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Four Low-Tech, High-Function Products That I Use

A handful of low-tech (or even no-tech) things Katie finds useful in her everyday life.

Stitch Fix

Yesterday, Apple gathered the tech elite in its hometown of Cupertino, Calif., to announce three upcoming products: Two larger iPhones and one wearable gadget, the Apple Watch.

Yet for all its Gotta Have That appeal, new technology is only good if it’s useful to you. Will you use it regularly? Will it simplify your life by saving you time or making you more comfortable while doing a task? Is it worth the cost?

I have a handful of useful low-tech (or even no-tech) gadgets or services that make my everyday life go more smoothly. They’re not the latest or greatest, but they work well, and they might help you, too. Here’s what I mean:

RollerMouse Pro2, $200

After I suffered wrist-and-forearm pain caused by repeatedly reaching out for my mouse, an ergonomics specialist suggested this mouse-and-keyboard-tray combo. It lets you keep your hands in one place to do everything, and could make a dramatic difference in comfort if you, like me, constantly switch from typing to mousing.

The RollerMouse consists of a wrist rest attached to plastic support pieces that hold your existing keyboard (curved keyboards won’t work). The key to the whole setup is a rolling bar located where your thumbs naturally rest when your hands are placed on the keyboard in traditional touch-typist position.

This bar operates like the left-click button of a mouse: It moves your cursor around the screen as you roll and move the bar left or right, and it makes selections when you press down on it and click. A small, square button near the rolling bar serves as a right-click button. The RollerMouse plugs into your Windows PC or Mac using a USB cord.

On the downside, this modified mouse doesn’t give you the full functionality of other full-fledged mice or touchpads, like pinching to zoom or spinning your fingers on a trackpad surface to rotate a photo. But I keep Apple’s Magic Trackpad beside my keyboard so I can still use those extra functions in certain circumstances, like heavy photo editing.

Mos Magnetic Cable Organizer, $20

Truth be told, I thought this thing was unnecessary when I first got it, but I find myself missing it when I’m on the road.

This small, triangular object comes in black or white. It rests on my nightstand and does just what its name says, magnetically holding any cord that it contacts. Since I test and use a lot of products that need to be charged overnight, this holds the devices’ cords in one spot, and saves me from having to reach down to the floor to find them when I’m exhausted and about to fall asleep.

The Mos comes with small blue loops that slip on any cord, giving them magnetic capability. I use one of these loops with the cord that charges my baby monitor. Other cords, like that of the iPhone 5s and Moto X, are magnetic on their own, and don’t need these loops. It has an optional adhesive bottom that can be used to stick it to any surface, though I don’t use this.

Added bonus: It also holds earrings and earring backs, depending on what they’re made of, which is helpful if you want your jewelry staying in place while you swing wildly to hit the snooze button.

Stitch Fix, around $200 for five items

If you don’t have time to shop, or you’re stuck in a fashion rut, the solution might be found in a cardboard box. The concept is simple: Fill out an extensive online profile about your style, including feedback on sample outfits, your preferred price range, clothing sizes and fit preferences.

After you fill out a profile, you receive a package in the mail with five items that a stylist thinks you’ll like. These can range from chunky necklaces to skinny jeans to hobo bags. A note from the stylist explains the selections, and flashcards are included to show you how the item can be worn with outfits.

I signed up for Stitch Fix after receiving a friend’s invitation eight months ago. My hands-down favorite thing about this service is opening the Stitch Fix box to see what was picked out for me. I order a lot of utilitarian things on Amazon (see this for a taste), and it’s delightful to get a personalized surprise.

If you keep everything in the box, you get 25 percent off the total and the $20 styling fee is waived. If you don’t like anything, return the whole box within three days using a prepaid envelope that comes in the box.

Fixes come each month, by default, but can be set to come when you want them, like once every other month. Stitch Fix is currently only available for women.

TiVo remote on the cheap

My husband and I waited way too long to buy a new TiVo remote because I remembered them costing close to $100 each a few years back. Instead of buying a new one, we tried replacing the remote’s batteries several times, but the remote-control buttons kept failing.

Just for kicks, I checked Amazon for an alternative to TiVo’s pricey replacement remote controls. It turns out that they now cost a lost less: I found one from a place called WeaKnees DVR Superstore for $17 with Amazon Prime. Despite my skepticism, it arrived at my house pre-programmed to work with my TiVo Premier. I was using it seconds after I took it out of the box.

TiVo sells its own remotes for a lot less than it used to, but they still start at $40 each after shipping.

When you stop to think about the devices and services that you really use, you might think twice about that shiny new tech product you’re about to buy. Then again, 18-carat gold watches can be useful, right?

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