Beat the Summer Heat

Summer in the U.S. brings plenty of sun, travel and also an opportunity to use seasonal gadgets. Solar-powered devices, like a lounge table from Intelligent Forms and a weather station from Oregon Scientific, draw energy from the sun to charge devices. The blazing sun could also bake laptops, which could be prevented with a laptop cooler from Logitech or a special laptop tent from LapDome.

SOLo Lounge Table

Intelligent Forms offers a solar table that can be used to eat dinner, charge laptops, or both. A solar panel sitting under the glass table top harnesses solar energy, which can then be channeled to recharge laptops or consumer electronics. Do not underestimate the table's capabilities -- it can gather 73 kilowatt hours of solar energy every year "in a typical outdoor setting," the company says on its Web site, using Southern California as an example. The company claims it can provide up to 100 mobile handset charges, 40 iPhone charges or three laptop computer charges per day.

As for looking geeky, don't worry, the lounge table "integrates perfectly into modern lifestyles," the company says. The high-tech dinner table's shell and legs are made of stainless steel, and the surface carries LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs to provide an afterglow. If anything, its uniqueness could make it a conversation starter.

It is also decked out with drawers in which power outlets can charge consumer electronics, and it has USB ports through which gadgets can be charged. The table is built to order and can set you back by C$9,900 (US$8,500). More information about the table is available at Intelligent Forms' Web site.

Logitech's laptop cooler

Excessive heat can turn laptops into stoves during the summer, which can potentially shut down systems and cause data loss. Cooling pads could be useful devices to avert those system crashes. These pads sit under laptops and blow air into systems to cool CPUs, hard drives and other components. Logitech offers the Cooling Pad N100, which includes a fan that blows air directly into a laptop to ensure uniform airflow and dissipation of heat. The $29.99 device is powered by a laptop's USB port and is thin enough to be placed on a lap or desk. It is available on Logitech's Web site. Laptop coolers from Belkin and Antec are also available on Amazon.com at cheaper prices, but Logitech's cooler has the highest rating.

Laptop tent

If laptop cooling pads don't cut it for you, try LapDome's laptop carrying case, which doubles as a tent. The case pops open to become a tent, in which laptops can be placed for protection from the elements. The tent is small enough to fit a laptop, and it's good for use on beaches or sunny decks.

But how comfortable is it to use a laptop wrapped in a dome? "There is actually very little difference between having a laptop on a table or on your lap and having it in the same places inside the dome. Except that you can see your screen outdoors, and looky-loos find it hard to peek at what you are doing," said Kirk Lindamood, a LapDome spokesman.

The company sells the Planet Rambler and Planet Business domes priced at $79.95 and $74.95, respectively. Carrying cases come with backpacks.

Climate control, the solar way

Oregon Scientific this week announced the Eco Clima Control, a weather station powered by a solar panel. The weather station monitors the temperature and humidity in up to four locations around a home, and a monitor on the gadget displays the results. The measurements are pulled from wireless temperature and humidity sensors around the home.

A detachable solar panel sticking out from the back powers the gadget. An eight-hour charge can power the gadget for up to three months, according to the company. This environmentally friendly gadget could shave some bucks off the electricity bill, but clouds for three days could cause the gadget to shut down.

The gadget is very pretty, and it could be a glimpse at how gadgets may be powered in the future. It is available for $119.99 from Oregon Scientific's Web site.

Laptop essentials for travel

Sharper Image is selling a kit that bundles essential laptop accessories that users may find handy when traveling. Most of the accessories in the Laptop Essentials Kit connect to a PC via a USB port and include retractable wires. The accessories bundled include a mouse, an Ethernet cable, a pen with a laser pointer, a mini light, an iPod cable, earbuds, and a four-port USB adaptor. Oddly enough, a numeric keypad is also included in the kit, though I'd prefer a miniature keyboard that folds up.

At $44.99, the collection of accessories is wrapped in a leather kit that's easy to carry. My home is jumbled with wires behind the desktop, so I'm already thinking of buying it for the retractable wires. The kit is available at Amazon.com.

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