Category Archives: Reviews

Tactile Turn Mover & Shaker First Impressions

I don’t remember what made me jump on the Kickstarter campaign for the Tactile Turn Mover & Shaker but I ended up ordering one of each. It wasn’t the strange backer video that drew me in so it must have been the pen design. I originally backed the Mover but I added the Shaker at the last minute to make sure I could handle any gel refill my heart desired.

The pens arrived today in these crazy tubes that I absolutely love. I have no idea where he found these but I need a stash of them to store my pens that aren’t safely nestled in their Nock Co cases. I’m serious when I say the packaging almost made me forget how excited I was to get the pens.

Tactile Turn

They both come with a predetermined refill, the Mover with a Pilot G2 .38mm refill while the Shaker includes a Schmidt EasyFlow 9000 ballpoint refill. Neither of these meet my standards but that has nothing to do with my impression of the pens. After all, I purchased these to put my favorite refills in so the fact they shipped with anything is a bonus.

I’m not a ballpoint fan so the Schmidt was replaced with the only option I had handy: a Parker Gel refill which — after playing with it a bit — is almost as bad as the ballpoint. Luckily the list of refills that fits the Shaker is quite long so I shouldn’t have a problem finding something I like.

Dark Blue Shaker

The Mover presents a small problem in that it doesn’t fit my favorite refill — the Uni-Ball 207 — without a little work. The website says “must fill in back space” which sounds easy enough but I haven’t tried it yet. Instead I rummaged around my stash of pens and found a .7mm Blue-Black Pilot Juice to steal the refill from. I hadn’t tried the Juice but I’d heard good things and the rumors were true, this is a fantastic refill.

Let me take a moment to comment on the .38mm G2 refill that came with the Mover. I can’t believe people use these things! I’d compare the experience to dragging a needle across paper and praying ink falls out of it, this isn’t a writing experience as much as writing torture. I don’t understand how anyone can use < .7mm on a daily basis unless they write in ultra tiny letters that no one can read.

OK enough of the commentary, back to the review.

Dark Blue Shaker

My biggest gripe is one that you’ll only run into when changing the refill: there’s something weird about the threading. I’m not an engineer or designer but it feels like the 2 halves could have been better matched in size to make a more exact fit. Maybe the threads are too fine? I don’t know. Often it feels like the halves are about to cross-thread and I have to back them off and start over.

That’s all I really have to complain about, let’s get on to the good stuff.

The click mechanism is silent as advertised and the clip is nice and sturdy. You can actually unscrew the clicky bit and thereby marvel in its simplicity. When the mechanism is off, it also frees the clip from the pen which I suppose could allow you to replace it if bent or broken. I’m not certain that Tactile Turn is expecting to sell these bits but it seems like a very serviceable pen.

Mover & Shaker

I ordered my Mover in raw aluminum color and my Shaker in dark blue and they’re quite striking in this combination. The dark blue Shaker has a nice contrast with the aluminum clip and click mechanism which makes me wish I had ordered a colored Mover as well. If I had a chance to do it again, I’d order a green version instead of the raw.

Now to the part I was most worried about: the patterned grip. Machined pens tend to have a slight roughness which send shivers down my spine if I slide my fingers across them wrong. Imagine fingernails on a chalkboard, that’s the feeling. I assume it’s the micro grooves from machining that cause this and while I’ve learned to tolerate it, I was afraid the patterned grip would be a problem.

Raw Mover

As it turns out, the grooves are deeper than I imagined and are a wonderfully functional addition. I have another machined pen with a smooth section and I’d love to have this pattern machined into it. It’s just so darn grippy!

While I’ve owned these pens less than 12 hours, I’m quite happy with them. The number of refills available should provide me a decade or two of use which crazy considering what I paid for them. Sure plastic pens are cheaper but I’d rather have something more substantial in my hand and these fit that bill.

Tactile Turn is now listing the Mover and Shaker in their shop for $65. I highly recommend them.

Revisiting My Black n’ Red Review

Based on the search terms used to find this site, a lot of you are looking for opinions about Black n’ Red notebooks. Either that or there’s some other Black n’ Red that I don’t know about.

Assuming it’s the notebooks driving the traffic here, I decided to revisit my review from 2009 and see what, if anything, has changed and maybe take a look at the company history while I was at it.

I still use the spiral bound Black n’ Red notebooks on a regular basis, they’ve become a fixture on my desk at home and work. I use them with all sorts of different pen types and the paper never lets me down.

There are rumors the paper changed some time after my initial review. If I recall, they say the paper became slicker, shinier, perhaps less friendly to fountain pens. I dug through my stash of notebooks and found the notebook used in the 2009 review and a more recent purchase. At the very least, the printing on the back has changed.

Black n' Red Side By Side

You’ll notice the branding changes from John Dickinson to Hamelin, a likely point for the paper to change as well. John Dickinson was purchased by Hamelin in 2005 but they seem to have waited until 2008 to change the Black n’ Red covers. The Dickinson era notebooks claimed “Made in the EU” while Hamelin claim “Made in Germany”. Germany is in the EU but who knows whether they’re manufactured in the same place.

A quick unscientific test of rubbing my index finger over a page of each notebook tells me the Hamelin branded notebook pages feel a bit smoother. That proves almost nothing but it’s worth noting. I can’t say I’ve noticed all that much difference using them with fountain pens but others have, specifically with drying time.

A visit to blacknred.com shows they’ve been busy expanding their product line, at least for the UK market. There are quite a number of great looking notebooks and planners available although I don’t think we can get many of these in the States. They have a link for USA buyers but it takes you to Mead.com where they’re branded as Mead Black n’ Red and the selection is the same as I’ve seen in my local stores. The Mead branding is interesting since ACCO (parent company of Mead) and Hamelin are competitors in the office supply market. Maybe someone can explain that to me.

The prices have gone up as you might expect but occasionally you can catch them on sale and when you do, I suggest you grab them. The spiral and casebound notebooks are widely available at Rite Aid and Staples and if I were to hear whispers of their cancellation, I’d raid every store in the area to stock up for the future. That’s how good they are.

We’re blessed with a ton of great notebooks these days but I count Black n’ Red as one of the best you can find without ordering online. Go forth and buy!

Review: Magpul Industries Field Case

I generally don’t carry my phone in a case but when the phone is brand new, I get a little paranoid of dropping it. My iPhone 4S spent some time in a case after I bought it but as time passed, I relaxed and it went naked for most of its life. With the 5s being lighter, thinner, and perhaps a little more beautiful, it pains me to hide it in a case but the fear of dropping it seems more powerful.

After a bit of research, I ordered a Magpul Field Case in Olive Drab from Amazon for $12.95. The reviews seemed positive and the price was hard to beat. Some of you may be familiar with Magpul as the company that makes AR-15 accessories. In fact, the pattern on the back of the case is modeled after their PMAG magazines.

Magpul Field Case

I’m not sure what made Magpul get into phone cases but they seem to know what they were doing. The Magpul Field Case is a semi-rigid slip on case that wraps tightly over the back and sides of the phone. The sides provide a raised lip around the screen so you can set the phone on its face without hurting the glass if that’s your kind of thing. It’s a little difficult to get the phone out of the case but I don’t think you’d want it any other way.

The power and volume buttons are molded into the case, likely because they’d be hard to activate if they were simply cutouts. The mute switch however is a cutout as is the headphone jack, microphone, speakers, and Lightning port. The Apple Lightning cable fits the case with ease while the slightly larger Monoprice Lightning cables are a tight fit. I should note the headphone jack opening works fine for the Apple Earpods and other headphones with similar sized mini-plugs but my Audio Technica M50s have a larger diameter plug that won’t plug in with the case on. I have to peel the phone out of the case when I want to use my headphones which is annoying but I’m searching for a suitable 3.5mm adapter to solve this problem.

The case material is textured enough to give assure a good grip but not so textured that it’s hard to get in and out of a pocket. When the phone isn’t inside, the case is fairly flexible but slide your phone into it and it feels like hard plastic. It probably won’t outperform an Otterbox but it seems to provide plenty of protection. The rear of the case has a large cutout for the camera/flash and sports the Magpul logo and company name.

I’ve been carrying my phone in this case for the past week and while I can’t say I prefer it to a naked phone, the Magpul is as close to the perfect case as I’ve found and it looks great as well. From time to time I pull the phone out and try to carry it that way but it always seems to end up back in the Magpul. For just under $13, I don’t think this case can be beat.

The Cosmonaut stylus

I’ll admit it, I somehow ended up hooked on Draw Something and then, mysteriously, sucked in by Paper. This means I have a lot of horrible stick figures to draw and only my finger to do it with. This simply will not do so I ordered the Cosmonaut by Studio Neat.

I’m going to take a real quick break here and point you at this great stylus comparison by The Verge. If you can’t find a stylus you like from that bunch, keep using your finger.

Let’s get back to the Cosmonaut. This is a different kind of stylus, it’s fat and rubbery and looks nothing like a pen. In fact, the Studio Neat guys modeled it after a dry erase marker, something a bit different from most of the styli you might encounter. I’m sure the size might turn a lot of people away but for me, it’s perfect.

The Cosmonaut is machined from a solid piece of aluminum, coated in rubber, and fitted with a tip that glides over the screen with ease. If you heard “coated in rubber” and thought “I bet that gathers lint”, you are correct. A minor complaint, but a legitimate one nonetheless. At the same time, the rubber coating ensures you keep a good grip at all times, something I can’t say about the other skinny metal styli I’ve used in the past.

As you can imagine, the size + a solid aluminum core results in some heft although nothing major. I do prefer the weight to say the cheap iHome stylus my wife owns even if the Cosmonaut was 5x the price. The tip isn’t as squishy as others and, while not perfectly accurate, it works well enough for my needs. I can see this stylus being more useful in less precision work.

Even with my fancy new Cosmonaut, I can’t draw anything more than stick figures but I still think it was well worth it. For $25, it’s on par with most other styli and it’s made in America. I give the Cosmonaut two poorly drawn thumbs up.

Capturing ideas with Drafts

I’ve always been one of those people who tried to keep all of my ideas in my brain. Obviously that doesn’t work and I ultimately forget the awesome idea I had of a social network for fruit lovers. There are few things more annoying than pacing around my office trying to remember something I thought I memorized; I have to address this bad habit.

Enter the concept of getting your ideas down on paper immediately. Once you’ve recorded the idea on a more permanent medium, your brain is free to jump to the next idea. You can circle back to the idea whenever you wish, whether it be later that day or weeks down the road.

Everyone has a different way to record ideas, some prefer the feel of pen and paper, others like voice memos, and some turn to the smartphone in their pocket. I fall in the latter category as my iPhone is constantly present and it has proven to be the perfect way to record my thoughts.

My current process is to open ByWord or iA Writer, start a new document, name it, and then type my idea. I could save some time by having one single document for this purpose but that’s not my style, I like everything in a separate document. I was trying to think of a more streamlined process when I stumbled on Drafts by Agile Tortoise.

Drafts by Agile Tortoise Drafts is a simple app but one suited to replace my current process completely. When the app opens, it’s at a blank screen, ready to capture my thoughts. When I’m done typing, I can leave the app and Drafts automatically stores what I typed in as a separate note that I can return to later. If I want to capture another thought, the + button will drop me in a new note with no need for a save button.

There’s a whole mess of things you can do with that idea once it’s ready to be shared. You can tweet straight from Drafts using the built in iOS 5 Twitter integration, email it, or copy the text to the clipboard. If you’re a Markdown user, the app will let you preview, email, or copy the Markdown as well.

If themes and fonts are your thing, Drafts has those as well. There are 4 themes and 13 fonts to chose from, nothing ground-breaking but at least you have some choices. It also has built in support for TextExpander Touch and Agile Tortoise’s own Terminology PH.

The biggest problem with Drafts is the lack of Dropbox (affiliate link) integration. I, like most writers who use iOS, have come to rely on Dropbox as a conduit between my writing apps. In a perfect world, I’d be able to open documents created in Drafts with another text editor. Perhaps this feature will arrive in a later release.

Drafts now has a place on my homescreen, ready and waiting for whatever snippet of text I need to save. If you like to capture your thoughts on your iPhone, I’d encourage you to give Drafts a try.

Drafts is available for iPhone/iPod Touch and costs $0.99.