Gadgets & Gizmos from The Dallas Morning News


Friday, October 13th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


Voice warp

Sure, KB Gear Interactive's hand-held Jam-It can record plain old speech or singing. But by teaming up with a Windows or Macintosh computer and using the sound mixer software, this digital device can also create sounds that will have kids rolling with laughter.

Before they use Jam-It, install the software, connect a cable to the computer's microphone and speaker ports, then plug the speakers into the recorder. Hook-up is foolproof.

Jam-It's memory is pretty limited if recording is done away from the computer. It barely held a 3-year-old's five-minute rendition of Wheels on the Bus. Recording time is nearly unlimited, though, when Jam-It is used with a computer because audio can be downloaded and saved there.

The fun comes when special effects from the Warp-It software are added. Using on-screen controls, kids can click on categories and pull down menus to alter a voice to emulate Tweety Bird, for example. Under the Human category, they can make the recording sound like someone who's had too much coffee. Under sci-fi, phaser sounds are available.

Visual effects can be displayed, too, so a child can sync the sound with a funny image. I selected a spider monkey to perform Wheels. Click on the lips, and the monkey "sings" the song.

What a scream for $49.95.

See www.kbgear.com or call 952-253-4528.

– Jean Nash Johnson


Serving up those MP3s

Lansonic's DAS-750 is designed as a link between a stereo system and a computer network.

Like a home entertainment component in appearance, the $995 DAS-750 has a 20-gigabyte internal hard drive that can store about 345 hours of MP3-encoded music.

But MP3 storage is just part of what the DAS-750 has to offer.

It has a built-in Ethernet adapter that allows this digital audio server to join a network. Once connected, the DAS-750 can play MP3s from other computers' shared folders or copy the files to its hard drive.

Press the power button, and the Linuxlike operating system that controls the unit starts up almost instantly, and the cool, green glow of the backlit LCD blinks to life.

All of this computing power can be controlled with one large dial.

Or you can take command from across the room with the included remote.

For control from across a network, the DAS-750 provides Web access. This promising feature offers browser access to most configuration settings but currently has only buttons for next and previous songs in a playlist. Fortunately, an enhanced Web interface will be available as a software upgrade soon.

The Lansonic DAS-750 is much more than an MP3 player with a patch cord and definitely more elegant than a computer with a sound card. Visit www.lansonic.com or call 781-272-4546.

– Jeremy M. Van Zee


MiniDisc marvel

In a world where compact is king, this portable MiniDisc digital recorder is no pretender. The MZ-R70PC is tiny – not much bigger than a 2½-inch MiniDisc itself – and extremely portable. The sleek styling of the device and headphones is attractively futuristic. The ease with which you can shuffle and/or erase songs is commendable.

Of course, the journey – not the destination – is the real story when testing a new product, and this trip's start was a bit bumpy.

Accompanying diagrams lack details and resulted in several failed attempts to tape a song from a portable CD player. Perhaps Sony concluded that consumers really do ignore the instructions and would just find the nearest tech-savvy teenager to set up the nifty gadget.

Then again, the MZ-R70PC is designed primarily to record MP3s downloaded from the Internet. This part is simple: Plug the external MD PCLink into your computer's USB port, change the selection on your multimedia setting's "preferred playback device," open the music player/ripper application installed on your machine, create a playlist and you're ready to record.

Some audiophiles swear by MiniDiscs, citing their compactness, 74-minute capacity and sound quality. But at $250, the MZ-R70PC competes directly with the latest comparably priced and portable MP3 and CD-RW systems, tough acts to follow.

Go to www.sony.com/news or call 1-800-222-7669.

–Oscar Martinez


Getting your Visor on the superhighway

Staying connected gets easier by the day, and the new Thincom portable modem from Card Access ensures that users of Handspring's Visor personal digital assistant won't be too far from the World Wide Web.

This lightweight module snaps into the Visor's expansion slot to let users surf the Web or check e-mail anywhere there's a standard telephone jack. The Thincom adds negligible ounces to the weight of the Visor. Keep in mind that this isn't a wireless model; going online with the Thincom still means being tethered to a phone jack by a 6-foot cord.

Setup literally takes seconds, as long as you have the information available to configure the modem with your Internet service provider. That's about as complicated as it gets.

The modem uses Puma Technologies' Browse-it mini Web browser, which accomplishes many of the same tasks as a full-size browser, such as storing bookmarks and supporting graphics. Web content is reformatted to fit the Visor's screen. Though certainly lacking the color and clarity of the online experience with a computer and monitor, a Visor using a Thincom module delivers everything it promises.

The MultiMailPro program allows users to send and retrieve e-mail. Again, setup is a breeze, and it's as easy to use as your standard e-mail.

The $119.95 Thincom won't persuade you to abandon your computer for good, but it's a simple, dependable way to keep in touch wherever you go. Call 801-492-4750 or see www.cardaccess-inc.com.

– Paula Felps


For shooting, this digital camera's a goooooooal!

Sony's Mavica digital cameras are known for easy use. Pop in a floppy disk, point and shoot. You don't need the cables or reading devices that you might use with other digital cameras.

The only problem with floppies in the world of digital photography, as with personal computers, is they don't store much data. Choose the highest-resolution format, and you can fit only a handful of pictures on each diskette.

But Sony has developed an optional floppy disk adapter, compatible with all new models, that lets you use Memory Stick technology. It expands potential storage capacity up to 44 times.

With the floppy disk adapter and a 64-megabyte Memory Stick card, Mavica users can capture about 42 minutes of MPEG-format movies in one-minute intervals, which are easily sent as e-mail attachments, or almost 1,000 still images at a 640 X 480 resolution.

We tested the MVC-FD95, which retails for $1,100. This Mavica comes loaded with features that include a 10X optical zoom and a through-the-lens viewfinder. Pictures I shot were consistently bright and crisp.

Those interested in the Mavica line should also note that Sony has another new model. The MVC-CD1000, which burns images onto CDs instead of floppies, retails for $1,300.

For more information, visit www.sony.com or call 1-888-449-7669

– Alan Goldstein