The 2022 Christmas tech gift advisory – Tech News TT – TechNewsTT

Above: Moleskine’s puzzling smart notebook.
BitDepth#1384 for December 12, 2022
Getting a Christmas gift for a technology obsessed loved one is a challenge. I know this, because the household management read the tea leaves and gave up decades ago.
Still, y’know, what to do.
Some ideas follow, coloured by my perspective with a nod at objectivity.
Everybody with a serious computing interest needs a USB hub. The multi-port units that are commonplace since USB-C became the default on modern computers are handy for travellers, but a working desk is a nest of cables.
Jacking everything into a hub means plugging in just one cable to a laptop.
What gets connected to a USB hub, or more properly, a port splitter can vary widely, but the cables are normally legacy USB-A, the commonplace slot-like plug connection.
A four to seven port hub should meet most needs, but be sure to look for hubs rated for USB 3.1 transfers on any computer made since 2020.
USB-C cables, the rounded compact plugs that are now commonplace on mobile devices and computers, were a swamp of differing specifications, but the Thunderbolt 4 standard rolls everything that’s gone before into a single cable.
The cables are around 30 per cent more expensive than a generic USB-C cable, but are infinitely more compatible across a range of uses, from high speed data connections to high-powered charging.
The best TB4 cables are manufactured with tangle-resistant braided nylon. Consider a gift pack of one foot, three-foot and six-foot cables for maximum impact.
The box of chargers is history. A new generation of gallium-nitride (GaN) chargers with intelligent charging circuitry allow you to charge a laptop, a tablet and a smartphone simultaneously with a single small adapter.
Look for multiple outlet units mixing USB-A and USB-C ports from Belkin, Anker and UGreen.
For just a bit more, you can pair that charger with an inductive charger for your smartphone and possibly a smartwatch.
Most inductive chargers are designed for devices to lay flat on them. I prefer units that hold the phone at a 45 degree angle on my desk, so I can see incoming calls and messages (I muted my phone ten years ago and haven’t looked back).
Everyone I know needs better headphones and possibly more headphones. For the record, I detest earbuds. They never seem to fit my ear canal properly, and I constantly expect them to fall out and be crushed underfoot before I can pick them up.
In a post-Zoom era, the only real choice is between wired and wireless headphones. I prefer the responsiveness and secure connection of a wired headset with a positionable microphone on an important call, but for other applications, a comfortable pair of Bluetooth cans fits the bill.
While some headphones promise that you can pair multiple devices, I’ve never gotten that to work, so I shamelessly have a pair linked to every device I work with.
My favourite brand, MPow, has been booted off Amazon, so I’ve sampled headsets from JBL (too small), iJoy (audio leakage) and Behringer (excellent, but commandeered by the lass).
Anker’s SoundCore Q20+ is on the lower end of the price range with a surprisingly good build and excellent sound containment. The noise cancellation is a bit too aggressive, but you can turn that off.
A mouse is a basic input tool yet too many users stick with the one that came with their system or carried over from the last computer.
A good mouse fit is notable for what doesn’t happen. You don’t get twinges from cramping too large hands to hold a tiny mouse. You don’t waste gestures and patience getting the cursor exactly where you want it to go. And if you’re a gamer, you get more accurate hits.
The Logitech Master 3S is the latest edition of their top of the line mouse for general use. It’s tracks movement at 8,000 dots per inch and has multiple buttons you can program.
It’s a mouse for a bigger hand and the MX Anywhere or Pebble versions are better suited to users with a smaller grip.
Beyond size and ergonomics, how a mouse connects can affect performance. Wired connections are favoured by gamers for responsiveness and the next best option, radio frequency (RF) connections are generally stable, though they are tied to a receiver that you plug into the computer.
Bluetooth mice are fine for general work and most offer performance that’s more than acceptable.
I took one look at flashlight gloves and knew someone had understood my problem. Reaching deep into a computer tower to install RAM? Squinting to see the connections behind a server rack?
For anything that requires two hands and can’t be illuminated by a head-mounted flashlight, these tiny LED lamps that strap to your thumb and index finger might be the answer.
I don’t know if this is really a functional tool, but I have to get a pair to try them.
A magnetic lamp has been on my wishlist for years now. The price never drops and it’s too expensive for folly. What is it, you might ask?
It’s a lamp that hovers above a platform on magnetic fields, drawing electricity from the field itself. No wires. Basic science. Or magic. You choose.
Know someone who takes lots of photos on their smartphone and likes to show them around? A pocket printer offers a more traditional approach.
The HP Sprocket and Canon Ivy are just a bit too big for most pockets, but connect wirelessly to a smartphone and produce small (expect two by three inch sizes on average) prints you can give to people.
Printing paper is expensive by the square inch, but the impact is likely to be both oversized and priceless.
The music hat is a baseball cap with speakers in the brim. Now you can both look and sound annoying simultaneously. Because you know, it’s going to be some lame rap music that’s coming out of that thing.
Nobody listening to Kendrick Lamar would wear that cap.
The Larq water bottle has its place. In the backwoods, where water from a stream can be safely sterilised by its interior ultraviolet lamp. Elsewhere? It’s a US$100 water-bottle.
Given that I have hard rules about liquids around computing devices, the Larq is only a slight improvement over a smart mug, a USB connected container for coffee that’s kept hot by a little saucer-shaped hotplate. You see convenience. I see death to computing equipment in the making.
I like Moleskine notebooks. I like computer tablets. I don’t know what to make of the Moleskine Smart Notebook, which is a combination of a special pen with a built-in camera to track your writing, a specially formatted notebook and an app for your tablet of choice.
The pen transfers your writing to the app while you write on the page. Why not just write on the tablet directly? Ask Moleskine.
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