40Tech is pleased to present this guest post by Simon Butler from Rental Tablets.
More people buy WiFi-only tablets than tablets with 3G or 4G capability. This is partly because WiFi-only tablets are cheaper; in the case of the iPad it’s £100 (UK) or $130 (US) cheaper. In addition to this, if you want to actually use 3G or LTE on your iPad you’re looking at between £10 to £15 (UK) or $15 (US) a month extra for the data plan. So it’s easy to see why some users would just opt for the WiFi-only option.
However, all is not lost. There are many ways you can make the most of your WiFi-only tablet when away from a WiFi hotspot.
Today, 40Tech is pleased to present a guest post from Donal James.
An iPad without a functioning digitizer screen is pretty much worthless. Unfortunately the screen is a fragile component that is easily damaged. Even a fall of a few feet is usually enough to shatter the delicate glass.
Damaged or broken digitizer screens are one of the most common problems encountered by iPad users. According to warranty company SquareTrade, ten percent of iPad 2 owners reported damaging their iPads within the first 12 months of ownership, with the number increasing to 20% within the first two years of ownership. Many times when the touch screen becomes cracked or broken, the LCD screen beneath is unharmed. If that’s the case, you don’t need a new iPad – you just need to replace the digitizer screen.
My little girl is three. Three-and-a-half, to be exact — and before now, we never had to worry about her putting things in her mouth. I’m not sure what changed, really, but now we have to watch her like a hawk. And we do — but, unfortunately, it was already too late for my iPad stylus. For both of them…
The first one, she chewed on. It was pretty much a write-off. The second one, she decided it would be fun to see what the business end tasted like. Now I’m down two pens. They were the cheap kind, thank the tech gods, but that’s still about $40 down the drain! So I decided: the next stylus will be one of my own making. One that will cost me nothing to make, and that I can easily repair. And thanks to the wonders of the internet, making that happen was easy peasy.
There are several articles on the subject of the DIY touchscreen stylus. The ones that caught my eye were those talking about using a real pen. The basic touchscreen stylus isn’t exactly known for it’s ergonomic feel, so working one up from a real pen seemed like a good idea. I found a few iterations, but the basic concept can be traced back to a video on Make Magazine’s Makezine Blog. All you have to do is connect some light-gauge wire to some conductive foam — which can be found in the packaging of computer and electronic components such as microchips and CPUs — feed it through the empty body of a comfortable pen, and then wrap the wire around the outside, where your hand will come into contact with it. Trim the conductive foam tip to desired size and shape, and voila: instant iPad stylus.
The whole project can be done very quickly, and you can spruce it up a bit by drilling small holes to lock the wire inside the body of the pen, so that you don’t have to use tape. If you happen to have a pen with a metal body, even better. All you’ll need in that case is the conductive foam and you’re good to go! The wire method isn’t so bad, though. It’s not always pretty, but it works.
Here’s a (somewhat blurry) shot of my rough prototype:
I made this on a whim, entirely from things I had on hand. I was able to use the original stylus head for the conductive foam, which was nice — we caught her before she swallowed it. I also used some very light speaker wire (all I had, at the time), and the head of an old 1/4 audio jack to provide support for the tip. It fit snugly into the point of the pen, once the pen’s original head was taken off. Note that the wire is only on one side of the pen. I did that because speaker wire is ugly, and wrapping it all the way around would have been a total atrocity, potentially involving metal splinters. The way I hold a pen would have me almost always in contact with it, anyway, and the next round will be prettier.
Looks notwithstanding, due to the ergonomic grip of the pen, I’ve already found that the DIY iPad stylus is much more accurate than those that are up for sale. I’ll never go back.
Looking for a fun, easy project? Make your own stylus! Then tell us all about it. Post pictures, even!
So I’m in Winnipeg now. Winnipeg, affectionately referred to as Winterpeg, and thought by some (possibly me) to be a window into the truth behind the colloquialism “when Hell freezes over.” Okay, so I’m being a bit dramatic — but it can get freaking cold here in the depths of winter, man! Minus 75 degrees Celsius in the wind isn’t uncommon here. I have no idea what that is in Fahrenheit, but I’m sure you Americans will agree that anything north of Fargo has got to be cold.
In any case, my new location has me continuing my investigation into how to use my tech while freezing my butt off. Previously, I talked about winterizing smartphones, tablets, and laptops. My latest quest has been how to use my capacitive touch screen devices without having to take my gloves off just to answer the phone. And we all know I’m into doing things on the cheap, so we can squash any thoughts about buying those fancy-schmancy touchscreen gloves. It’s DIY or die, baby! This is what I found:
Perusing the Google brought forth three methods from three different, and trusted sites — Lifehacker, Make, and Instructables.
Sewing Conductive Thread
Instructables has a nice tutorial on sewing about a foot of conductive thread into the fingertip of a glove. The idea is to sew just a few close-set stitches (3-5) on the touchy-feely side of the glove, keeping things to about 1/4″ (6mm) in diameter. Smaller is bad, as your iPhone or other smartphone will pretend you don’t exist, and too big will sacrifice accuracy. Why all those inches of thread for just a few, small stitches? Because you want to leave a rats-nest of the special thread on the inside of the glove’s finger, to make sure you get good conductive contact. You may also want to save some for other fingers so you can do multi-touch gestures and the like.
Make Projects has a slightly different take on the subject. They take the complicated sewing out of the equation and shove a brass or nickel-plated snap-fastener right through the fingertip of a heavy glove so it can go clickety-clack on your screen. Now, one might be concerned about scratching or cracking the glass, but if that is the case then I say to you, this: how hard are you tapping your screen anyway? Are you angry? Calm down, guy… seriously.
In a way, this method is more complicated, as it requires more tools than just some thread abd a needle. There is little in the way of precision required here, however, and you get to hit things with a hammer (when you set the snap-fastener’s rivet).
Leave it to a Lifehacker contributer to come up with a clever and cheap (albeit messy) way to get the job done. Easy, too. This method would work better for thinner gloves, I should think, but be that as it may, it’s pretty cool — and there is not even a dream of a pun intended there. All you need here is a little CPU thermal compound rubbed in to the fingertip of your glove, and voila! No fuss connectivity. Well… no fuss until you need to rub some more in — and maybe a bit of increased screen cleaning.
I find myself spending an inordinate amount of time in the soon to be frozen hell that is central North America. This has led me to consider things that, heretofore, I had no inkling about while hanging out on the often wet but nearly always mild Northwest coast. Things like: how to touch my smartphone or iPad screen in the freezing cold weather, should I even bring the damned things out in the freezing cold weather and, oh, what about my tech and the, you know, freezing cold weather? So I did a bit of looking around, and here are the best tips that I found…
The biggest — and most obvious — suggestion was to just never take the things out when it’s truly cold, and to make sure you never forget them in your car. This sort of silliness can lead to cracked screens (especially for the glass ones, like iPhones, iPads, and other smartphones and tablets), and dead batteries. That’s not all, though. Condensation is also a concern. Nothing like little droplets of water forming inside your electronics. That’ll make for a fun and expensive day, yes?
Condensation can form inside your device if you turn it on while it’s still cold. The best advice I’ve found to avoid this is to wait until your toy — or essential life device (ELD) as the toys are fast becoming — reaches room temperature before turning it on. Other management options are to try and keep the things warm in the first place. There are laptop warmers out there, and someone is probably bringing heated iPad cases to market as we speak, but the tried and true option is to keep the device close to your body. This only works if you dress warmly, however — and it really only works for smartphones or little wee-tablets.
If you do see condensation, don’t turn on your device. Wait! You’ll want to check if it’s still working but that is an incredibly bad idea! Instead, stick the thing in some uncooked rice — cover it! — and let that attempt to draw the moisture out. It may or may not work, but it’s your best chance, even if you drop your device in a puddle or something.
The phone doesn’t stop ringing just because it’s cold. You can always purchase (or make) some gloves with removable or conductive finger-tips, but a better option in extreme cold weather is to just keep the thing in your pocket and use a good earbud with inline mic and call answer buttons. Something with music track-changing buttons doesn’t hurt either.
Here’s something I didn’t know: I had no idea that leaving your device in sleep mode can increase the potential for problems and damage in cold weather. I read this on a couple of different sites and, while no one ever said why, they all said that turning off your device completely — at least in regard to laptops and netbooks — is always a good idea before going out into the frozen outside world. Better safe than sorry, I say.
Some sites also advised wrapping your device up in a scarf or something if you have to leave it in your car. If you use it often, this could work, as it will help to keep the device’s generated heat from dissipating. If you leave it out over night — or even for an hour — in really cold weather, however, wrapping it up won’t do a thing. Not unless what you wrap it in has it’s own heat source.
So what do you do to protect your portable electronic devices — smartphones, tablets, laptops, et al — in extreme cold weather?