From the December 2010 Issue.
It’s beginning to look a lot like …
What? How many shopping days are left? You still don’t have a clue of what to give your boss, your friends or some of your family? Well, as I do each year, I “grudgingly” spend hours looking at and playing with dozens of new tech gadgets and toys, and almost all of them would make great gifts, even if it’s for yourself.
Whether you’re staying connected while on the road or in the air, putting in some extra time in the office, cuddled up with an eBook in front of an HDTV simulated fireplace, or outside throwing snowballs at the neighbor, there’s something in this year’s gift guide for everyone. Some are all about work, but many are more about play.
This online version of the Annual Tech Gift-Giving Guide also includes bonus content! That means extra gadget ideas to help you work/play/relax/whatev! So come on and help spread a little gadgety cheer this holiday season, but also make sure you get out of the office, unplug for awhile, and spend some quality off-line time with your actual, real-life, in-person, non-digital friends and family.
Happy Holidays from CPA & NSA Practice Advisor!
With all the hype about the digital office, workflow optimization, tax document automation, etc… you surely have a scanner (or several) in your office. But do you have a mobile full-color scanner? One small enough to take with you to a client office or when traveling? How about one that can instantly create your choice of PDFs, Excel or Word documents and includes document management and business card scanning software? The Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300 does all that, plus it has a 10-page automatic document feeder, can scan up to eight double-sided pages per minute and works with PCs and Macs. To top off the convenience meter, the ScanSnap can get its power from either a USB cable or an AC adapter. At $295, it’s a great deal; but for one of our readers it will be even better … see the box at the bottom of page 21 in our print issue to learn how you can win a free ScanSnap S1300. (www.usfujitsu.com/cpa)
Safe & Secure
There’s backup, and then there’s protection. Backing up data can keep it safe from IT failures and some hazards, but if it’s backed up on an external hard drive in your office, it may fall victim to the same disaster that makes you need it. But not with the ioSafe SoloPRO, a superfast USB 3.0 external hard drive that helps automate data backup functions and recovery, but also adds active airflow cooling, plus protection against fire (up to 1,550 degrees), and against water damage (up to 10 feet for 72 hours). If that weren’t enough, there’s also added theft protection in the form of a Kensington security slot and anti-theft tab for bolting it down to any surface. This “Super Safe” is also immune to Kryptonite. From $249 (www.iosafe.com)
Backing Up When You’re on the Go
Backing up the data on your computers is important, whether you’re in your office or mobile, and two new “mobile memory solutions” from Lexar make it easier than ever. Where traditional backup solutions can be complex and prone to user error, the Echo ZE and Echo SE automatically keep your important files backed up onto a pocketable, memory stick-sized device that packs a whole lot more punch. The devices, available in capacities from 8GB to 128GB, include a program that immediately starts to encrypt and backup your data when you plug it into a USB port, and it keeps continually backing it up as long as it’s plugged in. You can also easily restore previous file versions, and it helps to prevent accidental overwrites. Both Echo versions support PC and Mac computers. From $49 (www.lexar.com)
Powerful Projection Performance
When it comes time to put your PowerPoint deck, images or other files on the screen for everybody to see, the Epson EX7200 can help you do it with style, power and cost-effectiveness. The projector offers widescreen performance at up to 1280×800 resolution, plus 2600 lumens of light output for brilliant true-to-life color even in well-lit boardrooms. The system connects to your laptop via a simple USB connector, with no other setup required. You can even use it without a computer, sharing images and other files from USB flash thumb drives. (www.epson.com)
Multi-Monitors Made Easy
Many studies have shown that having two or more monitors can greatly improve productivity. For accounting and tax pros, think about having your tax application open on one screen, with supporting client documents on another, and even a research program open on a third. Not too long ago, it took a bit of tech savvy to add monitors, but not anymore. If you can plug in a USB cable, you have the skills to use the Sewell vDeck USB to VGA External Display Adater to instantly add a monitor or two, or even more, to your desktop. Don’t stop with your work desktop, though. The handy little connectors are also great for laptops and netbooks, and are a great gift idea for computer gamers and social network fans. Once you get used to a multi-screen setup, you’ll never want to go back. $69.95 (www.sewelldirect.com)
Does Your PC Need a Tune-Up?
Most people have their car periodically serviced, but few routinely do the same for the PC. If your computer is taking longer to start up, suffers from mysterious errors or crashes, your Internet is sluggish or you’re having problems loading programs or media, it may not be a big bad virus, it may just be time to have System Mechanic from iolo Technologies take a look “under the hood.” The software quickly runs more than 200 critical tests to discover what’s decreasing your system’s performance. $39.95 (www.iolo.com)
FOR THE ROAD WARRIOR
Speed Your Way through the TSA
Whether you’re traveling on business or pleasure, if you’re bringing along your laptop, you’ll want to protect it. And what better way than with the Checkthrough Executive Brief from Skooba Design. The sleek and smoothly contoured case meets the “checkpoint friendly” requirements of the TSA, which can help you spend less time going through airport security. Other cool features include almost two dozen pockets and compartments, including the Doc Pocket ticket/passport holder, a divided file section, key ring, USB thumb drive caddy and more tools for the airborne road warrior. It won’t get you past the pat-down, though ;( — From $149 (www.skoobadesign.com)
Is Your Laptop Chillin?
Whether you’ve got the hottest, newest PC or Mac laptop, or one a few years older, it’s important to keep it cool … literally. The Travel Chill Mat from Targus can be used on a table, your lap or any other surface to help prevent your portable computer from overheating. With dual fans that provide ventilation to disperse heat, the device has soft neoprene material that cushions the device and also offers comfort for the user. The Chill Mat is powered simply by plugging in the USB cord to your laptop, and it fits easily in a laptop case. $29.99 (www.targus.com)
Share Your Mobility!
On the go, and have multiple devices or colleagues and friends who need wireless access? The new mobile MWR211 wireless router from ZyXEL gives mobile pros convenient, portable and secure Internet access that can be used with wired and 3G devices. The on-the-go router includes a built-in firewall and anti-DoS attack shield, and can support an unlimited number of friends and colleagues with any number of gadgets. It also includes a built-in rechargeable battery for times when wired power isn’t available. $114.99 (www.us.zyxel.com)
The new ultimate smart phones are based on the Android platform, combining all of the work-oriented features that Blackberry grew famous for, plus state of the art entertainment capabilities that leaves Apple in the dust. The Droid Incredible by HTC features a large touch screen display and shareable wireless service for up to five Wi-Fi enabled devices using the 3G Mobile Hotspot application. The phone also includes an LED light, the ability to record video in HD and full support for Adobe Flash Player, which enables quick downloading of games, apps and other dynamic web content inside the browser. It also comes equipped with HTC Sense for content personalization, an 8MP camera, a 1GHz processor, instant sharing and friends applications, and advanced speech recognition and Skype Mobile. Available on the Verizon Network from Personal Communications Devices and other retailers starting at $149 (www.pcdphones.com)
Protecting Your Computer … & the Earth
If you’re all about the three Rs of “reduce, re-use and recycle,” then you need to check out the environmentally conscious line of bags from EcoGear, which has several options for laptops, travel, kids, backpacks … even sleeping bags. For the mobile business pro, the Tiger II features airport security friendly features, with internal padding, organizer pockets, lined pouches and magnetic closures. But unlike other travel bags, the Tiger II is PVC-free, toxin-free and has no toxic dyes or materials. From $69 (www.ecogear-products.com)
Mobility means more than just texting, web surfing, email, phone and apps. But when you’re on the road, at conferences or anywhere else where you can’t control your schedule, you don’t have to wait for your DVR anymore. With the Sharp FX for AT&T, you can turn the device sideways to watch 24/7 live TV programming using the built-in FLO-TV system, with wide-screen broadcast quality full-length episodes on 17 TV channels, including ABC, Comedy Central, ESPN and MTV. The Sharp FX has a full touch screen display and slide-out full-QWERTY keyboard, which also makes texting and other messaging functions quick and easy. There’s also convenient MP3 player, 2.0 megapixel digital camera with camcorder and Bluetooth 2.1. Available on the AT&T Network from Personal Communications Devices and other retailers starting at $99 (www.pcdphones.com)
MORE MOBILE MOJO
Take This Drive Anywhere
While netbooks are trendy and portable, most have achieved their mini size by forgoing DVD drives. Samsung is to the rescue, though, with the sleek and slender new SE-S084D DVD Writer. A perfect companion to laptops and netbooks, it’s the lightest and thinnest portable optical drive in the world, and it accommodates the lifestyles of mobile business professionals. It is available in seven colors and works with Windows 7 and Mac OS computers. From $69.99 (www.samsung.com)
Flexibility for Your Digital Life
Portability is power, and the ability to quickly and easily manage backups, encrypt files and securely transfer even the largest of files is a necessity in business and personal life. The new GoFlex ultra-portable hard drive from Seagate lets users extend their digital life anywhere they go, whether for work or pleasure. The system is PC and Mac compatible and offers a unique modular format that includes a cable system with adapters that can be quickly swapped out to support USB 2.0, USB 3.0, eSATA or FireWire connections. You can even shuttle data between PCs and Macs without reformatting. GoFlex can also be paired with a GoFlex TV HD media player or the GoFlex Net media sharing device for enhanced media experience. It’s available in a variety of colors and capacities up to 1TB. From $89.99 (www.seagate.com)
Reach Out & See Someone … in Full HD
Sometimes, the weary road warrior gets homesick. When you can’t get back to tuck your kids in, or perhaps not traveling is keeping you from distant family and friends during the holidays, the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C910 gives the next best thing to being there. With full 1080p high-definition video and full stereo audio, plus auto-focus and light correction features, this wonderful webcam has the power to warm hearts and sooth the “time zone” separation blues. The HD Pro is designed to work with Skype, Yahoo! Messenger, Windows Live Messenger and Logitech Vid HD. Oh yeah, it’s also good for meetings. $99 (www.logitech.com)
Must-Have for iPads
If you’re one of the cool kids with an iPad, then don’t be left empty handed … add this awesome Targus Stylus for iPad. It’s great for jotting down notes, drawing or simply turning a page. The Stylus has a durable rubber tip that’s friendly to your iPad’s surface and makes it easy to type and draw accurately and comfortably. It requires no power, no batteries and no software, which means it’s ready to go right out of the box. $14.99 (www.targus.com)
Keep Your Fingers Flying
Winter’s here, and if you’re somewhere chilly you’ll want to wear gloves. But you also want to be able to use your gadgets, and with touch-screens and tiny keyboards, your fingers aren’t quite as precise with layers of fabric or leather in the way. But with Freehands Gloves from 3M, you can keep your hands cozy and still let your fingers fly across screens and buttons unobstructed. The tips of the index and thumbs flip back to expose these digits, letting you quickly text, dial, email or game. There’s even a version with a liner that has conductive tips on all five digits for iPad addicts. Freehands are available in multiple colors and styles for men and women, including knits, rag wool, eco-friendly fleece and waterproof Thinsulate. From $16 (www.freehands.com)
Guard Your Gadgets
You love your gadgets, but every time you put them in your pocket or handbag they come in contact with key chains and other objects, which can scratch their once perfect surfaces. They deserve to stay scratch-free. And they can, with BodyGuardz. Created from the same indestructible material that shields automobiles from abrasive elements, BodyGuardz is a thin, transparent film that protects devices like mobile phones such as iPhones, BlackBerrys, Palms and Androids, plus MP3 players, portable gaming systems, cameras and GPS units, and without the need for bulky cases. The protective films are available in sizes specifically designed for hundreds of devices. From $14.95 (www.bodyguardz.com)
KICK BACK & RELAX
The Media Center, Mastered
If you really want to make a digital entertainment guru excited, then look no further than the WD TV Live Hub from Western Digital. As the only portable HD network media player with a built-in 1 Terabyte hard drive, it allows you to enjoy movies, music, video, Internet content and personal media on any connected TV screen and computer on a home network. It’s like a DVR but with so much more, allowing users to directly download rentals from Netflix and Blockbuster, access social networking and picture-sharing sites, and even easily transfer files from PCs, Macs, thumb drives and cameras into the shared folders. $199 (www.wdtvlive.com or www.BestBuy.com)
Soft & Hardcovers for Digital Readers
Blending protection with style, the Hardback Folio for the Amazon Kindle and Kindle DX, from Acme Made, is a book-like protective cover that features a removable, custom-molded silicone skin. The outer cover is crafted with classic book linen, providing the authentic feel of a hardcover book, while the silicone skin utilizes ButtonDown technology, allowing the eReader to be easily and securely buttoned into the cover and quickly removed for convenience. For the road warrior, Acme Made offers the Slick Case for the Kindle, Sony eReaders and Barnes & Noble Nook, offering a compact case with zippered water- and stain-resistant protection. There’s also the Skinny Sleeve, which is available for a variety of eReaders plus the iPad. It’s the thinnest sleeve for mobile devices, featuring a sewn-in protective screen and protective neoprene sheath. $19.99 to $49.99 (www.acmemade.com)
Pump Up The Volume
Unimpressed by the limited audio capabilities of the speakers you use with your mobile devices? Not enough bass? Check out the WOWee ONE Gel Speaker, a revolutionary new pocket-sized, rechargeable speaker and subwoofer combo that delivers room-filling sound from your phone, MP3 player, laptop and other gadgets. The WOWee One turns whatever object it is put on (desk, chair, table, floor, car, box, window, cooler, etc.) into a dynamic subwoofer that works with the unit’s built-in speaker for hours of big sound that will surprise you for its size. $79 (www.woweeone.com)
The days of print photographs are pretty much done, but that doesn’t mean you can’t share pictures of your grandkids, children, family vacations or other events with your real-life (and in-person) friends. The new Portable Digital Photo Album from Digital Foci is the perfect “family brag book,” with a soft leather-like case, an 8” LCD screen and 4GB internal memory. This is the modern way of storing and sharing your cherished pictures. It can store thousands of images in virtually all formats. $189 (www.digitalfoci.com)
Bonus Online Content – Even More Cool Tech
Make a Resolution to Get Fit
Want to get in better shape? The Fitbit inspires people to exercise more, eat better and live a healthier lifestyle. The small and wearable health monitor accurately tracks calories burned, steps taken, distance traveled and even sleep quality. The Fitbit contains a 3D motion sensor like the one found in the Nintendo Wii and tracks your motion in three dimensions to converts this into useful information about your daily activities. The activity data can be wirelessly uploaded to the Fitbit Website where the user can see their information and effectively track their progress toward personal goals. The Website also offers nutrition, weight and other health information. $99 (www.fitbit.com)
The Golden Touch for Your Golf Game
How’s your grip? If it’s been a few years (or decades) since the last lesson with a pro, there’s a good chance that a golfer’s grip has slipped into some bad habits. The SensoGlove can help get users set things straight, using built-in digital sensors that continuously read the golfer’s grip pressure to ensure a consistently accurate, smooth and powerful swing. Made of Cabretta leather, the SensoGlove can help new or experienced duffers learn how to properly hold the club, andavoid bad habits, which can help improve every part of the game, from backswing, downswing, impact, follow-through, to driving, putting and chipping. $89 (www.sensoglove.com)
Your Game Need Even More Help? Optimize Your Swing
Avid golfers will love the OptiShot Golf Simulator by Dancin’ Dogg Golf, a virtual golf system that works by combining real golf clubs with a Windows-based computer program. The realistic and easy-to-use simulator features replicas of world-renowned courses from all over the world, allowing users to play individually or compete with friends on courses that include Augusta, Torrey Pines and Bethpage. All you need is 8 ½ feet of swing space and your clubs, then the system’s 16 infrared sensors read your club head speed, face angle, swing path and more for an extremely life-like experience. $399.95 (www.dancindogg.com
A Digital Take on the Magic 8-Ball?
Sometimes it’s fun to leave decisions up to fate… that’s where the Digital Decision Maker comes in, providing an entertaining way to resolve everyday business decisions, with answers that range from “Go For It” to “No Way.” (But please don’t use for investment decisions…) The device comes mounted with a sleek silver penholder and pen, along, includes a clock and has a touch-screen interface, while an engraving plate can be etched with a customized message. $35 (www.thingsremembered.com)
Clear the Air
Most people don’t like the thought of breathing in toxins and other pollutants, and hope their families aren’t either. The Humanair Personal Air Purifier allows you to surround yourself in a bubble of air that’s cleansed of harmful pollutants, while also offering breeze-free, ozone-free and virtually noise-free operation. It’s great for the office or the home, and has an LED alert signal to let you know when it’s time to clean the reusable and recyclable filter. Available for retail in January 2011. (www.humanscale.com)
Pocketable Pics on Your Key Chain
With this techie gift, mom or dad can show off the kids in 21st century style. The new digital Photo Key Chain can hold up to 100 photos that can be easily uploaded by plugging it into either a PC or a Mac with the included USB cord. The compact silver key chain is small enough to slip in a pocket with a photo quality parents will be impressed to show off. The back can be engraved with a special message. $20 (www.thingsremembered.com)
$25 Can Help Change the World
If you’re looking for a deeper sense of giving this holiday season, the “You Can Change the World Card” from Opportunity International helps provide a lasting effect on the working poor in developing countries. This tax-deductible gift will is available in electronic format or as a physical gift card, allowing the recipient to support entrepreneurs like Myrna Delfin of the Philippines, who sells clothing and needs $350 to purchase more ready-to-wear clothing and a tricycle to grow her business. At www.OptINnow.org, recipients can read Myrna’s story, as well as those of other entrepreneurs, to learn more about their goals and aspirations. Denominations starting at $10 (www.opportunity.org)
A Pen With Memory
For the on-the-go guy, the Personalized USB Pen from Things Remembered provides a stylish and functional accessory. The sleek polished gunmetal finish can be custom engraved and features a hidden 2GB USB flash drive. It also includes a gunmetal presentation box that can also be personalized. $45 (www.thingsremembered.com)
LED TV Simplified
New from Mitsubishi, the all-in-one Unisen Immersive Sound LED TV was designed to make living with it easy, from installation to moving it around to different arrangements. Its functionality, durability, ease-of-use and sleek design is offers cinema-quality viewing in the home, without requiring wires, clutter and holes in the walls. The TV combines the superior picture performance of LED with unparalleled sound technology, providing consumers with a complete sensory experience that captivates consumers. Plus, LED screens use less energy than either LCD or Plasmas. Key features of this product include immersive sound technology, integrated wireless internet, StreamTV(tm), which gives viewers access to an extensive library of high-quality entertainment and social media content, Bluetooth Audio Streaming and is EnergyStar 4.0 qualified. From $1,399 (www.mitsubishi-tv.com/unisen.html)
Mobile Tech for the Maybach Set?
If you’re adamant about having only the most glamorous fashion accessories, then the Vertu Constellation Quest will surely fit in your Hermes handbag. The most expensive hand-constructed smart phones in the world, the Constellation Quest features a full QWERTY keypad and screen that are made of genuine sapphires, a hand-stitched black or pink leather case, and a flawless ceramic and either gold or stainless steel siding. Each phone is built in England and takes two days to craft. The Constellation Quest also includes premier customer services, such as an enhanced Vertu Concierge service that users can access via a dedicated key on the phone to connect by phone or email to a “lifestyle manager” who can accommodate travel arrangements, dinner reservations, theater tickets and other offerings. $7,900 (www.vertu.com)
JUST THE APPS, PLEASE
The first-ever iPhone app designed to read both a car’s key safety components such as its anti-lock brakes, air bags, safety-restraint systems and a whole lot more, CARbonga is the ultimate mobile maintenance app. The program includes more than 2,000 On-Board Diagnostic codes for vehicle emissions and other engine problems, then translates them into easily understood language without the cost or hassle of visiting a mechanic. The system works with almost all cars 1996 or newer. $4.99 (www.itunes.com/apps/carbonga)
The most popular weather desktop app is also available for mobile devices, including iPhones, Androids, Blackberry and Palm OS. He It offers the largest network of professional weather stations in the world, so whether you’re roaming the country, a globetrotting adventurer or just wondering about the weekend, WeatherBug will help keep you advised. Basic version is free, subscriptions also available. (www.weatherbug.com)
When you’re on the go, the Be Put app makes it easy to send your location to family and friends. Users can quickly and easily send location and recipient-customized driving directions, with a secure “FindMe” key keeps your location between you and the person you’re sending it to. $0.99 (www.itunes.com/apps/beput)
Car Care & Roadside Emergencies
The holidays are often filled with road trips, either across country to grandmother’s house, or running countless shopping trips. Combine that with the cold winter weather, and you realize the importance of making sure your car won’t fail you while you’re on the road. The $2.99 Car Care app for iPhones and iPods give you an easy way to track vehicle maintenance and other information, helping keep it prepared for the winter season. There’s also the free iGAAUGE app from AAMCO. Free – $2.99. (www.itunes.com/apps)
Waze is a social mobile application that enables drivers to build and use real-time road intelligence. The service includes constantly-updated road maps, alerts on traffic and accidents, and data providing users with the fastest route to get to wherever they need to go. Map and traffic updates are automatically collected and generated as users drive with Waze activated, but drivers can also actively report and update other users with what’s happening on the road. Free. (www.itunes.com/apps/waze)
In the car for hours and can’t figure out the song playing on the radio? When you hear a song and wonder what it is, Shazam is there with the answer. Hold your iPhone to the music and within seconds Shazam will tell you the artist and track name. You can even download the song through iTunes on your iPhone. $3.99 (www.itunes.com/apps/shazam)
Here’s wishing you a prosperous 2011!
As many of the professionals who read our publications enter the busy tax season, our print edition
is on hiatus until the April/May issue arrives in your mailbox on or about April 16. Until then, of
course, we’ll have plenty of new articles, columns, thoughts and other content here on our website,
on our blog (www.CPATechViews.com)and on our social media pages on Twitter and Facebook.