tomtom simpsonsWhen you need to get to your destination, would you trust Homer Simpsons to get you there? Well, owners of TomTom devices can now try their luck with the character.

The voice of yoru GPS can be a droning annoyance at times, and even though TomTom units offer 70 voices in 36 different languages, the company has opted to sell celberity voices that you can add to the system to guide you to your destination.  The latest addition to their stable of celebrities that includes the likes of John Cleese, Kim Cattrall and Mr. T, is Dan Castellaneta.  His name not ring a bell?  Well, he is better known as Home Simpson from the long running animated series The Simpsons.

As you can imagine, his directions are a bit different than the normal ones you hear.  For instance, when did your GPS last say to you “Take the third right. We might find an ice cream truck! Mmm … ice cream”?  More than likely it never has.

While it is an amusing idea, it’s easy to imagine you would quickly tire of it, and seeing it as it sells for $12.95 and €9.95, it’s a bit expensive for a novelty.  For a die-hard fan of the show, great idea, for your average user, you can probably give it a pass.

Categories: Gadgets, gps   
 

gpsThe United States government gave access to the Global Positioning System (GPS) to the world, but we have reached a point where we are abusing it?

There is no question that GPS has made many parts of our lives safer and easier, but you have to wonder when do we finally say, “Okay, enough with using it for absolutely everything in our lives!”  It has made navigation at sea a breeze, planes use it and it has made long road trips a lot simpler than having to constantly look at a map, but at the same time it seems to be taking away common sense also.

Do we really need to use it to avoid getting tickets from speed cameras?  Do we really need to track friends family via the GPS in their phones at all times?  And are we so far gone that we can no longer know which house to demolish based on a simple street address?  Never mind the numerous stories of people that have taken wrong turns off bridges and the such when they decided to listen to their GPS unit over common sense.

None of this is to say that you shouldn’t enjoy the benefits of a system such as GPS, the crew at StarterTech are fans of the car navigation and cell phone tracking aspects of it, but shouldn’t we also realize it isn’t the ultimate solution to everything under the sun?  While the house demolishing seems a bit suspicious, the people who follow in-car navigation to the point of driving off roads in to rivers… well… they’re just morons.  Sorry, but it’s true.  ”The GPS told me to go here… I don’t care that it’s water…”, okay, you deserve to have your car sink (although we do hope you get out in time).

Just because a technology has reached an affordable price point doesn’t mean we should slap it into every conceivable device and use that we can.  And what do we do if somehow the system goes down?  We will then have a life filled with useless gadgets and no idea how to do certain things any more.  (does anyone remember how to read a map?)

Technology is a wonderful thing, and it can solve many problems, but that doesn’t mean we have the right to not only use it as a crutch, but as a complete replacement for common sense.

Categories: Gadgets, gps, Opinion   
 

iconnectSDI Technologies, Inc., the makers of the popular iHome iPod clock docks, is release a new line of computer peripherials called Lifeworks, and it almost gave me hope for an iPhone/iPod Touch keyboard darn it!

Building on their immense success with the iHome line, SDI Technologies is expanding in to computer keyboards, mice, webcams and more.  While I am not sure if the world needs another manufacturer of these parts, one keyboard, the iConnect, in particular grabbed my attention.

Ever since the iPhone and iPod Touch first launched, I have longed for a physical keyboard I could plug in to for those times when I needed to type quite a bit  I hoped for a travel size one I could work on in the car and so on, ut, alas, it has never come to be.  When I first saw the picture of an iPod Touch docked with a keyboard, I thought I was finally getting my wish, but still no joy for me.  Basically it is a glorified dock for your gadget and not a whole lot else.

Why?

Every iPod and iPhone comes with a free sync cale, why buy a non-ergonomic keyboard just to have a place to put your gadget for charging?  I have to say without seeing it in person yet I would call this keyoard a pretty large miss.

Categories: Gadgets   
 

ssdBeen desiring a solid-state drive for your computer, but can’t afford it? Salvation may be on the way.

According to DailyTech, JMicron has developed a new controller chip that will significantly reduce the number of controllers required to operate an SSD, and will result in the price being cut by as much as half.  The new chip will be introduced at Computex 2009 in June, and will go into mass production in July.  This could mean that the new, cheaper drives will hit the marketplace in time for the holiday shopping season.

This is an interesting convergence of events as Windows 7 is scheduled to hit in the fall, and people will be looking to buuy new systems, so the dream of an SSD as your hard drive may not be as unattainable as you once thought.  This is especially attractive for laptop buyers as these dries next to no heat compared to the current hard drives.  Laps across the world rejoice at the idea of a cooler laptop.

Categories: Gadgets   
 

dotzGot electrical power cord spaghetti behind your TV? There’s finally a solution to figuring out what goes with what.

As we add more and more gadgets to our lives, there has been a problem that has plagued humanity: cord spaghetti.  Up until now you could just put some sort of sticker on the cord that you could barely read, or it might fall off, to figure out what each cord is.  Luckily there is a new product called Dotz that aims to solve this nightmare.

The idea is a simple one.  You have a little colored clamshell piece of plastic that you stick a provided image label inside of, and then you snap it on to your power cord and… done.  They make sets for home essentials, entertainment and computer/office, so pretty much all of your standard electronics are covered.  Each set costs $9.99 and comes with 10 Dotz and several sheets of labels so you can label pretty much anything a standard home has.

They also have cord straps if you wish to wrap up a cable or bundle multiple together, as well as cord winders if you wish to keep infrequently used cables spooled up.

It may seem a bit nuts to pay $9.99 for something to simply label your cables, but as someone who has had more home made labels fall off over the years than I can count, this sounds like a great idea to me.  I plan on ordering the entertianment pack ASAP!

Categories: Gadgets   
 

samsung spf-87hThe new Samsung SPF-87H digital photo frame does a lot more than just show you pictures of Uncle Joe.

Those of us around the StarterTech office have a bit of an obsession with digital photo frames.  The ability to display multiple photos, make them into slideshows and so on is just fascinating to us, but Samsung has really outdone themselves with the new SPF-87H model.  Thanks to a USB cable, you can place it just about anywhere near your computer and it turns in to a handy second monitor for your work.

Now, the screen isn’t huge by any means (800×480 Resolution), but it’s more than enough to move something like a Twitter application or the such over to it, and keep it off of your main desktop.  It will. of  course, also display photos on its 1 GB of internal memory, with room for more on SD cards thanks to its SD Card reader.  Power consumption also low if you choose to supplement it with USB power.

The frame is priced at $129, and is quickly shooting up my personal “Oh, I want this!” list for the monitor ability alone.

Categories: Gadgets, News   
 

dslr iphone remoteSometimes something so wacky comes along that ceases being stupid and just turns in to cool.

A company named onOne has submitted an iPhone and iPod ouch application to Apple for approval that will allow you to control your Canon EOS DSLR camera from your favorite device.  Well, okay, it isn’t QUITE that straight forward.

  • You need either an iPhone or an iPod Touch
  • You need a supported Canon EOS DSLR
  • A laptop or desktop computer running the free companion DSLR Remote Server software
  • A USB cable to connect your supported Canon EOS DSLR camera to the computer running the free server software

Once released, the application will come in two versions: the $1.99 Lite version will only control the shutter release, and the pro version for $9.99 will control multiple functions.

As someone who used to play around with photography as a hobby when I was younger, it sounds cool, and would be especially useful to someone like me who could never hold a lens study to save his life, but it has a few too many steps for my taste.  Any time you add another component to a set up, you just add that many more chances for something to fail. This sounds cool and useful, but it also sounds like something that could frustrate you fairly quickly when one little part doesn’t work they way it’s supposed to.

Categories: Apple, Gadgets   
 

0513tornado1An interesting lesson was learned yesterday on how to use technology during a pack of tornadoes coming at you.

For those who have not heard, the home town of StarterTech, Kirksville,MO, had a pack of four tornadoes come at us yesterday.  You can read my more personal account of the event at May 13th, 2009 Kirksville, MO Tornado on my personal site.  As we hunkered down in our basement with our dogs though, we found technology was easing our fears some.

As I ran for the basement (and I do mean literally “ran”), I realized I still had my BlackBerry 8830 and iPod Touch on me.  Luckily our power stayed on with just a few blips, but if it hadn’t, none of this would have mattered.

Thanks to our Sprint Airave, my BlackBerry continued to receive five bars of signal strength even in the cemented basement.  This allowed me to get messages out to people as to what was happening via the handy Gtalk app.

As for the iPod Touch, I was able to use the Weather Channel application (iTunes link) to check the radar to see where exactly the storm cell was.  (right on top of us)  That was a mixed blessing and curse knowing the storm was about to tear my town apart.

We did learn a few lessons also.

  • We really need a battery operated radio in the basement.  All we had was one connected to power.
  • We also need a phone down there that doesn’t run on electricity.  If we had one, and had lost power, we could have still gotten phone calls out and in.
  • You can never have too many flashlights, as we discovered we had none down there.  We also moved some chemical light sticks down there later, which are great in a true emergency.  (every house should have some)

Again, luckily we did not lose power, and our home was untouched.  Sadly, two people in our town did lose their lives, over 40 homes were damaged or destroyed, and a car dealership was decimated.  If you want to learn more about the Kirksville tornadoes, please make sure to visit For actual news I suggest you check KTVO TV 3 and the Kirksville Daily Express for all of the latest local coverage.

Our only damage was a computer, which is a post of its own coming later as it is now working and we learned some valuable lessons even we didn’t know.

In short, keep your gadgets on you as they can be a vital lifeline during an emergency.  Also, old school (battery operated or no power needed) gadgets still have their place in this world, and that is something none of us should ever forget.

Categories: Gadgets   
 

amazon kindle dxThe rumors proved to be true, and Amazon has indeed launched a larger Kindle.

As we reported the other day, rumors had begun to circulate that Amazon was about to launch a second, larger, version of their ebook reader, the Kindle.  We had first heard whispers of a larger Kindle as far back as last August, but when the Kindle 2 launched, we figured those rumors had been wrong.  Today, though, was a different story.

The new Kindle DX features a 9.7″ diagonal screen compared to the regular model’s 6″ screen. It also adds a new trick to the screen in that you can rotate it from the standard portrait layout to a landscape one simply by turning the device on its side. This new addition is very reminiscent of the iPhone and iPod Touch, but still a handy feature depending on what you’re reading.

Screen space wasn’t the only thing to increase in size as the hard drive has been increased to 3.3 GBs, or enough space to hold up to 3,500 books.  Seeing as the Kindle 2 can only 1,500, this is a huge jump for the device. (We here at StarterTech still want to know how this is a necessary feature… did people actually used to think, “Oh, if only I could carry 3,500 books with me anywhere I go!”… we don’t think so)

The main reason for this new addition to the Kindle family is more integration with newspapers and text books.  The newly retooled gadget is going to retail for $489 if you buy it outright, but at some point this summer, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Boston Globe will be offering deals where you can get it cheaper if you agree to a long term subscription plan with them. The details of this have not yet been released, but it is an interesting proposal to help save some of the struggling newspapers in this country.

kindlesWhat may be the most brilliant plan for expanding the popularity of the Kindle is getting it into the hands of college students.  No one likes lugging around huge school books, nor how much you have to pay for them.  With this in mind, Amazon has partnered up with Princeton, UVA, Case Western, Arizona State, and Reed College to do pilot programs where students will be able to have their text books on the new Kindles.  No word on how many students at each school will be involved, or on pricing for the device & the books, but the programs are coming at some point.

While these are all interesting possabilities for the Kindle, the newspapers and the schools, until these devices feature a color screen, it just isn’t going to reach its full potential.  Right now both the Kindle 2 and the Kindle DX sport screens with 16 shades of gray, and that’s enough for reading a book, it’s a major drawback to the realm of text books.  Newspapers can survive on the gray screen, but text books thrive with colors in the forms of charts, graphs, pictures and so on.  Imagine your art history text book in 16 shades of gray… you get the point.  Sure color is going to add to the cost and suck the battery life faster, but if you want mass adoption to happen, that is where this device is going to have to go.

As for now, we’ll pass.  While the DX is a step in the right direction for this device, it still just isn’t enough to sell us on the concept as a whole.

Categories: Gadgets   
 

amazon kindle logoIs the world ready for a larger Kindle ebook reader?

The new Kindle is said to be larger, and aimed more squarely at the text book market, although sources at places such as the New York Times are saying it is also going to be a lot friendlier to the idea of reading newspapers on a gadget.  For sure the details will be revealed on Wednesday at a press event, but for sure we know it was be named Amazon Kindle DX and the screen will measure in at a whopping 9.7″ compared to the current 6″ screen.  However, the problem is that is looks like it will still be sporting the monochrome screen which could be a major detractor from wide adoption in classrooms.

It is interesting to note that this new Kindle was rumored as far back as August, but when the Kindle 2 popped up, I think everyone thought the rumors had been proven wrong.  Is this a hint that Amazon will run different sizes of Kindles in the marketplace at the same time?  Only time will tell, but be sure to check back Wednesday for all of the final details on the Amazon Kindle DX!

Categories: Gadgets   
 
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