I’m going to diverge from the norm here just a bit to point out something that I’ve had at my desk for the past six months that has come in surprisingly handy. While this isn’t an “app”, in keeping with the spirit of this site’s theme, this actually does make a lot of little tasks More Productive.
Before I go any further, I have to add a disclaimer:
Yes, this is pretty fucking dorky; but like a fanny-pack, its so fucking convenient. But the good news is, you don’t have to wear this one in public. This one can be safely hidden away at home.
Last July I took the family on our first trip out of the country (we live in the US). My kids were super excited to be “crossing the border” for the first time as we made our way into the frozen unknown of Canada (which turns out to be not so frozen and is actually very well-known).
Travelers note: always do a Google search for holidays and activities happening around the time of your travel plans.
We arrived in Toronto, Canada in late June, just in time for Canada Day, one of the biggest holidays of the year. And while the timing could not have been worse, our experience could not have been better.
One of the treasures I found while in Toronto was a well-known shop for electronics hobbyists called Active Surplus. This place was simply amazing. Sadly, it has since shut its doors.
Imagine a warehouse where some baby boomer just threw away a ton of useful electronics components because they thought it was “a ton of junk”. And then imagine that some kind of futuristic robot automatically sorted everything into neatly organized bins in a way that you could casually and satisfyingly browse the isles, slowly plucking the fruit from the vines and tossing those unwanted treasures into your basket for mere pennies.
This was Active Surplus.
My wife stayed in the car (van) while I walked inside for a few minutes and I quickly realized the mistake I had made. I should have planned a separate solo-outing, not some “I’ll just pop in” kind of visit.
I hurriedly picked up a lot of great things, but one thing in particular that I found (and the point of this long story) was a Magnifying Lamp.
I picked up the Eaglestar Pro 22W Fluorescent Lamp, which has served me well, for about $50. This isn’t intended for an office, unless you work on electronics all day, but at home, this is extremely handy. You clamp this magnifying lamp onto the side of your desk and lighted magnification is literally at your fingertips. Some of the things you’ll love about a device like this is that it doesn’t require turning knobs or adjusting. You just pull the magnifying glass where you need it and it stays in place.
The Eaglestar Pro is now discontinued, but a very similar model (equipped with LED lighting instead of fluorescent) is on Amazon. It is made by Brightech (I’m not sure if Brightech is a new version of Eaglestar, but these are very similar models). They call it the “Lightview Pro“. I call mine the “Canadarm” because I had just finished reading Chris Hadfield’s book.
My “Canadarm” has amazing optics and really nice lighting, and I have it mounted on my desk right by my laptop. Being able to simply grab it and click on a bright light and see things under magnification has been surprisingly useful. I originally thought I’d be using it on electronics projects, but in the past six months it has served many purposes:
- An amazingly clear close-up view when soldering. And it is super easy to position even while soldering. Something a ‘third hand’ doesn’t do well.
- Reading part numbers on all sorts of things. Etchings, carvings, small print, etc.
- Helping the kids repair their cheap electronics
- Reading the numbers on battery cells
- Removing unwanted splinters 🙂
- And you can point it up at the ceiling for some supplemental lighting
I had actually been in the market for one of these before we took the trip, and when I saw the box, I knew I had to have it; part souvenir, part utility, but something I don’t plan to remove from my desk anytime soon. If ever.