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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Switch Modular Pocket Knife- the multitool with multi personalities.

I like multitools. I've owned at least five or six. As a television news photojournalist, I am forever fixing or tweaking tripods, live trucks, microphones, cameras, wireless transmitters and all of the ephemera I use for my day job. It seems that everything I use has itty-bitty screws or AA batteries stuck waaay in the bottom of some deep hole that requires my multitool to dig them out.

But, there's a problem with most multitools. I'm often assigned to news locations that don't allow knife blades- courtrooms, police stations, schools and the like- so I have to remember to leave the multitool in the car. If I don't, it becomes the property of the state for good (somewhere, there's a security guard making a fortune selling confiscated multitools on Ebay) .

I did find the solution eventually. The Switch Modular Pocket Knife doesn't have the most imaginative name, but it does have imaginative design. Think of a Swiss army knife- all in separate pieces. Look in the very organized box the SMPK comes in and you"ll see what I mean. 

See what I mean?
(source: ThinkGeek)
Now, pick the tweezers, magnifying glass, screwdriver, nail file, etc out of the box and attach them to the pocket holder. If you leave out the knife blade, then you now have something that can be carried into a courtroom or pass muster with the TSA at the airport (check the TSA site here to see what's allowed). The point is, you can install- or not- any of the tools that come with the kit. Once installed, they are secure as a bank vault until you decide to change them again. And again.

...or stuff it full.
(source: ThinkGeek)

Add just a few tools...
(source: ThinkGeek)

The good folks at ThinkGeek (yes, that's a store) have this gadget for you to purchase for the low, low price of $59.99- that's the same price of a quality multitool from the well known brands. ThinkGeek has other, hard-to-find stuff too, so look around while you're there for other gee-wizardry that will keep your inner geek happy. Click here to go to the ThinkGeek site.

Hey, I think I just double posted and you guys got two times the blogging goodness for the price of one.

You're welcome.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Nissan Leaf reviewed. It drives like a car...and that's a very good thing.

Gas cars have been around almost 120 years. Others have tried steam engines, jet power and even a few abortive tries at electrical locomotion, but it seems that the good old standard combustion engine keeps chuggin' along, merrily carrying us all from point A to point B in relative comfort, safety and efficiency.

That's beginning to change. Slowly, the major car manufacturers are starting to introduce hybrids across their entire product line. The Toyota Prius and the Chevrolet Volt are two examples of the hybrid approach where electrical batteries are used in conjunction with small engine to extend the reach of the vehicle and achieve unheard of MPG of 50, 60 or even 70 MPG.

Would you even look twice at this car on your commute?
(source: Nissan)

Now, Nissan has leapfrogged the industry with the introduction of the Nissan Leaf all electric vehicle. That's right- no gas engine at all! No gas tank and no stopping at the pump for $4/gal. gas again.

Instead, the Leaf charges its batteries overnight or while you work and is good for about 85 miles on a full charge (IMO, I'd cut that by a third to account for real world driving conditions). But if you think about it, how much do you and I really drive most days? I'd say most of us go less than 50 miles a day and the Leaf seems an ideal vehicle for those folks.
 The Leaf still has full air conditioning, heating, power everything and a comfortable interior that gives up nothing to the gas guzzler next door. Nissan's official Leaf site can be found here and you'll be able to see what makes it so special. Technology is nice, but unless the public sees it as a legitimate replacement for fossil fuels, it may all be for naught.

This super high-tech interior looks pretty normal, doesn't it?
(source: Nissan)
Want to know what it's like to live with the Nissan Leaf? Our friends at Ubergizmo acutally ordered one and they can tell you what real life is like with the Leaf- the good, the bad and the shocking. Click here to go there now. Turns out, the Leaf drives pretty much like, well....a car.

And that's high praise. Cars like the Leaf will only find acceptance with US consumers when they don't have to give up the usual luxuries in order to get the efficiency. Nissan seems to be on to something here, but the ultimate test will be in the marketplace.

Check back with my grandson in 120 years and he'll be able to tell you if the Leaf and it's progeny made a go of it or not.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Five e-readers for under $175 reviewed.

My daughter recently graduated from high school. Her aunt gave her an Amazon Kindle as a present for all of her hard work. She loves it and reads it as much as possible. This points out just how popular e-readers like the Kindle have gotten over the past few years. With the ability to hold hundreds of books, newspapers and other publications as well as a battery life that can stretch for weeks, it's no wonder e-readers have become so popular.

Once you buy one, you may never get a paper book again.
 Now, there are many competitors to the Kindle that just might provide a strong experience for you and still keep you on your budget. The National Public Radio website has a review posted of five readers you can buy for less than $175. A couple of them you've probably heard of- the aforementioned Kindle and the Nook. The others have names that are probably strange to most of us (ever heard of Kobo? Me neither).

But the real surprise is the opinion of the author that the quality of these optional e-readers may not be all that bad. The technology has matured and the engineering required to produce a reader that provides a good reading experience.

Go the review here to see for yourself that the world of e-readers doesn't mean you have to buy only a Kindle or a Nook. Other competitors are out there to help you (and my daughter) enjoy reading just about anywhere, anytime.

And remember, you read it here first.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Starting a web Business? There's thousands of products at Alibaba.

Your path to wealth could start here (maybe).
(source: Alibaba)
Turn over just about any product and you're likely to see a "Made in China" label somewhere. Even the keyboard I'm typing this posting with was created in the Far East. However, most of these products are sold by Americans to Americans- but did you ever wonder just how did those Chinese made products make it to our shores?

One way is the website It claims to have more than 100,000 suppliers of nearly any kind of product from electronics to patio furniture, toys, clothing, motorcycles, leather products, lamps and nearly everything else you might possibly wish to buy and sell.

See? Anything!
(source: Alibaba)
 I can't vouch for the quality, but in most cases, it seems to be at least acceptable. Be warned, this is not a site for buying one of this or three of that. Minimum orders are required (remember, these folks are both the manufacturer and the wholesaler- they need to stay in business).  The coffee maker you see pictured here has a minimum order of 1088 pieces.

As a business person, it's up to you to make contact with the companies and arrange transport, payment and all of the other details required for transactions like this. Luckily, Aliabab also has an advice section and a member's forum (you don't have to join anything at all to read the forum) that discusses the ins and outs of the import/export business.

But, if you're willing to make some effort, invest some money and work with companies 10,000 miles away, you could be the nest or maybe you just might find a way to make a few extra bucks.

Alibaba will connect you with the manufacturer who is providing you with the widget you seek. Everything else that happens is between you and the factory. Remember, it's in the factory's best interest to provide you with a product you can sell in good conscience so you'll be a repeat customer.

To find Alibaba, click here and remember, you're ol' buddy the Tech Monkey gets 10% off!

Monday, June 6, 2011

I'm writing a new column!

As some of you may or may not know, I work in television news. I've been a news videographer for more than 20 years. Doing this job involves a lot of electronics and gadgets and that is probably where my love of gizmos comes from.

For much of that time, I was a chief photographer- a leader of a staff of video journmalists and expected to be the expert in all things video.

Well, there's a new website in town called the 247 newsroom. It's a website by and for video news professionals and the point is to share and help each other to be better at what we do. Anyone can visit, its free and you might get a bit insight into what goes on in the world of local TV news.

Go here to see it now.