In The Wake of CES

29 Jan 2006|Darrel Rhea

Everybody needs downtime. In the past – when I had the luxury of recreational time – my play of choice was either composing music or something physically challenging such as paragliding and white water kayaking. These days, though, I have to settle for getting my kicks by playing with a handful of tech toys. As a confirmed closet geek, I love ‘em all.

Below are my current five favorite tech products. Each of them actually exceeded my expectations:

Xbox360
My latest is the purchase made last weekend – an Xbox360. Despite raising two sons who are gamers and owning almost every game platform that has come along, I haven’t been interested in video games until now. Because we worked on researching the 360’s design for Microsoft, I have been anxiously awaiting the experience. It took many weeks to be able to find one to actually buy, but I was able to land a package deal on the internet. Aside from an optic cable which I picked up separately, the set up was plug and play. And play I do. Connected to my HD TV, this puppy is awesome! The resolution of the game graphics and sound create an incredibly immersive experience giving me an unexpected adrenaline rush. In fact, the war game Call To Duty 2 is realistic enough to get my heart pounding as much as it did when I was taking risks on extreme sports.

Canon Digital Rebel XT
One tech toy that literally brought tears to my eyes when my wife gave it to me at Christmas is my Canon Digital Rebel XT– a digital camera that I had been lusting for, anticipating many hours of creative enjoyment. I chose two Cannon electronically stabilized zoom lenses to play with it — a 70-300mm and an EFS 17-85mm. This little black box is magic. It has fulfilled on my every wish for capturing and producing images that still surprise me with their color and resolution. This is probably my fifth digital camera, and having experienced the others in comparison gives me an even greater respect for the state of the art (at prosumer level). What a great experience! — A high powered tech device that didn’t require me to read a manual. With it, I have been able to do fair justice on portraits, landscapes, still-lifes and even close ups and action shots.

iPod Shuffle
The Shuffle isn’t new, but it deserves mention in this list, if for no other reason than it is a daily companion. How many products do you actually wear every day like jewelry? For a year I’ve been wearing it in the gym as I go through my daily routine and it helps turn what could be a tedious session into a foray of getting pumped. It’s easy to fill with tunes – just plug into the USB port of my laptop and click a button in the iTunes window. And it’s easy to wear and play, as its small size allows me to hang the loop around my neck, drop the device down inside my shirt and punch the controls through the material. Wearing my iPod while traveling on business, the music – all 250 tunes it packs and plays randomly – can be energy when I am walking the streets of Manhattan or solace when world-weary coming home on a six-hour flight. No wonder they have sold a gazillion of them.

Alias SketchBook Pro2
I wrote about this program indirectly a couple of years ago when I got my tablet PC (Toshiba Portege), casually mentioning how I was enjoying “getting back into drawing.” Since then, my commitment to drawing during downtime has been more intense. It’s not just the tablet that makes it possible, but the simple and elegant software, Alias SketchBook Pro2. This is another generation beyond the original version I was enjoying when I blogged on it before, and is seriously better. The control that the tools allow me mimic actual drawing as much as I could imagine—including being responsive to touch and giving me controls that “feel” physical as would a pencil or brush. I’d say it’s a digital experience that’s actually better than the analogue one.

Sony HD TV
Watching TV used to be an exercise in killing off brain cells, and one I assiduously avoided. But after 16 years of waiting for the technology to be worth the price, I popped for a 70” Sony HDTV. Installed in our family room, it has transformed a previously mundane experience into a captivating couch event. The HD at this size makes me feel like God. I can see every feather or hair on the birds and animals in nature programs, every eyelash and pore of the actors in movies, and each snowflake that falls in the winter beer commercials. With surround sound, I’m there. Yes, Big HD TVs are that good. They deliver a better customer experience than I had hoped for.

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