By Cathalynn Labonté-Smith © September 2020
I’ve done way too much online shopping in the past year, especially since the pandemic ensued and shopping at home is the safest option. I had no idea there were so many cool things that I didn’t know I needed. After months of patiently tracking my deliveries on various apps, they eventually arrive at my home. Most of the items I order are awesome and just as advertised, then there are the ones that have fallen short. Luckily, there are more of the former and few of the latter. This blog includes those goodies and baddies that the posties have brought since last Christmas that coffee lovers and bloggers will find of interest, including:
- Mechanical Keyboards
- Portable LED Light with Cell Phone Holder
- Makeup Mirror with LED Lights
- Clip-on Coffee Tray
The Big One
⌨ ⌨ ⌨ ⌨ out of 5
Hubs (Steve) emailed me his Christmas list last year, including thoughtful links to where to order the items online. I was thrilled because as many of you can relate, it can be hard to shop for a partner who wants items for hobbies that you have no idea what they are. He appreciates the socks, hats and scarves I knit for him, but I really wanted to give him things he really loved. But when it comes to HAM radio and computer parts beyond a mike, groovy mouse and mousepad, I’m a little lost. Just as he would be trying to find something in a yarn shop, fabric store, clothing boutique, or cosmetics counter. Although, he’s done well with some nudges gifting jewellery over the years.
One of the things on the list was a Logitech G413 Carbon keyboard. Almost 10 months later, I’m finally trying it out myself, although he’s urged me to do so. The keyboard is curved gently. There are two feet underneath that you can click to make it angle towards you, just like the old IBM PC computer keyboard. The metal edges of the keys and keyboard are so sharp you could almost cut yourself. The red demon glow of the lights give a steampunk look to the design.
Steve comments, “I’ve used it for the Raspberry Pi and Jetson Nano, because we only had a cr*ppy keyboard we used with our Smart TV, that was compatible with our TV but as a keyboard it was too compact and the keystrokes weren’t tactile enough. But this new one is good for gaming, like with Flight Sim. It has the numeric keypad needed for games. I’ve also written my books on it.”
“Why didn’t you want a wireless keyboard?” I ask as I heft its thick cable and plug it into a USB port on the ancient MacBook Air I have on loan from him.
“Wireless keyboards aren’t as responsive and you have to plug it in to charge anyway or you need a battery.”
He doesn’t consider the keyboard to be portable and lug this solid metal beast that weighs several pounds. Bringing it to Wheatberries this morning is the first time it has seen the inside of a coffee shop.
This behemoth keyboard feels like the one on the classic all metal IBM Selectric typewriter that I learned on in high-school Typing class, before the class was called Keyboarding and taught with computers and plastic keyboards. I didn’t even see a computer until my third year in uni; Steve’s humble Apple II+ that lived in his basement apartment.
I love the clickety-clack of the Logitech that’s modelled after the IBM Selectric typewriter; however, using it on a cafe table would give me carpal tunnel issues if I were to use it for more than a couple of hours. Steve doesn’t have ergonomic problems with it, but I’d struggle with the width of it on my lap. I don’t have a desk with a keyboard drawer at home either, so as nice and durable as it is it’s just not for me. If it were wireless and a couple pounds lighter, it would be okay.
Home Flight Simulators and keyboards
Hubs has ordered a yoke for Flight Sim, so when that comes eventually as they are sold out everywhere it will replace the numeric keypad. I urge him to order the pedals, as you can’t really fly a plane without rudder pedals. You can fly without a yoke in a real airplane if it malfunctions, you need a rudder. Obviously, Microsoft Flight Sim’s software compensates for that. I will try Flight Sim when we have both. I’m a bit spoiled having used a full motion RedBird Flight Simulator during my private pilot training. The kind that costs as much as a good used Cessna 172 from the 70s.
Home flight simulators are incredibly good at training pilots for Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) flight. IFR means flying without reference to the ground, that’s the kind of flying airline pilots do at high elevations, night-flying, or flying in bad weather. Visual Flight Rules (VFR) means flying with reference to the ground, that private pilots do at elevations that keep them within visual range of the ground at all times (below 12,500 feet without oxygen). (If you want to know more about IFR vs. VFR regulations refer to Transport Canada, the FAA, or the aviation regulations of your country, or a Certified Flight Instructor.) The great thing about home flight simulators for pilots is that when you can’t fly due to unavailability of aircraft or instructors, bad weather, smoke (like today), borders being closed (my current problem), illness, or to get in extra practice you just have to fire up your computer.
While I write this blog, Stephen sits across from me and my clutter of USB devices and writes a review of MS FlightSim. To read his interesting review follow this link: https://smist08.wordpress.com/2020/09/11/learning-to-fly/.
To summarize, the Logitech is durable, classic, reliable, stylish, but heavy, too gothic, and not wireless.
The Mini One
⌨ out of 5
I saw an ad on social media for a mechanical keyboard so gorgeous that it took my breath away. A mechanical keyboard with a place to put my tablet or iPhone with rainbow lit keys and even a return lever, knob and mechanical keys at the top.
I waited months for it to arrive and made several enquiries to onestuff.com. Finally, it arrived but my excitement soon turned to feeling burnt when I opened a tiny envelope and found a flat white keyboard with unlit keys that bore no resemblance to what I’d ordered and paid $50 USD for plus shipping and taxes. Instead of a deal, I overpaid for a piece of junk that the envelop declared was worth €5 or $7.80 CDN.
The company suggested I give it away to a friend, family member or sell it to someone, rather than pay the $20 US to return it. Um, no one would want this cheapy thing that I can’t even fit both hands on at the same time to touch type. Although, the touch of it is quite tactile and mechanical. They eventually offered to refund me 10% of the value of the item. I agreed because it was better than nothing, although I’m still pleading with them to send me the item I ordered because it’s pretty and practical. Perhaps, there was a mix up with the order? Still waiting to hear back.
My friend, Elizabeth, dropped by my table and saw it and says she loves her mini keyboard. She says she got used to the tininess of the keys, but she does have petite hands. Her keyboard does have props on the back for devices, like the keyboard I thought I’d ordered was supposed to, making it perfect for her travels. She took it to Portugal and found it a lightweight option to carrying a laptop. She paid around $30 CDN and found it at our local drugstore.
The mini keyboard/huge disappointment is easy to use. You plug it in to a USB port with a short delicate cord to charge it, then:
- Press the Connect button on the top right of the keyboard
- Got to Settings Bluetooth.
- Under My Devices select Bluetooth 3.0 Keyboard, then it works wirelessly with your device or laptop.
The old Mac had trouble identifying the keyboard, so there’s additional windows to touch keys by the Shift Key and to select the kind of keyboard it is (ANSI). Adapting to the micro keyboard is difficult, but it is faster than one finger typing on your phone or iPad. It’s light as a powder puff, so I guess I’ll hang onto it for the rare times I don’t have my laptop with me. Perhaps, I’ll be able to adapt, but I’m really hoping onestuff.com comes through with the actual product I ordered—sausage fingers crossed.
Light-weight, wireless connectivity, simplicity good. False advertising, overpricing, keys too small for average sized adults to use bad.
Portable LED Light with Cell Phone Holder
📹 📹 📹 📹 📹 out of 5
For bloggers who want to jump into doing vlogs (video blogs), live-streaming and to do your makeup using your phone, I highly recommend this simple inexpensive selfie stick with a ring light.
Granted it looks a bit unwieldy, but it’s just two flexible goose-necks that twist 360°. One end has a cell phone holder and one has a mini ring light. This tool makes it possible for you to video yourself and others with your phone hands-free, lights up faces, as well as lets you do your makeup under the light you’ll be using. The light has different settings: natural, warm and cool settings.
I’ve recorded several vlogs with this small setup and have been so impressed how with this tool powered by a USB port, you become your own videographer, lighting person, makeup artist, and producer.
I got this product on wishfornow.com, but there’s more to choose from on Amazon.ca starting around $23 and up. Some are mounted on tripods, although I like the clip option because it doesn’t take up any room on small cafe tables. Some have two lights, or two holders for phones, so you can get two angles. You can spend more and get an 18” ring light to really light up the area you’re recording, but I find the mini ring light plenty of light for my purposes. Plus, I like the portability of the tool that’s become a staple of my blogger bag. Indispensable for conducting interviews or doing reviews.
As far as using it as a makeup mirror is concerned it does in a pinch, but being extremely near-sighted without my glasses on I find my iPhone X gets blurry as I get closer to it making it harder to put on eyeliner and mascara. For at home, I’d prefer a mirror with lights and magnification to squinting into a cell phone, but for an all-in-one tool it’s hard to beat these two extra hands as a solo vlogger.
Makeup Mirror with LED Lights
💡💡 out of 5
My mom has a lovely round makeup mirror on a stand that I borrow from her vanity when I visit her. The light has three different brightnesses, but the cord does get in the way when I spread out my makeup on the nook table in the kitchen. It’s weighty so it’s not exactly portable. I like how I can bring this mirror as close to my weak eyes as possible. I have a beautiful antique vanity in my bedroom, but I have to lean over it to get to the mirror so I tend to curl up in an armchair in the living-room with a mirror and put something on Netflix on the infrequent occasion I put my face on.
The last time I got back from visiting Mom and Dad, I searched for a portable mirror with lights and found the Conair True Glow tri-fold makeup mirror with LED lights works with either four AAA batteries or can be plugged into the USB port of your computer or into the wall with an adapter from London Drugs ($39). It has an integrated mirror button to adjust the light brightness that is like an iPhone or iPad button.
I like how light the mirror is and it folds up neatly so I can pack it in my rolling overnight suitcase. But it’s too low to be usable when I sit to put makeup on. I don’t use paint and powder every day, because most days I’m inside the house self-isolating. I’m so over Zooming now as well. The rare times I do leave the quarantine unit, I want to look on fleek. However, I have to prop the mirror up on books to get it to the right height. I return it to see if I can find a better product, that has a stand and swivels up so I can see my face would be nice.
Clip-on Coffee Tray
☕️ ☕️ ☕️ out of 5
What do you do when you’re in your car waiting to pay your fare at the ferry terminal and don’t want to put your Experience card, TAP form, and/or credit card in your mouth? Or, all your cup holders are occupied and you need somewhere to perch your tall cappuccino or a bag of apple chips? Or, you’re traveling and need somewhere to put your change for the toll booth? I use this clip-on tray with a goose-neck arm in my car, that I got on Wish.com for $26 US. Admittedly, because of the swivel connection on the base it’s not going to hold up a grande frappucinno. You have to gingerly place your items, but if you want an extra horizontal surface, this is the gadget for you.
This tray is reminiscent of the days when we ate in cars and had our meals brought to us in trays that hung on the windows, or stretched across our laps. Perhaps, during the pandemic the drive-in restaurants will make a resurrection? For now, I have my tray to enjoy my oatmeal on the ferry in my car as the Langdale to Horseshoe Bay route still allows us to stay in our cars for now.
You can use it in the coffee shop too. Some of those tables are just too small. Having that extension can be handy for your extra bits, like your calligraphy pens, wipes, mask while you’re eating, trash or what have you.
Hope you’ve enjoyed the high tech as well as the no tech gadget reviews. Drop me a comment if you have other gadgets to share with us to make the coffee loving, blogging, on-the-go life easier.