Category Archives: technology

New Windows 10 box

Mark wrote about this as well this weekend but I decided to upgrade his laptop this weekend.  His laptop runs Windows Vista and while it does a not bad job of it, it would need some more RAM to handle Windows 10.  I was pricing out the memory and the license for Windows 10 when I noticed that OTV had some Lenovo ThinkCentre desktop computers coming off lease that had way more power and were less than the Windows 10 license.  Not only that but they included a copy of the 64 bit version of Windows 7 (which of course upgrades to Windows 10).  The machine will handle a total of 16 gb of RAM so that was a plus as well.  I’ll add some more memory to this summer.

I picked that up with a $15 Logitech keyboard and mouse and took it home.  We had an extra monitor in the basement but as I go to grab it, Wendy and Mark tell me that  they threw it out in a cleaning purge.  Excellent.  So it was back to OTV where they had a 19.5 inch monitor on for $50.

Still it was cheaper than upgrading Windows and the RAM.

So we got it going, connected it to the interweb, and then used Ninite to download and install the freeware programs like Evernote, Dropbox, Google Chrome, Apple iTunes, Spotify and other programs.  The one thing I didn’t download is Libre or Open Office which I have come to believe are some of the most bloated pieces of software available.  Instead I was going to download AbiWord and have him use Google Sheets for a spreadsheet but I was in London Drugs where they had Corel WordPerfect Office Home and Student on for only $34.97.  It’s not Microsoft Office but it is a lot better than Libre Office in terms of speed and features.

This is off topic but I thought I would take a moment to mention how much I miss Lotus Smart Suite which included Lotus 1-2-3 but more importantly Lotus Ami Pro (later called Lotus Word Pro).  While I am it, I also miss Microsoft Works which I did an awful lot of writing on.  I really miss Works suites.  I wish someone would do one again.

The last bit of freeware software I put on his computer is Serif Publisher Starter Edition.  It is designed for beginners and gives him far more control than either WordPerfect or a word processor will give him.

I am kind of careful about fonts.  So many collections of freeware fonts have commercial fonts in them.  Years ago a graphic designer I know realized he had some illegal fonts in his collection and purged them and then put together some excellent freeware font CDs.  I installed them and then added some excellent commercial fonts that I have the license for.  He isn’t into page layout of print design but if he ever is, he will have a nice system for it.

I love my laptop and have no problems with it but the joy of a full sized keyboard and an almost 20 inch screen was pretty awesome as well.

The upgrade to Windows 10 took overnight to download but once that was done, it was good to go this morning.  Am always amazed at how powerful machine I was able to get him for so little money.  I grew up with DOS and then Windows.  After 4 years with a Mac and OSX, I like being back with Windows and the PC world again.

The Abandoned Arthur Kill Ship Graveyard

Wired has some more on it.

REACHING THE MARSHY spot on southwestern Staten Island where good boats go to die requires a car, sturdy footwear, and a willingness to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Though a sliver of the Arthur Kill ship graveyard is visible from the nearest road, the site’s full grandeur only becomes apparent once you sneak beyond the “No Trespassing” and “Beware of Dog” signs and hack through a miasma of seven-foot-tall reeds that stink of brine and guano.

The thicket finally dead-ends at a colossal pile of junk: thousands of splintered beams of lumber mixed in with broken engine parts. Just beyond this debris field lie as many three dozen ghostly ships in various states of decay, abandoned decades ago in this isolated corner of New York City.

The Arthur Kill ship graveyard was never meant to become such a decrepit spectacle. In the years following World War II, the adjacent scrapyard began to purchase scores of outdated vessels, with the intention of harvesting them for anything of value. But the shipbreakers couldn’t keep pace with the influx of boats, especially once people started to use the graveyard as a dumping ground for their old dinghies. Plenty of ships fell into such disrepair that they were no longer worth the effort to strip, especially since many teem with toxic substances. And so they’ve been left to rot in the murky tidal strait that divides Staten Island from New Jersey, where they’ve turned scarlet with rust and now host entire ecosystems of hardy aquatic creatures.

Urban Giants

Between 1928 and 1932, Western Union and AT&T Long Lines built two of the most advanced telecommunications buildings in the world, at 60 Hudson Street and 32 Avenue of the Americas in Lower Manhattan. Nearly a century later, they remain among the world’s finest Art Deco towers—and cornerstones of global communication. “Urban Giants” is an 9-minute filmic portrait of their birth and ongoing life, combining never-before-seen-construction footage, archival photographs and films, interviews with architectural and technology historians, and stunning contemporary cinematography.

Cell Phone Down

Yesterday Wendy came to me all upset and said she had dropped both of our iPhones.  Mine was fine but her phone had a smashed screen.  I wasn’t that upset.  Those things happen although two in a month (ahem Mark) was kind of painful.  When Mark broke his screen, I went to Costco and bought him a Acer Liquid Z410 for $130.  I picked up a 16gb Micro SD card from Don’s Photo for $15 and he was set.  For being so cheap, I was really happy with his phone.  It also has DTS Sound in it so even without a Bluetooth speaker the sound is good.

Wendy felt horrible but I was secretly happy.  Our contracts come up this summer with Bell and I had no idea what phone to get.  I was tempted to get some unlocked phones from Costco and save the money on our monthly bill.  I’m happy with Bell (and Mark is with Virgin) but it’s nice to have options.  Now I only have to figure out what I am going to do.  I am personally thinking of a Windows phone but I am always tempted to go back to Blackberry or a Windows Phone.

Acer Jade Z

Instead of picking up the Acer Liquid Z410, I got her the larger Acer Liquid Jade Z.


  • Display: 5-in. IPS TFT LCD
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth® 4.0 with EDR
  • Screen resolution: 1280 x 720
  • Operating system: Android™ 4.4 (KitKat)
  • Main camera: 13 MP AF with flash LED
  • Battery: Built-in 2,300 mAh rechargeable Li-polymer battery with up to 7 hours of talk time
  • Wi-Fi
  • Capture 30 fps FWVGA (MP4, H.264, H.263)
  • 720p video recording
  • Processor: Quad-core 1.5 GHz, MT6732
  • Dual micro SIM
  • 16 GB storage
  • 2GB RAM
  • MicroSD™ memory card expansion slot (card not included)
  • In-cell type touch lens with direct bonding
  • Side keys: volume up/down
  • Power key on top of device
  • LED indicator lights for charging, missed call, new message, lower battery
  • Google virtual keyboard
  • GPS Satellite data updates

For $220, it was a steal (way cheaper in store than online). 

The only thing  I don’t like about it is that it was a pain to find a case for it.  I ordered one for Wendy’s and Mark’s from  The price is right but they won’t be here until the end of March because I assume they are shipping from Taiwan or China.

This and that…

  1. The antibiotics are beating back the infection in my right leg.  A week ago the infection had encircled the leg and covered about 80% of the lower leg.  Now the circle is broken and it is about 20% of the leg.  Remarkably if the dog brushes up on it, a kid hits it, or if anything falls on it, it still falls on the painful part of the leg.
  2. A lot of you have asked what the doctors are doing about it.  The don’t really know why it the infection keeps reoccuring.  About 10 times now I have been declared cured and within days of having absolutely no trace of it for weeks, it comes back when I come off the antibiotics.  Each time it comes back with more force, faster, and harsher and I get way sicker in the process.   In all of the opinions I have gotten, the doctors keep telling me that this isn’t supposed to happen. 
  3. I still feel like death.  There is a feeling that the infection has done long term damage to my body, especially the last time.  Mentally I feel better.  The fever takes a weird mental toll on you in that it is exhausting to be either freezing and trying to get warm or burning up and trying to break the fever and stay hydrated.   It’s all I was thinking of for several days.  Despite staying in bed, I was exhausted and not sleeping.  I was too tired to even read anything.
  4. I try not to get angry or frustrated over it but I had some choice words for a doctor who was reminding me that my core fitness needed improvement.  Umm, i have been told to stay off my feet for 14 months now, I barely go out and of course my fitness is going to suck. 
  5. I was going to take this week off my StarPhoenix column to recover as I had nothing left in the tank but I read a great Sports Illustrated column on this years NCAA football season and how he had predicted how Ohio State would be an offensive juggernaut.  It made me think back to all of the predictions that made so much sense in the pre-season of any sport and how few played out that way.  I had some fun predictions for 2016 provincially, municipally and for the Riders.  Prediction columns are fun, where else can I talk about Eric Olauson and Bill Belichick in the same space?
  6. A lot of you know that I have a passion for word processors.  With a new Acer E-11 Netbook for Christmas, I am trying out a few right now.  I just installed Corel Office which is a slimmed down version of WordPerfect, Quattro Pro and whatever they use for presentations and I am trying a full blown version of WordPerfect X7.  I’ll let you know how it goes.
  7. Speaking of word processors, with my beloved Windowns Live Writer being discontinued by Microsoft, there is a new open source version called Open Live Writer.  Microsoft has allowed some of their code to be open source (this is a big deal) and it is being developed and upgraded by a team of developers.  The biggest difference is that Open Live Writer is compatible once again with Blogger.
  8. I wish someone would tell Jeb Bush that it is time to pull the plug on his campaign.  It’s over Jeb.
  9. The lack of star NDP candidates for the upcoming provincial election tells me that the NDP knows that it isn’t going to win.  Two relative unknowns in Saskatoon Fairview and Saskatoon Meewasin also tell me the same thing.  Cam Broten may be Premier in 2020 but it seems like the goal is 20 seats (and be a government in waiting in 2016).
  10. Speaking of Saskatoon Meewasin, has there ever been a MLA with a lower profile then Roger Parent.  No website and he even uses a email address on his bilboard ads.   I can’t even find him in Google News (you search for “Roger Parent” and “Saskatoon”, he isn’t there).  He is like the Saskatchewan Liberal Party of the Saskatchewan Party caucus.  I would say this about a New Democrat, Liberal, or Saskatchewan Party MLA but if you are going to do so little work in being a MLA, you don’t deserve to even win a nomination or be elected.
  11. I saw Darren Hill beaking of at Rona Ambrose about this one Twitter but I agree with Rona Ambrose and that is the Liberal Party should have a referendum on changing the way we vote.  Moving from First Past the Post may be the right thing (although I disagree with it) but it is a big of enough change to our democracy that we should have a say in it. 
  12. A couple of things about Brad Wall.  More and more his government reminds me of the Grant Devine regime with it’s dependance on mega-projects to spur the economy.  The stadium in Regina, the Children’s Hospital (which we don’t need nor do we have the population to support) and the carbon capture project.  Huge projects that are costing a recently struggling economy a lot of money.  I might be okay with this but I don’t see a plan from the Saskatchewan Party on how to deal with low commodity prices other than complaining ot the feds (like Grant Devine).  Now with no budget on the horizon before the provincial election and a struggling economy, it gives me an uncomfortable feeling that things are worse than we are being told.  Of course in the end, Brad Wall might not be here much longer and may have his focus on the federal Conservativ leadership race.
  13. I am suprised by the Cleveland Browns inability to acknowledge and get help for Jonny Manziel being an alcoholic and having a drinking problem.    There is a difference between being a party goer and what Manziel is doing.  I am also suprised by Manziel not being able to control his friends cell phone’s.  You don’t think Tom Brady’s friends have cell phones?  Yet you don’t see those kind of videos appearing of him.  In fact with Tom Brady’s Facebook, he has done an amazing job of controlling what people see of him.
  14. This is one of the most damning things I have ever heard someone say of a coach.  Despite that it is what destroyed Josh McDaniels, Bobby Petrino (multiple times) and how many other countless coaches.  Football is a people business and while we talk of the genius of coaches like Belichick with x and o’s, it is their ability to manage and lead men that makes them so impressive.  Not just players but assistant coaches, support staff, and even the guys who take care of the field and bring them all together.  Chip thought it was X and O’s.  He was wrong.
  15. When did Facebook rants become news?  Ryan Meili ran twice for the leadership of the NDP, lost both times and would never run for his party again.  When he runs provincially or federally under someone else’s leadership, I’ll take this more seriously but for now I don’t see this as big news.  I agree that Broten is taking the party to the centre, it’s worked well for the NDP in the past under Romanow and Calvert but it has been a disasterous move for the party federally and provincially elsewhere other than Alberta.  It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

The Greatest video game QB of all time was?

According to Bill Simmons

3. Randall Cunningham (late-’80s, early-’90s): The best video game QB of all-time. You could roll him out to either side, scramble for first downs, throw 70 yards with him, avoid sacks … and he never self-destructed like he did in real life. Regardless of how his NFL career turned out, he’ll always have his video game career to fall back on.

How NHL’94 came to be

How NHL’94 came to be

Blake Harris, the author of Console Wars, has written a piece on how NHL ’94 came to be. For those unaware, NHL ’94 is one of the greatest sports video games ever created. This is the sort of attention to detail that made it so great:

For example, it could emulate the ambience of a game day NHL arena by including the proper organ music. The problem, though, was that each team’s organist played different songs. ‘That’s not a problem, actually,’ explained Dieter Ruehle, the organist for the San Jose Sharks (and previously for the Los Angeles Kings), ‘I can do that.’ True to his word, Ruehle provided EA with organ music for every team; and he didn’t just provide all of their songs, but also noted which music was blasted during power plays, which tunes were used to celebrate goals, and all the other inside info needed to make each arena feel like home. Ruehle was so diligent about getting it right and capturing that home crowd essence, that during a recording session at EA’s sound studio he asked:

‘The woman who plays the organ for the Washington Capitals has arthritis; would you like me to play the songs how they are meant to be played, or the way that she plays them because of her condition?’

‘Definitely the way she plays it!’ Brook answered, after a laugh.

Christmas & Holiday Gift Guide for Teens | 2015 Edition

What do you get for the teenaged boy on your Christmas list.  The easy way out is cash and gift cards.  We aren’t going to take the easy route out.  We are doing this the hard way and come up with a list that any teenager would love.

Asus Zenpad 7” 16GB Tablet

Asus Zenpad 7” 16GB Android Tablet

  • 7″ IPS Display (1024 x 600) with ASUS TruVivid technology for better visual experience
  • Intel Atom x3-C3200 Quad-Core, 64bit, 1.2GHz
  • 1G RAM, 16G Onboard Storage, Bluetooth 4.0
  • 2M/0.3M Dual Camera; 1 x microSD Card slot, support up to 64GB SDHC
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop

$100 for a cutting edge tablet?  I’m okay with that.  The Asus Zenpad tablet runs a 1.2 GHz Quad-Core Intel Atom processor, Android 5.0, more than enough RAM to run the latest applications and 16 gb of storage for videos, music, and homework.  It also has a .3 megapixel front facing camera and a 2 megapixel rear facing camera

While you are at it, pick up a case, Bluetooth keyboard, Micro SD card and a Bluetooth speaker.

Amazon Fire Tablet with a 7” Display

Amazon Fire Tabet with a 7" Display

For less then $50, you can get your teen a modern and functional tablet from Amazon.  If you get the $49.99 version, it comes with advertising on the lock screen but for only $15 more, it has no advertising, just a fully functional tablet.  It’s a great deal.

Pentax K-50 DSLR

We gave Mark my Pentax K-30 to him after I upgraded this summer.  The advantage of Pentax over other DSLR’s is build quality.  The K-50 has over 80 water seals in it.  This means that the teen you are shopping for can take it far more places and adventures than other DSLRs.  The other advantage is the amazing price.  At under $500 (with a 18-55mm lens) it is one of the least expensive DSLR’s out there right now.

Pentax K-50 Digital SLR from Don's Photo

The PENTAX K-50 is a mid-level DSLR with fast, advanced functionality, all wrapped up in bold colors. Featuring specifications of a top level DSLR, enjoy a 16 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, fast continuous shooting at six frames per second, high sensitivity shooting up to ISO 51200, 100% field of view, innovative in-body shake reduction, and an advanced auto focus module with four optional focusing screens, not to mention the PENTAX-original weather-sealing. Also enjoy full 1018p HD video capture, and eye-fi card compatibility for fast and easy image sharing.

At the end of the day, you aren’t buying your teen a DSLR for them, you are buying it for the family time you will spend together shooting it.  This summer Mark, Oliver, Wendy, and I went for countless walks, hikes, and adventures together for no other reason than to shoot from photos and see what we could see together.

If you are wondering about available lens for Pentax, check out my guide to Pentax DSLR lens that I wrote this summer.

Ricoh WG-4

Ricoh WG-4 Ruggedized Camera

If you have a smaller budget, this Ricoh WG-4 is a great adventure proof camera.  It’s waterproof, crushproof, and has a built in GPS to record where you are when you take the photo.  It has a quick f2 lens, 16 megapixel CMOS sensor.  It is the perfect option to take into the backwoods, on a long road trip, or just attaching to your pack for a day out.  Like all WG series cameras, it comes with a wide series of mounts so it can attached to your bike, car, or helmet.  Not only are you getting a great camera but with the mounts you are getting many of the capabilities that a GoPro offers.

If you are looking seriously at a camera for your teen and aspiring photographer this Christmas, check out this post I wrote over at the Don’s Photo blog, it gives many more options than I listed here.

Sennheiser HD 202 II Headphones

Sennheisser HD 202 II Headphones

There is a good choice that your teen has an iPod or phone that plays music already.  The music is great but one overlooked thing is what do you play it on.  Sennheisser headphones are a great bet.  The Sennheiser HD202 Stereo Headphones prove to be a low priced alternative to high-end studio headphones.  Sure they may be asking for Dre Beats but Sennheisser headphones offer superior sound at a far better price.  No wonder they are the number one best selling headphones this year on Amazon.

Brainwavz Delta In Ear HeadphonesBrainwavz Delta IEM Earphones


If you are on a budget (and who isn’t) this Christmas, here are some fabulous looking and sounding headphones by Brainwavz at an affordable price.   Already named the best sounding headphones under $40 by the audiofiles at The Wirecutter, they offer one of the best values of this Christmas season.  And who doesn’t like a great pair of headphones for a really good price.

OontZ Angle 3 Ultra Portable Bluetooh Speaker

OontZ Angle 3 Ultra Portable Bluetooh Waterproof Speaker

One of the most popular and wished for items on  Brought to you by Cambridge Soundworks, this Angle is the latest in a line of amazing and affordable speaker systems.   It comes in comes in many color options and is 5.3 inches wide, 2.7 inches high, and 3 inches deep. It weighs 9 ounces, which makes it a lightweight unit.  Not only that but it is waterproof meaning that it can go where your teen goes.

Turcom Graphic Drawing Tablet 8 X 6 Inches

Turcom Graphic Drawing Tablet 8 X 6 Inches

Tucom is making tablets affordable for use by anyone, not just artists. This high-quality Tursion drawing tablet is priced just right, so everyone can enjoy the benefits of a graphic tablet. It includes several software utilities, such as PenSigner and PenMail, which allows you to use handwritten signatures, adding a personal touch to what is usually thought of as an impersonal medium. Easy to install and to use,

We gave one to Mark last year for his birthday and he has loved it.  It works with almost any kind of Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10 software has allowed him expand is skills and talents as an artist.

The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make: A Guide for Teens by Sean Covey

The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make: A Guide for Teens by Sean Covey

From Sean Covey, the author of the international bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, this bestselling follow-up book builds upon the legacy of the 7 Habits and shows teens how to make smart choices about the six most crucial choices they’ll face during these turbulent years.

The challenges teens face today are tougher than at any time in history: academic stress, parent communication, media bombardment, dating drama, abuse, bullying, addictions, depression, and peer pressure, just to name a few. And, like it or not, the choices teens make while navigating these challenges can make or break their futures.

Celestron PowerSeeker Telescope

Celestron PowerSeeker Telescope

You aren’t just giving a gift when you give a telescope as a gift.  You are opening up the wonders of the universe.   All of Celestron’s PowerSeekers include a full range of eyepieces plus a 3x Barlow lens that provides an increase in viewing power hundreds of times greater than that of the unaided eye!

Quest Super Cruiser Artisan Bamboo Longboard Skateboard

Quest Super Cruiser Artisan Bamboo Longboard Skateboard

Squier by Fender “Stop Dreaming, Start Playing” Set

Squier by Fender "Stop Dreaming, Start Playing" Set

If he wants to be a rock star, what better way to get him started than with a Squire guitar and amp by Fender?  It comes with an electric guitar, amp, bag, strap, cables, and picks.  Basically everything he will need to rock out in 2015.

ALPS Mountaineering Chaos 2 Person Tent

ALPS Mountaineering Chaos 2 Person Tent

So many parents we talk to tell me that all their kid is sit inside and game all summer.  In part because that is where all of the money is spent.  Instead of a new Playstation 4 or a XBox One, why not get them some quality gear for the great outdoors?  This 2 person tent invites them to get outside, explore the world, and see what else is out there.  Whether it is a weekend at a nearby regional park or an overnight hike on a historic trail, give them the gear to go exploring in 2016.

It is a roomy 2 person backpacking tent. It has a Hubbed Shockcorded Aluminum Frame that is strong and durable. The Full Coverage Fly will protect the tent from the worst weather and has 2 Doors and 2 Vestibules for stowing excess gear out side the tent. Each Vestibule has an Adjustable Vent to help with ventilation. And the no-see-um mesh panels on the roof and walls will help keep the tent comfortable. So much mesh that you could leave the fly off for stargazing should the sky be clear. Other features include fully taped Fly and Floor seams, aluminum stakes, sturdy #8 zippers,

ALPS Mountaineering Lightweight Series Self-Inflating Air Pad

ALPS Mountaineering Lightweight Series Self-Inflating Air Pad

When you’re away from home and want to add extra comfort to your cot or sleeping bag, try this ALPS Mountaineering self-inflating air pad. Par of the lightweight series, this pad inflates and deflates quickly with the jet stream foam and rolls up compactly to fit into the stuff sack. The top fabric is tough, lightweight ripstop and the bottom is made of durable polyester taffeta. Another benefit of adding an air pad is that it will help keep you warmer, which is essential to a well-rested night at the campsite. A stuff sack, compression straps, and repair kit are included with every pad.

Energizer 90 Lumen Headlamp

Energizer 90 Lumen Headlamp

If they are going to explore, they are going to need to know where they are going at night.  For this, they will need a headlamp.

  • Four LED headlamp with three white LEDs and one red LED
  • Three modes: White (high & low), red for night vision
  • Pivots to direct light where you need it
  • 80 lumens of light output
  • 8.5 hour run time
  • Packed with three Energizer MAX AAA batteries
  • Water & impact resistant to stand up to harsh conditions.


Etekcity Ultralight Portable Outdoor Camping Stoves with Piezo Ignition

Etekcity Ultralight Portable Outdoor Camping Stoves with Piezo Ignition

Everyone has to start somewhere, and for beginning backpackers and campers there’s no better place to start than the Etekcity mini camping stove. There’s virtually zero setup and it’s extremely easy to use with no risk of fuel spills and no priming required.  We have one of these and it is the easiest stove I have ever used.  You just screw it into the fuel canister, turn it on, use the Piezo ignition system and away you go.

Bushnell BackTrack D-Tour Personal GPS Tracking Device

Bushnell BackTrack D-Tour Personal GPS Tracking Device

Even if your teen does get lost, he or she can always find their way back home with the D Tour Personal GPS Tracking Device from Bushnell

High-functioning GPS capabilities and a precision digital compass with latitude and longitude allow you to track any course by automatically keeping track of time, temperature, and altitude, along with route, length and speed. Once you mark one of five waypoints, it will also help you find your back to that place, whether it is a camp, a parking lot, or home.

Garmin eTrex 20x GPS

Garmin eTrex 20x GPS

The best selling sports GPS unit on Amazon is the new eTrex 20x is our upgraded version of the popular eTrex 20, with enhanced screen resolution and expanded internal memory so you can download a greater variety of maps than ever. This rugged, dependable GPS retains the ease of-use and affordability that eTrex is legendary for, with an array of compatible mounts for use on ATVs, bicycles, boats and cars. The new eTrex 20x also has the ability to track both GPS and GLONASS satellites simultaneously. It supports geocaching GPX files for downloading geocaches and details straight to your unit.

Other Christmas Gift Guides

Christmas & Holiday Gift Guides

Christmas Gift Guide for the Men in Your Life | 2015 Edition

It’s Wendy again.  I am here to write and publish this year’s inaugural Christmas Gift Guide on  As is custom around here, this is for all of the men on your holiday check list.  So whether you are shopping for a husband, boyfriend (hopefully you aren’t shopping for both), father, kids, or friends, I’ve got gift ideas for all of the men in your life.


Does anyone use CD’s anymore?  We don’t.  If we do get them, they are immediately ripped and then imported into iTunes to be played on our iPods.  From there they are played via Bluetooth.  So here is a selection of portable Bluetooth devices that will sound amazing anywhere that you bring them, even if the guy you are shopping for loves to play Bon Jovi.

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo is designed around your voice. It’s hands-free and always on. With seven microphones and beam-forming technology, Echo can hear you from across the room—even while music is playing. Echo is also an expertly tuned speaker that can fill any room with immersive sound.

Echo connects to Alexa, a cloud-based voice service, to provide information, answer questions, play music, read the news, check sports scores or the weather, and more—instantly. All you have to do is ask. Echo begins working as soon as it detects the wake word. You can pick Alexa or Amazon as your wake word.

Think of it at Siri for your home… or for you Iron Man fans out there, it’s getting close to what Jarvis is.

Amazon ECHOAmazon ECHO

Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Speaker III

Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Speaker III

The SoundLink Bluetooth speakers are among the most popular — if not, the most popular — portable wireless speakers in terms of sales.   I have listened to it a couple of times while out and about this year and they sounds amazing while filling a room beautifully.  Not only that but if you bring them on the road with your or even just into the backyard, they have a 14 hour battery life.

  • Purchase at AmazonHouse of Marley Chant Portable Bluetooth Audio System 

    House of Marley Chant Portable Bluetooth Audio System

    Jordon has wanted one of these for a while.  This spring he went out and bought one.  It is battery powered (charges via a USB cable) and is a constant companion.  It is small enough to toss in a bag on a road trip which makes travelling a little more pleasant.  If you are buying for a road warrior or just someone who likes to chill outside while listening to music, this is a great gift idea.

  • Purchase at AmazonLogitech UE Mini BoomLogitech UE Mini Boom

    This is what The Wirecutter says about the Mini Boom

    This is the second year in a row that we’ve picked the Mini Boom as our top pick, but it’s the first time I’ve personally heard it. As an audio reviewer with a quarter century of experience, people often ask me what portable speaker they should get. It’s a difficult question to answer because they come in so many styles and sizes, and widely range in price, but the Mini Boom makes it easy.

    There’s so much to like about it and so little to dislike. In fact, if all my stuff disappeared tomorrow, the Mini Boom and our home Bluetooth pick would be the first audio products I’d buy. It plays about as loud as a large flat-panel TV set, and because it’s only about the size of half an orange, it’s easy to take almost anywhere. It sounds good enough that you can hear almost every element of a music track, from the cymbals all the way down to the lowest notes on a guitar (although maybe not the lowest notes on a bass).

    I have always thought of Logitech in terms of mice and trackballs.  Then Jordon went out and got a set of Logitech surround sound speakers for our television and I was surprised at how good they sound.  They had a way better sound than our soundbar and in 5.1 Dolby surround sound.  This little speaker has won a lot of awards and a lot of acclaim.  Logitech may not have the name that Bose does but it is a third the price and the sound quality is worth it.

  • Purchase at Amazon

Electrohome Archer Vinyl Record Player Classic Turntable Stereo System with Built-in Speakers


Backed by over 100 years of manufacturing high-quality audio products, Electrohome is pleased to introduce the Archer Turntable Stereo System: a fully automatic turntable with built-in speakers housed in a 60s-style suitcase that blends vintage charm with twenty-first century convenience.

Enjoying the classic style of a retro 60s turntable doesn’t mean you have to miss out on 21st century convenience; play songs from your smartphones, tablets, or USB flash drive using the system’s AUX and USB input. For private listening, simply connect your headphones and drift away into the world of vinyl without disturbing a soul.

It’s also the gift that keeps giving you gift ideas. From speakers to vintage records, there will always something you can keep adding to this gift.

Now on to headphones for those times when you don’t want to listen to what they are listening to.

Sennheiser HD 202 II Headphones

Sennheiser HD 202 II Headphones

These amazing headphones are the #1 best selling over the ear headphones from Amazon and for good reason.  They are consistently rated as excellent.  The Sennheiser HD 202 II are closed, dynamic hi-fi stereo headphones. Good insulation against ambient noise and a deep bass response make them the ideal companion for DJs – or anyone who likes to listen to modern, powerful music without disturbing others. High efficiency drivers for maximum performance.   Jordon bought me a pair to replace my other Sennheisers that Marley chewed up.  What you notice about them is the sound but also how comfortable they are.  You can listen to them for hours.

  • Purchase at AmazonIn Ear HeadphonesDon’t let them keep using the Apple earphones that came with their phone.  Upgrade their in-ear headphones with Brainwavz Delta Red In Ear Earphones With Remote & Mic.

    Brainwavz Delta Red In Ear Earphones With Remote & Mic

    Never heard of them?  Here is what The Wirecutter has to say about them.

    If I wanted to buy a cheap pair of earbuds to replace the ones included with my mobile device, I’d get the Brainwavz Delta with Mic. After spending 32 hours researching literally hundreds of in-ear headphones under $40, then seriously considering 179 and testing 68 with our panel of audio experts (40 last time, 28 this round), we came to a decision: The Brainwavz Deltas are the best for the money. Our panel unanimously voted them the best sounding of the entire bunch, plus they fit comfortably in most ears and are a total steal.

  • Purchase at AmazonPanasonic RP-TCM125-A In Ear HeadphonesMy next suggestion is ones that we are big fans of around here and that is the Panasonic RPTCM125A Headphones Blue.  They were the winner last year on The Wirecutter and are runners up this year.  Here is why we love them.  The sound is excellent, the price is fantastic but they are so comfortable.  We have bought them for Mark and the advantage of getting these over more expensive headphones is that when the dog chews them, they get lost or stolen, it’s not the end of the world.  Great quality, comfortable, affordable price.

    Panasonic RP-TCM125-A In Ear Headphones

  • Purchase at AmazonComputersWe spend all of these hours in front of our computers and for many people. they are still using the same keyboard and mouse that came out of the box with their desktop or laptop.  Upgrade their computer with a new keyboard, mouse, or trackball.  It’s a great gift and his hands will thank you for it.

    Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard

    Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard

    If the guy you are buying for spends a lot of time in front of computer as a writer, photo editor, or coder, get him a keyboard that is better that what came with her computer.  Perhaps one of the best ones out there is the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard.  It is split in the middle, has a nice touch and feel, and has a built in pad for your wrists.  Studies are inconclusive on whether or not they prevent carpal tunnel but they are a lot more comfortable to type on than a desktop or laptop computer keyboard.

  • Purchase from AmazonLogitech M570 Wireless TrackballLogitech M570 Wireless Trackball

    A trackball is something that so many people I know have loved as soon as they have gone to it yet it isn’t something that many of us are going to go out and get for ourselves.  One of these or a Microsoft Sculpt or Arc Touch mouse and the sculpt keyboard would be a great gift for any one who spends some time in front of a screen every day.

  • Purchase at AmazonLogitech HD Pro WebcamLogitech HD Pro Webcam

    Being seperated from family is tough.  So whether you are shopping for your husband, boyfriend, or father, treat them with a high definition webcam.  You can get one for them so you can benefit or get one and place it on your own computer so they can see you better.  Ideally you will both have one so you can have conversations in 1080p High Definition video.

    Breathtaking full HD 1080p calls on Skype, with the sharpest video-call picture available. 16:9 widescreen keeps you all in the picture. Easy HD 720p video calls on Yahoo! Messenger, Gmail Voice and Video Chat and most other favorite IM services.

    If he is still getting by on a 640×480 screen, upgrading to a Full HD webcam will make a world of difference.

  • Purchase at AmazonTabletsSo many of us have tablets now that we have even started to upgrade our older ones.  If the person you are shopping for has a tablet that is more than a few years old, it is time to upgrade it.  New processor, better battery life, and overall performance makes this upgrade a great gift.

    Amazon Fire 7” Tablet

    Amazon Fire 7" Tablet

    $49.99 for a tablet! Are you kidding me Amazon?  Despite the really low price, it has a Quad-core 1.3 GHz, 8 gb of storage (expandable of course), a VGA Front-facing camera + 2 MP rear-facing camera with 720p HD video recording.   As for battery life, it offers up to 7 hours of reading, surfing the web, watching video, and listening to music

  • Purchase at Amazon (where else?)Google Nexus 9” TabletGoogle Nexus 9 Tablet

    If the Kindle Fire is the best Android budget tablet out there, then here is the flagship, the Google Nexus 9.

  • 8.9” IPS LCD display with 4:3 aspect ratio constructed from Gorilla Glass 3
  • Dual front-facing speakers with HTC BoomSound
  • 8MP rear camera – 1.6MP front camera
  • 64-bit NVIDIA Tegra K1 Dual Denver @ 2.3GHz CPU
  • Micro-USB 2.0For the accept no compromises Android user out there, this is the tablet they want.
  • Purchase at AmazoniPad Mini 4Apple iPad Mini 4


  • Purchase from Apple

Give the gift of a great book this year.

The Generals: Patton, MacArthur, Marshall, and the Winning of World War IIDevotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and SacrificeBetween the World and MeDestiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker BushThe Betrayal: The 1919 World Series and the Birth of Modern Baseball 81 Days Below Zero: The Incredible Survival Story of a World War II Pilot in Alaska's Frozen Wilderness

Kenneth Cole Reaction Leather Messenger Bag

Kenneth Cole Reaction leather messenger bag


Upgrade his shoulder bag or backpack with a leather 4 inch double gusset flapover portfolio/ 15.4 inch computer case with pull through handle.  Stylish enough to take to work everyday and rugged enough to take with him on the weekends.

Fossil Card Wallet

Fossil Men's Bradley Slim Card Case

If he already has a great looking bag or maybe you are looking for something less expensive, check out the Fossil card wallet.  Jordon went to one of these a couple of years ago and he has loved it.  Low profile, fits in any pocket and carries enough cards and I.D. to keep you going while forcing you to ditch the other stuff that clutters up a wallet and weighs you down.

Timex Expedition Field Watch

Timex Expedition Field Watch

The Timex Expedition field watch were inspired by the field watches issued to soldiers during the first half of the 20th century and look great with a wide variety of get-ups. While there are more expensive name-brand versions out there, if you’re looking for a simple, yet handsome-looking watch, this is perfect.  You can spend hundreds on a field watch but it’s hard to beat the quality you get from a Timex Expedition for the cost you are paying.

Spend your hard earned money on other things with the money you save on this watch.


Nikon Travelite VI 8×25 Binoculars

There is always a pair of binoculars in Jordon’s day bag.  For years they have been a pair of Nikon’s because you can’t beat the quality of the optics for the cost and portability. Nikon Travelite 8x25 Binoculars

A rubber armored carbon fiber body offers lightweight and impact-resistant performance, and the contoured body with textured gripping surfaces provide slip-resistant handling, making the Travelite VI well-suited for sightseeing on vacation and glassing the ball field from the stands.  Reviewers in multiple publications have said that these are the perfect balance between power and weight with no compromises either way.

Gerber Ripstop I Knife

Gerber Ripstop I Knife

Jordon started to carry this in his pocket because he wanted something small and functional for work.  This fit the bill perfectly.   He has one for every day use and then he keeps packed and ready to go in his day bag.  He likes this knife because it is big enough to do what he needs it to do most days but small enough to fold up and fit comfortably in his front pocket.  It’s also small enough that when he pulls it out at work, no one goes, “HE’S GOT A KNIFE!”.  Instead they often go, “cool” and want to take a look at it.

Leatherman Skeletool CX Multi-tool

Get back to basics — the very cool basics — with Leatherman’s Skeletool CX.  It keeps weight and volume to a minimum while still having the tools he will need.

Leatherman Skeletool CX Multi-tool

Stanley Mountain Vacuum Coffee System

Stanley Mountain Coffee System

The thing that stops so many people from camping…the perception that they have to "suffer" out there and can’t enjoy the comforts of home. Instead, Stanley said, "Oh no, nobody goes without good coffee while camping…not on our watch!"

The entire system might look a little bit like overkill, but when you keep in mind the fact that the components are all useful for other purposes this system does far more than just make coffee.

First of all, they thought of everything with this kit. The bottom (outside) layer is the pot to heat your water, complete with latching pre-installed handle. Just give the small button a squeeze to lift it up or put it down. This layer is obviously a great pot for heating up your meals too, especially if you pre-pouched it and just need to reheat with a hot water bath. The next layer is the French press plunger, and yes, if you pour really, really carefully, you can strain other foods with it (like pasta) when you’re not making coffee. The next nested layer is the famous Stanley vacuum bottle, so basically you use your kit to make a whole pot of coffee and then pour it into the bottle to keep it hot. The lid that closes the bottle actually has a small twist off lid the store your coffee grounds, and the exterior lid twists apart to form two cups.

Gourmet coffee.  In the woods.  He’ll love it.

If he likes to cook and grill, check out these fun books for aspiring chef.

Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book: Recipes and Secrets from a Legendary Barbecue Joint The Essential Guys' Cookbook by Company's ComingCompany's Coming Cooking With BeerEat Like a Man: The Only Cookbook a Man Will Ever NeedGordon Ramsay's Sunday LunchThe Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science

While you are at it, consider upgrading his grill.  The Weber Original Kettle Barbecue is the best selling grill on Amazon and is less then $100.

Eagles Nest Outfitters DoubleNest Hammock

Eagles Nest Outfitters DoubleNest Hammock

Light and compact enough for backpacking, yet robust enough for backyard luxury, the popular ENO DoubleNest Hammock sets up in seconds and has plenty of room for 2.

Moleskine Classic Notebook

Every man needs to keep a journal and this basic, yet classic Large Plain notebook is one that he will want to keep this thoughts and projects in. This reliable travel companion, perfect for sketches, thoughts and passing notes, has a cardboard bound cover with rounded corners, acid free paper, a bookmark, an elastic closure and an expandable inner pocket that contains the Moleskine history.

Sphero BB-8 Droid

Sphero BB-8 app enabled droid

This gift hits two big things in your guys life

  • It from the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie which if he is like most guys, is dying to see.
  • It’s a programmable robot which he wanted since Tomy released the Omnibot.

This is THE toy of the holiday season and is one that the entire family will get a kick out of.  If the guy you are shopping for still enjoys a remote controlled car, a drone, or just having fun, make sure you check out this gift and pick up one early, they won’t be around as we get towards Christmas.

  • Authentic Movement: Guide your BB-8 with a smartphone or tablet
  • Listens & Responds: BB-8 recognizes and reacts to your voice
  • Holographic Messaging: Record and view virtual holographic videos with BB-8
  • Autonomous Behavior: BB-8 has a mind of its own – explore the Star Wars galaxy together
  • Adaptive Personality: Your BB-8’s unique attitude and actions evolve as you interact


Adobe Photoshop Elements 14 | Corel Paint Shop Pro X8

Adobe Photoshop Elements 14Corel Paint Shop Pro X8

If he is a creative type and a photographer, get him some software that will fuel that creativity.  While the Adobe Creative Cloud is excellent, you have to pay for it monthly.  As an alternative Adobe has Photoshop Element and Corel has Paint Shop Pro 18.  Both will help him (and you) create your best photographs ever whether you are using a Nikon D810 or a iPhone 4.

Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone

Blue Microphone Yet USB microphone

If he is a podcaster or musician, check out the Blue Microphone Yet USB microphone.  It allows you to record just yourself, a conversation with two people or an entire room of people.  Great sound, solid design, and a lot of fun as he takes his first steps towards being an internet sensation.

Shure MV88 iOS Digital Stereo Condenser Microphone


Another option for the aspiring radio star is this Shure microphone for any iOS device with a Lightning connector.  Compact enough to fit in a pocket and be with you anywhere at anytime.

  • Apple MFi certified compatible with all iOS devices equipped with a Lightning connector
  • Matched cardioid and bi-directional 1 cm cartridges for best-in-class audio
  • Mid-side architecture for a phase-perfect, clear stereo image
  • 5 DSP preset modes (Speech, Singing, Flat, Acoustic Instrument, Loud)
  • Automatically adjusts EQ, compression and limiting for optimal results
  • Innovative hinge/rotation design supports multiple recording angles, including video applications
  • Free ShurePlus MOTIV recording app featuring 24-bit/48 khz .wav (uncompressed) recording,control over DSP mode selection, microphone gain, stereo width, raw mid-side adjustments, wind reduction, capsule selection, Left-Right Swap, 5-band EQ and compression/limiting
  • All-metal construction engineered to withstand the most demanding recording conditions


Zippo Lighter

Zippo Lighter

Since 1932, Zippo has been making the finest and hardiest fire-making machine around. The Zippo is refillable, and nearly every part is replaceable, meaning the engraved metal casing given to your guy that will last just about forever.  Even if he doesn’t smoke, he’ll love having one.

Victorinox Swiss Army Knife

This is the knife that MacGuyver (and the Swiss military) made famous –

  • 2 Blades, 2 Screwdrivers, Wood Saw and other handy tools
  • Corkscrew, Reamer and Key Ring
  • Toothpick and Tweezers

Camper II Swiss Army Knife from Victorinox

Christmas-Gift-Guide[2]Holiday Gift Guides

New headphones (and The Wirecutter)

When Mark lost his beloved Skullcandy headphones a few years ago, I asked for some opinions on what to get him on Twitter.  Hilary (she’s the bot behind the @theotherhilary) tweeted that I should check out the reviews on The Wire Cutter.  They tested hundreds of pairs of in-ear headphones and recommended a pair of Panasonic RP-HJE123 in ear headphones for having the second best sound under $50.  They cost $15 since he doesn’t need the ones with a hands free mic on them.  I was happy, he was less than happy since I think he wanted some Dre Beats but you can’t win them all.

This week, Marley chewed up my mediocre Monster headphones and then ate some other ones that I liked so it was back to the Wire Cutter.  They again recommended the Panasonic RP-HJE123 In-Ear Headphones.  I found the cheaper microphoneless version of the headphones at Winners for $10 and got a white pair.

The best headphones under $100 gave the House of Marley Smile headphones a good review and I saw those at Best Buy for only $25.  I like the looks of them and I am quite happy with my House of Marley Chant.  Plus if my dog Marley chews them up, the wood will be good for her.

I’ll let them burn in and then decide on a favorite but it is really hard to dislike either one of these choices.

One of the best pieces of advice I have gotten has been to check out The Wirecutter for audio reviews.  I have saved a lot of money by not making bad purchases and have learned a lot on what to look for in audio.    Oh yeah, those Dre Beats you want, they cost $14 to make and sound like crap.