might be hurting and your graduate might be waiting for the first nibble for all those resumes he sent out. So, as you shop for a Father's Day or graduation gift, think twice before buying a throwaway tie from
Tough times call for creative gift giving. Here are some of the best
productivity tools for dads and grads coping with a weak economy.
I have been testing the service of the once laughable, Dallas-based cell phone provider, MetroPCS. So far, my service has been clear around New York. I'll give my full review later this summer, after I've roamed around with it. For small businesses and families looking to save money and stay connected, there's no better value.
The company just rolled out a new family plan that offers text, e-mail and phone service. The phones start at $59 and the service starts at $20, without a contract.
To be sure, MetroPCS is not
. You won't get anything that resembles an
iPhone. You can't use the service outside the coverage area and phone selection is limited.
But the company makes it worth your while. For $150 a month, by my calculation, you can support five lines.
Without question, the must-get, most helpful, perfect present for an entrepreneurial dad or grad is a USB adapter that plugs into your car. An USB adapter sounds underwhelming, but don't be fooled.
For a measly $15, this piece of plastic turns the outlet in your car's console into a power source for any USB-enabled device, whether it's an iPhone, BlackBerry or Garmin global-positioning device. It's fantastic.
You have to be careful: Your car isn't smart enough to stop itself from frying your electronics. So don't leave your precious iPhone plugged in forever. And you'll need to carry the right USB cable for your gadget. Still, you'll have a pocket-sized device that can power all your stuff.
Here's a portable power solution for harried, small-business owners. The BattPack can recharge batteries and USB-compatible devices. Simply buy two sets of rechargeable batteries for small gadgets, like cameras or GPS devices. Put one set in the BattPack to charge and the other set in the gadget to use. When your cell phone is low on power, just plug it directly into the BattPack. The $69 BattPack supports standard AA and AAA rechargeable batteries.
You just need to remember to recharge your BattPack when you're near a socket. Toss in the $49
and the $161
and you'll be able to use your car or sunlight to refuel the BattPack.
The system isn't issue-free. Batteries can get jostled from their slots easily, so charging is best done while stationary. And it requires you to think ahead about your power needs. But I found this arsenal of portable power useful and flexible. The entire system fit in a bag the size and weight of a sandwich. For about $300, you'll be able to make a phone call, get directions or send an e-mail from anywhere.
Jonathan Blum is an independent technology writer and analyst living in Westchester, N.Y. He has written for The Associated Press and Popular Science and appeared on FoxNews and The WB.