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Tech that made my life (a bit) better in 2013

Tech won't change your life. But it might make it a little bit better. Here are three pieces of tech I acquired this year that made my life just that more comfortable, interesting or tolerable.

Tech won't change your life. But it might make it a little bit better.

Here are three pieces of tech I acquired this year that made my life just that more comfortable, interesting or tolerable.

Bose Quietcomfort 15 headphones: International air regulations now require that every commercial plane must have at least one crying baby on board for the duration of the flight.

(I think it was the Swedes who pushed this through.) That's why when I flew to Europe this past summer I was armed for the expedition with a set of Bose Quietcomfort 15 headphones that block out sound.

These put a deep dent in my budget, but they

were worth it.

Bose doesn't have the best reputation for sound quality among audiophiles, but its implementation of active noise cancellation is stellar and the Quietcomfort 15 fit my ears like a pair of slippers.

I put them on shortly after takeoff, hooked up my tablet to listen to music and watch videos, and had my best flight in years.

Bring it on, unhappy loud babies, I didn't hear you at all.

I've since used them while vacuuming, watching TV late at night and to shut out annoying conversations of branding

consultants meeting at Starbucks.

Pros: They do an amazing job of blocking out most sound.

Cons: Very expensive and large, so you'll look goofy wearing them in public. At least you won't hear any snickers.

UnoTelly: Regular readers know my frustration at banging my head against VPNs and various device setups to

get U.S. Netflix and Hulu on my home TV.

VPNs are great for security and circumventing geoblocks, but they don't work on devices like my Xbox 360 and PlayStation3, two key ways I access content as a


This year I tried out a DNS redirect service.

Essentially it reroutes your Internet traffic to a computer that's configured with access to specific media sites, such as the U.S., Netflix or the BBC, that are otherwise blocked to users outside of their home countries.

It involves changing a few settings on your computer or router, but is otherwise easy to set up. Some people use free DNS redirect services available on the web.

Because I don't trust anything on the Internet that's free, I opted for UnoTelly, a commercial service that provides a large library of international media sites to watch.

The big advantage for me is that the service can be configured independently on my gaming consoles.

After enabling UnoTelly on my PlayStation 3, I can now get every flavour of Netflix (from U.S. to Nordic), Hulu Plus and BBC's online video.

So far, it's proved stable with a high quality connection. Peace has come to my cordcutting ways.

Pros: East setup, great variety of media sites to access, a commercial service that's accountable to users.

Cons: Costs $4.95 U.S. per month for a monthly subscription, less for a whole year. Does not provide the security of a

VPN. Requires you to look up the definition of DNS on Wikipedia.

Roku streaming box: Those two gaming consoles under my TV are giant boxes, their size and noise all the more annoying because the future of home theatre is small.

The Apple TV showed that small was possible and desirable, and it was quickly followed by the Roku streaming box.

I bought a Roku this

year as an experiment, and it quickly became a preferred, easy and inexpensive way to get Netflix on my TV.

Starting at $70 and the size of a hockey puck, the Roku is light enough to hang on the back of your TV and completely silent.

Since it's always on, with minimal power use, you don't need to wait for it to boot up. It has a clean, simple interface.

The Roku 3 version also features a

remote control with a plug in jack for stereo headphones, a great feature for watching late at night without waking up the neighbours.

Many of its channels you'll never watch. But it also features excellent apps like Slacker and TuneIn Radio and I've used its PBS and CBS News channels for full episodes of programs like Frontline and 60 Minutes. That's all without needing to hook it up to a VPN or DNS, which is good since sadly Roku settings don't allow for such


Pros: Cheap, small, simple to use, gets Netflix and a large array of Internet TV, radio and music channels to your TV.

Cons: Has no comparable service like iTunes on the Apple TV. Most of its channels you'll never watch. No DNS setting adjustments are possible, so be happy with Canadian Netflix.

Barry Link is the editor at the Vancouver Courier. Contact him at