- The Washington Times - Monday, January 24, 2005

It’s a little early, three weeks into the new year, to make a definitive pronouncement, but I’m wondering whether 2005 is going to turn out to be the year of the computer accessory. Or, perhaps, more accurately, this will be the year of accessorizing.

All this depends on how you define accessory, of course, but I’m seeing some signs that lead me to that kind of thinking. Chief among them is the wild success of Apple Computer Inc.’s IPod, and the even wilder eruption of accessories for what is, when you think about it, just a computer accessory: a player that downloads music from a computer.

You can get sleeves, “skins,” car carrying-and-broadcasting-to-your-FM radio devices, microphones with which you can record voice memos, and a bunch of other things for your IPod, and new items seem to appear weekly.

New computers often arrive with their own accessories: Hewlett Packard has teamed up with bag maker Targus Inc. to design a “Ladies Signature Series” of carrying cases for HP notebooks, the first such sex-specific offering that I can recall.

Accessorizing doesn’t stop with carrying bags or car adapters. Que Publishing has released the “Maximum PC Guide to Extreme PC Mods,” which in 298 pages is the print equivalent of an episode of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” but for computers, of course.

Using standard computer cases — and not so standard — as a starting point, authors Paul Capello and Jon Phillips take readers on a whirlwind tour of the ins and outs of this rather entertaining specialty. The “mod” stands for “modification.” Take a PC case, add power tools, a spray painter and goggles, add your imagination, and the ordinary can look extraordinary.

Because anyone can get a regular-looking PC, modders will say, why not create something special? Build in fans, neon lights, water-based cooling systems, a case that looks like a backpack or a stereo tuner, and you’ve got a PC like no other.

The amount of work, skill and dedication involved is not inconsequential, but it also is not impossible. Mr. Capello and Mr. Phillips offer a plethora of tips and tactics that make the job easier, and enough inspiration to get anyone excited.

I enjoyed reading this book, and although I don’t see a Dremel Minimite Cordless hand tool in my immediate future, doing PC modification could be a very satisfying extension of a computing hobby. Check it out — and let me know whether you did a “mod” on your PC as a result.

Handset Manager: Mobile-phone users who want to sync up their devices with a PC can turn to a $32.95 product called Handset Manager that does the job quite nicely. Yes, that’s about half the price of the competing DataPilot program reviewed here recently.

Handset Manager offers a similar set of capabilities: I can download my phone address book to my PC, edit and add phone numbers, and then rewrite the database to the phone. As mentioned before, this is much easier than using the phone keypad to edit a list. The program also promises to synchronize address books and calendars with Microsoft Outlook, and download MIDI files as ring tones.

For the price, this product is well worth it, and a nice bridge between a PC and a phone. There are details at www.mobileaction.com, although many retailers also will have the product.

E-mail MarkKel@aol.com or visit www.kellner.us

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