Archive for November, 2013

Super-MagicstickWe’ve all been there…experienced that sinking feeling when the battery icon turns red…the warning message pops up…the device is about to die.

Smartphones have become indispensable accoutrements to modern life and battery drain a debilitating, front-of-the-mind anxiety.

Apps like Carat can help gauge where power is going but no matter how much you manage performance there are always times when a portable top-up can come in handy.

There are plenty of devices to choose from and the decision over which one to buy will come down to a trade-off between price, weight, size and performance.

For the past week I’ve been trying out a Super Magicstick 2800mAh supplied by Powerocks and it’s a good all-round compromise.

It’s about the size of a glue stick so small enough to pop in a pocket, comes in at 2.6oz so won’t weigh you down, and is claimed to be good for two full charges.

That might be possible by switching to airplane mode to ease power demand and give a quicker boost, but the penalty is paid in time off the grid. Real-world use suggests most people will use it for partial top-ups between mains outlets rather than for full charges.

Either way, it’s great to have on hand if you’re shooting video clips, taking lots of pictures or using mapping/navigation functionality.

For mojos (mobile journalists) a portable power supply that’s simple, versatile, light and inexpensive makes it an essential piece of kit.

The Magicstick comes with a micro-USB to USB connection cable and has a three-stage LED indicator to indicate the range of remaining available charge. The recommended retail price is $49.99 but a quick skim around Amazon reveals that they can be had for much less.

If you’re looking for a gift idea for someone who’s hard to buy for, or stocking filler for Christmas Day then this Powerocks portable charger might be just the thing.

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revenge of geographyAt times in this book I felt like I was reading a bad doctoral thesis. At others I could imagine myself sitting alongside the president at a White House intelligence briefing.

The early chapters were a dry-as-dust slog, all very scholarly with references to Herodotus and geopolitical thinkers from way back when.

But without access to ancient maps of empire and their shifting boundaries it became a quagmire of geography, history and politics which hindered progress and sucked the life out of the topic.

Plodding on, with frequent forays to the dictionary for explanations of big words where small ones would do, persistence was rewarded with broad and readable overviews of Russia and China’s outlook on the world.

You won’t find any analysis of the personalities and leaderships involved, which seems like a bit of an omission, but you do come away with a sense of the abrasions of history that drive the countries’ decision-making.

Kaplan keeps his most interesting, and controversial, opinion to the final chapter on Mexico. It is here, rather than Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, that the US should concentrate its energy, he believes.

By 2050, he says, up to a third of the American population could be Hispanic and, since US foreign policy emanates from within, the northward movement of Latin Americans will affect it profoundly.

He underlines the growing demographic and economic performance of Mexico and Central America “with which the US has an inextricable relationship” and quotes Arnold Toynbee on border issues:

“A border between a highly developed society and a less highly developed one will not attain equilibrium but will advance in the more backward society’s favor.”

Whatever decisions are taken on the southern border in the years ahead, the future character of the US in the 21st Century will increasingly be shaped by the people of Mexico.