Category Archives: Review

Product review topic. For tagging anything I have written a review about.

Noma “Super Bright” LED Christmas Lights

This season, Noma has introduced a new line of “Super Bright” LED Christmas lights.  I picked up a string of 70 “Super Bright”  multi-coloured LED Christmas lights last night from Canadian Tire and they really are much brighter than the older style Noma LED Christmas lights.

Noma Super Bright LED Christmas light box

Noma Super Bright LED Christmas light box

The two immediate advantages to the Noma “Super Bright” LED Christmas lights are the ability to change the lights and the fact the string is fused!  Included in the box were two additional fuses and two replacement LED “bulbs”. Yippee, we potentially can now have no more burned out LED lights!

Fuses and extra LED bulbs included

Fuses and extra LED bulbs included

Oh, and by “changing the lights”, I mean you can change the order in which the lights are on the string.  You just pull off the coloured plastic strawberry shaped light and swap it with any of the other lights on the string.  Super!

Unfortunately the Noma “Super Bright” LED Christmas lights are not perfect.  They are supposed to have yellow and orange lights but there is very little difference between the two colours.  It’s sort of like bright yellow and not so bright yellow. If you notice in the (crappy) picture below, the “Super Bright” LED lights around the front window are brighter and more yellow than the others.

This is unfortunate as the biggest complaint about the older LED lights was that the blue and green were overpowering.  Now you just get a whole lot of yellow.

Noma LED lights outside - Super Bright are around front window

Noma LED lights outside - Super Bright are around front window

Also, be careful with the length of this string of lights.  The set of 70 is supposed to be 23′ long but that doesn’t seem to be the case.  One review on the Canadian Tire page linked above says their set was only 17′ long.  I didn’t measure mine before installing but the string of lights is definitely not 23′ long.  Maybe if you put the thing on a rack and stretch it out completely straight it might be close.

Finally, make sure you keep your receipt!  The box indicates a 5 year warranty (as does the instruction sheet inside) but it explicitly states you must have proof of purchase.  Go and put that receipt in a safe spot now.

5 year warranty on the box and in the box

5 year warranty on the box and in the box

Polaris High Efficiency Gas Hot Water Tank – Part 6

Our Polaris High Efficiency gas hot water tank is once again not working. It’s spewing out good old error code 1 – Pressure Switch Closed. Woo-hoo! I love when the pressure switch is closed because it means I get to call my buddies at Direct Energy and have them come out and order some new parts to try and fix the Polaris hot water tank for another few months. No, not really – this sucks.

Polaris gas hot water tank

Polaris gas hot water tank

I now have a stack of yellow receipts that I just leave on top of the hot water tank so each of the Direct Energy techs can see what they have done in the past. It’s sort of funny when one of the guys (Joel is his name) comes as he’s been here a few times. I almost feel like I should offer him a beer as he’s been to my house more often than some of my work buddies!

Anyways, Pressure Switch Closed is supposed to be a self clearing fault on the Polaris HWT but in my experience, it never clears itself. I’ve had numerous parts replaced – some have been done multiple times. I think the total value of replaced parts on the Polaris HWT is now over $4000. Yeah, I know, good thing I’m renting it and I don’t have to pay for those parts!

My “buddy” Joel tried a bunch of things the last time he was here (which was only last fall) and he had a couple new parts ordered and installed. I was hopeful at the time because both he and the second tech both seem to understand the Polaris HWT and it’s quirks. Unfortunately, they also both said that most people in the area with the Polaris hot water tanks are now pulling them out because they suck so badly. That really is unfortunate because the tank really does work well. It’s just too bad that they are not more reliable. Well, maybe they are reliable for some people but just not in this neck of the woods.

Updated: Yippee! I have hot water again. Interestingly, this time the tech didn’t actually replace anything. He spent some time going through the diagnosis and as soon as he hooked up his ammeter, the unit started to work. Bad ground! It turns out that who ever installed the unit (uh, Direct Energy guys installed it) had taken a short cut when hooking up the ground wires in the main power shut off switch. They just hand twisted the copper wires together with no marrettes! He cleaned that all up and the Polaris hot water heater is working fine now. Hopefully this will be the end of the 4 years of problems!

Pontiac Vibe Brakes

We recently noticed some new grinding sounds coming from our 2006 Pontiac Vibe when you used the brakes first thing in the morning. The first thing I thought was “Oh Crap.”. The second thing I thought was “Damn, I haven’t done anything with the brakes yet on this car.”.

That’s right folks, our 2006 Pontiac Vibe was over 85,000km on the factory brake pads and rotors. Now, admittedly, we do a lot of highway driving and very little in the way of stop and go driving. Even so, I figured that over 85,000km was a little much for a car to go on factory pads and rotors. We got the car into our local garage for them to take a look and let us know what the damage was going to be.

“There’s nothing wrong with your brakes.”

Yup, that’s what the mechanic said to The Boss. He mentioned that there were a few “hot spots” on the rotors that he was going to grind down but otherwise the fronts still had about 50% and the rears were still about 60%. Even the mechanic was very surprised when he realized these were the stock factory brake pads and rotors.

I really can’t complain about our 2006 Pontiac Vibe. We have only had to pay for a set of winter tires, oil changes and tire rotations. I think we’re in for a new set of all-seasons next spring but the car will be near 90,000km by then and again, I can’t complain about getting that much mileage out of a set of stock factory tires or a set of pads and rotors!

2006 Pontiac Vibe Review after 80,000km

We’ve had our 2006 Pontiac Vibe for about two and a half years now and we recently passed 80,000km (just shy of 50,000 miles). Overall the car has been working well for us. We’ve had no mechanical issues with the car and the only real cost has been regular oil changes. I think we’re soon due for a brake job though. We still have the original all-seasons on the car after 80,000km but we’ve put winter tires on for two of the three winters the car has gone through. Even with winters, the all-seasons tires still have around 55,000km.

2006 Pontiac Vibe

Our average fuel consumption for 2008 is currently at 8.34L/100km (~ 28 MPG). This isn’t very good in my opinion but it does include winter driving with the snow tires on. In the winter with the snow tires, we’re getting around 9.0L/100km (~ 26.5 MPG). In the summer months we’re down around 7.5L/100km (~ 31.4 MPG) which is a little better. It’s interesting because the US DoE has the 2006 Pontiac Vibe at 31 MPG (7.6L/100km) for highway with their readjusted numbers. My problem still stems from the fact this car was rated at 34 MPG (6.9L/100km) for highway when we bought it. The best fuel economy I’ve ever achieved in that car was a one-off 6.7L/100km (~ 35.1 MPG). That was when we were driving on secondary roads averaging 90km/h (~55 MPH), true “highway” driving. I also annoyed the snot our of The Boss on this drive as I was putting into practice some of the driving techniques I’ve learned from reading ;)

With some driving style modifications, I think this car should be able to do consistently in the 6.8L/100km to 7.0L/100km range in the summer. It’s very noticeable though when you turn on the AC as the little 1.8L engine has to rev higher to deal with the added load. This definitely contributes to worse fuel economy. One thing to keep in mind is that the defrost settings on this car also turn on the AC.

One other gripe about the car is that there is a very thin layer of paint. It seems that everything causes a small paint chip. I think if you sneezed while standing within 10 feet of the car it would get a paint chip. To try and keep the rust at bay, I bought one of those colour matched paint pens from the dealership and every couple months I have to dab a few more chips. Nothing major but it’s one maintenance annoyance I could do without.

We’re probably going to keep this car for many more years. It will probably get relegated to the “second car” in a few years as it’s not quite big enough for a growing family. search results include random images

Today I read about a new search engine called Cuil (apparently pronounced Cool) that is from some ex-Googlers.  The “magazine-style” search results are interesting to look at and I’m sure that people searching for their favorite celebrity will be very happy with the presentation.

One problem I’ve found with Cuil’s results page is that it appears they insert random images in with the results.  These random images aren’t necessarily associated with the actual page they are lining to.  For example, I searched for labranard on Cuil to see if it picked up some of my pages. The image below shows two of my pages (Apparently a Saint Bernard Labrador Mix is a Big Dog and Articles tagged Labranard) from the results generated. search results for labranard

If you notice, both results have an image associated with them. The part that concerns me (as the owner of the link at the other end of those results) is that I don’t know where those images came from. They are not from my site and I don’t think they should be associated with my content. The last thing I want is from the copyright owner to come knocking on my door telling me I can’t use their image, even though I am not using it.

The other interesting part is that each additional page of Cuil’s results seems to duplicate links. On subsequent results pages for labranard, I see the same link/image combination in a different place. It’s rather redundant to have multiple instances of the same link on subsequent pages.

Anyways, I’m sure I’ll try out Cuil from time to time to see how it’s progressing.  I’m always curious to see where my pages show up in the search engines.  Call it vanity. :)

Update: Well, it appears that Cuil is now gone.