Robot Vacuums Work

Over the last 15 years, robot vacuums have come a long way. No longer blind, today’s robot vacuums use lasers and cameras to identify walls and objects in order to plot logical paths. The original robot vacuums would bump into everything, knock things over, scuff up furniture, and get stuck. They even threw themselves down the stairs, as if understanding their true value.

While modern robots have largely overcome these issues, they lack the suction of a standard vacuum. The robots are meant to be run often, even daily. An upright vacuum is still needed for the occasional deep cleaning.

There are many manufacturers of robot vacuums. The biggest and most well known is Roomba. While Roomba’s are great and the only US-designed robots, they aren’t my favorite for value or smarts. My personal favorites are by Roborock. I currently use the Roborock S6 MaxV (say that 3 times fast), a slightly older model at this point that can still be found refurbished. These use LIDAR to map out rooms and cameras for object detection and avoidance. Object avoidance is a must-have if you have a pet that leaves poop which you prefer not to have smeared around your house. Object avoidance also helps if you leave things on the floor that could snag the robot. This robot also has a mop function, which is nothing great but can help a little.

If you want a cheaper robot, the Roborock S4 has LIDAR, but no camera or mop. Any Roborock with LIDAR is amazing. They create maps of your floorpan that you can easily edit with no-go zones, for example to avoid a pile of wires under your desk. They also vacuum in efficient patterns, better than I have seen with Roomba’s.

Roborock Floor Plan

You can remotely start and control the robots so that they can vacuum while you’re out. You can use one robot on a multi-story house, but you need to carry the robot since they can’t handle stairs. I like the ease of having one robot on each floor.

The robots do require some maintenance: dumping out the dust, cleaning and occasionally replacing the filters and brushes. Replacement parts for the Roborock are relatively cheap.

While an indulgence, robot vacuums are now a useful household tool instead of just an annoying gimmick.

Amazon PrimePantry Review

Amazon recently launched a new service, currently just for Prime members, called Amazon PrimePantry.  The idea is you can order certain pantry-esque items (no cold food) and have them shipped in 1 big box for just $6.  I ordered an assortment of items that I thought might be challenging to deliver intact.  Amazon’s goal is to have it delivered within 4 business days.  The selection of items is rather limited but clearly Amazon is launching with items they believe they can handle successfully.

The first snafu came with the delivery timeframe.  It arrived late but Amazon did refund me the $6 shipping as they always do when an item is late.  Since I had ordered some detergent, toilet bowl cleaner, and water, that made the box rather heavy though it arrived with minimal damage.


At first glance, things appeared fine.  The toilet paper and chips were not crushed.  Items were grouped into two compartments.  Unfortunately, once I started to remove items from the left side of the box, I noticed everything was sticky.  I assumed something must’ve leaked.  Sadly, two items had.  The detergent had a small crack in the bottom and the soup box had been malformed to the point of leakage.




Oh, the carnage!  Someone has shot my soup!  Who would do such a thing?  I suspect Chef Boyardee.

Sadly, I think local groceries don’t have much to fear from PrimePantry quite yet.  The prices were nothing special and waiting 4 days is a little too long for most people.  The potential shipping problems are obvious.  I suspect this is currently just an experiment for Amazon which is why they’ve limited it to Prime members.  There are rumors that Amazon is looking into becoming their own delivery service which would replace the likes of UPS who delivered this order.  When and if that happens, Amazon might be able to provide the delicate care such a delivery needs.  In the meantime, its hard to recommend.


Satechi R1 iPad Stand

I’ve played with lots of iPad stands and the Satechi R1 Stand is the best by far because it:

  1. looks great
  2. is adjustable to any vertical angle
  3. is easy to move left-right because it’s small
  4. collapses for travel
  5. fits the iPad, iPhone or any other device with or without a case
  6. has a strong hinge and won’t destroy your iPad by accident
  7. is reasonably priced

Rejuvenate Original iPhone with Whited00r

No Apps

The original iPhone can only be updated to run version 3.1.3 of iOS. This means that the vast majority of apps in the iTunes App Store can not be loaded onto the original iPhone. It would be nice if Apple allowed developers to keep old versions in the App Store for people with old devices. But since they don’t, it’s great that you can jailbreak the phone to allow many apps to run.

Jailbreak Steps

I followed these instructions from iPhoneBlogr. This not only jailbroke the phone. It also unlocked the phone so that it could be used on non-AT&T carriers, especially useful if I want to use the phone when traveling abroad.

Then I restored the phone in iTunes using Whited00r 5.1.

Whited00r gives you a new app store with a links to older working versions of Skype, Twitter, Facebook, etc.


Performing the jailbreak can be a little scary for some people. But if you have your iPhone 2G or original iPod Touch in the closet or ready to go in the trash, give this a try. They are still good devices if you make the Whited00r updates.

Kindle Fire Is Disappointing

Lower Your Expectations

Wow, I had low expectations given the $199 price, but the Amazon Kindle Fire still managed to disappoint me.


  • $199



  • Backlight bleeding all around the edge of the screen.
  • Power button is badly placed and I’ve accidentally shut off the Fire several times when holding it.
  • Super-reflective screen. Much more reflective and finger-print-showing than other tablets. (See picture)
  • Poor battery life, at least compared to the iPad.
  • 6 GB of usable space so you can’t load this up with movies. I guess Amazon wants this to be more of a streaming device. But you’re left with little space if you need to load this up for travel away from WiFi.
  • Surprisingly heavy. I suppose this is because I’m used to holding Amazon’s similar sized e-ink tablets. But when you hold the Fire, the weight is the first thing you’ll notice.
  • No mic, no cameras, no bluetooth, no SD card slot, no gyroscope (for better gaming control).
  • No hardware Home button or volume buttons. From some pages, it takes a few software button presses to get to the volume controls.


  • Carousel interface for all your items is a terrible idea, made even worse by the fact that once you launch anything it goes in the Carousel and can not be removed. So you end up with a really long carousel with stuff you don’t want.
  • Inconsistent UI. For example, when you reach the end of a scroll page, some pages bounce while other pages brighten on the edge.
  • Slow UI response in many places such as pinch-to-zoom.
  • Apps crash. On each of three Kindle Fire units we tested, Angry Birds crashed on first launch. It worked after that. The browser had several crashes.
  • Flash works, but Flash videos are jerky to the point of being unwatchable.
  • Slow browser. This is especially disappointing given that Amazon promoted the speed of it’s Silk browser.
  • AppStore allows you to buy apps that don’t work properly on the Kindle Fire.
  • AppStore search doesn’t work. Searching for “Netflix” resulted in four apps, none of which were the Netflix app. (See picture)
  • AppStore has very few apps compared to other Android devices with Google Market.
  • The magazines are just scans of the magazine. These aren’t nice PDFs with embedded fonts. So when you zoom, the text gets fuzzier. The aspect ratio of 16×9 doesn’t fit magazines well. There is empty space at the top and bottom when viewing the full page.
  • There is one odd thing I haven’t figured out yet. When scrolling a web page, it looks as if the page tilts in the direction you are scrolling. I haven’t been able to capture this on camera. I can’t tell if this is a UI decision or a weird screen drawing or refresh issue.

I’m not just being an Apple fanboy here. While both the iPod Touch are iPad are far superior to the Fire, so are the Samsung Android devices which are faster and have a better UI. And if you want to just read, the e-ink Kindles are great. The Kindle Fire is just not a fully developed product.