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Chapter 14.  Portable System Accessories

Chapter 14.  Portable System Accessories

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CarryingCases

Perhapsthemostpopularaccessoryforlaptopsisthecarrying

caseandforgoodreason.Anyonewhotakesanexpensive

laptopcomputeroutintotherealworldwantstobesureitwill

surviveundamaged.Peoplecananddocarrytheirlaptopsin

briefcases,backpacks,andprobablyeverythingshortofapaper

grocerybag,butforrealprotection,laptopsshouldbecarriedin

casesspecificallydesignedforthatpurpose,withspecial

cushioningtolimitanydamagefromaccidentalknocksand

drops.

Overtheyears,severaldifferenttypesofcushioninghavebeen

employedinlaptopcarryingcases.Thesimplestandmost

commonformofcushioningisalayeroffoamrubber.Ahandful

ofcaseshaveenhancedthistypeofcushioningbysuspending

thelaptopinanelasticsling.Asmallnumberofothercarrying

casesusedinflatablecushions.Theinflatablecasesprovideda

gooddegreeofcushioningbutoftenrequiredpartialdeflationin

ordertoremovethelaptop.

Itisdifficulttogetanexactmeasurementofthecushioning

capabilityofacarryingcasewithoutdoingextensivedrop

testing.Youcan,however,obtainaroughestimateofthe

cushioningsimplybysqueezingthesideandbottomwallsofthe

case.Ofcourse,thethickerthewalls,thebetter.Thefoam

shouldbesoft,butnottoosoft.Thebottomshouldbethicker

thanthesidewalls.

Oneofthemostcommonwaysalaptopisdamagedisbyfailure

ofthecarryingcase'sshoulderstrap,causingthecaseto

plummettotheground.Besurethatthefixturesofthe

shoulderstraparecomposedofsturdymetalandnotplastic.

Thecarryingcapacitiesofcasesvaryconsiderably.Mosthave

severalpocketsdesignedfordifferentpurposes.Thelargest



pocketisdesignedforthelaptopandisusuallytheonlyone

thatiscushioned.Afewofthelargercaseshaveasecondlarge

cushionedpocketfordevicessuchasaportableprinter.Atleast

onesmallerpocketisalsoavailableforcarryingitemssuchas

powersuppliesandphonecables.Becauseyouwillprobablybe

carryingaconsiderablequantityofpaperaswellasyourlaptop,

lookforacasewithapocketthatcaneasilyaccommodatea

foldednewspaperorafewmagazines.Infact,whenyoushop

foracarryingcase,itisagoodideatobringalongnotonly

yourlaptopbutanewspaperaswell.

Manydifferenttypesofcarryingcasesarecurrentlyavailable.

Table14.1liststhemostcommontypes.

Table14.1.LaptopCarryingCases:SeveralDifferent

TypesofCasesAreDesignedforVariousApplications

andUserProfiles

Type



Weight



Price



Nyloncase



35lbs.



$40$150



Leathercase



46lbs.



$150$400



Backpack



35lbs.



$50$125



Wheeledcase



815lbs.



$100$200



Ruggedizedcase



1020lbs



$100$300



Thefollowingsectionsdiscusseachofthesecasetypesin

furtherdetail.



NylonCases



Themostinexpensivetypeoflaptopcarryingcaseisthesoftsidednyloncase.Thiscaseissimple,lightweight,andusually

hasamplestoragecapabilitiesforlaptopaccessoriesand

papers,alongwithgoodcushioning(seeFigure14.1).



Figure14.1.TheTargusNotePac,apopularnylon

carryingcasefornotebookcomputers.



Althoughnyloncarryingcasesareaffordableandpractical,they

sufferfromtwoproblems.Thefirstisthattheyareusuallyan

openadvertisementthatyouarecarryingalaptopand

thereforerepresentaninvitingtargetfortheft.Thiscanbea

considerableproblemincertainareasoftheworld.Thesecond

problemisthatnyloncasesdonotagewell.Afterayearorso

ofuse,thecasewillhaveacrumpledlookthatmaybe

inappropriateforcertainhigh-levelboardrooms.



LeatherCases

Thecarryingcaseforthelaptop-totingexecutiveisleather.

Slightlyheavierthanthenyloncases,theseexpensivecasesdo

notofferanyadditionalcushioning,buttheylookmuchbetter

inthecorneroffice.Notethatleathercasestendtohave

smallercarryingcapacitiesthannyloncases.Some

manufacturershavebeguntocreateleathercasesspecifically



designedforfemalenotebookowners.Theseleathercasesare

sleeker,morestylish,andtendtolookmorelikealady's

handbag.



BackpackCases

Inhighschoolsandoncollegecampuses,thestandardcarrying

caseisthebackpack.Forthisaudience,somebackpacksnow

havespecialcushionedpocketsfornotebookcomputers.Oneof

thebestfeaturesofthesecasesisthattheycompletelydisguise

thefactthatyoumaybecarryingalaptop.Notethatdespite

thecushioning,adroppedbackpackcanstilldamageyour

laptop.Besurethattheshoulderstrapsareofsufficientquality.



WheeledCases

Oneofthegreatestadvancesinluggagehistorywasthe

developmentofthewheeledsuitcase.Nowwehavewheeled

computercases,whichcomeinquitehandywhenyouneedto

dragaroundalaptopplusaprojector,printer,camera,ora

multitudeofotheraccessories.

Ipersonallyuseatwo-casesetupfromTarguscalledthe

Shuttle,whichfeaturesalargerollingcasewithasmaller

internalsatellitecase(seeFigure14.2).Thistypeofcasefits

myneedsperfectly.MostofthetimeItraveltoaclient's

locationtoeitherteachaclassintheclient'sofficeortraining

roomortoworkontheclient'ssystemsforseveraldayswhile

stayingatalocalhotel.Withthelargerollercase,Icanbring

everythingIneedandyeteasilytakemylaptopbacktomy

hotelroomeverynightinthesmallersatellitecase.



Figure14.2.TheTargusShuttle,alargeroller



casewithasmallerlaptopcaseinside.



ThiscaseisthelargestpossiblethatconformstotheFAA

regulationsforoverheadstorage,soIcantakeitwithmeona

planewhenItravel.Thisallowsmetotakeallmymobile

accessories,tools,cables,discs,andsoon,toaworksiteand

thentravellocallywithonlymylaptopinthesmallercase.

TheShuttleincludeshandlesonthetopandsideforeasy

carrying,andithasanadjustabletelescopichandleforwheeled

use.Thewheelsareinlineskatewheelswithballbearingsthat

rollextremelywellovermostsurfaces.Thecasefeaturestwo

maincompartmentsthatarefullylinedandpadded,withoneof

themincludinganadjustabledivider.Therearealsomesh

pocketsinbothcompartmentsforsmalleraccessories,aswell

aspocketsforCDs,floppy/Zipdisks,PCCards,pens,andmore.

Thezippersareself-healingandhavemetalpullswithaholefor

asmalllockorziptie.Thesideofthecaseevenhasadditional

externalpocketsfordocumentation,papers,andsmalleritems.

Thisparticular"casewithinacase"setupsuitsmyneeds

perfectly.

Finally,therearealso"hybrid"wheeledbackpackcases

available.Thistypeofcasecanbecarriedaroundlikea



conventionalbackpack,butitalsohasaretractablehandleand

smallwheelswhichallowittobeluggedaroundasawheeled

case.Thesecasesarewellsuitedforbothbusinesstravelers

andstudents.



RuggedizedCases

Insomeenvironments,thesoft-sidedcaseswillnotdo.Here,

youwillneedoneoftherigidcases,madeeitherofmetalor

hardnylonbackedbyextracushioning.Notethatallthis

protectioncostsmoney,sometimesevenmorethanfancy

leathercasescost.

Ifyouwanttheultimateincases,considerbuyingonethat

meetsATA(AirTransportationAssociation)Specification300

standards(seeFigure14.3).Suchacaseisoftencalledan"ATA

flightcase"orsometimesjusta"flightcase."TheATAwas

foundedin1936andisthefirstandonlytradeorganizationfor

theprincipalU.S.airlines.ATASpec300reviewsthedesign,

development,andprocurementofeffectivepackagingof

suppliesshippedtoacustomerairline.Theseapproachesalso

serveasguidelinesforshippingcontainersacceptableforair

transport.CasesconformingtoATASpec300standardsare

abletosurviveaminimumof100airshipments,includingany

ofthegroundtransportationassociatedwitheachshipment.



Figure14.3.ATASpec300casesfromAnvilCase.



Thecasesusedbymusicalgroupsandtrade-showexhibitorsto

transporttheirequipmentareusuallyATAcases.Asyoucan

imagine,ATAcasesareextremelydurablebutalsoveryheavy.

Theyarenormallymadeoutofreinforcedplywoodandmetalor

specialheavy-dutyplastics.Theyhavesolidfoaminteriorsthat

canbecutorshapedtofityourequipmentexactly,thus

protectingitandnotallowingthingstomovearoundorbang

together.ATAcasesoftenhaveclip-onwheelsfor

transportation,andsomeareevenwatertightwithgasketseals

onthelid.Theyalmostalwayshavespeciallatchesandlocks

forsecurity.

ATAcasesareidealforthosewhoshiptheirlaptopsorother

computerequipmentfromplacetoplaceandwantthemto

arriveintactandinworkingorder.Oneofthebest-knownATA

casecompaniesisAnvilCase(www.anvilcase.com).







DockingStations

Historically,oneofthemostpopularaccessoriesforlaptopsis

sometypeofdockingsolution.Thesedevicesaredesignedto

enhancethefeaturesofaportablesystemandenableitto

functionmorelikeadesktop.Therearetwotypesofdocking

solutions:thefull-featureddockingstationandtheless

expensiveportreplicator.

Dockingstationsvaryinsizeandshapeandaresometimesas

largeasadesktopcomputer.Thedockingstation,ordock,is

actuallydesignedtoservetwofunctions.First,itendowsthe

notebookcomputerwithmanymoreoptionsthanarepossible

inthelimitedspaceofasmallportablesystem.Second,it

providesasimpleandeasywaytoconnectalargenumberof

devicestoanddisconnectthemfromanotebook

simultaneously.

AnexampleofadockingstationistheCompaqExpansionBase

(seeFigure14.4).Thisdockingstationcanattachtonotebooks

suchastheCompaqEvo.TheExpansionBaseprovidesa

10/100Mbpsnetworkadapter,twostoragemodulebays,ahalfheightstoragebay,twoPCIslots,afullrangeofnotebook

connectors,andamonitorstand.



Figure14.4.ACompaqEvonotebookattachedto

aCompaqExpansionBasedockingstation.



Inmanyoffices,notebook/dockingstationcombinationshave

beensetupsothattheyarefunctionallyequivalenttodesktop

computers.Here,theuserstypeonalargedesktop-style

keyboardtogetherwithastandard-sizemouse.Graphicsand

textareviewedonalargedesktop-styledisplay.Docking

stationsalsocancontainawidearrayofotherfeatures,suchas

networkinterfaceadapters,externalspeakers,additionalhard

diskorCD-ROMdrives,additionalPCCardslots,andaspare

batterycharger.Somedockingstationscanevenaccommodate

desktop-styleexpansioncardsandesotericstoragedevices.

Thismightincludethelatesthigh-definitionvideocardsor

writableDVDdrivesthatarenotpresentonoldernotebooks.

Inmostrespects,thecombinationofanotebookwithadocking

stationcanbeindistinguishablefromadesktopcomputer,

exceptforonekeypoint:Whenevertheusersneedto,theycan

disconnecttheirnotebooksfromthedockandtakethemouton

theroad.

Thisnotebook/dockingstationcombinationservesthesame

purposeastwocomputers:afull-functiondesktopintheoffice

andanotebookontheroad.Theadvantagesofthis

arrangementareobvious:First,thenotebook/dockingstation

costsconsiderablylessthananotebook/desktopcombination,

bothintermsofhardwareandsoftwarelicensing.Second,



becauseonlyonecomputerisinvolvedinthenotebook/docking

stationcombination,usersaresparedthetediumofmaking

surethattheirdesktopsandnotebooksarecontinually

synchronizedanduptodatewiththesamedatafiles.This

synchronizationistraditionallydoneinaslowmanualprocedure

usinganetworkconnectionorthevenerablenullmodemcable

(acrossovercableusedtotransferfilesbetweensystemsby

connectingtheirparallelorserialports).Withadockingstation

andasuitablyequippednotebook,however,youcanavoidthis

taskandachievethebestofboththemobileanddeskbound

worlds.

Insomecases,ausermayhavetwodockingstations:oneat

theofficeandoneathome,furtheramplifyingthecost

advantageofthenotebook/dockingstationsystem.Inthiscase,

thesinglenotebookisineffectperformingtheworkofthree

computers:onenotebookandtwodesktops.

Whenanotebookisdocked,itsoperatingsystemhastobe

madeawareofthenewsetofperipheralsthataresuddenly

available.AnoperatingsystemsuchasWindows9x,Me,2000,

orXPcanmaintainmultiplehardwareprofilesforasingle

notebookcomputer.



Note

Ahardwareprofileisacollectionofconfiguration

settingsforthedevicesaccessiblebythesystem.



Touseadockingstation,youcreateoneprofilefortheportable

systeminitsundockedstateandanotherthataddssupportfor

theadditionalhardwareavailablewhiledocked.



ProprietaryDockingStations

Notethatmostdockingstationsarehighlyproprietaryitems

designedforuseonlywithnotebooksfromasingle

manufacturer,orevenasinglemodelfromamanufacturer.If

youpurchaseanotebookanddockingstationandthenlater

switchtoanothernotebookmanufacturer,yourolddock

becomesuseless.Notebookmanufacturersthususedevices

suchasdockingstationstoencouragecustomersnottoswitch

toothermanufacturers.Note,however,thatastechnology

improves,itcanbeincreasinglydifficultfornotebook

manufacturerstocontinuetoadaptnewnotebookstofit

dockingstationsthatmaybefiveormoreyearsold.Thisis

particularlytrueforbrand-newfamiliesofnotebookswith

dramaticallydifferentformfactors.Forexample,whenyou

switchfromalargedesktop-replacementtoanewultralightor

TabletPCfromthesamemanufacturer,don'tbesurprisedif

yourolddockingstationdoesnotworkwiththenewdevice.

Aswithmanyoptionsavailableonlyfromasinglesource,prices

fordockingstationsarenotsubjecttocompetitionandmaybe

expensive.Tosavemoney,userscaninvestigateport

replicators,whichofferfewerfeaturesbutcostsignificantlyless.



Third-partyDockingSolutions

Asmallnumberofgenericdockingstationsarealsoavailable.

Ratherthanusetheproprietarydockingstationconnectoron

thebackorthebottomofthenotebook,thesegenericdocks

makeuseofoneofthenotebook'sstandardhigh-bandwidth

interfaces,suchasaCardBusPCCardslotoraUSBconnector.

OnecompanythatsellsthesesdevicesisMobilityElectronics

(www.mobilityelectronics.com).Itsunitsfeatureserial,parallel,

PS/2mouse,andPS/2keyboardconnectors,aswellasaPC

Cardslot.



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