By January 3, 2012

The Best and Worst Gibberish Gadgets of 2011

I wrote 67 reviews this year. The reviews were mostly based on gadgets, but I did a number of book and music reviews this year. I also reviewed a few services, including Amazon’s cloud-based MP3 service, and the Amazon Kindle Lending Library.

I know I am a few days late, but I wanted to mention the best and worst gadgets I reviewed in 2011. As always, I will try to keep the “awards” to things that most of my readers will use. For example, the PPS-43C is a fun pistol with a historic heritage, but it won’t be something most of you run out and buy.

Here’s the top of the pile, and the very, very bottom.

The Best Gibberish Gadget of 2011: Spotify

I love Pandora, but I always wanted the ability to listen to a specific song or album at any time. I was envious of my friends with Microsoft’s Zune Pass service, which allowed unlimited music streaming. I made fun of their Zune players to cover up the pain in my heart.

Spotify has been in Europe for awhile, but came to the United States this year. I managed to get into the early access preview and after about a week of use upgraded to the Premium level of service. This allowed me to stream music on my mobile devices, and all of the sudden we had a game changer on our hands.

I see Spotify, Pandora, and Amazon’s MP3 Cloud Service all working hand in hand. I learn about new music via Pandora, spin up specific tracks or albums via Spotify, and then buy my favorites on Amazon. This triple threat helped me discover a lot of new artists in 2011, like Skrillex, Pretty Lights, Bassnectar, Washed Out, and Brian Witzig. Spotify also “saved” me a fair amount of money this year. I was able to listen to the latest albums by DJ Shadow, the Roots, and Heyoka — and then decide they weren’t worth my money.

Best gadget runner-up
Krups GVX-1 Coffee Grinder. This is something we use at least once a day, if not several times a day. It replaced the Black and Decker grinder that in turn replaced our Solis Maestro Plus grinder. I paid $30 for it at Costco, and it is just as good for our use as the Solis Maestro Plus at four times the cost. It is a great budget burr grinder, and I recommend it to anyone wanting to make the jump from pre-ground coffee or by chopping their beans with the usual push-top grinder.

The Worst Gibberish Gadget of 2011: Pico Brothers Mosquito and Tick Repeller App

Mosquitoes are an annoyance in the United States. They are quite common in Minnesota and Virginia, and I have lots of experience with them. Mosquitoes carry many diseases, and are considered one of the top transmission vectors in the world. Ticks are also big time trouble makers, with Lyme’s disease being particularly scary in this part of the country.

So I think it’s pretty serious when an Android operating system program claims to scare away mosquitoes and ticks with high frequency sound. There are similar apps for the iPhone, and specialized devices that supposed to act like a force field versus these nasty pests.

The problem is that these apps and devices don’t work worth a shit. In my test, I took a live tick and let the Pico Brothers Mosquito and Tick Repeller howl like a banshee. I expected the tick to explode into a billion pieces, or at least move away from the sound. The tick didn’t run. In fact, it crawled on top of my phone, and I’m pretty sure made love to it.

So, Pico Brothers, if you are reading this: your app sucks and you are doing people a disservice by publishing it. Your app may even pose a health risk by promising to do something it does not.

Worst gadget runner-up: Merino Wool and Silk Lined ski socks by Lorpen.

Even if my two pair weren’t defective and had holes in them, the socks would be a poor comparison to similarly-priced offerings from SmartWool or Bridgedale. They are thin, scratchy, and don’t stay up very well. Save your pennies and wait for better socks to go on sale.

Here’s to another buttnest of reviews in 2012!! Thanks for reading :D

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