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ISSUE 500: The high-tech office- May 25 1999


Hands-free phone earset
can be a true life-saver

Here are a few gizmos and gadgets that some of you may find useful....

* Omega Electronics (270-6212) is offering the Jabra Earset in a range of models for computers and cell phones.

Unlike more traditional headsets, it's able to do away with a separate microphone. Both the speaker and mike are built into a single tiny unit that fits in your ear. The result is a unit that's lighter in weight and more comfortable, while offering surprising good sound quality.

Computer users with speech recognition software will find that voice recognition is improved both because it reduces background noise and because the sound is more consistent . No more problems of always staying the same distance away from the microphone.

Cell phone users in the habit of talking while driving will appreciate how it allows hands-free operation of their phone, leaving one able to still hear traffic sounds.

There are separate models for computers and for various cell phone models. The unit costs around $60.

* Despite their proverbial ease of use, Apple Macintosh computers sometimes crash.

I won't even touch the loaded question of whether they crash more or less frequently than their Windows competition, but they do crash.

Most PCs acknowledge the reality of computer crashes with a prominent "reset" button on the front
panel. Apple's popular iMac
model has a reset feature, but it's incredibly hard to use.

It is a tiny hole hidden in between the Ethernet port and the modem port on the side. When the computer crashes and the power switches don't work, don't pull the plug. You can reset it by pushing into the hole with the end of a paper clip. (In fact, there are two holes. Use the top one. Can any reader tell me what the lower one is for?)

Such awkwardness spells market opportunity.

The Fresno, California-based Joseph C. Lee Company (www.
) promises to allow iMac owners to "reset differently." Their gadget is a 1-cm plastic cylinder with a push pin that glues onto the little reset hole, giving you a much more convenient reset button.

It costs US$10 and you can order it online. If you own an iMac, you need this.

And if, like me, you can't stand the new-style iMac (and G3 tower) keyboard, replacements are at hand from MacAlly (

The company makes full-sized keyboards (cost about $80) with the USB connectors needed for this generation's Macintosh models. It is available in trendy translucent plastic. But while the newest iMacs come in five designers colours, the keyboard only comes in blue.

MacAlly also makes oval replacement mice, for nouveau-Mac owners who don't like their model's hockey puck-styled mouse.

* Burnaby-based Infowave (www. has long been producing the well-received PowerPrint series of products to allow Mac users to print to common PC printers. Up until now, these have consisted of a hardware adapter cable and drivers for more than 1,600 PC printer models.

Infowave has expanded the lineup with PowerPrint Networks (cost about $300). Instead of an adapter cable, this includes a little iMac-blue translucent box with a PC parallel printer port on one side and a standard Ethernet network port on the other.

It allows users to connect that PC printer to the network and print from their networked Macs. Again, drivers for that huge number of PC printer models are included.

While the company is aiming at its traditional strengths in the Mac market, the product works well with PCs, too. Most PC printer owners still want to be able to print to them from their PCs. And that makes it a nice gadget for businesses with a small network, even if no Macs are involved. It frees up having to use a PC as the print server and sometimes bogging it down when there's a lot of printing going on. *

Not a gadget, but an event.

The Canadian Information Processing Society (www.vancouver. counting down to Y2K. On September 9, or 113 days until the new millennium, CIPS is scheduled to host a dinner they are advertising as "The Event of the Century." The featured speaker is Canadian Y2K expert Peter de Jager who, perhaps more than anyone, persisted in bringing the Y2K issue to public attention. There will also be a variety of other speakers from government and industry.

The Event of the Century will be held at the Robson Square Conference Centre and includes dinner. The cost is $70 for CIPS members and $85 for the general public. There is a $10 discount for those who register before the end of June. Contact Charles Wordsworth at 454-6455. *

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