- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2003

In case you were wondering, 3,000 miles my driving distance (including stops and detours) from Los Angeles to a new residence in Montgomery County is a lot of driving to accomplish in little more than five days. That's especially true when you're racing a moving truck to ensure you're there before the driver arrives.
This mini-adventure in the past week, my third transcontinental moving/driving trip (one leg was by air), was a lot more fun than the previous ones, thanks to several bits of technology. There also were some frustrations.
AOL everywhere?
It's fun to pile on AOL Time Warner Inc. these days, but one of the things I have long admired about AOL, or America Online, was the ability to at least dial into the network from just about anywhere on earth. I've logged on from Nairobi, Kenya, and from Cheju Island, South Korea. More mundane places, such as Santa Rosa, N.M., and Fort Smith, Ark., provide a different experience, however.
In both places, logging on to AOL was, well, impossible. I can understand this for tiny Santa Rosa, a town of less than 2,800 people. But Fort Smith, a city of more than 80,000, with a metropolitan area large enough to merit its own Arbitron radio station ratings, apparently doesn't have an AOL dial-up number this traveler could use.
AOL is, overall, still a great service for travelers, but a little attention should be paid to smaller and growing markets as well.
AT&T; wire-less:
That hyphen is not a typo. Driving across much of Interstate 40, in places such as Arkansas, Tennessee and even a good chunk of western Virginia, my AT&T; Wireless GSM phone was wire-less. There was no coverage. A PCS phone from Sprint fared much better, but the overall experience was frustrating, and would have been even more so had I only had one device on which to rely.
It's reasonable to expect that this issue will diminish as GSM systems proliferate. But it would be to the advantage of AT&T; let alone GSM peers, such as T-Mobile and Cingular Wireless to step up the GSM deployment, and to do so pronto.

Wireless headset:
Anycom, a firm in Irvine, Calif., has come up with a wireless Bluetooth headset that works with the AT&T-based; phone I was carrying, the Sony Ericsson T68i. No cords, no wires run between headset and phone, yet the sound quality is clear and good for the listener (me) and, callers told me, pretty good for them, if with a slight echo. At $80, it's a neat little product (details at www.anycom.com) that has great potential. One aspect that could do with improvement: the ear holder, which is a bit uncomfortable if the device is worn for very long stretches of time.
Bluetooth technology, however, holds great promise in this regard: cutting the cord is very helpful, especially in the small confines of a car.
Thank heaven for XM.
I've sung the praises of Washington-based XM Satellite Radio before, and I'll do it again now. Having the service in the car was invaluable, first as a way to avoid the blandness of local radio and second to keep up with the news and weather as we went across the country.
Because of another device in the car, of which more later, I had to use a small, low-power FM transmitter to send the audio from the XM receiver to the car stereo. It worked well, with a slight learning curve, and resulted in our being able to follow the news of the past seven days including, sadly, the story of the explosion of Space Shuttle Columbia without hassle. For those traveling regularly over long distances, a satellite radio service is a must. That's probably why truckers at the Petro Truck Plaza in West Memphis, Ark., were clustered around a table where XM was being sold.
Write to MarkKel@aol.com with comments or visit the writer's Web site, www.kellner2000.com.

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