Looking for a small gift for the technophile in your life? These are my recommendations for this holiday season:
- Portable Battery Charger: At least one person on your gift list spends their day on the move, whether at work or play, and probably spends the back third of that day babying their mobile device’s dwindling battery while desperately looking for a convenient AC outlet. Give them one of these chargers for their daily carry and they can work or play into the wee hours of the next day without being tethered to a wall socket. They are small, light enough to carry in a jacket pocket and will quickly charge just about any USB powered device and then some.
- Brightly colored, extra-long Lightning charging cable: Everyone and their mother’s brother has an iSomething at home, and you can bet their one power cord is one tug away from an electrical disaster. Why not get them something that is hard to miss and long enough to use comfortably while being plugged into an inconvenient power source? If they have an older model iPad or iPhone with the older connector, this will work for them. Sadly, the color choices aren’t nearly as festive. If they hail from the Android side of the fence, these swanky cables will work for micro-USB devices, and these will work for the ones that come with the new-fangled Type-C connectors (the new Nexus phones, for example).
- Portable 4-port Wall Charger: The best holidays are spent with friends and family, and you can bet a full house will have its share of dying mobile devices looking for a charger. These handy devices are compact with a folding plug for easy storage and portage, and can provide a quick, safe charge for up to 4 devices and with minimal wall-wart eruptions.
- Chromecast TV: Small enough and cheap enough to put one on every HDMI TV in the house, and capable of playing content from both Android and iOS devices. Small warning, they will need Wi-Fi, and cat videos are even more awesome on a big screen in your living room. If you are more into music, they make an audio-only version as well.
- I call this the “Gadget Hound Night Stand Sanity Saver“: Some of us keep our phones and tablets on the night stand by our bed. Every single one of us has at least one charging cable dangling on or about our work space. This handy gadget provides charging for up to 4 USB devices, two AC outlets and a convenient stand that works perfectly for phones or small tablets, and is right at home by the bed or on your desk. Why not have one for every night stand in the house, so your family and guests can charge up right where their devices work and sleep?
- Waterproof Bluetooth Earbuds: While perhaps a little steep for a stocking-stuffer, these might be the perfect gift for that special, active person in your life. I personally find music, audio books and podcasts to be great motivators while engaged in labor-intensive but otherwise mindless endeavors (exercise, yard work, house work, etc), but I hate getting tangled in the cord running to my smartphone. Bluetooth headphones allow you to cut the cord without sacrificing quality audio, and they can double as a headset when the inevitable call comes in right while you are in the middle of your activities.
For those of us that spend a good part of the day stuck in SoCal traffic, Google’s self-driving car offers a tiny glimpse of future salvation. We’re a long way off from streets filled with autonomous autos, but Google’s cars have driven 1.7 million miles so far, have only been in 11 accidents, and apparently humans were at fault in all cases. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone with any measure of self-awareness and experience with today’s technology. After all, technology provides us with a means to amplify our own innate abilities and allows us to achieve objectives that might be beyond our unassisted reach. It also grants us the ability to fail faster and sometimes in a spectacular way.
What this means for you:
My newer clients are frequently surprised to hear me say, “Sometimes, less technology is better.” It sounds like a butcher preaching a vegan life-style to his customers. The main reason I say this is not because I’m a Luddite (far from it!) but that I often come across instances where someone has become temporarily blinded by what I call the “Shiny Factor” and has adopted or implemented a technology that complicates rather than simplifies their original intent.
A prime example of this are clients that purchase software or even new computers to deal with an increasing volume of email, when the simpler (but not necessarily easier) solution would be to reduce the volume of email. Purchasing expensive firewalls won’t prevent infections caused by poorly-trained employees. Faster, more powerful computers won’t fix broken process automation or buggy software, nor will a faster internet connection necessarily result in more productive workers. It’s a dangerous, slippery slope, and can become self-perpetuating spiral of expense, frustration and complexity. As the old adage goes, the cure may end up being worse than the disease.
Are we doomed? Only if we continue to ignore that technology is created to serve us, and not the other way around. Technology is not meant to replace humans, but to amplify us. It’s up to us to make sure that the good is amplified and the bad minimized wherever possible, and sometimes to solve problems or get work done the old fashioned way – with a little elbow grease, human ingenuity, and common sense.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net