First Prize for Home Security

Well it would be first prize, if the Cyberimbiber gave out prizes.

November 18, 2020 update

We struggled with the decision about buying security cameras. They are definitely useful. Oh but the prices! If the price of the camera doesn't blow your Starbucks budget, the monthly fees will sure do it. But there is hope. A startup company called Wyze (not related to the display company with a similar name) has been offering increasingly exciting cameras starting at just $20, with outstanding performance even in very low light.

Not only are their cameras amazingly good but they also offer video doorbells for $29 (compare that to Ring!!!) and include a free but limited monitoring service that will take care of casual surveillance needs. The new version three cameras can deliver full color and glare reduction in night-time situations where other cameras can only provide black and white. If you want a full feature monitor service, it's going to cost a fraction of other systems. We wish Wyze a long and successful business! You can see some impressive customer picture examples at this imgur link. Visit the official Wyze website for more examples and ideas!

 

 

Geek Needs a Gift?  Check Here...

Here are the items that the Cyber Imbiber likes to buy!

(If you are looking for Part 1, click here)

November 18, 2020 update

After months of staying home to stay safe, people have different wants and needs, including more personal comforts and more ways to connect. High tech gifts can be a great idea if they help the recipient to feel more engaged and empowered. On the other hand, it’s frustrating to get yet another tech gift that requires configuration, tuning and maintenance. Simple is better. Why not try these?

Call blocker services are a welcome surprise, such as Nomorobo. Crank and telemarketer calls are especially frustrating when you stay home. The annoyance amplifies because it’s such a disturbance to the routine. The Cyber Imbiber likes Nomorobo because it offers free protection for home phone lines, and reporting unwanted calls is easy.

 

HDMI accessories for new generation TVs and Home Theaters. Let’s face it, a lot of folks will not be going back to movies and concerts any time soon. Maybe your friend could use a new soundbar. For someone special, how about a 4K wireless bridge? (watch out, they are expensive!)

Since we are just saw an expensive gift, why not another?

Motorized platforms with microprocessor controls just keep getting better. Here's one with a single wheel that can be driven with precision at a fast clip, or when barely moving at all. My son-in-law has trained his dog to hop on, and now they go everywhere. Other dogs are jealous! The best of the bunch is the Onewheel, and it's gonna set you back a bit under $2000.

 

Directed Sound: Put voice and music where you want, no wires, no headsets!

"Sound" interesting? The Noveto Systems Soundbeamer is not your average Bluetooth speaker, and maybe not what your recipient wants for general use, but there's no denying that the technology is cool. There is also no denying that the developers are lying when they call this a new idea. Directed sound systems have been in use since World War II. Hams and hackers experimented with them through the 60s and 70s. If you walked into a Fry's Electronics in the last decade there were CD listening kiosks that literally beamed music to you ONLY when you stood in front of them. But we can be generous and say that the instant phasing with modulated ultrasonics and audience tracking in this product was not available for casual consumer use until recently. But it was available seven years ago for exhibitions, because the Cyber Imbiber experienced it in the Churchill museum in London. If you are a fan of 5.1 and 7.1 home theater, just think of the possibilities for a couple of these units to direct your sound. Sadly, it's just another black rectangle thing, at least in its first release. 

Cord and cable organizers. If you know that your recipient is tripping over or staring at dangling wires, this is a great and simple gift idea to make the home tidier. No one gets offended if you offer to help them neaten their cords. There are guides that lie flat on the floor, run on the walls, and clip to furniture. Here are just a few examples. They come in all shapes and sizes. The CyberImbiber is very partial to the spiral wrap and split tube, both on the right. Try searching Amazon, Newegg, BestBuy, HomeDepot or anywhere else you like to shop. 

 

Power pigtails. No, they are not a hair style. We have been told the future is wireless. But those wall plugs and adapters are not disappearing any time soon. Everything is in different shapes so that even a large power strip can’t accept them all. Power pigtails are really short extension cords that move your adapters, or "wall warts" away from the congestion. You can find 2- and 3-wire versions.

Digital photo frames that can be updated over the Internet. We can all see pictures on our phones and monitors, but it’s really nice to have pictures on tables and walls too. Better still, the new generation frames are Internet enabled, so families can send updates to the frames. And if you are really adventurous you can load up some semi-animated pictures, like we saw in Harry Potter! The Akimart shown here is one example, but you should look at many models before you choose.

 

The Joule Sous Vide for easy gourmet cooking. What looks like a digital assistant, sits in a pot, shifts water like an aquarium pump, and makes perfect meals every time? That would be the Joule, a water bath cooking solution that everyone can appreciate. The old  slow cooker will gather dust after this gift arrives.  It’s controlled by a smartphone, which makes for handy high tech appeal. To be eco-friendly you can include some re-usable silicone cooking pouches.

 

Gift certificates for delivery meals. Nothing beats takeout. Give your recipient a gift certificate for several meals, to be spent at the restaurant of their choice. There are many services to choose from too, including BeyondMenu, DoorDash, GrubHub, Slice, Uber Eats and more!

                

 

 

How about a web conference service subscription? If your friend is messing with free accounts with limited features and short meeting times, here’s a way to spend more quality time together. Zoom offers 20% discounts for a year-long Pro license. BlueJeans costs a bit less than Zoom, and offers more concurrent users, but maybe you don’t need more than 100!

              

Webcam lighting. Help your recipient look his/her best when you link up online. Camera lights don’t need to be expensive, nor clunky. Look at new designs such as the Zumy which combines convenience with the soft lighting qualities of a photographer’s light box.

 

Everyone needs a label maker. The more one stays at home, the more it seems that things need to have labels. A label maker makes everything seem so neat and professional. Two well-known makers are Dymo and Brother and you can find them everywhere. Check the price of refills before you choose! If your recipient has beautiful writing, you could alternatively gift a roll of ½” artist framing tape and some thin-tip Sharpie markers. Artist framing tape holds tight but releases easily.

                 

 

Need a small practical gift? Why not give a microwave vegetable steamer? Smaller, lighter and faster than a stove top steamer, the microwave versions are made of remarkably tough high tech plastics that handily survive boiling temperatures. The Cyber Imbiber loves this Rapid Veggie Steamer, just right for two servings and it has an unusual triangular shape if you want an escape from “square meals”!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the young at heart, pick up some cord bytes! There is a large assortment of little animals that attach the plug ends of phone charging cables and are guaranteed to give a smile whenever the charge is on.

 

 

Virtual Experience Tours. Saving the best for last in the list! There are organizations around the world who will take you on live, hosted virtual tours. These range from the tranquil to the bizarre, including a walk around Chernobyl to feed the surviving dogs.  Airbnb has taken a lead on this concept: you can see their full catalog at this link.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to the 2020 Holiday Gift Guide, Part 1.

Here are the items that the Cyber Imbiber will NOT buy!

November 1, 2020

When it comes time to buy gifts this year, you will have many choices to amp up tech lifestyles for friends and family. Before anything else is said: remember that any gift guide that is not coming from a branded source with a reputation, and any guide that urges you to act fast before that gadget sells out, and/or tells you without validation that the item is a top seller that everyone wants, should not be accepted at face value. Take a step back and think!

The comments below are personal opinion. Use these recommendations as you wish, and take responsibility for your own decisions 😊

Miraculous Wi-Fi repeaters to speed up your home network. There is no free lunch. Wireless repeaters do not speed up your Internet, they can only relay the service you already have. And on the downside, they can interfere with each other and add latency when you are surfing the web or playing online games. If there are poor signal areas in your home, the better solution is to run some cable and set up proper Wi-Fi extended access points and/or a mesh network. That’s a bit more complicated and not something to just drop in your recipient's lap, so to speak.

The Photostick to solve your picture problems. If you own a Mac, iPhoto will find and sort your pictures. If you have a PC or a Mac, you can use Google Photos to help. It might be true that for a totally clueless person that the Photostick would be an easy way to get started. But it’s no miracle. Look for alternatives. If you really want a plug-and-go organizer, read reviews like this one, and still exercise a lot of care in your choice.

Hyped car computer readers like the FIXD that list for $59. You can buy the same type of device for far less. This unit sells for about $11.00. All of these devices can read a car’s major sensors as well as read and reset the check engine light notification. If you go low you will need to take time to try out and find software that works well, but there are a great many choices, most free, that run on iPhones and Android phones. The Cyber Imbiber likes Obd Mary.

Headphones, earphones and Bluetooth speakers. These are very personal for people today. It’s best to not buy this type of gift unless you have a very good idea of the recipient’s preferences. A gift certificate would be a good choice. If you must make a purchase, do your best to gather clues. For Bluetooth headsets, the Cyber Imbiber still recommends the Motorola H730, reviewed previously in this section. For Bluetooth speakers, the Cyber Imbiber still recommends Photive Hydra for water proofing and good sound, and Ultimate Ears (UE) Boom for the most awesome sound. Both are reviewed previously in this section.

Cell phone signal boosters. Your cell phone is designed to be as efficient as Apple, Google, Samsung and so on can make it. Don’t you think that if stick-on booster decal antennas really worked, these companies would sell their own versions as high-profit accessories? The idea of the booster is to make your antenna work better. In the history of radio communications, there are three basic ways to boost an antenna, 1) get to a better signal area, 2) make the antenna bigger and matched to the wavelength to increase gain, and 3) power up an amplifier. These so-called boosters are confined to the back of your phone and many are supposed to be attached to the battery, which is not always accessible. They do not make your antenna bigger in a useful way and they are not powered so at best they do nothing and at worst they steal some of your phone’s transmitting power. If you want to see what a real cellphone signal booster looks like do a search. They aren’t anything you would be carrying in your pocket, but they could solve a low-signal issue in a house. Here is a reasonably done study of the decal antenna: https://www.wilsonamplifiers.com/blog/cell-phone-signal-booster-sticker-review-do-they-really-work/

360 degree and 3D cameras. There are some products that look quite exciting. But this means learning new formats, that not everyone can play and view. It would be better to wait for another generation of VR equipment to cycle in the next three years. On the other hand, your recipient would probably love to receive an electronic stabilizer to hold their phone during walking and action shots and the Cyber Imbiber sees models as low as the $50 range. Try a search.

Home Security and Outdoor Cameras. If you are looking for reliable cameras to use around your home, avoid the endless parade of expensive gear – cameras costing hundreds and cloud services that suck up your Starbucks coffee budget.  Instead, look at the Wyze camera line. The images and sound are high quality, the base level cloud service is free, and the prices are just ridiculously cheap!

Magic Jack and other jacked-in and jacked up classic phone alternatives. I know people who have Magic Jacks. I call and leave messages and get nothing back. Eventually I talk to these people and find out that they don’t check up on their Magic Jack. With cell phones being universal, maybe you don’t need it anyway. Here are some alternative ideas. You can have a Google Voice number that has more message features and full text transcription for free. With Google Voice you can make and receive calls and texts on your PC, Mac or smartphone without any hardware. It just works. You can even port your old landline number: Google will do that for $20. If you want to make international calls, the charges are low.  OK what if your gift recipient really does still want to have a landline? First ask why. If they want a line that will work through long power outages, then maybe they can still get “plain old telephone service” in their area and you can forget the clever gift.  If that’s not a concern then look into VoIP providers. Yes, their Internet Service Provider can offer VoIP service so you don’t need an independent VoIP provider. But consider that this mortally ties you to one ISP, and makes it difficult for you to port if you want to change. With an independent service, you can change provides and addresses any time you wish. The Cyber Imbiber pays less than $10 per month for a VoIP landline that includes voicemail, smartphone app, second cloned outbound line, unlimited national dialing, a monthly international call credit and a customizable call block.  

Home Assistants such as Alexa. We all know now that these assistants continuously record our conversations and that humans listen to us to improve the automated comprehension. For many of us, this is an unwanted violation of privacy. If the recipient already has an Alexa, for example, then fine: buy them a smart plug or some other extension product. But if you are choosing for someone who has no experience with these assistant devices, you need to be certain that your recipient is willing to diminish their privacy. Indeed, you need to be sure that they are aware of the implications of inviting these devices into their homes.

Turntables with USB outputs for ripping record albums. This is another subject where personal choice plays a role, as well as common sense. Many of the products in this range have terrible sound quality, so your recipient may be excited to open the box but unhappy with the results. Keep in mind that with “popular” retail products, you are probably just paying for the fake retro look of the cabinet, not for a good turntable, and the only thing that matters is the turntable! Many of these models do not come with arm lifters and for those who don’t realize this: improperly dropping or lifting the arm will make a permanent pop-scratch in the record! Buy for function, not looks, from a professional audio store. Or better yet, look for CD or subscription recordings of the albums your recipient likes. You cannot beat the sound quality of a professionally ripped record.

Indoor Hydroponic Gardens. There are some amazingly cool ones now, including models that look like furniture. High tech innovations make them more efficient and easier to clean. But unless your recipient is begging for this gift, and you know the person to be fastidious, bear in mind that it's very easy to let these systems go foul, in which case they will breed a lot more "things" than just plants. The bucks you plunk down can go to waste quickly. 

3D printers. The Cyber Imbiber won't rule them out completely, but as with other new tech, it is a personal choice, and the recipient needs to be clear about the printer they want. Gift certificates are good here! 3D printing technology continues to develop and expand, so today's amazing printer may not be the best choice. There are many 3D printing services. If your recipient mainly wants to wet his/her feet wet, give them credit at a service company. This will give them access to a wide range of printers and print media, plus expert assistance. 

In general, don't buy any gift where the task can be done better by a smartphone app, unless your recipient is some sort of nostalgia freak or technophobe. So, alarm clocks, many types of universal remote controls, standalone auto GPS, simple home security, kitchen memo pads, calendars and a whole lot more tasks, desktop clutter and minor helper appliances simply no longer are relevant to most peoples' daily lives. And of course, they can unlock your home doors. You can even use your phone as a carpenter's level, although I am fearful of dropping it from a ladder. 

 

September 2020: Coming Soon! First Edition of the 2020 Holiday Gift Guide!

What do you buy for the person who has been mostly shut off from the world since March? Find out HERE. The 2020 Guide will have its first release right around Halloween! Then, there will be periodic updates as new items are considered. Stay tuned for the best eclectic, eccentric and commercial free gift guide on the Internet! 

 

May 2020: pandemic gift of the month

In the midst of the pandemic, I took a step beyond just owning a "Phone Soap" to sterilize my phone with UV light. I bought a serious 60 watt UVC light that can kill lots of bacteria and viruses and basically, is dangerous. Here's a picture. 
  
Out of the box it was not supported and needed a base. I made a 3-way base that allows it sit on a table, to be hung horizontally, or to be mounted on a tripod for full room sterilization. It can do a room in as little as 15 minutes. It also generates ozone, so much in fact that the air in the room is unbreathable and must be vented!

For daily use, I built a 3 ft x 3 ft x 4 ft box in the garage with all surfaces made of reflective material. Everything that comes to the house spends at least 15 minutes in that box. There are no perfect solutions to combating viruses, but if you like the idea of using high-power UVC light and ozone, then you will like this lamp! If you want one, look here.

Note: in response to a couple of comments: UVC light has been used for many years to clean air in hospitals and other places with sources of infection, typically as a vented fixture near a ceiling. Tests by the NIH and elsewhere confirm that UVC will deactivate viruses both in aerosols and on surfaces. Ozone is also effective.

 

April 2020: useful gift of the month

I am going to repeat an old recommendation! In the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, you want to keep contact with anything to a minimum, and that includes your phone! So when you do have to go out to buy food or other essentials, a Bluetooth headset will help you avoid the need to pull out that phone. Get any headset you want, that is comfortable. I had previously recommended the Motorola H730 because it hugs the ear effectively. Under the circumstances, this is a good gift for anyone you want to help stay safe.

Now for the good stuff. Want to answer a call? Tap it. Want to make a call or start the GPS? Tap it. When you are back in your car, you should find that anything you say to the car ("OK Google") will be answered through the car, and anything you initiate with a tap will be handled through the earpiece. Nice and easy!

 

March 2020: questionable gift of the month

If you read my Harbingers of Failure article (check out my older blog entries), this is one of those candidates IMO. I have come out strongly in favor of carrying a battery pack to keep phones and tablets topped up. What if I said to you, here is a battery pack that costs more, and only gives you half of the power you paid for. Would you buy that? Well, here it is. The sales advertisement even admits you will only get half of the power. So you pay for a 10,000 mAH charger and get the value of a 5,000 unit. Of course you can use a cable with it, but that defeats the idea.

Is it worthwhile to pay more and lose half the power?

Why only half power? Because you lose half through inefficiency when you transfer power with an inductive loop.

If you are traveling, you can afford to use a short cable to charge your device. If you are charging while on the run, your phone cannot sit peacefully on the platform. And you will need the cable anyway, to charge the battery pack! 

 

2019 HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE

December, 2019

Let me say that as I look out at the many things one could buy in our marvelous high tech world, I am not impressed! It’s not just that I have seen things before, and so I am bored. I am not merely cynical that quickly obsolete trinkets will seem exciting to younger folks. Well maybe a bit. But really, I am not impressed. And I certainly won’t recommend home Internet accessories that record your conversations and images, sharing them to those big companies we all know by name. Get over it folks, and flip that switch with your fingers, the original “digit” solution!

For my 2019 list, I start with items that are not expensive, and many will not be in high demand, so you won’t have trouble buying them even at the last minute! Note that I provide a lot of links to Amazon. I am not encouraging you to buy there, I use their links because they are handy to illustrate products.

The best tech gifts last a long time, and are not high carbon footprint fads.

Of course if you want to spend money on something that is totally cool and involves imbibing, check out the review of the Pico Brew farther down in this page.

Semi-transparent water-resistant mesh zipper pouches. These are sold in art stores and The Container Store for general use but they are perfect for stowing cords,plugs, adapters and so on for home or travel. Why do I call out this design? They let light in so you can find your stuff. They don’t look ugly when they get scratched with use. And, they are TOUGH! Here are some sold at The Container Store.

Lightweight HDMI patch cords. If you travel, there are times when you want to plug your laptop into the hotel TV to watch movies through your own system. To make life easier, just carry a mini HDMI cord. Check this one out at Amazon

 

Folio-style phone cases. The best way to get your phone cracked is to put it in a skimpy plastic shell. I highly recommend a folio- or book-style case. You can also store notes, business cards, money and other items and it doubles as a stand. For a price that is often lower than the skimpy shell, you can get substantial protection and still look stylish. Here's an example at HDAccessory.

 

Cord squids. I don't know if that's an official name but they look like squids to me and I am hungry for seafood right now. A cord squid has an input USB plug on one end and several output plugs on the other side. Typically now, you get a USB-C, Lightning and MicroUSB. Some cords have more than one of each and will also include a mini-USB. These cords are not only handy for travel but they are also great in the car. You want at least two feet length and you want it to be in-line, for ease of use. Pair it up with a car adapter rated at least 2AMPs and it’s a sweet gift! Here’s one I like at Amazon.

<<< This          Not this >>>

 

Car holders to convert phones to dashcams. Everybody’s got old phones sitting around wasting space. If you have been wanting a dashcam, that old phone will do a great job, better than expensive dashcams! The tricky part is finding a holder that will sit high enough to get a forward view, that does not block the camera. This will take some research and experimentation. Software is available for free or cheap to convert Android, iPhone and Windows Phones to be excellent dashcams. Here is an example of a YouTube video to encourage you.

 

Phone-Activated Switch Lock Kit. More accurately, it's a switch that is activated by touch tone dual tone sounds (DTMF) first offered by ATT back in the 1960s and of course still in use today. The kit comes with a microphone which would allow you to play sounds at your lock. Or, if you are the Steampunk type, you could use 9 volts, a few resistors, and operate the lock from a vintage phone. Pretend your door is the entrance to Iron Mountain, just like in Sci Movies of the 60s-70s! This is a kit, and it requires expertise with soldering, PC boards, and DIY in general. Very cool. Find it at American Science and Surplus.

 

Mouse Jigglers. Hoo Boy, that sounds kinky! But in fact, it’s an amazingly handy tool. If you are working with a desktop or laptop that times out to lock or go to sleep, this handy device will keep things awake for you. It was a good way to keep my work PC laptop from driving me nuts when working from home. I just plugged it into the port replicator on my desk. The device installs on the USB mouse interface. If there is no activity after a set time, the Jiggler will move the cursor randomly, a pixel or so in several directions. The original and best is made by WiebeTech. You can see several models on Amazon.

 

External 5V battery packs. Anyone who spends time traveling even for a day, finds themselves with dead batteries on their phones. You can make life better for a friend by picking up a power pack. Those phones get hungry so don’t pick a model with capacity less than 10,000 mAH, and 20,000 would be really nice. Try a search for 5V external battery packs on your favorite website. I like the Astro because it looks like a phone, and seems to please the TSA. You could start here on Amazon.

 

180 degree flashlight. Flashlights are old news right? Maybe not. High brightness low temperature LEDs get people thinking of new ideas. On the other hand think how many horror movies will never be made again if people stumbling in the dark can actually see where they are going?! Here is one of several models on Amazon.

 

Bluetooth earpieces. I despair at the people I see walking, driving and worse, with one hand and their $900 phone at their ear when a simple earpiece would free their hands. We can’t cure stupidity, but we can do our best to help others avoid mistakes! Not all headsets are alike. I prefer the Motorola models that cannot be turned on by accident because the earpiece must be unfolded. A good example is the H730, here at Amazon.

 

The Flying circus of Physics, with Answers. You have seen books that describe how things work? Well, you have seen nothing like Jearl Walker’s book! He poses puzzles, observations and questions about natural and man-made situations from the tame to the bizarre, then provides both the simple and the hard science explanations. It is an amazing read for anyone who has a basic grasp of science and math, or a diverting collection for your favorite genius. You can get this through any bookstore. Here is the author's site.

 

Outdoor wildlife cameras. These cameras can cost as little as $40 and are weatherproof. Everyone can enjoy watching for local animals going about their business. Some people leave the camera active for a year and build visual timelines of activity. And, it can double as a security camera! Take a look on Amazon and other sites.

They all look like creepy aliens. Cool.

 

LED roadside emergency "flares" This is a promising replacement for combustible flares, but ONLY if you regularly replace your batteries. In fact if you want to do this right, you will use non-rechargeable Lithium batteries (expensive) because they have a long shelf life, and work well at low temperatures. Don't bite on the ads until you look around. 1tac models are 3 lights for $40 at Walmart, while a lookalike Tobfit model sells as 12 lights for $60 on Amazon.

 

Roku streaming sticks (and boxes). If you have not yet bought a streaming device, stop before you get the Fire Stick or Apple TV. Those products force you to take subscriptions through them for streaming channels that are available independently. Instead, check out the Roku device family for a similar price. It must have been ten years ago that I met up with Roku at a Pepcom event. While many others disappeared, Roku set the bar for quality and channel access. You can always take out independent subscriptions, and use them any way you like.

 

 

Bluetooth speakers. Now there’s a subject that may be over for some, but if you don’t have experience you must resist buying something at the mall that’s on special. Good sound quality with portability is paramount! There’s no substitute for the UE BOOM models. They are a "gold standard" and they are widely available from many stores. Even the smallest has power and quality sound. My son informed me that the cylindrical models can be rolled down the hallway at full volume, turning any office into a party zone! I also like the basic model from Photive. It pairs quickly, reports its battery level to your phone, and has a real on/off switch. Not as much bass, though. But it did a perfect job of shouting remote control sound effects in my Halloween haunted trail and never ran out of power. Here is a link to the Photive Hydra.

  <<< UE BOOM            Photive Hydra >>>

 

Zoetropes. Perhaps you have heard of the earliest animation systems that relied on rotating images and mechanical stroboscopic effects? There are kits galore of all sizes and complexity on the Internet for the original 2D models. Here is a good place to start on Amazon.
But if money is no object, and you crave awesome results without being an artist, you can get involved in high tech 3D Zoetropes through a Indiegogo project called
4-Mation.

 

Piano Instruction. My head is full of music, but I never learned to play beyond drums or to read music. I sat for few minutes at a Pepcom event and tried out this learning system and I must say that I felt good about it. I really think I could jump a lifetime of gaps and learn to play. The system is adaptive to the learner's perception. At this point we are leaving the "low cost recommendations" station. If you are looking for an in-home method to learn, it's worth a look at the One Smart Piano.

 

Enabling the young engineer. Another nice find from Pepcom. If you have technically-inspired children, here is a fun computer kit that allows them to build their own “laptop” computer using snap-together materials. At the core is a Raspberry Pi, which also serves to guide construction and to teach lessons, using a Minecraft-style presentation. I especially like the way that the kit combines physical construction, discrete computer inputs, and Linux programming to give a balanced learning experience. Check out model two of the Piper Computer. And while we are on this topic, when I was a kid the big deal was the Erector Set, followed much later by Capsella. Today you should consider buying the IQ Key, which you can see here at Amazon.

  <<< PIPER 2         IQ-KEY >>> 

 

What about virtual reality? Well, unless you want to do your own programming, I would not get too excited yet. The clunky VR sets you can use today are good enough for some, but I am picky. Look into augmented reality games and apps, and if you don't know what that means, think about the Pokemon game that had people wandering around a couple of years back, seeing the world modified through their phone camera. Maybe what you really want for a gift is a 360 degree camera. For anyone into sports in particular, these can be fun. However, they are expensive and every model has its detractors. The 360fly which has been featured at many events including my favorite Pepcom, it a simple way to get started. By reading negative reviews on all of these products, you can learn how best to use them. Here is the link to the 360fly company website. And here is a detailed review at Tom's Guide.

 

 

CYBER IMBIBER "I DON'T BUY" ZONE

Please buy whatever you wish. It's your decision. I am not stopping you. But I will offer my opinion.

These are items I will not buy

Tapper Brand AirPods Carrying Strap. Seriously. A plastic cord with two plastic lumps at the ends to hold your AirPods. A bargain for only $60 at Nordstrom's. A plastic cord with two plastic lumps at the ends. At moments like this I realize that my personal honor and honesty keep me from creating things like this. Otherwise I would be rich.

The PhotoStick. There are lots of gallery management solutions for Windows and Mac. Maybe this is good for a totally nontechnical person on a PC, but I would rather point them to something like Google Photos.

Car diagnostic readers with a hard sell. For $59, the FIXD, a diagnostic code reader for your car will provide the same information you can get through devices costing as low as $10 using independent apps available on iPhone and Android.  Mechanics don't hate home car code readers, but I don't like the flood of ads that use this kind of language. IMO, the readers can bring them more business.

You will see a lot of ads for devices to "speed up your home wireless network". In nearly all cases these are simply repeaters. They will extend your signal range but they will not speed up your Internet connection and they will add latency.  Rather than use repeaters, you should cable up some additional fully supported access points, often for the same cost as the repeater.

Avoid apps that claim to repair your phone battery.  An example is BetterCharge.  Battery technology has moved on, and your systems have hardware-level control over battery charge state. In any case your battery's optimal life is just a few years and you can't do anything about that. This PC Magazine article presents a good factual review of battery management.

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EARLIER POSTS - with more gift ideas!!

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Geeks Gotta Eat.

 The fastest fresh breakfast sandwich on the planet!

 September 7, 2019

Meet the Hamilton Beach Breakfast Electric Sandwich Maker. I was gifted this sandwich maker for Xmas 2018 and I use it every day when I am home and not traveling. It makes a perfect sandwich and it's foolproof! Plug it in to warm up. Add an English Muffin, a slice of meat and one of cheese, an egg and wait four minutes.  Amazing! You can make your entire breakfast and only use one small plate.  Cleanup is easy! For variation use cream cheese with olives, sun dried tomatoes, Aldi Queso-style dip, sliced onions, instant biscuit mix and sausage and more. This is truly one of the best ever small appliances, taking little room on the counter, hiding next to the coffee maker. Mine cost about $15. Popularity has driven the price higher, but still worth it. Find it at many stores and of course, online! Visit the main website at this link. And for two dozen or more recipe ideas, look at this link.

Pico Brew makes craft beers from across the world, on your kitchen counter top.

Replace your coffee maker :-)

 August 22, 2019

You could also put it on your desktop, but people will talk. Believe it or not, this amazing little machine is partly the brainchild of a former Microsoft executive. See, miracles do happen. For just a few hundred dollars the entry level model will make a fantastic brew for you in as little as 2 days and change. The ingredients come in cartridges to avoid mess. The company has managed to strike deals for ingredients with many well-known craft breweries.  The starting models of this innvovative design were a hit at a Pepcom event a few years back.  Check out the Pico C entry level model here. On the other hand, if you are a tightwad looking for a mug of strange brew, check out my fast, cheap hard cider page.

Mobile Power Banks Make Life Easier

         

 August 12, 2019

Don't buy those silly cheap battery boosters at the supermarket aisle. On trips long or short, mobile surfing is inevitable and even if I use battery saver settings, come afternoon I am risking no juice to call an Uber.  You need at least a 10,000 mAH rated power pack. The Astros have a distinct advantage for travelers.  The shiny front, home button and charge indicators look more like a phone, which means less hassles at security checkpoints.  Sadly, Anker has moved on to produce new models that look exactly like batteries, so the CyberImbiber suggests that you dig around to find the Astro.