Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Detecting Gunshots

Detecting Gunshots
April 19, 2007, Wi-Fi Planet.com
By Naomi Graychase

Northern California-based ShotSpotter, the world's leading developer of gunshot location technology, recently announced the release of an upgrade to its highly effective weapons-fire detection system, ShotSpotter Gunshot Location System (GLS). Release 5.0 includes a new mobile version (PSC Mobile) of ShotSpotter's Public Safety Console (PSC) that provides real-time updates on gunshot events, including "dot on the map" incident details with visual and audio alerts for officers and medical personnel in the field.

The system is used domestically by police departments (and other first responders) in large and small cities to quickly and accurately detect gunshots as they occur. By deploying sensors throughout a coverage area, ShotSpotter puts accurate information immediately into the hands of police. Rather than depending on good Samaritans or victims to phone 911 in the minutes or hours following shots fired, police can be fed accurate data about the time, exact location, and situational details -- including video -- surrounding a gunfire incident.

"Because people in areas with frequent gun violence are afraid to call in, or they are immune to the sound of shots, less than 50% nationally get reported to police," says Gregg Rowland, senior vice president at ShotSpotter. "We give police information that they didn't have before; now they get all the gunshots fired in the city. Citizens are not trained observers. They may hear the echo off a building, or they may hear it from one direction when it came from another. The call may come in five to ten minutes after the event happens and send first responders on wild goose chases; first responders can't figure out where it came from, and they get there too late to render any aid, or to get any witnesses, or to get forensic information. We present gunshot information to them within 10 to 15 seconds. Officers sometimes arrive while the shooting is still going on. They can render aid to individuals, get video, identify witnesses, and get evidence left behind by the shooter, which is better for criminal prosecution."

Every city where ShotSpotter has been deployed, including Los Angeles and Oakland, California, and Washington, D.C., reports that gunfire-related arrests have gone up significantly, in some cases by 50%; violent crime rates have dropped by a minimum of 30%; and gunfire rates have been reduced by as much as 80%.

"There is a deterrence factor," says Rowland. "Cities tell you that once they make a few arrests due to it and they announce it publicly, that deterrence factor is huge and has been a good bit of the impact in reducing violent crime in the cities where it's installed. The gang members do bravado shooting, just to make themselves known -- those, and gang-style murders, don't happen in ShotSpotter cities any more."

Wireless sensors are at the heart of the ShotSpotter system, and Release 5.0 adds mobile sensors for individuals and vehicles.

"We have highly portable sensors to be mounted on officers, soldiers, SWAT teams, etc., so it's people moving around," Rowland says. "It took the ability to use prolific wireless networks to make this happen. We need good coverage. By having all this good wireless technology out there, we can build these small, portable, compact sensors."

The portable sensors are about the size of two PDAs stacked on top of one another, and include an antenna, batteries, and support for any radio network that users might need to connect to, including 802.11a/b and new licensed bands.

"Version 5.0 is a lot more wireless-friendly," says company senior vice president Gregg Rowland. "It includes the ability to use any wireless network to connect our sensors. Our older software was designed to communicate over phone lines. Now, we can plug our sensors into any network. We're wireless-agnostic."

While the system is highly effective in open areas such as city streets, city parks and military environments, its primary limitation is detecting indoor events. In the case of a shooting incident like the one at Virginia Tech, which took place inside a building, the sensors are not guaranteed to detect gunfire or assist in speeding response.

"We're hoping that campuses won't have a lot of gunshot problems," says Rowland. "But the system only works well if the shooting is outside. If someone was shooting inside a dorm room or a classroom with no open windows, there's a good chance we might not even detect it. The advantage of our system is that if something is happening outside, we'll tell the police exactly what was happening."

For cities that adopt the ShotSpotter system, the learning curve for using the technology is not steep, but it does require comprehensive training and a new level of readiness on the part of first responders who might suddenly find themselves in the midst of a shooting instead of arriving on site long after the perpetrator has fled or been disarmed.

"We train the dispatchers," Rowland says. "We train the patrol officers. We leave trainers behind who can train detectives and prosecutors on how to get evidence out of our system. We want the PDs to be as self-sustainable as possible to do their work. It usually takes the police department about a month to really get up to speed and figure out how to use it. They have to change a lot of policies. The info comes so quickly, and they have to learn how to take the information and do something with it. We double the amount of shots fired on the first day it's turned on. They have to be equipped to deal with that and dispatch officers accordingly. Initially, they have to deal with the fact that officers may arrive in the middle of a gun battle, rather than when it's over."

The cost of deploying ShotSpotter in an urban environment depends on the topology and the options. For an average-sized city, the cost is about $1,000,000. For larger systems, such as the one in Washington, DC, the price can double.

Current ShotSpotter cities also include Phoenix; Rochester, New York; Minneapolis; Charleston; Birmingham; Chicago; East Orange, New Jersey; and, coming soon, Boston.

ShotSpotter is also used by three of the four branches of the military: Army, Air Force, and Marines.

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'Wireless Fidelity' Debunked

'Wireless Fidelity' Debunked
April 27, 2007, Wi-Fi Planet.com

By Naomi Graychase

Even before the Internet and the Web became as commonplace as television and telephones, urban legends and silly (or scary) myths made their way across the culture, from kid to kid, parent to parent, co-worker to co-worker. What kid in the '70s didn't wonder if little Mikey really did die from eating Pop Rocks and soda? Word of mouth can have a powerful influence on a brand. While Mikey (aka John Gilchrist) is still alive and well, rumors of his demise caused Pop Rocks sales to suffer so greatly that General Foods took it off the market in 1983.

The preponderance of e-mail and Web sites in this new millennium have made the creation and spread of misinformation possible on a scale previously unimaginable. (Neiman Marcus cookie recipe, anyone?) For the most part, e-mails with urgent calls to action, exciting opportunities to get free trips from Bill Gates, or warnings about the potential for organ theft while on vacation are exclusively the bastion of the new and the inexperienced. But in recent years one much more subtle bit of misinformation has taken hold, not just among the gullible and the naïve, but also among some of the most tech savvy people in the world. Like a modern day game of operator being played over mobile phones with poor reception, the false notion that the brand name "Wi-Fi" is short for "wireless fidelity" has spread to such an extent that even industry leader EarthLink recently included it in a press release. And EarthLink is not alone: Wikipedia, several online dictionaries (including our own Webopedia (define)), About.com, and the U.S. military all got it wrong, too. [Even this site got it wrong a few times in the early days -- the proof is out there! -- Editor.]

The truth is, Wi-Fi isn't short for anything—and it never was.

Here's what happened:

In 1999, a handful of industry leaders formed a global non-profit organization with the goal of "driving the adoption of a single worldwide-accepted standard for high-speed wireless local area networking." They called themselves the "Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA)."

Because 'IEEE 802.11' is a bit of a mouthful, one of WECA's first tasks was to develop a more memorable, user-friendly name for the wireless standard. To that end, they hired powerhouse branding company Interbrand -- the company responsible for naming Prozac, Celebrex, the Mitsubishi Eclipse, and the Nissan Xterra, just to name a few -- to come up with a list of names that could be used in place of IEEE 802.11b.

Thirteen names were presented to WECA, including Skybridge, Torchlight, and Flyover. Despite how lame these names sound in retrospect, Interbrand is actually very good at its job. Its naming strategy for IBM, for instance, saved the company more than $4,000,000 in one year. And among forgettable names such as Transpeed and Elevate, there was, obviously, a winner: Wi-Fi.

Interestingly enough, when the WECA board got together to discuss the names, the one that received the highest score was Trapeze (now the name of a Wi-Fi infrastructure company). Close behind and tied for second were Dragonfly, Hornet and Wi-Fi. Had any of the other top contenders won out, rather than using a Wi-Fi-enabled device, today you would be using your Trapeze- or Dragonfly-enabled device to check e-mail or download a video. Trapeze, of course, would not be considered "short for wireless fidelity." Neither would "Dragonfly." That's because they're not. They would stand in for IEEE 802.11—just like Wi-Fi does.

Phil Belanger, analyst with Novarum and a co-founder of WECA (which later became the Wi-Fi Alliance), remembers those meetings well.

"Some of the names were hilarious and horrible," recalls Belanger. "We almost said, 'Go back to the drawing board.' Wi-Fi won out. When we saw it with the yin-yang logo, we thought, 'Yeah, this is good.' One of the funny things was -- this may sound silly now -- but at the time, it was going from two to eleven megabits. That's really fancy wireless stuff, woo! Maybe half of the names were trying to underscore the idea of speed. You can imagine how dated that would be now if we'd selected one of those."

Nowhere in the notes from those meetings—or in Belanger's recollection—was Wi-Fi intended to be short for "wireless fidelity." Put simply, since there is no such thing as wireless fidelity, nothing could ever be short for it.

The current confusion seems to stem from a brief period early in the days of the Wi-Fi Alliance when a regrettable tag line was added that stated, "The Standard for Wireless Fidelity." This was not part of the original name and was not created by Interbrand, but it was added as an afterthought in an attempt to help users make sense of the new and somewhat nonsensical word, "Wi-Fi."

"The tagline is incorrect on so many levels," says Belanger. "To say 'the standard' broke with the charter. We weren't creating standards -- we were promoting an existing standard. One of the motivations was that we were trying to expand the use of WLANs to the home market, so this notion of 'wireless fidelity,' some people felt like if they're going to transfer audio and video around their house, then maybe that has some of the appeal. We have this name Wi-Fi. What two words have "wi" and "fi" starting them? Maybe it can help support our goal?"

By the end of 2000, the pointless tagline was dropped and the term "wireless fidelity" was supposed to disappear into the ether. But somehow, as the Wi-Fi brand gained traction, so did the mistaken notion that it was "short for wireless fidelity." Despite the fact that Wikipedia claims the Wi-Fi Alliance still uses the term "wireless fidelity" in its white papers, there are only two documents in the Wi-Fi Alliance online knowledge base that use it. They are press releases from the spring and summer of 2000, historical documents that preserve a regrettable phase, much like the photos that preserve our most unfortunate hairstyles or wardrobe choices long after we've moved on.

It's been roughly seven years since "wireless fidelity" was officially used or propagated in any way by the Wi-Fi Alliance, and yet, somehow, it has spread among the populous to the point that even industry insiders—who ought to know better—perpetrate it in press releases and on Web sites. There's even a company that calls itself Ubiquitous Wireless Fidelity (or "uWiFi" for short).

How could this happen? How could a term that has no meaning and no definition (that, according to John Ferrari, an early member of WECA and current President and CEO of LightPort, was dreamt up over a pitcher of margaritas at a Chevy's restaurant in Mountain View, California in 1999) be turning up seven years later as a presumably bona fide term in so many places? Is this the wireless industry's Nieman Marcus Cookie Recipe?

Frank Hanzlik, the current managing director for the Wi-Fi Alliance, was not at the meetings where the Interbrand names were discussed, but he was a member of WECA and he is now entrusted with protecting and perpetuating the Wi-Fi brand. He confirms that "wireless fidelity" has no meaning, is not part of the trademark, and is not used or encouraged to be used by the Wi-Fi Alliance. However, he feels no need to aggressively correct those who use it, since what's most important to his organization is simply that "Wi-Fi" continues to be a household name.

"In the very early days of building the brand, there was a linkage to the hi-fi chronology," says Hanzlik. "It was successful in creating a positive connotation of what that could mean to a user. Over the last seven years, the term Wi-Fi has become quite ubiquitous in the developed part of the world. We just try to keep it simple and use only Wi-Fi."

"We declared victory when we made the Merriam-Webster dictionary," says Hanzlik. "Now we encourage everyone to use Wi-Fi versus 'wireless LAN,' because it resonates more with folks -- but we do enforce the Wi-Fi Certified and the Wi-Fi Alliance brands and logos."

Unlike what happened to Pop Rocks in the '70s, misinformation has had the opposite effect on Wi-Fi. The brand continues to grow by leaps and bounds.

"It's always great to think back to those early days," says Hanzlik. "Seven years in some cases seems like a long, long time. But in many industries, it's really remarkable what we've accomplished in that period of time. We sold 200 million units last year, and we're on track for 500 million in a few years. It's really remarkable growth, and exciting."

For the record, "Wi-Fi" is always hyphenated, with a capital "w" and a capital "f." It's not short for anything. And Webster's got it right.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Fab Four: January 2007

First Glimpse magazine
January 1, 2007 • Vol.4 Issue 1
Page(s) 24-25 in print issue

As winter’s grip tightens, our desire to relax and have some fun heightens. This month’s Fab Four picks are all about living it up. Among our favorites are a camera you can take on the slopesor on a tropical getawaywithout much fear it’ll be ruined, and the new nano, which brightens things up with some springtime colors and packs in more entertainment per charge than ever before. And the (PRODUCT) RED version gives us the chance to warm our hearts by doing something good.

digital camera

OlympusStylus 730


Why: If you don’t want to worry about whether your gadgets can keep up with your rough-and-tumble life, but you also don’t want to be weighed down by a bulky device, the new Olympus Stylus 730 is for you. Whether you’re into mountain biking or toddler wrangling, the Stylus 730 is built to survive splashes, falls, dust, and snowstorms alike. So whatever hits youfrom a toppled Big Gulp to dusty trailsyour camera will likely keep on clicking. The Stylus 730’s durable design doesn’t sacrifice a slim form factor. The body is 2.4 x 3.8 x 0.83 inches (HxWxD), and it features a 3-inch LCD, so even in its petite package the Stylus 730 won’t make you squint to see what you’ve framed. This 7.1MP camera packs practical features, including Digital Image Stabilization Mode, which reduces blur and increases crispness; Digital Image Stabilization Edit, which allows for in-camera retouching; and Bright Capture Technology, which helps capture great flash-free photos in low light.

Bottom line: All-weather? Alright.

mp3 player

iPod nano
$149 (2GB), $199 (4GB), $249 (8GB)

Why: The new iPod nano is thinnerif you can imaginethan its previous generation, comes in five colors (options determined by capacity), and boasts a longer battery life (24 hours) and a 40% brighter color display. It comes in three sizes, 2GB, 4GB, and 8GB, which can hold approximately 500, 1,000, and 2,000 songs, respectively. Color choices include silver (2GB, 4GB); green, blue, and pink (4GB); and black (8GB). If you choose the special edition (PRODUCT) RED ($199; 4GB), Apple will donate $10 to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS in Africa (www.theglobalfund.org). (PRODUCT) RED-branded iTunes gift cards are also available at Apple’s Web site. The nano’s new body is made out of aluminum to offer more durability. As with all iPods, the nano only supports iTunes (www.itunes.com). You can rip your own CDs and import them using iTunes, or you can buy audio files from the iTunes store. The nano can store and display image files and play podcasts and audiobooks (from iTunes), as well.

Bottom line: World’s most popular player.


Motorola MOTOKRZR K1m

Why: As sleek as its popular predecessors in the RAZR line, the new MOTOKRZR K1m from Motorola is 0.7 inches thick and 1.7 inches wide. Its dark pearl-gray glass gives it an urban sophisticate look. This multimedia-focused phone features a 1.9-inch color screen, Bluetooth, an MP3 player, and a 1.3MP camera, which provides video capture and playback. The specific array of multimedia services available depends on your carrier. At press time, U.S. carriers were Alltel (www.alltell.com), Sprint (www.sprint.com), and Verizon Wireless (www.verizonwireless.com). Verizon subscribers can use KRZRs to download any of the 1.4 million songs available from Verizon’s V CAST Music service. Alltel users can access Alltel’s Axcess Broadband network, which includes broadcasts of live television. Sprint customers can subscribe to Sprint’s Power Vision for more than 50 channels of live TV and on-demand video, as well as NFL Mobile, which delivers video highlights, real-time stats, and injury reports.

Bottom line: Elegant multimedia performer.

wild card

Sony HDR-UX1 AVCHD DVD Handycam Camcorder

Why: If you’ve been looking to upgrade your camcorder, Sony’s HDR-UX1 Handycam may be just the thing. It features a 10X optical zoom and a 4MP still image capture, and it lets you record directly to DVD. You can record to a DVD in SD (standard definition) in MPEG2 or HD in AVCHD (Advanced Video Codec HD). Using DVD+R Dual Layer discs, you can record one hour of HD (1080i) content. Depending on the recording format, you can play back your DVDs in most DVD players, computers, Blu-ray Disc players, and Sony PlayStation 3 video game consoles. It supports Sony’s MemoryStick Duo, so you can transfer still images to your PC for printing or emailing. The high-quality Carl Zeiss lenses are treated with layers of special coating designed to increase contrast and color saturation and decrease glare and flare. The built-in microphone records in 5.1-channel Dolby Digital surround-sound, and the Super NightShot Infrared System lets you shoot video in low light. The HDR-UX1 isn’t Mac-compatible.

Bottom line: Worth splurging on.

by Naomi Graychase

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Nationwide Wi-Fi a Success in Macedonia

by Naomi Graychase
December 22, 2006
Wi-Fi Planet.com

What began as an attempt to get more computers (and Internet access) into schools in Macedonia [perhaps technically known as the Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia (FYROM), as per the United Nations, until the country and Greece work out their differences; the U.S. Government, however, recognizes the country as the Republic of Macedonia - edited 1/9/07], has become, through the unlikely pairing of American dollars and Chinese computers, a successful deployment of a nationwide broadband wireless network. The network is revolutionary, not simply because it is considered the largest hotspot in the world, but because of its impact on the economy and culture of the country it connects.

Read the whole story.

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Is Wi-Fi Bad for Humans?

January 12, 2007

Wi-Fi Planet

There has been some concern lately, mostly in the UK, that the radio frequency radiation (RFR) emitted by Wi-Fi devices poses a health risk to people. Individuals suffering from a variety of innocuous but unpleasant symptoms including nausea and "brain fog" have attributed their ailments to Wi-Fi signals. The complaints have resulted in the banning of Wi-Fi in some areas, particularly those frequented by children. However, according to the most recent scientific studies, the fears are much ado about nothing.

Read the rest of the article.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Musical Mom

Musical Mom - Interview with Lori McKenna
by Naomi Graychase
[originally published at HipMama.com]

Lori McKenna blends talent and family into a recipe for success.

It’s a Thursday night in mid-December and Lori McKenna is dressed in jeans and a baggy, black sweater. In these clothes, she could be driving the car pool, or taking her four kids to the grocery store, but instead she’s standing on a stage before a rapt audience of nearly 200, glowing. Her set tonight is a short one. Just a few songs. Then Dar Williams will take the stage as the headliner.

She opens with a love song about her husband of fourteen years, and the young man beside me leans in and says, “I want to be her husband.” He looks at her there on stage, takes a swig of beer, and turns back to me, and says, “If I had to be a plumber and have four kids, it’d be okay if she was my wife.”

The audience is attentive. As McKenna sings about the hole that’s worn through her couch, about her son’s learning disability, about her mother’s death at an early age, about the man she went to high school with whose life seems to have fallen tragically apart, about fireflies and daydreams, the only other noise is a vague clinking from the kitchen, and then, applause.

McKenna’s life seems so atypical when you compare her to her peers in the music industry. She has four children--Brian 13, Mark 10, Chris 8, Meghan 10 months--a loving husband, and a home just minutes from the one she grew up in. And yet, she’s not your average, everyday, working mom, either. How many women in line at the bank in Stoughton, Massachusetts have an album that was just distributed nationally, and awards to their credit like New Artist of the Year (WUMB FM), or Outstanding Contemporary Folk Act (Boston Music Awards, 1999)? How many seventh graders can say that their mom played Lilith Fair and the Newport Folk Festival? How many daughters can one day play in the discarded patent leather Mary Janes and sparkly purple shirt their mother wore to perform in front of thousands?

Listening to McKenna makes you feel. Every time I’ve watched her perform, whether it was opening for a more established artist, headlining herself, or among a split bill of artists at a large benefit show, my eyes welled up with tears. It’s not just the lyrics, it’s the way she sings. It pierces you, like the perfect peal of a bell, rising, and tugging at your heart.

When you hear her speak, her accent is unmistakably South Boston. But when you hear her sing her blend of folk, bluegrass, and country, you would bet your best guitar that she hails from Nashville, Austin, or the Ozarks. A National Public Radio correspondent said recently that “more than any young songwriter on the scene today, Lori McKenna’s songs carry that stirring blend of stark intimacy and universality that has always marked the folk form at its finest.” And one man, who books an important New England venue says, off the record, that her song Fireflies is “the best folk song ever written.”

I spoke with McKenna for hipMama in May about what it’s like to be a touring singer-songwriter and a mother of four, all by the age of 31. (You can find out more about McKenna, buy her CDs, and see when she’s touring, at her Web site:
lorimckenna.com .)

NG: You’ve been a professional musician for five years, and a mom for 13. What role do your children play in your musical process?

LM: I think they are the biggest piece of me that comes through in the music. They’re an inspiration…When you have kids, it changes your whole perspective on everything…I was 20 when I had Brian, so, maybe I just hadn’t figured things out on my own yet at that point; it changed me so much as a writer because it changed me as a person.

NG: Most singer-songwriters write a lot of love songs--songs about looking for romantic love, unrequited love, heartbreak. Most of your songs are love songs too, but they seem to embody a different sort of love than the one we usually hear folksingers sing about.

LM: You grow up, and you love your parents and you have this love for your family, your best friend, then you get a boyfriend or a girlfriend. I love my husband and I still do, but when I had Brian, the thing that struck me--I had no idea that I was capable of loving something or someone so much, that I was willing to do anything for him. Then, when I had Mark, well, I love him so much, too—and it’s the same thing with every one of my kids. Even with my fourth. You could have 25 kids and still, you still love your husband or whatever, but it’s this different sort of love. Maybe it’s because you know you’re the one who is the protector. I think that comes through in the songs. When it comes down to it, I think every song is a love song. Every song comes down to love in the end, everything does.

NG: You played gigs almost right up until the birth of your daughter. Does the guitar feel different against your body when you’re pregnant?

LM: The last show I did was August 2nd, and she was born August 6th. I kept moving the guitar up and up and up to my chin. It was almost an inch below my chin when I was nine months pregnant! I never performed outside of my house when I was pregnant with the boys, so I asked a friend what to do. She said just move the guitar up and up. It’s a little more difficult, because of the belly. But, nothing is profoundly different.

NG: Whose music do you most admire?

LM: I liked listening to James Taylor growing up. Neil Young. Carole King. Cuz that’s what my older brothers and sisters listened to. I just admire singer-songwriters. I don’t have a lot of CDs in my house of people who cover other people’s songs. I always kind of check to see who wrote the song. That was always a big thing for me. I just listen to all different stuff, even if it’s a band. Jimmy Eat World, that’s my new favorite band.

NG: What kind of guitar do you use and have you ever had formal training?

LM: A Martin, D16. It’s a big guitar for me. I’m used to it and now I’m afraid to change. I’ve never had any real formal training. When I was 13, I took lessons for a year or two. But that was it. I never pursued any theory or anything. Probably because I’m a bad student.

NG: One of your most popular and moving songs is Hardly Speaking a Word. Can you tell me about writing it?

LM: It’s specifically about [my eldest son] Brian. He was diagnosed with ADD, and that was my song written about the frustration of it. The people that evaluate these things, they don’t really know your kid, and they come in and tell you “You see things differently.”

The basis of the song is that a lot of the things that are frustrating about Brian are the best things about his personality. So, the song is just about thinking I should have handled him differently, in the midst of yelling at him for the fifteenth time for running out into the street, I should have also yelled at him for the things I love about him. So through the years, he’s kind of like me, he’s not a great student but he’s great in all these other ways. He’s dyslexic, but he’s really smart and just doesn’t fit into that mold. So the song is basically about remembering to tell him how much I love these things about him.

I didn’t think anyone would like the song b/c it’s so personal and I don’t really explain what I’m talking about. But, I guess that’s good because people can take away whatever they want. I was shocked that people liked it and always asked for it.

NG: What does Brian think about the song?

LM: Somewhere along the way I was probably practicing in the living room. And he came in and was like, “That song is about me, isn’t it?”

It was perfect Brian--he figures everything out. It’s ironic that he has trouble in school cuz he’s just so damn smart!

I said, “Yeah, it is.” And he’s fine with it. I think he understands what I mean in it. He’s not embarrassed about it, at least not yet. But he just turned 13.

NG: Brian likes to play guitar, doesn’t he?

LM: He’s going to be the best guitar player in the world, that’s his goal. He’s actually very good. He’s gonna be a musician. I don’t worry about him when he grows up. He’s very self-assured and has this great ego.

NG: How does the baby respond to your music?

LM: Meghan is very musical. When I was six or seven months pregnant, I went to hear a show. I sat right near the big speakers, and she rolled around in my stomach for two and a half hours straight. I never found a baby to be that consistent.

She’s a huge Richard Thompson fan. She’ll be sitting on the floor now and the minute music starts, she’ll start swaying. Josh Ritter came over the other day and we were writing together and the minute he started, she started swaying back and forth. I sit on the floor and she’ll crawl over and touch the strings on my guitar. I’ve never seen a baby being so in tune, even with a jingle on a commercial. She’ll unconsciously start swaying. She has pretty good rhythm. She’s already upstaging me. I got my haircut the other day and then went out to see some people, and no one noticed cuz I had her with me!

NG: Do you take your kids with you when you tour?

LM: Well, now, the baby especially would go. I’d bring Brian and he’d watch her. Now she’s on this great sleeping schedule. We’ve gone to Philly and done two shows and two nights and then be home the third day. If I’m gonna be gone for more than two days, I have to take them cuz I’d go insane if I didn’t! I’m still nursing Meghan once a day now; I can’t really let go of it yet. The boys I nursed ‘til 9 months. It’s such a soothing thing. I could be on a deserted island and still take care of this baby.

NG: Last time we spoke, you mentioned that you don’t write down your songs right away, and that sometimes it’s the kids that remind you that you wrote one.

LM: Yeah, it’s happened at least four times. My process of writing, it goes through stages. I do the melody first, and then the words, or sometimes both at the same time. I never write anything down or record anything until I’ve had it beat in my head enough to remember it the next day. I try to hum a melody along with the guitar, a lot of times out of that a chorus line will come out over and over again. But, I always get interrupted. With four kids, it’s not like I can sit for like 5 or 6 hours to get a song out. Usually it takes a few days. So, sometimes, I forget about it, and the third day will come and go, and then the fourth day one of the kids will be singing it and I’ll go, oh! I forgot about it!

Now I just work during the day when the kids are at school. So there’s just Meg and she can’t repeat anything. But I’ve actually found that if I write or record too early, it doesn’t go anywhere. I have a notebook I call “The Morgue.” I don’t know why, but it doesn’t go anywhere if I write it down there.

NG: In "Never Die Young", a song penned for her mother, who died when she was six years old, McKenna writes: "I am the one who will never die young, I am a martyr and I cannot hide. But I'm not a winner, I'm just brilliantly bitter. I'm sealed by my skin, but broken inside." Can you tell me a little bit about Never Die Young?

LM: That’s the other really, really personal song. It’s written about my mom who died when she was 40, and I was six. And I’ve always had this really strong feeling growing up that I was going to live to be really old someday…I’m gonna live to be like 100 because my mother died when she was so young. My sister feels like she’ll die young.

It’s about that and the fact that when I was growing up and as a teenager, I felt so sorry for myself because my mother died. I’d hang out with my friends and they’d complain about their mothers but I’d think at least they had their mothers to complain about. And then when I had Brian, I felt sorry for myself more because I didn’t have my mom…But then I realized I was really okay. I was well taken care of. My dad, my step-mom. As a mother, I’d be heartbroken to leave, and I realized that she was taken away from her six children…but then of course, I have this thing in my head that she can always see us.

NG: What are your current or new projects?

LM: I’m touring more this year than I ever have. We’ve figured out this great balancing act with Meghan and the boys. I’m promoting Pieces of Me. It took a long time, 18 months to record, and in the process and being pregnant, I’ve written all these other songs. Hopefully we’ll go in the studio to do an album soon. But, ‘til then, we may do a home-recorded set of nine or ten songs that have come up along the way. We have about 25 songs to weed through and look at. We'll have to figure out which ones work together and which ones don’t. I’d love to try to get a few songs out on a home-made EP, while we work on a more polished studio album."

Lori Recommends

Carole King

I can identify with her a lot. It’s that woman thing.

Kris Delmhorst

I just think that her songwriting is amazing.

The Police

I think about The Police and I think about growing up. That’s always good, too, stuff that you remember from being a teenager.

Allison Krauss

She’s amazing.

Bruce Springsteen

It’s not magic and angels and stuff, it’s people’s stories, different people. Not what you necessarily hear on the radio. He’s got so much stuff that’s about other people.

Naomi Graychase is a freelance writer currently at work on her first book of nonfiction.
You can reach her at www.graychase.com

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Two Jackies

Fifty years ago this summer, two women--Jacqueline Auriol of France and the American Jacqueline Cochran--became the first women in the world to break the sound barrier. Cochran did it first. Flying in a SabreJet, she created her first sonic boom in May of 1953 at the age of 43. Just a few months later, flying a Dassault Mystère II, the 36-year old Auriol bested Cochran's record and became the first European female to fly faster than sound. For the next ten years these pilots would continue to trade world speed records back and forth across the Atlantic in what is perhaps aviation's most impressive rivalry between two solo pilots.
Falconer, Issue 23, 2003

Read the whole story.

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Off the Deep End: Profile of Tanya Streeter

Tanya Streeter is a woman with a secret. She, and she alone, knows what it feels like to take a breath, ride a weighted sled straight down to 500 feet below the surface of the ocean, and then swim back up, with lungs that have shrunk to the size of fists, and legs that are burning with lactic acid. On her world record-breaking dive (in the Variable Ballast class) in July, she held her breath for 3 minutes, 38 seconds, went 27 meters deeper than the previous women's world record holder, and two meters deeper than the men's. The next day, she broke another world record in a different class of free diving. Streeter now holds five world records in various classes of free diving, a sport most people have never even heard of.

Issue 23, 2003

Read the whole story.
Read the full Interview.

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MP3 Players For The Holidays: Hot Portable Player Options

It’s no surprise that MP3 players are among the most sought-after CE gifts this holiday season. Even the most tech averse among us are becoming tempted by the ubiquitous (and ever more affordable) portable music devices. Carin Clevidence, a 38-year-old Massachusetts-based mother of two--whose only foray into the world of technology is the laptop she’s writing her novel on--has put one on her Christmas list.

First Glimpse, December 2006
Read the whole story.

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Fab Four: December 2006

Tis the season for joyful giving and receiving; a time for gathering with friends and family to capture memories and enjoy the company of the people you love. Our Fab Four this month are all gifts that keep on giving. A camera that the whole family can use; an MP3 player that does it all; a super-cool mobile phone; and a high-quality home-theater projector that’s perfect for showing “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” and all the other holiday favorites.

First Glimpse, December 2006
Read the whole story.

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Budget-Friendly MP3 Players: Quality Players that Won't Break the Bank

Whether you like to listen in your car, on the treadmill, or as you’re walking across town, digital music is definitely the way to go. Strapping on your old portable CD player or--gasp!--cassette player looks and feels a lot like toting around a circa-1986, brick-sized mobile phone. But with so many features, forms, prices, and sizes, how do you know which player is right for you (and your budget)?

First Glimpse, October 2006
Read the whole story.

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You Oughtta Be In Pictures: The Year's Best Digicams

It’s been an especially good year for the digital-imaging crowd. Whether you are a casual shooter who trots out her camera only for birthdays and weddings, a bold adventurer who dreams of capturing big moments from atop mountains and beneath waves, or a serious amateur photographer who shoots everything from portraits to sporting events, we’re willing to bet your world got a little brighter (not to mention a whole lot more fun) if you bought one of this year’s new digicams.

First Glimpse, November 2006
Read the whole story.

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Fab Four: October 2006

Just in time for Halloween, our October Fab Four includes an old-fashioned favorite masquerading in new clothes, a sweet little MP3 player full of lots of tricks and treats, a smartphone wearing many (many) hats, and a camera that is dressed to impress. This month we’ve gathered the best and newest devices from the affordable and practical (FlashDiscs for only $5 each) to the powerful and professional (Palm Treo 700p) so that you can usher in the fall season with something just right.

October, 2006
Read the whole story.

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US Internet Sets Sights on New Cities

November 17, 2006

by Naomi Graychase
Wi-Fi Planet.com

Last month, Minnesota-based ISP US Internet announced that it had been chosen by the city of Minneapolis to provide citywide Wi-Fi. To win the contract for the 60-square-mile broadband wireless network, the ten-year old company with no previous municipal Wi-Fi experience beat out some heavy hitters, including EarthLink.

The victory, says Joe Caldwell, US Internet co-founder and CEO, came down to the fact that US Internet gave the city what it wanted.

"We really read the RFP," says Caldwell. "We didn't come in with any preconceived notions of what we wanted the city to have. A big part of the city's need was public safety, another was bridging the digital divide, another was a network that could support voice and video. They wanted a network that could support consumers and businesses. They wanted so many different things. We brought them the combination of the best solutions."

Despite being something of a new kid on the block in this particular arena, Caldwell says he and his team never doubted they would emerge victorious. "We did beat out some stiff competition, but I thought we were always the favorite going in," he says. "When we were picked as a finalist, I thought we were way ahead of [EarthLink]. In our mind, what they brought to the table was not what the city asked for in the RFP."

The Minneapolis deployment is just beginning of the roll-out.

"We have a one square mile area up and running right now that was used in the 'bake-off' between us and EarthLink this summer," says Caldwell. "We are only offering 250 accounts in that one square mile, but in one day, we sold all 250 accounts."

So far, Caldwell says the feedback from early users has been positive. However, not inclined to rest on its laurels, the company has partnered with Atlanta-based Charys and is already pursuing contracts in other major metropolitan areas, including Boston and Atlanta. One news report prematurely indicated that the Atlanta contract had been won in early November, but Caldwell is quick to point out that it's too soon to announce any new victories.

"I don't know how that got interpreted," says Caldwell. "We haven't landed contracts. In Boston, they are putting in two one square mile pilot areas, and we are putting in one of those. Then we'll have a bake-off, like here. Then someone will get awarded the contract. In Atlanta, we just had our second big meeting. It's down to two of us. It's us and EarthLink. We have a lot of deals in play right now, but the only thing we've won is Minneapolis."

Caldwell sees municipal Wi-Fi as an area of reliable growth, and he says his company will continue to aggressively seek ways to expand its presence in that market. "As our society becomes more and more mobile, being able to have wireless broadband will be essential, and Wi-Fi is the best delivery method," he says. "There's so many things you can do with Wi-Fi. In Taipei, they have Wi-Fi child-finding devices. In Minneapolis, we're delivering security cameras over Wi-Fi. We can deliver that over the mesh network. That's what we're excited about. It's the next big thing when it comes to Internet."

The company, which currently employs about 100 people, takes an old-fashioned approach to its high-tech business, an approach that helped the company weather the stormy years of the dot-com bubble's burst.

"In the beginning [1995], there were just three of us in the basement of a house running US Robotics modems -- now we have offices in Singapore," says Caldwell. "The big thing we did right was we didn't take on any debt. We didn't have a 'build it and they will come' mentality. Every penny that this made went back into growing it. A lot of companies built these 100,000 square foot data centers. No one gave us the money to do anything that stupid, so we didn't. We always kept our eye on the bottom line, because it's always been our bottom line, not some VC's [venture capitalist’s] bottom line. Our agenda has been, take care of the customer, and the rest will take care of itself, and that's what we found to be successful."

US Internet has come a long way from its days as the dream of three guys in a basement in Minnesota, and it expects to go much, much further. "We want to be a world leader," says Caldwell. "We didn't get into this just to do Minneapolis. Back in 1995, we had about $1.25 to our name. We had about enough to cover the apartment building in which we started. But we named our company 'US Internet.' We're not lacking vision here. When we do Minneapolis right, we're going to have a calling card to go in and do these other cities."

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Staying Connected at Timeshares

As Wi-Fi providers seek new ways to conquer the travel and hospitality markets, one area remains relatively untapped. According to the American Resort Development Association, fewer than 25% of American timeshare locations have installed Wi-Fi networks. The ARDA estimates that this market represents roughly $75 million in potential Wi-Fi services revenue annually.

Read the full story.

November 1, 2006


FON Aims for Ubiquity

October 27, 2006

Wi-Fi Planet

Earlier this month, FON (rhymes with "dawn," not "phone") announced the worldwide release of its new "La Fonera" wireless router. What makes the router unique is its price tag -- $5 -- and its ability to incorporate two SSIDs, one private and one public. It also has the important bonus of being much, much easier to use than the routers FON supported until now, which the company hopes will encourage users to sign up in droves.

La Fonera, which measures just 3" x 3.7" and is less than an inch thick, features Atheros' single-chip 802.11b/g AR5006AP-G chipset, which is also found in routers from Netgear, D-Link and Belkin. The true cost of the router has not been released, but Mike Stauffer, director of business development at Atheros, says, "We are providing a low-cost solution because it’s a single chip."

FON considers its subsidy of the unit for its users (called "Foneros") to be part of the cost of acquiring new customers, just as mobile phone carriers subsidize the cost of new phones to attract new customers.

Joanna Rees, chairman of FON's efforts in the United States, says, "We have been able to develop a router that we can [sell] at a reasonable cost for FON. Where other companies would say, 'I’m going to spend $25–$30 to acquire a customer,' our [cost] is through the router subsidy. We don’t want the router to be the sticking point to someone to share their Wi-Fi. We want to get the network in place."

FON, which launched worldwide in February, claims 97,000 registered users so far, and has been backed by big name investors including Skype (eBay) and Google.

"They are investment partners," says Rees. "They believe in what we’re building."

What FON is building -- or trying to build -- is a global network of freely available Wi-Fi. Home users or small businesses purchase a La Fonera router -- or in some cases, get them for free -- and then agree to share their network 24 hours a day, seven days a week with other Foneros. FON customers who offer up free access to their own hotspots can then use any FON access point anywhere in the world for free. For those looking to charge for access, there is a revenue-sharing model they can subscribe to. Foneros who offer free access are called "Linuses," after Linus Torvalds, inventor of Linux. Those who charge for access are called "Bills," after Bill Gates. Non-Foneros, called Aliens, can also use the hotspots, but they always pay for the privilege.

"For consumers, the benefit is that if you share your Wi-Fi at home, you can do so securely, and you can roam the world for free," says Rees.

Of course, if FON is encouraging users to give away unlimited Wi-Fi access for free, there is the question of how the company will generate enough revenue to stay afloat.

"Our business model comes in when a café or restaurant says, 'I’ll share my Wi-Fi, but I don’t want to roam the world because I'm a café; I’d like to have a lower charge than another Wi-Fi hotspot,'" Rees says. "So we charge $2-$3 a day, and FON shares in the revenue. We share at a price lower than a T-Mobile connection, and the café gets a portion of that and we get a portion of that."

FON is also focusing on forging relationships with other companies, including ISPs, who Rees says stand to benefit from FON's network.

"There are a lot of content companies and product companies where ubiquitous Wi-Fi is important to their model," says Rees. "And we have those relationships as part of our business model."

"We are also working in cooperation with ISPs," says Rees. "We will have several announcements coming out. There are two benefits. One is that the majority of people who sign up for cable get a router [and] don’t lock it down, so people leech off of other people’s Wi-Fi, which keeps others from getting their own broadband. If they plug in a FON router, they can’t leech, they have to be part of the program, so an ISP can monetize. It also encourages people -- it's a value proposition. If I have Wi-Fi at home, I can roam the world for free, so I’m going to get a broadband connection at home and become part of the benefit. We're working on specific agreements."

Rees emphasizes that FON is still early in its rollout.

"We’re early -- we’re just starting our ramp," says Rees. "The U.S. has been our largest market. We’ll start to see tremendous growth in our network in the next three months' time. We are literally just kicking off."

As part of its U.S. campaign, FON is targeting specific markets known for early adopters, including New York and San Francisco. It will conduct grassroots campaigns to recruit new Foneros. The first big event will be a "Freedom Friday" router giveaway at San Francisco's Union Square today, October 27th. Other cities that will likely see FON events come to town include LA, Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta and Dallas.

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Meraki: Making Network Operators

Meraki: Making Network Operators

According to the International Telecommunications Union, hundreds of millions of Internet users worldwide don't have Internet access at home -- not even dial-up. One new company is working to change all that.

September 28, 2006


Saturday, September 09, 2006

Safe & Sound

Safe & Sound
Use CE Devices To Keep You & Your Family Safe

As we move further into the 21st century, we surround ourselves with more and more technology. Our homes can contain state-of-the-art sound systems, ovens that start dinner while we’re still sitting in traffic, and closets that can dry clean our clothes. We fall in love with our favorite devices for their time-saving, entertaining, and/or practical sides, but can they also protect us from danger--or save us once we’re in it?

CE Lifestyles, October 2005

Gifts For Grads

Gifts For Grads
Grant Your Graduate’s Wishes

College graduation is a rite of passage—a time to rejoice over completing four long years of study; a time to prepare for arrival in the “real world.” In an informal survey of students graduating from Smith College, the nation’s largest women’s college, the most commonly wished-for graduation gifts (by a landslide) were iPods, cell phones, and digital cameras. It’s a safe bet that the grads in your life share these three wishes.

CE Lifestyles, May 2006

Less Is More

Less Is More
Our Favorite Devices That Know How To Keep It Simple

Women, of course, are no strangers to the concept of multitasking. Heck, we probably invented it. But in a world where convergence is the trend, do we really want our CE devices to be jacks-of-all-trades? As we all know, when you take on too much, something is bound to suffer. The same is true for mobile phones, MP3 players, and other products that try to be all things to all users. Because it’s getting increasingly difficult to find devices that don’t try to be three things at once, we set out to find the best products for users who understand the beauty of simplicity.

CE Lifestyles, February 2006

MP3 Players Built For Sport

MP3 Players Built For Sport
Up The Mountains, On The Trails & To The Gym

In 1999, during a 5-month training regimen for the San Francisco marathon, we invested in two very important accessories: the perfect running shoes and a handheld CD player. The disc player (from Panasonic) featured 40 seconds of “Anti-Shock Memory II” and even flashed the word “Sorry” across its display whenever it skipped. At the time, it was top-of-the line, and it racked up miles all over the city, tucked into a sports bra or strapped to a palm. As our training runs grew longer, we quickly came to wish there were some way to run with more music than one measly CD. And after a few miles, a lighter player would have been a dream. Little did we know that our prayers would be answered, and that one day, we’d be able to fit more than 10 times as many songs on a device an eighth of the size that would never, ever skip.

CE Lifestyles, July 2005

True Colors

True Colors
Do Women Really Think CE Are Prettier In Pink?

There is an old story among ad executives that when Gillette first wanted to sell its razors to women, it simply colored them pink. Many consumer electronics manufacturers are still taking this same approach. Want to get more women to buy your portable computers? Just color them pink. But do women really want a pink laptop, an orange camera, or a lime green PDA? Vendors may be surprised to discover that for most women, the answer is, “Not really.”

CE Lifestyles, January 2006

Living Smart At Playa Vista

Living Smart At Playa Vista
A New California Community Brings Cutting-Edge Technology Home

Just 40 years after "The Jetsons" first invited us into a futuristic community where talking robomaids and flying cars were the norm, a planned community in southern California was born that is not so far off from the animated world Hanna-Barbera envisioned.

CE Lifestyles, May 2005

You Can Take It With You

You Can Take It With You
Best Accessories For Your Laptop

Truly mobile computing requires more than the perfect laptop. As with even the best outfits in our wardrobes, our notebook computers are nothing without the right accessories. Who among us hasn’t groaned at the sight of a truly hideous laptop bag ruining a perfectly good ensemble? Or grudgingly massaged the sore muscles we earned as we bent our wrists and necks like crones to hear our tiny speakers, make use of a teeny touch-pad, or look down into our laps at our screens? The trade-off for portability has been painful.

CE Lifestyles, September 2005

'Tis The Season

'Tis The Season
The Best Digital Camera For Everyone On Your List

Every year, as December approaches, the quest to find the perfect gift for everyone on our lists makes us wish for our own personal army of elves. Among the most coveted gifts this season will be a new crop of digital cameras. Manufacturers are keeping pace with demand and trotting out a whole series of sleeker, smaller, higher-resolution, more fully featured cameras, which will be sure to make the faces of your loved ones light up like a Christmas tree. But sorting through them all to find just the right one for your mother in Malibu or your sister in Sarasota can leave you feeling that those chestnuts roasting over an open fire really have it easy.

CE Lifestyles, November 2005

Photo Projects For Your Home

Photo Projects For Your Home
A Picture’s Worth A Thousand Words . . . As Long As It Leaves Your Camera

You have a keen eye for taking photographsbut because they rarely leave your camera, computer, or memory card, no one sees them but you. Fortunately, even if you’re short on time, cash, or wall space, there are lots of ways for you to enjoy your special photos someplace other than an LCD. Whether you’re a craft-phobic gadget diva or the queen of do-it-yourself, there is a perfect creative decorating project to get your photos on display.

CE Lifestyles, April 2006

Technology & Kids

Technology & Kids
Parenting The Google Generation

In 1994, an editor at a family computing magazine in Massachusetts came home from work one day and found his towheaded 3-year-old daughter, Minta, sitting at her family’s computer. She was perched on an ergonomic office chair, her little legs kicking the air absentmindedly. Her back was to her father, and when he said, “Hi, Minta! I’m home. What’re you doing?” She slowly spun her chair around to face him and said, quite matter-of-factly, “Building a civilization.”

CE Lifestyles, March 2006

If You're Looking For . . .

If You're Looking For . . .
How To Find The Best Camera For Your Needs

Whether you’re upgrading your clunky old digital camera or taking your first leap into the brave new world of digital photography, you don’t want to step into the fray unarmed. Knowledge, as they say, is power. Before you set foot in a store or surf your way over to your favorite online outlet, think about who you are and what you really want from your digital camera. Remember the times you’ve wished you had one: at a birthday party, on top of a mountain, during a snorkeling trip, or when a girlfriend pulled her sleek and shiny new camera out of her purse? Then, make an honest list of your priorities. Looks, price, ease of use, and features should all come into play. Once you feel you know your needs, take a look at our recommendations to find the camera that’s the perfect fit for your lifestyle.

CE Lifestyles, November 2005

Best Digital Cameras For Women

Best Digital Cameras For Women
We Want Form & Function

by: Naomi Graychase
CE Lifestyles, August 2005

Choosing the right digital camera can feel a lot like choosing the right car--part beauty pageant, part serious quest for the right set of features to fit your budget. Fortunately, when you set out to buy the perfect camera, you don’t have to deal with pushy sales managers or get approved for financing. You do, however, have to wade through a market that’s become flooded with a variety of cameras offering a dizzying array of features and styles. So, what’s a girl to do?

First, you’ll want to decide two important things: How much you can spend, and what you’ll use your camera for. Once you have a general idea of your budget, and a sense of whether you’ll be taking snapshots or looking to adjust your own aperture settings, ask yourself a few lifestyle questions. Do you want to be able to hand your camera to someone on vacation without also handing her the manual? Can your kids, co-workers, or technologically impaired spouse take photos with it? Will your camera feel like a brick or a cell phone in your purse? What if you want to shoot your daughter in action at her soccer game? Are you frequently holding a baby, an umbrella, or other things, which make it important that you be able to navigate menus and shoot photos using only one hand? Are you likely to drop your camera in the pool or shoot lots of photos in the rain? (See the “Underwater Action” sidebar.)

If, like most women, you primarily want to take snapshots, and you want to spend $200 or less, you’ll sacrifice some quality and some features and you may have to make some concessions when it comes to size. Your $150 camera is more likely to remind you of a minivan than a Maserati, but it will still be useful. If you’re willing to spend a little more, Canon, Kodak, Kyocera, and Sony all make excellent cameras that hover in the $250 to $300 range. Among our favorites are the 5MP (megapixel) Canon PowerShot A95 ($299; consumer.usa.canon.com) and the 4MP Kodak EasyShare CX7430 ($279.95; www.kodak.com). (For more on budget cameras, see the “Best Buys” sidebar.)

When it comes to making decisions about resolution, we recommend 3MP or higher. If you want to enlarge your photos--for example, make prints that are 8 inches x 10 inches or larger or blow up details--look for digicams with 4MP resolution or higher. The higher the resolution, the better the quality of your images. (For more on selecting the perfect camera, see the “Fab Four Female-Friendly Features” sidebar.)

If having a slim, highly portable camera is your main objective, we recommend an ultracompact device. Our favorites are the Casio Exilim EX S100 ($299; www.casio.exilim.com) and the Canon PowerShot SD20 ($349). The 3.2MP EX S100 is about the size of a credit card and the thickness of a pack of gum, but still offers a 2-inch LCD. The SD20 is slightly smaller than a pack of cigarettes, comes in flashy colors, such as “garnet,” “Zen gray,” and “midnight blue,” but offers only a 1.5-inch LCD. If you find you rarely have two free hands, you can operate both of these cameras one-handed (although that’ll be more of a challenge for lefties).

Also leading the pack in the ultracompact category are the Panasonic Lumix FX7 ($399; www.panasonic.com/consumer_electronics) and the Canon PowerShot SD300 ($349). The 5MP Lumix FX7 prevents blurry photos by detecting jitter and automatically moving the lens to correct it and it features a 2.5-inch display, the largest LCD in this class. The 4MP PowerShot SD300 features a 2-inch LCD and an impressive 3X optical zoom.

The Miss Congeniality award goes to the 4MP Kodak EasyShare LS743 ($299). This is the camera anyone can use--children, spouses, co-workers, strangers who take your photo on vacation. It’s an excellent starter camera for someone nervous about going digital, and unlike some of the other EasyShare models, it’s also relatively pretty and petite.

If shooting high-quality action images is what you’re after, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 ($399; www.sonystyle.com) is a home run. It has it all: looks, features, and convenient size. It comes in two colors (red and silver), serves up 7.2MP resolution, and 3X optical zoom, and you can capture high-resolution shots at up to at 1.1fps (frames per second), perfect for preserving every motion of that winning goal. It also shoots high-grade MPEG (Moving Picture Experts Group) movies with audio and provides a 2-inch LCD. But like so many superstars, it’s also a little high-maintenance. This camera takes some getting used to, and it’s tough for beginners to fully take advantage of all its perks.

For a more user-friendly, but high-end, digicam experience, Nikon offers the Coolpix 7900 ($399; www.nikonusa.com), which was specifically designed with women in mind. New to the market, the Coolpix 7900 caters to the woman who is willing to spend a little more in order capture beautiful photographs with a sharp-looking, ultra-portable digital camera. While it isn’t the prettiest camera in the bunch--we’d give that honor to the PowerShot SD20--at 7.1MP, it’s a cut above many of its competitors. Lightweight and full-featured, the Coolpix provides cutting-edge technology, such as its built-in “D-Lighting” software, a one-button fix for overly dark photos, and software-based automatic red-eye removal. Its 2-inch LCD is the perfect size, and while it offers an exceptional level of control, you won’t have to wade three menus deep--or take a photography class--to access the best ones.

Last, but not least, for the serious photographer who wants to change lenses, zoom up to 12X, and enjoys the feel of a traditionally sized 35mm camera in her hands, we recommend three options: Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-FZ5 ($499.95), Konica Minolta’s DiMage Z5 ($649.99; konicaminolta.us), and DiMage Z20 ($399).

Fab Four Female-Friendly Features

Unless you’re looking for professional-level control, the perfect camera should be as easy to slip into a purse or pocket as your cell phone. Just like buying shoes that are too small means you’ll never wear them, buying a camera that’s a little cheaper and a lot more bulky means you’ll wind up leaving it home gathering dust when you could be out capturing keepsake moments.

Who has time to sift through three menus to find the red-eye-reduction or self-timer? The Kodak EasyShare line won the ease-of-use category hands down. First timers or those who don’t want to waste any precious time getting to know their camera will do well with these picks.

While looks aren’t everything, you should indulge your sense of style. Sleek looks, slim designs, and enticing colors all enhance the joy of going digital. Liz Lange and Nikon even offer a co-branded camera (Coolpix 3200; $399.95; www.coolpix101.com/main.html?section=real_lifeography&topic=capture_glow) designed by Liz herself. (All proceeds benefit a national children’s charity.)

Squinting isn’t a good look in photos, and it isn’t a good look for the one behind the camera either. Some stylishly small cameras entice you with their pixie-sized good looks, but the trade-off is a screen the size of a postage stamp. Buyer beware, especially if you’re far-sighted.

Underwater Action

The submersible Pentax Optio WP ($400; www.pentaximaging.com) features a rust-resistant metal exterior, rubber sealants, and lens protection that lets you shoot in the rain, in the snow--or even in up to five feet of water. With 5MP, a 3X optical zoom lens and a 2-inch low-reflection monitor, you don’t have to sacrifice quality for durability, which makes it perfect for the adventurous, aquatic, or just plain clumsy shutterbug and her family.

Top Five Cameras For Women

These are not your mother’s cameras. They can shoot video, record audio, go underwater, and “de-light” (which we found delightful). We tested 13 cameras from market leaders Canon, Sony, and Kodak, as well as strong contenders Casio, Nikon, Panasonic, and Konica Minolta. It was tough to choose, but these are our five pic picks for women.

Nikon Coolpix 7900
$399; www.nikon.com
High-tech, high-resolution, ultra-portable, and handsome to boot. This 7.1MP camera will please point-and-shooters and more finicky photographers, too.

Casio Exilim EX S100
$299; www.casio.com
So slim it could almost fit in your wallet, and it won’t break the bank to buy one. The 2-inch LCD is the jewel in this pretty camera’s crown.

Canon PowerShot A95
$299; www.canon.com
An affordable, easy-to-use 5MP camera. Its only downside is its super-size.

Kodak EasyShare LS743
$299; www.kodak.com
For nervous beginners, or those with no time to waste learning the ropes, this 5MP beauty is the best camera you can buy for under $300.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX7
$399; www.panasonic.com
Easy on the eyes in more ways than one, this gorgeous ultracompact boasts the largest LCD in its class (2.5 inch), 5MP resolution, and a rapid-fire shutter speed.


A picture may be worth a thousand words, but how much are you willing to pay for the camera that takes it? If finding a high-quality camera for less than $300 is your goal, we recommend these five cameras: Canon PowerShot A95 ($299), Casio Exilim EX S100 ($299.99), Kodak EasyShare LS743 ($299), Kodak EasyShare CX7530 ($299), and Kodak EasyShare CX7430 ($279.95). Of these five, the Casio Exilim is the sleekest and slimmest; the Canon PowerShot A95 is the chunkiest, but the most fully featured; and the PowerShot A95 and Kodak EasyShare CX7530 are the only cameras we tested that offer 5MP with a price tag of $300 or less.

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Fab Four: March 2006

Fab Four

In this new column, we get a chance to rave about some of the best CE products that pass through our labs, across our desks, and into our lives. In each issue we’ll select four gadgetsone digital camera, one MP3 player, one cell phone, and one “wild card”and tell you why we think they’re all truly fabulous.

CE Lifestyles, March 2006

Fab Four : April 2006

Fab Four

With so many great new products hitting the market this spring, it was tough to choose just four to single out as “fabulous.” Manufacturers are finally starting to “get it” when it comes to designing products that appeal to both the sense and sensibility of female consumers, and technology is rapidly bringing us better cameras, more multifunction phones, and MP3 players that make the first generation look just a hair less retro than an 8-track.

CE Lifestyles, April 2006

Fab Four: May 2006

Fab Four

This month we’ve singled out four fabulous products that impressed us with their attention to detail and/or technological innovation. We’ll give you a first look at a mobile TV phone so new you can’t even get one yet, as well as the first dual-lens point-and-shoot digital camera to hit the market. We’ll also introduce you to a CE gem that will be a girl-jock’s new best friend, and when it’s all over, we’ll invite you to sit down in front of an LCD TV that really is as smart as it looks.

First Glimpse (CE Lifestyles), May 2006

Back To School: College Kids

Back To School: College Kids
Perfect Gifts For The Grad In Your Life

Back in the day, when students headed off to college, the most high-tech devices they needed were calculators and Hi-Fi stereos. These days, in order to be prepared, students must navigate more complicated CE waters. Whether you’re shopping for your niece, your sister, your daughter, or yourself, we offer some sound advice to help you choose the best equipment for your budget and your needs.

First Glimpse, September 2006

Beaching It

Beaching It
Protect Your CE From Surf, Sand & Sun
Surf, sand, and sunthree good things for our overworked bodies, but not so good for our favorite CE devices. You can protect yourself with sunscreen and swimming lessons, but if you and your iPod are inseparable, how can you be sure it will survive your trips to the beach? With a little planning, you can arm yourself with both the knowledge and the accessories that will keep your camera, your phone, your laptopand anything else you want to throw in your totesafe from summer’s biggest threats.

First Glimpse, August 2006

So You Want... An iPod

So You Want... An iPod
Find The Perfect ’Pod For You

It’s easy to decide that you want an iPodbut how do you know which one? Whether you’re giving a gift or treating yourself to a digital indulgence, choosing an iPod is not a snap decision. Just as you wouldn’t buy a pair of shoes without trying them on, you shouldn’t buy an iPod without first finding out if it fits.

First Glimpse, July 2006

Take That Show On The Road

Take That Show On The Road
Video MP3 Players Give Us TV To Go
First, there were VCRsand if we could figure out how to program them, we would never have to race home or stay up late again to watch our favorite shows. It was a whole new era. Then came TiVo. And we could not only record our favorite programs but also do it without stacks of VHS tapes or a subscription to TV Guide. Now, with the advent of video MP3 players, we can have all the convenience of digitally recorded television right in the palm of our hands.

First Glimpse, August 2006

Today's PDAs & Smartphones

Today's PDAs & Smartphones
New Devices For Our Organizational Arsenal

Eleanor Roosevelt once said of her many accomplishments, “I just did what I had to do as things came along.” While, admittedly, most of us have not been asked to help our spouses run the countryor better yet, to run it ourselvesin our hectic modern lives things do “come along” at a dizzying pace. And although Mrs. Roosevelt had a few advantages we can’t claim to havefull household and secretarial staffs, for instancenew technologies have provided us with ways to organize and prioritize that, for some things, have social secretaries and a typing pool beat. In our constant quest for order, efficiency, and simplicity, smartphones and PDAs (literally) put the power to organize our lives back in our hands.

First Glimpse, June 2006

MP3 Players For Working Out

MP3 Players For Working Out
The Best Players That Get You Movin’ & Groovin’

Now that winter has released its grip, the April showers have passed, and the May flowers have bloomed, it’s finally time to get outdoors and enjoy the early days of summer. The gym is great, of course, but sometimes a treadmill just can’t compare to a nice, long run (or brisk walk) in the fresh air.

First Glimpse, June 1, 2006

Fab Four, June 2006

Fab Four

This month we were on the lookout for the best new devices coming over the technology horizon. While the spring saw many budding CE releases bloom like so many long-awaited tulips and daffodils, we were captivated by these special few.

First Glimpse, June 1, 2006

Friday, September 08, 2006

Fab Four Column: August, 2006

Fab Four: August, 2006

Our August line-up is impressive, and our theme for this month is: carpe diem. If you’ve been biding your time, waiting for the right video MP3 player, it’s time to seize the day. Toshiba’s Gigabeat S’s compact design, full feature set, and multimedia flexibility may give iPod a run for its money. Ready to upgrade your old point-and-shoot camera? Sony’s newest Cyber-shot is the perfect incentive. If you’ve been thinking about dipping your toe into the smartphone waters, one look at the new Moto Q from Motorola and we expect you’ll want to dive in. And, last but not least, if you’re tempted by the PC/TV phenomenon, Sony’s enticing new MFM-HT205 display practically screams, “Go for it!”

RedZone Brings Wi-Fi to Mid-coast Maine

RedZone Brings Wi-Fi to Mid-coast Maine

According to a recent report by the Maine Center for Economic Policy, only 15% of Maine residents subscribe to high-speed Internet service, a number significantly lower than the national average of 21%. The study cites geographical and financial barriers to access as the major reasons for Maine’s low penetration.

September 8, 2006