Device from DeLorme turns laptops into navigation...

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August 23, 1999|By Gareth Branwyn

Device from DeLorme turns laptops into navigation system

Digital-map maker DeLorme has an impressive line of software products covering everything from turn-by-turn street maps to 3-D interactive globes. But perhaps its most impressive product is the Earthmate GPS Receiver kit ($149.95).

This tiny, pocket-sized Global Positioning System service hooks up to most PC laptops. For $219.95, you can get the Earthmate bundled with all of the hardware and software you need to transfer maps to a PalmPilot or PalmPC for an extremely inexpensive hand-held navigation system. Once hooked to a computer, the Earthmate searches the skies for GPS satellites. When enough satellites have been found to fix your position, an arrow appears on the AAA Map 'n' Go software that comes with the package. As you travel, the arrow follows. On a laptop, you can even hear spoken navigation.

The only problem with GPS technology is that it's only as good as its ability to "acquire" satellites. Amid downtown canyons of concrete and steel, when you likely need the most assistance, the Earthmate can sometimes lose its way. Still, given its low price, the great AAA software and its portability, the Earthmate is an out-of-this-world deal.

Information: 800-452-5931 or www.delorme.com.

Minstrel III offers wireless Net access

It doesn't take a genius to realize that the future is wireless. Within the next five years, wireless hardware will be the norm, not the exception. Already we see mobile phones and pagers that can send and receive e-mail, laptops that can access the Internet and your printer from the back yard, and mice that have lost their tails. The latest such wonder is Novatel Wireless' Minstrel III modem.

The Minstrel III clips to the back of a Palm III, Palm IIIx or IBM WorkPad hand-held computer. The device, unfortunately, doubles the thickness and weight of your hand-held. You won't mind the extra bulk, however, once you boot up the software and connect to the Internet while on the run. The Minstrel comes bundled with SmartCode's HandMail and HandWeb, so you can access your e-mail and surf the Net from just about anywhere (in major urban areas, anyway).

Internet access on the Minstrel is not pretty. Harking back to the pre-graphical browser days, you get text-only content. But look on the bright side: no ads! The Minstrel is mainly useful for e-mail and quick-and-dirty Web access (checking stocks, news, finding out whom the O's lost to, etc.)

With wireless access in its infancy, the Minstrel doesn't come cheap. The modem itself costs $369 and service plans run from $15 to $65 a month, depending on how much access you need.

Information: 888-888-9231 or www.novatelwireless.com.

For full reviews of these and other gadgets, visit www.streettech. com.

Pub Date: 08/23/99

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