Here are two “business” solutions that can benefit end-users outside the office and jobsite, as well.
Contractors have long had to cope with a cacophonous world. While noise protection devices have been ubiquitous on construction sites for years (and in fact are often an OSHA requirement), until recently most manufacturers had pretty much concentrated only on earplugs or headphones that muffle noises via foam-filled earcups. Recently, however, many audio component manufacturers have started offering affordable electro-acoustic noise attenuation headphones that also have the ability to accept input from a portable music device at the same time. Good to hear.
For example, Audio-Technica QuietPoint Noise Canceling Headphones ATH-ANC7 (www.audio-technica.com, 330-686-2600, ESP $199.95) provide excellent noise attenuation and offer high quality stereo sound for whatever audio you choose to input (e.g., MP3s). The lightweight headphones, which come in a hard carrying case and feature an adjustable padded headband and swiveling earcups, use active noise-canceling technology that works well in environments with high ambient noise. A miniature microphone in each earpiece picks up ambient noise and creates a sound wave that is 180 degrees out of sync with the ambient noise, effectively canceling those other sound waves. While most of the actual noise cancellation is from the lower frequencies, the upper frequencies are addressed by the tight seal the earphones make against the ears (in the same manner as conventional noise attenuation headphones).
The headphones, which use a single AAA battery, can reduce environmental noise by up to 85% (20dB). Indeed, when you listen to music with the electro- acoustic circuit on, the quality of pure music is close to concert hall level, with no distractions intruding.
The circuitry and battery are in the high-impact molded plastic earcups. A slide switch on the outside of one earcup controls on/off, indicated by a blue LED. The only wire necessary (and provided) is the one that connects the user to audio input. The noise cancellation works with or without audio input.
Though it is prudent not to wear activated headphones or play loud music anyplace you need to hear warnings and alarms, there are plenty of opportunities where noise cancellation headphones can be used safely to eradicate ambient noise, such as in a field office near a noisy road or at a jobsite where other trades nearby are making their own rackets. And away from a jobsite, the headphones blot out the sounds of lawnmowers, vacuums, electric saws, airplanes overhead and other neighborhood noises, letting in only the music or that silence you really want to hear.
Taking jobsite photos has become commonplace with digital cameras or even the cameras included on cell phones. But organizing and editing them for distribution, indisputable documentation, and archiving can be daunting unless you have appropriate software on your computer.
Combining the features and capabilities of several applications typically sold separately, Easy Media Creator 9 Deluxe Suite (Roxio by Sonic Solutions, www.roxio.com, ESP under $100) is a Vista-ready all-in-one solution that provides an easy way to work with, create, pass along and store all kinds of files, including “photo albums” and multimedia video (for a truly full featured presentation). The suite includes 13 software applications, various utilities, and several project templates and menu styles.
The software can burn CDs and DVDs, drag-and-drop files on floppy disks, hard disk or flash drive, and store up to 50 GB on one dual-layer Blu-ray disc (a next generation optical disc format that uses a blue-violet laser to read and write data), which translates to up to 50,000 photos or four hours of HD video (up to five times the storage capacity of traditional DVDs).
For in-house productivity, users can perform full, partial or incremental backups on demand, or schedule them to be done automatically. It is also possible to create bootable discs to recover the computer operating system in case of a crash. The program can automatically span large files or projects across multiple discs and burn simultaneously to multiple drives.
The solution even supports use of cellphones as PC peripherals. The Media Manager applet allows users to import photos to a PC from a mobile phone. And it also enables export of photos and video to a mobile phone via Bluetooth or a USB cable connection, for easy pocket-sized show-andtell on sales calls, at suppliers or during job meetings, without necessitating the e-mailing of large attachments or the uploading of files to a Website or sharing service.
The Panorama Assistant applets makes it possible to stitch together several snaps into a single picture, to capture the whole story of the equipment or installation under consideration.
Easy Media Creator 9 also has the capability to create photo postcards, based on your latest or greatest job photos, which can be mailed out as eye-catching marketing missives.
Bill and Patti Feldman are freelance writers for magazines, building product manufacturers and other companies on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at [email protected].com.