Knowing cell is charged supplies a feeling of power

October 23, 2003|By Mike Himowitz

THE ACE detective races through an abandoned junkyard, dodging bullets from a bunch of meth-crazed drug runners armed with Uzis. Hiding in a burned-out warehouse, he catches his breath long enough to whip out his cell phone and call for backup - which should end everything nicely in about five minutes.

But sure enough, the battery's dead - which gives the author another 50 pages to get his hero out of trouble. If you read as many mysteries and thrillers as I do, you've suffered this hackneyed plot trick in dozens of variations. For some reason, the people who write these books can't come to grips with technology.

True, authors have a tough row to hoe. To entertain us, they have to put their heroes in harm's way. But with everyone carrying a cell phone these days, it's almost impossible to get in harm's way without an electronic escape hatch. So what does the average author do? He turns an otherwise brilliant protagonist into an idiot who forgets to charge the phone.

Well, here's one more reason for writers to give up this tired old trick: The Cellboost from ESI Enterprises. It's a disposable battery, a bit larger than a matchbox, and not much heavier, that plugs into a dead cell phone and provides an hour of talk time or 60 hours of standby.

There's not much to say about this gadget - it just works. The only trick is making sure to find one that fits your phone. ESI sells five models that work with contemporary phones from Motorola, Nokia, Siemens, Samsung and Sony Ericsson.

I got one for my Nokia 3300 (one of the worst cell phones ever made). When its internal battery ran out of juice - which never takes much waiting - I plugged the Cellboost in to the charger port. A minute later, I was on the air. Because the Nokia uses a single round charging plug, as opposed to the dual-contact clips of some other phones, holding the Cellboost in place while I talked was a bit awkward - but better than not talking.

Even if you rarely find yourself dodging bullets from meth-crazed drug runners armed with Uzis, the Cellboost is a good idea - for parents and kids, for campers and hikers, and for people who absolutely rely on their phones for business.

Just don't get accustomed to using one instead of keeping your phone charged. At $9 to $13 apiece (depending on the outlet), the Cellboost is too expensive for everyday use. The best way to stay out of trouble is to keep your phone charged. Buy a Cellboost, put it in your briefcase, purse or glove compartment, and forget about it until you need it. For more information, visit or call 1-800-833-1070.

We ran into a problem when my son headed off to England for a year and left us with a very good cell phone - minus the charger. (He never explained exactly how it disappeared). The lad did leave us with a car adapter that plugs into a cigarette lighter, but being able to charge a phone only when you're driving is a pain in the neck.

We tried a couple of stores, but none had a compatible charger in stock. Radio Shack was one of them - but it did offer a clever workaround.

The Shack's AC-to-DC Portable Power Supply (Part No. 22-505, $21.99) has a standard AC power plug on one side and a round, car-adapter receptacle on the other. So you can plug it into a wall outlet and provide power to any device that normally plugs into your car's cigarette lighter. A useful gadget, and cheaper than a dedicated phone charger.

Stupid Windows tricks

One of the most frequent complaints I get involves popup spam Windows - not the kind you get browsing the Web, but the gray boxes that pop up from nowhere, even when your Web browser isn't running. Most of them advertise programs that block popup Windows - in other words, pay the spammer and he'll stop spamming you.

These annoying intrusions are the result of yet another "feature" in Microsoft Windows 2000 and XP - known as the Windows Messenger Service. Don't confuse this with MSN Messenger or other programs designed for two-way chat. Messenger Service is built into Windows so system administrators can send quick bulletins to individual or group IP addresses - such as warnings of system shutdowns or upgrades.

Spammers take advantage of Messenger to broadcast ads directly to hundreds of thousands of random IP addresses (the unique numbers that identify each computer on the Internet). Because they don't require a Web browser, they can slip past normal popup Window filters.

There are two ways to get rid of these messages. One is to install firewall software such as ZoneAlarm (, or to activate the firewall built into Windows XP.

The other is to disable Windows Messenger Service, which you're unlikely to need anyway.

The easiest way to do this is to visit Gibson Research Corporation's Web site and download a program called ShootTheMessenger ( Save it to your desktop and run it. The program will disable the Windows Messenger Service, and the popups will disappear.

While you're at it, poke around the Web site. Steve Gibson, the legendary PC guru who runs it, has developed a collection of useful security tools that he has generously shared with millions of users.

If you'd rather fool with Windows settings, here are instructions for disabling the Messenger Service in Windows XP.

1. Click the Start button.

2. Click Settings, then choose Control Panel, Performance and Maintenance, and then Administrative Tools

3. Double-click on Services, and scroll down the list until you see Messenger in the window.

4. Double-click on Messenger.

5. In the box labeled Startup Type, click on the little arrow and choose Manual or Disabled from the list that appears.

6. Click the Stop button.

7. Click OK.

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