Tech tips for the holidays

The season for giving is here and that means there is a lot to do. Fortunately, the gadgets are here to help. That’s what they’re supposed to do, right? Make life easier? And, there are several examples of apps that can work for you.

Reaching around to the back of the Christmas tree is a hassle. I’ve knocked ornaments off several times, much to my wife’s chagrin, and even forgotten to turn the thing off at night. The solution is automation, and the easiest way to get started is with the Belkin WeMo switch. It’s a Wi-Fi capable switch that plugs into a wall socket and lets you turn anything plugged into it from almost anywhere. After some easy initial setup, grab the free WeMo app for your iPhone or Android phone and you’re all set. Give it a tap, and the tree is on. Tap again and it’s off. You can keep using it when the holidays are over, of course, for things like televisions, lights, and so on. Plus, you can create schedules with the free apps that will turn devices on and off for you.

My wife and I started to receive Christmas cards this week. If you’re still waiting to send holiday greetings, fear not. There’s still time to make and send great-looking cards from home. Shutterfly is what we use. It’s super easy to put a card together and have it delivered. Or, buy a some labels so you can print labels for them at home. Speaking of labels, Mac users can check out tutorials on creating great-looking address labels with Apple’s Contacts and Pages applications.

No time to wait for physical cards? Then consider this tutorial from Instructables on making and sending ecards with your smartphone. They used an iPhone in the article, but an Android phone will work just as well.

Many of us will travel between now and New Year’s Eve. There are so many great travel apps available, that I could write a whole stand-alone post on the topic. In the interest of time, I’ve picked a few of my favorites.

Kayak has been my top travel app for a long time, as it’s a one-stop shop. It does everything from creating a packing list to finding deals on flights and hotels. Plus, its mobile apps are just beautiful and often dispense flight information faster than the airport. I use it almost every time I travel. It’s so tidy as it keeps everything you need in one app.

If you’ll be road tripping, check out Waze. This service offers turn-by-turn navigation, as many do, but what makes it unique is the crowd-sourced information. As other users travel, they report on time-consuming accidents, road conditions, and map accuracy. If there’s an accident along your route, you’ll be notified in real time, allowing you to make time- and money-saving adjustments. The app even lets you know where you’ll find the cheapest gas along your route.

I assume you’ll be traveling to familiar territory, but just in case you aren’t, check out Field Trip from Google. It’s available for the iPhone and Android. As you move about, it points out interesting things in your vicinity.

Here’s one more quick tip: If you’re traveling with an Apple laptop, here is the best way to pack the power supply and cord.

Last but not least, don’t forget about the far-flung relatives and loved ones who can’t join the festivities in person. Set up a video call and wish them the best while you’re face-to-face. Apple’s Facetime lets you send and receive video calls to and from a Mac, iPad, iPhone or iPod touch, while Skype covers just about every other device.

I hope these tips help you enjoy your holiday more thoroughly. Have a great time, everyone.

One Comment for “Tech tips for the holidays”

  1. posted by Tino Mike on

    These are really some impressive set of resources. I particularly love the Belkin WeMo switch. It will easily come in handy if your living room and bedroom are miles apart as in my case.

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