by Wayne M. Krakau - Chicago Computer Guide, March, 2002
Here are some more odds and ends products that aren't appropriate for their own, individual columns. We are getting a bit more mainstream as we go.

The first product for discussion is the Table Tote (www.pctabletote.com), a collapsible platform made to support your laptop computer while traveling. It has a plastic platform and comes with either aluminum or steel adjustable (18 to 36 inches), telescoping legs. The aluminum-legged model weighs 2.6 lbs. and can support up to 18 lbs. while the steel-legged model weighs 3.5 lbs. and can support 25 lbs. The top expands to 13" by 18".

Since the Table Tote is only 13" by 1" by 1" and weighs less than 3lbs. it is quite easy to carry. Using it is a whole lot better than worrying about your aching back or possible carpel tunnel syndrome when traveling with a laptop computer and placing it on whatever open surface you happen to find. Alternately, you can use it for a projector, instead.

My own idea for this device is a bit different. I think that system administrators of networks should buy it for use when doing repairs and/or experimentation. I have found that when working on servers, especially, once you peel the lid, or sometimes just pull the computer out of position to access the cables, you block easy access to the keyboard and mouse.

Typically, you end up using your lap or some piled up boxes for the keyboard and mouse. Often, you must use them standing up because you can't even put a chair near them. None of these techniques is conducive to good health or sanity. They don't really help the accuracy of your typing or mousing either. (That's definitely not a good thing when working on a server.)

The Table Tote could be a cure for these problems. You could set it up next to, or possibly directly over the "sick" computer and gain comfortable access to the mouse and keyboard.

Let's establish some background facts, at least as I see them, for the next product. At least half of the handheld computing devices or PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) that I have seen in use are not kept merely in skintight leather or leather-like cases. They are carried in zippered cases that are about the size of a thicker than average software manual (as if you could find a software manual these days). Those cases typically hold a small pad of paper opposite the PDA and have room for the stylus as well as multiple cards, pens, and other doodads.

A while back Seiko Instruments (www.seikosmart.com) developed a really great add-on for PDAs, their SmartPad. It duplicated the zippered case, with the added feature of a digitizer located underneath the pad of paper so that, by using their supplied combination pen/stylus, anything you wrote or drew on the pad was reproduced in miniature on the PDA's screen through the PDA's infrared port via a built-in transceiver. That information could be saved, expanded (up to four times) and manipulated on the PDA or transferred to a PC. You could even add color if you had a color-screen PDA.

Well, now the folks at Seiko have one-upped themselves with a new version called the SmartPad2. They added a stylus-based QWERTY keyboard underneath the lower half of the notepad that is about two and a half times the size of a PDA's onscreen keyboard. You need only flip the notepad pages up to access the keyboard. Oh, and just for good measure, they added a phone holder to the left of the PDA.

Speaking on behalf of those of us who are visually impaired (without my glasses, I need to revert to bat-like echolocation - that high-pitched chirping you hear is really me - now if I could only stop nibbling on bugs), the larger surface area of the notepad for drawing and especially the larger keyboard beneath it make a huge difference in the usability of a PDA. In particular, using a PDA with bifocals is really a pain. Every little bit expansion you can get really helps.

The older, non-keyboard model of the SmartPad had two versions, the first supporting the Palm OS based PDAs from Palm, Handspring, Sony, IBM and HandEra and the second, the SmartPad for Pocket PC for Window CE based PDAs from Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, Casio, Toshiba, Audiovox, and NEC. The new SmarPad2 only has a Palm OS version for now, but unless the developers at Seiko are completely asleep at the switch, they should be following up with a Pocket PC version of the SmartPad2 sometime soon.

Now if someone will please pass the salsa, I have zeroed in on what I believe will be a very tasty fruitfly.

©2002, Wayne M. Krakau