May 31, 2007

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USB is cool
And it can make you cool, too
By John “jaQ” Andrews  jandrews@hippopress.com

I promise I’ll get off this kick eventually, but I do have to spend some more time extolling the awesomeness that is USB.

Aside from enabling simple connections of accessories that require data transfer, USB ports also supply up to 5 volts of power. An ever-increasing number of accessories are using that power to provide useful — and not so useful — work.

• FlyFan Mobile Personal USB Fan, $1.98 at www.outletpc.com: Your lap is now no longer burning up, but dang, that sun is beating down on you. Rather than wait for a cool breeze, make your own with a fan that plugs right into your computer. Nice.

There are literally scores of different USB fans, but again, this one came up as the cheapest on a quick Google Product Search. The flexible neck makes it pretty darn easy to position the fan exactly where you need it, assuming where you need it is within about a foot of the USB port.

For a few bucks more, www.pchub.com has a bunch of combination fans and LED lamps that plug into your USB port. Some of them also take batteries if you’re for some reason away from your computer, and one of them is shaped like a pig. No lie.

• Notebook Cooler Pad, $6.98 at www.outletpc.com: Nothing makes you feel warmer than the seeping heat from a laptop computer on your legs. You know manufacturers refer to them as “notebook” PCs rather than “laptops” because they don’t want to give you the idea that you can blithely rest them on your lap? Aside from flooding your nether regions with heat and radiation, laptop batteries have a rare but non-zero probability of exploding.

To keep your portable computer cool, this notebook cooler pad — and more expensive ones that are probably of better quality — uses fans to direct air right up at it from underneath. This especially helps if you’re playing intense games, as processors, memory and graphics cards can really heat up under those conditions. If you’re shopping around for a notebook cooler, the key feature to compare is air flow: the more cubic feet of air the thing moves per minute, the more effective it’ll be.

• USB Mini Fridge, $33 at www.brando.com: Home of every weird USB peripheral, including a roll-up USB drum kit and more than a dozen light-up USB Christmas decorations, no other site than Brando could have debuted this refrigerator, exactly large enough to hold one 12-ounce can of soda. The company claims the inside of the fridge cools down to 8.5 degrees (Celcius, I assume) in just five minutes.

The thing’s pretty neat looking, with a retro red-and-white color scheme, perfect for Coke cans, and a little silver handle. An indented circle in the floor holds the can securely. There’s even an LED inside to help you navigate the inky depths of this icebox.

Next week: USB is hot. Oh yeah.


5/24/2007 Gadgets for nothing

5/17/2007 Make your gadgets better
5/10/2007 You may now unplug
5/3/2007 Mobile is nothing
4/26/2007 Expand your wireless network
4/19/2007 Expand your wireless network
4/12/2007 Get a newer brain
4/5/2007 Get a newer brain
3/29/2007 Security can be free
3/22/2007 Paper that's not paper
3/8/2007 Use any file
3/1/2007 Audiobooks for free
2/22/2007 What's for sale today?
2/15/2007 Prints in your pocket
2/8/2007 Watch this
2/1/2007 How open is your source
1/25/2007 iPhone it now
1/18/2007 Simplify, simplify
1/11/2007 Vista time!
1/4/2007 Google killers?
12/28/2006 Tech that didn't happen
12/21/2006 Do not want
12/14/2006 Meet the new web
12/07/2006 Extreme price shopping
11/30/2006 They want what?
11/23/2006 Zat zany Zune
11/16/2006 Shop smart
11/9/2006 Your data's new home
11/2/2006 Hotkey heaven
10/26/2006 Computer to go
10/19/2006 Tech news roundup
10/12/2006 A different drummer
10/05/2006 Who needs TiVo?
09/28/2006 Disk drives without disks
09/21/2006 Movies, just click your mouse!
09/14/2006 Laptops for less
09/07/2006 GPS everywhere
08/31/2006 The printer dilemma
08/24/2006 A series of tubes
08/17/2006 More music, more places
08/10/2006 How big is your drive?
08/03/2006 It's a WiFi world
07/27/2006 Fancy a spot of memory?
07/20/2006 Under the sea
07/06/2006 eBaysic training
06/29/2006 You paid money for that?
06/22/2006 Processing ... processing ...
06/15/2006 C:\Run for the border
06/01/2006 The keyboard is mightier
05/25/2006 Geek phone home
05/18/2006 Super highway information
05/11/2006 How to host a site
05/04/2006 If they mated
04/27/2006 Apples to apples
04/20/2006 Flash uber-drives
04/13/2006 Web site, by you
04/06/2006 Ayyy, jaQ's right!
03/30/2006 Choose wirelessly
03/23/2006 Tax programs cometh
03/16/2006 And the Spammie goes to...
03/09/2006 Take in the Vista
03/02/2006 Cheap moviemaking
02/23/2006 Go directly to iJail
02/16/2006 Will you stamp your e-mail?
02/09/2006 War of the machines
02/02/2006 Faster than a speeding packet

01/26/2006 Free software made simple
01/19/2006 The Worst of CES
01/12/2006 Radio you
01/05/2006 Making Movies
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