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Review: Uni-ball Shalaku Mechanical Pencil

Posted by on Mar 12, 2017

I have been using mechanical pencils for writing for the last couple of years. I have brought products made by Kokuyo Camlin, ITC and Luxor and have seen quite a few made by Faber Castell’s Indian division. A cursory glance at these Indian products will tell you that the Indian stationery products manufacturers do not take the adult and mature users of pen and pencils very seriously. Or else it is difficult to explain why all these mechanical pencils are made of cheap plastic and their very appearance and the choice of colours seem so puerile. The sheer fragility of these writing instruments makes it clear that companies that produce them do not want them to last more than a few months. They are intended to be lost or left behind in your college or office! I used to buy those Indian mechanical pencils for Rs. 10 or Rs. 25 apiece.

line and wash drawing of a ghat

It was such a relief then when I found Uni-ball’s (a brand name of Japan’s Mitsubishi Pencil Co.) Indian website uniball.in from where they sell all kinds of stationery products. Uni-ball’s mechanical pencil, sold under the name Shalaku, costs Rs. 50 per pencil. The very appearance of the pencil will make you feel that here is a writing instrument meant for the adults! Shalaku comes in six body colours: pink, red, black, light green, light blue and blue and in two versions: M5 228 for 0.5 mm leads and M7 228 for 0.7 mm leads.  In my view the black pencil is the handsomest of them all. I prefer the 0.7 mm leads for everyday use but pick your choice according to your own preference.

Shalaku mechanical pencil has a contoured plastic barrel and a metallic tip. The barrel is partly transparent, so you can observe the mechanism that works inside. The grip area is the fattest. The lead advancement mechanism is at the front. Shalaku  has convenient side-click mechanism for advancing the lead which obviates the need of going back to the bottom tip to click and advance the lead. When you write continuously, you won’t have to stop writing even for a split second to advance the lead. Although I rarely use the erasers that come with mechanical pencils, Uni-ball’s Shalaku has a large, replaceable eraser covered with a plastic cap.

The pencil comes with Uni-ball’s Nano Dia leads that are strong and smooth. What I like most about Uni-ball’s Shalaku is how it feels in my hand. The pencil has a nice balance and its shape and grip is just perfect for long hours of writing. It will not tire your hands and, for this reason, the slightly higher cost is justified. After all, you do not buy a mechanical pencil every day and used with care, these should last a long time. Try it and you will not want to go back to the cheaper Indian brands.

Uni-ball Shalaku can be yours for only Rs. 50 from uniball.in. A tube of 12 leads cost only Rs. 35 and is available from the same site. If you use your pencils a lot, I am sure you’ll never regret this purchase. If it is difficult for you to get lead refills from Uni-ball, you can use  Camel Hi-Par 0.7 mm B leads that are readily available from retailers in India in these Uni-ball Shalaku pencils. I have personally used Camel 0.7 mm B Hi-Par leads in Uni-ball’s pencils, both Shalaku 0.7 and Kuru Toga 0.7, without any problem.

An afterthought: I have already mentioned that Uni-ball Shalaku mechanical pencil has a large eraser. These are as large or even larger than the pink erasers that you find attached to your yellow wood pencils. So if you don’t like to use a separate eraser, you may consider buying Uni-ball Shalaku just for this feature!

Do you use mechanical pencils for writing or drawing? Please use the Comments feature below to tell us about your preferred brand of mechanical pencils.

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Review: Uni-ball SA-R Ballpoint Pen

Posted by on Feb 28, 2017

Being a fountain pen enthusiast, I never had much enthusiasm for trying out any other writing instruments. Being a man of austere habits (read a miser), I do not want to spend a fortune on the pens, inks, refills or paper I use.

Now, good writing paper is expensive and, as a professional translator, I do write a lot. The most inexpensive paper is newsprint or paper of similar quality. Who can think of writing with a fountain pen on such cheap paper? If you try, you will get feathering and blotting and, at the most, you can use only one side of the paper for writing and the other side will be unusable due to blotting.

havana-brown-ink-sketch-pen-and-wash

When I use cheap paper for making my drafts, I have two alternatives: either to use a mechanical pencil with B or 2B grade darker lead or an inexpensive ballpoint pen. I prefer the mechanical pencils, Uni-ball’s Shalaku or Kuru Toga are my favourite pencils, but at times, I do use a ball pen. Recently, I discovered that the entire range of Uni-ball’s writing instruments is available online in India! Uni-ball is a brand name of pens and pencils and other stationery products manufactured by Japan’s more-than-a-century-old Mitsubishi Pencil Co.

The cheapest ballpoint pen available on uniball.in is the SA-R pen that costs only Rs. 15. I have seen it in colleges and offices in the past and it seems to be an old favourite of many. The barrel of the pen is made of transparent recycled plastic. The two ends of the transparent barrel and the cap are made of plastic too and have the same colour as the ink of the pen. The barrel has ridged grip for support. It has the words ‘uni-ball SA-R Mitsubishi Pencil Co.’ embossed on it.

uni-ball-sa-r-ballpoint-pen

The Uni-ball SA-R ballpoint pen writes smoothly. It produces a uniform and fine line unlike the cheaper varieties of ballpoint pens and never skips. It shows no smudging and if you write with this pen, your handwriting will appear immaculate indeed.

uni-ball-sa-r-ballpoint-pen-writing-sample

Writing Sample of Uni-Ball SA-R Ball Pen

The Uni SA-R refills come in three ink colours: Blue, Black and Red and each refill costs Rs. 10. The tip of the refill has a 0.7 mm tungsten carbide ball which perhaps explains why it writes so smoothly. I am sure that these refills will serve you for longer and write more than most ordinary refills and thus offer value for money. The ink never gets dry. If you buy your refills in bulk from Uniball.in, you can even enjoy volume discounts. Both the pen and the refill come in plastic pouches.

If you are looking for a good ballpoint pen that writes a fine line and never skips and will not make a dent in your pocket, Uni-ball SA-R ballpoint pens appear to be a fine choice. Highly recommended!

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This is a spontaneously written review. I have bought the pens at my personal expense from uniball.in and am not compensated for writing this review.

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How to Keep your Home Computer Safe without Spending a Penny

Posted by on Dec 18, 2016

As a freelance translator working from home since 2001, I had to depend on my desktop computer as the primary and only tool of my trade. The computer is for me as the plough is to the farmer. So, keeping the computer in good health has always been a concern. I cannot take risks and if my computer doesn’t work or there is a virus infection and I have to reinstal the OS again, that would mean loss of income for me. The danger is real, and I have faced it in the past.  

sketch of men and women with computer doing office work

As I have no technical knowledge, I tried to keep it simple and diligently followed some time-tested rules. These have helped me to avoid all kinds of threats for more than a decade now. Now, it is time for me to record those rules here hoping they may help others like me who have no technical knowledge and yet have to depend on their computers either for making a living or for other necessities. Hence, what we have below are tiny bits of information, learnt and culled through experience and diligent net searches for over a decade and more. What’s most important is that these have worked for me and so, I hope,  these will work for others too. Here are the rules I follow:

2016-12-18_123832

  1. Learn how to check the URL a link points to and do not click on any URLs or links sent by people or organizations not known to you. An easy way to read the link is to keep your cursor on the link and you will see where it will take you (check the image above). Please remember that some action on your part is needed if you want to infect your computer with a virus! And, in most cases, it is a single click of your mouse on a link!
  2. Do not open emails or attachments that reach your inbox from unknown sources. Simply delete them!
  3. If you do financial transactions using your computer, type the correct address of  your bank website etc., on the address bar of your browser to open the site. After you have completed the transaction, ensure that you log out of the site and then close the browser window. Do not keep using the same browser window for searches or visiting another site. Erase your browser history after each such transaction. If you do not know how to do it, check your browser’s help menu.
  4. Instal more than one browser in your home computer and keep one of them exclusively for financial transactions, including shopping online. For example, if you use Google Chrome all the time, keep Firefox only for financial transactions.
  5. Instal a free anti-virus software that will not put extra burden on your system. A light-weight anti-virus that does not put stress on your computer’s resources will make it easier for you to use your computer for work, especially if, like me, you have an old computer and an old OS. The anti-virus software I recommend are the free versions of Ad-Aware, Bitdefender or Avast anti-virus. Right now I am using Ad-Aware Free Anti-virus + but you can try each of them to see what suits you best. After installing the software set it so it updates daily with no need of your intervention. Run a quick scan daily and a thorough scan once-a-month. Even these options can be automated.
  6. Use another free anti-malware software as an additional line of defence. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is a good free choice here. Twice a month run a scan. When you run this software, temporarily disable the real-time scanner of your anti-virus software.
  7. Use a free PC maintenance software to keep your computer clean. I recommend the Free SlimCleaner. It scans your computer and cleans your browser history, temporary files etc. Tweak with its settings and set it for an automatic scan and cleaning once a day. After the cleaning operation ends, defragment your computer from time to time using the same software.
  8. If you are not sure about the reputations of the websites you visit, instal Sandboxie. It uses an isolation technology to separate programmes from your underlying operating system. It can secure your favourite web browser and block malicious software, viruses etc. by keeping such attacks in the Sandbox leaving your system protected.
  9. Make sure that your Windows Firewall is on or instal a third-party firewall like Zone Alarm Free Firewall. The in-built Windows Firewall works well enough. It will not have an added impact on your computer’s speed or performance.
  10. If you use Windows, remember to keep your version of Windows updated.
  11. Only instal software you trust that are made by reputed companies.

If you follow these simple rules, you can easily keep your computer trim and fit. My recommendations will not cost you a dime but will help to keep your machine in a workable condition even if you have an old computer. You need not spend money to keep your terminal secure from all kinds of threats. Happy computing!

If you have more such ideas on computer security why not use the Comments feature below to let us know about them?

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