The IT Guy: Must-have gadgets for your wheels

theitguy@islandpacket.comOctober 23, 2011 

  • Morgan Bonner answers your computer questions and offers technology tips and suggestions.

    Send your questions to: theitguy@island packet.com

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With my second child set to arrive in a few short months, it was finally time for an upgrade I'd been putting off for a very long time -- my car.

I've been driving my beloved 2002 Toyota Celica for the past nine years. I loved that car, probably because of the way it saved my life about a dozen times.

One time in particular stands out. I was driving in Bluffton when I rounded a corner and spotted a mover's truck directly in my lane coming right at me. I had no time to do anything other than cut the wheel as hard to the right as I could -- to my amazement, that Celica went sideways. Not possible you say? I'm telling you, it happened. On that day a bond was formed!

Sadly however the Celica had one fatal flaw: The driver's seat didn't move forward far enough to allow for a second car seat. Also, there was the little matter of not having side airbags, anti-lock breaks ... you know, things you might want to have with your most precious cargo in the vehicle.

So it was time to go shopping. As a computer nerd, I don't have many requirements from my car in terms of engine, tires, sunroof, etc. I do however require a certain technical savviness from my mode of transportation. Knowing there had probably been some advancements in car tech since 2002, I put together a short list of must-haves.

1. XM Radio. The service costs $13 a month for 130 channels with no commercials? If you spend any amount of time in your car whatsoever it's a no-brainer, especially considering what passes for music on terrestrial radio these days.

2. iPod support. And I don't mean "iPod support" as in hooking up via cassette adapter like I'd been doing for the past nine years. I want "iPod support" as in plug it in and control the iPod from the stereo, see my playlists on the stereo's display, etc.

3. Bluetooth support. It's 2011, so I figure I should be able to use my phone hands-free.

4. Geek-friendly. the dealership I bought the car from had to have a decent waiting area for when the car needed service. By decent I mean Wi-Fi, comfy chairs and at least three TVs -- one for Fox News, one for MSNBC and another for ESPN (so everybody can be happy).

In case you're wondering, the Hyundai Tucson met all these criteria. I was pretty emotional saying goodbye to my Celica, but hopefully she'll find a good home.

Obviously I would have liked some more tech, but of course the price of the car goes up pretty quickly once you get past the basics. GPS would have been nice, but the factory-installed units are almost universally terrible compared to dash-mount systems or a smartphone, and upgrading their maps is a huge hassle.

And as for smartphones, if you have one check out Awesome HUD (iPhone) or GPS HUD Pro (Android). These apps use the GPS to calculate your speed (better than your speedometer, I find) and project the image onto your windshield so you don't have to take your eyes off the road.

Morgan Bonner is Pre-Press Manager and a systems administrator for the Packet and Gazette

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