Gadget-makers continue to add usefulness
Business in Vancouver--
June 26, 2001
Issue 609 Currentz Section
by Alan Zisman (c) 2001: Gear Guide column
From cordless mice to home broadcast systems, gurus
Gadget gurus continue to look at electronic devices that we use
for ways to improve productivity, expand usefulness and spur revenues,
drumming up a series of new toys for computers and PDAs.
Some make music, some don't
Digital music keeps coming on strong on the gadget
front, as the marriage
between computers and home audio continues.
But for too many of us the computer is in your home
office and the stereo
is in the den or living room. US Robotics bridges the gap. The
Soundlink plugs into a computer's audio-out jack and transmits (via its
matching receiver unit) to any FM radio in the house on 88.1 or 88.3
Range is about 300 metres, so not only should it reach
any room in the
house, but you can also use it in the backyard to play your favourite
music during a backyard barbecue.
Sometimes the good ones get away, however. Witness the
Radio. The idea was a radio with an Ethernet networking port that could
plug into a network or broadband Internet connection and pick up
radio broadcasts from the Kerbango Tuning Service, offering 4,000 audio
The company was bought by 3Com, which
proceeded to shut it down
along with the rest of the company's Internet Appliance Division.
Mouse with the most
I like optical mice. Sensing hand movements with a
glowing light instead
of a ball and rollers, there are no moving parts to crud up. They work
on almost any surface, spelling an end to mouse pads, creative or
while offering better accuracy than their mechanical forebears.
I also like cordless mice, meaning one less wire
tangled on my too,
too messy desktop.
Until now though, you had to pick one or the other.
Cordless Mouseman Optical ($99), the mouse with everything, even a
wheel. Like other cordless mice, it requires batteries. But Logitech
its built-in power management makes it less likely that your mouse's
will die out just as you're working on that career-building report.
claim about two to three months of battery life with average
There's keyboard action, too
The Alphasmart 3000 IR (about $350) keyboard
leads a dual life.
Plugged into a computer, it's a PC or Mac keyboard. But unplug it and
a stand-alone word processor. Weighing in at less than a kilogram, it's
a lot less to tote around than a notebook, but it's much easier to
information than a PDA. A four-line, 40-character LCD panel lets you
what you're typing.
Different models come with USB or infrared wireless
way, you can download word processing documents (plain text only,
into the keyboard or shoot your typing back into your word processor. A
set of three AA batteries lasts anywhere from 200 to 500 hours. You can
even connect the keyboard directly to many printers.
The sound of one hand typing
While a keyboard is a handy add-on for Palm or
when they have to enter a lot of text, it's awkward switching back and
forth from the keyboard to the PDA's stylus. Check out Matias Corp.'s
Half Keyboard (about $150; www.halfkeyboard.com). As the name
it looks like half a standard keyboard and it's meant for one-handed
leaving the other hand free for the stylus, munching chips or what have
"What about the other letters?" you wonder. Holding
the spacebar down
while you type gets you the letters that normally appear on the missing
half. Matias claims that most touch typists get the hang of it in only
a few minutes and can quickly be typing at their normal speeds.