tech gear designed to survive travel
adventures and small children by
Alan Zisman (c) 2009 First published in Business
in VancouverJune 9-15,
2009; issue 1024
High Tech Office column
cold May morning as I write this, but it was sunny yesterday, and that
meant Vancouver starts to dream of summer.
if you’re, say, planning to kayak through Skookumchuk rapids, what kind
of tech gear should you take along? (I know, some of you wonder why you
would bring gadgets along on your summer adventure.)
suggests its VA76r Tundra, “the SUV of mobile phones.” Like an SUV, it
replaces the sleek lines of some models with bulky, but durable, rubber
sidings. Motorola claims it meets military specifications for rain,
shock and vibration.
Available for Rogers/Fido ($200
the Tundra combines an easy to use interface and controls, a brighter
than average colour display and good call quality. It includes a
two-megapixel camera with 4x digital zoom , video and music-playing
software and e-mail and web browsing, of course. You can add gigabytes
of microSD card storage, though getting at the memory card is awkward.
Battery life is rated at five hours of talk time or 14 days standby.
recommends it for cyclists, rock climbers, construction workers and
parents of small children.
most mobile phones, the Tundra’s built-in camera works, but is pretty
basic. No flash, for starters. And overexposed colours. If taking
photos of your adventure (or small children) is a priority, Olympus has
long offered digital cameras built for water and shock resistance.
company is cutting to the chase this year, naming its rugged products
“Tough,” including the Stylus Tough-6000 ($350) and Tough-8000 ($450)
models. Both include 3.6x optical zooms (equivalent to a 28-102mm 35mm
lens), face detection, shadow adjustment and in-camera panorama
features. Tap control lets you adjust features like flash without
needing to press buttons – handy in adverse conditions.
10-megapixel Tough-6000 survives drops of up to 1.5 metres. It can also
tolerate being underwater up to three metres and freezing temperatures
to -10 degrees.
The 12-megapixel Tough-8000 ups the
surviving drops of two metres and dives down as far as 10 metres. For
more serious dives, an optional underwater housing for the Touch-8000
allows it to be taken to depths of 40 metres. Like other Olympus camera
models, both use xD-style memory cards rather than the more common (and
less expensive) SD cards; microSD cards can also be used.
experience, the most common cause of laptop meltdown is hard drive
failure, even with day to day handling far more gentle than, say,
whitewater rafting (or use by small children). Hard drive manufacturer
Seagate’s Momentus replacement laptop hard drives are built to survive
rough handling and vibration. Models with the letter “G” at the end of
the model number include a “G-Force option” – a free-fall sensor that
detects when a laptop is being dropped and moves the drive heads away
from where data is stored, protecting the drive and your data from
These 7,200 rpm drives offer faster
typical laptop models in exchange for only a small penalty in battery
life. Prices range from US$80 for a 250-gigabyte model to US$150 for a
Laptop hard drive replacement
can be a
relatively straightforward do-it-yourself project; make (and test) a
backup of your data first.
extra-robust gear is no use if
you’re lost. TomTom’s Go 730 ($400) is an update on its popular 720
model. Like that model, it can speak out street names as you travel by
transmitting to your car’s FM radio. This text-to-speech option,
however, is disabled by default. When not needed for directions it
doubles as an MP3 music player and can couple with many mobile phones
for hands-free calling. A new IQ Routes feature promises improved
directions with up-to-date awareness of road construction and traffic
jams. Advanced Lane Guidance tries to help with complex multi-lane