Jamie's Blog

Ruby developer. CTO. Swimmer. Always trying to write more

Picks of the week: TP-Link, Parcel Motel, Staples Arc, WD Passport and Giottos Monopod

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Sometimes it’s the things you don’t notice which are the most valuable. I realised this week that I haven’t rebooted our TP-Link WR740N broadband modem since we got it over 6mths ago. Now, obviously, that is how modems are supposed to work but over the past 8 years every single modem from Eircom and Vodafone has needed rebooting after a few days. I’ve probably used 6 broadband modems over the years and this is the first one that hasn’t required constant attention. Major win! Parcel Motel is a new and innovative postal service available in Ireland. It works like this: you register online, select your nearest “Parcel Motel” (normally collocated with a Topaz garage) and they provide you with an Irish and (most usefully!) a Northern Ireland/UK address. Now you can order from any shop which only ships to UK addresses and it will be delivered to your chosen motel where you enter your phone number and PIN code and retrieve your package. This opens up lots of opportunities for availing of free UK shipping, buying from UK-only eBay sellers, or just having the convenience of collecting your parcel at anytime instead of the 8am-10:30am window which An Post allows. I can see a few potential flaws in the service (what if the parcel is too big, what if the company sends you marketing material to the PM address at a later date) but overall I can’t speak highly enough about the service. I wish them every success as I doubt An Post can fathom anything as innovative as 24hr self-service parcel collection.

My first guest at the Parcel Motel was a set of Arc notebooks from Staples (they won’t normally deliver to Ireland). The Arc system consists of disc-bound notebooks which are ideal for reorganising or inserting/removing pages — this is Staples’ version of the Levenger Circa notebooks which are available in the US. I bought an A5 leather-covered notebook for planning/organising and an A4 notebook for the desk and project work. I also bought a punch that allows me to punch the required holes into any page. I’m inspired by Treasa’s customised filofax but I know that I don’t have the up-front time to put it together now. The Arc system means that I can evolve the notebook over time and easily add quotes, photos, and inspiration pages at any time.

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My iMac needs to have the hard drive replaced by Apple so I wanted a decent image of the disc so it doesn’t cause too much disruption (I already have a time machine backup and specific photo/document backups). I already have two 500G Western Digital Passport drives for offsite backups so the WD Passport 2TB drive made perfect sense. It’s small, fast (USB3) and I can easily image both my iMac and MacBook Air. I use SuperDuper! to make these backup images.

Lastly, I received a Giottos MML-3270B monopod  for Christmas and I’m very impressed so far. I wanted one because I often use manual-focus lenses like the Sony 135mm STF or the Samyang 85/1.4 which required some patience to accurately focus. To counter this, I typically use magnified liveview but this a) takes the camera away from my face (making it less stable) and b) makes it harder to compose the shot. The monopod solves all of these issues but still gives me the flexibility to move about (or move the camera to achieve focus). And it’s light enough to carry around on the camera bag — but heavy enough to be a formidable cosh (camera equipment which doubles as weaponry is always a bonus)