IMG_2200I’m a long-time fan of radio controlled flight, so when XenonProject.com offered me the chance to review the S107G Mini RC Helicopter I was excited for the opportunity!

Vitals

Product: S107G Mini Gyro (Yellow) 3 Channel Mini Gyro Helicopter by Syma
Price at time of review: $24.99
Overall impression: Highly recommended, fun, easy to learn heli. A perfect toy for the home or office. A good, cheap introduction to RC flight. A great value for a very well engineered machine.

Out of the box

The heli is very small, with a main rotor (blade) diameter of between 7 and 8 inches and a body length around the same. It can charge from the remote (which requires AA batteries) or off USB (very convenient in the office.) Charging took a little shy of an hour. The heli seems to hold a charge well and even a week after putting a full charge on I was able to fly without recharging first.

This type of heli is too small for outdoor flight, but perfect for the living room or office. The controller works over infrared, like a TV remote, but unlike a TV remote it doesn’t require you to point the remote at the heli. Pleasantly, I had no trouble with reception.

Overall construction seems surprisingly solid for such an inexpensive unit. There are several metal parts in the frame, plastic parts seem well engineered and reenforced in the right places, and nearly everything is held together with screws which will make repair possible. When on, the S107G has a blinking LED on the nose. While it does seem largely decorative it gives the heli a nice visual anchor making it easy to see where you are pointed.

In the air

The controls are simple (which is good because the manual is weak at best.) The throttle (left stick on the controller) will control your height, which is a little more complicated than you might expect if you’re new to RC flight, but is easily mastered if you find some time to fly daily. Other than that the heli flies much like an RC car drives. On the right stick forward and back do what you’d expect, left and right turn the direction of the heli.

Having flown RC for years I started out easy, trying to hover a foot or two off the ground without moving forward or backward. This proved highly achievable due to the S107G’s gyroscopes which hold it solidly in position. Without any work the heli stays right in place, other than the height which you will have to get used to controlling.

If you get the hang of keeping a consistent height the hard part is done. In forward flight, the S107G flies stable and straight. The heli also stops forward flight quickly when you let off the stick, unlike it’s larger and more ‘scale’ RC cousins. Left and right turns are possible while hovering or moving forward. Any air movement in the room will immediately become evident as the heli takes on a life of it’s own near a drafty window, ceiling fan or heating vent. Be aware of these and try to avoid them when you’re getting started.

All-in-all the S107G is about as easy to fly as an RC helicopter could be. The flashing light and bright colored body aid visibility and the gyroscopes simplify flight.

The inevitable crash(es)

You will crash the S107G. It happens. I have crashed mine at least 50 times in the mere two weeks I’ve had it. Thankfully the heli seems very resilient! I have run it into walls, landed too fast, hit chairs, and even hit the main blades on the ceiling causing the heli to drop nearly 8 feet onto the hardwood floor. Each time I cringed and thought I’d be replacing parts I just turned it back upright and away it flew!

When it does eventually need parts, XenonProject.com offers replacement parts right off the product page. Parts seem very reasonably priced and most should be easy to replace.

Tips

Start with tail-in hovering – Put the heli on the ground in front of you with the tail facing you. In that orientation left is left, and right is right.

Ground effect – Any aircraft behaves differently near the ground than it will further up in the air. You will find that the S107G is a lot more stable when you get it at least 1 foot off the ground, so make that an early goal.

If you’re considering a larger RC heli get one like this to learn a little first. Each model will fly differently, but one of the biggest challenges for folks new to RC is getting used to the orientation. When the heli (or a plane, or car) is facing you the controls for left and right will appear reversed. Getting used to that on an inexpensive unit will save you money and downtime when you start flying more expensive helis.

If you’re the type who can’t stand not having your toys, I’d suggest buying an extra set of main blades. They are the only part on mine that is showing some wear, but even after dozens of flights I’m still going on my original set.

Kona Luna CoffeeHawaiian Kona coffee is no doubt one of the finest coffees in the world. Most major roasters will have a Kona coffee but today I’m trying a coffee from Kona Luna who specializes in only 100% Kona coffee.

I only got the chance to try the Kona Luna Peaberry from this roaster. Other peaberry coffees (which grows with one bean per coffee cherry rather than the typical two) I have had have been excellent but this is the first Hawaiian peaberry I have tried.

The peaberry has an excellent flavor with the complete absence of bitterness that is typical of Hawaiian coffees. The coffee is rich without being overwhelming and has a pleasant aftertaste which quickly disappears.

Many of these characteristics are typical of the better Hawaiian Kona coffees I’ve had but the Kona Luna peaberry has more richness and body than others. It’s clear that Kona Luna takes great care in roasting and packaging their coffees to preserve these values resulting in an outstanding coffee in the cup!

The $33 per pound price tag is a few dollars higher than Hawaiian Kona from many other roasters but this specialty roaster does a wonderful job preparing this wonderful coffee. For a special treat or a great gift for the coffee lover in your life Kona Luna Coffee makes a great cup.

Sanyo Eneloop AA BatteriesRecently when listening to the Daily Giz Wiz netcast (easily the most jingle-laden netcast ever to grace my iPod) Leo and Dick got into a discussion about rechargeable batteries and their typical shortcomings like the need to charge them before use and their tendency to loose their charge over time. Recently Sanyo has released a new battery called Eneloop which does not suffer from these problems.

Sanyo eneloop batteries are a rechargeable NiMH battery which claim to only loose 15% of their charge in a year. That means you can charge them and use them when you need them. Like other NiMH batteries they can be recharged hundreds of times, but one of the big advantages is that they come pre-charged! You could buy a set in a drug store, use them that day, then take them home and recharge them.

I’ve only seen these on Amazon so far, but I’m using them in just about everything I have that takes AA batteries, especially my Wii remotes. At first I was disappointed that the Wii remote didn’t come with a rechargeable battery but now it seems much more clever that they went with an industry standard (AA size) battery which can be easily replaced without having to look up a model number.

Eneloop batteries are available in four packs of AA and AAA and 8 packs of AA, but I recommend starting off with the charging kit which comes with the charger and four AAs. The charger will charge AA and AAA sizes and can charge one, two, three or four batteries at a time.

I have been using these rechargeable batteries for over a year now in my Wii controllers, talkabout radios, remotes, wireless computer accessories and more. They have cut my AA consumption down considerably, and when they do eventually die they are recyclable like other NiMH batteries. While there are AA rechargeables which have a higher capacity the low self-discharge of the Eneloop batteries makes them last longer in all but the highest current applications.

The latest in the search for a better pointing device, Contour Design’s RollerMouse Pro claims to be the “World’s greatest mousing device” but how does it stack up in day-to-day use? Is it worth the steep $200 price tag? Contour Design offered me the chance to test-drive a RollerMouse Pro for a few weeks and here’s what I thought:

RollerMouse ProThe Device: The RollerMouse Pro doesn’t fit cleanly into any pointer device category I know. It’s not a track ball, not a touch pad, not a mouse, not a tablet. It has aspects of all these devices, but is truly its own device.

The long cylindrical roller is used to control a pointer. The cylinder spins up and down while sliding back and forth. A traditional left and right mouse button are complemented by a scroll wheel (with the standard functionality) and a centered double-click button. The cylinder can also be pressed down to accomplish a left-click adding further to the convenience of the device.

The RollerMouse Pro has two special function buttons (which are absent in the standard RollerMouse.) By default they act as a click-lock (click and hold) and scroll-lock (click and use the main roller to scroll.) A web mode allows the buttons to be used as forward and back in web browsers and the final mode allows custom software to be used to assign the buttons to additional functions.

If all that isn’t enough, the RollerMouse Pro is integrated with a wrist rest which improves keyboarding posture. The comfortable, high quality lycra wrist rest is removable for cleaning.

In use the RollerMouse Pro is highly functional with a comfort unmatched by any pointing device I have used. I used the RollerMouse Pro daily at work for several weeks prior to this review. For the first few days I found I needed to adjust the mouse tracking speed slower than I typically used with a mouse, but after just a few days of using the RollerMouse Pro I was back up to my typical (“twitchy” as many would say) high mouse speed with all the accuracy I have with a traditional mouse.

One of the RollerMouse’s claims is that since the user does not have to reach to their side the hand position is more ergonomic when mousing. While I am not an ergonomics expert I will say that while using the RollerMouse Pro I did find that some tension and aches I had in my right shoulder and lower neck absolutely disappeared.

The video below shows how the RollerMouse Pro sits below the keyboard so it can be used with only a minimal departure from the keyboard. To show how little movement is needed I have added stripes to the roller with some orange tape. During this video I moved the pointer all around the screen, from launching a web browser from the start menu, to selecting a link to Gmail, to scrolling around the page, to closing the window.

You can see how little movement of the cylinder was required for these standard tasks. While hard to show in a video, if you reach the end of the the RollerMouse’s movement before reaching the corresponding edge of the screen you can feel a click on the cylinder and it will continue the pointer movement to the edge of the screen. This behavior was easier than expected to get used to.

I found that using several fingers from my right (dominant) hand gave me the best control, but this second video shows how I was also able to control the RollerMouse Pro with just my thumbs (I used my left thumb to give some resistance on the cylinder while I controlled it with my right thumb.) This method allows the RollerMouse Pro to be used without moving the hands from the keyboard. I found this ideal when working in text-centric applications like word processing and shell sessions.

I used the RollerMouse Pro on both Mac OSX and Windows with no need for drivers on either platform. In both cases the RollerMouse Pro was recognized by the operating system as a standard mouse and all standard features were immediately available.

While there are advantages to being able to program your own functions to specific buttons it is invaluable that the first two modes mentioned above work without any additional software. I personally didn’t make much use of the two additional buttons between the main array and the roller cylinder. In the long run I might try to program them for copy and paste, but to me they neither make or break the device.

Conclusions: After setting up the RollerMouse Pro (which was a breeze) and using it for a few weeks I have found it significantly better than traditional mouses. It offers the advantages of a laptop trackpad (easily accessible with little or no movement from the home position on the keyboard) while offering a fast learning curve and outstanding range and accuracy.

While a price of just shy of $200 keeps me from recommending this to the casual user, for those who spend their work days at their computers the RollerMouse Pro has a lot to offer. The unanticipated advantage of the RollerMouse Pro was the liberation of a few square feet of desk space previously occupied by my mouse and mouse pad.

An ergonomic design, high quality construction, convenient placement, an integrated wrist rest and unbeatable functionality make the RollerMouse Pro a great choice for anyone who spends hours a day at their computer. It did take several days to get used to, but if you’re not sure if it’s for you there’s always the option of their 30 day free trial.

RollerMouse Pro or Classic? There are a handful of differences between the classic and pro versions of the RollerMouse (see the image below, pro on top.) The pro is only $10 more than the classic and features a larger opening for controlling the main cylinder, larger buttons and two additional buttons. All these features make it well worth upgrading to the pro version.

RollerMouse Pro and Classic


review, technology, mouse, pointer, hci, human computer interface

White Mountain Gourmet CoffeeWhite Mountain Gourmet Coffee is a small coffee roaster in New Hampshire and since one of their cafes is local to me in Concord I decided to give them a try.

The cafe is well stocked with White Mountain coffee and has a full espresso bar, some food and a fair amount of seating. I picked out a couple coffees I wanted to try and asked the worker at the cafe to suggest a couple more. Service was good and I was ready to try out their coffee with 4 half-pound bags of single-origin coffee.

The first of White Mountain’s coffees I tried was their El Salvador Peaberry. This is a pleasant, full bodied coffee with a sweet flavor. Though not overly complex this coffee is very pleasant in the cup and has a nice long finish.

The Zimbabwe AA was also rich and flavorful. Somewhat more complex than the El Salvador this coffee has some brighter tones and good depth. Another rich, full-bodied offering, the Sumatra Mandheling had little acidity and a clean finish.

White Mountain’s Papua New Guinea is a nice, slightly earthy coffee. This coffee’s slight acidity is pleasantly balanced by a sweet flavor.

I specifically sought out rich, full bodied coffees to try, but all of my trials were regular roast. I found the regular roast to make a sufficiently rich coffee, but most of their coffees are offered as a dark roast as well. White Mountain has a long list of single-origin, blended and flavored coffees but my preference, as reflected in my sampling choices is to the single-origin.

All the coffees I tried from White Mountain Gourmet Coffee were excellent and I look forward to trying more of their offerings. While I am fortunate enough to be near one of their cafes White Mountain coffee is also available via mail order from their website.

dining, food, coffee, review, drink, beverage, gourmet

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