Random Gadget Roundup – Spring 2017


We don’t claim to be cowboys, but every once in a while, we do our own version of a “roundup,” and git along all the little dogies that arrive in the ol’ mailbox (and by UPS or FedEx) for you to chaw over at the campfire:

Hardened Hearing – Corbett I Mini waterproof Bluetooth rechargeable speakers are just that: 3” by 3” cubes that are rugged enough to take outdoors, even get wet, without damage. You can buy one or get a pair for stereo sound, each charges up via USB, connects Bluetooth to your phone or laptop, or you can plug in a microSD card or USB source. The speakers have a lanyard & a bottom thread for mounting, and there’s a built-in microphone so you can answer your phone with them. Will survive a dunking but are not designed to work underwater. $69.99 each direct or at Amazon, in 3 colors.

Remember The ‘80s? – SleepPhones may remind you of more than 30 years ago, with their headband style, but they contain small speakers that go over your ears, so you can wear them to listen to music, hear meditative audio, or just block out the snorer next to you when you go to sleep. The basic model with a long cord and a 3.5 mm plug is $39.99, and they make other models that are wireless, Bluetooth, designed for TV listening, or even one pre-loaded with soothing sounds.

Love The One You’re With – loveBuds are marketed as “His and Hers” earbuds, but in today’s more gender neutral world, maybe they should have tried for something more inclusive, say, “Yours and Mine.” The product is simple enough, two sets of colored earbuds, one fuchsia and one black, that plug together into a smartphone, iPod or laptop, so you can listen together. Separate volume controls. Under $30 at Amazon.

Sound In The Round – Fabriq is a 3″ tall – and round – speaker that will play music with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth from your phone, but it is also an Amazon Alexa device, meaning it can take voice commands just like an Amazon Echo or Dot, play music from Internet services, or control smart devices, or call an Uber, or order a pizza. Rechargeable to place anywhere, and you can have up to 10 in your home at once. In 3 colors, under $50 at Amazon.

Back To The Future – 3D RetroViewer looks just like that old View-Master toy you probably had as a kid, where you clicked to spin the wheel of 3D images – a toy that dates back to 1939. For $29.95 you can get a viewer & make a reel of your own images – $14.95 for each additional photo reel – prices drop with quantities.

Feeling Queasy? – Reliefband straps around your wrist like a watch, only it delivers little electrical pulses to the median nerve in your arm, pulses that travel to your brain and are said to help relieve nausea associated with motion sickness, morning sickness or other causes. The strength of the pulses is easily adjustable. Under $100 direct.

Find Your Stuff – Pixie is a tracking system that works with your iPhone or iPad to help you find your keys, wallet, pet, or anything else to which you attach one of their little trackers. One Pixie goes on the back of your phone or tablet and links to an app that helps you visually pinpoint the location of what you’re looking for even if its hidden in a drawer or hiding under the bed. You buy a Pixie pack of 2 or 4 trackers and get an iPhone 6 or 7 case thrown in. $49.99 to $99.99 direct.

Charge Your Stuff – FLIway 40 is a conductive charging system that provides up to 40 watts of power to charge your phones, your smartwatch or any other device that you’d normally plug into a separate power cube. You plug their thin, 8.5” by 3.5” charging pad into their adapter, then use one of their FLI accessories to charge your devices. They have cases that fit on smartphones, cubes that mimic power cubes, and FLIcoins with microUSB or Lightning jacks to plug into devices. You can purchase various starter kits for $99 and up, plus additional accessories including phone cases, direct on their site.

What’s Up, Dock? – Kensington SD3600 Universal Docking Station is designed for those of us with laptops whose manufacturers don’t make a custom docking station for our models. The 7.5” by 3” little brick plugs into power, then you plug in your laptop with a special USB3 cable. Add a monitor, keyboard, mouse, Ethernet cable, USB2 & USB3 devices, even speakers/headphones and a microphone. Your laptop comes & goes, but with that one cable, reconnects to all. $159.99 direct.

Lock It Up – Master Lock 4401DLH is a Bluetooth enabled smart-lock that is also made to be weather protected. Designed for heavy-duty outdoor use, it has a thick 2” shackle and unlocks with a smartphone app so you can share access. You can even use it to secure your gym locker, with your phone safe inside, and unlock it using a touchpad (no numbers). The app lets you know when the battery needs replacing and keeps a log of who opened the lock. Under $60 at Amazon.

Double-Up Your iPhone – InkCase is not just a protective case for your iPhone 6 or 7, it provides a second screen – on the back – that you can use to read like a Kindle, although it works with most eBooks. It’s a black & white screen designed to be easier on your eyes than trying to read from the main iPhone screen. They’re also coming out with a case that displays – in a smaller space – weather, time, and appointments. The i6 case is under $100 at this writing, on Amazon.

Connect For Less – Kasda AC 1900M dual band wireless router is an inexpensive Wi-Fi router with a simple quick setup. It has 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports for wired devices, plus both USB2 and USB3 ports to add external drives or printers to a home or small business network. While you get both the faster 5 GHz and the longer-reaching 2.4 GHz bands, this model does not band steer, so you stay on the connection your device makes until manually changing it. Under $120 at Amazon.

Water Works – Aquor House Hydrant is a solution for those of us in cold weather climes who need to make sure outdoor faucets contain no water in winter, or they’ll break from the ice. This one is different than other “frost free” faucets in that there’s no valve to turn; inserting their twist-lock connector – connected to your hose – turns the water off or on. Ask This Old House shows how it’s installed – you’ll need a plumber unless you’ve got the requisite skills.