Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Holiday Gift Guide: Gadgets, Electronics, and Apps

It's that time of year again, where we struggle to buy the perfect gift for that special [fill in the blank] in your life. This year, the Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together crew is teaming up to bring you their favorite books, toys, entertainment, and gadgets, etc. to help make the process easier.

Stop by each day this week to see our suggestions.

Today...Gadgets, Electronics, and Apps!

The G: "For the solitaire lover in your life"

For me to play a game on my phone, it needs to essentially be some form of solitaire--the kind of thing you can play in 5-10 minute sessions, doesn't require much concentration and, as such, lends itself to endless replay while waiting for person X to arrive or event Y to start. But I also want something more than just solitaire, and that's exactly what Card Crawl provides. It's fantasy-based with addictive gameplay and a reward system that lets you trade in points (accrued by success and not by in-app purchases) for special cards. And the game itself is both simple and deep. Basically, there are five kinds of cards: monsters, which hurt you; swords and shields, which hurt monsters; potions, which heal you; coins, which give you points; and special cards, which can do all sorts of fun things. The trick is trading in as many swords, shields and potions as possible for coins, but so many that you can't survive a hand full of monsters. It's a lot of fun. And free! (Available for iOS and Android.)

Tia: "For the not really a morning person in your life"

Chances are you've stayed up way too late reading or playing video games (or maybe even doing something responsible like homework or caring for a child) and have struggled to get out of bed the next morning, hitting the snooze button numerous times. Or, perhaps you're one of the unfortunate souls that must rise in the dark, before the sun has reared it's beautiful head. Personally, I used to have 6 alarms set on my phone in various increments and would often sleep through many of them and then awake startled at one of the awful sounds. Welp, that dragon has officially been slayed and my magic weapon is the Phillips Wake Up Light. It's not a miracle worker mind you, but I no longer need alarms on my phone and I now often awake before the soft subtle beep that this golden egg exudes. The reason is the sunrise simulation the device offers. Around half an hour before the alarm is set to go off, the Wake Up Light starts gradually brightening to prepare your body for waking up the natural way (triggering your circadian rhythm), and by the time the beep sounds you are already almost fully awake. Now, I don't wake up singing and am still tired in the morning, but it is no longer the vicious battle of slapping my hand around my night stand to silence whatever evil demon is screaming in my ear. There are many different models to choose from but I just went with the bottom of the barrel and it was the best money I spent in a really long time. I purchased this as a gift for my brother this year (who also inherited the 10 phone alarm gene) and I recommend you get one for yourself and any other non-morning person in your life.

Brian: "for the too-connected homeowner in your life"

Gogogate2 by Gogogate

I got a Gogogate 2 to solve a dumb problem, but it turned out to be really neat. It allows you to control and monitor your garage door (among other types of outdoor gates) via your smartphone. It connects directly to your garage door opener and wifi network. With some setup, you connect it to an app on your smartphone, slap a sensor on your garage door, and now you can see on your smartphone whether it's open or close, and then open or close it. Big deal, but you can also allow remote access (using strong passwords, obvs), and now you can check on your garage door, open, or close it from your smartphone anywhere. No more sharing your garage door code with family or friends, you can just open and close it for them from your phone! It can be configured to send you alerts when your garage door is open for more than 10 minutes, or whenever it opens or closes. You can also do neat (dumb) things like tie it in a roundabout way to an Amazon Echo and now you can open and close your garage door using just your voice! I wouldn't necessarily call this a "fun" device, but it does useful things and I never fail to enjoy opening my garage door from a block away with my phone.

Joe: "For lovers of calm and beautiful games"

After recommending Prune last year, I'd like to recommend another mobile game. Originally released in 2014, Monument Valley is a beautiful and quiet game filled with puzzles featuring optical illusions and manipulation for the player to find their way through the paths blocked by weirdly creepy crow people. Monument Valley is a touch on the short side and it's not the most difficult of games, but it is a fun and calming piece of art.