Bits & P.C.s: Neat stuff

This week, let’s take a look at some new and useful products.

One of the computer items that most people never think about is the lowly mouse pad. Most of the pads are nothing more than a piece of spongy rubber with a piece of polyester fabric bonded to it. 3M has sold their thin Precise Mousing Surface for a number of years now, but it tends to curl up after using it for a while.

Now, Central Trading Agency has produced the MouseTracker Mouse Pad. The pad has a suede-like surface that is made from microfibers, that is, fibers that are one-hundredth the thickness of a human hair. These web-shaped strands grab and hold dust particles, which means that your mouse will stay cleaner and track better. The pad also keeps the mouse from slipping and gives your mouse better precision.

You can clean the pad with a damp cloth or by rinsing it under running water and allowing it to dry. The pad will work with ball-type or optical mice and sells for about $8.

The next item has to do with security. Do you work in an office where you do proposals, generate customer lists, or have financial or personal data that you store on a CD? If you do, how are you disposing of the CDs when they become outdated? Do you just toss them in the wastebasket?

If you had the above information on paper, you would probably run them through the paper shredder. Some of the new shredders will accept CDs and cut them into strips, but these are usually $150 or more.

Alera Technologies has introduced a DVD/CD Shredder that retails for $50. Unlike a paper shredder, this shredder sits on your desktop and will shred up to 30 discs a minute. The shredder does not cut the discs into strips, it actually makes small indentations on both sides of the disc, rendering the disk unreadable. In fact, after I ran a disc through the shredder, my computer told me that I did not have a CD in the drive.

This device should be considered a necessity if you have sensitive data on CD or DVD that you need to dispose of. Yes, you could just break the disc in half or take your chances that no one will go dumpster diving, but with the low cost, why risk it?

Are you thinking of buying an IPod? Besides being a somewhat expensive music player, they also have an expensive non-consumer replaceable battery. Apple will replace the battery if the unit is covered under one of its warranty plans; otherwise, it will cost you about $100 to have it replaced. There are also other companies selling replacement batteries, but it takes a hair dryer to get the case open.

The battery can be recharged about 300 times; if you use it for eight hours a day, the battery will last about a year. The battery will last longer if you keep it charged up rather than letting it go completely dead.

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times, e-mail, or call 243-1162.

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