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Technology Today - July 2012
By Robert Sanborn

Summertime means the newest issue of Consumer Reports Magazine that focuses on technology.  It is kind of like revisiting CES only this time these are things that are available and on store shelves.  You know that a technology has come of age when you see tons of the cheap knockoffs and so having the August 2012 issue of Consumer Reports is a good way to balance the hype with some of the realistic expectations of what you are getting.
For tablet computers, The Apple iPad still rules the roost; but not by such a big margin anymore. Samsung’s Galaxy class tablets have gotten great reviews all over the place but if you are going with a cell phone data plan, be prepared to spend a lot, the content can add up qickly.

Smartphones are another category reviewed in the same Consumer Reports issue and the surprise to me was that the Motorola Droid Razr took the top billing for Verizon while the HTC One X took it for AT&T. The iPhone 4S was well down the list though its camera still has the best image quality available.  Phones are becoming incredibly personalized so if you go shopping for one, take some time to look it over before making the plunge as you will need to sign up for a two year contract.  We are also starting to see some pretty big phone screens; the new Samsung Galaxy S III will have a huge 4.8 inch screen on it.

You will also see reviews of headphones, digital cameras, and the next generation laptops and the surprise here is that a Samsung notebook took the top honors in both the 15 and 17 inch categories. The Samsung NP700 series notebooks beat out the more expensive Macbook Pros for a lot less money.

Summer also means a new technology upgrade from Intel.  We have long known that their second generation of the Core i3, i5, and i7 systems have been the processor to go with but now they have introduced the 3rd generation of the Core i5 and i7 (and soon to come, Core i3) processors that are faster, cooler, and more hardware level technology addons like the Identity Protection Technology to generate virtual keyboards at the hardware level. What all this really means to us is not only faster computing, but faster computing on the go with the new Ultrabook notebooks coming out from companies like Asus, HP, and Dell among others.

Microsoft’s Streets & Trips has long been one of my favorite travel planning tools and they have just finally, released the 2013 version of the software. www.microsoft.com/streets  For around $40, you get one of the best travel planning programs.  Having used it a very long time, one of the things that I had always grumbled about was the dearth of “Points of Interest” in the map file.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have things like the National Parks, Cracker Barrels’, and for those of us who camp, public campgrounds, state parks, public dumping stations, and the list can go on and what I did find was a Streets & Trips Team Blog that has all that. This is really something that adds a ton of value at no cost to me, to Streets & Trips.  See the blog at: http://msstreets.com/poimegafile/

Summer time is here and that means more traveling and outdoor events for all of us.  It also gives me a chance to pick up some new ecofriendly things to travel with and I had already mentioned the really cool revolve, www.revolveusa.com travel charger.  What is new for me is from Greensmart, www.greensmart.biz and it is a recycle plastic created notebook carrier.  The one I got is called the Markhor 16 inch laptop bag and it says that 13 plastic bottles were given a second life to make this bag. Ok, ecofriendliness aside, how good is the bag because if it isn’t, doesn’t matter how green it is, no one would use it. What I like about the bag is the double wall padding for the interior pocket which is just for the notebook.  Easy fit for my 15+ netbook and the Thermapak pad I always take along to keep it cool when using. Room also inside to stuff the AC Adapter and cord, tight but it fits ok. In one zippered outside pocket, I slipped in my external DVD drive;  In the other outside pocket, I keep the screen cleaner and mini-mouse.  There is also a large back open pocket for papers and miscellaneous items. It is meant to be a small and lightweight travel case and it fits that bill perfectly.  Once everything is packed, the double top handles make it easy to carry. As I mentioned, all made from recycled material and even the info tags were attached with twine. Very clever, very useful, nice color, easy to pack, and it also protects my netbook.  And did you know that they also donate 10% of their profits to the World Wildlife Fund. Under $60 from Greensmart, definitely worth a look.

Greensmart Bag
Greensmart Wine bag

To make those trips outdoors to our favorite concert site more fun, I also picked up from Greensmart, www.greensmart.biz, the “neogreene” wine carrier. It is made out of a fabric that is free of toxins, chemicals, and odors and will keep the wine chilled for hours.  A simple and stylish and colorful carrier, it doubles as an insulated bottle bag and is made from recycled materials as well.  I like the fact that the handle is all part of the same single piece of material to make it very sturdy; you won’t have to worry about your bottle coming out of this carrier or a handle breaking. This is called the “Finback” and like all their other products, they name them after endangered animals. The “neogreene” fabric reminds me of the material you often see in cooler bags and the like but being water based, uses much less energy and less petroleum to create it.  We will really try it out when the hot summer nights come along but for $9.95, definitely worth picking one up.

Robert Sanborn

 

 

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