dacs.doc electric


These are a few of my
Favorite Things

By Mike Kaltschnee


Iomega Zip 250 USB Drive.As I look around my home office, I thought that this month I would share a few of the cool computer hardware and software products that I use and just can’t live without. At first I thought that USB was a pain—it didn’t even support Windows 95. Now that USB has taken off and most of my computers have it, I consider USB support an important feature for any hardware I want to purchase. My favorite USB device has to be the Iomega USB Zip 100 drive. I know they have a 250 megabyte version, but I have a ton of 100 megabyte cartridges lying around. I don’t trust tape backups (I’ve been burned many times), so the Zip drive is a fast and reliable backup tool. I stopped backing up my operating systems and software—I just copy my data directories. The USB Zip 100 has another great advantage it works on both Macs & PC’s.

Another great USB product is the Microsoft Wheel mouse. I like having a wheel mouse so much that I’m considering purchasing one for my Mac. Although I lust after the new Apple mouse, I am much more productive with 2 buttons and a wheel for scrolling.

When it comes to keyboards, I’m addicted to the old style IBM click keyboards. At the local computer shows you’ll usually see me buying one or two. I don’t like mushy keyboards, and I love the “click” that a great keyboard has. I know I should use an ergonomic model, but I feel weird using anything else

A serious luxury I want on all of my new computers is a DVD player. Now that DVD movies are widely available, I can sit in bed or on a plane with earphones and watch a movie, at almost twice the resolution of video tape and incredible sound. I always carry a small set of in-ear headphones for listening to MP3 files or watching a movie. Another notebook add-on I find incredibly useful is a second power adapter. I usually leave one at home and the other at work, so moving my computer back and forth only requires carrying the notebook, not a bunch of cables or adapters.

I always carry a few things in my notebook bag that have proven useful over time. A multi-head screwdriver, small maglite, extra network cable, cross-over network cable (for hooking up two computers with network cards), headphones, phone cord, and a Swiss army knife or multi-tool.

Harman/Kardon SoundSticks.I have a couple of computers at home, and transferring files between them is easy with a hub and network card in each computer. A small 4-port hub costs around $25, cable is less than $20, and network cards about $20 each. The time I save in transferring files and sharing my Internet connection (See April’s Windows 98 article for one technique) is well worth the $75 or so.
No computer should be without a great set of speakers today. Your computer is capable of some really great sounds, so why not take advantage of it? I got a set of Benwin NXT flat speakers at a show, and the sound blows me away. They cost about $99 and include a subwoofer. Watching a DVD is a different experience when you have great sound. The speakers I lust over are the Harman/Kardon SoundSticks and iSub subwoofer. I recently had the chance to listen to them, and they’re awesome. They are a piece of art—translucent and very modern, but the sound is what will make you grab a credit card. The only drawback is that they connect to your computer via USB, so you can’t connect them to your stereo at home.

I use a few programs every day, and I couldn’t work without Microsoft Office. I use Word and Excel daily— these tools have really matured over the years. The products run almost exactly the same on Mac or Windows, so I can be very productive, no matter which computer I’m using. I also use PowerPoint, Access, and PhotoDraw. Internet Explorer is my current choice for browsing, but I’m waiting to try Navigator 6 to see if it is any better. On the Mac I use Explorer 5.5, a surprisingly great tool for surfing.

I use FrontPage 2000 to edit my Web pages, but I’m about to spend some time with Dreamweaver. I wish they had a current Mac version of FrontPage it’s the one tool I really miss. Microsoft purchased Visio, makers of an awesome diagramming tool. When I need to draw a network diagram or data flow diagram, I use Visio. I’m looking forward to seeing how Microsoft improves this very useful tool.

My personal and work life is run through e-mail, and I use the same tool I’ve used for the past 5 years: Eudora. I’ve always used the “lite” version in the past, but they recently released a new version that has all of the features for free, but you have to watch the advertising. It’s not that I’m too cheap to buy it, I just can’t justify paying for something that Microsoft gives away (Outlook).

When I set up a computer, I immediately install a couple of utilities. WinZip is a fast and reliable tool for archiving and opening compressed files. ThumbsPlus, now with a brand new Mac version, lets me quickly catalog and organize all of the images on my hard disk.

For graphics, I use PhotoShop, although I’m playing with Microsoft PhotoDraw. I create 3D models for my company, and I use Caligari trueSpace for rendering. Although there are many tools for 3D work, I know trueSpace and it is great for creating small Web images.

Transferring files between my PowerBook and my desktop PC is a lot easier now that I have PC Adaptec’s Easy CD Creator Box.MacLan. Installed on my PC, it allows the Mac to see the PC, and the PC to see the Mac. I use the Macintosh Finder or Explorer to copy files back and forth without trouble.

Creating CD’s on my PC is a piece of cake with Adaptec’s Easy CD Creator. It lets me copy or archive my data to CD ROM, which costs about 75 cents each for 640 megabytes of data.

I’m probably forgetting a product or two, but these tools are what I use to get the job done. Let me know if you’ve found a great program or cool gadget I should know about.

Mike Kaltschnee is a closet Macintosh user who makes a living from knowing PC’s and the Web. You can contact him by e-mail at mikek@demorgan.com.