ClipMate Clipboard Extender

I have been using ClipMate for several years (at least since 2007) on various versions of Windows. It is the first program I install when setting up a new machine. It saves everything that is copied to the clipboard and allows you to organize them into folders and subfolders. So, I keep copies of the e-mail addresses that I use with sites that insist the format is “name@domain.com” without the quotes of human names that are stored in my Contact list. I keep track of boilerplate kinds of text that I need to use repeatedly. The clips can be formatted text (you can force it to plain text) or graphics.

Powerpaste is a very useful feature that allows you to paste a set of clips, automatically advancing to the next one in the set each time you paste. There are many other features, including many that I have never even learned how to use; but the ones that I do use make it an incredible tool. It can hold thousands of clips and you can search them easily. Frankly, I don’t understand why everybody doesn’t use a tool like this.

-- Sherman Gavette  

ClipMate Clipboard Clipboard Extender
$35

Available from Thornsoft



Prop ‘n Go Lite Bed Holder & Lap Stand for Tablets and Laptops

I have been using the Prop ’n Go for over three years and I keep finding new ways to use it. It is first of all an adjustable bed holder and lap stand for iPad, iPad Air, iPad mini, tablets, laptops, and e-readers with multi angle control. The Prop ‘n Go resembles a plushy cushion with a flat plastic square on top. When sitting, the cushion raises the iPad up a good few inches so that it is well within typing reach. The top plastic piece has a hinged centre piece that permits you to change the angle of the iPad to 12 different positions or you can simply leave it flat. The rest position itself is on a slight angle to start with. There are two rubberized strips running along the sides of the hinge on the plastic top that help grip the iPad. The iPad remains secured by these strips if you move your legs or adjust the Prop ‘n Go. This item thus allows you to easily type with two hands and not have to worry about the iPad moving as you type.

It is very common to use the iPad either sitting down or lying down. The various iPad covers often have a few angles that let you adjust the viewing. I find these barely adequate and, unless I am holding on to the iPad with a free hand, they do fall over and have to be readjusted. The Prop ‘n Go allows you to use the iPad as a hands-free device. I can prop the iPad up to whatever angle I want and not have to keep my knees bent at the same angle which I would do without a Prop ‘n Go. It just allows me complete freedom of movement as I watch TV and use my iPad. Since it leaves your hands free, there is no continuous holding of the device. My old wrists and thumbs thank me for the rest.

One might wonder about the portability of the Prop ‘n Go. It is not easily carried from place to place. It is too bulky for that. However, it is meant to be a secure storage space for the iPad. The plushy cushion does have a zipper in it that allows the iPad to be placed inside. The amount of padding would certainly protect the iPad from any but the most vicious attempts to injure it. I can see myself putting the iPad and the Prop ‘n Go inside a backpack or even better, a suitcase. This is the function of the puffy sleeves that one can purchase for protecting the iPad in transit.

I could stop the review now and I would have explained all that the makers of the Prop ‘n Go had in mind when they first designed it. However, I have found it to be much more versatile than I first thought. I keep coming up with different uses for it. It worked well supporting my e-book reader. Again, these are very light weight to start with and are not supposed to require much effort to hold. I just found that it is very nice to use the e-reader as a hands-free device. Plus I could prop it at whatever angle I wanted and quickly change it if I wanted to. It was simply more convenient.

The Prop ‘n Go also works for heavy books. It held any book I positioned on it in place while I was reading lying down. I had to use one hand to keep the page from turning but this took a lot less effort than supporting the book with both hands.

Next, since the iPad has recipes in it, the Prop ‘n Go makes reading these recipes a snap from a distance. You don’t have to lie the iPad down, but rather prop it up and make sure the font size is readable from a distance. No more returning to the spot where you put the iPad down. You can read the recipes from where ever you are in the kitchen.

I found that using the Prop ‘n Go with my 1.5 year old grandchild was advantageous. The cushion kept him from moving around a lot and I was able to prop the iPad to a convenient angle for both of us to use. Plus, I was able to secure the iPad more easily when he started to move the iPad around. Because it has so many different viewing angles, it is so much more convenient for watching video. I can adjust to screen to the best viewing angle whether I am sitting down or lying in bed.

Lastly, for now, I used the Prop ‘n Go to hold the iPad in place when I was driving in my van. I could prop the iPad up so that both the front and back seat passengers could see the screen. The Prop ‘n Go kept the iPad from sliding around when I turned the corners. I had no fear that quick braking might be a problem because the iPad was facing the back, propped in place.

I am sure that I will find other uses for the Prop ‘n Go now that I have it. It was not at the top of my list of iPad accessories but as you can see from these comments, it has a lot more going for it than simply a cushion.

prop-go-lite-2

-- Marcel Dufresne  

Prop ‘n Go Slim – Adjustable Bed Holder & Lap Stand
$36

Available from Amazon



 

iFixit Pro Magnetic Project Mat

My family members are prone to dropping their iPhones and cracking the screen. I’ve gotten pretty good at replacing the displays myself, saving a lot of money over the price Apple charges (not to mention not having to wait a week or more for Apple to complete the repair).

As you might imagine, the screws and clips in an iPhone are tiny. If one of drops to the floor, you will never find it again. I bought this iFixit Pro Magnetic Project Mat and it does a great job of keeping all the fasteners in place. It has a dry erase surface to take notes and a square grid pattern so you can organize the components in a way that makes sense.

This weekend I used it while replacing the battery in my daughter’s iPhone 5s (it wouldn’t hold a charge for more than an hour) and it worked beautifully. It has a non slip foam back, which keeps a nice grip on the table. Amazon sells a cheaper magnetic project mat, but I don’t know if it has the same kind of foam backing)

By the way, iFixit has a lot of great videos and PDF guides for repairing many different kinds of electronic gadgets.

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

iFixit Pro Magnetic Project Mat
$25

Available from Amazon



Trendnet Powerline Power-to-Wireless Access Point

Our kitchen is a Wifi deadspot. I’ve tried using wireless extenders, but I think my walls have chicken wire in them, turning every room into a Faraday cage. This Trendnet Powerline power-to-wireless access point) is exactly what I was looking for.

Powerline is a sort-of standard for data networking over an existing electrical system. I already had a Powerline adapter (this one) that’s plugged into my router, so I simply plugged the Powerline wireless access point into an AC outlet in the kitchen and configured it up by plugging an Ethernet cable between it and my laptop. In a matter of minutes, our kitchen had Internet that is good enough for streaming HD video.

The Amazon reviews aren’t great for this, but I’ve had no problems with it whatsoever. Here’s a power-to-wirless adapter for the same price and a better Amazon rating (and also includes the Powerline adapter that you connect to your router), but I haven’t tried it.

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

TRENDnet Powerline 200 AV Adapter Wireless Access Point, TPL-310AP
$50

Available from Amazon



NuGuard GripStand 3

[UPDATE – ITEM IS CURRENTLY OUT OF STOCK ON AMAZON.] I have tried many cases for my iPad but the NuGuard GripStand 3 is by far my favorite. It is composed of a protective case and a handle that acts as the base. The outside shell consists of a hard plastic with several parts sculpted out to permit access to all the ports and buttons on your iPad as well as a spot to connect your Apple Smart Cover, if you have one. I appreciate the large slots and spaces on the sides of the case to insert any plugs. (Some cases have too tight a fit and plugs like the Apple iPad Camera Connection kit can’t attach properly. This results in the iPad having to be removed from the case before the plug can be used.)

The inside of the shell is a rubberized material that creates a good suction fit to hold the iPad in place. Don’t attach the stand until you have the iPad secured in the case. I found that the insertion process worked better when the large space at the back was open. It probably helped to create the proper suction, allowing the air to be squeezed out from behind the iPad. This also explains the purpose of all those holes on the rubberized interior of the case.

It is advisable to check that the iPad is securely attached. This is my only concern with this case. Most cases wrap around not only the back and sides but also a bit on the front so that the iPad can’t slip out of the case. There is no overlapping front face grip. I can understand why it was built this way. This construction allows the Smart Cover to lie flat over the face. To remove any doubts I had about the suction hold of the case, I have held the iPad upside down over a couch and tried to shake it free. The suction has held every time I tried to get it to fall free. I guess if you are worried about how secure it is, you can periodically test the grip.

The GripStand’s handle can be swiveled 360° and positioned at virtually any angle for viewing and typing needs. It kind of locks in the four main positions (landscape or portrait), which is convenient when using it as a stand. The GripStand is quite stiff when you attempt to change the viewing angle. This means that whatever angle you decide on, the iPad stays right there. So many other cases I have tried were either limited in the angles or tended to slip and change their angle as you touched and tapped away at them. This is why the GripStand is a great aid for using and typing on the iPad.

It is also a highly effective one hand grip so you can use your iPad 2 while standing or walking. I was surprised at how handy this was. It was a lot easier carrying the iPad while holding on to the base and it kept my oily hands away from the screen. The handle can be rotated to use as a hook to hang your iPad 2 on a wall. The handle allows you to carry the iPad 2 like a briefcase.

-- Marcel Dufresne  

NuGuard GripStand 3 & GripBase Bundle
$39

Available from Amazon



Sharkk iPad Mini Keyboard

The Sharkk keyboard for the iPad Mini turns your iPad into a fully functional, highly portable computer. One you can do serious work on in addition to using all the apps you love.

It’s not just a keyboard, it’s clam-shell case that both protects your iPad and still allows you to use it in landscape and portrait modes. Your iPad Mini will double in thickness but the gains in utility more than compensate, in my opinion. I still marvel at the fact that I have such a powerful device in a format the size of a paperback book.

Quick list of just a few apps that become that much more useful with a proper keyboard:

1. Evernote
2. Office for iPad apps
3. Textastic (great code editor with FTP, SFTP, Dropbox, etc. integration)
4. ServerAuditor (terminal emulator)
5. Codea (kick ass Lua dev env for the iPad)
6. Trello (collaborative task organizer, very useful/flexible/powerful)
7. Editorial (text editor with integrated Python interpreter for macros, workflows, etc. Recommended)

Note: It’s not all roses. Sharkk’s quality control leaves something to be desired. I ordered 3 keyboards on Amazon that were all defective in one way or another. One email to Sharkk’s support team and they sent me a working keyboard straight away.

Note: There are two firms selling the same (presumably OEM’ed) keyboard case, Sharkk and CoverBot. Had and loved the CoverBot case with my iPad Mini but when I upgraded to an iPad Mini Retina, Apple’s updated Bluetooth stack broke a number of keyboards, including the CoverBot. The Sharkk one, however, works fine.

-- Paul Clip  

SHARKK Apple iPad Mini 3 Keyboard
$38

Available from Amazon



Snuglet

Millions  suffer in silence as the freakin’ MagSafe magnet in Mac notebooks turns out not to be strong enough, so every time you shift on the couch it falls out. I don’t know if you have this problem, but many of us are very frustrated that the magnet is not as strong enough as it was in the old days.

There was a successful Kickstarter thing called a Snuglet. It’s a shim, it looks like a staple. This tiny  liner for the MagSafe jack, through some miracle of physics, amplifies the magnetic grip of the power plug so that it does not fall out unless you really kick the power cord or trip on it or something, which was the original idea.

-- David Pogue  

[This is from the Cool Tools Show podcast with David Pogue. See all of David's picks here. – Mark Frauenfelder]

Snuglet
$13 for 2 (includes remover)

Available from Amazon



X-Stand Portable Notebook Cooling Stand

I’ve used this laptop stand for six years after discovering it branded and sold by Targus (where it can no longer be found). After losing mine, I found it again branded under “Hercules XStand Portable Notebook Cooling Stand” and “Opteka X-Stand Ergonomic Portable Airflow Cooling Stand.”

The stand is beautifully built, light (all-aluminum structure), and well-designed. It’s for 15″ – 17″ laptops, and easily folds down to something you could slip into a pocket. The stand tilts the keyboard a few degrees, which is nice, but its primary use is to allow plenty of airflow under the computer for cooling; I find it substantially reduces the temperature, which is not only nice for me, it certainly helps lengthen the life of my laptops. It has to be used on a flat surface – not your lap. I use it everywhere.

The stand is far-and-away the smallest and lightest laptop stand I’ve ever seen, and retails online for anywhere from $15 to $23.

-- Barry Schwartz  

X-Stand Portable Notebook Cooling Stand
$23

Available from Amazon



CRC Electronic Contact Cleaner 2000

I first ran into a can of this wonderful stuff when I started my first job, and have found it invaluable since, to the point where I have a can at work, home, and even leave one at my parents’ house.

What this is, is a can of non-flammable, liquid, electronic cleaner that can be pin-point sprayed onto various powered-down electronic contacts which are often unreachable or time-consuming to repair/replace.

Smartphone power button not responding? DSLR knob not switching modes? Static in the line jack? EQ slider no longer smooth? Try some of this spray, and if it’s an electronic contact issue, it might just magically fix it.

Even after you’ve given them ample warning, the look of horror on the faces of your friends and family as you spray a stream of liquid onto their non-waterproof electronics is priceless. Even better is the look of delight when they realize there is no evidence of the liquid, and you’ve fixed their gadget.

Because it evaporates nearly instantaneously, you won’t end up with liquid damage to components or surroundings, is plastic-friendly in that it doesn’t discolor or crack it, and is safe to use liberally.

My personal favorite is the CRC Contact Cleaner 2000, since that’s what I first used, and I also chuckle a little when I use any product with the “futuristic” number “2000” in it.

There are many fine products from competitors such as Permatex, B’Laster, and WD-40, as well, with varying claims of higher cleansing performance. Perhaps in really tough environments, this may be important, but for my typical home/office use, the CRC Contact Cleaner 2000 has worked just fine. Regardless of what cleaner you purchase, make sure you’re purchasing a version that is explicitly listed as non-flammable and compliant with all 50 states on low VOC (volatile organic compounds).

-- Kaz Mori  

CRC Contact 2000 VC Precision Cleaner, 16 oz
$36

Available from Amazon



Copilot

I’m the CTO of a company that employs a whole group of computer repair technicians. At one time, we would remotely diagnose computer problems by connecting to a user’s network using a VPN, then have the user install VNC, and then tell us their IP address. Sometimes there wasn’t a VPN or we had to go through setting up one for the user on their router. (To make things more problematic, most Telus connections started disallowing VPNs.) Each and every one of those steps was very difficult for the average user.

Now we use Copilot.com. We just ask users to open a Web page, read off the 12-digit number they see, and click a link, which downloads a small program that they can run to create the connection; then the connection will work through any firewall they have.

Using this I can connect to almost any remote PC. It works with users in UAE on a slow IDSN line. It works with users in northern Canada with a cell phone Internet connection. Of course, it works a lot better with high speed internet connections.

Other tools require a user to view an email (which may not be working) or provide information about their PC, which they usually have no idea about. This tool works as long as you can get the user on the phone and looking at the Web site.

The only difficulty? Some users are so illiterate that when you say “go to www.copilot.com” they will instead enter “copilot” into Google. You’d be very surprised how often this happens.

There are other services that do this, however we find this one works on the worst of connections. And of course, the farther away someone is, the worse their connection is, and the more help they need!

I have used Copilot for about 3 years. I pay the monthly subscription fee of $20, but you can also pay $5 to use it for 24 hours, on demand.

-- Perry Doell  

Copilot
Price plans vary
Free on weekends