Gizmorama Unplugged

David Goldman with his son Sean. Family Photo

So, we're throwing the power cords away and going on the road. Here is a handful of handy handhelds that will free you to go anywhere digitally. I can't wait till you see my foldable cloth keyboard for my Palm! And these wireless cards make me want to burn my office and with the GPS watch I can chart my time and distance as I flee the flames from the cords I gaily leave behind! (Just kidding now, my way-too-serious CBS News executives who worry about these things.) And while I'm away, I can be listening to the latest news or even polka music on the XM satellite radio anywhere I roam.

Sierrra Wireless Aircard 555
If you want to surf the web from your laptop while on the road, what are you to do? Get a wireless pc card of course. The problem is that standard wireless pc cards transmit at 19.2 Kb or about a third of what you get at the dialup modems. This new wireless card operates on a different wireless network: call it “almost 3G" (or 3rd generation for short). The Aircard 555 is smokin’ with top speeds of 120 kb... or, with average speeds comparable to your dial-up modem at home. For a portable, this is not bad. The wireless Aircard works on laptops, PDAs, etc. Plus, and this is cool, it has a jack so you can connect a headset to make cell phone calls as well. The card, made by Sierra Wireless, costs $299 and the monthly service, by Verizon, is about $30 a month plus usage fees.)

3COM’s Airconnect Wireless Lan Card
If you are near a wireless hub, you can surf the web at rocketing speed, Apple calls their version of these wireless LAN cards "Airport"; the PC world calls this "WIFI"; but its given name is “802.11B”... and what it means is 11 megabits-per-second of wireless connectivity (about as fast as your office LAN). In some cities, like San Francisco, whole communities are in effect wirelessly wired with wireless hubs all over the place. Starbucks, airports, colleges and universities, and major companies are putting in these astounding networks. Such technology frees employees with their laptops to work on-line wherever they want to. With such fast connectivity, it's a wonder why anyone considers the measly Bluetooth technology at 1 megabit-per-second viable. (Bluetooth technology has a mere 30 foot range. WIFI, on the other hand, has at least 150 foot range... at ten times the speed. Some complain the 802.11 standard is not secure, but I'm so happy to surf wirelessly over this soon-to-be-ubiquitous system I frankly could care less. The wireless lan card from 3Com costs about $80 and hubs are available as inexpensively as $100.

Timex Speed and Distance Watch
If you want a "GPS Watch" that finally makes sense, Timex has teamed up with Garmin (the GPS people) to make the Speed and Distance watch. They realized that having a watch with a GPS receiver inside would make it furiously expensive and heavy. Plus, it wouldn't receive the global positioning satellite data very well. So they made a watch “set” in two pieces: the watch part and the larger GPS part. What Timex understood was that only sometimes you would need to track your speed and distance (like when running, jogging, bike riding, etc.) When you didn't need that, you take the GPS unit off. Because they built it this way, the darn thing works. And it does so for a lot less than other GPS watches we have shown you in the past. This 100-lap version will be available this month and costs a mere $225. Even in urban settings, we found the watch acquired the GPS signal and easily tracked speed and distance. Sometimes tall buildings interrupted our acquiring the GPS signal, but the watch is designed to compensate for these “dead-zones.” What it doesn’t do, on a GPS watch, is show you where you are by featuring a map display. That’s ok, because unlike other GPS watches, this one does what it says it will do.

XM Satellite Radio Tuner
The cool thing about satellite radio is you can't escape it.... anywhere you go, there it is. About 500 channels of everything you could possibly want on radio, served up in easy to access format. No switching stations as you go from town to town, surfing for content that may or may not be there. For the long-distance road warrior, satellite radio is a godsend. The radios are ingeniously simple, considering how much content you get. Service costs about $10 a month and the units sell for about $299. My pet peeve is that National Public Radio broadcasts are not yet on XM radio… because of a deal public radio made years ago with competitor Sirius. Hopefully, that will soon change.

Logitech KeyCase
When Logitech first gave me this flexible, smart, fabric and foldable keyboard, I begged them to let me show it right away. Well, they said I could show it to my friends, and you can’t believe how many friends I showed this to. I made friends on the subway, in elevators, on the street, all floored by this easy way to input data into my Palm handheld. Ok, maybe they weren’t as excited as I was. But, you have to admit, once they saw how simple this protective case transformed into a fully functional keyboard, they wanted to know where to buy one. Well, this eye-popper sells for $99, available from the smart folks at Logitech.

By Daniel Dubno
  • Dan Dubno

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