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Just in time for… uh, Boxing Day, I guess… some various devices, games, trinkets, books, and sundry I found useful or interesting in 2015.

jeff bezos and darkseid

A young Jeff Bezos explains his plans to his master.


  • Jackery Mini Charger: I’ve gone through a lot of external phone chargers over the past few years, many (obviously) of sketchy quality, and am impressed with this one in the lipstick class. It holds more power than most lipstick-sized chargers (3200 mAh vs 2200), with high-quality aluminum casing and clear plastic over the business end. Four blue LEDs serve as a power monitor and also serve as a basic flashlight. And all in the same general price range as other lipstick chargers. A charger this size can’t charge a tablet to full, but Jackery has plenty of other sizes available (that I haven’t tried). Now, it has the same primary weakness as the vast majority of chargers — it has no built-in way to transfer its charge to an Apple device. Which brings me to…
  • AmazonBasics 4-inch Lightning cable: External chargers suffer from needing to be paired with 3-foot cables to charge your phone, which clutters up your bag or your pocket and invariably gets tangled up. No more! This ultracompact cord can be left plugged in your charger indefinitely, and can charge your phone even in your shirt pocket with a lipstick-sized charger. A must-have for any portable charger.
  • For larger external chargers, I like this off-brand 10k mAh model. Sure, its casing may be cheap plastic, but the price cannot be beat ($12-14). And it has not failed on me yet.
  • AmazonBasics BlueTooth speaker: Unlike most portable Bluetooth speakers, this bad boy features stereo sound. It produces a clear sound, holds many hours worth of charge, and all at a tiny fraction of the price of a Bose. And it has decent bass for a product without a subwoofer. It even features an aux port if you want to maximize sound quality. This line does come in other sizes, but this “regular” size is the smallest to offer stereo sound.
  • Solar panel USB charger: I’m no prepper, but I do invest a little in disaster readiness, just in case. Nobody knows when the next blackout or flood will happen, when this sort of emergency item will pay for itself 10 times over. Anything that can be powered off of USB power (2.1A or less) can utilize this relatively inexpensive, portable solar panel. It’s also a must-have for camping trips, all-day music fests, or any other long-term outdoor situation where finding an outlet can be a bit of an issue. Finally, if you want to be able to charge your phone for totally free, here you go: there’s no tax on sunlight (yet). There is an astonishing variety of these solar panels, with the expensive models offering car-lighter power outlets. They generally do not have onboard batteries, so they are best paired with an external battery charger (Jackery or otherwise). Or else with…
  • USB AA-battery charger: Pair with your solar charger and with rechargable batteries for an infinite and free power supply for any AA-powered devices, including many portable radios.
  • Canon Pixma All-in-one inkjet printer and *SCANNER*: Dedicated scanners, even the crappy ones, are all well over $100. This thing scans just fine and will set you back a mere 60 bones. The reason: companies like Canon sell their inkjet printers at a loss, seeking to recoup their profits with their insanely overpriced inkjet refills. So, let their loss be your gain. Use this as a dedicated scanner and get a laser printer for your printing needs. (Or if you must use this for printing, be sure and use cut-rate, third-party ink refills.)
  • Versacart: One essential item for city living is a good granny cart, and Versacart is my cart of choice. Its sides are canvas instead of the usual metal, meaning it is foldable and also easier to fill. And it is lighter to boot. We’ve had no problems loading it with even the heaviest of grocery loads — the manufacturer rates its capacity at 120 pounds.
  • Star Wars Battlefront: PC / XBone / PS4. I talked about this more here. Hardcore, “get your hands off me you filthy casual” FPS purists might turn their noses up at this offering, but for the rest of us, SWB offers great, quick battles with minimal investment while also tickling your Star Wars itch. Note: don’t be a sucker — avoid their “Digital Deluxe” edition, and save yourself 10 bucks.