Stories by Michael S. Lasky

Seiko's SmartPad a Bit Short on Smarts

The Seiko Instruments U.S.A. Inc. SmartPad sounds great: a device that enables Palm users to write notes with pen and paper, and then relay these--via an infrared connection--to the Palm for viewing, organizing, and storing.

007-Style Cameras Not Quite a Ten

"Bond. James Bond." That's what I wanted to announce every time I attached one of two new snap-on digital cameras for handheld PDAs. Block Products' gadgety US$149 Eyemodule is designed for use with the Handspring Inc. Visor. Kodak Co.'s $179 PalmPix Camera is intended for various Palm PDAs. Both are slightly larger than a matchbox and about as light. The Eyemodule takes either black-and-white or color photographs, while the PalmPix snaps only color pictures. Both cameras let you use the PDA screen to preview the picture before capturing it.

Lightweight and Loaded Subnotes

Toshiba Corp.'s 3.4-pound Portégé 3440CT notebook and Fujitsu Ltd.'s even lighter-weight LifeBook B-2131 deliver a hardware punch that belies their subnotebook size. Both are ideal for travelers who need to access e-mail and use Windows apps but who don't want to lug around a heavy notebook.

Make Digital Phones Analog-Friendly

Digital phone lines offer convenient features, but
they can be lethal to a modem without an analog converter. Konexx Corp.'s $129
Mobile-USB offers a small (4 inches), lightweight (3 ounces), but somewhat
convoluted fix. For power, the Mobile-USB uses your laptop's USB port, instead
of an AC adapter or batteries (as the previous version did). But the bundled
USB cable is short, at just 3 inches. You also have to remove the telephone's
handset from its cable, place the cable in the Mobile-USB, and then connect the
PC modem to the other end of the device. Confused? I was, even though I had an
illustrated map. But once everything was set up, my analog modem worked on a
previously verboten digital phone. Konexx; 800/275-6354; www.konexx.com.

A Keyboard That Pushes the Right Buttons

Microsoft Corp.'s $55 Internet Keyboard Pro adds
19 hot keys and two USB ports to a traditional flat 104-key keyboard. Some
extra keys control Web browser navigation buttons; others work with your CD
player; and two are programmable to open a specified app or document. The Mail
key works with almost all POP3 and corporate e-mail programs (including Lotus
Notes). Touch-typing was effortless, and the USB ports reduce cable tangling by
letting you relocate some hookups away from the PC. I had to look down from the
screen to find the right browser navigation buttons, though I liked the CD
player controls. The IntelliType software takes up 35MB, but in the age of
massive hard drives, that's tolerable. Microsoft; 800/426-9400;
www.microsoft.com.

New IntelliMouse: Mousing Without Grousing

When Microsoft Corp.'s IntelliMouse Explorer appeared last fall (see November 1999 New Products, www.pcworld.com/nov99/intellimouse), I praised its groundbreaking optical tracking technology--which replaced the traditional rolling mouse ball--but criticized its righties-only design. Microsoft has fixed that problem and improved overall functionality. The $55 IntelliMouse Optical costs $20 less than the Explorer, seems sturdier, and is ambidextrous.

OmniSky's the Limit: Palm V Wireless Service

Okay, I admit it: I love my sleek, chic Palm V organizer, but I covet the wireless communication capabilities of the Palm VII. So I was excited to learn that OmniSky, a nationwide wireless network, is bundling a Novatel Minstrel V wireless modem with software and network access that will allow the Palm V to use the same wireless Web applets as the Palm VII.

Slight of Hand: Folding Keyboard for Palms

Palm Computing Inc. devices are popular because they're easy to use and they fit in a shirt or jacket pocket. Not coincidentally, they also lack a keyboard. So it's surprising that one of the most useful products for Palms I've tried is a keyboard.

Light and Thin Notebooks that Act Big

Sharp's 4.7-pound Actius PC-A800 and Panasonic's 4.4-pound Toughbook 37 offer Solomon-like compromises, combining the convenience of 1-inch-thick subnotebooks with the integrated functionality of larger, heavier notebooks. By adding about 1.5 pounds to the weight of a typical subnote, both vendors were able to pack in 64MB of RAM, swappable drive bays, ports for printers and monitors, full-size keyboards, and larger screens. Both models also have certain limitations that you should consider before purchasing one, however.

Bring On the Ports

Hello, my name is Michael, and I am a USB junkie. I admit it: I think the Universal Serial Port -- designed to let you add as many as 127 external devices to a PC without incurring conflicts -- is the best technological advance in years. But the true convenience of USB struck me only after I installed Xircom's PortStation Port Expansion System.

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