14th January 2013

Sous Vide Buffalo Wings

Last Sunday I wanted to make some great wings for a marathon football day. I’ve been a big fan of wings for a long time but its one of those foods that can be done so poorly the result is horrifying. The ideal wing for me needs to be really crispy on the outside so that it stays crispy when drenched in nuclear sauce, but still have nice juicy (but not under-cooked) meat. I can also be a bit of a purist when it comes to the hot-sauce, although I have to say the Pok Pok wings are amazing & live up to the hype (but have no relationship to Buffalo wings).

So, I decided to try to sous vide the wings. Its one of those perfect situations for sous vide since you want to be able to cook the wing in as hot as possible oil so that it gets really crispy on the outside, but you don’t want to over cook the inside or leave it in the oil so long it gets greasy. Many traditional recipes accomplish this by double-frying but sous vide ends up being much easier and probably healthier.

I basically followed This recipe from The Zen Kitchen. It was pretty straight-forward but I did want to add a couple of notes. First of all, I asked the butcher to cut the wings in half but forgot to get the “tips” cut off too, and didn’t remember that until after I did the sous vide step. The tips were pretty easy to cut then, but ended up coming off with some of the meat since the already cooked wing was pretty tender.

Next time I’d also be more careful to try to get the wings in one layer in the vacuum bag, and after I took them out I’d probably open the vacuum bag and drain them before refrigerating. Because I left them in the bags and refrigerated them overnight I had a ton of chicken fat and gelatin to scrape off them before frying. The volume of the stuff was amazing- certainly part of what probably makes this approach somewhat more healthy, given that 4 hours at 170F is going to render a ton of the fat. Would probably make a great base for a soup but we didn’t have anything we wanted to do with it.

The frying went off without a hitch and then we tossed them in store-bought Franks Red Hot sauce. The resulting wings were so crispy they could be drenched in the sauce and still be crispy. As you bit in, they were still amazingly juicy too. Our friends had some nuclear hot sauce that you could apply to for the extra-hot ones, and the result was just about perfect!

Again, this is a perfect example of one of the misconceptions of sous vide. If you have decent equipment (doesn’t need to be thousands of dollars, but a nice home vacuum sealer & temp regulator), sous vide can actually be quite a bit easier than other approaches and can have amazing results. The only extra complexity is that you often need to plan ahead a bit (I had to sous vide the night before) but if you can manage that, its really not at all difficult.

posted in Cooking, Food | 1 Comment

27th November 2012

Remote Light Sensor with XBee

Ironically my first project hasn’t used a Netduino yet. I’ve started playing with using XBee units to transmit a remote value of a light sensor, and it turns out the XBee units are based on their own microcontroller that has a reasonable amount of built-in functionality so you sometimes don’t need an additional fully programmable controller. Even more wacky, you configure the things with a variation of the good old Hayes AT command set, something that I’m more than familiar with from my modem days, but that frankly I was hoping to never see again.

So this project has two parts- a remote unit that just uses an XBee transmitter to read the value from a photo resistor, and a second XBee unit that receives the data and interfaces with a PC via USB. For this first attempt I’m using two XBee series 1 units, two Uartsbee interface units and a breadboard.

The Uartsbee units are pretty convenient to get going at first with the USB interface, but their design as one big flaw. The XBee units themselves aren’t compatible with breadboards since their pins have 2mm spacing instead of the .1”/2.54mm spacing that the breadboards use. The Uartsbee device however has its two rows of pins so far apart that if you put it in a breadboard it fills the entire width of the breadboard giving you no room to attach them to anything.

My project was modeled after one in chapter 4 of Building Wireless Sensor Networks: with ZigBee, XBee, Arduino, and Processing. For this project I needed to wire the photo resistor to the analog input with connections to ground and +3.3v. However the necessary pins were on opposite sides of the board and I couldn’t plug them in to my breadboard. The hack I did was that I configured IO pins 1 & 2 to be digital outputs and set one to low and one to high. That gave me the ground & +3.3v signals that I needed. I just used the USB connector for power, and that way didn’t have to attach anything to the other side of the board. I did however have to hookup one additional pin that the book doesn’t mention- they didn’t show wiring to the vREF and I couldn’t get it to work until I saw a reference to that in the XBee documentation and attached +3.3v to vREF (pin 14).

Next step was to configure the XBee units. I hooked them both up to USB and ran the XBee X-CTU utility twice. It showed me COM3 and COM4 and I used the terminal mode to hook up to each unit on a distinct port. The only configuration that was really required was on the “remote” unit- I hit it with-
ATD02 (analog input)
ATD15 (digital output high)
ATD24 (digital output low)
ATIR 3e8 (sample rate every 1000ms)
ATWR (write configuration)

After the ATIR command data started showing up on the “PC” side XBee- success!

Last step is to write a program to read the data on the PC side. I was really happy to see that the drivers just made the output from the XBee show up as a serial port so I could just use System.IO.Ports.SerialPort to read it. The documentation on the packet formats were a bit confusing so I spent a little time decoding them and I still get packets that are a different size than I expected, but I got the whole thing working- code is below.

using System;
using System.IO.Ports;

namespace XBeeBase
{
    class Program
    {
        static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            SerialPort port = new SerialPort("COM3");
            port.BaudRate = 9600;
            port.Parity = Parity.None;
            port.DataBits = 8;
            port.StopBits = StopBits.One;
            port.Handshake = Handshake.None;

            port.Open();

            try
            {
                while (true)
                {
                    byte[] buffer = ReadPacket(port);

                    switch (buffer[0])
                    {
                        case 0x83:
                            int sigStr = buffer[3];
                            int options = buffer[4];
                            int numSamples = buffer[5];
                            int chanInd = buffer[6] * 256 + buffer[7];
                            int value = buffer[buffer.Length - 3] * 256 + buffer[buffer.Length - 2];
                            if (numSamples == 1 && buffer.Length == 13)
                            {
                                System.Console.WriteLine("Read str= " + sigStr + " opt=" + options + " len= " + (buffer.Length-1) + " num= " + numSamples + " chan=" + chanInd + " value=" + value);
                            }

                            break;
                        default:
                            System.Console.WriteLine("Invalid input " + buffer[0]);
                            break;
                    }
                }
            }
            finally
            {
                port.Close();
            }
        }

        static byte[] ReadPacket(SerialPort port)
        {
            while (true)
            {
                int b = port.ReadByte();
                if (b != 0x7e)
                    continue;

                int sizeH = port.ReadByte();
                int sizeL = port.ReadByte();
                int size = sizeH * 256 + sizeL;
                byte[] buffer = new byte[size + 1];

                int pos = 0;
                while (pos < size + 1)
                {
                    pos += port.Read(buffer, pos, size + 1 - pos);
                }

                // Ignoring the checksum. Ideally we would validate it here.
              return buffer;            
            }
        }
    }
}

References-
Building Wireless Sensor Networks: with ZigBee, XBee, Arduino, and Processing
XBee documentation from Digi
XBee Adapter Kit I didn't use this one yet but it looks better than the one I did use for the breadboard unit.
XBee Series 2 I used the Series 1 so far for this project but the Series 2 are more flexible.

posted in Hardware, Microcontrollers, Networking, Technology | 0 Comments

7th November 2012

Posts about Netduino

I bought a Netduino a couple of weeks ago and am planning on posting about my experimentation with it (& other related stuff). I’ve played with electronics since I was in high-school, but its amazing the recent breakthrough that makes this stuff accessible. Back then I would pour over the Apple ][ schematic and try to learn how that stuff worked and hook up simple circuits with TTL gates. In college I built a simple 6502 computer by wiring up the CPU and some SRAM and having manual switches to input stuff. I made a very simple boot loader, but it was such a pain to get it going I never made it do anything interesting.

Now these new platforms are amazing. You can buy the Netduino which is an inexpensive 32-bit ARM microcontroller running the .NET Micro Framework, fire up Visual Studio, plug in the controller with an USB cable and hit F5 and its doing stuff. It has a bunch of I/O breakouts, and so you can build cool circuits from there. So far I made some simple light flashing things and a RGB LED controller that cycles the colors of a RGB LED and changes the cycle speed based on the setting of a pot. Next step is experimenting with some XBee controllers to do some simple mesh-networking. Part of the cool thing of those is it seems like simple functions can be wired directly to the XBee controller without needing a distinct microcontroller in each location.

posted in Hardware, Microcontrollers, Technology | 0 Comments

4th January 2012

Wine in a Blender

I received a copy of Modernist Cuisine for Christmas. First of all let me just say these books are incredible. The span of topics covered is amazing, although they don’t actually bother to have any recipes for cooking meat that don’t use sous vide (I think because they decided once you can cook sous vide you wouldn’t ever try anything else). Ok, the preceding is a slight exaggeration, there are some smoking and searing involved, but even there sous vide is always a step too.

So one of the first experiments was they had a wine suggestion. Wine stores are filled with all these gadgets to aerate wine with various venturi and other contraptions. Now I’ve known for a long time that sometimes you want to open a bottle of wine hours or even days before its going to be at its peak, especially for some young tannic wines, but I’ve never messed with these devices that are supposed to speed up the process.

So when the Modernist Cuisine book recommended putting the wine in a blender I had to try it. The claim is that just putting the wine in a blender aerates the wine more efficiently than any of the fancy devices. A friend had brought over a bottle of Nickel and Nickel Suscol Ranch Merlot 2007 and it seemed like a good candidate. We opened the bottle and blended half. An assistant poured a taste of the blended wine into 4 glasses and an equal size pour from the bottle into 4 other classes. The glasses were marked but we didn’t know which one was wish so this was a true blind tasting (although it wasn’t the “triangle” tasting that was recommended.

The two wines were distinctly different. One was closed, tannic, had little nose and wasn’t showing much fruit. The other was lush, with great fruit, nice balance, and a long finish. We didn’t have 10 judges but all 4 of us had the same reaction and everyone guessed that the lush one was the blended one. Turns out we were all wrong- the blended one was the one that was closed. So overall I’d call this approach a failure, although I do have two reasons I want to follow up some time. The first is that the wine while it had plenty of structure was actually drinking nicely just out of the bottle anyway, so maybe we needed to start with something even bigger and more closed. The second is its possible we didn’t wait long enough after blending.

posted in Books, Cooking, Wine | 1 Comment

9th December 2011

Hardware Misc- NewEgg SSD Deal and Anand’s Guide

NewEgg has the OCZ Agility 3 240gb SSD drive on sale today for $239. This is the same one I just used in my new workstation and its been working great for me so far. This is a great price and together with another few recent sales marks SSD prices dropping below $1/gb.

Also AnandTech writes up their latest High End Buyers Guide and their SFF HTPC build is very close to my workstation build. Same processor, motherboard, case. Smaller SSD for only $20 less than the deal above, and they added a slot-based cable video input instead of the graphics card (since they did this as an home theater machine). Of course my HTPC is in an even smaller case and uses the external 3-channel video input and a slightly lower end processor.

posted in Hardware, Technology | 0 Comments

7th December 2011

Upgrades- 16gb of RAM and Radeon 6950 Hacks

Two quick updates on the new desktop PC before I get around to writing up more about the build process. First of all I mentioned in the previous post that I went with 8GB of RAM because the larger DIMMs were just to expensive. It turns out this is a perfect example of just how fluid the PC industry can be. Just a few weeks ago the only options to buy a 2x8GB RAM set cost more than $250, and last week NewEgg did a Shell Shocker for $99 which of course I snapped up. They are still more than 2x the price of 2x4GB sets, but since I love to run lots of things at the same time, run lots of VMs, etc, the extra RAM is really nice.

Meanwhile I also read about how you can upgrade 2GB Radeon 6950 boards to 6970s just by updating the BIOS to enable the extra shaders. Since I have one of those this sounded great, so I followed the instructions over at TechPowerUp. Er, except that I didn’t read all the instructions and missed the bit where for my board I was supposed to use a different tool RBE to update my existing BIOS instead of using the alternative BIOS they supplied. The result was a video board that hangs Windows anytime Windows starts up with the board installed and enabled. Luckily my motherboard has on-board video so I could use that but unfortunately the software that flashes the BIOS doesn’t work when the board is disabled in Windows.

Furthermore, the instructions on TechPowerUp show how you can easily fix these problems just by flipping a dual-BIOS switch on the board. So I look on my board and find the spot where the switch is supposed to be- the board has stenciled labels but I guess they cut costs by leaving the switch off. Grrrr.

I finally solved this by making myself a DOS boot disk using these instructions and putting the ATIFlash DOS utility on it. I was lucky I did follow the instructions about saving a copy of the old BIOS and that restored me to working state.

Proving that I’m a glutton for punishment I then tried the suggested technique of using RBE to update my existing BIOS. It didn’t seem to work for me- GPU-Z reported the same number of shaders and the machine seemed noticeably less stable. So I went back to the beginning and everything is running fine again.
Then I put the new RAM in. The downside of a smaller PC case is that it can be a real pain to modify it in any way. To replace the RAM I had to remove the video board (since it was in the way of the RAM side-clips), and the power supply (since it blocks everything in this case). Luckily the power supply is fairly easy to remove since there are nice thumbscrews that let you pull it out the back without un-plugging anything.

With the new RAM in I start up the machine and ran the Windows memory diagnostics. I always like to do this with new RAM to make sure everything is ok, especially given how much of a pain it can be to return stuff after 30 days. Its really great that Windows 7 has built-in RAM diagnostics- you just hit F8 during boot up, then tab to switch the “page”, and then select the diagnostics. I got a clean pass from those and am now full-steam ahead with 16GB of RAM.

posted in Graphics, Hardware, Technology | 0 Comments

29th November 2011

Details of the New Desktop PC for 2011

I’ve now completed building out the new desktop PC and thought I’d detail the hardware component choices I made. As I said last post, one of the key advantages of building your own PC is that you can pick the exact components you want, so its worth going over the list of those components and why I picked each one. In a future post I’ll fill out details about the challenges I encountered putting this thing together.

Finished view of my new PC in a Mini-ITX case

Finished view of my new PC in a Mini-ITX case

Component List

Processor: Intel Core i7- 2700K (quad core, 3.5ghz, 3.9ghz turbo)
Motherboard: ASRock Z68M-ITX/HT (Intel Z68 chipset, Mini-ITX)
RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaw 8GB (2x4GB DDR3 1333)
Graphics: HIS IceQ X Turbo Radeon HD 6950 2GB
Boot Drive: OCZ Agility 3 240GB
Other Drives: 2x Raptor 150GB Drives (from my old machines), Blu-Ray/DVD/CD burner (from my old machine)
Case: Lian Li PC-Q08B (Black aluminum Mini-ITX Tower Case)
Power Supply: Antec NeoPower 550W Power Supply
USB3 Hub: Syba SD-HUB20058 USB 3.0 4-port hub (internal/external)

Component Details

Before I dive into the details I’d like to reiterate my goals for the system. The idea is to build out as high end of a system as possible while staying within as small of a form factor as possible and not buying any of the extremely-expensive parts. This is my main workstation machine for my home office so I use it for coding, running VMs, browsing and playing games.

Processor- for a brief window of time the Core i7- 2700K was the top of the line processor available. For some time Intel has always had a “top of the line processor” that cost close to $1000. But this past year the best processors have been under $400 so its been a fairly easy choice to get the high end one. Intel just came out with the new Core i7- 3960X that costs $1049, but that takes a new chipset and socket type and there aren’t any mini-ITX motherboards that support it. So I get to stick with the 2700K which is just as good for most games, and even better for most encoding tasks (since it has the on-chip GPU that can be used for encoding).

Motherboard- There are really only two choices here. I wanted the Z68 chipset since it improved a bunch of things over the previous ones for a high-end system, and only Zotac and ASRock make motherboards in Mini-ITX form factors. The Zotac board I just couldn’t get to work. It fails pretty consistently on boot. I’ve tried it with multiple CPUs and RAM, so the problem is definitely the board. Also its impossible to upgrade the BIOS without booting to Windows (as far as I can tell) and since I can’t boot to Windows without crashing, that ends up being a pretty serious problem. The Zotac board has some nice video outputs, but they don’t matter for this system, and the ASRock adds an eSATA port which is really nice. The only problems I have with the ASRock board are that the eSATA port doesn’t support port-multipliers. I had been hoping to use it with an external Sans Digital 4-drive eSATA box, but it only shows one drive when I plug it in.

RAM and Power Supply- I got both of these on New Egg “Shell Shocker” specials. No special logic for these other than that I wanted brands that are generally well known, I wanted 8GB of RAM (tempted to get 16GB but the 8GB DIMMS are still way too expensive) , and I wanted a “modular” Power Supply that lets you just connect the specific connectors that you need to reduce cable clutter inside the box.

Graphics- I’ve generally liked the ATI/AMD boards lately and this one seemed to be this generations sweet spot of being able to drive 3+ monitors and give enough performance at 2560×1600 without being in the stratosphere of pricing and heat. This board seemed like it would be relatively quiet with decent cooling for the system which I was expecting to have a fairly crowded box.

Boot Drive- I’ve been using an Intel X25M 80gb and the boot drive was getting a bit cramped. NewEgg had a killer sale on this OCZ Agility 3 and 240GB gives me plenty of room for boot-drive stuff. One interesting note- because my old system was on my old drive as a VHD, I was able to copy the VHD file over to the new drive using a “VHD Resize” utility, reinstall boot-loader stuff, and it made it fairly easy to just switch all my existing OS over to the new machine.

Case- The Lian Li PC-Q08B case was one of the few choices in this range. I was looking for something that was as small as possible, but would still accommodate a full-sized video card. This case supports plenty of drives and overall ends up far smaller than what I had before. Overall the case was a pain to setup, but that usually goes with the territory when you are trying to build a smaller form-factor system (although plenty of big systems are a pain too). The way the USB3 ports on the front work are especially weird. They didn’t include a normal USB motherboard header (which the ASRock board wouldn’t have had anyway- the one advantage of the Zotac is it has extra USB3 ports). The front panel connectors just terminate in USB3 plugs that you have to work through the case and plug into the back. Instead I bought a small “internal” USB3 hub that can run off a standard floppy power connector and stuck it in my internal drive bay. Now, that thing is plugged into one of my back USB3 ports, but at least both of my front ports work and I still have one in back.

As I said, I’ll fill in more details about the various challenges putting this thing together shortly. The results appear great right now though- instead of taking up a huge amount of floor space, I have a small mini-tower in the corner of my desk. The CPU doesn’t exactly run cool (its ~40C at idle and maxes out at ~70C under high workloads), but its well within the expected limits. And best of all the overall result is acting very stable and is snappy fast.

posted in Hardware, Technology | 3 Comments

21st November 2011

New Desktop and Media PC Builds November 2011

Here I go again. I’m starting to feel like a bit of a masochist building my own PCs rather than just buying something nice off the shelf. A colleague asked me the other day why I build my own and sometimes its hard to actually figure it out.

Ultimately it comes down to being able to spec out exactly the parts that I want. I can get the exact processor, video card, dvd drive, hard drives that I want. When you buy from a vendor you have to deal with their choices which are often optimizing for very different things. They also tend to have weird pricing where certain crappy components are cheap but the ones you want are a huge upsell (SSDs are still in this category- they charge far higher than market prices for them when you configure one with a PC now). Also by buying pieces I can more easily roll over components that are still working fine from the previous PC.

Either way the biggest pain is dealing with broken pieces. This is frankly where Apple has it nailed lately- bring your broken stuff into an Apple store for the first year and they just fix them (although sometimes you wait around for a year). Dealing with replacements and RMA shipping whether from Dell, HP or NewEgg is just a huge pain.

For components in general I’m a big fan of NewEgg. Buying stuff from them is great, their prices are decent, they ship things quickly, and its easy to find the right stuff on their site. But when something doesn’t work the RMA process can take hours to the point where I often just give up rather than try to get the component replaced (which I suppose is the point). I’ve discovered you need to be careful about buying the components of a system early since after 30 days returns become an extra-nightmare. I bought a nice slim blu-ray drive for the Media PC but took more than a month to try it out. It turns out it was DOA. So I contact NewEgg. They say “too late, contact the manufacturer for their warranty”. So I contact Sony Optiarc and they reply “we are just an OEM, contact your retailer for warranty support”. And thus we enter Kafka land… Eventually someone worked it out and $10 and several hours later my drive is on its way back to them to be replaced, but I assume it will be weeks before I get my replacement.

This year’s upgrades are both pretty similar. Both my Media PC and my main home workstation are getting new Sandy Bridge processors and new smaller cases with mini-ITX motherboards. The old Media PC was in a fancy “media case” which was about the size of a big receiver and the new one is more like 10″x12″x3″. It doesn’t have room for 5 drives in it like the old case, but then again I bailed on putting 5 drives in the old case since the heat and noise was a big problem and I didn’t need more than 2TB storage in the actual media center box anyway (all the big movies are off on the server anyway).

The workstation has moved from the huge and heavy Antec P182 case to a new mini-tower that is more like 14″x10″x12″ and is about as small as you can get with a mini-ITX motherboard, high-end CPU, a few drives, and a full double-width video card. Its still super-tiny compared to the huge old tower and I should be able to stick it in the corner of my desk behind my monitors and free up a ton of floor space.

More details on both systems in later posts.

posted in Hardware, Technology | 0 Comments

17th November 2011

Kindle Fire Day 1 Impressions

As with many others, I received my Kindle Fire yesterday and thought I’d write up my initial impressions. My main frame of reference is comparing it to older Kindles and my gen-1 iPad which probably sees 50% of its usage as a Kindle reader.

I should start off my with my expectations. First of all the price point is low enough for me that I was willing to take a chance with it to learn what its like to live with an inexpensive mini-tablet. I’m hoping that it fills a role in my multi-device household that includes ePaper kindles, the iPad, many PCs (laptops and desktops) and the xbox. I should be able to use it to read a book, to check recipes in the kitchen, or watch some TV shows on Hulu, NetFlix or Amazon. I’m also putting my entire music collection into the Amazon Cloud Drive so checking out how they pull off the seamless integration with their cloud services should be obvious.

First of all, overall the device is really nice. The display looks good although its pretty reflective and certainly shows fingerprints pretty easily. The lack of any hard-buttons other than power means that simple things like increasing/decreasing volume require hunting around on the screen (& multiple steps) which makes it pretty inconvenient as a music playback device.

Again, the general impression was that its a solid effort but with some rough edges. It should actually have plenty of CPU compared to my gen-1 iPad and WP7 phone but lots of simple animations “tear”/drop frames. The best test of this I did was that I used my iPad & Fire to read exactly the same book side by side and flipped pages. The iPad page transitions were smooth, the Fire ones would glitch. The same sort of thing happens in the flip UI on the home page (which is actually not a very practical UI anyway although its nice eye-candy when it works smoothly).

Overall video playback worked pretty well, although NetFlix seemed like the audio was slightly out of sync with the video. Hulu seemed like it was better enough that it wasn’t annoying (watching a TV show on NetFlix was off enough that it bothered me).

The browser is ok, although it also just “felt” a bit rough. Pages just felt like they were loading in a bit of a funny way. Also it will be interesting to see how I feel about the 7″ form factor after using it for a bit. For reading fiction in the reader it was fine, but reading a technical book felt really squished and most web-sites wouldn’t fit in portrait so I had to switch to landscape which was a bit awkward.

I’m a little disappointed that it doesn’t have audio-in of any sort. If it did you could see amazing apps like Amplitube run on it. At $200 for an amazing guitar/vocals effects box I’d probably buy a few. Of course if Amazon is losing money on every one sold that might not work out so well for them. It will be interesting to see if the USB port can ever be used for any peripherals?

The lack of any option for 3g is too bad also. The whole billing model for cellular network devices is a mess right now but I’m assuming by 2020 we will have that all figured out and these super-portable devices will be much more killer when they are just automatically internet connected, always, everywhere.

One other frustrating thing is that the on-screen keyboard is terrible compared to those in iOS and Windows Phone. I don’t really have any experience with other Android phones or tablets- is keyboard input this bad on all Android devices? Or maybe the Fire has a less expensive touch digitizer so its less accurate at reading the positions of my taps?

Overall, its still a very solid inexpensive media consumption device and it seems like it could open up this category for a much broader audience. Further, its realistically a v1, and I’d expect to see lots of improvements polishing these rough edges in the future.

posted in Hardware, Technology | 0 Comments

3rd January 2011

LED Lightbulbs in the Home

I’ve tried twice before to get LED lightbulbs for the house. This has seemed like a very exciting thing for quite some time- the idea of fairly low power, efficient, almost never burning out light sources seem like a great thing. But so far the results have been a disaster-they were fragile, didn’t support dimmers, and the light quality was terrible- both very little light output, plus the colors were horrible.

I think I can say that they are finally here and practical. I got a selection of several different ones at Home Depot over the holidays and put a few in and so far the results look great.

Probably the start is the Home Depot’s own brand the Eco Smart. At just $18 its far cheaper than the others, and its the closest to a normal lightbulb. $18 buys you a bulb with 429 lumens, equivalent to a 40 watt normal bulb, but it only uses 9 watts. I replaced a location that I had been using an existing LED and the results went from terrible to great- I can easily recommend it for anywhere you need a “normal” bulb that doesn’t need to be too bright (no equivalents of 100 watts here).

I also bought a few from Philips who appear to be making a big push in LED lights. I got 8 watt and 12.5 watt equivalents of normal bulbs and an indoor flood that is 12 watts. These cost quite a bit more at $22 for the 8 watt and $39/$49 for the 12 watt bulbs.

The flood is a bit weird- you can tell its a LED since it looks like it has a bunch of lenses on the front. The light quality is good though, just the bulb itself looks weird when you look at it. The “normal” two are even more strange when turned off- they look yellow when off, although when on it uses some special technology to create good looking white light. For exposed applications I feel like the Eco Smart looks better, but the 12 watt Philips looks like it can be a good fit in a recessed light fixture- it seems like it has some good openings for ventilation, but I do plan on keeping an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t get too hot. When its on you can’t really tell its at all different than the other lights.

Best of all, they are all dimmable and unlike CF lights they turn on quickly and should have much longer lifespan. I’ll update on here in a couple of weeks what they are like after living with them for a bit.

posted in Home, Technology | 4 Comments