iPhone mania leads to early gadget Christmas

Christmas shopping has certainly evolved over the years. With gadgets now dominating our lives, they also dominate our Christmas shopping, even for younger kids as the age minimum for smart phones in many families keeps getting lower. Sure, boys still love footballs and girls love their dolls, and parent will buy all sorts of things large and small. Clothes and stocking stuffers and trivial gifts like cards puzzle frames are still common, but gadgets have certainly become the most important item on many gift lists.

The gift guides will be coming out soon, and you can expect the iPhone 5 to dominate many of these lists, and that shouldn’t be a surprise. The only thing holding it back is that so many people have already purchased one, as the introduction of the iPhone in many ways was an early Christmas for those involved in the logistics of delivering the new phone. The iPhone hysteria is certainly good for companies like UPS and serves as a warmup for the crazy Christmas season.

Despite the maps fiasco, the new iPhone 5 is obviously a hit. But it’s certainly not for everyone with the high price tag. Parents in particular will be searching for less expensive alternatives, and many parents frankly don’t want to spoil 10-year old kids with a new iPhone. Yet the pressure remains. So scour the upcoming holiday gift guides for other ideas that will make the kids smile.

Worx’s New Power Screwdriver Won’t be Passing Through Security Anytime Soon

I’m not a handy person in the traditional sense. I mean, I can work a hammer or screwdriver but prefer to only do so in the event of a zombie invasion (and I don’t mean hanging up boards).

You know…like this

So usually when an incredible new power tool comes out, it tends to fly under my radar. However, by its basic design, the new SD Power Screwdriver by Worx is pretty hard to ignore.

First of all, yes it does look an awful lot like a really cool sci-fi gun. It’s certainly a design decision that makes the drill immediately visually appealing, but that’s only a skin deep observation of the hand cannon influences on this tool. The real pistol influenced feature of this semi-automatic screwdriver lies in the chamber function, which allows you to automatically swap and load six different drill bits without the hassle of having to change them out manually.

Outside of that, the drill boasts some other useful abilities such as its lightweight design and compact size allowing for ease of use in just about every situation, as well as a second cartridge so you can keep 12 different bits handy at any time. Plus you get a nice LED light right under the chamber for further ease of use in tight, dark areas (your probably not supposed to treat it as a laser sight but no one can stop you from doing so either).

As I mentioned, I’m not handy, but that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t try to be. Little tasks of home improvement come up all the time, and many of the basic ones involve needing a good screwdriver. The new Worx looks to provide just that, and whether you’re looking to actually start filling up your own toolbox, or you know a handyman in the family who needs a gift come the holidays, the Worx is more than just a fun design, and looks to be one of the more versatile power screwdrivers on the market for its price.

Plus, there’s nothing technically stopping you from posing with it when no one is around and saying “Your move creep!”

You know…like this

Fuzz Wants to be Online Radio by the People, for the People

You know somewhere between Pandora’s steady, old reliable model, Spotify’s have it all, take it anywhere incredible features, and various other stations like SHOUTcast covering some of the most obscure music out there, I guess I once felt content saying that the world of internet radio is pretty well covered.

And yet it seems like there is at least one more site out there that thinks that there is still fresh ground to tread in that particular field by catering to this wild idea that instead of a computer algorithm generating music selection, perhaps it would be preferable for human beings to take a stab at it.

That site is called Fuzz and, if you let them, they’d very much like to rock/rap/alternative/classical your world.

How? Well the entire site is made up of user created stations. Members can upload their personal music and create a radio station set to a theme of the music selection, with the built in system mixing the music together for you. Examples include the standards like classic rock or 90’s hip hop, but a quick search reveals more specific stations like classical dinner music or trendy sushi bar.  A band search option is available to get you started, but the general idea is to start with music you are familiar with, and expand your interests, and favorite playlists, based on people who like those same bands or songs other available selections. It’s an idea that is automatically handled by computers on other sites, but Fuzz treats it much more like each user is the DJ to their own mix, complete with custom station names, backdrops, and comment and feedback features.

The creator of the site, Jeff Yasuda, has tooled around the internet radio scene for a while, and he and his team simply feel that it is more fun, and rewarding, for people to share music with people and not machines. It’s an idea that was encouraged by Yasuda’s other music app Blip.Fm, which allows people to play the music they’re listening to via Twitter and Facebook. The quiet success of that app has instilled Yasuda with the belief that a site that expands that idea into a full radio station could be a hit. Although, he is certainly aware of the long shot that any internet station is, as he reveals via a cryptic quote in an interview with Bloomberg.com when speaking of the internet radio industry:

“The space is crowded and the graveyard is long, deep and wide,”

So how is the site? While I’m personally still inclined to default to Spotify or Pandora for a kickback and let it play listening experience, Fuzz is infinitely more entertaining to just explore, whether it be for new music, or just to see what obscure and awesome stations people dream up. Though the battle for success, much less supremacy, is one that hasn’t even begun, to me it is indisputable that the basic idea behind Fuzz is a winner. Yasuda and co. are right in their idea that it is much more fun to put people in charge of a music selection, and the difference give Fuzz a personality in its beta stage that even the larger, and more established, stations don’t share.

In fact, even if Fuzz doesn’t take off, it’s that idea that I love, and which I hope ultimately influences other stations to implement something similar. Although, as so many other things in the tech business have proven, sometimes all it really does take is a good idea, and the proper amount of momentum to make it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I may have to make a station featuring the music of Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen, and the soundtrack to the video game “Earthbound.

A Non-Violent Solution to Ending Headphone Tangles

In the world of headphone problems, somewhere behind having one ear go out and the other not (I believe they design these things like that to sell more) and straight up losing them, lies the burden of tangled cords.

It seems that taking even the most surefire methods to avoid this problem, like neatly folding them and securing them with a twisty-tie, yield no solution to this issue as somehow those cords always find a way to become this jumbled mess that makes the Griswold family Christmas lights seem like a simple knot.

I’ve long resigned myself to the fact that much like the two socks go in, one sock comes out dryer conundrum, tangled headphones are just one of those issues you have to deal with once in a while even if there is sometimes no valid reason for its occurrence.

Luckily, more innovative people than myself have not given up the good fight, and there does now exists what looks like a cheap, practical solution to this dilemma.

That’s the Nest Earbud Protector, and the idea behind it couldn’t be simpler or more welcome. It’s a silicone case you pop up, and put your earbuds in. From there you just wrap the cords around the spindle, pop it back into place, and your headphones are now stored in a neat package that keeps them safe from damage, and of course tangles. The best part is a simple yank of the headphones will free them without hassle.

Actually, the best part may be that the Nest only costs $10. Now sure, I could just buy a Bluetooth headset, but I’m still fundamentally against spending over $50 on a pair of headphones that aren’t for anything more than everyday commute use, and I feel like most Bluetooth headsets make me look more ridiculous than I care to admit.

If you’re incredibly stuck in your ways like me then, it’s hard to not recommend giving something so affordable and useful as The Nest Earbud Protector a look.

Everything You Wanted to Know About the iPhone 5 But Were Too Afraid to Ask

With the first reviews pouring in today for everyone’s soon to be most bragged about toy, the iPhone 5, it’s time to take a step back and look at everything we know about the new iPhone, to date.

The Look

It’s thinner (the thinnest smartphone in the world according to Apple), it’s taller (a half an inch taller to be exact), it comes in black and white (though that doesn’t matter according to the late Michael Jackson), and of course it’s pretty sleek. Apple has had more than enough time in this business to know what works and what doesn’t and they aren’t messing with the formula now. The iPhone 5 looks like an iPhone, just better.

The Features

For the most part, all of the usual upgrades apply. The sound is better, the video is clearer, and everything is supposed to be faster. Of particular note, though, are the new 4G capabilities and Siri functions. The 4G is supposedly as quick as you need it to be, Siri is better than ever, and can perform an array of new tricks from pulling up apps on request, to providing sports scores. Also, the camera is supposed to work better in lowlight, and the battery life is cited as working up to 12-14 hours in some cases with normal usage, which would mean a great improvement over the previous models.  However, if you’re looking for the real new feature of the iPhone 5, you have to turn to the new iO6.

iO6

The biggest upgrade to i06 is the new Apple Maps features which opposes the popular Google Maps program. Reviews aren’t particularly flattering for the new app, as reviewers cite trouble using it practically in urban environments ,along with being generally behind Google Maps, but with things like Yelp integration, and Siri enabled GPS, a few updates could put the system on the right track. Otherwise, the new operating system is offering up increased Facebook functionality, Facetime compatibility, and a great all in one travelling app called Passbook that also works with some of your payment methods to help create a virtual wallet. Nice.

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