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iToilet Seat

Road Hog Rorschach: does this look like a computer to you? Didn't think so.














Home Sweet CardBus, thanks to MCE

Road Hog:
Home Sweet Hog
Fab gear for back at the shack

by Tim Wilson
Man About Town™
[email protected]

My, my, my. It looks like Road Hogs have a new definition for living large, at least when they're at home. The expansive folks at Mobility Electronics have created a docking station that lets you use your Hog with an attached keyboard, mouse and monitor. So what? Big deal, you say. Ah, read on, my Hogs, as this is just the beginning.

The product at hand is the EasiExpansion T35-PowerBook, which you see pictured here (top left). We'll have a word with them about that name later, redolent as it is of Easy Bake Oven. This is not a toy, although, now that I think about it, any toy that makes its own snacks kicks ass. Making snacks is a feature worth adding, no question. I'm thinking EasiExpansion T35 SnackMaster.

As it is, there's plenty of ass kicking here. The EasiExpansion T35 starts with two 5.25" drive bays. With two IDE controllers, you can actually add 4 devices in these bays. You have more devices you want to add? Good. There are also three 3.5" drive bays and an integrated two-port USB hub. Here's what really flipped me out, though: three full-length PCI slots.

My, my, my.

By way of explanation to those in the audience who don't speak Hog, we love our PowerBooks. Of all the Macintoshes we use, these are often our favorites, enough so that we take their name, Road Hog, for ourselves as well, Road Hogs. These are serious, working machines, with plenty of the power we need for serious work. We're looking for PIE named Key Lime, not portable computers, thank you very much.

Among the features we love best is the apparently endless expandability of the PowerBook, which has clearly taken a major step forward with the EasiExpansion T35. It may well get us considerably closer to being able to use our PowerBooks for ALL our computing, which is what most of us, when we're honest, really want.

Right off the bat, we could tie into our Avids and Media 100s when we're at home or our Digital Voodoo 10-bit SDI cards or our Pinnacle Targa Cine cards for editing uncompressed HD video. How about an ICE card for accelerated rendering and previews in After Effects? The possibilities are really almost endless. At only $599.95, this is less than the cost of an expansion chassis for many desktop computers, which in fact the T-35 was originally designed for. You could theoretically keep one set of cards in the box and simply move the connection from your G3 laptop to your G4 desktop as needed.

The T35 is, alas, not for every PowerBook. The key to connecting is a 32-bit CardBus slot. The good news is that that's all there is to it: Slide a PC card into the slot, and go. Mobility Electronics uses a PCI Split Bridge technology boasting a 1.25 Gbps full-duplex data transfer rate. That's more than 100 times faster than USB and more than three times as fast as FireWire, and ME actually hopes to double this soon, to 2.5 Gbps duplex (meaning that it can pass that much information simultaneously in both directions across the bridge).

The first G3 PowerBooks, though, featured 16-bit PCMIA slots, as did the 2400/180 and the 3400. Don't give up yet, though, because there's hope, which I'll tell you about in a bit.

I should point out that Mobility Electronics' Web site says that the T35 works with "all FireWire PowerBook models," which, at this point, is precisely ONE model. Since the only point of connection is through the PC slot and the page describing the split-bridge technology says that it will work on "virtually any" PowerBook, it seems to me that this has to be a boo boo, but I haven't been able to confirm this yet. I will most definitely have news for you on this next week.

At around 15 pounds before you load it up, this is definitely a product for your Hog at home, but it looks like a winner from here.

MCE CardBus Upgrade Service
Ah, our good, good friends at MCE, Mac Components Engineered. Many are the problems they've helped Road Hogs solve over the years, and I'm especially fond of this one. For only $99, owners of older Hogs can take advantage of all the latest toys offered by 32-bit PCI cards.

It's not just a matter of having twice as many bits to work with, either. That relates to how much information passes through the bus. With 16-bit architecture, though, the processing for the information that passes through is handled by the CPU. PowerBook CPUs have enough other overhead to deal with that this isn't any fun at all.

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