'Tis the season and all that jazz - as this appears in print (Nov. 22), a
little more than one month remains until Christmas Day and the beginning of
Hanukkah. Time to get shopping, I'd imagine.
IPOD ACCESSORIES DOMINATE - Or so it seems: the first few pages of the
Sharper Image catalog have all sorts of iPod accessories; announcements of
new items are a daily feature of my e-mail inbox.
One of the nicest items I've seen - and one that lives up to its billing -
is the $80 Boostaroo Revolution from UpBeat (stet) Audio of Grand Haven,
Michigan. The device is a pre-amp and three-channel "surround sound" unit
that sits between your iPod (or other audio source) and your headphones, if
the latter have a greater than 60 ohm impedance.
I tried this out with a pair of Sony MDR-XD200 headphones, rated at 70 ohm
impedance, and the result was impressive, just as it also was plugged into
the headphone jack of a Hewlett-Packard Media Center PC m7160n. There is a
difference, and for the better, when using the Boostaroo Revolution device.
The Sony headphones, which retail for between $21 and $30 online, are
impressive on their own; add this unit and you've got a great companion for
a road trip or an afternoon's reading. The battery-operated Boostaroo has
two headphone jacks, so you and a friend can rock out together. More
information can be found at http://www.upbeataudio.com/.
Among other good sources for iPod accessories, I've found, are Digital Life
Outfitters of Charleston, South Carolina, http://www.dlo.com, and Belkin
Corp. of Compton, California, http://www.belkin.com. Both make a wide range
of accessories for the iPod, and each firm offers some interesting designs.
The same can be said for Griffin Technology of Nashville,
http://www.griffintechnology.com, whose RoadTrip device is a personal
GIVE THE GIFT OF VOIP - The leading Voice-over-Internet-Protocol, or VoIP
(stet), telephone service providers will be happy to activate a
VoIP-compatible router or phone that you pick up at Best Buy or a similar
store and give to someone else - or even yourself, for that matter.
The genius of VoIP is simple: it utilizes your broadband connection to place
and receive voice telephone calls, using a regular phone connected to a
special router. Recipients can be on a cell phone, another VoIP phone or a
regular phone line, here or around the world. I've got an excellent VoIP
plan that lets me call the U.S., Canada and Western Europe as much as I want
for a reasonable monthly charge under $25; my calls to Australia are
super-low priced, too.
Among the providers to check out are Vienna, Virginia-based SunRocket;
AOL; McLean, Va.-based Lingo and New Jersey's Vonage. A Google
search will provide Web addresses, while a trip to local electronics
retailers will point you towards the hardware needed. This is a great gift
if you have a teenager - and a broadband Internet connection - at home.
OLDIES, BUT STILL GOODIES - I've mentioned, briefly, the Jabra SP-500
Bluetooth speakerphone before, which will let you speak hands-free on a cell
phone. Some hearers may or may not like the audio quality, and this isn't
something to use when there are others in the car, unless that's
unavoidable. But it's a good device for what it does, and in the District of
Columbia, which is one of several locales that mandate hands-free phone
calls in vehicles, it's downright essential. You can find it in stores for
under $90, and substantially less if you search online.
Apple's Mighty Mouse - their name, not mine - is a $49 wonder that offers
great navigational tools and a more sensitive operation to users connecting
to an Apple Macintosh, but also to a Windows-based PC. Especially wonderful
is the "scroll ball" pointer on the top of the mouse, which is the most
responsive such device I've ever used on any system, anywhere.