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     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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August 2003, Week 4 -- Look ma, no wires!

   
 Dlink DWL-122

 

   I have just one question about the popularity of the new wireless networks: where are birds going to perch?

  Still, for us humans the beat goes on. D-Link has become the technology leader in wireless networks for home and small business. The gadgets and gizmos they come out with are surprisingly inexpensive. The individual units that are plugged into computers in the network sell for around $30-$40 each. And everything keeps getting smaller and smaller.

 

  The latest little wonder is the D-Link DWL-122, which is the size of one of the new thumb drives and weighs a fraction of an ounce. Just like the thumb drives, you plug it into a USB port. You can plug it into your laptop USB port and indulge in the new high-tech sport of driving around the neighborhood until your little unit detects another wireless network. Then you can piggy-back for free. (Why are all those cars clustered around our house?)

 

  The tiny DWL-122 has a transmission rate of 11Mbs, which stands for 11 megabits per second. That would be around 2,000 characters a second, or 400 words. You can get network "nodes" as they're called, that are much faster than that, but 11Mbs is plenty fast enough for most business use.

 

  By the way, if you want the computers on the network to be able to connect to the Internet, you need a router. D-Link's wireless routers range from $65-$240. Tech support is nice: 24 hours, 7 days a week. Web: www.dlink.com.

 

More hard copy

 Samsung ML 1710 Laser Printer 

   The printer manufacturers are pushing new models for the back to school season, which kind of makes sense: students do a lot of web searching and a lot of printouts. Let's look at two new offerings, one for text, one for photos.

   I'm going to confess my bias right up front: if you've got work to do, get a laser. For heavy duty printing, nothing beats a laser printer, and we have a new one here from Samsung: the ML 1710. It works with Windows, Macs and Linux and can be found at many discount dealers for less than $200.

 

   The output speed is 17 ppm (pages per minute) at a resolution of 600x600 dpi (dots per inch). Now you're going to say that's not exactly hi-res these days, that most laser printers have much sharper output and that's true. On the other hand, it takes a master eye to tell the difference between 600 dpi and 1200 dpi when you're printing text, and remember you're paying less than $200.

 

   Just like students, we do a lot of web traveling. And we tend to print out pages that we "might" want to look at later. It's a lot of pages and lasers are the cheapest and fastest way to do that. The volume starts to build up fast. Because of that I recommend you lean toward a printer that has a tray feed that hold a lot of paper; the ML-1710 holds 250 sheets at a time. Printers that feed pages from the top are a nuisance. You have to put new paper in frequently and if you leave the printer for a while the remaining pages tend to curl.

 

   The Samsung ML-1710 has a USB-1 connector only and works with Windows, Mac or Linux. The toner cartridge that comes with it is good for about 1,000 pages, but replacement cartridges handle around 3,000 pages. Web info at www.samsungusa.com 

 

   Meanwhile, back at the photo lab ...

 Lexmark p707

   We recently reviewed a machine from Lexmark that offered a printer, scanner, copier and fax all in one unit. It worked whether connected to the computer or not. That was under $200 and a good deal. Now they have a new photo printer, the P707, for less than $100. In fact, a search of the web for best prices turned up a range of $40 (after a $50 rebate) to $100 for the P707, by far the lowest prices you can find for this kind of printer.

 

   Photo printers can also be used for normal printing of text and graphics, and often are, but they are meant for users who want a glossy print of a photograph that is as good or nearly as good as what they would get from a professional photo shop.

 

   There are some nice things about the P707. One is a price so low you could almost think of it as a disposable. It can print with or without being connected to a computer. Slots in the side accept memory cards from most digital cameras, so you can print from those directly. It also has the best designed power transformer I've ever seen. Most printers, and many other peripherals too, have a power transformer that is external to the machine. The transformer plugs into a power outlet, and then sits on the floor or a desk while another cord comes out of there and into the printer. The transformer for the P707 plugs into a pocket on the printer chassis; no muss, no fuss. I wish they were all designed that way.

 

   The bad news on P707 is that it prints photos so slowly you'll think you turned to stone or were kidnapped by aliens. If you need a bunch of photos, this isn't the way; if you only need a few, once in a while, this is the way. Web: www.lexmark.com.

 

Kid stuff

 Toddler

   Disney has packaged some older children's educational software in three-disk bundles that represent very good value. The four packages are aimed at "Toddler," "Preschool," "Kindergarten" and "1st & 2nd Grade." Each package has a list price of $20, which comes to less than $7 a CD. The programs work with Windows and Mac and can be can be run in English, Spanish or French. Web: www.disneyinteractive.com.

 

NOTE: Readers can search past columns on our web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@oncomp.com  or bobschwab@aol.com.

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