Technology

Employ Your Own Virtual Butler

Buy an assistant's help for two or three months to help you tackle your tasks. Plus, save time by avoiding traffic backups with GPS navigators.

Swamped by errands? Consider foisting your chores onto a valet in India or Ireland. Concierge services based overseas do nearly all the tasks that can be done online or by phone, and it takes only a grand to buy an assistant's help for two or three months.

David Sowsy of Dracut, Mass., hired GetFriday, in Bangalore, India, to help him catch up on his to-do list last fall. GetFriday assigned Sowsy an assistant, who revised his reacute;sumeacute;, researched stock investments and comparison-shopped for wireless routers at online stores. Had Sowsy asked, the assistant would have bought the router using Sowsy's credit-card number. Overall, the cost for a month of requests was about $300.

Concierge firms charge from $560 to $1,000 for 80 hours of work, depending on the firm and the complexity of your tasks. GetFriday charges $15 an hour, plus $10 a month. Irish outfit Corporate Services Group provides similar services at $12 an hour, using Irish and Indian workers to handle requests.

Both firms offer volume discounts. If you subscribe to OnStar service for your car (www.onstar.com; $200 per year), an extra $600 a year can get you valet service to handle travel arrangements and doctor appointments.

-- Sean O'Neill

Beat the backup

GPS navigation systems are invaluable to male and map-phobic drivers, both of whom tend to wander off the beaten path. But how about a little help for the harried commuter caught in the daily Cone Zone? Enter the Garmin Nuuml;vi 350 ($857) and the Magellan RoadMate 3000T ($600). These GPS navigators can receive real-time traffic reports via FM radio.

By retrieving frequent traffic updates from subscription services, such as Clear Channel TMC and Navteq Traffic RDS (which cost $60 to $80 per year after a 15-month free trial), you'll be alerted to upcoming road snarls. And if you enter your destination, they'll check traffic reports and suggest alternate routes.

Each GPS device has a color touch screen that's easy to read in sunlight, comes preloaded with maps and includes a so-so MP3 player. The Nuuml;vi even announces street names.

-- Jeff Bertolucci

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