Blinded me with science

Aug. 1, 2004
It's essential for practitioners to stay abreast of the latest trends in dental technology. But it's also important — and fun! — to learn about some of the latest non-dental technology. Here's a sampling of what's on my top 40 list this month.

Paul Feuerstein, DMD

It's essential for practitioners to stay abreast of the latest trends in dental technology. But it's also important — and fun! — to learn about some of the latest non-dental technology. Here's a sampling of what's on my top 40 list this month.

USB portable "drives"

Say goodbye to your floppy disks. Portable USB drives have up to 2 Gigabytes of storage and work on the same concept as the memory cards that go into your digital cameras. Thumb Drive was one of the first of its kind, so its moniker is now a generic term for these devices. Many manufacturers, including Iomega (who makes the magnificent REV drive noted in last month's "New Tech" column), have units in a variety of sizes and prices. You simply plug the unit into a USB port, and it appears on your desktop as a "removable hard drive." These devices normally require Windows 98 Second Edition (which requires a "driver download") or newer. Windows XP recognizes these devices immediately and can be set to open the drive folder automatically. The newer units are USB2, which will work with your older hardware, but they copy slower. Beware of "amazingly low prices" — they may be USB1, which are older, slower units.

The only caveat to portable USB devices is their very small size. They are easy to lose and easy to steal. If you are using them to backup important data, the consequences are obvious. Many come with software that allows the drive to be password protected. Most also come with a fabric necklace for the ultimate in geek chic. However, attaching it ensures that you are less likely to drop or lose it.

Sony Blu-Ray 23GB CD recorder

This new unit debuts at about $3,500 and uses a blue laser diode to write on disks that are made primarily of paper. This system writes faster and can put more information on a disk than DVD. Not only does this allow a great amount of data, but it also can record 12 hours of HDTV broadcasts in full definition. The units also have a red laser reading capability, which allows them to read all existing disks. Another advantage is that they can be cut up with a pair of scissors for security. As with all new technology, you have to pay the price to own the first one on the block. As the system and media drop in price, this may be another attractive solution to large data backup files.

Digital photography review

If you want complete information on any digital camera, go to dpreview.com. This site, run by Phil Askey, is the most complete and well-designed technical site you will find. Askey lists specifications that manufacturers may not be aware of (and probably more than you need or want to know). Having said that, he also has extensive image comparisons on all cameras and their nearest competitors. For example, there is a recent review of Nikon's new D70 camera, which will give the popular (with dentists) Canon Rebel 300D some real competition. You can subscribe to a free weekly camera email newsletter on this site.

New tools for your automobiles

A recent issue of PC magazine reviewed some new options for your driving safety and pleasure. These go beyond navigation systems and rear-bumper sensors. Coming soon are some Jetson-type enhancements that years ago would have been deemed impossible. ACC (Active Cruise Control), for example, adjusts your preset speed if a car ahead of you slows down or shifts unexpectedly. If linked with GPS and Lojak type information, the computer will sense what is ahead and adjust, giving you nearly total automatic driving. A sensor that reads the lane lines in the road will alert you if you unexpectedly cross the lane by vibrating the steering wheel.

How about a virtual dashboard? These have a holographic-like copy of your dash dancing above your hood so you don't have to look down at the display and take your eyes off the road. They are coupled with an infrared night vision option, which allows people and animals to show up in the display.

Too many toys—too little time.

Dr. Paul Feuerstein installed one of dentistry's first computers in 1978. For more than 20 years, he has taught courses on technology throughout the country. He is a mainstay at technology sessions, including annual appearances at the Yankee.Dental Congress, and he is an ADA Seminar series speaker. A general practitioner in North Billerica, Mass., since 1973, Dr. Feuerstein maintains a Web site (www.computersindentistry.com) and can be reached by email at [email protected].

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