Going gadget crazy

One of the most eagerly awaited events on the gadget lover’s calendar is the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Nevada.

This year’s show featured hosts and hosts of desirable gadgets but probably one of the most noteworthy announcements was by Microsoft, who announced the arrival of Windows 7 any time in the next year or so. They announced that a beta version of the new package would be available for free download from the Microsoft website the following day, January 10.

The news caused a great deal of excitement in computer circles and, hardly had the new Windows been put up on the Internet, than the huge demand crashed Microsoft’s servers. Things got back to normal after a couple of days and users were downloading the new Windows which, it would seem, was receiving a pretty enthusiastic reception.

Windows 7 has apparently been designed to work faster than was the case with Vista and also on lower specification machines. Among the new features is an improved taskbar which displays buttons for all the programs that you have open on the computer and will now allow you to re-arrange the buttons in any order. Clicking on the wordprocessing icon on the taskbar for instance, will call up a jump list consisting of all the documents that you have worked on recently.

One of the major new departures in Windows 7 is the fact that it is being designed to be used with a touch-screen so that, for example, you could operate the computer without a mouse just by touching its screen. You will, of course, also need a screen that has touch-screen technology built-in and it does remain to be seen whether a touch-screen will work better for you than a mouse.

Microsoft said it would limit the numbers who could download the beta version of Windows 7 to about 2.5 million users but, at the time of writing, it was still available on the Windows 7 website. Before plunging ahead and installing it, however, it must be remembered that it is still in its beta test phase and will therefore be loaded with bugs.

It would be far too risky to install it on a computer used for work because the chance of a disaster would just be too great. There’s absolutely nothing to stop you downloading and installing Windows 7, however, providing you have spare computer to do it on and enough bandwidth to download the rather large installation files.

One of the most annoying things for me about watching television is the constantly changing sound volumes when you go from programmes to ads, or even from one station to another, and you keep having to change the volume setting on the TV. It’s an irritation and can be a major problem for people who are hard of hearing and who do not easily tolerate quick changes in volume.

It seems that our sound woes may be at an end one of these days because, also at CES, were a couple of television sets produced by Toshiba which incorporate a new technology called Dolby Volume. The Dolby website describes Dolby Volume as “an innovative approach to delivering consistent volume levels across a wide variety of content, channel programming, or input sources”.

Also on display at CES were Sony televisions which have rather reversed the current situation between them and their owners, by watching the owners as avidly as the owner watches them. The sets will switch themselves off in order to save power when they detect that the viewer has left the room or fallen asleep.

One last item that caught my eye from CES was a Victrinox Swiss Army knife designed for people doing business presentations. They have 32 GB of memory, a built-in laser for using as a pointer during presentations, and a Bluetooth button which can be used as a mouse. I was amused to see that there are versions of the knife without a blade but I suppose that’s par for the course in these days when a knife could get you arrested on an aeroplane.

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