While mainstream gadgets get the most column inches of coverage -- just look at devices such as the new iPhone -- there are a lot of obscure gadgets out there that are very useful.
Also, be sure to check out our other installments for more weird and useful gadgets:
Weird and useful gifts
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20-pin USB-C magnetic connector for MacBook and other devices
- See it now: eBay
Love your new MacBook Pro with its new USB-C ports, but hate the fact that you no longer have the safety and convenience of the MagSafe connector?
A friend of mine introduced me to some 20-pin USB-C magnetic connector that's designed to carry power and data. The specs claim that it's good for 100W (which is seems to be), and claims to carry data up to 10Gbps (I've not tested this claim because I use this for power).
There are several sellers on eBay (here's one) selling these for about $15, and the ones I've bought have been more than satisfactory.
Netgear MIMO Antenna
- See it now: Amazon
If you travel with a portable cellular modem -- and they are handy and do offer features that the hotspot on your smartphone won't -- you might want to consider a MIMO antenna to boost the signal. I was a bit skeptical of these initially because, well, they seemed a bit gimmicky, but they do make a big difference when you are in areas where signal strength is not the best.
I've got the Netgear MIMO antenna, which boosts both 3G and 4G signals, and comes in at under $30.
Small keychain glow-tags
- See it now: CountyComm UGM
I've featured larger versions of these glow-tags here before, but a reader informed me that a smaller, more pocket-sized version also exists. Just as bright (if not brighter), but coming in at only 1.4-inches, the CountyComm UGM is perfect for attaching to keys or other things that you might lose in the dark.
Great value, coming in at only $4!
- See it now: Amazon
A borescope is a tiny camera on the end of a wire that you can stick places where you can't get your head. The medical version -- the endoscope -- is pretty well-known, but borescopes have been popular among mechanics and technicians for a long time. They are super-handy, and once you get one, you're continually finding new uses for it.
Once upon a time, they came with a screen fitted, then they connected to a smartphone via a connector. Newer ones use Wi-Fi and are compatible with Android devices, as well as iPhones and iPads.
At $35, they are perfect for all DIY enthusiasts, technicians, and even explorers!
- See it now: Glowtec
It seems I'm not the only one who loves things that glow-in-the-dark and one reader pointed me to a supplier of glow-in-the-dark dust and crystals. Glowtec supplies a lot of cool things that glow or are reflective, but it is Pixie Dust that caught my eye.
These glow-in-the-dark granules are safe and non-toxic, can be charged and recharged thousands of times, last for years, and are impervious to solvents and heat up to 600 C.
These are perfect for mixing with epoxy and making your own glow-in-the-dark tools and decorations.