Feature
Article Tools

Print This Article

Gadgets: Where to Find Them
(But Not What to Do With Them)

by Dennis Kennedy
September 2003

Gadgets: can't live with them; can't live without them. I've often thought that the real thrill of gadgets was in the hunt and the discovery, not so much in reducing them to possession. Look in the desk drawers of any confirmed gadget-head and you are likely to find many unusual, often quite interesting, gadgets tossed aside as the search for new gadgets roared on.

But gadgets are really no longer the realm of gadget freaks. PDAs are seen as regular, even essential, business tools, and today's business road warrior requires any number of tools that might have been perceived as mere gadgets just a few years ago.

As a result of this trend and the increasing number of useful items in the "personal productivity technology" category, there are now a good number of very friendly and helpful Internet resources that can help both the longtime gadgeteer and the relative newbie.

This is important because standard Web searches just don't cut it. Try searching Google for a "USB flash drive" and you will get about 957,000 hits, most of which have no bearing on the information you want to find, which is normally, "which of these devices is the best one for me to get, or do I even need one?" So, I have put together a toolbox of gadget resources that should help you find the one you need. Here are the best of the best gadget links.

Great Starter Sites

CNET.com's Tech Trends - A great doorway into CNET's immense collection of articles, reviews, and other information. This site will give you a good way to keep up with general trends and find good overview or introductory articles.

Fresh Gear - Despite the recent departure of longtime gadget goddess, Sumi Dass The Fresh Gear TV show and companion Web site on TechTV.com are excellent starting points for locating information about gadgets. The Web site archives tend to cover gadgets by themes, which can be quite helpful. The information is geared to a popular audience and you should not find that you are overwhelmed by technospeak.

Gizmodo - The Gadgets Weblog - No list of Internet resources is complete these days without a representative blog on the subject. Gizmodo, with an RSS feed, fills the bill quite well. Tons of great info, coverage, and pictures, with fresh daily content. By the way, can you really be serious about your personal athletic training unless you have a GPS athletic trainer?

Popular Science - Generally strong, interesting coverage of practical gadgets, handled in plain language. Good articles, reviews, and lists.

Recomendo - Sometimes it's best to think of gadgets more in the sense of tools. Kevin Kelly, formerly of Whole Earth Review and Wired Magazine, keeps a great collection of descriptions, mini-reviews, and links to just good solid tools, some of which definitely fall into the gadget category. As he describes it, Recomendo contains "personal reviews of gear, books, and software that I and others find indispensable." There is much cool stuff on this site and it will likely change your way of thinking about gadgets and tools. For example, I defy you to read the material on the Celestron Mini 8x21 Binoculars and not find yourself deciding that you need to own a pair. Even better, the site has an RSS feed to deliver new items to your news reader.

Wired Magazine's Fetish Column - For years, this monthly collection of cool new gadgets has been a big draw for Wired readers. It's a highly valuable resource for helping define the needs you didn't know that you had until you saw the solution to those needs in this column. The use of the word "fetish" in the context of gadgets has always struck me as right on target.

ZDNet.com's Top Ten Must-haves - ZDNet.com's editors keep a list of their favorite gadgets. When you are looking for a starting point on a certain type of device, this page can jump start your effort.

Gadget News, Opinions and Reviews

DesignTechnica Reviews - This site features reviews, articles, a section called "first looks," and some useful guides on different subject matter. With its shopping comparison features and useful links, DesignTechnica Reviews is a great review site.

The Gadgeteer - Unquestionably, this site is the definitive site for gadget reviews. It is comprehensive and thorough and the best source for information on the important category of gadgets for gadgets. You cannot appreciate the value of this site until you are looking for something like a case for your PDA and then find many detailed reviews of cases.

Gizmodo - See above.

I4U - Future Technology News - A recent discovery of mine, but this site rocks. Great info and news, tons of it. It also points you toward online bargains. A news feed allows you to get the headlines in your news reader every day.

PDABuzz.com - A primary resource for news and information related to PDAs. PDABuzz is especially good at linking to new reviews and online bargains.

TechTV's Fresh Gear - See above. Also, be sure to check through the entire TechTV.com site for great info.

Wired Magazine's Play Test Column - This useful monthly column looks at three items in a few gadget categories and briefly covers the "splurge," the "best buy," and the "overrated" item in each category. This column can be very useful in honing in on the major players in a gadget category and narrowing your choice.

Gadget Shopping

Amazon.com - There are so many benefits to Amazon.com that it is hard to know where to begin. Not only does Amazon have an amazing variety of gadgets (even though you can usually do a little better on price), but its customer reviews and lists can be extraordinarily helpful in making a decision. Most magazine reviews are written with a short turnaround and will occasionally miss details that are important to you. Comments about usability, durability, and dealing with customer service are often found on Amazon and can be influential in making your decisions.

DealNews - This site is a personal favorite of mine. You want bargains? It's got bargains. From handy coupon codes to online specials, this site has everything the online bargain hunter needs. The items often will indicate whether an item is being sold for the lowest price seen to date. Better yet, you have the option of getting a daily email newsletter, news feed and/or personalization. Don't shop online without this site.

Froogle - Froogle is a new online shopping search engine from Google. It will help you find low prices and sources for buying the cool gadgets that you find and want to buy.

Hammacher Schlemmer - One of the major sources of gadgets.

Iwantoneofthose.com - Hands down, this site has the coolest domain name in the gadget world. It reduces one of the key elements of gadgets down to its bare essence. It's a UK site, but great for ideas and cool items. Telling your friends that you paid for your gadget in Euros and had it shipped from overseas will definitely enhance your gadget allure.

More Stuff 4 Less - A great collection of links to daily online bargains, coupons, and discounts, with lots of tech stuff. Even better, it has a news feed and you can get the list of bargains every day in your news reader.

Overstock.com - A great place to look for "last year's model" or great buys on refurbished items.

Sharper Image - The longtime resource for gadgets for executives and professionals.

Shopper.com - The "granddaddy" of all tech shopping sites is still a tremendous resource, especially for doing comparison shopping.

ThinkGeek.com - Not necessarily the most comprehensive source, ThinkGeek contains some well-chosen and highly useful gadgets. Definitely worth a look.

"Best Gadgets" Lists

CNET's Staff Gadget List - What do the reviewers like? This helpful list will direct you to today's coolest and best gadgets.

David Coursey's Best Mobile Gadgets - From the always useful ZDNet.com Anchordesk, Columnist David Coursey weighs in with his list of essential mobile gadgets, with a lot of emphasis on Bluetooth. The comments to the article are also worth a read.

Hammacher Schlemmer's Top Ten List - Solid, standard options. Not much to tempt me, I'm afraid, although the progressive-wakening alarm clock has given me something to think about - maybe it's something to put on the list for the Christmas exchange with my wife's family.

I4U.com's Nine Gadgets You Must Have - A good list of electronic gadgets.

Must-have Workout Tools - No aspect of working out is more important than gadgets, unless it's clothes or shoes. Fitness magazine has a nice article on equipping yourself to work out with inexpensive and effective tools.

Slashdot.com's Top Ten Gadgets of All Time - An archived thread of a lengthy discussion prompted by the release of an article naming the all-time top gadgets. Is a plow a gadget? This discussion alternates from practical to philosophical to silly.

TechTarget.com List - Another solid reference, this list was constructed with the IT professional in mind. It covers a good number of categories and the emphasis is on productivity.

ThinkGeek.com List - A useful list of favorites from the staff at ThinkGeeks.com. For those interested in learning about Open Source software and licenses, I thoroughly recommend the "Revolution OS" DVD mentioned on this list.

The Wacky World of Gadgets - Another solid article on LLRX.com covering a variety of gadgets that might be useful to librarians in particular. This article is based on presentation handout materials and gives you a nice overview of a wide range of gadgets.

Specialty Sites

Digital Photography Review - A good resource on digital photography products.

Palm Gear.com - A great all-around resource for Palm device users.

PDABuzz.com - A primary resource for news and information related to PDAs.

Pocket PC Thoughts - A good resource for Pocket PC info, especially news and reviews. Ever wanted to find the best chess games on the Pocket PC platform? See this article on The Ultimage Mobile Game: Chess!

Gadgets for Lawyers

Law Office Computing Magazine - Law Office Computing has always shined on its coverage of gadgets for lawyers. From Michael Jimmerson's regular gadget column to articles by Ross Kodner, Bruce Dorner, and Dan Coolidge to recent reviews from Brett Burney, LOC is a great place for info on gadgets from the lawyer's point of view.

LawTechGuru.com - My "go to guy" for legal gadgets is Jeff Beard. He has unveiled his new blog at LawTechGuru.com, which will serve, among other things, as a vehicle for his insights on gadgets in the legal profession. This site will definitely be an essential one for your list.

PDAJD.com - Wouldn't it be cool if there were a site that focused just on PDAs and related gadgets and software for lawyers, especially one with articles by lawyers who actually use the stuff in their practices? Well, there is one. It's called PDAJD.com and it's a great resource, essential for your list.

Wells Anderson's Mobile Lawyering Materials (PDF) - Wells is one of the legal tech consultants to whom I often turn with my own questions. This set of materials does a good job of covering mobile gadgetry with a practical focus.

For the Advanced Gadgeteer

ExtremeTech.com - Hey, the name says it all. You want detailed, technical info? You got it. Also, the site has an RSS feed and will pump great info to your news reader on a daily basis. Want to rule your gadget domain? Start here.

GeekExtreme.com - If a site is running a review of cold cathode fan lights, I think it definitely falls into the advanced gadget category.

A Few Interesting RSS Feeds for the Curious

CNET Personal Technology

Cooltech.org

DealNews

Fresh Reviews from PC Magazine

GeekExtreme.com

Gizmodo

I4U Future Technology News

More Stuff 4 Less Bargain Blog

PocketPC Thoughts

Recomendo

ThinkGeek

Final Thoughts

My goal with this column is two-fold. First, I want to help you assemble an excellent toolbox of Internet resources on the subject of gadgetry. Second, I want to provide you with a way to test your own level of gadget addiction. If you find that you while away a whole evening or a morning or afternoon at work tromping through this list of resources, you have the gadget disease pretty bad and I've done my job. If you also have a new item on your credit card that you will probably "forget" to mention to your spouse, then you know that you definitely have a gadget problem, but, at least, you are getting the good stuff.

By the way, after researching this column, I have a completely new list of impossibly cool gadgets:

VPR Matrix 200A5 - A laptop computer designed by the world renowned F.A. Porsche design house. F.A. Porsche is the grandson of the legendary car designer Ferdinand Porsche. In 1963 F.A. Porsche designed the body of the Porsche 911 car. Need I say more? If you want a gadget that will turn heads and make you the center of attention, this laptop is a great place to start. On the other hand, my new favorite tool, the Sony Vaio PCG-Z1AP3 laptop with a Centrino chip, is pretty awesome and does quite well in the head-turning department.

Archos Video AV320 - The first generation of the mobile multimedia players is here. Being described as an iPod on steroids should be more than enough to attract the attention of consumer electronic gadgeteers. The device, which uses a Linux operating system, can record, store, and play back MPEG-4 video, MP3 music, spoken audio, and JPEG photos. It apparently has a few first-generation idiosyncrasies, but what a great traveling gadget.

The Ambient Orb - This softly-lighted orb changes color in response to various trends indicated from data sources. For example, it might glow red if your stocks go down during the day and green if they go up. It might glow another color if certain friends are available for instant messaging.

The Chill Room - The picture of this device being used in an unapproved fashion floating on a lake will seal the deal, but what could be cooler than your own little private and comfy sanctuary to retreat from the world. Perfect for your office and giving your colleagues one more reason to scratch their heads about you. My brothers and I grew up using an old army parachute my great aunt gave us as a tent and for a zillion other things. The Chill Room evokes good memories for me.

USB Drive / MP3 Player Combo Device - From Kanguru.com, the Micro MP3, which does double duty as a standard USB "thumb" drive and a small MP3 audio player. A nice gadget that kills two birds with one stone. Also, check out the new ink pen and USB drive combos. Although I tend to disfavor combo devices, USB drives are very easy to lose and incorporating them into common items (such as pens or laser pointers) seems like a good way to make them less losable.

Green Laser Pointer - I don't even use laser pointers in my presentations, but now I have a hankering for one of these green laser pointers. It's new, it's different and "the green beam itself can be seen in mid-air in dark conditions, not just the laser beam dot. This allows the green laser pointer to be used for pointing to star constellations (skypointing) and also just generally look cool as hell." (quote from the Thinkgeek.com review)

Happy gadgeting!

Top


Dennis Kennedy (dmk@denniskennedy.com) is a computer lawyer and consultant based in St. Louis, Missouri. He speaks and writes frequently on legal, technology, and Internet topics and was named the 2001 TechnoLawyer of the Year by TechnoLawyer.com. His highly-regarded web site at www.denniskennedy.com collects many of his articles and is the home of his blog.

© 2003 American Bar Association | Copyright Statement | Privacy Statement