Archive | Tech Toys

Geeking out on tech topics of interest to me, including gadgets, computers, digital goods and more.

Of mice and geeks

My 4 year old mouse (which came with my computer) finally bit the dust, so I’ve been using this opportunity to see if I can finally find a reliable wireless mouse.  I’ve tried the Logitech Anywhere MX, the M510, and will probably check out the M705 as well.  I’ve relegated my Anywhere MX to use on my MacBook because of its awesome ability to work on nearly any surface (even more so than other laser models), a welcome feature given the number of times I’ve had to use a newspaper as a makeshift mousepad every time a hotel I stayed at had a ceramic or glass desk.

But for some reason I never get good results using a Wi-Fi mouse for the desktop PC.  I don’t know if the 24-inch real estate makes the difference more obvious, or if I’ve just gotten too used to working with a plain old wired, optical mouse, but it always feels unnatural.  The M510 I’m trying now is pretty heavy (even when I take out one battery), and no matter how many times I adjust the speed, I’m always misclicking here and there.  Logitech also has this tendency to disable the scroll’s function as a middle button (in favor of using hyper scroll, yawn), so curling my finger to click the middle button has also been a minor aggravation for me.

Do others have trouble making a permanent transition from wired to wireless mouse use?  I’m kind of curious to know.  I’m going to check out Best Buy this weekend for Logitech’s wired M500 mouse (and their wireless M705) and see if maybe Microsoft has still been able to produce a few worthy alternatives.  Remember when the Intellimouse was all that and a bag of gummi bears?  I miss those days.

Update:  I’ve played around with the M510, MX Anywhere, M705 and finally the corded M500 mouse from Logitech (check their current mouse line here).  I find it interesting that the location of the sensor does seem to make a difference.  My clicking accuracy is far better when the sensor is positioned in the center rather than to the extreme side like I’ve seen in a lot of wireless mice lately.  That’s why I had a lot of difficulty with the M705 and M510, since I seem to be one of those geeks who pivot the mouse with their wrists rather than move the entire arm.  This difference doesn’t seem to be obvious when using a smaller screen such as on a laptop, but on jumbo monitors like mine it’s definitely noticeable.  Both had off center sensors so my pointer never seems to be precisely where I want it to be.  I’m sure after enough practice and time my muscle memory can adapt, but I’m not in the mood for change, so I opted to go with either the M500 or MX Anywhere (both of which have centered sensors).

Just to confirm I wasn’t imagining this, I went to Mouse Accuracy to test my click accuracy with all the mice I’ve tried, with interesting results.  When using mice with off center sensors my clicking accuracy was just a notch below 50%.  Using the M500 and MX Anywhere, my accuracy ranged from 80 to 90% instead.

I gotta say, I didn’t think I’d like the MX Anywhere, but it’s definitely growing on me, so much that I’m wondering if I should get a second one for the desktop, even though its smaller size makes it more appropriate as a mobile mouse.  The M500 is ok, but it has the downside of being corded and having a less resistant scroll wheel, which makes its use as a middle button a bit more cumbersome.  It’s a horse race for now, but it does look like the MX Anywhere might just win it by a nose.  Besides, I need to be moving past cords and going wireless wherever I can to reduce the cable jungle I’ve got going on in my home office.

So the Amish can use computers as well, though sadly they still lack an online dating service

Interesting, I never knew they could do this.

For religious reasons, the Amish avoid much of what may be called modern technology. But they do make exceptions and sometimes even use computers. Here’s a photo from a recent Amish trade show in Ohio. One company promoted its line of computers with deliberately limited functions: (Source Link)

The computers however would have no access to the internet, no music and no video, using only the most crippled and rudimentary software for business purposes, so quite naturally they went with Microsoft Office.

Looks like my dream of nailing down an Internet-friendly Amish babe who can make me delicious whoopie pies will still have to wait a few more centuries though.

Backup on the Road – A Review of Seagate’s FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra-Portable Drive

Collective Bias and Seagate was kind enough to send me a complimentary GoFlex Drive in exchange for this review.

I’m not big on external hard drives, partly because they tend to take up too much room and I haven’t really seen a pressing need for them. In fact the only reason I have a drive for my desktop now is because of the shiny neon lights, and you know how I am when it comes to shiny objects.

Western Digital Neon Hard Drive

I shine and dazzle in hard driving awesomeness.

It never occurred to me to get an external drive for my MacBook though until I received the FreeAgent GoFlex Pro Drive from Seagate.

Seagate GoFlex Drive Box

750GB?  Yes we can.

I’ve really been behind on keeping up with the latest and greatest in hard drive technology, so when I opened up the box, I was pretty impressed to see just how small this drive actually was.

Comparison of FreeAgent GoFlex Drive size with wallet

Wow, hardly bigger than my wallet.

The drive came with two cables, and an instruction manual so bare it didn’t even bother describing the difference between the two cables. Apparently one is a standup dock that doesn’t require any specific connection type (USB, eSATA, Firewire, etc.) while the other cable includes a USB module and cable for the drive to connect using plain old USB 2.0. The drive is pretty versatile in that you can purchase additional modules from USB 3.0 to eSATA for just about any connection setup imaginable. The downside though is that they can be pretty pricey, offsetting any potential savings in cost if you need something speedier than USB 2.0, but it does make the drive virtually futureproof.

Since my MacBook still only has USB 2.0, I’m content to use that for now. I didn’t like the fact that the standup dock takes up TWO USB ports, so I used the other cable instead. Connected the drive to my MacBook, and it was immediately recognized by MacBook’s native Time Machine software. It really is just plug and play here, which could account for the lack of instructions.

Seagate GoFlex Drive connected to MacBook

Time to backup my Air Supply collection.

What I really like about the drive is its ability to be used by both PC and Mac computers. It gives me the option of synchronizing my music, photos and videos on both my desktop and MacBook, which can be REALLY useful. If you get this drive as well and want to set it up this way, check out these instructions first.

I already use an Eye-Fi card to sync my photos and vids between my two computers, so for now I’m opting to use the GoFlex Drive as a backup solution for my MacBook, as well as provide additional space for future videos. My MacBook’s internal drive is an SSD with “only” 128GB of space, so having an additional 750GB to play around with will definitely come in handy. The drive itself includes third party software for syncing and backing up content, but I feel more comfortable using my MacBook’s native apps for that for the time being.

It’s certainly not the fastest portable drive out there, but for my needs it’s perfect, and it’s slim enough that I can keep it in my keyboard case too.  Using this along with a cloud backup solution helps me sleep a lot better at night, especially when I’m on the road.

Is it me, or is eBay turning into a veritable nest of epic FAIL?

I’ve been using eBay for 13 years and through all those years I’ve enjoyed a perfect feedback rating, although I think that’s going to be changing soon.  It seems inevitable that some choochwagon on there is going to snipe me with a negged up feedback, especially given how openly hostile eBay has become towards sellers.

I noticed this in some part last year when I went to sell my iPhone, and despite a history of positive feedback, the guy goes AWOL on payment, so I filed a non-payment dispute, to which he pleaded that I let it slide, because he was unable to pay due to Hurricane Sandy breaking his PayPal account.

Me:  ……………..

No, I’m not gonna let it slide you little deadbeat monkeyslut.  eBay added a strike on his account and I got back a refund for listing fees, but that was over a week of my time wasted.  Fortunately I was able to sell the phone to someone else for about the same amount of money.

So this year, it’s time for another round of eBay funsies so I can offload my old iPhone, camera and my MacBook.  I list my phone first, and I start getting inquiries from people begging to buy the phone for X amount of money, none of who were in the U.S.  One was from Romania, sent me an offer in broken English, another from… I can’t even pronounce the name of the country, and one more guy from Indonesia named Ahmed Aboobie Mahfoodzzz or something, who wanted to know if I could disable the GPS on my iPhone so it couldn’t be tracked.

Cosby Face Palm

Does anyone in THIS country actually use eBay anymore?   I feel like I’m trading in a marketplace on Tatooine now.

Anyway, I ultimately sell my iPhone for a healthy $500 to Achmed Smackmed (or something) who thankfully only took a day to pay me.  I’m psyched over how much I was able to sell the iPhone 5 for… until I see eBay’s fee:  $50.

Dude.

And then on top of that I get docked with the transaction fee on PayPal, not 2.9% like they usually charge mind you, no it’s 3.9% because Achmed Smackmed is verified but NON-U.S. PayPal member, so the sale was actually an international one, despite the shipping address being in FLORIDA.  All in all, eBay just helped themselves to 14% of my profit.

DUDE.

Oh, and let’s not get started on my camera, which also sold for a nice chunk of change, except this guy is also taking his sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet mommy time in paying up, despite the fact that he’s got a good feedback rating as a seller as well as a buyer.  So now I have another non-payment case opened up and will have to sit on my laurels for a week before I can re-list it or ship it out.  I can’t even leave negative feedback on a buyer anymore, the best I can do is complete a payment dispute and have a strike added to their record, a process that apparently does nothing to slow down the rate of deadbeats and procrastinating buyers on eBay.

And through all this, if the guy DOES pay (albeit not in a timely fashion), the dispute is closed and he can STILL leave neg feedback, even if as a seller I did exactly what was in my right to do (opening a dispute grants some degree of protection and ensures you get a refund on your listing fees).  Yep, they can get all obnoxious and huffy on your feedback page:  “This seller couldn’t wait 2 months for me to pay him.  SO unreasonable!!!  THUMBS DOWN”

And of course all I can do is watch as they gleefully add a black mark to my otherwise perfect feedback record just because they can, and yet the only feedback I can give them in return is a positive one.  That’s why every eBay buyer from here to Calcutta (no matter how deadbeat or scammy they are) has a 100% positive feedback rating.  Ridiculous.

Too bad Craigslist has all them serial killers hanging about on there, or I’d totally sell my junk on there instead.  Oy.

Looking at iOS 7, I wonder if flat design is a scam perpetrated on us by lazy and untalented designers

I’ve always loved the 3D, skeuomorphic look of the icons on my Apple iPhone before iOS 7.  They were vibrant, colorful, and had a level of depth to them that were aesthetically pleasing to the eye.   The 3D imagery gave substance to the apps I used, while the skeuomorphism that too many schmuck-head geeks have suddenly now decided to hate simulated real life objects with attractive visual cues, such as typing down notes on what looked like an actual notepad.   Sometimes it got too tacky, such as faux leather in the “Find My Friends” app, but overall I appreciated the effort to present a visually appealing look in which no learning curve was required.

Now, they’ve done away with a lot of the skeuomorphism, and while I’ve resigned myself to having to adjust to the profoundly different look of iOS 7, there’s something about the new icons in particular that really, REALLY irritates me.  It’s not so much that I can’t get adapt to the new design or admit that much of the functionality of iOS 7 is actually much better, it’s that merely glancing at these icons has me absolutely convinced that we’re being scammed by lazy fat bagged designers who vomited forth these 8-bit icons using MS Paint because it took all of five minutes to create, allowing them to spend the rest of their workday surfing pr0n and defending this ugly flat look on forums by proclaiming that it’s the new edgy and cool trend in design.

iOS6 and iOS7 Home Screen Comparison

By the way the 90s called, they’d like their neon colors back.

It’s a FRAUD is what it is.  And I think that’s why just LOOKING at these icons agitates me so much.  Whereas before, you could tell a significant amount of work went into making the old icons, or at least were certainly not anything that could easily be reproduced after a few minutes of using Photoshop.  Actual SKILL and TALENT were needed to create them.

The new icons?  Please.  They’re so basic and bland that even I could replicate them easily, in fact there are others who were able to reproduce the same look in just a few minutes of using standard graphic freeware.  Even more embarrassingly, some of those revised icons made by enthusiasts looked SO much better too.  Meanwhile the serial killer looking Jony Ive who foisted this kindergarten level, neon crap on us recently nabs himself a 17 million dollar home in San Fran.  Really?  What he produced here shouldn’t even be paid minimum wage.  To me he’ll be forever known as the foochball who completely destroyed and ruined the credibility of designers everywhere, because now I’ll forever regard them as lazy, unskilled lying liars from Liarsburg who intentionally created this grotesquely boring, simplistic look in order to reduce their workload, and then have the chutzpah to claim this is an improvement over the previous generation of 3d/skeuomorphic design because it’s MORE HONEST.  OMG, I just can’t even…

Angry fat man overthrows table

Whatever.  The problem is this is an industry wide trend, so it’s not like I can switch from Apple to Droid or (God help me, a Microsoft Phone), because the same stupid flat design is going to plague me there as well.  It was one of the reasons why I liked Apple, because they had a tendency to buck the trend and design according to their in-house standards.  Not anymore it seems.  My only hope then is that there will be enough of a user backlash to force a return (if only merely in part) to the good old days of skeuomorphism and gradients, preferably where the icons finally become dynamic (the way the widgets on Droid phones and tiles on Windows 8 sometimes are).

Track sharks in real time to see how close you can get to being eaten

Discovered a seriously cool real time shark tracker, brought to you by the folks at OCEARCH.  Just out of curiosity, I dug out the tracking path for the mother of all sharks (Great White) to see what she’s been up to:

Great White Shark Tracking Map

OMG.  Let’s see:  Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.  Remind me to never go within 5 miles of the water when visiting those states.  Just to be safe.

Actually make that 10 miles.

LUVVITT Keyboard Cover for iPad Review

I’ve been wanting to get a keyboard cover for my iPad to encourage using it more as a productivity tool (plus curb the geek temptation to get an MS Surface), and after much research I narrowed it down to either the LUVVITT or the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover.  I tried out the Logitech first, but I didn’t like the fact that it had no back light, plus with the Union Devicewear shell I was using to protect the back of the iPad, it wouldn’t hold up when I placed it at a portrait angle either.  So I opted to wait for LUVVITT to restock their black ultrathin keyboard covers and give that a try instead.  I was banking on this particular keyboard having a kickstand that would make it possible for me to fit the iPad at both landscape and portrait angles, even with a shell on.  Plus, back lights!

Finally got the keyboard the other day and tried to fit the iPad on it, first at landscape angle.  Did it work?

LUVVITT Keyboard Cover for iPad (Fitted in landscape and using a shell)Sigh.  Even with the kickstand up it keeled right over.  The protective shell was preventing the iPad from connecting solidly with the keyboard via magnets, so it looked like I was out of luck.

But wait a second, what if… I used my smart cover and placed that on top of the keyboard instead?

LUVVITT Keyboard Cover for iPad with an iPad shell (and held up using a smart cover)Perfect!  I was able to utilize my smart cover to hold it up at nearly the exact the same angle.  The beauty of the smart cover is that I could place the iPad on top or behind the keyboard, or nearly anywhere I wanted for maximum comfort.

LUVVITT Keyboard Cover for iPad (shown with smart cover)

From the back you can see how the smart cover holds up the iPad. I’m so shmartsie.

The big thing for me though was whether the iPad could hold up at a portrait angle.  Writing emails, blogging, etc. feels more natural in portrait than landscape, so it was my hope that the LUVVITT would be able to hold it up that way as well.  To my pleasant surprise I found it could, in fact the edges of the protective shell seems to “lock” into the groove to prevent the iPad from tipping over.  It feels like it’s not going to hold up, especially when I start jabbing at the display, but it does.

LUVVITT Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad (Portrait Angle)

So beautiful, *sniff*

Another view from the back:

LUVVITT Keyboard Cover for iPad (Portrait as seen from the back)

You can see the kickstand appears to be doing a better job of holding it up this time.

The only thing I don’t like is that the bottom of the keyboard cover is prone to scratches and scuff marks.  In fact while experimenting with different angles I already managed to scuff it at one of the corners.  Ugh.  Fortunately there are two solutions that can address this:  One is to use the bumps provided with the keyboard to give it a better grip and raise the keyboard just enough so it’s not constantly rubbing against the surface, while the second is to utilize the smart cover (assuming you’re standing the iPad at portrait angle) and wrap that under the keyboard, like this:

LUVVITT Keyboard Cover for iPad (using smart cover to protect bottom)The smart cover tends to give it a better grip than the bumps too, and once you’re done, you can fold the smart cover back onto the iPad, then fold the keyboard on top of the smart cover.  It adds some bulk to the overall package, but still MUCH easier to carry around and break out using than my 15 inch MacBook.  I can see myself using the iPad much more often now during my travels, while relegating my MacBook to more of a workstation use when I’m back at the hotel (or settling in at a cafe somewhere).

Overall I’m very pleased with my purchase.  The keys feel solid (if not slightly more solid than the Logitech version) and the back lights actually does make it easier to type in darker settings (such as a tavern).  I thought I could live without the back lights because the iPad display itself does do a good job of lighting most of the keys, but I found I endured less typing mistakes and eye strain with back-lit keys, so it was worth it for me to splurge extra for that feature.

If you’re interested in this keyboard but have questions that wasn’t already answered in my review, let me know in the comments.

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