Mobile Computing News, Reviews, & Tips
Hotel News: IPods at the Algonquin
New York's Algonquin is seeking to put a new-millennium spin on its long-held literary reputation (the hotel claims to be the birthplace of The New Yorker magazine). In May, the hotel began offering guests the use of Apple IPods preloaded with audio versions of current and classic books. The portable music players are free for guests to use. The hotel also offers in-room plasma TVs and Wi-Fi in the lobby.
Gadget News: Archos's Big-Screen PVP
"When someone comes out with a PVP [portable video player] that has a 6-inch screen or larger, records directly from TV, and costs less than $450, I'll be all over it," I wrote last fall.
Recently, Archos came extremely close to meeting my requirements. The company's new AV 700 handheld PVP features a 7-inch display, while most PVP screens are about 3.5 inches. And unlike Microsoft Portable Media Center devices, Archos PVPs can record shows from a TV, DVD player, or cable or satellite box. The only thing still holding me back is the price, and my spouse's potential ire: A 40GB AV 700 is $600, while a 100GB version is $800. But did I mention the 7-inch screen?
Notebook Accessory Review: Apricorn's Tiny, Portable Drive
Apricorn claims its EZ Bus Mini is the smallest external hard drive/disaster recovery system around. The 1.8-inch drive, about the size of a card deck (why is everything the size of a deck of cards?), is completely powered by your notebook's USB port; there's no need to fool with an AC adapter.
Based on my informal tests, the delightfully compact EZ Bus Mini is a convenient device for backup or extra storage on the road--though its 4200 rpm speed can feel slow. The hard drive comes with software that lets you create an exact, bootable clone of your notebook's internal hard drive, though I haven't tested this feature yet. It's available in 20GB ($179), 40GB ($249) and 60GB ($349) capacities. Our Product Finder has the latest pricing.
Reader Tip: Put a Lid on It
In response to my recent articles about computing while flying, Tom Brady of Medford, Massachusetts, wrote to share this tip: When you're on a plane, always close your notebook's screen when you or your neighbors are being served food or drink. "I had a flight attendant spill coffee on my laptop," Tom writes. Fortunately, his notebook was off and closed, so disaster was averted. The danger is that liquid can seep into your notebook and damage internal circuitry.
Tom's point may seem obvious, but I don't see many in-flight notebook users doing this. So remember this simple rule, fellow passengers: mouth open, notebook closed.
Reader Response: Winning the Reclining Seat-Back War
Here's another response to the computing-in-coach articles. C.C. of Jacksonville, Florida (he requested anonymity) suggests using Knee Defenders ($15) to prevent the person in front of you from reclining into your workspace. Plastic wedges that you snap onto the arms of your tray table, Knee Defenders act like door stoppers. When they're in place, the person in front of you is blocked from fully reclining.
C.C. says that only once in his many Knee Defender adventures has someone complained. The flight attendant told the complainer "there was nothing she could do about it."
Have any other notebook-toting travelers used Knee Defenders--or been prevented from reclining because of them? Tell me about it.
Wireless News: The Battle for Your Bluetooth Phone
Can someone else make calls on your Bluetooth phone--without physically touching it? Yes, according to researchers, pointing to security holes that enable hackers to take control of Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones, even when the handsets have security features enabled. For a wake-up call, read "Who Is Controlling Your Bluetooth Phone?"
Is there a particularly cool mobile computing product or service I've missed? Got a spare story idea in your back pocket? Tell me about it. However, I regret that I'm unable to respond to tech-support questions, due to the volume of e-mail I receive.