When it comes to wireless keyboards, or keyboard-and-mouse combo sets (also known as “wireless desktops”), most people think of Logitech and its many retail-friendly, budget bundles it has offered over the years, as well as Microsoft, perhaps, and its often ergonomically focused gear. On the other hand, one of the oldest (and one of the standards-bearers among desktop input-device makers) is Cherry, a German company.
Cherry has been manufacturing wireless keyboards, mice, and keyboard-and-pointing-device bundles for quite some time. But you may not have known it, because most of the stuff is meant for the professional and office markets.
Cherry’s also known for setting industry standards in input devices. It’s best known to consumers as the maker of the seminal Cherry MX mechanical key switches, the mechanisms that come in a small assortment of types (Cherry MX Blue, MX Red, and the like) and lie under the keytops of many of today’s best and priciest gaming and productivity keyboards for desktop PCs. The thing that may be confusing: Cherry makes lots of its own branded keyboards, but they don’t all, by a long shot, use those premium Cherry MX mechanical switches. In fact, most don’t.
Cherry offers a keyboard or combo set for lots of different categories of computing, including point of sale (POS), healthcare, government, and industrial, as well as yet another broad category, “professional,” which can, of course, mean just about anything. But what Cherry means, in this case, are professional typists, writers, data-entry professionals—people who use their input devices essentially to make a living. And for a subset of them—users who need to rely on bulletproof data security in data entry—the company offers up its $97-MSRP B.Unlimited AES desktop set. (It’s also known as the “Cherry Professional Wireless Rechargeable Desktop Set B.Unlimited AES.”)
So what, besides responsive, comfortable keys and an accurate, ergonomic mouse, does a professional need? Well, that certainly depends on what kind of professional you are. If you work in healthcare, where personal info is sacrosanct and subject to regulations, or in professions where you can’t even tell your spouse exactly what you do, locking down your data input at every possible weak point in the computing chain may matter to you. If that’s you, according to Cherry your relatively expensive professional desktop set should be Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) compliant, which secures the wireless signal between keyboard and receiver.
This keyboard/mouse set is also rechargable, which is well and good, but a $100 wireless-desktop set should be, we think, also comfortable and complete by default. While overall this is a well-built, high-end set, it provides little in the way of wrist support or other ergonomic features that you may see in other such bundles from Microsoft or Logitech.
Even so, we found Cherry’s B.Unlimited desktop set had decent key feel and felt sturdy, and the unusual AES angle makes it a good fit for security-minded, can’t-fail environments.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.
If money is no object (and is it ever truly not one?), a tablet running the most recent version of Google’s Android operating system is what you want if you’re looking for an alternative to an Apple iPad. For lots of folks, though, $500 is simply too much for a device geared mostly toward mobile entertainment. Hence, we’re always intrigued by entry-level gadgets that can do a bit less, but for far less cash Take Pandigital’s 7-inch-screened Star tablet, for example. It sells for $159.99, a fraction of the price of an iPad or top-shelf Android tablet…. Read more at Computer Shopper.
Does Voice over IP (VoIP) save you money on phone service? Absolutely. Sometimes as much as 50 percent over standard plain old telephone service (POTS) phone lines. But having bad VoIP service or excessive downtime (no service at all) will quickly eat up those savings, and could wind up costing dearly in lost business. Still, all too many companies go out and buy VoIP or hosted PBX service, only to run it on a lowly cable or DSL connection with all their other Internet traffic-and then complain and blame the VoIP provider when they have problems with their phones.
Unless your company has upwards of 3Mbps synchronous (same speeds up and down) Internet broadband, it is seldom a good idea to run your Voice over IP (VoIP) or hosted PBX phones over the same connection you use for data. Even then, you are running the risk of poor quality service, or no service at all. Face it, as reliable as Internet service has become, broadband connections still go down. With VoIP or hosted PBX systems, when you’ve got no Internet, you’ve got no phones. Slow or saturated broadband connections turn your phone conversations into jittery garbage, cause dropped calls, and can even stop your phones from working at all.
Unless you’ve got only one or a couple of workstations and IP phones, it’s just not a good idea to let your phones compete with your other Internet traffic. Why? Say, for example, that you have an average office with five workstations and five IP phones. During the normal course of business, your people are uploading and downloading email, viewing websites, connecting with a vendor’s server to place orders, and so on. (And this says nothing of the employee or two who are sneaking in a YouTube video or chatting with four or five friends and family members.)
Your VoIP phones have to compete with all this other traffic. And when the traffic is high, call quality suffers. This is especially critical on uploads, information leaving your facility and going out to the Internet-your half of the conversation. Most broadband connections are asynchronous (different upload and download speeds, with the upload being significantly lower) and have much lower upload speeds than download speeds. Most DSL connections, for instance, cannot upload faster than 768k. This is not much bandwidth-it takes only one or two large outgoing email attachments to gobble it up. And during those email uploads, your VoIP quality can suffer.
Granted, there are routers and other devices you can buy that apply quality of service (QoS) packet prioritizing, allowing VoIP traffic to go out the broadband connection before any other data; however, on a very congested connection, these devices can’t perform miracles, and, frankly, even under the best of circumstances, except for the very best and most expensive products, they don’t really work all that well.
When the Internet connection is saturated, phone quality suffers. If the connection is too saturated, your VoIP devices won’t work at all. This can become a real problem if a server or one of the workstations starts misbehaving. For example, a computer with an email virus that shoves hundreds of emails a minute up your Internet pipe can (and usually does) take out your VoIP phone service.
We all have had our Internet connection go down, sometimes for very long periods of time. Another benefit of having two Internet connections is that, if one goes down, you can easily flop your phones onto the data line, or vice versa.
So, don’t gamble with your company’s telecommunications. Spend the extra $40 to $75 for a second DSL or cable connection to run your VoIP phones. It doesn’t have to be the fastest connection available. Since the phones won’t act up and use huge amounts of bandwidth, as computers frequently do, it is easy to determine how much bandwidth to buy. A properly-operating, 768k-up-DSL line can safely run between 10 and 15 simultaneous VoIP phone calls.
For lots of great info on VoIP, go here: http://www.voip-news.com/blog/
Bill Harrel – http://www.williamharrel.com/
We are happy to announce that we have been commisioned to write a new Introduction to Adobe Flash CS4 at Education to Go.
We’ll keep you posted on the developments.
William Harrel – www.williamharrel.com