Friday, 20 December 2013

A last-minute Christmas

OK, like last year I'd intended to go through December with an idea for a Christmas present each day, writing about them in a little depth. Then some stuff happened - I won't bore you with the details - and it's suddenly the 20th and I've covered very little.

Which is a shame because I've been sent a few good items to look at. The Colgate ProClinical A1500 toothbrush would make a good stocking filler for the hygiene conscious; it adjusts its pressure and speed according to where it thinks it is in the mouth. There's a display and a 30-second pacer that tells you when you've done enough on one area.

I liked the idea a lot and since I'd recently replaced my own toothbrush I passed this to my daughter to see what she thought. She found the display a little disconcerting - difficult to read while the brush is actually in your mouth, which is when the display will count - but in spite of her protestations, she's got cleaner teeth than she had before.

For me this has been a year of getting more and more clutter around the place and given that I write a lot about technology this means a lot of wires. This is why I thought BlueLounge's CableBin so useful; it's basically a large bin with a gap down the side so you can put an extension cable in, and then have all of your other cables simply coming out of the bin.

It really tidies the place up and for all I know makes it safer, too.

Another gadget on sale this week is at Aldi - the 7in DVD player for £39.99. I can confirm it works, the packaging is nice and stable and it plays many formats on DVD or CDs.


I'd have reservations about how many kids (I'm assuming a younger market) will want it. It's an exaggeration to say we're all on downloads now, but many people are and they won't want this player. If they do, they may want a larger screen. It's only ten years or so since this sort of technology was a big wow and if you're certain your recipient wants to watch a DVD whilst travelling (and hasn't got a plain laptop) then go for it; my instinct is that these things have had their day.


If this year has been about anything for me then it's been about getting fitter. This is where my favourite gadget of the moment, the MisFit Shine, comes into its own. It's an activity tracker worn like a wristwatch; you sync it with an app on your phone and it tells you what you've been doing.

It can take a little getting used to. You can read the time from it but it has a system of lights which take some deciphering. You can tell it when you're performing a particular activity - swimming was mine - by tapping on it three times, but I didn't tap correctly apparently so after a one-kilometre swim it thought I'd been fairly inactive.

Persevere, though, as it's a lovely little gadget that tells you how much of your daily target you've achieved and how many calories you've burned. Don't do what I did, though, and keep it on whilst getting the Christmas tree out of the loft. The wristband can catch on things, then you get downstairs and find you haven;t got the thing on your wrist any more, and the lighting in the loft rather suggests you won't be able to find it again even if you try.

But a lovely gadget and my favourite of the season - all too briefly, I'm afraid.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Christmas presents 1: Scent to you

Now this is a good idea. The new Vivabox, available in exotic venues like Boots, is simple but genius. Costing £37.99, it consists simply of seven small samples of eau de toilette - you can buy one set for men and one for women - and a voucher for a full bottle of whichever you like, from The Perfume Shop. It's as simple as that.

The even better news is that the scents aren't rubbish. My wife wasn't drastically struck on the selection for women but she's a fussy whatsit who's fond of her Jo Malone - you know, the seventy-quid-a-bottle factory (it's rather good but then it pretty much ought to be). She had a selection from Lacoste, Boss, Ghost, Paco Rabanne and more, and no these aren't their second-tier offerings, these are the top sellers.

I was rather happier with my box. Boss Orange Man is something I rather like although my wife doesn't  so that's remained unopened, like the Hugo Man; I'm wearing the Carolina Herrera 212 Men at the moment and it's a little sweet for me (to me it smells feminine; I don't get this 'this one's for men, this one's for women' ethos so many perfume makers think ought to be a hard and fast rule, either you like it or you don't, and if I wanted to smell flowery one day that's down to me).

I suspect I'm going to opt for the bottle of Eau D'Issey but I could also have chosen Paco Rabanne Black XS, Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male or James Bond 007. Actually I don't dislike the James Bond, but you'd feel such a pillock buying something with a name like that - and isn't it ironic that it should come out in the Daniel Craig era; if ever there were a 007 who wouldn't give a stuff how he smelled, he's the one.

Good and bad

It's not a faultless scheme. I can't exchange my voucher online, presumably because it's a come-on to get me into the shop in the first place. That's a valid promotional idea but a Christmas present that's a promotion may not appeal to everyone. Also, I can't go into the shop and use it as a contribution towards a more expensive scent. I'm starting to run short of my beloved Armani Code, but the voucher is strictly for exchange for one of the scents included in the promotion.

On the other hand I don't have to use the voucher until the middle of 2015 so nobody's hurrying me. The samples contain enough for a day or three's splash each, so I can get used to how each of them smells rather than have a quick sniff and buy on the spot.

Above all, if you or your partner have ever had a scent given to you that you don't like, you'll be appallingly aware of how awkward that can be - you think you should wear it when the giver comes to visit, you don't want to be rude...this selection idea is more personal than a bland gift voucher but it also gives the recipient a decent breadth of choice.

I'd get one for someone if I were you - then maybe next year they'll increase the range.