Call me: Fixed-line telephones used to be a lot like refrigerators: dull but essential. These days they are more akin to microwave ovens: more buttons than dials, and still useful, but not a must-have item. Marketing the humble phone is similar to promoting any commodity that consumers can live without — you need a gimmick.

Sanyo has conjured something very Japanese in attracting attention to its fixed-line offerings. The functionally titled TEL-LANW60 automatically announces Urgent Earthquake News Flash alerts as soon as the Japan Meteorological Agency issues them. The quake-warning system needs an Internet connection to do its work — the newer iPv6 standard, not the old iPv4.

Not content with an aural warning, the phone’s 1.7-inch backlit liquid-crystal display on the handset flashes a red warning, another light on the handset blinks and a red light on the LAN terminal box also flashes red.

Backing the principal that it is best to plan for the worst, the cordless handset includes a flashlight. Moreover, earthquake alerts can be sent to up to three preregistered e-mail addresses (meaning that you will likely have to decide that friends or loved ones will go unwarned).

The Sanyo gadget uses a standard telephone line with an included LAN wireless terminal providing the connection. The cordless phone is an otherwise standard device with a rectangular handset with a small display screen and a cradle to rest in. It operates in the 2.4-gigahertz frequency range. The earthquake-warning service costs ¥525 a month on top of the standard telephone line and ISP fees.

The TEL-LANW60 costs around ¥20,000 for a single handset configuration and around ¥40,000 with a second handset. www.e-life-sanyo.com

Feeling blue?: Telling somebody that they have made a courageous decision typically is the read-between-the-lines way of saying they are putting their career on the line. Thus it is unlikely in the extreme that the fate of Mitsubishi Electric rests on the success or otherwise of its new Blu-ray recorder, the DVR-BF2000, which is now on sale.

Amid rumblings that Blu-ray has only a few years left before it is rendered obsolete, Mitsubishi has put together a nice package, the DVR-BF2000, which features a spacious 500-gigabyte hard disk and a BD-R/RE drive for recording TV programs to Blu-ray. It has two digital TV tuners, so you can record two programs at the same time, either to the hard disk or straight to Blu-ray. It also handles DVD-R/RW recording for backward compatibility.

No good product goes uncriticized and the glaring fault for Mitsubishi is the steep price — ¥152,500. Even allowing for the prodigious recording ability it allows, that is a lot of money. Moreover, while looks shouldn’t matter, the DVR-BF2000 is a squat, squarish-looking beige box. While a different shape is no crime, the bland color scheme, in contrast to mostly black or silver TVs and stereo components, presents some unfathomable thinking in the Mitsubishi design.

I hope Mitsubishi won’t be alone in taking advantage of Blu-ray’s TV-recording abilities, but I am still waiting for an economically feasible option — especially as it is hard to find one program worth recording, much less two. www.mitsubishielectric.co.jp

Free the keyboard: Some computer peripherals have become surprisingly resistant to innovation. With a few ergonomic exceptions, a keyboard of today doesn’t look much different from one from 10 years ago. While wireless keyboards are still a minority, that idea is at least gaining some traction.

Sanwa has just brought a new wireless keyboard to market, the SKB-WLTP03BK. The device has the Japanese standard 109 keys plus eight shortcut keys for such operations as opening an Internet browser, checking e-mail, or playing a DVD. It also has a small track pad, which southpaws will note with aggravation is on the right-hand side of the keyboard.

After a USB wireless (2.4-gigahertz) dongle is plugged into the host computer, the keyboard can be operated up to 10 meters away. Sanwa claims the two AA batteries required to drive the keyboard, which comes in a conservative black and weighs an unthreatening 550 grams, will last about three months. Unfortunately, the keyboard only plays nicely with Windows XP and Vista.

Sanwa promotes the keyboard as suited to multimedia functions, the idea being that you recline in your lounge chair with the keyboard in your lap and your computer at a distance. But peering at a document from 10 meters away doesn’t seem very practical or sensible. If you are watching videos or listening to music, the virtue of a keyboard that can move that far is more obvious, even at ¥12,390. www.sanwa.co.jp


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