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The latest gadgets and gizmos

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Packing well
Before the international business trip, there’s often the trip to the travel store for business communications supplies.

Tracking down the right phone and plug adapters can be as challenging as navigating train schedules or maneuvering through foreign languages and customs.

Sprint recently began selling a convenient solution - though not a cheap one. Its Business Traveler Kit contains 13 phone adapters and five power plugs, with a guide matching the devices to the countries where they work.

Packed neatly in a 9-inch-by-12.5-inch leather binder, the kit also includes a nifty 10-foot phone cord that spools from a small plastic case, a phone line tester that can protect gear from power surges and a guide with tips about logging online from outside the United States. Power travelers might leave the binder at home, but it’s a great way to store the equipment.

Purchasers can also get access to voice and data telecom services that Sprint says include low calling rates, easy conference call setup, online presentation software, a Web site with helpful travel information and extra customer service help.

Sprint expects customers to pay for the convenience this kit can provide. It costs $95 for current customers and $150 for people who sign up for Sprint phone service at the same time they buy the hardware. (Sprint says that’s a discount compared with buying all the pieces separately.)

Costs for the related phone services vary. For more information, call 1-888-830-3282 or log on to www.sprint.com/businesstravel.

- Jennifer Files

Bump and play

Being a typical rip-it-open type of guy who always thought instruction booklets were for dummies, I finally met my match with the Sony CD Walkman with G-Protection.

I was flat-out intimidated by the combination of 26 buttons, dials, levers, switches and displays on the player. But after following the simple directions, I was enjoying quality audio in about 10 minutes.

Sony changed the name of its premium CD players from Discman to CD Walkman, with models that range in price from $80 to $200. I tested the high-end model D-EJ815. It includes rechargeable batteries, stereo headphones, full-function remote control, an external battery case, AC power adapter and a "hand-grip" carrying case. This sleek, $149.95 aluminum- and black- colored unit weighs only about 7 ounces and is 0.75-inch thick.

In Sony’s parlance, G-Protection means virtually skip-free, a technology targeted at active people. Most skips are prevented before you hear them because the memory buffer is kept filled, allowing music to be played continuously.

Sony also improved the laser diode to consume less power. With the batteries provided, Sony says users should get about 10 to 11 hours of play on a four-hour charge. By buying four alkaline batteries and placing the external battery case on a flat and stable surface, the unit is designed to play up to 76 hours.

For more information on CD Walkman models and features, see www.world.sony.com or call 1-800-488-7669.

- Harold Scull Jr.

Listen up. It’s Net radio

The promise of Internet radio comes through clearly with the Sonicbox iM Remote Tuner, a PC add-on that pulls in faraway radio stations.

At $75, the device approaches its goal of making Internet radio as simple as tuning an FM dial, at least for 800 preset stations. Listeners can add a few of their own favorite stations that broadcast across the Internet, too.
The pre-release unit we saw consists of several pieces that wirelessly transmit PC sound to an FM radio and allow a listener to remotely control which station is playing. This all sounds and even looks a bit complicated, but the Sonicbox sets up fairly easily and works simply. The device requires a computer running Windows 98 or higher.

Listeners also can plug their headphones into a wireless receiver for walking around the house. But that invites static, even within the stated range. Sonicbox Inc. says the receiver can be 100 feet from the PC and the tuner can be 65 feet from the PC. The Sonicbox tuner, however, can’t find archived or special broadcasts. So I had to go to the PC to dial up the latest St. Louis Cardinals baseball game. Still, the Sonicbox allowed me to listen downstairs to the Cardinals while the PC sat upstairs, a treat for someone living cross-country from Busch Stadium.

Sonicbox Inc. is still refining the iM Remote Tuner, which is expected to be available by midyear. Learn more at www.sonicbox.com or call 1-650-967-4842.

- David LaGesse

Palm cam

Kodak has introduced an intriguing product for devotees of Palm organizers - a tiny digital camera.

Why would anyone want to take pictures with a Palm hand-held computer? It’s certainly an awkward-looking camera. But the people at Kodak were thinking more about uses at work than at home or on vacation.

Let’s say you want to preserve a white board presentation from a successful brainstorming session. Grab the Kodak PalmPix from your briefcase, clip it on the bottom of your Palm and you’re set.

Users can view the image on the Palm’s liquid crystal display. But most will want to transfer the images using the Palm’s cradle to a personal computer. As standard JPEG or Bitmap files, the images can be manipulated, e-mailed, printed and saved.

At only 1.5 ounces, the PalmPix is light enough to carry around without being noticed. It’s also easy to use, with its own Windows-compatible software program. The cost: about $179.

For more information, go to www.kodak.com/go/palmpix or call 1-800-235-6325.

- Alan Goldstein

Burning for you

Compaq has produced the first commercially available desktop computer that enters the rarefied air of 1-gigahertz processor clock speed, and the results don’t disappoint. Getting the jump on its competition and Intel, the Presario 5900Z-1GHz uses AMD’s nifty new Athlon chip and an assortment of high-end add-ons to woo ambitious gamers and home video enthusiasts. (For perspective, the Athlon is roughly 9,000 times faster than the original IBM PC produced in 1981).

Couple that record-breaking speed with DVD and CD-RW drives, 256MB of RAM, a 19-inch monitor and a speedy 40GB 7200RPM ATA-66 hard disk, and you have a platform capable of the most demanding gaming and home video editing tasks.

To enhance its video capabilities, Compaq has smartly included FireWire, or 1394 IEEE, ports on the front and back of is midtower case to allow a direct connection to camcorders. In tests, Compaq has shown the system capable of accepting 45 minutes of direct feed video without loss of a single frame. The Klipsch Pro Media speaker system and nVidia Geforce DDR graphics card make special effects leap to life.

If you’ve got about $3,200 hanging around, this is a nice package that should last years, although for some reason it is only warrantied for one. The base model can be configured numerous ways to get the price under $3,000.

Call Compaq at 1-800-888-0220 or visit www.compaq.com.

- Doug Bedell
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