Tornado device makes for easy file transfers; Netgear's Wi-Fi Skype phone cuts the cord.
What it is: The Tornado is about the size of a deck of cards and includes two retractable USB cables. The device lets you quickly and easily connect two Windows PCs to create an instant network for the purpose of transferring files. The system works automatically without any software to install (Windows 2000 and above), and there are no wizards or configuration necessary.
When you connect the Tornado to the two computers, a split-screen window pops up showing the first computer and the second computer's directory structure. Transferring files becomes a matter of finding the file (or folders) to transfer, and then click-and-drag to the second computer window.
Why it's cool: There are several ways to transfer files, but this is the quickest and easiest method I've seen. The Tornado eliminates the need for special crossover Ethernet cabling, or any special software to perform quick file transfers. USB flash drives are good for transferring files, but what happens if you need to transfer more files than the drive's capacity allows? There's no hard drive on the Tornado, so no need to worry about how many files are being transferred.
Some caveats: Some longtime IT users may balk at a $60 gadget when they have crossover cables lying around, but the device isn't really designed for them. This is aimed at consumer or other nontechnical users who want to quickly transfer data from one computer to another without needing a USB drive or other such methods.
Grade: 5 stars (out of five)
The scoop: Skype Wi-Fi Phone (model SPH101) by Netgear, about $220.
What it is: The SPH101 looks like a cell phone, but instead of paying lots of money to a wireless carrier the device lets you make free phone calls over Skype through a Wi-Fi connection. A PC is not needed. As long as you have a Skype account (which is free), you can enter that information into the phone, and it will automatically download your contacts to the phone once connected to a network. The device includes a color screen, a cell-phonelike interface with its keypad placement and minijoystick. It will support free Skype-to-Skype phone calls, and free calls to regular U.S. and Canadian phone numbers through year-end.
Why it's cool: Because there's no PC needed, you don't have to be tethered to a PC in order to make Skype calls. You can roam around your home or office, or take it on the road to stay connected with contacts. The device was extremely easy to set up.
Some caveats: The phone doesn't support browser-based authentication systems for Wi-Fi hot spots, so using this on the road a lot may become a problem. Typical sound quality in terms of Skype calls - there are the usual potential issues of latency, bandwidth and whether the person you're calling has a headset or is listening to you through their speakers.
Grade: 4 stars
See the Tornado in action at www.networkworld.com/video. Download the Twisted Pair podcast and he'll be your friend.
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