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Burney's Legal Tech Reviews - Burney's Gadgets for Legal Pros: Travel in Wireless Style

By Brett Burney, Published on August 19, 2005

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.

 

 

Wireless is everywhere these days, except in places where you really, really need it – like hotel rooms. Many hotels these days are starting to offer wireless access right in their guest rooms, but the majority of them only provide the convenience in their lobbies, if at all.

Even if individual guest rooms don't feature wireless access, they still may offer high-speed Internet access in the form of a box on the desk with a network cable.

To use the service, you'll have to camp out at the desk area, complete with limited desk space and a not-so-comfortable chair. Wouldn't it be great if you could lounge on the bed instead? Or sit out on the balcony and surf in wireless glory?

That's exactly where the new breed of wireless travel routers earn their keep. While you could easily lug around your Linksys wireless router from your home network, it's bulky and those antennas would get in the way.

Networking companies are offering an alternative in the form of wireless routers the size of a deck of cards, complete with handy vinyl travel pouches.

Once you arrive at your hotel and provide a credit card for high-speed Internet charges, you can set up your own little wireless hotspot right in your own room. Simply plug the network cable from your desk into the travel router and plug in the power.

Several models of wireless travel routers are on the market today. Linksys recently jumped into the foray and as usual, Apple was ahead of the whole curve with their fabulous AirPort Express.

But a couple of models I've been working with recently include those from NetGear and 3Com.

The 3Com OfficeConnect Wireless 54Mbps 11g Travel Router and the NetGear 54Mbps Cable/DSL Wireless Travel Router are basically the same product save for a handful of extra features that the 3Com unit adds.

Both products have a 4-position hardware switch on their sides, except the NetGear model only uses the first three. Both units also pull double-duty to handle 802.11b and 802.11g wireless networking standards. Personally, I preferred using the NetGear router just because I felt like it was easier to use and understand. Don't get me wrong, the 3Com unit is fabulous and maybe even better since it offered a few additional features, but I usually fall on the side of simplicity and the NetGear model suited me just fine.

Position 3 on the switch of the NetGear travel router is basically the configuration mode. The first time you plug in the router, you'll need to make sure you have it in position 3 to make the necessary modifications to the security settings. At the very least, you'll need to change the default name of your travel router and assign a password for proper access. You cannot surf the Internet with the travel router in position 3.

Once you've made the necessary adjustments to your security settings, you can flip the switch to position 1 for single-client access, or to position 2 for a multi-client environment. I liked the simplicity of how NetGear describes these two positions since if you're the only one in the room, you know that position 1 will only allow you to connect to the router. If you have other people in the room and want them to surf alongside you, then position 2 will allow them to do that, provided you also give them the access password.
 

While the NetGear travel router does not use position 4 on the switch, the 3Com employs it for what they call "client mode." This will basically allow you to bridge two wireless networks together. This comes in handy for many applications, but not so much for simple wireless access. The first three positions on the 3Com unit work almost exactly the same as on the NetGear product.

The bottom line is that if you're looking for a simple way to conjure up a wireless hotspot, the NetGear travel router will be perfect. If you consider yourself a little more knowledgeable about networking terms and concepts, and enjoy tweaking things to your liking, then go for the 3Com OfficeConnect travel router instead.

BoxWave is your PDA's New Best Friend

If you've purchased accessories for your PDA in the past, you may have come across the respected name of BoxWave.

BoxWave provides a plethora of great products for mobile phones and PDAs ranging from screen protectors to charging cables. I've have the fortunate opportunity to work with several products from BoxWave recently and I give them a hearty recommendation.

The feature attraction is the versatile and benevolent VersaCharger. Like many of you, I have several chargers for my Treo 650. I have regular chargers at work and home, and then I have a car charger that lives in my center console. It is a royal pain to take one or two of these with me when I travel.

That's why I was so pleased to find the VersaCharger which can be used as either a car charger or a regular AC wall outlet adaptor. I fall in love with products like this that make so much sense and are so beautifully simple.

The VersaCharger only weighs 1.8oz and is about the size of a Snickers candy bar. One end plugs into a automobile's cigarette lighter and the other end hides two electrical prongs that can be flipped out to plug into a wall outlet.

A small LED on the front of the unit shines red when a product is plugged in and charging. The LED changes to green when the plugged-in PDA is fully charged.

The VersaCharger can't be used on its own, you'll need a USB charging cable for your particular PDA. Conveniently, BoxWave sells two version of such cables in the form of miniSync and Direct Sync cables.


The idea behind these cables is that you can charge your PDA from the USB port on your PC or laptop. That way you don't have to carry around a separate power cord for all your devices. The only rub is that you have to have your laptop plugged in and running in order for this to work.

I personally like BoxWave's miniSync cable for obvious reasons. They are small and portable, and don't twist like spaghetti with every other wire I carry. MiniSync cables are available for a variety of smartphones, PDAs, and even MP3 players – check out their website for compatibility.

 

The VersaCharger paired up with a miniSync cable is a complete charging solution for your portable products. I use the VersaCharger with a miniSync cable for my Treo 650 and it just works wonderfully. I carry the two products everywhere I go so I'm always prepared.

Lastly, BoxWave also has some of the best screen protectors that I've found. A screen protector on your PDA is not an absolute necessity, but it sure helps cut down on scratches and greasy smudges.

The ClearTouch Crystal screen protectors are easy to apply, feel as good as the real screen, and look so good when applied that you can't even tell there's a layer of plastic on the screen.

I've used protectors from other places in the past and I've never been happy with the cloudy look they put on my screen. The Treo 650 resolution is just too good to mess up like that. The minute I put the BoxWave ClearTouch Crystal screen protector on my Treo, I was happy as a clam.

If you use your PDA or smartphone on a regular basis, then you need a screen protector and the ClearTouch Crystal is one of the best. When the ClearTouch Crystal protectors get dirty or look like they need replacing, simply just peel it off and run it under water, let it air dry, and re-apply it! You heard right, the adhesive can be reset by running it under water.
BoxWave has some great products for your PDA but you're definitely not going to wrong with a VersaCharger, a miniSync cable and a ClearTouch Crystal screen protector.