22 Aug 2014
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Urban Archeologist: Tools of the ‘Trade’

The perfect gift leads to the imperfect gadget.

Urban Archeologist: Tools of the ‘Trade’ Urban Archeologist: Tools of the ‘Trade’ Urban Archeologist: Tools of the ‘Trade’


While the majority of sales currently sit deep within a state of winter hibernation, I will provide another   tip for successful treasure hunting.

Although I have often suspected that my wife disagrees with my hobby/obsession, I have to believe that she may secretly approve after exchanging Christmas gifts last week.

Setting out on a “hunt” is often as random as it is spontaneous. I truly don't know where I'm going and it is doubly true that I don't know where I will end up. For that reason alone I have often contemplated purchasing a GPS unit. But if you haven't discovered this about me already, urban archeology can also be considered the quest of the frugal.

Imagine my surprise when on Christmas morning I unwrapped one of Garmin's very best turn-by-turn estate sale finders. While I am not a big fan of driving distractions (“Tag Sale Here!” already being the biggest one), I have spent many a Saturday afternoon in the endless search of an odd road deep in the heart of Fairfield County.

I set out to test this my new GPS on the Saturday before New Year's. It was just a short trip to Ridgefield, and sadly, it was also the only one I could find — remember this is full-on haggler's hibernation we're dealing with here.

Turn-by-turn the journey was a success. If you didn't know, Connecticut is the land of six ways to get to the same location and none of those ways ever actually amounts to a shortcut — until now. While not perfect, the GPS will usually pick the closest route and in this first test case it had me at my destination confident that it was the best route.

Unfortunately, one thing the GPS will not do is stop me from my infrequent addiction to tech gadgets. The HP “Dreamscreen” (pictured above) was an ill-fated attempt by Hewlett Packard to beat Apple to the tablet punch. By offering a mini computer that would provide Facebook updates, Pandora music, internet radio and Snapfish picture sharing, it could have been a nifty unit for a kitchen counter or wall.

After plugging the unit in at the sale, I came up with a price and made my way to the checkout table. Once home, I connected it successfully through Wi-Fi and began testing all the “apps” that were pre-loaded. When I attempted to run each app I realized why something so “nifty” might have been so cheap. While the display is sharp and the radio, weather and picture frame slide show work great, nothing else does! 

Facebook changed the way their site is accessed, as well as the Pandora music service and neither allow the “Dreamscreen” to connect. Other quirks in the software combined with discontinued support for this unit (which originally sold for $400 in 2009) added up to a mere $20 mistake on my part.  There are a lot of gadgets out there and my advice to those of you who are similarly tempted... try before you trade your hard-earned cash for a “Dreamscreen” you may have to wake up from.

I'll be out on the road again in the weeks ahead and hopefully I can teach my GPS how to navigate to some guaranteed interesting “finds.” And speaking of distractions — read about the 1957 perils of “Highway Hypnosis” on the blog.

Greg Van Antwerp is a Brookfield resident and blogger, who can be found on the weekends in search of a good “dig” or a good story. You can read more about his adventures by visiting his blog.

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