BitDepth#866 - January 01

Gifts you should have got for Christmas. Clip and save to pass on to your loved one for hints on your birthday.
Things you should have got for Christmas
Lifeproof’s armband for iPhone is typical of the company’s rugged line of device protection products.
Photo courtesy Lifeproof.

It’s tough being techy. People sometimes get smart and walk into a store and buy the most expensive version of whatever it is you like to use. Most folks can’t possibly do that though, and muddle around in the middle ground, trying to find something that combines utility and affordability.

Such things exist, but they demand significant savvy to pull off, and this is the column that will help late gift givers or those who have noted the rictus of a smile you managed after opening your gift this morning.
Where’s the battery charger? Everything runs on batteries and while most devices these days have a specially designed one, there’s always need for a few AA batteries.

Sanyo's Eneloops retain a useful charge longer than most rechargeables.

Now someone getting this far might think that buying one of those rechargeable battery, charger and flashlight combos would be a terribly smart thing to do, but it’s not. They may look impressive in their blister packs, but they really should be taped together with big wads of packing tape and sold out of a big wire basket.
That’s not a charger,
this is a charger.

If the chargers from LaCrosse look like they demand a degree in engineering to master, that’s because they do. Or at least some knowledge of how rechargeable batteries work and how they should be maintained. The batteries that ship with the device work well, but a rechargeable system architect will go for Sanyo
Eneloop batteries, which hold a charge like alkaline batteries but can be recharged more than a thousand times. I’ve been running a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse off this system for more than two years now.

I wish that I could point to a multiple power output charger for USB devices that serves all needs, but for
these reasons, such an animal has proved quite difficult to create. Devices exist, but the lack of a consistent standard on power draw makes end user experiences difficult to predict. It all comes down to which devices you own and how they draw current for charging.

You got a smartphone? Great. Now you need a case. Nobody ever thinks about buying a case and that’s just as well, because it’s such a personal choice, like underwear, only more important.

Like boxers and briefs, the choices in a smartphone case come down to protection and style. You can get a stylish case that reflects the sleekness and design of your lovely new smartphone but won’t protect it from extreme impact. Cases that do protect turn the phone into something a bit boxy, rubbery and often quite linty.

You won’t need any help looking for a stylish case, but protection cases come down to
Lifeproof and Otterbox. Lifeproof promises more protection, including actual submersion if you fit the case correctly, but won’t warrant against any damage to your device, liquid or otherwise (nobody does), and currently only offers cases for Apple tablets and phones.

Otterbox has a wider range, covering most current mobile devices and is designed for more casual abuse. Otter entered the market with cases that were, well, ugly, or functional, depending on your perspective. They would have been right at home alongside ammunition cases and camouflaged armour.
Mercifully, today’s cases come in colour choices, though that acid yellow/orange colour is still available on several case choices if you really want it.

You may have been lucky enough to get yourself a good point and shoot camera under the tree.
Almost nobody thinks to get a good bag to go along with a camera, and usually get conned into buying bargain “packages” that will normally include a bag that nobody would ever actually buy.
Here’s some brief advice on buying a good bag.

Buy one that doesn’t look like a camera bag, and more specifically, doesn’t have a camera manufacturer’s brand stitched or glued onto it. Thieves have enough fun targeting your stuff, there’s no need to paint a neon sign on your gear.

That said, I use the medium pouch from National Geographic for my walk-around camera, the Canon G1X, because I love the canvas feel of it.
Almost nobody thinks to get a photographer some education to go along with their gear. Really. Instead of a new lens why not get some learning to help you manage the equipment you already have?
Any keen photographer at any level of experience will find something useful at
Kelby Training and Creative Live.

With luck, late gifters will get a clue from these notes or learn their lesson before your birthday comes around. Failing both options, you might just want to get yourself one of these just for cussedness.
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