Fietsklik is Pretty Neat

I commute by bike to work, and I was looking into a better way to carry my garbage back and forth. Better, even, than bungee-cording my bag to the back. My old bike had an old soda crate on it, which worked okay, but my more recent bike has a big-ass 8 lb. chain lock and is Dutch, so I was in search of a Dutchier way to carry things. The Fietsklik is one such thing, but I couldn’t really find any review of it, at least in English, although it was a Kickstarter about 18 months ago (most of the English-language Fietsklik things are coverage of the Kickstarter). So, this is that. For reference, my commute to work is 3.3 miles each way on a very bumpy dedicated bike path. Between the bumps and the fact that I do it whether it’s raining or 110 °F, I wanted something that was both well thought-out and tough.

The basic system is a base-thing that attaches over your bike rack. The base is smooth plastic, making the rack a nicer place for a passenger. On either side of the base are clips that a bag can attach to using a mechanism built into each bag (Fietsklik offer three styles of bag). Each bag can lock on or quick-release. There’s also a crate that slides and locks on to the top. Pretty simple. Topeak makes a bag-and-crate system, but it is less suave. I didn’t buy a Fietsklik for a long time because their US shipping was something like 100 Euros, and I was too lazy to ask my mom in Wales to forward one. It’s currently 25 Euros to ship everything, though, making the total for a base, box, and bag 120 Euros with their current sale. I didn’t measure my bike’s rack because it’s a Gazelle and if a Dutch bike accessory didn’t fit a Gazelle I figured I might as well just jump into a volcano, but their website has size guidelines.

Here’s the base pre-installation.

Installation is very easy. It attaches with U-bolts, then you put a plastic cover over the business. You should get an 8mm nut driver, but everything else is included. The nuts are nyloc, but I figured a little Loctite couldn’t hurt. My crate needed a little assembly. The instructions were poorly-Xeroxed in the finest tradition, but they’re not really necessary.

The big problem for me was the bag attachment mechanism. Here’s a picture of the business:

The straps to either side release the bag from the base. The locking mechanism is inside the bag.

The issue is those truss-head rivets. They’re pathetic. I put my big chain lock, a roll of pens, and a Nintendo 3DS in the bag, attached it to the bike, and two miles later the bag broke free from the attachment mechanism because the rivets fell apart. This was pretty annoying, as the bag itself is quite well-made. Fortunately, nothing was permanently damaged. My solution was to imbue the Fietsklik with some overkill. Here’s the inside of the bag half-way through the process:

A dollar or so of hardware sorted everything out. I replaced all four rivets with bolts, washers, and nyloc nuts. Now my Fietsklik bag accepts no guff from interlopers.

That’s basically it. It’s a pretty well-designed system. It’d be nice if they sold the attachment mechanisms separately so you could hack together your own bags or whatever — I’d like to hang my chain lock right from the side, for example, rather than putting it in a bag. It’d also be nice to have the option for a slightly smaller, stronger (maybe non-folding) box that has a shopping basket-style handle.

The Fietsklik bits are all pretty good save for the issues above. I’d buy it again. 7 out of 10 Queen Beatrixes.

Update, a few months later: All the Fietsklik stuff is holding up pretty well. The only thing I’ve been noticing is that the plastic cover to the base bit scratches up really easily when exposed directly to my big chain lock. I have also been noticing that the bag is fucking huge, but I guess that’s alright.

Update, a year later (Feb. 2017): I stopped using the Urban Explorer bag because the retractable latches stopped retracting. I pulled the latching mechanism apart and it seems like the retaining clips inside are a bit vulnerable, as one had broken. The sliding portion of the latch falls out of place, and no longer works.

To replace it, I got the Urban Office bag. It’s a little smaller. My problem with the old bag was those pathetic truss-head rivets, but I thought that was maybe due to my huge chain lock. I now have an Abus Bordo folding lock that rides on the seat tube, so that cut a lot of weight from the bag. I thought it would be okay with the truss-head rivets — to work, I now carry a 12.9″ iPad Pro (1.5 lbs), a roll of fountain pens (almost nothing… 50 g?), and some headphones. Unfortunately, it lasted for about a week before the upper rivets pulled out and had to be replaced with more bolts, washers, and ny-loc nuts, as with the older bag.

I gave them a pass with the last bag since my old chain lock was massive, but the new bag has never even had a kilogram in it — for the latch mechanism to be falling off of the bag after a week of regular use is pathetic. Proper hardware is cheap (I paid less than 1 USD to sort the bag out, and I wasn’t even buying in bulk), and product failures due to improper hardware make for a bad look.

Gränsfors or Hultafors?

I occasionally see people on forums wondering whether Gränsfors or Hultafors Classic axes are better, but the replies are always “I heard this, my uncle said that”, and never “I have both, here is a picture”.

Anyway, I have (more than one of) both, here is a picture. Gränsfors is a little better. However, the heads on the Hultafors Classics are just as good. The areas where Hultafors Classic is a bit worse are handle finish and the quality of the leather protector, where they are only slightly deficient to Gränsfors. If you have a touch of the hipster about you as I do, you might also be pleased that Hultafors doesn’t seem to do celebrity endorsements as Gränsfors does (likewise Wetterlings). Hultafors Classics should cost less than the equivalent Gränsfors, although Gränsfors has US distribution. Gransfors also has a wider range. Neither are as good as Hans Karlsson or John Neeman (which cost more than twice as much!), but both will last forever.

On that basis, I think Gränsfors is a little better but Hultafors is the better buy. Gränsfors handles are finished more nicely and they come a bit sharper, but use makes them equal as the handles wear and pick up dirt, and as you re-sharpen them. So might as well go with Hultafors Classic if they make the type of axe you need, and if the seller you find has them at about 10% less or more.

Edit, a while later: A little while after I wrote this, Hultafors started officially distributing their stuff in the US under the name “Hults Bruk”. Those have the exact same heads as the Hultafors Classic equivalents (although there are a few new models), the handles are a little different, and they jacked up the prices to Gransfors/Wetterlings levels. So if you like saving money or dislike being pandered to, find Hultafors Classic stuff from overseas. I mean, at this end of the market you’re going to be pandered to, but you might as well try and minimize it.

Hultafors Carpenter Axe, with a straight bevel face, and Gransfors Small Forest Axe, a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none deal.

Moltustulates: A Porcine-Gelatine Love Story

I didn’t necessarily not like the XYZ Da Vinci, but despite its low price I think one would be better off buying something like the Dremel Idea Builder. Technically the XYZ hardware is capable (although it came with a misaligned X-axis), but the catch is that the software is slow and terrible. The hitch there is that converting a 3D object into a printable file is a pretty big job, where good control of nozzle temperature, nozzle speed, infill, print head positioning, and so on needs to be taken into account. And the problem with the Da Vinci software is that it just goes “buddy, that shit sounds complicated”, and skips it.

R. Monkeys was okay with it being right next to the bed for some reason?  R. Monkeys was okay with it being right next to the bed for some reason?

You can use your own software — the free Slic3r or the $140 Simplify3D — although to do so you have to screw around. Likewise, you can use your own ABS filament, not the XYZ cartridges, but only if you screw around. I get that at this point consumer 3D printing is a Sisyphean hobby in which one should expect to screw around, but even for $400 it’d be nice if “You have to screw around!” wasn’t essentially written on the box. I’ll give them the cartridge thing, since I never had a problem with ’em and XYZ has to make money some how, but the software is just the worst, with no profitable reason to be that awful. The printer is a nice unit for a good price, but it couldn’t print a single model downloaded straight from XYZ without messing up a part or the whole. The demo swirly-vase-thing came out as I think it was supposed to, but that’s in the printer’s firmware, not being generated by the XYZ software.

It was a fun thing to try, and practically-speaking it probably requires less screwing around than a lot of other 3D printers, but I just didn’t like the fact that what you’re having to fight is a conscious decision on the part of the manufacturer. It’s like if you’re reading a book, and somebody takes it and throws it on the ground. If that person is a toddler, it’s like, hey, that’s toddler stuff. But if that person is 33, they’re just an asshole. And the software makes the Da Vinci an asshole.

The cartridges are proprietary because XYZ is clearly undercutting other manufacturers on the printer’s price, and wants to make money like HP does on printer ink. But I don’t get why they go to such lengths to prevent you from using other software. You’d think if they got a reputation as a good printer where you can bring your own software, that’d be great for them — they get a good reputation and they don’t have to invest in making their awful software anymore. But they insist on trying to lock you out, so they’re getting a bad reputation and they have to invest at least a token non-zero effort in the software. I don’t get it.

Beehuasset Times and Forp Report

Usually I draw all the dumb crap that appears here and elsewhere with the big version of the older Wacom Bamboo, which I think was called the Wacom Bamboo Create. It does everything I need and I didn’t really want a fancy Intuos or anything, because I’m pretty lousy at drawing so crayons would work just as well. I did want a Cintiq, but $1000 is a lot of money for digimal crayons. I got an original-model refurb Surface Pro for $280 though, and I actually like it a lot. I still wouldn’t wanna use anything but a Mac for real life stuff, but the Surface Pro is a great “SketchBook Pro terminal” in the same way that my gaming PC is a great “Steam terminal”.

 

The hardware feels really nice, the pen aside (I got a Wcom Bamboo Feel stylus to replace the bad pack-in). It’s not as nice as modern Apple stuff, but it is almost as nice. Generally, it’s pretty much exactly what I’d hoped it’d be. Cheap way to get a Wacom pen on a screen.

There are a couple problems. When drawing for a while it becomes apparent that a) it gets pretty hot (although the fans are barely audible), and b) even after calibration, the digitizer accuracy in the corners — say within 1 cm from the edges — isn’t great. Both of these issues are things the Surface Pro 2 goes a long way toward fixing, with Haswell and the newer digitzer… but considering this thing was $280, and the cheapest Pro 2 I could find was that $490 one, I don’t think that either is necessarily a problem serious enough that I’d pay $200 to fix (the Pro 2 also gets solidly better battery life, of course). As far as the CPU goes, it doesn’t actually exhibit stylus lag — that’d be awful (apparently the SP3 with the N-Trig digitizer does) — it just gets pretty warm. SketchBook Pro hits the CPU a lot, and certainly makes my 2013 MacBook Air heat up and spin its fan to at least 60%, so the Surface isn’t alone.

I haven’t done a lot of research, so there may be some trick to calibrating the stylus for the edges that improves things. I did the Wacom driver’s built-in calibration routine, but I’m never really sure about those. It’s the ol’ “tap the target” deal that would be familiar to any Palm III/V user, and I’m always worried that I didn’t hit the target properly, or was holding the stylus funny, or something. Looks like you can at least brute-force Windows into taking more calibration data — the Wacom driver has just four points in regular mode, or 24 in its special “edge calibration” mode. So I’ll be screwing around more with that when I have time, but it’s not super-crucial, since it’s only the edges where the calibration is iffy anyway.

Pretty cool, on the whole, especially considering it’s 2.5 years old and counting. It kind of makes me regret that I’m not a Windows person, at least until the point I have to jump out of SketchBook and use Windows. Anyway, highly recommended if you too are looking for a ghetto Cintiq.

Philips Iris and Bloom

I needed another light in the Philips Hue system, and grabbed an Iris rather than another Bloom, mostly because I was curious about what the difference was. Essentially the Iris is a bigger and somewhat brighter version of the Bloom, with a more designey exterior. It reminds me of an Apple product from 15 years ago, which is a style I like very much. It has the same shortcoming as the Bloom — it can do the full RGB spectrum, but it can’t do the sort of “enhanced” second spectrum that the regular A19 Hue bulbs can. You can get very close indeed using the regular spectrum, though (and the corollary is that the Bloom and Iris can do a much better green than the regular Hue bulbs can). The color reproduction of the Hue and Iris is the exact same.

Otherwise, it’s pretty much what I expected. It’s all-plastic — the Bloom incorporates a glass rim around the bowl’s edge. Given that it’s also bigger and less dense, I would say it feels a little cheaper, but it’s not the sort of thing you pick up a lot, so that doesn’t really matter. The Bloom’s cable routing is also a little more thoughtful in that the cord is made to come out the front, under the bowl, and is easily hidden.

The Bloom is probably better than the Iris for almost any use (the only downside is that it does probably 60% or 70% of the Iris’ brightness), but the Iris is kind of fun looking, so I’ll keep it around.

Un Webelo Gros

I don’t think I’ve written about it on this iteration of m’ website, but I like collecting and restoring old typewriters. If you like disassembling intricate things and cleaning tiny parts, it’s good fun. And oh, the tiny mechanisms to observe. It’s incredibly plain why companies that built these switched so easily to building things like rifles in WWII. I guess the neatest one is the American Expeditionary Force-issue Hammond Multiplex about which I wrote on the last website, which used to belong to my great-grandpa, like so, but they go from the late 1800s to the Selectric II.

Anyway, I thought I’d write about one I found the other day. It’s a 1930 (I think) Underwood. These are generally worthless, because they were cranked out by the millions (one per minute in the ’20s and ’30s). They’re also not really interesting per se, because they were the equivalent of the Selectric, or a beige Windows XP box — they were just the common standard. Sure, Robert Howard had one, but they were what you’d do your crappy office job on. They’re also indestructible, so there’s no shortage of supply (despite what Etsy sellers might think).

Anyhow, I picked it up because it had an interesting parkerized finish, which I hadn’t seen on one of these before, and because sometimes it’s fun seeing what used to be normal. This went into a box in 1959, came out of the box a couple days ago, and hasn’t been cleaned up at all (yet). So, here’s the Toyota Camry of inter-war word processing.

Hmmmm…

Coftaresque

I sold the modified Mac Pro about which I have written previously, as well as the 11″ 2011 Air that served as a sort of tender to it. I replaced it with a 13″ 2013 i7 Air and a two-bay consumer-grade Synology NAS, and the Synology is such a pleasant surprise that I thought I’d ramble about it. However, unlike rambling about putting PC GPUs in the Mac Pro, there’s nothing experimental or new to find out. So, I will caution gentle readers — in a fashion that only a true and certificated Kentucky Colonel can employ — that this isn’t very interesting.

Aside from the extreme setback that a week without a computer posed to the sanctity of my digestion, the switch to the Synology was pretty easy. I backed up 3 TB of things to a USB drive from the Mac Pro and sold it, then I put a pair of 3 TB WD Reds in the Synology thusly:

They’re not hot-swappable, but then I wasn’t planning on that being a necessity anyway. When assembled and turned on, the Synology is fairly small and quite quiet. There’s a 92mm-ish fan that seems to default to a fairly low RPM which is generally inaudible (my Synology is hiding behind a row of books, so there’s some insulation), and the drives don’t exceed 34°C. It’s a nice little unit.

The Synology has two USB ports and knows what to do when you plug a drive in. Unfortunately, it cannot read Mac-formatted drives, so my way of getting 1.5 TB on to it went External drive –(USB2)–> 11″ Air –(WiFi)–> Router/Ethernet/Synology. This took 65 hours.

Once loaded, though, it’s great. Pretty fast, inaudible, etc. However, their software really sold me, and shamed me for having considered a Drobo or LaCie. I mean, really filthy shame. The caning, sirs, the caning. At any rate, their DSM OS is very sporty, and mixes powerful features including but not limited to a selection of BitTorrent clients, any sort of hosting (web/mail/forum/media/etc.), and so on with a graphical joie de nostril that salves those of us who know our way around a command line but feel that extended use of such is for foreigners and the unkempt. Do try their “live demo“. Here are two screen shots of nothing happening, because I am paranoid about displaying it showing anything real.

Although the Synology and the two 3 TB WD Reds cost as much as 650 generic-brand popsicles, I dare say that the result is enjoyable as at least that many popsicles. As Bob Lutz observed, after about ten popsicles the palate is bruised and sugar-worn. So I don’t think 650 popsicles is a great value for money, and thus the Synology is a justifiable expense for anyone who might consider one.

The Haswell Air is great too, but that’s not surprising. It was this or an outgoing 15″ Retina Pro. You can’t really go wrong, when it comes to consumer laptops. I will note that the 12-hour battery life is real and extremely nifty.

My Grande Designée was to ditch the computers that encouraged me to spend time on phatic tasks — that is, the Mac Pro encouraged tinkering, games, and things like that which are fun but relate to the silver box itself, and not extremely rewarding. So this simplification was a pain but for the best, I think. Similar to the new car; it’s not very interesting compared to the last one, but that’s sort of the point.

New Loff

I forgot to ramble about how much I like the 3DS XL.

I bought the original 3DS when it first came out, but sold it pretty soon thereafter, since there weren’t very many games. There’s been a lot of 3DS games out since then, though, and most particularly, there was a new Animal Crossing. So I had to buy the Animal Crossing 3DS XL. It’s every bit as great an object as the 3DS was an iffy one, and the software library is amazing now. It became my favorite way to play games very quickly. And it fits in my bag with all the other preposterous little objects, too.

I’ve become spoiled by high-DPI displays, though, so the screen seems a little bit rudimentary. But, that’s the way it is. Given that the original 3DS is still a thing and still needs to run the software, it wouldn’t be very practical to change the resolution. Anyway, it’s not a big deal.

R. Monkeys didn’t think she’d like Animal Crossing, but it turns out that Animal Crossing was made specifically for her. Taking turns and having one town is no fun, so there was really only one choice…

Ralidox

 photo DSCF0191_zps4ac5d2bb.jpg

Pauvre Ramirez has bought the farm due to defective scrollwheelery. Now there is a new Ramirez with even more buttons. Long live Ramirez.

 

Update: Ramirez has been dismissed. Old Ramirez has returned, triumphantly. Long live the MX Revo.

Elmitroid

I got a Fuji, and a really top-shelf flash for it. I hear this Honeywell is the bee’s knees.

Photobucket

The old camera is a little more pocketable…

Photobucket

…although the Fuji’s screen is bigger…

 photo b320b763-ffa1-4125-ac3a-483765c28156_zpsdf9f4d18jpg

…and its exposure controls are a little more sensibly laid-out.

Photobucket

Overall, the Fuji is just as good as the Fuji I had before, and I think that Japan place is really going somewhere.