Category Archives: Reviews

Bluetooth woes

After spending the best part of 4 hours trying to get Bluetooth to work on my Dell Win 7 laptop, I gave up and went to Best Buy and bought a MS mouse that uses some proprietary protocol.  I have shit to do and I can’t spend hours trying to track down why Bluetooth stopped working at some point in the past week following the usual 40 or so updates.

I was initially going to complain about Microsoft’s piss-poor implementation of BT, but then I remembered that while the BT mouse works fine on my mac, the BT audio to my 30-pin iPod dock has become so lossy and unreliable to be unusable.  So neither Microsoft or Apple can apparently deliver basic functionality and reliability to Bluetooth – which may explain why momentum is dying.

The only thing that “just works” is BT pairing between cars and phones and between phones and hands-free headsets, so perhaps that’s where this promising technology is going to remain.

Aether Apparel Highline jacket review

I first saw this jacket and tried it at the Aether Apparel store on Crosby in SoHo.  It was last spring and because it was so late in the season they didn’t have the size and colour I wanted.  I’d been hoping there would be a summer sale where I could pick this up at a discount.  Unfortunately that didn’t happen so I paid full price in late September (and then, of course, there was a Black Friday sale, but I was already using the jacket in Newfoundland when that happened)

1 copy

Cost is definitely a barrier for the jacket as it goes for $550, but I believe it’s decent value given the quality of materials, workmanship, and design.  It’s been my go-to jacket through the late fall and early winter and because I tend to keep quality gear for a long time, I’m happy.

2 copy

The key differentiator for this jacket is that it has a much slimmer, more “urban” style than most down or primaloft jackets.  It looks more like the quilted Barbour jackets that everyone wears in Italy in the winter, but has the functionality of most technical down jackets.  The outer material is Schoeller microfiber which is a big plus for me because I’ve been very happy with other items using Schoeller fabrics in the past.

Overall it’s been warm enough for use into the 20’s F (-6º C) and I expect it will still be practical for 10-15º cooler.  Water resistance is good although it’s not a rain jacket.  My only observation / complaint is that the water repellent treatment on the lower sleeves has worn after 3 months use.

Fit is great for tall people like me.  The body is long, and I love that it’s longer at the back.  The sleeves are also a perfect length for me – I wear 35″ in dress shirts. One of my favorite touches is that the inner lining on the grey jacket is bright red.  I also really like the multiple pockets on the chest and hips.  One of the inner chest pockets also has headphone cord routing.  There are many other great small details like this.

You do pay a premium for the style compared to a similar jackets from, say, Patagonia, Marmot or Arc’teryx but this is definitely a tough, warm, dry technical garment on a par with offerings from those brands.  If style is also something to think about – i.e. you don’t want to look like you just got back from skiing or ice-climbing when you are in the city – then I would certainly recommend this.

(Images above are grabbed from the Aether Apparel web site – all rights are theirs.)

Update and clarification on my WinMo phone posting


That last blog posting generated the most traffic of anything I have ever posted here.  I certainly did not intend to enter the religious wars of the middle ages.

People certainly are invested with their choice of mobile device OS.  I didn’t think of that, because I don’t feel strongly either way.  I like my iPad and iPhone, but I don’t think it would be a great hardship to switch platforms (apart from the learning curve and repurchasing costs). I certainly don’t identify myself by those choices.

Happy New Year!

First review – Patagonia Super Alpine jacket

In addition to general technology topics, I also wanted to review various items on the blog – there are no affiliate links here, these are just real reviews based on extensive experience with the various items.

I’ll start with the Patagonia Super Alpine jacket that I’ve had for a little over a year now and used extensively in the UK, Canada, and the US.  It’s Patagonia’s top-of-the-line Gore-tex hard shell and the price (retail is $599) reflects that.  I didn’t pay close to that, and I’ll tell you later in the review how that was.

super alpine

Overall this is a really well-designed jacket and it hit all the major points I look for in a technical jacket:

  • Good length – not too long, not too short.  My previous jacket was a Mountain Equipment climbing jacket that was barely hip length, designed for climbing in a harness in British downpours.  It’s a great jacket, but the short length directed water to your upper legs when not wearing waterproof pants which is very annoying.
  • Beefy fabric – my first gore-tex jacket (that I still have in a box somewhere) was a Berghaus Cordura gore-tex and was super beefy and strong.  Some time in the 1990’s they stopped producing cordura gore-tex laminates (not sure why) which is a loss as far as I am concerned.  This jacket is 3.2 oz and 3.7 oz three-layer which is what you want unless you are really obsessed with light weight (and are willing to deal with the tradeoffs).
  • Hood – must be able to zip the zip all the way up without feeling choked when the hood is down – pass. Hood must be adjustable to actually work in high winds and blowing rain/snow – pretty good, not the best I’ve used, but the best I could find in the current market.

Extra credit: has a waterproof, sealed interior pocket – big bonus.super alpine interior

Killer feature – and the one that sold me on the jacket above all the others – is the neoprene cuffs.  When it’s pouring and you have been out for hours and are working, raising your arms usually means water runs up the sleeves and soaks the cuffs of whatever you are wearing underneath.  These flexible cuffs (which I believe are adapted from offshore-sailing wear designs) prevent that and are fantastic!

super alpine sleeve

How to get it cheaper – I got my jacket from the Patagonia outlet in Reno.  Just call them up, and if you are nice they will check stock and mail it to you.  I’ve got phenomenal deals this way in the past (60-75% discount), but respect that this is not their usual way of doing business so be nice to the people who answer the phones (who have been 100% helpful and pleasant in my experience).  Downside (for some) is that I got my jacket in the old mango/lime colourway.  I actually like it, but many of my friends give me grief over it.  I will say, though, that when skiing in  a near-whiteout in Symphony Bowl at Whistler last February other skiers thanked me for being visible.

Beware of people selling stuff on eBay. I’ve noticed a lot of people buying stuff from Patagonia during the sale (or at the outlets) and then reselling on eBay at close to retail. Not cool, IMHO.