The ultimate Christmas tech survival guide
From noise-cancelling headphones to wifiplugs, here’s how to stay sane this Christmas
What no Wifiplugs? Not only will they play their part over the Christmas season, but beyond they’ll also be useful beyond it too
Plan on surviving Christmas with your sanity intact? There’s an app (and a few products) for that.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how lovely are your branches… and spiky, come to think of it. Christmas tree lights look beautiful at night, but for most of us, it means risking an eye by crawling under it every night to unplug the whole shebang. Since last one to bed usually gets the responsibility of not burning the house down, the only solution is clearly never to be the last one up.
Or, invest in wifi plugs. Belkin’s Wemo Switch (€55), or TP Link’s Smart wifi plug (€35) will not only allow you to activate the plugs through an app and your home broadband network – no more risking blindness for the sake of some twinkly lights, no more pine needles and glitter in your hair, unless you like that sort of thing – but they also allow you to set rules, such as activation times for different days, switching off automatically at a certain time, and linking in with other smart home products.
Not only will wifi plugs play their part over the Christmas season, but beyond they’ll also be useful beyond it too. You can plug lamps, slow cookers, TVs – anything to which you want to be able to control power with minimum fuss – into it, leave the appliance switched on and ready to go and you can set it to turn on or off at a convenient time.
Of course, it would be quite reasonable to point out that remote control plugs are not a new thing, but these ones can be controlled from outside the house. No more panicking about whether you’ve left your tree lights plugged in. It won’t do anything for the immersion fears though.
Maybe you want to keep an eye on the pets while you’re out enjoying yourself for a few hours. Maybe you have elderly relatives you need to check in on from time to time.
Maybe you just want to make sure that your kids aren’t raiding the Roses tin while you’re out because you’re positive there were more than that in there when you left last time, and someone keeps eating all the strawberry ones and leaving the empty wrappers. Or maybe home security is at the forefront of your mind.
Whatever the reason, the Canary (€220) is a great device to have to hand. It is unobtrusive, easy to use and it can be monitored remotely, so if anything stirs, you’ll know about it and can bellow at them through the app. It’s easy to set up and use, and although it’s not part of a massively complicated smart home system, it will link with other products you may already own should you feel the urge to turn your home into a HAL-inspired work of art.
This one should need no explaining. Yes, they’re expensive. In some cases, eye-wateringly so. But if you’ve never experienced the utter bliss that is a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, you won’t realise that it’s a sound investment.
The magic technology they have built in will block out most of the background noise from noisy toys or family members, leaving you free to enjoy blissful, electronically controlled silence. Or near silence, anyway.
Imagine wrapping yourself in a plastic bubble, where you can see what’s going around you but the accompanying soundtrack is muffled to the point where you don’t really care. Personal favourites are the Sony MDR 1000X (€435) or Bose QuietComfort 20 (€280) for in-ear fans.
Christmas is a time for family, togetherness, and fighting over the remote control. You could switch the TV off, or you could download the free remote control app for your chosen TV provider and stage a TV takeover. Sky and Virgin Media already have apps that can control their set top boxes; Saorview’s Connect service will also offer the remote control function in the app.
Extra points if you take out the batteries from the proper remote control first and leave for others to uselessly stab at.
A streaming video account
Netflix? Sky Q? Horizon Go? Who cares, as long as you don’t have to watch The Santa Clause 3, reruns of an anonymous TV show from the 1990s that you hated first time around, or some interminable Christmas special that is either not funny or tries to tug on your (nonexistent) heartstrings by dragging up a lost family member or two.
If you lose the TV war, on-demand video and catch-up TV is your one link to sanity over the festive period. You can hide away in another room with your tablet, throw on the noise-cancelling headphones and get some peace and quiet.