Computer Gadgets & Problem Solvers
The first Eye-Fi memory card did something no other card did – it wirelessly connected to your Wi-Fi network so you could upload photos to your computer and to a popular Internet photo-sharing site of your choice. The just-released Eye-Fi Explorer, which is also a 2 Gigabyte SD card, goes further by putting location information into every photo you capture. Rather than working through a satellite-based GPS system, the Eye-Fi Explorer triangulates location using the IP addresses of Wi-Fi signals pervasive in populated areas. Then, when you wirelessly transfer the images to your computer (JPEG only), each will be tagged with the latitude and longitude. Pictures can be tacked to a street- or aerial-map. Knowing where a picture was taken, especially years later, is a pretty cool mind enhancement. Just don't try this with a film-based camera.
You hook up a Windows notebook or desktop to your big-screen TV ready to present a slide show, maybe surf the Web, and do a little typing, too, only to realize the computer is on a short leash and you're forced to hunch over it while everyone else is comfortably seated across the room. What to do? Maybe it's time to upgrade that PC for 30-foot use by adding the Logitech DiNovo Mini Wireless Keyboard. No larger than an outstretched hand, the DiNovo Mini contains 63 keys including a Windows Media Center button, touchpad, and two modes of backlighting. In case your computer isn't equipped with Bluetooth, you plug in the supplied adapter, which nests in the belly of the Mini when idle. The unobtrusive keyboard contains a rechargeable Li-ion battery. You can close the clamshell cover if the Mini rests on a coffee table and requires shielding from cake crumbs or a tasty beverage.
Does your notebook's internal sound system come up short, but jamming boxy speakers along with the computer into its carrying case is impractical? You need the Sony Vaio Portable Speaker, a flat panel speaker the size of a box of chocolates that slides into your laptop bag with ease. The all-in-one unit comes with a stand and connects to your computer via a USB cable stowed on the back. That way it operates independently of a sound card, and power is supplied through the USB port. Weighing just over a pound, the Vaio Portable Speaker is an affable companion for the traveler who demands high-quality sound in a thin stereo speaker. It's plug-and-play for Windows Vista and XP users.
Digitally-assisted living isn't just about turning on the captions and turning up the sound. If you have a parent with impaired vision who relishes the activity of reading books, magazines, and newspapers, check out the BookReader V100 from Plustek Technology. This specialized flatbed scanner works with included Windows XP or Vista software to magnify text on the computer screen so it can easily be read. It does optical character recognition AND generates text-to-speech in English or Spanish. The voice sounds natural, not robotic-like. The audio can be saved as an MP3 or WAV file, played back on the computer, transferred to an iPod, or copied to a CD. Besides home use, the BookReader is an ideal addition to an assisted living facility.
A real mouse knows how to lick itself clean. Computer mice aren't so smart. They just get dirtier and grimier, especially if its handler has just eaten something greasy, sticky, or just plain messy. Belkin solves the mouse-you-don't-want-to-touch-with-a-10-foot pole problem by making it immersible. Alas, you can't detach the Washable Mouse from its USB tail, so forget about putting it in the dishwasher. Still, you can provide a little sponge bath around the contours, and you'll have one happy mouse. While you're at, you may as well wash your hands, too.
Most MP3 files are overly compressed, which is fine if you have a tin ear, not so good if you appreciate music. That's why Creative Technology, known for its Sound Blaster cards and Zen players, has come up with the Xmod Sound Module, a USB-connected device that bypasses the audio chip in your PC or Mac in order to restore the schmaltz to stereo and virtual surround to movies. The Xmod is plug and play – there's no software to install. You get a line out stereo jack, a headphone out for included earphones, and a line in. Twirl the brushed aluminum knob to adjust the volume, push it down to mute the sound. The Xmod is a great way to bring the vibrancy back to music playback.
Wouldn't you love to be able to share your favorite Internet sites, or put on your big-screen TV whatever you see on your computer? Sometimes, though, attaching a computer directly to the TV isn't so easy because the two pieces of equipment aren't in close proximity. Alternatively, the TV lacks a VGA input or the notebook lacks a TV-compatible output. Addlogix's InternetVue 2020 Wireless PC2TV Receiver, TV Edition, breaks down these barriers by streaming video wirelessly from a Windows XP or 2000 computer to any display that has a component or composite video input. Use it to display Internet-based video or slide shows from photos stored on your computer.
If the thought of leaving your laptop unattended in a non-secure area gives you a case of the willies, you might want to invest in a Targus DEFCON KL Laptop Computer Key Lock. Consisting of a six-foot length of 0.84" thick steel-alloy, the Targus DEFCON KL Laptop Computer Key Lock features a pass-through loop on one end, and a lock on the other end that fits into the security slots found on most all laptops. Included with each unit is a one-year warranty, 2 keys, and some peace of mind.
So many peripherals… so few ports. If this little ditty runs through your mind every time you power up your computer have a look-see at the Kensington PocketHub 7-Port USB 2.0 Hub. Aside from turning a single hot-swappable USB 2.0 port into 7 hot-swappable ports, the Kensington PocketHub comes with an AC adapter for use with devices that normally pull power from your computer. Measuring a mere 4 x 0.75 x 2.5", the Kensington PocketHub 7-Port also makes for an easy-to-stow travel companion.
World travelers rejoice! Belkin is going to help lighten your load, with their Travel Power Adapter. Compatible with worldwide voltage ranges, the tiny adapter can supply 69W of juice to notebook PCs. It also features two USB charging ports, which can recharge your iPod or cell phone.
Is your notebook webcamless? Feel left out of the videoconferencing revolution? Have no fear, Logitech is here. Their QuickCam Deluxe for notebooks is a compact 1.3MP camera, complete with integrated microphone. The RightLight, RightSound, and Fun Filters will help you keep in video touch with friends and family – from anywhere in the world.
Ever wonder what that little flat hole on the side of your laptop is? It's probably an ExpressCard/54 slot, sitting idle and waiting for some sort of expansion card. The MoGo Mouse X54 Pro is the perfect peripheral to stow there. Featuring Bluetooth wireless technology, the mouse stows and charges in the EC/54 slot when not in use. It even features a laser pointer and presentation mode, perfect for PowerPoint presentations.
Often find yourself struggling to take notes in galleries or while reading great, but often wordy, literature? Consider the Planon DocuPen RC800. The compact "pen scanner" allows you to scan text and graphics, without the connecting to a computer. It runs on battery power, and features 8MB of internal memory – enough to store 100 pages of text. Download your scans to a PC via USB, and convert the graphics to editable text using the included OCR software!
To shoulder the responsibility of caring for a notebook computer you need a resilient carrying case. The Targus Traditional Notebook Case accommodates computers with screens up to 15.4-inches. With the computer nestled in the padded compartment, there's room on the same side for a power adapter. On the opposite flap are organized sections for folders and documents. Here you'll also find pockets for pens, business cards, and mobile devices as well as scratch-resistant sleeves for CD's or DVD's. The adjustable shoulder strap is padded, and the two-tone black nylon case weighs only 2 ¾ lbs. Get ready to grab and carry.
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