Camera makers have found they need to differentiate their new products by appealing to niche markets. Pentax is taking its compact Optio W60, an update of its waterproof cameras, even deeper underwater to find customers.
Serious photographers can take the 10-megapixel camera as deep as 13 feet. Once down there, they can use the camera's zoom lens, which increases five times, from 28 millimeters to 140 millimeters, for a range of photos. Since the zooming mechanism is sealed inside the Optio W60's diminutive body – 3.9 by 2.2 by 1 inches – it is also suitable for use near a mud-covered child and in a 14-degree chill.
A high-sensitivity setting takes advantage of whatever light penetrates the murk, and as quarry slither by, the action can be captured on 1280- by 720-pixel video. Two images can be stitched together side by side right in the camera, useful when shooting sweeping landscapes.
The camera, in silver or ocean blue, should be in stores in time for Fourth of July beach barbecues, for $329. Marty Katz, New York Times
Solve crosswords without a pencil
When should Grandma get a Nintendo DS? When it lets her work an endless supply of crossword puzzles, that's when.
Crosswords DS ($20 at nintendo.com/ds) puts about 1,000 crossword puzzles, as well as anagrams and word search puzzles, at the tip of your stylus.
You start by turning the DS game machine on its side, like a book, and selecting left- or right-handed display. (Lefties then flip the device upside down.) When a puzzle appears on the touch screen, you enter a letter with the stylus right on the screen, in a process that feels just like writing.
In fact, because the text entry box is magnified and hints are available, this software is an example of how technology can improve upon the traditional puzzles – as long as you remember to keep the DS' battery charged. You can erase mistakes by tapping on the screen or writing your new answer over the old one.
The more you play, the more puzzles you can unlock; puzzles can be saved for up to four players. You'll never miss the pencil sharpener. Warren Buckleitner, New York Times
A slim PC box for the office
The laptop's assault on the desktop PC continues. Asus has announced it is repacking its ultra-light, ultra-cheap notebook PC, the EEE, into a slim box for the office.
The new version, named EEE Box, is only an inch thick and takes up less than 9 by 7 inches of desk space. Like the laptop, the EEE Box is missing a CD/DVD drive, but it can be purchased with a 250-gigabyte disk drive. (The smallest drive available is 80 gigabytes.) The company gives customers a choice of operating systems, either Windows XP or its stripped-down version of Linux. But customers have to find their own monitors.
The machine, with Intel's new Atom processor, will not be appealing to gamers who need fast and powerful computers. But Asus traded computing power for miserly electricity consumption. It says the design decisions that extend battery life in its notebooks could cut the power consumption to 90 percent that of a typical desktop.
As power prices soar, the machine's frugality coupled with its low price of about $300 may make it even more appealing. Peter Wayner, New York Times