Category Archives: erik-VS

VS: Erik’s Ipad vs Xoom Review

You’re trying to decide between a Apple iPad 2 and a Motorola Xoom running Android 3.0 (“Gingerbread”)

My summary is that if there are specific apps or games that you know you want or if you are an app-aholic, get an iPad. Otherwise get a Xoom since all the basics — web brower, google apps, dropbox, netflix, etc work just great on a Xoom. And flash works!

Buy an iPad 2 at Amazon
Buy a Xoom at Amazon

Here are the issues:

  1. Price. Advantage Xoom. At Amazon at least!
  2. Battery life. equal. But Xoom is probably replaceable. Advantage Xoom.
  3. Weight: iPad is lighter
  4. Screen Format: Xoom is 16:9 (nearly. 16:10 actually), iPad is 4:3
  5. Screen Resolution: About the same but Xoom is higher res and some say easier to read.
  6. Flash support. Advantage Xoom. Lots of wesbites still use Flash, not HTML5.
  7. 3g/4g: Xoom is 4G upgradeable in Sept 2011 via Verizon
  8. Generally, if you care about “special” apps: Advantage iPad. A number of apps are iPad only at the moment — like the NewYorker, Flipboard, etc. And the Apple App Store is a better environment for evaluating and finding apps. Though word on the street is that the Amazon Android App Store is the up-and-coming solution to this on the Android side.
  9. Google Docs. Either is fine. Works great either way.
  10. If you care about Web: Advantage Xoom (see #5 flash support)
  11. Need Minecraft? Advantage Xoom. Android can run Minedroid nicely
  12. Cheap Keyboard? Advantage Xoom. A USB keyboard will usually “just work”. The iPad can use the Apple Wireless Keyboard (Xoom too), but that costs more than nothing. Well, you’ll need a $3 micro adapter from Amazon. Search on “Micro USB Male to USB A Female Adapter”

  13. Video Out. Both have HDMI. The Xoom just needs a $6 micro-HDMI cable from Amazon. No dock needed. That’s misinformation.

OK, that’s my list as of 9/9/2011. I’ll check back in a few months and see if I still agree!

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Filed under android, erik-VS, ipad, xoom

Erik’s Shopping 2011: iPad 2 vs Xoom & why no Android Flipboard?

Here is the best 2011 specs breakdown I’ve seen of the iPad/iPad2 vs the other popular tablets out there:


I still haven’t chosen. But I will buy at Amazon when I do. Probably a Xoom, but maybe an iPad 2. Definitely Wi-Fi. Why isn’t there a Flipboard app for the Android Tablets? Is it that hard to code? There’s that Facebook app that does something similar I guess. I forget the name. Shows you how impressed I was I guess.

  1. Apple iPad 2
  2. Motorola Xoom

    Uh… no…

  3. HP Touchpad (coming mid 2011)
  4. BlackBerry PlayBook
  5. HP Slate
  6. ASUS Eee Slate
  7. Samsung Galaxy Tab

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Filed under erik-VS, tablets

Sudbury Valley School (the modern-day village) vs unschooling

“Dear Coby,
I liked your posting about SVS type schools vs unschooling. I also think that no matter how democratic a family is it is a too small unit for children to grow up in. I believe that they need an “outside the family community” to belong to as well as to the family. The old villages in the non-western world provided just that and here in the west we are obliged to create a psuedo [sic] village for them and call it a school. The children get to belong to a family and to a community which hopefully is in harmony with the family but which is separate from them. It provides kids for a place of their own to make relationships, to observe people of all ages, to learn skills that are not the family’s skills such as carpentry or putting on make-up (skills that my children enjoyed acquiring in the school), and above all it is a place in which they can make mistakes in privacy from their parents. …
Hanna from SVS” LINK

– Villages — See book: Reflections on the Sudbury School Concept (1999) (pages: 13, 30, 127, 130, 134, 136, 137, 139, 144, 152, 154 ,161)
– On SVS and Family:
“Sudbury Valley was set up to be a day school complimenting the child’s family but never superseding it in importance. The assumption is that the child receives a full measure of love from within the family, and uses the school to develop a wider range of relationships, from close and intimate, to very casual, all of course determined by the children themselves.” (The Sudbury Valley School Experience, p 180)

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Filed under erik-VS, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School, unschooling

Verizon FIOS vs Solar Panels

I just measured it with our handy $20 KILL-A-WATT meter and the FIOS set-top-box… when off (on “standby”)… uses 16W! That’s 24/7. Even if you are not watching TV and carefully turned the thing off.

Here’s the math for a year:
16 * 24 * 365 / 1000 = 140 KWh

If you pay $0.15/KWh then that’s $21 per year you pay** for that. In the Northeast in some city/towns, you probably pay closer to 0.20 or maybe 0.23 if you pay extra for GREEN electricity (Or use NEW ENGLAND WIND FUND if you use a Municipal).

Anyway, the important point is that this is approximately the equivalent to 1/2 of the output of a typical 230W solar-electric PV panel on a reasonably South-facing roof in MA for a year according to PVWATTS.

IOW, turn junk off with a powerstrip! It’s cheaper than buying solar panels!

And Verizon, you can do better! Shame shame! Some things in our house use less than 1W when “turned off”! Not 16W!


**In the winter, this extra 16W is helping to heat your house, but there are much cheaper ways to heat your house than using phantom loads!

See also:
Visualize Energy

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Filed under energy, erik-green, erik-VS, solar

Facebook: Follow vs Like

Facebook… I’d like to request a new feature. It would be called “Follow” (as it is on many other websites). The idea is to be able to keep track of continued discussion on a given status update (from another person or group) without
1. saying you LIKE it.
2. saying it publicly.

If one can ignore the 2 problems above, one can get the same basic effect by just saying LIKE to everything you see in FB. But that’s a little annoying.

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Filed under erik-VS, erik-web

Walking vs Driving…

(I am writing this here in my blog and linking to it from Facebook, since at the moment there is no easy way to search and find old stuff on FB — like this will be 6-months from now, and that is annoying!)

Anyway, here goes:
You noted:

So you might be interested in this FB thread where we discuss the NYTimes article


2. And a friend goes on (via email) to do a little quick research into this (he has a PhD in ecology) and came up with a rough estimate of the carbon footprint of walking vs driving. (This is different than energy cost of course, but related…). What I believe he came up with is that it depends a lot on the diet. If it is heavy on the meat and dairy, then it is a close match carbon wise (which makes sense because “making” meat is very very resource intensive) But if you are eating a plant-based diet, walking wins. But still, not be the “many orders of magnitude” difference one might expect. In other words, it’s certainly quite possible that (say) 4 people on foot or on bikes could be better off carpooling or using a well-used train, etc. But probably not if they are vegan and eating locally sourced, organic/“solar” food. But my friend needs to do more careful number crunching based on some of the research articles on the topic he pulled up.

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Filed under energy, erik-green, erik-VS

REVIEW: MAGFORMERS vs MAGNA-TILES (also: Icosidodecahedron using Magformers)

I used to think magna-tiles were the clear uncontested champion in comparison to magformers. But now I’m not so sure. They aren’t on top either, it’s just that each has it’s uses. I’ll explain briefly here, then follow up with some better pictures.

– 3D geometrical shapes — one can make a number of these Archimedian solids if you have enough pieces.
– less expensive

Everything else! They have slightly weaker magnets, but they are solid (get the translucent ones. prettier) and are better for:
– 2D arrangements (they sit perfectly flat) such as: (and here I will just include everything my kids have used them for…)
— roads/racetracks/airplane runways
— functional checkerboard (we used 2×2 duplos as the pieces) when stranded in a snowstorm without checkers!
— making words
— making numbers
— 2D planes/people

3D buildings
– matchbox car and airplane parking garages/hangars
– forts/castles
– mazes
– stairs
– some simpler 3-D shapes hold together if you are VERY gentle, but the magnets aren’t strong enough to realistically build things like a icosidodecahedron for example.

OK, so I guess that’s still a pretty long list in the magnatiles column. Still, if you want to make cool geometric shapes the magformers are where it’s at.

Anyway, here are links to the sets I personally can recommend:
MAGNATILES 100 piece translucent set
Here is a link to all the magna-tile sets at Amazon… circa 2013 they list more options than they did back in 2011. There are also some less expensive compatible competitors that seem to get decent but slightly mixed reviews. See update below.
Magformers — perhaps buy 2 of the “Magformers 48-Piece” sets to get enough to do some good stuff? To do the bigger 3D geometrical shapes you’ll need a lot. Including (ideally) some of the very big 6-sided pieces. Though the 3 4 and 5 can make a GREAT rhombicosi-dodecahedron!

Just make sure you have enough pieces, especially the magnatiles! It seems like approximately 100 is enough for kids (or grownups!) to feel like they aren’t being held back too often by a lack of pieces. They will want to build very elaborate villages of buildings, walls, roads and runways, plane and car garages. And stuffed-animal houses! You will be AMAZED!

And again, my favorite thing about these toys is the ability of age-mixed kids to play side by side. The little kids are safe (no little legos to chew on or swallow) and can actually build a few things, and the older kids are still quite well entertained.



1. Magnatiles continue to impress big time. The kids are now 9 and 6 and they still pull them out and play for hours/days at a time quite regularly. A MUST HAVE TOY. They paid for themselves a million times over in kid (and dad!) fun! Still better than Lego in this household. Although Lego Hero-Factory/Bionicles does come first!

2. A new player on the scene is a company named “Magnetic Stick N Stack” which sells Magna-tile compatible tiles. From reviews it sounds like the magnets might be a TINY bit weaker, but the price is lower. Could be a good alternative. “Magnetic Stick N Stack” at Amazon. (They also seem to have a few different types of shapes including windows and wheels, but I doubt those matter much… the standard Magnatile shapes are classics. The kids never cared much for the magformer wheels…)


Filed under erik-reviews, erik-VS, lego, magnatiles / magformers, must-have, reviews, shopping, toys