Tech tips for the big freeze


11 Jan 2010

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It’s no secret that the Irish love to talk about the weather and we certainly have had plenty of food for thought with the extreme temperatures and icy conditions countrywide of late, but why not talk about tackling this with some clever technology?

I’ll start with a note of caution: driving in extreme cold takes its toll on your car: too much technology could mean the death of your car battery.

We all tend to turn on the heating and lights, fire up the sat nav, plug in the MP3 player or turn on the radio and a combination of this could be disastrous. When you start the engine, make sure you get the car up to normal operating temperature before starting out and have your sat-nav device powered up to avoid excessive battery use.

Because some routes tend to be blocked by snow or ice, it is generally advisable to use your sat nav with caution and rely on up-to-date weather reports before you follow your turn-by-turn directions.

sat nav

The TomTom sat-nav device

The ultimate accessory for travelling in the cold, whether on foot or by car, is the humble mobile phone. If possible, have a spare battery to hand in case you get stranded or keep a solar-powered charger like the FreeLoader Solar Charger (€78 from www.firebox.com) with you on trips.

Of course, if you’re stranded in the dark with a dead phone this won’t help, but a lightweight wind-up charger (€10.99 from www.gstore.ie) will do the trick, plus it also has a built-in torch.

If your office feels like it has been visited by Jack Frost, then there are a slew of USB-powered gadgets to keep you toasty warm without having to stray from your desk.

The USB Warmer Mousepad (€11 from www.usb.brando.com) encases both your mouse and hands in toasty warmth, so you can click and scroll while preventing your fingers from turning blue, while the USB heating blanket (€18) will keep your shoulders, knees or toes equally cosy.

charger

The FreeLoader Solar Charger

And there is no need to compromise between cold ears and lack of music from your phone or MP3 player. The iLogic Sound Hat (€17 from www.iwantoneofthose.com) has built-in speakers with a 3.5-mm jack and, more importantly, the hat is fleece-lined.

Microblogging site Twitter is at its best when crowdsourcing leads to valuable information. Many users are tweeting weather conditions in their locality, thus providing indispensable real-time weather reports, while www.accuweather.com provides in-depth reports and also has an iPhone application.

The best technology tip for this cold weather we’re having is to visit the elderly in your locality and donate an old or spare mobile phone with some credit to those without a phone to make sure they can check in with friends and relatives.

By Marie Boran

Main photo: The USB Warmer Mousepad