Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Bike mount keeps phone safe and secure

When I go on bike trips with a local cycling club, I like having my phone easily available. I use it to record and map our trips, play music or podcasts and sometimes take photos or record videos while we're rolling. 

Until recently, I used a rubbery mount that strapped onto my handlebars and gripped my phone a its corners. The strap was hard to tighten and the corner grips often blocked points on the phone screen that I needed to touch. It generally matched the pain in my butt.

The Miricase mount isn't perfect but it's a whole lot better than that rubber mount. It has a jaw-shaped base that clamps tightly to my handlebars. Like many car mounts, it uses a ball and socket to connect to a clamp system for the phone. 

The clamp has a two-level locking system to keep the phone safely in place and the ball joint lets you adjust the clamp to get the face of your phone exactly where you want it. I have easy access to the full screen and I can touch it anywhere without making it move. I especially like how easy it is to tilt the angle of the phone so I can capture photos - or video like the one below - of what's in front of me. 

The mount is a bit on the chunky side and I guess that's the price you pay for the safety and security that comes with getting a tight hold on your phone. Being able to shoot video in horizontal mode would also be nice but that's probably too much to ask. I'm just happy to have my phone safely at my fingertips so I can concentrate on enjoying the ride. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

A comfy and affordable Apple Watch band

Every time I visit an Apple store, I'm drawn to the display of Apple watchbands. I like to touch the braided solo loop band and imagine what it would feel like on my wrist. Then I see the $99 price tag and I start heading for the exit.

I was very pleased to find that the Omecky watchband has captured much of the appeal of Apple's loop at a far more affordable price. I've been wearing it for a couple of weeks. It looks sharp and feels just fine.

The Omecky band is not a single loop made for my exact wrist size. Instead, it has a metal clasp that that allows you to adjust it for any size from 38mm to 49mm for men or women. The braided strands are stretchy enough that I can slip my watch on and off without loosening the clasp. Once it's set, the clasp blends nicely with the band and hasn't caused me any discomfort.

The design of the band requires it to double back on itself through a loop at one end. The plastic connectors are slightly visible so that's not perfection, but their color matches the color of the braided fabric so that's good enough for me.    

Monday, April 15, 2024

Lock may have a fatal flaw

I have installed several keyless smart locks, including the one on my home's front door. I thought this keyless lock would work well on the door to a basement storage room that houses my HVAC along with a few valuable items.   

Installation started well. The fold-out instruction sheet had good illustrations and clearly-written text. The latch fit easily into the circular opening that held my standard doorknob. But then things went downhill quickly. 

The lock kits comes with a metal back plate for the inside panel, the one that hold the batteries that power the lock. The backplate shown in the instructions looked vaguely similar to the one in the kit, so I figured it was close enough. And the instructions show two screw holes for attaching the metal plate to the door - but no screws were provided.

I found a couple of screws in my workshop that would do the job, drilled a hole for the screw above the latch. Then I discovered that the hole for the second screw below the latch lined up with the large opening for latch. In other words, there would be no wood to screw into. 

The metal plate seemed reasonably secure with just one screw so I pushed ahead. Then I discovered more problems. The kit includes three sets of machine screws for attaching the inner panel and battery pack to the metal plate. The screws are three different lengths, but even the shortest screws were too long for the threaded posts on the metal plate.   

And even if I found replacements for those screws, I had serious doubts that the whole setup would work. When I tested the outside and inside, neither one moved the latch. That looked like a fatal flaw from my point of view, so everything went back in the box.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Gooseneck tripod is good for product photos

When I post something for sale online, I like to include a few nicely-staged photos. Often the best angles for those pics are ones that are shot directly overhead, and they can be difficult to do. I have to lean out over a table or counter top while trying to see the image on my phone screen without casting a shadow or moving the phone when I click the shutter.

A few months ago, I got a phone camera mount that clamps onto the edge of a table. The concept was okay but the materials were flimsy, like the cheap desk lamp that I had back in the 80s. 

This gooseneck mount on a tripod is far more stable and useful. The tripod's long legs sit flat on the floor and provide a good counterweight anchor for the clamp at the end of the extended gooseneck, whether it's holding a standard pocket phone or a 12.9-inch iPad. The tripod tubing is made of sturdy metal and can be extended from 18 inches all the way to 80 inches.

The clamp at the end of the gooseneck is adjusted using a threaded thumbscrew, which I think makes for a more solid grasp than a spring-loaded clamp. If you disagree, you can replace the clamp with your own. The kit also comes with a remote shutter release that will work with iOS or Android devices. That should help me get clean and clear photos.

There are other ways you can adapt this tripod for different uses. For example, the product comes with a ball head so you can get a more precise angle for your photo. There's also a screw post where the gooseneck connects to the tripod. Remove the neck and you can mount a heavier object. I tried it first with a two-pound floodlight, then with a three-pound SLR camera.

Overall, I was very please with the quality and versatility of this device. I plan to give it lots of jobs.  

Thursday, March 14, 2024

PS27 has a venture fund for startup entrepreneurs

You are probably familiar with "Shark Tank," the TV show where budding entrepreneurs pitch their business plans to a panel of rich folks hoping one of them will be their investment partner.  

PS27 Ventures is built on a similar idea. It's also a potential funding resource for startups but without all the celebrity glitz.

PS27 Ventures is based in Jacksonville, FL, the home of company founder Jim Stallings. A former Marine Corps captain, Stallings worked for General Electric and IBM where he managed the company's Linux software business and its intellectual property division.  

Like the TV show, Stallings and his crew interview early-stage entrepreneurs who are looking for venture capital to launch or grow their businesses. They can request an opportunity to tell their story by filling out an application form on the PS27 website.

The site lists more than 15 client companies in areas such a e-commerce, financial technology and food services, many of them with minority, veteran and female founders. Examples include 

Smartbox, a healthy snack subscription service, Ryze, which makes mushroom blended coffees, Payall, which has a platform for cross-border payments and international money transfers, and  NotedSource, which matches businesses with academic researchers. 

PS27 is also exploring potential partnerships with young Florida-based businesses in the B2B, clean energy and SaaS arenas. One example is Sensatek Propulsion Technologies in Daytona Beach, a company that develops sensors for high-temperature applications in energy, aviation and aerospace industries. Others include Miami-based JourneyTrack, a customer-mapping developer, and Keyno in St. Augustine, that has fraud-prevention solutions for the fintech industry.

For a closer look at PS27 Ventures, visit the company's website or connect on LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok or X


Tuesday, March 12, 2024

A photo backdrop for small items

Although this backdrop kit is promoted as something to capture food images, I thought it would be useful for the videos and still images that I create for many small products that I sell online. 

The metal frame was fairly easy to assemble. There are five metal bars are attached to each other using a provided allen wrench for the uprights and thumb screws for horizontal bar. 

The paper background sheets presented a bit more of a challenge. The sheets arrive wrapped tightly around a cardboard tube and sealed in plastic wrap. Once the wrap is removed, the sheets are not inclined to flatten without help. 

I tried putting a sheet color-side down and pulling it across a table's edge. Not a good idea. The sheets are very thick and the table edge left some scratches. A better approach is to re-roll a single sheet around the cardboard tube, then let leave it on a flat surface while it attempts to flatten itself. 

I appreciate the deep and rich colors of the sheets and the variety of colors. They really add some visual pop to product photos. And I like the fact that the frame and sheets can be easily transported to shoot items on location.

I only wish the LDMJNL frame was a few inches wider. The backdrop worked fine for a small object, like a pair of earbuds, but I couldn't find an angle that let me capture a decorative bowl without running out of backdrop at the edges.

Nevertheless, I expect I will get a lot of use out of this 

Friday, March 8, 2024

Another cable disappointment

I've tried several of these three-headed charging cables, all with mixed results. One didn't have enough power to charge my iPad while another was only about two feet long, meaning I often had to charge my gear on the floor to be close to a wall outlet.

I had high hopes for his one. The OXO cable is about six feet long, so I would be able to use it almost anywhere. And this package included a power block with three outlets, one USB-A and two USB-C, one rated for 20 watts, the other for 65 watts.  

This seemed perfect for my gear: an iPhone 15, an Apple Watch and either my full-sized iPad or my iPad Mini. What could go wrong? I soon found out.

This OXO cable is apparently not suited to charge all three devices at the same time. I could charge phone and watch or tablet and watch. But if I had phone and tablet connected atthe same time, the tablet's charging icon turned white and displayed the dreaded "Not Charging" message.

The result was the same whether I used the 20- or 65-watt connections, same for different wall outlets and same for both the big iPad or the Mini. 

Once again, my heart is broken but I suppose it's my fault for assuming that OXO's Lightning plug would charge my tablets. A closer read of the description on the OXO sales page describes "one charger compatible with iPhone, Watch, and AirPods." Nowhere does it mention iPads.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

A multi-function camping lantern

This LED camping lantern is sort of a Swiss Army knife for outdoor illumination. It tries to do several different jobs and generally succeeds on all counts. 

It can be straight-ahead flashlight with a button that cycles through three lighting levels. Long press the button and you get a red flashing emergency light. For wider illumination, there's a second button that also provides three light levels. You can set the light on a flat surface or hang it overhead using a loop that pops out of top of the lamp. 

That top cylinder also rotates to reveal a reading lamp, again with three brightness options. And it can charge a mobile phone or other device by plugging in a USB cable. 

The camping lantern itself has its own battery that can be recharged with a USB-C cable and you can install AAA batteries to power the flashlight/reading lamp as a back-up to the internal 4000mAh battery. That's the kind of versatility that I would want for an emergency light in my car, at home during a power failure or for any sort of expedition into the woods after dark.

There are only a couple of things that bother me about this light. One is the handle that users attach by installing a pair of thin wire loops. I would prefer a solid handle built into the lamp's housing. Also, the rotating reading light doesn't make a very secure connection to the top of the lantern housing. It feels like it could easily break, especially if a user twists it in the wrong direction. The lamp has a warning sticker that tells you not to do that, but this product is made to be used in the dark where it's not easy to read.

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