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Wireless Devices Help Cut Down on Cable Clutter

April 12, 2001|JEFF LEVY | jefflevykfi@hotmail.com

Wireless means more than just mobile phones. You can untether your PC from at least a few of the cables and wires cluttering your desk.

Logitech and Intel make wireless keyboards and mouses that use a radio transmitter to send and receive signals. Although older infrared technology required a line of sight between the transmitter and the wireless keyboard or mouse, these new wireless sets don't. So you can keep the transmitters on top of the computer and operate the keyboard and mouse on the desk.

At the heart of the Intel Wireless Series devices is a base unit housing the electronics that allow as many as eight devices to be connected at once. Logitech's wireless products are cheaper than the Intel models, but there is no multi-device base station.

Both companies' peripherals have about a 10-foot range.

One word of advice: Make sure to keep batteries for the devices handy. If the battery dies, you can replace it without rebooting. But if you don't have a battery, you have to shut down to switch back to your corded devices until you get new batteries.

This is not much of a problem with a keyboard because most people shut down using the mouse. If the mouse dies, though, you need to know some keyboard commands to shut down. Use the Windows key to bring up the Start menu, then use the up arrow key to get to Shut Down and press Enter.

Intel also makes a wireless game controller that can be used by more than one person at a time. A digital readout on the game controller displays the player number and remaining battery life. It looks like a horseshoe on steroids with eight customizable buttons.

Wireless technology also makes it easier to connect computers to form networks. With wireless networks, there are no cables to run through walls or along baseboards and over doorsills.

Wireless network interface cards can establish and maintain connections as far as about 500 feet with line-of-site communication and as far as 350 feet when the signal must pass through walls. Networking is much easier with wireless technology, and it doesn't entail messy cables.

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Jeff Levy hosts the "On Computers" radio talk show from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on KFI-AM (640).

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