Turning your Laptop into a DVR TV

For all you road warriors out there who simply can’t be on the road without catching your favorite TV show, here’s a handy little device which converts your trusty laptop into a DVR television.

Simply plug the WinTV-HVR-950 hybrid TV stick into an available USB port, load up the software, hook up the portable TV antennae, and start watching TV. The antennae can pluck both analog and digital signals from the air.

Or, if you happen to be near a cable jack, you can screw the cable onto the end of the device and pick up a cable television signal. Of course, if you are near a cable jack you’re probably near a TV as well. The benefit here is that the WinTV-HVR-950 can record programs to your hard drive just like a DVR. So, the night before you fly home, you can plug into your hotel’s cable, and record a few shows for the plane flight.

This is a pretty cool little toy but personally, I think the only reason I might ever use it would be to catch live sporting events while I travel. Otherwise, it’s DVDs and video iPods for me.

Price: $99

Top Road Trip Gadgets

Summertime is road trip time.

In the old days, this meant long tedious hours in the car with nothing to do but play I Spy Something with my Eye.

These days, however, a whole host of gadgets are at our fingertips to woo, mesmerize, comfortize, and otherwise entertain our bored skulls as we tool down the highway.

But what to bring along?

Douglas Rogers, writing for Forbes Traveler, has thoughtfully put together a list of Top Road Trip Gadgets (and, as usual with Forbes Traveler, a slide show to accompany it). Some of the items aren’t too unique–such as a satellite phone, handycam, or laptop computer–while ohers are a bit cooler; a radar detector or satellite phone. What really blew me away, however, were two very cool items.

The first is the Car MD. This nifty little tool “plugs into your car’s computer” and diagnosis any problems with your automobile. It costs $89.99, which is a whole lot cheaper than a mechanic and more honest as well. But is it reliable? Forbes Traveler unfortunately does not provide a hands-on review so you just might have to check it out yourself.

The other cool gadget is the sunglasses with a spy camera (above). Pop one of these on your head, plug the other end into an MP4 player, and then you can record video of everything you come across on your road trip, including, according to Forbes Traveler, that “cute girl in the MG convertible.” Shame on you Forbes!

Traveler’s Washing Machine: Pipe Dream or Reality?

If you slosh your clothes in a sink or a bucket to get them clean while you travel, and can’t quite wring them out enough to not drip puddles on the floor, perhaps you might consider a portable washing machine. One of these options may not exist. Others look promising.

The Astone Traveller was touted last year as coming out soon. I have found nothing written about it after March 2006. Given the size and one critique I came across, it might have been only big enough for underwear, a pair of socks and a T-shirt. The design looks neat though. Made to be inflatable, once your clothes are clean you can fold it up and pack it right in a suitcase. But, again, did it ever hit the markets?

Intrigued by this portable washer notion, I looked further. There is the Wonder Washer which is one of those gadgets “As Seen on TV.” I’ve never seen it on TV. Have you? It looks like a trash pail with controls. According to a review, it comes in handy for small washes but doesn’t have a rinse cycle. You have to dump the soapy water to put in fresh. This one is on Amazon.com, but it is listed as not being available. Did they fly off the shelves and the supply can’t keep up with the demand, or is this another gadget gone bust? It is featured as a Taylor Gifts offering. Talor Gifts seems to specialize in “As Seen on TV” items.

There’s another portable washer. This one involves cranking. Maybe it’s like a big centrifuge. If it could double as a portable ice-cream maker or a salad mixer, I’d say we’re onto something. And here’s a link to a supplier with two portable washers. One is just for shoes. They’re made in China.

Maybe portable washers you can use why you travel are really just the fantasyland of someone’s imagination. Back in 1952, a traveling washing machine was patented and is listed as a “Totally Absurd Invention.” This one was designed to bring your car into the laundry business. Somehow the idea is that you attach the washing machine to your car and drive about 20 miles an hour while it cleans your clothes. Read the description. It’s pretty amusing.