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An English Palmtop, Poshly Appointed


Bits & Bytes

AN ENGLISH PALMTOP, POSHLY APPOINTED

SMALLER, FASTER, LIGHTER, and cheaper. The latest portable computer maker to answer that mantra is Geofox Ltd., a startup in Cambridge, England.

On Oct. 23, the company will begin selling its Geofox-One handheld computer. Unlike other palmtops, Geofox-One features a built-in touch pad that allows owners to easily interact with the icon-based EPOC32 software, a Windows-like operating system developed by Psion PLC, a London-based palmtop maker. The 7.4-inch by 4.7-inch computer also features a sharp backlit screen almost equivalent in quality to a laptop display. Screen legibility is important since Geofox comes equipped with a dial-up networking program that enables owners to connect with almost any Internet service provider via a 33.6 kbps PC card modem. Its custom-built Web browser also is compliant with the latest Web standards.

Geofox, started by George Grey, founder and former CEO of Tadpole Technology PLC, a maker of portable UNIX workstations, will sell the devices directly from its Web site (www.geofox.com), keeping costs down so its handheld is competitively priced. A Web-ready Geofox-One with four megabytes of memory will cost $749. A similarly equipped 320LX from Hewlett-Packard Co. sells for about $799, but with a smaller touch-sensitive display.EDITED BY PAUL M. ENGReturn to top

CAPTURE, TWEAK, AND PRINT IT

REMEMBER SNAPPY, THE HOT-SELLING video image-capturing gadget from Play Inc. that plugs into the back of your computer? Now it's available from Lexmark International Inc.--built into one of its new color inkjet printers. The Lexmark 7200V Color Jetprinter with Snappy Inside has a video jack on the front so that you can plug in your camcorder, digital still camera, TV, or VCR, and send images directly to your PC. It comes with all the software you need to capture still images from video, enhance them, and print them out.

The $500 printer is optimized for photo printing, using a six-color cartridge. The 7200V also comes with special photo paper and a CD-ROM with several photo manipulation and application programs, so that you can print photos on greeting cards or T-shirt transfers.EDITED BY PAUL M. ENG Larry ArmstrongReturn to top

LET A DEBIT CARD BE YOUR CO-PILOT

DRIVING AROUND HOPELESSLY LOST IN A STRANGE CITY IS NO fun. There never seems to be a police officer nearby to help out, and stopping to ask strangers for directions can be risky. A New York-based startup has a simple solution.

Bolder Enterprises Inc. plans to slowly introduce its Travel & Safety Card. The idea is for travelers to buy the $10 "debit" card at a local convenience store or service station. If they get lost while traveling, they call the 24-hour 1 888-GOT-LOST hotline and give the operator the PIN code printed on their card, their current location (or a best guess as to where they are), and their destination. The operator then enters the information into Bolder's computers, which contain digital maps of the continental U.S. Each map is coded to include exact street addresses, landmarks, and other useful travel tidbits such as which streets are one-way. Bolder operators can then give callers exact directions to their destinations. The charge for each call, $1.50 for the first minute and 75 cents for each additional minute, is deducted from the card's prepaid account.

Robert Bolder, founder of the startup, says that during a one-month pilot program with 150 cards distributed in Boston, Detroit, New York, and Washington, most calls for help were solved in 5 to 10 minutes. At the moment, the Travel & Safety card is available only in New Jersey, but Bolder hopes to land a national distribution agreement soon that will roll it out across the U.S.EDITED BY PAUL M. ENGReturn to top


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