Technology promises power at your fingertips, provided you’ve got several dozen of them. To get the drift, let’s start with the remote control of the air conditioner. Then add the remote of your TV; the clunkier one of your set-top box; another one for the DVD player; and yet another for the amplifier of the home theatre system. Just when you’re trying to sip your Pina Colada while using your elbow to switch the TV channel, your mobile phone, buried somewhere under the pillows and cushions, rings. That’s when you know you need more for less.
Get a universal remote
Get yourself a universal remote controller, and feel like an octopus with just your two hands. Almost all the newer models come with a “learning” function, so they can completely replace the functionality of a lost or redundant remote. Choose one which works with both infrared and radiowaves for connectivity. Impressively, some can control up to 40 devices and also sport a “macro” mode, so a full sequence of pushing buttons can be invoked, well, by a single touch of your fingertip. Most units run on standard AA or AAA standard batteries, which leads us to our second problem.
You’ve got standard alkaline batteries for remote controls and digital cameras, and some models of MP3 players, as well as for cordless computer mice and keyboards, not to mention the revered wall clock. Replace all ordinary and alkaline batteries with rechargeable Nickel Metal-Hydride (NiMH) batteries that offer ten to hundred times more battery life in a single charge. You won’t have to miss out on a precious shot, and pollute the environment owing to drained batteries any more.
For a little extra money, buy yourself a battery charger that can revitalize those cells in an hour or two, rather than the 12-18 hours required at times with some cheaper chargers. So you just pack in one battery charger and you’re ready to go, except that it leads us to our third problem. You’ve also got to pack in individual adapters for charging a clutch of devices. Time for some smart buying.
Always prefer gadgets that charge over USB. You can use a free port on any desktop or laptop computer to juice up your devices, and you just need to pack in one universal and easily-replaceable USB charger. Most devices with batteries that charge over USB also give you longer life, extra power and sleeker form factors to boot.
Is the USB the real iPod killer?
Start by getting yourself a USB thumb drive with the largest capacity you can afford beyond 4GB, which is, anyway, more space than a blank DVD disc. I prefer 16GB. Fill it up with music, photos and videos. The latest car stereo systems offer a plug-and-play USB port for your music, so you can say bye-bye to the multi-CD changer. Ditto for home stereo systems. Newer DVD players also play videos via USB. Connect the thumb drive to the latest TV screens to slideshow photos and watch full-length films in DivX format. For sharing files, just plug into any laptop or desktop to freely drag-and-drop your media without special drivers or complicated software. In most cases, you can even replace the need for your personal laptop with a single USB thumb drive.
Head over to pendrivelinux.com, and install a free and bootable Linux OS, complete with hundreds of software applications and all your personal data files and settings, on a single thumb drive. Plug it into any available laptop or desktop and boot it up.
You can work and play, without booting or even touching the Windows or Mac OS on the host machine. Save all your files back to your thumb drive when done.
That’s it. Just these four elegant ideas can give you so much more freedom and power.
Niyam Bhushan (the author writes on IT, media and technology)