Alaptop computer is a self-contained system that can operate without any additional equipment connected to it. But it can also act as the core of a computer system that uses additional devices to improve the experience by adding features and functions that are not available from the laptop itself.
This chapter describes the major add-on peripherals and accessories you can use with a laptop, and explains how to configure your computer to make the best use of them.
The design of a laptop computer is a triumph of efficient packaging over comfort. You can't change the distance between the screen and the keyboard, so you can either place the computer where you can comfortably view the screen, or where you can use the keyboard without stretching your arms. You can't do both at the same time.
The solution is to separate either the monitor, the keyboard, or both from the computer itself, so you can place the keyboard at your fingertips and the monitor at eye level, where the likelihood of eyestrain and fatigue is reduced. Of course, this isn't possible when you're using the laptop on the road, or in a conference room or lecture hall, but when you set up the computer in a semi-permanent location such as an office or college dorm room, that extra keyboard or screen can make a huge difference to both your comfort and your productivity. When you take the computer to another location, you can unplug the keyboard and screen (and a mouse and a power adapter) and leave them behind.
If you're on a tight budget, the obvious first choice is to buy and install a keyboard that connects to your laptop through a USB port. Keyboards are relatively inexpensive, and a full-sized keyboard with all the control keys, navigation keys, and the numeric keyboard located in separate groups is a huge improvement over the one built into a laptop, where everything is jammed together.
The latest generation of laptops has eliminated the PS/2 connectors that had previously been used for keyboards and mice; most new keyboards and mice are compatible with the computer's USB inputs. If you're using an older keyboard that has a PS/2 plug with your new laptop, you can try using a PS/2-to-USB adapter, but don't be surprised if the keyboard doesn't support USB connections. If your laptop has a PS/2 keyboard input and you want to use an older keyboard, don't worry about an adapter; go ahead and use the PS/2 input.
If you have a very old keyboard, it might have a large 5-pin plug instead of the smaller 6-pin PS/2 plug. In this situation, you need a 5-pin-to-PS/2 adapter to use it with a PS/2 socket. Don't expect it to work through a USB port.
If you're connecting the keyboard through a USB input, you can plug it into the computer at any time; but if you're using a PS/2 input, you must make the connection before you turn on the computer. Either way, the computer should automatically detect the new keyboard and load any new drivers that aren't already installed. Once the drivers are in place, the computer should automatically begin to accept inputs from the keyboard. After the first time, the keyboard works as soon as Windows loads. Don't try to connect or disconnect a keyboard with a PS/2 plug while the computer is running.
Laptop computers are also prime candidates for wireless keyboards. In place of the usual cable, a wireless keyboard uses radio or infrared signals to transmit keystrokes from the keyboard to the computer and acknowledgement signals from the computer to the keyboard, so you can locate the keyboard anywhere within a couple of feet (or about one meter) or more away from the computer. A wireless keyboard can use either Bluetooth or a proprietary transmission system; if the computer does not have a built-in Bluetooth interface, a non-Bluetooth wireless keyboard uses a small transceiver module (supplied with the keyboard) that connects to the computer through a USB port.
Take a look at Chapter 15 for more information about Bluetooth.