CES: Undiscovered Gems, Part 1

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008; 4:18 AM

I just spent a week in Las Vegas fighting the crowds at theConsumer Electronics Show. Walking around CES was a killer--my feet are still sore and my back aches. Oh, what I do for you.

I saw plenty in Las Vegas. My desk is covered with business cards, flyers, and dozens of flash drives filled with product information. I'm sorting through it all to get you a roundup of the winners (and some of the losers) I found at CES--but you'll have to wait till next week for that.

To whet your appetite, this week I've got a few gadgets that are actually useful, plus a couple, well... you'll have to decide for yourself.

Worried about the drive that holds your backup data? SentrySafe has one you can throw into the hot tub or toast on the barbecue.

SentrySafetook an 80GB Maxtor OneTouch 4 Mini hard drive and sealed it in a fire- and waterproof box. Maxtor's SafetyDrill software handles the automatic backups.

The enclosure can withstand a 1550-degree-Fahrenheit blast for up to 30 minutes and can be submerged in water for 24 hours. The enclosure's permanently attached USB cable connects to your PC.

The 80GB version costs $260; double it to 160GB and you'll pay $340.

If you want something bigger, you can opt for SentrySafe's QE4531 safe. It's an honest-to-goodness safe with a little over 1 cubic foot of storage in which you can store your valuables. It's also a hard-drive enclosure with an external, bus-powered USB port. You supply your own hard drive and the safe gives you 2 hours of fire protection for up to 1850 degrees Fahrenheit and water resistance in up to 8 inches of water for 24 hours. If you like it, plan to pony up $420.

I can't get a cell phone signal that's worth a hoot, even if I walk outside my house. I've tried different providers, but I'm in a rural-ish area outside of Pasadena, California, and there just aren't enough towers.

For $170,ZBoost zPersonalmakes the problem go away by repeating and boosting the signal. The gizmo is about the size of a cable modem. You'll need to put it near a windows, plug it into a power source, and if you stay within four feet of the device, your cell phone's signal will get a kick in the pants.

Wi-Ex also sells thezBoost YX510-PCS-CEL, a unit that supports multiple users (the zPersonal handles just one cell phone) and has a wider range, about 2500 square feet. I tried this high-end, $400 product for a short time and it absolutely works.

If you don't want to spend that much, you can try theFreedom Antenna. It's costs $30, plus another $10 for an adapter to fit the antenna to your cell phone. Unfortunately, I can't vouch for it: The company rep didn't have an adapter for my phone. So if youbuy one, make sure you can return it.


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