Portable hard drive even looks secure

Published: Monday, August 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, July 31, 2005 at 9:53 p.m.

The actual disk inside the Imation Micro Hard Drive is about the size of a nickel, sealed out of sight in a casing slightly smaller than a commemorative stamp.

Despite its size, the drive holds 2 gigabytes of data, with a 4-gigabyte version due by the end of this year. That's enough for an awful lot of photos or other files.

The smaller version is available for $159 through computer dealers.

Free software, available at www.imation.com/support, synchronizes files on the drive with those on your computer, so the files you carry with you will be up to date. The software also encrypts the files for security.

The Micro Hard Drive even looks secure, resembling a padlock. That's because the USB 2.0 cable, which is permanently attached so you can't lose it, loops over and locks into a receptacle on the case.

This protects the USB plug from damage, and gives you a handy way to clip the drive to your belt, briefcase or wherever.


If one consideration has kept the tablet PC from becoming a popular household item, it's that few hardware manufacturers have designed one that's actually handy around the house. A cross between a souped-up PDA, tablet PC and hand-held gaming device, the Pepper Pad from Pepper Computer tries to fill that void. It begs to be held in your hands while you loaf on the couch.

This 2-pound, $800 computer, available for now only from Amazon.com, features an 8.4-inch touch-screen, a 20-gigabyte hard drive, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, built-in speakers and an infrared port that allows it to be used as a universal remote. Instead of a traditional keyboard, there are backlit push-button keypads on both sides of the screen.

The Pepper Pad is compatible with many home peripherals: it has a USB port, a slot for memory cards and jacks for headphones, microphones and external display screens. In keeping with its Linux operating system, it comes loaded with Mozilla's Web browser.

Perhaps the pad's only shortcomings are its mediocre 256 megabytes of RAM and pedestrian 624-megahertz Intel processor. But perhaps that's all the computing power one needs for lounging purposes.


For people who want to use their cell phones in apartments and houses as replacements for landline phones, reception can be a problem. Clear reception may be found in only one room or be available only when the user stands near a window.

The RCA Cell Docking System aims to solve that problem. The system, which costs $150 (model number 23200RE3), consists of a docking station for a cell phone and a separate base with a cordless phone. It accepts about 60 different cell phones (a full list can be found at www.rca.com) and integrates them into existing household phone wiring.

RCA suggests that the dock be placed in an area with good cell phone reception. Users can then make calls out to the wireless network through the cordless phone, which is much less prone to indoor signal failure. Additional cordless handsets cost $70.

For those who also have a traditional home phone, buttons on the handsets allow callers to send or receive their calls through either cellular or landline service. As a bonus, by giving cell phones a fixed resting place, the docking station may eliminate the frustration of misplaced handsets.


With its library of sound samples and easy-to-use interface, the GarageBand program from Apple has been helping Macintosh mavens create and mix their own musical compositions since it was introduced early last year.

With the M-Audio iControl device, people who prefer a physical recording console now have plenty of knobs to twirl in front of the screen instead of on it.

The iControl connects to the Mac through a USB port and includes buttons that correspond to many of GarageBand's onscreen controls for actions like play, stop and record. A master volume switch and a jog wheel for dialing back to a precise point in the recording are also within easy reach.

The iControl can rule over eight separate tracks at a time, with buttons for record, solo and mute on each track. In addition to the USB connection, the unit has a jack for connecting a MIDI keyboard.

The M-Audio iControl sells for $180 at retail stores listed at www.m-audio.com. It needs at least GarageBand 2.0.1 to operate. GarageBand is set to recognize the iControl automatically when you connect it, so you can get right down to mixing with minimal set-up fussing.


Remember Furby? When this furry little electronic toy came out in 1998 it was an instant hit - more than 40 million were sold worldwide. Now Furby is back in a new version that has 500 kilobytes of memory, which is six times what the original had, and uses voice recognition to respond to its owner.

The latest Furby has a wider range of expressions, movement and vocabulary. It can laugh, smile, frown, gasp, yawn and express fear or boredom using its flexible beak, ears and eyebrows. Most intriguingly, the new Furby responds to vocal commands. If you ask Furby to tell you a joke, it will most likely deliver a knock-knock zinger.

This Furby has back, mouth and stomach sensors that respond to petting, feeding and tickling. A communications sensor in its belly can detect the presence of companion Furbies. The motors and chips inside, including a 14-megahertz processor, are powered by four AA batteries.

Hasbro, Furby's manufacturer, says that the toy should be widely available in the next few weeks for $39.99. To build interest, the company took a page from the Willy Wonka playbook, making 1,000 of the creatures available early to lucky online buyers.

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