Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Vague Legal Threats

Blogging isn't something people do for the money. At least I hope not. Most bloggers quit  when they realize they are basically just talking to themselves. Others quit when they realize that almost nobody makes a living at it, even with lots of readers. I think out of the few people who don't give up at that point, getting their first legal threat makes them think twice. It takes a certain stubbornness to keep going, year after year.

So I think the bloggers that are around for any length of time aren't in it for the money and blog because they are passionate about their subject matter, as I am about flashlights, pocket knives, multi-tools and really anything EDC or outdoorsy. I like what I like and don't like what I don't like and I'm less than shy about it.

Being passionate about flashlights, among other things, of course I would take exception to ads like the T2000 flashlight, which I most definitely think of as a scam. Identical products with different names all using the same product and nearly identical websites with nearly identical ridiculous claims and copied/pasted sock puppet reviews from the same few Twitter accounts, with only the product name changed.

I've always suspected that since these sites are so remarkably similar, that it's the same person/people behind all of these products, and it looks like maybe I'll get to find out, since I started receiving anonymous legal threats in the comment section of the article I mentioned above.

I may be a "dull" hobbyist blogger, but I always say what's on my mind and I'm honest to a fault, and it's all done publicly in blog format. So I don't really see any reason why I should just suddenly lay down because some anonymous person on the Internet makes vague legal threats against me. This isn't my first rodeo.

You had me at anonymous threats <3




Thursday, June 23, 2016

Hugsby XP-2 2xAAA LED Flashlight On Sale

The Hugsby XP-2 is a decent 2xAAA flashlight. I've given away a few as gifts and everyone seems to like theirs. They are a good deal at $8-$9 which I usually pay for them, but $4.89 is even better, so I wanted to do a quick post about it. As always, I receive a small commission from my Amazon links and the prices on everything from China changes all the time.



Notice it says "Coicoinn" but one of the photos clearly shows that it's a Hugsby.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

2016 LED Flashlight Buying Guide -- AAA Battery Models

Introduction


With all the flashlight scams out there, and with so many hundreds of models of flashlights using dozens of different battery types, it's very difficult for the non-enthusiast to wade through it all and choose the right flashlight.

There are so many good flashlights out there, a decent buying guide would be huge. Different people have different needs, so what I am going to do is break these buying guides down by battery chemistry. Your grandma probably isn't going to be using high-powered and potentially dangerous lithium-ion cells, and a police officer or fireman probably isn't going to carry a 1xAAA flashlight as a duty light. Different people have different needs.

And as usual, if you find my work useful, then clicking on the products below give me a small commision and allow me continue my efforts.

AAA Batteries


All of the lights in this post can use either rechargeable NiMH or disposable alkaline cells. Most people who know anything about batteries recommend "low self discharge" rechargeable cells like the Eneloop, which can be recharged about 1,000 times and can hold roughly 80% of its charge for 5 years.

Not only are alkalines a waste of money and bad for the environment, if exposed to swings in temperature while inside your device, they will leak acid, usually destroying whatever unfortunate device you put them in. That's why some people call them "alkaleaks".

In general the AAA battery is not that great of a power source, but it's extremely compact, and modern flashlights using it are very efficient.

1xAAA Form Factor





Flashlights using 1 AAA alkaline or rechargeable battery have come a long way in the last couple years, and are fairly incredible compared to the 1xAAA Maglight Solitaire I had in the 1980s.

Products in this space usually put out anywhere from about 30 to 120 lumens. Many people focus purely on output and miss the big picture. Most of the lights that I recommend have multiple modes where you can have high output for a short period of time or low output for a long period of time.

Having the ability to walk 12 hours in the dark using a flashlight the size of your thumb has definite survival implications. Some people prefer a single mode, high output light, so I'm trying to hit a wider cross section of different models.

The Lumintop Tool is the current high end. This model gives a good balance of features and a good selection of models, from the budget aluminum model to the titanium alloy one with the warm tinted Nichia LED.



Fenix is a well established and respected brand known for quality and reliability. Some people think they are over-priced. The LD02 uses TIR optics like the really high end lights and has the high-medium-low mode order that most people seem to prefer.



Thrunite has always been one of my favorite brands, because they usually put in my beloved moonlight mode, which is great for checking on sleeping children or using the bathroom late at night without waking other people up. And like Lumintop, models like this Ti5 cater to enthusiasts by offering models with a warmer, more pleasing tint, rather than the harsh cold blue tints of most LED flashlights.



Just a simple flashlight with one mode and a simple, "momentary on" tail switch. It's not the highest output or most technologically advanced, but it has a really good reputation for being tough and reliable.



2xAAA Form Factor





Modern LED flashlights using 2 AAA batteries can give you output that's in the ballpark of high-powered lithium-ion driven flashlights, while still using common cells you can find anywhere. Lights in this form factor generally start where the 1xAAA models left off and can go above 200 lumens.

But keep in mind that as incredible as they are, these two-celled AAA flashlights still must obey the laws of physics, and a tiny, high powered flashlight can't dissipate heat very well. So you won't find many products in this space that really push what two cells can do, but that's OK too, because these lights give you much better run time.

With good output, mode spacing and beautiful warmish tint, the Thrunite Ti4 is what I currently carry most of the time. It even has a superb pocket clip.



I've given a bunch of these Hugsby XP-2 models away as gifts and everyone loves them. They feature one mode with a simple tail switch, decent clip and very reasonably priced.



Another good performer and well regarded is the Thorfire PF04. Good price, features, modes, mode spacing, build quality--it's all there.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Review: Walleva Mr. Shield Lenses For Oakley GasCan Sunglasses

It's funny, when I got my Oakley GasCan sunglasses for Christmas about 6 years ago, I never imagined I would end up with a big box of lenses for the same pair of frames. The stock lenses had lasted only about a year, and so these GasCans sat in a drawer, until I started reviewing replacement lenses.

So, what started out as a random choice of frames to try review lenses for, turned out to be what I think is a good platform for testing lenses. I wear my GasCans every day the sun is out, so it's easier to tell the difference between lenses and compare things like quality and performance.

When Walleva offered to send me a a review sample of their Mr. Shield lenses, I was still wearing the purple lenses from my previous review of their products and I've been pretty happy with them.

Walleva Mr. Shield Lenses -- On Model


Product Description


These are the brow polarized Mr. Shield replacement lenses for my trusty Oakley GasCan sunglasses. The polarization and UV protection are important but pretty common. What sticks out to me about these lenses are the hydrophobic protection, and the taper correction, which I've never heard of.

Official Specs (From Walleva)

We proudly introduce our highest quality sunglasses lenses -- Mr. Shield lenses
  • Polarized: remove glare and create high contrast and high clarity vision
  • UV protection: remove 100% of UVA, UVB and UVC
  • Polycarbonate base: meet Z87.1, the impact resistant standard for ballistic eyewear
  • Taper corrected: provide 100% undistorted vision through compensating the curved shape by variable thickness
  • Anti sea water: remain good condition after soaking into sea water for 24 hours
  • Anti chlorine water (swimming pool water): remain good condition after soaking into swimming water for 24 hours 
  • Walleva repel: repel dirt and water, and resist scratches with a hardened oleophobic and hydrophobic layer
The lenses come with some free accessories:
  • A micro-fiber cleaning cloth
  • A lenses bag and a lenses box
  • A pair of T6 screws(some models only)
  • A screw driver(some models only)
  • Walleva Eyewear Cleaning Kit (Mr.Shield Only)

Unboxing


My review lenses came in a nice little box, with a lens cleaner pen. These were packaged much fancier than the last batch of Walleva lenses I reviewed.

Walleva Mr. Shield Lenses -- Unboxing 1

Walleva Mr. Shield Lenses -- Unboxing 2

Walleva Mr. Shield Lenses -- Unboxing 3

Walleva Mr. Shield Lenses -- Unboxing 4

First Impressions


I live in the northwest where it's not always sunny, so I had these lenses sitting around for a couple weeks before we had a really sunny day, and I thought "oh yeah, maybe I should install those lenses."

So I installed the lenses and started wearing them every day. They are nice and dark, and I like that. In fact, they seem darker in person than they look on Walleva's web site. They are so dark brown that they almost look black, and I like that too.

Out of the box they reminded me of the dark Revant HC3 lenses, which at the time was their top of the line. In fact, they seem a little clearer than all my Revants and even my stock, Italian-made Ray-Bans. The Ray-Bans have ridiculous clarity but a green tinge to the lenses, which kind of turned me off out of the box.

It's hard not to draw the conclusion that their taper-correction isn't just marketing hype--that it actually works. And you would have to be legally blind not to see that the Chinese are making huge strides in mass-produced optics.

I was a teenager growing up on the beach in southern California during the 1980s, and the cheap Chinese sunglasses at the time could actually damage your eyes by dilating them and increasing the damage the UV light did to your eyes. If you worked out in the sun like I did, you probably wore USA made sunglasses if you didn't want permanent eye damage.

Overall then, I'd say my first impressions were very favorable: They're nice and dark and super duper clear.

Walleva Mr. Shield Lenses -- Logo Closeup

Walleva Mr. Shield Lenses -- Bag Closeup


Build Quality


These seem to be well made lenses, with no glitches in the coating or aberrations that I could detect with my eyeballs. I do not like logos on the outside of my lenses, but all the high end ones have it. At least I have to strain my eyes almost to the point of pain to see the logo in the top-left part of my vision.

Not doing any formal scientific testing, the best guess I can make about quality comes from comparing these lenses to all the other lenses I have, and putting the sunglasses on my face and going out into the world.

Fit & Finish


Overall, perfect. I don't like giving perfect scores in any category to anything I review, but I just can't find anything wrong with these lenses.

A couple pair of my higher end Revant lenses are really close to this pair in clarity, but this pair leads the pack in fit and finish. The stock USA-made lenses my GasCans came with were awful, but at least they fit perfectly. So, thank you, Walleva, for showing it can be done even though your factory pumps out lenses for hundreds of different frames.

I've looked and looked and even after wearing them every day for a month and dropping them on the ground at least once a day, they look perfect. I don't like etched logos, but the etching at least looks crisp on the left lens.

Another thing I look for is aberrations with the lens coating thickness, color or clarity, and my eyeballs can't detect any issues. It's easier to see problems with mirrored lenses versus these matted ones, but I did scrutinize them pretty well.

Lens Cleaner Pen



I did not try the pen, as I normally just clean my lenses with whatever is lying around: A towel, tissue, my shirt, whatever. But it looks interesting, though, and at some point I might try it.

Walleva Mr. Shield Lenses -- Lens Cleaner Pen 1

Walleva Mr. Shield Lenses -- Lens Cleaner Pen 2


Usability


Even as a computer engineer in the business for two decades, I prefer to focus on the nuts and bolts like usability rather than the specs, much of which are just marketing hype. I've always prided myself on making technology accessible to people and trying to look at it from a user's perspective.

Because of this philosophy, and because I'm a clumsy, oafish brute, I think I'm uniquely qualified to review sunglasses. When I'm away from home, my shades are always with me, either in my pocket or clipped to my shirt or on top of my head.

In my pocket, my sunglasses always rub up against stuff that sensitive optics should never touch like keys, flashlights, tools and such. When they are hooked to my shirt or on my head, they constantly fall off, sometimes landing on asphalt or concrete.

So, I'm in an abusive relationship with everything I EDC, sunglasses included.

Day to day these are awesome lenses for driving and just hanging out at barbecues and such. As the clarity of replacement lenses get better, it's almost like looking through a VR simulator because part of your brain is telling you that reality is not supposed to look this crisp. It takes a while to get used to lenses like these.

Another unexpected consequence of polarized lenses getting better and better: it's almost impossible to see the text on a phone or tablet in sunlight. It used to just be a problem with high end lenses looking at low end LCD screens, but now the high end lenses make it impossible to quickly glance at a text while you're driving. But you probably shouldn't be doing that anyway.

Walleva Mr. Shield Lenses -- Testing 1

Walleva Mr. Shield Lenses -- Testing 2

Walleva Mr. Shield Lenses -- Testing 3
Walleva Mr. Shield Lenses -- Testing 4

Walleva Mr. Shield Lenses -- Testing 5



Conclusions


Being really busy with life and taking longer than I intended for a review is actually good from a testing standpoint. Someone sends me a text wanting to meet for lunch, I grab my sunglasses and go.

Today when I sat down to put my thoughts into words from a month of wearing these, it dawned on me that they had fallen off my head and bounced behind my computer, the phone had rang, and I had forgotten them on the floor. So, I just now picked them up.

As always, time will be the best judge of the quality of these lenses, but so far so good. The purple ones from my last review have held up well, and these Mr. Shield seem to be a step up in quality. My little sister likes these better than the purple ones, for what it's worth. I do believe they are a good value at their purchase price, even if they are a little pricey.