Crumpler: Bags for Beer!

Thanks to senior editor Sean Carroll for this post!Got so much beer lying around that it’s just going to go bad if you don’t get rid of it by the end of this weekend? I can’t tell you how many times that hasn’t happened to me. But if you do have suds to spare and you live in or near Manhattan, you might lug some of it down to bag-maker Crumpler’s New York stores and barter it away, Aussie style. Crumpler is an Australian company with a bit of an attitude; they sponsor a variety of events like nude footraces, mountain bike races, road bike races, and concerts. The “beer for bags” event is a nod to the still thriving Australian reliance on barter as an informal, friendly medium of exchange, according to Crumpler.

Crumpler: Bags for Beer!

When I stopped in at the event, it was already in full swing, and the store was jammed with cases, sixpacks, loose bottles and cans of beer stacked nearly to the tops of the storefront windows. There were plenty of limes, too. Oh, and bags.I got a handsome Barney Rustle Blanket bag (shown here), which goes for one case of Coopers and two Fosters oil cans.

The Barney Rustle is a small, sturdy messenger bag with one main compartment with several smaller subpockets, a zippered pocket for documents, and one of those luxuriously padded and somewhat complicated (to those of us who aren’t professional bike messengers) shoulder straps with a variety of adjustments and straps hanging off it. (It’ll keep the bag firmly behind you and secured to your waist when you’re leaning low over your handlebars terrorizing pedestrians and disregarding traffic signals.) If you prefer to pay with boring old filthy lucre, the Barney Rustle, which comes in a variety of colors, will set you back $85.Otherwise, you can trade in your beer at 45 Spring Street or 49 8th Avenue in New York City, through June 11. Only certain combinations of given beers net you bags, so don’t plan on just showing up with a case of The Beast and hoping for the best. Check out the virtual beer spinner at Crumpler’s U.S. Web site for a list of what’ll get you what.

iPod Cases, Gadget Protection, Spy Gear for Kids

To continue from Jen DeLeo’s earlier report: It seemed a lot of the participating vendors at last night’s DigitalLife Press Preview were holding out until the show in October for product announcements; a lot of what we saw wasn’t brand new. Still, I did come across a few things that were new to me, at least, and had fun shmoozing with fellow press and vendor reps.

And the cheese was swell!I enjoyed checking out the spy gear for kids from new company Wild Planet; shown at left is a rep wearing the Digital Spy Camera sunglasses. The lens swings out from the side of the sunglasses, and you click a handheld remote to take a surreptitious shot (640 by 480, sadly). They also had a Spy Video Car, and RC care with a build in video camera and “infrared night vision,” along with a headset screen on which you watch the action; just guide the car into the room you want to spy in and hope no one pays attention to it. The Spy Camera will be around $29.99 and the Video Car will go for around $99; they’ll be available in time for the holidays.The iFrogz iPod case display was very eyecatching (at right, click to enlarge). You go to to the company’s site and choose from a huge variety of color combinations and screen covers to create your own case.

iPod Cases, Gadget Protection, Spy Gear for Kids

The case (called Wrapz) is $24; the band that goes around the edge is $4; and the screen cover kit is $6. Also for iPod protection, as well as for many other gadgets, is the InvisibleShield: It’s made of very tough, thin, transparent plastic that’s precut to fit your device and keep it free from dings and scratches. Parrot was there showing off several of its Bluetooth-enabled devices, including the Photo Viewer (shown at below left); you can beam photos to it from your cell phone (or laptop), and it holds around 100 shots; the high-res LCD looks great. These go for a hefty $274.80, but if you’ve got disposable income, they’re very gee-whiz.Finally, this isn’t a gadget, but it’s kinda cool: United Online, a “consumer Internet and media service,” is offering free Internet phone numbers; they recommend you use these numbers for those occasions when you don’t want to give out your home or cell number. You can check your voice mail from any phone or from a Web message center. If you want, you can get SMS alerts when a message comes in for you. Caller ID and call blocking are included. If there’s a catch, I couldn’t find one. I’m signing up!

3D Controllers, Entertainment Systems, and More

Every year, Ziff Davis Media holds the DigitalLife consumer event in NYC in the fall. To get a head start, DigitalLife held a press preview at the Roosevelt Hotel tonight, where companies gathered to showcase their latest products. Here’s what I noticed there. Novint Technologies, a developer of commercial touch applications, has created a new kind of 3D touch controller for the consumer market.

The Novint Falcon 3D Controller is basically a robot that provides gamers with interactive touch while playing a video game. I tried out a couple of demos and my fingers could feel the weight of a basketball and the force it took to throw it toward the hoop. It was a bit difficult for me to get the hang of the controller to shoot the ball though. The Falcon’s handle moves left and right and forwards and backwards. Look for it in 2007 with a mass market price of under $100.Polk Audio was also there showcasing its brand new I-Sonic entertainment system. It’s the first audio product to include a digital HD radio tuner, a DVD/CD changer, and XM Satellite Radio capability–all in one. The company explained to me that although it resembles the Bose system, they feel that the I-Sonic is better in that it offers controls at the top in case you lose the wireless remote control.

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It also features 2 auxiliary inputs for an iPod or PC, 30 radio presets, and headphone jack. It will ship in the U.S. in August for $599.I particularly liked the inMotion iM9 portable audio system. It’s powered by an AC adapter or batteries and comes with a retractable dock and a cute backpack to take it along with you. It was a bit heavy when I picked it up though. It charges all iPods and has a composite video outlet for viewing videos from your iPod with video on your TV screen. It retails for $199.95 and is available now. And for all you tech chicas out there, you’ll be interested in LimeLife: a publisher of mobile phone content, games, and applications targeted toward women. LimeLife is working with Time Inc. to deliver women-centric content, such as makeup tips delivered via your cell phone. Some of their products include Word Heaven, a word jumble game and Girls Night Out Solitaire. You can also get a daily dose of horoscope fun or Fashion Graphix: a mobile makeover for your phone with funky wallpapers to match your style. Once you buy and download these applications, they’re yours to keep. Be on the lookout for more applications to be offered soon.Stay tuned for more cool products from my fellow Gearloggers at the DL Press Preview.

Targus Catalog Travel Roller and Molded Attaché

Thanks to senior editor Sean Carroll and lead analyst Oliver Kaven for these writeups!With its hefty size (18.1″ x 10.3″ x 14″), the Targus Catalog Travel Roller notebook case (left) can be considered the Suburban of notebook bags. But I like spacious bags, and even though I might look like a traveling salesman or an off-duty pilot, this bag lets me fit a notebook of up to 15.4 inches and plenty of folders or books. Be careful though: the Travel Roller’s roomy interior comes at a price; the bag weighs in at a heavy 10 pounds. You will appreciate the beefy handle but probably resort to rolling the case on its inline skate wheels most of the time. I found the scrape guards on the back of the bag especially nice when pulling it up the stairs in the subway.

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The Travel Roller comes with a telescoping handle and two locks for security. The case is made of ballistic nylon, a material which can take a serious beating and may just last you forever.The roller case has plenty of convenient features. I really like the built-in rack that lets you drop hanging files straight into the case and the front organizer that zips down to unveil a fan file compartment and pen holders.The notebook pouch felt a bit like an afterthought. It is relatively loose, not padded enough and not adjustable. If your notebook is not as big as your bag, it is likely to bounce around. And with a bag of this size, I would have liked an option to store a second laptop.What really amazed me, however, was the price! This big two-wheeler will set you back only $89.00.

Not bad at all.–OKI have to admit I was dubious about switching to the sleek Targus Molded Attaché (right) as my primary means of shlepping all my junk into the city. I’m more used to backpacks and oversized messenger bags. Unfortunately, that also means that I’m more used to carrying everything but the kitchen sink in a bulging, unsightly bag that gives me back pains and one shoulder that’s significantly lower than the other. So I decided to give the Targus bag a try. And I wasn’t sorry.The slim Attaché is definitely made for those who are disciplined in their everyday packing. I pared down my stuff to just a laptop (an IBM ThinkPad T40), power brick, magazine, MP3 player, and a few papers, and that seemed about right for this bag. I tried to squeeze in a paperback, too, but that caused the bag to bulge. It might have worked better with a book smaller than Stephen King’s “Wizard and Glass,” but that’s what I was reading at the time.

My back thanked me, and I looked considerably more professional carrying this attractive case.The Molded black EVA (a type of rubber-like plastic) case is  stylish and tough, and held up well against the slings and arrows of commuter life. The plastic handle and padded shoulder strap are both well constructed and comfortable to use. Inside the bag is adequately padded and has a single interior slip pocket, on the face of which are pockets for business cards, ID holders, cell phones, MP3 players, and pens, as well as a zippered mesh pouch. The case is 14.33″ X 11.81″ X 1.69″ and it weighs just 3.87 pounds. It costs $69.99 and comes in any color–as long as it’s black.