released its new line of Satellite Pro, Tecra, and Portégé business laptops with Windows 7 support. The Satellite Pro line features new screen-size options in 15.6-inch and 17.3-inch diagonal display configurations as well as a 13.3-inch diagonal touch-screen display. The new Satellite Pro U500 Touch laptop features a 13.3-inch diagonal multi-touch screen display that helps mobile professionals easily tap, drag and drop, and scroll through files, calendars, and tasks or zoom in and out of a window with just a two-finger pinch. In addition, Toshiba is including touch-ready basic productivity software, Toshiba LifeSpace, on the Satellite Pro U500 Touch.www.laptops. toshiba.com
GENERAL-PURPOSE: The TLP-X150U ($899) offers 2,600 ANSI lumens and XGA 1,024x768 resolution and weighs only four pounds. It features closed-captioning capabilities, extensive multimedia connectivity and a USB port for “PC-free” presentations. Its lamp life is 2,000 to 3,000 hours (eco mode).SHORT-THROW: Toshiba’s TDP-EW25U ($1,869) is the company’s “extreme-short-throw-projection” projector, which can project an image of up to 100 inches diagonally from just four feet away. It is a 2,600-lumen, WXGA projector with a lamp life of 2,000 to 3,000 hours.INEXPENSIVE: The Toshiba TDP-SP1U ($549) offers 2,000 lumens, SVGA 800x600 resolution and 2,000:1 contrast ratio and weighs just four pounds. Its lamp life is 3,500 to 4,000 hours.POCKET: Toshiba has a new, palm-sized TDP-F10U LED projector that weighs only 1.4 pounds. It is a 100-lumens, 1,000:1 contrast DLP projector that connects to laptops, DVD players and gaming consoles.
Novlet.com is a Web application that supports what the site describes as collaborative nonlinear story writing. Using Novlet.com, reader-writers add passages to the narrative anywhere they want. If the user doesn’t like any of the continuations that have already been written, he or she can start a new story line. The stories can be written in a variety of languages, including some obscure ones, such as Bislama.PROS: Novlet.com gives students a chance to practice writing skills on a Web site and to feel that they’re “publishing” something online. Students can write alternative endings to classics or create their own stories.CONS: It’s tough to go back and edit your own passage; since other users have already added passages and hidden drafts, you wind up altering the plot of the story. Talented student writers may feel that this limits their creativity. Also, writers are discouraged from editing one another’s passages. If a writer thinks another’s passages are poorly written, she is encouraged to post a comment or send a message.OVERALL EVALUATION: The application is designed for collaboration, which means that writers of all abilities are invited to participate. That can be positive or negative, depending on your point of view. If you have an active inner journalist or inner English teacher, resisting the temptation to edit may be difficult.www.novlet.comRetail price: free
Learning.com’s Digital Learning Environment is an online curriculum management tool that coordinates lesson plans to national and some state curriculum guides. Teachers have the ability to share their best lesson plans with other educators, and can interact with students via online journal lessons (interactive web pages). Users can import media for outside resources such as teacher tube, and the program encourages teachers to relate lesson plans to curriculum guidelines as they are being written. Lessons are stored on companies’ servers, eliminating the need for local installations.PROS: The software is an excellent value, since anyone who currently uses a Learning.com product can access it free of charge. This is one of the easiest to use curriculum management tools available. It includes a comprehensive feature set that is robust enough to get the job done, especially for elementary schools. With a crisp and clean user interface, anyone who can use a word processing program can use the Digital Learning Environment. Sharing lesson plans among teachers makes it easy to collaborate with co-workers. CONS: To reach a larger audience, the product needs to be coordinated to more state curriculum guidelines.OVERALL EVALUATION: Schools will benefit from a software tool like Digital Learning Environment, a product that boosts collaboration between teachers and allows for easy student-teacher interaction via interactive web pages.www.learning.comRetail price: Free to current Learning.com customers.—Joe Huber
The Toshiba TDP-F10U LED Projector (explore.toshiba.com) is a palm-sized mobile projector weighing in at just 1.4 pounds. The TDP-F10U LED projector is built with an energy-efficient, lamp-free LED light source and delivers 100 lumens of brightness. The projector’s native SVGA 856 x 600 resolution and contrast ratio of 1,000:1 displays clear images and easy-to-read text anytime, anywhere. Connect options include one computer input, composite video, one SD card slot, and a USB port. Other features are an auto adjustment of the input signal from a PC, digital zoom, keystone correction, whisper-quiet operation, and a remote control.
Epson’s BrightLink 450Wi is an intelligent projector that allows educators to turn any standard whiteboard or smooth wall into an interactive-learning area. This enables educators to easily integrate interactive capabilities and eliminates the need to purchase and install dedicated interactive whiteboards. The ultra-short-throw Epson BrightLink 450Wi interactive projector comes with two digital infrared pens and wall-mount hardware for easy installation.PROS: The BrightLink 450Wi has all the functionality of an interactive whiteboard without the cost or trouble of mounting an IWB. The projector can be permanently mounted as close as 2.8 inches to the wall. It is easy to set up, and the controls are well defined. Because of the USB plug-and-play, there is no need to use a VGA cable to project when using a Windows PC or Mac. The BrightLink 450Wi projects in native wide-screen aspect ratio as well as 4:3 aspect ratio. The built-in microphone input for voice amplification is good for narrating presentations.CONS: It would be nice if this projector included auto keystone adjustment, as found in other Epson projectors (users can adjust keystone manually). The built-in speakers may not amplify enough for all locations. Users must use the pen to manipulate objects, versus the finger-touch technology found in some IWBs.OVERALL EVALUATION: In addition to providing the functionality of an IWB, the BrightLink 450Wi projects an image larger than that of most IWBs. The variety of inputs and the clarity of the controls make the product an excellent choice for any school looking for an ultra-short-throw projector with interactive functionality.www.epson.com/brightlinkRetail price: less than $2,000—Joe Huber
Dell introduces the Latitude Z, a 16-inch laptop with the security, wireless, service, and support options of the Dell Latitude family. The tapered design starts at slightly more than half an inch thick (14.5 mm) and 4.4 lb (2.0kg). Backlit wide-screen, high-definition 16-inch LCD with integrated 2 MP autofocus Webcam provides a larger visual workspace for viewing several files at once and for easy collaboration both in and out of the office.PROS: “Easy Scan and Copy” allows users to use the built-in Webcam as a scanner to capture documents to PDFs. There is also a cordless inductive docking station available. The overall design is very professional. It also has a feature that allows users to assign several applications to a “quick launch” bar on the right side of the screen.CONS: To reduce weight and thickness, there are no built-in speakers or optical drivers. This is not necessarily a negative, but it should be noted that these devices are add-ons.OVERALL EVALUATION: This is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a sleek, lightweight box that can do the work alongside the big boys. Even though the box is only half an inch thick, this 32-bit powerhouse packs enough computing power to handle those large spreadsheets and databases. Unlike those on some laptops, the touch of the keyboard is smooth and effortless, and the backlit keys are a nice feature. Everything about this computer says three things: power, speed, and elegance.www.dell.comRetail price: Starts at $1,799—Joe Huber