Best Kitchen Gadgets and Accessories

1 November, 2012 Life No comments
Best Kitchen Gadgets and Accessories

Although most days start and end in the bedroom, chances are you spend more time in the kitchen while you’re awake than anywhere else in the house.  According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans spend more time eating, drinking and preparing food than any other activity besides sleeping.

There are any number of gadgets which make this kitchen time more productive, efficient, or just plain cool. Here are the best kitchen gadgets and accessories for a technology-savvy household.

Keurig Coffee Makers

Whether at your desk or in your kitchen, Keurig’s focus is on making perfect coffee – one cup at a time.  With models designed for serious and casual coffee drinkers, these systems are among the best (and most convenient) home coffeemakers.  No longer do you need to worry about grinding beans, buying filters or anything else except enjoying your gourmet java. Special coffee packages are required for brewing, but can easily be found at most major retailers and grocery stores, with the widest selection available at Bed, Bath & Beyond. The Platinum Plus Brewing System and Vue V700 come especially recommended for home or office use.

Vitamix Blender

The acme of blenders is the Vitamix, with self-cleaning offerings that are hailed as the most versatile and durable on the market.  They may cost a little more than other blenders, but they’re powerful, reliable and come with a lifetime guarantee. It’s no wonder that Vitamix blenders are coveted by restaurants and professional chefs worldwide.

Cuisinart Food Processor

Whether it’s restaurant-sized, kitchen-sized or a mini one, Cuisinart is the gold standard in food processors.  With simple to assemble and safety-proofed parts that only fit together one way (the right way), Cuisinart food processers make everything from grating cheese to chopping vegetables simple, easy, and even sort of fun.

Induction Burner

Here’s the cool thing about induction burners – they don’t get hot.  The secret is magnets, which generate heat – provided you are using a pan that accepts magnetism.  Touted by pros as a way to accurately control temperatures while providing a safe cooking environment, induction burners are a seemingly magical way to boil water, and can be purchased as a separate, standalone portable burner.

Sodastream

Although soda may one day be viewed as the late 20th centuries version of the cigarette, there’s no disputing its popularity and carbonated deliciousness.  With the Sodastream, you can create your own sodas at home with proprietary CO2 cartridges and flavor packets that are available at most major local retailers.

Nostalgia Electrics Ice Cream Maker

Although it looks like a classic old-time barrel, this electric ice maker features a convenient motor that churns all the ingredients for you.  Simply add some ice and all the ingredients before dinner time, and delicious home made ice cream is churned and blended for you while you eat.

FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer

Seal left overs and bulk food items for longer with a FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer, which removes all the air and creates compact, freezer friendly food and dishes for storage. Sure, you need to buy the proprietary wrap, but by saving food up to five times longer, it’s definitely worth it.

10 Business Technology Trends

21 August, 2012 Work No comments
10 Business Technology Trends

Although it’s doubtful he knew about cloud computing or tablet computers, Heraclitus was really on to something nearly 2500 years ago when he realized that there is nothing as constant as change.  And that old axiom continues to ring true for today’s entrepreneurs and enterprises. Below are 10 business technology trends working professionals need to stay on top of to remain competitive.

Tablet PCs – Tablet PCs and computers are changing nearly everything about the way business is done.  From pitch presentations to quarterly reports, client meetings to weekly internal pow-wows, company website design to marketing and advertising banners, nearly every aspect of business must now involve and embrace the ubiquity of tablet computers.

Wireless Integration – Offices and workspaces must no longer be defined by standard cubicles and workstations with bundles of wires popping through holes in the desk.  The use of reliability of wireless network means that PCs, tablets and smartphones can be connected anywhere, so the only reason to settle on one place any more is to make sure your device is charging – so make sure you’ve got plenty of electrical outlets in your conference room.

Telecommuting Evolved – With constant contact, access and reachability, the lines between work and home life continue to be blurred.  When does the work day really start and end when you check e-mails just before going to bed and just after waking up?  While telecommuting used to mean hassle for business setting up remote users, it now actually means that employees are spending more and more time on work tasks, even away from the office.

Online Video – Although it makes it tougher to get away with doodling your way through an international conference call, video conferencing allows for greater collaboration among multiple offices and individuals, and is an easy way to visually share ideas.

Cloud Computing – Thanks to cloud storage, data no longer needs to be stored on a central server, or live on a single office computer.  The rise of the cloud makes it imperative your business and employees can access any document or spreadsheet wherever they want, whenever they want.  Even if you’re running a one-man startup, make sure you utilize a cloud-based storage solution to ensure your data is not device-specific.

Online Security – With all this wireless networking and access to info in the cloud, the need to keep data secure is even more important, especially when confidential information is at stake.  Make sure you or your IT department is using the latest encryption and security measures to accommodate for data transmission over the air.

Social Media – While this is hardly a new trend, the fact is that many business and small business continue to figure out what it takes to make social media be successful for them.  For starters, it takes a time investment for someone to take charge of your company’s social media identity and engage with others.  But many companies are also finding that what keeps customers interested and coming back is more than just being there – you must add value to their lives, whether through helping them out or even providing coupons or discounts if your business offers products or services.

Data Tracking – Whether it’s through online surveys or geo-tagging data to find out information about how and where customers are using your products, the depth and detail of data is providing for unprecedented analysis and dissection of trends and techniques which can lead to better allocation of your business’s time and resources.

Gamification – Using techniques that have been refined and proven in the most successful video games, companies are using gamification to enhance their connections with customers by offering rewards, opportunities for sharing and small achievements which make using products seem like part of a much greater endeavor.  Principles of gamification are an important way that many small businesses continue to set themselves apart.

Part-Time Workers and Solopreneurs – Perhaps it’s a circumstance of the downturn in the economy, but many of the best and brightest minds are available on a part-time or freelance basis, and companies are taking advantage.  The upside is that many will offer their services at a very competitive rate, without the need for benefits or other costs-of-compensation.  More and more, businesses are relying on these non full-time employees for key elements of their business.

Should You Buy an Extended Warranty?

20 August, 2012 Life No comments
Should You Buy an Extended Warranty?

There is an episode of “The Simpsons” wherein Homer Simpson shoves a crayon up all the way up his nose until he involuntarily gasps, “Extended warranty? How can I lose?” We won’t bore you with the story details except to mention that Homer was undergoing a crude surgery to become as stupid as possible, and his exclamation about extended warranties don’t shine a flattering light on the contracts. As far as the real world is concerned, though, are there any benefits? Should you buy extended warranties to protect your electronics? 

The most generalized answer is “It’s not worth it.” Think about it: electronic retailers are quite aggressive about getting you to buy an extended warranty. Why would they bother if they weren’t on the winning side of the deal?   

There are certainly reasons to get more specific, though, and there are exceptions to every rule. For instance: 

Most items come with a manufacturer’s warranty that lasts a year – Most manufacturers will cover the cost of fixing or replacing your item if it breaks for a reason that isn’t your fault. These warranties typically last around a year, and according to Consumer Reports (which has done extensive research on extended warranties, and how much use we get out of them), it’s not all that common for electronics to fall apart after the manufacturer’s warranty expires. 

Modern electronics are engineered to be replaced in a three-to-five year period, anyway – Ours is a product-driven culture, and today’s top-notch smartphone or tablet will be ready for the trash heap within three years, easy (cue hands linked behind back, guilty scuffing of shoe on pavement).  The money that you’d use on an extended warranty is often better saved for the next generation of technology. 

LCD and plasma TVs rarely need repairs within the first three years following purchase – Of course, televisions usually last a little longer than three to five years, especially HD LCD and plasma sets. Polls done by Consumer Reports indicate that televisions are actually hardy pieces of tech, and very few need to be replaced or repaired within the first three years off the shelf.   

The cost of repair is often the same as the cost of the warranty – Extended warranties aren’t cheap, and oftentimes, the cost of an item’s repair matches the price of the warranty. 

There are exceptions, particularly for PCs – Ultimately, only you can determine if an extended warranty is worth your money. If you’re accident prone, clumsy, or just have a talent for losing things, you may find that an extended warranty is money well-spent. Moreover, Consumer Reports’ polls point out that unlike many electronics, new PCs are actually likely to require repairs within three years—and manufacturer’s warranties for computers are gradually becoming less generous. 

If you need more help researching the benefits and drawbacks of extended warranties, visit: 

Should You Buy an Extended Warranty? at Yahoo   

Should I Buy a TV Extended Warranty? at About.com

Should I Get an Extended Warranty? 10 Things to Consider at Switched