Archive for the Products Category

My High Tech Road Bike: The 2021 Edition

Posted in Products on April 19, 2021 by itnerd

Let’s face it. 2020 was a dumpster fire of a year. And 2021 isn’t exactly going any better. One thing that has kept me sane during all of this was riding my bike. Now most of this has been done indoors as per this article that I wrote. But I also went outdoors a few times last year when I felt comfortable doing so. In the hopes of a better 2021 in terms of riding my bike, I decided to make significant upgrades to my 2017 Giant Propel which has had a couple of upgrades since I bought it which now firmly puts the bike into the high tech realm. Let’s start with a look at the bike:

The bike doesn’t exactly look any different. But there are significant differences. I upgraded to a Shimano Ulterga 8050 Di2 drivetrain. These components are not only newer than the ones that came with the bike, but they utilize Shimano’s Di2 technology which in true Shimano tradition, is technology direct from the pro cyclists that use their components in races like the Tour De France. You can find out more about that here. But here’s the Readers Digest version of what Di2 is.

Traditional bike transmissions use braided metal cables to shift gears. The problem with using braided metal cables is that they stretch over time. That means that a bike starts out shifting gears perfectly. But over time that shifting starts to become less precise. What that means is that if you’re in the heat of a race, you may mis-shift at that crucial moment. And you have to make sure that you replace the cables every year or so. Perhaps even more frequently if you ride a lot if you want top shelf shifting. Now to be fair, lots of bikes every year get sold with cable based shifting systems. And they work fine for lots of people as it’s an affordable system that as long as you maintain it, you’re fine. But in the age of races like the Tour De France which covers thousands of miles being won by as little as a 8 second margin, that’s not good enough for pro cyclists who want every advantage that they can get. Thus pros started to demand consistent reliable shifting from component companies like Shimano.

Enter Di2.

Di2 stands for “Digital Integrated Intelligence” which Shimano’s version of electronic shifting. DI2 gives you instant, accurate, lighting-fast shifts the first and every time at the push of a button. This is true even in the most extreme conditions. For example, you can change gear even under heavy load while climbing or accelerating in the final sprint for the finish line. Neither of those are things that you absolutely cannot do with cable based shifting. Di2 started to appear on race bikes in 2009 via Shimano’s top end Dura Ace groupset (and then brought to Shimano’s Ulterga groupset two years later) and was quickly adopted by pro teams that use components by Shimano. I make the distinction of “that use components by Shimano” because Shimano only sponsors three or four teams at the top level of the sport. The rest who use their components have to pay for them. Albeit at a discount. Nevertheless, the introduction of Di2 forced other component companies to come out with their own electronic shifting systems or be left behind. Though it looks like Shimano might have won that war as 13 of the 19 teams at the top level of the sport use Shimano components. Read into that what you will. These days, you can’t find a race bike at top level races without electronic shifting. But performance like this doesn’t come cheap. A system like this adds as much as $1000 to $2000 to the cost of a new bike. And if you want to retrofit a bike with this tech like I did, it will likely cost you something north of $2000 plus labor.

Let’s look at the components in play with Di2:

This is the Shimano Ulterga 8050 rear derailleur. It looks like a normal derailleur. But the cable that is connected to the derailleur is carrying power and instructions to allow it to shift gears. At the back of the derailleur you can also see a highly precise motor that does the shifting.

This is the Shimano Ulterga 8050 front derailleur. At the top of the derailleur is a motor that a shifts the front gears. If you are wondering where the cable is that powers this derailleur, it’s hidden from view.

This is the wireless module that transmits over Bluetooth and a fitness hardware wireless standard called ANT+. This allows me to not only connect to things like my Garmin Edge 830 cyclocomputer for it to tell me things like what gear I am in, or to give me alerts about the health of the Di2 System via ANT+, but I can use my iPhone along with an app called ETube Project to connect to the system via Bluetooth, do maintenance, and upgrade the firmware of the computers that drive the system. Now you’ll note that I said “computers” when I talked about updating the firmware. That’s because every component is a computer system on its own that work collectively to give you the best riding experience possible.

Here’s a look a the ETube Project screen on my iPhone:

This app which is available for iOS and Android gives complete control over the system. If doing things wirelessly bothers you, the charging cable that comes with the system can also be connected via USB to a PC (Macs need not apply as there is no Mac version) to do the same thing.

This is the junction box that allows you to charge the system, connect it to a PC, and put the system into a mode where you can connect to it via ETube Project wirelessly. It also allows you to change type of gear shifting that the system will do on the fly:

  • Manual mode – Indicated by solid red/green leds. This is traditional, full-manual shifting.
  • Shift mode 1 (S1) – Indicated by both red and green leds flashing twice. The default S1 mode is semi-synchro which automatically shift the rear derailleur when you shift the front derailleur.
  • Shift mode 2 (S2) – Red and green leds flash three times. By default this is full-synchro and this automatically shifts the front derailleur as you shift the rear derailleur.

You can also customize the shifting using the ETube Project software even further. Right now, I have set up as Shift Mode 1 as that’s what works with me. In my case, I have it set up to compensate by 2 gears when I shift the front derailleur. But I may experiment with Shift Mode 2 at some point. The one thing that I will note is that it is far easier to tweak the system via the ETube app than it is via the button on the junction box.

You can also do the following with the button on the junction box:

  • Press-and-hold the button for 0.5 seconds to enter Bluetooth LE connection mode
  • Press-and-hold the button for 2 seconds or more to enter adjustment mode
  • Press-and-hold the button for 5 seconds or more to trigger rear derailleur crash protection reset. Crash protection disables the motor for the rear derailleur in the event of a crash to protect the rear derailleur.

You can also check the battery status:

  • Green for two seconds: 100% battery
  • Blinking green five times: 75% – 50% battery
  • Red for two seconds: 50% – 25% battery
  • Blinking red five times: 25% – 0% charge left

When the charge does get very low, your front derailleur will stop shifting first, leaving you with the rear derailleur only to get you home. Thus you won’t be left totally in the lurch by a low battery. The flip side of that is that a charge can last 2500-3000km, depending on how often you shift and how you shift. So it is entirely possible that you will only need to charge the battery a coupe of times a year.

The shift and brake levers are different from cable based systems. In cable based systems, the entire brake lever moves in two sections. Here the entire brake lever is static. There’s two switches on the bottom half of the brake lever that have different tactile feels so you can tell them apart. At the top of the brake lever, there’s a hidden button that allows you custom program it to do functions like act as an extra shift button, or control other devices like a Garmin cyclocomputer. In my case, I’ve done the latter. What you don’t see in any of these pictures is the battery which is in the seat post, and all the wiring that connects everything together which runs through the frame.

Setting up a system like this isn’t exactly a trivial task. Especially if it’s a retrofit as was the case with me as you have to remove components and string the cabling together and put the new parts on. It took the guys at Chain Reaction Bicycles a day an a half to wire this all up and get it working. Kudos to them for getting this done far quicker than I expected. If you want to see how it’s done, check out this video of the race bike belonging to cycling star Mikel Landa being built. Now while I do admit that this is a bike being built from scratch, you will see all the wiring go into the bike and you will also get video of the system being programmed via the ETube app.

So, what do I think of this setup? Well, I haven’t had a chance to road test this due to the crappy weather in Toronto and our latest lockdown. But I did test it in a couple of races on Zwift this weekend. The best way I can describe the shifting performance is that it’s like driving a car with a dual clutch transmission. Shifts are lightning fast and incredibly smooth. Far smoother and faster than any cable based shifting system that I have used. And the syncho-shifting functionality is really useful as it helps me to keep my pedaling RPMs up when shifting to a significantly lower or significantly higher gear. So far I am very pleased with this setup.

If the world stops ending this summer, this upgrade will be something that will significantly increase my riding pleasure as I basically have a brand new race bike. I am happy that I did this upgrade and I look forward to riding my bike a lot this summer outdoors. If I can.

Review: Keyport Pivot 2.0

Posted in Products with tags on April 12, 2021 by itnerd

You might recall that I recently did a story on my everyday carry and asked for your help in terms of upping my game on that front. One of the things that many of you pointed out is that I need something to organize my keys. I looked around for such a piece of kit and finally settled on the Keyport Pivot 2.0. Now this is something that I have to say is impressive. For starters, you can customize it in a number of ways to fit your use case. You can have everything from knives and tools to a control for your smart home gear. And you can get faceplates to make it look unique. The level of customization is seriously off the hook.

Now my needs were really simple. I wanted to carry my keys of course. But I also wanted to have a pen on my person as well as a flashlight. Plus I wanted it to match my iPhone 12 Pro’s carbon fiber skin from DBrand. So with that in mind, here’s the parts list that I came up with:

Assembling this was easy. Keyport has this video to help you put everything together. But it is really simple.

I unscrewed the single screw that is part of the Keyport Pivot 2.0, opened it up and stacked my keys and the pen so that I could put the screw through them. The Keyport Pivot 2.0 holds 2-8 keys. In my case I had four keys and the pen insert to stack.

I folded it over and then screwed things together. I also added the S-Biner which is on the right hand side of this picture.

The next thing that I had to do was to charge Pocket Flare Module. Which is a flashlight that does a couple of things that I will get to in a second. It uses a Micro USB cable to charge the lithium ion battery that powers it. While charging it is red. When it is fully charged it is green. If I could make a suggestion, Keyport should replace the Micro USB connector with a USB-C connector as Micro USB is dead.

I then added it to the Keyport Pivot 2.0. It slides and locks into place. And once locked into place it isn’t coming out. The Pocket Flare Module has two modes. It can be used as a traditional flashlight, or as a lamp as seen here. The flashlight is surprisingly bright given its size. The button is flush with the rest of the module and requires a bit of force to press. Thus you don’t have to worry about it accidentally going on in your pocket. I also added a Tile sport to allow me to track it if I lose it along with a circular key and my proximity key for my condo. The latter two are items that I need to have on me at all times and have easy access to when I need them.

I got this carbon fiber faceplate for looks so that it makes the look complete. To be clear, it isn’t really carbon fiber but it looks the part well enough that I wanted to add it.

The pen insert is very cool because of the fact that it uses Cross Matrix replaceable refills which you can pick up at places like Amazon or your local pen shop. It also means that I always have a pen on my person. Something that is kind of important these days.

When you buy the Keyport Pivot 2.0, it comes with a laser engraved serial number that is slightly obscured by yours truly in this picture for privacy reasons, along with this card which will help someone who finds your keys return them to you should you lose them. More details on this program here. This combined with the Tile Sport will hopefully allow me to either find my keys or get my keys back should I lose them.

Overall, this setup is a touch heavier than having just a traditional keychain. But the advantage of this setup is that the keys do not dig into thigh when they are in my pocket. Plus they do not make any noise. Thus I am fine with the weight given the functionality that it provides. The fit and finish is excellent. For example, when you screw everything together, it is designed to click and lock every 90 degrees. That way you can be assured that you will not be in a situation where something loosens up. There is no question in my mind that this is a quality product.

The use case for the S-Biner is to add my Lever Gear CableKit and my SanDisk Extreme PRO 128GB USB 3.2 Solid State Flash Drive to this setup when I need them. I will admit that Keyport makes a WeeLINK Charger Cable Module Kit that I could have used in place of the Lever Gear CableKit, but I decided not to go with that as I had previously invested in the Lever Gear CableKit and it has the functionality that I need. I also could have used one of Keyport’s USB drive inserts as well. But my SanDisk Extreme Pro 128GB drive is likely way faster.

Downsides? There’s really only one which is that using your keys is no longer a one handed affair. You now have to take your keys out of your pocket, rotate to the one that you need and use it. If one of your hands are full, that might be an issue. But given what I get out of this setup, I’m okay with that. And to add to that, I am finding ways to use this one handed as well.

My specific setup costs as follows:

  • Keyport Pivot 2.0 – Black Aluminum $24.99 USD
  • Pocket Flare Module $14.99 USD
  • Faceplate – Carbon Fiber – $5.99 USD
  • Pen Insert w/Black Ink – $10.99 USD
  • S-Biner – Black – $1.99 USD

That’s a total of $58.95 USD.

I have to admit that I am very impressed with the Keyport Pivot 2.0. Besides having great build quality, it has a massive amount of customization from both a functionality perspective as well as a looks perspective. Plus if you lose your keys, Keyport has a way to get them back to you. This is a total win for those who are looking for a key organizer to make carrying their keys easier.

Review: Brother HL-L2390DW Multi-Function Printer

Posted in Products with tags on April 9, 2021 by itnerd

Last weekend my wife and I got appointments to get our COVID vaccines. However there was paperwork associated with this. When we tried to print out the paperwork on our 13 year old printer, we discovered that it wasn’t working. Every single light was flashing on it. A quick Google search discovered that this was a terminal event for this printer. So instead of getting it fixed seeing as it was 13 years old, we decided to get a new one. Now I have been a fan of the Brother brand for some time having installed a large number of them for customers over the years and they have rarely having any trouble with them. And the printer that I chose was the HL-L2390DW which is a multi-function printer that delivers the following functionality:

  • Monochrome laser printer with 2 sided printing
  • Copying and scanning capabilities
  • Connectivity via USB or WiFi 802.11b/g/n
  • AirPrint and WiFi Direct functionality among others

This printer is designed for small and home-based offices with low-print-and-copy-volume requirements. It doesn’t have features lsuch as an automatic document feeder or sending multipage originals to the scanner. But for the target market for this printer likely won’t care about that. It measures 10.7 by 15.7 by 10.7 inches (HWD) and weighs only 22.7 pounds. That means that it doesn’t take up a whole lot of real estate. Input configuration, connectivity, and walkup tasks, such as making copies or printing from a cloud site, are handled on the HL-L2390DW via a monochrome non-touch display surrounded by a handful of buttons.

Setup was trivial. It took me longer to get it out of the box, drop paper into it and put the toner cartridge into it than it took for me to get it onto my WiFi network. You won’t need someone like me to set it up and chances are you might not even have to crack open the manual to do it. Brother provides its own mobile device connectivity through its iPrint&Scan mobile app for connecting to cloud sites. Other third-party configuration connectivity options include: Google Cloud Print, Apple AirPrint, and others. Since our household has mostly Apple gear in it, we tested printing from our iPhones and didn’t have any issues doing so.

Brother rates the HL-L2390DW at 32 pages per minute, which fringes on insanely fast for an entry-level printer like this. In my testing, it was quick to fire up from sleep and fired out pages very quickly. Thus speed isn’t a weak point with this printer. And everything we printed from text to graphics was sharp thanks to the ability to print up to 2400 x 600 dpi. Scanning from this printer was a non-issue as well as text and graphics in both color and black an white were sharp and accurate thanks to the 1200 x 1200 dpi that the scanner is capable of. One thing that I will note is that if you do use this as a photocopier, it will only copy in black and white seeing as it is a monochrome printer.

Cons? You can’t pop a thumb drive and print something from this printer. Nor does it have an Ethernet jack. But I am guessing that these were left out for this printer to hit the price point that Brother had in mind. In Canada this printer retails for $199 CDN, but Brother Canada was out of stock. Thus I had to get it from Staples which had it for $209 with free shipping. Though they had low stock. And if you were thinking of going to Amazon, I wouldn’t as they are selling this printer for an insane $289. My advice would be to shop around to find the best deal that you can as clearly this is a popular printer. Given the fact that it was easy to install, and prints and scans well, I’m not surprised.

Review: Scooch Wingman Case

Posted in Products with tags on April 8, 2021 by itnerd

The second of two cases for the iPhone 12 Pro that I got to look at this week from Scooch was the Scooch Wingman Case which is a transparent case with military drop protection. One thing that is unique about this case is that you can have a your choice of “ReStyle Inserts” to customize your case:

I got four “ReStyle Inserts” of the seven that are available and they look really cool. But you can also just go without one like I did:

Here you can see the back of my iPhone which has a DBrand skin on it. You will note in the middle of the case. That’s a kickstand that is extremely useful.

For starters it can be used as a kickstand in portrait and landscape mode. You can also use this kickstand to get a better grip on the phone, or use it in a car vent.

The kickstand is easy to remove which is important because you need to remove it to wirelessly charge your phone. It’s also replaceable should you break it and it is easy to deploy.

The sides have a very grippy texture which makes it really easy to hold the phone securely. That way you don’t have to test the drop protection with according to Scooch meets the military spec. What helps with that is the fat that the corners are designed to take an impact. The button are also easy to press with a great clicky feel to them as well. The case really has a good feel in the hand as well as it doesn’t feel bulky.

I use a screen protector on my phones and this case doesn’t interfere with the screen protector. Though I will admit that the screen protector cuts into the raised edge that this case has to make sure that the screen doesn’t touch a surface such as a table. You’ll also note that you get 360 degrees of protection with all the cutouts in the right places and in the right sizes.

The Scooch Wingman Case goes for $39 USD. If you want a transparent case that gives you options to allow you to express your style, drop protection and the ability to watch media in portrait or landscape mode, this case is definitely worth a look.

Review: Scooch Wingmate Hidden Wallet Case

Posted in Products with tags on April 7, 2021 by itnerd

I recently got a pair cases from Scooch that I am looking at this week. I am starting with the Scooch Wingmate Hdden Wallet Case which after using it for a few days, I would say that it is almost a perfect case. Let’s start with a look at the case:

The case is made of a pretty thick rubberized material that provides a healthy amount of protection. The camera is recessed so that the lenses are less likely to get damaged in a drop. Speaking of drops, Scooch says that this case is designed to meet military drop standards.

The sides are textured to ensure that the phone doesn’t slip out of your hands. I also must admit that the case really feels good in the hand and doesn’t feel bulky. The buttons have a very positive click to them as well.

As you can see here, you get protection on three sides as the bottom is exposed. The sides are raised so that the screen never touches a table for example. You’ll also notice that the screen protector on my phone doesn’t interfere with the case which is a good thing. It’s also a very tight fitting case. That means it isn’t coming off your phone if you drop it. At this point, it is clear that this is your typical case. But there are a couple extra party tricks.

The bottom quarter of the case can be opened to allow you to slide up to cars into it. And anything inside of this compartment isn’t going anywhere as the flap that allows you to open this compartment up locks into place. That way you can leave your wallet at home and go out with your ID and credit card. My wife pointed out that this is a really stealthy setup as nobody would ever know that you have that stuff on your person.

The other party trick is that you can use a ID or credit card to act as a kickstand. It works in portrait and landscape mode so that you can use the phone with no hands.

I should point out one more thing.

The circle inside the case is a magnet for Scooch’s Wingmount car mount and Wingmount accessory pack. That makes this case very versatile. I should also note that the corners have some sort of padding to protect your iPhone from shocks.

So it’s time to talk about the one thing that keeps this case from being perfect. Wireless charging. I have four wireless chargers in this house. It didn’t work with this one, or this one, or this one. It did work with this one. But only for a while as this case tends to make the phone hot which in turn shuts the charger down which presumably is meant to protect the phone and prevent your house from catching on fire. This is not uncommon for thicker phone cases that are meant to provide better than average drop protection. So while I like wireless charging, I would be willing to go back to wired charging to use this case if this was my daily driver. Speaking of wireless things, Apple Pay worked just fine.

I would likely use this case when I want to leave my wallet at home. For example, if I want to go for a training ride on my bike, I would slap on this case and slide in my ID and cards and go. Then switch back to another case when I get home. The reason why this use case appeals to me is due to the fact that this case has drop protection. That’s kind of important if you have a habit of whipping out your phone while on a ride like I do.

This Scooch Wingmate Hidden Wallet Case goes for $39 USD. If you want a case that protects your phone and provides a fair amount of extra functionality that is extremely useful. This case is worth a good hard look. Except for my challenges with wireless charging, I really liked this case and I will be using it frequently going forward.

Review: InvisQi

Posted in Products with tags on March 23, 2021 by itnerd

This week I got my hands on something really cool that I’d like to share with you. Meet the InvisQi wireless charger:

Inside this box is a 10W wireless charger that is different than pretty much any other wireless charger that I have tested. I say that because it is designed to be added to a table or desk so that you can charge your phone through said table or desk. So in effect, you can charge your phone without taking up any desk space with a wireless charger sitting on said desk simply by dropping your phone in the right place.

Here’s a close look at the charger:

It looks and feels like a well constructed piece kit. Here’s what comes in the box:

Going from the top left to right:

  • InvisQi wireless charger
  • Bracket to hold the InvisQi
  • Sticker to indicate where to place your phone once the install is complete
  • Green wireless sensor to indicate that everything is installed properly
  • Double sided 3M stickers to mount it to your table
  • Documentation
  • Power adapter
  • Measuring card

Not pictured is a pack of screws. Two to mount the charger to the bracket. Four to screw the bracket into the table or desk.

Now you can find instructions to install this charger here [Warning: PDF]. But let me walk through what I had to do to get it installed. The InvisQi charges through surfaces between 18-30mm (0.7″-1.18″). That’s kind of important because if you have it too close, I would imagine that you will fry your phone. Or if you have it too far away, it won’t charge anything. Thus measuring the thickness of the desk or table is important. To make that easy, there’s a card that allows you to measure the distance:

The purple part is 30mm. And the light wood part of the table which is the top of the table that I installed it on is 18mm. So in my case, this table fits the minimum specifications for this charger. For the record, it works through glass, wood, plastic, marble, quarts, granite. It will not work through metal.

The next thing I had to do is mount the charger in the charger using the two screws. Then I use the double sided 3M tape on the top portion of the bracket so that I could stick it to the underside of my table.

I then mounted the charger underneath the table. I chose the corner to make it an easy location to change my phone. You can see the screw holes in the bracket and the InvisQi comes with four self tapping screws that allow you to screw it into place. I didn’t end up using them as the 3M tape held everything in place securely.

I then plugged everything in and then I used the green wireless sensor to indicate where the charger was and to confirm that it was working properly.

The flashing light in the middle of the green wireless sensor indicates that the sensor is dead center with the charger underneath the table. So clearly I have this installed correctly.

To make it easy to find the the spot that you need to place your phone on the table, the InvisQi comes with this sticker to help you with that. It’s textured which means your phone won’t slip and slide all over the place.

The total install took about 15 minutes. And I was able to charge my iPhone 12 Pro without issue. And that was with my Spigen Tough Armor Case on it. But to make sure that everything worked properly, I tested my wife’s iPhone XR with her Otterbox case on it.

You can see in the top right corner of my wife’s iPhone that it’s charging. I also was able to charge my Jabra Elite 85T earbuds as pictured here (the green light on the front is indicates it is charging):

I have to admit the InvisQi is very cool. It is easy to install and easy get up and running. My only gripe is the power cable. In some use cases it is going to be too short. Thus if I had to change anything, I would make that cable longer. But other than that, the InvisQi was easy to install, and works flawlessly from my testing. It goes for $99 USD and if you want to reduce the clutter on your desk, but give it some extra functionality, the InvisQi is definitely worth a good hard look.

Review: Victorinox Cyber Tool M

Posted in Products with tags on March 8, 2021 by itnerd

I will say this up front. I’ve had this tool for years. As in over 15 years. It’s survived everything that I could possibly throw at it and it has not failed me once. That tool is the Victorinox Cyber Tool M:

Like I said, I bought this 15 years ago or so and while it does have some light scratches on it, it still looks great. That’s a testament to the quality that Victorinox builds into I use it to do everything from open up computers and to open up Amazon boxes. It fits into my pocket without an issue though it is on the heavy side. The CyberTool is a geek and computer tech’s dream tool because of the amount of tools it provides:

To save you the trouble of figuring out what all of this stuff is, here’s a list:

  1. large blade
  2. small blade
  3. corkscrew
  4. reamer, punch and sewing awl
  5. can opener
  6. screwdriver 3 mm
  7. bottle opener
  8. screwdriver 6 mm
  9. wire stripper
  10. key ring
  11. toothpick
  12. tweezers
  13. mini screwdriver
  14. pressurized ballpoint pen
  15. pin, stainless steel
  16. pliers
  17. wire cutter
  18. wire crimping tool
  19. scissors
  20. multipurpose hook
  21. bit slotted 4
  22. bit Phillips 2
  23. bit Phillips 0 (Pozidrive)
  24. bit Phillips 1 (Pozidrive)
  25. bit Torx 10
  26. bit Torx 15
  27. bit case
  28. bit wrench
  29. female Hex drive 5 mm for D-SUB connectors
  30. female Hex drive 4 mm for bits
  31. bit Hex 4
  32. bit Torx 8

There’s a few things that I would like to highlight here:

Items 29 and 30 are actually located here. I love the fact that they put both of these in the same slot that the bits go into as that saves space.

The pin which is item 15 is hidden here so that it doesn’t slip out and stab you while you have this tool in your pocket. You also are getting a look at the scratches that I have on the tool after 15 years of use.

I found that this covers all my needs with the exception of tools to open an Apple product which tends to use their “unique” screws. I’ll admit that I don’t use all the tools that the CyberTool offers. Like the crochet hook, corkscrew and can/bottle openers and tweezers. But the blades and screw drivers see very frequent use from me. I’m always needing to do things like open the back of a computer, cut open a box, or tighten the screws on my wife’s eyeglasses. Having dropped it in server rooms and kicked it across the room accidentally, I can say it’s a very durable product that will last you years. It also has a very high quality feel as the blades and the like snap into place and that feels the same as they did on day one.

The only thing that you might not like is the price. I found it ranging between $160 to $180 CDN on Amazon. It’s not cheap. But I’ve had mine for 15 years and it’s survived everything that I have thrown at it. Which means it will survive your daily activities with ease.

Review: Lever Gear CableKit

Posted in Products with tags on March 5, 2021 by itnerd

Lately I have been trying to find products that are small and easy to carry every day so that when the World stops ending, I am covered for a lot of things that I do every day. That was one of the reasons why I was really drawn to the Lever Gear CableKit.

This is a Lightning to USB-A cable that fits on your keychain that is packaged in a durable plastic case.

You can see the case on the top, and the USB-A cable to Lightning on the bottom. If you look at the case, you will see one of the cool things that this setup comes with. It’s a Lightning to USB-C adapter. That way you can also use this cable with a USB-C device. That’s very handy. If USB-C isn’t for you, there’s a Micro USB adapter available as well. I tested this cable and I was able to sync and charge my iPhone 12 Pro without an issue. It is a short cable, but you’re giving up length to get the ability to have this on your person at all times.

There’s also one other handy feature:

There’s a space for 2 micro or nano SIM cards, or micro SD cards. That’s really handy as when traveling was possible, I carried a separate case to put my Canadian SIM card into as I always use a local SIM card to save money. Now the SIM card has a place to go that is always on my person. Cool. This also ties into this feature.

It comes with a sim ejector tool which makes it easy to swap SIM cards and you again always have it on your person. That’s really cool. You’ll also note that besides being able to put it on your keychain, there’s a pocket clip to give you the option of having it securely in your pocket.

I picked this up on Amazon for $20 CDN which is a great price for something that is very handy. If you need a Lightning cable on your person at all times, I’d recommend picking this one up.

Review: Ekster MagSafe Compatible Card Holder

Posted in Products with tags on March 4, 2021 by itnerd

The iPhone 12 brought MagSafe to the table. It allows for faster charging as well as the use of accessories. Numerous third parties are starting to come to the table with accessories that are MagSafe compatible. I had the chance to test one of those accessories in the form of the Ekster MagSafe Compatible Card Holder.

The first thing that I noticed is that this was a well put together piece of kit. My examination showed that it is well stitched and the leather is of high quality. As it should be as the leather is supplied by ECCO which according to them “develops highly progressive leather qualities for some of the industry’s most iconic contemporary designers and brands.” One thing that I did note is that it is very similar to the Apple MagSafe Wallet as it has a hole in the back to help you to remove the back card. Ekster says you can hold three cards and some cash. I could only get two cards in and out of the wallet. But being a leather product means that this will stretch a bit. Thus I can see that this might be possible.

Here’s how it looks on the back of my iPhone 12 Pro.

One thing I noted right away is that the magnet is strong. I was able to put this in and out of my pockets without the wallet slipping off. Front pocket, back pocket, pockets with other stuff in them, it didn’t matter. That was impressive given that I have a DBrand skin on the back of my iPhone 12 which I would have thought that it would cause problems with how strong the wallet attached to my phone. But clearly that isn’t the case. I think that I can safely say that you don’t have to worry about losing the wallet.

Gripes? I really don’t have any about the wallet itself. But using the wallet means that I need either use my iPhone 12 Pro naked which I am not comfortable with, or I need to get a case that is MagSafe compatible. But once the world stops ending, I can see this being useful when I can go out for an evening and leave my usual wallet at home, but still carry my drivers license and a debit or credit card.

The Ekster MagSafe Compatible Card Holder is $39 USD normally. But it’s currently on sale for $33 USD. Either price is lower than the $59 that Apple MagSafe Wallet with makes this a good value. If you want to add some style to your iPhone 12, this wallet will help you to do just that.

Review: SanDisk Extreme PRO 128GB USB 3.2 Solid State Flash Drive

Posted in Products with tags on February 9, 2021 by itnerd

For years I’ve been walking around with a 32GB USB thumb drive on my keychain. But lately I’ve found that 32GB isn’t enough for me when I do work for clients. For example when I have to move files from one computer to another. So that made me look for a replacement, and I chose the SanDisk Extreme PRO 128GB USB 3.2 Solid State Flash Drive.

For the record, this drive comes in sizes of 128GB, 256GB, 512GB and a mind blowing 1TB. All of which fit on your keychain. It really feels like a well constructed premium product that will survive something longer than 10 seconds in your pocket. It’s cool to the touch as well which adds to the premium feel. You can thank the aluminum metal casing for that. The USB-A connector slides out using a slide mechanism on the top of the drive that has a very satisfying click when you use it. It also means when it is recessed, it is less likely to get damaged.

Now the company on their website which I linked to above makes some very conservative claims about how fast this drive is. The packaging however, makes some really bold claims:

Super fast SSD performance? Speeds of 420 MB/s read and 380 MB/s write? Hmmmm….. I think a marketing person drank one to many glasses of wine coming up with this copy. Because those numbers don’t equal “Super fast SSD performance”. But let’s prove that. First let’s test a 32GB USB stick from a name brand company using CrystalDiskMark 8.0.1 as a starting point to see what sort of performance we get:

Now this is the performance that you typically get from a USB thumb drive. Pretty middling sequential read and write numbers. And pretty abysmal random read and write numbers. The reason being is that most USB thumb drives are built to a price point (as in as cheap as possible) and are not built to perform at top speed.

Let’s contrast that with the SanDisk Extreme PRO 128GB USB 3.2 Solid State Flash Drive. I used the same PC and the same USB port to do this test:

In short, the Sandisk drive destroyed the 32GB drive. And it’s pretty clear that the speeds of 420 MB/s read and 380 MB/s write that Sandisk quotes came from the sequential read speeds. Because any drive will perform well doing sequential reads and writes. But the random reads and writes were pretty impressive and consistent. So in short, this is the quickest USB thumb drive that I’ve come across. But there’s that one claim of “Super-fast SSD performance” that was on the packaging. While I will admit that the performance that this drive is capable of has the look of an SSD because of how balanced the performance is when it comes to random and sequential scenarios, it’s nowhere near as fast. To illustrate this, I will use the Samsung 970 EVO NVMe SSD which is currently in the “God tier” of SSD drives, and is in the same PC that I used to conduct the first two tests to illustrate this:

I’m guessing that the Samsung drive didn’t break a sweat humbling the Sandisk drive. So, why am I pointing this out? Well, if you put a claim on the package, you better be able back it up. They couldn’t and here we are talking about it. And what’s funny is that there is no fine print or disclaimers of any sort regarding this claim on the packaging. In short, someone in their marketing department needs a talking to because it seems like someone made some stuff up in hopes of selling a few extra copies of this drive to people who wouldn’t know any better.

Now if you ignore the marketing fail, this is an insanely quick USB thumb drive. There are some extras like software that will do software based encryption on the drive, and data recovery software. But in my opinion, if you need a drive that does encryption, there are secure hardware based encryption thumb drives that you should look at. And when it comes to data recovery, you should pay an expert to do that for you if you get in that situation. Though if you accidentally delete a file, I suppose it can’t hurt to run this software to see if you can get it back first.

Here’s the bottom line. If you need large amounts of storage and it has to be quick by thumb drive standards, this is the thumb drive to get. My 128GB drive cost me $49.99 CDN on Amazon. 256GB is $80 CDN and 512GB is $165 CDN. I couldn’t find a price for the 1TB version. Check it out if you fit the use case for this drive. Just don’t believe everything on the packaging.