April 4, 2007

Are you looking to get yourself a turn by turn GPS navigation system and are confused about what is out there? If so, fret no more, this is the one to get. The Garmin Nuvi 660 is very well reviewed getting the Editor’s Choice from both PC Magazine here and one from GPS Magazine here. This baby has it all, a WQVGA 4.3-inch screen, sensitive GPS receiver, integrated traffic receiver (real-time traffic reports), Bluetooth speakerphone interface (integrates with your cell phone), MP3 player, photo viewer, travel guides, and long battery life. What more could you ask for? In fact, the only real gripe anyone had about this unit is that it was a bit expensive. Back in September the PC Mag review had it listed at over $1000. That is no longer a problem. Butterfly Photo has this fantastic full featured GPS for the low price of $657, no tax (except NY) and free shipping. 
Ahh, the old desktop grommet holes. You’ve seen ’em. They’re those mysterious 3 inch holes cut into the top of corporate desks everywhere. They’re designed for you to run your cables through. However, no one ever seems to use them. I bet they will now. Belkin has developed a few products that are made specifically to fit into these holes and reduce your desk clutter. These new grommet stuffin’ peripherals come in three new flavors: the In-Desk 4 port USB Hub, the Front-Access In-Desk USB Hub and finally, the good old ubiquitous In-Desk Dock for iPod. In addition, if you have been using them for cables all along, Belkin has provided a little breathing room around the outside so you can continue. Belkin really deserves kudos. This is just one of those great ideas that you would never think about, but seems so obvious after you see it. It is the direct, polar opposite of this. Yes people, that is really a fireplace mantle (a hideous one at that) with a built-in iPod dock. I think I’m going to be sick. 
This week from Studio Italia Design we have the Blow Lamp. Designed by Pio and Tito Toso, the Blow Lamp’s design is clean, modern, and most importantly, refreshing. It is a low-voltage lamp done up in chrome, brushed aluminum and encased in glass. Big deal you say? Find me a modern lamp that’s not done in those materials, right? At least that’s what I was thinking. However, it isn’t your run-of-the-mill lamp. After a quick glance, it appears to be one of those big, clear Alva Edison-type light bulbs with the over complicated filament systems. But the Blow Lamp is actually a lamp within a lamp. It is a sort of nicely designed tabletop lamp sealed off within a glass bulb that acts as a diffuser. And in a unique twist, the inner lamp’s direction can be controlled without ever having to touch it. The clever designers have included a magnet that connects to the lamp through the glass from the outside. Once connected, you simply slide the magnet and the lamp will follow.  
You know I love me some LEDs. I’ve talked about them and their benefits before in this column. However, we have never discussed OLEDs. OLED is an acronym for Organic Light Emitting Diode which is a special type of LED. They are made up of thin, organic layers that light up when an electric current is applied. Unlike traditional LCDs, they are thin, flexible, have faster response time (think full motion video), are more durable and most importantly, require much less energy. The research and development of OLEDs is really ramping up and GE is on the forefront. The link below is a blog of a GE engineer chronicling the development since 1999. These guys are madcap. I mean look at this video. They bend, punch holes and use the scissors on these poor OLEDs and they still continue to function. The possibilities for this type of application are endless. If that doesn’t do it for you, think of a TV a mere 10mm thick that has a 1,000,000 to 1 contrast ratio and 100% color reproduction! 
I gotta tell you, this week the gossip section was tough. At first I thought that I would talk about the big announcement from EMI Music and how all of your future downloads from them would be higher quality and digital rights management (DRM) free… but that story is everywhere.  And then I thought, what about   IBM’s announcement that they have developed a prototype optical chipset capable of reaching speeds at least eight times faster than what is available today, which basically means you will be able to download an HD quality movie in one second… ah, too boring. Then I came across a real doozy. I hope you’re sitting down. Apparently Michael Jackson, of music and molestation fame, is being courted for one of those long running Las Vegas shows, a la Wayne Newton and Celine Dione. Well, apparently Michael isn’t going to do a regular old show. He seems to be reviewing plans to erect a giant 50 foot robot of himself in the desert sands, complete with shooting laser beams and “a giant audience-interactive video game with human cyborgs controlled by the audience”. Oh dear. My favorite quote from the article is “Neon is wonderful, but it’s old school.” Oh, this is going to be good.