I’ve been working from home for nearly 20 years, but being locked up at home due to the pandemic still drove me a little nuts. Several technology products have been particularly helpful while sheltering in place, making this semi-forced timeout feel less like a punishment and more like something I could endure.

I’ll close with my product of the week: a new HP Chromebook, the 11a, that provides a ton of value for US$219.

Atmoph Window 2

I bought the Atmoph Window 2 because I have been a fan of virtual windows for some time, but finding one has proven difficult. The Atmoph Windows 2 looks like a picture on your wall, but inside the frame is a connected 27-inch 4K display that is tied to remote cameras providing real-time video feeds of remote locations.

It can be set to change the image automatically, so it may show Paris at times and then switch to China or Italy, for example. At night I’ve walked by as it displayed fireworks, a live satellite feed of the galaxy, or a shot of an underwater reef.

I’ve found myself just staring at it, losing myself in the image, feeling a little like I’d traveled to that remote location. My only complaints are that sometimes it stops updating automatically, so I have to mess with it. Also, I’d like a more significant window, as 27 inches isn’t big enough for many of the views.

However, they’ve worked the software in this product so the image adjusts when you move around the picture, so it feels like you are looking out a window.

I’ve found that when I’m going stir crazy, just sitting for a bit and looking out that virtual window seems to de-stress me, and I no longer feel locked up. I bought the thing on a lark, but it’s become something I look forward to looking out of every day.

I can imagine a future when larger versions of this adorn a wall in a small room, allowing you to step in and, for a time, be anyplace you’d want to be — even imaginary places on other planets.

For now, though, just being able to pretend I’ve gone someplace else has been an enormous help.

Chili’s Ooler

I was a fan of the ChiliPad when it came out, and the Ooler replaced it. The Ooler is a liquid bed heater/cooler, and it does wonders for my sleep.

I have trouble sleeping during the winter because it is dark a lot of the time. Although I typically don’t go out much, I still would go out more than I have lately. During the pandemic lockdown, I didn’t leave the house much at all, and the near-constant lack of sunlight did horrid things to the quality of my sleep.

Besides, I tend to like it cold at night, and my wife typically likes it warmer, so one of us was often too cold or hot.

The Ooler allows you to adjust the temperature of the bed regardless of the room temperature, so once you find your range, you won’t wake up too hot or too cold — the temperature will be just right. It adjusts automatically depending on time, so you can go to bed nice and cool and wake up toasty warm.

Like a lot of folks, if I don’t get my sleep I get irritable, and I’m not too much fun to be around.

Chili’s Ooler has helped my marriage survive this stay-at-home stint, which has challenged many others.

TiVo Edge

Like a lot of you, I’m living on streamed content, but I also want to watch the local news, and that isn’t streamed reliably yet. The TiVo Edge remains the only device in the market that blends time-shifted broadcast and streamed content near seamlessly.

If you missed an already-aired episode because of a power outage or other problem (like you forgot to record it), TiVo will point you to the streaming service and guide you to the missed episode.

It automatically skips commercials (well, except for the one that it puts at the front of every program that you have to skip manually), and it organizes the content so you can better find what you want to watch.

Much like a streaming service, if you are binge-watching, it will begin the next episode automatically.

You can move the programing around your house with TiVo Minis, but they don’t support WiFi yet. That makes them a bit of a PITA to set up if you haven’t pulled Ethernet cable throughout your home. (That should have been sorted by now.)

Still, if you want to blend over-the-air and streamed content into a single solution, TiVo does that best.

Dell 49-Inch Monster Monitor

I spend most every day looking at this monster, from around 8 a.m. to about 5 p.m., with a short break for lunch. I don’t know what I’d do without this huge 49-inch monitor from Dell.

I can be working on a column like this one on one side, have my email running in the middle, and have a news feed on the other side, all at the same time. Even though it is large horizontally, it isn’t too tall, so my video camera isn’t looking at the top of my head during a Zoom call.

It has a built-in USB hub that reduces a bit the massive number of wires I have routed around my desk, and the thing has performed like a champion.

I don’t know how I’m ever going to go back to a laptop screen once I start traveling again.

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