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Coolness Roundup 2005, Part I

A dozen gadgets, doodads and devices and fun stuff to make your life easier By Charlie White

Its that time of year again where you can practically fry an egg on the sidewalk, and that means your Coolness Roundup 2005 is here. This year, we have a special 2-part expanded edition that encompasses not only professional and consumer electronics gear, but any objects that use technology to make your life more enjoyable. Some of these items are prosaic, readily available to everyone, while others are stratospherically priced. Either way, lusting after these techno doodads is a great way to relax and have fun within the steamy confines of the hottest season of the year.

Brookstone fanBrookstone Fan
During those hot and heavy video editing sessions, or if youre a guy whos always sweating when at the same time your wife or significant other is freezing, this little finger-safe fan ($35) from Brookstone will keep you cool, calm and collected no matter what. This well-designed fan feels heavy and substantial, and has an on-off switch and an infinitely variable speed control on the front. At its highest speed it can deliver a tremendous amount of air, or it can run at an extremely low speed that still moves plenty of air but is absolutely silent. After it runs for a few hours, it dutifully turns itself off. It runs on either batteries or AC, and its fan assembly can tilt back for air circulation or face right towards you for quick cool-offs when you need them. Its a great way to save energy and looks nice on your desktop, too.

Canon SD500 cameraCanon SD500 Camera
Weve been in love with these little Canon Digital Elph cameras for the past five years, but when the Canon PowerShot SD500 Digital Elph was introduced, our affection for the tiny camera turned to infatuation. Packing seven megapixels into its cigarette-pack size, the thing is packing a 3x optical zoom, and equipped with a 1GB SD card can record more than seven minutes of 640x480 video. Sure, its not a digital SLR, but for $450, its amazing how great your pictures can look with a camera this small. Its so easy to carry it around with you, youll be more likely to have it with you when that shot-of-a-lifetime presents itself.

Logitech Harmony 880Logitech Harmony 880 Remote
Logitech Harmony remotes rule the roost around here, and this new one takes the whole concept of USB-based Internet remote programming to a brand new level. Yes, at $250 its not cheap, but it has a color LCD screen on board now, along with that exceptionally easy-to-use programming routine. After installing the software, you connect the little remote to your Internet-enabled computer, and then simply tell it what component youll be using. It couldnt be easier, and theres not a better implementation of remote-control technology on the planet, especially for this relatively small amount of money.  

Merrell Jungle MocsMerrell Shoes
These well-built dogs have practically become the official shoe of Digital Media Net. When all of your intrepid editors of these here Web sites get together at trade shows, we marvel at how we nearly all ended up wearing the same brand of shoes, even though we didnt plan it that way. They are a bit like running shoes, a little like loafers, and even somewhat akin to a comfortable pair of socks or slippers. These Jungle Mocs, as theyre called, are solidly-built, theyre as comfortable as they can possibly be, you dont have to tie them, and just like a pair of slippers, they are easy to put on without even bending over. These are important considerations for those of us who are so busy writing and testing technology for you that we dont even want to bother with tying our shoes. And then, when were out pounding the pavement on those rainy days, the things are waterproof, too. If its snowing, you can get the toasty-warm Thinsulate-equipped Polar Mocs with easy-grip soles. Are these Jungle Mocs worth $75? I think so.

NEC LED/LCD displayNEC 2180UX-WG LED/LCD Display
Heres a whole new way to backlight an LCD display. Instead of the conventional fluorescent bulbs lighting up that flat panel, NECs new 21.3" 2180UX-WG LED/LCD flat panel display ($6500) uses light emitting diodes (LEDs), which not only last twice as long as fluorescent lamps, but give you much richer color and a more evenly-lit screen as well. And another attribute of this LCD/LCD design that may be more important as we continue polluting our planet is while fluorescent-lit displays contain the toxic metal mercury, LCDs contain nothing of the sort. So not only are these LED displays more efficient, they may be mandated by green-thinking governments. That would be quite all right with us. Here's our First Look .

SoftGrip HooksSoftGrip Hooks
Heres an unusual item that is not electronic but certainly contains great technology. These SoftGrip hooks arent hooks at all, but are shaped like a doorknob, and happen to be the most perfect devices for hanging up various items ever invented. Available in three sizes, the largest of which is about the size of a small doorknob, these hangers have an uncanny characteristic -- it's  what might be called sticky friction, or ?stiction. Towels, scarves, and any other hangable items almost seem to stick to their rubberized surface. With these hangars, for example, you can toss the edge of a dry towel onto it and it will just stay there. Theyre easy to install, too, where you can either apply them with their peel-off adhesive, or screw them into the wall with the included anchors and screws. They dont look half bad, either. Get them here

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