The “HangTime Hook”

For the last couple of months I have been following a project that is been under development over on the Facebook pages. It is initially intended for, and is currently only of real interest to, those who hammock hang. This is the “HangTime Hook”.

I was asked by Eric, the developer, and if I would like to try one out for review. He provided this black unit with the red grips. I have now had the opportunity to take it out several times when I’ve had my hammock up, and I’m very pleased with it.

It is a unit that slides on the ridge line of a hammock and allows you to clamp your cell phone in a viewing position out in front of you. Down the road, it may have other iterations that will allow it to be of use to other folks like tent campers. It is now available for sale, although in a prototype version. Each unit is individually made on a 3-D printer.

To my layman’s understanding, this means that they are possibly not as sturdy as they may be when they are actually cast or molded for full production. I did not find them “flimsy” at all. I actually found it quite sturdy. Not evident in the photo, you can see from the structure up close that there are indeed places where the 3-D layering as it is built up could conceivably cause it to fracture.

      

It comes in two separate pieces… the slider unit for the ridge line, and the screw-on clamp itself. Installation is a piece of cake. You simply unscrew the collar on the clamp, slip the ball into the socket, and screw the collar back down.  The red liners in the jaws give a soft, but firm grip to the phone. No worries about it slipping out and falling free. To mount it, you allow the ridge line to slot into the diagonal groove in the center of the top bar. A quick twist right and left allows the line to then slip up slots into the tube. Once on the line, it can slide easily back-and-forth, but the weight of a phone in the clamp causes it to tilt enough to create a friction belay. [You can also use of rubber band or a ponytail tie as a prussic to keep it from sliding. I heard somebody suggest just using a toothpick stuck into the hole along the line, but that seems like a good way to find a sharp, poke-ey stick lost down under you amid your expensive fabric].

 

The clamp jaws open up enough to accommodate even a full-size cell phone like my iPhone 6+.

Hung inside the cover on my Chameleon

The first night I tried it out by watching 30 minutes of a movie. The “Hook” did everything it was supposed to, and was very viewable. Because the clamp swivels completely, it is just as easy to point the speaker end of your phone right back at yourself to enjoy music as well. It is also easy to adjust the angle both up-and-down as well as side-to-side to match up with your lay and the size of your phone. The only criticism I can really level at it is that weight of the phone means that it does tend to sway back and forth if you move about at all. Once you’re comfortable and lying still, it’s no problem. [It is also no big deal to reach up with one hand and stop the motion].

One nice side benefit I found is that I no longer have to put my phone in a “ridgeline organiser” when I’m ready to go to sleep. It can just stay right in the clamp where it is available for a quick time-check in the middle of the night.

I also found that by turning the HangTime Hook’s clamp 90°, to a vertical orientation, it would accommodate the power bank for my fan just as easily. I had just been using a couple of Velcro straps right on the ridge line itself, however this lets the fan hang much lower, and further away from the hammock sides or netting. Very nice to keep the air moving on a hot summer night.

 

I have to admit that this is a niche product. Not everyone is going to feel the need for one, however, I think that there will be enough people interested to create a market. Personally, I’m not somebody who is likely to spend a lot of time watching movies in my hammock. Music, that’s another story. I can also see it being nice to be able to put on a slideshow of the photos you’ve taken that day for review. Using it for things like the fan, or as a clock, that were not originally intended is also a nice side discovery. It does what it’s supposed to do pretty darn well, and all in all, I can’t find any real things to complain about other than the side sway… That’s pretty minimal criticism.

Prior to Eric’s offer of a unit of my own, I had already seen the HangTime Hook in use at other hangs. The people who had bought one seemed to be fairly well impressed with their units as well. They are starting to be seen and talked about other than on FB. It will be interesting to see how many I notice at the next hang in a couple of weeks down outside Boston.

 

DISCLAIMER: the unit shown and reviewed was received by the author for that specific purpose. When the review unit offer was made I was already at the point of purchasing one, on my own, for my own use, for full price. Eric knew that I had a blog and occasionally reviewed items, and his only request was that I would commit to reviewing the unit. No opinions expressed in this review would have been any different if I had purchased the item instead of receiving it.

 

More info at:

 

YuHan USB LED RGB Rope Light~ 5ft. Review

A couple of years ago I followed the LumiNoodle Kickstarter, which was successful, and which went on to become available as a retail product. Like almost all appealing gadgets these days, it has now been cloned. I picked this “YuHan” branded clone up on Amazon for $15. The identical unit is also available from other distributors. While it does not have the remote control the multicolor LumiNoodle unit has, it comes in at less than 50% of the price.

The RGB, of course, stands for red/green/blue… This is a multi-color unit, and it does have 20 different colored light “models”. Any color can be displayed as either static or dynamic, and including the multicolored cycling, there are 20 different modes of flashing and glowing.

     

Completely waterproof and flexible, the rope light comes packaged in a nice white drawstring bag, and includes three noodle-bead ties to strap it to lines or objects. The three blue slides are also magnetically enabled if you want to slap it on the side of a car. The modes, colors, and cycling are all controlled from the three-button widget on the line itself.

 

There are five levels of illumination for each color in the static modes, and five speeds in each dynamic. At the brightest level, it produces a very large amount of light from the 60 LEDs. Personally, I find the lowest level of the most rewarding.

Nicely, the bag also acts as a diffuser if you want to use it more as a lantern.

 

 

 

 

I paired mine with a five dollar “lipstick” powerbank from FiveBelow° that is rated at 2200 mA. It ran for over three hours last night without dimming.

I figure to try powering it up again each evening until the battery gives out. That should give me a good guestimate of my total burn time, but I don’t expect it will give out in a couple of hours of use each evening on a weekend camping trip… I plan to use it as a ridgeline light inside my hammock bug net.

 

Nearly everyone in my hammock and crowd has some kind of party lights rigged on their hammock. Not only are they kinda fun, but when you have 20 or 30 hammocks hung up in the night woods, it’s difficult to figure out which one is yours after full dark. One friend, who is a former airline pilot, had a landing light strobe hung on his last weekend. I found most of the ultralightweight wire type lights flimsy and too likely to break, and I had no interest in the ones that are shaped like plastic hula dancers or jalapeno peppers, so this it a lot more to my liking.

Fits the 90%/50% criteria, seems sturdy,  as long as the battery life is decent, I’m going to give it a shot the next time we have a group hang.

 

[Edit~ I ended up getting right at 9 1/2 hours of total run-time for the YuHan Light Rope utilising both static and dynamic modes… and this was with only the one full charge on the 2200mA. cheapo battery. That should be plenty for two or three nights camping. I highly recommend this one!]

Cooling Breezes

Last August down outside Andover, Massachusetts at a group hammock hang, we had temperatures in the 90°s and extremely high humidity. It made for really uncomfortable sleeping… Heck, just hanging around was HOT!

Our friend, R3l@x had kludged up a half dozen computer fans powered by 12v batteries, and gave them out. They were kinda wonky… you had to wrap a wire around one of the terminals to turn them on, but they were a lifesaver in the August heat. I got this little fan sometime/somewhere last fall, remembering how hideous the heat was in our rigs down at at Harold Parker SF and wanting a nicer, more convenient, solution.

This one runs off of a USB powerbank.

I also picked up a “gooseneck” m-f USB cable, so I could focus the breeze where needed.

I turned it on yesterday at 4pm powered by this small Choix charger. Running non-stop, it just gave out at 8:25pm… GoalZero claims 5 hours on their own charger, so that is not bad. The Choix is older tech and not all that powerful. It’s like a charge one cell phone once unit.
The fan moves a lot of air and, while you can hear it hum, it is very quiet. You can feel the breeze from over three feet away. Hung on a hammock ridgeline or in a tent, you should definitely get some relief from the heat.

One speed. From GoalZero. Looks like it will do the trick.
I’m going to try it out tomorrow on a newer powerbank and see if I get a longer run, but this is pretty satisfactory.

I checked on-line, unfortunately REI is not stocking ’em anymore. I think that was where I got mine. You can still find ’em on Amazon, but they are getting a bunch more than I remember spending. The gooseneck was 4$ on Amz.
If you are looking for a more low-cost [90%/50%] solution, Amz has this alternative, too>> https://www.amazon.com/ARCTIC-USB-Po…498MG732WQG84A

[After a bit more poking around online, it appears that GoalZero actually has them on their own site for considerably less than Amazon…]

Fidget Cube : Fidgetively Speaking [2]… Conspiracy Theories

Because I had a lot of fun writing yesterday’s post, I thought I would continue to diverge from my usual offerings on here and indulge in some of the internet’s favorite claptrap…. Conspiracy theories. Those evil possibilities and perhapsifications about why you could get such cheap knockoffs before even the most optimistic Antsy Labs shipping guesstimates… and why you haven’t gotten your cube yet.

This is, of course, mostly for the benefit of those deeply disturbed people with too much time on their hands [like me] over on the Fidget Cube Kickstarter “comments” page who want to hash over every info-bit and nuance concerning “their Precious”, and obsess over their “backer numbers”. The rest of the world doesn’t give a rats ass.

So, conspiracy fans and Fidget Cube fanatics… what if :

  • Maybe Antsy Labs had already finished their R&D and had prototypes all ready for production in hand before they established the Kickstarter. “Hey, guys! I just realized we could set up a Kickstarter and sell a whole bunch of these for three or four times what we were thinking of wholesale! We are ready to go, so why not make some quick buckaroos off of a bunch of naïve patsies? We get all that money before we even go into production. Hookers and hot cars, here we come!”

I don’t think this one has legs. I truly feel that the boys at Antsy Labs, Mark and Matthew McLachlan, had completely good intentions. If they were actually this greedy, I don’t think their initial goal would’ve been a measly $15,000. “You might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb” as my old social studies teacher once told us. Do the math. At $20 each, they were only looking to produce 750 cubes total. This just ain’t your classic “fuck-you money”. I think that they hoped they would make enough of an nut to get into production, and then move on to ordinary sales at whatever price the market would bear. A number of folks would get their Fidget Cube early on, and hopefully talk it up… Just like every other Kickstarter. Instead, their campaign got picked up by every geek blog on the Internet and ballooned to $6 million almost overnight. I believe the simple truth is that there was no possible way that they could foresee that the project would be so overwhelmingly received and they were quickly overwhelmed by the logistics they faced.

  • $6,000,000 + KS buckaroonies in hand, maybe Mark and Matthew sent their prototypes out for bids to the Chinese manufacturers, or set up small production runs to look at QC and any possible changes that might be needed. The manufacturers, seeing a good thing right under their greedy little fingers, did the fairly commonplace Chinese piracy thing and slid a mess of these out the side-door into the secondary market. Clones on the march… and on the market before Antsy Labs had even determined their final design.

I’m pretty much okay with this one. It covers why there are visible design changes in the clones that people have posted, the Chinese manufacturer’s willingness to indulge in fakes, product piracy, trademark violations, etc. is an established fact, and it fits with what the self-admitted Chinese pirate “Jack” related in his interview.

  • Holding that second theory in hand, and returning to real conspiracy, a corollary possibility is that Antsy was culpable in the release of these “seconds” to the open market. They had made their bundle once their Kickstarter campaign had concluded. Our money was already in their hands. Anything beyond that could be viewed as gravy. “Why not make a little extra dough? It’s not like the supporters won’t get their reward…eventually. Heck, some of them might even buy one of our “fakes” out of curiosity before they get their genuine cube… especially if we slow down our shipping to the poor schmucks. Even a wholesale price is real money at this volume.”

Again, this is a little bit more Machiavellian than I think these guys really are.

  • Finally, there is the perfectly plausible answer that the guys at Antsy Labs got had. They didn’t apparently patent their design before moving toward production [if that was even possible given that the Fidget Cube is merely an assemblage of standard, existing parts, and not something entirely unique]. As already mentioned, Chi-clones of everything from video games to handbags is an established fact. Probably “Jack” and the rest of the guys in Shenzhen just plain, out-and-out, stole their design, rushed it to market [without AntsyLabs desire to refine the features to the n-th detail], and made a bundle.

I suspect that most of us can fairly easily believe that this is the most likely possibility. With the ridiculously low cost of Chinese manufacturing, even meager wholesale profits amount to crazy money over there. That guy “Jack”, scum bag though he may seem to us, is a very wealthy man by local standards.

Any of these may, or may not be, why you can get a cheap clone and you haven’t had your Cube show up in the mailbox yet. Regardless of anything concerning piracy, clones, conspiracy and the like, the job that Antsy Labs faces in delivering something around 300,000 fidget cubes to all the legitimate backers is pretty daunting.

Now… “Why you haven’t gotten your cube yet”:

You are an impatient bugger who has not read the updates, and/or has failed to realize that this whole process is now entirely out of both Antsy Labs and BackerKit’s bloody hands and has been outsourced to a number of localized distribution centers peopled by minimum wage minions who don’t give a rats-ass whether the cubes are stuck to the goddamn sticky pads or whether your precious plastic box is cracked. Your holy “backer number” doesn’t mean shit to them. Count yourself lucky if-and-when your cube comes that it is in the color you ask for. You will get it when you get it… if you’re really lucky you might even get a shipping notice. The clones and the genuine units that have already shipped have at least proved that the Fidget Cube is worth waiting for. The fact that some ripoff artists made something available for cheaper doesn’t change the fact that each and everyone of us bought into paying $19 plus shipping for our cubes when we subscribed. Chill out.

[BTW: I won’t be doing/taking any “comments” here on this Fidget Cube posts… Take those back to the KS page]

Fidget Cube : a Kickstarter… Fidgetively Speaking [1]

Before even starting one thing leads to be made completely clear:  Kickstarter projects are not an investment. You are supporting the development of an item by making a contribution. It is not an investment, and there is no guarantee of return or profit. The item you may receive is a reward for that support and not a purchase. You only get a “reward” when and if :

  1. The project is funded beyond the level set out in the offering
  2. Development is successful
  3. Sufficient production is practical
  4. Distribution can be arranged

Any time line suggested is tentative at best. Few Kickstarters are ever concluded and shipped within the devs original hopes.

There is a lot of curiosity, and controversy all over the web now concerning a new Kickstarter funded toy called a “Fidget Cube”. Back in late summer 2016, Antsy Labs, [brothers Mark and Matthew McLachlan] opened a Kickstarter for the Fidget Cube; something they called a “vinyl desk toy’. It was offered as a reward for supporting the development with a contribution $19 and a hoped-for shipping date of December ’17. It took off like a rocket. They were hoping for $15,000 as an initial pledge. Within a few days it had raised several million dollars, and when the campaign closed they had topped $6,000,000!

[for an over view, here is a good link that was posted soon after the campaign opened >> https://www.appleworld.today/blog/2016/9/9/fidget-cube-a-low-tech-creativity-tool-makes-it-big-on-kickstarter ]

So now we arrive at the threshold of controversies. The project had grown overnight to a size, and complexity of execution that they had never anticipated. In one of their early updates the brothers admitted that they had intended to handle shipping by asking some friends over for pizza and beer. 300,000 units was going to make that very impractical. They were in possession of a huge amount of money since Kickstarter releases the funds as soon as the offering period is over.

I do not believe that anyone who backed the project doubted the brothers good intentions. However, something got fouled up and this is the first time I have been aware of a Kickstarter where pirated clones reached the market before any of the genuine units had become available… And these clones reached the market in almost unlimited quantities. Just search “fidget cube” and you will find them for sale on everything from Amazon to eBay and WalMart, and from storefront Hong Kong discounters to mom-and-pop sites.

There are now [Feb. 14th] nearly 20,000 comments on the Kickstarter page for the genuine item concerning everyone’s frustration. Mostly these revolve around the fact that the cubes that they “purchased” have not yet been delivered by the date “promised”, and that they could have “spent” less money, and already have a toy in hand. Unfortunately, far too many of these folks simply have no realization, or understanding [set out above] of how Kickstarter projects operate. That said, the gang at AntsyLabs haven’t done themselves any favors with the sporadic nature of their updates, and those update’s sparsity of any real facts. I suspect that those comments would’ve been reduced by two thirds if Antsy had simply put somebody in charge of responding in real time right there on the comments page. [that they could’ve gotten somebody for $15 dollars an hour]. 

My observation is that people who get involved with a Kickstarter would like to be kept in the process loop. Give them the fact that “the original material did not have the texture that we wanted”… “the frim-fram did not fit inside the widget-tater correctly”… “the overall quality of the prototype was not high enough”… That’s all they want. Keep them up-to-date, and give them some actual information. DON’T try to parcel them off with vague, unfulfilled promises, and cutesy gifs. AntsyLabs failed on this and the 20K comments show it. Worse, the unanswered suppositions and unfounded rumors simply fuel those few real trolls to keep everyone upset.

I doubt that anyone will ever find out exactly why so many pirated/cloned units came to market so quickly. It is entirely possible that the developers naïvely trusted their design to a number of manufacturers on a bid basis to determine a “Goldilocks factor”. One or more of those partners may have proved to be less trustworthy than the brothers hoped, and all too eager to sell those prototypes in the secondary market. It does seem that the brothers have still failed to acquire a patent, or even patent pending status for their cubes. I am not sure they have even copyrighted the FidgetCube name.  This may be due to the fact that the “FidgetCube” is actually only an assembly of pre-existing parts that are widely available, and widely used in other items.

Whatever their source, the clones are pretty obviously nearly identical to the prototypes represented in Antsy Labs original offering on Kickstarter. There are several versions of them that I have seen offered for sale and each differs slightly.

  • There are differences in the size and shape of the joystick. Some of those include a click feature, and others don’t. [one of them seems to have a casting bump in the center]
  • The ball bearing seems to vary in size on different units
  • The little click-wheel luggage locks may or may not actually have tactile feedback
  • The “Domino” buttons may or may not click… all or singularly
  • The circular spinning wheel seems to have a lot of “freedom of motion” issues [this is being recorded even by those who have received the genuine FidgetCubes that are finally shipping]
  • People have reported a difference in the cube materials.
  • Some of those domino buttons are rubberized, and some are hard plastic

In additions to the differences many of those who have tried the clones have also reported that there is a far more subjective difference in the cubes. Some people might want the click wheels to “click” and others might prefer they didn’t. It is pretty obvious that no matter the success of the Kickstarter campaign, not every backer is going to be satisfied in the final production item. Unfortunately, this is the nature of participation in a Kickstarter. You get what you get, when you get it.

[I will plan on updating this post once I get my own cube, and, perhaps, have a chance to compare it to some of the “clones”]