If you’re just striking out on your own, or you’ve never had to make repairs for yourself before, finding the tools you need can be intimidating. Make it easier by grabbing one of these all-in-one kits.

The tool kits below are inexpensive, at least in relative terms—buying all of the tools inside them individually would cost many times the price of the kit. They’re not world-class tools like you’d find in a mechanic’s garage or on a handyman’s belt, but they’re more than capable of handling small home repairs or furniture assembly. Odds are that if the job you’re doing can be covered by a five-minute YouTube video, the tools below will suffice. If not, they’re great places to start fro a more complete collection of hardware without spending a fortune.

The Best Small Kit: Cartman 136-piece Tool Set ($21)

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For those in small homes or just looking for an inexpensive kit to grab for quick jobs, this Cartman package will do nicely. It doesn’t include anything particularly high-end, but the compact, fold-out case covers all the basics for easy home and appliance repair.

In addition to a bit driver and a smaller set of screwdrivers for precision work, the kit includes a tape measure, adjustable wrench, and level, which aren’t necessarily a given in anything under thirty bucks. The package even includes a few torx bits and a some nails and screws, if you’re buying for something you need to take care of right away.

The Best Large Kit: Stanley 170-piece Mixed Tool Set ($85)

stanley, tool kit, tool set, all in one,

If you want something that’s a seriously good start to a more extensive collection of tools, check out this Stanley collection. 170 pieces cover just about everything you’ll need short of full power tools.

A huge selection of bits, ratchets, L-keys, and wrenches should allow you to assemble or disassemble almost anything, and large and small full screwdrivers in Philips and flathead drivers are great for quick jobs. The package includes a 16-inch tape measure and a utility knife, but is notably missing a hammer—add a solid one and you’re good to go for almost anything.

The Best All-In-One Tool Bag: WorkPro 156-piece Home Repair Tool Set ($60)

workpro, tool bag, tool set, all in one

The tool kits above include molded plastic cases for every single piece, but perhaps you’re hoping to start a more extensive tool collection and need room to grow. If that’s the case, this WorkPro collection is a great place to start, including a wide selection of basic tools and a thick nylon bag to carry them around.

It includes all of the standard tools in the Cartman collection above, plus a set of locking pliers, a utility knife, and a small saw. The bag has plenty of room for any tools you might want to add, up to and including a small drill, with easy-to-access pockets on the exterior. WorkPro backs all of them with a lifetime warranty.

The Best Power Tool Kit: Black & Decker Drill, Saw, and Work Light Kit ($130)

black and decker, tool kit, power tools, drill, circular saw, jigsaw, reciprocating saw, work light, 20v

Power tools can get expensive quickly, and one of the more frustrating aspect is getting them, well, power. If you’re looking to start a collection of tools, we recommend picking a brand and sticking to it for chargers and batteries. This Black & Decker collection includes an impressive 20-volt drill, a small jigsaw and circular saw, and a work light for $130—a price you’d be hard-pressed to find if you bought these tools separately.

It also includes two standardized 20-volt batteries and a charger, which are interchangeable between all four tools (and any other cordless Black and Decker tools you might want to add on later). When you consider that the price of two of the Black and Decker batteries you get with the kit is $60, the whole thing starts to look like an even better deal.

The Best Electronics Repair Kit: iFixIt Pro Tech Toolkit ($65)

ifixit, took kit, repair kit, all in one,

If your specific needs are much smaller, in a very literal way, you might be looking to repair some electronics. And what’s harder than the actual repair on modern gadgets like phones, laptops, and tablets is actually getting the darn things open.

This toolkit sold by iFixIt (an excellent place to find tech hardware repair guides) covers both angles, including a collection of 64 tiny standard, hex, and torx drivers, precision tweezers and pry bars, spudgers and other opening tools, and even an anti-static bracelet and a magnetic prod to retrieve dropped screws. Throw in a set of reading glasses for precision work and you’re ready to open any gadget…but you might want to check an iFixIt guide first.

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Republican lawmakers still believe tech companies are biased against conservatives — and it doesn’t look as though that’s going to change anytime soon.

A number of politicians accused Google of bias in its search results during a hearing with CEO Sundar Pichai on Tuesday. The main argument from some members of the House Judiciary Committee focused on the fact that a lot of Google employees are liberal, which is common among Silicon Valley tech companies.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, a republican from Florida, said that there are some Google employees who chat in a group thread about “resisting” President Trump and was confused why Pichai hasn’t conducted an investigation into employees’ political leanings.

Rep. Louie Gohmert, another republican from Texas, brought up a video, published by Breitbart in September, that showed Google executives openly discussing President Trump’s surprising 2016 victory and how it upset a lot of Google employees. “You run off conservatives and you embrace liberals,” Gohmert said.

These accusations of bias have been thrown around for years and aren’t specific to Google. Facebook and Twitter have also been accused of suppressing conservative news and opinions. There have already been multiple hearings with representatives from these companies this year where those accusations were discussed.

Tuesday’s hearing didn’t do anything to put that conversation to bed. A lot of bias accusations from lawmakers have stemmed from personal experiences, or testimonials from conservative commentators who have been suspended or banned from using these platforms for violating the rules. (The most famous of those, Infowars’ Alex Jones, was actually in attendance on Tuesday.)

Gaetz brought up a Wall Street Journal story from September that found some Google employees discussed boosting some “pro-immigration” resources around the time of Trump’s travel ban in early 2017. Google claims the ideas were never implemented. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey once said that the company was so liberal that conservative employees didn’t feel safe speaking out.

Stories like those have supported the idea that these companies are biased, but the lack of hard evidence or statistics means that the conversations around this topic routinely go the same way they went on Tuesday: Republican lawmakers claim that tech employees are biased, which means the systems they build are biased. Tech companies claim that the systems are not biased. Democratic lawmakers think the whole thing is a big waste of time and distracts from more pressing issues.

When asked Tuesday if he thought Google was biased, Pichai answered: “No, not in our approach,” an apparent acknowledgment that employees might be biased but that the company is not.

The conversation didn’t progress at all on Tuesday. If anything, Gaetz would like to keep the discussion going, and asked Google to conduct an investigation.

“I would strongly suggest that one of the crisis response tools that you use is an investigation into the discourse of your employees on resisting the Trump presidency, resisting the Trump agenda, and then smothering some of the conservative outlets that seek to amplify that content,” he said.

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Two years after its launch, Microsoft Teams is outpacing team chat rival Slack – largely thanks to Teams’ free availability as part of Office 365 subscriptions. That’s according to a survey of 900 IT decision makers in North America and Europe conducted by Spiceworks. 

The results indicate that Teams is now the second most popular business chat app and is used by 21% of respondents, up from 3% in a similar Spiceworks survey in 2016. That ranks it ahead of third-place Slack, the popular standalone team chat tool in use by 15% of businesses polled. (That represents a slight increase from 13% in 2016.)

The most popular tool is another Microsoft app, Skype for Business. It’s used by 44% of surveyed businesses, up from 36% two years ago. Another rival, Google Hangouts (now Google Hangouts Chat), meanwhile, saw use drop to 11%, from 16% two years ago. Facebook’s Workplace remained at 1%, while stats for Cisco’s Webex Teams (formerly Cisco Spark) were not provided. 

Furthermore, the Spiceworks report claims that Teams is set for the fastest growth of all business chat apps over the next two years. The survey indicates that 41% of respondents expect to use Teams by 2020, compared to 18% for Slack. 

Credit for Microsoft Teams’ growth lies in its availability within Office 365 subscriptions. The office productivity suite is used by 155 million businesses worldwide, thus putting Teams in the hands of a massive audience. 

“The rise in use of Microsoft Teams is likely influenced by the fact that it’s available at no additional cost to Office 365 users,” Spiceworks wrote in a company blog post. “And considering more than half of businesses use Office 365, it’s enticing organizations to give Teams a try.” 

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Over the last year or so, wireless providers all over the world have put plans in motion to begin phased rollouts of the next-generation of wireless connectivity known as 5G. The technology, offers vast gains in throughput, data latency, and capacity compared to current wireless networks. It is expected to finally unleash the true potential of the IoT. It will enable the scaling of a whole host of technologies such as autonomous vehicles. The transition to 5G however, may not go as smoothly as most industry watchers hope. Will uncertainty in the US 5G deployments affect IoT development?

The problem with the adoption of 5G networks into mainstream use is mostly an economic one.

Estimates indicate that the wireless industry as a whole, from manufacturers to network operators, will need to spend around $200 billion a year to make broad-coverage 5G networks a reality, with little in the way of public investments to help them along.

For anyone familiar with the major wireless carriers, particularly in the United States, that could spell trouble. Just a cursory examination of recent history may provide clues to what’s likely to come next for 5G development, and it may come to follow a path that looks very much like the last generation of wireless technology. Here’s a look at what’s going on, and how it may impact the IoT industry at large.

A Race to the Starting Line

For insight into where 5G networks in the United States may be heading, it’s instructive to take a look at how the previous standard, 4G networks, came into being.

In the United States, the story of 4G is a complex one; full of conjecture and claims of outright misrepresentation. As it is today with 5G, wireless carriers struggled with the costs involved in building out nationwide 4G networks, and as a result – many simply didn’t.

Instead, wireless carriers engaged in a race to deploy a fragmented mixture of technologies to improve speeds and relied on marketing efforts to declare themselves the owners of the nation’s first 4G network. T-Mobile, one of the earliest to lay claim to the title, actually relied on an HSPA+ network. That is nothing more than an upgrade to their existing 3G technology.

Meanwhile, Sprint-Nextel turned to WiMax, which while an upgrade over 3G, was still only capable of less than one-fifth of the throughput of a true 4G network.

The biggest and most well-known of the carriers at the time, Verizon, instead placed their bet on what they called 4G LTE. The network, as originally constituted, was closer to a true 4G network than its competitors, but was still only capable of half of the true 4G speeds, even under perfect conditions.

As it turned out, that didn’t matter much, because Verizon’s rush to build out the system resulted in numerous outages and service issues, almost from day one.

A True Long-Term Evolution

5G Network Internet Mobile Wireless Business concept.
Image credit: Sikov / Adobe stock photos

Fast forward to 2016, a full six years after USA carriers began promoting their 4G networks, and the field had narrowed with regards to technology.

By then, the major carriers had all shifted to LTE as the underpinnings of their nationwide networks, but even then, none had lived up to the true 4G specifications. It was only when LTE technology reached its tenth iteration, known as LTE Advanced, that it finally became capable of delivering 4G performance in real-world applications.

Even today, that level of service isn’t available across large swaths of the country, despite steady progress towards meeting that goal.

There are reasons why this is all so important when forecasting how, or even when, 5G service will become available. It appears that wireless carriers are already pushing the limits of 4G LTE technology by including many of the technical advances that will make 5G networks possible.

For example, today’s 4G LTE networks already use techniques like carrier aggregation, 4X4 MIMO, and 256QAM. That’s the real reason that those networks have finally been able to live up to the existing 4G standards, after over a decade of development.

A Repeat of History

All of the recent developments in LTE technology have already started to blur the lines between existing wireless networks and their supposed successor, 5G. If history is any guide, that’s no accident. So far, there is every indication that the major wireless carriers intend to follow a similar path towards deployment of their next-generation wireless networks.

There’s little reason to believe they’ll show any restraint when touting their achievements.

For evidence, look no further than Verizon’s trial rollout of wireless 5G broadband home internet service, which is already live in four US cities. The service offers average download speeds of 300 Mbps, with the ability to burst at speeds up to 1 Gbps. This is more than enough to give many fixed broadband solutions a run for their money. There is, of course, a pretty big caveat.

Verizon, true to form, has built their 5G test network (which is the backbone of the new home service) using a specification that they’re calling 5G TF.

It’s a proprietary standard that Verizon co-developed with industry partners in an attempt to get the jump on its competitors in the saturated US market. The catch is that all of the equipment that Verizon is using to deliver their new service won’t be compatible with the real 5G specification, which is known as 5G NR, when it eventually becomes available.

The Risk of Fragmentation

For the wireless industry, the co-existence of the two 5G standards isn’t a good sign.

Although Verizon claims that they will replace their 5G TF equipment with 5G NR as soon as possible (and has announced plans to do so), it’s impossible to tell how market forces may impact the speed with which they act on it.

From a purely financial perspective, if Verizon’s gamble pays off and proves to be a lucrative new revenue stream, there’s really no telling how much larger their test network will grow while the rest of the industry begins to adopt the true 5G NR standard.

There’s also no way to know how long rival carriers are going to wait on the sidelines, watching as Verizon gets an early head start as the 5G network of choice. That, in part, pushed the 3GPP standards group that’s responsible for 5G NR to hurry their work and adopt a final specification in June.

They did so to prevent the very same kind of fragmentation that slowed the spread of 4G technologies over the past decade, which Verizon (and others) had played a similar role in causing.

5G and the IoT Industry

5G network wireless systems and internet of things with abstract connected dots wireless communication network on circuit diagram background.
Image credit: JYPIX / Adobe stock photos

The result of all of this jockeying for position, of course, is of great consequence for the IoT industry, among others.

That’s because the shape and consistency of any eventual worldwide rollout will carry consequences for interoperability, portability, and design of IoT devices in the near term, as well as in the future. The good news for the IoT industry is that the 3GPP has already factored the current uncertainty into the completed 5G NR standard. They’ve done so by ensuring interoperability with the existing NB-IoT and LTE-M technologies that power many of today’s cellular IoT devices.

That’s good news for IoT companies as they look towards designing the next generation of devices over the next few years.

It means that developments in the industry can continue without interruption, as the low-power wide-area technologies in use today will continue to be viable for the duration of the 5G era. The stability the 3GPP’s decision lends to the IoT industry will, as much as the advance of 5G networks themselves. These enable the growth of IoT device adoption that experts have predicted to occur in the coming decades.

The Bottom Line

As of now, there’s no reliable estimate of when the actual real, functional 5G networks will be available within the United States.

For consumers, it’s looking likely that the major wireless carriers will begin rolling out 5G networks within the next year, if in name only. If history is any guide, rank-and-file mobile users won’t notice anything beyond increasing speeds on their devices, and few will question the nomenclature.

The only real downside to that is the fact that consumer sentiment may have the same effect on the adoption of true 5G technologies, which is to say that it will provide cover for any delays that occur along the way.

For the IoT however, it looks like it will be full speed ahead for building all of the devices that will come to power a whole new generation of smart cities and connected technologies in the coming years.

They will be able to do so secure in the knowledge that they’ll be making use of wireless standards that won’t become obsolete as existing LTE networks reach end-of-life and give way to 5G NR deployments. This may that take far longer than the wireless industry would have us believe.

The net result is that, for now, the IoT revolution can continue to proceed apace, limited only by the imagination and ingenuity of those with the vision to turn their ideas into a reality.

Andrej Kovacevic

Andrej is a dedicated writer and digital evangelist. He is pursuing an ongoing mission to share the benefits of his years of hard-won expertise with business leaders and marketing professionals everywhere. He is a contributor to a wide range of technology-focused publications, where he may be found discussing everything from neural networks and natural language processing to the latest in smart home IoT devices. If there’s a new and exciting technology, there’s a good chance Andrej is writing about it somewhere out there.

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