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The wish list: from sexy wheels to mind-blowing digital toys, the best of the best for the well-behaved executive.

There are all kinds of ways to reward yourself for being good. A couple of weeks off in the sun would be a great, start. But there's just something especially gratifying about picking up that nifty bit of new technology the newest wireless phone or cutting-edge video camera. Of course, some wallets are bigger than others. We'd like to think a few of our regular readers might, be in the market, for a screaming-hot sports car or a corporate jet. If not, hey, daydreaming is free. Spending a few hundred bucks as a year-end present to yourself is no big sin, and this year's selection is fun on wheels, From digital cameras and fancy phones to out-there concept vehicles, the toy chest is overflowing.

Archos AV340

Personal video player US$699

Fifty movies in a box? How about 400,000 digital photos (now that's a slide show!). Or a ridiculous number of digital music files. This relatively small device, at less than half a kilogram, is file current champion in the digital world Olympics. Totes an enormous amount of data, allowing its owner, through plug-in cameras and the like, to turn it into a video camera, a digital still camera (at a very respectable 3.3 megapixels), a jukebox or a mini-cinema. Not interested in the ditzy teen comedy available on your overnight flight from Tokyo? Turn coach into first class by selecting from your personal library of martial-arts classics. Somewhere in there is an FM radio, too. If you ever wondered where the digitization of everything is leading us as consumers, this is it.

Ford GT

Sports car US$150,000

The original Ford GT, the GT40, was born out of pure spite. Henry Ford II wanted to knock out six time winner Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race. So, according to company lore, Ford dropped out of a U.S. industry agreement against participating in racing. To beat the Italians, Ford needed a car that could hit 322 kilometers per hour in a straightaway and keep up an average tap speed of 193 kilometers per hour for the entire 24 hours. The Ford team lost twice, then in 1966--and for the next three years running--took Le Mans with laps to spare. Ford unveiled a new, concept version of the GT in 2002. The street legal version has a 500 horsepower aluminum V8, a six-speed transmission, an aluminum frame and, not surprisingly, two seats--and it is at least as fast, the company says, as the GT40 racing models from the '60s.

A2 Aviator

Flashlight US$175

Can you improve on something as basic as the light bulb? Of course, and that's exactly what the flashlight geeks of the world are after with items like this. Stoplights and taillights on cars were first to change over, if you haven't noticed, to these extremely efficient, cool-burning little bulbs, known as light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. They've been around for decades, usually to tell us that our electronic devices are on or off, but now they've graduated to the big time. The company promises their flashlight can light up a 747's tail from the ground (it was developed for airline pilots) or, on low power, show your way on maps at close range.


Recreation vehicle

Remember all the buzz about the Segway scooter in the last year or so, that stand-up thing with two wheels that self-balances using gyroscopes and promised to be, according to the hype, bigger than the Internet? Canada's Bombardier, normally known for jet airplanes, has come up with a concept motorcycle--for lack of a better word--that rides on one wheel. According to the company, the 164-kilogram aluminum- and plastic-cycle self-balances, meaning it is hard to fall off of and stands upright even when still. It would run on hydrogen fuel, have night vision, and will feature "landing gear" (only a jet maker thinks of these things) for when the bike is moving less than 20 kilometers per hour. A right-hand trigger is the gas, a left-hand trigger the brake. Steering involves leaning, much like an ordinary motorcycle, only more exaggeratedly so. This will be on the streets, the company says, by 2025, alongside, we're sure, many millions of Segway scooters.

Handspring Treo 600

Smartphone US$449

If you're going to come back from the dead, this is the way to do it. Handspring, time handheld computer maker that spun off from Palm only to spin itself back into the fold, comes roaring back into the market with time closest thing we've seen yet to a viable smartphone. With the 600, Handspring is offering] a phone with the power of Palm's latest operating system--contacts, calendering and such--as well as Web browsing and depending on soft ware choices, e-mail. The 600's 32MB of memory puts it squarely in competition with tire newest handheld computers that offer no phone service. This is the one we've been waiting for.

Bose QuietComfort II

Noise canceling headphones US$299

It's a bit contradictory, putting on stereo headphones in order to hear nothing. And, of course, you could pipe your own music into them, But the selling point of Bose's latest headgear for the business traveler is special circuitry that kills outside noises such as jet whine and air conditioning vents and, one hopes, helps the weary road warrior relax. Folds flat into a carrying case, and the earcups seal off whatever noise isn't drowned by the headphone's electronic noise-killing features. A little more room between seats, a decent movie or a bestseller in hand, and you could almost pretend you aren't on a plane at all.

Ducati Monster 620

Motorcycle US$6,995

You might have seen Carrie Ann Moss riding this bike upside down through the air in The Matrix Reloaded. That's mostly digital magic, but the real bike is a light, agile street demon with a six-speed transmission over a 618cc motor. Ducati is best known for developing superbikes for racing, those motorcycles you see at odd hours on TV sports channels taking curves inches off the pavement. The Monster 620 is the Italian company's effort to displace Japanese go-fast bikes popular with young men. Real moto-geeks at this point would blather on now about compression ratios and torque, but just look at the picture. It's sexy! It's fast! It's Italian! What more do you need to know?

Cruce de Lagos

Andes lake trip US$220 per person

Over the Andes in a boat? Yep, you heard right. Since 1913, tourists have been taking cruises through the deep blue and green fjords of southern Chile and Argentina from Peulla on the Chilean side to Bariloche, on the Argentine side. The trip, available in either direction, involves two hours of bus legs to connect three lake crossings totaling a bit more than three hours. The trip by catamaran nevertheless takes two days, since along the way the tour stops in little German style villages. The boat travels through several national parks, past conical snow-capped volcanoes and waterfalls and stops at Hotel Peulla, which bills itself as an ecological village, before continuing on to Bariloche. As Argentina's self-titled city of tourism, Bariloche's home to trekking companies, ski resorts, hotels, restaurants and plenty of Argentine-style nightlife. Get a comfy deck chair and save up your energy.

Sony Clie PEG-UX50

Handheld computer US$699

Palmtop? Handheld? Pager? It's hard to tell, but this is either Sony's tiniest notebook computer--all of 176 grams and less than 18 millimeters thick--or its most powerful handheld device to date. A keyboard, color high-resolution screen, built-in camera and the like make it a pretty good competitor for business uses. It runs Palm's latest operating system and comes with a laundry list of software, including e-mail. It takes pictures, plays digital music and games, records voice notes and can be used to access the Internet via wireless technology such as Wi-Fi (for those airport hotspots) and Bluetooth for short-range connectivity. Okay, you can buy a full size notebook from five different companies for the price, but this is too cool for school If Sony ever puts this kind of brains into its phone handset deal with Ericsson, we'll wait in line to buy one.

BlackBerry 7210

Phone and handheld computer US$449

The corporate gold standard, once called "crackberries" in Silicon Valley because executives seemed addicted to them. Small enough and tough enough to hit the road, but complete as a handheld and the phone works, the company says, in 100 countries. If you're already used to popular office software, this can be your bridge to the corporate information network, simple and easy. Garners, teens and young folk in general will likely avoid the BlackBerry. But it comes in color now, and it's oh-so-business.

Embraer Legacy

Jet airplane US$20 million

It's an impossibly excessive, 1980s kind of thing, we know, but jumping all those airport security lines and hopping into our own personal jet is just too good a fantasy to part with. Brazil's Embraer, riding high on mid-sized commercial jets just as the airlines needed them most, got into the corporate jet business a couple of years ago. The Legacy, their first run at a tough market, is certainly a fun way to fill in the blanks in our billionaire-banker fantasies. Seats 16 or 37, depending on your model (or the number of friends you intend to take to the Caribbean) and, aside from the usual run of movies, telephones, and new-plane-smell-leather captain's chairs, the Legacy offers, according to the company, "unequaled space and comfort" in the toilet. Flies 6,019 kilometers on a tank of gas, so a trip from New York to most parts of Western Europe or south to Buenos Aires is no problem.

DCR-DVD 100 DVD Handycam

Video camera US$899

There's a lot to be said for Sony's capacity to invent the next new thing, and putting DVD disk drives into personal video cameras is a marketing masterstroke. The camera itself is just an update on the Handycam line with all of the bells-and-whistles one expects: Image stabilization, a lens capable of shooting in low light, like around a birthday cake, and a 10x optical zoom for close-ups. But, shout "cut" and pop out the DVD disk and, voila, ready to watch on most any home digital video player. If you have a newer home computer, endless copies of your latest footage can be sent off to relatives and friends with no fear of losing the precious original. Just like DVD players have nearly replaced old-fashioned videotape, direct-to-disk cameras will march over all those videotape cameras in short order.

Canon EOS Rebel

Digital camera US$999

There are plenty of amazing digital cameras on the market, and the best of them often run in the range of US$5,000 or more. Unless you're thinking of a second career in fashion photography, that's overkill. A few brands, however, including Canon, are finding the middle ground for amateurs who want very high quality images. The Canon EOS Rebel offers 6.3 megapixels alongside all of the controls a traditional single-lens-reflex (SLR) camera user has become accustomed to, like metering and aperture settings, It can shoot 2.5 frames per second and burst four shots continuously, a measure where most other digital cameras fall down. While a true SLR, the Rebel also has a liquid-crystal display on its back. Be careful sending email, though. Each shot can come in at up to 18 megabytes, large enough for professional publications and even poster-sized prints.

Bushnell InstantReplay

Binoculars US$599

We've been waiting for the day when binoculars caught up with the high-tech goggles science fiction movie characters always seem to have: Those super-'nocs that can see for miles and zoom in on an eyelash, telling you reams of data as you pan across some desert planet looking for signs of life. Bushnell isn't there yet, but this is pretty darn cool Catch a bird on the wing or a striker in mid-kick, and their new scopes will grab 30 seconds of video or a 2.1 megapixel image. Images and video up to 16 megabytes can be downloaded and replayed on a computer or printed up for framing. All this on a couple of AA batteries, to boot.
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Author:Brown, Greg
Publication:Latin Trade
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Dec 1, 2003
Previous Article:Roaring to a finish: what should Central America expect from U.S. free trade? Change, and lots of it.
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