Business-like, isn't he?



Say hello to next-generation gear 

by Alan Zisman (c) 2002
First published in Business in Vancouver,  Issue #644 February 26-March 4, 2002 GearGuide Column

Shrinking music players, versatile phones and printers 

The continuning evolution of electronic gadgetry brings a new generation of toys, ever smaller and more versatile than their predecessors. 

Good sounds in small packages

MP3 music players continue to get smaller and more affordable. A case in point is RCA's k@zoo (RD1060) player. Weighing a mere 1.5 ounces (about 42 grams), and measuring about 1.5" x 2" (whatever that is metric), it sports 64 MB of memory, allowing it to store an hour's worth of music. An optional memory card can double that. It is priced at $229, with a 32 MB version (RD1000) for $199, but spring for the extra memory; 30 minutes worth of music just doesn't cut it. 

RCA's k@zoo MP3 playerHow does the music get into the player? It comes with MusicMatch and Real Player software (PC only), that allows users to "rip" songs from their CDs, turning the songs into compressed MP3s or Windows Media files stored on their PC. The same software can then be used to create playlists of desired tunes, and shoot them, via USB to the k@zoo. Figure on five to 10 minutes to send over an hour's worth of tunes. With its small size and no moving parts, it's a nice option for skip-free music for jogging or exercise. 

(RCA is supporting computer-oriented MP3 and Windows Media digital music across much of its product line, including CD boom boxes, portable stereos, and home stereo CD components. A CD made in a computer's CD-burner can hold 100 or more MP3 tracks, letting a five-disc changer provide 60 hours or so worth of tunes). 

A little bit bigger...
But still small enough to fit in the palm for your hand. That's Motorola's V101 Personal Communicator, the company's latest entry in the ever-more-competitive wireless messaging market. 

Motorola V101 messengerThe V101 can connect to GSM cell networks, such as Rogers/AT&T, making it a cell phone, complete with voice dialing. As well, its clamshell design opens up to a small screen and keyboard. Two-fingered typists can use the tiny but standard QWERTY keyboard to send and receive Internet e-mail and short messages to pagers using the Sonar Middleware Standard protocol. 

New to this product category is the V101's ability to be used for ICQ chat. (Any teenager will be able to tell you that this is a popular Internet instant messaging program, for sending messages back and forth in real time to others who are from your personal "buddy list," and who are online right now). Alternatively, users can chat with up to five other V101 users at a time. 

Finally, the V101 can record up to three minutes worth of memos. Its price: $99 after rebate. 

Much bigger, but think of the space it saves

Hewlett-Packard's PSC950 ($599) won't fit in the palm of anyone's hand, except maybe, the Friendly Giant's. But the desktop all-in-one may still turn out to be the space-saver you need. 

HP PSC950 all-in-one deviceLike others in the all-in-one product category, it prints, copies, faxes, and scans. As well, it's the first all-in-one to include digital photo-printing features -- no computer necessary. 

Insert a digital camera's memory card into the slot, and the printer outputs a proof sheet of thumbnail-sized photo prints. (Compact Flash, SmartMedia, and Sony Memory Stick memory cards are all supported). The proof sheet can then be marked to select photos, and after you scan it back into the system, full-sized prints of the selected photos are printed out. 

Resolutions up to 2400 x 1200 dots per inch (using high quality photo paper) result in near-photo quality pictures, while speeds up to 10 pages per minute for colour prints keep waiting to a minimum. Even without a computer, the PSC950 can be used to make a page of wallet-sized prints from a single original. And unlike many all-in-one models, it offers a flat-bed scanner, so it can be used to scan books or other 3D objects. 

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan