High or Low Tech, Gadgets Try to Make Life Easier
By Jim Bray
One of the nice things about the free market is that there's always someone with a good idea for making our lives easier. Or just more pleasant.
Take the decidedly low tech (or non-tech) Laptop Desk, for instance. I've grown to love this little folding portable desk (from Lapworks.net). It's made out of lightweight plastic and is small enough that you can take it on the road with you; you can also use it at home, of course.
It's a wonderful little tool that folds small enough for your computer bag and can be used to keep your nether areas and the notebook cool as well as giving a steadier surface to work on than your knees. You can also set it up to create a wedge-shaped stand that raises the keyboard and monitor into a nice, ergonomic position that I find really comfortable. In fact, this is how I use it the most when I’m working with my notebook PC, whether at home or away.
The lightweight plastic is a tad flimsy. I broke my Laptop desk getting it out of the box, though a quick dab of Krazy Glue would take care of it if the broken piece were enough of a problem to bother me. The manufacturer says there's a lifetime warranty, too.
The Laptop desk sells for thirty American greenbacks, and there's also a model available for ultra light notebooks.
A higher tech gizmo that can help you keep in touch is ARC Wireless Solutions' Freedom Antenna. It's a nifty way to boost your cell phone's performance whether you're in fringe areas on the road or your home office is in a concrete dungeon. The $50 U.S. antenna looks like a beaver tail, and can be adapted to most cell phones.
The Freedom Antenna comes with a pedestal you can use if you're mounting it on your desk or other flat surface and there are suction cups that let you attach it securely to other surfaces for applications in which it might get knocked around – such as in your moving vehicle the first time you hit some twisty bits on the road of life.
I took the Freedom Antenna through some fringe rural areas in my part of the world and it did help me stay in touch at times when my non-Freedom Antenna-shod phone would have dumped out, though even the antenna wasn't enough to exhume the cell service in really dead spots. And it does seem to do the job in the basement bunker that serves as my home office.
Then there's Kensington's portable AC/DC power adapter, which if the world were a perfect place should be a good way to gather all your portable power needs together into one package. This little critter's about half the size and weight of the power supply that came with my notebook PC, which makes it a great addition to my computer bag. It also comes with just about every type of connector available for a notebook (to ensure it works with most models and brands), a DC adapter for your vehicle and another one that's supposed to work in planes.
The Kensington will also power your iPod, PDA, portable DVD player, and just about anything else that soaks up electrons, and it comes with its own little carrying case.
It works well for the most part, though my sample has failed enough over the past few months that I'm reluctant to take it on the road with me and have to depend on it. It seems to just stop working periodically, throwing my notebook onto its battery, and the only way to get the PC on AC again is to plug the PC back into its original power supply.
Later, when the Kensington has finished its tantrum, it works fine again for weeks on end. It's pretty frustrating, to say the least, so now I only use it at home and keep my original AC supply on hand for emergencies.
Which kind of defeats the purpose….
Okay, none of these products are likely to be the better mousetrap that changes the world but, at least in the case of the Freedom Antenna and the Laptop Desk, they can make your life a little more efficient and/or pleasant. And that's okay.
Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
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