Review: Tabtime Super 8 pill reminder

Tabtime Super 8 - closedI have been using this pill tray for a few weeks courtesy of Eleanor Independent Living Aids. The concept is simple but incredibly useful – it combines a pill tray  and alarm clock in one.

The Super 8 is a blue rectangular box made of two halves folded together in a clamshell format a bit like an older folding mobile phone. From the outside there isn’t much to see apart from a battery compartment on one edge and a red LED light on the front. The Tabtime is easy to open: the right edge has tabs with cutaway parts to allow easy opening with less-than functional fingers and the magnet which holds secures the Tabtime has just enough force to keep it shut but opens easily with minimal pressure.

Tabtime Super 8 - tabs for opening

The Tabtime opens to reveal a pill tray on the right with eight compartments and a large clock on the left. The pill compartments are again easy to open, with a tab protruding from the edge of the lid which can be lifted easily. For the most part the lids are secure, although I did find some becoming loose when opening the opposite compartment. This isn’t a problem when the device is closed as the compartments are kept shut by the folding of the two halves. I found the compartments are about the same size as my seven-day pill tray with enough room to hold quite a few tablets, or four of my huge Metformin tablets.

Tabtime Super 8 - open

Turning to the clock then, it has a nice large display which shows the the current time, and it has several buttons for setting the timers and a volume switch with options for Hi and Lo. Personally I have the volume always set to high as I have found that the low setting is not audible from the next room, or when the Tabtime is kept in a bag while outside. The high volume setting is loud enough most of the time but could do with being a little bit louder.

The Tabtime very usefully has a timer for every pill tray, eight in all. Used in this manner it is possible to have an alarm go off at the same time every day for each set of pills. On opening the Tabtime up after an alarm has sounded the screen shows a number along the top edge to indicate which alarm sounded and which compartment to take pills from.

If like me you don’t always take pills at specific times, painkillers, for example, there is also a countdown timer which I keep set to four hours. After taking my painkillers I can bring up the countdown timer on the screen – an action which unfortunately requires nine presses of the Mode button to cycle through the eight alarms – and press the Minute button to start the countdown to my next dose. Used in this way it does not give the benefit of indicating which pills to take, but that isn’t a problem if working through the compartments in numerical order.  The red light on the front of the Tabtime is very useful since it starts to flash when an alarm sounds and it will keep flashing until the Tabtime is opened, even if the alarm sound stops. That makes it easy for me to know when I can take painkillers by looking for the red light even if I miss the alarm.

Of course eight compartments isn’t enough to replace my seven day pill tray. I tend to use my larger tray as usual, but keep painkillers in the Tabtime where I can make use of the alarm. When I go out I can fit my painkillers and all the other pills that I need for a day in the Tabtime and keep it in my bag.

Seven day pill tray full of pills

The Tabtime isn’t perfect. It could do with a louder alarm, and perhaps an extra button to access the countdown timer in a less tedious way but it is very useful as a reminder while at home and for carrying pills when I am out. It serves its purpose very well and if you have to take a lot of pills then I can thoroughly recommend that you get one.

You can obtain a Tabtime Super 8 from Eleanor Independent Living Aids for £20 including postage.

Product review: Trabasack

Trabasack in use on a powerchairIf you watched my film “A short film about pavements” then you will have seen the tray that was on my lap during filming. That tray is called a Trabasack, and it is actually a lap-desk and a bag in one. I have been using an Original Trabasack Curve for a couple of weeks. It consists of a leather feel tray, with a cushioned rim running around it. On the other side there is a bean bag which allows it to sit comfortably on your lap. A zip allows access to the section between the two so that it can be used as a bag.

Since it has two functions, I will address them one at a time. First of all, as a bag. The zip goes nearly all the way around the Trabasack, allowing it to open all the way up if you like. There is one main compartment inside. There is a pocket with a zip on one side, but that contains the bean bag and is not usable for other storage.

Trabasack front showing zip

The actual compartment is smaller than I would like but probably as large as is practical. I was able to store a 10″ netbook computer inside, and had enough space for a few other bits and pieces. Since I am in the habit of carrying all sorts of gadgetry as well as pills and inhalers, my normal choice of bag – a messenger bag – has lots of pockets to keep everything tidy. Unfortunately the Trabasack doesn’t have that. A nice future improvement might be an elastic strap and / or a mesh pocket to keep my netbook charger cable tidy and secure my pills to the sides. Those complaints aside, the bag is perfectly adequate to carry what I need when out, such as wallet, medicines, phone, keys, and netbook.

For carrying, there are several choices. The bag has two handles and can easily carried by hand. It also comes with two long straps and two short straps, and six loops to allow the straps to be attached in various places. Using these straps it can be configured with a shoulder strap or worn as a rucksack. It can also be easily secured when using it in a wheelchair. The two short straps can be looped around the arms or frame of the chair and attached to the side rings of the bag, or a long strap can go all the way around the waist. Either way, it is very secure when used in this way, as demonstrated in my film.

A netbook on a Trabasack
A Trabasack in use holding a netbook

So what is it like as a tray? I would say pretty good. I have been using it indoors to hold my netbook (which otherwise can toast a lap inside 30 seconds) and it does a good job. The beanbag helps it mould to the shape of my lap and sit securely. I have used it both in bed and while sitting on the sofa. It’s also good for a mug of coffee or a plate. I had previously used a wooden tray for this but I always had problems with the sides of the tray digging into my arm because I don’t always have the strength to lift my arm up over the edge when picking up my mug. With the Trabasack this isn’t a problem since it doesn’t have a raised edge on the side facing the person using it. The only reservation I have in using the tray for hot drinks is that I don’t want to spill anything on it.

I actually used the Trabasack as a platform to rest my camera on while filming from my powerchair. It provided a steady surface and the raised edge helped prevent the camera from slipping off during the bumpy bits.

The Trabasack is also available as a smaller Trabasack Mini, and interestingly, both are available in the “Connect” version which has a soft velcro surface to which your possessions can be fixed by sticking velcro hook-tape to them. I didn’t go for this as I don’t really like the idea of sticking anything to my gadgets, but the option will definitely be useful to many.

Overall the Trabasack is pretty good. It’s even more handy if you are a powerchair user, and like me you end up carrying your bag on your lap. (Why don’t powerchairs have bag holders under the seat???) I initially thought that £40 was quite a steep price for it, but given that it serves two functions, and that my messenger bag cost thirty quid on it’s own, that’s actually not bad. If you need further convincing, an extra use that I have discovered for the Trabasack is that it can be used as a handy pillow if I need to take an unscheduled rest while out and only have a floor or a bench!

The Trabasack can be found on their website, www.trabasack.co.uk at a cost of £39.99. If you’re feeling generous you could purchase it via this Amazon link which will give me some commission.

Thank you to Trabasack who provided this product for review.

Book review: The Chicken Shak Spy

Book: The Chicken Shak Spy by Simon Lucas

The Chicken Shak Spy follows reluctant secret agent Graham Chapman and private security agency the Hunter Group as they try to prevent the kidnapping and murder of the pope during his visit to the UK.

In writing this novel Simon has managed to take all the best parts of the genre while avoiding being as annoying as Dan Brown. The result is  that this is a great thriller with an outrageous plot and characters that you can sympathise with. Once I found the time to start reading it, I couldn’t stop. (I finished it at 5am!) If I had one criticism it would be that diversions in to background information sometimes interrupted the flow of action at some points in the story.

I can definitely recommend The Chicken Shak Spy and I am very much looking forward to the next book in the series.

The Chicken Shak Spy is available as an eBook only, and links to various eBook sellers can be found on Simons website.

Little Brother: find out what you have to lose.

Earlier this week my wife was reading a book by Cory Doctorow. She showed me a note inside the book, which said something like “A free download of this book is available under the creative commons license from the website.” Having recently got a Kindle ebook reader, and having no money, this seemed like a good idea and so purely by chance, I ended up reading Little Brother by Cory Doctorow.

Before I write a proper review of it,  all I can think to write is GO AND READ THIS BOOK RIGHT NOW.

The book tells the story of a teenage boy that is swept up the the US Department of Homeland Security in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. Imprisoned, mistreated, then released without charge, he tries to return to normal life but notices the authorities turning his city in to hell in the name of fighting terrorism.  This is a story about fighting for freedom, fighting for a normal life, and fighting against government authorities undertaking horrific acts all the while imagining that they are doing the right thing. So many aspects of this book ring true. Teenagers and kids getting fed up with government. The use of the internet to organise things. Personal video recordings showing things that the mainstream news media does not. The scenes where riot police used CS gas on a crowd of hundreds of teenagers were just a little too possible for comfort.

This book, gripped me, made me laugh at the antics, made me cry at the bravery and freaked me out at the portrayal of how easily people can commit atrocities in the name of good. (Admittedly, i currently have some kind of cold/flu/virus thing and a fever, so the emotional roller coaster might be caused by that.)

If you are disillusioned by the current state of affairs, read this. If you are not, read this and then ask the question “how far are we from events like those in this book?” Little Brother is essential reading to find out what you have to lose.

You can get this book, and others, free of charge from Doctorow’s website. If you don’t have an ebook reader then there are a vast number of ereader apps for phones and computers. I can suggest Calibre if you are using a PC. Oh, and if you like the book, go and buy it. Prove the authors theory on copyright correct.