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Technology Today - February 2011
by Robert Sanborn

CES 2011 The Second Look

It has been a very snowy January which means that the birds are going through the seed and suet cakes at top speed.   It also means that I had some time snowed in to wade through more of the CES mailbag and notes I took from the floor.

While I mentioned that Tablet computers were everywhere, so it was with the e-book readers.  At lower price points, you will see more of them everywhere. Even my local Borders has a bunch of them lined up to take a look at and we start to see some of them venturing into the space of the tablet machines.  One of the larger providers of e-book readers is Pocket Books, http://www.pocketbookreader.com/.  Besides what seems like a dozen models to choose from, they also have a book site at http://pda.bookland.net/ with around a quarter of a million titles.

What wasn’t cool about CES was the fact that nearly all of the hotels are charging for Wireless internet access. Even Trump Towers was charging $12.99 per day for access and many hotels now have internet kiosk set up for access at $1 per minute charged to your credit card.

More from wandering the CES show floors.

Cool stuff has to include the Zeppelin Air, a wireless speaker for your iPod from Bowers & Wilkins. At $599 when it comes out in March, it is not inexpensive but it looks really cool.

Another speaker to take a look at is the Tower from Able Planet. http://www.ableplanet.com/  You may not see it on their website yet but it is a cool tower (about two feet) of speaker for iPods and the like and only uses 70 watts of power for some incredible sound.  Around $300 when it is available.

Besides all of the what I call “Booth Bimbos” on the floor, Spike TV was all over the place recording segments. I saw their crew of five at the Cobra booth hearing about their innovation award winner. And speaking of the CES Innovation Award winners, take a look at their site and see for yourself what the people at CES thought was really cool.  http://www.cesweb.org/Awards/InnovationAwards/2011honorees.htm

One of the coolest booths had to be Audi’s.  You feel like you are standing inside a light box, you can see pictures of it from here: http://www.notcot.com/archives/2011/01/audi-at-ces-2011.php  And of course, all the cars were pretty cool as well including the Pearl Orange Lamborghini at the Kenwood booth and Monster Cable’s own chrome plated Audi.

Green Power was one of the themes of this year’s CES show and you saw it from devices powered by wind, solar, and human muscle all over the show floor.  One of my favorite booths to visit is Eton, www.etoncorp.com and see their lineup of solar and hand crank power devices.  One of the early safety devices we got several years ago was their American Red Cross recycle power emergency radio. This year they have the usual run of radios but also some with a solar power twist like their Scorpion, a solar powered all weather portable radio and the Raptor, a solar charger with all-terrain guidance features like compass, altimeter, barometer, radio, chronograph, and you get the idea; all for the hiker on the go.

Goal Zero, www.goalzero.com is another on the go solar panel company with a different take in that their idea is to charge a battery that will power your electronic devices in the wild. From your pocket, backpack, or even remote cabin, these portable panels will charge in most any kind of weather to keep everything from a cell phone to digital camera to a refrigerator going. The kits start at $139 and they have a very wide range of accessories to power any device you have, anywhere you want to go.

If you want an alternative to those giant wind mills popping up everywhere, then take a look at Urban Green Energy, http://www.urbangreenenergy.com/, who has a philosophy of “Any way the wind blows” with their very unique wind mills. Their specialty is what they call vertical axis wind turbines and you have to see them to understand. For homes and industry, they even have a model that is a stand alone street lamp.

I mentioned this one earlier but this is a good place to include them again. I-sockets, www.i-sockets.com make a line of power strips that will tell you how much energy any of the devices plugged into them pulls. The idea here is that you can better manage your electric use when you know what how much is being used by each device and that is where the wall plugged unit and its internet connection come into play. Plug in your electronics, and then see how much they use and where you can save.

Along these lines has been one of my favorite power protection devices from Monster Cable. I plug my Television into the master control outlet on the Monster Green Power Bar and the VCR, DVD Player, game machine, and what ever else into the other plugs and when you turn off the TV, all the other devices are powered off automatically.  You can see them here: http://www.monstercable.com/power/greenpower.asp

The “Best of CES”, well, according to Cnet, and they did have a ton of people covering the show, is worth taking a look at.  You can see their awards video (not too long) at: http://ces.cnet.com/best-of-ces/ and if you watch the awards, you may wonder what all the fuss was about. Some cool things and some not so cool. Their best of show was the Motorola Xoom, tablet computer. I missed it. Their  “People’s Choice Award” went to the Razer Switchblade, I missed that too, though it didn’t actually win in any category.  In fact, of 13 different category award winning choices, I missed 8 of them.  So, take a look at the award show yourself and see if I should have been paying more attention.

Intel’s “Sandy Bridge” platform did win the category of Personal Computers and Laptops from CES and I did go to their 7: am press event at the show.  Yes, it was at 7: am, and so as you can see, I was really working this show. What was interesting about the event was that they had three different entertainers to keep us press folks occupied and they had a ton of people at the booth showing off products from a lot of different vendors that take advantage of the Intel processors and equipment. The big news was that “Sandy Bridge” is the foundation of a whole new set of processors from Intel that offer better performance and security and they did not mention it once at the press event.  Go figure. The entertainment was cool though.

One of the products in the Intel Booth was the Cisco ūmi, http://home.cisco.com/en-us/telepresence/umi/ a really cool and severe upgrade to chatting via Skype. You use your high definition Television and the Cisco ūmi device to have full high definition conferencing. Of course, you need a high speed broadband connection but the demo they showed of a person sitting in his living room in LA was incredibly impressive. All in high definition, no video lag, no skips, and excellent audio. The box is $599 and you need their connection service which is a pricy $265 a year. This is the future of what Skype should really be.

Click Free has taken the home backup solution another step forward with their C2N home backup wireless device.  http://www.clickfree.com/products_c2n.php  It is a traditional Click Free backup unit that easily automatically backs up your desktop or notebook computer.  The catch here is that your computer must be connected wirelessly. If it is, once the C2N wireless backup unit is hard connected and then removed, as long as it has power, it will still stay connected to your computer and back it up. The great news is that connect it to a couple of other wireless computers and then it will back them all up wirelessly.

Escort has finally combined a radar detector and navigation system into a single unit they call the Passport IQ, http://www.escortradar.com/iq/.  With a very bright 5 inch LCD screen, it not only covers all the radar bands but gives you Navteq navigation with the GPS system and contains a database of red light and fixed position speed cameras from all over the country. Something new with these units is the auto-learn feature that tags and remembers locations of false alerts. Plug the system to your computer and you can download all the latest navigation and speed trap databases from their website. It will cost you around $650 when available.  Really, the ultimate in detectors.

If you suffer problems of overheating notebooks and netbooks, look at the heat shifting technology from Thermapak. I saw them last year and am impressed with how well it does a job of keeping the notebook from overheating. Now they have new lines for netbooks and iPads as well as one for using your notebook on your lap. www.thermapak.com

How about some really cool designs for your computer? Take a look at Jeffery Stephenson Designs. I catch him each year at Piero’s and his designs are worth looking at.  What he does with wood, computer parts, and ingenuity are outstanding. Go take a look.  http://slipperyskip.com

I know there are a ton of computer and phone bags out there but it always seems to me that Golla has the edge on the design of them. You will never accuse them of dull looking bags whether it be for your smart phone or camera. Versatile, functional, well built, and cool looking, they have something for everyone. You find them at Best Buy and Target. www.golla.com

Mini Review – Seal Shield

One company I found on the show floor that peaked my interest was Seal Shield. What they make is a line of keyboards that are ideal for heavy medical and industrial use but what attracted me to it was the small mini all in one unit that could be used anywhere.   It is very solid and well built completely encased in silicone so it is dishwasher safe and useable in any kind of weather or condition. I first thought of my friend Bob who takes his notebook to the race track and is constantly bouncing back between the computer and the cars. Let this keyboard take the abuse and save the notebook.

This unit is called the Seal Pup Silicone Mini All in One. It sells for around $90 at NewEgg.com or $100, directly from the company, Seal Shield, www.sealshield.com.  It is a USB attached keyboard mouse combination unit in a very compact at about 9 inches wide by 6 inches deep.  The keyboard is well laid out with all the keys you will need for any application. There is a numeric keypad inscribed like many of the notebook keyboards are.  Also built in is a pointing mouse, similar to the old IBM Thinkpad nubs but set below the space bar where a touchpad might reside. It has the left and right mouse buttons beside it and my first contact with using that was difficult as it didn’t seem to want to track very well. One thing I like about this is the led lights for the Num, Cap, and SRL keys, unfortunately, the Num lock is on by default.  Typing on the other hand is a bit difficult. There is no nub on the home keys (F & J) for touch typists and for a touch typist, the keys are just too close together but when I concentrate on the keyboard and the letters, it works just fine because you do get a nice feedback from hitting the keys.

The cable that it comes with is short (6 inch) but it comes with a heavy duty rubber cover so that when it comes time for industrial cleaning of the keyboard, the USB connector will be well shielded.   My only quibble there is that I think it should have its own cover or a flap, especially in difficult environments. They also include a five foot gold plated extension cable that again, is very well sealed to the end that connects to the keyboard, giving it an industrial strength seal to keep moisture out of the connector.

The pointing device was difficult to use because it did not seem to track very well at all and after a bit, I just gave up and plugged in a USB mouse.  I am impressed with the durability of the keyboard and see that they have a wide range of keyboards and mice available.  This is one keyboard that you can easily throw in a backpack or traveling bag and not worry at all about it coming out working.

 Robert Sanborn




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