THE STIHL SHA56 SHREDDER VAC/BLOWER
Suck it up, then shred it, with this three-in-one tool
Fall may be a ways off (for readers in the northern hemisphere, at least), but this superb, cordless garden gadget is so worth having that you may want to buy it early.
Made by Stihl, a Leica-quality family firm in Germany, it’s a leaf blower that converts into a garden vacuum that will suck up your displaced leaves and assorted botanical crud, shred it, and then compress it all down to around one-tenth of its original volume.
Leaf blowers may well be the sound of suburbia—and not in a pleasant way—but at least the Stihl SHA56 is relatively quiet. Enough so, in fact, that you can safely operate it without ear protection. Your neighbors will also thank you for the machine’s quiet, German efficiency—if they even know you have a leaf blower on.
The device’s ergonomics are another of its plusses—it really is easy to handle, and converting it from blower to vacuum is a cinch, requiring no tools.
A drawback for some is that you must enter Stihl’s world of custom batteries, so your first purchase of a Stihl machine necessitates a charger as well. This is obviously to seduce you into making your yard an all-Stihl zone. Not a bad thing, as it’s terrific equipment. But it’s no bargain.
The Apple Ventura OS and iOS 16
Don’t like how a text came out? Massage the message …
At the height of the coronavirus, your columnist hugely appreciated how couriers and delivery drivers carried on regardless. Without Amazon, UPS, FreshDirect, and the rest, life would have been a lot grimmer.
When one courier messaged to say he had successfully delivered an unwieldy package to a hard-to-find rural address, this writer’s gratitude was such that he texted back in thanks, saying, “You guys really are the heroes of the pandemic.”
Except, when he looked at the sent text on his phone, it read, “You guys really are the herpes of the pandemic.” One letter different—the o and p keys are next to each other, after all—but a rather less complimentary sentiment.
Digital communication has obvious benefits to handwriting or typing, but the possibility of misunderstandings due to what are known in the tech world as “fat-finger errors” is substantially greater.
To make matters worse, there’s little you can do about such mildly catastrophic bloopers other than hastily apologize, which sometimes makes matters worse.
Except now there is something you can do.
Every year or so, Apple—and let’s face it, almost everyone here and most of the people we know use Apple devices—introduces a flood tide of changes and improvements to its operating system. (Whatever the opposite of improvements is, there are often a few of those too.)
One such leap for mankind came in the updates to the Mac, iPhone, and iPad software late last year, and were further finessed in February.
Believe it or not, in the new Ventura OS for Mac, and in iOS 16, for iPhone and iPad, you can now—so long as you’re reasonably quick—unsend or edit texts and e-mails after you’ve pressed Send. Obviously, if the recipient has read it by the time you spot your blooper, it’s too late—even Apple can’t edit people’s brains.
In the Messages app, you just press down on the blue speech balloon you sent and then select Unsend. You will then see the text pop and disintegrate, and with it, if all goes well, the embarrassment. You can also edit your text to the correct meaning. In our tests, the recipient did get a notification that you had deleted and edited a text, so it’s not a complete get-out but better than the alternative.
In Apple Mail, after you send your e-mail, you get 10 seconds (which can be increased up to 30) to unsend it by clicking Unsend, in the bottom-left-hand corner of the screen. In this case, the message is presented to you to edit, but the recipient is not informed that you’ve changed your mind about something you said.
The Astell & Kern HC3 USB DAC
An attachment that will squeeze the value out of your pricey cans
Back in October, we featured the iFi Go Blu, a tiny gadget from a niche audio company in Liverpool, England, that enables you to turn a pair of wired headphones (even heavy, over-ear, audiophile types) into wireless, amplifying both the volume and the audio quality in the process. So it’s possible to drive serious professional cans with a phone and its puny internal amplifiers.
This sleek, dongle-style attachment, the HC3, from portable hi-fi specialist Astell & Kern, is a different approach to the same challenge of getting the maximum volume and quality from music streamed on a smartphone or laptop.
A word first, though, on Astell & Kern. Though the name sounds like it belongs to an upmarket optical store or New York law firm, the company in fact hails from South Korea, where, perhaps unsurprisingly, there is no Mr. or Ms. Astell or Kern. As the 11-year-old company itself admits, “Astell means ‘star’ in Greek, and Kern means ‘core’ in German. Together, it refers to our aim to continuously reach for the core of music—the ‘original sound.’”
A&K’s high-resolution music players, while rather fantastic, are also rather heavy—up to 17 ounces—and quite expensive, at $3,700 for a top model.
The elegantly engineered, little HC3, then, is quite the bargain, at $229, and the epitome of simplicity. You just plug the dongle into a phone and plug headphones into the HC3.
The improvement in the clarity and musicality with good headphones is quite startling. We tested the HC3 with the Brooklyn-made, over-ear Grado Prestige SR325x, featured here last August, and were immediately impressed—you could hardly fail to be.
There’s a huge amount of sophisticated A&K electronics in the tiny device. There’s even a color-coded L.E.D. indicator to show you the quality of the music recording you’re listening to.
With no buttons, no app, no tricky wireless pairing, this device is a joy.
The Bentley 6-in-1 Convertible Stroller Trike
For the child of wealth and taste, a stroller that gets good mileage
It’s hard not to feel just a little bilious at the sight of those electric-powered miniature reproductions of expensive cars for small children of the excessively rich and tasteless.
So, respect to Bentley for this, the first amusing, and actually rather clever, supercar product for children.
Their 6-in-1 Convertible-Stroller-Trike is a stroller that doubles as a small person’s ride-on tricycle. When junior is a year or so old, he or she is transported around in the leather-trimmed reclining seat. Then, as the child gets older, he or she reaches the cycle handlebars, unaware that the parent is actually steering.
Later, when the child is three or so, the stroller parts can be detached, and the conveyance becomes purely a trike.
Conceived in partnership with Bentley’s design team, this is a unique—and not overpriced—child accessory that sports a prominent Bentley logo, but stops on the entertaining side of gross.
Based in London and New York, AIR MAIL’s tech columnist, Jonathan Margolis, spent more than two decades as a technology writer for the Financial Times. He is also the author of A Brief History of Tomorrow, a book on the history of futurology