IRIScan Book 2 portable scanner, by I.R.I.S Group
$129.99 at Amazon.com
Ever wish you could bring a flatbed scanner with you to the public library, so you could copy a particularly useful book? Well, you could get a much larger backpack — or you could make do with this handy high-quality substitute.
The IRIScan runs on a couple of AA batteries and comes with 2 gigabytes of memory on a plug-in MicroSD card.
It scans pages in color or iblack and white. Just push the scan button and wait for a green light to appear, then slowly drag the IRIScan device across the page. After you’ve finished scanning, you can insert the memory card into a computer or plug the scanner in directly with a USB cable.
Scan quality was clear and crisp. But as with all such handheld scanners, a lot depends on how carefully you pull the scanner across the page. Too fast or too slow, and the image is smeared or stretched beyond recognition. In addition, the included optical character reader software did an iffy job of translating the images into editable text files.
Personally, I prefer using my smartphone’s camera to take pictures of book pages. But when used with care, the IRIScan is a good alternative.
InaTrap electronic insect trap
$89.95 at Amazon.com
It’s mosquito season, and I’m open to anything that will keep the little bloodsuckers at bay. So I couldn’t resist this spacey-looking gadget from Taiwan, which uses a combination of electronics and chemistry to defeat
Like other bug zappers, the InaTrap features a softly glowing lamp to attract the bugs. But the manufacturer says this lamp is coated with a chemical that, when heated, gives off a gentle flow of carbon dioxide, the same gas you exhale with every breath. The idea is that mosquitoes and other pests are attracted to the gas, which they
associate with tasty human flesh. So they fly toward the gas source, only to be captured by a built-in fan that sucks them into a trap. The insects aren’t fried with electric shocks; merely captured. You can turn them loose if you please, or sentence them to a slow, lingering demise. Your call.
I have no idea whether the carbon dioxide gimmick really works, but the bug trap certainly does. After a couple of nights’ use, the receptacle was home to a host of moths, mosquitoes, and other six-legged guests. Add in the fact that the InaTrap is nearly silent, and utterly gorgeous as well, and it clearly sets a new standard of cool in pest-control gadgetry.
Streets & Trips 2013,
by Microsoft Corp.
$39.95 at Amazon.com; $69.95 with GPS device
Maybe Google Maps is your first choice for geographical guidance, but what if your Internet connection is on the fritz, or unavailable? Microsoft Corp. has an alternative: a complete map of the United States and Canada that you can stash on your computer’s hard drive and access anytime.
Streets & Trips maps are stuffed with useful details about rest stops and tourist
attractions, so it’s a good tool for long-term travel planning. You can choose alternate routes between two points by dragging a cursor, and pin notes on the map with reminders about sights to see or things to do. If your computer is online, you can send text messages to cellphones with information about your itinerary. You can also activate Microsoft’s Bing Maps site to view aerial images of your destination.
But Streets & Trips is especially valuable when you’re offline, because your maps remain fully accessible.
In addition, the version with a GPS dongle turns a Windows laptop into a turn-by-turn navigation aid that works even in places where cellphone-based GPS won’t.
For most of us, phone-based GPS services are quite good enough. But Streets & Trips is a strong navigation aid for travelers who like to stray from the beaten path.