Category Archives: review

Reflecting on the iPhone 6s

I still question Apple’s choice on this shot, those iPhones would have all shattered.

When a new iPhone is coming out, I always spend some time using my old iPhone without the case. It’s dangerous, I know, one drop could shatter the screen, meaning I’d be out hundreds of dollars when I try to trade it in to Gazelle or Apple, but it’s something I have to do. I want to really get to know the device one more time, before I give it up. This is the phone that got me countless dates through OKCupid and Tinder, the phone that I used to talk to the girls I loved this year, the phone that connected me to my friends. It’s where I followed election results, then tweeted angrily about the electoral college undermining democracy, and a new president undermining American freedoms. I’ve written blog posts, even portions of books on this phone. It’s the phone were I found the apartment I hope to move into in a few weeks. And, also in a few weeks, I’m going to wipe this phone clean of any of that, deleting those memories from its storage permanently, and ship it off to a recycling facility, where it will be dismantled and either sold for parts or cleaned up, sold as refurbished, and enter the home of someone else, to become an integral part of their life, as it once was a part of mine. Really, I just want to give myself one last chance to get to know this phone, remember what it was like, before I give it up. Because the truth is, despite everything I’ve been through with this phone, I kind of hate it
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Advanced Sound Accessport Review

Advanced Sound’s based on Long Island, NY, just outside of the world’s greatest city, and not far from where I was born. They’re a plucky company, making headphones and hardware for people who really care about audio quality and want to get it at a good price. They launched a Kickstarter campaign not long ago for their Accessport, a dongle that solves a silly problem. The iPhone 7 didn’t come with a headphone jack. The iPhone 8 and iPhone X don’t have headphone jacks either. You could use the adapter that Apple provides (and sells for just $9), or you could try to upgrade your experience. You could go with a dongle that allows you to both listen to music and charge your phone at the same time. You could go further by getting one that has a higher quality digital to analog converter (DAC) and amplifier, to really make your music sound incredible. With such a setup, you’d actually be better off than if Apple provided a headphone jack in the phone. An external DAC and amplifier that can also charge your phone? Perfect. And that’s just what Advanced Sound promised with their Accessport. Unfortunately, they didn’t come close to delivering on that promise. In fact, it actually sounds far worse than the sound from my iPhone (I still have a headphone jack equipped iPhone 6s… for now). 
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Vortex Race 3 Mechanical Keyboard Review

I love a good keyboard. I’m a software developer, and, if you’re reading this, you’ve surely figured it out by now, I’m a writer as well. I spend a lot of time typing. I own two different mechanical keyboards, and have a third one at work, each one completely different, and each one worth the admittedly higher price of a mechanical keyboard, by far. If you’re a professional, you use the best equipment. You won’t see a professional race car driver daily driving a 1999 Honda Odysey minivan. You won’t find a DJ spinning tracks with a Zune and some cheap included earbuds. A calligrapher isn’t going to be caught dead with a cheap plastic Bic. A world renown sushi cheff won’t waste their time with plastic butter knives. If you spend any time on a keyboard, you shouldn’t let yourself get caught dead with some lousy membrane or chicklet style keyboard. You’ve got to grace your fingers with a sweet, comfortable, repetitive stress injury-dodging, clicky, glorious mechanical keyboard. This is how the gods wanted you to type. I type this from my latest keyboard purchase (not counting the sweet translucent DSA keycaps I just bought for a future build) is the Vortex Race 3 mechanical keyboard. It’s a 75% keyboard, which means it doesn’t have a number pad, and condenses the Home, Page Up, Page Down, End, and arrow keys into the standard alphanumeric keys, modifiers, and F keys that you’ve become accustom to. It’s a great way to get the standard keyboard experience in a more compact package, leaving you more space on your desk and requiring you to move your hand less to reach your mouse or trackpad. You can get it in a variety of switches, all Cherry MX. Vortex has the Blues, Reds, Browns, Silvers, Blacks, and even Clears (the one I got) available for this keyboard. If none of that made sense to you, check out Lifehacker’s writeup of some of the most popular key switches from Cherry. Basically put, each key switch has a different sound and feel. and this keyboard has some of the most popular options.

The Vortex Race 3 is my favorite keyboard, yet it’s not without an extremely long list of flaws. It’s a conflicted board, to be sure, but why that is, you’ll have to read below.


Pros Cons
Gorgeous keyboard with old-school charm No macOS firmware updater, but macOS support and keys
Amazing typing feel Strange size for Escape and Delete keys, making customization tricky
Solid construction Key caps tight on the switches, hard to swap out key caps
Fantastic key caps Hard to find documentation and instructions

Read MUCH more about this intriguing keyboard below!

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New Nintendo 2DS XL Review

I’ve got a bit of a long commute. Usually it’s an hour long, but I’ve had days where it’s bettween one and a half hours to two hours. Once, it took me three hours to get to the office. I would have been better off working from home. I live in New York, and I, like every other New Yorker, am a victim of the MTA, cursed to spend hours in tunnels without cell service. I’d read news articles I saved with Pocket, play games that I’ve played 100 times, but I wanted something different. I wanted to play the sort of Nintendo games I grew up with: Mario Kart, Super Mario Bros, Legend of Zelda, Super Smash Bros. Most of all, I wanted to play the Metroid 2 remake coming out next month. Metroid: Samus Returns. The only reason I buy Nintendo hardware is if they release a Metroid game for it. That’s why I didn’t get a Wii U.

With all of that in mind, it seemed a good idea to buy the New Nintendo 3DS XL. But I didn’t want to pay $200 for the 3D feature I’d never use (I like not having headaches, thank you very much), and the 2DS looked like it would be uncomfortable to use and carry around. Plus, it didn’t have the C stick or second L/R buttons. Nintendo had the answer for me though, in the New Nintendo 2DS XL. It’s been keeping me company on long train rides, though the longest I was stuck in a tunnel recently, it was out of battery. How do I like it when I can actually play it? Quite a bit!

Pros Cons
Fun! Small stylus
Backwards compatible with DS games 2D in a 3D world means some games are more difficult
Great big screens Only one color option
Large catalog of great games Feels built for small hands, despite size
Shorter than expected battery life in sleep mode


Rating and more info below!
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Felix Gray vs Gunnar: Computer Glasses Review and Comparison

The other day I was sitting at my desk, pouring over some code. I had on my Gunnar glasses with amber lenses. I always use computer glasses at work, to protect my vision, keep my sleep schedule in check, and prevent eye strain (all about how that works below). The frames aren’t too bad looking, but the lenses are an obviously yellow color, and it definitely stands out in a bad way. A friend walked by and said “Hey, Danielle, heading to shop class?” It took me a moment before I remembered the yellow tinted goggles of shop class and laughed. These yellow computer glasses do look a little silly, and have a reputation for only being worn by huge nerds. Facebook advertisements for Felix Gray computer eyewear caught my eye. These are glasses that promise all the benefits of other computer glasses such as Gunnars, but without looking silly. They have no obvious yellow tint to them, but you can tell they filter out blue light. To look at them, they look just like normal glasses. You can even get a pair without magnification of any kind, unlike some other brands, which means you can wear them all the time. I wanted glasses that could protect my vision, keep me from getting headaches, and look stylish enough to look like any other pair of glasses so I could wear them anytime I was looking at a screen. Felix Gray seemed to have the perfect solution for me, so I bought a pair. 

I’ve since spent every day over the past week using them whenever I’ve been looking at a screen, which is quite some time. As a computer programmer by day, news junkie by night, NYC subway commuter, and as someone capable of binging an entire show in a few days, I spend a lot of time staring at screens. This is my third pair of computer glasses, the first two being two generations of the fantastic Gunnar lenses, and, if I’m being honest, these might be my favorite pair yet. 
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SteelSeries Rival 500 Review: Using a MOBA Gaming Mouse at Work

For a few months now, I tossed aside my trusty Magic Trackpad, and picked up a MOBA gaming mouse. It was the perfect mouse to replace my Magic Trackpad at work. Let me explain. For a while now, I had been feeling a pain in my wrist. I used to play tennis often, and between that at working at a desk all day, I had strained my right wrist. I began to wonder if it was actually due to the Magic Trackpad I used, if I should perhaps be using something more ergonomic (Apple’s keyboards, mice, and trackpads are known for terrible ergonomics). But how could I replace my trackpad? I had been using Apple’s gestures along with gestures from BetterTouchTool to make it a vital part of my workflow. Certain actions like looking up a word, copy and pasting, going to a method’s definition in Eclipse, were custom, and couldn’t be replaced by a standard 3 button mouse (including the mouse wheel). To me, the perfect solution was an MMO or MOBA gaming mouse. These have many buttons for in-game macros that can instead be used for day-to-day interaction. Switching spaces, activating Mission Control, opening up notifications, switching apps, looking up words, going to method definitions, or keyboard macros can all be assigned to the plethora of mouse buttons. Plus, some gaming mice can even be customized with their appearance and haptic feedback. I found one such mouse that not only had its buttons in a setup that made them quick and easy to access with a series of finger flicks and movements, but it also was highly customizable within macOS, including appearance adjustments. I picked up the 15 button SteelSeries Rival 500, a MOBA gaming mouse, and I haven’t used a better mouse for work yet. 
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Amazon Fresh: Less Convinient Than the Grocery Store

One of many issues you’ll find with the service.

I’m a pretty loyal Amazon customer. Amazon Prime has me hooked, and I do enjoy my Prime Video subscription on occasion. Amazon sent me an offer I decided to try out: a 30 day free trial of Amazon Fresh, and $25 off my first order. How could I refuse? I often cringe when buying groceries, so $25 could help ease that sinking feeling at the checkout line where I wonder how I could literally be eating so much of my paycheck. I also hate the act of going to the grocery store. I hate walking there, carrying groceries, trying to navigate the narrow isles, finding out they don’t have something I want or forgetting something, and then lugging those heavy groceries back to my apartment only to realize that I jostled the bags and my eggs broke. Surely there’s a better way. So, I decided to try Amazon Fresh. I prefer online shopping for other products, being able to compare prices, shop for the best product, and read reviews, so why not try the same for food?

It’s an incredible idea, but when it comes to Amazon Fresh, it’s unfortunately half-baked.
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