Toolie Travel Blog

A million-mile flyer talks about the life of a business traveler.

ToolieTravelBlog: 2009/2010 Tech Travel Gadgets Turn Heads

Technology, like business travelers, never sits still. The Consumer Electronics Show just recently concluded in Las Vegas. I've never had the opportunity to attend (when I was at Microsoft, I managed to NOT have to work a booth there, sparing my voice), but I think I'd like to try visiting the show. It's the biggest electronics show of the year, spanning multiple venues, so you'd better have some comfortable shoes and no fear of crowds if you plan to attend.

When I went trolling through lists of travel gadgets written by others summarizing last year's best as well as those who did attend CES, I spotted some gadgets that I, as a business traveler, would love to get my hands on. They may appeal to you as well!

* LiveScribe Pulse SmartPen ~

The Pulse SmartPen can record your handwriting and corresponding audio (think note-taking in a lecture) and let you upload it to your computer for storage and analysis. I'd seen reports on this device previously, but in the last few months they've expanded their line and supporting accessories. The SmartPen is yet another attempt to merge handwriting and computing, and depending on your particular interest, can be a real boon to making that connection.

Personally, I can type way way faster than I can hand-write, so for me having a device like this would be less of a priority than having a second, ultra-portable notebook for my traveling and speaking. BUT I do like to hand-write my notes when I'm brainstorming. I'm a regular at my local Red Robin restaurant, where the manager there knows I come to "make lists." In that situation I don't bring my laptop; I bring pen and paper. If I had a SmartPen, I wouldn't be re-typing my hand- written notes, I'd just be storing them on my computer. Bye-bye randomly scribbled notes!

* ITV-Vidix Goggles ~

I first experienced wide-screen video in special, wearable, goggles at my dentist's office. She offers your choice of a movie to watch if she's got a procedure to perform on your teeth that lasts over an hour. (Yes Dr. Cindy Pauley of Brookside Dental IS the coolest dentist in the world -- she's here in Bellevue!)

These ITV-Vidix Goggles are un-tethered; you can load your movie into the goggles using a mini-SD card, and watch your movie without worrying about forgetting to unplug your unit when your seat-mate suddenly decides they have to get to the lavatory NOW! You can just leap up from your seat and not break any cables. OK, well, you probably should take them off first, but remember to hit Pause.

* Kodak Zx1 Pocket Video Camera ~ flagged this model in their best of 2009 review of travel gadgets, but I've been hearing about the Kodak line of pocket video cameras from other sources. My Internet video guy, Mike Stewart ( has been testing the high-end model (Zi8) and likes it a lot. In this department Kodak is giving The Flip pocket video cameras a run for their money.

* La Cie Rugged Hard Disk ~

The La Cie brand is very familiar to long-time Macintosh users, but perhaps not as well-known among Windows PC users. I got involved with La Cie drives when my hard drive needs expanded a couple of years back (those thousands of 7MB photos), and now I have a 2-TB and 2 500-GB La Cie drives that are still working! They're both practical and stylish.

The model I want to draw to your attention though is from their Rugged Hard Disk line. What caught my eye is the fact that these are MIL- compliant, which means they've passed very nasty tests set up by the

U. S. Army's Developmental Test Command to gauge how well a device will perform under extreme conditions. Now as much as I love traveling, I tend to be tough on my electronics, so I look for ratings like this on the gear I buy. Time Magazine's Best Travel Gear of 2009 list mentioned the La Cie Rugged Hard Drive because of this particular compliance. That works for me!

* Vue Personal Video Network ~

Travel + Leisure Magazine put this set of devices on their Best of CES 2010 list, and I have to agree. Several years ago I put in a Panasonic network camera in my office that I can use if I log into my home domain. I use it to observe my printer when printing to it while I'm away -- making sure the pages actually print out. Sometimes I check the door to the studio to see if McAlister is up before I call from overseas, so that I don't wake him up unnecessarily. (As an artist he keeps unpredictable hours, so I try not to mess with that.)

This video network is wireless, and you can set up those simple cameras in any room in the house. My interest though is in having a camera pointed at the front porch. When the doorbell rings, I want to make sure that it's the UPS guy waiting for a signature for my package, not someone ringing the bell and then leaving before I can get to the door.

* Optoma PK102 Pocket Projector ~

I want one of these tiny projectors for my travels. We have a wonderfully bright but small NEC projector that is half the size of a laptop which I plan to use for my presentations, but I'd love to have this projector for use one-on-one with clients or in committee meetings. Time Magazine's Best Travel Gadgets of 2009 flagged its sibling PK101 as one of the best travel gadgets last year, but the newer model PK102 has my attention. This model can hook up to a laptop and project a reasonably sized image. It has a good contrast ratio, long battery life, and 100% NTSC Color Gamut support. I'd be thrilled just to be able to project the movies running on my laptop onto my hotel room walls for more comfortable viewing!

What gadgets have you seen lately? Send your suggestions along and I will share them in future newsletters. Have fun shopping!
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