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As drones go, inexpensive Holy Stone mini makes the cut

by JOY SCHWABACH | May 1, 2021 at 1:50 a.m.

Da-Jiang Innovations, commonly called DJI, makes the best drones, according to just about everyone. But who wants to spend a thousand dollars? I don't know about you, but I'm not planning to become a drone professional.

Recently, I borrowed a $31 Holy Stone HS 210 mini-drone from a friend. It's astonishingly easy to fly, compared with the previous miniature drone I flew. The old quadcopter shot past me like a rocket, banging against every obstacle in my apartment. Not this time.

Push a button on the 3-inch-by-3-inch flying machine, and it launches. Push another, and it flies in circles. Push another and it does aerial flips or lands. Push two buttons -- if it's about to hit Aunt Sally -- and it shuts off instantly. It hovers in midair like it's sitting on a solid surface. A user on Amazon said it got her anti-drone daughter back to flying with the family.

The HS 210 stays aloft for 21 minutes if you use all three rechargeable batteries, one at a time for seven minutes each. Set it to fly at a slow speed to avoid running into things. I enjoyed flying it around the living room. The propellers are caged so they can't break off or slice into something.

If you want to go to the next level, there's a midsize drone for $60, the HS 160. It has a camera. But inside the house it can be nerve-wracking. That's because once inside, we tend to fly it lower, so there's a "ground effect," also called aerodynamic drag.

The HS 160 controller has a slot for your phone and an app to command your drone. You see what the drone sees. Press a button to take a photo or hold it down to take a video. The videos and photos I saw, taken by my friend outside and inside at eye level, look great.

You can also use the HS 160 to take photos or videos from above. This would be handy at a wedding or party. At press time, Amazon said they're out of stock, but Holy Stone has lots of similar models.

GETTING CREATIVE

Thisissand is a free app from Thisissand.com. As you hold your finger on your screen, sand piles up, making colorful patterns. The variety is amazing. I made overlapping mountains of many colors.

Zen Coloring Book for Adults is more than your ordinary coloring book. Add frames to your creation, as well as textures, such as burlap, silk or raindrops. I used the app on my Chromebook so I'd get a larger coloring surface.

LEARNING TO CODE

I quit trying to get a second degree in computer science many years ago because I was no good at it. But if I'd had a free app like Mimo, I would have done much better.

It starts out slowly, showering you with praise as you go. Start by choosing between Python, a general purpose programming language, or CSS, the language of the web. Then choose between beginning, intermediate and advanced levels. I found it fun, especially when I saw my name go up on the leaderboard because I'd stuck with it for 20 minutes. You get more projects with the pro version, which is $80 a year after the free trial, from GetMimo.com.

ZOOM'S FOOTPRINT

A recent article in ZDNet business technology website recommended using email instead of Zoom video conferencing because of its lower carbon footprint. But compared with flying all over the world for meetings, Zoom is remarkably pro-environment. If six people confer over Zoom every week for an hour over a whole year, the amount of carbon dioxide released would be equivalent to driving a car 9 miles, according to bandwidth data research by blogger David Mytton. Even if the six people lived in the same town, they'd drive a lot more than that to get together -- after just a week. More information is at DavidMytton.blog.

OFFERING TECH HELP

I often want to help someone who lacks tech skills, but asking them to download software like TeamViewer can be more than they can handle. Recently I learned that Windows has its own help mechanism. Just type "quick assist" in the search bar in the lower left of your screen. Choose "assist another person." You'll be given a code. Give it to the person who needs help. If you're the one getting assistance, launch Quick Assist and type in the code someone gave you. That way they can control your computer remotely and fix what ails it.

INTERNUTS

GlobalDataLab.org steered me to some fascinating statistics on refrigerator ownership. I was led there after receiving an email claiming that only 25% of the world's population has food in the refrigerator, clothes on their backs, a roof over their heads and places to sleep. Feeling skeptical, I wondered how many people worldwide have refrigerators. According to GlobalDataLab, in most developed countries, it's around 99%. In Cuba, it's 86%. In Bangladesh, it's 41%. Relatively few countries are below that.

Through May 2, FoodRevolution.org is broadcasting a variety of speakers talking about foods that prevent cancer, heart disease, dementia and other chronic illnesses. Get ready for a bowl of miso soup with kombu or a seaweed salad.

Joy Schwabach can be reached by email at joy.schwabach@gmail.com.

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