`Personal navigator' pinpoints location but lacks...

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March 12, 2001

`Personal navigator' pinpoints location but lacks efficiency

There sometimes is a fine line between genius and gadget. The HandyGPS straddles that line.

Described as a "personal navigator" that pinpoints the user's location using Global Positioning System technology, the Nexian HandyGPS is among several peripherals for the Handspring Visor line of personal digital assistants. Maps of U.S. cities and counties can be downloaded free for one year after registration.

Great idea, right? Check an address on the PDA, plug in the HandyGPS and no worries about getting lost.

But there are a few glitches. Nexian's Web page notes that although the HandyGPS can access satellite signals while in "a speeding vehicle, it's easier to establish the initial connection ... at slower speeds." The company also cautions that "the device must be under open sky to work properly" and suggests that the dashboard is the best place for it.

In practice, "slower speeds" means outside the vehicle. The $150 HandyGPS can take four or five minutes - or more - to acquire the satellite connection. What's more, having a Visor and GPS attachment slip-sliding on the dash is distracting, not very convenient and perhaps one emergency stop away from a broken PDA.

There also are drawbacks for outdoors types. Maximum battery life is four hours; GPS units designed specifically for such use can operate much longer on a set of batteries, are more resistant to moisture than the typical PDA and feature more navigation options than just longitude and latitude.

Information: 858-623-1544 or www.nexian.com.

- Ed Timms/KRT

Alarm offers security for portable computers

You lock your house when you leave it and you lock your car. So why not secure your mobile computer, another hefty investment? Targus Group International, noting as many as 300,000 laptop thefts in 1998, has developed a product to help protect yours.

The Defcon 3 has a 94-decibel alarm that is triggered whenever the laptop is moved or shaken. That means that the Defcon 3 can't be used on an airplane or in a moving car.

But it's still useful when you leave your laptop in a work area or put it down while you talk on the phone at the airport or register at a hotel.

This security device has two parts, an alarm and a remote control. The alarm - 2.9 ounces, batteries included - is shaped like a small luggage tag. It attaches to the laptop's casing with a stainless steel cable. If someone attempts to walk off with the laptop or to detach the cable, the alarm will sound. The system is armed and disarmed with a button on the remote, which is effective from up to 40 feet away and can go on a key chain.

The device sells for $39.99, which includes the batteries.

Information: 877-819-8572 or www.targus.com.

- Katie Fairbank/KRT

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