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Business in Vancouver: News that works for you

    Accessories boost real-life computer applications
    External battery, mouseless wrist pad increase ease

    by Alan Zisman (c) 2003 First published in Business in Vancouver ,  Issue #692  January 28- February 3, 2002 GearGuide  column

    A couple of items for people on the go, and a couple for those of us who have to stay at home (or the office).

    Travelling Light

    Battery life for your notebook not what you really need? Most notebooks won't keep you working (or watching movies) all the way from here to Toronto, to say nothing of letting you work without charging up for a couple of days on the road.

    Ontario-basedElectrovaya comes to your rescue with a series of PowerPads, the size and shape of a legal pad. Plug your laptop into one of these external batteries, and keep going and going, with power for more than a day's use. Models feature different connectors for different popular notebook models. The PowerPad 160 costs about $750; PowerPad 120 costs about $600, and PowerPad 80 goes for about $400. They include quick-rechargeable SuperPolymer Lithium Ion batteries providing roughly 12 to 16, 9 to 12, and 6 to 8 hours of battery life, respectively.

    Like Kleenex, Palm's original PalmPilot has taken on a life of its own as the name for a whole category of products, in this case, personal digital assistants, or PDAs. But for a while, it's seemed like Palm was spinning its wheels, while other companies' products showed what PDAs could do.

    Recently, Palm released two new product lines: the $169 Zire, aiming to be the low-cost model for home users, and the Tungsten line providing power, speed, and connection options for business users. The new Tungsten T (about $700) offers the best performance of any Palm, based on a new version of the Palm operating system to support a new, faster processor. The 320x320 pixel full-colour screen has four times the resolution of any Palm to-date, for much smoother photo display.

    The Tungsten T's buttons slide down to reveal the Graffiti writing pad, making the whole unit easily pocket-sized. Other features include Bluetooth wireless connectivity, enabling it to use Bluetooth-enabled cell phones for Internet access or to print to Bluetooth printers. And voice recording can be used to store memos, which can be downloaded to your main computer.

    This high-end model may prove too much too soon for some though, at least until Bluetooth phones, printers and other devices become more common.

    Staying at Home

    Chained to your desk and your desktop? Contour Design's RollerMouse Station($270 www.contourdesign.com) may make your typing quicker, easier, and healthier. It does this because mouse-replacement RollerMouse isn't a mouse. Instead, it controls the computer cursor with a rolling bar and a set of clickable buttons built into an ergonomic wrist-rest that fits below most standard computer keyboards.

    It's easily used with either hand, and doesn't require moving the wrist away from the keyboard. Studies suggest it improves productivity while reducing wrist-pain for many users.

    And while you're staying in, you may want to print out the photos from your last trip out of the office. Digital cameras produce photos that are easy to view and manipulate on computer screens. But it can be frustrating to get them onto paper. Enter a new generation of dedicated photo printers.

    HP'sPhotosmart 230 ($299) is a miniature inkjet that prints snapshots on four-by-six-inch photo paper. Its nicest feature is a small LCD screen, just like on most digital cameras. Plug your camera's memory card into one of its four slots, view your photos on the Photosmart 230's screen, and print your selections -- no computer needed. (If you prefer, you can connect it to a computer to fiddle with your photos prior to printing.) HP claims that prints made with the Photosmart 230 will last for up to 70 years.



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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan