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    The Best PC Gaming Mouse Today

    After more than 30 hours of research followed by 100+ hours of testing ten gaming mice, there's no question about the one I'd buy: the $60 Razer DeathAdder 2013. It's affordable for a gaming mouse, comes with Razer's straightforward and customizable drivers, and has quite possibly the best body design and buttons of any gaming mouse I've used.

    That’s saying a lot. Even before doing this guide, I’ve used a lot of mice, ranging from popular brands like Logitech, SteelSeries and Roccat to the lesser-known Ozone and CM Storm. Furthermore, I didn’t decide on the DeathAdder by myself: I tested ten mice (on top of a few I already owned) alongside professional Battlefield 3 player Charlie Goldberg, who plays under the handle LevelCap, and we both agreed that the DeathAdder is the best gaming mouse we’ve ever used.

    (Charlie is quoted under his handle LevelCap throughout this article, and he also wrote up his own impressions on all of the mice we tested.)

    Now, a big part of choosing the mouse that’s right for you is finding one that comfortably fits your hand size and grip style. With that in mind, we’ve picked out three other mice from our carefully chosen testing pool that don’t quite match the DeathAdder, but are still great. Comfort matters, and personal opinion is always an important part of picking out the right mouse. But even more important is knowing what to look for in a gaming mouse to inform that opinion—button placement, click distance, weight, material grip and sweat resistance, driver software options and the mouse sensor itself. Switching to a new mouse can take some adjusting, but it can also pay off with better control and reaction time.

    First we’re going to tell you what all that stuff means and why you should care about it. Then we’ll tell you why the DeathAdder and a rare few other mice get it right where so many other mice get it wrong.

    Who Should Get This?

    If you play PC games, especially first-person shooters, you should buy the DeathAdder. This is a great choice for just about anyone looking to upgrade to a new mouse, and it’s a pretty affordable buy at $60. (Amazon often sells it even cheaper.) The mouse’s CPI is customizable up to 6,400, which is so high that you’ll barely be able to follow the cursor as it flits across the screen. Even if you really love your current mouse, read up on why we recommend the DeathAdder. It’s possible that the DeathAdder (or a mouse with a similar grip, which we’ll explain in detail) could actually make you better at games than you are now.

    Left-handed? Me too, although I’ve always used a mouse with my right hand. If you’re a left-handed mouser, though, Razer has you covered with a left-hand edition. Unfortunately, the left-hand model hasn’t been updated for 2013; the older DeathAdder has a great mouse sensor but inferior glossy plastic sides. We think mousing lefties will be better off choosing our favorite ambidextrous mouse, the Mionix Avior 8200, which we talk more about below.

    If you’re a PC gamer but spend all your time playing MMOs, the DeathAdder may not be the mouse for you. It has only two customizable buttons on the left-hand side of the mouse, which may not be enough for players who like to bind multiple commands to their mouse. However, after talking to pro gamers who play shooters (Battlefield 3, Counter-Strike) and real-time strategy games (Starcraft), not one recommended a mouse with tons of buttons. In fact, they unanimously preferred simple, lightweight mice, saying more buttons tend to get in the way of a comfortable and highly-controlled grip.

    Worse, too many buttons can cause you to even press buttons accidentally. “I can’t imagine any pro gamers would get a mouse for macro functions,” said Derek, one of the pro gamers I talked to. “Most of the time they stack them all right where your thumb goes on the mouse, like the [Razer] Naga and Logitech MMO mouse. I can’t control those mice for shit even with the same DPI/resolution. It feels off because I’m gripping the mouse differently. For an MMO they would be fine though.”

    The Best MultiTool Today

    If someone wanted to buy the single best multitool available today, I would tell them that the Leatherman New Wave is the one to get. It has a versatile mix of tools, great ergonomics and solid construction, and the price tag is fantastic for the amount of functionality you get. It’s just $61 on Amazon today, and ~$51 if you downgrade to the nylon sheath (do it; you won’t miss the leather). You can pay almost twice as much for a multitool, but the extra investment doesn’t buy you a tool that’s much more useful or practical than this one.

    Photo credit: Flickr user zomgitsbrian via Creative Commons

    If you prefer to spend a bit more for smoother action and a nicer finish, we recommend the $93 Swisstool Spirit X.

    There’s definitely some personal preference to consider with these tools. As was revealed by hours of research with experts and interviews with multitool fanatics, it’s important to consider what’s comfortable for you to use. Some people want a smaller tool that’s less bulky in a pants pocket. Others want a big tool that feels heavy and solid to grip. But even taking into account everybody’s differences of opinion, brand loyalties and personal histories with particular tools, the New Wave kept coming up as the answer to what the folks in multitool land call the unanswerable question: what’s the best multitool on the market today?

    The Best $100 In-Ear Headphones Today

    If I had $100 to spend on earbuds, I’d get the Sony XBA-C10IPs, which only cost $50 but beat competition twice as expensive. After researching dozens of headphones, considering 79 and testing the 15 most promising, our expert listening panel liked them the best. The Sonys fit everyone well, sound fantastic, and have both a remote and a mic.

    Why Spend $100 on In-Ear Headphones?

    When looking for in-ears, there are three things you want to take into account.

    First, fit. Are they comfortable in your ear canal? Do they stay put or do they tug when you move? Do they seal off external sound? Do they chafe or irritate your ears? Good in-ear headphones should be light, easy to wear for long periods and fit comfortably once you find the correct tip.

    Second, sound. How well do the in-ears reproduce sounds? Is there one frequency range that is over- or underrepresented? Are they so loud in one frequency range that it makes it uncomfortable to listen to music for very long? Music should sound warm and full and have a sense of space; voices should be clear and crisp.

    Third, build. Headphones in this price range and size are generally used for commuting so it makes sense to look for something sturdy enough to survive the abuses of daily use. Things like a tangle-resistant cord and a well-designed carrying case are also good to look for as well.

    You should also get something with a microphone and remote because having to take your phone out of your pocket/bag to answer a call while on the go (or even while sitting at a desk) can be really annoying.

    Headphones in this price range will have better drivers and sound than models around $30 or less.

    Why spend a little more? Headphones in this price range will have better drivers and sound than models around $30 or less. They’ll also have features like extra tips (to fit your ears properly), cable clips or a carrying case. While they won’t have the detail, sense of space and sonic clarity of $200 models (like our pick in that range, the RBH EP2) they will sound a darn sight better than the pair that you got with your mobile phone or that you snagged from that accessory kiosk at the mall. Not into in-ears? Take a look at our over-ear recommendations in the same price range.

    Living with Photography: Getting a Grip

    It's difficult not to be self-conscious when it comes to DSLR photography. Walking around public spaces carrying a big camera and lens draws more attention than just taking out a smartphone and tapping a touchscreen. It always feels like people walking by can't help but try to see what you're taking a photo of, and maybe what gear you're using. But while I don't mind any attention from passersby when taking photos in public, there's one audience that I do get self-conscious about, and that's other photographers. That's because I do the very same thing when I see photographers in public. Some things just jump out at me: what lens the photographer is using, how they're positioning themselves with the given lighting, and most recently, how they're physically holding their cameras.

    The ergonomics of holding a camera will differ between camera models and what accessories you use, but there is good reason to seriously think about them when you're using a DSLR. DSLRs are not only heavier than point and shoots and compact mirrorless cameras, they're physically larger as well. Good prime and zoom lenses add to that bulk, complicating the overall weight distribution of the camera when hand held. And while the standard DSLR body design is suited for a two-handed grip in the landscape orientation, turning the camera on its side for portrait photography is awkward, to say the least. Do you rotate the body so the shutter is on the top of the camera, or on the bottom? To be honest, I first started getting self-conscious about the way I was holding my camera when one of you guys pointed out that I was holding it "wrong" in the portrait position.

    So I've done a little bit of thinking about how I hold my own cameras, and after reading up on some other photographers' recommendations, have come up with some best practices that I've etched in my brain--another subconscious checklist to run down every time I put a camera up to my eye.

    The first thing I thought about was the goal of good camera gripping ergonomics. What's the point of holding a camera in one way over another? You can choose your camera grip for different priorities: physical comfort, ease of access to settings, finer control over the lens rings. My top priority is reducing camera shake. I wanted to get a grip on my camera that would give me the most stable shot at the slowest shutter speed possible, eliminating as best I could the unavoidable judder effects of pushing down on the shutter button.

    In some ways, that means thinking of your body as a tripod for the camera, which means having a firm and balance stance on the ground. I typically put one foot forward when shooting, planting my feet firmly on the ground and leaning my upper body slightly and slowly forward or back to adjust for minimum focus distance.

    The Best Travel Mug Today

    If you're looking for a new insulated travel mug and want a high-quality replacement, the Zojirushi Stainless Mug has the best balance of heat retention and versatility. It kept coffee at least 10 degrees hotter after 8 hours than the next travel mug down on our list—just enough to make the difference between drinkable and lukewarm. Though it's at the higher end of the price spectrum, its well-designed exterior, one-handed usability and easy-to-use locking mechanism make it well worth it for something you’ll likely use on a regular basis. Plus, it will never, ever spill in your bag.

    The Zojirushi is undoubtedly the best overall travel mug, but it is a bit on the skinny side. If fitting snuggly in your car or bike cup holder is a top priority, get the $20 OXO Good Grips LiquiSeal Travel Mug. It will only keep your drink at an ideal temperature for 1-2 hours, but that’s enough if you plan on just sipping while you commute.

    We also have a bottle brush recommendation for when you need to clean the gunk out from time to time.

    Who’s This For?

    There are literally thousands of bottles, mugs, thermoses, sippy cups and other devices out there meant to transport your hot liquids from one place to another. Most of them fall into one of two camps: products that are meant for you to drink from while commuting, and those that are meant mostly for transportation that you drink or pour from later, at the comfort of your desk. A large majority of the travel bottles/mugs on the market are aimed toward the everyday office commuter, though some are heavier duty and geared toward those who like to camp or hike. We leaned toward the former group because it’s better to have the option to drink on the go than to not have it. That said, we think our choice of the Zojirushi Stainless Mug would also work for campers/hikers due to its exceptional heat retention capabilities.

    The type of person who would buy one of these things is one who likes to make his or her own hot drink at home to take with them throughout the day—perhaps because of stingy office mates, or perhaps because of the horrible quality coffee and tea out in the world. You usually want the coffee to stay hot at least through the duration of your commute, if not for several hours after you arrive at the office. You want the mug to be easy-to-use in the car or at your desk and so leakproof that you could toss it into your bag or briefcase without worrying about ruining your gadgets.

    There’s one kind of person who insulated travel mugs are not for: hardcore coffee snobs.

    The Best Gaming Laptop Today

    If I were to buy a gaming laptop, I'd get the Toshiba Qosmio X75. It's not the prettiest or the most powerful, but it meets all my requirements for a gaming PC, and it's hundreds of dollars less expensive than other laptops with the same specs. It's still not cheap at about $1,700, but I think you'll be happy with it. If you want a laptop with the single most powerful mobile gaming GPU, you'll have to spend more, but I have recommendations for that too. And if you want a smaller, more portable gaming machine, read on.

    Specifically, I’d get the Toshiba Qosmio X75-A7298 with an Intel Core i7-4700MQ quad-core Haswell CPU, Nvidia GeForce GTX 770M graphics card, 16 GB of RAM, 1 TB hard drive and 250 GB SSD, Windows 8, and a 17.3″ 1080p screen. It’s $1,700 on Amazon as of September 17th, 2013

    What’s Important in a Gaming Laptop

    A good gaming laptop is one that’s powerful enough to play today’s most graphically and computationally intense video games at high settings and resolution at greater than 30 frames per second. Hardware and display quality are more important than portability and battery life, since most gaming laptops are designed to be used as desktop replacements. That’s not to say battery life isn’t important; it’s just not as important as powerful hardware. So here’s what I think makes a good gaming laptop.

    Building and Testing the Unbalanced Gaming PC

    Modern PC games are at an interesting crossroads. Most modern games have access to all the CPU performance they generally need, but rarely have access to all the gaming performance they need. Gamers with fairly old PCs–for example, one based on a quad-core Sandy Bridge CPU or even an older Core 2 Quad–complain to me that games don’t perform well.

    In the old days, I’d suggest they simply build or buy a new system. Now I just tell them to get a new graphics card and SSD.

    So when I set out to build a new gaming PC, I decided to build one that was “unbalanced”–a modest (by today’s standards) CPU with a high-powered graphics card and a capacious and speedy SSD. So bear in mind that this gaming PC is something of an experiment, but I learned some lessons from building it, and are happy to pass them on to you.

    How To Build a PC Optimized for Gaming

    Loyd Case stops by the office once again to build a new gaming PC. This time, the emphasis of his build is purely on gaming, and Loyd has designed the parts selection around two crucial components: the graphics card and storage. Learn how to put a kick-ass rig together and get an update on the current state of PC gaming hardware. Benchmarks and more details here.

    The Best Bike Lock Today

    If I lived anywhere in the U.S. and rode a bike that cost less than about $1,000, I’d pick up the ~$42 Kryptonite Series 2 package, which comes with a u-lock and four-foot-long cable.

    This isn’t an exciting, novel pick for the best u-lock but it is savvy. Experts, users and the bike thieves that we interviewed agree that the Series 2 u-lock is strong enough to foil all foilable thieves. It’s also light and comes with a stable, easy-to-mount carrying bracket that fits on virtually all bikes. Kryptonite’s accompanying “insurance”—costing $20 for three years—is the easiest to purchase, thanks to their rare online form. And it pays OK, too. In the event that some jerk destroys the u-lock and makes off with a bike, then Kryptonite pays the homeowners’ or renter’s insurance deductible or the replacement cost of the bike. The cable is just one more layer of security discouraging opportunists from nabbing a wheel or seat.

    Why You Should (Maybe) Read This

    In researching this guide, I heard surprising insights from bike shop owners, journalists and longtime riders. I also happened to talk to one nameless thief, one penny-ante thief and one power-tool-wielding professional—the man who very likely pinched my $5,000 custom-made road bike two years ago. So if you want to skip down to hear their take, beginning with Thief #1, I’ll understand. Then you can loop back here to what the other experts say.

    It’s Not About The Lock (AKA How to Use a Lock Properly)

    The consensus among those in the know was that a u-lock is best for virtually everyone, offering the highest ratio of security to portability. Unconventional devices like folding locks are intriguing, but so far none offer the security of a good u-lock. Chains sometimes offer a slight bump in security, but they often weigh twice as much and still relent to power tools. Let masochists wear belts of hardened steel; all our experts said a good u-lock is the sensible solution.

    But before we talked specific lock models, they also insisted we slow down. Most people don’t know how to use their locks, they said. Most people buy big, heavy expensive u-locks and then don’t secure their bike’s frame, or don’t lock to an immobile object, or worse. Videos like this and this and this drive the point home.

    Photo credit: Huckleberry Bicycles

    Both the professional and petty thieves we talked to suggested that if a cyclist couldn’t take his bike inside, he should lock his bike in a different spot each day, making it harder to case out. And they encouraged people to ride cheaper bikes. After all, the resale value of a bike—and its expensive components—is what makes the thing worth stealing.

    Locking smart will allow you to stand out from the thief-tempting masses, and thankfully the proper lock method is straightforward.

    How To Tweak Android's Lock Screen and Notifications

    Android affords users a ton of customization options that vary from one device to the next. There are often so many features, that the notion of improving what's already there gets pushed to the side. However, the uniqueness of Android provides some interesting opportunities to make the mobile experience better, and you owe it to yourself to investigate them fully. The notifications and lock screen have gained many new features in the last few updates. The implementation is slightly different on many devices, but there are also ways to retrofit new features onto these components that are almost universal.

    Let's go over how to unlock the power of Android notifications and lock screens.

    The Best Pen You Can Buy Today

    For an affordable pen that writes smoothly; dries quickly and indelibly; won’t bleed, skip or feather; and has the best ink flow of any non-fountain pen; grab yourself the uni-ball Jetstream. Available in a number of sizes and colors, it’s the best affordable pen around for taking notes at school or a meeting.

    The uni-ball Jetstream is universally loved by our four experts (experts with 1,200 pen reviews between them and over 17 years of combined experience testing pens) for its exceptionally smooth writing ability. It dries quickly, which makes it good for left-handers, too, as it won’t smudge under their hands. This is thanks to uni-ball’s special pigment-based ink, which is designed to sink into the paper, which has the added bonus of making it much more difficult to wash away, preventing check fraud.

    Photo credit: Flickr user mr_sir via Creative Commons

    Who Should Buy This

    The vast majority of people don’t particularly care what they write with, but given that the difference between an awesome pen and a mediocre one is just a couple bucks, perhaps they should. A decent pen is something that just about anyone can buy and if you do a lot of handwriting, a marginally better writing experience compounded over hours of scribbling adds up to a significant improvement. And god forbid you end up not liking it, you’re down just a few dollars—it’s not the end of the world.

    Troubleshooting DVI and EDID Issues

    We get emails from people asking what our basic troubleshooting strategy is, whether it's for problems with computers, home theater gear, tablets, phones, or something completely random. I just solved a PC problem that had been plaguing me all week, and figured this is as good an excuse as any to share my basic strategy. Here's what happened:

    We're in the middle of baby-proofing the house, which involved moving my PC components into a smaller, quieter case, and cleaning up the cable snarl under my desk. Unfortunately, while I was monkeying around under my desk, something happened and my monitor stopped resuming from sleep.

    I'm not sure exactly what happened, but somehow the EDID EEPROM got corrupted. The EDID stores the information about the resolutions, refresh rates, and other settings your monitor supports, so it's needed for plug and play monitors to work on Windows (Linux and OSX will work a little differently). My Dell 3008WFP's DVI ports managed to get corrupted, which prevented Windows from waking up the monitor when it powered up. Needless to say, this was bad.

    I managed to fix the EDID on my out of warranty monitor, but the details of the repair process aren't necessarily universal. However, the troubleshooting steps I went through are fairly generic. In the hours of research I've done since the failure, I found a few tools that are incredibly useful, as well as a couple of websites that are handy for understanding what exactly can go wrong with your EDID. The good news is that EDID problems seem to be relatively rare these days, less common with more modern display connectors, like DisplayPort and HDMI, and can be avoided entirely by making sure your monitor and PC are turned off when you connect display cables.

    How To Pick a Basic Lock

    At its essence, a lock is puzzle. While its answer may vary slightly, the route to puzzle-solving success has remained largely unchanged since the pin-tumbler lock’s invention 4000 years ago in ancient Egypt. Manipulate the pieces in just the right way and the lock will yield.

    Sure, a key is the easiest way in, but it’s not the only one. Eric Michaud, the co-founder of Toool.us, the US chapter of the Open Organization of Lockpickers, which promotes greater public understanding how locks work and when they might not, walked us through the art of solving the lock’s puzzle without a key.

    What You Need

    Lock: Any cheap, key-operated lock from the hardware store will do.

    Tools: The basic path to success requires two instruments: a pick and a torque tool. Your basic pick will be a thin, pencil-length piece of metal that curves slightly upward at the end. The torque tool will be a flat piece of metal with the small end bent 90 degrees.

    How To Improve Your Home with LED Lighting

    LED lighting for homes is the best method for interior home lighting today. While LED lights are not inexpensive, the long lifetimes and low power use mitigate the initial high cost. Still, navigating the myriad choices of LED lighting, on top of the choices that exist today for interior lighting, can confuse and intimidate.

    I’m not talking about just replacing existing Edison-style, incandescent bulbs with LED equivalents. If all you’re looking for is a replacement for ordinary light bulbs, we already have you covered. Instead, we’ll cut a broader swath, looking at LED interior lighting in a more general way. During our extensive kitchen remodeling project, I spoke with several contractors and lighting sales people about the current state of LED lighting. Both the underlying technology and interior lighting products have evolved rapidly in the past few years. That rapid evolution, however, has also generated huge confusion.

    One thing is clear: compact fluorescent lighting is now a transitional technology. Fluorescents will always have a place, but CF-style lighting is starting to fade away, gradually being replaced by LED-based products.

    Before we talk about lighting in particular, let’s talk about a related topic, a critically important one for many homeowners: color.

    The Best Portable Hard Drive Today

    If you’re looking for a portable hard drive, you should consider picking up Western Digital’s 2 TB My Passport Ultra. It’s a USB 3.0-connected portable drive that costs $150 and offers the best combination of storage space, speed, features, critical-acclaim and warranty protection of any drive we looked at.

    Who’s This For?

    Any laptop user who needs access to external storage on the road or a drive to back up their machine to while traveling, or anyone who values portability over performance or storage space per dollar. While desktop storage solutions (like our current favorite, the Buffalo DriveStation DDR) might be faster and boast a larger storage capacity, they require external power to function and aren’t all that portable. Portable drives, on the other hand, typically have 2.5” hard drives spinning away inside of their enclosures and only need the power provided by the USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt port they’re connected to.

    Someone who needs a more rugged drive so they don’t have to sweat tossing it into a bag (at a price premium) should get the alternative pick we have listed below.

    The Best Standing Desks for Your Home or Office

    It’s never been done before, but we tested all the major standing desks and the best full-sized standing desk is Terra by NextDesk. It costs about $1,600 with built-in power strip, which is a lot of money. But the desk is high-quality and it’s an investment worth making if you’re committed to standing while working for years and years. If you’re not ready for a full-sized desk, there are many ways to stand while working, and we have recommendations to accommodate every possible approach.

    What I’ve Learned in a Year of Standing at Desks

    I first wrote about standing desks on The Wirecutter about a year ago. When I started reporting that very long piece, I was fairly new to standing. The research kept piling up about the dangers of sitting, and I had become a believer. But I wasn’t ready to actually spend money on my desk, since there are so many cheap ways to build your own. So, taking my own advice to create the cheapest standing workplace possible, I leaned against my conveniently tall kitchen counter, which though tall was not quite tall enough, and I worked that way for about a year.

    And then, we did something at the Wirecutter that no one has done before. We ordered as many standing desks as we could get our hands on, and we assembled them. And then we actually worked at them.

    I built and worked at six different adjustable standing desks, the ones that are most commonly reviewed individually.

    I built and worked at six different adjustable standing desks, the ones that are most commonly reviewed individually. There are a lot more than six standing desk companies, but I focused on the most popular and reputable ones.

    We are updating that piece in light of our extensive and unique tests, and we are excited because we’ve found some new things.

    Through all our testing of many adjustable standing desks, we have months of experience to explain not only which adjustable standing desk is best but also to suggest some alternatives to full-sized desks for people who are just getting into working on their feet.

    We have a DIY recommendation. We still love the Kangaroo Pro Junior as the best way to turn your current desk into a standing desk. And we also still love the Safco Muv as a great, cheap option if you don’t want to lay out the serious dough or don’t have the room for a full-sized standing desk.

    The Best Android Smartphone for Your Network (August 2013)

    If you're in the market for a new Android device, you've got big decisions to make. We're entering the latter part of the year, and that's when the major new phones show up. There's going to be a new Nexus, a new Galaxy Note, and probably a few surprises. The selection on the big four carriers is going through a refresh right now, so you must choose carefully to avoid two years of regrets.

    This month AT&T and Verizon get out in front of the pack, while Sprint and T-Mobile play the pricing game.

    The Best SSDs Today

    If I was upgrading a laptop or desktop computer with a solid-state drive, I'd buy a Samsung 840 EVO SSD in either 250 GB (~$190) or 500 GB (~$370) sizes, depending on the exact setup. Using a new caching tech, it can write up to 2x faster than its similarly priced predecessor.

    (Note that ultrabook and MacBook Air/Pro owners might have to choose our alternative picks below.)

    The Samsung 840 EVO is one of the best values in solid-state drives right now: the drives are super-fast and they’re priced aggressively. Plus, Samsung has a reputation for reliability that a lot of other vendors lack. The 840 EVO isn’t the fastest SSD out there (but it’s close), and it’s not for everyone. But I think it’s the best option for most people who are upgrading a laptop or desktop. If you spend less, you’ll get drives that are slower, and you won’t save that much money. If you spend more, you’ll get a little more speed and a lot more endurance, good for enterprise servers and people who do professional video editing or other write-intensive work. Still, the vast majority of people will be fine with the endurance of the Samsung 840 EVO. This is the sweet spot in solid-state drives, and for the first time ever, the higher-capacity versions are around the same value as the smaller sizes.

    Who Should Get This?

    Someone with a computer that is one or two years old, with a traditional hard drive, that they plan on keeping for at least another year. (There’s no sense in upgrading a machine that you’re about to replace, unless you know you’ll be able to bring your SSD with you to your next computer.) Someone who has already upgraded their RAM to 4 GB or 8 GB but wants their laptop to boot, launch programs and load files faster. Someone whose laptop is from 2010 or later. If your computer is older than that, depending on the computer, you may want to start saving for a new computer rather than get an SSD. It all depends how much more life you think you can get out of it.

    This also works for someone who wants a good boot SSD for their desktop to complement a larger mechanical drive for storage.

    Living with Photography: Big Budget vs. D-I-Y Camera Strap

    I recently came across a somewhat controversial notion: an easy way to spot an amateur photographer is to see if they're using the shoulder strap that came bundled with their camera body. You can imagine how reading that felt, as I looked over to my DSLR to see the recognizable red stitching of the generic Canon strap draped over the side of my camera bag. Ouch. But as pretentious as that statement sounds, there's logic behind the claim. Some professional photographers choose not to use any camera strap at all. A DSLR draped around your neck hurts after minutes of walking around. When slung around your shoulder and across your chest, a strap can get in the way of positioning the camera for composition, and a swinging loose strap can affect the stability of your shot. In a photography studio or when using a tripod, a strap is rarely needed.

    Another argument against the use of the bundled camera strap is that it's just a cheaply made piece of nylon that gives free advertising to the camera manufacturer. Canon and Nikon straps have very distinct designs, and like the red ring around EF lenses, add to overall brand awareness in public. I don't subscribe to this concern, though I can understand the argument of keeping the bundled strap unwrapped in the box to help retain perceived resale value.

    The final argument against the use of bundled straps is that they're just not very good. They don't provide enough padding on the shoulders for heavy camera bodies (and equally heavy lenses!), and trying to quickly swinging a camera up from the hip to take a spontaneous photo is cumbersome. When using the generic Canon strap at events, I've taken to wrapping the strap around my arm and elbow, which makes it more of an arm brace than shoulder sling to keep my hand locked in a comfortable position. But I was in the market for a new strap--something that would be more comfortable and functional than the stock one.

    A few of you recommended Black Rapid straps, so I bought the RS-4 model to test. It was $54, which felt expensive for a camera strap. But I bit the bullet because I wanted to see if a "high-end" camera strap could make a difference. The Black Rapid RS-4 is a gliding camera strap, meaning that the camera hangs loose on a loop around the nylon so it can slide up and down from hip to chest without moving the strap itself. And unlike non-gliding straps, it attaches to the camera using the tripod mount on the bottom instead of the two small metal loops on the frame. The 1/4" fastener screws in tightly and securely. The strap itself is light, the shoulder pad is comfortable, and there's even a small zipper compartment in the shoulder pad to store memory cards. But it's also $54, plus tax and shipping.

    And if you study the build of the Black Rapid RS-4, you can see that it's not much more than a few common pieces of hardware strung together and attached to a padded strap. Using this CNet guide as a starting point, I went to the hardware store to find suitable pieces to make my own budget gliding camera strap.