cool, clever and cutting-edge consumer tech

Three new picks to make your life more interesting

The Gadget Zone

By James Careless –

In line with the New Year’s tradition of losing weight, the folks at TomTom have slimmed version of their portable in-car navigation system. The new slimmer VIA Series comes in a range of screen sizes, including the 4.3” VIA 1405/1335 and the 5” VIA 1505/1535.



The 1435 and 1535 offer optional Voice Recognition, so that you can talk back to your navigation system and it will listen. You can also get ‘spoken street names’, Bluetooth Hands-Free Calling, and Lifetime Traffic & Map Updates. More at

Do you find yourself running out of USB hubs? Then you need a serious USB hub … and has one. The aptly-named ‘24 Port USB Monster Hub’ is a round USB expander with two levels of USB ports (12 per ring). You just plug it into one of your computer’s USB hubs and presto! Now you have more USB ports than you could possibly ever need for your smartphone, Flash card reader, Star Trek communicator VOIP phone, document printer, MP3 player, USB-powered refrigerator, file label printer, remote-controlled surveillance camera, digital camera, USB-powered disco glitterball, keyboard, mouse, wristwatch with hidden video camera, BlackBerry, and Doomsday Device USB Hub. (Yes, I have all these devices and more.) The 24 USB Monster Hub also has its own power supply, so that you can use it to charge devices without connecting to your computer.

Finally, if you are like me, then you get really fed up trying to open up ‘blister packs’. You know, the ones with the thick clear plastic shells and the rolled edges that are too tough for most scissors? Well, I recently received a sample of the Zibra Open It! 5-in-1 tool, and I think my problems are over.



The Open It! is a pair of scissors on steroids that is rugged enough to cut these packages and the nasty nylon ties you find inside. It also has a retractable blade for slicing packing tape and a removable screwdriver for opening battery compartments on kids’ toys. This is a useful device that, in its own small way, will contribute to the furtherance of world peace …or at least a slightly less frustrating existence for its users. Details at