Category Archives: Computer Hardware & Electronics

Heading into Christmas, a consumer report…and a few gift ideas

I feel that testing products gives me a chance to see some new and unusual products, as well as check in on how some old favorite brands are doing.
Here’s a few tidbits I wanted to share.

Dashboard cams are starting to ‘race to the bottom’ in prices. Motion sensing and recording cameras are starting to flood the market from China. While dashboard cams are still often priced in the $150 range, I am starting to see some decent cams enter the market lower and lower. Tonight I saw one just listed for $48 that I’ll be testing soon. Many are coming with storage disks, adding to their value. I project that by the end of this quarter, there will be some amazing deals on them. The same holds true for IP cams and surveillance cameras in general, though ‘big’ corporate brands with more user-friendly software will continued to be priced high. If you are technically proficient, look for no-brand clones to become very affordable.

With online shopping, be very careful of sizing issues with Asian sellers. While many are starting to get “Small” and “Medium” sizes correct, larger sizes still elude their ability to properly denote. Be very careful with purchases on discount sites for plus size clothing unless you are already familiar with the site. Many ‘dress’ sites are popping up on social media featuring very inexpensive dresses that are often stylish and cute, but many of these are from the same lots that I’ve tested and found to be way off in size and cut for the American market.

Some really good deals do exist coming from Asian vendors- I have been overall impressed with the quality and value of knit goods for instance, and there’s some very nice messenger bags, backpacks, and tablet portfolios on the market.

Some eco-friendly products that I’ve liked have included wool dryer balls and fragrance diffusers. The dryer balls help speed clothes drying time, soften clothes naturally, and can be used to scent laundry by applying essential oils to them. I’ve had a set for months now and they work great. The diffusers help scent a home naturally.

The citrus essential oils, such as orange, lemon, lime, and grapefruit, are usually a good bet for quality. are generally inexpensive, and most people enjoy these scents.

I am NOT having much luck with heated electric linens, such as electric throws, blankets and underpads. I’ll write more on this later but for now my advice for now would be to steer clear of these items for gift giving. Too many are failing, even from brands most Americans have come to know and trust.

For the PREPPERS and multi-purpose gadget lovers – There is one product whose brand I will mention by name, though other sellers also offer similiar lights and it might pay to shop around. They did send me a free copy to test, but this is NOT an affiliate link. It is NEVER my policy to make income from third-party vendor product tests.


This light is really very unusual. It functions as a light, AND a charger for USB powered items, like smartphones and tablets. The solar panel is a good size and works well, and it took me 3 full days to run this light down after one sunny day’s sunlight charge. It also works like a regular light bulb, if you prefer to use it like that. I’ve found it practical, unusual, and “delightful.”

There are some very unusual (to me at least) LED lights coming out of the Asian markets. I was contacted about one that is a regular screw in LED lightbulb, but it’s ALSO a Bluetooth speaker. I look forward to testing that one!

That’s all for now. If I can ever be of assistance with ideas, clarification, or recommendations, feel free to contact me. As long as I have a bit of time, I’ll try to help.

SteelSeries Apex Gaming Keyboard – Great for Coders and eBay Sellers

Picture of the SteelSeries Apex Gaming Kehyboard

I am NOT a gamer. Not much. That said, I use and abuse some macros on a keyboard. I webmaster. I code. I post online – a lot. I sell online. For all these things, I have found great use in having a lot of macros available.

What’s a macro? In a nutshell, it’s pre-recorded keystrokes that can be played over and over again. For instance, if I have a macro to type ‘http://www.wiresplice.com’, all I have to do is hit one button, and that gets typed for me.

I also use macros to start programs and go to websites. I am SO lazy and I’m all over the web, so it helps me keep up with forums that I participate in. Even with the macros, I can be such a keyboard cowgirl that I still rub holes in my space bars. I try to save all the keystrokes I can.

I use macros on eBay a lot. Often I use templates, which are very helpful, but since I sell several different kinds of items across different accounts, I find it easy to have macros for things that are specific to different accounts. For instance, when I sell clothing, I like to include the measurements. For instance, for selling a lady’s shirt I use this snippet:

Size:
Fabric Contents:
Care Instructions:
Shoulders:
Bust:
Waist:
Total Length:

So I simply set all that up as a macro, and I hit Mx6 when I need it. It will all then be typed it in for me, and all I have to do is add the actual measurements.

I do the same for a lot of my communications. IE “Thank you! I’ll get this out to you right away!”
Now, there are services that automate all this, but I like to control it myself, and past the cost of the keyboard, I don’t have to pay anything extra.

Since I use macros for tons of other things as well, coding, filling out web forms, putting disclosure notices on certain reviews, ect., I find it pays for me to own a good one.

Recently I had the chance to review the SteelSeries Apex Gaming Keyboard. I’m a member of Amazon Vine, which means that I get the items from Amazon, not the company, and I’m not obligated to give anything but an honest review.




I had a Logitech g-15 keyboard which I have loved. I like gaming keyboards a lot so I jumped at the chance to try out this one.

I find the macro layout on this keyboard a lot more intuitive than on my Logitech, and I love that it is designed to have 4 ‘layers’ of keys providing macros, which are easy to toggle. Each layer button denotes a layer, which is like virtually switching to a new keyboard with the touch of one button. That lets me use one for web coding, one for eBay, one for filling out forms, one for all the web forums and social media I like to go to, ect. You can color code EACH layer however you want with an amazing number of colors to pick from. I found that very useful when I was setting up my macros to help me quickly get acclimated to the keyboard. That’s learning curve is really up to the user, for me, it’s because I quickly filled up every macro slot I could and had to remember where I had what.

That said, the software is GREAT. I love that I cut and paste snippets in to form my macros, and I don’t have to type them in ‘blind’ to record them. I’m practically unlimited in the number of macros that I want to use – a very good thing for gamers, and for me!

Also great is the extra usb plug – this helps you power the usb slots IN the keyboard, which I love. That’s a super nice edition, and though it takes up an extra usb in your computer, it will give the devices that you plug into your keyboard the power they need to charge and run – it’s great if you have a smartphone or camera! It’s so much easier to plug one into a keyboard than the computer, IMO. I got a little multi-connection plug which works great as an accessory to this keyboard. It’s made like this:




That way I can easily change out my devices right beside my keyboard.

The keyboard is fast and responsive. I love the big space bar. There are extra tactile bumps on the w key that are nice for hand placement too.

Just a couple of negatives:
Though I have decided to keep using this keyboard in favor over my G15, which was more expensive, and while I DO MISS it’s inbuilt monitor for rss feeds, all the extra macro keys are helping my productivity. This keyboard would be about PERFECT if it had that monitor, maybe in the future they will implement that.

I’d like the “A” button to be a bit larger. For some reason on this keyboard the caps lock really is easy to hit when you type an A. I think it’s because the letters are just a tad scrunched. I’ve used it for 3 weeks now and I’m just starting to get used to keeping my pinkie in a bit.

Also, JUST LIKE MY G15, I had to write a batch file to use after my computer went into sleep mode to restart the gaming engine (that’s the software that works with the keyboard.) I keep power on to my USB ports so I’m not sure why this happens, but this is my 3rd, different, gaming keyboard I’ve had to do that with. Luckily it’s not a big deal to stop a process and restart it. It’s just more convenient for me to run a batch file than to go into my processes each time I sit back down at my keyboard. If anyone knows a better fix for the engine stopping in a power save mode, I’d love to hear it.

My file looks like this:
====================================================================================================
@echo off
taskkill /f /im “SteelSeriesEngine.exe”
PAUSE
START “SteelSeries” “C:\Program Files\SteelSeries\SteelSeries Engine\SteelSeriesEngine.exe”
======================================================================================================
Just put that in notepad, and save as StartSteel.bat I keep mine on my desktop. It will kill any running hung process and restart the keyboard.

Or, you can download it here if you need it: Right Click to save. It should work if you used a default installation and did not change your directory. If you did, just change your directory path.

So, to sum up, the software is very easy and intuitive, by far the best gaming engine that I have used. The availability of minions of macros to serve me ROCKS. It’s pretty much only limited by your ability to remember where you put them all.

But, don’t be surprised if you have to restart the engine after exiting a sleep mode. It seems to be a common problem with gaming keyboards of different makes and brands. It’s happened to me on different machines with 3 different kinds of gaming keyboards.

Disclosure: I was provided a free keyboard by Amazon Inc via their Vine program for purposes of review. This post does contain an affiliate link(s), however, Amazon has helped me arrange my account so that my payout can never be reached. I like the affiliate tools for the convenience only, it is never my intention to profit from my reviews of any item.

Last updated at .