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
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Travel and car tech

Weego 44 (portable jump starter and mobile device charger)
$150
More info: https://myweego.com/product/weego-44/

If you have a bulky pair of jumper cables sitting in your car’s trunk, replace them with this portable power package. The Weego 44 includes smaller jumper cables and a large battery that can jump start any vehicle with a gas engine up to 7L (diesel up to 3.5L). This means you don’t have to get a jump from another car, or call an auto service – you can jumpstart your own dead battery.

In addition, the Weego 44 includes other nice features if you don’t need to restart your car. The power in the battery pack can also recharge your mobile devices (smartphone, tablet) via USB port (you have to bring your own cable). Laptops can also be recharged via a separately sold laptop cable. The device also includes a very bright flashlight with three settings (solid, strobe effect and “S.O.S.”), which gives you illumination in the dark. The device and cables come in very nice metal lunch box, letting you store it in a compact area in your car’s trunk or other area.

This makes a great gift for any new driver on your holiday wish list, giving you peace of mind that they can restart their car or charge their smartphone (to call for help) if they need it.

-- Keith Shaw

Henty CoPilot Backpack
$189
Available in January via Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1937338470/henty-copilot-first-two-bag-system-for-commuting-a

It’s always been a dilemma for the active techie. How do you bike to work, carry your laptop and keep your work clothes fresh and unwrinkled? Or how about traveling by air? If you’re on the road a lot you know that there’s just no good solution for larger items like suit jackets or dresses, unless you like carrying around one of those bulky, unmanageable garment bags.

But an Australian company called Henty, which makes all manner of innovative backpacks, is addressing the problem. See their offerings on Amazon

We looked at the CoPilot backpack, a combination garment bag and backpack. This has a hanger for you to hang your garments and room at the bottom for shoes. Then you zip it and roll it up. It has shoulder straps and a waist strap, so you can walk around hands-free. It fits in the carry-on space if you’re flying. And it sits on your back if you’re biking or walking to work.

But the Henty has all of the pockets, pouches and other space saving innovations that you’d find in camping gear. There’s a little pouch that contains a bright red waterproof rain jacket to protect your bag (and you) if you’re riding in the rain. There’s also a compartment that can hold a 15-inch laptop, another compartment for keys, passports, documents and accessories. Plus, there’s a heavy-duty gym bag that can fit inside the CoPilot when you roll it up.

I’m definitely giving this a shot next time I travel.

-- Neal Weinberg

Pearl RearVision backup camera system
$500
More info: www.pearlauto.com

This system is the best way to add a backup camera to your car without having to go out and purchase a new one (although we do like the idea of getting a new car, just so we can get the giant red bow that a lot of dealers hand out). The benefits of being able to see directly behind you when you’re backing out of a parking space or your driveway are immense – you don’t want to be that person who backs over a bike, an animal or a small person.

This easy-to-install system gives you everything you need (except for a tool to unscrew any existing license plate frame) to put the two-camera bracket onto your car. It also comes with an adapter that plugs into your car’s on-board diagnostic port (OBD), which then talks via  Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to an app on your smartphone (Android or  iOS). You then get two rear views (one wide angle, one direct), so you can see what’s behind you.

See a longer review here.

-- Keith Shaw

ScotteVEST – Travel Boxers
$25
More info: http://www.scottevest.com/v3_store/Travel-Boxers.shtml

If you travel to different parts of the world, you realize that there are areas where having critical documents (cash, credit cards, passport) on your person that make it appealing to pickpockets and other undesirables. Lanyards and other tools are available, but often look bulgy if not worn properly.

Another option is wearing a pair of Travel Boxers. From ScotteVEST – this pair of boxer shorts comes with two additional small pockets, in which you can throw some emergency cash or other small items which won’t be noticed by pickpockets. You can travel safely knowing that these items won’t be pilfered unless you end up in some kind of strip-search situation (and if that’s the case, your emergency cash might be the least of your problems).

The lightweight, breathable boxers are also odor resistant, moisture-wicking and “incredibly fast drying” – in case you need to wash them in the sink between wearing them (although really, just buy some additional pairs if you really want to go that route).

This also wins the award for the question of “What do I get for the man who has everything?” In this case, boxer shorts with pockets might be something that they don’t have.

-- Keith Shaw

Secur SP-1000C all-in-one tool
$15.41
More info: https://www.amazon.com/Secur-SP-1000-Dynamo-Starter-Flashlight/dp/B00G8LVH1G/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1477505373&sr=8-13&keywords=secur

No matches? No problem. No flashlight? No problem. No compass? No problem. No whistle? No problem.

Just crank up your handy-dandy Secur SP-1000C with its hand crank and internal dynamo. One minute of cranking gives you 20 minutes of flashlight power. Or you can fully charge the lithium ion battery via USB prior to hitting the great outdoors.

In addition to the dual LED lights, there is a cigarette-lighter type coil that heats up at the press of a button, if you need to start a fire. There’s also a whistle and a small compass. The whistle is embedded in the device, while the compass comes on a carabiner-type keychain attachment.

The same DC port that you use to charge the device can be used to charge a phone, although you would need a special charger.

At less than $20, this would be a great stocking stuffer. On the other hand, you get what you pay for, so I’m not sure if I would trust the Secur SP-1000C on a trek to the top of Mt. Everest. But for an overnight camping trip, it seems like a handy item to have.

-- Neal Weinberg

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