Sunday, October 23, 2011

I Love My New Android

So far, I am pretty satisfied with this smartphone & I'm glad I chose it over the Blackberry offered by CREDO Mobile.

One problem is that its battery power doesn't last as long as my old phone, which could go for 2 days without having to charge it
I've had to recharge the Android at least twice within 24 hours.

I'll be blogging from my Android in the future, so my posts will be much shorter than in the past. Naturally, it would be different if a new scam becomes known to me.

One thing I am very pleased about is how quickly it charges. So, I can completely recharge my phone after I get off from my day job and have a fully-charged phone for my night job and vice versa.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

No "Ancient Aliens" Required

I've been hearing about the so-called "ancient aliens" for most of my life. I have to admit that I was very curious about them as a young man, but gave it little thought when I grew-up. Somehow, it didn't seem very logical that aliens would even bother to come here when we were relatively primitive and give us all kinds of help, but not to return when we really might have needed them during the years of the Cold War when the United States and its allies were on the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

Not to mention those times in human history when we faced devastating epidemics like bubonic plague, smallpox, influenza and others which threatened to wipe-out our entire species.

The History Channel has often been one of my favorites because I've always liked to learn new things. Unfortunately, they have often given airtime to pseudoscience as if it were on par with real science and this is the case with their recent "documentary" on aliens who supposedly came to Earth during ancient times.

Lacking the time to do an in-depth debunking of this documentary myself, I found some one who has done a recent set of videos debunking the documentary on YouTube.

SuperSoylent has a channel on YouTube where he posts videos debunking pseudoscience claims of all kinds and he posted these two videos today. Please check out his channel and subscribe if you have an account there.
If you own or are thinking about buying books, tapes, DVDs any of the crap marketed by the evangelists of the Ancient Alien hoax, it could save you a lot of time and money to watch both of these videos in their entirety.

Duane Browning

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Recycle Soap Slivers

I've seen numerous articles on recycling soap slivers. I have to admit that there are a lot of ideas out there that would never have occurred to me, but I believe that many of them are too time-consuming or are just inadvisable.

The idea of making soap-on-a-rope or placing slivers into a fabric pouch in order to continue using them may see like an economical way to get the most of your old slivers. But, the pouch itself could turn into a breeding ground for bacteria which manage to survive long enough to develop immunity to the anti-baterials in the soaps. It's better to just use them up as quickly as possible.

Another idea is to meltdown old slivers and make a new bar out of them. While this may attract people in the Do It Yourself crowd, I doubt if most people have this kind of patience or want to stockpile slivers until they have enough to make a whole bar.

Two ways that I have found to get the most of my slivers are quick, easy and really don't require much effort.

First, you can use them to help keep your toilet bowl clean:

  1. put the sliver in a place where it can dry-out completely;
  2. take your sliver of soap and break it into very small pieces, about the size of a fingernail clipping;
  3. place the pieces in your toilet tank shortly before you go to bed that night or just as you are about the leave the house for the day, this will allow the time for the pieces to begin to dissolve in the water;
  4. when you get home, flush the toilet and the incoming water will be cloudy with dissolved soap and you simply take your toilet brush and scrub the inside of your bowl.
The beauty of this idea is that you're not using caustic chemicals to clean and disinfect your toilet bowl. If your soap already is anti-bacterial, that part is taken care of for you. Plus, you're not spending the extra money to buy toilet cleaners.

A second idea is to use your old slivers to make an extra bottle of cleaner:

  1. put the sliver in a place where it can dry-out completely;
  2. once dry, break it into very small pieces or you can use a mortar and pestle (or some other tool, like a spoon) to powderize it;
  3. place the pieces into an old soap bottle or any other type of bottle that has a spout;
  4. add water, shake the bottle to mix the pieces so they will dissolve and not clump-together;
  5. set the bottle aside for the soap to dissolve
I like this way better, since I can use it for all sorts of things, from cleaning my toilet bowl to trash cans.

Duane Browning

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Filing Complaints With Domain Registrants

As of today, these are the page views for my posts about GIFT50.COM and GETMY100.COM

2,613 Pageviews

521 Pageviews
That's a lot of pageviews for posts that aren't very old. I have more views for my post about GIFT50 than for all my other blogposts combined. While I have GoogleAds and I have made a little bit of money from the ads on those posts, I've decided that this can't go on forever. There has been no noticeable decrease in pageviews for these posts, despite my inclusion of contact information on where people can file complaints.

So, let's get started in filing complaints against them with the companies they bought their websites from in the first place.

GIFT50.COM is owned by the same person who owns MONEY500.COM, MONEY600.COM, LAPTOP55.COM and over 100 other domains.

Registration Service Provided By: Namecheap.com
Contact: support@namecheap.com
Visit: http://namecheap.com
     
Domain name: gift50.com
Registrant Contact:
 
   Nick Brown ()
 
   Fax:
   244 5th avenue
   ste 282j
   new york, NY 10001
   US
Administrative Contact:
 
   Nick Brown ()
   +1.6463388558
   Fax: +1.5555555555
   244 5th avenue
   ste 282j
   new york, NY 10001
   US
Technical Contact:
 
   Nick Brown ()
   +1.6463388558
   Fax: +1.5555555555
   244 5th avenue
   ste 282j
   new york, NY 10001
   US
Status: Locked
Name Servers:
   dns1.name-services.com
   dns2.name-services.com
   dns3.name-services.com
   dns4.name-services.com
   dns5.name-services.com
 
Creation date: 02 Feb 2011 22:33:00
Expiration date: 02 Feb 2012 17:33:00
If you want to file complaints against this guy, send your email to support@namecheap.com. Tell them that you received the message via text message on your cellphone and include the complete text message that you received. If you received more than one text message, tell them that too and also mention if you have to pay for any texts you receive on your cellphone plan.

Given that over 2000 people read my original blogpost on this guy, I think Namecheap might have cancelled his website if they had received that many complaints in the two months since I posted it.

GETMY100.COM is registered by Domains By Proxy, Inc and this service is for people who don't want others to know who owns the website. However, Domains By Proxy does have its own website where you can file complaints.

Simply go to https://www.domainsbyproxy.com/Default.aspx and click "File A Claim". Mention that you received the message via cellphone text, so there are no email headers to forward to them.

Duane Browning

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Peter Popoff, Back from the Dead

As some one who puts little faith in the supernatural, I don't believe in zombies or that people can come back from the dead. But, if they could, I think Peter Popoff could count as some one back from the grave.

Okay, not the literal grave, but certainly a figurative one. Reading the Wikipedia article on this guy, I have to admit that I am amazed at his resilience and ability to make a comeback in circumstances that would have forced most other people into obscurity never to be seen or heard from again.

Popoff was once a superstar TV evangelist who preached to crowds of thousands. At his height in 1987, he reportedly took in $4.3 million dollars a month. He certainly had his critics before his eventual downfall at the hands of James Randi, groups such as the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) - now known as the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) - used to hand-out flyers explaining how Popoff could accomplish one of his most impressive "miracles": accurately and publicly calling-out the exact home addresses and physical ailments of individual members of the crowd, without apparently using any sort of reference materials like index cards. Natually, Popoff denied it and referred to the flyers as "tools of the devil".

But, in 1987, noted skeptic of the paranormal James Randi revealed publicly how Peter Popoff performed this feat. After an investigation that took months and being able to listen-in with a radio scanner, James Randi was able to hear Popoff's wife reading-out the information to her husband. This information had been gotten from members of the crowd who had been asked to fill-out "Prayer Cards" when they entered. Peter heard his wife via a radio receiver that he had in his ear. As the best way to get this information to as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time, James Randi contacted his friend Johnny Carson and appeared on the Tonight Show. When James Randi played the recording for Johnny's audience, it was the end of Peter Popoff's career, at least temporarily. You can see part of this Tonight Show episode in this Inside Edition report on Popoff in 2007.
Popoff declared bankruptcy in 1987 and most people might have thought that they would never hear from him again. However, Peter was not the kind of guy to give-up and go get a real job. He started over from scratch.

Popoff could no longer preach in public auditoriums like he used to, but he could take his scam message to an audience that may not be aware of his previous fall from grace. So, he bought airtime on television stations around the USA and eventually in other countries. Small TV stations could be convinced to sell him airtime, especially in the late night and early morning hours, which were typically the times when few advertisers bought commercial time, so these parts of the day were seldom moneymakers for the stations. If Popoff wanted to put some money into their bank accounts, who would refuse it? Even cable networks could be convinced to sell him time, as they need money as much as anyone.

Working hard and painting himself as a crusader for spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ in parts of the world that had little exposure to Christianity - such as Africa, the Middle East and China - Popoff reinvented himself and came back as strong as ever. He lives in a luxury mansion in California and drives an expensive car, so Peter's got the Good Life going-on. His website features a video uploaded by his son Nickolas on his Vimeo channel and you can see how many people click on that site on a daily basis by the number of views his video gets,since the video plays automatically when you go to the site. When the video was upload back in March, it got anywhere from zero to 2 views a day. But, over the past two months, the number of views ranges from about 140 to a high of nearly 1200,on average getting about 400 views a day. The only other video on that channel, which I did not see linked on his website, gets less than 40 views a day. Neither video has comments on its Vimeo page and no one has clicked "Like" on either of them.

So, anywhere from 140 to 1200 people visit his website on a given day. It's impossible to know which of them are his followers or which are his critics, but that doesn't matter.

Attempts have been made since then to try to put Peter out of business again, but success has been mixed and limited in scope.

About two years ago, YouTube user dprjones went on a self-appointed campaign against Popoff with this video
His basic idea was to get everyone to send away for Popoff's Miracle Spring Water (visit the website to find-out what this is) and to get on his mailing list, with some people even putting other people on that list. The basic premise was that with a lot of people getting mail from Popoff, it would cost him money to send it out on a regular basis. More people on the list meant more postage costs, after all. It seems that dprjones believed that if Popoff spent too much money on mailings, with not enough coming in to cover it, Popoff might be hurt financially or even go out of business again.

To say the least, this was a pipe dream. If you live in a mansion, drive an expensive car and buy airtime on TV and cable stations all around the world, you can easily afford a few thousand mailings that yield no cash returns. It was a good try and it yielded some interesting video replies, but two years later, Popoff is still going as strong as ever.

Popoff preaches what is known as the Prosperity Gospel, which is essentially that people who put their faith in God will have their financial needs taken care of and even be raised from abject poverty to wealth beyond their wildest dreams. Even moreso, Popoff claims that God can heal the sick through him and this certainly appeals to the sick and crippled around the USA where healthcare is expensive and often beyond reach for the nation's poorest. So, they'll give Popoff some of their money and hope that they have enough faith that God wil reward them with restored health and bestowed wealth. Most of these victims, when they realize that they gave their money to Popoff and got nothing in return are often too ashamed to speak-out publicly.

After dprjones started his campaign against Popoff, a list of all TV stations around the world that broadcast his infomercials was circulated and people were encouraged to contact these stations and ask them to remove Popoff from their schedules. I'm not sure if that worked, but Popoff stopped broadcasting on numerous stations in the USA, Canada and Australia. However, he still has them being broadcast in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Some of the people who contacted these station received a negative response. Specifically, that Popoff was paying for the airtime and they were not going to refuse to sell it to him. If people gave him money, that was their business and the station was simply involved in a business transaction.

I'm not the type to tilt at windmills, but if you want to take a shot at it yourself I'll provide a list of my own right here. The stations listed here are all listed on Peter Popoff's own website. I'm only providing contact information. If you want to start your own campaign against Peter Popoff, be my guest. Please remember that in order to ensure that your email passes through their spam filters, please put the name of the program or topic of your inquiry in the Subject Line of your email. Do not leave the Subject Line of your email blank.



UNITED STATES


Black Entertainment Television (BET)

Contact form https://bet.wufoo.com/forms/contact-us-betcom-management/


CHCH TV

E-mail: feedback@chch.com
Telephone: 905-522-1101 ext. 2386

Discovery Channel

Contact VIEWER RELATIONS http://corporate.discovery.com/contact/viewer-relations/

KDFI-TV


400 N Griffin St
Dallas, TX 75202

(214) 637-2727


KTXD-TV

info@ktxd.com
Phone: 214-628-9900

VISION TV

Contact http://www.visiontv.ca/about-vision/contact/http://www.visiontv.ca/about-vision/contact/

WADL

Contact http://www.wadldetroit.com/index.php?option=com_rsform&Itemid=50

WBFF


Street Address:
WBFF FOX45
2000 W. 41st Street
Baltimore, MD 21211

Phone Number:
410-467-4545

E-Mail Address:
news@foxbaltimore.com

WLNY

524 W. 57th StreetNew York, NY 10019
270 South Service Road, Suite 55
Melville, NY 11747
SWITCHBOARD: 212-975-4321
ASSIGNMENT DESK: 212-975-5867, desk@cbs2ny.com
STATION SERVICESstationservices@cbs2ny.com
WNUV

WORD

Contact form http://www.thewordnetwork.org/contact

WTTA

Contact form http://www.mytvtampabay.com/sections/station/


That's all the contact information I could find on the broadcasting companies that sell airtime to Peter Popoff. The names of the networks and channels come from Popoff's own website, I visited the respective channels' websites to gather whatever information I could to post here.

Bear in mind that Peter Popoff has rebounded from being disgraced on national television to rise back almost to the same level he was at before his fall in 1987, so he is a survivor. He didn't come back from near-oblivion by being a stupid person, so don't underestimate his ability to stick-around.

Also, remember that Peter Popoff pays for the airtime he gets on these channels and networks. They don't give it to him for free. By asking these people to discontinue selling airtime to Popoff, you are asking them to give-up serious amounts of money.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't complain, but I would like you to keep in-mind the realities of the situation.

Duane Browning 
  

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Paypal Phishing Scam Attempt

Like a lot of people who sometimes buy things on eBay, I have a Paypal account. I seldom use it for anything else, though such instances do come-up every so often.

I have received numerous phishing scam letters addressed to me, often sent to the Yahoo account I once used a long time ago, but seldom do anymore. The reason is that my eBay user name is the same as the Yahoo account name on that email address. So, a scammer attaches the eBay user name to @yahoo.com and they send me a phish letter. I guess a lot of people use the same user name on both accounts, but I don't. I use my regular email address - which has a different user name entirely - for both accounts. The spare address is simply kept in the event that my primary one goes down or gets hacked and I need to send an email to everyone to inform them of this. If the primary goes down, I have all my contacts in the address book of the spare account and I'd simply send them an email telling them what happened and to call me on my cellphone to verify my identity. Most people I correspond with on the Internet don't have my cellphone number, only people who really know me have it.

Recently, I received an email in the spare account from what is obviously a phishing attempt and here it is:

PayPal Account Review Department


From: "PayPal" accounts@intl2.pp2.com
To: undisclosed-recipients
Message contains attachments
1 File (19KB)
VerifyAccount.htmlVerifyAccount.html


Dear Valued User,


Our system has detected unusual charges to a credit card linked to your PayPal account.


Access to your account was limited for the following reason:


We have established that someone tried to access your PayPal account without
your permission. To ensure greater security, we have limited access to your account. We have sent 
you an attachment which contains all the necessary steps in order to restore your account access.

Please download and open it in your browser.


(The locator for this reason is PP-244-692-109)


We thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. Please understand that this
is a security measure intended to protect you and your account. We apologise for any inconvenience.


Thank you,
PayPal Account Review Department
Most people might now notice the slight spelling error in the letter. In the USA we spell "apologize" with a "z", while in the United Kingdom, it's spelled "apologise", with an "s". It's a common enough spelling error that an American can make a mistake like that, but you'd think that a American company like Paypal would have caught something like that. This makes me think that whoever sent the email learned UK English, with its spelling differences, rather than USA English.

If you open the attachment, which is usually not a good idea, it's an html document that looks al the world like a real Paypal account and the page even shows that you are logged-in to your account. Rather well put-together, I must admit. However, since I was not logged-in to my Paypal account and I use an entirely different account for it, there is no way that opening the attachment could have logged me into Paypal when I opened the attachment.

The first thing they want is your personal information. This is the first step toward identity theft. I have removed the script code that was on the original file I received.


Personal Information Profile
Make sure you enter the information accurately, and according to the formats required.Fill in all the required fields. 

  • Card Holder Name
  • Date of Birth
Next, they want your credit card information

Credit/Debit Card Profile
Enter card information as accurately as possible.For card number, enter numbers only please, no dashes or spaces.

  • Card Number:
  • Expiration Date:
  • Card Verification Number:
  • PIN
In all the time I have had my account with Paypal, they have never asked for the PIN for my credit card. That's because they would never need it. The only reason some one would ask for it is if they planned to make a new card for themselves, so they can remove money from your account at an ATM machine closer to where they live. With daily limits on how much you can withdraw on a daily basis, it may take a few days for them to drain the account with cash withdrawals. But, they could make all kinds of store purchases in just a few hours and suck your account dry and even go over your account's limits. If they do that, you're stuck with having to fight overlimit fees, as well as all the cash withdrawals and purchases they made.

Even if you catch-on and realize that you've given your banking details to scammers and cancel your credit card, they still have your name and date of birth. Even with temporary access to your credit card information, they could acquire your Social Security Number, home address, telephone/fax numbers, etc. and go into full-scale identity theft and open new accounts in your name, which you could find yourself having to contest for a long time to come.

While attempting to see where the "Save Profile" link at the bottom goes, I was stymied. I entered all kinds of bogus card numbers - all 1s or all 9s - along with fake PINs, etc but the "Save Profile" button would let me go any further. Either it doesn't work or there's some sort of built-in software that prevents pranking. It may even be able to automatically verify if a card number is valid or not. I'm not an authority on this sort of thing, so I couldn't tell you.

Getting back to the email, I did an IP trace and discovered that the email had a Polish IP as its source. If this email had been sent from the USA, it would have traced to an American IP, since Paypal is an American company.

Once I figured that I had learned all that I could, I forwarded the email with headers to Paypal's abuse address - spoof@paypal.com - and will leave the rest to them.

Here are a few tips:

1) One reason people get Paypal phishing letters is because a lot of people use the same user names for their primary email address and their eBay accounts. So, if you shop on eBay or any other online retailer, use a different name for each. I sometimes get Paypal or eBay phishing letters at my regular email address, but that's only because some one signed-up for eBay with that user name.

2) While this attachment was html, a lot of scammers send zip files, which can seriously hurt your computer. Don't open attachments, even an html attachment can cause problems. But, scammers realize that a lot of people won't download zip files to their computers, in fear of viruses or hacking attempts. But, more people will open and trust an html files, which can simply be opened in their browsers, so these are better for scammers to use, as they will have a larger number of victims trusting it.

3) If you get an email claiming to be from eBay, Paypal, any other online retailer, your bank or credit card company that tells you about "problems with your account": don't open any attachments or click on any link in the message. Simply open a new browser, log-in to your account and check it out for yourself. If everything seems okay in your account, forward the email to the appropriate company. Most banks, credit card companies and online retailers have contact information for people to report this sort of thing. Keep the address in you Address Book and bookmark any links to webpages where they tell you to report fraud attempts.

If you ever get an email claiming to be from one of the types of companies I mentioned above and want to see from where the email originated, do an IP trace. There are two websites I use for this:

  • IP-address.com is a pretty good one and is very easy to use. In the email you receive, click of whatever link allows you to view the full headers. In Yahoo Mail, it would be at the bottom of the message and says "Full Headers".  Click that and then the headers will appear at the top of the message. Look for the part that says "X-Originating-IP"and copy and paste the number in the search box at IP-address.com. The search results will tell you from which country the message had originally been sent.
  • You can also try Geobytes, though I've had a few problems when I've compared results I've gotten from it and what I received at IP-address, when the results didn't match. With Geobytes, you copy and paste the complete headers in the search box. I used this one exclusively before I discovered IP-address.com and that's when I discovered the discrepency which doesn't happen all the time, but it happened enough that I made the switch.
  • Bear in mind that some scammers will send emails while using a proxy, which will make an IP trace much less reliable.

Duane Browning


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Cycling Gloves


One thing that most people who ride a bicycle regularly need are cycling gloves. Unless, you want absolutely nothing between your hands and the ground if/when you crash, gloves are your best protection.
There are a lot of things that make finding the right set of gloves problematic:
Cost: a good set of gloves specifically made for cycling can cost anywhere from ten to fifty dollars. Finding gloves for less than $20 is pretty hard, at least in Honolulu. It might be easier in other prts of the US. While professional cyclists can afford to incur such costs, John Q. Citizen might balk at spending that much cash all at once for something they might wear only once or twice a week. Even people who commute to work by bicycle might not want to spend more than ten bucks on something that they'll only be wearing for a half hour out of the day.
Granted, if they do fall off their bike and injure their hands, the medical bills may make the price of gloves look cheap by comparison.
For people without a lot of cash who still want to wear gloves when they ride, some will buy a pair of gardening gloves and cutoff the fingers. Other will buy the really cheap ones with the fishnet-like appearance, which are the type of cycling gloves I truly loathe.
Appearance: a lot of cyclists want their gloves to look nice. You know, with matching color schemes and (I think) stupid stuff like that. I guess it makes a difference if you're out riding to socialize and meet new people. For me, it really doesn't matter. I just want the gloves to keep skin from getting ripped off my hands in the event I crash. I don't ask for much in this regard. One thing I really hate are gloves with spaces between the fabric that allow sunlight to pass-through. It could be from those cheapo fishnet gloves or the ones that leave a space near the wrist part where the velcro strap is located. For some reason, some people who make cycling gloves think that it's a good idea to leave a space there. Maybe they don't realize that allows sunlight through, which allows that part of the hand to get tanned and it looks like you've got liver spots or something. The fishnet ones are just gross in that your hands look like leopard skin, which is not only wrong, it's idiotic. Maybe they make the net gloves because it's cheaper material, but there are certainly other alternatives out there.
Washable: Since perspiration and rainwater will run down your arm to your hands when you ride, your gloves can get smelly. The smell sticks to your hands and people might think you've been sticking your hands into the trash at McDonalds or something. You want gloves you can wash. While leather gives good protection, all leather gloves will absorb water in the wash and get all warped. So, an all-fabric glove works best.
What I want out of cycling gloves is really simple. I don't need anything dumb, like a little extra bit of fabric on the thumb to wipe away perspiration (I actually found a set of gloves where this is a "feature") or stripes or even nifty colors. I don't need Lycra materials, as they are rather fragile and I sure don't need a little reflective material on the gloves, since I add my reflective material to the bike frame, where it will do the most good. While Lycra is a breathable fabric, you already have hole in the fingers and the glove only goes to your wrists. Besides, Lycra won't do you any good if you crash.
Cycling gloves made for the daily rider, like bike messengers, should be made of sturdy material. Canvas or denim might work fine and you'll be able to mend them with a needle and thread if they get torn. The Velcro strap should be longer than typical, going over to the other side of the hand to make them more adjustable. The palm should have some sort of padding, maybe with a bit of treadlike material. No gelpacks to come out of a tear and reflective strips are not needed.
Here's the closest thing I could find to my needs
These Reflective Cycling Gloves - Padded Fingerless Gloves in Synthetic Leather are sold by Aero Tech Designs, a company that sells cycling apparel  in Coraopolis, PA and here isthe link so you can buy a pair. The gloves are all-fabric, with synthetic suede for the palm. A pair of these costs $9.95 before shipping costs are added, so I advise buying 2 or 3 pairs, so you'll always have clean gloves to wear. It has some reflective material, which I don't put much stock in anyway, but the palm has a sandpaper-like feel to it, which gives good traction on the handlebars. You can wash them without the gloves getting warped and the fabric is mend-able in the event of tears or the stitching coming loose. The colors are plain, not gaudy and the overall quality of the material is good and it will last a long time, as long as you don't get into a really bad accident. The best part about these gloves is that they don't have that little space that lets sunlight in, so you don't get a weird tan on your hands.
In my opinion, this is the perfect set of gloves for people who ride their bikes on a daily basis.
Duane Browning
    

My Review of BikeBrightz


Having seen an ad for this product on Facebook, I had a look at their website to see what is offered. After considering the four choices of colors - red, blue, green and amber - I settled on ordering a set of the amber lights.
I placed my order on December 29, the order shipped on the 30th and I received them on January 4th. Not a bad shipping time from Ohio to Honolulu.
Each light is packaged with two batteries included, a pad to protect your bike's paint finish  and two zip ties to fasten them to your bicycle. The zip ties are the standard non-releasable ones that you can find anywhere. BikeBrightz also sells releasable zip ties, two each for $1. For something that you are likely to be putting on and taking off your bike on a regular basis, if you ride at night frequently like I do, it can be inconvenient to have to order more zip ties from BikeBrightz when your releasbale zip ties wearout. You can order a pack of releasable zip ties through Amazon [1] [2] [3], from TieWraps here or CableTiesPlus or you can try you local hardware or computer store. It is a good idea for BikeBrightz to offer them in the first place, though. If people bought a set and then had them stolen or were afraid of that happening, people either might not buy them in the first place or would buy them and then they'd get stolen, which may cause them to give-up on the product. So, BikeBrightz does a great service by offering them for sale and letting people know that such things exist. However, if you're going to go through a few of these every week or so, it's a good idea to buy them in bulk, so you don't have to worry.
The lights are easy to install. You just have to pick a spot to mount them, line-up the cushion pad on the light and zip tie them in-place. Standard places to mount them would be directly underneath the top tube, on the down tube facing toward the front wheel, underneath the chainstay on the opposite side from the chain or on the seat stay facing forward. I chose the down tube and chainstay as the places to mount my lights. When placing it on my down tube, I chose a spot as low as possible to better illuminate the ground under my front wheel.
I have to say that I was very impressed by the amount of light produced. While riding at night, the added protection of the extra light gave me a heightened sense of personal safety and cars seemed to be more aware of me than usual.
I have an old bike that I use to ride to my night job and I have taken great steps to make it better for night riding by adding reflective tape to various parts of my frame, along with the standard front and rear lights. BikeBrightz has essentially completed the work I started-out by giving it a halo of light on the ground around the bike itself. If I repainted my whole bike in a reflective color, that would be the only way I could make it better than it is now for night riding or riding in inclement weather. Most cyclists settle for the front and rear lights and possibly a bright color jacket. Not me. I want the best illumination I can get my hands on.
Speaking of inclement weather: we've been having a bit of rain here in Hawaii for the past few weeks and I was concerned that the BikeBrightz might have a problem with water getting in. Their Customer Service department advised me to put electrical tape over the battery compartment, which is a good way to provide the extra protection for the only part of the light that might be vulnerable to rain, as the rest of the light is well-built and sturdy. Adding a silicon sheath, for example, might seem like a good idea, but it would just be one more thing to have to wrap around the fixture when you're zip tying it to your bike.
There are four colors to choose from and I chose amber for what I think are good reasons. While the other colors - red, blue and green - are nice and look cool, I didn't really consider them when I make my choice. Here's why:
Red and green could get confused with the traffic lights. While it might get people's attention at night, people may have a problem telling you apart from traffic signal lights in the dark. I never assume that car drivers are intelligent or aware enough to tell the difference between me and something else, since I've known too many people who were doing everything the law required and still got hit by a car.
Blue is a color that most cops would have a problem with being placed on a bike as a lighting system. Under Hawaii laws, only police cars can have blue lights on them. So, buying the blue BikeBrightz could get you cited.
Amber is a color most often associated with caution or emergency lights. This is why construction crews use them at night, instead of any other color. It's the color of traffic signals, too, but they warn you of the coming light change to red, so most people tend to slow down when they see it. So, I chose amber because it's the light color that tells car drivers to slow down and/or be careful, which is what a cyclist wants.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that BikeBrightz shouldn't sell other colored lights. I do think that selling blue lights is a mistake, since cops may cite some people for having them on the road. But, red and green are good choices, even if I don't prefer them.
The lights offer different settings for display: steady light and blinking at slow, medium or fast speeds. I'll normally use steady lights in good weather, with the blinkers on during bad weather, but a blinking amber light is good at any time, so it doesn't matter.
At a regular price of $19.99, but on sale now at $9.99, they are a much better alternative than other more expensive lighting systems that are more difficult to install or remove. I wanted to buy the Dow Low Glow for my Xtracycle, but the costs involved and the sheer bulk of the system discouraged me. You can take the BikeBrightz lights off your bike and simply keep them in a purse, pocket or backpack. So, it's not only cheaper than Down Low Glow, it's also more convenient. Plus the BikeBrightz uses standard AAA batteries, which you can buy at any convenience store.
The only bad thing I have to say is that BikeBrightz is not yet sold in bike stores. You can only order them though the website, which limits their availability to the general cycling community. If it wasn't for their ad on Facebook, I would never have heard of their product. Luckily, I did see the ad and I hope to see more of these out on the road in the future.
I'll be showing-off my BikeBrightz to my friends and to local stores over the next few weeks. Out of concern for my friends' safety on-the-road and to help a small company with a damn good idea. If it all works-out, bike stores in Honolulu may be stocking BikeBrightz in the near future.
Duane Browning