Accessorise your notebook

Buying a new notebook to keep pace with the changing demands of your work environment is neither feasible nor necessary. Keeping the right accessories by your side is the key to smart mobile computing.

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By  Vijaya Cherian Published  March 9, 2003

I|~||~||~|A notebook has always been heralded as a fantastic invention and many people are still in awe of it. However, the work environment has become so demanding in the last couple of years that older notebooks by themselves may not always be in a position to keep the mobile executive connected anytime, anywhere, anyhow. But purchasing a new notebook to suit the constantly changing face of the business environment is not always a viable solution. However, adding accessories to empower your notebook is.

Windows Middle East teamed up with mobile accessories manufacturer Targus to introduce you to a wide range of essential accessories that are available in the market for your notebook. This won’t just help mobile executives but also the space crunchers, who use the notebook as a desktop replacement in their homes.

USB hub
Budget: Around $55.
One important requirement which will enable you to attach most accessories to your notebook is a USB port. Assume for instance, that you have only one USB port on your notebook, but ideally would like to plug in three or four peripheral devices — like an optical mouse, a web cam and a card reader or writer. A mini port USB hub then comes in handy. If you have an older notebook, ensure that it works to USB 1.1. specifications also. For $55, you could get around four ports. The hub operates on the same principle as the average extension cord we use in our homes, where you plug the hub into your laptop’s USB port and get additional ports for your peripheral devices.

||**||II|~||~||~|USB mobile port replicator
Budget: $115.
Another important device that could be useful to people is a USB mobile port replicator. Essentially, what this device does is to enable you to have another set of ports just like the ones you get behind any laptop. This connects to virtually any PS/2 mouse or keyboard, parallel printer, serial I/O, Ethernet network or USB device. Moreover, you can keep adding or removing devices without reconfiguring or rebooting your computer.

Usually on the replicator, you get 2 USB ports, a parallel printer port, a serial port, a mouse (PS/2), keyboard (PS/2) and Ethernet. A Targus USB mobile port replicator includes an internally house 30.5 cm USB cable. Having a cable like this will enable you to use the ports on your notebook as well as the ones on the replicator. An even smaller port replicator is the USB mobile mini port replicator which supports connection for parallel printers and serial devices such as mice, modems and keyboards. This one also comes with an internally cased USB cable and connector to connect to your computer’s USB port. Most of these devices have been designed for Windows 98 and above. However, some of these products like the USB hub can also be used on Macintosh. These products are in the range of $115

Cables
Budget : $32 +
Everybody hates cables. Not only do they look ugly, but they are also a big pain to wind up each time. However, people who are constantly on the go often have to unwind and wind their cables every now and then as they move from the hotel room to the office to a press conference and so forth. A tidy and user-friendly alternative to this is the rectractable cord. Automatic spring retractable cords are available in the market, they reel up in seconds and they come with different couplers to fit different international telephone jacks. There are different types of retractable cords: some to connect the modem on your laptop to a telephone jack, some for firewire connection etc.

||**||III|~||~||~|Card reader
Budget : $50+
If you plan to purchase a card reader, look out for an all-in-one Flash memory reader and writer. Different gadgets and manufacturers use different storage devices— some, the smart card, some, the compact flash card, some others, the memory stick etc. Having an all-in-one reader will enable you to use any digital camera and borrow one if yours doesn’t work. Suddenly, transferring an image won’t be a problem anymore.

Thumb drives
Budget: $30+
The thumb drive, another popular USB device, is a handy thing to carry around these days. No more worries about splitting huge files into different segments and carrying them in a dozen floppies. Thumb drives can carry storage of up to 1GHz, can be easily tucked into your pocket and is as simple to use as plugging it into your USB port. For those using Windows operating systems higher than 98, you don’t even need to load software. Thumb drives are available for $30 and upwards depending on storage capacity. For thumb drives, check brands such as TwinMos, the IBM Diskonkey, Genx and Sony.

External drives
Budget: $50+
Most old laptops include a floppy drive and a CD ROM drive. However, many of the newer laptops have eliminated the floppy drives as an unnecessary appendage. Instead, most have been fitted with a CD-RW/DVD combo or a CD- RW, which serve the same purpose. However, there are some of those ultra compact notebooks that do not come with any of these drives although they may be available from the same manufacturer as optional purchases. Drives such as a CD-RW, CD-RW/DVD-ROM, hard drive (FireWire and USB 2.0), CD-ROM drive, floppy drive and DVD-RW are now available as external options.

If you don’t find one of your choice in the local market, get one off the web. Some companies do manufacture these products but may not have released in the region. Brands to check out for external drives are Sony, LG, Maxtor, Archos, La Cie and Targus. Usual connectivity options for this are the PCMCIA slots and USB ports.

||**||IV|~||~||~|Power adapter kit
Budget: $35+
If you are in a profession like journalism, where you have to often double up as a photographer and if you carry around a lot of stuff that needs recharging like a digital camera or a mobile phone, this is one accessory that will be immensely helpful. For one, you don’t have to lug around an adapter for each of your gadgets. Instead, you get a Universal Auto/Air Power Adapter from Targus that is a compact and portable power solution for mobile users. Targus has a patented PowerTip technology that controls the voltage to match a notebook’s requirements. It enables you to plug a compatible notebook computer into an airline seat with Empower capability or into a vehicle cigarette lighter. It’s a convenient way to charge your notebook computer, digital camera, portable printer or mobile telephone, especially if you travel a lot.

Notebook cases
Budget range: $95- $175
While most average businessmen would go with the standard notebook case, there are those mobile knowledge workers who will want something different. Some might include a hiking trip when travelling to a country for a conference or want something different from the run-of-the--mill piece. As a result, many manufacturers are designing bags to cater to different lifestyles.

Of the several different notebook cases in the market, some that are worth looking into are the notebook cases that double up as a trolley bag. These come with a luggage compartment for clothes and front pockets for papers, electronic organisers, mobile phones etc. Another lot that is worth looking into are notebook cases that double up as backpacks. Some of these bags come with an air protection system (APS).

The concept is very similar to the air bag in your vehicle. The only difference is that if you drop your notebook, no airbag pops out.
Although not so sophisticated, these padded pieces shield the notebook in your case if you drop it. There are also special fashionable notebook bags designed especially for female executives. These are worth exploring in the market if you plan on purchasing a notebook case. Two companies that come to mind if you are looking for varieties in notebook cases are Dicota and Targus.

||**||V|~||~||~|CD storage
Budget: $12+
There are different CD storage facilities available in the market today, including storage sleeves, storage envelopes and CD racks. But for someone who is travelling, the most compact option is a CD case with a few sleeves in them. CD cases come in different colours and different sizes to cater to various requirements. Manufacturers are also looking at various ways in which they can make their CD cases more attractive to customers.

One that caught our attention is the Targus CD project that uses bubble technology. This allows each sleeve to provide extra protection to a CD and prevents it from scratches. Some of these CD projects also come with an MP3 player, thus giving the user a comprehensive mobile audio solution.

Web cams
Budget: $50+
When people travel, they like to keep in touch with their family as well— some with web cams. Consider Logitech and Creative for web cams designed specifically for the notebook.

Communication
If you still have an old notebook but need to keep up with the times, communicate wirelessly with people, network with your office, connect to the internet and so on, fear not. Help is at hand in the form of expansion cards. Depending on your need you can pick up different cards. A GPRS card, for instance, allows you to access the internet directly and wirelessly and Wi-Fi cards enable you to access your network wirelessly. These expansion cards are easily available in the market and fit snugly into your PC card slot. However, most countries in the region still do not support GPRS and infrastructure has not yet been laid out for an all-pervading blue tooth facility region wide. Until then, you need not even worry that your notebook is a little on the older side.

Business card scanner
Budget: $135
Another interesting accessory to consider is a business card scanner.

This is especially useful if you meet a lot of people in the course of your travel and would like to contact them later. Just take the business card, scan it on a mini business card scanner, and it synchronises the data with your laptop and PDA.

Mobile phone charger
Budget: $30+
Another popular one worthy of mention is a USB charge cable. This cable connects the laptop or PC to the mobile phone and charges the latter. These are just a few of the many accessories that can empower a mobile executive. We have just attempted to skim the surface of this ever-widening market.

Mobile accessories are capable of keeping you connected anytime, anywhere and anyhow. So, if you have an old notebook, do not despair. See how new accessories can help you cope with the demands of the new work environment.||**||

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