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PyCharm vs Komodo IDE for Python Scripting

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Activestate seems to have lost its way with Komodo – their scripting language IDE.  It used to be a fast, light, and highly usable IDE that made debugging easy.   They went off the rails with version 8- it was mostly a UI re-skin with very unstable code, it crashed frequently, froze when opening certain files, and had extremely slow network access.  I called it the ‘so what?’ release.  They fixed most of these issues in rev 8.5 but the high memory usage still remains.  What soured me was paying for a full version upgrade for what was mostly a buggy UI update.

Lately, I’ve been getting into Python and I’ve discovered JetBrains’ free Python IDE – PyCharm.  JetBrains has a moderately priced paid version but what is amazing is that the free version of PyCharm includes a Python debugger.  Compare this to Activestate’s free Komodo Edit which does not include a debugger of any sort.

Plus, the paid version of PyCharm includes subscriptions and upgrades for 1 year.  Activestate requires you to pay $87 in addition to the price you pay for Komodo for a 1 year subscription.

Besides all the price gouging, I’ve found that the free version of PyCharm is a much better Python editor than Komodo.

Here are some great features in PyCharm that are not in Activestate’s Komodo:

Multiple debug sessions.  Want to debug two scripts at the same time?  You can do that with PyCharm.

Typing in the file window highlights all files that match any of the characters.  Komodo only goes to the first match and that is only if you type really fast.  Otherwise it will skip around.

Dropdowns for everything.  PyCharm dropdowns are almost as good as Visual Studio.  In PyCharm I can define a variable as a list/string/dictionary and every time after that I’ll get all associated methods when I type in the period after the variable.  Importing a module?  You’ll get dropdowns for all the module members.

Built-in Python package manager, built-in TODO manager, built-in windows cmd console manager (it even lets you have multiple sessions open), and even a built-in repository browser!

A little lightbulb (similar to ReSharper) pops up when there is an error or the code can be improved in some way.  Clicking on it shows a list of things it can do to fix or improve the code.  It makes the changes for you!

 If you are a Komodo Python user, then try PyCharm.  You will be pleasantly surprised.

Written by M Kapoor

August 30, 2014 at 12:40 am

Posted in IDE, review

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Mighty Plugs – World’s Finest Ear Plugs Review

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I recently bought some Mighty Plugs Earplugs to help block noisy co-workers at work and to use while traveling. The earplugs are marketed as the ‘highest blocking‘ and ‘most comfortable‘ earplug in the world. They have a sticky putty like consistency which helps them mold to the shape of your ear. This stickiness allows them to attach to your ear without being too invasive.
My choice was between purchasing these or the Howard Leight Laser earplugs. I ended up getting the Mighty Plugs because I hadn’t tried them before and they seemed interesting. I’ve been using the Mighty Plugs for six months and so far they’ve been good. They mold to your ears and are good at blocking external sound. However they are expensive, sticky, and get nasty after a while.

I’ve decided to go with a pros/cons format instead of my usual review style. Read more below.

Pros:

  • Mighty Plugs don’t go too far into the ear canal. The earplug molds into your ear cavity and canal to create a full seal. They form a good seal but can come out while sleeping or chewing. The Leight Laser plugs are more invasive and can also come out in similar conditions.
  • 20 year shelf-life (so they say). Leight Laser earplugs will probably last longer due to their synthetic construction.
  • Mighty Plugs last 25-30 uses but they pick-up dust and residue over time which reduces their effectiveness. Leight Laser earplugs last 2-3 uses and you can afford to have a new pair whenever you want. You also are not pushing in old buildup into your ears. Over the long run the Howard Leight earplugs are cheaper, 6 pairs of Mighty Plugs at 30 uses means one pack of 6 can be used 180 times. A box of Howard Leight will last at least 200 uses and you can get a new pair every time.

Cons:

  • Sticky lanolin leaves a tacky residue on fingers and on ears.
  • Earplus are sticky so they pick up dust, stuff from your fingers, and earwax from your ears. Re-use means you are pushing this stuff into your ears regularly. You also have to ensure you have clean hands before you start or you’ll contaminate the Mighty Plugs for the rest of your uses.
  • Need to knead them for 30-40 seconds before first use and then 15-20 seconds for each subsequent use. Leight Laser earplugs are ready to go in about 2-seconds: squeeze, insert, and hold in place for a moment.
  • Very expensive – 6 pairs for $20 plus $5 for shipping. Leight Laser earplugs are $20 for 200 with free shipping if ordering over $25.
  • Shipping is padded by $1 when ordering from Amazon.com – Mighty Plugs performs a bait and switch to show matching price from their site but then rip off the user via shipping. This is probably done to make up the money they pay to Amazon for their commission since Amazon does not charge commission on shipping charges.

Overall:
This is a decent earplug. However, the tackiness, residue build-up, and expense are major detractions. Their tendency to break their seal is about the same that of regular earplugs coming out. I think they are good for office and other clean environments. They are useless for outside work due to their tendency to pick up dust from the air and your fingers.

Written by M Kapoor

July 3, 2013 at 5:41 pm

Posted in review

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Logitech Trackman Marble Mouse Review

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I bought the Logitech Trackman Marble Mouse after finding the Logitech Anywhere Mouse MX to be too small for my long fingers.  Excessive use was causing my fingers to cramp up which is not fun after a long day at work.  It is too bad because I loved the Anywhere Mouse and found it to one of the best mice I’ve ever used.  A co-worker suggested the Trackman because it was ambi-dexterous and it accommodates long fingers.  I bought the mouse from Amazon.com for $23.

Looks
The trackball is very unassuming, there is a red ball at the top you manipulate with your fingers and two buttons on each side.  One side is meant to be clicked with your thumb and the other side by your ring or pinkie finger.  The top is made of a slightly textured plastic that doesn’t get

Logitech TrackMan Marble Mouse Top View

Logitech TrackMan Marble Mouse

uncomfortably hot with use.  The bottom is the standard mouse black plastic with three anti-slip pads spread around it.  The entire unit is sheathed in shades of an unassuming gray that exudes a sense of boredom.

Feel
The trackball feels like what you’d expect from a device made from cheap plastic. If feels decently comfortable in my hands, I can rest the palm of my hand on the base and stretch my fingers around it to reach the ball and buttons.  The buttons are typical Logitech, the have a linear feel and click with very little drama.  Each click is accompanied by a precise ‘snick’ that provides auditory feedback of the action’s execution.  I can tell that these buttons are well made and that I can count on them to perform reliably for years.

The ball is smooth but is a little heavy and has quite a bit of friction.  I have to put in more effort necessary to move it around, I can’t just flip the ball and move the mouse all the way across the screen.  The ball is removable and this is a good thing because gunk tends to build up on the supporting pegs.

Usage
Becoming proficient in using the mouse takes a day or so, precise pointing takes some practice but you can go from opening the box to clicking links in Google in a couple minutes.  The main left and right click buttons are easy to find and click.  The 2nd set of buttons, meant to be used for back/forward while browsing the web, are useless.  Clicking the buttons requires me to contort my hand beyond a comfortable level that is intolerable for any amount of time.

Logitech TrackMan Marble Mouse Separated

Logitech TrackMan Marble Mouse Separated

The ball is heavy and has a lot if friction.  This makes it hard to scroll rapidly across the screen during regular use and I can feel fatigue in my fingers towards the end of the day.  A big issue is that gunk from your fingers builds up in the ball supports which further impede progress.  I find myself cleaning the ball supports at least once a day.  The heavy ball becomes aggravating after a while and I feel like Logitech should have put more work in this part of the design.

Thoughts
Overall the Trackman Marble Mouse is a decent trackball considering the price.  It has no fancy features and it does the work of the equivalent two button mouse.  Having a sealed sensor means that the buttons or the ball will wear out before the sensor breaks.  it also means that we’ll have precise sensing for the life of the product.

Annoyances include the extra buttons are useless and I think they were put there just for marketing reasons.  Gunk tends to build up in the ball supports which requires frequent cleaning.  The base doesn’t fit well in my hand – It would have been nicer if the base had been wider or had a slight dip for the base of my hand.

Pros:
Cheap
Ergonomic

Cons:
Useless forward and back buttons
Heavy track ball
Tendency to build up gunk in the ball supports
No scroll-wheel

Logitech TrackMan Marble Mouse Top View

Logitech TrackMan Marble Mouse

Written by M Kapoor

June 27, 2013 at 7:27 pm

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Fenix HL21 LED Yellow Headlamp Review

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I bought the Fenix-HL21 to light my way during my early morning runs.  My reason for choosing it is that the headlamp uses just one battery and the output is regulated so it wouldn’t slowly go dim and fade out.  The one battery means that the headlamp is light which means it won’t bounce around when running. I bought the headlamp in December of 2011 and I’ve now had it for about a year and a half.  I use it semi-regularly at night and for general work when I need extra light for a dark space.

Fit and Finish

Overall the lamp is decently but not well built.  Unlike other Fenix products which have an aluminum body, the lamp body and battery compartment is made of plastic.  The plastic is thick and feels decently rigid in my hand.  The casing around the LED is made of aluminum and this is done to facilitate heat dissipation. The cap on the battery compartment has good sized threads which makes it easy to open and close.  The plastic construction probably allows the big threads, most aluminum lights have tiny threads that are easy to mis-thread when screwing on the cap.  The big annoyance is that the lamp attachment to the headband is not secure and the lamp can come off if you are not careful when handling it.  I’ve had issues with my past Fenix lights where the negative terminal spring wears out and no longer makes contact with the battery.  It hasn’t happened yet but I fear that it will happen one day.

Light

This is my second headlamp, my other lamp is a Zebralight which is floody and perfect for indoor work. Compared to the Zebralight, the light on the HL21 is highly focused and projects a decent distance.  It is very diffuse and dim at the lowest 3-lumen dim setting but brightens up at the 43-lumen mid setting with the 90-lumens high setting being the brightest.  It is hard to tell the

Fenix HL-21

difference between the 43-lumen and 90-lumen settings except that the 90-lumen is slightly brighter.  This may be due to the logarithmic nature of our brightness perception.   There is very little flood which means there is little light for your peripheral vision which means you’ll be swivelling your head back and forth when you are outside.  In addition there is a small gap around the cap of the LED which means there is a ring of light that leaks out around the gap.  If you don’t adjust the light high enough on your forehead this leakage shines into your eyes which is annoying.

Battery Life

Battery life in the HL-21 is decent.  It is not great and definitely does not match the product listing, I can expect an Eneloop battery to last about 1 1/2 hours on medium and an hour on high.  The light has a tendency to turn off abruptly instead of dimming gradually.  This is probably due to the active circuitry used to maintain constant brightness and the non-linear discharge of rechargeable batteries.    Low mode is incredible though, I’ve had the lamp stay on for two whole days with juice left over in low mode.

Comfort

The primary reason I bought the HL21 was because I expected it to be light due to the single battery design.  The headlamp is indeed light and is ideal for running and night expeditions.  The headband however only loops around the head without a piece that goes over the top of the head. This means that the lamp has a tendency to slip down my forehead unless I tighten it to the point

Fenix HL-21 Back

that it cuts of circulation to my head.  In addition, the area where the lamp attaches to the cord is not padded and it leaves a mark on the forehead.  The mark is especially deep when you wear the lamp for long periods and the mark persists for a while afterwards.  Imagine going for a run in the morning and then heading to work with a strange red mark on your forehead.

Overall

Overall the HL21 is a decent headlamp for its price.  it has a couple annoyances that shouldn’t be present at this price point but its worked out well so far.

Pros:
Multiple light modes
Light single battery design
Solid construction
Good focused light
Solid, decent construction

Cons:
Annoying headband
Possible weak internal spring
No peripheral light
Gap around lens cover shines light into eyes
Doesn’t work well with rechargeable batteries

Fenix HL-21 Night Shot

Fenix HL-21

Fenix HL-21

Written by M Kapoor

June 27, 2013 at 7:19 pm

Posted in Flashlight, review

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Kuru Toga Pencil Review

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My Kuru Toga pencil purchase was an impulse buy – I was browsing Amazon.com looking for a gift for a friend when I noticed the Kuru Toga pencil set.  I figured that my desk could use a touch of class and so decided to order it.  At $3.88 it is a decent investment in a pencil considering that I can get 10 BiC mechanical pencils for $4.67.  However I justified this extravagant purchase by noting the box of lead and two erasers (+1 in the pencil) that came in the package.  Additional justification was provided by the fact that the lead was infused with diamond (!) and according to its description it is ‘the most advanced mechanical pencil ever‘.

Kuru Toga Engine

The Kuru Toga pencil’s highlight is the Kuru Toga engine – based on my non-knowledge of Japanese I’d say that the name comes from Kuru which means to turn and Toga which means to sharpen.  I also found this out by searching Google for five minutes.  True to its name, the Kuru Toga engine rotates the pencil lead a tiny bit every time you lift up while writing.  This means that you’ll always have a sharp edge to write with as long as you remember to push down hard enough to prime the engine and lift up sometime during your writing.  The rotation of the lead can be observed by viewing the logo through the translucent window or by squinting your eyes and looking at the lead while pushing the tip in and letting it pop out.  In practice the Kuru Toga engine doesn’t always give you the sharp tip – it generally rotates to give you a enough of an edge  to keep your writing sharp.  The mechanism makes no noise and is generally invisible in its operation, just lean back and enjoy the sharpness of lead.

Details

The pencil comes in a package that looks exactly like the package shown on the Amazon website.  There are two pieces of lead in the pencil and an eraser so the pencil is ready to go out of the box.  The eraser is small and won’t last long, but when working at this level you really should have a separate eraser in your writing arsenal.  The diamond infused lead is tough yet soft, it writes well like a HB grade should but doesn’t break and leave that annoying little piece in the tip like most other soft leads.  Despite being almost all plastic, the pencil has slight-to-decent heft to it and is balanced towards the writing end.

The eraser is visible through the translucent top which gives you a real time view of its status.  Pulling the eraser off reveals a hole through which additional lead is inserted.  The traditional backdoor of inserting the lead through the writing side is also supported, giving you two methods to support lead insertion.

Overall

I’m pleased with the Kuru Toga pencil.  The dark cylinder with the blue and chrome highlights adds style and a touch of class to my desk.  The writing is smooth with a well balanced pencil.  The build quality is excellent, much better than those 10 for $4.67 pencils.  I carry it around with me and it just screams out ‘class!’ and ‘high technology’ in every meeting I attend.  This is my first foray into the world of designer pencils so I don’t know if it is a good value but at $3.88 it doesn’t break the bank.

Pros
Class!
High Technology!
the most advanced pencil ever
Value pack comes with lead and extra erasers

Cons
Expensive?

Written by M Kapoor

June 27, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Posted in review

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Logitech Anywhere Mouse MX Review

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I’ve had the Logitech Anywhere mouse for several months now and I am a heavy user. I use it for 8+ hours a day and carry it from my desk to meetings several times a day. I also take the mouse home with me several times a week when I have work at home.

Features
The features of this mouse reflect well on its premium pricing. In addition to the right and left click buttons, the mouse also has two button on the left side that can be mapped to different functions but usually default to forward/back in most applications.

There is a separate button for middle clicking because middle clicking with the scroll-wheel switches between its clicked-scroll and hyper-fast scroll feature. The hyper-fast scroll feature allows scroll wheel to scroll freely which allows for quick scrolling through long documents without tiring your

Bottom View

scoll wheel finger.  Having a separate middle click button is great because you don’t have to worry about keeping the scroll-wheel steady while you middle click. In addition, the mouse uses a DarkField™ laser for tracking. The DarkField laser is designed to track on any surface and I can confirm that the DarkField™ laser is fantastic. I’ve personally verified that it tracks on any surface – tile, mirror, wood, couch cushions, and even a $2 mousepad from Office Max. The mouse has a great on-off switch that covers the laser on the off position which protects the lens and cavity.

The mouse’s awesomeness continues, opening the battery cover reveals a small cavity in which you can store the USB receiver. However, I doubt you’ll need to store the reciever, it is very tiny

Top View

and sticks about 1/4 inch out of the USB socket. I leave it plugged in all the time, even when I’m traveling with the laptop in my backpack. There is even a small status light on the top of the mouse that lights briefly when you first turn on the mouse – it shows green when the battery is good and red when it is time for replacement. The mouse takes two batteries, but can run on just one – even at low voltages on a single 1.2v rechargeable battery. And one last thing – side scroll. The scroll-wheel toggles from side to side to allow users to scroll horizontally through long documents like spreadsheets and webpages.

Fit, Feel, & Finish
The Everyday mouse is incredibly well built. The buttons click with a snick and have excellent tactile feedback. The scroll-wheel has a ridged center with metal accents on the side. The sides of the mouse have a soft rubber with ribbed finish that makes it easy to hold. The on/off switch opens and closes with a satisfying click. It feels solid and well balanced in your hand.

Summary
I highly recommend the Logitech Everyday mouse. I use it for several hours every day at my desk dnd carry it around with me. It has yet to let me down!

Pros:
Well built and good looking
Solid design
Excellent ergonomics
Tracks on any surface
Runs on one or two batteries
Small receiver that can run up to 6 Logitech devices
Carrying case
Includes batteries
Good value for money

Cons:
Expensive

View and Buy from Amazon.com

Written by M Kapoor

June 27, 2013 at 6:55 pm

Posted in review

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Mophie Juice Pack for Samsung Galaxy S3 Review

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I’ve been using the Samsung Galaxy S3 Mophie Juice Pack for about a month with my Samsung Galaxy S3. The Mophie Juice Pack boasts a 2300mAh battery that is slightly larger than the S3’s 2100mAh battery. It comes in white or black and consists of two pieces – a plastic hardshell with a USB port into which you slide the bottom of your S3. The S3’s power port then slides into the Mophie’s USB port. The Mophie USB port acts as a pass-through that charges the Juice Pack and phone battery, and allows USB connectivity to your computer. The 2nd piece slides over the top of the phone and snaps into the bottom. The case covers the whole phone and wraps around the front lip. It does a good job in terms of coverage.

Features
Besides covering the phone, there aren’t many features. There is a set of four white LEDs on the bottom of the case that are activated by a button next to them. Pushing the button lights up the LEDs to show how much charge is left in the Juice Pack. In addition, there is a small on/off switch that turns on or off the phone charging from the Juice Pack. Turning the switch on makes the S3 think that it is plugged into a power outlet and it draws power from the Juice Pack.

In general day to day use, I leave the pack on to conserve my cell phone battery and I can expect the juice pack to last about a day with minimal usage of my phone. Minimal usage means turning off everything and then using wifi on for about 30 minutes spread throughout the day to check my email and general web browsing. This is pretty low considering that the S3 battery will go a full day and still have charge left over.

Fit, Feel, and Finish
Despite the premium price, the Mophie Juice Pack doesn’t have the feel of its $100 price. The plastic feels cheap and gets slippery after extended use. It is difficult to guide the phone into the USB plug and the top doesn’t line up with the bottom along its seams. There isn’t enough space around the headphone jack to plug in headphones with large plugs.

One last thing is that the side buttons are very cheap. The power button on my case was locked inward which forced the phone into a endless reboot cycle after I inserted the phone into the case – I had to rip out the Mophie’s side button with a pair of pliers just to stop the reboot cycle and be able to use my phone. Not what I’d expect for a $100 phone case!

Summary
I am very disappointed by the Mophie Juice Pack. It appears to be a $20 battery covered by a cheap $10 plastic case with 10 cent buttons that sells for $100. The fact that I can’t plug in headphones with large plugs and that the buttons can lock your phone into a endless reboot cycle makes the high price tough to swallow. Especially considering that I can get a 4200mAh battery for $25.

Pros
Protective case that covers the whole phone

Cons
Expensive!
Poor battery life
Not good value for money – cheap construction and bad button design
Other cases available at lower prices with similar capabilities

Broken by design

Top and bottom don’t align!

Written by M Kapoor

June 27, 2013 at 6:51 pm