|Plugged In: Taking A Digital Drive
Cocooned as we are in our homes and offices with our high-tech capabilities, consumer
electronics are also turning our automobiles into digital centers of entertainment and
support. And why not? Anything that breaks up the trip or helps us along can be a mollifying
salve. Hereís some hardware to take your mind off the highway mayhem.|
SIRIUS SATELLITE RADIO
It hasnít taken off quite like we imagined back in early 2002, but satellite radio could yet
prove to be the audio revolution weíve been looking for.
Sirius orbits three satellites that broadcast 100 streams of music and entertainment
coast-to-coast, 60 of them commercial-free, with a wide array of musical categories.
The other 40 channels cover an even broader spectrum of sports, news, talk, comedy,
weather and more.
As with anything that deals with atmosphere, radio waves and digital technology, itís
not perfect. We heard lots of dead air and signals that cut in and out.
When the signal does arrive, itís strong, clear and crisp, thanks to S>Plex technology,
a system that reallocates bandwidth among channels as content demands. Sirius says the
difference in sound from the greater bandwidth is akin to the difference between music on
cassette tape and CDs, and weíd have to agree.
www.sirius.com; $12.95/month for service
No more printed-out directions or scribbled notes.
Garmin has released the next generation of portable GPS auto navigation, with the StreetPilot
2610 and StreetPilot 2650. Both are leading-edge systems that feature ultra-fast map drawing
and routing and voice prompt technology. The StreetPilot 2650 also includes a built-in solid
state gyro and an interface to a vehicle odometer system, allowing it to function seamlessly
in areas where GPS signals are obscured.
We routed ourselves around the Northwest with the 2610. It responded with voice directions,
as well as clear, color onscreen directions.
DAVIS CARCHIP E/X
Ever wonder what your mechanic sees when he connects your car to his diagnostic computer?
Now you can. And we did, with the Davis Car-Chip. This compact device, about the size of
two 9-volt batteries, connects directly to your 1996-or-later autoís OBDII (second-generation
onboard diagnostics) port, just under the hood. Then the fun begins.
The CarChip E/X can troubleshoot your engine, log your carís performance and monitor driver
performance (parents of teens take note).
The E/X can log 300 hours of trip details and can measure up to four engine parameters
every 5 to 60 seconds, including RPM, throttle position, coolant temperature, timing advance
and 19 others. Itís easy, and weíre by no means a motorhead. Now, if we can just cut back on
those jackrabbit starts.
Technophile Don Campbell lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest.
Photo by Renata Kosina