Welcome to IRL, an ongoing feature where we talk about the gadgets, apps and toys we're using in real life and take a second look at products that already got the formal review treatment.
This week's edition of IRL is geekier than usual because really, only the nerdiest of you would be reading a tech site when you could be pretending to be Irish. On tap (har!) we have James and Andy talking about their favorite ways to charge gadgets on the go, while Darren, a man after serious photographers' hearts, tells what happened when he took his beloved D3S in to have the sensor cleaned.
TomTom High-Speed Multi Charger
Since I packed in the smokes a few years ago, the lighter socket in my car has remained largely vacant. Until semi-recently, that is. Like most folks around these parts I probably have more gadgets than I really need. That's typically not a problem, but sometimes -- like on long journeys -- feeding all those hungry devices becomes difficult.
TomTom clearly feels my pain. Essentially, that contraption you see there is an in-car 12V charger with two USB ports. To be fair, it's really the USB ports that I'm after, as they allow me to juice up my GPS while topping up my phone, tablet or whatever else I happened to bring along without bothering to check the charge. It also lets you run something else off the 12V in-car socket -- perhaps some dedicated travel accessories, if you have them.
If you're going to be on the road for any amount of time, the added security of being able to power up your tech or run the Sat Nav for hours while charging another is great, especially if you're relying on connected apps to find points of interest, read TripAdvisor or just augment reality -- as you do.
-- James Trew
Rayovac Mobile Power Pack
I impulse-bought the Rayovac Mobile Power Pack not only because I'm a sucker for catchy rhymes, but because it was a mere 17 bucks. I'm not a worrier, but I do like being prepared -- Boy Scouts can do that sort of thing to you -- and keeping a charge on my iPhone 4S
at all times is a must in my book. I'd been rummaging around for a decent battery pack for a while when this caught my eye at the edge of the Wal-Mart checkout line. Although I'm a hardcore Energizer Bunny fan, I thought I'd give Rayovac a shot.
Before my serendipitous encounter, I had my eye on the Motorola 89442N Universal External Cell Phone Battery, a pack about the size of a phone with a bantam micro-USB arm. I hadn't purchased it because it ran a whopping $45 dollars brand new and I couldn't justify thirty more minutes of Trolls N' Towers
per day for that price. The device contains a lithium battery pack that charges to the max in about three hours (my only complaint), giving your iPhone 4 another six hours of talk time. Having a single cable, it's enclosed with a micro-USB, mini-USB and Apple charging adapter that unfortunately doesn't support data transfers. So, it works with pretty much anything. I've charged my camera, iPad, iPhone 4S and Sony Bloggie
with it many times, and I can't seem to notice any depletion in battery capacity. The Rayovac Mobile Power Pack is definitely full of mobile-charging-win in terms of versatility and budget.
-- Andy Bowen
Getting a DSLR sensor cleaned
I struggled for well over a year with this. I knew that spots were creeping in on the sensor of my Nikon D3S
, and each time my wife shot another beachfront wedding or we traveled to a place with gobs of salt
in the air, I noticed it getting a wee bit worse. Hardly anyone outside of professionals would notice, but I noticed. And it bothered me. I read hundreds of horror stories from those trying to make things better -- people attempted to use liquid solutions without any guidance, and ruined their sensors.
The debris on my sensor was so serious that no brush or air pump would fix it; I knew I needed liquid, and I knew I didn't trust myself to do it. I found a local Nikon repairman while in Honolulu, and figured I'd let him have a crack at it. Fifty dollars out of my pocket and a few hours later, the spots were completely gone. But not all was perfectly well.
The liquid residue had left a few very minor smudges, which I had to go in myself and polish off with a sensor brush. All in all, it required a fair amount of work, but it's worth it. Not seeing any stray specs in a gorgeous landscape shot is delightful; my only regret was not getting it done sooner. If you're considering it, get a professional to do it -- the toughest part will be deciding on 24 to 48 hours in which you can actually afford to relinquish command of your rig.
-- Darren Murph