December 26, 2007
Don't buy the Rip Roar Creation Station

DO NOT buy a Rip Roar Creation Station.

For Christmas, we bought my daughter Mira a Rip Roar Creation Station. Looks great right? A video camera for kids that does green screen video? Too bad it's crap.

I help her get going and do the software install. After a convoluted set of steps that required CD install, downloading from the internet, plugging and unplugging of the camera USB cable, and even a good old command line patch, the software won't run. Crashes everytime.

Undaunted, I uninstalled and reinstalled. Same problem again. It doesn't work.

My daughter is standing there ready to go, dressed for he video with the green cloth background ready. Utterly disappointed that her 'big' Christmas present doesn't work. Breaks a father's heart to see this.

I track down the customer service line for Rip Roar/Toyquest. Amazingly a real person answers. I speak to him for a bit, but he tells me that they can't support the Rip Roar Creation Station, that I need to use the 'Help' email address. I asked if there was a phone number to call, since solving software problems via email is usually useless. He said there was no phone number and that only the email address.

I expressed my concern that waiting for an email to resolve the problem for a Christmas problem was not good. He responded that the 'Help' email people should get back to me "in a few days". He also suggested that I could return the item to "my local retailer". Yes, I'll enjoy explaining that to my daughter.

All I want is for the camera & software to work. I guess that is too much to expect these days.

I started searching on the net for help, since none was forthcoming from Rip Roar. I'm not alone in having trouble. Read what the Amazon Reviews of this product say. I wish had read them before buying this.

Not one to give up easy, I tracked down the parent company, Toyquest. I gave them a call at (310) 231-7292, trying to track down help on the problem. Of course, Toyquest doesn't make it easy to find their number, it's nowhere on their website, but I found it anyways. No people there to help, just recordings that wanted me to email for help instead of speaking with a person.

I thought that the President of Toyquest, Brian Dubinsky, would want to know how his product was doing, so I left him an voicemail explaining my frustration with the product. I'm sure that Mr. Dubinsky is a nice man in person with his family and friends, but his business operations leave much to be desired.

So, my hope is that when others search for the Rip Roar Creation Station, they find this note and are warned off. My fear is that there are many parents in the same boat as me with disappointed children with non-functional gifts. My PageRank is pretty good, so this will likely float to the top, but any extra linkage would be helpful.

Posted by michael at 09:53 AM | Comments (23)
December 13, 2007
In Memory of Anita Rowland

My friend Anita Rowland passed away from cancer this week.

Although we never met in person, we conversed via blogs, in IRC, and through email. She loved science fiction and meeting new people. An early blogger, she used Greymatter until the end. She kept a LOL - List of Links that I enjoyed quite a bit and introduced me to many new things.

I am better for having known her. My sympathy to her husband Jack in this tough time.

Posted by michael at 07:48 PM | Comments (1)
December 09, 2007
Schick Quattro Razor & MP3 Docking Station

Yesterday I was at Target doing some shopping, when I spotted this on sale for $6.99.

A strange marketing combination to be sure, but look, they got me to pick up the box. The picture is obviously of a Zune, but the box says it is iPod compatible. Visions of cool docking systems swam through my mind. For $7 I would get a razor, 6 blades, an MP3 speaker set, and 4 AAA batteries. Of course, I bought it. Cruft Labs always needs new things to examine.

When I opened the package, I found the speakers folded up. I put in the batteries and attached the actual holder for the MP3 player.

I was disappointed, that there was no docking in the traditional sense with the multi-pin conncector found on the bottom of most major MP3 players. The was simply a headphone jack that I needed to plug into the MP3 player.

In my first test with an iPhone, the infamous headphone connector problem was in full effect. I had to trim down the plastic on the speaker set connector to get it to fit. As you can see, there's a on/off switch, a volume control, and even a DC power connection.

The sound was mediocre. Way worse that most of the other speaker setups we have around the house from the Muji Cardboard Speakers to the Tivoli PAL. But for $7 I'm not expecting much.

I put the Zune in place, and unsurprisingly it worked just fine, just like the cover of the box.

I also tried a video iPod. Like the others, it fit well and I could see using on an ongoing basis.

At this point, my daughter Mira came in and wanted to see it. She put on Ratatouille and shooed me a way so she could watch the movie. She could have gone 25 feet into the family room and watched the same film on a HDTV set off of the Apple TV, but she preferred this way. I think this says something for what the younger generations will expect when it comes to personal media. She picked up the set and walked out of the room.

Now that I was no longer in possession of the speakers, I took a look at the razor part of the boxed set. In the past, I tried a Schick 4 blade razor and was unimpressed. Keeping an open mind, I wanted to give it a second chance. Currently I prefer a Gillette Sensor 3 . I have backed away from the Gillette Fusion since I reviewed it.

The head of the Schick seems to be a step back toward sanity from the gel surrounded razor I last tried. The design is simple in comparison. I prefer to shave in the shower and use Kiehl's Shave Cream (as should you if you want a close shave).

The razor went pretty smoothly on the flats, but just didn't feel right on the curves. It just couldn't stay as close as I've come to expect. Perhaps that the head size is bigger than what I'm used to these days. But the Schick did feel much better than the previous one I tried. Very comparable to the Gillette Fusion. On the back of the razor is a trim blade. Nice idea, but when I'm in the shower, sans contacts, I can't see well enough to trim my sideburns.

Overall, I'm pleased with my purchase. I will keep the razor as a backup and I will actually use the speaker set when I travel.

Posted by michael at 02:22 PM | Comments (2)