Holiday Tech 2012: Best New Gadgets & Gear

Holiday Tech 2012: Best New Gadgets & Gear

Shopping for the best new high-tech holiday gear has never been easier, thanks to endless online bargains and deals. Just one problem: With hundreds of awesome HDTVs, smartphones, tablet PCs and other cutting-edge electronics suddenly competing for attention, choosing the perfect gift for gadget lovers isn’t always an easy task. Credit a bounty of new stocking stuffers – 2012’s must-have electronics and accessories include great gift-giving options for every interest and budget. Luckily, our team of technology experts have culled through hundreds of the best new tech toys and put together a handy cheat sheet to seven of the season’s hottest picks.

Looking to get your wish-list started? Among the year’s top selections are digital cameras, next-generation video game systems, connected television sets, eReaders, portable computing solutions, and media players of every shape and size. The following list – just a small preview of the coolest new gear available in coming weeks – can help you get a leg up on your holiday shopping. The best part: Sweet as these gadgets are, they’re just the tip of the virtual iceberg.

Apple iPhone 5

Many smartphones such as the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx (notable for its ultra-long battery life) and Samsung Galaxy S3 (recommended for its oversized screen) deserve shoppers’ attention this holiday. But Apple’s latest model, the iPhone 5, is among the very first you should keep on speed dial. Compatible with over 500,000 apps and building on its predecessors’ highlights – videoconferencing, an ultra-crisp display, cloud music streaming, etc. – with all-new features, the best just keeps on getting better.

Roughly 18% thinner, 20% lighter and considerably faster than the iPhone 4S, the iPhone 5 also adds high-speed 4G LTE broadband connectivity for brisk downloads, a larger 4-inch screen, and a brawny A6 processor. Letting you wirelessly stream movies, music, television and games down on-demand, the handset doesn’t just load websites, apps and media faster than ever. It also delivers better graphics and computing performance, and comes with enhanced front- and rear-facing cameras for sharper photos, slicker video recording and stutter-free teleconferencing.

The iPhone 5’s multitude of features – including a touchscreen, motion-sensing gyroscope and support for voice commands through its Siri virtual assistant – make it a supercomputer that fits in your pocket. Using the device, you can enjoy a portable media powerhouse to go, or connect with friends and family from nearly anywhere your holiday travels take you.

Wii U Video Game System

Nintendo’s motion-sensing Wii console redefined gaming for a generation. Featuring a unique tablet Game Pad controller with a dedicated 6.2-inch LCD touchscreen (offering a second view on the action, or allowing for video viewing separate from TV), successor the Wii U hopes to provide a repeat performance.

Available in two models – Basic (includes 8GB internal storage) or Deluxe (offers 32GB internal storage + Nintendo Land video game, console stand and a cradle/stand for your GamePad) – it’s a prospective game changer. Credit the ability to play groundbreaking titles such as New Super Mario Bros. Wii U, Pikmin 3, and Madden NFL 13, which allow for solo or multiplayer action across multiple screens. Better yet, awesome options are available for all ages including kids (Skylanders Giants, Just Dance 4), adults (FIFA Soccer 13, Assassin’s Creed 3) and everyone in-between (Disney’s Epic Mickey 2).

Upsides include the ability to view gameplay on both your TV and GamePad, control your television with the tablet’s touschscreen, and link up to four Wii remotes for frantic head-to-head excitement. Backwards compatible with games from the original Wii, it doesn’t skimp on forward-thinking technology either. Bonuses include Internet access for multiplayer match-ups and downloading movies, music and games; video chat capabilities; second-screen viewing experiences; and wireless connectivity that lets you interact with real-world objects.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LS7

Fans of digital photography can give images a boost with this speedy and high-performing compact camera whose lens captures bright, top-quality snapshots even under low-light conditions. Whether using it to fire off bursts of pictures in rapid succession, or tape 1080 high-definition (HD) video, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the device’s premium capabilities and intuitive user interface.

Designed to work in a variety of shooting conditions, including nighttime or outdoor scenes, the device also offers a wide-angle Leica lens with 3.8X zoom functions, so you can take stunning shots from a distance. Built-in noise reduction features are simply icing on the cake, helping ensure your holiday memories look gorgeous when printed or viewed on the DMC-LX7’s 3-inch LCD screen.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 3G

Literally dozens of great eReaders are available from companies like Sony (Reader), Barnes & Noble (Nook HD+) and Kobo (Arc, Glo, etc.). But don’t miss out on Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite, the latest in the bestselling line of eReaders, which adds a higher-resolution and -contrast screen, and a built-in light offering 8 weeks of battery life when charged.

Avid readers will especially love the ability to download thousands of books, newspapers, magazines and more anywhere in the world using free 3G wireless or WiFi capability, all visible on its 6-inch screen even in direct sunlight. Browsing options include over 180,000 exclusives and self-published volumes, so you can catch up on everything from the latest Twilight novel to definitive works on nearly any topic. From children’s books to action-packed thrillers, you’ll be surprised at the selection – and how just akin to real-life reading the experience feels.

Want to catch up on your reading while visiting the in-laws or hitting the beach? Spare yourself the indignity (and hernia) of having to haul along a bunch of hardbacks – able to hold hundreds of volumes, it’s basically a portable library to go.

LG Intuition

Is it a smartphone or tablet – you decide. Following in the footsteps of Samsung’s popular Galaxy Note, this powerful cellular handset with oversized 5-inch screen allows for full-fledged computing performance without sacrificing pocket-ready convenience. Ideal for video viewing, Web surfing or reading, its bright colors, ample visual real estate and high-def resolution should prove a hit with road warriors.

Perfect for jotting down notes with the included stylus, the Intuition also offers lightning-quick wireless 4G LTE connectivity, WiFi support and an 8MP with LED flash. As such, it should also strike a chord with professionals hoping to boost productivity, or avid social media enthusiasts. You know what they say about all work and no play, though – running on the Android 4.0 operating system, tens of thousands of compatible apps are available. That way, whether you’re killing time waiting for a connection or happily cruising along at 10,000 feet, you’ll always have the power to summon up endless sources of entertainment on-demand.

Panasonic Viera TC-P55ST50 TV

Critics have praised this 55-inch plasma HDTV and 3D TV for its arresting picture quality, brilliant contrast and suave aesthetic. But what will really turn heads is its price – think premiere features for a fraction of the cost. Capable of displaying 1080p HD video, you’ll be able to enjoy TV shows and films at staggering levels of detail, with characters and objects that pop right out of the scenes. Of course, ultra-crisp color and 3D viewing support only enhances this effect: Don a pair of active shutter 3D glasses, and high-def images will literally burst from the screen.

Extras are plentiful too – Smart TV (a.k.a. Internet-ready) features being among the most prominent. Via Panasonic’s Viera Cast options, you can access Pandora for streaming music, enjoy video-on-demand from services like CinemaNow, and enjoy MLB, MLS and NHL news and info whenever the mood strikes. Online video won’t blur while playing either, thanks to enhanced image reproduction. But perhaps most engaging is the availability of 2D to 3D upconversion, which lets you take standard everyday content – e.g. your favorite TV shows, Blu-ray movies and online media – and screen them in 3D. Consider it a gift that keeps on giving: Put the set in your living room, and every time neighbors come to visit for holiday gatherings, their jaws will drop.

Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700

Many portable computing enthusiasts now own an iPad (and with good reason). But if you’ve been holding out on buying a tablet PC, especially if you’re torn over the decision between purchasing a more fully-featured laptop, this is the model that will make you reconsider. Among the best Android selections, The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 packs full HD resolution, a dedicated NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core CPU and serious processing muscle. Translated into plain English, that means sick 3D graphics, speedy load times and apps so powerful you’d think you were sitting in front of a desktop system.

Capable of delivering jaw-dropping 3D visuals for a fraction of the price, the tablet PC is also compatible with an optional QWERTY keyboard dock with touchpad, SD card reader and USB port that extends battery life to 14 hours. Pair the two, and you can effectively enjoy the best of both worlds, letting the Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 double as a notebook PC. Bonuses include an 8MP camera for snapping natty-looking photos, cloud storage solutions for archiving files online, and a full suite of office and productivity software. Compatible with thousands of apps, it’s a nicely portable and expandable alternative to traditional laptop systems that lets you enjoy two computing options for the price of one.

This post is part of eBay Finders, a new partnership that presents collections of items curated by a carefully selected group of electronics experts. Meet more of the Finders at ebayelectronics.tumblr.com. #eBayFinders


5 Ways Technology is Improving Education

9 October, 2012 Life No comments
5 Ways Technology is Improving Education

Technology is sometimes blamed for the perceived degradation of youth. Doubtlessly you’ve heard at least one person complain about how “kids today” can move their thumbs like wildfire to send texts, but can’t read or write an essay that contains anything resembling proper sentence structure. While illiteracy is a problem that should be taken very seriously, tech is not immediately to blame for the issue. In fact, there are several ways in which technology is improving education. 

Interestingly, the positive link between learning and technology goes way beyond replacing textbooks from the Cold War with tablets that contain up-to-the-minute information. Thanks to modern apps and programs, kids can assist in educating their peers, and even video games can get them moving around the gym. Here are five ways the best technology tools and gadgets are making education better.

“Lesson unbundling” – “Just like iTunes unbundled songs so you don’t have to buy a whole album just to get to that one great song, technology allows us to unbundle lessons from giant textbooks,” says Amy Murin of the Keeping Pace With K-12 Online Learning Blog. Lesson unbundling, according to Murin, allows teachers to form “lesson playlists” that are customized to each child’s learning needs. If a student needs to spend more time in yesterday’s lesson, for instance, he or she can hang back a little and take time to absorb it instead of being shackled to the textbook and forced to move ahead with the rest of the class. 

Social networking connects students – Facebook and Twitter are good ways for kids to get in touch with each other and talk about homework and assignments. Needless to say, parents should keep a keen eye on their child’s social media habits to make sure these conversations are being conducted safely (and don’t veer off topic!). Blogging is also a great way to help kids practice and publish their writing, online galleries let young artists get helpful criticism on their work, and building a website might wake up the talents of a future coder. 

Students can take an active role in teaching by editing sources like Wikipedia – Wikipedia, the world’s first open-source encyclopedia, is a storehouse of knowledge that anyone can edit. Not only can kids acquire information from Wikipedia, but they can also add their own facts and figures. Moreover, learning how to properly research via Wikipedia (and properly edit it) are lesson plans all on their own. For better or worse, there’s no avoiding the fact that school kids gravitate towards Wikipedia to get their information, so it’s extremely important that they learn how to use it responsibly.   

Students can literally look up the answer to any question in seconds – Wikipedia isn’t the only source of information out there on the Internet, though. National Geographic’s website tells kids what they need to know about the world and its cultures. Animal Planet is brimming with information about insects and animals (including humans and our weird ways!). And if a child has a question about space, NASA has the answer. Old childhood favorites like, “Why is the sky blue?” can receive a well-researched, well-sourced answer in the blink of an eye. 

Dance Dance Revolution is making physical education more fun – Video games are an important part of technological advancement, and they’re more than just pastimes. In 2007, schools began using the dancing/fitness game Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) to get kids to move around. Kids enjoy games in general, and moving along to DDR’s energetic graphics and music is typically more popular than getting whacked with dodgeballs for an hour. 

For more information on how tech benefits education, read: 

Benefits of Media for Children and Teens at RaisingChildren

Benefits of Online Social Networking at ParentFurther

Can Video Games Make Kids Smarter? at Education.com

5 Best Self-Publishing Services and Sites

5 Best Self-Publishing Services and Sites

Small Business Expert

Essential hints, tips & business advice for startups & entrepreneurs.

Want to make a little extra pocket change? The Internet can help—and no, making money over the ‘net doesn’t mean stuffing envelopes or selling diet pills. Instead, you can use online services to produce and distribute books, crafts, games, and other cool items made with your own hot little hands. Before you make plans on how to spend all that sweet money, though, you should make yourself aware of the best self-publishing sites and services. 

Most services specialize in one field, or a small handful. It’s important to find one that suits both your needs and your budget. Here are five suggestions for good self-publishing services and sites. 

Lulu – Lulu is one of the Internet’s most popular go-to sites for authors that would like to do things themselves. You retain all the rights to your work, which can then be sold through popular online outlets like Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com. Lulu also has a wide range of print options, including paperback, hardback, glossy, color, or black and white. 

Kickstarter – Kickstarter is fast becoming an extremely important site for individuals looking to fund niche projects via crowdsourcing. The person who is looking for funding pitches their project on the Kickstarter site in hopes of attracting enough donors. If the target amount is reached, the project is funded (the donors’ credit cards are not charged until the Kickstarter is successful), and donors are rewarded for their contributions. Kickstarter is used to fund all kinds of creative projects, including independent video games, books, albums, and documentaries. 

Smashwords – If you’re looking to self-publish a book, it’s not a bad idea to start off with an ebook. Ebooks are much cheaper than self-published hardcopies, which makes people far less reluctant to take a risk on them. Smashwords lets you publish your stories on-line and then distribute them at a price you set yourself. 

Etsy – Etsy is a crafting/supply site. It’s typically the go-to option for ladies and gentlemen who are looking to sell crafts, art, jewelry, and home-made toys online. For some artists, operating an Etsy store is a full-time job that brings in a steady income. 

App HubApp Hub is a website that offers free/affordable services to indie game developers that want to publish on the Xbox 360 and/or the Windows Phone. Developers who join will gain access to free tools, sample code, community support, and more. 

Need more tips on where to find great self-publishing resources? Visit: 

How to Self-Publish Anything at Mashable

Self-Publishing a Book: 25 Things You Need to Know at CNET

Music Self-Publishing at Squidoo