Tag Archives: iGadgets

More likely to replace than upgrade — confessions of a penny-pinching gadget lover

About to unbox the new and retire the old...
About to unbox the new and retire the old…
On Christmas morning 2009, before my husband and I left the hotel near my Mom’s place to celebrate with the family, each of us had picked out one present for the other to open just us. I don’t recall what I got Michael, but he gave me a new shiny Apple Magic Mouse. Apple had just introduced the new wireless mouse with gesture support two months earlier. And I had played with one at the Apple store. But, I was really happy with my two wired Apple Mice that I used with my desktop and my laptop at the time (and I had a tiny purple wireless mouse that I used with the laptop when I wasn’t somewhere that the wired one would work), so despite the fact that I love cool gadgets, and contrary to the popular myth about Apple fanboys, I didn’t think it was worth spending money on a new mouse when the ones I had all worked just fine.

Once I had the Magic Mouse and had been using if for a while with one computer (getting used to the greater number of options the gesture support provided), by the end of the year next year I had purchased another Magic Mouse so that both of my computers had one.

When the Magic Mouse 2 came out almost three years ago, the most significant change was an entirely internal battery. They also updated the bluetooth chip and processor, and managed to make it slightly lighter. Otherwise it was virtually identical, and I didn’t see a reason to update. Part of the reason for that at the time was my Macbook Pro was over 4 years old, and my Mac Pro was over six years old, and it seemed a little silly to get super shiny new mice for older machines.

When I got my shiny new Macbook Pro with Touchbar in late 2016, I considered buying a new mouse along with it, but then I was dropping a lot of money on the laptop, so my inner cheapskate was opposed to additional unnecessary expenses. And, the old Magic Mouse worked just fine with it.

I admit that last year, when they introduced the new iMac Pro which was available in Space Grey which could come with a Space Grey Magic Mouse (among other accessories), my inner gadget lover went “oooooooo! Shiny! Want!” However, Apple was only selling the Space Grey Mouse (and Space Grey Keyboard and Space Grey Magic Touch Pad) with the matching iMac. So despite that fact that I had a cool Space Grey Macbook Pro, I couldn’t get the Space Grey Mouse.

And besides, as the inner cheapskate kept pointing out, the old Magic Mouse worked just fine.

And it did.

Until about a month and a half ago, when it started loosing connection with the Macbook a lot more often, but more annoyingly, instead of taking just a few seconds to reconnect when I moved or clicked it, I would have to fiddle with the mouse for at least a minute before it connected again. Two weeks ago, it got a little worse. The mouse would eventually reconnect, but it would immediately disconnect and I would have to fiddle for another minute before it connected and would remain connected for… a while.

I did notice that it was more likely to do this when the batteries were reporting less than 70%. Now I’ve had this bad habit of ignoring all the warnings from my laptop that the batteries are low. Dismissing the alert again and again for days until the batteries completely die. Then I go swap them out (we keep several sets in chargers all the time, because between the two of us we use the rechargables in a couple of wireless keyboards, at least four wireless mice, one wireless Magic Track Pad, and several small motion-activated LED lights around the house). Funny thing is, that when I get the exact same low battery alert on my Mac Pro Tower, and I almost always stop when I’m doing and go swap the batteries.

Anyway, the upshot is that I know the mouse has in the past worked perfectly fine when the batteries are at 1%. Also, because I’m a weird nerd whose past career titles have included quality assurance and hardware qualification engineer, I did some experiments, and confirmed that even when the batteries are low and the mouse is in another room, it remains connected to the laptop and can control the cursor…

It was getting really annoying by now.

Aren’t they pretty together?
And recently Apple has started selling the Space Grey Magic Mouse 2 as a stand alone accessory… so I could get a new mouse to replace the flaky almost nine-years-old one and it would match my laptop. So I did.

Now, a lot of people who have looked at the mouse (but haven’t used it) complain that the lightning recharge port is on the bottom of the mouse. “So if it dies, I have the wait around for it to charge back up! I can’t use it while it’s plugged in.” Bull. Seriously, it’s a purely B.S. objection because here’s the thing: if you connect it for two minutes, that charges the battery enough for nine hours of use. In And remember what I said about about alerts from the computer that the battery is low? I am being serious when I said that I would ignore it and keep using the mouse for days. So, when you see the alert, make a mental note, and the next time you go to refresh your beverage, or run to the bathroom, or get up to walk around (which my Apple Watch reminds me to do once an hour), plug the mouse in for a few moments and you will be good to go.

I know, my use case doesn’t match everyone elses, but I am quite certain that if Apple had put the port where all the complainers want it, that those some complainers would be bitching about how awkward the device which is designed to be wireless and that you use wirelessly all the time is when the attach a wire to it.

Anyway. I am sad that my first Magic Mouse is flaking out. But I’m also very happy with my shiny new one!

Confessions of a packrat

They comfort me… (stockvault.net)
During our recent visit to my Mom’s, one of the new accessories we set up for her was a pair of over-the-ears bluetooth headphones. The headphones required a micro USB cable to recharge, but there wasn’t a cable in the carrying case. So I had to dig around in my computer bag for one, which I did eventually find, but it seemed to be the one and only micro USB adapter cable in the bag.

Which isn’t good, because we have lots of things that use that particular cable to charge. So when we got back I went to a site online where I have previously purchased reasonably priced cables, and I ordered a bunch of one-foot long micro USB cables (they were less than a buck). While I was at it, I tossed a couple of three-foot versions of the cable into my shopping cart (they were more than a buck, but not my much), just to cover all our bases.

I figured I’d put one each of the short cables in my work backpack, my personal laptop backpack, my travel computer bag (which is different), and Michael’s laptop backpack. And then I planned to pull out all of the chargers in my travel computer bag, count up all of the headphones and things we usually take with us on trips that require a micro USB connector, and make sure that I had enough of the adaptors and chargers in the travel bag to charge them all simultaneously.

The online cable source, as these websites often do, offered some suggestions of other items that were similar to the merchandise already in my cart which I might be interested in purchasing. One of which was a long micro USB cable that had flashing LEDs built into the ends. It was being offered as a “hot deal” marked down to less than two bucks.

Now, I know the reality is that the cables were being marked down because no one needs adaptor cables with flashing LEDs on each end, so people were buying cheaper cables without flashing LEDs. So the things had been sitting on shelves unsold for a long time. The company just wanted to get rid of them.

But I looked at the pictures of the cables with the lights on the end, and they looked cool and silly. I just could not stop myself from clicking Add To Cart.

And once I did, the website (recognizing a sucker when it had one), changed the suggested items displayed. And look! There was a ten-foot long lightning adaptor cable! Ten-feet! We actually had a need some time back for an extra long iPad charging cable, and I’d wound up buying a couple of ten-foot models. They worked great, and it was kind of silly and fun to, when I first got them, set one up on a charger on one side of the room and string it out to plug an iPod or iPad into it on the other side of the room.

And you never know when you might need a cable like that, so of course I clicked Add To Cart!

And look! They were now suggesting I might be interested in white iPod adaptor cables marked way down. I have been worrying just a little bit about those cables, because Apple is phasing them out, but we have several older iPods we use for various things around the house that use that adapter. One of those iPods that we still use (it plays wake up music from the far side of the bedroom at me every morning) is a 2nd generation iPod mini from 2005, and it still works great, so I have no intention of tossing it until it dies. And I fully expect the 2010 model iPod Touch that we use in the car to last at least as long as the mini has. I’m going to need those adaptors for some years, yet, and cables that are used frequently do eventually wear out. I just recently threw away one in the car (replacing it with a cable from my computer desk) because I had to jiggle it to get the connection to work. So stashing several away against the day when they’re no longer sold isn’t a bad idea, right?

Add To Cart.

So the box of cables arrived a couple of days later. I’ve distributed the cables to our various computer bags and such as planned. And I’ve used the silly flashing LED cable to recharge a battery case (it doesn’t just flash at both ends; the LEDs change color as they flash!).

But while I was stashing all those things away, I also pulled out some older adaptors and cables for things that we no longer own. I put those obsolete cables and adaptors in with the pile of dead headphones that I had found stashed behind my second monitor when I cleaned out my desk last month. And I carried them (along with some other things that need to go to the recycler) out to the car.

Did I go overboard with the new cables? Probably. Will some of these cables languish around, forever waiting to be used, and ten years from now get sent off to recycle? Most assuredly.

Am I going to be able to prevent myself from ordering extra charging cables the next time I notice a shortage of a particular type? Almost certainly not.

But you know what? I just plugged in the flashing LED cable, again. And it made me grin. I might have even giggled, just a little bit.

So I regret nothing!

I clutter, therefore I am

The uncluttered don’t understand why clutter doesn’t drive the cluttered crazy. The truth is that it does. Trust me, we are as annoyed about it as the most obsessive-compulsive neat freak you can imagine. But there is a balance. Sometimes what looks like clutter to you is simply a spacial filing system. Things pile up on my desk precisely so they will be there when I need them, for instance.

Virtual clutter has been driving my craziest lately. I have too many podcasts. When too many unheard podcasts pile up on my iPhone and the free space drops too low, the phone starts misbehaving in small ways. Most of the symptoms are extremely minor—the wrong cover art is displayed while playing music, for instance. Some are a bit more annoying.

The obvious solution is to delete the old podcasts that I’m obviously never going to listen to. That takes time, and ca only be done, under the current software, at my computer. Until the annoying symptoms happen, my only indication I have of the impending problem happens when I synchronize the phone with the computer–which is almost always when I’m on my way out the door to catch a bus to work. In other words, when I’m rushing and short on time.

The next solution is to drastically reduce the number of podcasts I have my computer fetch for me. Obviously I’m not listening to a lot of them, right? Except I can’t predict in advance which ones I won’t get to. I listen to a small number of news podcasts each work morning on my way into work. I listen to the others very sporadically at work. I can only listen to talking people while doing illustration or design work, or if I’m working on some of e more design-ish or programming-ish tasks in the information architect side ofmy job. If I’m actually writing, editing, or reading specifications and such in prep for writing, I have to have music, not talking podcasts.

So some weeks I listen to no podcasts at all during work.

Then there are the times when I queue up a podcast, such as the most emailed stories on NPR, and the stories are things I just do not care to listen to. Or it’s a story I’ve already heard about or read about more than I need to know, so I go looking for another podcast to listen to, instead.

I’ll keep muddling along like this for a while longer, I’m sure. Yeah, I will probably explore some ofthe alternate systems that substitute streaming for downloading in advance, but I suspect the virtual clutter will manifest in new ways on the device.

At least there will always be tidying to keep me out of trouble, right?