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The Gadget Bag: When Your Laptop Grows Legs
Posted Nov 29, 2007 Print Version     Page 1of 1

A big deal for anyone who travels with a laptop: You have a one in ten chance of having your laptop stolen, and according to the FBI, 97% are never recovered. A recent report from the U.S. Department of Justice stated that a laptop is stolen every 53 seconds.

Here are some ways to protect your investment (some rather obvious):

Don’t leave your laptop unattended. If your instinct is to be trusting enough to leave it "for just a second," assuming that it will be there upon your return, consider how long it would take for someone to steal it.

  • When traveling, don’t use a laptop carrying-case or bag. That is a dead giveaway as to what’s inside. Instead, use a briefcase or regular piece of luggage and retrofit it as needed.
  • The use of visual deterrents may help prevent your computer from growing legs. Try STOP-Lock (www.secure-it.com), a security plate that attaches to your laptop. It’s bar coded and registered, and it also has a printed warning stating that the laptop is constantly monitored.
  • Get laptop insurance. Safeware offers a popular policy starting at $200 per year that will pay full value for lost hardware.
  • There is a free Stolen Computer Registry for registering your computer/serial number. Unfortunately, most laptops are never recovered.
  • Install tracking software. This, by far, is the coolest way to protect your investment. There are a number of systems available. Stealth Signal is a service that costs $45 a year and works with both PCs and Macs. Once the software is installed, Stealth Signal emails you to notify that it has tracked your computer to your address and phone number. Stealth Signal claims a 63% recovery rate. If the laptop broadcasts a signal, that rate increases to 95%. Another option is ztrace for $49 a year (for PCs only). And for Macs there is LapCop, which sells for $15. The only drawback to these systems is that if the hard drive is reformatted, the tracking software is erased.
  • Another option is investing in an alarm system. Targus makes a system called DEFCON 1 ($49.95), which will sound a 110dB alarm if a stainless-steel cable is cut or activated by a motion detector. Tag Alert from Defense Devices provides a similar RF type device at $39.95. Adjustable from 20 to 100 feet, this two-piece device also has a "valet" mode to allow you to move outside the 100" range without setting off the alarm.

Most of us spend an increasing amount of time in front of our computers, which has led to certain problems—most notably eye strain and fatigue. What causes these problems is a reduced rate of blinking; the result is dry eyes, fatigue, and strain. These complaints are often associated with headaches and arm and neck discomfort.

Although the following tips won’t do anything to decrease the amount of time you spend in front of computer screens, they will minimize some of the unpleasantness associated with your marathon editing sessions.

  • Place your monitor farther away since eye strain becomes more prevalent with close-up tasks. The screen should be no closer than 18 inches, with 24 to 30 inches being touted by many doctors as the ideal distance.
  • Adjust the monitor contrast so that it is less bright (which, admittedly, may pose a problem if you use that monitor for video display). There are also specially designed screen filters to help with this issue.
  • Take breaks. Taking a break every 30 to 60 minutes (depending on usage) will extend the session time you can endure without going cross-eyed. Get up, stretch, and just get away from the screen for a few minutes.
  • Exercise your eyes by focusing on more distant objects. Stretch those eye muscles by looking up, then down. Then look far left and far right. Do this a few times and give your eyeballs a rest by closing them every once in a while.
  • Use moderate ambient room lighting. Being in a dark room amplifies the contrast issue.

These simple steps can help ease some discomfort, but if eye problems persist, you may need to seek professional help from an optometrist. In many cases, corrective lenses will be prescribed, but supplemental eye lubricants, specific eye exercises, or other therapy may be in order. For those with glasses (new or existing), various types of tinting can help with fluorescent lighting (the lighting used with LCD monitors and much overhead studio lighting). Most anti-glare coatings on lenses do not eliminate the reflections from computer screens as advertised, but rather reduce the reflections off the eyeglasses themselves. This may provide relief for some wearers, however. It will also be to your advantage to mention those editing all-nighters to your eye care professional.

Master of Your Own Subdomain
Those of us who have multiple domains (website address names) probably have them pointed to one main website. This allows you to have possibly dozens of similar names sending people to your website.

But what if you have different domains that you want to use to send visitors to different websites? Traditionally, to do this you would need to have multiple websites and pay for individual hosting packages at incrementally increasing cost. Not anymore. There is a function called "add domain" that operates on most UNIX-based web servers that allows you to create a folder on your main website that will contain a new and separate website, just like it was its own website.

The difference is it resides on the same server and—even better—uses the same hosting agreement (no additional monthly fee). Not only does it still retain its unique domain name, it still has its own email addresses. This feature also allows you to use the add-on as a "subdomain" where if your main website is called "yoursite.com," the subdomain would be "subdomain.yoursite.com."

The number of add-on domains is up to your particular ISP (mine limits the number to five). Subdomains are a different animal. They do not require a separate domain name, they do not have to be registered, and they can be added and deleted at will. They have become popular with many TV networks where the name of the program becomes the subdomain to the network’s domain (e.g., tonightshow.nbc.com). This is especially helpful for names or sites that are being constantly being added or changed. You can use this subdomain as a separate website, with a completely different look and feel. When it outlives its usefulness, you can simply remove it. Subdomains do not have their own email addresses and must share that system with the main domain.

Both add-domains and subdomains share webspace (online storage), bandwidth, and overall stats recording, but if you have a good package with your service provider, none of that should be a concern. To determine if your package supports these features, check your admin interface or control panel or call your provider.

Ed Wardyga, owner of Keepsake Video and KVI Media in Rhode Island, has been producing event video since 1989, specializing in stage productions. He runs the website www.theGadgetBag.net and is the recipient of the WEVA Walter Bennett Service to Industry Award.

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