USB gadgets you just can’t live without
The humble USB ports on your PC or laptop are the doors to an infinite variety of gadgets and delights, if only you know where to look. We sent Nigel Harris to boldly go and see what he could find.
* * *
My first stop was the essential USB Now website, where you can buy a USB fridge to keep a Coke can cool and a mini hotplate to keep your coffee warm. The latter comes in two versions, one combined with a USB hub so you can plug even MORE gadgets into your PC. Remember that wonderful desk-mounted pencil sharpener you used to have at school? You could reduce a new pencil to a tiny stub with in a few seconds by frantically turning the handle. Now you can achieve the same, without all the effort, with a USB Now’s USB-powered pencil sharpener (enhanced with three LEDs that flash as your pencil gets shorter and sharper).
The Vacuum Cleaner Mouse from Japan’s Thanko will allow you to keep your keyboard and desktop relatively clean with a minimum of effort. However, if you want to keep yourself clean, have a a look at their their Dino-Lite USB Microscope which they have masterfully combined with the USB Ear Scope to create one amazing microscoping ear pick. But that's not all it can do. The other three attachments let you suction your face, look at your teeth, or scope out your hair at sizes the human eye was not meant to see. But only in the vicinity of your computer as it’s USB-powered! From Thanko’s website it looks like you can even have it gift wrapped.
At Everything USB I found the unique USB Ghost radar, a USB flash memory that they claim detects ghosts. In reality it responds to unusual magnetic waves with audible alerts and flashing red lights. Sadly, the GhostRadar doesn't record unusual activities in the USB flash memory so you’ll need to stay awake if you don’t want to miss the action.
For the ultimate combo device, take a look at the Multifunctional Digital Solar Charger, a title that really undersells this unique gadget. It actually combines a solar charger for devices such as mobile phones and digital cameras with mini-USB connectors with a 2-LED flashlight, UV bank note checker and an FM Radio. Reassuringly the makers offer a "Security guarantee: There is not any danger to use." What more could you want?
The tradition of placing the remains of the dead in urns can be traced back to ancient Greek civilization. Fast forward to the digital age and out come the innovative designers with updated burial rituals. Egyptian designer Cherif Morsi has created a small USB device to hold the digital "ashes" (ie memories) of your loved ones on a flash memory-based bauble which holds your photos, videos, sounds or any other memory that you might wish to cram in there.
If all you need is more USB ports, instead of a mundane hub why not go for the Ubergizmo’s multi-purpose 4-port USB hub with alarm clock and electric letter opener?
Worried about unpleasant odours in the office – no problem, thanks to the USB-powered fragrance oil burner, available now in four different flavours!
Had to work late but need to make a good impression? The USB toothbrush and shaver will save the day.
Looking for a totally gratuitous item to plug into that spare laptop USB port? "Every now and then we come across a product that is classy, understated and with a hint of sophistication," says Boysstuff website, adding "...this is not that product".
On the software side, road warriors should take a look at Tiny USB Office, a complete suite of office applications that take up just 3MB of memory, so you can run the whole lot from even the smallest USB memory stick – in comparison, OpenOffice needs 77MB (and don’t even ask how much Microsoft Office needs!).
For those who like to live on the cutting edge, look out for the much-anticipated arrival of Wireless USB, a high-power, short distance wireless system that enables your PC to communicate with all sorts of USB devices without having to plug any cables in. You just need to connect them all to a Belkin Wireless USB hub and plug a Wireless USB dongle into your computer.
There isn't space to give full coverage of the many other USB devices I found on the Web, although the USB Barbie caught my eye (remove her head to reveal the USB in her neck and plug the decapitated body into your computer. Definitely one for the boys!).
I must have at least three times as many USB devices as I have USB ports, so there’s plenty of swapping around here. Of them all though my vote for the best ever USB device has to go to the Guitar Hero controller, which is now available with PC software for those who don’t own a PlayStation or Xbox.
But enough of me, over to you. What’s the best thing you can plug into a USB port? Vote now using the Comment link below and we’ll publish the AccountingWEB USB Top 10.