Jewish World Review Jan. 28, 2005 / 18 Shevat 5765

Year of the Accessory?

By Mark Kellner | It's a little early, three weeks into the new year, to make a definitive pronouncement, but I'm wondering in 2005 isn't 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's iPod (stet), and the even wilder eruption of accessories for what is, when you think about it, just a computer accessory: a music 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. The arrival of new computers often bring their own accessories: Hewlett-Packard has teamed up with bag maker Targus to design a "Ladies Signature Series" of carrying cases for HP notebooks, the first time that I can recall such a gender-specific offering.

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 Makover: Home Edition," but for computers of course. Taking 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.

Since 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 in this is not inconsequential, but it's also not impossible. Capello and Phillips offer a plethora of tips and tactics that make the job easier, and enough inspiration to get anyone excited.

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I enjoyed reading this book and while 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 if 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 re-write 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 ringtones. For the price, this product is well worth it, and a nice bridge between a PC and a phone. Details at, although many retailers will also have the product.

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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.

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