Rio MP3 player makes carrying favorite tunes a snap
Avocent's $299 SwitchView DT switches between computers.
I love the digital music age. I can carry my favorite tunes in my back pocket, pull them out and play a party's worth of music any time I like.
The Rio 800 Digital Audio Player makes digital music particularly worthwhile. It fits easily into the palm of your hand, and its 128-megabyte flash memory has enough capacity for two to four hours of digital music stored in MP3 or Windows Media format. The quality is about as good as a stereo CD player.
What's cool about today's tiny and portable MP3 players is that you don't have to lug around a bunch of discs. What's more, storage is continually increasing, and the Rio 800 can accommodate additional proprietary "backpack" memory units that boost capacity.
The catch, as always with hot new gadgets, is the cost. The Rio 800 128MB lists for $300 and will store about 40 songs.
If you're willing to settle for a little less quality in playback, you can store 60 or 70 tunes.
A 64-megabyte backpack unit sells for $120 and provides another one to two hours of music, depending on the format and quality of your files.
Downloading music from my computer to Rio 800 through my USB cable using the bundled RealJukebox music management program took a bit more computer savvy than some people might have. But it was worth the trouble.
Although I enjoyed listening to the Rio's superb output through headphones, I enjoyed using it in the car more.
A cassette-player adapter, available at most electronic stores for $10 to $15, enables you to play your MP3 files through your automobile speakers
Rio makes an excellent digital music product, and the next several months are likely to see the price of flash memory drop low enough to make these devices far more popular.
Box facilitates switching amid clustered computers
Computers have never been cheaper, and a rising number of households now have multiple boxes. Unfortunately, each computer has required its own space-consuming keyboard, monitor and mouse.
Information professionals, who have wrestled with this problem for years, developed switches that permit the use of a single keyboard-video-mouse combination, or KVM, for dozens of computers. Now, KVM switches are moving into the home, and companies such as Avocent are leading the way with classy, innovative designs for small offices where computers jostle for desk space.
Avocent's $299 SwitchView DT is a well-constructed, attractively lit switch box that's rugged enough to serve as a monitor stand.
You set the monitor on top of it, attach input cables from up to four computers, then toggle among connected computers by pressing a button.
Laptop and desktop PCs can be hot-swapped as quickly as you can plug in the cables, which come in color-coded bundles.
There's no software to configure. The SwitchView DT doesn't require a separate power cord: Juice comes from the keyboard connection.
Information: www.avocent.com or dial toll-free 866-286-2368.