At Home with Tech

Figure out which consumer tech you need, the right gear to buy and how to use your new gadgets.

Tag: B&H

This Visual Upgrade will Instantly Improve your Experience Working from Home

It may be finally time to build out a multiscreen home office work space. Here’s what I did.

Ironically, working from home during the pandemic has contained some silver linings. But not having access to a fully decked-out office computer station with multiple monitors can be limiting.

So, I bought myself a new second monitor for my home office. It paired up with my work PC laptop’s screen to provide more room for all of the open windows that collect throughout the work day.

During the early months of the pandemic, I repurposed my old Sony 21” LCD TV and connected it to my laptop via an HDMI cable. I thought I was so clever MacGyvering it, but its non-HD resolution wasn’t doing me any favors. Sure, I could extend my laptop’s screen, but the clarity on the Sony wasn’t there. If I came across small text, I often had to move it over to my laptop screen to be able to read it.

Favoring one screen over another adds unnecessary complexity.

Though I did eventually have another monitor solution temporarily in place, it was clearly time to upgrade my own gear. Not to mention a long-overdue reset surrounding my mindset over these many months.

Post Pandemic Mindset
The pandemic forced me and so many others to instantly adapt to a 100% work-from-home lifestyle. There were inevitable compromises where functionality trumped form.

  • Were you connected?
  • Did you have a comfortable location to do your home video conferencing?
  • Could you simply get your work done?

It wasn’t perfect, but it didn’t matter. My laptop’s second screen wasn’t great, but I didn’t feel it was an important enough limitation. (So I needed to squint a little.)

But thankfully, we’re moving away from that bunker mentality as life begins to return to normal in the US. Coming back to the office is on the horizon for many. But it’s going to be different.

Band-Aid Solutions No Longer Needed
Hybrid work will include working from home as a new norm as opposed to an occasional convenience. Even though remote work existed long before the pandemic, I think many of us viewed it as an infrequent arrangement that didn’t require fully-built-out technical solutions. Again, function over form.

But the pandemic forcibly evolved the very concept of working from home as a new standard. New hybrid work schedules are on the horizon. So, if you haven’t already done so, it’s probably time to finally focus on form over function when working from home.

For me, that meant upgrading my second screen for today and into the future.

The Power of a USB-C Connection
My first thought was to simply purchase a computer monitor with 1080 HD resolution and connect it via HDMI. That’s a cost-effective strategy to get the job done. But it’s based on older tech.

Newer computer monitors include a USB-C connection. Sure, that makes the screen more expensive, but it opens up a huge opportunity for your computer.

Laptops are notorious for not having enough outputs for peripherals. But if there’s a UBB-C port, that connection can do much more than simply connect to a monitor.

You can multipurpose one USB-C connection:

  • Feed your second computer screen
  • Power your laptop through that same USB-C feed
  • Connect an external keyboard and mouse via the monitor’s USB-A ports

It’s a no-brainer.

After I came to that conclusion, my next challenge was figuring out which monitor to buy.

Billions of Choices
I’d like to say that I combed through every option on the market. I didn’t. That’s an overwhelming exercise. Instead, I called B&H and asked for some help. And I got it. The affable sales consultant and I agreed on these specs:

-27” screen size (based on my own workspace)
-4K (Future-proofing choice)
-USB-C input (the golden connection)

Then, he offered me a few options, and we quickly landed on this LG 27” 4K screen:

The LG had everything I needed, and I liked it because it has built-in speakers. (The B&H consultant also mentioned he was partial to LG monitors.)

I said, “Let’s do it!”

And my new LG screen arrived two days later.

You’ve Got to Have Some Trust
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Barrett blindly took a salesman’s recommendation. Ha!

Well, not entirely. The LG does get good reviews. But yes, I followed the salesman’s lead.

You can’t be an expert on everything. There’s simply not enough time. Instead you’ve got to find some trusted support systems to help you along with certain decisions.

B&H has always offered me great advice and customer service. I’ve been buying my tech there for years. I trust their recommendations.

Multi-screen Home Office for your Hybrid Future
Adding the right monitor for a multiple-screen setup instantly creates a more effective home office workstation.

After I plugged in my new 27” LG computer monitor and connected it via the USB-C port, I felt like I had just bought a new pair of glasses.

Perhaps it’s also time for you to have a larger and clearer digital canvas to work on at home, even if your new hybrid work schedule means it won’t be used every day.

Not to repeat the term, but consider all of this as part of the new normal.

6 Tech Gifts for the Geek in Your Life

Yes, it’s that time of year again…when you need some serious inspiration to brainstorm great gift ideas. If you’re trying to figure out what tech to get, check out the gear on my own wish list…

What do you get for the geek who has everything? Well, the good news is your special geek in fact… does not have everything. He or she is actually coveting any number of gadgets at this very moment.

What…?
You don’t know which ones?
And you haven’t brushed up on your Vulcan mind-meld technique?

Well, here’s some gear to consider from this particular geek’s holiday wish list…

More Powerful Portable Power for Your Next Camping Trip:
Goal Zero Yeti 150
Over the summer, my family and I went camping at the Grey Fox Music Festival with another family. Though I prepared sufficiently for the Lester’s power needs to fuel our personal tech in the wild, I coveted this
Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Power Station the other dad brought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sure, I packed my own lineup of tiny rechargeable Anker batteries. I even had a smaller Goal Zero power unit, but it did not compare to this compact beast’s capabilities.

The Yeti 150 quickly became the power hub for all four of the adults.
And when hooked up to a couple of Goal Zero Nomad solar panels, this 150Wh device offered almost unlimited juice.
(As long as the sun stayed out.)

The only downside is its weight… 12 lbs.
Not something you’d want to throw into a knapsack you’re carrying on your back.
But we were car camping. So, that wasn’t an issue.

It’s nice to have a little extra power when you’re sleeping under the stars.
Believe me…

A Telescope to View the Next Unmissable Celestial Event:
Meade Infinity 90mm
Last time, I reviewed several telescope choices for kids.
But what if you’re shopping for someone a little older?
(At least, chronologically)

One of the Meade telescopes I looked at didn’t make my cut, because it was a little too big and heavy for youngsters.
But it’s perfect for adults.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think it would be a great starter telescope.

Portable Drive for Your Computer:
G-Technology 1 TB G Drive Mobile USB-C
If your geek is into photography or videography, then more file storage is always an ongoing need. This portable drive from G-Technology can travel anywhere in a knapsack and is crazy cheap.

 

 

 

 

 

Wait… One terabyte for just fifty bucks?!
Soon, these things are going to be stocking stuffers…

Give Some Stability to Your Smartphone:
JOBY GorillaPod Mobile Mini
Speaking of stocking stuffers…
Sometimes you don’t always want to hold your smartphone for extended periods when snapping a photo or shooting a video, because you need more stability in the shot. That’s what tripods are for!

And JOBY makes this GorillaPod Mobile Mini that can handle the job!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy.

Wireless Headphones for Your TV:
Sennheiser RS 185 or Sennheiser RS 160
My once and future man-cave is currently performing its duties as our family room. But at night, after our seven-year-old son has gone to sleep… I sometimes power up our little home theater which otherwise serves up Pixar and LEGO movies. And then, I do some on-demand viewing of my own. Often, it’s loud science fiction content.
(With both “Star Trek: Discovery” and “The Orville,” I’ve suddenly got a lot of sci-fi television to keep up with.)

But these days, it’s not about how loud. It’s about how quiet.
(My sleeping ninja warrior needs his rest!)

So, I want a pair of comfortable wireless headphones to completely immerse myself at full volume in the next Starship Discovery battle scene.
(“Star Trek: Discovery” is getting really good. And all those fan conspiracy theories about Captain Lorca being from the mirror universe are fueling my anticipation for the show’s return. This “Trek’s” substance, style and energy are taking the franchise where no one has gone before.)

I’ve decided I might prefer getting a pair of ‘open-back’ headphones, which let in some ambient noise, because if there are ‘unauthorized’ non-sleeping sounds coming from our son’s bedroom upstairs… I want to hear them!
‘Closed-back’ headphones block out outside noise better…. should that be your desire.

One excellent option is this-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These RF wireless headphones get great reviews, but for some reason, the discounts on Sennheiser headphones are smaller compared to a year ago when I first started doing my research.

Hmmm…
Three hundred smackers…
That’s pretty expensive for occasional use.

Then, I remembered it’s often a good idea to look for yesterday’s ‘pick’ at a discount.
And in fact, there is one…
It’s the older Sennheiser RS 160.
(Now discontinued, but still available)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The only downside is these are closed-back headphones.
(Which for many folks is just fine.)

Still… this is quite the deal!
Instead of using an open-back design, I suppose I’d just have to rely on my parental ‘spidey sense’ instead!

Depending on your budget, I’m sure your geek would appreciate either the airy Sennheiser RS 185 or yesterday’s champ, the RS 160.

Tech Gifts can be Risky
It’s ironic that shopping for geeks can be difficult, because you may not know the exact specs of the gear they want.
(We can be so finicky.)

Here’s an idea…
Just ask!
(We don’t mind.)

Using this list can be a great place to start the conversation…
Good luck!

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