On Technology

By Phil Baker

Cordless vacuum cleaner from Dyson pricey but effective

Great design and technology are particularly satisfying when applied to products that improve doing routine, mundane tasks. Household products have been a latecomer to incorporating clever design, great industrial design and improved functionality. But two companies have shown what great imagination and design can do to set them apart.

Mophie Space Pack offers more battery power, memory

If there’s one thing our smartphones need more of, it’s battery power. On a recent trip I exhausted my iPhone 5s’s battery by noon. It was partially due to my hotel having poor WiFi and needing to use my phone as a hot spot. But with all the new things we’re doing with our phones — playing games, browsing the Internet, reading books and watching videos — there’s rarely enough battery power to get through the day, particularly with iPhones.

Building a better mouse

While Apple makes many great products, such as the iPad mini reviewed last week, I wish it would address one product that falls far below its usual design excellence. It’s the wireless Apple Magic Mouse ($70), a beautiful-looking device that we use as much as the computer. It was introduced in October 2009, yet has undergone no noticeable improvements since then. It’s the one Apple product that I’ve found to be disappointing and inferior to other mice.

High tech transforms old-fashioned Filofax

I must admit that when the iPad mini came out, it was a ho-hum to me. I didn’t rush to review it because it seemed redundant. After all, I had an older iPad, the third-generation 10-inch model with the retina display. But once the novelty wore off, I rarely used it. Carrying it with a MacBook Air was one device too many, and I would usually favor the notebook.

Working with Neil Young on music’s next big thing

Neil Young, the legendary musician, called me out of the blue in January 2012. He'd gotten my name from a mutual friend who had given him a copy of my book, "From Concept to Consumer." I'd been a long-time fan and attended many of his concerts over the years, so it was exciting to talk with him. It also turned out to be one of the most important calls of my life.

How many formats does it take to change a light bulb?

The government-mandated phaseout of the incandescent bulb has opened the door for low-energy replacements. A couple of years back, compact fluorescent lighting, or CFL, was the favored alternative. But, now there’s something better, LED lights. They more resemble the conventional lights they are replacing and they don’t have the mercury found in CFLs.

Acer Chromebook: Does it compute?

Imagine a slim, lightweight notebook computer with a capable 11.6-inch screen and full-size keyboard, complete with a Microsoft Office-like apps suite for $249, a fraction of what you would pay for a PC or Mac notebook. It’s the Acer C720/ZHN Chromebook.

Basis fitness tracker keeps tabs on sleep, fitness

The Basis Carbon Steel Edition fitness tracker is one of the latest wearable wrist devices that promise to monitor our activities and motivate us to be more fit. It’s part of a category called wearable technology that’s been generating a huge amount of interest, if not yet huge sales, and one that market analysts predict will become explosive.

Fun software that makes you more productive

Who can resist software that helps you organize and work more efficiently? While many apps claim to do this, these three really deliver on their promise.

Rating the next generation of premium Bluetooth headsets

Bluetooth cellphone headsets were once a fast-growing category with dozens of models, each claiming to magically eliminate background and wind noise, and sound as good as a normal call. The truth was that even the best of them failed to work flawlessly.

New Gesture chair for high-tech workers

Steelcase of Grand Rapids, Mich., is no stranger to innovation; it was a major investor in one of Silicon Valley’s most notable design companies, IDEO, in 1996. The two companies worked together for 10 years to create chairs and office workspaces, including the famous Leap chair.

The harmful impact of a negative online review

Review sites offer a tremendous benefit to us as consumers. Whether it’s a restaurant, an electrician or a product, learning from others’ experiences helps us make a better choice. But it also has created a potential for abuse. Anyone can post an opinion, even those with ulterior motives.

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