PERSONAL TECH

More style, with less skipping


Published: Monday, November 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, October 31, 2004 at 9:00 p.m.

Rocking and rolling, which many people find desirable when it comes to music, are not so good for hard-drive-based digital audio players with moving parts prone to skipping when jostled. Small flash-memory music players, with their solid-state construction, are an obvious alternative for those who want music when they run or work out, and GoVideo's bright red Rave-MP AMP players offer a colorful choice.

The Rave-MP AMP line includes a player with 128 megabytes of memory and another that doubles the storage space to 256 megabytes. The AMP 128 and AMP 256 each have slots for Secure Digital or MultiMedia cards, allowing up to a gigabyte of room for music, and both can play song files in the MP3 and Windows Media Audio formats.

Both players, which have USB. 2.0 connections to transfer files between computer and player, include FM radios, five-band equalizers and voice recorders, and both will run for about 16 hours on a single AAA battery.

The Rave-MP AMP players, which work with Windows 98 SE and later and Mac OS X, can be found in stores and at www.rave-mp.com. Although prices are listed at $100 for the 128-megabyte model and $130 for the 256-megabyte version, the players can be found for at least $10 less in stores around the Web, which helps to keep the music rolling without rocking the wallet.

  • A Wi-Fi keychain adapter makes its own introductions: The 54 Mbps keychain adapter from Buffalo Technology is a wireless adapter that adds Wi-Fi connectivity to PCs and laptops, but with an extra measure of mobility.

    The device, about the size of a cigarette lighter, plugs into a computer's USB port, as do other wireless adapters of that genre, but it also includes a built-in installation feature: when plugged into a computer for the first time, it automatically installs the necessary drivers and opens a wizard to install Wi-Fi connectivity software, also known as client management software. No installation CD is needed.

    The device (model WLI-U2-KG54-AI) costs about $60 and is available online at

    buy.com and at electronics stores. It works with popular Wi-Fi routers and hot spots that use the 802.11g and 802.11b standards, and it supports WPA and WEP data encryption for security.

    When the device is first plugged into a computer's USB port, it appears to the system as a CD-ROM that contains installation software, Buffalo technicians said. Programming scripts automatically begin the installation procedure. The device works only with PC's running Windows98 SE or later.

    Buffalo was the first to bring this automatic-installation technique to the consumer market, said Brian Verenkoff, a marketing engineer for the company, which expects to incorporate it in future USB-based products.

  • A clip-on game wardrobe to dress up your handset: Cell phones, already loaded with cameras and personal organizers, have been edging onto video-game turf for a while. Now Wildseed, a maker of interactive accessories for mobile phones, has squeezed a video game and player into a clip-on plastic skin.

    GameSkin, which has the Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance video game loaded into a memory chip inside the skin, has a built-in game pad with console-like controls. Once the GameSkin, which is custom fitted to operate exclusively with a special cell phone made for Wildseed, is snapped into place, users can play the popular martial arts game on the telephone's color liquid crystal display screen. Related ring tones, menu animations and backgrounds are loaded into the phone, making wireless downloads unnecessary.

    Cindy Smith, vice president for marketing for Wildseed, said the GameSkin was a natural extension of Wildseed's product line, which includes more than two dozen skins. They will cost $50 and are expected to be available in time for the holiday season, Smith said.

    The handset, called the Identity, costs $250 with a service and is available, so far, in limited regions. (More information is at www.smartskins.com.) If you are not ready to make that kind of investment for a multimedia cell phone, consider: Talk may still be cheap, but all the extras aren't.

  • Affordable storage space for preserving family data: With digital photos, music and video clips and word-processing documents, home networks are sharing files that are just as important as the spreadsheets and presentations that are parked on file servers at the office. Families seeking an affordable file server might want to consider the Iomega NAS 100d network-attached storage drive, a black and silver desktop box that works wirelessly with the network with a built-in 802.11g connection.

    The NAS 100d provides 160 gigabytes of storage space. After it is connected to the network, the device can be configured with a Web browser from one computer, which then makes it visible to everyone else connected to the network. It works with Windows, Macintosh, Linux and Unix systems, making it easy to exchange files. (Windows 2000, Mac OS X 10.2 and Linux kernel 2.4 or later are needed to set up the drive.)

    The NAS 100d has an Ethernet port for those who have not taken the wireless-network plunge, and two USB 2.0 ports to attach extra external hard drives for more storage space. It sells for $499 in stores or at www.iomega.com, where a 250-gigabyte version will soon be available for $599.

    The package also includes Iomega's software to automatically back up family pictures and other important documents to the network drive, which can make "my hard drive crash ate my homework" an excuse of the past.

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