2020 Holiday Gift Guide

I know a lot of other folks are putting out gift guides for the holidays.  By all means, read them. In researching this, I wanted to blend things that I would want, that my family and friends would find interesting or useful, and some things I’ve bought myself.  So take it for what it’s worth! (Disclaimer: there are links on this page that go to Amazon Smile. I’m not endorsing Amazon. They get enough of my money, but this way a little bit goes to a good cause).

Sonos Beam

If you have a big screen TV in your living room, you may notice the sound isn’t always as great as it can be and it’s not always feasible to buy a full surround system.  If your TV has an optical audio out or an HDMI-ARC plug, get a soundbar. They are easy to install and mount and upgrade the sound quality for your TV.  I recommend the new Sonos Beam. It’s the less expensive Sonos Sound Bar but still has all of the Sonos features like the ability to stream music from your devices, or directly from the Internet. We purchased one for our family room TV and the sound is great. We have an open floor plan and it fills the room. (Costco had a Black Friday sale recently so check for deals!)

Sonos Beam

Sonos Beam – Smart TV Sound Bar with Amazon Alexa Built-in – Black

Vozni Tracker

Vozni is a small electronics design company in Armenia and they have developed this tracker.  Think of it as something like the Tile but far more capable. You can use your phone to locate your tracker but it will also let you know if your tracker is too far away from your phone (i.e. you forgot your laptop bag in the X-Ray machine) or it was moved.  It has other additional features like a selfie button and more features are being added. Check out Vozni.tech. I received mine the other day and although I haven’t been out much lately, I can definitely see how it will help me not forget my office key set somewhere 😉

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VOZNI Key Finder, Bluetooth Tracker, Key Locator, Keychain Finder, Wireless Luggage Finder with Motion Sensor and Replaceable Battery

Portable laptop monitor

More of us are working off laptops and in different places. Whether we are traveling for work, or nowadays, working out of a different room than normal in our home, the laptop screen can get cramped for work, especially when you’re used to multiple screens at your desk.

There are many options in this space and a lot of inexpensive models have flooded the market. If you are looking for one, use one that has multiple input types in case your laptop changes. The Lenovo 14” model is a particularly easy to set up and solid unit which supports USB, USB-C, and HDMI. I purchased one from AMATAGE (I have no idea who they are either) and it works just fine.

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Lenovo ThinkVision M14 14″ Full HD 1920×1080 IPS Monitor – 300 Nit 6ms 2xUSB Type-C Ports Widescreen Backlit LED LCD Mobile Portable Display

AMATAGE HDMI Portable Monitor 15.6 Inch for USB Type C, FHD IPS Screen Portable Display 1920×1080 for Laptop PC MAC Phone Xbox PS4, Leather Case, 2 Speakers

JBL Waterproof Bluetooth speaker

With the lack of steering wheel time due to lockdowns and it’s getting colder to go for a bike ride, my podcast listening has been cut down.  So, next best thing? Listen in the shower. This speaker has solid reviews. Mine is on order, so I’m looking for some quality time with my favorite cyber security podcasts.

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JBL CLIP 3 – Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker

Microsoft Surface Go 2 with LTE

I bought one of these a few months back. It’s small (10”) and super light (1.2lbs) and the battery is rated to last 10 hours (a little listen in the real world but still pretty good).   These companion devices–kind of like an iPad– wouldn’t be used as your everyday computer. It’s not that high powered, but when you are out and about and don’t have wifi, it’s a great way to connect to your files stored on the cloud or connect to a remote computer. I use it with a hosted Windows Virtual Desktop when I need heavier computing. It also fits in my bike bag so I can pull it out when I pull over at a coffee shop and get a support call. I activated it with T-Mobile for a few bucks more a month with unlimited 4G Data.

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Microsoft Surface Go 2 with LTE

DJI OSMO Pocket 2

I actually have the previous model of this. It’s a high quality camera and gimbal in one. It’s a little on the pricey side, but it fits easily in your pocket and can quickly get quality impromptu videos.  You can also add on an external mic for better sound or control it from your mobile phone.  Has pretty cool tracking capabilities as well. Accessories can get expensive but there is a broad range of add ons like tripod mounts and more.

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DJI Pocket 2 – Handheld 3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer with 4K Camera

Amazon Fire Cube

There are a lot of smart TV devices out there but I’ve settled on the Amazon line. We have the Fire Cube and Fire stick in stock.  When we cut our cords with the TV cable providers and switched to YouTube TV, we can use the device to watch live TV, Netflix, and Amazon prime.  There is a rumor that you can stream sports from other places using the built in browser. But I cannot confirm or deny it. I recommend getting the models with the TV controls built in to minimize remote controls you have to deal with.  Paired with our Sonos Beam, it’s an easy to use and capable family TV system.

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Fire TV Cube, hands-free with Alexa built in, 4K Ultra HD

YubiKey by Yubico

The Yubico is a small USB device that protects your accounts.  Although you can do something similar with an Authenticator application, you have to plug it into your computer in order to get into your email or social media accounts. It’s a solid way to protect them from takeover.

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https://www.yubico.com

PortaPow

The PortaPow is a small USB plug that passes through power without connecting the data wires.  Affectionally called the USB condom, this little device allows you to charge your devices using an unknown USB cable source (think of it when you travel and need to charge at the airport…you remember airports right?). Because this device cuts the data wires and passes power, your device won’t get hijacked or infected. Remember you don’t want to plug into a port you don’t know where it’s been.

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PortaPow

Silent Pocket

OK, I don’t own one of these guys yet, and probably if I was so down the privacy paranoia I wouldn’t own the Amazon devices above, but for those of you that want to prevent getting notifications or have people track your devices, these faraday bags block all Radio signals in or out of them. One privacy advocate that I follow places his devices into a bag before he leaves his office so that his device can’t be used to trace back to his home (which is in a different name, etc.).

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Silent Pocket

Keeper Security

Keeper has been my favorite password manager that I have used, and I have used many of them.  It combines easy use and quality security.  I protect mine with a second factor Authenticator and I have access to my passwords and accounts from any of my devices. I let Keeper pick my passwords so I don’t have to know them. Also if your passwords are found on a breach report, the system will notify you so you can change it. Keeper can also expand to be used by your entire company. It keeps your business and personal accounts separate so that employees can take their personal stuff with them while keeping your business passwords in your firm. We’re a Keeper partner if you want to learn more how it can be used for your business. For personal use, connect to Keeper directly below.

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https://www.keepersecurity.com

Emart 18-inch Ring Light with Stand

I recently bought this Ring light so that my videos would come out better. But now I have it mounted right behind my web cam on my desktop so that my Zoom videos don’t come out dark.  The price for this particular model has gone up, but I like this one because I can control the temp and brightness from a remote control and has a camera shoe and tripod mount.

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Emart 18-inch Ring Light with Stand, Big Adjustable 3200-5500K LED Lights Ring with Ultra-wide Lighting Area

Lume Cube

A little more convenient than the Ring light I use, but a great way to upgrade how you look on your calls. The Lume Cube sticks to your monitor or laptop using a suction cup and powers over USB.. Price is about the same as the Ring light but definitely more portable.

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LumeCube

Razer Kiyo Lighted Web Cam

The Kiyo is a standard web cam but has a built in ring light. Another way to upgrade your appearance on those Zoom happy hours.

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Razer Kiyo Lighted Web Cam

Dry Erase Board Computer Pad

This guy sits right behind my keyboard and it’s a quick way for me to jot notes while working at the computer without sticky notes. Glass makes it easy to clean and reuse

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Quartet Dry Erase Board for Keyboard

“I’m on a call”

Ok, I need one of these on air lights. I haven’t pulled the trigger yet.  But if you are on a lot of calls as I am and the laundry room or some other high traffic area is off of your office like it is here, it may be worth your while to prevent someone from walking through while you are on an important call. Some of these will integrate with your desktop software too. Another one to consider is this hanging white erase tag for your office:

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Etsy On Air Light

BusyLight Indicator

Rode NT-USB-Mini microphone

Upgrade your audio on your calls without having to wear an uncomfortable headset. You can even mount it on a microphone mount to upgrade your professional look.  I have two other microphones, an ATR1200 which seems to be too weak on Windows computers, so I purchased an audio mixer and the Blue Yeti which picks up noise from all over the room including your keyboard typing. This Rode comes highly reviewed.

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Rode NT-USB-Mini Microphone

Todyl Secure Global Network

This software scales from one computer to your entire company.  It funnels all your traffic to a secure data center over an encrypted connection and inspects the traffic, so if something bad comes down that connection, the team at Todyl will block it and notify you.  I use this on my desktop at home to prevent my ISP from knowing where I’m going and what I’m doing. We also use it as a replacement for companies that need to access their data at their office.  I used it in 2018 when I traveled to Armenia. My laptop connected a point of presence in Germany and had great experience. Psst. We’re a Todyl partner, so let us know if you’re interested in hearing more 😉 as they don’t sell direct.

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Todyl SGN

Private Internet Access

Not interested in all of that heavy protection, at least get a VPN to use when you are at the coffee shop or even in your house. Look at a service like Private Internet Access. It’s inexpensive and easy to install on all of your devices including your mobile phone.

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https://www.privateinternetaccess.com

So something for everyone on your list and maybe a little something for yourself. Step up your work from home game, protect yourself online, and have a little joy this Christmas and Holiday Season!

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