Business-like, isn't he?



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    Road warriors find convergence

    Games, music and wireless routers go portable

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2004 First published in Business in Vancouver October 26 -November 1, 2004; issue 783, Gear guide column

    Clearing my way through the backlog of gadgets on my desk, I've got a varied selection of neat devices for this edition of Gear guide, ranging from portable wireless network router, to a DVD burner that plugs into your VCR, to a game system that's also a cell phone.

    dLink DWL-G730APImagine a black credit card, fattened at one end to make room for a network cable. That's D-Link's DWL-G730AP wireless access point. Even its power adapter is nicely slimmed down. Plug this pocket-sized WiFi router into a hotel's Ethernet port and you can work anywhere in the room. And if several of you are sharing a suite, you all can access the Internet from that single connection (and pay for connecting only one system).

    When it's not on the road, it can be used to extend the range of another WiFi router, bringing wireless coverage to those hard-to-reach spots in your home or office. The device is reasonably priced at US$99, but somehow D-Link translates that to a suggested retail price of $179 in Canada. You should be able to find it for less.

    Apple's Airport ExpressApple's Airport Express is larger than D-Link's mini-router, but there's no external power brick. The Express, looking like the power adapters from Apple's notebooks, can plug right into a power outlet. Like D-Link's, you can use it for WiFi on the road or to extend an existing wireless network. But it has a couple of other handy features. You can use it to wirelessly share a USB printer (to your choice of Mac and Windows PCs). And you can connect it to a stereo or pair of powered speakers, and shoot music at it from a Mac or Windows PC running Apple's iTunes software. It has no remote control, though; you need to be at your computer to control the music. It retails for US$129, which equals $179 by Apple's calculations.

    HP DVD Movie Maker DC4000Videotapes are so 1990s. But many home users and businesses have accumulated a lot of them over the years. HP's DVD Movie Maker DC4000 ($299) is an external DVD drive that can help you convert those hours of videotape onto shiny plastic discs. Plugged into your PC's USB 2.0 port (no Macs need apply), it's a competent, fast 8x DVD and CD burner. HP's software bundle lets you use it for backup and for creating a range of media projects. Unlike other computer DVD burners, it also sports S-Video and composite video inputs, for connection to your VCR or camcorder. No, you can't bring the drive over to your TV; you'll have to bring the VCR or camcorder over to the computer to digitize those tapes onto your hard drive, edit the captured footage, and burn the results onto CD or DVD.

    Nokia N-Gage QDVirtually every cell phone includes a couple of games. But Nokia's N-Gage QD is a handheld game player that's also a capable cell phone. Marketed locally by Fido, it sells for $250 on its own or $150 as part of a plan. Like other popular handheld players, it uses a variety of game cartridges. (Fido is bundling it with the popular Tony Hawks Pro Skater game; other games are about $50 each.)

    Despite its unusual size and shape, it works fine as a phone, both for individual use and as a speaker phone. And the large colour display is clearly a couple of steps up from playing games on a more conventional phone. With Bluetooth built in, it lets you play against other players within a 10-metre range, or rack up minutes competing against players online.

    But of course, you're not getting it to play games; built-in Bluetooth lets you use it as a modem when you're on the road and you can synch it with your PC's contact information. At least when you can pry it away from your kids.

    A cell phone that's also a game system. A DVD burner that plugs into your VCR. And a WiFi router that streams music to your home stereo. Business tool or home entertainment add-on? Only your accountant will know for sure.

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