Lab Reviews

Automatic Backup System Plus
Back up your laptop to a portable hard disk

CMS Peripherals' Automatic Backup System Plus (ABSplus) for notebooks provides a complete backup and recovery system and a bootable, removable hard disk. I tested the ABSplus on a Hewlett-Packard (HP) Omnibook XE2 running Windows XP Home Edition with two partitions. The autorun installation routine walked me through installing the hardware and configuring backup parameters. The software intelligently partitioned the backup media to match the laptop's partitions. After I completed the setup process, a backup automatically launched, taking 1 hour and 6 minutes to back up 2.7GB of data and reporting a throughput of 42MBpm.

The backup partitions on the ABSplus appear as standard drives in Windows Explorer, so you can browse and perform quick restores from those partitions, if necessary. You can use the ABSplus Backup and Compare window to view the differences between current and backed-up data and perform incremental backups, or you can boot from the included Rescue Disk to recover from a catastrophic failure. You can perform a rescue for many OSs, provided they exist on a FAT32 partition, and you can perform a drive-image recovery for Windows 2000 or Windows NT installations that exist on an NTFS partition. In addition, several user-configurable options are available to help automate and customize data-protection operations.

What's good: Easy to use and can replace a
laptop's failed internal disk
What's not so good: Current version doesn't support
recovery of Windows XP NTFS partitions
What else is required: A computer with an open PC
Card slot or USB port with optional USB-to-PC Card converter
What it costs: $299
Contact info: 714-424-5520, 800-327-5773, or

SnapGear LITE+
Create a secure Internet connection through a VPN

SnapGear VPN routers are all-in-one appliance solutions for users who want firewall protection from Internet attacks and secure remote access. I tested the SnapGear LITE+, which has a built-in 4-port 100Mbps switch for network PCs, a 10Mbps WAN port for a broadband Internet connection, and a 9-pin serial port for an optional dial-up modem.

The LITE+ Quick Start Guide, setup software, and Web interface made initial setup easy. Unfortunately, a bug in the setup software misconfigured the LITE+, halting LAN traffic to the Internet. A call to tech support solved the problem. Be aware, however, that even though the initial setup of the LITE+ is easy, the advanced features require a good understanding of TCP/IP and the various VPN protocols, and SnapGear provides only 30 days of free support for you to iron out any problems.

What's good: Quick and easy setup; functions
with broadband connections and a standard dial-up modem; flexible
What's not so good: Advanced-feature configuration
isn't well documented and requires networking expertise;
bugs in the configuration software might require a call
to tech support to get you up and running
What else is required: A network of hosts that
need protected access to and from the Internet
through broadband or dial-up connections
What it costs: $299
Contact info: 801-282-8492 or

Linksys WPS11 Instant Wireless PrintServer
Easily connect a printer to your wireless network

The Linksys WPS11 Instant Wireless PrintServer is a small form-factor appliance with a built-in 802.11b wireless LAN (WLAN) card, parallel printer port, and standard wired Ethernet port. The WPS11 lets you network a standard printer located anywhere within range of your 802.11 WLAN (you can also use the printer in wired mode).

I tested the WPS11 with two Hewlett-Packard (HP) printers. The WPS11 acts as a server to pass data through its parallel port to a printer, so it works with any printer that you can configure on your Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows Me, or Windows 9x desktop PC.

The WPS11 documentation is vague, so setting up the appliance might challenge users new to networking. You must initially connect the WPS11 to an Ethernet network, then load the Linksys Biadmin software on a PC on the network to configure the WPS11's wireless settings. Then connect the WPS11 to a printer through a parallel printer cable and load the Linksys printer port driver.

What's good: Lets you set up a printer anywhere
within WLAN range; supports several network protocols
(i.e., TCP/IP, NetBEUI, and AppleTalk); provides
drivers for the most recent Windows platforms
What's not so good: Vague documentation leaves
you guessing; device is finicky about configuration
changes and required several resets before it stabilized
What else is required: A printer, parallel cable,
and a wireless client that needs printer access; the WPS11
can work in infrastructure (i.e., within a wireless
network that uses an Access Point—AP) or ad hoc
(i.e., peer-to-peer wireless communication between hosts) modes
What it costs: $199
Contact info: 949-261-1288, 800-546-5797, or

Graphics Cards for Every Budget
Whether you're looking for a new graphics card to take advantage of the
latest and greatest graphics advances or considering a more budget-minded purchase, today's graphics cards offer something for everyone. In "Graphics Cards for Every Budget," we look at three high-end graphics cards that deliver top performance and features and a couple of budget cards for those who don't want to break the bank. Check out the full review at

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