Personal Tech Guide - InformationWeek

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Personal Tech Guide

Your guide to what's new, useful, and just plain fun.

Unplugged Digital

After promising it months ago, Kodak is showing off the latest in digital cameras: wireless. The EasyShare-One should make downloading pics a whole lot easier. If you're near your wireless network, snap a picture and beam it to a printer or E-mail it from the camera. There's plenty of what we take for granted: 4-megapixel resolution, 3-inch rotating LCD screen, 3X optical zoom, and 256 Mbytes of internal memory, enough for 1,500 images. The $600 camera will be available next month.

Kodak EasyShare-One

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iPod nano

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Nano Trumps Mini

Millions adore the iPod mini, but it has always seemed only half there. Its small hard drive doesn't store enough music, many peripherals don't work with it, and its pretty case lacks the distinctive big iPod feel. The iPod nano makes more sense. It has the same interface as other models with screens, plays music well, and shows good-looking photos. Battery life is about 14 hours. It uses flash memory, just like the iPod shuffle. As for the shuffle, with the nano at $199, time for that $99 stopgap to shuffle off into obscurity.

Robot Love

Let's get this out in the open: We love robots, in all their sci-fi impracticality. Fujitsu Frontech Ltd. and Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. have begun limited sales of their enon robot. The enon is smaller and lighter than a prototype the companies developed last year. Unlike most robots, enon can multitask. It's supposed to be able to greet people, explain objects, find its way around, transmit images, administer questionnaires, and deliver parcels up to 22 pounds.

That's all great, but can it dance? Honda's Asimo can.

Fujitsu enon robot

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Jabra BT800 Mobile Phone Wireless Headset

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Headset Heaven

Finally, a wireless headset that's simple to use AND doesn't look like an enormous goiter hanging off your ear. The functions on the Jabra BT800 Mobile Phone Wireless Headset are almost suave--buttons to answer or end a call and a blue backlit LCD display that shows caller ID. The $150 headset is sleek and light at just less than an ounce, and it operates up to 30 feet from a Bluetooth phone.

Spotting Hot-Spots

Let the ethicists decide if it's really stealing: The first digital Wi-Fi detector with an LCD display finds available wireless networks and shows essentials, such as the service set ID, encryption status, and channel. The $50 Digital Hotspotter, from Canary Wireless, even provides information about each network when more than one is present. Analog Wi-Fi detectors, by comparison, only show that a signal exists and how strong it is. No word on what it's going to cost if you're caught surfing on someone else's network.

Canary Wireless Digital Hotspotter

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The RCA Cell Docking System

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Best Of Both

Can't let go of your landline even though everyone in your house owns a cell phone? Here's a device that combines the two. The RCA Cell Docking System, made by Thomson, acts as a standalone phone and connects to a mobile phone. A digital, cordless handset lets you chose between home or cell service. The $150 device, compatible with 60 cell phones, plays different ring tones depending on the line a call comes in on. Caller ID pops up on the handset, which can be programmed to access cell-phone voice mail. Now, that's synergy.

Do They Bounce?

You probably have one for your cell phone, and now those protective rubber cases are available to keep PDA-phone combos safe, too. SkinTight cases for BlackBerry 7290/7230, BlackBerry 710T, Treo 650, Nextel 7520, and iPods make the devices easier to hold and don't interfere with your ability to hear, be heard, or use any buttons. Speck Products sells SkinTight for $35.

On-The-Go Charger

No apologies--this is a gadget just for gadget's sake. It probably recharges your cell phone slower than electricity would, but it uses sunlight, and that's worth extra credit. The $229 Voltaic Solar Backpack has three lightweight solar panels attached to a backpack that generate up to 4 watts of power, double what typical solar chargers muster. Inside the pack is a lithium ion battery pack that stores surplus power, so you can charge after dark; cheaters can plug it into a wall outlet or a car. There's no need to fiddle with the solar panels, and all devices--cell phones, cameras, PDAs, and MP3 players (but not laptops)--stay securely inside the pack. A low cell-phone battery requires four to six hours of direct sunlight to power up. An iPod needs five to six hours.

Voltaic Solar Backpack

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