Some Cords I'll Cut, but Some I'll KeepWireless devices are hit-and-miss. Here are two keepers, and two to toss back.
My editor asked me to try some wireless gadgets. "Sure, boss," I thought. "I love being a guinea pig." I visualized the assignment turning into a reality-TV kind of situation--"Will Bass live through the ordeal of snipping printer cables, cutting mouse wires, and sending data and pictures through the air?" In fact, things went pretty smoothly, though I'm still not a complete wireless convert.
You can find wireless versions of most peripherals, but I tried four--a mouse, a PC-to-TV link, a remote control, and a printer adapter. Still, just two found a home in my office. (For another opinion on wireless, see Full Disclosure .)
The highlight of my wireless adventure was Logitech's $70 Cordless MouseMan Optical. An untethered mouse is bliss--I never have to pull a cord up from the floor or push it out of my way. An optical mouse has more-precise cursor movements than a mechanical one, I never have to clean it, and I've thrown away my mouse pad. Try one, and you'll never use a tethered mouse again.
I often want to play Internet videos for friends, but I can't bring a dozen people into my tiny home office and have them huddle around my PC monitor. I tried Smarthome's Wireless VGA/TV Converter: The device beams images from my PC to the TV in my living room. Installation took 10 minutes, and the converter worked as advertised.
So why did this gadget end up back in its box? The image on the TV's screen didn't look any better than it did in Windows Media Player 8, and the $230 price tag is hefty for what you get. Also, the lack of a remote control means I had to use a third wireless device: the $49 Keyspan Digital Media Remote. It's so compact, it could hide behind a credit card. However, the Keyspan is a keeper because it's also a handy accessory for controlling PowerPoint presentations.
A Little Blue In The Tooth
The most intriguing product of the bunch was 3Com's Wireless Bluetooth Printing Kit, which I installed in only 15 minutes. The kit converted my laser printer into a wireless receiver for printing any files that I send from my notebook, PDA, mobile phone, and (of course) computer.
Bluetooth is unobtrusive, and I can use it without hassling with any of my PC's TCP/IP or other network settings. Some notebooks have Bluetooth wireless hardware built in. And Microsoft is pushing a Bluetooth-enabled keyboard and mouse, as well as a Bluetooth USB hub. But Bluetooth's range tops out at 30 feet, much shorter than the 300-foot coverage of Wi-Fi (in geek-speak: 802.11b).
The kit runs about $188; that includes a receiver for my printer's parallel port and a USB transmitter for the PC. Want to print from your notebook? You'll need another USB transmitter, or you'll have to shell out $107 more for a Bluetooth PC Card. The wireless arrangement is great, especially if you have to print data from a PDA. But if you already have a wired network, my advice for printing is to connect your notebook to the network, either with an existing network card or by buying a cheap ethernet PC Card (about $30).
What about devices that must be connected with wires? USB can help. I minimize cable clutter by attaching my digital camera, MP3 player, and label printer to a USB hub via short 2- and 3-foot USB cables. I also have a 2-foot Cat 5 patch cable between my DSL modem and my network router. The cables cost less than $5 each at Belkin or Great Cables .
I admit it. I'm a wired kind of guy, with or without caffeine.
Logitech Cordless MouseMan Optical
5 stars ()
3Com Wireless Bluetooth Printing Kit
2.5 stars ()
Keyspan Digital Media Remote
4.5 stars ()
Smarthome Wireless VGA/TV Converter 7743B
3.5 stars ()