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With the improved productivity software on smartphones and the iPhone, there’s almost no reason to have a dedicated PDA that you can’t also make calls on. Of course, that leaves early adopters who bought Dell Axims and HP iPAQs in the great PDA surge of 2000 with pricey paperweights and plenty of remorse.
That is, unless you put that old PDA to use in some other fashion. You can, for instance, turn the device into a secondary monitor. Any PocketPC/WindowsCE PDA that uses Microsoft’s ActiveSync software can be reprogrammed to serve as a desktop extension to give you just a little more screen space. To do this, we used a program called SideWindow, ($15, http://tinyurl.com/2pyuj8).
Installing the app is just a matter of connecting your PDA to its cradle, launching ActiveSync, and running the SideWindow executable. With the program installed, we launched its configuration utility and adjusted the display resolution. Most PocketPCs have a native resolution of 240x320, but SideWindow can scale a virtual resolution of up to 768x1024 to fit your screen. Our Dell Axim X50v actually has a native resolution of 480x640, but we found that anything above 300x400 made text very difficult to read.
Windows treated our PDA like any other monitor, so we could arrange it to either the left or right of our primary display and extend our desktop accordingly. Since the hack runs display information over USB, there can be a bit of lag when moving objects around in the new window—we don’t recommend watching video on the PDA screen! SideWindow is best for keeping tabs on buddy lists or cheat codes when playing games, hosting to-do lists, and displaying media player information when running a movie at full screen (just drag the desired windows over to the new screen).
Windows XP users should also check out ZoneOS's Zonescreen, a freeware app that'll let you extend your desktop to an old laptop through your home network.
Aside from your CPU fan, one of the noisiest components in your PC is the hard drive. Spinning platters can rattle the drive against its mounting bracket. Some cases, such as Cooler Master’s Cosmos 1000, come with hard drive racks that already sport rubber dampeners (image A), but adding some of your own is fairly easy too. We’ve found that rubber washers are effective at cushioning a drive and taming its noise output. Hardware stores sell rubber washers fairly cheaply, but in our experience the premade variety are often either too thick or have too large an internal diameter for tiny hard-drive-cage screws. So we make our own rubber washers by cutting them out of thin rubber strips. A roll of linerless rubber splicer tape will do the job and is available at Home Depot for $3 a pop. Use a dime as a stencil for your washers and trace and cut several circles from the tape (image B). The rubber liner tape is 0.03 inches thick, so you should stack two washers to create an effective dampener. Cut a small hole in the middle with a knife or tiny hole-punch (image C). Affix these washers between the hard drive and the mounting rack of your case (image D). The rubber washers serve as a buffer between the metal of your drive and case to prevent noise from reverberating through the case.
Just because you’re a gadget junkie doesn’t mean you have to be a sloth. We know that managing the power cords for your PDA, cellphone, MP3 player, and digital camera can create a tangled mess on your desk, so we’ve devised a way to keep your chargers elegantly organized to avoid scaring off the ladies (image A - the ladies are just offscreen)
For this project, you’ll need a sizable box that can fit a power strip, heavy-duty scissors or a cutting blade, some craft glue, some small decorative frames, and the aforementioned power strip (image B). We picked up a nice-looking storage box from a craft store, but a plain shoe box will do if you don’t care about aesthetics. We also bought our tiny decorative frames from a craft store. We’ll use these to stylize the ports of our charging station—just keep in mind that each hole has to be large enough to fit at least one end of your charging cable.
Using a metal frame, stencil several holes on the lid of the box, where the charging cables will eventually emerge (image C). Also stencil a hole on the side of the box for the power strip’s power cable. Using the markings as a guide, score the box with a sharp blade. The box we bought was pretty thick, so it was impossible to cut through with one pass. Instead, we glued the frames on top of the scored areas before making deeper cuts to punch out the holes—the frames help guide our cuts and hide any imperfections.
Once the holes are created, plug your gadgets’ chargers into the power strip. You should bundle and tie up the cables for each charger with a zip tie as well, so cords aren’t tangled with each other in the box (image D). String the other end of each charger through a hole. For USB-powered devices, we plugged a generic powered-USB hub into the power strip (Belkin sells one for $20) and wired USB cables through the box lid.
With the box finished, you can accent it with stickers or labels to match your desktop setup.