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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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:
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
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.