Kensington’s long-named battery extender saved my flight

Visiting londonDid you know that it takes a bit longer to fly back from Europe than it takes to fly there? I went to London for a couple of days, tagging along on the better half’s business trip, and my journey aboard two very fine British Airways Boeing 777’s took 6 hours and 15 minutes on the way and 7 hours and 10 minutes on the way back. Both flights were relatively calm and easy, but I narrowly averted a tech disaster on the way home.

Owing to my wife’s schedule, she went across the pond first and I followed a few days later booking on separate flights. I packed appropriately, with redundant distraction options, including my Kindle, my Powerbook Pro, my iPod and my recently acquired Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7 QuietPoint Active Noise-Canceling Headphones. Just to be old-fashioned, I brought along some magazines and a paperback book. It was quite a squeeze to fit all that plus a few snacks and my entire camera bag in my Crumpler Dreadful Embarrassment bag.

The way over was easy as pie, mainly because I slept most of the way (it was an overnight flight). Turned out my favorite companion was my iPod, which contained lots of movie and TV goodness plus plenty of chill out music when nearby passengers got loud and cranky. The Audio-Technica head phones performed as I expected. Their noise canceling abilities were first rate but music sounded a bit off, a bit filtered or distant, really.

On the way back, as we rose to cruising altitude and the captain turned off the no smoking seat belt sign, I pulled out my trusty iPod and got ready to rumble. But, what’s this — I forgot to charge it while abroad and the battery was dead. Not just a little juice dead. Completely nothing, nada, no screen at all dead. For about five seconds, I panicked that I’d have to watch 10,000 BC (Rotten Tomatoes rating: 9%) or something via on-board video. Blah.

Kensington mobile battery pack

But then I remembered that I’d purchased a Kensington Portable Power Pack for Mobile Devices last month just for this possibility (thank you, thank you, Dan Frakes). I plugged the 30-pin end of my standard iPod cord into my standard iPod, the USB plug in to the Kensington and gave a silent prayer. Sure enough, the iPod came right up and five hours of usage barely made a dent in the Kensington’s charge level. Highly recommended.

Unrelated kosher traveling aside: the two kosher airline meals on the way over, prepared somewhere near Boston, were horrendous, almost unedible. The kosher air meals on the way back were fantastic, as good or better than the fresh food served to the normal folk. What gives, British Air?

Cheaper noise cancelling head phones work pretty great

Me rocking out with new headphonesLast year I bought my wife a pair of pretty high-end Sony MDR-NC50 noise canceling headphones to take on airplane (business) trips. They are amazing — pristine sound quality for your music (or anything else on your iPod) while tuning down, down, down environmental sounds like jet engines, train whooshing or even construction equipment working down the road. But they also cost an arm and a leg. I occasionally get to borrow them, but they’re really hers and she uses them quite a bit.

So facing a long plane ride to Europe and back next month, I was interested in somehow getting my hands on something similar if a bit cheaper. After checking out various low-end headsets, I settled on the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7 QuietPoint Active Noise-Canceling Headphones, which cost $120 at Amazon. They do a great job canceling outside noise though the sound quality for music etc is not quite as crisp and fantastic as the Sony headphones.

Operation couldn’t be simpler. Plop in a AAA battery, flip a switch and watch the blue noise cancelation light light up. Put the cups over your ears and tune out the world. The set came with a nice hard carrying case and the cups actually fold sideways to fit snugly. There’s also the usual complement of plug adapters for connecting to fancier stereo gear. If you have to make the trade-off to save some cash, I can recommend the Audio-Technica headphones as a better than decent option.