Monday, January 31, 2011

Blu Ray Media: Raw Quality Data

Blu Ray blank media guide : Best Blu Ray media brands
Best Blu Ray Media Brands Part 3: Raw Quality Data

What are the best Blu Ray media/disc brands for data storage and archival? To answer this question, we collected reviews from over 1,100 users across the web (1,120 reviews to be precise:-), using over 20 primary and 60 secondary sources. We collated all the results by brand and model. For each model, we kept track of the number of positive and negative reviews, and tagged negative reviews for the following reasons: compatibility, coasters, and the dreaded archival failure. We also kept track of pricing, and identified, for each product, a low-cost vendor (we will review all pricing information in our sections on Blu Ray online stores). The raw quality data can be reviewed below.

Table 1: Raw quality data for Blu Ray media
It is immediately apparent that, while some products have large numbers of reviews which are statistically sufficient to establish archival quality (or the lack thereof), many have few or no reviews. We were, however, able to establish, in the large majority of cases, a very good estimate of predictive quality, based on the following factors:
  • overall Blu Ray brand quality
  • overall quality of the Blu Ray media manufacturer
  • overall quality for the brand in the DVD market.
We created a custom predictive quality rating for Blu Ray media. To create a quality rating for each brand, starting with the raw data available above, we used the following process:
  • we allocated 75% of the feedback to the brand, and 25% to the manufacturer when we knew who it was. In many cases, the manufacturer was the company identified by the MID - but that was not always the case.  For the manufacturer quality rating, we averaged the raw review rating across all brands sharing the same manufacturer.  
  • we multiplied the % of negative reviews due to archival failure (the worst type, since it results in data loss) by 5, to penalize heavily brands with a record of archival failure.
  • when we had track record for the brand in the DVD market, we added 10 fictitious reviews with the brand DVD quality rating to the Blu Ray reviews. We did not use the DVD quality rating for those brands that are factoring in the DVD arena but OEMing in the Blu Ray market (or vice versa), since the circumstances between the two markets would be too different.
  • when we had too few reviews to guarantee, through statistical analysis, at most 5% error with 95% certainty, we corrected the rating downward until the margin of error downwards was only 5%. For instance, if the quality rating of a brand was 92%, but the margin of error was 12% given the sample size, we lowered the quality rating down to 85%, so that the maximum margin of error downwards was only 5%: in this case, the interval of 95% certainty would be [80%, 100%], and we picked 85% as the predictive quality rating. This means that our predictive quality ratings give a worst case picture of quality expectations when sample size is small. 
  • the result was the brand's Blu Ray media predictive quality rating. A perfect rating would be 100% and would mean that all reviews were positive, that the company's DVD media quality rating was perfect (if it had one), and that the sample size for the Blu Ray media user reviews was large enough to have a statistical error margin of 5% or less with 95% certainty. If this sounds difficult - it is, yet several brands score higher than 90%, and two score over 95%!
In the following sections, we review brand quality brand by brand... So come back soon!

To understand Blu Ray lingo, check our lexicon of Blu Ray vocabulary. Our Blu Ray brand predictive quality rating process is explained here. Our statistical analysis practices are described here, which is also where we discuss's predictive quality rating.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Blu RayMedia : Who Manufactures My Discs?

Blu Ray blank media guide : Best Blu Ray media brands
Best Blu Ray Media Brands Part 2: Who Manufactures my Discs?

When you have a disc in hand, trying to ascertain its archival quality, how can you make sure of the manufacturer? Most burners, if they can read the disc, will allow you to find out the MID (Media ID), which is  typically (but not always) a unique identifier of the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) for the media. It should be noted, however, that the MID does not guarantee provenance to a given manufacturer, and that MIDs occasionally get licensed to third parties. For instance, a new manufacturer may want to be able to have its MID recognized by older players with non-updated firmware,  or a second tier manufacturer may want to take advantage of a first tier manufacturer's brand reputation. We would want to think that a top manufacturer would not agree to such licensing - but this is unfortunately not true:(

This table lists all manufacturers, that we know of, which are available in the US as we go to publication, along with the ID format that their products will display: CMC, Optodisc, Panasonic, Philips, Ritek, Sony, Taiyo Yuden/ JVC, TDK, and Verbatim. More examples of MIDs can be found on the ImgBurn Support Forum.

Next we review the raw data we collected on Blu Ray media available for sale in the US... So come back soon!

To understand Blu Ray lingo, check our lexicon of Blu Ray vocabulary. Our Blu Ray brand predictive quality rating process is explained here. Our statistical analysis practices are described here, which is also where we discuss's predictive quality rating.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Best Blu Ray Media Brands: Brands and Manufacturers

Blu Ray blank media guide : Best Blu Ray media brands
Best Blu Ray Media Brands Part 1: Brands and Manufacturers

While we are seeing many different brands at the retail level when looking for blank Blu Ray media/ discs, there are many fewer manufacturers. In fact, most retail brands end up factoring an outside manufacturer under their brand. In the DVD arena, we found out that full control of the manufacturing chain was helpful when looking at quality. The same property very likely applies to Blu Ray.

The most common retail brands are listed in the table above, with the identity of their manufacturers, to the best of our knowledge, based on 2010 data. The manufacturers for all US-sold brands that we are aware of are Philips, Ritek, Optodisc, CMC Magnetics, Panasonic, Sony, Taiyo Yuden/ JVC, TDK, and Verbatim. In the UK, we also find the Traxdata brand, manufactured by Ritek, and the RiDisc brand, manufactured by CMC Magnetics.

There are some good news in this list. TDK and Sony, which used to be  top-rated DVD media manufacturer, and had stopped manufacturing, are in the manufacturing business again, this time for Blue Ray media. The bad news is that Maxell, one of the founders of the Blu Ray standard, also previously rated as a top quality manufacturer of DVDs, is not manufacturing Blu Ray media. At this stage, Maxell sells only factored media, both for DVDs and for Blu Ray. One surprise is Philips, which was factoring DVD media for a long time: it finds itself on the manufacturing side again. Since they were factoring DVD media from CMC, and since CMC shows Philips as the originator of the licensing rights, it is possible that the Philips media are actually manufactured by CMC, a manufacturer with a very poor reputation in the DVD market.

We originally thought that it was possible to group all brands manufactured by the same manufacturer under the same umbrella. We found it not to be the case. While some manufacturers, such as CMC, are clearly inferior (based on DVD data), others, such as Philips (which is not a DVD manufacturer), appear to show different levels of quality under different brand names. User reviews using objective criteria, such as compatibility or percentage of coasters, can give significantly different statistical quality numbers. Part of this can be due, in some cases, to an inadequate number of reviews - but not all. We figure that different retail brands with significant volume are able to negotiate manufacturing process changes which materially impact the end product quality, or are assigned to different plants with the same theoretical recipe but different quality outcomes. In addition, some brands simultaneously use several manufacturers, or have older batches from a previous manufacturer in their distribution channel, making it impossible to identify them with a single manufacturer.

As a result, we were not able to consolidate different brands although they have the same manufacturer. In fact, we found that, if a company has more than one brand, and both brands are manufactured by the same manufacturer, these two brands may have different quality. For instance, VinPower's high end brand is Optical Quantum, although it also sells discs under its own name VinPower. Both are now using Philips- manufactured media, yet Optical Quantum appears to have significantly better quality than VinPower.

Based on the track record of the DVD media industry, we are inclined to believe at this stage that companies which encompass the whole manufacturing process may have a quality advantage over those which do not. As a result, Panasonic, Ritek, Sony, Taiyo Yuden/ JVC, TDK and Verbatim could have an advantage over the others. Past DVD data would tend to take Ritek out of this leading batch.

Next we discuss how you can find out who manufactured the Blu Ray discs you have in hand... So come back soon!

To understand Blu Ray lingo, check our lexicon of Blu Ray vocabulary. Our Blu Ray brand predictive quality rating process is explained here. Our statistical analysis practices are described here, which is also where we discuss's predictive quality rating.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Blu Ray Media: Failure Modes

Blu Ray blank media guide : Introduction to Blu Ray blank media 
Introduction to Blu Ray Blank Media Part 3: Media Failure Modes

Read-only DVD media, such as those used in movie and audio distribution have excellent compatibility and very low failure rate. On the other hand, recordable DVD media (used for data storage and home or office media duplication) only have a 90-95% compatibility rate (in the best cases) and significant failure rate. The same is true with Blu Ray media: read only Blu Ray is highly compatible, while recordable Blue Ray suffers from lower compatibility (equivalent to recordable DVD media) and higher failure rates. What can of failures can be expected?

Mature industry
While a list of all possible failure modes can be frightening, it is important to remember that Blu Ray storage is no more faulty or difficult than the mature DVD storage industry. If you are burning DVDs today, you will have no more trouble burning BD-Rs (Blu Ray recordable media) tomorrow. In the same way as for DVDs, you want to choose a good burner and good media.

Because of the nature of the Blue Ray standard (similarly to the DVD standard), inherent compatibility between media, player and burner is approximately 90-95% for the better brands. It is possible to buy media that will not be compatible with your player or burner. Some players and burners, such as the PS3 game station, or LR burners, are more subject to compatibility issues than others, while others, such as Pioneer burners, are less subject to the same issues. Better brands of media will also have less compatibility issues. Because compatibility issues are inherent to the standard, having media that is not compatible with your player does not automatically mean that the media is poor.
As a note, compatibility can be different for the burner and the player. If it burns in your burner, it may not play in your player... On the other hand, it may happen that a media will burn and not play, but that, if it is duplicated on a media of a different brand, the new media will work (i.e. the burn was successful, but the

Coasters/ Frisbees
Beyond compatibility, the most common issue is a high percentage of "coasters", i.e. a burn that did not complete or verify properly, or that does not play in any player. Low end products should be expected to produce a higher percentage of coasters. Convenience and cost analysis are necessary to evaluate whether a lower cost brand is still worth purchasing despite a higher percentage of coasters. Given the value of time in the modern professional family, we would expect that a low coaster percentage is a requirement.
Compatibility can masquerade as high coaster production, as some media is recognized by a burner but will show as non-recordable, yet the burner will still try to burn it if the operator does not notice the lack of recordability.

Archival failure: media writes but will not read
The worst of all failure modes is short archival: the media burns, and verifies (a truly necessary step), but will not read when tested 3, 6, or 12 months later. It is already possible to find this problem in some brands. This failure mode is particularly treacherous, as it cannot be diagnosed at write time, and may result in data loss, while the others can be diagnosed at write time, and will not result in data loss. Archival failures after longer durations cannot yet be found from existing reviews.

Lack of performance in some attributes
Other causes can result in a negative user review, such as low write speed, appearance of the media, etc. These causes can be the cause of a downgrade, but are not true failure modes.

Archival failure: the most dangerous failure
Of all failure modes, short archival duration is the most dangerous. In an industry focused on data storage, data loss, the consequence of short archival, is the most drastic penalty. While we will look at all failure modes, we will give short archival the highest factor when comparing brands.

Next we start our review of the best Blu Ray media brands, and discuss brands and manufacturers for Blu Ray media... So come back soon!

To understand Blu Ray lingo, check our lexicon of Blu Ray vocabulary. Our Blu Ray brand predictive quality rating process is explained here. Our statistical analysis practices are described here, which is also where we discuss's predictive quality rating.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Blu Ray: Lessons Learned From DVD Media

Blu Ray blank media guide : Introduction to Blu Ray blank media 
Introduction to Blu Ray Blank Media Part 2: Lessons Learned From DVD Media

What can we learn from the DVD storage media record? Blu Ray media have been around in commercial quantities for approximately 5 years, but it is only since the end of the HD DVD/ Blu Ray war that usage has taken off. As a result, global usage of Blu Ray BD-R (Recordable), while rapidly increasing, is still comparatively low, and we do not always see the large quantity of reviews for all formats and brands that would allow us to unequivocally make the right quality calls.

On the other hand, there is a long history for DVD-Rs (and other recordable DVD formats as well), which has allowed the establishment of a clear record for the industry. From this record we can draw some conclusions, some of which may apply, to a degree, to Blu Ray media.

Three tier industry
The industry has evolved into a three-tier structure, with a small number of expensive archival-grade brand names, a middle tier of non archival-grade brand names, and a third tier of cheap, untrustworthy, generally no-name brands. While the cheaper brands are clearly inferior, among the higher level brands price does not correlate well with quality. Its quite possible to find poor media from expensive brands, but it is not possible to find archival grade anywhere but in the top tier.

Expensive technologies are sometimes useless
Marketing-speak has pushed high priced technologies that did not turn out to be useful. For instance, gold, a very expensive technology, turned out to not to be a significant attribute for archival, whatever the manufacturer - in fact, it turned out to be harder to read. On the other hand, full control of the manufacturing chain and high quality dyes made a  big difference to quality.

Poor quality overall
Amazingly for a market as mature as that of the DVD data storage market, it is difficult to find truly reliable products. While some of this is due to the problems associated with a poor specification in the DVD standard, resulting in only 90-95% compatibility across media, readers and burners, much of it is due to poor manufacturing quality, even from famous brands.

Reputation: best and worst brands
None of the tip tier brands are inexpensive, although quite a few brands are more expensive. Top tier brands in the past 2 years have been the high end offerings from Taiyo Yuden (now switching to the JVC brand), Verbatim (Mitsubishi) and Sony, possibly the only brands to provide true archival quality. Mitsui has now split into MAM-America and MAM-Europe, and, while some include Mitsui Gold in the top tier, others consider MAM quality inferior. Verbatim is the most common archival quality brand, and its archival quality products include all those mentioning AZO dies in the product description or displaying the AZO logo  (in particular its Datalife and DataLifePlus series). Be sure to purchase Taiyo Yuden or Verbatim products from authorized distributors, as fakes are widely available in no-name stores.

Other tiers have not shown archival quality. Middle Tier brands include TDK (outsourced, in general to Ritek), Maxell (outsourced), Kodak, HP (outsourced, in general to CMC), Ritek, Imation (outsourced in general to CMC), Optical Quantum (high end Vinpower brand, outsourced). CMC's reputation is not that of a top quality manufacturer. Ritek-made media appears better when labeled under big brand names - maybe better quality control? Third tier, no-name brands or generics provide worse quality, with the high risk of large numbers of coasters, or, worse, short archival life with the resulting likelihood of data loss.

We collected over 10,000 user reviews of DVD recordable media for an upcoming review, and were able to rank all major DVD media brands present in the US. For archival quality products we found, in order, Taiyo Yuden (NOT including its Value Line), Sony, and Verbatim DataLife Plus. Several percent below, we found the other Verbatim products, i.e. AZO branded products and regular products - we believe that these are marginal when looking at true archival quality. we were surprised to see regular Verbatim products ranked roughly equal to AZO branded products, not including the DataLifePlus series.

Middle tier brands (most of which factoring Ritek media) were, in order, HP, Imation, TDK,  VinPower/Optical Quantum, Ritek, Memorex, Maxell and Kodak, none of which, we feel, are worthy of an archival rating. It is worth noting that Taiyo Yuden, Sony (at least until early 2010), and Verbatim, the top rated brands, were all also OEMs for their own media, while the second tier companies were all factoring products (except for Ritek, whose product is actually factored by most of the other middle tier brands). We are quite shocked to see TDK and Maxell, once considered some of the very best media producers for high quality sound reproduction, factoring media products and coming out with mediocre scores - what a sad come-down.Ritek and Memorex have long suffered a poor reputation in DVD media. But seeing Kodak, the company which produced the iconic Kodachrome 64 (the product line was just terminated in 2010), at the trailing end of the second tier quality, is also quite a commentary on brand quality management.

Blu Ray consequences
If the same rules apply to the Blu Ray market, we can surmise that:
  • there will not be 100% compatibility across media, readers and burners 
  • very few brands will be archival quality
  • the most expensive brands may not always be the most reliable
  • the cheapest brand will never be archival grade
  • archival quality media comes from brands who manufacture their own media
  • Taiyo Yuden (JVC) and the high end Verbatim and Sony products are more likely to be archival quality than the rest of the industry
The primary sources of media user reviews are Amazon, NewEgg, SuperMediaStore, Staples, and Meritline. Primary forum sources are digitalFAQ forums (in particular the blank media section),  Blu Ray forums, doom9 forums, MyCE blank media forum, afterdawn DVDR forum, avforums, and avsforum. The digitalFAQ site is the best fact-based site on DVD media, and is based on the experience of professional duplicators. The DVD FAQ section from the usenet is also valuable.

    Next we discuss Blu Ray media failure modes... So come back soon!

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    Monday, January 24, 2011

    Best Blank Blu Ray Media : Review Guide

    Blu Ray blank media guide : Introduction to Blu Ray blank media 
    Introduction to Blu Ray Blank Media Part 1: What You Need to Know About Blu Ray Media

    What are the best Blu Ray  media/ blank discs to pick when using Blu Ray for archival storage or streaming? In the 10 years elapsed since development of the Blu Ray technology and standard started at Sony, Phillips and Pioneer, Blue Ray has become the primary standard for high density optical media storage.

    The large majority of users, however, still uses significantly lesser density DVD-R for media storage and archival, when safeguarding data away from spinning media (hard drives). The year 2010, however, has seen a significant change in trends, with Blu Ray making a breakthrough as a video media standard. Prices have plunged, with Blu Ray burners reaching the $150 price point, and Blu Ray blank media reaching the $1 price point at the low end. We expect to see a sudden take-off in the use of Blu Ray for data archival this year. In fact, as of January 2011, Blu Ray discs are now standard archival media for

    Once the decision to move to Blu Ray archival is taken - an easy decision in 2011 if you need non-spinning media archival,- the next problem to solve is- what is the right medium for Blu Ray discs? This guide will discuss significant concepts in Blu Ray storage, review the best offerings in Blu Ray media, rank the best optical media brands, select best picks for Blu Ray media, and compare online blank media stores.

    The Blu Ray standard is named after its laser color, blue, whereas DVDs use a red laser. Blu Ray is often referred to as BD for Blu Ray Disc.

    Storage Capacity
    Blu Ray uses a different frequency for its diode laser compared to DVD. As its name indicates, a Blu Ray player uses a blue laser to scan and read a Blu Ray disc: a DVD laser operates at 650nm, while a Blu Ray laser operates at 405nm. Thanks to the higher frequency of Blu Ray, it can store about 5 times more information on a disc than DVD. As a result, a standard single-layer Blu Ray Disc can store up to 25 GB of data, while a standard DVD can only store about 4.7 GB. A dual layer DVD (DVD-R DL or DVD+R DL), more expensive than a regular DVD, can store up to 8.5GB.

    Like a DVD disc, a Blu Ray disc can have more than one layer of data. Each layer adds 25 GB of storage capacity. Right now, it is possible to find single-layer and dual-layer discs, although double-layer discs are significantly more expensive per GB of storage. Dual layer media, with a capacity of 50GB, is labeled DL. Dual-layer technology is not supported by all Blu Ray burners and players, so it is important to verify that your burner or player supports double-layer discs before buying some. At this time, we consider single-layer to be the better right choice for Blu Ray discs due to the much higher price per GB for dual-layer discs and the lesser compatibility across players, but we believe that this will change quickly. There are already 4-layer blank media and players available in Japan, at high cost, for a total of 100 GB per disc.

    Write Speed
    Like DVD burners, Blu Ray burners can burn Blu Ray discs at different speeds, generally expressed by a multiple such as 2x, 4x, or 6x, which is part of the specification for the product, and typically listed by the vendor. In order to reach a given write speed, the burner must support the selected speed, and the medium (the actual disc) must also support the same speed. 1x corresponds to 36Mbps, although movies require 2x speed. Of course, a faster burner is more expensive. So is a disc that can be burned faster. In January 2011, as we go to publishing, 2x and 4x discs are reasonably priced, while 6x discs are quite a bit more expensive, and 8x discs are not easy to be found. We do not expect Blu Ray speeds to exceed 12x in the near future (there are players running at 12x today), due to wobble issues. Because we expect average speeds to go up quickly this year and next year, we recommend 4x as the most appropriate speed today, although 2x would not be a wrong choice either. It takes about 45 minutes at 2x to burn a Blu Ray disc with a full 25GB of data.

    Recording Formats: BD-R vs. BD-RE
    Blu Ray discs can be recordable (i.e. write-once/ read-only) or rewritable (i.e. erasable and re-recordable, nominally up to a thousand times). Blue Ray discs are sold as BD-R discs and BD-RE discs. BD-RE discs can be used as BD-R discs, but the opposite is not true. BD-RE discs go for a 2 to 10x premium price over BD-R discs. Some recommend using BD-RE discs right now, because of the lack of reliability of BD-R discs. At the same time, there are some complaints as well of BD-RE discs only being rewritable up to 20-30 times, rather than the nominal 1,000 times specification. At this time, given the very high price premium of BD-RE discs, we believe that, for general use, it makes more sense to pick a very reliable supplier of BD-R discs. It is also possible to find, by the way, BD-R DL and BD-RE DL discs, with 50GB capacity rather than 25GB, although the price per GB goes higher with DL discs.

    LTH Technology: No 100% Compatibility yet
    Verbatim (a Mitsubishi brand, with excellent reputation in the media industry), Maxell (Hitachi) and Taiyo Yuden (JVC) came out in 2008 with an innovative technology, which allows the use of quasi-standard CD technology in manufacturing, and significantly lowers costs for Blu Ray blanks, with no impact to quality. LTH ("Low To High") technology uses organic dies to change disc reflectivity from low to high when writing, while traditional technology, when writing, changes reflectivity from high to low using inorganic dies. LTH is a perfectly good choice, but beware that not all burners and players are compatible with LTH: make sure that yours is prior to purchase.

    Hardened Coatings
    Blu Ray uses very high information density, and is more vulnerable to surface damage than DVD. For this reason, the Blu Ray specification also includes surface hardening specifications. There are real quality differences between the coatings used by different manufacturers. Some examples of these coatings can be reviewed on CNET and Engadget. Despite these coatings, however, it is possible, and even easy, to damage a Blu Ray disc, as Netflix Blu Ray users found out.

    Packaging: Spindle vs. Jewel Case
    When you purchase Blu Ray Media in bulk, you get a significantly better price if you buy it packed 10, 25, 30 ore more on a spindle (also called a cake box, due to the shape of the outer plastic cover). The costlier alternative is to buy your Blu Ray discs individually packaged in a jewel case each. Of course, if you plan on keeping them in jewel cases, then case packaging is best. Otherwise, spindle packaging is the best choice: less expensive, more compact, easier to manipulate, logistically more convenient. One-off purchases all come in a jewel case.

    On-Disc Printing
    It is possible, using the appropriate printers, to print text, graphics, or both on your Blu Ray discs. Printing technology can be inkjet or thermal. While thermal printing is typically more of a budget option, and works well for one color and simple graphics, inkjet has more color capability, and is a better choice for fancier graphics. Another variant is hub printing, where the printing pattern focuses on the circular ring around the hub. An elegant option, developed by HP, and which does not require a printer, but which can be accomplished directly by your Blu Ray burner (if it is compatible) is Lightscribe, a technology which allows your burner to etch the upper surface on the disc in gray against the contrasting color of the disc, revealing a pattern of your choice.
    Every printing type listed above requires an appropriate blank disc: thermal or inkjet printing, hub printing, and Lightscribe all require you to purchase the appropriate blank media. As expected, such media is typically more expensive than regular branded media.
    An acceptable alternative is a permanent maker applied by hand:-) Beware, however, that the permanent marker solvent may dissolve the top lacquer layer, and expose the metal oxyde layer to damage by contact. It is safest to use inkjet-ready discs for permanent marker labeling, as the inkjet-ready coating will insulate the metal oxyde layer from the permanent marker. An even better choice is to use specialized disc pens (such as this Maxell labeling set, these Sharpie disc markers, of this Delkin pen), whose chemicals are formulated to avoid damage to the fragile lacquer.

    Coasters/ Frisbees
    Coasters and Frisbees are the names given to bad discs where the write operation was unsuccessful, i.e. it can only be used as a coaster:-) Beware of brands that produce many coasters.

    Some lesser quality media cannot be recorded or read by specific brands or models of Blu Ray burners or players.

    DVD-R DL: Possible Cost Effective Alternative
    It might be valuable to note that, if you have DVD burners and readers that are Dual Layer compatible, a DVD-R DL disc, with 8.5GB per disc, may be a cost effective alternative, going for $1 to $1.50 per disc for good brands.

    Next we review what we learned from the DVD media industry... So come back soon!

    Thursday, January 20, 2011

    Simple Psych Prep Improves Test Results

    If you feel anxious before taking an important test, writing about your test anxieties for 10 minutes immediately before the exam improves your test results by 10 to 15%, according to a new study.

    The study, published last week in Science by researchers at the University of Chicago,  tracked test taking performance over 3 different experiments.

    In the first experiment, the researchers tracked 20 college students, divided in two groups, one of which was told to write for 10 minutes on how they felt about the test they were about to take, while the other was told to do nothing during that time. Compared to a previous reference test, the students who sat quietly did worse by 12%, while those who wrote about test anxiety improved their scores by 5%.

    In the second experiment, the researchers had 47 college students take the same kind of test, but divided the subjects into three groups, where the third group was asked to write about unrelated subjects for 10 minutes. The scores for the students in the non-writing group and in the group writing about unrelated subjects dropped by 7%, while those for the students writing about test anxiety rose by 4%.

    The third experiment tracked a total of 105 9th grade high school students, in two groups, one year apart. Six weeks before a final exam, the researchers surveyed students' anxiety levels. Then, right before the exam, they divided the students in two groups, one of which was asked to write for 10 minutes about their feelings about the test, while the other was asked to think quietly about unrelated topics. In the non-writing group, the subjects with the highest anxiety performed worst. However, in the writing group, the subjects with the highest anxiety performed as well as those will low anxiety. The student with low anxiety performed similarly in both groups.

    The study conclusion: if you have significant test anxiety, taking 10 minutes to write about your test taking feelings before the test might significantly improve your test results. The study's main author, Professor Sian Beilock, believes that the method clears the subjects' working memory of latent anxiety and allows their brain to work more efficiently.

    Want to read more about it? Try Scientific American, Business Week, the LA Times, TIME Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, US News, Live Science, CNN Health, CTV, UPI, Canadian Press, Science News, the Huffington Post, or the Globe and Mail.

    Study Abstract in Science

    Monday, January 17, 2011

    Big Breakfasts Make You Fatter?

    Big breakfasts may not cause you to decrease your overall caloric intake, but may contribute to a higher daily total caloric intake, according to a new study.

    The new study, published this week in Nutrition Journal by researchers from the Else-Kroner-Fresenius Center of Nutritional Medicine in Munich, asked 380 participants to keep a precise diary of everything they ate for a period of 10 to 14 days. A "big breakfast" was defined as having 400 calories more than a "small breakfast" (sic). The conclusion? "The results of the study showed that people ate the same at lunch and dinner, regardless of what they had for breakfast," says Dr. Volker Schusdziarra, main author of the study. Big breakfast eaters ended up consuming 400 calories more per day, and a big breakfast did not appear to decrease caloric intake later in the day.

    This study appears to contradict the results of a 2008 study, which showed that dieters eating big breakfasts lost more weight. Why the discrepancy? The researchers for the present study point out that the previous study looked at the ratio of breakfast calories vs. total calories, but did not investigate the relationship between breakfast calories and total caloric intake. When we look at the data, however, we also notice that the present study looked at 10 to 14 days' worth of data, analyzing caloric intake only, where the previous study looked at more than 8 months of data, and correlated it with weight gain. The conclusion of the present study do not, therefore, automatically contradict those of the 2008 study. Nutrition experts continue advising people that breakfast is an important part of the daily diet, and that skipping breakfast may lead to further weight gain.

    What should you make of this study? Clearly, eating a larger breakfast will not make you eat less during the day.  You should watch your food intake at breakfast as you do at every other meal. But eating more of your daily calories at breakfast, everything else being equal, may still be a winning diet strategy, according to the 2008 study referenced above.

    Want to read mora bout it? Try Business Week, BBC, CBS News, Medical News Today, Food Consumer, Calorie Lab, ABC Australia, eMaxHealth, NHS UK, or the National Post.

    Study Abstract in Nutrition Journal

    Friday, January 14, 2011

    New, Low-Risk, Test for Downs Syndrome

    A new blood test could radically lower the pregnancy risk of testing for a fetus' Downs Syndrome, according to a new study.

    The new study, published this week by researchers from The Chinese University of Hong Kong in the British Medical Journal, tested the accuracy of a new blood test to detect Downs Syndrome on 753 subjects, of which 86 were found to carry a fetus with Downs Syndrome. The new blood test had no false negatives (i.e. it did not show a negative result when the fetus actually had Downs Syndrome), and 3.1% incidence of false positives (i.e. it diagnosed Downs Syndrome in 3.4% of the subjects when that was not really the case). Today, the actual test procedures for Downs Syndrome carry a 1 to 2% risk of miscarriage. The new test relies on a state-of-the-art DNA technique called multiplexed massively parallel DNA sequencing, and requires only a blood test for the mother. It would dramatically reduce the risk of miscarriage, when compared to traditional techniques.

    Downs Syndrome is the most common genetic abnormality in fetuses. The risk of a fetus carrying Downs Syndrome is approximately 0.1% for the general population, but goes up very fast with the mother's age, to reach almost 1% for a 40-year old mother. Downs Syndrome means severe genetic retardation for the child, and 90% of the mothers typically elect to terminate their pregnancy when the diagnostic is made. As the diagnostic is more likely when it becomes harder for the mother to experience pregnancy -due to age,- many parents now have to make very difficult choices between the wish to know if the fetus carries Downs Syndrome, and the risk of miscarriage that the present tests carry.

    The new test will radically alter the risk proposition. It takes advantage of the fact that the fetus' DNA can be found in the mother's blood, and requires only a very low risk blood test for the mother. If the test is negative, since it has shown no false negatives so far, no more testing is needed. If the test is positive, meaning in only 1-2% of the cases, to absolutely ascertain the presence of Downs Syndrome, the standard test procedure, which carries higher risk, is required. The risk is therefore decreased, for the general population, by 98%, since only positive blood test results require the riskier traditional test.

    Traditional tests with a high certainly of results for Downs Syndrome today require invasive procedures. The most common is amniosynthesis, and involves piercing the amniotic sac with a needle to pick up a sample of amniotic fluid. The other test, chorionic villus sampling, also invasive, requires a small piece of the placenta for testing. Both tests carry a 0.5% to 2% risk of miscarriage.

    The new test is technically ready for deployment, but is not commercially ready, and would be expensive today. We expect to see it appear in one to two years in the mainstream, by which time it will be significantly cost reduced. It represents a revolution in testing for Downs Syndrome, which, because of the radical decrease in risk of miscarriage, will clearly become the primary approach to Downs Syndrome testing. When amniosynthesis and chorionic villus sampling are typically restricted today to high risk pregnancies (often those of older mothers), we believe that this new technology will make it possible to test all pregnant women, and may largely eliminate Downs Syndrome altogether in the developed world.

    Why are we reporting on a test that is no ready for implementation today? We normally only review commercially available tools and techniques. This test represents a remarkable breakthrough for all pregnant couples - a phase of life common to practically all of us. We believe that it is important to spread awareness of this radically better upcoming choice for pregnant couples.

    Want to read more about it? Try New ScientistPhysOrg, Medical News Today, WebMD, WebMD 2, NHS UK, BBC, TIME Magazine, MedPage Today, ABC News, LA Times, CBS News,,,, Science Daily, Third Age, and Globe and Mail

    Study Abstract in the British Medical Journal

    Thursday, January 13, 2011

    CDC: Older Adults Need Shingles Vaccine

    The new shingles vaccine (2006) is effective and reduces the incidence of shingles by 55%, according to a new study. The CDC recommends that older adults age 60 and older to get vaccinated against shingles.

    The new study, published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, surveyed the use of the vaccine among a population of over 75,000 subjects (Kaiser Permanente members in California) who were vaccinated between Jan 1. 2007 and Dec 31, 2009, against a control group of over 225,000 subjects who were not vaccinated. The study showed that the vaccine decreased the incidence of shingles by 55% across all age groups, the incidence of ophtalmic ophthalmic herpes zoster (eye infection by the virus) by 63 percent, and hospitalization by 65 percent. While these numbers might appear low compared to some childhood vaccines which often have success rates in the 80 to 90% range, they are very good for adult vaccines. There were no side effects recorded.

    Shingles, also knows as herpes zoster, is caused by the chickenpox virus. The chickenpox virus, which infects approximately 99% of the population that was not vaccinated against it (i.e. all of us above the age of approximately 30), remains dormant in the body, and can reappear tens of years later, typically when the immune system is depressed by stress or sickness. Shingles typically comes with a rash, can be extremely painful for multiple weeks, reoccur several times, and is followed, 10% to 30% of the time, by postherpetic neuralgia, a painful chronic syndrome which cannot always be treated, and which can significantly affect quality of life. The Mayo Clinic estimates that up to 30% of Americans will get shingles in their lifetime.

    The probability of getting shingles goes up significantly after age 50, but research for the shingles vaccine is only available for age 60 and up. As a consequence, the CDC recommendation at this time is for older adults above the age of 60 to get vaccinated against shingles. Merck, the manufacturer of the shingles vaccine (brand name Zostavax), has petitioned the FDA to extend its recommendation to populations 50 years old and above.

    What should you do about it? If you know anyone affected by the very painful postherpetic neuralgia, it is very unlikely that you will feel the need to ask the question - you probably are right now in line for a vaccination. Merck has not always been able to provide enough vaccine to satisfy demand, and the vaccine is delicate to handle, as it needs to remain frozen until a few minutes prior to injection. Vaccination rates as of now are low. There is enough vaccine right now in the supply chain, and we suggest you get vaccinated as soon as possible, in case a new shortage occurs again.

    Want to know more about it? Try USAToday, Reuters, New York Times, US News & World Report, Business Week, WebMD, Business Week, AFP, ACSH, Medical News Today, Doctor's Lounge, and MedPage Today.

    Study Abstract in the Journal of the American Medical Association
    Full Text Study in the Journal of the American Medical Association 

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011

    Logitech Anywhere Mouse MX Review: Cool Gear

    The Logitech Anywhere Mouse MX: ergonomic design with high build quality

    The best wireless mouse is hard to find through the hundreds of available models, none of which carry perfect review ratings. Like keyboards and other input devices, which need a good fit to the user, mice always find a specific subset of the users for which they don't "fit", because of hand shape, use patterns or Repetitive Stress Injuries issues (RSIs). The outcome is that, for each wireless mouse with good numbers of reviews, a significant subset of users will downgrade their reviews, resulting in less than perfect review ratings.

    Yet we all need input devices - if you are on the market for a good wireless mouse, where do you go? In our quest to equip the offices of, we found an outstanding choice, which, surprisingly, does not show in the top 50 wireless mice bestsellers at Amazon, or the top 20 at Newegg: The Logitech Anywhere Wireless Advanced Laser Mouse MX.

    The Logitech Anywhere Mouse MX, which can be found for $50 to $60, is presented by Logitech as the high end of Logitech range of portable mice -i.e. laptop or netbook mice, although, to our surprise, we found out that its users rated it as appropriate to use with desktops as well. It uses the 2.4GHz band for wireless communications, auguring for a better range than BlueTooth devices. Logitech advertises DarkField laser tracking for the Anywhere Mouse MX, a technology that, according to Logitech, improves tracking speed and precision, and can be used directly on glass surfaces, traditionally a difficult surface to deal with. The Anywhere Mouse MX is advertised for use with both PCs and Macs.

    How do reviewers rate the Anywhere Mouse MX? The Anywhere Mouse MX scores very high across all key success factors. In fact, after having scanned all the best selling mice, which, because of individual fit, do not get uniformly high reviews, we were very surprised to find a very high scoring mouse significantly lower in the best-selling scale. Reviewers of the Anywhere Mouse MX paint very complete - and positive- picture of this wireless mouse.

    Like all input devices, the first, and most important aspect, is - how well does it fit? We were shocked by the practical unanimity that users had on good fit:
    "Feels great in your hand", "beautiful design, nice grip"," design is elegantly simple", "ergonomic and fits comfortably in my hand","every other wireless mouse is so far behind this mouse, it is not funny","my primary activity is CAD so the input device is very important. I have long fingers, but like small mice because I don't like to pivot my elbow when navigating the mouse. Mouse sensitivity is cranked up with only the wrist making movements. This helps with rotator cuff and carpal tunnel injuries by the way, two injuries that are common in office environments", "extremely comfortable, well balanced", "fits my hand well", "comfortable rubber side grips, feels good in the hand, despite the relatively small size", "This mouse just fits in my palm and I don't need a gel-bumper pad to reduce wrist fatigue. It was so different than my other Logitech laser mice, I hated it for the first few days, but then came to see it was more comfortable and I really like the touch/feel of the materials. The button arrangement is intuitive now and it's my favorite", "perfectly designed, excellent mouse", "comfortable, "good feel", "good fit into hands, good positioning of buttons", "I prefer a smaller mouse now (wrist problems) so the Anywhere is perfect for that", "great Forward/Backward button placement, [great] grip", "looks cool and feels balanced and solid", "feels great in the hand", ""smaller than desktop mice, but you're buying a laptop one. It actually is quite comfortable to use it as I though it'd be hard to grasp a small mouse, but you just let your hand relax and let some air be placed in between the mouse/table and your hand and it's beautiful", "small enough to carry around, yet very comfortable to use", " I am one of those people who sit in front of computers over 10 hours a day, and the Anywhere Mouse never hurt my hand", "Now that I've tried this mouse, I get frustrated whenever I use a different one. I really like its small size as I have small hands and many of the upper end mice with good ergonomics seem to be designed for mens hands", "I must have gone through at least 200 - 250 different products till I ended with this one. I was looking for a small mouse that could take on a lot of work and at the same time be tucked away nice and easy. I do a lot of 3D modeling and this mouse fit my needs perfectly", "ergonomic, comfortable shape makes it comfortable to use, hours on end". While a handful of users note that the backward/forward buttons are better positioned for right-handers, more left handers state they the can comfortably use the mouse: "it's a RIGHT-HANDED mouse", "the shape of the mouse makes it perfect for left-handed people", "I am also left-handed, I am also wearing my wedding ring when I use this mouse. I don't have any problem with the back/forward button... In fact, I just placed another order for my second laptop."

    Laptop/ desktop dual use
    We were very surprised to find out that, despite its small size, the users of the Anywhere Mouse MX use it as a general purpose mouse, both for laptops and desktops:
    "I love it so much that I am buying a second one for my work PC", "great all around wireless mouse","don't know if I could recommend this mouse highly enough", "my productivity at work goes down what feels like 90 percent if I forget to bring it with me and am forced to use an el-cheapo Dell wired optical mouse. I don't even want to work without it. Co workers are blown away at how fast I can work in Excel with this thing", "I liked this mouse so much that I bought a couple more for my other machines", "I would like to see a larger desktop style equivalent, with that being said I use the MX at work everyday for 8 hours and don't necessarily think that I would buy a larger version. I am extremely happy with the Anywhere MX", "even though it is sold as a laptop mouse, it is an excellent high-end mouse for either desktop or laptop use", " works better than the mouse I have with my desk top. Even my kids, who love the touch pad, prefer the mouse."

    We were initially skeptical of being able to use the small Anywhere Mouse MX comfortably for 10 hours a day with a desktop. We quickly found out that we were wrong. We discovered that those of us with larger hands did need to slightly change our grip on the mouse, and keep only the fingers in contact, with the lower palm remaining on the mousepad. Differently from large traditional desktop mice, the mechanics of mousing with the Anywhere Mouse MX for the large hand user involve fingers only, and avoid wrist and arm motions - something that we found a positive change, especially for those of us with RSIs. In the end, several of us elected to switch to the Anywhere Moue MX for our standard desktop mouse.

    Build quality
    Like many - although not all- Logitech products, the Anywhere Mouse MX gets kudos from users for excellent build quality:
    "Quality is top notch", "upper build quality is good with a nice weight and feel to it especially with the metal parts on the scroll wheel and the center sternum of the mouse", "quality Logitech construction", "typically impeccable Logitech build quality", "nice build quality, sturdy", "great construction." The lone weakness, is the plasticky feeling of the battery cover: "battery cover feels thin and brittle", "plastic battery cover is a little cheap feeling."

    Tracking for the Logitech Anywhere Mouse MX is outstanding, and reviewers report success on practically any surface, including, as advertised, glass:
    "So smooth on any surface", "like many others say, this thing works on almost any surface, even your hand", "great movability and consistency for a wireless mouse (performs like a wired mouse)", "performance is top notch", "it does work on all surfaces", "laser tracking works great", "works well on all surfaces, as advertised", "works on glass surfaces well", "love the precision of it","works on any surface","awesome mouse!!! I have been waiting for a mouse that works on glass and here it is. Now I don't have to tape a piece of paper to the top of my glass desk anymore! :)","no response lag", "excellent readability on various surfaces", "tracks well", "Darkfield Laser Tracking allows you to use literally any smooth surface as a mousepad. When the package says, 'The world is your mousepad.' that's not hyperbole", "works on my glass coffee table, on my sofa's pillow, even on my car's center armrest", "on the way to a meeting, I can hold my laptop in my left hand and use my pantleg as a pointing surface to show reports, scroll through a presentation, anything, all while I'm walking through the office", "works on any surface", "It did find that it was flaky on a white rough plastic table which seemed strange since it works on everything else...other optical mouses work on this table but not on glass", , "tracking is not good on really clean, clear glass", "mouse really does work on every surface I've tried it on", "Dark-Laser (or however it's called) works as advertised, it tracks on glass, mirrors, beds, my head, my arms the same way it does on the table", "the pads on the bottom are larger than other mice of this type so I never have trouble with them getting gummed up, and it slides nicely over my desk's black formica that regular mice never would act correctly on", "responsive", "like many others say, this thing works on almost any surface, even your hand."

    However, the mouse is not perfect for the more demanding gaming applications, which typically require a specialized gaming mouse: "since I play games a lot, the precision of the mouse is important for me. Sometimes the mouse lag in my game", "fantastic mouse, even for gaming. Really ergonomic, hyper scrolling is a plus. "I haven't played any FPSes with it yet, but haven't had any trouble with lag or jumpiness on any other games I've used it with. It's precision is great, I use the claw grip style with it","I do not want to lag while I am gaming... So, if you are into gaming, this might not be the mouse for you."

    Wireless range
    Range complaints are endemic with wireless devices, in part because metal parts and enclosures nearby can significantly impact transmission conditions. We were ready to see a good number of range complaints with the Anywhere Mouse MX, but found surprisingly few. The general picture painted by the review is very good transmission in general:
    "Tiny USB transmitter can stay in PC and performance is top notch", "great range (Tested around 20-30 ft) ", "Logitech has always had good range with their stuff and this mouse is no exception", "the range is very nice", "receiver sucks, no range at all", "someone stated that they thought the reception sucked, I thought this at 1st but I had put the receiver on the back usb port of my tower and it was closed in by a lot of other things, once I switched it to the front port on the case I can use it up to 10 ft away (handy for when I clone monitor to TV for watching netflix)", "couldn't keep a consistent connection less than 6 feet line of sight away from the tower", "range is excellent. I can control the pointer on my laptop from at least 15' away", "reception is excellent and has good response."

    To improve reception, the receiver can be mounted on a USB cable positioned in a better position. However, practically no users report needing it.

    The receiver for the Anywhere Mouse MX (Logitech calls it a "unifying" receiver) can also be used for several other Logitech wireless devices, also working with the same 2.4GHz technology, such as wireless keyboards. It cannot be used with non-Logitech devices. It is extraordinarily small, tiny enough that it can remain plugged into a laptop's USB port while the laptop is in the case:
    "Love the small unified receiver", "same unified USB receiver of my keyboard", "I really like the small USB receiver that you can just leave in your computer and not even notice it's there","small Unifying receiver hardly takes up any room", The unifying mini-receiver is great and should be the industry standard. I leave it in my laptop's USB port 24/7", " 'unifying' tech is cool", "small usb dongle is great", " Having the small dongle makes it easier to use with various computers than a bluetooth mouse would be", "receiver is small enough to plug and forget", "also not needing to remove it to put laptop in pouch."

    The Anywhere Mouse MX is small enough to be used as a standard laptop or netbook mouse. It is larger than some other mobile mice. While some users warned that it may be too small for users with large hands, large handed users indicated, in general, that the small size still worked for them, as we ourselves had found out when outfitting our desktops:
    "May be too small if you have large hands", "I have pretty large hands, and it is still very comfortable", "Large hands friendly. Some users might think it's on small side for large hands, but give it a test drive... weight/ heftiness and overall comfort (size, highest quality materials and SMOOTH operating buttons and wheels may overcome any size concerns)", "would have preferred having it a bit bigger, but considering my hand size, it is still great to work with", "honestly, it *could* be a little bigger for those with larger hands, but then it wouldn't be the ANYWHERE Mouse MX, since it's intended to also be used on the go", " this particular computer is in a fairly compact space and I can't have a large mat or even plain, flat surface. The smaller size works perfectly on a square pad. I can even lean back in the chair to watch a movie and use it on the chair arm", "wish the mouse was a tad larger and a smidge lighter", "In some other reviews, some people were concerned about how well it would work for people with large hands; I have large hands and it works very well. I use it mostly with my finger tips, with an occasional nudge on the back end with my hand."

    The Anywhere Mouse MX carries more weight than most laptop or netbook mice:
    "The weight is perfect, so moving it around is easy and precise", "Nicely weighted", "not too heavy / not too light", "It is a very heavy mouse which adds to the nice solid feel (the AA batteries help add weight)", "it has a nice weighty feel, not chintzy like most mice", "much heavier due to 2 AA batteries. Yes you could reduce that by using one, but I like to load up the batteries and forget it.", "the weight of the mouse makes it feel sluggish while tracking", "using 2 AA batteries will become heavy", "when the mouse has two batteries installed it is quite heavy. Happily, it works just fine with only one battery!"

    The Anywhere Mouse MX introduces an innovative approach to scrolling. Most scrolling mice use the scrolling wheel as the middle clicking button. When you click on the Anywhere Mouse MX, you toggle scrolling behavior from frictionless to regular scrolling and back. Underneath the scrolling wheel, in the direction of the palm, is the middle button. Frictionless scrolling, and scrolling in general, gets raves from many users:
    "Hyperfast scrolling never gets old", "possibility to change scrolling; friction-free or normal", "very nice scroll mechanism", "scrolls well", "scroll wheel can be switched between clicking with each scroll and wheeling freely"," One thing that is excellent is the scroll, NO notch and you can fly with it. It just spins freely. Love it !!","scroll wheel will spin like it has ball bearings or, if you depress it until it clicks, will detente","I love the mouse wheel being separate from the middle button. I find that when playing FPS games, the wheel of other mice can be actuated when only trying to press the middle button feature. Getting used to the button takes a little time, but I've been accustomed to it for years", "area around scroller is metallic and feels nice", toggle between normal, detent scrolling and free-wheel scrolling with the click of the wheel (and it almost seems to spin forever!)","dual-mode wheel is great, I usually don't use the free scrolling mode, but it's a great feature. Before I bought this mouse, I didn't like the thought of not being able to push the wheel down for a middle click, but you get used to using the little button right below it - very quickly. I don't want to go to any other setup now", "no friction scroll wheel is priceless (nearly). Horizontal scrolling is nice", "caution: The mouse scroll function is one of those features that you will miss when you go back to using a mouse without it. Be warned that if you purchase this mouse, you will soon be replacing your entire fleet.", "mouse wheel is innovative", "my favorite feature is the mouse wheel click-to-toggle-freewheel feature. Click it once, and you can spin the wheel like a top and scroll like a racecar on NOS. Click it again, and the normal detent is back for precision scrolling.", "middle click is compensated for with the button behind the scroll wheel (Just took some getting used to)", "changeable scroll modes (Hyperfast/notched scroll) eliminates middle click with scroll wheel (moved to button; didn't bother me enough to take an egg off)."

    At the same time, the need for an alternate middle button below the scroll wheel is a significant drawback for approximately 3% of the reviewers, and ends up showing as the primary single source of negative reviews for the Anywhere Mouse MX:
    "I've tried the 'frictionless glide' scrollwheel and it hasn't yet proven useful. Middle click is less comfortable than mice that have it on the wheel", "the scroll wheel does not act as the middle mouse button when clicked", "If you use middle button a lot then you have bend your finger to click it."

    The Anywhere Mouse MX has 5 buttons, all reassignable by software. The flexibility they offer is in general appreciated by reviewers:
    "It has a forward and back button on the side, and a button behind the scroll wheel, which are all cleverly placed as to not have accidental button presses", "two side buttons, a nice working middle slider and another button that works as the third mouse button behind the slider","small button below the scroll wheel that gives you the center click function","crisp tactile feel on buttons", "placement of the back/forward buttons to the side of the mouse is both good and bad. For one, left-handers used to be able to pinkie/ring-finger actuate the top-mounted buttons if they so wished. I'm not left handed, but thought that a change like this was short sighted. The button are placed uncomfortably rearward of where my thumb would naturally align"," included SetPoint software lets you assign different functions to any of the 5 buttons, plus up/down scroll, and left/right side scroll."

    Battery life
    Because wireless input devices are not tethered to a source of power, they need batteries. Battery life is a common source of complaints for all wireless input devices. The Anywhere Mouse MX is powered from 2 AA batteries, and Logitech advertises 6 months of use (it also sells other models with up to 3 years of autonomy). Reviewers are divided on actual battery life:
    "The two batteries last forever", "battery life last a long time","runs on ordinary AA batteries with no base or wall charger. I'm on my 1st set and it's been months", "Very good battery life", "having to replace 2 AA's once a month", "takes AAs (1 or 2, use to manage weight!)", "poor battery life for 2AA's", "I think the battery lasted almost three months--that's with 1-2 hours use a day. Nothing to brag about", "Battery life seems short considering there are two AA", "Battery life is excellent."

    On-off switch
    The Anywhere Mouse MX has an unusual on-off switch to preserve battery power:
    "Something no one else seems to have thought of. It's called an On-Off Switch. It's located on the bottom of the mouse and you simply move the slide to turn it on and off", "easy to turn on and off","just turn on your mouse with the switch underneath whenever your ready to use it. Amazing!","sexy latch that shuts off the laser - perfect", "I like the on/off sliding switch as it is easy to work with fat fingers", "power/tracking lense shutter is cool", "the power button on the bottom doubles as a shutter/cover for the tracking eye, so it won't get dusty or scratched when you turn it off and toss it into your bag. What a concept!", "large on/off switch"

    Receiver in-mouse storage
    The receiver can be stored under the battery cover when traveling: "Great touch with the option to store the receiver inside the mouse and the whole mouse could then be stored into the included zipper pouch","Case and storage of dongle is very well designed", "You have to remove the battery cover to store the micro receiver"

    Soft travel case
    The mouse comes with a travel pouch: "The pouch it comes with is brilliant!", "neat little bag for it", "nice little zip-up travel bag, "leather [sic] pouch is a nice touch", "Very mobile (Comes with a little carrying bag)", "Has little pouch, comfortable to put in when moving computer around and not having to worry about trowing your 90$ premium mouse in some bag."

    Software is the only area where Logitech has a poor reputation. Users reported worry-free operation with Windows and MacOS, but more unusual configurations (Unix, Windows on Mac) were not always perfect. The mouse alone is plug-and-play, but any customization needs use of the Setpoint software. While most users found the operation of the software seamless, there were also some negative reviews:
    "Logitech software is simple and easy to work with", "really easy to work with", "does not need ANY drivers (Windows finds it's own) just to use it along with all the buttons/functions.", "possible to reprogram every single button", " the software that ships works perfectly on my XP machine to change the function of the buttons", "included SetPoint software isn't ready to go for Windows 7, but it's really not that big of a deal", "mouse works fine on OSX as long as I am not in a game, There is some incompatibility between the OSX mouse driver and the hardware", "this will work great with the Mac, BUT will totally "crap out" in your Mac "Windows" installations (either on BootCamp OR Virtual Machine!) " couldn't get the device to work on multiple 64-bit Windows 7 computers.", "It does work on 64-bit Windows 7 systems", "have it running on my 64-bit Windows 7 Professional just fine"

    Logitech offers a 3-year warranty for the mouse. We found few lemons reported by reviewers: "it only [worked] for 27 days. After 27 days, it began to freeze."

    The price is comparatively high for a wireless mouse. Most users consider it fair for the quality of the product: "only downside is the hefty price"," fair price for a GREAT mouse", "costs more than my nano... but worth it","as other reviews have stated,you get what you pay for..I paid full price for this mouse but I feel it is worth it", "I am a student and it was pretty expensive for me, but it is worth every cent."

    Overall evaluation
    The very large majority of the reviewers were extremely positive about the Anywhere Mouse MX:
    "Great mouse", "best mouse that I have ever owned!", "for me, $77 is a lot of money for a mouse but I am extremely pleased with my purchase", "best mouse I have ever bought!","this is the best mouse I've ever owned", "best mouse ever" , "along with the 12-cell extended life battery, the wireless mouse and particularly the Anywhere MX ranks right at the TOP for most convenient, highest quality feel and performance, ease of installation and most useful products for computer users", "another great Logitech product... [it] goes beyond my expectations", "this is the best mouse I've ever owned", "I really love this mouse", "it's always nice to find a great product."

    Review statistics: Approval ratings
    Beyond the very good anecdotal evidence provided by some of the reviews listed above, the Anywhere mouse MX receives excellent feedback statistics, which we believe to be at the top of the wireless mouse category (we are planning a full comparative review of the category for Spring 2011). We screened 405 reviews (from Amazon, TigerDirect and NewEgg) for the Logitech Wireless Anywhere Mouse MX, and found a total of 369 positive reviews. The approval rating is an excellent 91%, with up to 3% error at a confidence level of 95%, meaning that we are 95% certain that betwen 88% and 94% of present users recommend the Anywhere Mouse MX. This is an excellent approval rating, and an excellent interval of confidence as well.

    We find the Logitech Anywhere Mouse MX to be an outstanding choice for a wireless mouse, well designed and with very good fit to a large majority of users. We recommend it with no hesitation to any user with no RSI issues, with the understanding that, as with all input devices, based on your personal dimensions and usage patterns, it may or may not be a perfect fit, but that it is statistically likely to work very well with you.

    Late last year we reviewed and recommended the Logitech Wave K350 wireless ergonomic keyboard. The Wave keyboard, like the Anywhere Mouse MX, also uses a unifying receiver, and both can share the same receiver on a common computer.

    Saturday, January 8, 2011

    Circumcision Cuts HPV, Cervical Cancer Risk

    Circumcision significantly decreases the incidence and transmission rate of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), according to a new study.

    HPV is probably the most common Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) in existence, before Herpes (HSV), and is commonly assumed to be present in 1/4 to 3/4 of sexually active adults in the US. Some variants of HPV are the primary cause of cervical cancer, while others are associated with anal, penile, head and neck cancers, and with genital warts. Cervical cancer is the second most common form of cancer among women, and a vaccine now exists to be given to pre-sexually active teens. While many HPV infections eventually resolve themselves, HPV is considered incurable. Because of the remarkable prevalence of HPV, impact on its transmission rate is of particular interest. A new study shows very significant results.

    The study, published in the prestigious UK Journal The Lancet this week by researchers from Johns Hopkins University, set up two randomized controlled trials (the highest standard for proof of causality), tracking nearly 1,000 couples in Uganda, over a two-year period. The incidence of new HPV infections was 28% lower for women with circumcised partners compared to those with uncircumcised partners. Previous research has shown 32 to 35% decrease of HPV transmission rates to circumcised male partners, compared to uncircumcised male partners. The results of these studies reinforce those obtained in observational studies in the US.

    "Male circumcision has now been shown to decrease HIV, herpes simplex virus-2, and HPV infections and genital ulcer disease in men, and also HPV infection, trichomoniasis, and bacterial vaginosis and genital ulcer disease in their female partners," write the authors of the study."Thus, male circumcision reduces the risk of several sexually transmitted infections in both sexes, and these benefits should guide public health policies for neonatal, adolescent, and adult male circumcision programs." "We believe the cumulative scientific evidence supporting circumcision is now overwhelming." adds co-author Dr. Aaron Tobian.

    Circumcision rates in the US have seen a dramatic drop in the last ten years. However, new research published in the past ten years has shown very significant inhibition by circumcision of the transmission of various STDs. Neither the Center for Disease Control (CDC) nor the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend or discourage the practice at this time. WebMD reports, however, that "both the CDC and the AAP are reportedly considering revisions to their infant circumcision policies in light of the new research."

    Should this new study impact your attitude towards circumcision? We believe that published outcomes of randomized clinical trials in the past ten years have brought a high level of scientific proof to the advantages of circumcision in the prevention of STDs, and warrant reviewing the pros and cons of the practice. Endorsement of circumcision by the CDC and/or the AAP would make, our opinion, a decision in favor of circumcision based on medical evidence clear cut. The debate on circumcision, however, includes cultural issues which cannot always be brought down to scientific evidence.

    Want to read more about it? Try Reuters, Doctors Lounge, TIME Magazine, Medscape, US News and World Report, ABC News, CBS News, WebMD, BusinessWeek/ HealthDay, Culture Clash Daily, eMaxHealth, UPI, or MedPage Today.