Scooba automates messy cleaning task

iRobot Scooba 390 floor washing robot shown with Virtual Wall accessory.
iRobot Scooba 390 floor washing robot shown with Virtual Wall accessory.
Experts recommend becoming familiar with your current data usage before upgrading to the latest smart phones from AT&T or Verizon Wireless.
Experts recommend becoming familiar with your current data usage before upgrading to the latest smart phones from AT&T or Verizon Wireless.
Studies say that mopping floors is the most-disliked household cleaning chore, and who would disagree? Sloshing a wet mop over a dirty floor then wringing it into a bucket isn't fun, no matter how positive your outlook. It's not surprising that supermarkets are stocked with less messy alternatives, typically spray mops.

Nothing, however, supposedly cleans better than scrubbing a floor with a detergent, rinsing it with clean water, and then drying the surface with a squeegee. Commercial floor machines do this, but unless you have a shopping mall to maintain, buying one usually isn't practical.

A company called iRobot, however, offers the next best thing: a floor-washing robot! The company's new Scooba 390 uses only clean solution to wash floors, never dirty water. The device cleans tile, linoleum and sealed hardwood floors.

When fully-charged, iRobot's newest bot has 45 minutes of battery life, during which it preps, washes, scrubs and squeegees up to a 450 square feet area to get rid of dirt and bacteria. Unlike with the 390's smaller sibling, the Scooba 230, pre-sweeping isn't required. The 390 takes care of that, yet its setup and operation are remarkably simple.

Scooba employs iAdapt, a technology that computes optimum floor coverage and steers the bot around obstacles. An included battery-powered accessory, called Virtual Wall, shoots an invisible beam across doorways that confines the robot to the room to be cleaned.

The device cleans using plain water, or you can add a special enzyme cleaning agent ($13 for 64 cleanings). The unit did an acceptable job in my friend's kitchen, leaving only one or two stubborn stains. Tight corners were missed, due to the shape of the device, but otherwise, every square inch of the floor was cleaned.

has been around more than two decades and has sold more than 7.5 million home robots worldwide. The company has also provided more than 4,500 combat-proven robots for search, reconnaissance and bomb-disposal missions for the military and law enforcement agencies.

The iRobot Scooba 390 sells for $499.99. For more information, visit
Data Sharing Plans: Good Deal or Rip-Off?
On June 28th, Verizon Wireless unveiled Share Everything, a new plan reportedly designed to simplify phone bills. Unfortunately, the plan is anything but simple -- for me, anyway -- and things get worse if you're comparing Verizon's deal against AT&T's recently-announced Mobile Share Plan (available in August), which is similar but different.

The focus of both plans nevertheless is data. Basically, you pay a fee for each smart phone, basic phone, cellular hotspot, or tablet you enroll in the plan (up to 10 per contract) and then purchase the total amount of data these devices will share. You have to be careful about how many GBs you choose, because overage charges can run $15-per-gigabyte under both plans.

Both include unlimited voice calling and text. Other benefits include tethering for smart phones, but where things get complicated is with devices that don't need voice, such as tablets or netbooks. Verizon has a separate plan for these, but AT&T lumps them in with phones.

Verizon's plan is mandatory. If you upgrade your existing Verizon smart phone, you will have to choose a Share Everything plan. Reports, however, say that AT&T will let customers stay with their existing plans or opt for Mobile Share.

If you have multiple broadband devices covered by contracts with Verizon Wireless or AT&T, the best consumer tip is to start keeping track of monthly per device data usage. Become aware which of your plans is overkill, so you can choose a data sharing plan that will save your family or business money.

Furthermore, a handy tool to evaluate data sharing plans can be found on a Wall St. Journal blog. The embedded spreadsheet lets you juggle options, so you can see the resulting final monthly cost. Verizon also provides a Share Everything Calculator to aid with plan selection.

Some experts say these data sharing plans have come into existence because cellular customers are using fewer and fewer voice minutes. The major carriers would thus like to migrate customers to data-only networks, where voice would be provided by Voice over LTE (VoLTE), rather than legacy 3G technologies like CDMA and GSM/EDGE. This would allow them to re-farm the spectrum to 4G LTE.

Another factor is the changing landscape of cellular data. Plans are currently purchased for smart phones, tablets, and other mobile computing devices, but in the not so distant future, you will likely want to add your vehicles, thermostat, and refrigerator to the mix.

It will be far easier to facilitate this with data sharing plans than previous or current cellular business models, so the major carriers are simply paving the way for the future.