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    A roundup of top summer tech tools

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2006 First published in Business in Vancouver July 25-31, 2006; issue #874

    High Tech Office column; 

    Summer is a great time for vacations, but it’s also a great time for gadgetry. Here are a couple of my favourite summer gadgets that, while working fine the rest of the year, have some value-added features for holiday time.

    In a market full of digital cameras, Olympus’ Stylus 720 SW ($500) deserves your attention if you’re wanting a camera to take to the beach or lake-front vacation for a simple reason: unlike competitors’ offerings, it’s waterproof. It’s designed to be fully submersible in up to three metres of water for up to an hour. The 7.1 megapixel Stylus is also rated to withstand a drop of 1.5 metres or so.

    It’s pocket-sized and has a solid stainless steel body with a 3x zoom lens that doesn’t protrude and 25 scene modes that make it easy to take good-looking shots in various settings (including under water). The camera’s small size and ruggedness make it a good choice for hikers, climbers, and swimmers.

    Motorola has produced some stunning cellphones, such as its popular Razr series. Last year’s Rokr model, however, wasn’t one of them, bundling Apple’s iTunes software into one of the company’s less stylish phones. The Slvr L7 (meant to be pronounced “Sliver,” not “Silver” – about $200 from Rogers Wireless) puts the iPod-like music player capabilities into a much sleeker case.

    Like the Razr models, it’s a quad-band GSM phone, making it a good choice for international travel. It also includes Bluetooth and USB connectivity. There’s a slot for SD memory cards, allowing additional storage of photos, movies, and music. And like the Rokr, it includes iTunes, letting users store and play up to 100 songs from a computer’s iTunes music library or bought from Apple’s iTunes music store.

    Like the Rokr, it’s got a 100-song upper limit, no matter how many tunes will fit in the phone’s memory or on an SD card. And like the Rokr, you can’t use an iTunes song as a ringtone. Despite these limitations, it’s a nice phone that does double-duty as a low-end iPod replacement.

    Maybe you’re not going anywhere special this summer. But like many of us, you’ve collected a library of tunes on your computer. Getting the tunes from your computer to your home music system can be a challenge. Sure you can string a cable connecting the two, but that’s tacky at best and can be a real mess if they’re in two different rooms. Specialized WiFi adapters like Apple’s Airport Express work, but at $160 are expensive if all you want is a way to play music.

    Griffin’s RocketFM is an FM transmitter that plugs into a PC or Mac USB port and sends your computer’s audio output to a nearby FM radio receiver at a user-selectable frequency band. Selling for $50, it’s an affordable and easy to use way to get music stored on your computer out to any nearby room with a radio. Highly recommended, despite a design that looks like the rocket ship in a 1950’s sci-fi flick.

    I’m writing this on a rainy July day; maybe instead of going anywhere, I should just stay in and tidy up the home office.

    Richmond-based Torrance Design offers a series of SafeCord cabinets to help organize and hide the clutter of power cords and other cables that our high-tech offices seem to collect. Two-foot square by five inches thick, each is attractively finished in a choice of oak, maple, beech, cherry or industrial grey, to get those wires and power bars out of sight. $60:

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