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Digital pen, GPS PDA top gadgets at electronics show

Jan. 12, 2003


If you have had a TV on over the past week or so, you've most likely seen reports of the latest electronics devices debuting at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The show is the industry's chance to highlight its latest gadgets, hardware and software. Gadget freaks like me love to see reports from CES. More than 2,000 companies hauled their latest wares to CES for the biggest electronics show of the year.

Two of the most interesting new gadgets are improvements on two devices I already own -- a cellular phone and a handheld Personal Digital Assistant (PDA).

Garmin International was at CES showing off its new iQue 3600 PDA. It looks similar to the Palm I carry around, and even runs the same Palm operating system mine uses. But Garmin has merged a fully operational (and state-of-the-art) PDA with its GPS global positioning hardware to create the iQue.

The GPS PDA features a large color screen and 32 MB of memory. It'll be available this Spring with complete mapping software for $589.

Cell phone maker Nokia was promoting its new flip-top 6800 phone. The phone appears much like its other phones, but with a difference. Turn the phone sideways and the keypad opens up to reveal a complete mini QWERTY keyboard. The image on the screen even rotates 90 degrees to accommodate the phones additional capability.

There's no touch-typing with this keyboard, but if you've ever tried to type a message using a phone keypad, you know it is frustrating and time consuming. The 3600 not only offers a keyboard, but lots of new features, including voice dialing, built-in speakerphone, e-mail software, a Web browser, FM stereo radio and a number of PDA applications built in.

The Nokia 3600 is already being promoted on the Nokia Web site (complete with animated demo) at www.nokia.com. This top-shelf model will likely command a top price, though Nokia's Web site doesn't mention its anticipated retail price.

The 3600 was one among several high-tech cell phones at CES. Phones from Hitachi and Samsung also offer built-in PDA functions and digital cameras.

The Hitachi Multimedia Communicator looks more like a PDA than a traditional cell phone. It resembles a PDA with a mini-keyboard attached. The unit is powered by the Microsoft Pocket PC operating system, and is designed for use on the Sprint PCS network.

Again, no price was announced, but expect it to be aimed at the high-end power user.

U.S. cell phone users haven't clamored for the extra-feature cell phones so far, but the latest crop of high-tech phones surely will appeal to the gadget-obsessed person in your family.

DIGITAL PEN. Probably the most affordable gadget I've seen (and the one most likely to benefit someone who scribbles lots of notes like me) is the Logitech io.

Logitech is well known for its computer-input devices like mice, keyboards and game controllers. You can add a new input device to that list -- computerized ink pen.

The io is an ink pen that captures what you write as a digital file. It can capture up to 40 pages of information -- notes, drawings, whatever -- which is then downloaded to your PC.

Sounds pretty neat, eh? The pen requires "digital paper" -- Logitech's name for paper preprinted with a tiny dot-pattern background. A built-in optical sensor scans what you write as you write it, saving it until you download it as a file to your computer.

The io is like an ink pen that makes a digital copy of your notes, something that could be handy for people who do lots of note taking or drawing. The notes created by the io can be printed on your printer or e-mailed to others as an attachment. At $199.95, it's probably the most expensive ink pen you'll ever buy, but if you're looking for the gift for the person who already has everything, chances are they won't have an io.

MEMORIES OF 2002. The month of January brings with it the usual gaggle of newspaper stories and TV segments that look back on the events that occurred during 2002. We're near the beginning of the awards show cycle -- the Grammys, the Academy Awards and the Golden Globe Awards, to name a few -- during which honors are bestowed on performers, artists and entertainers.

But you won't find a category for "Most Annoying Celebrity" among any award show nominations. To find that, you'll need to visit the Web site to answer a single question: "Am I Annoying?"

The site, AmIAnnoying.com, gives Internet users a chance to vote for their most annoying celebrity, complete with reasons why he or she annoys you.

The totals for 2002 are in, and Martha Stewart was voted Most Annoying Celebrity of 2002. Of the nearly 600,000 voters who voted on Stewart, 79 percent voted she was annoying.

Despite the site's simple premise, it has attracted quite a following. More than 45 million votes were cast on 6,707 celebrities last year.

Celebrities who followed Stewart in the Most Annoying category include cooking show star Ainsley Harriott (No. 2), psychic John Edward (No. 7), 16th-century scholar Nostradamus (No.8), Yoko Ono (No. 11) and Geraldo Rivera (No. 14). The Web site itself was ranked No. 15 in annoying category.

Visitors can also cast votes for celebrities who are not annoying. The list of Least Annoying Celebrities of 2002 was topped by TV and film actress Mischa Barton, followed by actresses Holly Marie Combs, Mary Louise Parker and Amber Benson, and WNBA point guard Sue Bird. The only men in the Top 25 Least Annoying category were actor Brian Dennehy (No. 13), musician Rob Thomas (No. 15), and actor Pierce Brosnan.

The celebrity voting booth for 2003 wasn't open yet, but a discussion board is available for chat related to your favorite annoying or not-so-annoying celebrity. For more details, visit www.AmIAnnoying.com.

BANNER BAN. The popular Ask Jeeves search engine is joining the growing chorus of sites that are eliminating advertising banners.

Ask Jeeves is scrapping banners and following the lead of other search engines that have turned to paid listings and targeted ads to create revenue.

According to Steve Berkowitz, president of Ask Jeeves, the ads weren't worth the visual distraction they caused site visitors. The banners pushed search engine results further down the page, forcing visitors to scroll down to see results.

Ask Jeeves joins search sites Google, Yahoo and AltaVista in the move to boot banners.

Berkowitz acknowledged the shift is aimed at improving the site's appearance. Ask Jeeves is struggling to keep pace with other search engines as the competition for users increase.

WINDOWS FADE. For the owners of an estimated 300 million PCs, the end is near. The world isn't ending, but technical support for the Windows 98 and Windows NT 4.0 will be cut off by Microsoft later this year.

The software will continue to function just like it always has. The June 30 cut-off means the company will no longer officially support the two operating systems, and will no longer offer updates and security patches for them.

The two operating systems will join other Windows operating systems Microsoft no longer supports, including Windows 95, Windows 3.1, Windows 3.11 and earlier versions of Windows NT. It is estimated that millions of older PCs still use these versions of Windows.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to jbrooks@myoldkentuckyhome.com, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.

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