A compendium of Recomendo




Echo Dot

We installed AI into our kitchen to get a glimpse of the future. Now we talk to Alexa, and ask it to do all kinds of things. “Alexa, what is on my calendar today?” “Alexa, add granola to my shopping list.” The cheapest way to do this is not with an Echo (size of wine bottle), if you already have speakers, but with the Echo Dot. Size of a large hockey puck, it’s always on, waiting for your command. And it will get upgraded over time. — KK

TV show streaming

I upgraded my old Fire Stick media streamer to the Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote ($40). Navigating to a show is as simple as pressing the talk button and saying “Play Jiro Dreams of Sushi.” It will search all your subscribed media services (Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Amazon Prime) and instantly return what you want. You can also say, “Order Dominos pizza.” What more could you ask for? — MF

Fall asleep listening to podcasts

I like to listen to podcasts in bed. I also sleep on my side, so earbuds and headphone hurt my ears if I use them. I bought the CozyPhones Sleep Headphones ($18), which is a headband with 1/8" thick cushioned headphones inside. They are comfortable and they roll up for travel. — MF


Electric bike reviews

EBR (Electric Bike Review) is the best place to go if you are thinking of getting an electric bike. One guy, Court Rye, has personally reviewed in depth over 800 ebikes. He has seen and ridden them all, and his knowledge about them is encyclopedic. His reviews are in text and video. These days you can find an e-version of almost any type of bike made, from e-cruisers, electric mountain bikes, folding e-bikes, city riders, cargo bikes and so on. This site will help you sort through them. It respects your attention with minimum of selling and maximum helpfulness. — KK

Wire-free headphones for sleeping

My husband likes to fall asleep listening to podcasts, but I don’t. These SleepPhones make us both happy. The wireless ones let him shift in his sleep, so he can wear them all night, and are machine washable. — CD

Wake command

You can wake up Alexa by using the wake command “Computer” as in Star Trek. Go to the Alexa app on your phone. Right-swipe to open a panel with Settings choice. Pick your device and scroll down to wake commands. You have a limited choice of four words, including Computer. There is a movement to make that command a common voice interface among all devices. Are you listening Siri, Cortana and Google? — KK


Best noise cancelling earbuds

I don’t get on a plane unless I am wearing Bose QuiteComfort 20 Noise Cancelling earbuds. These squeeze into a tiny super-lightweight pocket when off (unlike the headphone variety), and are simply the best noise cancelling apparatus, period. I routinely wear them the entire duration of a 13-hour flight. I arrive far more refreshed. — KK

Affordable tablet

I bought the Amazon 7” Fire Tablet for $40. It’s great for reading ebooks, listening to audiobooks, and watching Netflix and Amazon Prime videos. But I also followed the instructions here to install the Google Play Store, so I can add Android apps not available from the Amazon App Store. Now I have Google Maps, Gmail, Slack, Feedly and more on the tablet. — MF

Extend your Wi-Fi

I’ve tried many ways to extend Wi-Fi through my house. Powerline networking, which creates networks through electrical wiring, works the best. TP-Link has a $54 kit with 2 units. One unit plugs into your wall outlet and router. The other unit can be plugged into any wall outlet in your house to provide Wi-Fi in that area. — MF

Cheap bedside alarm

I bought this small $10 clock so I could avoid looking at my phone in the morning. The alarm is progressive and the ticking is as close to silent as possible. There’s a button to illuminate the time in the dark and it doubles as a snooze button. Perfectly simple and useful. — CD 

TechClaudia Dawson