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Whittling Down the Pile

Category: Hardware Published on Wednesday, 09 May 2012

 Stuff to Read your Email, Save the Planet, Help you Sleep, Keep you Organized and Appease your Palate

Very often we receive items for review that defy definition, don't fall into specific "tech" categories or can't provide us with enough fodder to fill a so-called "stand-alone" diatribe.

This is commonly referred to as "stuff."

So, with that in mind, here are a few items we have played with (or looked at) that meet the stuff criteria.


We begin with the large plastic rabbit sitting on my desk. Affectionately known as Karotz, this long-eared device is actually my office companion from Violet ($129.99).

Karotz can access my email and read it to me, be my direct link to Facebook, keep an eye on my other "stuff" using her built-in camera and perform other tasks via a Wi-Fi connection to my network. There are also programmable treats -- called Flatnoz or Nanoztags -- that contain RFID chips and tell her what to do.

Karotz easily connects to the USB port on your computer through her detachable tail and can become a valuable and loyal companion to those of us that don't get out much.

Next are GreenSmart bags and covers for our mobile devices. These range from MacBook sleeves to backpacks and range in price from $8.95 to $74.95.

What sets these apart from the pack is the fact that all of these items are made from recycled plastic water and soda bottles.

We played with a 15.4-inch Akepa laptop sleeve ($34.95), which, at first glance, looks like a million other sleeves that have crossed our path. But, after closer examination, we discovered this wasn't an ordinary computer sleeve.

The inside is padded with a soft, spongy material designed to protect the computer and the bag's double zipper gave us easy access to our laptop. In addition, there was no chemical odor, it's ventilated (to allow your computer to cool down) and contains no toxins or chemicals. This is due to the fact that it's Neogreene material is water based.

The third item in our pile of stuff is a Sleep Therapy Pillow ($49.99) from Sound Oasis.

This is basically a pillow containing two speakers and an input for an MP3 player or sleep therapy sound machine. It's also made of hypoallergenic materials and is fiber filled.

The concept here is great, but it has one huge problem: The area of the pillow containing the speakers is hard and uncomfortable. Of course, the way around this is not to sink your head into those spots, but those of us with big heads may find that a bit difficult.

We next have the Dymo Label Manager 160 label maker ($29.99). This a portable device that allows you to create and print labels on the fly.

The label manager is basically a handheld keyboard you use to produce and format strips of labels that you can attach to everything from store shelves to notebook covers.

A small screen shows you what your label will look like before you print it using its six built-in font sizes, eight font styles, four boxes and underlines. These are easily accessed using five smart keys that are at the top of the keyboard.

Today's last item is more of a path to expertise rather than a physical object.

We were sent a bottle of wine to sample from Club W, which is a wine club that allows you to select three wines per month for #39 (shipping is free).

The wine we sampled was a 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon from The Guardian Winery in the Sonoma Valley of California. Now, we're no wine connoisseurs, but we know what we like - - and this fit the bill.

Club W members have a choice of choosing their own wines from a short, constantly changing, list or leaving the choice up to the club's wine experts. Basically, members choose three ore more bottles of wine from a list of 12 wines that changes monthly. Every bottle added to the minimum of three is $13.

Check out the companies' websites for more information at,,, and

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