Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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April 2001, Week 1 -- Driving: Small and Smaller




   You can take it with you: all the information in the computer, Mac or Windows.

   The business of backing up files or transferring a whole system to another computer becomes much simpler if you can simply drop a hard drive in your pocket and walk away. That's the beauty of the "Pockey,"  which at 3 x 5 inches and a half-inch thick, does in fact fit in a shirt pocket.

   There are several small portable hard drives on the market right now, though none smaller than this one. Pockey comes in 10 and 20 gigabyte (GB) capacities, more than enough to absorb the contents of all but the most fully packed desktop computers. Hard disk drives have gotten cheaper in the past year or two and this one is no exception: the 10 GB drive has a list price of $250, the 20 GB drive a price of $300. Discount stores undercut that.


   The Pockey needs no outside power supply. It comes with a USB connection and draws current directly from the computer. That means you really can slip it in a pocket and walk away. The power supply issue is seldom mentioned in reviews of peripherals and computers but it definitely should be. The transformers that provide power for most portable equipment commonly weigh as much or more than the device they power. I notice, for example, that laptop makers rarely mention the weight of the power supply when advertising the portability of their computers. And yet you need the power supply, which often doubles the weight of the system.


   The Pockey works with Windows and Macintosh computers having a USB connection. The name is too cute, but if you can get over that, the software is easy and USB connection are ready to hand in new computers. Phone info: 818-717-9556; web:


Small and fast



   Pockey isn't the only small hard drive we looked at and most of the others aren't much bigger. The "Que M2 Hard Drive" from QPS Technologies also fit into my shirt pocket, but it came with an external power supply. The power supply, while lighter than most, still took up enough weight and space for the drive to come packaged in a carrying case measuring approximately 8x8x4 inches. It's still small, but not as small.

   Though the external power supply made the Que M2 slightly less portable than the Pockey it had two big advantages: One is that it used a FireWire connection instead of USB. FireWire is about 40 times faster than USB and this would certainly make a difference when transferring a large amount of data. The other advantage is that the M2 is stackable. A built-in plug and socket lets you stack these drives on top of each other and treat the whole group as one drive up to 100 GB. The array uses the same single FireWire connection and the same power supply.


   Prices vary considerably with size in this system. A 10 GB QPS FireWire drive was being offered for $330 from a discount dealer, a 20 GB drive for $427. Drives could be selected with as little 6 GB of capacity up to 75 GB. Phone info: 800-559-4777; web:




--    Front page stories and headlines from newspapers and television in all 50 states, 57 countries and business news from 27 industries. Also takes you to sites for op-ed pages and columnists. This site is an enormous gateway to the news of the world. Very impressive.



--  Connects freelancers with job opportunities. You can create a profile to showcase your abilities as well as search the job database. At least 50 job categories: web design, writing, illustrators, etc.

-- All fishing, all the time. Equipment reviews, free samples and literature, weather reports, and you can even order a fishing license online. The "tips and tricks" section offers tips like "wash your hands with mild soap before handling bait. Fish can smell the oil on your hands."




--  Documentaries and interviews from National Public Radio on a wide variety of subjects, often not covered by the general press.

Useful programs

   The following three programs are often grouped under category called "shareware," which generally means pay for it if you like it. Some shut down after a trial period has expired. The first one below is free.


-- "FavesToGo," from PC Magazine. A Windows utility that answers a question asked by many readers over the last few years: how to save your Internet site bookmarks to take along. Download the utility, unzip it, and it automatically collects all your "favorites" from Internet Explorer. All addresses are clickable directly from the utility and you can sort them into categories. Save them to a floppy disk for backup and portability. Very nice, and free.


-- "Graph Paper Printer." Just as the title says, you can print your own graph paper, regular or log scale, using Cartesian, polar, triangular or Mercator coordinates. You can also print music staffs. Free to try, $15 to keep.


-- "Poster-Printery." Lets you print an image as a large poster (up to 600 square meters -- 20 by 30 yards). The image is printed in single letter size pages that can be pasted together to form poster in the size you select. Free to try, $16 to keep.


   You can find these and other useful programs at the large shareware sites, like or


NOTE: Readers can search more than four years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at  or