Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Updated **REVIEW** Livescribe 2GB Echo Smartpen (specifically reviewed for writers)

Please scroll to the bottom of this post for an update of the review.

I could have titled this post "Happy Birthday to My Broke A**", but... LOL

When I was studying this smartpen to decide if I wanted to buy it, I read lots of reviews. I didn't see any that were specific to people wanting to use it primarily as a tool for creative writing. Also, I wanted to come to the post as an older and only slightly tech-savvy person. So...


My Livescribe Echo 2GB smartpen arrived today and I wanted to do photos of the unboxing:

** A quick note on the only difference I've noticed between the Echo and the Livescribe 3 - apparently, the Echo is geared toward use with laptops and PCs and the Livescribe 3 is for use with phones and tablets. Notice that this is as far as I can tell! **

By the way, the contents on the side of the box lists 2 ink cartridges. It should list that there is 1 additional cartridge since most people would expect there to be 1 inside the new pen. (I spent a couple of minutes checking for a second cartridge in the plastic packaging.) Minor point, but this is a review.

Now I just have to get everything open and set up. I'm a little bit afraid! LOL

I had to charge the pen before I could do any of the setup. Duh. Apparently, it takes up to 2.5 hours for the pen to charge from empty but it only took about 40 minutes before mine was charged.

I chose the 2GB pen because it's cheapest. There are 8GB ones on Amazon, but there was an $80 price difference. I've heard that there are also 4GB versions. ~shrug~ The 2GB pen is supposed to over 200 hours of audio (depending on quality), or "thousands of pages" of notes. Keep in mind that is an or not and. I plan on doing more note-taking than recording.

The pen feels more comfortable in my grip than I expected. It looks fat, but I had no trouble adjusting to the feel of it. I had a chance to get used to using it when I did the steps to set up initial information - date, time, etc. The coolest part is how easy it is to use from the very start. (Or maybe I should say "so far".)

The "starter notebook" that comes with this pen is probably the size I will prefer to on-the-go notes. It's what I used to set up the basic information. It's also a good "starter" for new users getting used to the technology of the pen. Putting in the date and time; adjusting brightness and volume; then checking the status of the battery, storage, and software version were all as easy as tap/click and done.

Using the Navigation to scroll the Menu was easy enough, but I will need some practice before I go past the very basics. From the get-go, the Menu sounds interesting and has options for Applications, Shortcut Buttons and something called "Sound Stickers" (yeah, I'll have to investigate that one!)

This is what the pen display looks like (set to 75%).

This is the size of the Starter Notebook.

This is the size of the 3-hole 8.5 x 11 notebooks I ordered (in a 4-pack). Like I said, I think I'm going to favor the size of the Starter notebook. I set the Starter notebook on top so you could see the difference.

This is the inside of the college-ruled 1-subject notebook:

 The main thing I noticed about the first page in the larger notebook was the line for a subject or other kind of title.

There is a cheat card of smartpen controls tucked in the front pocket but it seems to specifically be for the Livescribe 3.  I can't tell if all the notebooks in the pack have this because I haven't opened the others.

When I opened this one, I was a little startled by the adhesive tag holding it closed. I almost just snipped it off before I realized it's coded for "archiving" the notebook. I only know the most basic of basics about the archiving issue. I just wish I'd noticed that tag right off. Until I figure it out, I've left the tag stuck to the back part of the notebook.

Now that I have the pen up and running, I am dealing with the Echo Desktop that I downloaded to my computer. At first glance, I feel completely confused.

There were so many parts of the Desktop app that confused me until I connected the pen to the computer. I was still a bit confused but, oh well, at least I got the pen registered.

I also have downloaded a 30-day trial version of MyScript. This is the application that will be important to us writers. While it's wonderful to have a digital backup of our work, the best part is being able to convert those handwritten notes to text. Text = easy editing.

To be honest, this is probably the one reason I've gone for broke and ordered this digital writing tool. When I am eating soup and crackers and being fascinated with the "body" and "aroma" of all the tap water I'll be drinking, I want to know it's worth it. What will make it so is when I can write the way I prefer - on paper, in ink - and not have to transcribe all my amazing ideas into a Word doc.

I'll tell you all right now that I've probably done my best writing only to throw it out. Why? Because I can never finish transferring my handwritten stuff to a text editor. The minute I am reading (or typing) an unfinished story, I start fiddling with it before it's time to fiddle with it. I start changing words and ideas and.... Yeah. Usually, I get so mad that I never get back to the original fire of the story. The fire that made me want to get it down on paper in the first place.

MyScript is supposed to take my scribblings and, well, this will explain better than I can. There's also a demo at the same link.

The ink quality is not the best. In my opinion, it's sticky and seems like it's going to have tendency to leak. Ick. I hear that the ink can be replaced if you are careful about choosing refills. Also, for anyone who wonders, the paper can also be printed - if you have the right kind of printer.

That's' pretty much all I have for now. The last thing I will say is that I didn't want the Livescribe 3,but I am disappointed that it has features the Echo doesn't. For instance, I can't "share" to the same places (think OneNote). Bottom line is that I am pleased so far. I will update this as I get more familiar with the pen.

One last thing: someone wrote the most excellent, detailed review on Amazon. There were so many tips in there, you have to check it out before you buy. I'm going back to look at what he said about gluing in a magnet that tends to slip out of place...??? I know, right?

Here's Wikipedia for anything that I missed.



Still loving the pen. I have been writing like mad. I wanted to update on the conversion results (using Echo Desktop and the MyScript software). This is a sample of what my handwritten notes look like when the pen uploads to Echo:

It's a very clear and sharp image and viewing size can be adjusted (though I did zoom out for this screenshot). What you are seeing is what most people - student's, for example - might be happy with. After all, if you are only wanting to review your notes from a lecture or meeting, then a capture of your handwriting is fine.

This is a shot of what the handwritten notes look like when first converted to text. At this point, the notes are still in the MyScript app and have not been exported to MS Word, email or as a picture file.

Nice, yes? Certainly. Until you do export this to a Word doc. Then this happens.

I should say that this is what happened for me. There could be an issue with my handwriting, spacing, or something else. I should also point out that there is a solution. It's a time-consuming solution though so I have been getting help directly from one of the nice people at MyScript. Let me stop here and say that the customer service makes up for almost anything else. I'm getting one-on-one help and I'm only using the trial software. So... I'm not even an actual customer. I'm more like a potential customer, yet I'm getting personal and courteous attention from a rep.

I will most definetly be back to update further. I will tell you that not everyone is having the issues with the text that I am having. Please do not hesitate to give MyScript a tryout. The customer service is excellent at so many levels.

**REVIEW** ScentSationals (scented wax)

If you ever wanted a simple way to brighten, enhance or lift your mood, you have to try ScentSationals wax melts. This one is my all-time favorite right here:

I've also tried some others and this is another fave:

The Iced Lemon Sugar Cookie (ILSC) scent is so fresh and calming that I have driven across town to other Walmart locations to stock up. I told a friend of mine that the fragrance is better than a Valium. I'm not kidding. I am beginning to think that I might be addicted to the scent.

Not long ago, I tried one of the Burt's Bees wax melts. What a disappointment. First of all, like most things from Burt's Bees, the item was overpriced. The scent was amazing though. Until I tried to use it. I still can't figure out how something that smelled so good in the container could lose every hint of fragrance as soon as it started to warm. I mean, there was NOTHING fragrant coming from that wax once you moved your nose more than half an inch from the warming pot.

If you think I'm being harsh about Burt and his bees, I'm not the only one who was underwhelmed by the wax melts. The next time I was in the store to pick up some more of those fabulous ScentSationals, another customer and I discussed our disgust with Burt's wax melts. She said that she'd actually bought more than one scent, and had even bought one of the candles. In her opinion, the candle was slightly better than the melts - but only very slightly. She had returned all the unused items. Like me, she was sticking with the more affordable lines. (By the way, her favorite are the melts from Better Homes and Gardens. They are about the same price as my faves so I tried out one. Not bad, but I haven't seen a lemon scent to match the ILSC!)

(NOTE: I have no idea what's up with the Better Homes site.)

I used the ILSC in my room and in the trailer because that's where I spend most of my time. I have used the other fragrances in the family bathroom. It's nice that the bathroom always smells pleasant (without anyone having to call attention to themselves by spraying away odor or running the fan), but it's tricky to choose a scent. The guys in the family don't want anything "girly" (seriously, this is what they'd say), but none of us want anything too strong or pronounced. What I ended up doing was choosing from the line of "Refreshing" scents. Tea, Fresh Air, and Rainy Day are the light fragrances we can all enjoy. Those are the kinds of scents that they guys in our family would use in their cars.

One of the things I love most about ScentSationals (other than the wonderfully affordable price) is that the fragrance lasts and lasts and lasts. If I melt three of the cubes on High, I can get a good 2 full days use at full strength. The fragrance does start to wane a bit after that and I've learned to use the Low setting if I want to get another couple of days use from the melts. I used to just dump the depleted (and cooled) wax in the trash basket to freshen it. Lately, I will save some of the used wax in a spare jar. When I'm at my monthly budget limit for household things, I will stick a tea light candle in the scented wax. There's usually a little bit of scent left and tea-lights are nice for setting a relaxing mood. (By the way, I was going to take a photo, but I am also out of tealights. Dangit!**)

Another way to use these wax melts is to store the unopened containers in your dresser drawers. Basically, use them as sachets until you get ready to use them in a warming pot, My mother used to give me little powder sachets to put in my dresser when I was starting to mature. I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

This next tip for freshening your car can be tricky so try it at your own risk. I'm just sharing my experiences and yall now that I have had some blips in life...  Put one of the wax melts in some kind of small container (preferably glass or thick plastic) with a lid and leave it half open in your car. Of course, this works well on warm summer days. In cooler weather, you'll have to rely on the car's running heater/warmth. It's still nice. For containers, I have cleaned out some makeup jars and such.

One of the highlights of my life is going to the store with DJ to pick up our ScentSationals. I make it part of my monthly grocery shopping routine. DJ likes to pick out at least three or four scents to smell. His verdict is either"Eww! NO!" or "\Yum. I like this one." He doesn't even care that I mostly only get the ILSC scent. We can spend a good fifteen minutes on that aisle, testing different scents. Last month, the closest Walmart was out of ILSC so DJ chose these from Better Homes to try instead:

Nice but not lemony enough

I told him I didn't like it, but he said we should try it. Okay. Turns out, it wasn't anywhere as lemony as our favorite. When we went back to the store a couple weeks ago and saw that scent, DJ goes, "You were right, BooBoo. That one... No, no, nooo." LOL (You have to see now why it so NOT sad that spending time with this kid is a highlight of my life.)

By the way, don't forget that the Better Homes and Gardens wax melts are just about the same price (at Anchorage Walmarts at least) as the ScentSationals. The local price is about $2.30 for the pack with 6 cubes.

Now, I have to mention that the website doesn't make it easy to find your favorites but once you do, there is a nice comparism feature. When I first checked the site for my ILSC scent, I had to use the Search function. Before that I was checking under the wrong categories: Tropical, Garden, etc. The Iced Lemon Sugar Cookies is actually under "Delectables". Okay.

I got extremely frustrated when I added a ton of scents to the "compare" list only to have them disappear. Guess what? I forgot to set up an account. Actually, I don't want an account. I don't want to order online and wait for deliveries when I can just pick items up at the store. Grrrr... Okay, so I established an account only so I could use the Compare feature.

Turns out the Compare feature is pretty useless. I loved the description of the Iced Lemon Sugar Cookies:
"Deliciously baked lemon, lime blend of pure sweet coconut milk and sugar with light notes of vanilla extract."
Yum, right? So I wanted to compare other scents to see what I might like in the same range. This is what I get from the description of Red Velvet Cake:
"Red Velvet Cake
2 oz"
Yeah. That tells me all of nothing.

The site might be useless for anything other than getting a list of scents but, hey, I'd rather follow my nose anyway. I can always ask local stores to order the scents I like
Other than the categories of fragrances (Tropical, Romantic, etc), there's also something called "Fusion" for mixing and matching. By the way, I usually get the 6-cube item (and you can see from the photo that they are a good size for smaller warming pots), but both the Scentsationals and the Better Homes melts come in larger amounts ("value packs") and in con sets:

Finally, I noticed that the scents are cheaper at the local Walmart than they are from the website. Just saying.


** If you want to know why I'm out of tealights & can't get more.... Wait for my next review! LOL