As more sensitive business and personal information is stored on computers, hardware companies are betting you'll want biometric locks for your secrets.
One of the first for consumers is SecuGen's EyeD Mouse II, which uses fingerprint comparisons to keep snoops at bay.
SecuGen's mouse won Best Peripheral honors at the Comdex computer show last fall, and many analysts predict a boom in such equipment. Applications abound in households and small businesses where children or employees can enter forbidden hard disk zones without much effort.
Software with the EyeD Mouse allows users to record their fingerprints by pressing any finger onto a small glass plate on the mouse's side. An image of the print appears on screen, then your computer maps and stores the resulting data. After rebooting, the SecuGen software takes over for the Windows password manager, requiring a fingerprint match before the operating system can be accessed.
The software also can guard specific files or folders. A screen saver locks down the desktop when you're away but still logged in.
The demonstration EyeD Mouse we tried worked flawlessly from start to finish. Under long-term use, glitches may appear as the mouse fingerprint glass becomes oily or scratched. SecuGen says its technology will resist such problems.
The product is designed for Windows 95/98/NT 4.0. It requires a parallel port and PS2 mouse port. The EyeD Mouse II is available for about $100, or $70 in bulk.
_ DOUG BEDELL
IBook Special Edition
Apple has a hit with the iBook, selling more than 250,000 since its introduction last year. The laptop hasn't caught on in corporate America, however, possibly because boardrooms weren't ready for its candy-color cases.
Apple has answered with the $1,799 platinum-colored iBook Special Edition. Beside a more sedate color, the $200 premium buys a 366-megahertz G3 processor, an embarrassingly small bump in processing power from the regular iBook's 300 megahertz.
The iBook SE, like the regular model, features a 12.1-inch active-matrix screen, 64 megabytes of RAM (expandable to 320 megabytes), a 6-gigabyte hard drive, 24X CD-ROM drive, a 10/100 Base-T Ethernet port, one USB port, a 56-kilobits-per-second modem and a slot for an Airport card, Apple's wireless networking option. The six-hour battery is behind a door on the bottom, a design not conducive to swapping out easily.
Bundled software includes AppleWorks and Palm Desktop, along with Microsoft and Netscape Internet software and several games.
The rugged outer shell is covered with a rubberized plastic. There is no latch to break _ hinges keep the iBook closed _ and there are no flimsy doors covering the ports. The iBook weighs 6.6 pounds, about average for a laptop, but is a bit bulky at more than 2 inches thick. It has a built-in handle.
Functionally, the iBook is a joy. The screen is crisp, and the processor is very quick. Still, it could use a PC card slot, which would add more flexibility for peripherals.
_ JIM ROSSMAN