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About Paul Banas

Paul Banas is happy married dad of two great kids living in San Francisco. He writes now about kids, new technology and how the two interact for GreatDad.com and for Pregnancy Magazine (pregnancymagazine.com) where he is also the publisher.

Here are my most recent posts

ThinOPTICS reader glasses for far-sighted dads

ThinOPTICS reader glasses are super small “reader” glasses perfect for dads who suddenly need a little help to read small print. I’m luckily not among those who need these (yet) but I have been nearsighted for most of my life so I know what it’s like to be frustrated by not being able to see. I saw these at CES 2016 and was impressed by how these were created to be affordable, portable and convenient for dads (and moms) who might need glasses only for certain occasions. These are so small, you can attach them to the wall near the phone, or even in a wallet (perhaps not under your butt though). The bridge fits over all noses and sticks thanks to fine grade sandpaper that makes them comfortable to wear even though they don’t have “temples” to fit around your ears. You can move them up and down your nose to get the right focus.

The glasses come in different fashion colors and include a “pod” for easy storage. They lie almost completely flat.

Amazon sells them for $25.

Love Handle iPhone grip

I don’t know why nobody has done this before, but I just saw the

LoveHandle phone or tablet grip at CES and while it’s a simple little device, it gives you a little security that you’re not going to lose your phone or tablet while you’re taking picture or clumsily texting.

Two things are key here. First, the adhesive is rated at 50 pounds so the handle is not going anywhere. Second, you can easily remove the LoveHandle with no residue if you decide it’s not for you.

At $7.95, this is just what I need, if only for those times I’m on a roller coaster or zipline and don’t want to skip the shot for fear of losing my phone.

Griffin Survivor Apple TV remote cover

Griffin Survivor case for Siri Apple TV remoteIf you’re looking for a great gift add-on item for your new Apple TV, or just something to protect the cool Siri remote, get this Griffin remote cover. It slips on in a flash and protects the sides of the remote, but importantly, helps protect the glass trackpad from some collisions.

If you have the new Apple TV, you know that the remote gets used in ways that it didn’t before, especially for games. This silicone cover is a good investment in protecting a small device clearly prone to accidents.

Griffin Survivor Play Siri Remote for Apple TV – $19.99 from Griffin store.

GreatDad.com Review Policy: The featured product for this review was provided to us, at no cost, by the manufacturer or representing PR agency for the sole purpose of product testing. We do not accept monetary compensation for reviewing or writing about products. We only review products that we have personally tested and used in our own homes, and all opinions expressed are our own.

Be careful when shopping for your Christmas tree

What happened to us after we chose our tree shocked us, but we hear it’s not all that uncommon.

We always shop for our tree as a family, from the early days when smaller members had to be carried into the tree lot. Now they bound around out of sight, but it’s still a family ritual. To avoid frayed nerves, we only go tree shopping and plan for no other events.. We don’t even pretend to have the focus or energy to buy a tree, carry it in AND decorate all in one night. And on this cloudy Friday evening, our aspirations were even lower because it had been a long week. The only way I could convince my wife to even go was by promising that we wouldn’t even carry the tree into our house, but would leave it on the car in the garage until the next day.

So off we went, squabbling a little about after-tree dinner choices, but in general, in a holiday mood of peace and togetherness. We arrived at the tree place, found a great parking spot and aimed ourselves toward the seven to eight-footers. “Did you bring the stand?” my wife innocently inquired. Whoops! No stand. We have to go back home.

“We’ll stay here while you drive home and get the stand,” I heard someone naively suggest.

“Everyone back in the car,” was my response and 15 minutes later but still in surprisingly good moods, we parked again and carried our stand toward the forest of trees. My daughter and I gamely tried to make a deja vu moment even more deja vu by trying to repeat our earlier conversations. I love the way kids will enter into games like that just for fun.

We searched for five or six minutes and found the “perfect” tree, like a special snowflake in a mountain of snow. “Wrap it up. We’re getting this one,” I told the South African sales guy (for some reason a good part of the crew was South African, as if their Christmas is held in July during their Winter and now they were free to work during ours). I handed him our stand while he scribbled our name and price down on a tag he then tied on the tree. We went inside a tent where we paid for our tree and garland, and I threw in some mistletoe, forever optimistic that an artificial green branch might net me more holiday action than I deserve.

Still in fine spirits, the only thing left to do was have the guys wrap the tree in netting and tie it to our car. I had a ten spot in my pocket wadded up for a tip. I sent my wife and the kids to wait in the car and I stood around for five minutes patiently waiting for the tree to be ready. After a bout of tree recognition anxiety, I realized our tree was gone!

A shorter version of our tree wearing an imitation of the family tree stand sat forlornly at the end of the parking lot. Could someone have grabbed our tree as a taller upgrade and left it’s shorter brother on the field of battle? As we and the crew searched the lot, the reality that our tree was probably already being erected elsewhere had to be discussed. I finally had to go tell the family the sad news. With flagging energy, I couldn’t imagine walking around again trying to find the perfect tree amongst the ones we’d already declined. My son, however, took the stolen tree as a symbol of a stolen Christmas that could never be put right.

The tree guys were great about the loss. While they surprisingly had very little memory of us, our stand, or our tree (after all, it had been 5 minutes), they put us on priority and let us pick from any tree on the lot. While in my son’s eyes, nothing could replace the tree he had made a life-long bond with, my wife wanted the 9-footer momentarily forgetting how hard a 7-footer is to get into the house.

Hours later, with the tree comfortably resting atop the car in the garage, we all could relax and plan for the next day’s adventure: making some cookies. But first, we’ll have to get that tree off the car and up three flights of stairs before we can finally be sure it’s ours.

Gifts for Dads Holidays 2015

The holidays are upon us and it’s time for a quick look at 10 cool new things I’ve found that any dad will enjoy this holiday season. As usual, the accent is a bit on technology, but also useful things that solve common problems or create situations for dads and kids to play together.

1. Sky Viper Streaming Drone – (Skyrocket Toys) – $99.99

Skyrocket toys wants to create drones that go beyond the $30 omnipresent helicopters of last year and bring manageable drones to a wider audience. Be advised that this isn’t a “pro” drone that will allow you to fly 2000 feet from your house and take pictures of the entire county. But at an accessible price point, this is a drone that takes streaming video so you can see what the drone sees at a range of up to 200 feet. That should at least give you the range of the view from a ten story building. Since new regulations for drones start at 400 feet, this is also a safe bet for a purchase that won’t require a license in the new year.

2. SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick 32GB, Wireless Flash Drive – $39.99

Starting at just $39.99, this little memory stick not only keeps at least 32G of storage with you, but also allows up to 3 other devices to access media on the mini WIFI network it creates around you. That means, up to 3 people can access it to watch 3 movies or all watch the same media together. This is not a problem everyone has, but think of how you’d use it in a plane, or on a long car ride, or even for sharing photos at a gathering rather than passing around your phone. While prices go all the way up to $99 for the 128G version, my bet is on the smaller size.

3. Apple TV (new generation) – $149 (32GB) and $199 (64GB)

Apple TV has long been a “good” product desperately in need of an update. Just in time for the holidays, the new Apple TV is here and we can’t wait to get one. Not only does the new Apple TV pair the magic of mini-apps to the TV, but it also brings many iOS games to the big screen using the included Apple remote. This is sure to be a hit for the price. And if he already has the Apple TV, less expensive accessories are an option, such as the Survivor Play for Siri Remote, a silicon protective sleeve at $19.99, or the Apple-recommended Steel Series Nimbus game controller at $49.99.

4. Muse Brain Sensing Headband – $299

The perfect gift for the anxiety-ridden dad who wants to meditate but just can’t see the benefits right away? The Muse Brain Sensing Headband bring ECG-type brain wave measurement to the masses helping the wearer by using brain bio-feedback to know when he is successfully calming himself. My experience with it was positive with real calming effects after one week based on the scoring mechanism within the app. The price is a bit steep but the for the right person, the benefits of true meditation are worth it.

5. Epson Workforce EcoTank printer

If he’s sick and tired of print cartridge refills and all the games that go along with them, here’s a splurge present that will get a smile. The EcoTank line of printers uses refillable tanks of ink instead of cartridges. Sure, you pay a little bit more up front but you’re never again hostage to the cartridge game when you’re out of ink and all you want to do is a scan or a black & white copy. The EcoTanks start at $379 for the Expression 2500, but for $20 more you can get the more fully functioned Expression ET-2550 which includes PC-free printing and WIFI direct printing from smartphones and tablets. Or, go big with the WorkForce ET-4550 an office-level printer that also does 2-sided pricing and has a 30 page auto document feeder.

6. Denon HEOS 1 Speaker – $199

Similar to other speaker systems from SONOS and Raumsfeld, the HEOS connects over WIFI which allows you to serve up music from your computer or music services on demand. Their small speaker, at $199, fills a “normal” room with a lot of sound. The big difference with the HEOS though is the HEOS Go Pack The addition of the $99 accessory pack gives you a rechargeable battery and bluetooth connection. That means your stylish HEOS speaker can be easily unplugged and taken out to the porch, back yard, or even the beach (if you’re very careful). If you love it, the HEOS can be expanded to include home theatre components and a larger HEOS Drive amplifier.

7.X-Project Nomadic Cinema – $399.99

We reviewed the Pico Projector last spring and loved the quality, ease-of-use and portability of this little projector. This new projector makes it easy to pack a cinema experience when you travel so the whole family (or even a bar!) can enjoy what you are watching or streaming on your phone, tablet or computer. The kit comes with X-Project Pico Projector, A flexible tripod with several mounts, and a travel case.This little guy projects up to 60” which is a good size for most situations (our home big screen is 55”) and the projector includes a speaker, though you may want to bring another amplifier (plenty of small options there!) along to make the sound bigger. I also like that there is a input for Micro SD cards. The internal battery lasts 2 hours so good for a full movie, though you may need a back-up power source if you’re taking it into the wild.

8. Zolt device charger- $99.99

Imagine a laptop and 3-USB port AC adapter about a 1/3 the size of your current brick and you can imagine the Zolt adapter made for laptops with exchangeable tips for different computer. It’s a a far prettier adaptor than my white square from Apple, but also includes 3 more USB ports to keep all your devices charging off on plug. This is a perfect gift for anyone who travels with lots of cords.

9. Slingbox M2 – $199.99

The Slingbox is an easy to setup media player that allows you to access TV content from your home wherever you are in the world over WIFI or Ethernet. This is a great device if you want to access your NFL package from afar, or watch US programming when you are overseas. We were able to set it up easily and were watching TV on our iPad within a few minutes. Slight drawbacks are that on-screen menus aren’t super easy to use to change channels (though not impossible) and ad-free versions of the iOS app will run you an additional $14.99 (the free version requires you to watch an ad before you can see your programming). This is still an improvement over the “old” slingbox model that required an ongoing subscription, but it is an added hidden price tag buyers should understand.