Geoff's Jorum The LBoK Archive


The Latest Bit Of Kit - Archive

Here are some notes about various bits of electronic and electrical kit that I've bought, along with their various fates...

Button Fix Type 2

Not electrical or electronic, but a brilliantly simple idea which solved a home DIY problem.

It connects panels at 90 degrees and engages with a straight push - really easy to install accurately and leaves the panel available to de-mounted for access.

More info

Buy here*

Brewie B20

My first venture into Kickstarter territory, well into the expensive end. It's an automated brewing system - you put in malt, hops and water, set the programme and press the button. A few hours later you have wort for fermenting. It's not QUITE as simple as that - I don't use the automated water inlet for one thing - but it has started me on the way to "full mash" brewing very successfully. 14 brews done at the time of writing this!

Brewie seem to be struggling and their status is currently unsure - there have been some teething troubles particularly in the US market, which is notoriously vocal.

More info

Sony Stereo Bluetooth Headset SBH80

There's still no such thing as a decent cheap, long-lasting, hands-free headset (IMHO), but this slightly older Sony offering is pretty good. I'm still using it after a couple of years which must prove something. Until it dies I won't be checking out the latest little in-ear "buds"...

More info

G.730 VENTUS GPS-logger

At the time an amazingly cheap device for doing GPS logging, along with a reasonable piece of software that would plot out the information.

For casual use, this has simply been superseded by a decent mobile phone with appropriate app. Ho hum.

Ventus themselves (now a brand of NSH Nordic) have gone on to producing weather stations and associated kit..

More info

Aroma AMT-530 Clip-on Metronome and Tuner

I bought a guitar tuner for my brother-in-law one Christmas, and before giving it to him I thought I'd see whether it worked on my bassoon. Well it did, admirably, and I ended up purchasing this device which doubles as a metronome as well! It works very well as a personal tuner, particularly since it only works by picking up vibrations rather than sound waves, and can therefore be used no matter what the background noise is. The downside is that it needs to be attached to the instrument (no problem for the bassoon), but it would be a little less convenient for, say an oboe or flute where it is more difficult to attach the device in such a way so that you can see the screen.

This is so much better than the tuners of yesteryear which often were unable to work for the very non-directional sound that comes from the bassoon! Highly recommended. And, as of August 2019, is STILL in manufacture.

More info

Oral B Hummingbird Electric Flosser

This is one of those things that shouldn't be good, but is. If, like me, you have reached an age where bits of stuff routinely get lodged between your teeth, then this is the tool for you. Sure enough manual flossing tools will get most of the stuff out, but this little buzzy thing will get ALL of it out. There's been some discussion about it not being very robust, but at the usual price you can treat it as a consumable, and I'm still on my first one.

That's probably enough about oral hygiene for now, particularly since Oral B appear to have stopped making it (08/2019)

More info

Kensington Expert Trackball

I've always been partial to a trackball, and this is simply the best I've used. It's rather expensive in the UK, but I was lucky enough to have picked mine up in the US at Best Buy where it was significantly reduced. It has 4 buttons and surrounding the ball is a circular twiddly thing that works as a scroll wheel.

Possibly my best bit of kit...

More info

Buy here*

[Update 2011-12] Possibly STILL my best bit of kit. I love this mouse.

[Update 2015-05] This is really standing the test of time. Still working well, if a little worn on the surfaces. I like it SO much that I bought a spare that I saw going cheap...

[Update 2019-08] Still manufactured, still brilliant, still using my first one.

Neon SIGNATURE NSD Power®Ball

I'd had a spell when I was playing the bassoon less than necessary to keep my fingers in trim, so I thought I'd try this to strenghten my lower arms and grip. I've probably not used it as frequently as necessary either, but it's still good fun. The little speed counter is essential, don't even consider buying one with it! Still haven't got the hang of starting it without the little string, more practice needed...

More info

Nebula DigiTV USB Version

At the time this was the cat's whiskers of the TV tuner world, it's been superceded by a number of other models which are a lot cheaper. In fact Nebula electronics seems to have stopped developing the software entirely - which was one of the main extras for the product. To enable a longer than normal EPG I use Digiguide and a great little piece of interface software, DABDig.

[Update - 2011-12] Having bought a new home PC with Windows 7 64-bit code, I find that the driver software will no longer work with this box, and there doesn't look like there is any prospect of it doing so. Reluctantly I've therefore purchased a cheap, no-name USB dongle to replace this, which worked first time with Windows Media Center. Ho hum. For considerably more you can buy a USB dongle that supports the HD flavour of Freview in the UK (DVB-T2), but I've not investigated that yet...

[Update 2019-08] With the advent of reliable streaming and unlimited broadband, the need for this has reduced, and indeed Nebula Electronics, and its successor Nebula Media Solutions Ltd have long since folded. I've also stopped using Digiguide since they have resolutely refused to produce an Android version. Shame.

Bassoon Boost

OK, so it's neither electronic nor electrical and you might have a hard time calling it a gizmo, but it's definitely a thingumyjig. With a bit of araldite you attach it to your bassoon crook (or bocal, for the Americans) and it enables a better mating of the metal crook to the wooden body of the instrument. I simplify of course, but the result is a definable tightening of the sound of the instrument, along with improved stability in the lower notes. It does seem to work!

More info

Skil Grindcat Angle Grinder 9240Tt

Actually I didn't buy this terribly recently, but I DID actually use it for the first time in anger. A "digital" padlock had frozen and my daughter simply HAD to get her scooter out of the shed that it locked. Out with the Grindcat and cutting disk and within seconds the padlock was off. Makes you wonder why you bother to lock things up sometimes. Anyway, the grinder was great, small enough to make this potentially fiddly job easy.

More info

[Update 2019-08] Skil appear to only make a cordless angle grinder these days, click the button for more info. My corded one is still going strong, though it's not been in regular use!

Belkin Bluetooth® Technology USB Adapter

I'd bought the headphones (below) and wanted to use them with my laptop which didn't have an A2DP-compliant bluetooth setup. I happened to be in an office equipment shop and saw this. To say I've mastered bluetooth would be over-egging it a little. I've had a little difficulty making it work with the headset, but that's more to with the application I'm trying to us it with than the headset itself - which works fine with the dongle. Practise makes perfect...

More info

[Update 2019-08] Long since obsolete. Though I do use a Plantronics Blackwire C720 bluetooth headset these days.

Edimax EK-4USK KVM switch

I was using a simpler 2-way KVM switch, but getting some strange side effects from using a USB mouse adapted to the PS/2 mouse socket. I'm also planing to retire my desktop machine to be a Linux-based fileserver, so I'm planning on having three devices together soon(!).

This KVM does what it says on the tin - which means the USB ports don't switch with the screen switch, and you can't turn the beep off when you switch between screens from the keyboard as opposed to using the switch on the device itself - but other than that it works fine.

More info

[Update 2019-08] Never used it much. Gone to the freecycle in the sky.

Plantronics Pulsar™ 590 Bluetooth® Headset

An interesting set of headphones which uses the latest Bluetooth Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) to provide a good stereo performance at a reasonable price. With the included dongle (which has a standard 3.5mm jack) I've used it to listen wirelessly to music - excellent, tv - fine, once you get used to the minor synchronisation delay with the screen, and as a telephone bluetooth device - great, but wouldn't use it in the street!

I've had a few problems trying to use it with my latop as an audio hands-free device for VoIP calls. Needless to say my slightly aged IBM T43P doesn't support A2DP, but insists on trying to use the "high quality" bandwidth with choppy results. I'll look forward to getting an upgraded laptop..

More info

[Update 2019-08] Finally broke a couple of years ago. Gone. I have the Blackwire 720 (linked above) now.

Gaggia Titanium automatic esspresso machine

We didn't realise quite how much we loved this machine until it went back to Gaggia for a couple of weeks for a warranty repair. It was torture having to make coffee the "old way" again. Not only that, but after the repair the machine was MUCH quieter!

We bought the machine as reconditioned stock from Gaggia, and apart from the need to repair it, it's been superb. Something had broken loose inside and was rattling against the side, which made a lot of noise when the pump was running. Oh, and did I mention the coffee is great too? And the steam is practically instant, so hot chocolate is simple.

More info

[Update 2019-08] Gaggia have stopped making this machine, and I still miss it. However, since I'm now almost entirely de-caffeinated, it won't be replaced.

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[26/08/2019]
Bootstrap V4 update & general refresh

[06/03/2017]
Recovery from WordPress experiment

[01/06/2015]
Site re-design

[31/12/2011]
Mapping ideas...

[18/12/2010]
Webcam experiment

[22/06/2010]
In tune and in time.

[10/05/2010]
Toothsome kit.

[16/01/2009]
Yet Another Bit of Kit!

[16/01/2009]
An overdue bit of kit!

[14/08/2007]
Another bit of kit!

[15/06/2007]
New bits of kit!

[01/05/2007]
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