Review: Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover

Last week a friend of mine came to visit and during some downtime, he had a Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. (His was for a larger iPad.) I thought it looked interesting and decided to get one for my iPad mini. Of course, I neglected to realize that the keyboard would be a lot smaller because it was for an iPad mini, doh!

When the keyboard arrived, I was impressed with how little bulk it added and really like how the keyboard sits in the stand. As a cover and a stand, the keyboard cover works well. The keyboard is a little small for touch typists, but after a few days, I’m starting to get used to it and am, in fact, writing this review using the keyboard. The biggest problem I’m finding is that I feel like the keyboard is shifted slightly offset from center causing me to shift my hands. The smaller keys aren’t for everyone, but I’m finding that I can fairly easily type on it while it is on my lap or on a desk,

It is easy to forget that it is a Bluetooth keyboard and has to be charged. Logitech estimates that with 2 hours per day usage, you can get about 3 months of usage. Unfortunately the only way you know the power level is to wait until the power light blinks and at that point, it is down to 5%. The cover uses magnets like the smart cover to turn the iPad on/off when the cover is opened and closed which is clever as I’ve only seen it in Apple’s covers. In addition, it uses magents to hold the iPad in the stand.

Pros

  • Compact.
  • Provides a protective cover for the iPad.
  • Rechargeable.
  • Connects easily to the iPad.
  • The keys have enough travel for typing.

Cons

  • It is a little small and may be hard for some people to type. (The one for the other iPads will be different.)
  • Keys appear to be shifted which can make it hard to type.
  • No indicator for battery remaining.

Summary

The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover is going to be an excellent addition to my iPad mini and make it even easier to leave my laptop behind on trips or to leave it in my office at night when I want to write. If you have big hands and use an iPad mini, I suspect that this keyboard won’t be a good choice for you. For a bigger iPad, the keyboard will, of course, be larger and easier to use. At the list price of $70, I think this could be overpriced. However, I got mine off Amazon as an openbox item for $32 and for that price, I think it was a good purchase. This week my personal MacBook Pro is going in for repair (it is part of Apple’s extended warranty program for graphics card issues) and this keyboard is going to help me with my computer withdrawl :-).

For other iPads, the versions of the keyboard may prove to be easier to use, so if you’re looking to make your iPad your only computer or a travel device, you should definitely check out this keyboard.

Review: Kanex iDevice Collapsable Stand

Awhile ago I found a stand I liked for my iPad. Since then, I’ve switched to an iPad mini and the stand no longer fits the iPad. So I looked for a replacement. When the iPad came out, people were using all kinds of things including binder clips to make stands, so I didn’t need anything really complicated. I stumbled upon the Kanex iDevice Collapsable Stand and for the price, what did I have to lose?

The stand is extremely simple and does its job. It is easy to carry and I can throw it in my bag. I used it all the time (more on why I’m no longer using it in another post) and it served its purpose. There isn’t a whole lot to it, and it just works.

Pros

  • Inexpensive.
  • Adjustable.
  • Compact.

Cons

  • None

Summary

If you’re looking for a simple stand, the Kanex stand works well. There are more complex stands out there that cost more money, but I definitely recommend this for anyone looking for a simple stand.

Review: Shoulderpod S1

On each vacation I’ve taken in the last few years, I’ve taken a compact digital camera along with my iPhone. However, with each iPhone revision, the camera gets so much better that I reconsider my choice to take a camera. The camera has a few features that the iPhone doesn’t have, but the differences are so minor.

The only thing that I seem to miss using the iPhone is simply how it feels and how easy it is to hold. I had read about the Shoulderpod S1 as a grip for the iPhone. I didn’t back it on KIckstarter, but it made it “to the big leagues” as I found it on Amazon.

I ordered it a few days for my last vacation and when it arrived, I adjusted it for my phone and tried it out. Its premise is pretty simple; provide a hand held mount for your smartphone. Operating it is easy; just adjust the screw and put your iPhone in it. I used it for a bunch of shots and being able to hold the phone without the fear of dropping it and being able to stablize it was very convenient. I didn’t take many movies, but the movies I did were less shaky. I also used it to take a timed shot and it worked well mounted on my Gorillapod mount.

The biggest “problem” with the Shoulderpod is that when I had it attached, I couldn’t really fit my phone in my pocket, so I kept taking it off my iPhone and reattaching it. This was a little inconvenient, but I’m not sure it was the fault of the little device.

Pros

  • Makes it easy to hold an iPhone.
  • Supports my iPhone 6 and other smartphones; very adjustable.
  • Standard tripod mount allows it to work with GorillaPod and other tripods.

Cons

  • Some pieces are made out of plastic which made lead to issues down the line with reliability.
  • Taking the Shoulderpod on and off is a little cumbersome and leaving it on doesn’t fit in my pocket.

Summary

The Shoulderpod S1 makes a great addition to any smartphone user that relies exclusively on his or her phone for taking pictures on vacations or even for taking photos and videos of school functions, Holding my hold with just just a few fingers always has me nervous and the Shoulderpod’s grip takes this away and stabilizes pictures. I’m sure others have gotten good at taking smartphone pictures, but I think that the Shoulderpod will make it even easier to take good pictures.

The price isn’t that much and is a good addition to my travel bag. I will need to find a better way to deal with it so that I don’t take it on or off, but I consider that a minor issue.

Review: Twelve South HiRise Deluxe iPhone Stand

One of themes in my backings on Kickstarter was the search for a stand for my iPhone. Unfortunately none of the products I backed were decent quality and a waste. I’ve read good things about the Twelve South HiRise Deluxe stands and decided to splurge (they’re a bit more expensive than other stands). I was skeptical when I ordered it as the cable wasn’t integrated in the stand and required me to supply my own; this didn’t seem like a great design, but I was willing to give it a shot.

When I got the stand, I was impressed that it was designed for different thickness cases and the holder for the Lightning connector was quite solid. Setup was easy and I adjusted it for my case. I’ve been using it daily since September and it has performed flawlessly. I drop my phone in it and it charges; not much more to say about it. Since I work from home, I leave my phone in the stand most of the time and use Hey Siri to make my conference calls. It is a great angle for viewing and does well for conference calls. I should have gone with this stand instead of backing various Kickstarter projects (however, this stand uses a Lightning connector; I’m not sure it would have worked as well with the 30 pin connector).

Pros

  • Handles different sized cases.
  • Solid (it doesn’t fall over).
  • Good angle and height for holding up iPhone.
  • Doesn’t put extra stress on connector as phone is resting on the stand and not the connector.

Cons

  • A little more expensive than the average stand.

Summary

This is an excellent stand for iPhones with the Lightning connector. I’m not sure how well it would work with the iPad mini like it claims. The cost is probably a little more than most people want to spend on a stand, but it is quite easy to just drop my iPhone into it when I’m at my desk. I’d definitely purchase this again.

Review: Anker 5-Port USB Charger

These days just about everything is powered by USB, and I never seem to have enough ports to charge the items. If I used individual chargers, I’d have a bunch of chargers on power strips and when I travel, I’d have a bunch of pieces to bring. So, when I started reading about multiple port chargers that would handle iPhones as well as the increased power required for iPads, I was quite intrigued. After further research, some chargers required me to plug iPads into certain ports and other devices into the other ports. This is cumbersome and when I saw the Anker® 40W 5-Port USB Charger where it would intelligently figure out what output is required for each port, I jumped at this.

The charger is pretty compact and its operation is simple, plug it in. I’ve been using it for travel on a number of trips and it is a real lifesaver. When I travel with my family, we have 3 iPads, 2 iPhones, my Pebble watch, and an external iPhone battery. While I don’t have to charge all at once, it is quite handy to plug in 5 devices. It works as advertised and I haven’t had any problems with it. Some reviews have indicated that the device arrived dead or overheated. I haven’t seen those and it just works.

Pros

  • Compact
  • Handles multiple devices

Cons

  • None

Summary

The only question about this is how many should you get? I recommend getting at least one to throw in a suitcase so it is always ready for travel. Getting a second one to leave on a desk isn’t a bad idea either. While I don’t have an Anker on my desk (I have a different one that is of lesser quality), having a charger on my desk is quite handy.

These do go on sale for about $20-$25 periodically, so I wouldn’t pay more than that, but if you travel with more than 1 device, this is a great addition to any travel pack.

My Kickstarter Scorecard

Over the last few years, I’ve seen a number of interesting projects on Kickstarter. I’ve backed 10 of them and have had mixed results in the results. So far 9 of the items have been delivered and the last one is due to be delivered in a few months. Let’s take a look at what I backed in chronological order:

  • Icons for iOS

    While the author probably didn’t need backing for this project, he did quite well and produced some nice icons. I received exactly what was promised and I’m pleased with the result. The author has continued to put out great icons. So I’ll give this a thumbs up.

  • The Oona

    This project was for a stand/way to hold an iPhone. Unfortunately, this was an utter failure. I reviewed what I got and wasn’t too pleased. This will be a thumbs down.

  • MySaver: protection for your iPad, iPhone, and iPod cables

    This was in interesting project designed to reinforce 30 pin iPhone/iPod cables. I reviewed this as well. While a bit expensive, this project delivered on what was promised. 3 years later and I still have cables with the MySaver on it that are doing well. We’ll give this a thumbs up as well.

  • MobileMount – Double Suction Cup Mount for Phones / Tablets

    As some might be able to tell, I’ve been in the search of a good way to hold my iPhone/iPad on my desk. This was another attempt to find a good way to hold the devices. Like other projects, I reviewed this as well. Unfortunately I’ve learned that suction cups are extremely unreliable and make poor mounts. This is a thumbs down.

  • Pebble: E-Paper Watch for iPhone and Android

    This project had a number of delays and it was well funded. Would this live up to all the hype? Well, 2 years after I received my Pebble, I still wear it everyday. When I first received it, I reviewed it. The product has only gotten better over time with all the updates. I’ll this this a big thumbs up.

  • Une Bobine – For People Who Love iPhone… and Android

    Another interesting project of a way to hold an iPhone. Unfortunately the longevity of this was limited given that Apple changed its connector. While they delivered what was promised, I wasn’t wowed by it. I’ll rate this as a neutral.

  • Almond+ : 802.11ac Touchscreen WiFi Router + Smart home Hub

    I was excited to see another option for home automation. This project was delayed a number of times, but was finally delivered. They are still working on the firmware and a new firmware was released the other day. I think they over promised and barely delivered. The hardware seems up to snuff, but the software has a lot to be desired. I think this ranks in as a neutral (leaning on thumbs down, but since they keep updating the firmware, I’ll leave it as a neutral).

  • Reel Delicious

    I backed this project in order to help a school project (most of the backing was tax deductible). I’m going to give this a neutral as it doesn’t fall in line with the tech projects I normally back.

  • XY – The secure iOS/Android Bluetooth tracking tag

    A co-worker pointed me to this project and I was curious about the software on other Bluetooth LE tags. Unfortunately, like other Bluetooth LE tags, it didn’t live up to the hype. I think that this is more of a failure of the technology than the implementation. I have to give this a thumbs down.

  • Hush | The World’s First Smart Earplugs

    These haven’t been delivered, yet. I’m confident that they will be delivered, but it remains to be seen if they will work as well as they promise.

So, lets recap. 3 thumbs up, 3 thumbs down, 3 neutral, 1 to be delivered. That’s not a great track record for projects. Will I keep backing projects on Kickstarter? Sure, I love the anticipation and being the first to get something new. I do have a limit on how much I’ll risk (unlike other projects that people back, so far I’ve received the promised items), but I’ll keep going with some projects.

Revising my stance on vacation rentals

As many people who follow my blog know, I’m fighting a battle against short term vacation rentals since my neighbor decided to kick out a family and turn his property into a mini-hotel with people staying for a few days at a time. I’ve been scouring local regulations and reading everything I can about this topic.

Last week I spoke with a few attorneys about my legal options and listened to what they had to say. After these meetings as well as having another group of transients next door (with 1 call to the police), I think I have figured out my major complaint with the short term rentals. That complaint is that the property next door is being used as a mini-hotel and isn’t in the spirit of a neighborhood. Some people who support vacation rentals argue that they should be able to rent out their houses when they go on vacation to earn some extra money. While I don’t plan on doing this myself, I realize that I don’t have a huge problem with this if it is only done occasionally and not as a primary use of the property.

So while some may think I’ve softened my position on vacation rentals, I’m really just fine tuning it in a way such that what I want has a chance of being addressed by the city council. Taking a hard line stance completely banning vacation rentals has a very tough time passing given that the city collects tax revenue from visitors staying in these properties.

My new proposal is:

In order to promote neighborhood quality, character, and livability, the SDMC should be amended to allow short term rentals in RS zones with a minimum stay of 7 days only as an accessory use of a property. As an accessory use of the property, the owner must reside in the property for at least 10 months of the year.

This would address my needs of not having a mini-hotel next door and would let home owners earn extra cash. What it would do is prevent people from turning neighborhoods into rows and rows of mini-hotels. The proposal is similar to San Francisco’s new ordinance about rentals, but San Francisco’s ordinance doesn’t apply to single family residences.

The good news is that the city council’s subcommittee on smart growth and land use is taking up vacation rentals at its April 22nd meeting. You can submit feedback to Ryan Purdy by March 2nd. While I have no idea what will happen, the fact that the subcommittee is looking into this is a step in the right direction.