Geek notes — Get excited, a 4GB thumb drive with safety nets
New York Times News Service
Just when it was becoming really difficult to get excited about USB thumb drives, SanDisk unveils the Cruzer Titanium Plus. This 4 gigabyte drive automatically copies its entire contents to an online backup location, ensuring that even if the drive is lost, you still have your precious data.
The drive costs $60 and includes six months of free backup service at BeInSync.com; after that the service costs $30 a year. The drive backs up only when it is connected to PCs running Windows. You can get access to the backed-up files from any Web browser. If you prefer not to pay for the service, the Cruzer can still be used as a regular thumb drive. However, BeInSync erases the backup data when you don’t pay the bill.
The drive also comes with two years of the lost-and-found service BoomerangIt. If you register the drive and place a sticker on the case, anyone who finds it will receive a small reward for returning the drive intact. So the Cruzer not only backs itself up, it can also find its way home.
— John Biggs
A camera with a range so big, no extra lenses are needed
At first glance, Nikon’s Coolpix P80, due out next month, looks a lot like a digital single-lens reflex camera. Look a little closer and you’ll see that the lens is a lightweight zoom fixed to the compact body.
Look into the owner’s wallet and you will learn that the price was a lightweight $400, less than entry-level SLRs with interchangeable lenses.
Instead of carrying several of those lenses to cover wide and long ranges — inviting dust and pollen onto the sensor during every lens change — you’ll have just one with this camera. But unlike many fixed zooms, this one has a huge range: It’s wide enough at 27 mm to capture a group in a living room, and long enough at 486 mm to read a baseball glove’s brand out on the diamond.
The zoom’s range is too big for a regular glass viewfinder, so you compose by looking at a little digital picture through the eyepiece or the 2.7-inch screen on the back. That isn’t for everyone, but if you want the power of this 18X zoom, you’ll have to accept the compromise.
— Marty Katz
After the disc is burned, put your own brand on it
With CD and DVD burners now standard issue in most computers, making copies of slide shows and movies to archive and give to friends is a simple task.
But once discs are burned, they need to be labeled. For a professional alternative to the usual felt-tip marker, there is the Dymo DiscPainter. It can print text, graphics or a favorite photograph across the surface of a CD or DVD.
This small, silent printer, available for around $250 (replacement ink cartridges are about $40), comes with software to let you easily import, crop and position any image file.
The software includes a selection of standard colorful backgrounds to which other graphics can be added. Create the image, insert the disc and click "print." In about one minute, the quick-drying inking process is done.
One word of caution: The printer works only with special inkjet-printable discs. Easily available at office supply stores, these cost just a few dollars more than standard discs.
With the DiscPainter, your slide shows may still need some work, but at least the discs themselves can quickly impress.
— Eric Taub
Remote comes prepared to learn
A universal remote needs to know all the commands for your entire pile of audio and video gear. But it must come preloaded with all the devices’ instructions, or you need to connect it to a PC or "teach" it the commands by aiming it at the original remotes.
Acoustic Research has come up with an elegant, PC-less solution. The ARRU449, available from online and other stores for about $200, uses a home wireless network to upgrade its software automatically and send additional information to the remote’s screen.
Once the remote finds the network, it presents a list of cable and satellite carriers available in the area. Type in the brand of each device, and the remote scans a list of codes until it finds the right one.
The remote’s screen displays a TV program guide along with the local weather and news headlines. That last feature still needs some tweaking; in a recent test, half of the 20 news articles were about the pope’s visit — a bit overdone even for his admirers.
— Eric Taub
Nike sports watch collects data for runners
Nike knows that some runners are so lean and mean that they can’t let anything — even a 2-ounce iPod Nano — weigh them down. That’s why they created the Nike-Plus SportBand, a watch that receives and records information about your run.
The SportBand, available now for $59, consists of a waterproof wristband with a removable base and a small sensor. The base connects wirelessly to the sensor, which fits snugly in the sole of Nike-Plus compatible running shoes or can be placed on or inside standard running shoes. Once you’ve finished your workout, you take out the base and plug it into a USB port on a Mac or PC. The base then transmits your time, distance and calories burned to a Web site, www.nikeplus.com.
The site lets you set goals for yourself and even compete with other nikeplus.com users. A new Nike-Plus Coaching system allows you to share your results with other runners and prepare customized training plans. Both services are free.
— John Biggs