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Dinesh D’Souza’s “The Virtue of Prosperity,” Apple’s iPod; and, HP’s LaserJet 1000 series.

The price of progress: Dinesh D’Souza’s “The Virtue of Prosperity.”

In “The Virtue of Prosperity,” Dinesh D’Souza, a Rishwain Research Scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a former policy analyst under the Reagan administration, takes a hard look at the new techno-affluent class in America, and questions the legitimacy of forging a completely techno-based society.

Heavily rooted in U.S. history and statistical analysis, “The Virtue of Prosperity” re-evaluates the notion that all scientific and technological advancements are good for society. By examining the current goals of technocrats and techno-utopians–stem-cell produced organs, custom-designed children, human cloning, human immortality, and the merging of computers with humans–D’Souza shows that the future has as much potential to destroy and demoralize the human race as it does to economically uplift it.

And while D’Souza could have been a lot more forthright about his own views on technocapitalism, he can be commended for presenting both the benefits and costs of living in a culture dominated by technology. While he acknowledges that society has profited economically from new technologies, he argues that we have made spiritual and moral sacrifices in the process.

Whether or not you agree with D’Souza on these highly controversial and crucial issues, “The Virtue of Prosperity” will force you to question exactly what you think about such sticky subjects as parents choosing their children’s defining characteristics, or infertile couples choosing to clone instead of adopting a child.

If you haven’t been paying attention to the debates over stem-cell research and cloning–or if you want to get a clearer picture of where the new affluent class hopes to take us–read this book. You might walk away loathing the author, but you’ll gain a more educated perspective on our precious future. –Christy Mulligan

A hands-on media player: Apple’s iPod

Thanks to Apple’s new digital goodie, the iPod, I’m traveling lighter these days. If the iPod was only an MP3 music player (which is pretty much how Apple is marketing it), I couldn’t justify the $399 price tag. However, because it pulls double duty as a FireWire hard drive, I’ve now used it to replace both my portable CD player and external VST hardware when I’m on the move.

Even as a music player, the iPod is impressive. When using the iPod for digital music, its navigation is the best I’ve ever seen. It’s extremely easy to organize and scroll through file after music file thanks to the scroll wheel on the front. The iPod has a built-in amplifier that provides smooth sound. The ear-bud headphones, with “18mm drivers using Neodymium transducer magnets” sound fine, though I prefer bigger phones myself. The device’s 160-by-128 backlit LCD has great contrast and is easy to read.

Like all Apple products, it looks great. And at 6.5 ounces, it can slip into a pocket with ease, though it can hold up to 1,000 songs–fewer if you’re also using it as an extra hard drive. And the speed with which it can sync with your music library on your Mac’s hard drive (sorry, Windows users, the iPod is Mac only) is impressive. You can transfer those aforementioned 1,000 songs in less than 10 minutes. (Note that, as a method of protecting intellectual copyrights, you can only sync with one iTunes library).

The rechargeable lithium polymer battery’s life even exceeds what’s promised. Apple says the iPod can handle 10 hours of playback on a single charge. I’ve seen 11-plus hours of life out of mine.

But what has really sold me on the digital device is its added capacity as a hard drive. Enable the FireWire disk mode option, and it immediately mounts on your Mac’s desktop. You can then use it as you would any other 5GB hard drive, dragging and dropping text, pictures, video, etc., onto it. And you don’t have to choose between hard drive and music player functions. The iPod handles all sorts of data dynamically.

My only complaint is that Apple doesn’t include a belt clip for the iPod, though several are available from third parties. And I really wish Apple had built in the ability to record audio files via a microphone and transfer them to my Mac.

Perhaps in iPod, the Next Generation? –Dennis Sellers

Laser-sharp printing: HP’s LaserJet 1000 series.

Laser printers were once only the domain of corporations that needed fast, efficient output–and that could afford a price tag in the thousands. Now, the lightning speed and high quality of laser printers is within the reach of consumers and SOHOers, and a case in point is the Hewlett-Packard LaserJet 1000 series.

At $249.99 retail, the LaserJet 1000 is the perfect fit for home users or small-business owners who only want to produce documents and aren’t concerned with color or graphics. It spits out 10 pages per minute, with the first one usually peeking out within a few seconds at most.

At 600dpi resolution (1,200dpi effective output), it provides professional-quality printing for letters, flyers, brochures–in short, all the things most people need a good printer for. Finally, setup of the LaserJet 1000 could scarcely be simpler: Just plug in the USB cord, run a brief installation program, and you’re on your way.

The bad news is minimal: It doesn’t run on a Mac, and it’s not network-compatible.

But it makes up for those two shortcomings with some impressive versatility. It can handle media ranging from envelopes to transparencies to postcards to plain old paper (legal- and letter-size only).

Meanwhile, the input tray has a capacity of 250 sheets, and the output bin can take 125 sheets, and at just a hair over 16 lbs., it’s practically portable.–Dan Heilman

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