Friday, April 2 2004

Gadget roundup

I’ve been using Hunter QuietFlo HEPA air purifiers around the house for a while. They’re really only quiet at the lowest of the three fan settings, but they work quite well on dust, pollen, and “unpleasant household odors,” and unlike some other brands, they sit flush against the wall. Replacement HEPA filters are in the $75-$90 range, which is a significant percentage of the cost of the unit, but they’re good for about a year of full-time service, and the activated carbon pre-filter that you replace every three months is much cheaper.

I’m not as convinced that the Hoover SilentAir 4000 is worthwhile as a replacement. There’s a suspicious lack of air-quality test results in their packaging and FAQs, and a quick smoke-test suggests that it’s not particularly efficient at quickly removing particulate matter and odors from a room. The lack of a fan is touted as an advantage, but if incense and cigar smoke produced two feet away can linger in the air for hours in a closed room, I don’t see how it’s purifying my air. [note that both of these odor sources are normally banned inside my home, and were introduced purely for test purposes]

I am enthusiastic about my Fellowes PowerShred DM15C. I can’t link directly to a product page, because there isn’t one. Apparently the only place in the world that sells it is Costco, and they don’t list it on their web site. It’s a medium-duty confetti-cut office shredder that can handle CDs/DVDs, credit cards, and up to 15 sheets of heavy paper at a time (with staples and paper clips). And it’s on wheels. About a third of my snail-mail goes into it unopened, neatly disposing of all those unsolicited mortgage and credit-card offers.

I have mixed feelings about my Olympus DS-330 digital voice recorder. I do my best thinking while walking or driving, and voice memos are definitely the way to capture that, but the people who design these things are emulating the standalone tape-recorder user interface, and PC integration is a check-box feature added as an afterthought. The only reason I bought this model is because they ship software for both Mac and PC.

It’s not great software, mind you, and their failure to make it a mass-storage compliant USB drive means Linux users are SoL until someone figures out its interface, but at least its not Windows-only like the new VN-240 PC. If you can live with that limitation, though, the VN-240 PC looks like a good deal: half the price of the DS-330, twice the capacity, and a better control layout.

I’d love to spend about an hour locked in a room with Olympus’ design team so that I could explain to them how a modern voice recorder should work, but I may have to settle for blogging it. I’m trying to resist the temptation to pass my ideas on to the folks up north; while we have the power to make a kick-ass recorder, I fear they’d miss the point and turn it into a full-fledged CE device with wireless MSN service and DRM.