About Charlie White

Author of Bloggers Boot Camp and longtime reporter and editor at Mashable/Gizmodo/DVICE, Charlie's been covering tech, Internet, coolness and inexplicable peculiarities for major websites and magazines since 1994. Catch up with Charlie on Twitter @charlie_white

Samsung 850 Pro SSD Offers World-Class Speed and Dependability, Incredibly Easy Migration

Samsung 850 Pro

My old 120GB SSD was getting way too full, so it was time for an upgrade. What would be the best SSD replacement for a 5-year-old PC? I emailed my trusty PC maker Jon Bach at Puget Systems (who made the best PC I have ever owned) to find out. He recommended this Samsung 850 Pro SSD, one that has never failed on him or any of his customers after installing thousands of these into the computers he sells over the past five years. All that was left was to determine the storage capacity.

Black Friday was right around the corner, so I laid in wait. Sure enough, the price for the Samsung 850 Pro came down about 10% and I jumped for the 1TB version. I was concerned about installation difficulties, mainly migrating all my data from the old drive to the new. My fears were unfounded because Samsung provides a terrific migration software tool. Please note: the easiest way to use this software is to get a cheap $12 USB-to-SATA III adapter for the new SSD, and simply plug it into a USB 3.0 port on your PC. Samsung’s migration software promptly makes a clone for you and then you can replace the old drive with the new. For me, the freshly cloned drive booted up immediately.


Samsung 850 PRO benchmarksAt first, it was difficult to tell anything happened. When I looked at my “this PC” window, there was the new drive C, with a huge cornfield’s worth of space waiting for me. Mission accomplished! I did a few tests and this drive is spectacularly fast! I have what feels like limitless space and limitless speed now (look at the impressive CrystalDiskMark scores above — to give you some context, 10 years ago a 50MB/s read/write speed was considered miraculous). Best of all, I got a relatively new-tech drive that formerly retailed for more than $700 for less than $400. I couldn’t be happier with this purchase of the Samsung 850 Pro.

This LDFAS Apple Watch Band Is One of the Nicest at Any Price

Apple Watch band

If you’re looking for an Apple Watch band that’s as good as the ones Apple sells but costs about 90% less, here’s a candidate from LDFAS. It’s a $31.99 link bracelet with a beautiful, clean look, and its color matches my Space Gray Apple Watch.

This one is unlike any Apple watch band I’ve seen. It’s partly rigid (see my pictures of it to see what I mean) because of the close proximity of the links — they are so close together, they don’t move or bend much. But the band is engineered to fit the wrist perfectly, so it always looks smart and feels perfectly comfortable. Continue reading

Book Review: Fantasyland: a 500-Year View

FantasylandFinally, this crazy era of magical thinking, lies, conspiracy theories and greed makes sense. That’s what Kurt Andersen’s book, Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History did for me. I feel like I gained crucial wisdom from this brilliant work of nonfiction. He starts 500 years ago and explains in vivid and often humorous detail why Americans are exceptional — and that isn’t a compliment.


Andersen points out how the advertising of the 1600s looked quite different from the way it looks today, but was equally effective. It worked so well, that people starting coming to the New World in astonishing numbers. Because these ancient ad campaigns touted mountains of gold and a Garden of Eden for religious and magical thinking, most of the colonists were self-selected for their greed and gullibility. You can still detect their influence to this day.

This beautifully written book shows how we got to this dangerous and frustrating place, where few can detect falsehoods, nearly everyone has a pet conspiracy theory, people will do anything for money and the vast majority believe in devils, angels, heaven and a sky daddy who keeps them under surveillance 24/7.

Thank you, Mr. Andersen, for enlightening me. Fantasyland turned out to be one of the most illuminating, entertaining and enjoyable books I’ve ever read.

This Mini Drone’s Touchy Controls Will Take a While to Master

mini drone

One thing is certain about this RCtown mini drone: It’s a lot of fun to fly. But there’s one caveat to that: It’s not fun at first if you’re a beginner. It’s like downhill skiing at first — you fall a lot and it’s painful, but you get flashes of the thrills the sport can bring.


The RCtown mini drone is fast. You can get it flying so fast that you can’t think quickly enough to control it at first. But as you develop your skills, you’ll soon be maneuvering this little hotshot all over the place without incident.

If only the left stick (that controls altitude and spin) were less touchy, it would be a lot easier to fly. The slightest movement and it’s out of control. There are slightly bigger drones that automatically stabilize themselves, but not this one. It’s all-manual, all the time. That’s why only intermediate to advanced drone pilots will truly enjoy this challenging aircraft. I would recommend getting a more user-friendly drone that includes several degrees of difficulty in its feature set if you’re just starting out.

It also doesn’t last nearly long enough. See if you can find spare batteries for this one because the fun is over in what feels like less than 5 minutes, and then you must wait about 24-40 minutes for the next round of thrills and spills. Besides those drawbacks, this is one fun toy, and if you can fly this touchy, angry little bird, you can fly anything.

Noise-Canceling Bluetooth Headset Nails Speech Recognition

Bluetooth Headset

I have the toughest test in the world for a Bluetooth headset that claims to be “noise canceling,” and this one passed the test with astonishing alacrity.

What’s the test? Speech recognition in a noisy environment. When I connected this bluetooth headset to my laptop (an easy, almost immediate task, by the way), it aced my Nuance NaturallySpeaking application with near-perfect accuracy, performing as well as the multitude of specialized, wired USB headsets I’ve tested over the years. That is no small feat.


Then I connected it to my iPhone, turned the music up to 11, and held a telephone conversation in such a cacophonous din I couldn’t even hear my own voice at all. The person I was talking to could hear me so clearly, she couldn’t believe what she thought was “that soft music in the background” was actually blasting at a rock-concert volume level. We could also clearly hear each other talking at the same time we each were talking (known as dual duplex). Remarkable.

Beyond that, the headset is so comfortable I almost forgot I had it on, and it’s nice and light but doesn’t look or feel cheap. I love it. No wonder this product is aimed at truck drivers. It would work with the loudest truck in the world rumbling underneath you. It’s a keeper. Buy it.

Cool Belt Features Clever Design, Great Looks


I’ve never seen a belt like this, and now I wish all belts were made this way. It looks cool, has a substantial and futuristic-looking buckle, and the faux leather is convincing. I was concerned that it might be difficult to set up and use, but it’s not. In fact, as I gradually started to understand how it’s designed, my smile got bigger and bigger.


The best thing about this cool belt is its rachet closure and customizability to its wearer’s exact size. I put it on and noticed that it easily clicks into place. It’s easy to let it out in tiny increments after a big meal, too. That comes in handy when I go off my diet for a day, eating everything in sight. Now I want to get a brown one, too. Good product, clever design!

These Brilliant Little LED Lights Will Improve Your Life

LED lights

Motion activation is my new friend. This trio of brilliant little motion-sensing LED lights does the trick, whenever I need instant light where there is none.

Case in point: I often enter my garage service door in a hurry after a long sunset hike, and it’s dark. Using this product’s included 3M double-sided sticky pads, I strategically positioned all three LED lights to illuminate a quick path to the house’s side entry door. They’re only triggered when it’s dark (duh, the only time I need them), and they reliably light up my way just in time for me to see where I’m going.


Shortcomings? The package doesn’t include batteries — you’ll need nine AAAs to run all three of these LED lights. That ends up costing more than the lights if you’re using lithium batteries. We’ll see how long they last. And they’re not exactly “warm white” (2700K is the beginning of “warm” color, in my opinion).

But I don’t much care about those two things. They’re warm enough — and just bright enough — to be delightfully useful. Bravo. Instant quality-of-life enhancement.

Best Tire Inflator: I’ll Never Pay For Gas-Station Air Again

Best Tire Inflator

This tire inflator is an innovative, impressive achievement. It’s the best tire inflator I’ve ever seen. I had no idea there was a device that would let you dial in a tire pressure number and then pump up your car tire to exactly that pressure — and then turn off automatically. It’s magical, really.


I had a leaky tire for so long, and got tired of PAYING FOR AIR to pump it up. Now? Bye bye, 50-cent gas-station air!

When I looked at the pics of it on Amazon, I thought it was much bigger. That is not the case. This little tire inflator is scarcely larger than a football, so I stow it away in the trunk and always know it’ll be there, ready to go. A quick plug-in of its nice long cable to the car’s cigarette lighter and it springs into action.

Hard to believe a convenience like this costs less than $33. Glad I bought it!