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Leatherman Squirt PS4

I’ve been carrying around the Squirt PS4 all summer. The knife, pliers and wire cutters have all been getting a work out and have held up fine. The screwdrivers and scissors are also very well built for their size. I’ve had larger Leatherman tools and smaller multitools, but this is the sweet spot for me in size and functionality. Red, Blue and Black colors are available. Amazon sells them for $25.

The PS4 fits in my watch pocket with plenty of room to spare. It measures 2.25 inches long (closed) and is about half an inch thick.

If you prefer needle nose pliers with a great range of wire strippers, but the same form factor as the PS4, consider the ES4.

Multitasking Accessories for Smartphones and Tablets


Often, while using an iPad or smartphone, I want to multi-task. I don’t mean ‘fast app switching’ or running something in the background, I mean I want to see two applications at one time. That’s not possible with today’s smartphones, so I’ve been experimenting with using two devices at once. 2 screens = 2 apps.

In many settings, this kind of experience is easy. Sitting at a table, you can prop up one device and hold the other in your hands. In other settings, it’s very difficult. On a train, in a comfy chair, in bed, it’s difficult to use 2 smartphones or other multimedia devices simultaneously.

To solve that problem, I’ve tried a number of solutions to fix two or more devices together. I’ve focused on non-permanent techniques, since on device is always my phone and I need to be able to carry that alone.

Attempt 1: Use Shapelock (a plastic substance that melts and re-hardens easily and can be molded by hand) to create a case that holds two devices. That was not successful at all. The Shapelock is just too hard to coax into the desired shape.

Attempt 2: Velcro devices to a metal ruler. This works extremely well. The devices can be rotated to any orientation and the ruler can be bent to put the devices at an angle to one another. Unfortunately, the velcro gets gummy and dirty quickly.

Attempt 3: Combine rubber bands, a small clipboard and those grippy dashboard pads to hold multiple devices in place against a plastic plate (the clipboard). Too complicated. I used it twice, but it was difficult to get the devices situated.

Attempt 4: 3D printed clips that connect two or more devices. I modelled these in Google SketchUp and had a little trouble getting the fit right. The first batch of these that have the right dimensions to grip my iPhone 4, iPad and Droid X correctly just arrived today. I have several more clips coming from Shapeways over the next week or so. It’s too early to say if this approach will be successful, but there are a lot of reasons to believe it will be. The clips are small – they are pocketable. The clips grip well enough to feel confident that nothing will fall (except for the iPad clip-it needs to be a little tighter) if I’m reasonably careful. The clips are modular. Though I have to order a new clip for each device (each device has a different thickness), they aren’t very expensive. The nature of the clips makes it possible to have extenders or angled connectors to get exactly the orientations you are looking for.

In a few weeks, once I have the dimensions cleaned up a bit, I’ll post the final models you can use for printing – at your own risk, of course. If you desperately want the models AS-IS to make your own prints before I’ve had a chance to refine them, let me know in the comments and I’ll send you the files.

Below are a few photos. First, the clips themselves, alone. They look like Tron Recognizers… Second, 2 pieces holding an iPhone 4 and iPad together. Third, a Droid X and an iPhone 4. The multitasking shots are a little contrived (researching Star Trek while watching it; reading techmeme while watching a movie). The more likely use cases involve email, feeds (MobileRSS!!), Twitter, etc. The last picture shows several more clips and adapters that haven’t arrived, yet.

[If 3D printed iphone accessories are your cup of tea, also check out the Glif (although the Glif is now injection molded).]




Fun Stuff This Month


The Glif Kickstarter projectjust hit $100,000 funding. They only asked for $10,000! Glif is an iphone stand and tripod adapter. Kickstarter is a great place which connects project teams with people willing to fund those projects. My first taste of Kickstarter was donating to the Makerbeam project last year. Both of these projects followed the best practice of making donations the equivalent of pre-orders for product.

Lego Universe, Fable III, Borderlands ClapTrap Revolution DLC and DoubleFine’s Costume Quest all come out this month. I’ve already spent significant time with Lego Universe and the Borderlands DLC. Both were terrific. High hopes for Fable III and Costume Quest.

The new PP3DP $3000 High Resolution 3D Printer is shipping. Tempting. Very Tempting. Probably means high quality desktop 3D printers at a sub-$1000 price are only a couple of years away. Meanwhile, the Shapeways service continues to improve. You can now print Sterling Silver. Crazy.

Apple’s Back to the Mac event is October 20th. The big rumor is a smaller MacBook Air. If it has excellent battery life it could be a winner.

Project Tuatara is under-hyped. A gun shaped controller with a gyro sensor and an embedded projector giving you the ability to pan around in 3D space. Watch the video (you can safely skip to the middle).

By the way – new favorite game for the iPhone and iPad. No, Human. Play it.

iPhone 4 Bumpers

I hate phone cases. Over the years, I’ve tried many. It started with PalmOS PDAs, continued with smartphones and on to the iPhone. Cases generally bulk up the phone more than I’d like and the protection offered doesn’t outweigh the reduction in utility and comfort.

However, the iPhone 4 Bumper from Apple is great! For the cost of very little added bulk (and $29), I now have the following added utility:

  • The small grippy edge on the back of the case lets me rest the phone at an angle on mugs, books, walls – whatever is handy – to get exactly the angle I want for browsing Instapaper or watching video. Without the grippy edge, the iPhone will slide off of anything I lean it against.
  • The slightly raised edges on the back and front of the case protect the screen and back against falls.
  • By minimizing the amount of grippy rubber on the case, the sides of the phone are ALMOST as smooth as the bare metal.

There are some issues with the case.

  • It does add a small amount of bulk and it hides the beautiful metal edge of the device.
  • The vibrate switch is slightly harder to access.
  • Not all 3.5mm patch cables and and headphones will fit through the hole in the case. Anything that works with the recessed jack on the original iPhone should work with this case.
  • With the Bumper on, you can’t put the iPhone in a dock. I don’t use a doc, so no biggy for me.

iPhone 4, iOS 4

Some rapid fire thoughts on the WWDC 2010 product announcements.

  • iOS 4: The Folders feature isn’t great. With the release candidate installed on my phone, it’s very hard to tell two stacks of icons apart from one another, so you have to rely on the tiny text with the name of the folder to tell the difference. Apple should let you choose an icon for your Folder.
  • The design of the iPhone 4 is remarkable. Watch this video to see that all visible metal on the device is either a button or an antenna. Also, the front and back are a new kind of glass that is stronger than most plastic and very flexible.
  • I can’t imagine using FaceTime (video calling) much. I’m not the target for that feature, though.
  • iMovie for iOS (video cutting and editing on the phone) looks great. I expect that it won’t be very responsive, even with the A4 chip, though. We’ll see.
  • I’m jazzed about the faster processor and larger battery. If RAM is limited to 256MB like the iPad, though…. What are they thinking? It’s not enough and will impact the usefullness of multi-tasking.

Overall, I’m looking forward to the iPhone 4 release. The A4 chip is blazing fast in the iPad and I’d love to see that speed on my phone. The better screen, front facing camera, gyroscope, 720p video recording, etc wouldn’t have swayed me, though. Battery life, speed and the possibility of better reception were the key announcements for me.

Other misc notes:

  • I’m not bothered much by the AT&T switch to $25/2GB of Data. It seems very reasonable, especially since an additional 1GB is only $10.
  • I would very much like MIFI-like tethering in iOS. Being able to connect multiple devices for data would be more enticing than single device support. For now, I’ll keep paying for my MIFI rather than depend on iPhone tethering.
  • I’m enjoying the iPad. It’s my primary machine at home, now, unseating my MacBook Pro, in that context, for most things. I don’t use it at all at work, though, since I need a fully equipped computer all day. I am not surprised that many people don’t see a place for an iPad in their lives, yet, but this form factor is here to stay.

iPad Enthusiasm

Yes, I’m looking forward to the iPad release. I set my alarm early on Pre-Order day and raced through the process, just in case.

I’ve been tagged as an Apple fanboy, but I’m not sure that’s the case. I’m a mobile technology fanboy. I’ve tried the gamut of mobile device models and brands, yet I come back to the Apple product lines time and again. I spent months with the Palm Pre (great SDK!) and weeks with Android (the Droid) and Windows Mobile devices, but the iPhone (despite its limitations) is #1 for me. Similarly, I’ve spent a lot of time with the Archos 5 Android, UMPCs, Nokia Internet Tablets and the Kindle. Knowing what I know about the software and hardware that makes up the iPad, it’s clear that Apple has another winner.

I spend a lot of time on the computer. I read and write email, read and write documents, read news (twitter, articles), listen to audiobooks and podcasts, write code, watch video. At home and at work, I’ve been spending less time at my desk – so, for many of these tasks, I rely on my iPhone (especially reading email, listening to audiobooks/podcasts and watching video). Going forward, at home I expect that the iPad will be my go-to device for reading and viewing email, news, and video.

Meanwhile, there are a ton of new experiences that the iPad will enable. It’s not clear which of these will ‘catch on’ with me or with you, but quite a few new possibilities will be opened up on April 3rd at the intersection of the iPad and the terrifically innovative development community that has sprung up around the iPhone OS.

Beyond the obvious use cases mentioned above, I’m looking forward to:

  • The competition for the best iPad Twitter app – who can use the large, multitouch screen the best? I expect that it will be a more compelling experience than desktop/notebook alternatives.
  • Similarly, but probably with a longer horizon, the competition for the best RSS newsreader on the platform will be intense. I version of Reeder 2 or MobileRSS reorganized for the iPad form factor will be a lot of fun to use.
  • I’m still hoping that Netflix and Hulu will work something out with Apple to get their streaming solutions available on the iPad. Apple has an obvious financial incentive to block these apps, but subscription or ad based video streaming is going to win over $2.00 TV episodes some day. I’m surprised ANYONE is paying for TV that way on a regular basis.
  • An iPad optimized Flickr browsing app would be interesting.
  • Remote Desktop. It’s usable on an iPhone, but would be more so on the iPad.
  • Games. Just as we saw completely new kinds of games with the iPhone (and the Wii and the DS), we’ll see some new things on the iPad.
  • Comic books and graphic novels continue to be an exciting narrative model. It will be interesting to see the mix of mainstream and independent content that ends up on the iPad. Lots of people are excited about how magazines will make the leap to this device, but I think the leap that comics make will be just as interesting.
  • Interactive charts and data visualizations via touch. This technique could bring new life to informative textbook and magazine content.

iPhone Won

Though it was difficult, I chose the iPhone over the Droid. The apps I use most are currently implemented best on the iPhone (corp exchange email, twitter, music, video, audiobooks/podcasts, browser).

Of course, if I’d known that AT&T wireless service would be down for a week where I live, I might have chosen differently.