Hardware: The weird and the cool

This week we were going to continue the discussion launched last week about CD/DVD creation and management tools, but because of technical problems, we've had a slight change of plan.

Before we start this week, we have an important admission. It is time to come clean: There is no "we" writing this column; it's just me. I started writing Gearhead in the third voice as a joke way back when and got kind of locked into the whole shtick.

Many a time I have thought of giving it up, and then a couple of days ago reader Dave Scott wrote in and very pointedly used "us", "we" and "our" (in quotes no less), instead of using "me", "I" and "my."

I took the hint and asked Scott for his opinion, which was: "I love reading your column, except that the 'we' has become very 'old' for me. I grit my teeth every time I come across it." Thus, for Scott and everyone else who have experienced the teeth-gritting response, it is the dawn of a new era: "We" is no more.

So, welcome to the new Gearhead, same geek tech content, same "flava," with a brand-new wrapper! Fat-reduced, nonsaturated, no artificial colorings, flavorings or preservatives. 100% unnatural. Batteries not included.

Anyway, what a week! To quote the late Kurt Vonnegut, "Busy, busy, busy." What have I been doing? I've been looking at all sorts of products that have turned up.

First, the strange stuff: Cablefish. These pieces of plastic are shaped like cartoon fish skeletons and exist for the sole purpose of tidying up your cables -- you simply wind the cables around the Cablefish. There are also Cable Frogs and Cable Cats, but the cleverly designed Cable Turtle looks very useful, particularly for travelers. So, a range of products that are inexpensive ($3 to $7), useful and kinda weird. Kids and CEOs will love 'em.

Then there's really cool hardware. I got my hands on a Saitek Obsidian Wireless Rechargeable Mouse. This is a sleek, black (as in obsidian, natch) ovoid with a touch-sensitive scallop at one end and buttons on either side that are framed by silver bands. Definitely very sexy desk art.

Apart from being cool looking, I like this mouse because it feels really good and works really well. It features 1,000 dpi resolution, is completely plug and play, and costs a reasonable $50.

The Obsidian comes with a cradle that plugs into a USB port and charges the mouse and a spare battery (it comes with two batteries). The cradle has a light ring to indicate when the battery is charging (yellow) or full (green), and it flashes yellow when the mouse is establishing a connection.

The mouse actually connects to a USB dongle in the middle of the cradle which you can detach and plug directly into a computer if you wish.

The touch-sensitive pad on the mouse lets you to toggle scroll lock, scroll up or down by sliding your finger forward or backward (you can also hold your finger in the desired scroll position for autorepeat), or you can tap at one end of the pad or the other for a single line scroll.

I have high hopes that, unlike my other mice that get grungy and grimy, this touch pad will stay free of that icky mouse cheese that builds up and plays havoc with the physical wheel it replaces.

Our final cool hardware product is something else that mobile workers and people with a "green" inclination will love: The Energizer Rechargeable Duo (MSRP $13.99) can charge a pair of AA or AAA batteries from either a wall outlet (a wall wart and a pair of AAA 900 mAh NiMH batteries are included) or from a USB port. Better still, the charger comes with a Windows or OS X utility that displays on screen how much longer charging will take when you use the USB method.

Charging two AAA batteries is supposed to take two hours, but we keep forgetting to check and just keep finding them magically ready to go. Gotta love technology.

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