A Good USB Microscope for Education and Fun (Plugable USB 2.0 Digital Microscope)

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Even though our son isn’t yet three years old I wanted to go ahead and introduce him to some cool science. I had the idea that a USB microscope might be a fun way. We could look at various things up close, including insects. After reviewing several devices I decided the Plugable USB 2.0 Digital Microscope with Flexible Arm Observation Stand for Windows, Mac, Linux (2MP, 250x Magnification) would be a good choice. With a birthday coming up soon I chose to add it to my wishlist rather than outright buy it though at only $35 it’s a great price. Sure enough, someone bought it as a gift.

The only thing I can’t offer a comment on at this stage is how well it holds up as I’ve only had it for a week. I’m impressed by the simplicity of how it works. The device easily connected to my Mac and instead of requiring the installation of driver software it connected as a standard USB webcam. At this point the only software I’ve used to view and capture images is Apple’s built-in Photobooth app.

The microscope has a built-in LED light with a plastic guard surrounding the camera. To view something up-close one simply holds the guard against whatever is being inspected. The focus is adjusted by twisting the middle, rubber part of the camera assembly.

It’s USB only though it wouldn’t take much effort to connect an HDMI cable to my laptop and send the video to a TV. I’ve only used it on macOS though its supported on multiple operating systems.

Here are some sample images:

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Close-up of the threads in the comforter on our bed, including some dyed strands.

 

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This is the smooth, aluminum shell of my MacBook Air.

 

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Threads in a pair of my pajamas.

 

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High thread-count bedsheet, which normally looks dark blue.

 

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A closeup of the bottom side of one of my feet.

Sabrent 4-Port Self Powered, Flexible Cable (USB-CBBH)

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Last week I received three Sabrent 4-Port USB 2.0 Hub – Bus-Powered, Flexible Liberator Cables. As with most of my recent tech purchases, I ordered them from Amazon. I bought one to use with my ASUS EeeBox PC, one to keep in my backpack, and another to give to my wife to use with her MacBook Pro.

So far, I’m not very impressed. However, I don’t have much to complain about. They were only about $5 each. Even if they completely failed tomorrow I’d only be out the cost of a meal at Arby’s for two. Sometime in the week since I ordered them the price even dropped to $1.25 each. Having worked with computer tech for many years I’ve learned that one cannot expect high quality from cheap components.

These self-powered hubs may work great on some systems, in certain situations, with some low-power devices. When I purchased them I knew they probably couldn’t be used to operate high-draw devices, but that was never my intention. The reason I purchased them was to put one on the ASUS EeeBox PC to extend the two ports in the back.

This didn’t work out. At first, I had the Insteon 2413U, the ASUS wireless keyboard/mouse adapter, the Rii mini adapter, and an IR receiver hooked up through one device. It didn’t take long to figure out that the 2413U wasn’t working so I moved it off the hub and to its own USB port.

A couple of days ago I had a problem booting the ASUS and needed to use the keyboard and mouse, but it wasn’t responding at boot. I had to unplug the hub, plug the adapter into the USB port, handle the boot issues, and then plug the hub back in as Windows started.

Today I wasn’t able to get the Rii mini to work while plugged into the hub. I also noticed the hub itself was warm. I decided to take the hub completely out of line and just plug in the Rii mini and the 2413U. I may re-connect the IR receiver later, using one of the front USB ports.

I’m not going to toss the hubs. They may yet prove useful. However, the primary reason I purchased them doesn’t seem to have worked out.