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Gift Guide 2014

In the spirit of “better late than never” I figured I’d throw up a few things I’ve gotten in the past year that worked out well for me and that I have enjoyed. They’re tailored for the always-traveling lifestyle, but will probably work out well for others too. Without further ado…..it’s!

Meandering Woods 2014 Gift Guide

I’ll break this into a few different categories for easy readability. These will be:

  • Travel
  • Tech
  • Podcasts

Travel Gifts

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 12.57.49 PMKnow Roaming gives you cheap international roaming when you travel, without changing your SIMk and cheap international calls when you’re at home by dialing direct. This is a small sticker you put over your existing SIM card that seamlessly switches between your primary wireless carrier and the Know Roaming partners. You don’t have to do anything differently, Know Roaming switches over seamlessly. I haven’t used this (yet) myself, but it was recommended to me by someone who was happy with the service. 

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 1.00.48 PMTravel Packing Cubes are life savers when packing and traveling around. You put your stuff in here and it stays neat, orderly, and you can put it all in your bag like playing Tetris. Aside from the millions of packing combinations you can make, and all the fun you can have playing that game, you get more storage from your existing bag. Seriously, it’s like using these turns your bag into one of Santa’s magical sacks that can hold more than they look like.

The cubes come in dozens of colors, sizes, styles, and brands. I prefer the eBags cubes because they’re inexpensive and very durable. They’re also made to fit the largest size of airline carryon perfectly so you can fit two medium and four small size cubes easily, and still squeeze into the overhead bin. I also like the slim ones for underwear and socks. Here’s a tip, roll your underwear and you can pack them more tightly. Same goes with tshirts into the medium size cubes. I just packed up 7 pairs of underwear, 6 pairs of socks, 7 t-shirts, two pairs of pants, and two thin sweaters in a medium and two smalls. Epic space.

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 1.11.50 PMPadded Packing Pouches are great for electronics gear. If you’ve got a lot of cables, and different sets of devices or toys you can easily keep them all straight. For instance, I’ve got a set of gear I bring around with me everywhere. USB sticks, SD cards, cables, chargers, etc. These go in one pouch. Then I’ve got a Chromecast, Apple Airport Express, HDMI cables (the Amazon ones are cheap and work great), and some other bulkier things I don’t want to carry everywhere. Finally I have some wireless testing kit that I take on some consulting engagements. These go into a third bag. Everything stays neat and protected in the padded pouches.

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 1.22.24 PMVelcro Cable Ties keep your unruly cables in line. These miracles can wrap around the ends of cables and stay attached so you don’t have to worry about losing them, unlike twist ties or other velcro ties. And they’re removable so your cables aren’t permanently bound up like with plastic zip ties. It’ll bring some sanity back to your life. I like to use them on my earbuds before I put them in my pocket. (I love my Etymotic HF-5s and Comply foam tips.) Otherwise I always end up pulling out a fistful of spaghetti and spend 20 minutes untangling the wires. Not cool.

Tech Gifts

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 6.47.55 PMiPhone 5s Battery Cases are indispensable to the Digital Nomad after updating to iOS 8. I mean come on, is there a Bitcoin mining trojan in that software? I looked around and read all the reviews I could find and the Lenmar Meridian iPhone 5s Battery Charger came out on top. The good folks over at The Wirecutter found the same thing and they know what they’re doing.

I looked at the Mophie cases as well, but they seem to be falling behind in the battery capacity department, though no doubt they’re pioneering in other areas. I will give props to my Mophie Powerstation Duo which has saved my bacon more times in the past couple of years than the number of times I’ve eaten bacon! (Note: I don’t count overcooked salted ham as bacon the way the rest of the world does. It’s a blaspheme to the good name of bacon and I will not participate in that kind of slander.)

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 6.58.30 PMThe PNY StorEDGE MacBook Pro Storage Expansion is just as indispensable to those of us who have Mac laptops as a good battery case.  To have an extra 128GB that’s faster than a portable HDD and doesn’t stick out like an external USB flash drive is pretty awesome. It just sits there holding countless movies, songs, photos, and virtual machines, encrypted with FileVault 2 for seamless security. I won’t apologize for gushing over this thing, it’s truly that awesome. There’s one for every MacBook model and in various sizes. If you didn’t want to drop obscene amounts of money for the bigger drive in your laptop this will make you laugh at those who did. But you’re laughing on the inside, cause you’re not a jerk.

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 7.57.26 PMPresentation Remotes are generally bulky, low quality, plastic feeling deals.  At one point I think I owned a half dozen of them and they all sucked. I’d be embarrassed to take them out for a client presentation because I didn’t want to look like I’d wasted my money on them. A colleague of mine wanted me to check out a presentation he was building a few months ago and I couldn’t give him any feedback because I kept stopping him to ask questions about the his Satechi Bluetooth MediaRemote.

This little device does exactly what it should, no more no less. It connects via Bluetooth, so no plug-in to lose and no loss of USB ports. It’s got all the buttons you want, plus a laser pointer. With its number pad, you can look like a pro when you want to jump to a particular slide. It lets you control music on your laptop or phone. There’s a lot more to it but I told you everything I like you’d call me a liar. Just buy it and find out for yourself.

Podcasts

If you don’t have money to spend but want to give a thoughtful recommendation to someone they can’t miss. Here are some of the podcasts I’ve enjoyed over the past few years. Some of them will take that long to get through. Seriously, these podcasts as good as audiobooks, but for FREE. Though definitely kick these folks some donations if you enjoy them.
  • The History of Rome [iTunes] Mike Duncan became legendary for this podcast. It spans over a thousand years of Roman history in 120 hours of storytelling and humor. It set a standard others have followed.
  • Revolutions [iTunes] Mike Duncan comes back with another podcast series. In this one he follows several different revolutions from ancient times to modern. The story of each is told over 12 episodes so you get a great balance of brevity and detail.
  • The History of Byzantium [iTunes] This is the successor, in timeline, to the History of Rome. The podcast series picks up where Mike Duncan left off and continues on through the Eastern Roman Empire until the ultimate fall of Constantinople.
  • Hardcore History [iTunes] Dan Carlin goes back through history and tells stories you don’t hear in other books, shows, or retellings. He often comes at well known people and times but with a very different slant. Worth paying for the back episode catalog.
  • Skeptoid [iTunes] Brian Dunning and guest hosts help cut through the BS in trends, fads, myths, legends, and rumors. It’s a great weekly podcast and a non-profit educational institution.

Note: I have linked several of these recommendations to my Amazon affiliate page. If you buy the items, or others while you’re in the shop, I’ll get small cut and it won’t increase your cost any. It’s a win-win!

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