Tools & Toys: Quiet in Demand

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  • to target specific markets. Apply the so-called 4 Ps of successful marketing: product/service, price, promotion, and the place where you sell it.

    Are you decisive? People will look to you to make decisions, from strategic choices to where to take a customer to lunch.

    Are you comfortable taking on a heavy load of responsibility? If youre the boss: tag, youre it. The buck stops on your desk. Ready or not, youre in charge.

    And, perhaps most significant, can you manage increased stress in your life? Stress is a fact of life for all of us, but learning how to manage higher stress levelslike finding time to relaxwill enable you to stay healthier while youre in charge.

    WhEn ShOUld yOU COnSidER going on your own? This will depend on your career attainments, family commitments, and financial situation. But engineers at any age can contem-plate doing this: you can be right out of school, at midcareer, or approaching retirement. You need to develop realistic strategies that deal with your obligations, especially those to your family.

    Plan by projecting scenarios three to five years into the future. Envision several approaches. What product or service would you provide? What skills would you need? What income would it take? Learn what you need to know, take business or technical courses, get certified in key skills, and build financial reserves.

    Now that Ive given you some food for thought about becom-ing your own boss, let me ask you another question. Do you want to become a chief engineer or a chief executive officer some day? Be honest. This is not a trick question; Im not trying to test your level of ambition but to surprise you a bit. You are already a CEOthe CEO of you! Although you may have to get advice and support from others, such as your spouse or your boss, you are ultimately accountable for your own actions. In this sense, you are already your own boss.

    You owe it to yourself to seriously consider becoming your own corporate boss. Whether this means gaining more responsibility in your current position or planning for the day when youre truly in charge of your own enterprise, look into it carefully. Assess your abilities, do your homework, and challenge yourself to make your career more satisfy-ing and rewarding by going out on your ownor by happily staying put. n

    AboUt thE AUthorcArL SELINgEr is an aviation and transportation consultant, author, and professor. his series of professional development seminars is called Stuff you Dont Learn in Engineering School. his book of the same title was published by Wiley-IEEE Press in the United States and by Science Press in china. visit

    Portable music and video players such as the iPod allow us to while away otherwise interminable journeys on planes and trains. Unfortunately, planes and trains are pretty noisy places and can drown out quieter music entirely. youre either left to lis-ten to your rock collection for 4 hours or you have to jack up the volume way past the level that mozart would

    have tolerated. ballerup, Denmarkbased gN mobiles

    Jabra brand has another solution. Its set of lightweight noise-canceling headphones, the Jabra c820s, uses built-in microphones to pick up external sounds. Its little brain then analyzes the incoming waves and generates counterwaves that are exactly out of phase; the waves and counterwaves then can-cel each other out. the technology works best on sounds with slowly varying frequenciesunlike, say, voicesbut this is exactly what is required to neutralize the drone of an airplane engine or the rumble of a train, while still

    allowing you to hear the flight attendant ask if you want chicken or beef.

    Noise-canceling headphones have been around for a while, notably from bose corp., in Framingham, mass. however, at US $200, the Jabra headset sells for around $100 less than boses cheapest noise-canceling model.

    Jabras lightweight headphones are pow-ered by a single AAA battery, which provides about 50 hours of operation. When the bat-tery runs out, the headphones can still be used to listen to music, albeit without the noise-cancellation feature.

    the adjustable headphones accommo-date heads of different sizes, but they can be packed flat with a twist of the earphones for easy portability inside a briefcase or carry-on bag. A minor design feature I liked is that the headset cord is not hardwired into the headset; instead there is a standard minijack socket and a separate cord. this setup eliminates one of my greatest annoy-ances about headsets that have to suffer the wear and tear of travel: sooner or later, the cord gets frayed internallyusually at

    the point of greatest stress, where it enters the headset housingand

    you have to replace the entire headset. With the c820s, how-ever, you can just replace the cord and continue on. Jabras

    intent is also to let you use this feature to hook up the headset

    to the brands line of wireless adapters.I tried the c820s on a 5-hour plane flight,

    on the New york city subway, and on the streets of brooklyn. It did an excellent job of eliminating background noise in all three environments; in fact, once I gained the abil-ity to turn it on and off at will, I was surprised by just how noisy the constant hum of traffic was in the city.

    the headset is comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, and it was first-rate in actually letting me listen to music, too! the dynamic range of the headphones is very good, and I was able to enjoy the subtlest strains of mozart and the energetic rushes of the Pixies with equal fidelity. If youre doing a lot of travelingor just happen to work in an office with noisy air-conditioningthe Jabra c820s headset is worth checking out. n

    Quiet On DemanDThese speakers take the edge off noisy travel

    By sTephen cass

    JaBra c820s US $200



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    52 IEEE Spectrum | April 2007 | NA



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