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Lighten That Heavy Load

A local tech expert helps a constantly touring musician streamline his gadgets.

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Jazz pianist Jason Moran spends 120 days a year on the road, playing at least 90 cities. More than most people, he needs to travel light, but he also wants what all tech-lovers want: a great phone, reliable Wi-Fi, replenishable reading material, and so on. Indira Vaidy, organizer of MobileCampNYC, a meeting of New York gadget enthusiasts, resolved Moran’s clutter problems.



The Palm Pre: Hitting stores June 6, it has both a touch-sensitive screen and a keypad.  

The Mess:
Moran lost his iPhone and is wondering if he should replace it.

The Fix:
Get a new, souped-up iPhone, or try its latest challenger.

The iPhone is undeniably the game-changing market leader, and the 3.0 software coming out this summer promises to address some of its lingering issues. “I loved the big screen with the GPS maps, how it tells you exactly how many blocks away something is,” Moran says of his iPhone. So one answer, Vaidy suggests, is to get a new one—ideally, the 3G model, which is considerably faster than its predecessors. Another alternative, she says, is the hotly anticipated Palm Pre ($200; available June 6 at Best Buy, 60 W. 23rd St., at Sixth Ave.; 212-366-1373). It has a sleek touch screen for running apps like Google Maps, but it also has a full keyboard that slides down vertically (as opposed to the Sidekick-like horizontal orientation of other qwerty-equipped phones)—ideal for quick thumb-work to speed-dial a number while your other hand’s busy, say, hailing a cab.



The Mess:
Moran’s laptop, phone, and music-player batteries die at inconvenient times, and he’s always losing his various chargers.

The Fix:
A solar-powered laptop bag that both stores and charges gear.

“I’ve bought and lost so many chargers I can’t keep count,” says Moran. Vaidy recommends Voltaic’s Generator ($598; MoMA Design Store, 81 Spring St., at Crosby St.; 646-613-1367), a sleek messenger bag that can store a laptop battery’s equivalent of juice in about five hours—no problem when you’re walking around outdoors.



The Mess:
He’s a voracious reader, but lugging a library on tour weighs him down.

The Fix:
Read digitally.

“I’ve left so many good books behind,” says Moran. The paperbacklike Kindle 2 ($359; Amazon.com) downloads thousands of books over a 3G wireless network. “It’s easy to use,” says Vaidy. A large-screen Kindle DX ($489) will be out later this summer. “It’s just about deciding whether you want to spend more money for a bigger screen or not,” she says.



The Mess:
It is next to impossible to find a steady Wi-Fi signal when you’re on a tour bus or in an airport.

The Fix:
Carry your own hot spot.

“Airports always charge you for Wi-Fi, and then you just leave anyway,” says Moran. “And what are you supposed to do if you’re stuck on the runway?” Get Novatel’s MiFi 2200 ($150, but there’s a $50 rebate; Verizon Wireless, 1266 Third Ave., nr. 72nd St; 212-606-4700), says Vaidy. It’s a credit-card-size device that uses cellular signals from Verizon or Sprint to create a personal Wi-Fi halo around you (up to 40 feet) anywhere in the U.S. There’s a monthly fee (from $40 for 250 MBs with Verizon, from $60 for five GBs with Sprint), as with a cell phone, but the added convenience is worth it. “You just slip it in your laptop bag and forget about it,” Vaidy says.



The Mess:
International voice-data plans are confusing and expensive.

The Fix:
Opt for a cheaper foreign cell provider when you’re out of the country.

Vaidy recommends that when Moran’s traveling overseas, he swap out his phone’s sim card—the chip that stores his U.S. number and service plan—for a new one purchased abroad. “In Europe, they sell them in every bodega like we sell lottery tickets,” she says. Different carriers are pretty homogeneous—most will run two or three cents a minute. Vaidy likes Nokia’s swap-friendly N96 (pictured; $579 at Nokia, 5 E. 57th St., nr. Fifth Ave; 212-758-1980) or Beyond E-Tech’s new, much less expensive unlocked Duet D888 ($110; at n1wireless.com), which holds two sim cards at once.


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