Friday, August 31, 2007

New Panasonic DSLR has face detection
& dust suppression

Yesterday Panasonic announced its newest digital single-lens reflex (SLR) camera, the LUMIX DMC-L10, the company’s first SLR with Face Detection.

The feature can focus, set auto exposure, and detect up to 15 human faces simultaneously, capturing the subjects clearly and brightly, according to Panasonic. Combining Face Detection with Intelligent ISO Control settings, which measures the movement of the subject and sets the ISO level accordingly, helps give crisp, blur-free images.

The DMC-L10 also offers an advanced 2.5 inch Live View LCD which can rotate 270 degrees, enabling versatile shooting options, and making it easy and convenient to shoot from high or low angles. Complete with a 10.1-megapixel Live MOS Sensor, the DMC-L10 includes an advanced, Supersonic Wave Filter system that prevents dust from collecting on the sensor and degrading photo quality.

The Live View LCD lets users check the image on the camera after making exposure compensation adjustments, but before taking the shot. The LCD also features an Intelligent LCD function that offers an automatic brightness level control function, making the screen visible regardless of a bright sunlit or dark environment. In addition, the DMC-L10 adopts advanced hybrid-type AF system, which gives users the option to choose either the phase difference AF system or the contrast AF to suit the preferred shooting style. While in manual mode, the user can enlarge part of the subject on LCD and also freely move the magnified area for easy framing.

A common concern among digital SLR camera users is the potential of dust entering the camera’s body when adjusting interchangeable lenses. To combat this, Panasonic has equipped the DMC-L10 with a Supersonic Wave Filter system that uses supersonic vibrations to shake off dust clinging to the sensor, which also simplifies the maintenance process.

The DMC-L10 incorporates a variety of functions to help people transitioning from a compact digital camera to a digital SLR, helping them to take high-quality digital photos. For instance, the Mode Dial on top of the camera provides easy access to the most frequently used settings including Auto mode, each P/A/S/M mode, and five scene modes (Portrait, Scenery, Macro, Sports and Night Portrait) and one custom mode that can be set per the user’s preference.

The DMC-L10 comes equipped with a LEICA D VARIO-ELMAR 14-50mm / F3.8-5.6 / MEGA O.I.S. lens, which has a focal length from 14mm to 50mm, and offers a more compact and light-weight body than its predecessor.

Other features of the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-L10 include:

Film Mode: Allows users to choose a setting which mimics the effects of analog film. Users select from nine modes including Standard, Dynamic, Nature, Smooth, Nostalgic, Vibrant, Standard B/W, Dynamic B/W and Smooth B/W, with the capability to finely adjust contrast, sharpness, saturation and noise reduction. All these settings can be confirmed before you take the picture and the result is always as you intended.

Venus Engine III: Image processing LSI developed by Panasonic to maximize the performance of the Leica D lens and Live MOS sensor. This LSI helps reproduce images with outstanding resolution, superior color and detailed gradation. It also distinguishes chromatic noise from luminance noise and selectively reduces the chromatic noise, one of the chief sources of image quality problem.

Image Stabilization: This is a system that prevents blurring from shaky hands.

Advanced Scene Modes: As part of the L10’s intuitive usability, the photographer can make finer adjustments when using frequently-used scenes such as Portrait, Sports, Landscape and Night portrait. For instance, when selecting the Portrait or Sports mode, users can further define whether the scene is in outdoors or indoors. When using the Landscape mode, users can specify if it is a nature or an architectural shot.

Auto-Focusing Methods: To match the shooting situation and subject's position, the user can select from six auto-focusing methods: Face Detection, 9-point, Multi, 3-point, 1-point and Spot. With the 1-point AF or spot AF method, the auto-focusing area can be chosen from as many as 11 points. Various group area patterns can also be selected in the new Multi method.

The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-L10 should be available in October 2007 for about $1300.
This is a preview, not a review.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Adult bib keeps food off your clothes and car

If you can't resist scarfing down a Subway Foot-Long, or a Wendy's Frosty Float, or a Taco Bell Gordito or a McDonalds Big Mac while you're behind the wheel of your nice car; or if you order messy foods in restaurants that don't have lobster bibs, or if you're married to a slob, or have sloppy kids, or if you have a big belly, this is a good investment.

The Drib is an adult bib, that will help shield your clothes, the car, and the dining room floor.

It's a foldable, washable, shoulder-to-knee bib with an absorbent fabric front and moisture-resistant back to keep spills off your shirt or jacket and pants, and large pockets on the bottom to catch wayward tomato slices or globs of whipped cream. The Drib has weighted shoulder tabs to keep it in position without ties or clips (kinda like the chest-protecting lead-filled apron you wear when you get a dental X-rays). It folds into its own pocket for storage.

Price is $23.95, From AutoSport Catalog. They have a lot of cool car stuff, so spend some time exploring their website, and request a catalog subscription.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Just look and drool. No reason to say anything.

Bell & Ross is only making 500 of the BR01-92. It sells for about four large, so it may be time to finally crack open your piggy bank, or send your kids to a cheaper school. Even Cynical Cousin Dave thinks this watch is OK. CLICK for more

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Mini multi-tool has high quality, but price is low enough so you won't cry if it's confiscated before you get on a plane.

There are lots of multi-tools available in all sorts of sizes at all sorts of prices. You can find dollar-store tools that are not much stronger than aluminum foil, and high-quality models from Victorinox, Wenger, Leatherman and SOG, that may be too good to carry around and risk losing.

Here's a good compromise. The GREEN MIDGET pocket-sized tool is extremely high quality, yet compact, and inexpensive. It has a FIVE-YEAR unlimited warranty, but the price is so low, you won't cry if you lose it, or if it gets confiscated before you board a plane.

Blades are polished stainless steel. It has a really good spring-loaded long-nose pliers, with internal gripping ridges and wire cutting blades. Even Cynical Cousin Dave was impressed. You also get straight and phillips screwdrivers, a serrated saw, a sharp pointy knife, a mini LED flashlight, and a bottle opener. That's eight functions (or even nine if you count the key ring, or ten if you use it as a book mark, or eleven if you use the pouch to stash stuff).

It's a great tool that can get you out of jams, impress babes, and even cut sheetrock and remove olives from martinis. Buy one for your pocket, and for every vehicle and desk you use. Price is just $14. Battery is included. CLICK to order from

Monday, August 27, 2007

NEC wireless conference speakerphone

Conference room speakerphones are very useful. They allow a group of people in one room, to have a lifelike conversation with people many miles away.

Unfortunately, the speakerphone is often used in the center of a beautiful marble or maple table, and you're faced with either seeing ugly cables, or drilling a hole that might crack the furniture.

NEC has a great solution that has eluded other companies: a wireless speakerphone that can be used up to about 150 feet from its base unit. The base can connect directly to phone company dialtone, or to an analog port in a phone system.

It has a 150-foot signal range between the speaker unit and the base station, and 12-hour battery life, so you can have lengthy conferences without recharging.

The unit uses 2.4 GHz radio transmission for good wall penetration. Full Duplex design provides natural conversations (no need to be polite and take turns). Noise cancellation removes background noises from fans or HVAC systems, and Automatic Level Controls keeps speakers' voices consistent. Three microphones provide complete 360° voice pickup. First-microphone priority eliminates echo by activating only the mic closest to the person speaking.

Price is under $500. CLICK for more info, or to buy one

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Mitsubishi shows 3-D hi-def TV

Mitsubishi recently showed a new 73-inch 1080p DLP rear-projection TV with three-dimensional content. It uses specially produced or mastered 3D images for people to view while wearing special “stereoscopic” eyeglasses.

Mitsu spokesman David Naranjo said the technology produces a dynamic immersive viewing experience through the combination of the mastered stereoscopic 3D content and 1080p DLP rear-projection sets, which make images appear closer than other display technologies.

“This, we believe, is the next evolution in the immersive experience of TV. We believe this technology is going to drive big-screen TV and DLP technology,” Naranjo said. “The 3D leverages an inherent part of the DLP set, which is a 120Hz engine. It delivers 60 frames for each eye. We believe this will revive the DLP category, and for the price per inch, there is no better value than DLP.”

Special glasses worn by viewers shutter images stereoscopically, “and unlike polarized lenses they do not cause eye strain and headaches, which is what most people complain about with red/green glasses,” Naranjo said.

Mitsu has already delivered 3D systems across the country to over 300 Regal Cinema DLP movie theaters, which have shown 3D re-mastered movies including “A Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Meet The Robinsons.” In October, they will also present the new Angelina Jolie movie “Beowulf.”

“There is nothing else today that exists on this level of maturity,” Naranjo said of the system. “You could run this content off of a PC, off of optical disc players and off of live broadcasts carried by cable and satellite TV. So, there are many different ways to bring this content to the television.”

He said Mitsubishi plans to bring source devices to market next year that will accept the 3D content. However, the most dramatic 3D effects were seen in live produced events, including NFL games that present images that create the illusion that the viewer is on field.

“We are looking to have live broadcast 3D events soon,” Naranjo said. “NFL games have been produced in 3D already, the NBA playoffs were shot in 3D back in April, and other events have included surfing and X Games events,” he said “A lot of producers and studios are telling us that this is so compelling to them that they want to move very quickly on it. Also, you can imagine the kind of traction this would give advertising.”

Going forward, he said, the NBA playoffs will be shot in 3D again next year, and several sports franchises are looking at filming in 3D. “Events are shot using a two-camera system. There is an added cost to production, but everyone recognizes that is a significant added benefit to doing this,” said Naranjo. (info from TWICE)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

mmmmmmmmmmmm, Utz

Utz is a maker of chips (potato and tortilla), pretzels, cheese balls, cheese crunchies, cheese curls, pork rinds and lots of similarly delicious snack foods.

You can get potato chips packed in 3/4-ounce wussie bags, or 6-pound macho boxes, or almost any conceivable size in-between. They're available in regular or kettle or thick or Mystic or BBQ, or sea-salt-and-vinegar or almost any other variety you can conceive of. Even chocolate-coated. I'm not kidding.

Utz also makes great crunchy pretzels with chocolate coating, or no coating, or mustard and onion flavoring, or honey-wheat, or no salt, or God-knows-what-else versions... in different shapes and sizes, packed in bags, barrels and boxes.

The company also has a growing line of lower-fat, lower-salt, natural and organic snacks, if that's important to you.

If you want to enhance your chips or pretzels, Utz will gladly sell you salsa, or Jalepeno & Cheddar, Mild Cheddar Cheese, or Sour Cream & Onion dip to stick them in. They also have lots of gift packages, including a baseball-stadium-shaped tin that plays "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and is filled with chocolate covered pretzel wheels; and a 20-gallon can filled with 75 one-ounce bags of Utz's assorted snacks.

The company has been making people smile since 1921 and is based in Hanover, PA. (near Lancaster, Gettysburg and Three Mile Island). Their magnificent munchies are available in supermarkets or online or at the factory.

The factory tour is a lot of fun. It smells wonderful, and you can buy munchables that you might not find in your local stores.

In addition to "purist" packs of snacks, Utz also offers good stuff to eat that's packed in sports logo containers and gift boxes. You can get bags of Hokie Chips to honor Virginia Tech; and there are chip-of-the-month and snack-of-the-month programs to keep you crunching with no more effort than opening your door, the package and your mouth.

Seasonal specialities include the pictured Tailgate Mix: a 26-ounce football-shaped barrel for your next tailgate party or couch-potato session. The barrel is packed with Cheese Crunchies, Pretzel Wheels, BBQ Corn Chips and Oriental Rice Crackers. All that's missing is beer.

All of the canines and humans in our family (even Cynical Cousin Dave, who doesn't like much) agree that Utz Cheese Curls are the best in the world. Maybe in the universe. They make both puffy and crunchy curls; and if you don't like orange fingers, you can get white cheddar.

You can even order a hand-packed barrel o' goodies filled with up to 56 ounces of your personal Utz favorites. It's like having your very own factory, and a great gift idea. A case of snack-size pretzels or chips is perfect for treating trick-or-treaters. The sugar deprived population will love the Utz TWO GALLON tin of Caramel Popcorn with Chocolate Drizzle.

And, if you're a major Utz fan, you can cover your body and fill your home with Utz clothing, toys and gadgets, play golf with official Utz balls and golf umbrella, and write love letters and do homework with an Utz pen.

Visit the factory or the website. Request a catalog to salivate over. Spend twenty bucks or a hundred bucks. You won't regret it. Also, get on the Utz email list for special savings, and to find out about new treats. Email

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

New website can get you on beta-testing lists

As many techies know, getting in on a hot new startup's invite-only "beta" test can be tough. Some resort to posting pleas on blogs, others beg friends of friends and some are even willing to purchase invites through eBay.

But with the July launch of InviteShare, things might get a little easier for those aching to pass the online equivalent of the velvet rope outside the trendy nightclub. InviteShare connects users who have or want access to new Internet offerings, including the online TV service joost and GrandCentral, a one-phone-number-for-life communications service owned by Google.

Although some sites open beta testing to anyone to raise awareness and work out glitches, many initially limit access to a select handful, creating a certain cachet through their scarcity. Many tech-savvy early adopters, clamor for access to such invite-only sites.

On InviteShare, users register for free and then submit their e-mail addresses to lists kept at the site for particular startups to which they want access. Those with spare invitations respond directly to individuals and are encouraged to give priority to users listed higher -- those who have done their part in the past to share similar offers.

Created by Jeff Broderick, a computer programer and Web designer in Denton, Texas, the site was sold to tech news blog TechCrunch recently for $25,000. TechCrunch founder and editor Michael Arrington, tired of negotiating with startups for beta test invitations to pass on to his readers, said his company was already looking into creating a similar site when he discovered InviteShare. In fact, he wrote about the site on the TechCrunch blog before buying it.

As of Monday, InviteShare had more than 28,000 users, who collectively sent more than 34,000 invitations. Nearly 50 different startups had listings -- sometimes without the startup's blessing. Arrington said he has yet to get a complaint.

Adam Healey, co-founder and chief executive of InviteShare-listed VibeAgent, said he is happy to have his hotel-recommendation site included and has even sent invitations to InviteShare users. "InviteShare provides another channel for startups to access early adopters, which is so critical in building community," he said. Ten percent of his site's traffic in the past month resulted from InviteShare.

And although InviteShare isn't currently a big money maker - Arrington estimates ads placed on it bring in a few hundred dollars per day - he believes there is real value is in its user base.

While signing up for the site, 80 percent of users have indicated they want to be notified about future private beta opportunities, he said. Eventually, he'd like to pair startups with users, either for free or for a fee, depending on the company.

"All these people want to know about all the new services," he said, "and this is a gold mine for a new startup to have access to." (This is NOT a review. Info from The Associated Press)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Wendy's Frosty Float

410 calories of heaven. If you can't slurp it all at once, freeze some and finish later.

Chocolate or vanilla, plus the soda of your choice. We recommend vanilla with root beer.

It can get messy -- don't imbibe in a nice car.

Friday, August 17, 2007

LG cuts price of Hi-Def combo DVD player

With the arrival of Samsung's $1,049 dual-format player on the horizon for this fall, LG has lowered the price of its existing BH100 HD DVD/Blu-ray player by $200.

The first dual-format player to hit stores shelves, LG's BH100 has remained at its original retail price of $1,199 since its introduction earlier this year.

Of course, even at its new reduced price of $999, the LG player remains good deal more expensive than buying two separate stand-alone players (Toshiba's HD-A2 and Sony's BDP-S300 retail at a combined cost of $898), but it's a step in the right direction.

This latest pricecut from LG comes just months before Samsung's planned BDP-UP5000 is scheduled to hit store shelves. That deck was previously announced with a retail price $1,049. Unlike the LG player, the Samsung is slated to include full support of both BD-Java and HDi, as well as web-enabled features on both formats.

No word yet from Samsung on any price drops for its upcoming BDP-UP5000, but don't be surprised if it hit the market at something below its originally announced MSRP. Stay tuned... (info from High-Def Digest)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

New Sirius satellite radios, and car TV

Sirius yesterday announced new products including its long awaited Sirius Backseat TV for the car, and a new version of the "wearable" portable Stiletto.

Sirius became the first satellite radio company to announce delivery of rear seat TV for the car with the unveiling of a $299 system slated for October shipping. The service will cost $6.99 per month and requires the user also subscribe to Sirius audio at $12.95 per month.

Three channels of family programming from Nickelodeon, Disney Channel and Cartoon Network will be available. Rear-seat passengers will be able to watch shows such as Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants and Jimmy Neutron, Disney Channel’s Cory in the House and Hannah Montana, and Cartoon Network’s Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends and Dexter’s Laboratory. The service will also be available with receivers built-into some 2008 Chrysler corp vehicles.

Sirius’ new Stiletto 2 receives live Sirius programming on the go. New features from the original Stiletto are a microSD card slot for importing MP3 files into the unit, improved WiFi and a 25 percent smaller form factor so that the unit more closely resembles a typical MP3 player. The Stiletto 2 can also now access Sirius’ premium audio quality Internet Radio service for an additional fee.

The unit stores up to 100 hours of Sirius programming, which users can playback at a later time, in case they are out of range of a satellite signal and WiFi reception). It has a built in antenna and also ships with Altec Lansing headphones that include a second antenna built into the head band. The Stiletto 2 ships this fall at a suggested retail price of $349.99

Sirius is offering new tuners that can convert cars offering XM service to Sirius service. A GM version, model SIR-GM3A can swap with an XM tuner to deliver Sirius to GM cars and control and display Sirius programming on the GM radio at a suggested $149. New tuners will also ship for Honda and Toyota models and these also work with certain Sirius Dock & Play tuners.

Also new is a Sportster 5 Dock & Play receiver with a color display and 60-minute DVR-type recorder to ship this fall at $169.99.

Sirius also unveiled several new products for home use, including some targeted to the custom-installation industry.

One of the custom-friendly products is Polk’s first component Sirius tuner, the $299-suggested SRH-1000 due in November. It provides two-zone capability when an optional palm-size $49-suggested SiriusConnect home tuner is plugged in. The tuner also features RS-232 port and 5-12-volt remote-trigger inputs.

Sirius plans September shipments of its first SiriusConnect tuner designed for the custom market. The one-rack-high, half-rack-wide SCH2P plugs into Sirius-ready AV receivers, and two can be mounted side-by-side in an AV rack for connection to a two-zone Sirius-ready AV receiver. Compared to the existing SiriusConnect tuner, the SCH2P adds RS-232 port, wired-IR input, signal-status display, and channel-changing know. It ships in October at a suggested $99, including indoor/outdoor antenna.

In another change, Sirius unveiled a step-up SiriusConnect Home Dock, the $59-suggested SCHDOC1, which joins an existing $49 dock. The new model enables Sirius-ready home-audio products such as AV receivers to take control of docked transportable tuners and docked Stiletto-series wearable tuners. As a result, the remote supplied with a Sirius-ready AV receiver will control all Sirius-tuner features and channel selection, and the Sirius menu and channel metadata will appear on the receiver’s display or on the screen of a connected TV.

Like existing home docks, the SCHDOC1 also connects to non-Sirius-ready audio products via the product’s audio inputs, but the Sirius tuner can be controlled only by the tuner’s supplied remote, and the Sirius menu and metadata won’t appear on the larger displays of an AV receiver or TV. (info from TWICE and Sirius)
This is a preview, not a review.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Zwieback is great for big babies, too.

The medical definition of Zwieback is "sweetened bread that has been baked twice, preferred for infant feeding during teething."

It's baked as a loaf, which is then sliced into individual pieces that are baked again. (The more accurate name is zweiback from the German words meaning "twice baked.")

Anyway, my definition is "YUM."

Zwieback is about the size and shape of two adult fingers, golden-brown and crunchy, with a mild cinnamon taste. Babies love it. I love it. My dog loves it.

I don't remember if I ate it as a baby, but I love it as an adult. I've always eaten the Nabisco version, but apparently it's also sold by the Gerber baby food people.

It's great straight, right from the box. Or smear on some butter, margarine, salsa or peanut butter. You can also crush it and use it in or on cakes and other deserts.

It's definitely high on the list of comfort foods. If you can't find it in the cookie and cracker section of your supermarket, look in the baby section. Buy at least two boxes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

New XM radio has color split screen, memory

Satellite radio company XM yesterday announced a new radio that features advanced browsing capability with a real-time programming guide displaying multiple channel information, artist names and song titles. The XpressRC has a full-color split-screen display, 60-minute pause and replay, and the ability to save up to 10 favorite songs to listen to later.

The XpressRC features:

-- A customizable color display that allows you to view the content you want, including channel, artist name and song title. The split-screen lets you view the current channel information on the left side, while browsing to view what is playing on up to three different channels on the right side without having to change the dial.

-- A buffer that saves the last 60 minutes of programming so you can easily replay what they just heard. XpressRC users can also pause the XM programming you are listening to with the option to play that programming as long as it is within the 60-minute timeframe and the unit is not powered off.

-- The ability to easily save up to 10 favorite songs for future listening. The split-screen option enables you to see the artist and song that is currently playing on the left side of the screen, and view up to five other saved songs on the right side at the same time.

-- Quick channel navigation with the option to pre-set up to 10 favorite channels, or press number buttons to enter and move directly to the desired channel. The new radio also features a remote control with pause, replay and direct channel entry buttons. The radio display automatically adjusts brightness from day to night while in the car and includes a customizable stock and sports ticker. It also includes a TuneSelect feature that alerts listeners whenever their favorite songs, artists or sports teams are being played on another channel.

XM says the XpressRC is compact and lightweight and can move easily from one vehicle to another, and the home and the office (with additional accessories). It includes a new FrequencyFinder feature, which conveniently scans and locates FM frequencies for listening to XM through your FM radio.

Manufactured by Delphi, the new XpressRC radio should be available in the fall 2007 for a suggested retail price of $169.99.
This is a preview, not a review.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Unprotected music coming from Universal

Universal Music Group (UMG) announced last week that it is continuing the testing of digital sales of tracks and albums without digital rights management (DRM) by making thousands of albums and tracks available in MP3 form without DRM enabling, for a limited time.

Performers include Amy Winehouse, Fall Out Boy, 50 Cent, Black Eyed Peas, Daddy Yankee, Mika, The Pussycat Dolls, Gwen Stefani, Maroon 5, Dr. Dre, Don Omar, Sting, Sugarland, Diana Krall, Paulina Rubio, Shania Twain, Nelly and Prince, to Bing Crosby, Elvis Costello, Reba McEntire, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Stevie Wonder, Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline, among many others.

As UMG’s most comprehensive and extensive testing to date, the experiment will run from August to January, and analyze such factors as consumer demand, price sensitivity and piracy.

MP3s can be played on a wide range of devices including dedicated MP3 players, mobile phones and the iPod. UMG said it will continue to support innovative digital models such as subscription and ad-supported services which rely on DRM as an enabling technology, regardless of the outcome of these tests.

Test market participants including Google, Wal-Mart, Best Buy Digital Music Store, Rhapsody, Transworld, Passalong Networks, and Puretracks, will offer downloads to consumers in the DRM-free audio format of their choice in a variety of bit rates.

In addition, DRM-free downloads will also be available through artist and label-branded websites, including,,,,,,, as well as, and

Universal Music Group has wholly owned record operations or licensees in 77 countries. Its businesses also include Universal Music Publishing Group, the industry’s largest music publishing operation.

Universal Music Group consists of record labels Decca Music Group, Deutsche Gramophone, Interscope Geffen A&M Records, Geffen Records, Island Def Jam Music Group, Lost Highway Records, MCA Nashville, Mercury Nashville, Mercury Records, Philips, Polydor Records, Universal Music Latino, Universal Motown Records Group, Universal South Records and Verve Music Group, as well as a multitude of record labels owned or distributed by its record company subsidiaries around the world.

Friday, August 10, 2007

World's first Blu-ray camcorders

Last week Hitachi announced the upcoming release of the DZ-BD70A and DZ-BD7HA, the world’s first two camcorders to use Blu-ray Disc technology. The cameras, which can record a full hour of 1920x1080 Full HD video, are set to hit US stores in October.

The DZ-BD70A model comes with both the ability to record video to Blu-ray Discs and an SD card slot. It also has Photo Capture capability. The DZ-BD7HA comes with a 30GB hard disk drive, and the ability to record four hours of hi-def video. Its other special feature is the ability to record video to a Blu-ray Disc within the camcorder itself.

The DZ-BD70A will have a suggested retail price of $1,299, while the DZ-BD7HA will go for $1,499.

No camcorder has yet been released in the HD DVD format, probably because the only currently shipping major hardware supporter of HD DVD, Toshiba, does not produce camcorders. Sony had previously released camcorders using the AVC HD standard, which is largely compatible with Blu-ray. (info from Dealerscope)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

New batteries for old laptops

Many older laptop PCs are still in use, but many of their batteries have died, and the laptops require constant AC power.

FreshBattery just introduced its Legacy Power line of new batteries for more than 1,500 older laptop models including HP, Compaq, IBM-Lenovo, Apple, Toshiba, Sony and Dell that will meet or exceed the original battery capacity. With a new battery, you can move your old laptop away from the wall.

The new Legacy Power line of replacement batteries support popular laptops, some of which have been discontinued for five years, and in many cases are no longer available from the laptop maker.

More than two-thirds of the Legacy Power batteries are priced under $100. For example, a new Legacy Power battery for the Apple Titanium Powerbook sells for $89.99.

FreshBattery has partnered with Share Our Strength (SOS) to donate $1 of every battery sold to help end childhood hunger in America. The company also supports the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC) to prevent used batteries from entering the solid waste stream.

Most batteries are built to hold a full charge for about two years, based on an average of a few hundred recharges over that time. As the battery reaches the end of its lifecycle, the charge it can hold diminishes dramatically – sometimes down to only 10 – 15 minutes. This means older models are often tethered to an AC outlet.

The FreshBattery online store, at, provides helpful and interesting information about batteries, and multiple search tools to locate the correct battery. Batteries are made daily, and each FreshBattery is stamped with a “Born On” date to ensure freshness.

“The majority of consumers today are working on a one to four year old laptop and a new battery can dramatically improve performance, runtime and mobility. At FreshBattery, we offer the latest battery cell technology. This allows our Legacy Power battery line to significantly extend the life of older laptop models,” said Bob Schaffer, FreshBattery VP of Business Development.

According to Schaffer, “Battery cells available today allow a user to get greater battery capacity into their older machine. For example, an original Apple PowerBook G4 15” Titanium with 3600 mAh cells would run for two and a half hours. Now with a FreshBattery Legacy Power replacement battery that uses 4400 mAh cells that same computer will run for 3 hours and 10 minutes.”

In addition to the Legacy Power line, FreshBattery offers a variety of replacement batteries that provide up to 75% more power than the original batteries.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Sexy new iMacs aimed at Window fans

Apple just introduced a new line of PCs and software aimed at winning over users of Windows-based PCs.

Apple boss Steve Jobs unveiled a sleek new aluminum-and-glass look for its main desktop computer line, the iMac, that reflects the company's emphasis on design. It also revamped a line of consumer software for the Mac for creating home movies, Web pages and other content that Apple believes will further distinguish Macs from rival PCs running Windows.

The Apple products, including a spreadsheet program called Numbers that will compete with Microsoft's Excel, are part of a years-long campaign by Apple to convert Windows users through sexy products and high-profile television commercials. "A lot of Windows customers are going to switch because of this stuff," Jobs said.

It isn't clear how many users of Windows, which runs the vast majority of the world's PCs, have switched over to Macs. But Apple's Macintosh business has been booming lately, outpacing industry growth in new PC shipments of 13% in the second quarter by nearly three times. Apple sold $2.53 billion in Macs in the second quarter, or 47% of the company's total revenue in the quarter.

The growth has allowed Apple to make steady gains in market share, but the company still has a small slice of the business, with a bit more than 5% of new PC shipments in the US.

The new PC products from the company come at a time when much of its attention has shifted to consumer-electronics devices, a shift marked earlier this year when it changed its corporate name to Apple Inc. from Apple Computer Inc.

Apple's new suite of consumer software, called iLife '08, showed further signs of growing collaboration between Apple and search-engine giant Google Inc., another Microsoft nemesis. One program in the suite for designing Web pages, called iWeb, lets users join AdSense, a Google service that allows users to display advertisements on their Web sites. Apple and Google have also worked together on mapping and search software for the iPhone, Apple's new cellular phone.

The new iMacs come with a brushed-aluminum shell and a glass screen, replacing the mostly plastic casing that it used on earlier iMacs. Jobs said the shift in materials will give the new computers a clearer display with a more standout appearance. He added that the materials are more recyclable than the previous plastics Apple used, which might appease groups that have criticized Apple's past environmental practices.

The new iMacs, available today, cost between $1,199 and $1,799, depending on screen size, speed and other features. Those prices are still higher than those for low-end Windows PCs, though Apple says they compare favorably with higher-quality PCs, and are lower than the models they replace. (info from the Wall Street Journal.)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Shop, eat, and explore in Kittery, Maine

If you are heading up the New England coast this summer, plan on spending at least a half a day in Kittery -- on Route 1, right at the bottom end of Maine.

There's over a mile of outlet stores, but unlike most outlet areas -- there are actually stores with stuff that will appeal to MEN: Black & Decker, Brookstone, and Seiko (best bargains are in the rear of the store). There's also candy, clothing, luggage, shoes, sunglasses, etc. plus all of the stores that wives, girlfriends and daughters want to go to.

The town has a number of excellent places to eat, including Bob's Clam Hut, Weathervane and Warren's Lobster House. The Mickey Dee's used to serve lobster rolls, but hasn't had them in the last few years.

Allow an hour for a side trip to ancient Fort McClary, overlooking the Piscataqua River that divides Maine from New Hampshire. The hexagonal fort is on a defense site that dates back to the late 1600s. The present blockhouse was built around 1845. The fort was abandoned at the end of World War I, after being prepared -- but never used -- to defend against invaders in five wars. There's a fantastic 360-degree view of the land and sea; and check out the super-sturdy granite and log construction (done pre-Black & Decker).

If you have the time, drive along the coast for a half hour or more, starting just north of the Fort. It's easy to get stuck, so use your GPS or a detailed map.

If you're not just passing through, consider staying in Portsmouth, New Hampshire -- just south of the Maine/NH border. There are lots of nice Hiltons and Marriotts and a Sheraton (some are dog friendly) plus good shopping, eating and lots of nature to look at. There are even two brew pubs. Also super-cheap gas, and NO SALES TAX. The NH state motto is "Live free or die."

CLICK for more about the outlets, including coupons. Fort photo from

Monday, August 6, 2007

New mouse works on or above desktop

Mouse-maker Logitech has just announced their MX Air™ Rechargeable Cordless Air Mouse, a versatile laser mouse that works on the desk and in the air.

Similar to the way people use a remote control for television, when holding the MX Air mouse, you can lean back and relax while navigating the computer and enjoying media content.

For many, the computer is now much more than a productivity tool. It serves as a hub for digital media, demanding a new way for people to control, consume and enjoy music, photos and videos on the PC. To enable effortless in-air navigation, the new mouse combines three important technologies – Freespace™ motion-control, gesture command and wireless – so you can point, select and play media files with just a flick of the wrist.

Freespace motion control technology is designed to provide accurate, responsive navigation without the limitations encountered by previous in-air pointing devices. This patented technology is based on a combination of MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) sensors, DSP (digital signal processing) technology and RF (radio frequency) wireless technology. These combined technologies allow a user to hold the mouse in any orientation, point in any direction, and enjoy effortless, intuitive cursor control. Additionally, sophisticated algorithms distinguish between intentional and unintentional hand movements – effectively canceling the slight involuntary tremors everyone experiences when holding a device in the air.

Gesture-based commands add a new level of sophistication to the MX Air mouse. To change the volume, just press and hold the volume button and simply gesture to the right to increase volume, or to the left to decrease it. For music applications, a small circular motion to the right activates the skip track command, while a circle to the left repeats the song.

In place of a traditional scroll wheel, the MX Air mouse features a touch-sensitive scroll panel. A swipe of the finger across the surface enables the inertial scrolling mechanism, which adjusts its speed according to the speed of the finger swipe. Media functions such as Play/Pause, Volume/Mute, Back and Select can be easily accessed in the air by pressing the large, orange illuminated buttons with the thumb.

The MX Air mouse design lets you use it as a desktop mouse – with your hand over the top – or as an air mouse – with your fingers under the base and your thumb on top for button selection. It uses 2.4GHz transmission, with a range of up to 30 feet.

The Logitech MX Air Rechargeable Cordless Air Mouse is expected to be available in the US and Europe this month. Suggested retail price in the US is $149.99. CLICK for more info.
This is a preview, not a review.

Friday, August 3, 2007

2008 Chrysler minivans let middle-sitters
face rear-sitters

Aiming to lure customers back from SUVs and "crossover" vehicles, 2008 Chrysler and Dodge minivans are packed with new technology and a seating arrangement that lets families hang out around a virtual "kitchen table" on the road.

The centerpiece of the redesigned 2008 Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country is a second-row seat that can spin 180 degrees to face backward. Nicknamed "Swivel n' Go" after the carmaker's popular "Stow n' Go" flat-fold seats, the new seats create space for a one-legged table that lets passengers eat, do homework or pile things up the way they would in the house.

But the minivans, which hit showrooms later this month, are crammed with an array of new features that smooth away any remnant of the old fuddy-duddy mom-mobile.

Pinpointed overhead LEDs provide bright, targeted illumination more akin to airplane reading lights than the old halo lamps. A convex "conversation mirror" drops down above the rearview to give the driver a full view of what's going on in back, while the middle console slides nearly 2 feet backward and forward, allowing people riding in the front seats to ferry items — snacks, headphones, whatever — to the rear without blind backward tosses or uncomfortable twisting.

The minivans also boast a unique multiple-output entertainment system designed to eliminate the forced compromises of earlier days by channeling different options to passengers riding in separate parts of the van. That means the youngest kids in the middle can watch Nickelodeon on satellite while their parents get Sirius radio in the front and older siblings scan music on a built-in 20-gigabyte hard drive or watch R-rated DVDs in the back seat.

Meanwhile, the original Stow n' Go technology has been upgraded so that the third-row seats fold down automatically into a hatch with the push of a button. They can also be somersaulted backward to create cushioned seating for tailgating parties.

The new models are boxier and more imposing than their predecessors, with a new suspension that gives a confident ride. Gone is the rounded, pod-like exterior of earlier models; banished is the wobbly "minivan" feel on the road

The minivan's designers employ words such as "tailored" and "rich" to describe the Town & Country models, targeted at wealthier parents or at new retirees looking for an upgraded way to cart around grandkids. The Dodge equivalents, meanwhile, are "sinister" — not a word usually associated with minivans. "It's tough, it's angry, it's in your face," according to chief designer Mark Trostle, who said the new Caravans echo the look of the successful Magnum car.

Chrysler, in the midst of its corporate breakup from DaimlerChrysler and sale to private equity firm Cerberus, is depending on the new line to help it stay ahead of encroaching competition in the minivan market from Honda and Toyota, especially now that General Motors and Ford have halted minivan production.

Minivan sales rose quickly when Chrysler introduced them in 1983 as a 1984 model. Annual sales crossed 900,000 in 1990 and peaked at 1.37 million in 2000. But since then, the vehicle has started to fall out of favor, especially with the introduction of car-based crossovers that can carry as many people.

Sales dropped to 970,708 last year, and through July, 477,662 were sold, a 22 percent decrease from the first seven months of 2006.

Chrysler says it believes the new models provide a level of convenience and value that consumers won't find in sport-utility vehicles or in newer crossovers. "There is no substitute for a minivan," said Rick Kukucka, a marketing director for the company.

Still, Chrysler Group isn't taking chances. In July, the company announced it would offer lifetime repairs on the engines, transmissions and drive systems of most cars sold in the US. (info from The Associated Press)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Panasonic wireless phone system
installs in a few minutes.

Panasonic’s KX-TG4500 5.8GHz multi-handset wireless phone system combines the advantages of a business-style telephone system with convenience, mobility and easy installation.

It is the replacement for the extremely popular KX-TG4000 that made a big change in the residential and small business telecommunications business a few years back. Suddenly, professional installers with expensive trucks filled with cable, drills, snakes and staplers were simply not needed. Lots of phone system dealers were really pissed off at Panasonic, but consumers and business-owners were smiling and saving.

The original KX-TG4000 worked in the 2.4GHz frequency band. The new 5.8GHz model is less likely to cause interference with, or be interfered by, wireless computer networks. It also has more features, is more reliable, and costs less (under $450 for the first two phones, $99 for each additional phone).

It provides full phone system functions, such as intercom and voice mail, but doesn’t require the complicated wiring or central control unit needed for a conventional phone system. No special tools or training are needed for installation -- it's pretty much plug-and-play. Just connect the phone lines to the master base unit, plug in the AC charging cradle for each handset, set the intercom numbers, and the system is ready for use.

The KX-TG4500 connects as many as four phone lines. You can record multiple outgoing messages, and select which message goes with which line. If you have a business at home, for example, callers to one line would hear "Thank you for calling the Adams family..." but callers to your other line(s) would hear "Thank you for calling Adams Consulting Services..."

Up to eight wireless handsets can be used with each system, with full functions available at each handset.

The KX-TG4500 is designed to handle your messaging needs when you’re not available. The base incorporates a digital voice mail system with 100-minute capacity, plus auto attendant, so callers can "Press one-and-pound for sales, press two-and-pound for tech support" or "Press one-and-pound for Sally, press two-and-pound for Steve."

The system provides separate voice mailboxes and individual greetings for each handset in the system, plus a "general delivery" mailbox. And, unlike some messaging systems that allow only one user’s voice mail to be accessed at a time, the KX-TG4500 enables simultaneous voice mail operation from each handset regardless of the phone line in use.

Other messaging features include remote message and mailbox access from any handset, full voice prompts, and time and date stamps for each message recorded.

If you have Caller ID, even with Call Waiting service from your phone company, you can know who’s calling before speaking -- just glance at the illuminated three-line display on a handset or the base. The three-line LCD display will show each caller’s complete information without additional scrolling.

Backlighting on the LCD greatly aids visibility, especially in low light. Caller ID memory (viewable via the base or handset display) is for later review with instant callback capability. The base unit can store up to 100 callers’ names and numbers and each handset has memory capacity for an additional 30 names and numbers.

Either base or handset LCD’s also show “line in use,” message waiting and other icons for system status. The KX-TG4500 can also save your most-frequently dialed phone numbers in their alphabetical directory. The phone systems each have a 50-Station phone directory with dialer on the base, with room for an additional 50 names and telephone numbers on each handset.

A navigator key on each handset provides easy access to the Phone Directory/Dialer and Caller ID Memory. This key can also be used to set the handset volume or ringer loudness, or for programming and other functions.

Taking advantage of the ultra-clear 5.8GHz frequency band and Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS) Digital Operation, these new multi-handset telephone systems “spread” their signal over many frequencies each second, helping to assure private conversation.

The KX-TG4500 lets you call any wireless handset from the base unit or “page” them all at once. Three-way conferencing capability lets you link two handsets with an outside call or two outside calls with an internal handset. Digital duplex speakerphones with eight-step volume control, located on the base of each model, is also included. This digital circuitry helps reduce the echo and dropout commonly found in conventional speakerphones, resulting in crystal-clear, hands-free conversations.

The basic package includes a wired "base" phone plus one wireless handset. You can easily and economically add up to seven more wireless handsets.

Each handset is powered by a high-capacity Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) battery, which offers twice the capacity of standard Nickel Cadmium rechargeable batteries, and recharges in the included AC-powered charging stand. Talk time is up to 8 hours, and standby time up to 96 hours.

Additionally a lighted keypad on each handset provides convenient dialing even in dimly lit situations and a headset jack allows connection to headsets equipped with a 2.5mm plug. Other features on each handset include belt clip, three-level handset volume control, an adjustable ringer (Off/Low/High) with four selectable patterns, Call Transfer, Incoming Call Tone, Any Key Answer, Hold, Flash, Pause, Redial and Tone/Pulse Dialing. Base-to-handset range is about 300 feet. Wall-penetration is excellent.

You can even connect one or more door intercom speakers, so you can speak to the Fedex driver while you're out in the backyard or cleaning your attic.

CLICK to order at

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Throw this hash in the trash

Corned beef hash has long been a special breakfast treat. As a kid, my mother occasionally burned some of Libby's hash and scrambled eggs for me; and later, as an independent adult, I switched to the Broadcast brand when Libby's apparently disappeared.

Since I got married, I've seldom had hash at home, because my beloved wife hates the smell, and the left-over reminds her of canned dog food (which our beloved dog never eats).

I sometimes order hash in diners, but half the time it has some weird flavor that I can't stand, and the other half, it's too mushy, even when I order "crisp".

Anyway, last week I was in a local food market, and felt the urge to indulge myself in some comfort food. I explored the shelves in search of the elusive Libby's, or even an acceptable substitute can of Broadcast, but the store had none.

After asking for help from three different people (one of whom had never heard of corned beef hash), I was directed to the bottom shelf of the far end of Aisle Five -- where they keep Spam and Manwich and Dinty Moore's beef stew and other gastronomic delights of ill repute, and I spied several cans of Hormel 50% reduced fat homestyle corned beef hash.

Wow. I was excited. Imagine getting something that I love, that might actually be relatively harmless to my body!

I grabbed a couple of cans, raced to the checkout, and drove home in eager anticipation.

Alas, my excitement and anticipation were unjustified and unfulfilled. Even though I grilled the hash to absolute perfection, it had absolutely no flavor. It was like eating a glob of potato and cardboard with salt.

After I trashed my hash, I read the label on the surviving can. It said "water added to reduce fat." Yeah, the flavor in corned beef hash comes from its fat; and water is not nearly as flavorful as fat.

Even with its diluted formula, a serving of this tasteless poison provides 25% of my daily recommended dose of saturated fat, 20% of my cholesterol, and 45% of my sodium! I'm amazed that something that's this harmful, could taste so bad.

Fortunately, there's other bad stuff that tastes good. For lunch, I got some pizza and an ice cream soda to take my mind off Hormel.