7.31.2019

Three Metal Eating-Related Implements

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The Light My Fire Titanium spork!
Detail of the logo


Spoon depth - shallow enough for soup, deep enough for digging out yogurt
Detail of serration on fork - square edges to "chip away" at food but not break skin


Detail of spoon

The Monstrum keychain spork

Detail of tines - short, but effective still

Back of Monstrum spork

The P-51 can opener, folded

P-51 can opener, opened up

Detail of blade

How to use: hook the pointy end under the lip of the can...

...position the blade as shown, apply pressure with your thumb and fingers, pierce the can, and work your way around!




7.16.2019

Some Assorted Cool Stuff

Regarding: more cool stuff.

Hello everyone! It's been a long time since my last post, but I've still been active in my pursuit of "cool stuff."

But, I don't really think that many of these things have enough about them to create a whole post about, so I'll round some of them up here in short snippets, some of which may end up as their own posts some time in the future, or as part of others.

Item 1: Coleman 5227 from 1992
First up: This Coleman 5227 cooler from 1992! During the July 4th weekend, I got an (eerily accurate) Instagram ad for an Igloo Picnic Basket 25-qt cooler, a revival of the one that they made back in the '90s, complete with R A D color scheme...however, I just couldn't justify the (discounted) price of $64 for an average cooler (including shipping).

Reading a couple of reviews revealed that yes, it really is just an average cooler, and apart from the color scheme was no better than an average $20 Playmate.

So my search continued, and I found a similar cooler for $5 that I actually like better! (The handle design is simpler, and I prefer the Coleman's subdued green/white to the loud HOT PINK of the Igloo.)

The lid can be removed via a few screws on the back, and reversed to provide a nice cup/meal holder. I tried sitting on it, but didn't want to deform the lid - though it is a solid cooler, I don't think it's quite that solid.



My favorite part has to be that logo:



A couple pictures of the bottom:
August 1992 date wheel!



Item 2:  Bialetti Moka Express
I've recently also become interested in the many different methods of making coffee. For the longest time, all I knew about was the drip coffee maker, and it continues to serve me well when I want a lot of "normal" coffee, with its simple "set-and-forget" operation and easy cleanup making for a stress-free experience.
While I was in Kansas City, a few people at work liked preparing cold brew coffee, and for this they used a French press. I like the robust, strong taste of coffee out of mine, but don't like the somewhat fiddly cleaning procedure which almost always ends up with coffee grounds clogging my sink disposal.

Upon researching more portable ways of making coffee, I found a camping pour-over device, which clamps onto the top of a mug and holds a basket with coffee grounds over it.
 
However, I could never get it to work, ending up with either coffee-flavored water or acidic sludge.

Then, one fine day, I stumbled across this in a thrift store:


I figured that it makes coffee like a percolator, so I went ahead and looked up some instructions and made myself a cup (ended up being 6 oz) of the thickest coffee I had ever seen.

After drinking the whole thing and wondering why I felt like I could hear colors and see frequencies, I did some more digging and realized my mistake: what I had found was a 6-cup maker, with each ~1oz cup being considered a single serving of coffee.

But the hassle-free cleaning process and stovetop design of the Moka Express appealed to me, as well as the fact that the same company has been making them since their inception in 1933. Unfortunately, this one has a caveat as well - you can only make the exact amount of semi-espresso (pressure is 1-2 bar, not the 9-15 bar that it takes to make "real" espresso) that the device is designed for. No putting less water and grounds in for less output.
So, I went on Amazon and found myself a nice little 1-cup version (shown on left against the original one I got), which brews about 1-2 oz of coffee.

My favorite drink is prepared with either Lavazza or Bustelo (both mix well) and an ounce or two of vanilla almond milk. Tastes great and makes me feel fancy, which is a lot of the fun!

Small aside: I also found this official Lavazza cup/saucer set to go with the Bialetti!



1-cup (2016, must have been sitting in a warehouse for a while!)

6-cup (2007)



Item 3: Tang!
I know...anyone who grew up during the Space Race remembers Tang, and my parents are no exception. However, I had never tried it, until recently. This time, the cup came first:

(It was a nice surprise to find that it changes color when it's cold!)

So I figured, if I have the cup, might as well get some official Tang to drink from it! To my surprise, it was only about $6 on Amazon.
My review: even though I realize that it's probably not the healthiest thing in the world, the convenience of not having to put it in the fridge and/or thaw it out, and the adjustable proportion afforded by mixing it yourself, not to mention the taste (YMMV, I like it), make it a win in my book. Perfect for this month, with July 20, 2019 being the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing!

Item 4: AlphaSmart 3000
A few years ago, I learned about the AlphaSmart through the posts of various Typospherians praising its virtues as the closest digital alternative to a typewriter, and I was intrigued.
I'd searched online for one from time to time, but always wished I could try it out before buying. Yesterday, I finally found one, and it works fine!



For those unfamiliar, the AlphaSmart is a series of portable word processors released in the early '00s that has found favor in recent years as a "distraction free" writing device. Unlike traditional computers, the AlphaSmart series has a 4-line dot-matrix display somewhat similar to that found on graphing calculators, and a battery life measured in the hundreds of hours (off of 3xAA batteries). This, combined with its lack of Internet access (or graphical ability at all, save for the very late ones that could run a variant of PalmOS), make it a device ideal for those seeking to avoid distraction and get some words down.

In the time I've been using this one, which is only about 30 minutes so far, I like the pleasantly limited experience, without a bright backlit screen shining into my eyes. However, the mushy keyboard takes a bit of getting used to. (However, compared to some of the Smith-Corona and Atari home computer keyboards I've seen, it's excellent.) This has the side effect of making each keystroke very quiet compared to the likes of a typewriter or even some laptops, which I do like.

The color scheme of my 3000 is pure early 2000s, with its semi-transparent teal calling to mind the blue iMac G3 that I remember from elementary school.

The AlphaSmart 3000 can connect to any computer with USB (I've tested it in Linux, and it works fine) and appears to the OS as a keyboard. Hitting "send" on the 3000 sends the file it's currently on as a series of keystrokes, so the import process is quite simple! Just open up your favorite text editor/word processor, hit send, and you'll see your words appear letter-by-letter. It's quite satisfying.

It also functions as a keyboard when connected to the PC, so you don't even need to have two keyboards on your desk! Just grab a few (I use Eneloop) rechargeable batteries and a USB cable, and you're good to go! This device comes highly recommended by me.

DC IN (7.5-9V @ >=200 mA)

USB port





Item 5: Field Notes 56-week planner

I like to keep a somewhat-consistent daily journal, and over the last couple of years have found that the best way to do this is to get these dated planners, with one day/page or one week/2 page spread; this forces me to write something each day, however little (and even then it sometimes doesn't work).


2017 and 2018 journals

However, this year I waffled on getting one since I couldn't decide which one to get, and before I knew it, six months were up with very little to go back to! So I figured I'd get one of the undated ones, which led me to this excellent Field Notes weekly planner.

Even though it's a little small and a bit pricey, the paper quality and overall rigidity make up for it! One thing that I wish someone would make (if it exists, please let me know) is a planner that has an equal amount of space for the weekends as well as the weekdays. Saturday and Sunday always get crammed into small spots, and honestly I feel like I do more worth remembering on the weekends than on the weekdays, so I end up cramming small letters into the tiny allotted spaces each week.
Sat/Sun are those little boxes on the bottom.

Hope you enjoyed this quick look at a few things that I've been using lately, and that I've found "cool." Thanks for reading!

2.20.2019

Video Review: the Parker Duofold mechanical pencil!

Hi everyone,
Here's another vintage mechanical pencil review: the Parker Duofold, patented in 1916!





2.11.2019

Windows goes out with a #!...Part 2

Hi everyone!
If you've been with me for a while, you might remember my post from July 2012 when I proudly announced I had installed CrunchBang Linux 10 on my 2004 IBM ThinkPad X31.
That computer had a 1.something GHz Pentium M with 512MB of RAM and an almost-dead <80GB IDE hard drive...but it was my gateway into the wonderful world of Linux.

Fast-forwarding to 2019, I've got a small Chromebook running GalliumOS (a Chromebook-optimized distro built from Xubuntu), and have been enjoying using it for everything from web browsing to video editing (though it's pretty slow for that task). However, the limited <16GB onboard storage and somewhat substandard performance make it unsuitable for a "desktop replacement" PC. So my thoughts turned to my other PC, a 2012 Lenovo ThinkPad X220 Tablet that I got a few years ago.

I got this computer (with an i5 and 4GB of RAM) from Newegg to use as a "light note-taking PC" (which I never ended up using it for). The Windows 7 Pro it had made it very useful for running legacy applications, and I didn't want to totally wipe it to make way for Linux.

(The impetus for this whole move was Microsoft ending support for Win7 next year, and I'm not about to install Windows 10 on anything I own.)

So, I just got a cheap SSD to eliminate all risk of damaging the Windows 7 installation with a dual-boot, and installed Linux on that.

And of course, I chose the community-driven successor to CrunchBang, BunsenLabs Linux. It looks almost identical, using Openbox as a window manager. With an SSD, it just flies. Very enjoyable to use! And now that I have more of an understanding of the underlying principles of Linux, I can navigate around and edit config files much better than I ever could in high school.


A screenshot of that old blog post on that PC's successor:


It's great to be back.

New Video: The Sharp PC-5741, a 1990 DOS Laptop

Hi everyone,

I've had this computer in my collection for a while, and finally made a video showcasing it.

Ever wondered how to access the Internet (via a terminal emulator and a Raspberry Pi) with an old DOS laptop? Or what a picture taken on a '97 Sony Mavica MVC-FD7 looks like on a grayscale display?

Even if you didn't, you might find this look at "just another DOS laptop" enjoyable. I certainly had fun making the video.

If the above didn't work, the link is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LN5NhVM6g2M

(Side note: This was edited on a bottom-of-the-line Celeron-based Chromebook (the Asus C202SA), which I installed Linux on (GalliumOS, based on Xubuntu), in Kdenlive. The program may have crashed a few times, and it may have taken about 2 1/2 hours to render a 15 minute video (with a couple unfortunate glitches), but it's certainly way more than this humble Chromebook would have been able to hope for if it had its stock ChromeOS installed.)\



10.13.2018

Kodak DC25 Digital Camera from 1996!

Hi everyone!
Just picked up a bunch of retro tech stuff, so it's back to the '90s for a little while here on coolstuff4819.
First up, a camera that I've seen very little written about (past its release date), so I'll introduce it here.
The Kodak DC25

Released in 1996, the Kodak DC25 was the first consumer digital camera to support CompactFlash cards for image storage. At this time, many cameras only used internal flash storage (like the Apple QuickTake series). Of course, CompactFlash cards were not cheap, with one writer linked here noting that he paid $150 for a 10 MB card in 1998 (about $230 in 2018). However, this eliminated the need to rely on an extra cable and special driver software for your PC to get the files off of the camera, provided you had a way to read the CompactFlash card. (Since USB was not common yet, the easiest way would have been to use a PCMCIA to CF adapter, with a laptop computer.)

This was not the end of the story, however, as the camera records images in a proprietary .k25 raw file format, which then need to be processed into standard .jpg files. A utility was included with the camera in the box, but that program did not allow for batch processing of images, and was extremely slow. Fortunately, Rick Kaseguma at the previous link wrote a fast, compact file converter for Windows 95 (which runs on my ThinkPad X220 tablet running Windows 7). This, combined with a simple USB card reader, is all I need to get the pictures off the camera.

DC25convert:


Though 1GB cards hit the market six years after this camera was released (Q1 2002), the one I've got seems to work fine with the DC25. However, given that the "fine" images are only 137KB each, and that Windows reports 976MB free on the card, the theoretical maximum would be 7124 images. Either way, this shows that even super-high capacity CF cards are supported. I'll bet that the maximum number of standard images is actually 10,501.
Status screen with a totally blank 1GB card
Actually taking the picture is as simple as can be. Put the batteries in (2x CR123A lithium), turn on the camera, aim using the viewfinder (the screen is exclusively for reviewing photos), and press down the shutter button. Flash can be turned on or off, but that, along with a resolution selection (standard vs. fine) is the only control accessible to the user.
Reviewing a picture
Since the camera has a fixed-focus lens, there is no "halfway down" shutter button position - just point and shoot.

Through the viewfinder

Buttons on top. Note
The screen, viewfinder, and buttons for picture reviewing
Information and screen brightness control wheel

And what pictures they are! With a resolution of just 493x373 pixels, and a fixed-focus lens, this camera's output can hardly be considered "hi-fi," even for the time. But the do have a certain charm; they remind me of the stills from my parents' Handycam when I was a kid, and that makes this camera a valuable addition to my collection. Here are some of the shots that I've taken with the Kodak DC25!