Taking IT on the road
the trip to Comdex Fall `99
by Rick Smith (October 26, 1999)
Chicago to Las Vegas
on Historic Route 66
Read our return trip coverage.
Our trip to Comdex was all about taking IT (Information Technology) on the road and we carried many new products that made our trip both easier and more productive. Many of these products were also used for our ongoing coverage from the show floor and behind the scenes as we reported on the latest products and technologies from one of the largest computer trade shows in the world. Comdex Fall 1999 is the 20th anniversary of " the world's number one Information Technology Marketplace for resellers and corporate decision makers".
Toys, Tools and Technologies
What's in our techno-road-warrior arsenal? A mix of the latest gadgets that will be shown this week and a few old reliables.
Motorola Spirit GT and GT+ radios - These small radios pack one watt of power into a small, lightweight package and look somewhat similar to the TalkAbout 250 radios that we had great success with at both Comdex and CES, last year. These 3 radios will help Jim Bennett and I stay in contact with each other on the show floor and with our ground transportation.
These professional two-way radios operate on 8 UHF frequencies reserved for business use. They have a range rating of up to 4 miles outside, up to 200,000 square feet indoors and up to 15 stories of a building. The best feature I found on these radios so far, before we tested them, is that the battery can be charged outside the case without requiring any "charging adapter". That's right, the jack you plug the included AC adapter into is really part of the battery. Why didn't any laptop manufacturer think of this? It certainly would save me having to carry charging adapters for the Compaq Concerto and the IBM ThinkPads on this trip.
Toshiba PDR-M4 - This digital camera packs a 2.14 megapixel, 1/2 inch CCD into an 8.5 ounce package. The Toshiba PDR-M4 features both 1600x1200 and 800x600 resolutions and uses SmartMedia memory cards to store the JPEG output files. It has a 1.8 inch color LCD monitor, as well as an optical viewfinder. It can interface to your PC via USB or serial port and has video out. Zoom is a digital 2X. See our coverage of the Toshiba PDR-M4 camera at the DigitalFocus `99 event in New York.
Toshiba PDR-M5 - The latest in Toshiba's line of digital cameras, the PDR-M5 also has a 2.14 megapixel 1/2 inch CCD capable of both 1600x1200 and 800x600 JPEG output along with 320x240 and 160x120 MOVIE output. It also uses SmartMedia cards and has a 1.8 inch color LCD monitor, as well as an optical viewfinder. It also interfaces to your PC via USB or serial port and has video out, but has a 3X optical zoom. See our coverage of the Toshiba PDR-M5 camera at the DigitalFocus `99 event in New York. Pictures taken from this camera are great. I used it for the majority of the pictures I took at Comdex.
This camera has a "Bulb" setting giving this camera an advantage at night where most digital cameras fare poorly. Using this mode, photos that would be too dark because they are out of flash range can now be taken. You need to keep the camera absolutely still, but the results are fantastic.
Road Trip: The Movie
Sample frames from footage taken with
the Sharp Internet ViewCam as we start our trip.
Note: The actual video clip is much smoother
at a faster frame rate.
Sharp Internet ViewCam VN-EZ1U - Being the world's first device that can record both digital video and audio, this product will allow us to create videos for the web. It uses ASF (Advanced Streaming Format) and can record up to nearly 60 minutes in normal mode on a 32 megabyte SmartMedia card. See our coverage of the Sharp Internet ViewCam VN-EZ1U at the Digital Focus `99 event in New York.
Kodak DC280 - This two megapixel camera can capture 32 best compression 1760 x 1168 pixel images on the removable 20 megabyte CompactFlash card. It also features a 2X optical zoom, 3X digital zoom, LCD preview and stores images in a JPEG file format. Unique is that this unit ships with 4 NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) batteries and charger, 4 alkaline batteries and connection cables.
Kodak DC215 Millennium - In a gold metal housing embossed with a Millennium 2000 logo, this compact megapixel camera can store image at up to 1152 x 864 pixels. It ships with an 8 megabyte CompactFlash and feature a 2X optical zoom and can store images in either JPEG or FlashPix format as low as 640 x 480 resolution. It's amazing to see how fast my Sony Mavica MVC-FD7 is being outclassed in less than 2 years. See my article about the Sony Mavica MVC-FD7 digital floppy camera.
Iomega Clik! Products - I will be carrying both the PCMCIA version of the Clik! drive as well as the handheld version, perfect for transferring images from Compact flash memory to Clik! Media. I used it at the Saturn Homecoming and in the 90 degree Tennessee heat, it worked great. For me, this is portable handheld digital darkroom. See our First Look at the Clik! PC Card drive.
Acer TravelMate 333T - This thin laptop hosts a fast Pentium II 400 MHz processor, 6 gigabyte hard drive and 64 Megabytes of RAM. It sports the usual parallel, serial, infrared, mouse, modem, USB and VGA ports. It has a single type II PCMCIA/PC Card port so it will work with the Sony/Etak GPS.
Edison.com Mini IdeaBook - (The Edison company continues - only now they sell laptops instead of light bulbs and phonographs.) This very small, 266 MHz computer with TFT screen and 3+ gigabyte hard drive, packs a lot of power in a small package. Floppy and CD-ROM drive are external. It also has a single type II PCMCIA/PC Card port. This unit is similar in size and shape to the Mag Innovision Tiny Note prototype we used on the way back from Comdex last year.
Ergo Computing 5100 - This laptop packs a CD-ROM drive and floppy drive into the computer without any external "devices" or cables. Most impressive was that the unit came packed in a well designed soft cover laptop case. This saves the buyer from having to run out and find one that fits and since this case serves as "packing material", it also helps protect our environment. It has 2 Type II PCMCIA/PC Card ports, one on each side of the unit.
Winbook XL2 - This 400 MHz laptop also has everything inside including a DVD drive! Also unique is that it has both a "TrackPoint" (eraserhead) pointer control AND a flat "Glidepad" control as well. The screen is 1024x768 and measures an actual 14 inches diagonally.
SoftBook eBook reader - For our reading needs, we will be able to read books, magazines and other materials with the 2.9 pound SoftBook eBook portable document reader. See our coverage of the SoftBook eBook at the Mobile Focus `99 event in New York.
Vtech Helio - Since many people have commented about the brightly colored Helios we have written about, we are taking these as PDAs. See our coverage of VTech Helio at Spring Comdex and our First Look at the Helio.
Sharp HC-4500 Color - In case there is a need for a CE device at the show, I will have this unit ready and waiting.
Running the Route
We will be taking the "southern route" from Chicago which primarily parallels or is part of historic Route 66. We will be passing through the towns of St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, McLean and Tucumcari on our way to Las Vegas.
AutoMap Plus - I have planned the route using Etak's AutoMap Plus, an older 16 bit program which has faster route searching than any other software I have seen. With a 486-33 computer, I have beat Pentium computers doing trip planning. I really wish that Microsoft did more with this technology when they bought the company back in the mid-nineties.
Etak/Sony SkyMap - For our GPS duties, we will have Etak's SkyMap and SkyMap Pro along with the very new Sony SkyMap 2000. Etak assures me that I will like the voice recognition capabilities better of this new version better than the infrared remote I have used to control SkyMap for over 15,000 miles. We'll see on the road.
Along with this new products, we will also be carrying the same equipment we have taken to Comdex in the past 3 years.
I will be carrying my IBM ThinkPad 755CE with its docking station, along with my brace of Compaq Concerto pen computers. As a backup to these units, we will have an IBM 360PE convertible pen computer. For our digital photography needs, I will be taking my Sony Mavica MVC-FD7 to cover its fifth Comdex. This camera has been quite reliable, as I have taken over 5,000 pictures with it this year. Jim will be using his Toshiba Portege T3600 which he reviewed last year.
We will be carrying several operating systems with us. My trusty Hewlett Packard 200LX is running DOS, while the Concertos and the IBM 360PE are running Windows for Pen 1.0. My conventional laptops are running Windows 95 and the test laptops will be running Windows 98. Here is some of the other useful software on the trip:
Adobe PhotoDeluxe Business Edition - This handy software program is capable of image processing, cropping and resizing. It can open Photoshop files and save JPEG files. I have been very impressed by this package and it is quite excellent for tasks that don't require all the power of Photoshop. It is quick to learn and runs nicely on lower speed laptops. We are also bringing Adobe Photoshop 5.5 in case pictures really need to be retouched. See my ongoing review of Adobe Photoshop 5.5.
Enroute Imaging QuickStitch - QuickStitch should be in everyone's digital imaging stable of products. Since it combines multiple pictures into a single panorama, it can help lower resolution cameras achieve a higher resolution result. I have also used it to "create" a wide angle shot without having to change lenses, cameras or location. See our review of the first version of QuickStitch. We will now also have latest QuickStitch version 2.0 with us.
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