A few of my favorite things – Gadgets & Apps edition

I have always enjoy other blogger’s posts about what applications, apps, tools, gadgets, books etc they like. One great site for this is “What’s in your bag“.

So I figured I’d make an attempt at doing this, however it quickly ballooned into a TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read) list, so I’m breaking it into different sections.

I started this blog entry more than 2 years ago and keep adding to it/editing it but never actually seem to finish it. If you’re reading this then I guess I finally drew the line and stopped adding things.

Things that keep me and my things safe

  • Google Authenticator – This is a handy free phone app that generates codes for the websites I have registered with it. Nice that it works even when the phone has no signal. IMHO, this is quicker and easier than waiting for a txt messge to come in. My only complaint is when I upgraded my phone these didn’t automatically transfer, though I guess that makes sense otherwise anyone who got a copy of a backup of my phone could have all my codes as well.
  • FIDO U2F Security Key – I have this small key on my keychain that I can use instead of getting a txt message or using Google Authenticator. Just plug it into a USB port, press the button and I’m in.2-factor Authentication – Basically, if you set your accounts up with this in order to log in someone would need to have both your password and your phone &/or keychain. Thus ‘2 factors’. Something you know (your password) and something you have (phone/keys). Many websites offer this, I recommend you use it everywhere you can. I use two different tools to help me do this, beyond just receiving a txt message on my phone;
  • SquareTrade Warranty w/ Accidental protection – I have this warranty on all our family iPhones. The accidental protection provides repairs even after the phone has been dropped, smashed, dunked, etc. I have one friend who even had his phone fall off while he was riding his motorcycle. By the time he got back it had been run over a number of times, but SquareTrade covered the replacement. The only thing it doesn’t cover is loss, so if you drop your phone into the ocean, oh well.
  • Tile Mate – Key Finder. Phone Finder. Anything Finder – A co-worker of mine introduced me to this idea and I’ve found it’s saved me time searching for lost keys & lost phones numerous times. I even have one of these in my wallet. Basically it’s a small blue-tooth enabled keychain that can either be made to play a tone when I request it from the phone, or I can press a button on it and it will make my phone chime. Small, relatively cheap and sturdy. My only complaint is the tile people insist the battery wears out after a year and you need to replace it and they send you lots of e-mails about this. I’m on 18 months and it’s still working, (shh, don’t tell the Tile folks. (Your results may vary))

Things that make my iPhone more useful/durable

    • AUKEY Car Mount Air Vent Magnetic Phone Holder – This handy little magnet pops right on your car airvent and, with some the help of some adhesive metal plates (included) on the back of your phone makes it really easy to mount/unmount your phone on the dash of your car. The metal plates work great with Otterbox Defender cases since you can slip them underneath the rubber shell so they dont look different at all. We have these in both our cars and co-workers who have seen them in action have bought their own. ’nuff said
    • Otterbox defender case – My current favorite iPhone case. While not waterproof, I can attest it’s certainly drop proof (I’ve dropped mine in a stairwell and watched it bounce down several steps in a row without any sign of damage). The rubber outercase is nice though I can also state from experience that the rubber does not hold up well as a dog chew. This combined witht the SquareTrade warranty are my best defenses for all our family iPhones. (Oh and the metal stickons for the above mentioned Aukey Car Vent magnet work great through the rubber case)
    • MPow bluetooth audio adapter – The iPhone 7 doesn’t have a headphone jack so this makes it difficult to connect to our car stereos, or older headphones. This little gadget provides the gateway to let me wirelessly send audio to it. Works great, gets power via USB and even has a little battery in it so I can hook it up to headphones when I’m mowing the lawn and stream music from my phone in my pocket.

Things that help me stay (a little more) organized

  • G SuiteG-suite logo– Google provides a suite of tools including gmail, docs, sheets, drive, calendar etc. This is basically just like having a gmail.com account, but using your own domain name. I use and manage this at my ‘day job’ but have also moved some of my personal accounts, and many client accounts, over to it as well. $5/month per account, but well worth it. (Note – Full disclosure – The link here to google is an affiliate link, I make $15 if you sign up with this and you get $1/month off (20%) for the first year. Win Win
  • ActiveInbox – In an effort towards ‘Getting Things Done‘ and to try to achieve ‘Inbox Zero’ this G-mail extension lets me organize messages in my inbox into different categories based on due-date, waiting on others, etc. I admit I should be using it more than I have in recent months but it does what it says well and it’s worth the money.
  • AnyList – My favorite grocery list app. We’ve even tied it into our Amazon Echo we have in our kitchen area so we can just say ‘Alexa, add bananas to the shopping list‘ and POOF! It appears on the list. Anylist categorizes groceries by type which makes it really handy since often the groupings like ‘Grains, Pasta & Sides’ are often in the same aisles. So, yes, I walk around the grocery store with my list on my cell phone, I’m one of those people but it’s really handy.
  • Privacy.com – While it’s a cool domain name, it really should be something like ‘Disposable Debit Card Generator’ or something like that. The idea is you tie this service into your bank account and then create custom debit cards you can use online without fear of that site later getting hacked. You can choose either one-use cards, or a card that’s locked into only working with one website. You can ‘pause’ or delete them any time. No additional fees. This is such a useful service it’s hard to believe banks and credit card companies don’t offer this. I’m convinced this is one of those businesses that is just waiting for some ‘big fish’ to buy them out, but in the meantime it’s a pretty awesome service. There is even a Firefox plugin that makes it ridiculously easy to generate a new card whenever you are prompted for a credit card field. I only wish I could find something that easy that MAKES money instead of spends it.

Other things I’ve found useful

  • Fitbit – I’m not one of those fitness crazed people that is trying to top 100,000 steps per week etc. but it is kind of fun to keep track of how many steps I take so I have a fitbit in my pocket most of the time. I know there are fancy wrist versions now that tell you your heartbeat and have a GPS built-in but I just have an older ‘pocket’ version) have it tethered to my belt since I know I’d lose it otherwise (I did once and found it using an app in my phone to scan for lost fitbits, seriously). I have it upload my step count to fitbit.com where those friends who also use a fitbit can feel better that no matter how few steps they had last week, they still beat me. 🙂
  • Magnetic Key Holder – These are really just screws that fit in your existing lightswitch screw holes, but the heads are super magnetic and strong enought to hold large key chains. We bought these kind of on a whim but we use them everyday. Super cheap yet super useful.
  • Portable Powerstrip – Ever been somewhere with limited outlets and someone else is already using it? If you had a portable powerstrip it’s not too obnoxious to ask if you can plug it into the outlet and plug their device into the powerstrip. Great way to become popular in a group of ‘power hungry’ folks 🙂 Newer ones of these include USB ports as well.

That’s all for now. I think in the future I’ll do additional gadgets/apps as a single post since this long list just never is quite complete.