Nextbook Flexx 2-in-1 10.1

So, my tired old TF101 Transformer tablet finally bit the dust last week and I went looking for a replacement. I really wanted something that had a decent display and could act as a laptop replacement if so desired, as I hate carrying my full on (and heavy) laptop around, but would still function as a tablet. Oh, and it couldn’t cost more than $200. Well, while at Wal-Mart, I stumbled across this little gem for only $180. It runs Windows 8.1, so it’s actually a full laptop with a display resolution of 1280 x 800.

nextbook flexx 10.1
Nextbook Flexx 10.1

The keyboard detaches from the screen so you can use it as a tablet as well. It runs Win 8.1 pretty well, considering the limited RAM (2 Gb) and has an SD card slot for expanding the built in 32 GB of storage. There are two cameras on the display half, front and rear facing, that are each 2MP, they’re obviously for video conferencing, you’re not going to be using them to take pictures with. The speakers aren’t bad, located on the rear of the display half, in the lower corners. I’ve found the best way to get good sound out of them is to hold the unit in such a way that your hands redirect the sound forward, but frankly, most people will use headphones.

The Windows App store is a bit light on some things, particularly Google apps, but there are reasonable substitutes for most of the applications I use on a daily basis. The latest version of Internet Explorer is pretty good, I’ve not yet had a reason to install Chrome to get anything to work. So far, the biggest lack I’ve seen is a Metro app for Google hangouts, they work in Internet Explorer, but only in desktop mode. It’s not a real problem, though, I tend to use my phone for those anyway. It will, surprisingly enough, run Minecraft (in desktop mode) well enough that it isn’t unbearable to play, but you still aren’t going to buy this for its gaming ability.

The keyboard isn’t anything to write home about (or with [I’m not writing this on it for instance]), but it is serviceable for light duty. The touchpad is, in my opinion, the weakest link, it can be tricky to click on things, I find myself using the touchscreen or an external bluetooth mouse instead.

There is a micro USB to Go port on the display half, along with a microSD card slot, headphone connector and a micro HDMI connector. There are two USB ports on the keyboard half, but they don’t provide a lot of power, so don’t expect to plug something like a USB hard drive into them without a powered hub in there as well to provide the added juice they need. Speaking of power, the battery so far has lasted me all day, with intermittent reading, web surfing and watching video. The charger is a 5V 2.5A unit with a barrel plug, so you can’t use just any old USB adapter to charge it, more’s the pity. However, finding (or making) a proper USB to barrel plug adapter should be possible.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with the unit, it is somewhat hackable and it should be possible to run Linux on it, which I plan to try in the future. I’m also interested in the possibility of putting ChromeOS on it and running it as a Chromebook. For now, though, I’m going to stick with Win 8.1 and see how well I adjust to it. There is an 11″ version with essentially the same specifications, except for 64Gb of storage instead of 32 and a backlit keyboard. It runs about $50 more, and for me, wasn’t worth the additional cost.

If you’re in the market for a new computer and are on the fence over whether you should get a laptop, or just a tablet, this may be the computer for you. It’ll easily handle basic word processing, etc. as well as web surfing, videos and basic photo editing. It’s not a gaming machine, but it doesn’t claim to be, and frankly, hardcore gamers will spend more on their video card alone than this machine costs, but it is a good all around, everyday use machine that can be used as a tablet or a laptop as the situation requires.

The Bug-A-Salt

Bug A Salt Gun
The Bug A Salt

Tired of houseflies and other pest? Finding your old fashioned fly swatter to be ineffective? No longer get a “charge” out of your hand held bug zapper? Have I got a tool for you! This is the Bug-a-salt, an assault rifle for hunting insects. About the size and feel of a larger NERF gun, it fires table salt like a small shotgun. It’s an absolute blast to use and very effective. You load it up with table salt, cock it, and release the safety. A sight pops up, aim at the offending six legged  critter and pull the trigger. Out flies a bit of salt at high speed that, in the best case, kills the insect or at least shreds its wings, making it an easy target for a second shot. A third shot is seldom necessary. It does take some practice to get your aim down, but, like a regular shotgun, absolute precision isn’t necessary. The best part is, the effective range is about 5 feet, so the little annoyances never know what hit them (if you can’t get within five feet of a housefly without spooking it, you seriously need to work on your stalking skills). It’s effective for most insects and arachnids, although larger insects (like palmetto bugs in Florida) may laugh it off and pull their own weapons.

The ammunition is standard table salt, anything coarser or finer doesn’t work as well. It’s essentially an air gun, so there isn’t any residue other than the salt, in fact, I’ve heard of people using it to salt meat on a grill. Some of the Amazon reviews mention problems with durability, but I’ve had mine for over a year without any issues. It’s gone up in price since I’ve bought mine, it’s now about $50 on Amazon. As for safety, you wouldn’t want to get shot in the eyes with it, but anywhere else just stings a bit, I wouldn’t worry about the kids getting a hold of it, just supervise them when using it. It does leave some salt residue, it’s not a lot, but it is there.  All in all, highly recommended and a really fun way to get rid of pesky houseflies.