Enterprise Mobility: Best Gadgets and Apps for IT Pros

 
 
By eWEEK Labs  |  Posted 2008-11-26
 
 
 

Best Gadgets and Apps for IT Pros

Best Gadgets and Apps for IT Prosby eWEEK Labs

Best Gadgets and Apps for IT Pros

7-Zip

On Windows systems, dealing with a wide variety of file types has usually meant dealing with a wide variety of installed programs. This was how I operated until I found 7-Zip (www.7-zip.org), a free, open-source Windows program that can uncompress pretty much any file. In addition, 7-Zips' intuitive interface is as good as any commercial program's.—Jim Rapoza

7-Zip

FileZilla

While there have been plenty of attempts to come up with new ways to upload and download files from Internet servers, FTP still reigns as the main method for handling files over the Internet. But if you run a Web site or work in a collaborative environment, simple FTP downloads won't cut it. You'll need something that can reliably upload large files and can connect to secured FTP sites. The free, open-source and nicely polished FileZilla (filezilla-project.org) fits the bill.—Jason Brooks

FileZilla

Flip Video Cam

There was a time when video was the last thing IT workers had to worry about. But things have definitely changed in recent years. What's a video-unsure IT person to do? Get a Flip digital camcorder from Pure Digital Technologies. Just about the size of an iPhone, the Flip is a simple point-and-shoot video camera that can record as much as an hour of video (in HD quality, with the latest version). And uploading that video is as simple as popping out the switchblade USB connector and plugging the Flip into any PC or Mac system. Best of all, the inexpensive (about $100) Flip fits perfectly into your cargo pants.—Jim Rapoza

Flip Video Cam

liveusb-creator

For a while now, it's been possible to boot up any computer with a Linux LiveCD distribution and compute away without modifying the hard drive of the machine you're using. The trouble with this mostly handy arrangement is that CD drives tend to run slowly, and the read-only nature of the discs means that nothing of your session persists into any future session. The Fedora Linux project has addressed both the speed and persistence issues with liveusb-creator (fedorahosted.org/liveusb-creator).—Jason Brooks

liveusb-creator

Jungle Disk

Turning a simple USB stick into a full-fledged gadget, Jungle Disk (jungledisk.com/index.aspx) offers up a portable version of its front end to Amazon.com's Amazon Simple Storage Service. Extract the Jungle Disk Portable package onto one of your friendly neighborhood USB sticks, and you can access your saved Amazon S3 data from any Windows, Linux or OS X computer with a free USB port. Jungle Disk Desktop (which includes access to the portable edition) costs $20.—Jason Brooks

Jungle Disk

ATEN CS661 Laptop USB KVM Switch

The ATEN CS661 Laptop USB KVM Switch provides USB-to-USB KVM switch functionality for two USB-enabled PCs or laptops running Windows, as well as file-transfer capabilities. The $100 CS661 (http://www.aten-usa.com/s/CS661) is a very handy gadget. I often need to move files from my laptop to one of my test systems, and before the CS661 I either copied the data onto a USB drive or burned it to a DVD. Now, I just plug in the CS661's USB cables and use the included file-transfer software. In addition to providing KVM control over the remote system, the CS661 is a single-port USB 2.0 hub. The product isn't quite "plug and play," but it's close enough.—Cameron Sturdevant

ATEN CS661 Laptop USB KVM Switch

Gigaware USB 2.0 hub

If you're always running out of USB ports, pick up a matchbook-sized, four-port Gigaware USB 2.0 hub (www.gigaware.co.uk) for about $12. Throw it in your laptop bag or carry it in your pocket and you'll never run out of ports again.—Matt Sarrel

Gigaware USB 2.0 hub

Celio Redfly Smartphone Terminal

The holy grail of the smartphone enthusiast is to squeeze enough productivity out of one's miniature thumb-keyboard-studded machine to leave the laptop computer at home. In truth, this is a pretty tall order, no matter how fantastic your mobile device (and your texting skills) may be. Enter the $229 Celio Technology Redfly Smartphone Terminal (www.celiocorp.com/product), a Windows Mobile smartphone companion that trades processor, memory and storage—all of which it leaves to the smartphone—for light weight (about a pound and a half) and long battery life (about 5 hours).—Jason Brooks

Celio Redfly Smartphone Terminal

Solios Universal Hybrid Charger

Until portable fuel cells become a reality or corporate green IT mandates trickle down into more power-miserly devices, we all have to find a place to recharge. What better place to pull down that juice than from the sun? Solio's Universal "Hybrid" Charger (www.solio.com/charger/index.htm), so called because it can charge its internal battery both from the sun and from a wall socket, offers a portable unit for keeping mobile devices topped off, as well as a means for soaking in energy from the sky. The Solio charger costs between $80 and $170.—Jason Brooks

Solios Universal Hybrid Charger

Polycom Communicator 100

At home, I frequently use the USB-connected Polycom Communicator 100 ($139) with Skype or VOIP softphones connected to whatever IP PBX I may be trying out at the time. The device is handy, sounds good and does a nice job of filtering out ambient sounds (www.polycom.com).—Andrew Garcia

Polycom Communicator 100

BlueAnt SuperTooth 3

On the road, California law has forced me to go hands-free. A bald guy wearing a BlueTooth device is a little too Bespin (http://www.theforce.net/humor/captioning/cap4.asp) for me, so I went with a speakerphone instead—the BlueAnt SuperTooth 3 (about $82 on Amazon.com, with more info available at www.myblueant.com). The phone provides a bunch of features I don't really take advantage of—text to speech of the CallerID or incoming number, voice-activated dialing and voice-controlled answering, to name a few. What I do like is the excellent battery life and that the device works with what I need it to work with—specifically, my iPhone and my girlfriend's Palm Treo.—Andrew Garcia

BlueAnt SuperTooth 3

Das Keyboard Professional

The Das Keyboard Professional (www.daskeyboard.com) is a great upgrade for just about any computer. It has a great feel and easy key-press action; is weighted to stay in one place; and has a slim profile and a handy two-port USB 2.0 hub built into the right-hand side. The keyboard is also loud—woodpecker loud. I would not recommend this keyboard if you need to type notes while on the phone, but I do recommend it for anyone who wants a comfortable, sure keyboarding experience.—Cameron Sturdevant

Das Keyboard Professional

Think Outside Stowaway Universal Bluetooth

The Think Outside Stowaway Universal Bluetooth device (www.igo.com) is a fantastic portable keyboard for those of us who actually want to work in comfort on the go. The durable keyboard folds in half to be less than half an inch thick and is encased in an aluminum shell. iGo packs a full-size keyboard in a small space by adding more function keys and then doubling or tripling the characters that each key can type. Batteries last a long time, and pairing is very easy.—Matt Sarrel

Think Outside Stowaway Universal Bluetooth

Meraki Wall Plug

The new Meraki Wall Plug, an 802.11b/g wireless repeater and access point in a wall-wart form factor, can be quickly installed to fill indoor coverage gaps in a Meraki network. When plugged in, the device will automatically join the network over the air, and the device can be managed using Meraki's hosted management services (www.meraki.com).—Andrew Garcia

Meraki Wall Plug

Ubiquiti Bullet

Ubiquiti Networks' Bullet is a small yet high-powered Wi-Fi device that could be quite useful outdoors. With prices starting at just $39, depending on the model, the Bullet (www.ubnt.com) generates up to 1000 mW of output power, allowing customers to provide coverage over vast distances. Customers will need to provide antennas for use with the Bullet's N-type connector, which provides a lot of flexibility in terms of how the Bullet will be used. The Bullet will be available in four models: two in the 2.4GHz band and two in the 5GHz band.—Andrew Garcia

Ubiquiti Bullet

HTC Advantage, Nokia N800

When you're on the go and need to administer systems, advances in portable computing can work to your advantage—or, should I say, you can work on your HTC Advantage (http://www.htc.com/www/product/advantage/overview.html). The X7510 is essentially a really beefy Windows Mobile device with 16GB of storage and a 5-inch VGA screen. Connectivity via AT&T and Wi-Fi allow you to VPN and RDP into your network from almost anywhere. Similarly, the Nokia N800 (www.nseries.com/n800) allows Linux administrators to custom-build a remote management dream tool for VPN, SSH, SFTP and more.—Matt Sarrel

HTC Advantage, Nokia N800

Retina Security Management Appliance 651

The Retina Security Management Appliance 651 is a shoebox-sized vulnerability assessment tool available from eEye Digital Security (www.eeye.com). Anyone who needs to conduct vulnerability assessment and audit network traffic on the road will appreciate the small form factor and ease of use of this device. Pop it in a backpack and carry it with you, or pop it on a branch office network and have it report up to your central REM management console. Don't tell eEye this, but I've added an external Ethernet-to-802.11g bridge and made it into a sweet little wireless audit tool. In fact, you could build a consulting practice around this one tool—in less than an hour, you could audit a small network for security issues and compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, HIPAA, GLBA and PCI.—Matt Sarrel

Retina Security Management Appliance 651

MetaGeek Wi-Spy + Chanalyzer DBx

The MetaGeek Wi-Spy + Chanalyzer DBx (www.metageek.net) is a helpful and powerful wireless network audit tool. This small USB device is about the size of a memory key and has a removable RP-SMA antenna. The Chanalyzer software runs off the device, so just plug it in and start scanning the 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrums. Interactive graphs help you conduct site surveys and security audits and troubleshoot interference from other wireless devices.—Matt Sarrel

MetaGeek Wi-Spy + Chanalyzer DBx

Rocket Fuel