Tech Toolbox: Etekcity Roverbeats T3

I will never be able to truly consider myself well-versed in technology; very few people have seen it all. But I do love searching out the best I can find, and once I find it, I stick with it. In my Tech Toolbox I share my favorite software, applications, and occasionally gadgets.

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Portable speakers are on the rise these days, and for clear reasons: mobile devices are everywhere, Bluetooth is incredibly convenient, and you need to have sufficiently loud music to share with your friends anywhere, anytime, right?

When I decided to get a portable speaker, my requirements were these: it couldn’t be too big, it couldn’t be too expensive, and it had to have both Bluetooth and jack capabilities. Volume buttons and audio track control were bonuses.

Upon starting research, I guess I was [uneducatedly] surprised to find that everything was quite expensive and many speakers were as pill-shaped or even bigger (to me, the portability and convenience start to be sacrificed here). Eventually, I found a category  of ‘mini-speakers’ that were between 20-40 dollars and had some amount of functionality. I was looking for something small, therefore, I could not have the highest sound quality ever, but I was fine with that.

Eventually, based on prices and features, I decided on the Etekcity Roverbeats T3. It satisfied all my basic requirements–it doesn’t include phone pickup or a microphone or anything, but it has everything that I outlined above. A close second place was the T16, but I believe the prices were different when I bought it (I sacrificed red for economics). The T16 still looks like a fantastic option and if I ever need a replacement, I would heavily consider it.

The T3 comes with:

  • Speaker
  • USB to mini-USB charger cord
  • Male-to-male 3.5mm audio jack cord
  • Drawstring storage bag

There’s always some amount of uncertainty when buying technology online, what with trying to filter through reviews to see whether something is worth it or not, but in my experience, I have learned that only those who have a fantastic or absolutely dismal experience with a product really bother to write reviews. Therefore, I would say to take reviews one reads with a grain of salt.

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How it works: I have been using this speaker for about a year now, and it works fantastic. It is very loud (it is challenging to play anything softly on it). It is very simplistic and small and serves the purpose I wished, so I couldn’t say there is much wrong with it. The volume buttons are not functional on cord mode, but work with Bluetooth. I enjoy the rubber grip around the outside as well as the grippy ring on the bottom to ensure anti-slip. Battery life is long enough for me–I haven’t had it run out on me yet, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t used it longer than 6-8 hours straight before. Both the Bluetooth and audio cord methods both work well–one note to make is that Bluetooth is considerably louder; wired connection doesn’t/can’t play as loud.

Due to its size, of course the sound quality cannot be the greatest. As it gets louder, there is a bit of distortion and the bass can get lost. However, I have never been listening and thinking, “well, my speaker doesn’t sound good.” It delivers without disappointing.

It is to be noted that although the shape of the speaker is very bulky and strong, it isn’t made out of very tough material; besides the rubber grip around the middle, the frame seems to be made of plastic. I have dropped it once, and now there is a dent on the rim, but use it and love it, you know.

If you don’t have too many expectations for a portable speaker, I would recommend the T3. I like it for its small size and simple power, achieved without dishing out for sound. I mean, my sister has already piggybacked off my assiduous shopping and bought the same product.

Tech Toolbox: Etekcity Roverbeats T3

Leisure Literature: The Underground Railroad

When I can find extra moments, there is always a list of books I want to read. Some I anticipate for months, some for years before I find the time to get to them, and some of them live up to the hype and some don’t. Leisure Literature is a book review column that details my thoughts on my recent readings.

I saw someone reading The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead on the plane, and apparently I had unconsciously heard of it before. I put it on my Goodreads list and did some more research; apparently it was one of the big hits of 2016. By chance, I walked into my school library one morning and saw it on the featured shelf, so I checked it out. (Sidenote: The librarian told me I was the first one to do so, hooray.)

The initial “appeal point” of this book was supposed to be that the Underground Railroad is, in fact, a underground railroad. However, the book is much more than that. Cora, a slave on the extremist Randall plantation makes a harrowing escape through many different locations, experiencing basically everything America has to offer a black person during her time. Each place has a different lesson for her as she seeks freedom, all ultimately pointing to the fact that there may never be true freedom.

Somehow, I read this book at an extremely timely point during school and life in general; I am in both US and World history at school, and we were not only talking about the treatment of blacks, free and otherwise, in US history (N. Carolina), but also the Atlantic slave trade in World (S. Carolina). Even Mingo’s policy (Indiana) reminded me of Trump’s policy towards the refugee crisis. Even though The Underground Railroad is technically fiction, it really supplemented my history classes in school, and my history classes supplemented reading this book.

Some of my favorite things: the different perspectives (Stevens, Mabel, Ridgeway, etc.), the way Whitehead was able to write Ridgeway so dreadfully fearsome (I legitimately jumped each time he appeared), the wide range of characters and opinions, the difference between slow and fast and how it’s interesting regardless of pace, leaving parts of the story unexplained and coming back to it later, and how tactfully death and the gruesome are easy to read and passed over as nothing (because that’s all the room for sensitivity people had back then).

I think it’s an interesting side discussion to talk about whether historical books like this that truthfully document how racism has worked in the past contributes to the subconscious racism many Americans experience today, or if it is a necessary insight into our past. I don’t deny that it is important to learn how we used to be, but I wonder if that unintentionally contributes to how we are now (rather than its ‘intended effect’ of motivating us to be different than we were).

Overall, The Underground Railroad is really well-researched and touches on so many different aspects of the history of African Americans. I looked forward to reading this very much each night with my scant bit of spare time, which tells me that it is a good book (even though I can’t exactly pin my finger on why). I can sense that there is even more to glean from this book if I read it again.

Leisure Literature: The Underground Railroad

Around Cubes: Fangshi Shuang Ren Review

Rubik’s Cubes are on the rise again within the new generation. Speedsolving and twisty-puzzle wrangling are becoming more commonplace hobbies. To help you keep up to date, I detangle this seemingly impossible puzzle for you in “Around Cubes”.

The Fangshi Shuang Ren is the third 3x3x3 I’ve owned, one of six working 3x3x3s I own, and the first speedcube I’ve owned. Ever since I got it approximately a year and a half ago, I’ve been using it out-of-the-box and it’s proven itself to be a sturdy option.

My Fangshi, scrambled and looking photogenic and stuff.
My Fangshi, scrambled, and looking photogenic and stuff.

I have the Fangshi Shuang Ren v2, and I bought it assembled from Amazon. I have not lubed or tinkered with the tensioning. Here’s a rundown of what I think of it.

  • Construction: The Shuang Ren is built differently than other cubes; unlike many, which have 20 corner and edge pieces which intertwine into a six-centered core, the Fangshi has corners and edges that are locked into a core, without stickers, or faces to affix the stickers to. Instead, the stickers are put on piece caps, separate pieces altogether, that are inserted onto the cubies. No doubt this is an unusual construction, but there is no particular disadvantage to this method of building a cube.
  • Durability: The plastic is not a particularly hard one; it looks and feels like a soft one. Nevertheless, my Shuang Ren has only received a couple nicks in a year and a half of heavy use. The stickers are not in “new” condition, but
    On the left is the most battered face of stickers on my used cube, which has seen perhaps two thousand solves. The right cube is practically new, having experienced perhaps ten solves. There are subtle differences, but for the most part, the used stickers are in great condition.
    On the left is the most battered face of stickers on my used cube, which has seen perhaps two thousand solves. The right cube is practically new, having experienced perhaps ten solves. There are subtle differences, but for the most part, the used stickers are in great condition.

    they look much better than many stickers would look after perhaps two thousands solves. In terms of physical durability (rather than performance degradation, which I am terming “aging effects”), the Shuang Ren does notably better than other cubes.

  • Aging Effects: Out of the box and new, the Shuang Ren has a very smooth, paper-against-paper feel. Over time, however, it does become considerably less pleasantly-textured, feeling more like other cubes with a normal feel. The insides of the cube grind together a lot, creating plenty of plastic dust inside (everywhere inside, I might add!). This contributes to the loss of that paper texture, as well as hindering performance a bit (less fast in turning speed, and less smooth corner cutting).
  • Handling: The Shuang Ren is a very easy-to-handle cube, but depending on previous experience with other speedcubes, some people may find it too fast. Another review has claimed that they had problems with frequently
    I've taken some of the piece caps off here; if you look carefully, you can spot the tons of dust that is not only cropping up between cubies, but inside them as well.
    I’ve taken some of the piece caps off here; if you look carefully, you can spot the tons of dust that is not only cropping up between cubies, but inside them as well.

    overshooting turns, although I’ve personally never found the handling hard. Something to note is that, especially when it’s old, the cube is noticeably harder to control when the plastic is physically cold (rather than warm).

  • Turning Speed: To be honest here, I have very little variety in experience with other cubes, but the Shuang Ren seems to be up to par in turning speed. At the very least, there is no resistance when I take it as fast as I can go.
  • Corner Cutting: The corner cutting on the Shuang Ren is satisfying; for “outwards” corner cutting, it can make up for just less 30 degrees of misalignment at the maximum (although I don’t recommend that much inaccuracy while solving). In the face of top-speed triggers, the Shuang Ren has never stopped from doing any outwards corner cutting that I want to. On the other hand, “inwards” corner cutting is a bit weak on this cube. One has to come down to less than 10-15 degrees to get inward corner cutting to work. The Shuang Ren is by no means exceptional at corner cutting, but is not stunting in this aspect of performance.
  • Piece Popping: An interesting thing to note is that because of the peculiar cubie construction with the sticker caps, the Shuang Ren is unpoppable. I have never so much as gotten a piece out of the cube, whether on accident or pulling by force. I really should get to experimenting, but I suspect the only way to disassemble the cube is to take the center caps off and unscrew the core. Unfortunately, the cube is not invincible in this aspect; a good drop on a hard floor can dislodge the caps (the edge caps in particular).
    On the left, my heavily used cube. On the right, the basically new cube, with the replacement caps missing. Yes, that's a banana sticker.
    On the left, my heavily used cube. On the right, the basically new cube, with the replacement caps missing. Yes, that’s a banana sticker.
    • I have, in fact, lost two caps because I left the cube in the hands of a stranger for ten minutes. He dropped the cube (on accident, I presume), and fled the scene. I was unable to recover all the popped caps, and the only solution for replacing them was to buy a second cube for spare parts.
  • Corner Twisting: If, for any reason, you would need to, it is possible to intentionally twist corners without removing the caps (even with the tough core construction). However, I have never twisted a corner while solving.
  • Lockups: If there’s any weak point in the Shuang Ren’s performance, it’s lockups as a result of inaccuracy. These become very prominent with aging; two misaligned layers can be a problem, and as mentioned before, inwards corner cutting is a common cause of lockups. The lockups are not very severe at all, though, and the occasional hiccup in turning is able to be dealt with. Middle layer turns, however, are great, and never lockup on their own.
  • Price and Buying Options: The Shuang Ren can be purchased in quite a few convenient online retailers, such as Amazon ($11, assembled), The Cubicle ($15, assembled; $16, DIY), hknowstore ($17, DIY). Overall, it’s not a very pricey cube; it’s pretty reasonable for the quality.

So what do I think of it in all? The Shuang Ren, with its unusual construction and uniquely exceptional durability, has average specs for a good speedcube, helping a 20-40 second solver to their best. However, its performance glory fades quite a bit after many solves, posing issues with long-lasting. (I often speculate whether lube would help cut back on the grinding the pieces do to each other, but I think the effect, if any, would not be particularly preventive.) Altogether, the impression is an amazing all-around cube, but gaps in its specs lead me to guess that many other cubes are better than it. You could call it “on the low end of the high end”.

Should you buy it? For the newbie, you can do better than the Shuang Ren for the same price and quality range, but if you’re not very particular about getting the best, or if you don’t plan to be a heavy user, the Fangshi Shuang Ren is still a good choice. For more experienced cubers, the purchase of a Shuang Ren will be of little use to you–if you’ve learned on a very good cube but need a new, better cube, the Shuang Ren is little of an upgrade. If you’ve already got a great cube and are hovering somewhere around sub-twenty times, the Fangshi will not meet your needs for faster times or better quality.

Personally, the Fangshi Shuang Ren has served me well for one and a half years, introducing me to the twenty-second club, but as soon as I find the money, I will be moving on to something more advanced and “fancy”.

More resources:

Around Cubes: Fangshi Shuang Ren Review