Estes Proto X Mini Quadcopter

I’ve been fiddling around with the world’s smallest quadcopter now for about 2 months, and it’s been great fun! It actually introduced me into the world of remote control quadcopters, and has led to a brand new hobby and addiction. My wife was initially skeptical, until she realized it would get me out of the house occasionally and provide for some much needed “me” time – for her of course.

The Estes Proto X mini quadcopter is an amazing little flying machine to say the least. It features 6 axis stabilization, bright led light indicators, and is ready to fly out of the box (actually you’ll need to pick up a pack of AAA batteries for the remote, and a tiny screwdriver [like this one] to install them).

Although this is the quadcopter that introduced me to the world of quads, I must qualify that it takes practice to become a skilled quad pilot. Good thing is the Proto X is very durable, as I have crashed it on multiple occasions, and broke a few of the blades in the process. The blades are replaceable, but it is a good idea to have ample flying space to avoid hitting walls, chairs, computers, etc… You are able to fly the Proto X outdoors and indoors, but becareful outdoors, as it is not difficult for high winds to carry your mini quad up up and away.

Overall, the Estes Proto X is an excellent cool tool toy, and a great introduction into the world of quadcopters.

Warning: This may scare some small pets or children when flown, as it sounds like a large angry mosquito when airbound.

-- Myron  

Estes 4606 Proto X Nano R/C Quadcopter
$27

Available from Amazon



Rake on Wheels

The Wolf Garden Tools rake scarifier removes moss and thatch from your lawn. The wheels mean the rake maintains the correct penetration. The head swings back and forth to help the rake glide over lawn when pushed, and bite into lawn when pulled. It requires a little strength to rake a lawn effectively – but we all need exercise.

The result obtained by using this tool exceeded my expectations. Within a short space of time, I had raked out quite a lot of moss and thatch. Having one in the tool shed means I can get it out at any time to touch up the lawn. Wolf claim the special hardened blades require no re-sharpening. I have not had it long enough to know if this is true. The handle fits other tools in the Wolf Garden Tools range. The range is extensive and there are plenty of other useful tool heads available. I think it’s brilliant.

-- Alan Readhead  

Wolf Garden Tools Scarifier Rake on Wheels
$138

Requires the Wolf Garten ZMI15 150cm Multi-Change Lightweight Aluminum Handle
$51

Available from Amazon



Sol: Sun Clock

Have you ever wanted to know exactly when the sun will rise or set or know exactly when the sun will be at its peak? This app for iOS will tell you that and more.

The interface is easy to understand and includes data such as sunrise/sunset times and durations and days from/to the last/next solar equinox or solstice. It will determine your current location by default, but you can calculate times for any location on the planet.

The nicest feature is being able to set alarms for certain solar events. I like using sunlight as much as possible and have come to rely on this app as a poor man’s curtain timer. I have set an alarm at sunrise and sunset so that I know when it’s time to open or close the curtains around the house. It changes slightly everyday, but stays in sync with the sun. Photographers will find the golden hour alarm setting useful for knowing the best time for taking outdoor photos.

It’s also interesting to see how much daylight saving time and choice of time zone have skewed the traditional notion of noon (solar noon). I live in Indiana (geographically in the Central Time Zone, but most of the state observes Eastern Time) and during the summer months, solar noon is almost 2 hours later than noon by the clock. (WTF Indiana?!)

While several weather apps now include sunrise and sunset times, the features offered by this app make it it well worth the price.

-- John Grigutis  



Transformer Pencil Case

On returning to university after a 14-year break I needed a pencil case again. I found the Kokuyo NeoCritz Transformer to be ideal as it acts a pen holder in class, at home, or work and when I move around I can just zip it up and walk off without losing pens. Its a really clever solution as the lower half is stiffened so it stands up on my desk.

I’ve has this case for about 6 months now and its holding up really well.

pencil-case-2

-- Graham Allan  

Kokuyo “NeoCritz” Transformer Pencil Case
$10

Available from Amazon



Time Lapse and Stop Motion HD Video Camera

Interesting doesn’t come close to how incredibly cool this camera is. Exceptionally quick to set up and learn, I’ve been charging around the house and neighborhood taking high-quality time-lapse movies of everything from my cats sleeping to my neighbors going about whatever it is neighbors do.

The camera is cute, 4 1/4″ H x 2 1/2″ W x 1 3/4″ D. With batteries it is less than 1/2 pound and solid as a rock. Tripod mount on the bottom, but it sits very steadily on four rubber feet. The lens rotates up and down 120° and has settings for 1 second to 24 hours per image. Accessories like a manual shutter release for single frame photography for stop-action, a water resistant housing, wide angle lens, carrying case, and it supports up to a 32GB SD card. To use it, you turn it on, set the timer, point the camera at something interesting and walk away.

While the product information says it comes with a 2GB card, mine came with a 4GB card.

Timelapse Formosa Sunset

-- Frank Townend  

Brinno TLC200 Time Lapse and Stop Motion HD Video Camera
$100

Available from Amazon



Screw Extractor Driver Set

I purchased this set over a year ago to remove a few stripped screws in a water damaged iPhone 4s, assuming I would need to use the included extractor blade. I was surprised to find that the Phillips head was able to remove the stripped screws without any difficulty. Since then the set has been indispensable on several other iPhone repairs. The set also comes with a lifetime warranty.

-- Philip Thomas  

6-Piece Slot/Phil/Screw Extractor Combo Reversible Driver Set
$28

Available from Amazon



Chantal Stainless Steel Travel Mug

I have been using the Chantal travel mug for 6 months. The attribute that set it apart is that you can drink the liquid anywhere around the rim. Most, if not all, travel mugs have a single exit for the liquid. It is dishwasher safe, easy to disassemble and keeps the liquid at a consistent temperature for a long time.

-- Wayne Biermann  

Chantal Stainless Steel Travel Mug
$21

Available from Amazon



OXO Angled Measuring Jigger

About a year ago I bought the OXO Angled Measuring Jigger to use for mixing up cocktails. The jigger is made of stainless steel, so it’s virtually indestructible and easy to clean. Inside it has an angled surface with all the measurements — in both tablespoons and ounces (and half ounces) — so it’s easy to get an accurate measurement. The spout also makes it easy to pour into you shaker or glass of choice. And I have to mention the best part — it’s around $7.

-- Julie Anderson  

OXO Steel Angled Measuring Jigger
$7

Available from Amazon



Electric Boot Dryer

I’m an avid year-round hiker, and New England weather often leaves my boots wet at the end of the day from a combination of perspiration and the elements. Drying boots in the winter-time is less of an issue if you have heat source such as a stove, but it’s important to use only low heat. Recently a friend told me he had used an electric boot dryer for many years that worked over night. I looked on Amazon and settled on this one and have been very pleased with the results. The dryer is rated for 36 Watts and circulates warm air by convection, so there no noise and little to wear out – this unit came with a 30-year guarantee. It does not come with an On/Off switch, but a switchable power strip solves that problem.

-- Kevin Rooney  

MaxxDry SD Boot, Shoe and Glove Dryer
$28

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