The backpack you need for work – Targus accessories

Mobile vip backpack commute best targusWhether it’s the bus, train or even Uber, sometimes commuting can be a pain. You need to be well armed when you head out for the day; all your papers and gear, your technology and devices, and maybe even lunch thrown in for good measure. Having the right accessories —and the best way to carry them — can make your daily commute easier.

I recently had a chance to partner with well known accessory company Targus to share some new gear picks with readers. They’ve sponsored this post, but let me pick out some of my favourites. Continue reading “The backpack you need for work – Targus accessories”

Who to Call When Your Mac is Acting Up: MelroseMAC

There’s never a good time for your computer to start acting up on you. You depend on your computer for so many different things, and when it begins to let you down, you may not know where to turn. I’ve partnered with my friends at MelroseMAC on this sponsored post so you know where to turn when it comes to all your Mac tech support needs. MelroseMAC is an Apple Authorized store and one of the few Apple Premier Partner in the United States. This article is provided by MelroseMAC. Continue reading “Who to Call When Your Mac is Acting Up: MelroseMAC”

Top 10 tech gadgets of 2016

I’ve tested a lot of gadgets and gear this year. Picking favourites is hard, because unlike previous years, many of the items that have come into the tech test kitchen in 2016 are really high quality, and work well, so picking the cream of the crop is a challenge. Nevertheless, here are the Top 10 tech gadgets I highly recommend having in your life. Continue reading “Top 10 tech gadgets of 2016”

Where to get holiday + Black Friday tech in Calgary

I got a special sneak preview of two things I think readers of the blog will enjoy. One is an exciting new place to shop for tech and gadgets. The other is a heads up on some sweet tech deals for Black Friday. And I mean seriously good… skip ahead for a peek at what you’ll want to rush out and get for this holiday season! Continue reading “Where to get holiday + Black Friday tech in Calgary”

A smarter workstation: iRizer makes working on the go more comfortable

img_2789You know when an invention is so smart, so simple, you wonder, ‘why didn’t I think of that’?

That was the first thing I thought of when the new iRizer by Matias arrived in its slim and sleek box.  I unboxed the lightweight laptop stand, which is made of matte black plastic, and latched the two pieces together in about 3 seconds and I was ready to use it.

This stand has several slots where the pieces can be slid together, allowing the stand to hold  your laptop at various angles for comfortable typing and better viewing.

iRizer – Light & Portable

If you travel a lot, and work on a plane, hotel desks, or awkward tables, you know how uncomfortable it can be to hunch over your laptop, using claw-hands to try to peck out your emails and documents. But carrying around something to help you has, until now, been just added bulk, space and weight.img_2803

Not any more.  The iRizer stand comes in two flat pieces which slip easily into a small fabric envelope, and will fit in even the slimmest of laptop bags (the stand measures just  0.55″ or 14mm thick ).

Adjustable comfort for your work space

While the iRizer stand is perfect for travel, it’s also great for a home office, which is where I tested mine.

My set up is not ideal; my chair is too low and the table too high, but I’ve just dealt with the discomfort. When the test model of the iRizer arrived, I was finally able to adjust my laptop to put the screen in front of my eyes, which was instantly much less stressful on my neck. Typing on the keyboard was still possible at the 20° angle, if a bit hard to get used to.  That was when I added a portable keyboard (which incidentally you can also get from Matias) and instantly my work area was transformed.

How Matias iRizer Works

The iRizer’s two plastic panels slide together; one piece slides into special notches in the second piece; four different openings allow you to angle your laptop 20°, 30°, 40°, or 50°. The stand feels solid and durable, but does allow some flexibility when typing. The stand also has the ability for its front edge to sit off the edge of the desk or table, further giving you options and angles to work at.

The iRizer also acts to cool your laptop; by lifting it from the work surface, air is allowed to circulate, keeping things from overheating. The stand can even work with your iPad or tablet too, meaning it’s ultra-versatile.

iRizer is recommended for use with a separate keyboard and/or mouse, but will work great on its own too.

Why lift your laptop?

Do you really need to raise your laptop? Ergonomics experts say yes.

“Unlike desktop computers, you cannot adjust the monitor and keyboard independently,” notes a University of Western Ontario article on proper laptop ergonomics. “Adjusting the keyboard to elbow height encourages neck bending when viewing the screen.  While, raising the monitor to eye level and accommodating eye height will position the arms awkwardly.”

The solution is to lift the monitor using a stand like the iRizer, while adding an external keyboard for additional flexibility when configuring your set up. This allows you to adjust both your screen’s eye-level, and to maneuver the keyboard for less strain on the wrists.

Testing the  iRizer Laptop Stand

My first tests were at my regular work desk as I noted above.  I found the stand made the most difference for me with respect to the screen’s viewing angle.

One thing I wasn’t used to was the slight bounce, or ‘give’ the stand had.  It was most noticeable while typing, and though it was a new sensation, it wasn’t unpleasant. This is also easily dealt with by using the recommended external keyboard.

Next I moved to the coffee table; a much lower surface. Normally I wouldn’t dream of working at the coffee table because of the discomfort, but the iRizer made it manageable.  I was able to type comfortably, sitting straight up and keeping my wrists level across my knees.  I also noticed that the stand had significantly less bounce to it if I dropped the front edge of the stand off the front of the coffee table.  As far as I’m concerned this is a great option for working at a low table; at home, or in a hotel room or lobby.

Bonus MiniRizer with your iRizer Laptop Stand!img_2792

A nice surprise in the box was the bonus miniRizer for my phone.  The credit card-sized holder works as a stand for your smartphone or even for business cards. I found it super handy for keeping my phone in view, and will be packing it on my next trip so I can easily watch TV on my phone next time I’m on an airplane.

Overall – The iRizer by Matias

While initially I wasn’t sure ow useful or helpful I’d find a laptop stand, I’m a convert now.  The iRizer does help me get better angles for both the screen and the keyboard, depending on my work environment du jour. I like how lightweight and portable the stand is, and how its many ways to configure the stand provide lots of options for getting a comfortable work space.  I also fell in love with the miniRizer, and it now resides on my desk as a place where I can keep an eye on my smartphone screen for incoming messages. One final plus that warms my heart; Matias, makers of the iRizer, are Canadian.  I love featuring great Canadian technology whenever I can so knowing such a solid invention is made by fellow Canucks makes me happy.

The iRizer is available HERE.

 

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This post is sponsored by Matias Corp. They did not request prior approval over this review.

 

How to be a better photographer: getting help in Calgary

Photography by Kristian Bogner © 2012
Photography by Kristian Bogner © 2012

Kristian Bogner is still haunted by a photo he didn’t get. A professional photographer, Bogner was in the front row for Canada’s gold-medal winning hockey game at the Vancouver Olympics when Sidney Crosby took a pass from Jarome Iginla, wound up, and shot, winning bragging rights for all Canadians.

Though Bogner got hundreds of amazing images from the game, the one he wanted was not meant to be; a shot of the puck touching, then leaving Crosby’s stick as it headed for the net, and a place in history.

“I think if I’d just been half a second quicker, I’d have the shot no one else did,” says Bogner.

We all have regrets when it comes to shots not taken, or photographic misses. Sometimes missing a shot is just luck, or timing, but often there’s skill involved in getting consistently great photos. That’s where Bogner comes in.  A Nikon ambassador, he also works with GoPro and Manfrotto, and enjoys educating amateur photographers about his craft, with helpful tips, tricks and basic education.

Bogner will be just one of the photography experts taking part in London Drugs #LDFotocon this month, where experts are available for advice and education at Calgary-area stores.

“I like to get them stoked and energized and to help them not be afraid to take their photography to the next level,” says Bogner, “It’s very rewarding, and one of the best parts of what I do.”

#LDFotocon aims to help photographersDSC_0892

You can take part in #LDFotocon events at many local London Drugs locations.  #LDFotocon is a series of workshops and info sessions where recognized experts in photography take you through various aspects of the craft.  Want to learn about using a DSLR? Maybe even a specific camera brand like Canon, Nikon or Pentax? You can get information, expertise and an education all month long at London Drugs.

Tips from a pro can really up your game

I’ve always been interested in photography, but I’ve only ever guessed at how to take a good photo.  So recently I decided to take a class with well-known local photographer Neil Zeller.  In just a couple hours, many of the basics of photography had been demystified for me.

I learned what all the dials and buttons on my hand-me-down DSLR did, what exactly an F-stop was, and how to adjust my settings based on lighting conditions.  The bottom line is, getting some pro help can make all the difference not just to your finished photos, but to your confidence too. I know because it worked for me.

DSC_0905Don’t let those pics gather digital dust!

You can also get help with what to do with all the photos that are gathering digital dust on your hard drive.  London Drugs also has classes designed to show you how to make the most of enlargements or gallery wraps, or how to get printed photos onto aluminum panels to create show-stopping home art. It’s all as close as your nearest participating London Drugs location.

But learning about what to do with your photos is just the beginning. Other learning opportunities at #LDFotocon include

•    Face-to face workshops with camera vendors from all the top brands
•    Learning about retouching and colour management
•    Preview the hottest new cameras, hardware or software products
•    Get point-and-shoot photography tips
•    Take part in a DSLR showcase from top brands: Nikon, Canon, Pentax
•    Compact system camera (CSC) photography and showcases
•    Learn about drone photography
•    See how to take better photos on your smartphone
•    Find out how to build a Moments photo book or calendarDSC_0860

Photo help in-store, without feeling intimidated

I’ve learned so much about photography lately that I’ve decided it’s time to upgrade my circa-2002 camera to something a little sleeker, smarter, and easier to use.

London Drugs is stop number one on my shopping excursion, because the selection is huge, and it’s right in my neighbourhood. I don’t need to go downtown or to a mall; I can get expertise and great prices right where I live.Photo 2016-04-23, 9 54 33 AM

When I went in to get hands-on with the cameras on my shortlist, the gent I spoke to was helpful, patient, and if there was something he didn’t know, he looked it up for me on the spot.

Bogner is also a London Drugs fan, having started shopping there well before he signed on to teach workshops.

“London Drugs is my saving grace whenever I needed equipment, filters, whatever; I’m always impressed with what London Drugs has to offer. And I’m always amazed how they have all the stuff I need, whether it’s LowePro or Apple, or Nikon, they have a good selection of accessories in particular. I’ve shopped at London Drugs for years, because it’s very convenient and nice to know they have all the high end products.”

Bogner is looking forward to being able to share some of his wisdom with participants, like the advice he often gives to new photographers; “if you see a moment and think, ‘oh, I’ll get it later’, it’s never the same.  Capture it now, don’t wait, because later will never be the same. It’s a unique moment”.

Take a look at the events, workshops and guest experts at London Drugs this month, by following the hashtag #LDFotocon on Twitter or Instagram. You can also find Kristian on both those platforms @KristianBogner

London Drugs #LDFotocon stops in Calgary on June 4th and June 5th, 2016. 
Click here for the schedule of events and to register.

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This post is sponsored by London Drugs. 

My Great Plan to Avoid Christmas Shopping Chaos

I was rushing around and stressing about the holidays. My husband and I are leaving on a trip later this week, and I was frantically making a list of all the Christmas shopping I needed to do: get travel size bath and beauty items for the trip, pick up gifts for our neighbours and some things to bring as hostess gifts for a few holiday parties we’re invited to, plus I needed to stock up on snacks and treats for when we have guests over.

The longer I spent on the list, the longer it was getting: don’t forget the stocking stuffers (the mall on Christmas Eve last year was a full-on zoo!), pick up a few ready-to-give gift packs when someone gives you something and you forgot to pick up something for them. Plus I needed more wrapping paper…. UGGHHHHHH.

My husband looked at the list and said, “Can’t you get all that at London Drugs? It’s 5 minutes away, and you can avoid the mall.”

He was right, and I wish I’d thought of it first, but London Drugs would indeed have most of the items on my list, which would save me driving all over Santa’s half-acre, fighting parking duels at the mall, and plus, I’d only need to make one trip.IMG_8449

I wanted to high-five myself as I cruised into the London Drugs parking lot, but since that would be weird, I palm-fived the steering wheel; there were plenty of parking spaces, and I’d managed to avoid the traffic nightmare that lurks around most malls.

While the store looked busy, it wasn’t crazy, and there were so many people working.  In fact one staff member saw me come in the front door and do that searching double-take people do when they’re trying to figure out which way to go, and came right over and offered directions.

 green-check-box-smallGetting Travel-Ready

IMG_8416I started off at the top of my list with the travel sized items for the trip. Into the mini-wheeled shopping basket went soap, shaving cream, shampoo and conditioner, and other sundry items.  Nearby I snagged sunscreen and again felt smart, since that’s usually the one thing I forget when heading to a tropical destination.

green-check-box-smallEndless Gift Ideas

From there I started wandering the aisles, hoping some gift ideas would pop out at me; and they did. Slippers for my mother-in-law went into the basket, as did some hair accessories and a pair of flannel PJ’s for my niece, and a scarf for my sister. This was going to be easier than I thought! I was actually surprised at all the really nice gift items that were in stock. I picked up a really cool Stanley Growler-and-cup set for my brother too.

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I absolutely LOVE this retro-themed Pyrex!

I also found the cutest retro-themed glass Pyrex food storage containers that I couldn’t leave without. I have a collection of retro Pyrex from the 60’s and 70’s that’s the envy of my sisters, so I thought this would be a perfect gift for them.

I couldn’t believe the luck I was having at checking so many items off my shopping list, so I kept going.

green-check-box-smallStocking Stuffers Galore

I cruised the cosmetics aisle and picked up a perfume gift set for a coworker, and loaded up on things like Chapstick in several flavours, nail polish, and manicure sets that work perfectly in stockings.  I picked up some magazines too, since those are a great Christmas Day afternoon entertainer. I also snagged things like socks and one of my tech must-haves, touchscreen gloves, that round out a stocking nicely.

Thinking I was done with all my stocking stuffer needs, I rounded a corner into what can only be described as Candyland. Every brand of holiday chocolate was stacked floor to ceiling.  Not to mention small sized bars perfect for stockings.IMG_8429

green-check-box-smallHoliday Party Planning Made Easy!

A box of fruit jellies went into the basket for our neighbours, as did some candy canes and other assorted treats. Looking at all the candy reminded me I needed some snack items for when guests came over after we’re back from our trip south. Since we’d be back quite close to Christmas I certainly didn’t want to have to rush to the grocery store right away.

I often forget how well-stocked the food aisles at London Drugs are. Chips, crackers and a few assorted staples were added to the pile. I may need to hit a grocery store eventually, but my list will be significantly shorter.

green-check-box-smallTech Toys for Everyone (Including Apple gear! and Smart Home gadgets)

Having had so much success so far, I decided to try my luck with a few more gift items, so I browsed the camera and electronics department. (I think at this point I was shopping for me!) I’ve written before about the fantastic selection of tech gifts London Drugs stocks, and since both my husband and I needed new Apple-branded iPhone charging cables, (but I’ve been dreading having to fight the crowds at the Apple Store) I just decided to grab those on the spot.

I also had a look at the new Fitbit fitness bands, and cruised the selection of cameras. London Drugs has pretty much every electronics gift that’s on anyone’s list including Microsoft’s Surface tablets, flat-screen TVs, as well as a personal favourite of mine; the Belkin WeMo line of smart home devices, which I personally love and have written about before.  Right beside the electronics section was the small appliance empire where I could spend an hour!

green-check-box-smallToys for Kids and TeensIMG_8442

Having had success with the adult gifts, I found the toy aisle and decided to try my luck.  I found quite a good selection of toys, endless games and a tonne of children’s books. I also found what may be my crowning glory this Christmas; a lava lamp for $20 for my tween nephew!

The lava lamps were such a great deal, I decided to pick up a second one for a great initiative at London Drugs this year: the Toys for Teens Campaign.

green-check-box-smallHelp for the Holidays
While underprivileged small children benefit from numerous donation campaigns at Christmas, teens and tweens often get overlooked, so London Drugs partnered with Jack FM Radio for the 8th annual Toys for Teens. The idea is to pick up a gift for a young person aged 10 to 17 and leave it in the donation bin right at the store. All Calgary donations go the Salvation Army Family Christmas Assistance Program. Donations in Airdrie go to the Airdrie Lioness Club Christmas Hamper Program.

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Adult colouring books are all the rage!

While I went for a funky gift option, there were plenty of things like those fun new adult colouring books and pencil crayons, or even phone cables, cases and other cosmetics and beauty items that would go a long way to making a less fortunate tween or teen pretty happy this season. Particularly given the economic climate this year.

With my basket now overfull, it was time to go.

In all, I was in and out of London Drugs in about an hour, but while I was there, I got great friendly service and my bill was more than reasonable for everything I piled into that little wheely basket.

While I was a bit ahead of the game this year, normally I’m not, so I’m going to give you  a piece of advice: if you want to avoid the mall, and still get everything on your list, London Drugs is the go-to destination for stocking stuffers, holiday treats, gifts and even all those last minute items you’re going to need.

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This blog post has been sponsored by London Drugs.