Jan 312011

The iPad is a thing of sleek and shining beauty, straight out of the box. But like all other i-things before it, removal from its pretty white designer box followed exposure to the harsh light of day can take the shine off any iPad rather quickly.

Bred to be mobile, the iPad brings lightweight wireless entrée to the web, and (appropriately stocked) a constant fix of digital entertainment delight. It’s a unisex gadget with addictive appeal.

(I’m not sure how long it will take until we tire of this new precious, but so far, like many i-lords past, it is holding up pretty well in the no-buyer-remorse stakes.)

Here’s the rub: most iPad carriers and cases are as glossy and elegant as the iPad itself. They are not designed to withstand the sticky fingers of a peanut-butter encrusted four year old, the ham-fisted grabbiness of two teenage boys arguing over whose turn it is to play air hockey, or the handbag-bashing run for the train of the stressed-out Mum commuter.

Fortunately, the Melbourne-based Swann family design gurus Tim, Sophie and Amie (who now preside over the international Cygnett i-case empire) have come up with a solution.

I suspect they may have been influenced by the popular chocolate bar Aero (“It’s the bubbles of nothing that make it really something!”)  Whatever, they have come up with a superb case for the garden-variety Family iPad.

It’s roomy (you can fit a sleek silicon case inside as well) and easy to use – simply unzip the case and slide out the iPad.

The Aerosphere has a soft inner layer resembling a favourite furry toy,  easily unhooked stretchy elastic fasteners and a foamy protective outer cover. It’s very lightweight and best of all, very cheap. I love it.

Bottom line: An iPad case for the rest of us

Where:  www.cygnett.com

How much : Au $ 40

May 242010

As technology has changed the composition of paid work, we’ve come to a stage where around 70 percent of Australian workers now sit down on the job.

And it seems this is causing serious national health problems as more and more research reveals that spending upwards of eight hours a day perched on one’s buttocks is terribly bad for one’s health.

In fact, even if you religiously engage in jogging, aerobics, pilates, gym stuff or other noble physical pursuits, the mere act of regularly sitting still for prolonged periods raises your risk of death from cardiovascular disease by a whopping 18 percent, according to a 2010 Australian study published in the Journal of the American Heart Foundation.

Enter the Treadmill Desk. This rather enormous contraption was designed with help from the Mayo Clinic’s Dr James Levine. Walking slowly (at around two kilometres an hour or so) on a treadmill while working at the attached desk burns an extra one hundred calories or so an hour. It also stops muscle wastage and other side-effects of sedentary labour. And if you walked at this rate for eight hours a day, five days a week, you could lose about 25 kg of weight in one year without making any other changes.

The “fully integrated electric height-adjustable worksurface” moves between 62 and 132 cm in height and includes a built-in palm rest, digital readout and runs very quietly.

The mere thought of wrestling this contraption into the standard grey cubicle is highly amusing. And just imagine the look on your co-workers faces when you yawn and stretch at the water-cooler and say, “Ah well, back to the treadmill!”

Treadmill deskers should also spare a thought for the person on the other end of the phone and wind the speed down a bit before dialling – nothing worse than a phone call that start with lots of heavy breathing.

Bottom line: Work out while you work

Where:  www.steelcase.com

How much : US $ 4199

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

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

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

May 192006

As the Blackberry craze grows and mobile phones have become more and more feature-rich, millions of fully–grown adults can be found hunched over miniscule screens tapping tiny keys in a frustratingly slow attempt to keep their mobile organisers up to date.

Most people over 25 have never developed a cracking thumb-speed from years of SMS use and so, they give up pretty quickly, using a computer keyboard and then Bluetooth or USB transfer to input anything more than a quick diary entry.

But imagine a fully-portable full-sized keyboard for your phone or PDA – wouldn’t it be useful for whipping off a few quick emails in the airport lounge or in a café between meetings!

The Virtual Laser Keyboard could well be the answer to every thumb-challenged exec’s prayers.  Using a combination of infrared and laser technology, it projects a full-size keyboard onto any surface which employs optical recognition so that when you tap the images of the keys, (making a “realistic tapping sound”) the characters appear on your PDA, mobile phone or laptop.

Weighing less than 60 grams, it’s about half the size of a standard pack of cards (90 x 34 x 24 mm) and is powered by a rechargeable lithium ion battery which will run for between 2 and 3 hours.

The keyboard links to your PDA or phone using Bluetooth – so you must have a Bluetooth-compatible device – and a list of supported models appears on the manufacturers website.  Available in Australia through iTech for $170.

Bottom Line: So much more sensible than air guitar
Where: http://www.virtual-laser-keyboard.com
How much: Au $170