Lockdown home improvement

Call it what you will, but spending 2+ months in the same 500 sq foot space definitely reminds you a lot about all the little projects you’ve meant to tackle around the house. In our case it’s some very minor, mostly cosmetic electrical work. The TV cable plate has been broken for some time and was improperly sized – it was a 4-port Quickport plate instead of just two that were actually needed and had cabling in the wall, another outlet needed to be covered up because it was too close to the kids play area and the plugin covers just don’t have the aesthetic (even if you can get a rather odd 38 of them to a pack). Finally that bathroom could really use a nightlight…

Let’s do these in order, so the network plate first. There were two terminals in use, the coax cable for TV and an RJ45 port for Internet service. The latter was in good shape, but the cable port was broken before we moved into this place. Helpfully Amazon is ready to ship anything we might need for this project: including an F-Type Quickport adapter, that is the coax cable and a 2-port plate. If you’re in a similar situation, but you need both, you can get this combination pack which also happens to be a great deal. We opted against it, though it was cheaper, just to get what was necessary. If you do get the combination pack, you will need a punchdown tool like this one from TRENDnet, unless you have it already. Once the pieces arrived it was a quick job to get this all connected an installed for a clean look. Another nice thing was this F-type right-angle adapter that made the cable stick closer to the wall.

Moving on to the nightlight, the bathroom already had a 2-gang box and plate used for the lights. We decided to consolidate the switches and to add a separate light. If your wall plate only has a single opening, there is single combination switch with an integrated light. To connect all this together we need wire nuts, the colorful twist tops you might already be familiar with. This one also appears to be UL-listed, which is quite important for safety and home insurance. There is however a nicer, more space-efficient solution from Wago. We used this 2-wire version for the light installation, but they have various sizes available and we ordered several.

Let’s not forget about that blank plate and some electrical tape for good measure, it’s certainly on topic for this list.

Click in for the full list!

Utilitarian bike upgrades

We at shopper-central have been relying on our bikes quite a bit as a substitute for short-medium distance commutes. Not being essential workers and without a direct need to use public transit, the number of miles we’ve put onto the pedals is high! Cycling is a great sport and leisure activity in any condition, but with the pandemic it’s become an important part of our social distancing regime. Over these last couple of months we made some upgrades to the bike fleet and would like to share with you the most-useful ones.

The simple foam grips on the stock handlebars left a lot to be desired. Egron GS1 is a super comfortable substitute and is easy to install. Speaking of installation, if you don’t already have a bike multitool, Crankbrothers M19 is reasonably-priced, compact utility you can carry even around. For carrying, we really like the Topeak Wedge Dry Bag, it attached under the saddle and is a good balance between size and function. It will fit all the ride emergency supplies like that multi tool, a spare tube, a tire inflator, even some snacks. Lately however since we do so many grocery runs on bikes, the Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack also fits, when packed down into its pocket. While 18L capacity is not huge, it does help in case there is overflow from our trusty Chrome Rolltop. Last but not least we really like the Shimano EH500 dual pedals. At below 90$ they are a great deal and let you decide to wear sneakers or cleats depending on the type of ride you’re about to take. If those aren’t available, A530 is similar, but more than double the price.

Here’s the full list.

Working from home, comfortably!

It has been quite an adjustment and we consider ourselves lucky that we can work from home without too much interruption.

Working with laptops for prolonged periods is hard and strains the wrists, so a keyboard and mouse is a must. We swear by the vertical mouse from Logitech, but if you’re more comfortable with a traditional design, there is a great model in that shape too. If you have smaller hands or need to spend less, consider the 2S mouse instead. Logitech has a matching keyboard to go with these mice, but it’s quite expensive and we craved the mechanical key feel. So we ended up with a full-size keyboard from Aukey, great price, great feel, not-bad reviews from your local internet keyboard enthusiasts. In our case, we’ll need wrist rests, for both keyboard and mouse, we figured that taking advice from a game-oriented accessory maker was a good idea.

We debated how to mount the laptop, the external keyboard and mouse were begging for some sort of a stand. In the end we went with the BookArc which is very stylish and sturdy, but then also required an external monitor and a cable to connect it. After several bad experiences with other manufacturers, we got the Apple version of the USB-C cable. Why did we get that cable, well for this very nice high-res LG monitor. It is such a treat to have all this real estate at such resolution!

Finally, we’d need a web-cam since the laptop lid is closed now. Logitech again has the well-reviewed C925 webcam. Prices on these fluctuate quite a bit, so do pay attention. If your work requires higher quality video and your home internet connection can support it, there is more advanced Logitech Brio model on the market as well.

Click for the whole list.

This list is a bit luxurious and some of the items are definitely outside what would be considered necessary, however we were given a small allowance by the employer to set up a remote work space – double-lucky! For that matter, if you’re not completely part of the Apple product ecosystem, the Soundcore headphones are great. They’re even great if you just don’t want to spend the 200+ that the AirPods Pro will set you back!

A new MacBook Pro for actual pros

Apple has finally given on trying to make super slim keyboards work and updated the top-end MacBook Pro with a brand new 16” model. While it may be a while until you can get a slim 100W USB-C charger, we have a list for you with all the essentials. Some fo the items we borrowed from the previous MacBook list. Speaking of previous MacBooks. Amazon is having some great deals on those, and even new models that aren’t quite as fresh are seeing very good discounts.