Apr 302010

No gadget column worth its salt can go by without a hat-tip to the iPad, and since all the panty-liner jokes have already been done to death on Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed and WastingTime.com, we can now concentrate on the serious tech side of Steve Job’s latest gadget, nicknamed the print-killer. Among other things.

What the iPod did to music, the iPad will do to newspapers, ask any futurist. (After you’ve asked them how you get to be a futurist, of course – that’s the most important first question to put to any futurist you happen to meet.)<div xmlns:cc="http://creativecommons.org/ns#" about="http://www.flickr.com/photos/t_kaworu/4527081753/"><a rel="cc:attributionURL" href=

Just as the iPhone generated dozens of breathless iPhone-stalking websites and blogs, so the iPad spawned a whole gaggle of specialty blogs within hours of its release.

Time to whisper: – it’s ok if you don’t know what it is yet. Me neither. I don’t have one. Nor will I be one of those idiots lining up overnight at the Apple store waiting for the first batch to arrive on our shores. (Not when I have a relative who works on the docks, anyway..  ahem.)

So, I’ve made a few phonecalls (disguising my voice of course) – and now I have the answers to the questions that you lot were too cool to ask anyone.

Q.  What is the iPad?
A.  It’s a portable screen you put stuff on that you can read.

Q.  Why all the fuss then?
A.  I’m not totally sure really. It also plays movies and games and stuff and it’s bigger than an iPhone but smaller than a laptop. It’s about A4 size, so you can look at photos and actually see them, unlike on a mobile phone.

The iPad runs iPhone apps, including that one where you pretend to pour beer and the one that tells you what song is playing. Oh, and it plays music. It has a touch screen, which is very 2010. And it has that all-important Apple logo.

And because it doesn’t have a phone and it isn’t a computer and it’s much much bigger than an iPod, you’ll still need all of those things.

Yep, I think once again Apple have managed to create an absolutely crucial gadget that no-one knew they needed – and now, even though it remains tantalisingly unavailable, we already think we cannot do without. Go Jobsy, you marketing genii, you!

Bottom line: Oh, just go and get one, everyone else is.
How much :  From US $499 to US $829 depending on gigabytes and 3G-ness

Aug 082009

If you’ve watched any late-night television at all in the last year, you’ve probably heard of a dodgy beauty device for feet called the Ped Egg, courtesy of the shudderingly awful commercial that, according to CNN, is currently the subject of a lawsuit by Kelly Parks-Corso and Jonathan Corso, the married Florida foot models starring in the ad.
(How does one become a Foot Model? Do Foot Models always marry other Foot Models? And is this lawsuit partly inspired by concerns these two Foot Models have about the viability of their careers, now that PedEgg is marketing Foot Beauty to the masses? Will there be a veritable flood of Foot Models storming the Foot Model market and driving Foot Model fees through the floor?)

The two Florida foot models (only in America!) claim to have been duped by Telebrands, the manufacturer of PedEgg, who applied ‘horror makeup’ to the before shots of their feet – and to top it off, didn’t pay for all the broadcast rights due to any self-respecting high-profile Foot Model.

I have deliberately digressed from describing the PedEgg in detail, dear Reader, because quite frankly the ad gave me the heebie-jeebies.

The gadget itself is essentially a cheese grater for your foot. For foot-cheese. And it collects the foot-gratings in a little container. It’s truly revolting.

The egg-shaped foot file has over 100 “stainless steel micro files” stuck to the grating side of the “convenient storage compartment.” And that’s it, that’s all it does.

To get your hands on this little beauty involves three payments of $19.95 plus postage plus handing your credit card number over to a late-night phone sales assistant. Me, I’m wearing closed-in shoes instead.

Bottom line: Foot scrapings, eeeuw!
Where: www.pedegg.com
How much : about Au $ 60

Jul 182009

If you have a special collection for your accountant of yellowing receipts collected in a shoebox, or you have an in-tray overflowing with bits of paper that you really must do something with sometime – you will love this gadget.

neatreceiptsThe Neat Receipts Scanner promises to “organise life’s paper trail.”

Simply fork over US $200 (or US $100 for the business card version) and you’ll be managing your paperwork with ease, apparently.

Slip each of those receipts through the Neat scanner and the software will extract the key information, plonk it into a spreadsheet and let you analyse your spending by date, amount, client, or whatever else you’d like to report on.

From a harassed messy-desk person to an obsessive bean-counter with just one small gadget? Hooray.

Let’s hope it comes with a matching plastic shirt-pocket protector!

The same company offers a sister product (not a Brother) which will extract details from the business cards you have haphazardly filed in a dusty box in the corner (or is that just me?) and enter them into your Outlook Contacts.

Future versions may even update your Facebook account, send a twitter to your family about what you’ve been buying lately and alert the ATO to any unusual activity. Who knows.

Though I do want to say “get a life,” a small part of me looks at this little scanner with lust born of repressed tidy-desk envy …

Where: www.neatreceipts.com
How much: About Au $210

May 122009

There’s nothing that says winter in Australia more than the wonderful sheepskin-lined footwear fondly known as the Ugg Boot.

heatableUggDespite rumours that crass mag-fodder celebs (like the trashy Paris Hilton) have adopted our National Boot, the ugg-boot remains so practical and – let’s face it – downright ugly, that it has mostly avoided all fashion trends apart from the perpetual ‘Bogan Oz’ look.

Wikipedia calls them a ‘casual unisex boot’ and claims that sheepskin boots have featured throughout history with sixties Aussie surfer culture the latest in a string of ancient cultures to adopt the ugg.

Some ugg fanciers reckon that the ‘ugg’ title originates from the well-known feature of those uggs worn for more than one or two winters – usually, they will develop a pungent odour that quickly overpowers all other scents and those nearby may be heard to utter ‘Ugh!’ as the smell reaches them.

Whatever, there’s not been much ugg improvement since the earliest days of uggdom, apart from minor changes like mini-ugg boots to fit baby feet, short ugg-slippers for the indoor types, and pink-dyed ugg boots for chicks.

But now, gadget retailer Latest Buy is offering a heatable ugg boot. Whether you’re so wimpy that you can’t be satisfied with the snuggly warmth of bare sheepskin or you live in one of this nation’s most chilly regions, if ugg is not enough, this gadget might just do the trick.

The heatable ugg boot is not, actually, a real ugg, made as it is from polar fleece dyed a blinding pink. (Nothing natural there, though I did wonder at first whether it might involve polar-bear fur.)

The high-tech component is the nifty inclusion of a hidden cache of wheat grains and lavender which, when heated in a microwave for two minutes, produce a toasty warm sensation which will last for hours. And no more stinky feet!

Go wild – but remember, only the original sheepskin boots will truly bring out your inner Bogan.

Bottom line: Warm your feet in these microwaveable slippers
Where: www.latestbuy.com.au/heatable-ugg-boots.html
How much : Au $ 35

Jul 012008

Despite my family suspecting me of early-onset dementia, I do have some remnants of working memory and, like most people over the age of about ten, once I have read a book, I’ll only read it again if it was a jolly good read and some time has passed.
But as any parent knows, once your pre-schooler has decided a particular book is a favourite, you’ll be up for a recital several times a day for the next six months or until you hide it somewhere they would never look (like their wardrobe).

US-based toy company Leapfrog scored a winner with their LeapPad kids own laptop reading system, launched a few years back, which appealed to a broad range of parents: the pushy parent wanting genius advantage before little Johnny got to kindergarten; the time-stretched parent whose kids had learned the alphabet from Sesame Street; and the desperate parent who had to buy themselves a new laptop following a trip to the sandpit.

The LeapPad’s successor is destined to be an even bigger winner, apparently; called The Tag Reading system, it is based on a chunky plastic pen-like stylus, in green or pink, that will read a paper-based book aloud and never has to do the washing-up first.

The Tag stylus contains an infrared camera that scans dot patterns on the books and then reads out the appropriate text to the child. Magic, I told my two-year old (though it probably uses an inbuilt MP3-like audio file.)

A USB connection allows you to plug the stylus into your PC to track your child’s progress and additional phonics-based activities at the back of the book can be useful to promote reading. Or you may have the kind of child who just wants to make chicken noises hundreds of times in a row. (Maybe that’s just my offspring!)

At least there’s a range of books to choose from – 18 books have been rolled out with the initial launch with the promise of more to come. And though aimed at 4-8 year olds, this would make a great present for stressed-out parents of 2-6 year olds. Just add batteries.

Where: http://www.leapfrog.com/tag
How much : Basic tag and book kit from Au $99, with extra books starting at around $22

Jun 012007

Pegasus Mobile NoteTakerpegasus


They call it the Ultimate Handwriting Capture device – I call it a nifty little number that will fit in my smallest handbag and save me a truckload of typing.

The Mobile NoteTaker is basically an electronic pen that wirelessly communicates with a tiny base station about the size of my hand.

The base station works well when clipped to a notebook or clipboard, where it will capture handwritten drawings, sketches, notes, memos and even customized forms.

It has a small LCD panel that displays the notes as you go – and stores about 50 A4 pages in flash memory.

The device hooks up to your computer via USB and images and text are transferred across.

The software that comes with the NoteTaker allows for optical character recognition (OCR) which means that hand-written notes can be transferred into text – with the device hooked up, you can even write directly into Word or Outlook.

Here’s the catch, though – the OCR software is dependant on the quality of the handwriting.

The resulting translations can be hilarious – and confusing, if you’ve got the kind of handwriting that would really interest cryptologists.

Price: about Au $250

Purchase from: www.mobilenotetaker.com.au

Apr 152006

james_bondIf you’re a James Bond fan, and you’ve always had a hankering to have your very own Q  delivering you-beaut wearable gadgets – boy, will you be impressed by these! MP3 sunglasses have been around for a year or two now, so prices are dropping and quality rising. Now could be the time to indulge your Inner Bond.

Standard inclusions are a rechargeable lithium battery and USB-compatible player built into the sunglass arms.

(The USB function means that – yes, it doubles as a flash drive. Could be the perfect place to store those secret files, Miss Moneypenny.)

Controls are usually on the top of the arms, which also hide the swivel-down earphones when not in use.

Oakley – http://oakley.com.au/

The original and therefore, of course, the dearest.  Ever so cool, the Oakley Thump and new Thump 2 brand themselves as “the world’s first digital eyewear.”  Between $400 and $600 gets you light, stylish lenses made from something called ‘Plutonite.’ Sounds good enough to impress Q.

Linophir – http://www.linophir.com.au/
The bargain-priced Chinese-made Aigo sunglasses still look the part, and deliver the audio goods without breaking the bank. The 256 MB version retail for just $129, while for $229, you’ll get 1 GB of storage.