Logitech K750 – Solar Keyboard

For the past few years, ever since I got a laptop, I’ve used a laptop stand with a built in keyboard, and although a bit limiting as far as manoeuvrability is concerned, it’s worked quite nicely. It allows my screen to be lifted up, and puts it a bit further away from me, while also giving me a full size keyboard to work on.

It’s not an amazing keyboard but it’s done me quite well, until earlier this year when I upended a cup of coffee onto it. To it’s credit, after I stripped it, drained it, and cleaned off as much of the sticky stuff as I could, it continued to work. But the stickiness is still there, impeding my typing. And so I was looking around for keyboards, but couldn’t find one I liked.

logitech

I knew which keyboard I wanted, it was this one. The solar powered one :) but it was R1,000. And I wasn’t going to pay that much for a keyboard. Ideally I was looking for a wireless ‘island’ key layout, much like my laptop’s keyboard. But I couldn’t find one in I wanted to buy..

And so I resigned myself to sticking to my sticky keyboard. Until Takealot had a daily deal and I picked the same keyboard up for R499, much to my delight. In typical Takealot fashion, they completely over-packed the box, but the keyboard itself comes in a slim box, with only the essentials. The keyboard itself is very thin, but with a surprising weight to it. It has some flex to it, and two spindly legs to raise it, but it all seems sturdy enough.

corner

The keyboard has a nice gloss finish (it even comes with a cloth), with the two ‘large’ solar panels taking up space along the top of the keyboard. The keyboard makes use of Logitech’s unifying remote, and even comes with a small extension for plugging in the back of a desktop PC.

The letters on the keys are in the middle or slightly below the centre of the button, which makes it look odd, but obviously has minimal impact. One thing I am missing straight off the bat, is the lack of wrist rest. My laptop obviously has one, and my laptop stand also had a rather sizeable one. But I’m sure the lack of this will be forgotten in time.

A keyboard, below a keyboard, below a keyboard

A keyboard, below a keyboard, below a keyboard

The keyboard has an on/off switch, assumedly to spare a bit of battery and a ‘light testing’ button, which when pressed illuminates a green or red LED depending on how much light the panels are receiving at the time. The keyboard is also designed to never have its battery replaced. Only time will tell, but that’s obviously why we have the solar panels.

Overall a very nice keyboard that I’m happy with. The layout is ever so slightly larger than my old keyboard, so my fingers feel slightly stretched, but I don’t know if that’s actually true or if it’s just the lack of wrist rest that makes me think that. Now I just need to build a new laptop stand for myself.

Hypothetical what?

I like writing; it’s one of the main reasons I keep this blog going. And I’ve thought I’d like to write a book. But a book about what? I think it’d be amazing to put together a fictional book. But I struggle with this. To me it seems like one big hypothetical situation. And I don’t do well with hypothetical situations.

I’m currently taking German lessons, and often I find it frustrating, because I can make myself understood fairly well in English and Afrikaans, but when I get to German I run out of words quite quickly. That being said, when I talk with my teacher about what I’ve been doing, I can get through the conversations. But often to encourage dialogue she’ll ask me something like: “Imagine you’re wanting to sign up for a gym, what kind of questions would you ask?”. This is difficult for me, not because it’s German, but because I’ve never thought about this situation previously, now all of a sudden my mind is throwing 90% of its focus into trying to think about what’s important when joining a gym, (facilities, costs, opening hours, were the conclusions I came to), and only another 10% in actually trying to speak German.

This makes it sound like I have no imagination or creativity though. Which isn’t necessarily true. I just output these in different ways. But I’m on the verge of convincing myself that I wouldn’t be able write a fiction book. Which to me is a bit sad, because I grew up on a lot of fiction. I read a ton when I was young, during primary and high school. Dropping the ball a bit during varsity but picking it up again more recently. And fiction is awesome. It’s never ending; except for me in that I need someone else to make it up first.

The alternative, non-fiction, isn’t necessarily bad, but then I still have to figure out a topic. Most of what I write here is short stories about small events in my life, and I don’t quite see me getting to the point any time soon where I have an experience, or string of experiences worthy of a book. My girlfriend’s gran recently published an autobiography (From Kitchen to Cockpit by Yvonne van den Dool), a series of stories from her time as a female pilot during South Africa’s relatively conservative 1950s. I’d love to write an autobiography, but I don’t want to wait 50 years to have content to write one.

Then there are non-fiction books covering a specialist topic, but ignoring my masters, I’ve always considered myself much more of a ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ type of person. I like knowing lots of little bits of information. Maybe I can figure out something from that. Hmmm…

So again I’m met with what I assume is most author’s perpetual problem, what should I write about?

xkcd: The Sake of Argument

I love discussing things, having disagreement for the sake of the conversation. I wouldn’t say this is necessarily making things up, but it’s interpreting situations and facts in a way that is most favourable for you, thus the above cartoon from xkcd . Maybe I can write one long argument.

Otter Trail Dec 2014

Last week I got the opportunity to hike the Otter Trail. One of the most well known and popular hikes in South Africa, I was checking the booking website daily several months before we hiked, waiting for a cancellation, and all I managed to get was 4 out of a maximum 12 slots, but I took these with pleasure. During the summer and school holidays the route tends to be fully booked months in advance. If you’re able to go out of season you can get a slot with relative ease.

Mushroom

Mushroom

The hike is about 40km over 5 days, averaging 4 hours of hiking a day. Not the most hectic of hikes, but the four hours a day you do hike are tough hours, with lots of up and down as you traverse the Cape coastline, some sections on the beach and rocks, but majority of the time spent up on the cliffs or in the forests lining the coast. Each night there are two comfortable wood cabins, each housing two triple bunk beds, a counter and two benches. Along with this is a communal lapa, and a flush toilet and cold water shower, both featuring stunning views. Drinking water and fire wood are usually available at all 4 night’s accommodation.

Day 1

Starting weather

The hike starts from the Storms River Mouth camp of the Tsitsikamma National Park, heading down the coast and ending at Nature’s Valley. A car can be left at the De Vasselot camp-site (Also a SANPark) in Nature’s valley where one anyway has to sign out on the last day. Note the start and end points of the hike are on opposite sides of the Tsitsikamma toll plaza, meaning you’re going to be paying that toll a silly amount of times. Map and tide table along with full explanation of everything you need to know are provided to you on booking in at Storms River. The cost for us was R1,010 per person for the hike, and an additional 4 days conservation fee at R42 per day, totalling R1,178 for the 5 days and 4 nights.

Waterfall on Day 1

Waterfall on Day 1

We started on a miserable day and hiked with a constant light drizzle. This was not enough to put off day visitors though and we crossed many in the first hour. Along the route is a cave which holds some interest, but a bit further on is a waterfall into a pool right on the rocks next to the sea. We opted for a short stop and swim here regardless of the weather. Although the hike can be tough, distances are short and there is plenty of time to stop and enjoy the features the hike has to offer. Day 1’s 4.8km (~2h) puts you at the Ngubu hut.

Exploring the Kleinbos River

Exploring the Kleinbos River

Day 2 was free of rain, but still overcast, a slightly longer 7.9km (~4h) takes you to hut Scott. Along the way you cross the Kleinbos River, for us this meant taking off shoes and socks to ensure our backpacks made it across the river dry. If you have the time (which you should) do a bit of exploring up the river, there are some great pools and rapids that you can work your way up for a few 100m.

Camp Scott

Camp Scott

For us, day 2 was also new years eve. The camp is situated at the mouth of a small river, and we celebrated the new year with a bottle of champagne (note: champagne bottles are heavy) as the sun went down and the clouds withdrew. We also managed to glimpse of the hike’s namesake as a family of three Cape Clawless Otters made their way into the bay from the other side of the river. Unfortunately already too dark to get any pictures.

Swimming Day 3

Swimming Day 3

Day 3 is another 7.7km (~4h) along. Jump some rocks to cross the river and you start a long ascent. About half an hour into the hike you’ll pass some rock pools to your left. The sun had finally come out, and we spent a good half hour there. The water was beautifully clear and some choice rocks offer a good platform to jump from. The first obstacle is the Elandsbos river. Although very low when we got there, a lack of rocks necessitates the removing of shoes once again.

Crossing the Lottering

Crossing the Lottering

The day ends with the crossing of the Lottering River. As you come over the hill you’ll see the Oakhurst huts, before dropping down inland a bit to cross the river. Low tide will help with this crossing, we got there spot on high-tide, but placed our bags on our shoulders still made for an easy crossing. There are some nice trees and good swimming places if you feel like taking a lunch break, otherwise the huts are another 20min along.

Voetjies

Voetjies

Day 4 is the big day, at 13.8km (~6h) it is the longest day and also has the infamous Bloukrans river crossing. The crossing is 4 hours from the start of the hike and it is always recommended to be there at low-tide. However previous day’s rain, general sea conditions and other factors can influence the crossing too. Low-tide for us was at 08h10 in the morning. That is early. We decided to go for it in any case, waking up at 04h30 and leaving camp at 05h10.

bo Bloukrans

bo Bloukrans

We were a group of 4, and kept a steady pace to get to Bloukrans after 03h30. A separate group who were hiking the same time as us left Oakhurst at 03h30, getting to the river shortly before us. So we arrived shortly after low-tide, evaluating the situation we were able to take our shoes off and walk across the river, I lifted my bag to my shoulder, but others left theirs on their backs without problem. One of our group had hike the Otter before and was amazed at the state of the river compared to when they had done it previously, and it seams everyone you speak to has a different experience. We were just very fortunate. If you run into problems there is an escape route just before the crossing.

Bloukrans River Mouth

Bloukrans River Mouth

A second breakfast other side of the river and a further two hoursish of hiking put us at the last camp of the hike, camp Andre, at 11h00 with a full day of rest ahead. Amongst other things Andre has the shower with the best view, but is also rather open to the surroundings. Many card games and some reading later put us to bed.

Camp Andre

Camp Andre

The last day is 6.8km (~3h) but besides the initial mean climb, is a rather fast and easy hike. Not much to see along the way, except some stunning views and an ending onto the pristine beach at Nature’s Valley. When you drop down on to the beach there is a route marked out to de Vasselot (I’m not sure how long this takes), but we opted to spend some time on the beach and took the main road back to the camp.

Nature's Valley

Nature’s Valley

We went to bed most nights before 22h00, waking up sometime after 07h00 the next day, usually leaving camp around 09h00. There is no rush in this hike. Relax, enjoy yourselves, stop and enjoy the area. Up-hills can be tough and tiring, but take your time, there’s plenty of it. We were a group of only four fairly fit people, so generally hiked in in a shorter time than the advised times, excluding stops. The other group that hiked had one or two slower people, meaning they took quite a bit longer. use the first day to gauge your speed.

Stormsriver Entrance

Stormsriver Entrance

If it’s a nice day you can spend a bit more time at Stormsriver, go down to the restaurant or the suspension bridge at the mouth. When we got to the camp it was packed with day visitors, but it was still nice to go have a look around.

2014 Mercedes-Benz A200 (W176)

So after saying goodbye to my C350 earlier this year after a short three months, I switched back to my Audi, but last month got my hands on a new A200. Which I’ll most likely be driving for the next year. And it’s nice.

The model I have is pretty much stock. It’s got the 7 Speed dual clutch auto (7G-DCT) (although I would have preferred a manual), and cruise-control, but otherwise as stock as it gets. It does not have a spare tyre, not even a space-saver. Which isn’t great for our roads, but I’m hoping to not have to test out the run-flats in any case. They didn’t have stock of tow-bars when I ordered it, but a Westfalia fold-away-able ball was installed shortly thereafter.

benz badge

The car goes well. Front-wheel drive, with a 1.6 litre turbo-charged engine producing somewhere around 115kw. A good 20 more than my Audi, although it does weigh an extra 200kg, putting it at close to 1.5tons. It still manages a 0-100 speed of 8.6s though and has plenty of umph for overtaking.

The car itself is comfortable. At 6’2″ I fit in quite nicely, with enough space for an equally sized person to sit behind me (although preferably only two people in the back). Manual seat adjustments are adequate along with the steering adjustment, pretty standard on current day cars. I’ll be doing a 1,000km trip at the end of the year so I’ll see what it’s like for extended periods then, up till now I’ve done a 200km trip without hassle.

2015-01-07 19.33.46

Fuel economy is not as good as I expected. Obviously how you drive does affect this. The car only has a 50l tank, which is a bit frustrating for me coming from the 65l in my Audi. Around town I’m usually only getting around 10l/100km, maybe slightly less. If I put some effort into it I can bring that down to 9. This is not necessarily only my driving style, but the type of driving I have to do.

On the open road I managed 7.9l/100km, but I’m quite sure I can improve on that, and will be testing it out again this coming weekend (EDIT: Got it down to 6.8l/100km). This is better than what my Audi got :)

A200 Instrument Panel

In typical Mercedes style, the ride itself is comfortable and rattles and wind-noise are minimal. At highway cruising speeds you don’t notice anything and the car feels like it can handle much higher speeds with ease. With a top speed of 220km/h, it’d be nice to get the car on a track some time.

The steering wheel, radio and much of the controls are straight out of the previous C-Class (204). So I felt right at home. Centre console and armrest are slightly different, with the gear lever now located off the steering column on the right, following the latest Merc trend. This gives a bit extra space for compartments. There are also small compartments in front of each of the front seats, as well as a nice sunglasses pocket by the review mirror which my sunglasses don’t fit in.

keylights

A moderate boot can be expanded immensely by the 60-40 split rear seats, large enough for a MTB bike without its wheels, or large TV. Ski’s may still provide a challenge, alas not one I will face. Climate control is a R7 500 extra, something I didn’t think I’d miss until I started driving this car. It handles well enough, sticks nicely in the corners, although body roll is noticeable at speed. It has a sensor for if it thinks you are driving too close behind someone. A red light comes on on the dash. And it beeps at you if it thinks you are going to crash into them. It has beeped at me many times, not always because of my ‘bad’ driving style at the time.

It’s a nice car. I’m really enjoying it. Visibility isn’t great, but I suspect the car will handle a roll quite well with the massive C pillars. Fuel consumption isn’t as good as I was expecting. I would have to spend more time in the Audi and BMW competitors before I could make a decision, But the ‘new’ A-class is definitely a hit and well up to standard.