SMALLER AND lighter is an ongoing trend in electronics. These days, you can tote a digital recorder for job notes in one shirt pocket and a digital camera for jobsite documentation in another as well as put a flat-panel monitor on your desk, saving space all around. Here are a few items, just in time for the holidays.
Pocket sound bites
The Panasonic IC Recorder RR-US321 (800/211-7262, www.panasonic.com) is a tiny device that comes loaded with Dragon Naturally Speaking Preferred v.5 speech-recognition software for automatic transcribing of verbal notes into your PC. The recorder, which you can set to the exact date and time, comes with several features that facilitate note taking, easy retrieval and storage.
Data can be stored in any of four separate folders, each of which can hold up to 99 files. Each file is easily identifiable and playable directly, without having to hunt for the beginning of a particular session. Total recording time, combining all files, is 16 minutes at HQ (high quality), 33 minutes at SP (standard play) and 105 minutes at LP (long play).
Users can select voice activation, which enables the unit to pause during silences, eliminating memory-wasting “quiet” time. The unit also accepts an external headset microphone (not included), for hands-free operation.
The RR-US321 comes with basic voice-management software for downloading the voice files to a PC hard drive as well as easy manipulation and management from the computer. Once you save the voice files on the PC, you can delete them from the recorder, freeing space for future recordings. (The downloaded audio files sounded great through a notebook computer.)
As for the voice-recognition feature, we were unable to convert voice from recorded files into text on the screen accurately enough to make the enterprise worthwhile, even after a few hours of training. A similar unit (RR-US320), with the same voice editing software but without Dragon Naturally Speaking software, is available.
Digital cameras have reached the right mix of characteristics — smaller size, higher quality and lower prices — to make them great tools for project management and communications. The pictures are easy to download onto a computer for immediate distribution or storage.
Selecting a photo for e-mail is no more complicated than placing a Word document attachment onto an e-mail. In fact, you don’t even have to download the photo to a computer first in order to send it along — you just attach the camera to the computer and select it as the source of the file to be sent. That saves a step and speeds the process.
We worked with two highly versatile 2-megapixel sensor battery-operated cameras: the Olympus Camedia D-520 Zoom and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-F7, both small, with the Panasonic more compact by about a quarter. Each unit features an LCD screen that enables the photographer to see the scene before snapping it. Both models can shoot single frames, pictures in fast succession or short-duration movies (15 seconds at high quality or 60 seconds at standard quality for the Olympus, and 20 seconds at standard resolution for the Panasonic), which could be useful for client presentations.
Both cameras have multiple settings for still photos, ranging from 1600x1200 pixels down to 640x480 pixels. (The Olympus offers four settings; the Panasonic offers three.) The higher the pixels, the higher the quality of the photo but the larger the file and the slower the transmission by e-mail. Both cameras come with photo-editing software.
The Olympus Camedia (800/622-6372, www.olympus.com) offers 5x digital zoom and 3x optical zoom, which can be combined to 7.5x, for a range of 38mm wide angle to 285mm telephoto, and a pop-up flash. An AC adapter is optional.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-F7 (800/211-7262, www.panasonic.com), which comes with an AC adapter standard and features a Leica lens, offers a 2x digital zoom and 2x optical zoom. The flash is built into the body of the camera, enhancing the sleekness of the unit.
And for your desk ...
The 15-in. SyncMaster 152T, from Samsung, is a dual-input digital/analog flat-panel active matrix monitor that could work nicely in most contractors’ offices, whether as the prime desktop monitor or as a supplement to a laptop monitor (which is how we set it up). We are using it at its maximum resolution of 1024 x 768, which provides us with an excellent, clear, bright and stable image.
Though the sleekly designed unit lacks the ability to swivel into portrait mode, the arm holding the screen goes up and down and the screen tilts fore and aft for ample adjustments on a desk. The plug-and-play monitor, which is lightweight and space efficient, has a wide viewing angle (150 degrees horizontal/130 degrees vertical) that allows the two of us to look at the screen comfortably at the same time.
The controls are well located in the front below the screen and include a one-button auto-calibration system for greater control over the on-screen image, allowing for quick proportioning of screen geometry, contrast and brightness.
William and Patti Feldman provide Web content and write on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at [email protected].