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Technology Today January 2009
From the CES Mailbag

by Robert Sanborn.

This was a show to my liking. It was smaller and some of the really big names were missing from the show floor but you know, it was still 40 miles of aisles to walk and thousands of products to see, and probably 125,000 people to get around. I don’t even try to catch everything but just want to see things that will hopefully, make life easier for us dealing with Windows.  And speaking of Windows 7, it will be here before you know it. I went to Microsoft’s beta site and they said that they will let two and a half million people download the beta. They are talking late summer for the release of the product. With the end of the availability of Windows XP early this year, those of you looking to buy a new computer this summer will now have to put up with Vista.

The First Impressions

From LG came a dual microphone PDA Cell phone that has one microphone where it should normally be for speaking on the phone, and the other on the opposite side of the phone to listen for the noise outside so that it can use it to use noise cancelling technology to give you a much quieter conversation. In other words, you can be in the middle of a busy street and the person you are talking to thinks you are inside a building. Really cool demo. Also from LG, a watch phone that looks like a watch, works like a cell phone.

Samsung’s HMX-H106 Camcorder is a high definition camcorder that can store 12 hours of HD footage internally on 64Gigabytes of solid state memory. Light, fast, cool looking and it connects to your TV via an HDMI cable. Not cheap, about $1900.

Golla is a maker of bags for notebooks, backpacks, mp3 players, and even cell phones based in Finland. What struck me immediately was the stark white carpet on the floor of their booth and the splash of colors on the bags on the walls. I got one of the notebook sleeves and it is stylish, well constructed, and well thought out. It is a permanent part of my travel collection. I was really impressed with their laptop bags. www.golla.com. Available at Target and Best Buy.

Lenspen is another product that I look for every year because they have some of the coolest products for cleaning everything from camera lens to digital screens. If you don’t have a Lenspen for your camera, you simply just got to get one. What they were showing off at CES was their new SensorKlear loupe which allows you to actually see the sensor you are cleaning on your digital camera. This is for the higher end cameras that have changeable lenses and what he showed me was just awesome that you wonder what took so long to put one together. www.lenspen.com.

For the traveler, keeping your computer free from attacks is one of the toughest things you can do and a different approach comes from Yoggie, an Israeli company that thinks they have the solution. The Yoggie Gatekeeper is a USB stick that you plug into the notebook and the software built in puts hooks into the notebook to keep it protected by blocking all the internet threats before they even have a chance of getting into your computer. It isolates your computer by having all traffic go through it. They also make a version that is a PC ExpressCard so you can install it and forget it so look for a review of that later. www.yoggie.com

Changes in Technology

According to LG, 64% of consumers use their cell phone as their primary phone.  You are also going to see more wind and solar power chargers, some are pretty cool now, most need to wait another year.

All of the networking companies (Netgear, D-Link, Linksys, etc.) are coming out with boxes that integrate your home computers, storage units, and theater systems into single working entities to allow you to watch whatever you want on whatever box you have.

For networking, Netgear has come out with one of the neatest and most practical devices I have seen. It is a 3G Mobile Broadband Router, model MBR624GU, which you plug into it a 3G USB modem from your cell phone company, and it creates a WiFi hotspot for you literally on the fly if you happen to be in a motor home traveling along the highway.  How about creating a 9 Terrabyte storage unit for all of your media, Netgear has their Ready NetPro box available for you. www.netgear.com

Last year, Casio showed off a new technology in digital cameras that was really cool, the ability to burst capture photographs at very high speed. How this works is normally when you take a picture of an action shot, your picture is usually a few steps behind what you really wanted to capture. With the burst mode, the camera takes about 60 images before and after when you think you hit the shutter so you can find that perfect image you always wanted. Look at their high speed Exilim models EX-F1, EX-FH20, and the EX-FS10.  What they showed off this year besides these cameras is a technology that merges video into still images all in the camera.


Televisions were everywhere at CES and thin is in. it won’t be long before we get panels that you just unroll to watch and then roll up again to put out of the way.  They are going green in a bigger way, pushing Blue Ray now that we don’t have HDVD to push around, and are pushing the technology for better and faster processing of the images. Besides, the SuperBowl is around the corner and what better reason to buy a new TV than that? Companies like LG are looking into wireless High Definition and even a wireless HDMI connection between your cable box or receiver and your TV. Better sound is coming from flat panel speakers from companies like NXT, and while a big focus today is on the number of pixels or scan lines like 1080p, what will soon address the problem of motion in videos at such high resolutions will be boosting the speed of the refresh rate to 240Hz which is four times what current LCD and plasma units provide.

Depending on who you are talking to, LED is going to be the next big enhancement for LCD televisions. Some companies are already using LED lighting to enhance the backlighting of the TV (like the Sharp Aquos) while others are pushing it directly to a fully working LED television. See LG and Sony. The other part of that technology is OLED for Organic Light Emitting Diode which interesting enough came from Kodak back in the 1970s.

Sharp is still the maker of the world’s largest LCD TV at 108 inches. They are coming out with some new technologies to allow the screen to adjust to not only surrounding light but also surrounding sound. You also see more and more internet content added to the television experience.  More HDMI connections for devices, an optical picture controller, and they are pushing the 120Hz refresh technology as well.

Samsung is pushing their internet TV connection with partnerships with companies like Yahoo to give you what they call their “cinematic internet”.  The Yahoo Widget engine will be on all the new Samsung devices and they also have the wireless connectivity so with the single TV remote, you can watch TV, browse internet content and videos and the like. One other thing they are doing is developing a unified interface cross all their product lines to make it easier to use their cameras, TVs, video players, and everything in between.

Watching a show in High Definition can be quite a treat but of course, it depends on the show. I get no real excitement out of seeing my local newscast in HD but watching a travelogue or nature show, it really makes you feel like you are part of the scene. Probably that is the allure of watching sporting events in HD so you feel you are on the sidelines and I caught a concert in HD the other night that visually, was quite a cut above the normal so I find my HD viewing much more enjoyable. Having said that, sitting in on the Blue Ray press conference, you almost get the impression that there is no recession with them telling us that there are now over 1100 Blue Ray titles available today and the growth in Blue Ray Discs (BD) are far outpacing the adoption of the DVD just a few years ago. 

So when looking for that new BD player for either your home theater or computer, you will have a ton of options from simple players to recorders and with prices to match. Today, they are claiming 10+ million players shipped and that also includes the Play Station 3 which comes with a BD player so your games can be in high definition as well.

The other add on for Blue Ray is the BD-Live which connects your home theater to the internet to get added content. Yet another option to keep you planted in the living room in front of the television but don’t be surprised if the downloaded content is not as good a quality as you get from your Blue Ray Disc. Just not enough bandwidth.

So, what about all the hundreds of DVDs you already have you ask? There is a solution there as well. Get an upconverter DVD player and play them on your new 1080p flat screen TV and you will be very pleasantly surprised at the quality improvement in the image.

Green Is In!

All of the big name manufacturers, Panasonic, Sony, Samsung, Sharp, Casio, and a host of others are touting how green their manufacturing facilities are and how they are making it easier for all of us to recycle the old unwanted electronics, but you know, despite the talk, it is still not that easy for consumers to get rid of this stuff.  Manufacturing waste accounts for a very large percentage of waste that needs recycling so this is really good news on that front but us home users are still left scrambling.

Fuji has come out with their EnviroMAX battery line, www.greenfuji.com, that is free from Cadmium, Mercury, and PVC Plastic and are the first landfill safe batteries on the market. They are even packaged with recyclable materials.  Got me a sample to use in my headphones and they work great.


I got excited about the Golla bags because they were cool to look at. ThermaPAK intends to keep that notebook you have cool. They were a CES 2009 design and engineering innovations winner with their interesting technology to keep your notebook cooler. As you know, using a laptop computer on your laptop is one of the worst places to put it because of the problem of blocking the cooling vents and fans on the bottom of the computer. ThermaPAK uses a HeatShift technology with phase changing materials that use passive heat dissipation to absorb and get rid of the heat. According to the notes, you can see around a 10 degree F temperature drop using the ThermaPAK. The material actually turns from a crystalline state to a gel as the pad absorbs the heat and moves it away from the computer. When it cools, it goes back to a solid state. No power, no noise, no fans, easy to carry and better still, using the pad on your notebook on your lap, keeps the heat away from you. You can get it in the 13, 15, or 17 inch sizes for whatever notebook you have. The 15 inch bag and pad are around $56 and the pad alone is $34 from www.amazon.com.

Robert Sanborn is a technology analyst for PC Lifeline. You can reach him through the net at robert@pcll.com



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