Small States Review – Bolt Briefcase from WaterField Designs is an ideal work and travel companion, $249 giveaway

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Back in January, San Francisco-based bag and accessory maker WaterField Designs announced its Bolt Briefcase. Since then we’ve had the opportunity to put the Bolt through its paces. Designed to be a professional alternative to the leather briefcases of old, this bag is for travelers and techies in need of a solution for multiple occasions.

Head below for our hands-on impressions and to learn how you could win this Bolt Briefcase.

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Gaming For Couples: Tomb Raider Definitive Edition and NES Remix Pack

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Over the last few weeks, Gaming For Couples has spotlighted the best PlayStation 4 bundles, best Wii U bundles, and best Xbox One bundles — now we’re back to our regularly scheduled programming, looking at great games for couples (including gamers and non-gamers) to play together. This week, we’re featuring two very different titles: a retro game that even casual players will enjoy actively exploring, and the other a modern game more impressively cinematic than the movies that share its name. Each can be had for under $30.

Our Gaming For Couples selections are Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition by Square Enix for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and NES Remix Pack / Ultimate NES Remix for the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS. Here’s why we think they’re worth your time…

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Life Hack: these simple Velcro ties make cable management a cinch

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There are some things you only appreciate once you become a homeowner. For me, Velcro cable ties are one of those things. I discovered them when I was looking for a way to clean up the rat’s nest of cables behind my Mac. Then something happened — I started using these ties for a little bit of everything.

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They are incredibly simple. Just wrap the tie around some cables or any item, tuck one end through the hole on the opposite side, pull through, and the Velcro material handles everything else. It’ll cleanly attach to itself with little effort. It’s so simple, yet works so well.

I bought the 100-pack of 8-inch x 1/2-inch ties for just $5.99, which are specifically made for wrangling cables. They are so versatile it’s crazy. If it’s too long you can cut it to the perfect length or combine a bunch to tackle bigger projects. Either way it’ll attach to itself and secure any cable.

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Aside from managing the many cables coming out of my Mac, I’m also using these ties to wrap loose cables from power adapters.

Call me over-cautious, but I don’t like using the built-in cable hooks on Apple’s MacBook Power Adapters. I’m not comfortable with how tight it has to be wound and how much force it puts on the cable. So I’m using a Velcro tie to keep my MacBook charger power cable under control when it’s not in use.

In the past I’ve used heavy duty nylon cable ties for similar tasks but most aren’t reusable. I also don’t love how rigid and borderline sharp these types of ties are. They’re fine for more durable items, but I like to handle my electronics with kid gloves.

I’m only using the shorter version, but there are tons of different kinds in various lengths and colors. There are seemingly an endless number of uses for these little wonders… Read more

Kitchen Tech: The best wine tools and restaurant-class champagne accessories

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As the last few Kitchen Tech columns on bar tools (part 1part 2) and high-end coffee makers probably demonstrated, I’m a beverage obsessive — over the years, I’ve learned that great dining experiences are as much about what you drink as what you eat. The right beverage can actually improve your entire meal, and if it’s served in the right way, something as seemingly simple as wine or champagne can become the most memorable part of a night. There are great reasons to bring that sort of restaurant-quality experience home.

Today’s Kitchen Tech focuses on Wine Tools, including eight categories of items that range from mandatory to optional. Where appropriate, I’ll explain the benefits and issues of a bargain or higher-end option. To kick things off, I’m starting with something that’s highly optional and just starting to appear in some U.S. restaurants, a Spanish wine tool called a porrón. Read on…

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Kitchen Tech: The best bar tools for making amazing home cocktails (Part 2)

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Some wonderful things can be made entirely with your hands. Others — including fantastic cocktails — require tools. This week, we’re continuing our prior edition of Kitchen Tech on bar tools, focusing on items that will help you serve restaurant-caliber drinks at home. Last week’s column looked at “fundamental” tools and “good ideas.” Now we’re looking at “the fancy stuff,” special little items used by leading restaurants across the world.

Most of the tools in this week’s column aren’t expensive, even though many of them are being used by top bartenders inside and outside the United States. Below, you’ll find a collection of optional but seriously cool tools I’ve personally tested and found worthy of recommending, as well as details on why some are more optional than others.

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Kitchen Tech: The best bar tools for making amazing home cocktails (Part 1)

The team toasts to a successful show.

Some wonderful things can be made entirely with your hands. Others — including fantastic cocktails — require tools. The topic for this week’s edition of Kitchen Tech is bar tools, specifically the ones necessary to make restaurant-caliber cocktails at home. Not just any restaurant and cocktails, mind you: we’re talking about making the very best cocktails from leading restaurants across the world.

Ready for the surprise? These tools aren’t crazy expensive. They’re actually some of the most affordable we’ve covered in Kitchen Tech, even though most of our choices are endorsed by top bartenders inside and outside the United States. Inside, you’ll find over a dozen different types of tools I’ve personally tested and found worthy of recommending, along with a few tips on why I didn’t pick some other options.

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Review: SmartThings offers an open and flexible home automation experience with a few caveats

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The home automation sector of consumer technology continues to grow and generally improve, as more devices gain “smart” functionality. We’ve seen a number of products enter the fray during Q4 of 2014, but it’s yet to be seen whether any one company is ready to bring it all together in a truly mainstream way. While we continue to wait on Apple HomeKit-compatible devices, we had the opportunity to spend some time with products from SmartThings, a Washington, DC-based company that promises an “easy, open and limitless” smart home experience.

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9to5 Guide: The best iPad stands, docks, and cases with built-in stands

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iPads need stands. Whether you’re watching videos, long-form typing, or making FaceTime calls, it’s a chore to hold the iPad upright for extended blocks of time. To address that need, Apple launched the first iPad with regular and keyboard docks, but quickly gave up on them in favor of simpler folding lids called Smart Covers.

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If you’re looking for an iPad stand or dock, you can do better than that. We know because we’ve tested lots of options for Apple’s tablets. Following up on our guide to iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus docks, we’re looking today at the very best of what’s out there for every iPad, covering four broad categories: simple portable stands, simple desktop stands, cases with integrated stands, and charging docks. Read more

Review: Toffee’s Fitzroy Satchel is a solid gift for thoughtful commuters

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When it comes to hauling around all your gear, bag designs are nearly limitless, spanning a wide range of designs for different tastes. One of my favorite parts of “working” for 9to5Toys is checking out all of the latest gear and accessories that are out there. Today we’re looking at an Australian bag that combines design and function effectively enough to make you really think about what you want to bring to the coffee shop. Let’s take a look at the Fitzroy Satchel from Toffee.

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New features, low prices make these PlayStation 4, Xbox One + Wii U games worth second looks

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Early adopters get bragging points for being first to own new game consoles, but they’re only a small fraction of the consoles’ eventual user bases. That’s why game developers save their biggest titles until consoles’ second or third years – there are a lot more potential customers to buy their games. But there are always a few “killer” or “almost killer” games that show up just a little too early, only to get forgotten when the consoles hit their stride. There are also great games that get released with major, show-stopping bugs, then fixed and discounted heavily to bring gamers back. Since the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Wii U consoles all had pretty incredible uptake due to Black Friday sales, we’re looking at some of their best forgotten or fixed games today. And they’re all being discounted, some enough to be impulse purchases.

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Review: Griffin creates an eclectic iPad stand from 100 year old railroad steel

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Most iPad accessory makers work tirelessly to design a product that echoes Apple’s signature design. Griffin and Rail Yard Studios’ Rail Artifact Stand does the opposite. Instead of melting away during use, its one of a kind design not only stands out, but in my opinion, steals the spotlight. Just as its name indicates, the Rail Artifact Stand is made from authentic early 1900’s railroad pieces. From pitted steel to worn edges, every stand shows its history in a unique way… Read more