Cool Yule Tools 2016: Digital disruption at Santa's Workshop

The 17th annual Network World holiday gift guide has something for every techie (and techie-wanna-be) on your list.

silicon santa banner 3 Stephen Sauer
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Page 6
Page 6 of 13

Stocking stuffers

Cyberpower CSP600WSU Surge Protector with USB Charge Ports
$15.05
More info: https://www.cyberpowersystems.com/products/surge/professional/csp600wsu

The Cool Yule Tools contributors are occasionally accused of ignoring that venerable category of gifts known colloquially as the “stocking stuffer.” Not everyone can afford (or, let’s face it, deserves) a $1,000 PC; maybe they weren’t good enough this year, or maybe such a sum might be better applied elsewhere. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t give something that is highly useful and that will, regardless of cost, be most appreciated.

A classic example of such is the Cyberpower CSP600WSU surge protector with USB charging ports. Cyberpower is a venerable brand in this space and has been around for decades. Everyone knows (or should know) the value of surge protectors in preventing damage to expensive equipment. Sure, what are the chances of a voltage surge so great as to fry a PC, you might ask. Well, here at Farpoint Group a few years ago, a lightning strike nearby took out one of our many surge protectors, but the really expensive equipment attached to it was spared. You can never have too many of these.

Of course, with USB-based mobile-device charging now the norm, you can never have too many USB power outlets as well. No one has too many of these, and wall warts typically required are so, well, warty, with each often consuming an entire wall plate all by itself. So, then: how about a six-outlet surge protector that plugs into a two-outlet wall socket, and also includes two beefy (in terms of the power supplied) USB charging ports? And how about if those six AC outlets are filtered for interference and grouped into two sets of three, each of which swivel horizontally? Pretty cool, right? Add in some green-LED indicator lights, and any geek on your list will be happy with this functional and convenient gift.

There’s no need, then, for a stocking stuffer to be a snow globe or underwear. This one is in fact good enough to be worthy of a place outside the stocking. And, oh yes – get one for yourself. You need this. Trust me.

-- C.J. Mathias

KENU Stance compact tripods for smartphones
$25
More info: www.kenu.com

If you or someone on your gift list is sick of creating blurry selfies because your hand is shaking or moving, check out the KENU Stance.

This extremely portable accessory is about the size of a small Swiss Army Knife, with three metal legs that open up to create a small tripod for your smartphone. The top part of the tripod connects to either the Lightning port (on an iPhone) or USB-C port (Android and Windows phones), giving you an instant stand for taking photos or more stable time-lapse videos.

The Stance uses an innovative ball-and-socket joint at the top that lets you position the phone at different angles, so you can create photos/videos in either landscape or portrait mode. A small key ring is included, so you can hook this onto your keychain to bring this along wherever you go. In addition, one of the legs is curved to create a bottle opener, because you always need one of those when you’re out and about having fun, taking selfies and drinking liquid out of bottles.

-- Keith Shaw

Altec Lansing Mini H20 Speaker
$39.99
More info: http://www.alteclansing.com/en/al-products/mini-h2o-speaker/

Good things come in small packages, which fits the Mini H20 Speaker just fine. This Bluetooth speaker includes a very tiny design, voice confirmation (for pairing and connection status), and a whole bunch of –proofs. It’s waterproof, dustproof, shockproof (so it’s OK if you drop it off the table) and snow proof. It comes with a handy carabiner hook (for outdoorsy types who can connect it to a backpack), a choice of three colors, AUX in jack for connecting to a device that doesn’t have Bluetooth, and up to six hours of battery life on a full charge.

-- Keith Shaw

Logitech Silent Plus Mouse (model M330) and Party Mouse (M325c)
$29.99 (Silent Plus); $29.99 (party mouse collection)
More info: http://www.logitech.com/en-us/product/wireless-mouse-m325c

I never knew there was a problem with loud mouse clicking until I received a sample of this new mouse from Logitech.

The Silent Mouse is a wireless mouse (it comes with a USB dongle) that is almost completely quiet. When you make the clicking motion with your finger (either left-click or right-click), it really is a lot quieter than a regular “Loud” mouse. Thankfully, everything else works just like you’d expect with a mouse – it feels great in the hand, runs on a AA battery (with an on/off switch to save battery life), and has a storage compartment for the USB dongle.

Now, you’d think with a name like “Party Mouse”, that it would be the opposite of the Silent Mouse (Loudest CLICKING ever!), but thankfully it’s not. No, the party in this sense is a cool variety of seven designs (including Flamingo and Watermelon!) aimed at making your mouse more colorful and vibrant – hey, it’s a party when I’m using this mouse! If you’re using a mouse in your boring old office cubicle, you might as well liven it up with this model. It offers the same kind of cool wireless features seen on other standard Logitech mice.

Some people might have moved on from the mousing world (into touchpads or – ugh – mousing nubs), but there are a large majority of us who still prefer the look and feel of a mouse. Either one of these would make for a great stocking stuffer for anyone who feels the same way.

Go mice!

-- Keith Shaw

iLDock – headphone adapter for iPhone 7
$10
More info: http://www.ildock.com/product-page

Let’s say you just spent a whole bunch of money on some kick-ass headphones, but they aren’t wireless and still require a cable/cord to function. Then out comes Apple with its iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, which eliminates the headphone jack.

Fear not – you can still buy an inexpensive adapter so you can still use those corded headphones with your new phone. The iLDock costs $10 and connects to the iPhone 7 or any phone that has a Lightning adapter. You can then plug your headphones into the iLDock’s headphone port, and then your charging cable into  the dock’s Lightning port.

Sure, the adapter thing might not be perfect for carrying around (my big fear is that it would snap off), but at least you can still use the headphones and charge at the same time. The dock comes in a choice of three colors, which could match with whatever color phone you have (grey, gold, pink or black).

-- Keith Shaw

AirJamz
$50
More info: https://playairjamz.com/

If you have someone on your gift list who loves to play air guitar along to their favorite rock songs, the AirJamz takes that concept and kicks it up a notch.

The AirJamz is a plastic device that looks like an enlarged guitar pick, with a small button in the center. It’s Bluetooth enabled to connect to your mobile device (iOS or Android) and work with an associated app. Once connected, when you wave (or flick) the AirJamz up and down like you’re playing a guitar, a sound will play on the phone or tablet. Pushing the button switches to another instrument (up to four instruments play per song). Each song on the app has a different style (rock, country, etc.), and features backing tracks (like drums) so you can hear the song and then jam with your guitar like you were doing a solo.

Some of the songs on the app also include sound effects instead of instruments, and there’s enough choices to keep you entertained for a while. It’s definitely something that kids will enjoy more than adults (unless you’re really into the whole air guitar thing, and believe me, I discovered that there are people who like this). The music tracks are good, but I would have preferred rocking along to music tracks that I already owned, or could download popular songs and jam along to them (but that would likely make it harder for the company to license).

In the end, this is a fun toy that the whole family can enjoy together, without a high learning curve. Who knows, maybe it will inspire someone to become more interested in real guitar!

-- Keith Shaw

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Page 6
Page 6 of 13
IT Salary Survey: The results are in