Technology Today – April 2010
Kidz Gear Headphones
Tis the traveling season as my daughter is all ready for spring break. We needed new headphones for her to listen to DVDs and the computer in the van while we are traveling and so I found the Kidz Gear Wired Headphones which are the first adult-featured stereo headphones designed specifically for kids. My daughter, being only 5 ¾ years old, fits the description and need. She found the package, and unpacked it herself and for once, someone has a plastic package that kids can get into without the major fear of a sliced finger from the sharp edges. Already, I like this company. As she has used headphones before when we travel by air (for noise cancellation), she was immediately comfortable making these fit her head and figuring out how to adjust them. It took her a little while to do that but I think it was more a matter of taking her time tinkering with the adjusting bracket. Plugged them into the notebook and took them for a spin and she really enjoyed the sound quality that came from them. For $20 headphones that fit her head just perfectly, you really can’t go wrong with them. What you do need though is to monitor the volume control that is on the headphones and to help you there; they include a volume limit adapter cable. It is a tiny section that connects between your headphones and the audio source and when I first plugged it in, cranked the volume up all the way, it still keeps the sound at a very safe level for kids. Find them at www.gearforkidz.com.
We took them on the trip, and with the Y-splitter adapter, she and I were both able to listen to a movie on the computer with our headphones. She was able to hear everything from the video and that helped to make the trip a fun one.
I also received from Kidz Gear, the Wireless Car Headphones for Kids. This package did not arrive in the kid’s friendly packaging of the other headphones and like most of these solidly imbedded plastic cases, required knives, scissors, and a prayer to open it without any damage. Guys, you need new packaging. The look and feel of these headphones is a bit different than the others with a more solid frame over the head and the phone electronic housing seems a bit more solid as well. Of course, it needs to be to hold the internal wires, infrared receiver, battery, and connectors which run through the adjustable headpiece. The look, feel, ease of adjustments, are all of high quality. The only things I did not like were getting the battery cover off of the one unit to insert the two AAA batteries and in fact, nearly thought I was going to break the cover getting it off. Not easy. I also find that there is no where does it tell you how to orient the batteries in the unit. Once connected, works like a charm. On the left headphone, you have the power switch and the volume control roller and are easy to use. About $30.
Now what was even cooler is an infrared kit to use at home. The IR Kit comes with a cable that plugs into the left and right channel output connectors on a stereo or Television and then broadcasts it to the headset. Use the volume limit adapter cable and you can let your kid listen worry free to their favorite sound or television show. Great stuff.
I don’t know about you but when my wife starts talking about spring cleaning, I want to head in another direction and but quickly. For me, that means cleaning out all the old computer “stuff” that has accumulated in the garage from friends, neighbors, and even it seems, strangers. Wow, it piles up because most people can’t figure out what to do with it. For several years, most of the major cell phone stores have boxes that will collect the used cell phone that no one wants any more but still can be used for shelters and the like where all they need is something that still works. So getting rid of them is easy. But what about the real stuff, computers, personal digital assistants, and the tons of notebooks that have given up the ghost but still sit haunting our garages and closets? The good news is that more companies are taking them and really recycling them as opposed to going to the landfills both here and abroad. So start looking around. Best Buy stores are a good place to start, go to their website, www.bestbuy.com, scroll to the bottom of the first page and you will find under “Product Support” a link for their Recycling center. What is interesting is that they will not take the hard drive in a computer, you have to deal with that on your own but they will take nearly everything else electronic.
Lots of resources on the web are there as well to help you find a place. http://1800recycling.com/ is one place to start, another is http://reconnectpartnership.com/index.php which is a partnership between Goodwill and Dell that will take nearly any computer you have. The EPA also has a comprehensive website worth taking a look at: http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/ecycling/donate.htm.
So, next you need to deal with all of your data files on the computer before you send it off. As I mentioned, Best Buy won’t take the hard drive because of the liability issue so you need to look for programs and services to wipe it clean. If you want to do it yourself, and you still have a working computer, find a program to do it for you. One of my favorites is White Canyon, www.whitecanyon.com which is a paid package but really works well and gives you lots of options depending on how paranoid you are about your data files. An open source option is Darik’s Boot and Nuke software, http://www.dban.org/, which can be downloaded at no cost and works pretty well. Another free option is Secure Erase developed by the University of CA at San Diego. http://cmrr.ucsd.edu/people/Hughes/SecureErase.shtml.
If you don’t have a working computer, then one of the options is to get a USB drive connector kit for the hard drive you have from someplace like Cables to Go, www.cablestogo.com and they have them for standard IDE or SATA drives and for notebook drives as well. Look to spend around $30 to $50 depending on the drive type. And of course, there is a final solution with a sledge hammer.
I have really started to pay attention to the batteries I get with electronics. More and more are coming with some really cheap no name AA or AAA sized batteries and I am finding that they are leaking and disintegrating more and more often and when they do, you can usually just trash (think recycling) what ever they were in. I am at a point now where when I get them, I just put them immediately in the jar to be recycled. I have had that many leak on me. So now is a good time while we think of spring cleaning, to open up all the electronic devices you have from cameras to head phones to toys, and check the batteries and if you haven’t used that particular item in a couple of months, to take them out.
Many people have also purchased the Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) units over the past few years and you have to realize that those batteries also have a life span of probably 3 to 5 years. You need to test them as well and a good way to do that is to restart your computer and when it does, hit what ever key you need to get into the system setup or BIOS. On most computers these days, it is the F2 key. When you get that screen up, pull the UPS power plug from the wall to simulate a power outage and see how long it takes before the computer shuts down. If it is just a couple of minutes, it might be time to change the battery there. If you have a UPS from APC, www.apc.com I would recommend getting the replacement battery from them. What they do is to send you the battery in a box with a return label to ship the old battery back to them for recycling. One time I went out and purchased a replacement battery from someone else and then ended up finding a place that would take the old battery which ended up costing me more in driving to the location and time in finding it than it would if I had just bought the replacement from APC. Spend a dollar to save a nickel, unfortunately, have done that too many times as well looking for good deals.
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