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Two winters ago, I needed a computer I could use on the road, preferably one that would be compatible with my Apple iPod. So I bought an Apple iBook, and it was great. I could work at the office or from home. I took my iBook everywhere there was a roof: Amtrak. Starbucks. The basement of a public library. My iBook was great, but I wanted to be outside, enjoying summer — and I was afraid of rain, sand, heat and errant bocce balls. I want a laptop that I can toss in a trunk and take to the beach, or poolside at the hotel on my next business trip. So this time, I’m going rugged. Now I have to decide whether I want the laptop itself to be rugged, or simply put a laptop into an extra-sturdy case. One option: an aluminum panel laptop case from ThinkGeek Inc., of Fairfax, Va. It’s a hard-sided case with extruded aluminum frames, a molded plastic handle, and two triple combination locks. The inside of the case has a padded compartment for my computer, with Velcro-adjustable dividers to hold it in place. It has a gusseted file compartment and lots of pockets for cables and discs. I wouldn’t have to worry about tossing it in the trunk with a bunch of wet beach towels, but I still cringe at the thought of sand in the keyboard. TOUGHBOOK 29 So instead, I’m considering instead the Panasonic Toughbook 29, from Matsushita Electric Corp. of America, based in Secausus, N.J. It’s a rugged, wireless-ready notebook computer built around a 1.2 GHz Pentium M processor. And it’s compliant with MIL-STD-810F military testing standards. The magnesium-encased notebook is vibration and drop-shock resistant, and provides a removable shock-mounted 60 GB hard drive in a stainless-steel case. The computer includes an anti-reflective, outdoor-readable display, a moisture- and dust-resistant backlit keyboard, sealed port and connector covers, and dust-resistant hinges. SMALLER? Alternatively, I could go with something smaller. Hewlett Packard Co., based in Palo Alto, Calif., offers the HP Rugged Tablet PC tr3000. It is built from die-cast magnesium parts. It offers a 933 MHz mobile Intel Pentium III processor and Microsoft Windows XP. It features a shock-mounted 40 GB ruggedized hard drive, 256 MB (PC-133) SDRAM, and an 8.4-inch TFT SVGA outdoor display. The unit exceeds military specs for ruggedness, and meets the IP-54 rating for dust and water penetration. WATER HAZARDS That solves my laptop dilemmas. Now onto my other tech tools and how to protect them. Cell Phones: If I’m going to be around water this summer I need to protect my cell phone from H20. One way to accomplish that goal: the Special Edition Small Waterproof Cell Phone Case, from Aquapac International Ltd., a U.K.-based company. I can speak, hear and dial my phone through the small foam-padded pouch. Best of all: it floats, even with a phone in it, and is waterproof to 15 feet. Cameras: The Sealife Reefmaster DC-300 digital camera is a 3.3 megapixel, rubber-armored underwater camera, rated to 200 feet. It offers a 1.6-inch display and 8 MB built-in memory, expandable to 256 MB with an SD card. The Sea exposure mode adjusts the shutter speed and aperture to compensate for the low lighting common to underwater photography. On terra firma? Just click to the Land mode and I can use the camera anywhere. From Pioneer Research, based in Moorestown, N.J. Keys: The Floating Key Buoy from Seachoice Products, of Pompano Beach, Fla., is a watertight, bright-colored floating buoy designed to hold keys and money. It’s cheap: only $5, and nothing fancy, but it can be a lifesaver! GPS Tools: Afraid of getting lost? Fear not! The Magellan SporTrak Pro GPS receiver, from Thales Navigation Inc., of Santa Clara, Calif., is a rugged, lightweight waterproof GPS device, accurate to within three meters. The unit is sealed to IEC-529 IPX7 specifications for waterproofing, and it floats. It features a 9 MB mapping database of North America including interstates, highways, major roads, waterways, city locations, marine navigation aids and more. I can also download up to 23 MB of street-level and topographical maps, and store up to 20 routes, 500 way-points and 2,000 track-points. Satellite Radio: While I’m out roaming, I wouldn’t mind a little satellite radio. XM Satellite Radio, based in Washington, D.C., comes to my rescue. It offers 68 commercial-free music channels, 32 channels of news, sports, talk and entertainment, and 21 channels of XM Instant Traffic and Weather. I’ll need a Delphi XM SkyFi portable XM Radio receiver. The unit displays song titles, artists, music genres and current XM channel. There are 20 channel presets, and I can preview what’s playing on other channels before I switch. With the Home or Vehicle Adapter Kits, or the SkyFi Audio System, I can listen to XM programming virtually everywhere, all summer. Bring on the sun and sand!

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