In a struggle to be happy and free

Drystone Wall

Category: electronics Page 1 of 10

Pencil

On a bit of a lark, I bought a pencil for my iPad. I don’t draw so it’s not terribly useful, but when the next iPadOS arrives in the fall, the Notes app will accept handwriting and convert it to text. It strikes me that would be a cool way to take notes at school… if the device can understand the mess you see before you! Because of these questions I didn’t buy an Apple Pencil, but a knock-off for $40. We’ll see how it goes.

For the record, I am extremely curious and skeptical about the handwriting recognition. Trying to view the above chicken-scratch with fresh eyes, the handwriting recognition will have to be exceptional!

On that note, the alt-text is there if you need it.

SlimBlade!

Do you remember the Microsoft Trackball Explorer? Ah the memories! It was a trackball Microsoft offered in the mid-to-late 1990s, if memory serves.

The Microsoft Trackball Explorer

The trackballs available at the time were primarily controlled by placing one’s thumb on the ball and using one’s fingers to click. My experience with these trackballs was a disaster. Such thumb pain from all the required thumb motion! The Trackball Explorer reversed this so one used one’s fingers to move the ball, and one’s thumb to click and scroll. I don’t know why, but this was a heck of a lot more comfortable and greatly reduced my discomfort as compared to a mouse or a thumb-trackball. The two extra buttons, where one’s pinkie and ring finder would naturally rest were a programmable bonus.

Coming back to the current day, I’ve been using my computer more in the new year since my work hours have dropped. I have noted some hand and wrist discomfort from more mouse use. The Trackball Explorer has ceased being an option as it’s been discontinued for a few decades. A few jokers still offer mint specimens for $500 to $1 000 but let’s be reasonable. So I researched the current crop of trackballs. Happily there were finger-controlled trackballs that were not wireless. Why do you need a controller than never moves to be wireless? Not having batteries or recharging makes the wire the preferred choice.

I decided on the Kensington SlimBlade trackball. Check it out on my desk:

The Kensington SlimBlade trackball.
Yes my keyboard is hella dusty. You don’t have to touch it. Move along…

It’s bigger than I expected. The ball is 5½ damned centimetres (2 ⁠inches) across! There are four buttons, one in each quadrant around the ball. You’ll notice there is no sort of scroll wheel. Must I do without scrolling and limit myself to scrollbars? Hell no! One scrolls by twisting the ball in place. Clockwise is down and counterclockwise is up. It’s very clever and easy to get used to. The only downside is horizontal scrolling requires holding the shift key while twisting the ball. It’s easy but not quite as fluid a motion as your other hand is required.

To use it, the most natural portion is to place one’s three middle fingers on the ball. Do this and the thumb naturally rests on the left-click button and the pinkie on the right-click button. It works very well for me and the discomfort in my hand is much reduced.

A bonus of the symmetrical design is it works equally well for right-handed and left-handed users. If the left-handed user reverses the primary and secondary buttons in his or her login profile, the settings don’t have to be switched back and forth.

It has both advantages and disadvantages over a mouse. Which is better is really a matter of preference, except for gaming … the mouse is better. You certainly use different hand motions to manipulate the mouse so if your hand is hurting from mouse use, the SlimBlade is worth your attention.

Amp/volt mnemonic 

 

Isn’t that fantastic?

A reply queried who is responsible for the drawing and Czerski responded that the lab workers told her that the drawing has been taped up on the wall since everyone there can remember.

I first saw Helen Czerski co-hosting the BBC documentary Orbit: Earth’s Extraordinary Journey with Kate Humble. I immediately started following Czerski on Twitter. Although she’s a physicist and an oceanographer, her interests range across the sciences. You should follow her too!


†Available on Netflix US, but not Netflix Canada, as of this writing. I highly recommend the documentary.

My iPhone 8

After just a few months short of four years, I’ve retired my iPhone 5s. After such a long time of daily use, it had surprisingly few issues. The only real big one was that sometimes after I’d press the power button to wake the phone, I’d be forced to hold the power down because it didn’t go to sleep, rather it shut down entirely. The odd time, even that wouldn’t bring it back to life and I’d have to hold the home and power buttons until it started the boot sequence. A small and self-inflicted problem was the flash stopped working after I changed the battery. I suspect I didn’t seat the connector properly. I didn’t open it up again to find out.

So I upgraded to the iPhone 8. I stayed up late on September 14 to get my order in as soon as possible and I received it on September 22.

It’s more expensive that I would have liked, but I’m pretty easy on my electronics so I want to get the maximum life out of it before it will no longer take operating system upgrades. The iPhone X was never in contention because although I love the OLED screen, I don’t want to pay for it, and I much prefer fingerprint authentication over authentication via facial recognition.

The most obvious difference is the size. The iPhone 8 is 11 mm longer, 8.7 mm wider, and 0.3 mm thinner, than the 5s. It’s also 36 g heavier. To my great surprise, it fits my hand far more nicely than the 5s did. That may also have to do with the completely rounded edges. The power button was also moved from the top left to the left top, if you follow. Hold the phone in your right hand and the power button falls nicely under your thumb, and in your left hand it sits nicely under your index finger. This change is a good one, but takes some getting used to. Overall, it feels great in my hand, has enough mass to feel solid, and the rounded edges are just right.

I was wary of the increase in size. My phone lives in my front pocket, and the space available in there is not unlimited! Happily it’s not an issue. In exchange, the screen is 20% larger, which has me reaching for my iPad noticeably less often. It’s not an OLED screen, but it’s certainly the nicest LCD I’ve ever seen.

I must make special mention of the fingerprint reader. I can’t say whether it’s vastly improved or merely takes advantage of the more powerful processor at the heart of the iPhone 8, but it’s ridiculously fast. With the 5s, I would press the home button, and let my thumb linger on it for a second, waiting for my fingerprint to be recognized. With this new model, my fingerprint is usually recognized before I remove my thumb even if I don’t pause at all. Most of the time, fingerprint authentication is entirely invisible.

Misc impressions:

  • I haven’t tried wireless charging but I certainly will be getting a charging pad for my night table.
  • The camera is much improved as far as I see in the little use I’ve made of it. I look forward to trying the 240 FPS slow-motion video.
  • The True Tone feature is great. White is always pleasantly white. The display does not tend toward coolness, even in very warm light.
  • Raise to Wake was the first thing I searched on how to disable.
  • I love the barometer. Not only can I see the number of steps I’ve taken, but the number of floors I’ve climbed.
  • The processor is much faster of course. The whole UI is so responsive.
  • The sound is louder at full volume. That will give my wake-up alarm a boost of effectiveness.
  • I triggered the SOS feature without my glasses on. I didn’t notice the three-second countdown and called 911 by accident. So embarrassing! A great feature though, especially if you stop it before calling 911, as it disables fingerprint authentication the next time you attempt to access the phone.
  • I’m eager to try Apple Pay. Support for it seems sparse on the ground around here, though. Still, the NFC works with any system that allows you to ‘tap to pay’ with your bank or credit card.

So far, I love the damn thing!


Image courtesy of Apple.ca

Schiit’s Wyrd

I got myself an early Christmas present! Schiit Audio’s Wyrd USB decrapifier.

I’ll report back when I’ve spent some time with it.


Image from schiit.com, copyright © Schiit Audio

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