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I'm back! Hope everyone had a wonderful week. Special thanks to "the Davids" -- Carnoy and Katzmeier -- for filling in while I visited lovely South Padre Island, Texas.
While traveling, I was reminded of the importance of packing a universal car-mount. We did a lot of driving, which required a lot of mapping, which required a lot of glancing down at the phone -- which had to ride in the cup-holder, because I forgot to bring a mount. Dangerous!
I was also reminded of the benefits of voice-powered, hands-free phone control, which brings us to today's deal: For a limited time, and while supplies last, you can snag the Roav Viva Alexa-enabled two-port car charger for $38.99. That's after applying promo code VIVAUSDL at checkout. Regular price: $49.99.
Two small bummers: Shipping costs $3.99 (um, say, Roav, ever heard of Prime?), and although the Viva is listed as "in stock," delivery will take up to two weeks. Update: The listing has been updated; the Viva now ships free with Prime and should arrive in the usual two-day timeframe. Woot!
Roav is actually an Anker brand, and Anker makes good stuff. Roav is its mobile unit, offering a range of accessories that include dashcams, car chargers and this thing.
The Viva closely resembles an oversize charger, one that plugs into your cigarette lighter and serves up a pair of PowerIQ USB ports for juicing your stuff.
But it also incorporates dual noise-cancelling microphones, the better to hear your commands while you're driving around. By pairing with your phone and a special app, the Viva can perform most of the same tricks as an Amazon Echo -- including calling people in your address book and providing navigation.
It can also play music, though it doesn't yet support Spotify. (It will soon, according to the product page.) You should also take note of the "car models with possible issues" listed in the product description area. Whether those are issues with the actual fit of the unit or something else, it's not immediately clear.
Here's my question: Why not just use "OK, Google" or "Hey, Siri" to accomplish many of the same things without the, er, Alexa middleman? Your phone can already respond to voice commands, so do you really need this thing?
One answer: Some folks just prefer Alexa. And she can definitely perform a few tricks the others can't, such as playing your flash news briefing and ordering more of the Keurig K-cups you just remembered you need.
CNET hasn't reviewed it, but the Viva scored a 4-star average from over 200 buyers. And I found this hands-on review from a couple months back; it provides a really good overview of the product and its pros and cons.
Ultimately, it might just boil down to this: How much would you pay to have Alexa riding shotgun? If $50 seems too rich, maybe $39 feels a little more comfortable?
Bonus deal: Game time! For a limited time, Crusader Kings II (Windows, Mac and Linux) is free on Steam. It's a medieval-themed grand-strategy game that sells for at least $24 elsewhere. GameSpot gave it an 8/10.
Here's where it gets really interesting: There's a free Game of Thrones mod for it. Hope you're not busy this weekend, because this might just consume it!
Bonus deal No. 2: Another thing I was reminded of while traveling: The challenges of traveling with little kids.
But here's what's awesome for modern parents: ebooks! You can pack a library's worth of picture books in something that weighs less than a pound. Back in my day, we carried back-breaking backpacks stuffed with actual books and we liked it. (Wait, no we didn't.)
For a limited time, Amazon has the Sesame Street Kindle ebook We're Amazing, 1, 2, 3! for free. The hardcover edition would run you at least $8.
The colorful 32-page book features an autistic character and teaches the important lessons of inclusion and acceptance. Think I might send a few copies to certain elected officials...