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June 2000, Week 1 -- In the Palm of Your Hand
  

 

   Wireless is the buzz of the year. "Why be tied to the wall when you can roam the great outdoors?" is the headline I'm reading all over the place. Well, for one thing ... the wires work, and wireless often doesn't.

   This is sort of the second coming of wireless, or maybe the third. Results thus far have been mixed. I see people standing outside of buildings these days, talking into devices that obviously don't work very well inside the building.

   A cynical reporter, if there were such a creature, might recall numerous wireless devices displayed at trade shows over the years, none of which worked very well or found a market. I saw the first wireless wristwatch computer nearly 20 years ago. Yes, it worked, and no, no one particularly cared. This time could be different, of course. And there's always smoke signals; they're wireless.

 

   Here are a couple of new things that worked very well:

 

And the palm goes to...

 

 

   If you liked the Palm handheld organizers you'll absolutely love the new Cassiopeia E-115. The 3 x 5 inch device weighs nine ounces, and unlike the Palm and Handspring digital organizers it competes with, has many of the features of a full-size computer.

   The 65,000-color screen is absolutely great, and the controls are far more intuitive and easier to operate than a Palm. (Note: Palm handheld organizers have become something of a religious object to their users, who form a kind of new electronic cult. The usual angry letters will follow.) Also, notes can be entered by tapping on the display of an actual keyboard, rather than having to learn a new set of symbols.

 

   Meanwhile ... the Cassiopeia E-115, has removable flash memory cards, serial and USB ports, infrared connectivity, built-in microphone, speaker, headphones, and can download MP3 music files. It also has the Microsoft reader for electronic and books and spoken books. Pressing a button on the side of the E-115 records memos, turning a small wheel scrolls the display up and down, and pressing lightly on it performs the function of the return key on a computer keyboard. It also acts as a joystick for game software.

 

   Sometimes little things mean a lot, and here it's the stylus used to tap on the touch sensitive screen. It fits in a slot molded into the case; I can't recall how many times we've lost track of the stylus pens that come with other handhelds. Industrial models due this summer can handle slightly larger batteries capable of powering the tiny device for 76 hours, a little more than three days and nights, without recharging.

 

   This is a stunner; we were very impressed. Optional equipment includes a digital camera, bar code scanner and network card. The downside for the Cassiopeia is the price, a fairly expensive $600 from discounters. That's about $150 more than a top of the line Palm handheld, but the additional features and magnificent display make it seem easily worth the difference. Phone info: 888-204-7765 or 973-361-5400; web: www.casio.com.

 

Working wireless

 

 AnyPoint Wireless Home Network

   Networking the computers in a small office or home is easier than ever now. And the easiest way of all is with Intel's "AnyPoint," which has added a phone line connection to its wireless units.

   The knock against wireless networks has always been speed: they're slow. The fastest network links use ethernet cables and network cards installed inside the computers. The next fastest approach is using a building's telephone wiring. The electrical noise from phone line current is relatively easy to filter out and that makes connections fast and easy.

 

   Intel's first small office phone line network boasts 10 Mbps speed. That's 10 megabits per second, which is as fast as most ethernet cards. If you go with a wireless system, the transfer speed drops down to 1.6 Mbps. Setup is simplicity itself, however, since you don't have to open any of the computers to install cards.

 

   Intel now has seven versions of their AnyPoint system, covering just about any home or office situation. The one we have right now links a Windows laptop to a desktop with no fuss. The desktop unit plugs into any USB port; the laptop card plugs into the PC card slot. Viola, as they say, you're networked.

 

   Prices run anywhere from $49-$129 for the various versions of the AnyPoint wireless network, and those before discounts and rebates. Phone info: 877-649-5817; web: www.intel.com/anypoint.

 

Internuts

-- www.firegirl.com Eight hundred hot sauces and a catalog of peppers. Could be the only place you can find "Dave's Insanity Hot Sauce."

-- http://hotfiles.zdnet.com Do a search for the Porter Locomotives screen saver, which will be just the thing for any railroad buff. There are 50 shots of locomotives taken from the "1892 Light Locomotive Catalog" of H.K. Porter & Co.

 

-- http://hotfiles.zdnet.com Same place, but this time search for the "Chicago Cows on Parade, second herd." This was a citywide display of life-size plastic cows decorated in outrageous colors and outfits. Believe me, I was there and they were great.

-- www.drf2000.com Official site for the Daily Racing Form. Horse racing is coming back into vogue after a generation of neglect. Be there, along with Pittsburgh Phil, Nicely Nicely Johnson, and Good Old Reliable Nathan Detroit.

-- www.myhelpdesk.com Updates on bugs and computer security problems.

NOTE: Readers can search more than three years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@oncomp.com or bobschwab@aol.com.