is high:

  • You are 4 times more likely to die from a stroke
  • You are 3 times more likely to die from heart disease

While your doctor should help you manage your blood pressure on every regular visit, it can actually be more effective to keep track of your blood pressure at home.

What To Know

  1. Most of the many devices on the market are not validated for accuracy.
  2. Validation standard is ±10mm hg, which is seriously unhelpful.
  3. Stick to established brands with a reputation for accuracy.
  4. For best results, take 3 consecutive readings at 1 minute intervals, and average them.
  5. Supermarket and drugstore machines are often not maintained for accuracy.
  6. Doctor's office readings are often too high (white coat hypertension) or too low (masked hypertension).

What To Look For

  1. Accuracy.
  2. Automatic (rather than manual) operation.
  3. Ease of use.
  4. Flexible, comfortable cuff with good fit.
  5. Quiet, gentle operation.
  6. Averaging of 3 readings.

Recommended Devices

Recommended Reading