Aluminum mousepad

Those neoprene mousepads make my skin crawl for some reason. I found this one, which is made from aluminum, and it’s a joy to use with my optical mouse. I even like the sound my mouse makes as I run it over the lightly textured surface. — MF

GadgetsClaudia Dawson
Cheapest Lightning Cables

Lightning charging cables are expensive and seem to fray quickly. Micro USB cables, on the other hand, are dirt cheap and seem to last forever. I bought a 10-pack of adapters that convert a Micro USB plug into a Lighting plug. The price for all 10 was $7, about half the price of a single Lightning Cable. I tested them, and there were no duds in the pack. — MF

GadgetsClaudia Dawson
Cheap DVD Reader

No one in my family of four has a CD or DVD drive in their computer. That’s a good thing, because we rarely need one. When we do (usually to rip a movie or copy photos or music), I pull out this $15 USB CD/DVD drive and plug it into a laptop. — MF

GadgetsClaudia Dawson
Electric bike reviews

EBR (Electric Bike Review) is the best place to go if you are thinking of getting an electric bike. One guy, Court Rye, has personally reviewed in depth over 800 ebikes. He has seen and ridden them all, and his knowledge about them is encyclopedic. His reviews are in text and video. These days you can find an e-version of almost any type of bike made, from e-cruisers, electric mountain bikes, folding e-bikes, city riders, cargo bikes and so on. This site will help you sort through them. It respects your attention with minimum of selling and maximum helpfulness. — KK

GadgetsClaudia Dawson
TV show streaming

I upgraded my old Fire Stick media streamer to the Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote ($40). Navigating to a show is as simple as pressing the talk button and saying “Play Dreams of Sushi.” It will search all your subscribed media services (Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Amazon Prime) and instantly return what you want. You can also say, “Order Dominos Pizza.” What more could you ask for? — MF

GadgetsClaudia Dawson
Affordable teleprompter

When I make videos where I need to talk to the camera (the audience) I can’t remember what I need to say, so I use this affordable teleprompter. Teleprompters project my visible text on an angled glass that the camera is shooting through. Normally this is a very expensive very cumbersome rig, but the Parrot Teleprompter uses a cheap plastic case, glass mirror, and a selection of lens rings to fit on to many digital cameras. It cleverly uses your smart phone as the screen. For about $100 I got a perfectly useful compact teleprompter mounted on my tripod that worked exactly as I needed. I can deliver my lines easily while directly gazing at the viewers and it looks very natural. — KK

GadgetsClaudia Dawson
Multiple power lines

I use a squid outlet when I travel. In cheap lodging there is often barely one accessible power outlet on the wall and I have lots of things to charge, from camera batteries, to a laptop, to more than one phone. That’s just me. With a travel companion there’ll be even more items to charge. A squid splits the power to four flexible outlets. The flexibility gives more room for devices than a simple power strip. This 2-pack Squid is the cheapest, lightest, smallest one I’ve found. — KKaudiobooks

GadgetsClaudia Dawson
Extend your Wi-Fi

I’ve tried many ways to extend Wi-Fi through my house. Powerline networking, which creates networks through electrical wiring, works the best. TP-Link has a $58 kit with 2 units. One unit plugs into your wall outlet and router. The other unit can be plugged into any wall outlet in your house to provide Wi-Fi in that area. — MF

GadgetsClaudia Dawson
Affordable tablet

I bought the Amazon 7” Fire Tablet for $40. It’s great for reading ebooks, listening to audiobooks, and watching Netflix and Amazon Prime videos. But I also followed the instructions to install the Google Play Store, so I can add Android apps not available from the Amazon App Store. Now I have Google Maps, Gmail, Slack, Feedly and more on the tablet. — MF

GadgetsClaudia Dawson
Wake command

You can wake up Alexa by using the wake command “Computer” as in Star Trek. Go to the Alexa app on your phone. Right-swipe to open a panel with settings choices. Pick your device and scroll down to wake commands. You have a limited choice of four words, including computer. There is a movement to make that command a common voice interface among all devices. Are you listening, Siri, Cortana and Google? — KK

GadgetsClaudia Dawson
Echo dot

We installed AI into our kitchen to get a glimpse of the future. Now we talk to Alexa, and ask it to do all kinds of things. “Alexa, what is on my calendar today?” “Alexa, add granola to my shopping list.” The cheapest way to do this is not with an Echo (size of wine bottle), if you already have speakers, but with the Echo Dot. Size of a large hockey puck, it’s always on, waiting for your command. And it will get upgraded over time. — KK

GadgetsClaudia Dawson