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NORAD Tracks Santa

The Gadget Report will take a little detour today, since it's Christmas Eve and any gadget gift should have been purchased by now. So let's take a look at what technology has done for Christmas!

NORAD1.jpgNORAD has been monitoring the skies in defense of the continent. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (I know, but NAADC is not as easy to pronounce) is under the command of both the US president and the Canadian prime minister. Every Christmas Eve, they take on a very special mission as they track Santa in his sleigh and provide backup defense if it should ever be needed. Here's how that started, according to Wikipedia:

In 1955, a Colorado Springs-based Sears store ran an advertisement encouraging children to call Santa Claus on a special telephone hotline. Due to a printing error, the phone number that was printed was the hotline for the Director of Operations at the Continental Air Defense (CONAD). Colonel Harry Shoup took the first Santa call on Christmas Eve of 1955 from a six-year old boy who began reciting his Christmas list. Shoup didn't find the call funny, but after asking the mother of the second caller what was happening, then realizing the mistake that occurred, he instructed his staff to give Santa's position to any child who called in.

When NORAD was organized in 1958, the phone tracking service continued. For years, NORAD has made their communications on this event available for radio broadcast, and added an internet feature in 1997. Tracking has already begun at the NORAD Tracks Santa site.

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Trash Talk: 7 Ways to Recycle Your Tech Gadgets
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Our tech gadgets’ lifespans are short. New smartphone models come out at least once a year, and it’s easy to want the latest and greatest computer, gaming console, or 4K TV—without considering what happens to our used devices.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans generated nearly 3.4 million tons of consumer electronics waste in 2014 [PDF] and that only around 40 percent of that waste was recycled—the rest went to landfills or incinerators. The U.S. is also a top destination for e-waste from other countries [PDF]—and in turn, we export much of our e-waste to places like China and India. However, more manufacturers and recycling companies are now taking steps to ensure the e-waste they collect is handled responsibly.

To do your part, don’t simply dump the old model in the trash—use one of these methods to resell or recycle.

1. DROP IT OFF AT A RETAIL STORE.

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Home and office suppliers often have in-store recycling programs that offer cash back or trade-in options. For instance, Best Buy accepts everything from appliances to car GPS units. (Not all products are accepted, though, so check before you go.) Staples offers trades on phones and tablets and will also take most other electronics, from fax machines to shredders, for recycling. Take your rechargeable batteries and cell phones to Lowes.

2. HOST AN ELECTRONICS DRIVE.

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Work with your employer or a group to put on a tech recycling event. It’s easy enough for people to bring in old TVs, audio equipment, and laptops. Then, you can collect all the items over the course of a few days or weeks and recycle them in bulk with a local organization. A good place to start: the EPA's list of certified electronics recyclers.

3. TRADE IT IN.

Several sites allow you to swap used electronics for cash. These companies refurbish, resell, or recycle old devices. To get started, enter your device’s details to receive a quote, then ship it in using a prepaid label and get money via PayPal, check, or gift card. Amazon’s Trade-In service accepts phones, tablets, speakers, and gaming equipment, provided the items are in good condition; Gazelle takes smartphones, tablets, and Apple computers; and NextWorth buys back tablets, smartphones, and wearables.

4. DOWNLOAD LETGO OR GONE.

Of course, there’s an app for that. Letgo is a free mobile marketplace for a variety of goods, including electronics, and all you have to do is take a picture of your old computer or TV, upload it, and then communicate with potential buyers within the app. Gone deals specifically with used tech, and the app does all the work, including pricing and generating shipping labels, for you—which means you don’t have to limit your sale options to your local area or meet strangers face to face.

5. SELL IT ON CRAIGSLIST, FACEBOOK, OR EBAY.

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Go old-school: List your old electronics on Craigslist, Facebook’s Marketplace, eBay, or your local classifieds. It’s not uncommon to find people who buy and refurbish gadgets for resale or to repurpose parts—or parents looking for a cheap used iPhone or laptop for their child. This way, you can negotiate the sale price and get cash on the spot. While there’s no guarantee that the buyer will dispose of your old phone or tablet responsibly once they’re done with it, selling does give the device a second (or third) life and hopefully will replace the purchase of a new product.

6. DONATE IT.

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While a new phone or gaming console seems like a no-brainer to some, there are many who can’t afford to purchase tech gadgets at all—new or used. If you aren’t able to find a recycling or donation center locally, consider one of these mail-in donation options:

Computers and peripherals: Goodwill has a partnership with Dell called Dell Reconnect. The program takes old computers—and anything you can connect to them, from keyboards to scanners—and refurbishes them for resale. Any parts that can’t be fixed are recycled. The National Cristina Foundation connects consumers to local nonprofits that need computers, and the World Computer Exchange accepts most computer equipment through a local chapter or by mail.

Cell phones: Several organizations collect old cell phones to refurbish, re-sell, and recycle in bulk and then use the funds to support their programming. The National Coalition for Domestic Violence will provide a prepaid shipping label for your phone, laptop, or gaming system, as will Lifecell —the latter purchases Lifestraws for those who lack access to clean water. Cell Phones for Soldiers takes gently used phones to provide communication services to troops and veterans.

Gaming gear: AbleGamers, which provides accessible gaming technology to people with disabilities, accepts donations of used consoles and games via mail. Gamers Outreach and Charity Nerds will take your donated gaming equipment to children who are hospitalized.

7. SEND IT BACK TO THE MANUFACTURER.

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Many companies, including Apple, Dell, HP, and IBM, offer branded recycling programs, which means they’ll take back used devices, recycle them responsibly, and often give you a gift card or a credit towards the purchase of a new device. Take your Apple products to your nearest store or create a prepaid shipping label online. IBM facilitates shipping of its branded products to preferred recyclers in certain states. Because Dell’s recycling program is in partnership with Goodwill, their take-backs aren’t limited to branded devices.

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Now's the Best Time to Buy a KitchenAid Stand Mixer
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Jeff Haynes, AFP/Getty Images

Acquiring a KitchenAid stand mixer is considered a home cook's rite of passage for a reason—while endlessly useful for baking, it's also one of the more expensive gadgets you can have on your countertop. If the stand mixer's usual $260 price tag has turned you off in the past, now's the time to reconsider adding one to your kitchen. According to Cooking Light, Target is offering the standard silver 4.5-quart KitchenAid stand mixer for a special price of $190.

The standard silver KitchenAid is the classic model. It comes with a dough hook, a flat beater, and a wire whisk that can be set to one of 10 different speeds—perfect for kneading dough or whipping cream without straining an arm muscle. And if you want to spend the money you save from the deal on even more kitchen tools, you can spring for one of the many accessories that attach to the front of the mixer, like the pasta maker, the veggie spiralizer, or the meat grinder. The standard mixer, like all of KitchenAid's countertop appliances, comes with a one-year warranty.

The silver mixer isn't the only KitchenAid product on sale through Target. The KitchenAid Ultra Power Plus mixer, which normally retails for $350, is currently available for $280. With that item, buyers will have a variety of colors to choose from, including ice blue, cobalt, and red.

Looking for an even cheaper way to upgrade your kitchen? There are plenty of game-changing cooking gadgets out there that won't drain your bank account.

[h/t Cooking Light]

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