Another year has come to a close, I can’t believe it. It got me thinking of a good question for you. What are some of your favorite tech tricks/products this year and is there anything you are looking to tackle in 2019, or take it as it comes?
Baby New Year
Thanks for writing in and it’s always good to look back on a year and reflect. In 2018, I was busy with all sorts of projects and have some fun bits to pass on to everyone, hoping they help out. It might be fun to lay out my answers in an Academy Awards-type format. Drum roll please …
Favorite solution to something that drove me crazy at home: My Epson printer, which I love dearly, told me it couldn’t recognize a brand-new ink cartridge I installed. This happened repeatedly for months with different cartridges. Granted, they weren’t official Epson ink, but they did save me a bundle of cash. No matter how many times I pulled out the cartridges, reseated them and hoped, I would see the same error message and buy another cartridge. A more intelligent, less stubborn person would have realized this actually cost more money than name-brand ink but even with non-generic ink, I’ve still seen this issue. In 2018, a solution was delivered for me though. Here it is and hope it saves you the hassles I’ve had with this: Remove all of the ink cartridges, reboot the printer without any ink cartridges, then when it gets upset and yells at you for not having any ink installed, re-insert each cartridge. That resets something in the printer and, in my case, afterwards the printer accepted my off-brand ink and printed like a champ again.
Favorite solution for having a home phone without paying for a landline: Buy an Obihai 200 for $50, get a Google Voice account for free, and link that account with the Obihai. It’s easy to do and they walk you through how in the device’s main screen. Takes a little doing but once it’s setup, you can connect it to a regular landline phone and use it as if the service was coming straight from Ma Bell. Word to the wise though, Google Voice does not support 911 calling but that can be handled by getting a Callcentric account for $1.50/month and configuring your Obihai to use that service in the event of a 911 call.
Favorite brand wireless router: Synology, a company I wax poetically about when it comes to their network storage devices, has introduced a few routers to its repertoire. The top of the class is the $200 RT2600AC. I recently purchased one on sale for considerably less than the list price (thank you, Black Friday) and the combination of better wireless coverage and features make this a great addition. I can setup parental controls on content, internet time limits, and a ton of other features. Probably overkill for the layperson, but if you have an inner geek in you, I’d highly recommend this wireless router.
Favorite Streaming Device: My Roku stick might be my favorite piece of technology ever. I don’t get a chance to watch much TV but the amount of content available on the channels is amazing. (These are like apps on your phone). Lots of great options out there but my Roku stick, along with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and YouTube TV has me covered. I did say some not-so-nice things to it during those two Patriots games against the Dolphins and Steelers, but in hindsight the Roku was likely not to blame.
Favorite voice controlled device: This is a tough one, the Amazon Echo dot is a cute, useful, fun piece of technology and I used it to answer many questions and stream music this year. I had heard quite a bit about the Google Home mini so I decided to give it a try. The two units are almost dead-even on function and ability, but I’ve found the Google Home mini to have a slightly better speaker and has answers to a few questions that stumped Amazon’s Alexa. My kids prefer the Google Home mini, so the edge officially goes to Google.
Favorite Texting App: Pulse SMS. I know other services allow texting via a website and your device, but I have used this app all year and like it quite a bit. Not sure it’s better than the competition but it’s proven to be my favorite. For a Geek, it’s ironic that I feel I am the world’s worst text typer. Being able to text from a computer using this app’s website has save me from many embarrassing typos. They still happen though and if you were a recipient of one of these from me … hope you got a good, proper belly laugh.
Favorite must-have geeky tech items:
- Startech Hard Drive Docking Station — If a hard drive won’t boot, pull it out of the computer, put it in here, and connect it to another computer using a USB cable. Chances are you’ll be able to access all of your previously thought “lost forever” files. This device can be a lifesaver..
- Anker Powercore Power Bank — For charging mobile devices while on the go without having to plug anything into the wall. Just make sure to charge this up overnight before you need it.
- RJ45 Couplers — Have a few network cables that aren’t long enough? Sure, I could crimp ends on spare lengths of cable but with this coupler, just join cables together easily. Not needed often but when needed, these come through in the clutch like Big Papi.
Thank you for writing in Baby, this was a fun article to write though it was more of a list than a typical article. Thought it would be a helpful way to get a lot of information out in response to your question.
Hope everyone had a happy holiday season and thanks for reading. I’ve been stopped by friends and acquaintances who have told me they like my column and every time, literally every time, it brings a huge smile to my face. Thank you one and all. Already working on my next article answering a question about Smart Home devices …
Adam “The Geek” Darack
Adam Darack is the IT administrator for the town of Edgartown. He writes regularly about the technological issues facing Island business owners. Got a question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Dear Geek.”