Burney's Legal Tech Reviews: Targus Port 2.1 EasyRoller Case; A Wireless Ace in the Hand (and the

Brett Burney is the Legal Technology Support Coordinator at Thompson Hine in Cleveland, Ohio. He regularly reviews products for Law.com's Automated Lawyer and Law Office Computing Magazine. Feel free to e-mail Brett with your legal-technology questions at bburney@bburney.net.

Targus Port 2.1 EasyRoller Case; A Wireless Ace in the Hand (and the Palm); Portable Keys for Palms

A Computer Bag with Wheels and Cushion

If there's one thing that Targus is known for, it's good, sturdy, reliable bags for laptop computers. The company has been manufacturing quality computer bags for quite some time and even branded some of their products under the name of Port.com. One of their more innovative products is the Port 2.1 EasyRoller Case.

If you have been looking for a good all-around briefcase/notebook computer bag, then the EasyRoller will definitely fit your bill. The EasyRoller has top-loading compartments for files and your computer, and it rolls. I was very impressed with the overall sturdiness of the bag and the ample number of pockets and compartments. My only disappointment was with the telescoping handle.

First, the EasyRoller weighs 8.42 pounds on it's own, which is a little beefy when compared with other laptop bags (but then again, most laptop bags don't roll either). It's made of sturdy 1680 Denier Nylon which really holds up well against pokes and scrapes. One my favorite aspects of the EasyRoller is the "Ergon" handle. Targus did a great job with molding the two handles so they fit very nicely together. And with an added rubbery material on the underneath, the handle becomes one of the best carrying mechanisms I have ever used.

The very front of the bag has a zippered compartment that features a business card holder and a few straps to hold pens. I was able to put my plane tickets and other documents in this pocket even with the other compartments full. Plus there's easy access to my business cards.

The next four compartments are top-loading. The first has a couple of "flapped" pockets. The second compartment includes a mesh bag plus pockets that will easily fit CD cases and which happened to be the perfect fit for my PDA. The third compartment holds the notebook computer. The last compartment has file folder dividers and also features three individual mesh bags that are Velcroed to the back of the bag. While this sounds a little odd, the bags are a great use of the weird spaces created by the retractable handle.

The next four compartments are top-loading. The first has a couple of "flapped" pockets. The second compartment includes a mesh bag plus pockets that will easily fit CD cases and which happened to be the perfect fit for my PDA. The third compartment holds the notebook computer. The last compartment has file folder dividers and also features three individual mesh bags that are Velcroed to the back of the bag. While this sounds a little odd, the bags are a great use of the weird spaces created by the retractable handle.

The main feature that distinguishes the Port 2.1 EasyRoller Case from many other bags is the SafePORT adjustable Air Cushion. Inside the third top-loading compartment, there are long air-filled plastic cushions that are simply attached to the bag by Velcro. All of the cushions can be arranged as necessary to fit your particular laptop, or they can all be removed. I was able to leave the bottom and side cushions in the EasyRoller for my personal laptop. As soon as I plunked my computer down into the compartment, I knew that it was happy. I could feel that the laptop was snug, but could also tell that it wasn't going to be bothered by any jarring or unwanted bumps in the night. The SafePORT Air Cushion system is fantastic and I could recommend the EasyRoller on that alone.

The only flaw I found with the EasyRoller was with the retractable, telescoping handle. When you pull it out, it just feels cheap, at least compared with the other well manufactured items on the bag. When extended, the handle has a lot of give that got slightly worse with more use. This is kind of unfortunate because the dimensions of the EasyRoller don't allow for a very comfortable carry with the top handle, especially when you have a computer and other files inside. The handle is good, but the bag gets a little too bulky to carry normally. So the retractable handle is a must use. I must say, however, that as much as I didn't like the telescoping handle, it stayed in place even while I put the bag through the paces on a couple of trips, yanking it up and down stairs and dragging it behind me. It's pretty much the best cheap-feeling retractable handle I've used.

One thing I did not get around to using on the EasyRoller was the included shoulder strap. I usually don't mind heaving a bag on my shoulder, but I never really got the courage to carry the EasyRoller that way. Plus, I had the wheels and that just seemed a little easier to use.

The Port 2.1 EasyRoller is a great computer bag. Not only could I fit my laptop in the bag, but it held every other electronic gadget as well (cell phone, two PDAs, and charge cords for everything). In addition, I could fit all of my magazines, work folders, and other documents in the remaining pockets. The bag pretty much became my traveling office.

Port 2.1 EasyRoller Case from Targus: $149.99 Find at http://www.targus.com or http://www.port.com.

A Wireless Ace in the Hand (and the Palm)

In the next few years, we'll see more and more PDAs feature some sort of wireless access which will allow users to retrieve e-mail, surf the Web, and send faxes from anywhere. We already have PDA/cell phone combos on one end and BlackBerry-type devices on the other. Somewhere in the middle of this spectrum comes Palm's i705 Handheld.

Overall, I am fond of the i705 and I certainly see that it has an important place in the evolution of PDA wireless devices. Unfortunately, the wireless network that the i705 uses for e-mail and "Web clippings" is a bit too slow for any serious work.

First of all, this is a Palm we're talking about. To many people, the very definition of a PDA is a Palm device, and everything else just tries to be a little too fancy for its own good. Palm Inc. has been around a long time and no one will argue that they basically created the PDA marketplace (with a graceful bow to the Apple Newton fans).

The i705 is encased in a sleek silvery body with a white beret on top of the unit that houses the wireless antenna and IR port. The Palm buttons live in their regular places down at the bottom of the unit except the two right buttons have been changed for e-mail and Internet access. The Graffiti area is still there except that the calculator button has been changed to become a "favorites" button so you can jump straight to your favorite application.

One of the biggest disappointments about the Palm i705 is lack of color. The screen of the i705 is just black and white. This isn't too appealing in these days where we can get miniature color screens on our cell phones. On the other hand, without having to provide an enormous amount of juice to run a color screen, the i705 can literally go for several days without requiring a re-charge (no option for AAA batteries in this unit).

Everything else on the i705 will be very familiar with avid Palm users. All of the oldie-but-goodie applications like To Do List and Datebook are still there. Plus the list of available programs for the Palm OS just keeps growing and growing at sites like PalmGear.com.

The best part of the Palm i705 is, of course, the ability to retrieve e-mail from anywhere. You have several options for setting up the i705 to get your e-mail and you even have the ability to set up personal POP3 accounts in addition to the mandatory Palm.net account (this is required to access the wireless network). I found the e-mail application (MultiMail) to be very functional and streamlined. I had the unit configured to retrieve my personal e-mail within a few minutes.

The i705 operates on the Cingular Mobitex network, which provides a max speed of 9600 baud. This is slow by many standards and it took me several seconds to download each e-mail message. The service will cut off e-mails that are too long but you can sometimes request the full text of the message in the next wireless connection.

The Palm i705 also works with "Web clippings" much like the older Palm VII devices. While you do have the option of pulling up any URL that you want, it's not recommended because 1) the speed is too slow and 2) regular HTML pages don't work well on the i705's screen. Palm does offer several Web clipping services that work very well (and fast!) on the unit and allow you to do several tasks like check weather, stocks, sports scores, and even locate a Starbucks.

If you liked using a Palm VII product, you will love the Palm i705. If you are a Palm user and would like to have the occasional access to e-mail while away from the office, then the Palm i705 once again is a good purchase.

On the other hand, if you're a serious e-mail user, then you might want to bypass the i705 for something a little snazzier. I think the i705 is a great upgrade from BlackBerry devices, especially if you already like using a Palm interface.

Palm i705 Handheld: $399 (or $299 after rebate) http://www.palm.com/products/palmi705/

Portable Keys for Palms

Logitech TypeAway Keyboard

Getting text into a Palm PDA can be laborious. Graffiti works well for many people who are proficient in the art while some users prefer pecking out words on the miniature, on-screen keyboard. Serious users, however, need a separate, portable keyboard that connects to their Palm so they can type away as if they were on their regular PC. Two products from Logitech will gladden the hearts of serious Palm users all over the world.

We'll save the best for last and start off with the Logitech TypeAway Keyboard. If you're familiar with other portable keyboards for PDAs, then this product won't surprise you one bit, except for the fact that it's smaller and more compact than many other similar products on the market.

The TypeAway Keyboard is a full-size keyboard that basically folds in half. When folded, it's only a 1/2 inch thick, and measures 5 1/4 inches long by 3 1/2 inches wide. It fits easily in a shirt pocket. You simply open the keyboard by depressing a small button and presto, you have a full size keyboard for your Palm.

Inside, laying on top of the middle keys, you'll find a small plastic flap with a "kickstand." Raise the flap, prop it up, and you'll immediately see where your Palm fits into the universal connector. The keys feel exactly like your typical laptop computer keys, just a little smaller. The TypeAway Keyboard has 63 keys so you have just about everything you would need on a keyboard. It also features a "function" key that can be used in tandem with the number keys above to launch Palm specific apps like e-mail, Calendar, etc.

I found the TypeAway Keyboard to be very comfortable and it didn't take me any time to get used to it. I was a little perturbed at first by the fact that my thumbs kept hitting the case every time I hit the space bar until I discovered that Logitech built in tiny little flaps on the side so this wouldn't be a problem. I've used several portable keyboards in my time but Logitech really did a fantastic job with this product. It is extremely well designed and would be a great addition for any Palm user.

Logitech KeyCase Keyboard

And then I was fortunate enough to use the Logitech KeyCase Keyboard.

The KeyCase is revolutionary. First, it's a cloth keyboard. That alone is amazing. But because it's cloth, it can literally wrap about your Palm as a de facto carrying case. It's sort of an all-in-one portable solution for your Palm.



The obvious question with a cloth keyboard is, "how well does it work?" My answer is fair to well. The only real issue with the KeyCase is that there is a notable learning curve. The first hurdle is getting used to feeling a cloth key under your fingers. You don't get that tactile feedback like using a plastic keyboard. Second, the technology of the keyboard dictates that you cannot press two buttons at the same time. This really only comes into play when you need to use the shift key but it can get annoying.

Neither of these issues are a big deal, and it merely takes using the KeyCase for a little while to get the hang of it. I discovered that I did better with a hybrid method of hunt-and-peck and touch typing. The KeyCase didn't pick up on everything when I typed normally. I had much better luck with hunt-and-peck. The "hunt" part isn't really accurate, however, since the KeyCase is a full size keyboard. I already knew where all the keys were and I found that I achieved acceptable input speeds by "pecking" with both hands in standard positions. Hitting a key doesn't give you a physical click or anything, although you can set the Palm to give you an audible click if that makes you feel better.

At the top of the KeyCase there is a separate row of buttons that let you jump to Palm-specific applications. You also have Cut, Copy, and Paste buttons there. Logitech also included a helpful button called "Screen Button." If you have a button on your screen like "Done," you can hit the Screen Button and then the letter D, and this is the equivalent of tapping the button. I found this to be a big timesaver.

Another little caveat with the KeyCase is that you'll need a flat surface for proper operation. Once you unroll the KeyCase, you'll see the "SmartMotion" cradle which holds your Palm. I was really happy with this cradle and had a lot of confidence in it's ability to securely hold my Palm in place. The cradle is "smart" because it can sense when you flip it up and stand the Palm upright for typing. It powers on the Palm and is immediately ready for input.

Both Logitech keyboards feature the "universal connector" so they will fit any Palm with the proper hardware. This basically translates into the m125, m130, m500, m505, m515, and the newer i705. Also, you'll have to install separate software for both models from a regular computer on to your Palm. Even though that's a bit of a bother, the software on the Palm allows you to change a few settings like sensitivity for the KeyCase and repeat speed for the TypeAway.

I know there are many portable keyboards for Palms these days on the market, but I definitely give my vote for these two Logitech models.

Logitech TypeAway Keyboard: $79.95

Logitech KeyCase Keyboard: $99.95

Find both at http://www.logitech.com.

Please feel free to e-mail me (bburney@bburney.net) with any questions, suggestions, comments, or any helpful tips and tricks that you might have relating to technology used in the practice of law.