The Digital Photo Guy

Good Things Come in Small Packages

by on Jul.20, 2011, under gear, Monday Morning Tips

Two Small but Very Useful Gadgets

Yesterday, I hit the trifecta of “Impulse Buys.” I’m sure none of my readers have ever done such a silly thing but I walked into my local Fry’s Electronics and bought two things on an impulse. Usually, impulse buys turn out badly and the purchase is quickly relegated to the trash bin of regrettable rejects. This time, I was pleasently surprised at the efficacy and value of both purchases, so much so that I’m reporting them for my readers.

The first was the HP Monster ScreenClean (why is everything in tech named with two words mashed into one?) Anyway, I was thinking about all the spots on my LCD monitors that looked as if my cat had sneezed on them. I’ve been using a mixture of 50/50 water and vinegar on a soft clean cloth to wipe off the monitor but that can be a hassle at times.

HP Monster ScreenClean is from the Monster, the company that makes huge audio cables for audiophiles. Monster and HP have some sort of joint marketing deal with ScreenClean being one product. This particular kit only cost $14.99 and includes 4 oz of cleaner in a “designer bottle” and two microfiber cloths. One MF cloth has a heavy terry-like texture while the other is the standard polyester-like finish.

This stuff really works! I sprayed a bit directly on my screens and immediately wiped it off with the heavy MF cloth. I was amazed at how clean both my LCD monitors look. I finished the job by brushing off all loose dust with my anti-static brush.

SIIG USB 3.0 Card Reader

The second gadget I bought on a whim is the new SIIG USB 3.0 Multi-Card Reader. I had been wanting a faster card reader but UDMA card readers require UDMA cards and I’m too cheap to replace all my cards.

To be perfectly honest, this card reader needs a USB 3.0 port. Sure, it falls back to USB 2.0 if 3.0 isn’t available but what’s the point of buying a new card reader if you’re not getting faster speed?

Last year, I had climbed out on the bleeding edge and cut myself buying an ExpressCard USB 3.0 adaptor. It is blazing fast but somewhat finicky about the devices it would talk wth. The USB 3.0 HD enclosure I bought from a different manufacturer would sometimes refuse to communicate with my USB 3.0 adaptor. So, it was with some trepidation that connected the SIIG card reader to the Alura USB 3.0 adaptor.

I love it when a plan comes together. The same set of Raw files that had taken nearly 15 minutes to download via USB 2.0 now downloaded in about 4 minutes. I didn’t bother precisely measuring the speed because it was obviously much, much faster. For $29.95, this was a great deal. If you don’t have a USB 3.0 port on your laptop, one will set you back another $30-$50 from Newegg.com. Trust me, speed is addictive. Fast enough never is.

Did I Say “Trifecta?”

At the beginning of this post I mentioned a trifecta of impulse buys. This third one won’t do anything for your photoraphy. Heck, it probably won’t do anything for you at all but I’m so happy, I included it as part of my trifecta.

Those who know me know that my main vehicle is my 2006 Winnebago View 24′ RV. I use it as a mobile digital photo lab to teach photo editing in the field. For putzing around town, I drive my anti-SUV, a 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle. I feel photographers and artists are allowed to be odd and a ’73 VW SB is about as odd as I want to be.

As you can imagine, a 38 year old VW has some aches and pains. Something that’s been bothering Ribbit for a while is his rear suspension. (Ribbit’s main function is as a “towed vehicle” behind my RV, get it, toad?) The torsion bars have sagged beyond adjustability and he felt “squishy” on the corners. VW Paradise in San Marcos, CA advised replacing the rear shocks with some gas shocks and it’s made all the difference in the world. Ribbit now struts around (pun intended) like the stud muffin he is and actually challenged a Porsche to a street race (he got smoked!) The shocks cost $150 less than VWP’s estimate to adjust the torsion bars.

So, there you have it, a perfect trifecta of good stuff to make life easier, faster and much more enjoyable. If you see Ribbit and me around twon, be sure to wave “Hi.”

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