Sunday, August 29, 2010

Winter wear from Farm and Fleet.

I have been meaning to write about these pieces of winter gear because they have held up well and were very reasonably priced, and warm, down maybe to 5 below zero. I used them for outdoor work such as snow blowing and shoveling, as well as daily dog walks.


I don't know what brand they are. Maybe a F&F house brand. The only label I can find on them says Ranger. I got these last November maybe. IIRC, they were about $40. I mostly wore them walking the dog when it was cold last winter. They probably have 200+ miles on them. Mostly pavement.

The soles are pretty soft rubber and I might have expected more wear, but they did OK. There is some wear but not a whole lot.

The soles have pretty good traction in snow and on rough ice. Not so much on ice with a thin layer of snow on it.

No real ankle support, and now and then a zipper would open up while walking a little. It never was a big issue though.

Very warm and waterproof. Usually I wore with a pair of poly under socks and wool socks over the under socks. Never had a cold foot.

I have to say that I got my money's worth out of them. I expect to wear them a couple more seasons as well.

They are not hiking boots, but they are comfy enough that some light hiking would be OK in them. No last in them to speak of though so I can feel big pebbles that I step on. Not too awful though they are not really suitable as serious hiking boots. There is a full gusset behind the zipper so it should keep snow and water out, but I can't say I ever put that idea to the test.

I never had any trouble with my feet sweating in them even though they look like that might have been an issue.

Elmer Fudd hat

I think this was $12.95. Very warm and comfy. The fabric part can be unfolded to cover my neck and ears when it is colder, and folded up for use when it is not so cold. I much prefer it to a watch cap style hat.

I almost wish I had bought the next size up. When it was down below 10 or 15 degrees, I would wear a balaclava as well to keep my face warm, and it was a bit snug under the hat.

It's brand labeled Broner. Good hat.

The clip on light shown came from I think it was $1.29 shipped from Singapore. I used it many times in the early morning when it was dark last winter and I needed to pick up dog crap that the beagle had left along the sidewalk. I got one for my wife as well. It's not waterproof but it is pretty sturdy. My biggest gripe is the cheap junk batteries it came with. I had to replace them and they cost 3times what the light did.

But what can one expect for $1.29 shipped from Singapore. I have since seen similar lights at Wal-Mart and Batteries Plus.


Last but not least is this pair of leather gloves. I wore these most of last winter when it was cold (like below 35). I got these a little later in the season when another pair of gloves I had failed. F&F only had these in tan. I really prefer black, but the color did not affect the utility any. They are labeled Ruff and Tuff. maybe a F&F house brand.

A little thick for more delicate work, but very warm. I found them too warm to wear above about 35 degrees as my hands would start to sweat.

They were $15, IIRC.

[update 9-5-10]
I did some poking around the Internet. It appears the boots are made by Ranger Boots. Go figure, since that's what is embossed on them in several places.


They refer to the boot thusly.

FlintLock – Men’s Lightweight Side-Zip Leather Top Pac
Lightweight, Side-Zip Brown Leather Top Pac
Cresta™ shell and two-color Utila-Trac™ molded outsole
3/4” stitched in polymeric foam lining with Thermolite® insole
Large-tooth, easy-sliding zipper
Comfort zone to 10F
Men’s Whole Sizes 7-14

I wore them in temperatures lower than the ten degrees they spec out and was always comfortable, but I wore a good pair of wool socks and an underliner sock with them. Plus I was always moving around, and not typically for a real long time. It might have been different if I was sitting still at those temperatures for extended periods of time.

[update 1-1-11]

Motorola Crush Cell Phone

A little background first. I got this phone on Thanksgiving weekend of 2009 during US Cellular's Black Friday free cell phone promotion. I really did not want a new phone, as I was pretty happy with the Razr phone I had, but the battery was starting to not charge as much as it once did, so rather than buy a new battery, I got a new phone for free. Had to buy a new case for it, but that was only about $20.

In some respects, I wish I had just bought a new battery. I keep comparing features to my old phone, and the new phone often comes up short.

I have had really good luck with US Cellular in the past. They are not the cheapest service, nor do they have the latest and greatest phones, or the best coverage, but I have never had the problems others have had with other cell phone providers. And even though my Crush experience has been less than 100% positive, I don't have major issues with US Cellular over it. They didn't design a phone full of quirks, and there really is not a whole lot they can do about it now.

There is a forum devoted to users who have questions or who want to whine. If you are considering this phone you might want to check there first to read the recurring complaints. Many are things that don't matter much to me, so I don't consider them to be that bad, but they aggravate others and they might aggravate you.

Battery life is noticeably better than my previous phone. By a lot. I don't know why, but it is much better than my old phone. It's not like I talk on the phone very much, but sometimes when I do it is for a long chat, and it's nice not to have it shut down due to low battery in the middle of a conversation with a tech support guy it took 2 hours to get in touch with.

Camera has better still resolution than my old phone. Still pictures have a noticeable delay from the time you press the capture button (a real button by the way) until the picture is actually stored and you have to be careful not to move the camera during this brief interval or you get a blurry image. Not much in the way of options on the camera settings though.

Video resolution is pretty mediocre. Audio capture is not too bad though.

There does not appear to be a way to zoom in on a picture that you took. You have to look at the whole picture on the tiny screen. It does allow you to pan the picture, but its useless because you can't zoom in. Not any way that I can find anyway.

It has a few apps that come with it like a contact manager and date book. Neither are all that good. IMO both are harder to use than what was in my Razr phone. However, US Cellular has done a good deed for all of its users with My Contacts backup. That's a web based application that allows you to enter, edit, and backup your contacts via a web browser.

The date book feature is pretty mediocre. No way to enter recurring items that happen on a specific day of the month, like the first Tuesday. My Razr could do that and it was a neat feature. If you want to do it on the Crush, you have to enter it for each month, or do what I learned to do and just change the date of the event every month, which is less offensive, but still annoying. You can enter an event to recur on the same date each month, or the same day of each week. The alert options are fixed. You can only choose like 15 minutes, 1 hour, and 2 hours before the event. The way the Razr worked you could enter an actual number of minutes or hours. I usually entered 30 minutes, which is not one of the canned options in the Crush.

It has a notepad feature to jot down things. You can type them in, but there appears to be no way to access them, other than to just read them on the phone's screen.

When you turn the phone sideways with the numeric keypad displayed the qwerty keypad pops up so you can type letters directly. The keys are just a bit too small to be convenient to use though in qwerty mode.

It uses a USB port for charging and access to your pictures and other data stored on your phone. It works well. I use it as a thumb drive, since it's usually nearby, and no reason to carry a phone and a thumb drive.

It comes with a music player, that works OK through the supplied ear buds. Not great, but adequate. I don't really use it much.

Comes with enough memory for what most people are going to use it for, but if you want more you can add a micro SD card. It's in a pretty convenient spot, and goes right in. I took the SD card out of my old Razr and installed. Could not get the video camera to work as long as the SD card was installed. That was a stumper both to me, the people at the US Cellular store and the US Cellular tech support line that the store people talk with. The store swapped out my phone for another one and when I tried the video camera it worked fine, until I put the SD card in. At first the tech support people claimed it was a bad brand of SD cards, until I pointed out it was bought from that very store. While I was sitting there talking with the store employee who was talking to tech support, someone walked by and heard us talking and said they had experienced the same problem and it was resolved by reformatting the SD card. We tried that and the video camera worked fine after that.

It of course comes with blue tooth. For some reason I have had all kinds of problems getting it to work with my Plantronics headset that worked fine with my Razr. Initially, I could not get it to mate up, neither could the store. Could not even see the headset when in discover mode. I decided to try and mate my wife's phone with my headset to see if that worked. I had my phone and my headset sitting on a counter, both in discover mode, with the phone not seeing the headset. As soon as I put her phone into discover mode, her phone and my headset showed up. It worked pretty good for a couple months and then quit again. I tried mating them up, but the phone just did not see my headset. Then one day it just started working again. With the Razr, when the phone and headset were out of range, the phone would show the connection was lost. When I got it back into range, it would just pop back up by magic. The Crush does not work that way, possibly as a means of extending battery life. I have to touch the control button on the ear piece when I got back in range of the phone to reconnect. Not the worst thing in the world if it saves on battery life. The quirks with the way it handles blue tooth are just plain annoying. It's probably the most annoying thing about the phone, although when it works, it works pretty good.

One of the built in functions is a pedometer. It seems to work pretty good, although I cannot vouch for whether it counts my steps accurately or not, and every now and then it comes up with a goofy number. I discovered that putting it in my pocket causes it to count a lot more steps then it other wise would have on the same route (like 50%), but I am not sure it is fair to blame that on the phone. But now and then I have had some weird counts when it was on my waistline.

It has an alarm clock function that seems to work OK. I have not used it much, but my wife does.

It also has a basic 4 function calculator.

Speech recognition is nowhere near as good as it was in my Razr. And the text to speech function is not real good. For instance, it sometimes says the word "home" as hom and other times it says home. It's OK, but one would think these things would improve with time, not go back wards.

There is some kind of built in sensor that detects when the phone is placed up against your ear. I think it shuts off the screen to save on battery life, and disables the touch screen so you don't get false button touches. It works pretty good at shutting down the screen, but I get a lot of false touches when I bring the phone up to my ear. Sometimes my ear must activate the end call button because I have dropped a fair number of calls when I brought the phone up to my ear.

Another annoyance is that if you plug the phone into your PC to charge, you can no longer access anything on the SD card from the phone. If you take a photo or video it goes to phone memory, but you can't see it from the PC because it only shows the SD card contents, and when you unplug the phone, you can't see the stuff that is in phone memory from the phone without changing the configuration of the phone so it does not use the SD card. Not real well thought out IMO.

The case I bought is one of those marvels of ergonomics. The thing has a swivel belt snap that works OK, and the cover is magnetically held in place. Both of those things are good. The holes in the case where presumably cables are supposed to go to plug into the phone are all in the wrong spots, so you can't plug a cable or your ear buds in without taking it out of the case. And it was specifically signed in the store as being for this phone. Only one of the holes in the case matches up to anything useful, and that is one of the buttons, one I don't use. I think it is for voice commands.

I have described this phone as a low end phone with a touch screen, being promoted as a low end smart phone. There are some apps you can get from USCC for email and other things. I got the package for 3 months for free to try it out. I never could get most of the apps to work all that well. The screen is just too small to use that way, and the touch buttons that control the web apps are hard to work with. I eventually gave up trying and canceled those apps. If the screen was a little bigger, or it had a better touch interface it might be different, but as it is, I found it so hard to use it was not worth messing with.

I am sure there is more to tell, but I think this is enough. I can't recommend the phone based on my mediocre experience with it. YMMV.

[added 9-4-10]
I was treated to another one of its many quirks the day before yesterday when it powered itself down during the night while it was charging. It has done this several times in the past. It always comes back up when I hit the power button though. Oddly, I was still able to access the files on the SD card via USB even though the phone appeared to be powered off. I am pretty sure it was powered off since I got the Hello Moto greeting when I pushed the power on button.

[added 9-11-10]
A few days ago I posted a very slightly edited version of this review at the Motorola web site listed above. They seem pretty good about not deleting negative comments about the phones there. It's still there today so I guess they will leave it be.

[added 11-23-10]
Another wierd quirk. The touch screen does not work at all if your finger is wet.

[added 12-7-10]
Something else I have noticed. It does not seem to put the correct time stamp on pictures. It seems to be 6 hours later, almost like it is using zulu time instead of local time.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dog walk AAR

The beagle and I went for a walk in park last Sunday afternoon. We walked along the bike path for 55 minutes. Wilma the Arctic beagle (the moniker her vet gave her) did not much like the heat I guess and I had to let her go in the creek 3 or 4 times to cool off and get some water. At one point she just flopped down along the path in the grass on her side and told me she was going to rest for a few minutes. One of her creek expeditions she decided to lay down in the mud, so she had to be hosed off when we got back. I was planning to just walk along the trail which more or less comes back where it starts but it did not appear she was going to make it so I took the shortest route I could think of to get us off the path and had my wife come get us there instead of where we started.

[added trail map 10-6-10]
 My planned 4 or 5 mile walk ended up being maybe 1 and a half miles.

So what did I learn.

First off, make sure your hiking companion is up to the task. Wilma loves to walk but she just can't deal with the heat. It was only about 85, with a nice breeze and plenty of shade. I was sweating but not uncomfortable. Of course I did not have a fur coat on.

Second, you just can't have too much water. If we had not been walking along the creek, Wilma would probably have needed to drink the entire quart of water I had brought with me, or maybe I would have needed to use it to cool her off. It turns out that there just is no water along this trail other than the creek, and it was just lucky that I started our walk there.

Most important, don't be so stubborn that you won't change your plan if something goes awry along the trail. There is always another day you can go for a hike.

In response, I purchased a new day pack. I have been putting it off hoping I could find my old one, but it seems to be lost for good. Even though I have not been a fan of, nor ever used one before, I also got a water bladder for the pack. The pack was $14 and the bladder $10 at WalMart. It's probably not the greatest pack, but for $24, I figure I can't go wrong. It's only a 64 ounce bladder, but it fits well in the bladder pouch in the pack.

My plan is to have Wilma's water bottle along with some backup water in addition to the bladder.

I have only tried it once. That was this morning on our normal walk around the neighborhood. It was a bit cooler this morning so we went for 2 miles. It got up close to 80 by the time we were done walking, and she was dogging it a bit (pun intended). But she did OK. I drank maybe half a quart out of the bladder. The pack was pretty comfy. The tag promised it would breath. The tag lied. Maybe my back fat filled in where there was supposed to be airspace or something, but my back was sweating under the pack. Not real awful.

[added 8-19-10]
According to their website, the bag is called the Morph and the dimensions are 19in H x 13in W x 6in D / 2,100 cu in.

The bite valve is leaking air back into the tube. I sent an email to the email address they show in the instructions for leaking bite valve replacement, but it bounced. I went to the web site and they now have a web form to fill in for warranty issues, so I filled in the form. I got a reply shortly thereafter and a promise of a replacement bite valve.

[added 8-29-10]
I got another email from them a day or two later saying that leaking air back into the tube is normal. The leaking they refer to is water leaking out. I have been using the thing everyday while walking the critter and learned this myself. I was getting wet spots on my tee shirt and thought the bite valve was leaking, but it really was that after drinking from it I was leaving a few drops of water on the valve. So now I make sure I suck the water off the bite valve and let a little air back into the tube just to make sure. I actually find that it works pretty well.