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Journalism 007

I'm headed to see the newest Bond movie tonight, and I've been thinking all week about how many of 007's gadgets can be used for journalism. While some of his equipment may seem far-fetched, there are a number of "spy" products that are actually on the market and might help improve your reporting capabilities.

An important caveat: Please check with your state/ province/ country's laws as well as the guidelines in your newsroom before using any of what I describe below. For example, in some U.S. states it's okay to surreptitiously record someone without getting their permission. In some other states, it's illegal to record someone without their prior knowledge and consent. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press website keeps a database with information on laws both in the U.S. and abroad.

Smartpens

Yes, we live in a digital world, one full of very smart computers and phones. So a smart...pen? Consider the Voice Recording Pen, which is doubles as a highly-sensitive voice recorder. It records up to seven hours, and it also includes a remote controller - you could leave the pen on a desk and start recording a conversation from across the room. The Pulse, by Livescribe, is a great tool for anyone who takes handwritten notes during a speech or interview. It records the penstrokes that you're writing on paper while simultaneously recording the audio. The audio is automatically linked to what you write. You can tap a place in your notes to hear an audio playback of what was being said, and later you can transfer all the files to your computer for further use.

The DocuPen is an incredibly cool scanner shaped like, what else?, a high-quality pen. It'll store up to 100 pages of scanned text that can be viewed on a computer via USB hookup. I could have used this when I was still reporting... there were many times that I was allowed in to an office to review documents, but I wasn't allowed to remove them or make copies.

Wiretap Tapping

So you're using a proxy search engine, instant messaging on a private network under and assumed name and you've password-protected all of your sensitive documents and social networking sites. Think you're safe? Think again! With the Keywatcher, you can record all keystrokes that are made - which means later decoding passwords or other sensitive information that's been typed. It plugs in to both the keyboard and computer and, for most people, is indistinguishable from other cables.

Tiny Cameras

The Flip may be growing in popularity, but many people still don't realize it's a lightweight video camera. It records between 30-60 minutes of video on two AA batteries, and when you're finished you can plug it directly into your computer using its enclosed USB drive. And if you cover over the tiny red light that appears when you turn the Flip on, many folks won't realize they're being recorded. The Flip not small enough for you? Check out the ThumbCam, a video recording device that is literally the size of your thumb. It records color video with voice and uses a microSD card to store up to 2GB of data, which means that you can play back what you've recorded on a computer or your cell phone. There are tiny cameras available now in a variety of places including belt buckles (see: Buckle DVR) and sunglasses (see: Sunglasses DVR).

iPhone Tricks

I've been using Evernote lately, and it's a fantastic way of turning everyday items into searchable data. For example, I can take a picture of a document, record someone's conversation and a lot more... Evernote synchs that content to my account and enables me to search, categorize and send that information whenever I want. I also use SplashID to safeguard my contacts and other critical information. It came highly recommended to me by a close friend, who's also talented hacker. It's the system he uses - and it works on a PC or Mac. And in a pinch, you can use FakeCalls to simulate a phone call from the person of your choice. I had president-elect Barack Obama "call" me during dinner last week...I still haven't told one of the folks there that I'd actually FakeCalled myself.

As for my favorite Bond gadget? I thought that the Ericsson JB988, from Tomorrow Never Dies, was a killer mobile device. It was a remote control for Bond's BMW, had a finger print reader, a camera, a stun gun and made fantastic international calls without dropping them! Ah, a girl can always dream...

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