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Top 10 Back to School Gadgets for Geeks

Mostly Lisa & the DSiGeekin’ out on the DSi with Blackbox’s M14 ANR headphones.

Back to School doesn’t have to be the end of fun! Well, in all honesty it does, but at least you can soften the blow of returning to the grind by treating yourself to some great geeky gadgets.


1. Neverlate 7-day Alarm Clock ($34 + shipping
After a few months of enjoying blissful afternoon sleep-ins, that first week of 7am wake ups are going to smart. To make sure you aren’t late for your first semester of classes like I was in 3rd year University, you might want to invest in a serious alarm clock.

This alarm clock allows you to set 7 independent daily alarms for each day, so you don’t have the nightly annoyance of setting your alarm. You can also customize your snooze time from one to 30 minutes and set a midday nap alarm with the push of a button.

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2. Canon SD960 IS Digital Elph Camera ($299)
So you’ve managed to drag yourself out of bed and grab some caffeine and Coco Pops. You should really capture this pivotal moment. Why not snap a picture with the new Canon SD960 IS Digital Elph camera. The slick, pocket-sized point and shoot comes in four colours (blue, pink, silver & gold).

It’s packed with a 12.1 megapixel sensor that takes crisp, vibrant images and stunning HD (1280×720, 30fps) movies. This little camera has the best looking video I’ve seen from a point and shoot in a long time.

space invader bag

3. Space Invaders Messenger Bag ($49 USD + shipping

I guess it’s time to head to school or all that hard work getting out of bed will be for nothing. You definitely need a sweet bag to match your Converse sneakers and ironic tee. 16-Bit has some amazing, handcrafted retro gaming messenger bags that will store your laptop and all your school essentials. From Super Mario to Donkey Kong to Space Invaders, these limited edition bags are as funky as they are functional.

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4. IkimonoCamera ($20 Urban Outfitters)
For those of us with maxed out credit cards and groceries to pay for, I present the $20 Ikimono Camera. This tiny, palm-sized camera comes with a keychain, roll of 110mm film, and a cute cartoon animal on the front. Click away and experience the olden time joy of developing your film!

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5. Nintendo DSi ($199)
Let’s face it. The first week of classes is an absolute joke. Lengthy introductions, going over curriculum, revising old materials, and zzz, oh sorry, I drifted off for a bit. Secretly playing a few games on your Nintendo DSi when the teacher’s back is turned may keep you awake or in detention. But hey, nothing the chicks love more than rebels.

This snazzy portable gaming device is internet ready, which means a bunch of fun games are available at your finger tips. I’m currently playing Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box. It’s annoyingly difficult for a kids’ game.

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6. Olympus Pen (E-P1) ($800)

After cramming calculus in your brain all morning, you may feel like getting a little creative over lunch hour. Grab the Olympus E-P1, a new retro-styled, interchangeable lens camera. This revolutionary Micro Four Thirds camera delivers dSLR quality while maintaining the compact size of a point and shoot.

The Olympus Pen, which comes with a 14-42mm kit lens, is a stylish, zippy little camera that is just plain fun to use. Explore your artistic side with the 6 Art Filters including, Pinhole, Grainy Film, Pop art and several others. If you feel like turning up a notch, why not take some HD video. The Pen records up to 5 minutes of 720p 30fps high-resolution video in one shot!

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7. Darth Vader MIMOBOT designer USB flash drive ($24.95

The day is almost over. Phew. You just need to back up some files on a from the school’s computer and head home. Trade in your tired white rectangular USB flash drive you got from a Futureshop bargin bin, for a designer MIMIBOT. Each bot comes packed with extras like wallpapers, audio clips, icons, screen savers and more!

With hundreds of famous and original characters to choose from, these pint-sized USB keys are ridiculously cute and highly collectible. From Halo to Hello Kitty to Star Wars, there is a MIMOBOT to make anyone “Awww”. Be warned, once you have one Star Wars MIMOBOT, you may feel a strong force to buy the entire collection.

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8. Griffin PowerBlock Reserve ($39.99)

There is nothing more annoying than turning on your iPod on the bus ride home and seeing the flashing “dead battery” icon. Even worse is getting stranded out in the middle of nowhere with an overheating car and a dead iPhone. Thankfully, the fine folks at Griffin have come up with a marvelous rechargeable backup battery for use with iPhones, iPods, MP3 players, or any USB chargeable device.

The PowerBlock backup battery is easily charged by plugging it into a wall socket. When the battery is charged, simply detach it and carry it with you. It is the smallest reserve battery I’ve seen (about the size of a matchbox), and adds hours of battery life to your devices. You can buy the PowerBlock Reserve at the Apple Store or Walmart.

photojojo eyefi

9. Eye-fi 2GB SD Share Card ($49-79

Imagine walking in your front door and instantly uploading all your photos and videos from your first day at school directly from your camera to your computer wirelessly? How about directly to Facebook, Flickr or YouTube? No cables, no fussing around with photo editing software, no waiting for your files to upload on the internet. Well, it’s all possible with the Eye-fi SD Card. Sharing photos and videos has never been easier. All you have to do is set-up the Eye-fi software on your computer.

Choose the wi-fi network you want your camera to use and where you want your photos or videos to upload to (home computer, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Picasa). Plug the SD card in your camera and snap away When you come home, turn on your camera, and voila! All your photos and videos are automatically uploaded onto your computer and the web (if you choose).

Oh and don’t worry, you can control privacy settings with the Eye-fi manager, so there’s no fear that those Freshman Jello shot pictures will end up splashed across internet without you knowing.

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10. Blackbox M14 ANR Headphones ($249
Finally, you settled in your cozy place, about to dip into a large pot of KD and watch a flick, when your musician roomate decides that 10pm is the perfect time to start band practice. My suggestion, pop on a pair of Blackbox M14 ANR Noise Canceling headphones. Even with no music playing, these bad boys will knock out your roommates out-of-tune squawking with a flick of a switch. Experience the joys of booming bass and crisp sound without outside noise creeping in.

What are your favourite back to school gadgets?

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  • Reply
    Timmy Allen
    September 7, 2009 at 7:28 PM

    Super awesome list!

  • Reply
    Dileep K Sharma
    September 7, 2009 at 8:04 PM

    Very Interesting! I liked the idea of the alarm clock. Definitely a must have to all late night geeks.

  • Reply
    September 7, 2009 at 9:17 PM

    Great list! Thanks for sharing it. I just had two other favourites:
    My iPhone. I do almost everything with it. My class has a google calendar where all the homework is written as a note to the lessons. I can get them everywhere.

    My Crumpler Messenger Boy. There is enough space for my camera, 1 or 2 lenses, my MacBook and some other stuff. You won’t forget your camera again!

  • Reply
    September 7, 2009 at 9:19 PM

    “Whoever took that photo of you is a wizard. Just sayin'”

    totally agree!!!!

  • Reply
    September 7, 2009 at 9:43 PM

    Fun tidbit: “Ikimono” is a compound word in Japanese meaning lit. “living thing”. To make the translation less bookish and keep the fun nuance of the name, something like “creature camera” would be right on the money.

    Thanks for the great blog, Lisa!
    -Gavin in Kumamoto, Japan

  • Reply
    September 7, 2009 at 10:17 PM

    I love my QC2 Bose noise canceling headphones. Not sure why anyone would pay nearly as much for a knock-off.

  • Reply
    September 7, 2009 at 11:16 PM

    @Claude: Actually, you should check out the audio-technica QuietPoint. They run less than $150, and actually work even if the battery died. I believe that in head-to-head reviews, they do as well or better than the Bose. I have no idea how they compare to the M14.

  • Reply
    September 7, 2009 at 11:26 PM

    I use a pair of in-ear headphones when I fly. They’re significantly less expensive than noise cancelling cans, and because they seal my ear canal completely they reduce noise quite well. That said, I haven’t had a chance to test drive a true NC set on a flight. Are they significantly better, or just slightly better? If only slightly better, I don’t really fly often enough to justify buying a set.

  • Reply
    Natalie Kilpatrick
    September 7, 2009 at 11:29 PM

    Great write up! You may want to note that only the 4GB models of the Eye-Fi Cards will upload video. The 2GB versions will only upload JPEG photos.

  • Reply
    Tweets that mention Mostly Lisa : Photography, Videos, & Geeky Stuff. » Entry » Top 10 Back to School Gadgets for Geeks --
    September 8, 2009 at 12:46 AM

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lisa Bettany and Retro YouTube. Lisa Bettany said: @thinkgeek your super alarm clock made my top 10 back to school gadget list! […]

  • Reply
    September 8, 2009 at 2:17 AM

    IIRC, the 2GB cards also will not handle RAW.

  • Reply
    September 8, 2009 at 4:32 PM

    @Gavin: NC makes a huge difference. Try it out. Even in the office, with the hum of the air-conditioning unit, the NC headphones make a huge difference. When you leave them on, without music playing, it’s as if the world has just shut down (very cool feeling), and with music playing, everything goes away. If they’re completely covering your ears, they’ll do a better job. I’ve done an A/B test of the audio-technica in-ear and over-the-ear headphones. They claim that the NC mechanism is the same. The in-ear were pretty bad, and music sounded pretty crappy. My over-the-ear NC’s are amazing. I’m sure that there are way better audiophile headphones, that cost upwards of $500, but for $150, these are great.

  • Reply
    September 8, 2009 at 4:33 PM

    @Gavin: To add to Natalie’s comment:

    The 4GB cards add video uploads
    the Pro card adds ad-hoc and RAW

    You can find more info on our web site @

  • Reply
    September 8, 2009 at 6:05 PM

    interesting… love tech gear!

  • Reply
    September 8, 2009 at 6:42 PM

    @Ziv – That’s just it. I have a set of Sennheiser HD600s already, which are good enough to make me weak in the knees. Of course open-air cans are the LAST thing you want for shutting out noise. Thanks for the input tho. I suppose it makes sense that good active NC would be the most effective. For people on a real tight budget, I’d still recommend trying out the in-ear-canal style that fit tight like an ear plug. They work “well enough” for occasional fliers. ;-)

    Oh and since you appear to work for, can I suggest CF cards for those of us that shoot higher-end bodies? And you know what would be *really* sexy? A card that could automatically geotag images.

  • Reply
    September 8, 2009 at 8:58 PM

    @Gavin: I love Sennheiser’s headphones. The HD600s are phenomenal. I guarantee you that their sound fidelity is better than the audio-technica. But the noise cancelling is just really cool, and the fact that I can listen to music, in near-silence, is awesome. I do fly a lot (I handle biz dev for Eye-Fi) so while flying, NC headphones just make the ride 1000% times more enjoyable.

    I agree that in-the-ear headphones can be amazing, but only if they’re really really well made. Logitech bought a company a while ago, that makes super high-end in-the-ear custom-sized headphones (Ultimate Ears). Those rock. Most of the headphones that I’ve tried that were in-the-ear, didn’t come close to my over-the-ear headphones, so I gave up. But I heard that the Ultimate Ears are phenomenal.

    On geotagging — we already do that. We’ve been doing that for years :-)

    On CF — we don’t pre-announce. All I can say is — please stay tuned via our mailing list (from the home page, bottom navigation).


  • Reply
    Mostly Lisa
    September 9, 2009 at 1:12 AM

    @Gavin: haha! thanks for the translation! I have a Master’s degree in Linguistics so I still ahve a fascination with language.

  • Reply
    Mostly Lisa
    September 9, 2009 at 1:14 AM

    @Claude: I haven’t tried the Bose ones, I definitely should. These Blackbox ones are pretty sweet though.

    @Ziv — I’d love to try those as well. I’m in love with great sound. It’s something I can’t live without because I listen to so much music all the time.

  • Reply
    Mostly Lisa
    September 9, 2009 at 1:17 AM

    @Gavin: I use the Shure SCL5 Sound Isolating Earphones when I fly. They are beautiful and Leo gave them to me as a special present for my first MacWorld so they are extra special to me!

  • Reply
    September 9, 2009 at 1:23 AM

    @Mostly Lisa: I got turned onto the audio-technica after reading David Pogue’s review. I’ll quote him:

    “It’s “Bose” without the marketing campaign.” :-)

    I agree with him — they really do sound great. My main gripe with the Bose is that they don’t work when the battery runs out, and they do cost almost 2X…

  • Reply
    September 9, 2009 at 1:25 AM

    @Ziv: That said, if someone wants to send me the Blackbox M14 ANR for review, I won’t turn them down ;-)

  • Reply
    September 13, 2009 at 2:51 AM

    Your twitter sidebar is broken

  • Reply
    September 13, 2009 at 11:24 PM

    @<a href="#comment-14715" rel="nofollow">Mostly Lisa</a>: I got turned onto the audio-technica after reading David Pogue's review. I'll quote him:

    "It’s “Bose” without the marketing campaign." :-)

    I agree with him — they really do sound great. My main gripe with the Bose is that they don't work when the battery runs out, and they do cost almost 2X……

  • Reply
    s video cable
    September 15, 2009 at 2:07 AM

    Got this camera a month ago just before the Coachella festival, where I shot ~4GB worth of jpgs and ~2GB of video. I used max resolution for both and did not use the fully automatic modes and other gimmicks. Being an all day festival in the desert, I had plenty of opportunity to test the camera under harsh light, shadow, twilight and artificial lighting at night.

    Video wise no complains; this is not a video camera and whatever you get out of it is a plus IMHO. I got usable footage of bands at night, with reasonable sound quality, and I suspect the image stabilization improved the shots, since I don’t have very steady hands.

  • Reply
    s video cable
    September 15, 2009 at 2:25 AM

    It’s a Canon, so the image quality is a given. Tons of examples on Flickr if you simply search for “canon SD960” or “IXUS 110”. Colors are true, not highly sharpened, low chromatic aberration, and rich with detail. Do not, however, mistake this power of the DIGIC IV processor to be perfect and free of noise at high zoom or ISO above 400. Compared to its class, however, the results are just great for the price point.

  • Reply
    September 17, 2009 at 12:21 AM

    @s video cable: If you guys want to try something a bit higher-end, but with much better image quality, and an insane zoom, try the Canon SX200IS. It has a 12x-15x zoom, shoots full HD videos, has super macro, and even though it’s bulkier, it’s totally worth it. The sensor is physically larger, so the images are cleaner. We get to play with a lot of cameras @ Eye-Fi, and this one is one of my favorite P&S’s…

  • Reply
    September 22, 2009 at 1:32 AM

    Hahhah, really great list.. I like it! Although I can say that its more suitable for high schoolers than college students… =p

  • Reply
    Buddy Lumb
    May 7, 2010 at 4:15 PM

    There is lots written out there about Twitter, but I really enjoyed reading your article, thanks!

  • Reply
    steve trainer
    December 4, 2010 at 4:37 AM

    Great read and gadgets. My personal favourite is the space invaders bag.

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