Reviewing high-tech gadgets is almost a dream job. I mean, you get to open all the coolest new stuff, and you get play with it.
Then you get to pack it all up and ship it back.
But it's good experience. If anyone asks you, "What should I get my little gadget-freak for Christmas?" you'll have an answer.
Sony DSC-U60 Cyber-shot U Digital Camera
From the looks of things, everyone in America now either has a digital camera or will be getting one for Christmas.
A digital camera you can be pretty sure they don't already have is Sony's U60. It's small enough for a pants pocket, it's simple enough even for a kid, and it takes two-megapixel pictures, good for enlargements up to about 5 x 7. It is priced at about $200.
And it even works under water.
Sandisk Photo Viewer
And when you get back from the beach, the ski slope or the bathtub, you can show off your photographic masterpieces on the television with the Sandisk Photo Viewer, which costs about $50. They can hold the memory cards from almost any digital camera model.
Then you can collapse onto the couch, and use the remote control to conduct a slide show. It's just like family slides shows in the golden days -- just without the projector, the screen and the slides.
It's really fun at parties, because you can take the pictures and then show them while the party is still going on.
Using the remote control, you can un-rotate pictures, zoom in or out and delete the pictures of memories you'd rather not remember.
Harmony Remote Control
Of course, true gadget freaks probably have too many remote controls already. A universal remote from Harmony Family Remote is an item even the babysitter can master.
You do have to program the $150 gadget before you can use it. But in this case, it's not the kind of programming that would get you hired at Microsoft. You just go to Harmonyremote.com , and choose your gear from a list. The Web site does all the programming for you.
After that, all you have to do is press buttons called, "Watch a DVD" or "Listen to Music." The remote turns the right pieces of equipment on or off, and sets everything to the right inputs.
The only thing left to do is find something to do with all the old remotes.
HP Scanjet 4670
Of course, nobody spends all their time in front of the television -- I hope. You wouldn't want to neglect your computer!
You've never seen a scanner like the one from HP. It's nothing but a sheet of glass, which makes it much easier to scan a newspaper, a book, or somebody's face. (Those of you with fifth-graders, you know what I'm talking about.)
The $130 machine comes with software that lets you stitch together several scans, which is handy if that newspaper, book or face you're trying to capture is really, really big.
Iomega Flash Drive
Once you're done scanning, or doing any other kind of work, how can you carry your files around with you?
You could burn a CD -- if you don't mind looking like the nerd from Technical Services.
You could put it on a floppy disk -- if you still live in 1995.
Or, you can put the files on a flash drive. It's basically a big memory chip in a keychain.
The one from Iomega holds a whole gigabyte of data. It's about $300, although flash drives are much less expensive in smaller capacities.
Anyway, the beauty of the little guys is that they work on Macs or Windows, anywhere you go. They don't require any software, drivers or technical ability. You just plug it into the USB jack, and start copying files onto it.
And what's really amazing: The whole thing weighs only three ounces, no matter how much stuff you copy onto it.
Headphones For Silence
Bose QuietComfort 2 headphones
And speaking of moving around, the Bose Quiet Comfort 2 headphones have noise-canceling circuitry inside. Little tiny microphones listen to the roar around you, and inside, the headphones broadcast exactly the opposite signal, so the sound waves cancel each other out. You hear only a fraction of the background sound. It's great for plane engines, highway noise or kids in the back seat.
And, if you're finding it quiet, too quiet, remember that the $300 beauties also play music.
Garmin iQue 3600 GPS Palm organizer
You've heard of PalmPilots, right? They are little organizers that copy down your calendar and address book from your computer.
And you've heard of GPS, right? Twelve global positioning satellites are circling the earth right now, with your tax dollars at work.
Garmin iQue 3600 is the first combination PalmPilot and GPS receiver. It is an amazing machine that not only lets you look up an address, it even tells you how to get there.
It's a lot like the navigation systems built into fancy cars, except that it costs a heck of a lot less. It costs about $580. And the Garmin iQue 3600 can be taken out of the car without leaving an unsightly hole in the dashboard.
The best thing is, the iQue's database lists thousands of restaurants, gas stations, hotels-and cash machines, which sure is lucky. Because nobody ever said high-tech gadgets are cheap.