GeekWire Gift Guide: 10 gadgets and tools you can actually get this holiday season

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From top left, clockwise: Fujifilm Instax Mini 40 instant camera; Nanopresso portable espresso maker; Samsung Qi Wireless Charger and UV sanitizer; and Go Air Pop wireless earbuds.

This year’s unusual holiday season is all about managing expectations. Most brand-new electronics are in limited supply due to the ongoing international chip shortage. Anything vaguely collectible is likely to be grabbed by automated “grinchbot” shoppers 30 seconds after the sale goes live.

That’s why we’re excited to launch the first-ever GeekWire Gift Guide to spotlight fun and useful tech you might actually be able to get in time for the holidays.

Our first guide launches today and focuses on gadgets. Read on for descriptions of each product, and stay tuned for more as we’ll be rolling out additional guides over the next month.

Samsung Qi Wireless Charger and UV Sanitizer

(Samsung Photo)

The pandemic has led to a small but growing market in phone-sized sanitizers, which use ultraviolet light to squash germs without the risk of shorting out electronics. Samsung’s model combines the UV light with Qi wireless charging. Drop your phone into the sanitizer before bed and in the morning, and it’ll be clean, fresh, and at 100% battery, like you sent your phone on a spa day. That mental image alone is enough to get a recommendation. Price: $29.95.

Fujifilm Instax Mini 40 instant camera

(Fujifilm Image)

Modern digital cameras can’t match the peculiar tactile satisfaction of having an actual physical photo in your hand in seconds. A couple of camera companies are still in the instant-camera business in 2021, including Polaroid, but the Instax Mini 40 from Fujifilm gets the nod here. It abandons the strange design choices of some of the earlier Mini models in favor of a classic look with a mock leather texture, a 90-second developing time, and easy-to-use features. Most importantly, it’s significantly less expensive at an even $100 than Polaroid’s 2021 Now+, with slightly cheaper film packs, which puts it more firmly in “fun toy” territory. Price: $89.95.

reMarkable 2 handwritten tablet

(reMarkable Image)

The reMarkable 2 is a neat little digital notebook and just about nothing else. It’s expensive for what it is ($399) and you have to pay extra for the pen. Even so, it’s great if you’re into deliberately not-smart tech tools that are meant to let you work without distraction; an iPad offers similar utility, but also has a hundred other apps to help split your focus for you. The reMarkable 2 is just for paper-feel handwriting and note-taking. For the right sort of person, it’ll be a constant companion. Price: $299.

Bose Sleepbuds II

(Bose Image)

Bose’s Sleepbuds II are designed to drown out extra noises in your environment with a playlist of soothing sounds, played directly from a companion mobile app, to get you to sleep faster and easier. They also come with an alarm, so you can wake up when you want to. The Sleepbuds are a bit pricey and they’re only useful for their stated purpose. Out of the box, they’re deliberately limited to playing sounds off the companion app; they don’t actually stream audio, but play an assortment of content that’s been pre-recorded onto the earbuds themselves. Even so, they might be a perfect match for anyone looking to get better sleep. Price: $199.

Nanopresso portable espresso maker

(Wacaco Image)

The Nanopresso, from Wacaco, is last year’s model of portable espresso maker and provides hardcore coffee addicts with the equipment to make a cup of espresso wherever they happen to be. Fill it up, pump it with your hand, and decant the resulting brew into a glass. It’s roughly the size of a soda can, so it fits neatly into a bag or purse, though you’ll also need to have some pre-ground beans and hot water handy. With proper preparation, however, the Nanopresso lets you pull espresso out of your pocket on demand like a hyper-caffeinated Batman. Price: $69.90.

Nulaxy C1 adjustable laptop stand

(Nulaxy Image)

The holidays mean traveling, and traveling means using your laptop, typically under less-than-ideal circumstances. The Nulaxy C1 lets you move your laptop to the appropriate height and distance, even if you’re forced to work at your childhood desk. As a useful bonus, you can tilt the laptop forward using the attached rubber pads in order to provide greater airflow to the bottom of the system. If you use an overpowered gaming laptop like I do, that’s enough of a reason to get a Nulaxy C1 by itself. Price: $36.99.

Watchy do-it-yourself smartwatch

(SQFMI Image)

The Watchy from SQFMI is a build-it-yourself “e-watch” with 200×200 resolution, extra low power consumption, and a healthy community of tinkerers that’s risen up around it. Both the hardware and software for Watchy are open-source, which offers a lot of variety for what you want the watch to do and look like. There’s a whole gallery of customer builds on the official Watchy website, some of which are undeniably cool. I particularly like the Game Boy Tetris version of Watchy. Price: $59.

Go Air Pop wireless earbuds

(Jlab Image)

The Go Air Pop earbuds gets you a decent-sounding, water-resistant, surprisingly durable set of earbuds that perform solidly at home or in the gym. They don’t have the bells and whistles of their more expensive competition, such as companion apps, and they aren’t great as a wireless headset for phone calls, but they cost $20. It might be the best-hidden deal in modern audio, especially if you need a pair of earbuds that won’t break your heart if they go missing. Price: $20.

Timbuk2 Especial Stash messenger bag

(Timbuk2 Image)

Now that we’re actually getting out of the house again, you can’t do much better than Timbuk2’s Especial Stash for a go-to everyday carry bag. It’s big enough to fit all but the most monstrous laptops, waterproof, features reflective pullers for visibility in these days when nightfall’s at 4:30 p.m., and has a ton of extra pockets wedged inside. If you don’t need to transport a full-sized laptop, the smaller Classic messenger bag is an inexpensive alternative with all the durability of the Especial Stash. Price: $199.

Key Ring Multi-tool 7-in-1

(Swiss Tools Photo)

This is one of my go-to stocking stuffers for the tinkerers, handymen, mechanics, and do-it-yourselfers on my list. The Key Ring Multi-tool provides you with two different screwdrivers, an LED flashlight, bottle opener, small knife, and an awl, alongside somewhere to keep all your keys. Trust me, you don’t know how useful a pocket-sized flashlight is until you have one on your key ring. Price: $9.95.

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This startup is helping Microsoft and others figure out how to cut their carbon footprint

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Read Time:4 Minute, 14 Second
Carbon Direct Chief Product Officer Danan Margason, left, and CEO Jonathan Goldberg. (Carbon Direct Photos)

People can’t see or smell carbon dioxide or methane gas. But saving the Earth from the worst effects of a warmer world require us to identify the sources of these climate pollutants and stop their emissions. And top tech companies and other corporations in recent years have been trotting out plans for doing just that.

Done right, it’s a daunting task to accurately tally up the tons of emissions and figure out how to decarbonize operations while still turning a profit.

The consulting and investment firm Carbon Direct is helping businesses forge these greener paths, most notably assisting Microsoft create its plan for becoming carbon negative by the end of the decade. Other publicly disclosed clients include Alaska Airlines and Shopify.

CEO Jonathan Goldberg launched Carbon Direct in New York in 2019. The company has approximately 70 employees globally, with plans to roughly double over the coming year.

While the startup has helped develop tailored carbon cutting plans for massive corporate clients, it’s also working to develop tools for wider use. Chief Product Officer Danan Margason, formerly of marketing analytics company Tune, is building out a second, engineering-focused office in Seattle.

In addition to advising companies in shrinking their carbon footprints, Carbon Direct also invests in startups that are removing carbon from the atmosphere or stripping it from industrial processes.

We caught up with Goldberg and Margason to learn more about Carbon Direct and the pursuit of decarbonization. Questions and answers have been edited for clarity and length.

GeekWire: Where are you investing, and can you get good returns in what can be a risky sector?

Goldberg: We are only investing in things that remove CO2 from the atmosphere, convert CO2 into useful products, capture CO2 from the point of emission, or manage the infrastructure of CO2.

We are having no problem underwriting deals in the space to more than acceptable commercial returns. So we underwrite specifically to financial parameters, and we have a 50-person science team — the bulk of our team — that has deep expertise in the technical elements of investing in CO2.

A stretch of British Columbia’s Coquihalla Highway, or Highway 5, collapses after a major rainstorm and flooding in November 2021. Climate experts say the event was made worse by climate change. (British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Photo)

GW: How do you help companies come up with carbon-cutting strategies?

Margason: We’re getting deep into the specific daily choices that companies have to make. Say employee travel is a large chunk of my emissions, should I reduce employee travel? What’s the impact of that? Should I work with different airlines? Should I invest in sustainable aviation fuel? What’s going to be best for my business? How do I present this decision to the board, to my stakeholders? So those are the real choices that companies are having to make.

One interesting thing that a chief scientist at Carbon Direct developed through Columbia University is the “levelized cost of carbon abatement,” which is essentially a tool to figure out — just like with an investment decision — what is the biggest ROI from a climate perspective on a decision to make. So we’re trying to build that into our products.

GW: How big is the carbon management sector?

Goldberg: There’s 1.6 trillion tons of CO2 in the atmosphere. If you say the price of carbon, whether it’s the social cost of carbon or whatever metric you want, is 100 bucks, it’s $160 trillion that needs to be managed.

Our addressable market is unfortunately big. It would be better if it were small.

GW: How do you evaluate carbon pledges from non-clients as legit or empty promises?

Goldberg: Specific targets with immediate or intermediate time frames are always helpful. Saying we’re gonna be carbon neutral in 2050, when I’m retired, it’s not particularly helpful. But, [saying] we’re going to begin by purchasing a million tons of carbon credits, we’re using this framework, we’re doing this as a pathway towards 2030 when we expect these six parts of our supply chain to become decarbonized, that’s tractable.

Huge pledges with no time frame, with no real calculations, make me skeptical.

GW: Can Microsoft, which a super profitable company and has one of the more specific, transparent, aggressive plans for cutting carbon, be a model for others?

Goldberg: I think this harks back towards using these early movers as a template for what can be done and also template for rules that can be created to help everybody.

The other thing I really like that Microsoft is doing, or other clients are doing this as well, is they are buying the cost down not just in carbon removal, but in other areas… Clients who are buying sustainable aviation fuel at high prices today [for example] are doing a service to other companies, who can buy at lower costs in the future. That matters.

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