Tuesday, April 22, 2008

KATU-TV: Earth Friendly Gadgets (AM Northwest)

For Earth Day on KATU's AM Northwest I took to the streets of Portland to show eco-friendly gadgets... and how to responsibly recycle your old, unwanted, technology.

Click on the image above to watch the piece on KATU.com, or browse the list of featured products below.

eMotion Solar Portable Media Player -- MediaStreet
"Solar-powered media player"
For the times you're "off the grid", flip open the solar-power panels and charge up this universal portable entertainment device. It plays MP3s, shows digital movies, reads eBooks aloud and best of all? The eMotion Solar charges off the sun – an environmentally friendly alternative to those energy-consuming gadgets. Added bonus? Every unit comes pre-loaded with tunes from Beyond.FM. ($170, mediastreet.com)

Hybrid 1000 Charger – Solio
"Portable electronics charger"
How many times have you run out of juice and wished for a quick top-up or a battery-less charger? Leave it out in the sun for a charge, then use it to charge any number of portable devices- iPods, cellular phones, or many USB devices. It holds juice in its internal battery for cloudy days and can also be charged the old-fashioned way. ($70, solio.com)

Eco Friendly iPhone Shield -- Agent 18
"iPhone Protection from Recycled Plastic"
Buying recycled goods are a great way to send a message to gadget and accessory makers that you care about the environment. Agent 18 -- makers of cases and protective gear for music players, phones and more – created an effective protective shield for the popular iPhone from recycled plastic. Even the case's packaging is eco-friendly – it, too, is recyclable. Pick one up at the Apple Store, Target or online. ($30, agent18.com)

Crank-Powered Radio, Flashlight, Charger – LifeGear
"Emergency broadcasts, flashlight, phone charger"
Great for emergencies or taking out to the beach, this gadget requires no batteries… wind the hand-crank and listen to your favorite local radio station, NOAA and weather alerts – it even has a half-watt flashlight to find your way around. Need a top-off for your mobile phone? The unit plugs into many phones to double as a mobile charger! ($30, lifegearcompany.com)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Cheap Gas Prices: TomTom's 930 on KOMO 4 News

Today at 6pm KOMO 4 News took a look at a high-tech solution to finding the cheapest fill-up. The TomTom 930 helps users find the lowest gas prices -- join me for a demo. Click the video below to watch.

Product Details:

GO 930 GPS navigation system -- TomTom
“Portable navigation with gas prices”
TomTom’s latest portable GPS receiver simplifies making your way through an unfamiliar town – there’s only one thing easier. New features include intelligent routing based on time-of-day and historical data and an advanced lane guidance system showing what specific lane for those tricky highway merges. Make the most of your trip with a updated fuel price locator. Ask TomTom for the lowest price gas and the 930 will take you there. With new features and TomTom’s proven easy-to-use interface the only thing easier than getting around with the GO 930 is, well… a chauffeur. ($500, available here )

Friday, April 18, 2008

Earth Day: Free Electronics Recycling Event Sat. 19 April (Vancouver, WA)

IMS Electronics Recycling Press Release

Dell Inc. is offering residents of the Washington’s Clark County area and the Portland, Oregon area a free computer recycling event, Sat., April 19, 2008, at IMS Electronics Facility in the Port of Vancouver. The event is being hosted in celebration of Earth Day and will provide area residents an opportunity to recycle electronics for free.

The collection event will accept any make or model of computers and related equipment, including monitors, printers, scanners, keyboards, mice, and laptops. Televisions, stereo equipment, cell phones, gaming consoles and mobile entertainment devices are also accepted. Electronic items NOT accepted include: appliances, lamps, batteries etc.

All materials collected at this event will be recycled at IMS Electronics under Washington State’s new Preferred Processor Standards. Participants should remove all data from their computer's hard drive and any removable media such as disks, PC cards, flash drives, CD-ROMs.

Free Drop off At:

IMS Electronics Recycling
2401 Saint Francis Lane
Vancouver, WA 98660
(360) 750-8883

If you know of other Recycling events, please email: techexpert (AT) brianwestbrook (DOT) com -- or post a comment in this blog. Look for future "Go Green" specials on this blog all week...

Friday, April 11, 2008

Essential Sites for Travel Trouble

Tech Expert Topic Notes for 11 April 2008

If there's one thing I can't travel without its my Macbook Air.

More than an inflight entertainment system or essential communications tool -- when travel plans require flexibility, the sleek ultraportable becomes an airline rebooking engine.

With flight cancellations dominating the news in recent weeks, and a record-breaking summer travel season to follow -- there are a few websites you should keep handy to deal with inevitable disruption:

Airline websites: In the event of a flight cancellation, you may not be able to rebook online, but you will be able to find alternate flights, check availability, or -- if necessary -- buy another ticket altogether (on a different carrier if necessary). Don't forget many carriers also have sites designed for work on mobile phones like the iPhone or Blackberry. Check flight delays, routes and schedules, aircraft types and get the latest operational status.

Flyertalk.com: If there's a community of travel experts -- this is it. Many members of this online community fly every week, some more often, and they know the tricks of the trade.

SeatGuru.com: It won't necessarily help you find an alternate flight, but it will get you a comfortable seat. A must-visit resource when planning any travel.

TripAdvisor.com: The travel portal for community reviews and information to the tune of nearly 18 million! Whether you're looking for a good quiet hotel to get a decent night's sleep before trying to get home the next day, or want to know where to plan your next vacation -- this site, by the same people that run the online travel kings Expedia.com and their discount brother Hotwire.com, has it all!

Tech Tips for Travelers:
  • Always carry your chargers with you. Gadget batteries don't last forever and if your luggage is lost, or stuck in the bowels of the airport -- you'll want a recharge.
  • Go online! While many are lining up for the few rebooking agents at an airport, jump on the web and rebook yourself. (In some cases you may not be able to rebook a specific ticket, or reuse credits -- but buying a new ticket may get you home and not be an option hours later when you reach the front of the line!)
  • Find a hotspot. Most airports have gone wireless - some, like PDX, are free. And if you don't have a laptop, airport lounges, internet kiosks and business centers are a great place to get online.
  • Download airline flight schedules before you head to the airport. A copy (usually a PDF but a printout works too) of a carrier's schedule will help you find alternative flights and routings (think outside the box -- maybe Portland to Los Angeles to get to Denver?)

All the gadgets in the world can not replace the most essential carry-on: Patience.

As the motto goes, "Be Prepared". Flight cancellations, delays and other travel disruptions are a reality... those prepared and armed with the information and tips to get their travel plans back on track -- will find themselves home with the loved ones first.

Listen to this report, originally broadcast on KXL-AM Friday April 11: kxl_techexpert-travelwebsites_20080411.mp3 (MP3)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Google Releases Useful "April Fool's" Tool: IM Translation Bot

Okay, so it's April Fool's Day...

You've no doubt heard laughter and groans through the day as we sift through news reports, blog reports, and emails with an extra-cautious filter knowing that many of the obscure and questionable posts are just another attempt to pull your leg. Some funny, many not. (I personally gave up on April Fool's Day pranks years ago after one too many failed to be funny.)

Google today brings us a series of pranks from many of their teams -- some funny, others amusing. One, in particular, has the potential of being, IMHO*, somewhat useful.

Text messaging on a mobile phone is limited to 160 characters or less, forcing users to creatively squeeze correspondence under the limit. This, coupled with the often difficult task of entering more than 26 characters on a 10 button keypad, has led to a sort of SMS shorthand common amongst the (often younger) text-savvy set. It is widely used in instant messaging conversations, chat rooms, text message conversations and even emails.

Some expressions, "LOL" for example, are commonplace and understood. Others may be more challenging and evasive for parents trying to figure out what their kids are up to or law enforcement trying to translate the latest "net speak". (Though the last one is certainly a stretch, I'd hope our police forces aren't hung up on abbreviations and IM jargon to fight crime!)

Two years ago, on Portland's Morning News (Newsradio 750 KXL), I presented (Listen/MP3) common expressions and how parents can bring themselves up-to-date with the latest online slang.

Now, thanks to Google's April Foolin', it just got a whole lot easier...

Google's Talk Blog today announced plans to "Go Green" by shortening IM conversations over the Google Talk network in an effort to, "Reduce the number of characters we send when we chat with all our friends." (The blog claims that each character (byte) of traffic sent increases energy consumption, thus a reduction in characters sent in IM messages lessens our carbon output.)

Okay, so I realize it's a joke and doesn't actually save the planet. But what this does offer is a simple way to translate IM speak into plain English.

The companion tool to translate IM chatter from full-sized English to shortened IM/SMS-friendly jargon also works in reverse. Add en2im@bot.talk.google.com to your Google Talk contacts and the next time you're wondering what "LOL CUL8R" means, the translation is a merely a quick chat with a bot away...

...now the next sound you hear this April Fool's Day will be a collective sigh of relief from parents finally able to translate their teenager's secret messages.

Happy April Fool's Day!

* IMHO = In My Humble Opinion