PC cameras used to be good for little more than sending fuzzy photos of yourself to friends, but the Philips Vesta Pro Scan PC camera is a genuinely useful business tool. Mounted on a tripod, it can photograph parts of buildings at reasonably high resolution so that problems can be discussed with colleagues back at the office. It will even scan documents and convert to text using the bundled optical character recognition software. Plus, it will send fuzzy photos of you to your friends, all for about £80.For information, call 020-8665 6350 or visit www.philips.com
Toast of the season
Apple’s new models are causing a sensation in the design world, and they offer some solid performance gains, too. The headline grabber is the G4 Cube Power PC, which brings to mind another style icon, the Dualit Toaster. All the heat comes out of slots in the top, and the CD-ROM tray slides up like a slice of granary as well. The advantages are a completely uncluttered design and no noisy fan. The 450 MHz machine is available for £1465 at the on-line Apple Store For details, call 0800-783 4846 or visit www.apple.com/ukstore
Swedish super Mac
If the stunning performance of the new G4 isn’t enough, Swedish Macintosh specialist Xtrem has gone one stage further with the ExtremMac G4, which is claimed to rival supercomputers in performance but looks like a radiator. Which is what it is, basically: the chip runs so fast that it generates serious amounts of heat.Available later this year on www.extrem.com
Microsoft’s attempt to crack Palm’s domination of the handheld computer market is finally gaining momentum. New palmtops running its software include the stylish Compaq iPaq and the powerful Casio Cassiopeia EM500. Each has a unique feature. The iPaq has a sleeve that can be upgraded with hardware such as memory cards, wireless modems and GPS satellite navigation, whereas the Cassiopeia features the new MultiMedia Card or MMC, a flash memory card smaller than a postage stamp. Both, of course, play MP3 music, e-books and even short videos, thanks to the powerful players supplied with the software. Unfortunately, the prices are much higher than Palm’s – both cost £400. For information, call 0845-270 4000 (iPaq) or 020-8450 7473 (Cassiopeia EM500).
Fed up with repeatedly plugging your laptop into the network every time you move around? The Buffalo Airstation system links laptops into the network wirelessly. It consists of two units: a £200 box that plugs into the cabled network, and a £100 PC card that slips into a slot in the laptop. Airstation bases can be placed around offices so that laptops can link to the network wherever they are, and exchange data directly inside a range of around 25 m, depending on any structural steelwork holding the building up. For information, call 01753-677545.
Knowing what the weather is likely to do is important on site, and the Oregon Scientific Ultimate Weather Station gives you a good idea of what could be on its way. A barometer, hygrometer and radio-controlled clock are all built in, while a remote wireless thermometer monitors the outside temperature. The forecast is displayed as an icon like the ones used on television, plus a chart showing pressure changes that fluctuates dramatically as fronts pass over. Other information includes humidity, phases of the moon and tide states – and all for £100. For information, call 0870-241 1741.
It is usually easier to make international calls on your mobile, but they can cost an arm and a leg. Mint Telecom reduces the cost to just 85p a minute on its pre-paid phone card. When in foreign parts, you just insert the Mint card into the phone, and dial. The call will usually work out cheaper than network rates, especially when people ring you, and because it is pre-paid there is no contract, no deposit and no hassle. A 300-unit introductory card costs £40.For details, call 0800-003355 or visit www.mint-tele.com
Making presentations at clients’ offices can be a nightmare. Either you have to take a van-load of kit and spend the morning setting it up, or force senior executives to huddle round your laptop like small children round a video game. The Toshiba MT1 digital projector and the Psion Series 7 super-palmtop could be the ideal solution. At £3500, the MT1 is not cheap, but it is portable and reliable. It splashes a big, bright image over the nearest wall and the Psion, which costs £700, runs slide-shows derived from PowerPoint presentations. The extra piece needed is the £200 Voyager VGA card that connects the two. For information, contact 01276-62222 (Toshiba), www.psion.com (Series 7) or 01202-747044 (Voyager VGA).
International phone calls over the Internet may be free but they have been plagued by poor quality and the inability to phone anyone not logged on to their PC. Actiontec’s Phone Wizard changes all that. The neat box enables your ordinary phone to connect to your PC, and it can ring any ordinary phone, anywhere. The downside is that ads are not very discreetly popped on to your screen, which may cause irritating pauses in the conversation if your phone line has difficulty handling this extra information or the web is congested. The unit costs about £80. For information, visit www.actiontecstore.com