Puzz 3D Offer Friendly Ports of Entry"
By Jim Bray
Ever wonder why PC
makers put all the I/O ports on the back of the case, out of the easy
reach of mere mortals?
out of the way and that makes for a cleaner front, and a less cluttered
desktop, but if you need to change a game controller or plug in a microphone
you have to fiddle about at the rear of the unit possibly with
a flashlight and maybe even a magnifying glass so you can see what the
dinky little icons say.
This isnt a
problem with many people, but if you regularly swap stuff around (even
going from a joystick to a game pad when changing games) you may be interested
in a $26 gadget from a Malaysian company called FrontX.
CPX Multimedia Ports
are kind of like extension cords for your game, headphone,
microphone and audio connections. The gadget installs into a spare 5.25
inch bay (assuming you have one!) in your PCs case, and lets you
access the aforementioned ports from behind a fold down door on your PCs
You have to be willing
to do a little bit of poking around inside your PCs innards, but
its minimal poking that shouldnt pose a difficulty to most
The installation process,
which is detailed in reasonably clear English on the back of the units
box, is quite simple. Its more or less like stringing cable anywhere
else in the house, except that it takes place in the relatively confined
space inside your computer.
First, you open your
PCs chassis and remove the cover from a vacant drive bay. Then you
slide in the CPX thingy.
After that you have
to remove one of those metal plates from the rear, in the area where your
existing cables and connectors live, and then run the CPX cables through
the computer and out the newly-opened hole in the back.
You then install a
new, smaller metal plate (which is included) over the hole, which leaves
enough room for the cables to stick through. This plate also gives you
an extension into which you can hook your existing speaker output socket,
though I couldnt see why it was necessary.
Once thats done,
you just plug the CPX cables into the corresponding outlets on the
back of your sound card (or wherever your existing I/Os are), put
the cover back onto your PC and youre finished.
The whole process
should only take five or ten minutes unless, like me, youre a complete
klutz and have to resort to reading glasses and cussing
for the most rudimentary of up close work.
On my system, the
CPX fit beautifully right above my DVD ROM drive and, because the ports
are covered by a little plastic door, the whole installation is virtually
invisible until you actually hook something up to it.
Since I dont
use the PC for phoning or voice recognition (unless Im testing that
kind of thing), Im only interested in the game port extension, for
when Im forced to review games but Im sure glad to
have that convenience.
Speaking of games, Wrebbit Interactive has a series
of PC Puzzles based on those popular Puzz3D jigsaw
puzzles you find in stores.
3D puzzles work just like the real life ones, except
they dont require a huge amount of table top or floor space while
youre working on them.
Ive been wrestling
with The Orient Express, which may prove I have a one track
You can choose from
four different skill levels, from Novice to Master Builder,
and a tutorial lets you train before you tackle the Orient
The first step is
to sort the pieces onto trays, then assemble the sections
by pointing and clicking (right clicking rotates, left clicking selects
and moves). It takes some practice getting used to thinking and working
in 3D on a two dimensional monitor, but after a while it becomes easier.
Once youve completed
the train, the game rewards you with a ticket to Istanbul and you can
explore your virtual creation, getting drawn into secret games that involve
secret agents, codes, and plans.
Its a whole
new dimension to the jigsaw, and it includes some forty-plus video clips.
The Orient Express
CD-ROM works in both PC (Windows 95/98) and Mac platforms.
Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think