Colorful protection for laptops tames phone-line surges...

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April 10, 2000|By Gareth Branwyn

Colorful protection for laptops tames phone-line surges

If you travel a lot without a surge suppressor for your laptop, you're begging for trouble. If you have a suppressor but it doesn't protect your modem, you're not adequately covered, either. In fact, the phone line is a commonly overlooked source of nasty power spikes.

Tripp-Lite's iGuard ($26.95) has all this covered.

The iGuard is housed in an attractive, if bulky, case whose translucent blue and tangerine covers are obviously targeted at the Apple iBook crowd. (When did we become so fascinated with the innards of our technology?) The iGuard has a three-pronged power receptacle for your laptop and three phone jacks: one for the phone, one for the modem and one to connect to the wall jack. A phone cable is included.

The unit also helps filter line noise, which can especially be a problem in buildings with old wiring or during bad weather. The package includes $5,000 in insurance should your computer be damaged once the suppressor is properly installed.

One thing I don't like about the iGuard is the three-pronged plug that juts out of the back. APC, a competitor that makes a similar unit, thoughtfully includes a cap to cover the plug, preventing it from poking things inside your laptop bag. No such cap is included here.

Information: 773-869-1234 or www.tripplite.com.

Book offers guide to the best of MP3 players, programs

Despite the recording industry's best effort to squash it (or perhaps because of it), the MP3 audio compression standard has sparked a cultural and technological phenomenon.

Every day, thousands of songs are digitized and put online (some legally, some pirated) for netizens worldwide to download. Building MP3 jukeboxes has become an obsession of many campus-networked college students. The dizzying speed of all this has led to a profusion of MP3 software programs, portable players, and all sorts of other hardware and software tools. Figuring out the best in all this (and how to make use of it) is where O'Reilly's "MP3: The Definitive Guide" ($29.95) comes in.

Over the past few years, O'Reilly has tried to expand its catalog beyond its traditional "deep geek," but its titles still appeal more to the sophisticated user. If you're looking for "MP3 for Newbies," this is not it. The author, Scot Hacker, shines brightest here when he's describing the technical aspects of MP3, especially how the technology works, how to create your own MP3 audio files and how to serve them to the wired masses. Portable MP3 players are well-covered, along with MP3 car systems, MP3 audio decks and direct hookups between your computer and stereo system. The gnarly legal entanglements of MP3 are covered, too, but this issue really requires its own volume.

Part of the heft of this 400-page tome is the result of covering multiple computer platforms (Mac, Windows, Linux and BeOS). Skip over the operating systems that aren't yours (BeOS? Most people have never even heard of this!), and you may well feel that you're paying for a lot of irrelevant information.

That said, if you're looking for an excellent MP3 handbook, especially if you're itching to produce MP3s yourself, Hacker's volume is highly recommended. It's written in a clear and friendly style, but is still serious enough to take you as deep into the world of MP3 as you care to go.

Information: 800-998-9938 or www.oreilly.com.

For full reviews of these items and other gadgets, visit www. streettech.com.

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