Skip to main content


Gifts & Gadgets that Won’t Break the Bank

Column: Tricks & Tips

From the December 2009 Issue, Plus Bonus Online Content

of how you celebrate the holidays, there’s a good chance that gift giving
is a part of this time of year. From children, relatives and other loved ones,
to friends, coworkers and clients, the list can sometimes get long, and there
are always a few people who have you stumped.

As part of my annual gift column, I’ve sacrificed my time by playing
with a bunch of gadgets that might just fit somebody on your list, or even yourself.
There’s a little bit of everything, including professional devices such
as printers and scanners, that can help make work flow more efficiently.

There are also mobile devices that help keep you connected and empowered while
you’re on the go. And, of course, there are some gadgets meant just for
fun and personal entertainment. December is already here and you’re running
out of time, so take a look at a few of the cool things below, then get online
and get shopping.

Happy Holidays from The CPA Technology Advisor! (Click
to jump directly to the bonus gadgets content
not included in the print issue.)



Can Take It With You
If large file sizes are cramping your mobility, the SeaGate FreeAgent
Go can get you on the move again. With models that can store up
to 1TB (a TeraByte equals 1,000 GigaBytes), the handy, smaller-than-a-paperback
hard drive is the ultimate mobile mass storage device. It uses a
standard USB 2.0 cable to connect easily to any computer, PC or
Mac, letting you store photos, music or even fully backup your entire
laptop or workstation. $89 – $319 (

Wimpy Wi-Fi

Whether at the office, home or on your mobile laptop, distance and
buildings can sometimes make picking a wireless signal a challenge.
No need to worry, though, if you’ve got the powerful Wi-Fire
adapter on your side. It can give a boost of up to 1,000 feet to your
computer’s wireless range, making it easier to stay on the network,
with faster and more reliable connectivity. It’s also compact,
making it a great addition to any laptop bag, and can be plugged into
a USB port and turned on in just seconds. $59.99 (
of Mind Made Easy
When you’re on the go, other people probably know.
So who’s watching your office or your home? The new Logitech
Video Security System is simple to set up and sends encrypted video
to your computer through your home’s electrical lines using
HomePlug. So there are no wires or networks to worry about, and no
service contracts, either. So wherever you may go, you’ll be
able to login to the system through the Internet or your smartphone.
The system also has optional outdoor cameras. $299 (

When travelling between work and the office, or heading out on a client
call, there are some files that just can’t be emailed, whether
because of size or sensitivity. But fortunately this riddle can be
solved in only a few seconds, using a Lexar TwistTurn JumpDrive. Don’t
let its Mini Me size fool you. The keychain attachable devices can
hold up to 32GB of files, plus it sports several stylish colors and
has a rotating jacket that keeps it capless. $14.99 – $129.99. (
Mobile HDTV

Just because you’re on the road doesn’t mean you have
to miss “Monday Night Football” or the latest episode
of “Lost” or “Dancing with the Stars.” While
some websites might let you view prior episodes later, the thumb-sized
Volar MAX TV tuner lets you enjoy live broadcasts of high-definition
shows on a PC, Mac or Netbook. The tuner simply plugs into a USB port
and also offers recording and iPod transfer capabilities that let
you watch shows at your own convenience. $69 (

Mobility isn’t cheap these days, with many cell providers tying
up users with two-year contracts. With budgets tightening, many people
are switching to pre-paid mobile devices, and the options from Boost
Mobile are amping up the capabilities. Take the new Motorola Debut
i856, which includes Stereo Bluetooth capabilities, a full slide-out
QWERTY keyboard, nationwide walkie talkie functions, GPS and speakerphone.
Boost Mobile offers a no-contract unlimited talk/text/web plan for
only $50 per month and no more surprise phone bills. (


A Snap
Scanners are quickly becoming one of the most important tools
in the drive toward the “less paper” office, and the Fujitsu
ScanSnap S1500 is right on target for tax and accounting firms. The
sheet-fed system offers dual-sided scanning, plus one-button creation
of searchable PDFs. With scanning rates of up to 20 pages per minute
and a 50-page automatic feeder, it’s a great desktop companion.
The ScanSnap also comes with Adobe Acrobat Standard, and can save
files into emails, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and SharePoint. $495 (
Show Time!
Whiteboards are great, but they’re a bit hard to put
into a scanner, which means the diagrams and brainstormed ideas end
up losing some of their context when they end up being just notes.
But not any longer: With Papershow, a Bluetooth-enabled pen and interactive
paper let users write and draw electronically, with the notes shown
live if using a projector and also automatically saved to the user’s
computer. Definitely a cool tool for meetings and presentations. $199

Git ’er Done
With ever-increasing technology needs in the office, more
and more gadgets end up on the desktop. Fortunately, the HP Officejet
6000 Printer offers multi-taskers high productivity options thanks
to fast printing, embedded wireless networking and automatic two-sided
printing. Even though it’s one of HP’s more affordable
business inkjets, it delivers documents with high quality and durability
for 40 percent less cost per page and energy use than lasers. The
printer also offers a multitude of features including embedded wired
and wireless networking to enhance productivity in a small or home
office. $89 – $119 (
Penny-Pinching Printers
Even “paperless” offices use paper; the key is
in doing it strategically. Which is why Epson’s line of WorkForce
printers are geared for optimizing the printing process. The Energy
Star-rated WorkForce 1100 Wide Format Printer, which can print up
to 13”x19”, uses 70 percent less power than other models,
has two-sided printing and high-capacity functions, and can generate
laser-quality output. Available for $199 (
Laptops, cell phones, MP3 players, digital cameras, BlackBerrys,
iPhones and portable gaming devices … they all need recharging,
but they all seem to need different chargers. Not if you’ve
got the Zap Recharge-it-All, a new re-charging station that can power-up
all of these kinds of gadgets and more. The system itself is actually
a rechargeable gadget, too, allowing you to take it anywhere to have
immediate power backup. $70 (

Dream of Genix
There’s no doubt that batteries are a workhorse during
the holiday season. Unfortunately, they usually go unnoticed until
their power runs out, bringing time with new gadget gifts to a screeching
halt. While re-chargeable options have been around awhile, the new
PowerGenix NiZn AAs and other sizes are the first to truly offer
the power and charge time of disposables, but with the added advantages
of saved money and recyclability. $14.99+ (

You know you’re not supposed to throw traditional batteries
out in the trash because of the potential harm they can cause the
environment, but a lot of people do it anyway. With its line of EnviroMAX
batteries, Fuji has an alternative to those toxic options. EnviroMAX
batteries are landfill-safe because they don’t have cadmium,
mercury, PVC or other harmful components, plus they have recyclable
casings and are packaged in recycled materials. So they offer all
of the power of traditional batteries, but in a more eco-respectful
way. $9+ (

Speakers, Mini Mike
Whether sharing your iPod or MP3 tunes with your friends
or just listening out loud, the new Chill Pill mini speaker system
puts out high-quality sound from capsule-shaped units smaller than
a soda can. The speakers work with all music devices, laptops and
desktops. The same company, Small Dog Electronics, also makes the
RapCap, a mini microphone that lets you turn an iPod into a high-quality
recorder, with the ability to download the audio file and even synch
it with iTunes. Chill Pill $39.99; RapCap $14.99 (
For avid readers, there’s nothing like curling up with
a good book. With the new Sony eReader, users can read their favorite
works or newly published works of fiction, non-fiction, philosophy
and virtually everything else that exists on printed pages. Better
yet, they can easily take a whole library of books in the pocket-sized
gadget … and can even buy new ebooks wirelessly, from anywhere.
$199 – $299 (

Luxurious Audio
For those with an ear for the finest quality headphones,
Bang and Olufsen offers the EarSet 3, one of the most advanced mobile
device headsets, with the ability to work on music and phone devices.
EarSet 3 includes dy-namic full-tone speakers and a built-in microphone
that allows wearers to determine how much of the sound surrounding
them to let in. $199

a Hand
How many times have you asked somebody to take a picture
of you with your special someone? Or perhaps you’ve missed out
on pictures because you were behind the lens. The new xShot telescopic
camera extender can give you a break (and maybe prevent your camera
from walking away). It securely fastens to any camera’s tripod
mount, allowing users to take their own pics, with themselves included.
It’s great for solo shots, too. $19.95 (
with Attitude
Speakers are rarely interesting, but the new Headphonies
are anything but dull. Bringing art, music and attitude together,
the amplified speakers are disguised as artistically designed portable
3-inch characters and work with most portable devices, including MP3
players, iPods, phones, gaming devices, portable DVDs, laptops and
desktops. The speakers provide a four-hour battery that recharges
through a computer’s USB port. $24.99 (
Don’t Twist
Remember the cool-est gadget fad of the early 1980s? No,
not the pet rock; that was the 70s (and not so much of a gadget).
It was the Rubik’s Cube, and guess what? It’s back, but
in a new millennium techie kinda way. The Rubik’s Touch Cube
looks like its predecessor, but features touch sensor technology on
all six sides and a motion-detecting system that means no more twisting
… just swipe a finger across a row or column and the lights
will follow, “turning” that part of the cube. It also
includes a built-in solver and hints. $150 (
iPhone Audiophiles
If you’re an iPhone person and a music lover, the Image
S4i headset is destined to be ears’ best friend. The Klipsch
in-ear headset was designed with Apple to work seamlessly with the
iPhone 3GS, providing award-winning sound performance with strong
bass, and an advanced 3-button microphone and remote system that gives
users total control over their iPhone and iPod music and video content.
$99 (

Bonus Online Content

More Gadgets

Friendly Bluetooth

Designed along the philosophy that wireless products should be stylish
and also convenient to use, Novero has introduced TheFirstOne
Bluetooth earpiece. Wherever you go, a suite of in-box accessories
keeps TheFirstOne charged and within reach at all times. Accessories
include a charging car dock, desk stand, USB charger, necklace and
wearable clip, and eight interchangeable in-ear rings. Created along
a minimal aesthetic, TheFirstOne is offered in smooth white and
chrome models. Novero also creates automotive audio solutions for
BMW, Land Rover and Volkswagen. $149 (

Clear Protection
It was perfect and clean and shiny and brilliant when you
first took it out of the box, but put your $200 to $300+ mobile “everything”
device into your pocket or your purse, and scratches appear instantly.
Protect your cherished devices with BodyGuardz, the
strongest clear gadget protection film on the market. Even better,
the material includes antibacterial protection, mold inhibitors and
an anti-corrosion compound to protect your device and you. Custom
fits are available for most phones, including iPhone and BlackBerry,
plus media players, MacBooks, gaming devices and other gadgets; free
lifetime replacements, too! $25 (
So many options are available for wireless headsets, but
few offer simple and functional designs with an elegant flair. The
Plantronics Discovery 975 is an exception, providing
a striking, yet minimalist design with one-touch controls and advanced
features like dual-mic AudioIQ and WindSmart to keep conversations
clear, even in loud environments or harsh conditions. $129 (
In the office, at home, on the road or even in the air, today’s
tech users are constantly faced with the need to recharge their mobile
devices, and lugging around 10 different chargers is a drag. Enter
the mCube90 from Innergie, the world’s smallest
universal adapter (about two-thirds the size of a business card).
The mCube can repower notebooks, laptops, cell phones, iPods, iPhones
and most other USB devices, all at the same time. The sleek device
even includes a detachable Auto/Airplane adapter. $99 (
Made Easy
The move to digital cameras and online file sharing has made
it easier than ever to share photos with friends and family, but the
process of creating slideshows is often a time-consuming art. However,
the FOTOBOX Plus from Honestech
makes it easy for anyone, whether novice or advanced. The simple tool
plugs in the USB on a computer and instantly offers a five-step guided
process for creating slideshows, with easy upload tools for sharing
on YouTube, Facebook and other sites. $79.99 (
Smartphone on Steroids
Smartphones are great for many things, but trying to actually
work on one for more than a quick task can be a chore. The REDFLY
can change that. While it looks and acts like a Netbook, the portable
computer-ish device is actually an extension of the Smartphone, using
the operating system, memory and processing capabilities in the phone,
but offering a full-size QWERTY keyboard and up to an 8-inch monitor.
So it turns your BlackBerry or Windows Mobile Smartphone into a Netbook.
$199 (
Is It?
No need to ask that question anymore, with the LCD
PeepHole Viewer
from Brinno. This easy-to-install gadget
uses two AA batteries to power a 2.5-inch LCD screen on the inside
of your door, showing you what/who is on the outside. But instead
of looking through a fisheye lens, you get a large and bright, full-color
image, and the person on the other side can’t see “the
shadow” move that lets them know you’re looking. $99.99
Clad Portable Data
Taking personal, business and client data on the road with
you is a great productivity benefit, but it also requires prudent
security precautions. That’s why IronKey offers
the most secure flash drives, with built-in and always-on intelligent,
self-defending security and encryption capabilities. The waterproof
flash drives are used by professionals in all industries and are even
authorized for use with sensitive military and government data. $79+
a High-Tech Eye Out
For security or fun, Internet cameras have provided many
benefits for users for several years. The Mole is
the latest in high-tech consumer-level video, offering much more advanced
features, including motion detection, night vision, two-way audio
and a built-in DVR. The system is easy to set up and allows users
to easily view live or recorded video from any web browser or mobile
device, and even share on YouTube and other sites. $299 (
Can a vacuum cleaner be cool? Maybe, but what’s more
important is how well it does the job, and the new WindTunnel
vacuums from Hoover offer superior cleaning power
along with a sleek and lightweight design that makes it easy to use,
even on stairs. The bagless upright models include options for filtration,
headlights and even pet hair cleaning accessories. Yes, the WindTunnel
T-Series sucks, but for vacuums, that’s a good thing. $99-$159
Hunting? Get Organized
Helping another person with their career search, or yourself,
may sound like a peculiar gift, but what other gift can reap the rewards
of a more promising career? Job Hunt Express is a
program that takes the concepts of CRM and contact management and
focuses them on the tasks associated with marketing yourself, automating
many functions and helping keep track of deadlines and meetings. $29.95

Security & Contactless Payment
Two concepts that don’t seem to go together, but
the VITAband makes it work perfectly. Providing
a bracelet with a tech core for storing emergency medical profile
information, the device adds the ability to store up to $200 in
its pre-loadable contactless debit card system. So when on the run
or at the hotel gym, there’s no reason to worry about losing
cash, while also allowing users to have their medical information
immediately available if necessary. $39.90 (

What do you do with your phone, music device, ID, keys and
even your money when you realize you have no pockets? When running,
at the gym or when a woman doesn’t want the hassle of keeping
up with a handbag, the PortaPocket gives an alternative
storage option that goes right along with you. The lightweight pouch
can be easily strapped to a thigh, calf, ankle, arm or waist, allowing
users to keep their hands free while on the go. $10 to $25 (

When working with large client files, portability options
can be limited to unsecure thumb drives or portable hard drives
that have complicated security programs. The Aegis Padlock
from Apricorn can solve both of these issues, with wallet-sized
mobile hard drives that plug right into a USB port, require no additional
power source, and even include a keypad on the outside of the drive
that offers secure PIN access. The system uses 256-bit encryption
and has no software to install. Models are available from 250GB
to 500GB. $99+ (

the Clutter
Even in the “paperless office” it seems like
there is still a ton of paper to process. From receipts to business
cards and other documents, the mountain still grows on many desks.
When the key is getting the information from those documents into
a digital format, two scanners from NeatCo offer a remedy. The NeatDesk
Desktop Scanner
provides an automated digital filing system
that offers batch scanning and OCR capabilities. The NetReceipts
Mobile Scanner
gives a portable option with many of the same
features in a handy on-the-go size. $150+ (
Up Your PC
Just as you periodically take your car to a mechanic, it’s
important to keep your PC tuned up, too. System Mechanic
runs a series of diagnostics to check for not only viruses and malicious
software, but also to clean and repair the system registry, boost
Internet speed, eliminate program remnants and dozens of other performance-boosting
actions. The SM9 professional version is also available for business
users. It has won awards from PC Magazine, LAPTOP Magazine, PC Plus
and CNET. $40 to $50 (

Beanbag chairs are back, but they aren’t the boring
old round ones from the 70s. At least the stylish options in the
Sumo Lounge Urban Lounge Gear collection aren’t.
The new bags are ideal for home entertainment centers, game and
rumpus rooms, college dorms, kids’ rooms and even around the
patio and pool. And maintenance is a breeze: Sumo Lounge beanbags
are made from rip-proof nylon that’s water and stain repellent,
easy to clean and lightweight enough to be moved from room to room.
$75+ (

& Chill
Another great holiday or anytime tool for enthusiasts is
the Ravi Instant Wine Refresher, which instantly
chills wine as it passes through the Ravi’s spout. The result:
Even wine that hasn’t been cooled can be enjoyed at the perfect
serving temperature, with the system instantly cooling your vino or
other beverage by 12 degrees. The secret: Chill the wine, not the
bottle. Genius. $39.95 (
Dreaming of a Gold(en) Christmas
Dear Santa, this is what I want: For those of us who spent
a little too much time playing Golden Tee, the popular networked golf
video game, there’s a real-life home edition. Not a console-based
game with a puny little trackball or a computer-based version either.
We’re talking the Golden Tee 2010 Home Version.
It includes a 39-inch high cabinet that connects to an HDTV and has
all of the features and courses of the arcade version. Come on! Brian
Urlacher has one. So does Nick Lachey. Even the St. Louis Cardinals
have one in their clubhouse. Puh-lease? $3,495 (
Touch … Feel
Grandparents; parents; kids. You either are one or you have
one (or more)… and everybody wants to see the latest pictures.
The new Vizit system is a wireless digital photo
frame that is also mobile network powered so you can upload images
to Vizit frames from anywhere. So that priceless picture you took
just a few seconds ago, or last year, can be instantly shared with
friends and family, without them having to download them. They appear
automatically on the 10.4-inch touch-screen display. Viewers can also
reply to the sender from the Vizit frame. $279 (
Me Up Maestro
Yes, Star Trek’s Scotty was the chief engineer, but
with the Beamz Musical Instrument, even he could
have been a musical genius. The laser-based device connects to your
PC via USB and allows you to begin making music without having to
know how to read music. Simply pass your hand through each laser beam
to hear streams of harmonious instruments and musical sounds. You
can’t play a bad note. $199 (

You Been Framed?
Digital photo frames have been around for a few years,
allowing people the convenience of displaying their family shots
and other pictures in the somewhat traditional format of a wall
frame, but with the ability to store multiple shots and cycle through
them. With its 8-inch LCD screen, the iMO FotoPrinter
takes this great idea a wonderful step further: If guests or family
members see a photo they like, they can easily and instantly print
a 4×6 glossy print right from the frame, which includes its own
built-in high-resolution color printer. $199 (

the Box That Counts
When you care enough to make the person you’re giving
a gift to think you cared the very least. Whether as a total joke,
or perhaps to throw off that expert gift guesser who always knows
what he or she got, the PrankPack is a gift box
that include professionally designed, yet totally fake packaging.
In addition to the “Motorized Rolling Pin” box (at left),
other options include “Coffee Talkies,” the “Wake-n-Bake
Dream Griddle” and the “Beer Beard.” Whatever
“real gift” you place inside, the recipient is sure
to have a priceless look on their face! “Gee, thanks for the
rolling pin.” $8 (

Mom’s Recipes Safe
Just in time for the holidays, a great gift for an aspiring
or accomplished cook is LetsGetCookin, a program
that helps users free themselves from their index cards and manage
their recipes more efficiently, with the ability to search and filter
the lists based on key ingredients or words. The system also makes
it easy to print (even to index cards), as well as manage cooking
videos, scale recipes up or down and generate grocery lists. $19.95

MacBook? Get A Green Sleeve
MacBooks are cool and easy to take with you, but you still
need a protective case for them. Unfortunately, most tech gear cases
look, well, like tech gear cases. Not so with ColcaSac MacBooks
, hand-made bags made of environmentally friendly
fabrics, and with a natural, earthy feel. The bags include heavily
padded protection from drops, dents and scratches and, since they
don’t look like a computer case, can actually be a theft deterrent,
as well. Available in several designs. $30 (


Anywhere/Anytime Access
Smartphones are increasingly an integral part of professionals’
lives, but even though there are apps for many functions, sometimes
there is no replacement for working with the programs and data that
are actually on your computer. Well, now there’s even an app
for that. LogMeIn Ignition gives iPhone, BlackBerry
and other smartphone users direct remote access to their desktop
computers, where they can securely work with all of their work programs
and data, without having to lug around a laptop. $40/yr. (

the ETA?
On the way to the airport to catch a flight or pick up
a traveler? offers the ability to
track upcoming and in-air flights, with map graphics that show approximate
locations, arrival times and other real-time data. Users can also
customize the system and add flights to personal lists for future
reference, and even receive alerts when the status of flights change.
The basic web-based system is free and can be used on laptops, desktops
or mobile devices, including iPhones, BlackBerrys, Palms and Windows
OS phones. Optional customizable apps are available for the iPhone
and Palm. Free+ (

Lover? There’s an app for that!
Whether for yourself or the oenophile (wine lover) in your
life, the Wine Ratings Guide iPhone app is an easy
to use tool that gives users access to more than 1 million wine
ratings right from their phone. The handy pocket sommelier also
includes a food pairings guide that tells you what goes best with
specific wines, and Quick Picks that feature top ten wines for under
$20 that are available at most stores. $1.99 (

Taster/Tourer? There’s an app for that, too!

For wine lovers in search of vineyards and tasting rooms, the Wine
Trail Guide
iPhone app offers a quick and easy way to find
some vino. While some other apps on the market offer guides limited
to Napa or a few other areas, the Wine Trail Guide provides locations
and details for more than 3,000 tasting rooms and events across the
country, from California to Maine, and Washington to Texas. $2.99

is LOL in Spanish?

Text messages are increasingly becoming a business tool, but in
addition to the unique language of SMS chatting, many professionals
find themselves challenged with the barriers of various human languages.
The SpeakLike instant message service can help,
using a combination of software technology and human speakers of
multiple languages to give users a cheap way to quickly translate
text messages and email using any text-enabled mobile phone. iPhone
users have an additional option for taking photos of signs or other
items and uploading them for translation. $0.10 per message (

Here’s wishing you a prosperous 2010!

See inside December 2009 issue

2009 Review of Fixed Asset Management Programs

Effective Asset Management Requires More Than Spreadsheets