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October 21, 2006

Products I Use: Targus Notebook Cooling Mobile X Stand

Taking another item in my bag is the last thing I want to do.  I have to carefully manage the weight in my carry on bag so that I don’t need a fork lift to pick it up.  So when I start looking at another item I’ll have to carry I get cautious.  However, here’s the deal.  I’ve started getting some tingling in my hands as I work on my laptop.  I moved my watch from one wrist to the other, started putting paper notebooks in front of my computer to support my arms, and all sorts of other goofy ways to make the pain stop.

I had decided that I had to live with it and be careful when working on the laptop.  I then ran into the Targus Notebook Cooling Mobile X Notebook Stand.  I got it on a whim, thinking hey, what could it hurt but I’ve got to tell you it’s made my essential list.

It’s designed to tilt the notebook up to allow it to cool, however, the tilt is just enough to make it more comfortable for me to type.  By aligning the angle of the notebook so that my arms comfortably rest on the front of the computer while typing, it’s eliminated those times when I feel pain from typing on the keyboard.  Just the little bit of angle that it adds to the notebook is enough to remove the pressure from my wrist and aparently allow blood to continue flowing to my hands.

When I’m done it folds up into a ultra small size that I can slip into one of the outside pouches on my bag.  It’s about the size of a tabletop tripod and weighs less than 6 ounces.

I suppose it helps the computer stay cool too … but I don’t really care that much about that compared to being able to type without pain.

Products I Use: Valence N-Charge VNC-130

One of the things I enjoy most is talking with other authors, speakers, MVPs, and visionaries about the things they use.  Whether it’s software, hardware, or just a technique, I find that I generally enjoy knowing how they solved a problem.  This is the first in a series of posts designed to share some of the things that I’m using that everyone may not be aware of.

One of the problems I have is battery life.  I travel with a 17” widescreen notebook (currently a Dell Inspiron E1705) that sucks batteries dry in no time flat.  When I’m traveling by air I don’t always have the luxuary of a power port.  That means I have to figure out how to get enough power for those 6 hour flights to Redmond (and other places.)

The solution for me is a Valence N-Charge VNC-130.  It’s an external battery that supplies power to the notebook just like it was coming from the standard wall adapter — but it’s battery power.  So there are three key features of the N-Charge VNC-130 that I think are must have.  They are:

  1. Dimensions — The battery is flat.  It easily slides underneath the laptop I work on so that I don’t have to worry where I’m putting it.  Other external battery options are “bricks“ that need to have their own home.  The dimensions also make it easy to slide into my computer bag.
  2. No extra charger — Another great feature is that it doesn’t require a separate charger.  The charger I already carry for the notebook is enough to charge it.  There is a limitation, I can’t use the power supply from the computer to run the computer, charge the computer’s battery and charge the N-Charge at the same time.  I can, however, charge the N-Charge system while the internal battery is already charged, or I have the system turned off.
  3. Interchangible — The system uses interchangible cords that connect the battery to the laptop which means when I change laptops I can continue to use the battery — I just have to buy a different cord to connect to the laptop.  Sure it’s $30 for the new cord, but  it’s a $300 investment to get the battery in the first place — it’s a small price to pay.

OK, I left the best for last.  How long can I get on the battery?  Hours and hours.  Even if I’ve got my system in it’s most power hungry mode, I can run for almost 4 hours.  (the internal battery lasts a little over 2 hours at these settings.)  The net effect if I use even moderate power consumption (reducing the brightness of the screen, setting the processors for dynamic CPU speed, etc.) I get well more than the 5-6 hours I need for flights across the US.

This is one of those tools that I hesitated to buy but have decided that I love now that I have it.  If you have ever traveled and not had enough power to complete your work — it’s a valuable investment

How To: Testing Host Headers (overriding DNS name resolution)

It’s come up several times in the last few weeks that I’ve needed to test a web site that was using host headers (in one form or another) but the DNS entries didn’t point to the server yet.  So I’ve had to walk some folks through the process of setting up their computer test the server.

Host headers are used by many ISPs to allow your web site and hundreds of other web sites to share one IP address.  When your web browser issues a request for a web site it goes to a specific IP address and opens a socket.  It then sends a request for the page it wants and includes the host name of the server it’s trying to reach — rather than the IP address.  Web servers can use this information to direct your request to the right web site.  The problem comes in when you want to test a site before the DNS is setup to reach it.

The magic of working around the problem lies in the %WINDIR%\System32\drivers\wayetc\hosts file.  This file is checked before DNS and is a great way to temporarily override the resolution of a name to any ip address you want.

The file has an example in the ever useful localhost entry.  You can copy this format to add in the ip address and then host name of the server you want to reach that is doing host header direction to sites.  Once the entry is made and the file is saved the changes are immediate.  You can test this at the command line by issuing a ping command and seeing that the IP address for the server is the IP address you entered into the file.

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