When it’s time to renovate a lecture hall multimedia classroom, think about who is going to use it and how they’re going to need to connect. Crestron’s Connect It is a self-contained plug center that can be ordered in a wide variety of configurations for different uses. Available in black or gray, the module fits right into a 4-inch grommet hole and can be set up with or without a power outlet and AV connections.
Anyone’s who has a server that’s overheating and causing network havoc knows that it’s not a pleasant experience, but there are things you can do to prevent it, like adding ventilation or active cooling. Tripp-Lite’s $650 SRCOOL 12K is a portable air conditioner that can remove up to 12,000 BTUs of heat from a server room, protecting the computers from heat-related damage. The system is small, self-contained and built on casters so it can be wheeled to wherever it’s needed. The system evaporates any water it produces so you don’t need a drain line or water container. The best part is that with Tripp-Lite’s data module you can remotely monitor the unit and the room’s temperature over the Internet.
Need to distribute files to a group of data-hungry kids, but the network doesn’t quite reach? It happens a lot these days, but LaCie’s Fuel can solve the problem with a WiFi connected 1TB hard drive. Priced at $200, it can connect with a variety of systems and connect with up to five clients at a time.
How many times have you crawled under a desk to plug in a USB cable only to find that you are putting the cable in upside-down? Tripp-Lite has an answer to this modern-day problem: cables that work either way you try them.
It may sound like magic, but the key to these new cables is that rather than having a standard Type A plug with a single set of USB contacts that are oriented in one direction, the Tripp-Lite Reversible USB plugs have two sets of connectors pointing in opposite directions that are separated by a thin piece of plastic. It’s a simple and elegant concept that allows the plugs to be used in either orientation.
There are a wide variety of reversible cables available that work with data at up to 480Mbps and can deliver up to 5-volts of electricity for charging a phone or tablet. There are regular Type A to Type B USB cables, but only the Type A plug can do the reversible trick. While they work with both USB 2.0 and 1.1 devices, there aren’t any reversible USB 3.0 cables.
In addition to full-size USB plugs, Tripp-Lite also makes Reversible USB cables with Mini- and Micro-USB connectors on the other end. There are even very useful Type A to Type A cables and USB extension cords. Some of the cables even have right angle plugs for tight situations. They come in cable lengths of 0.9-, 1.8- or 3-meter lengths, but nothing shorter for charging a phone without having a tangle of cable to deal with.
Priced at between $2.50 and $12 a cable, they cost no more than no-name cables. I used these unique cables for everything from connecting my phone and a variety of tablets to using an external hard drive and scanner. These plugs are a big step forward for convenience, although I wish that other cables, like for HDMI, VGA and DisplayPort connections, were capable of this plug magic.
$2.50 to $12
+ USB plugs work both ways
+ Variety of plug types and lengths
+ Data and power transfer
+ Lifetime warranty
- USB 2.0 only
- Type B plug works one way
iPads are great learning tools, but their speakers are sadly not up to the task of filling a classroom with audio. Califone’s PA-MBiOS iPad & iPhone Docking Station not only cradles the pad and firmly holds it stable, but has a pair of 2.5-watt speakers that sound great. It works with a variety of iPads, iPhones and iPod models and has a 3.5-millimeter audio input jack that allows it to amplify Android tablets as well. You will need to get an adapter to use one of the newer pads with the Lightning connector. The cradle costs $158 and includes a 1-year warranty.
There are stylus pens and a few brushes available that can turn a tablet into an artist’s canvas, but Crayola takes the idea of slate accessories to a new level with its $40 DigiTools Paint Pack. In addition to a paintbrush and airbrush, the kit includes a stamper and a paint roller. All the tools fit into a carrying case
Using HP’s 1200w Mobile Print Accessory any HP LaserJet printer that’s five years old or newer can be converted to handle near field communication (NFC) data. All you do is plug the small box it into the printer’s USB port, pick what you want to print from HP’s Mobile Print app and tap your NFC-enabled phone or tablet onto the mobile print accessory. The printer does the rest. The accessory costs $70 and HP also makes the $50 800W version that snaps into the company’s recent large commercial printers and copiers.
Tired of juggling pens and styluses while doing schoolwork? Kensington’s Virtuoso Touch Stylus & Pen can help with a stylus that is just as good with a tablet as with paper because it has both a soft dome stylus point for use with a capacitance screen or a regular old ball point pen at the other end. The Virtuoso is available in 13 colors, including gray plaid, and uses Parker ink refills. It costs $28 and is guaranteed for two years.
While you can get any number of cases for iPad tablets, for most other slates you have to settle for a generic cover that might or might not fit and could cover up its ports and cameras. No more, with Kensington’s latest cases for Samsung’s Galaxy Tab tablets.
The padded KeyFolio Pro works with the 10.1-inch Tab 3 system. It’s available in five colors as well as basic black and comes with a Bluetooth wireless keyboard that has six rows of keys. The keybaord is magnetically held in place. There’s a slot at the top for stowing a stylus when it’s not in use, but you’ll need to provide it yourself. The cover folds so that it can set up the slate at a variety of viewing angles for different tasks and costs $100.
While the Comercio Soft Case & Stand also has been designed to work with the 10.1-inch Tab 3, it costs just $40. It lacks a keyboard, but you can order it 7 different vibrant colors. Folded open, it has a two-position stand for viewing the Tab slate at different angles. There’s a place for an ID and pen or stylus as well as a room to stash notes and scraps of paper.
If your iPads are proving tough to travel, Bretford’s PowerSync Roller can get them from here to there and back without breaking a sweat or a screen. The hard plastic case protects them from damage en route, such as during a field trip or just going from an art room to the science lab. There are versions that hold 10 and 20 pads that have wheels and Lightning connectors built in so they can be charged.