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BackToSchool 2014 : Gear

Summer is coming to a close. Most students are already back at school. Those who start later will be joining them by the end of the month. Many will be bringing with them new laptops, tablets, and other tools to make learning easier. We have put together a collection of accessories which may help them be more efficient, more effective, or just more enjoyable.

Curating this BackToSchool list is always a difficult task. The easier approach would be to offer up a huge list and be done with it. While our marketing folks would love that, you readers have told us the reason you stop by so often is because we DO make the effort to narrow down the choices to those which we think are worthy, novel, and more importantly, useful. Toward that end, we have looked at a mind-numbing number of possibilities and have selected about dozen items which we feel warrant mentioning. Here is the list:

Laptops are pretty much standard equipment for today’s students. However, tablets are making a strong showing in many BackToSchool lists. Some see them as companions to laptops, other think of them as replacements. We are not convinced that tablets are powerful enough yet to completely take the place of laptops, but that day is surely fast approaching.

We like a few items which we believe will make tablets more school-friendly. The first is a rugged case. Because the tablet WILL be dropped and you want that to be no big deal. To ensure that, put it in a Pelican Vault. The Pelican people have dedicated their entire reason for being to making those “incidents” no big deal. So put it in a Vault and forget it.

Of course, there are some who like to live dangerously. To those, we say at least put a cover on the screen. And if you are going to put a cover on the screen, then get the ZAGG Bluetooth keyboard cover. Why? Because it also has a keyboard. We used to be completely against keyboard covers, but companies like ZAGG have changed our minds. They have turned what used to be an awkward add-on into an integrated accessory. Those with an iPad Air have more of a selection, but if you have the iPad mini, the Cover is the one you want. Great cover, reversible hinge, awesome keyboard. Enough said!

Don’t want to spring for a tablet, but still want to have the digital note-taking convenience of a tablet? The Boogie Board line of eWriters may be perfect for your needs. We have been a fan of Boogie Board since its first product and have continued to be impressed with their innovations, the quality, and the usefulness of their offerings. The latest Boogie Board is the Sync 9.7. With it, you can digitally create page after page of notes and drawings without sacrificing the writing experience. The Boogie Board Sync 9.7 saves your images and wirelessly transfer them to your phone, tablet or computer via Bluetooth. And that’s just the beginning. For some, a smartphone and a Sync may be all they need! How cool would that be?

Many heading back to school will not bring a separate camera with them. Why should they when the camera on most smartphones is almost as good? Yes, there are some situations (low light, macro, etc) where a standard smartphone camera are still wanting. However, with attachments such as the Olloclip 3-in-1 lens, the excuses of not “getting the shot” of you studying in the library are becoming less…excusable.

The one feature we think is missing on tablets is a pressure-sensitive screen. No one is able to offer one at this point, but that does not mean this capability is not available. Wacom solved the problem by introducing a pressure-sensitive stylus! The Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus has 2048 pressure levels and connects via Bluetooth 4.0. So touch up those photos of your study circle on the tablet before sending them home.

Digital photo frames are a great way to display pictures. If you are going to get a photo frame, be sure it can be updated via the Web. There used to be quite a few services to choose from, but only two now remain: CeivaPix-Star. The difference between the two? We have had Ceiva frames for years and have been impressed with their service and ease of use. Pix-Star is new to us, but we are eager to give them a try. Ceiva has an annual subscription fee, but their equipment is guaranteed for life. Pix-Star frames cost more to buy up front, but they have a free hosting service. Choose what works for your budget.


A comfortable study environment is key for efficient learning and doing homework. A fan can play a big part in creating that environment. Amazingly, a good fan is probably one of the most overlooked item for most students. The good fan should be quiet, generate good air flow, and not suck up lots of energy while doing it. Based on those criteria, the Dyson Cool is an awesome fan. Not only does it do all those things exceedingly well, it does it with style. Using a unique Air Multiplier design, the Dyson Cool is able to project a smooth and powerful flow of air with no blades! No, it is not magic.

Twist and sprains are part of life. Treating it properly can make the recovery process shorter and less painful, resulting in more study time. While using a cold steak or a frozen bag of peas were convenient remedies when Mom is around, there is more advanced gear out there. When an ice compress is called for, we suggest reaching for HyperIce. Each Hyperice is composed of two parts (Ice Cell, Compression Wrap) that work together as a system to maximize cold and compression for optimal therapy. While HyperIce does offer specifically tailored wraps for each area of the body, we would recommend packing the Utility unit as it is designed to go almost anywhere.

We don’t have to tell you how important caffeine is to a student. In our opinion, the most pleasurable way to consume caffeine is via a shot of espresso. OK, a double shot of espresso. But when it is 2AM and the only way to get a cup requires you packing up your stuff and leaving the library…well, that is a problem. Unless, of course, you had packed a portable espresso maker with you when heading to the library stacks.

The Handpresso Wild Hybrid portable espresso maker is able to generate 16 bars of pressure, enough to extract all the flavor from the grind. Need hot water? The Handpresso Thermos will keep the water hot for 3 hours. Want your own coffee instead of pre-made pods? No problem. With the DomePod case, you can have up to three servings with you, ready for use. To make sure the grounds are properly packed, tamp it before use with the custom Handpresso tamper. How much more convenient can fresh espresso be?

Yes there may be a large screen TV in the common area at school, but it will most likely be tuned to football. The TV in the dorm is likely tuned to the same game. So if you really want to watch that episode of Downton Abbey or Sherlock Holmes, then you best have an antenna which can pull that HDTV signal off the air. Fortunately, Antennas Direct has EXACTLY what you need. The ClearStream Eclipse is their latest indoor omni-directional antenna. There are two versions of the ClearStream™ Eclipse: Amplified and Passive. The ClearStream™ Eclipse Passive antenna can reach up to 25 miles and comes with a lifetime warranty. The Amplified model can reach up to 35 miles with a max gain of 4.35 dBi. This indoor antenna has a unique design that allows it to grip to virtually any flat surface, such as a wall or window. The ClearStream™ Eclipse can be repositioned countless times on any smooth surface to achieve the best reception and never loses its grip! Elementary. Watson!

Finally, things will get lost. You can increase your chances of finding them if they were tagged with XY. If you find what you lost and it turns up cracked or broken, you may be able to fix it with Sugru. Trust us on this and just get them.

We know these BackToSchool suggestions are somewhat unorthodox, but that is how we are here at RainyDayMagazine 🙂 Suffice to say that we will go into more detail on many of these items at a later date. For those who just want to see the list and a brief reason for the inclusion, we hope this article gave you enough to pique your interest. If you are on the fence about some of the items, check back once you have settled in at school. Hopefully, we will have posted a more in-depth look by then. And remember, play nice with the other kids!!!

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