Jewish World Review June 20, 2003 / 20 Sivan 5763

Little gadgets make computing easier

By Mark Kellner | The portable PC is a great invention and a wonderful device. But it's quite possible to put a new wrinkle in your trousers - or even greater damage to, let's say, a rather intimate area - if your notebook PC stays in your lap for as little as an hour. According to a November 2002 BBC News report, which in turn cites the British medical journal "The Lancet," Dr. Claes-Goran (stet) Ostenson (stet), of the Karolinska (stet) Institute in Stockholm told of a 50-year-old man suffering from rather painful burns and other complications. The physician claimed these were caused by the man keeping a powered-on notebook computer in his lap for 60 minutes. (Source:

Typing that way hasn't cause me more than a little discomfort, but with the proliferation of wireless access points and the need to be mobile while computing, the Laptop Desk v.2.0, from LapWorks of Rancho Cucamonga, CA ( is a rather unique solution. Made of sturdy plastic, the desk, unfolded, becomes a resting place for your notebook computer, PDA and external keyboard, or Tablet PC. Folded, it's not only easy to carry, but can also become a desk stand for a notebook, which can the be positioned at a height and angle that permits optimal viewing and typing. For $29.95, that's not a bad deal.

There's more, however: add on what LapWorks calls its "SwivelPad," for $19.95, and your desk stand now rotates 360 degrees. Good for meetings or presentations; great for customizing your layout at home or in the office. Rounding out the package is a $9.95 "MouzPad" (stet), that clips on to the end of the unfolded Laptop Desk to support an external mouse.

I was impressed by several elements: the construction of the items, which is compact but sturdy: the Laptop Desk performed well in both positions (folded as a stand and flat), and the SwivelPad is a great addition. The MouzPad is also helpful, especially since all three items, combined, sell for $49.95

(plus $10.55 for shipping), representing a good discount. Offering channels for dissipating the heat that builds up under a laptop computer can be very important to keeping the machine working and not shut down from overheating. Thus, the Laptop Desk would probably be a useful tool if you plan on keeping your portable computer in top working order.

I have to say something else about LapWorks, the company that produces these items. In years of shopping online, I've never received an order quite like this one: every item was meticulously packed and instructions were included with every piece. Then came the kicker: a little slip stating "Good Isn't Good Enough!" The firm claims it tracks orders daily until they arrive at a customer's address, and asks customers to call, toll-free, or e-mail if they have any questions. That kind of attitude is lacking in many businesses, and it's encouraging that this firm has it.

BELKIN SCORES: Sharing one USB peripheral with two computers used to be a challenge - plugging and unplugging cables - but a product mentioned here before, but only now in for review, might eliminate the hassle. The $49 2x1 USB Peripheral Switch from Belkin Corp. of Compton, Calif. ( is a nice, unobtrusive little switch that is controlled by software to switch a single USB device, such as a printer, between two computers.

I used it to share a Lexmark X5150 printer/scanner with a PC and a Mac and found no problems with either scanning or printing. The switch is NOT automatic; you have to click on a button in the Mac menu bar or Windows "system tray" to make the connection, but this is a small task given that to do this automatically requires a $129 switch from Belkin, not to mention another electrical outlet for that switch's power supply. The 2x1 switch does not need external power.

You may not be one of those who works on both computing platforms, but lots of people do, and the Belkin 2x1 USB Peripheral Switch is, I belive, a good way to stretch your accessory dollar.

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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.

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