TECH TALK BY MIKE BERMAN: PRETERNATURAL PERIPHERALS FOR PALM PRACTITIONERS

Now that I'm a devout Palmist, I've scaled mountains, rafted rivers and hiked many trails to find the ultimate tools to enhance my use of the Palm IIIc. Now that my journey has ended, I've discovered that, although there are many worshippers that claim to have developed the essential Palm peripheral, few have actually achieved Nirvana. I'm now ready to share what I've learned.

Let's start with keyboards. I've found two that I really like: the Stowaway ($99) from Think Outside (sold under the Targus brand name if you have a Handspring Visor) and the GoType Keyboard ($69.95) from Landware.Both work with all the Palm applications - the date book, address book, notes, etc. - and were easy to install. They also have hot keys that will give you access to all the Palm apps so you don't have to use a stylus. But that's where the similarity ends.

The Stowaway folds up and becomes about the size of a compact disk case when it isn't being used. When you need to use it, you just unfold it and lock its left and right sides into place so it becomes rigid. It also boasts a full-size keyboard and only weighs about eight ounces.

The GoType is 10 inches long by four inches wide (about the size of the Stowaway when it's unfolded), but has a built-in serial port so your Palm doesn't have to be disconnected from it to synchronize with your computer. It also comes with TakeNote word processing software and the WordSleuth thesaurus.

Both have function keys that can be programmed to access your favorite applications. And neither needs batteries.

I tend to favor the Stowaway, only because it's more portable. Other than that, it's a toss-up.

The next thing I needed was a case. I took a look at models from Targus and RhinoSkin and discovered that all cases are not created equal.

RhinoSkin makes the most rugged, and most expensive, case ($109.95 for the Palm III). Made of titanium, this case is designed to protect your Palm from all the elements - wind, rain, snow and hail - and also from becoming a nonfunctional doorstop when it's dropped on a sidewalk, driveway or the nearest puddle. It also comes with a matching titanium stylus.

RhinoSkin also makes conventional leather cases, but I haven't looked at any of them to give you an opinion.

The Targus cases were more elegant than the others I looked at and range in price from $29.95-99.95, depending on whether you want a standard case or a leather portfolio which can also hold documents and your cellular phone. I especially liked the camel-color brushed leather case they sent me. All of their cases have compartments for your stylus, batteries and credit cards. And others can actually replace your worn out wallets, with an additional compartment for those ten-, twenty- and hundred-dollar bills we all lust after.

Palm also sells cases under their own name (boasting the Palm logo), but they were strictly minor league when compared with those from Targus and RhinoSkin.

Now, if you're going to keep your Palm in a case, the Bridge ($14.95) from Think Outside is essential.

The Bridge is basically a small piece of plastic that allows you to connect your Palm to its cradle, keyboard or other devices without having to remove it from its case. I've found that this is one of the most useful inventions ever foisted upon mankind.

What PC-related subjects would you like to see covered in this column? Need help deciding what software to use? Hardware? Contact Mike Berman at mberman@ joc.com, mberman@bigfoot.com, or call him at (973) 848-7140.

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