Electronics for Imaging EBeam and Virtual Ink Mimio

Virtual Ink's Mimio and Electronics for Imaging's EBeam address both of these issues: the units cost $995 and $799, respectively, fit inside a briefcase, and attach to any conventional whiteboard with dimensions up to 1.2x2.4m. Both products use sonic receivers to track movements on a conventional whiteboard. Regular marker pens fit into special holders that emit a very faint buzzing sound at a specific frequency whenever they are pressed down to draw on the whiteboard. A special eraser works in a similar fashion.

Product setup and use are remarkably straightforward. Both Mimio and EBeam connect to a free serial port on a PC (EBeam offers an optional USB adapter). Both come with software for recording pen and eraser strokes, playing back or printing whiteboard sessions, attaching notes, and exporting screens to several file formats. You can even share your meetings with remote users via the Internet. There are a few hitches - pen holders sometimes require a lot of pressure to activate, and changing the angle at which you hold the pen will slightly alter the way in which a line appears on screen. Generally, though, these devices work quite well.

Mimio's receiver is a 71cm bar that uses two large, lever-released suction cups to clamp onto the left side of your whiteboard (the bar folds in half for transporting). This product's capture software is better than EBeam's, with multiple levels of zoom, configurable pen colours, and a slicker overall presentation. For data sharing, Mimio's free software links with Microsoft's NetMeeting conferencing package to display whiteboard contents in real time. A software update (which should be available by the time you read this) will let Mimio write directly to the NetMeeting whiteboard. Also on tap are a USB adapter and a handwriting-recognition plug-in to convert your scribbles into editable text documents.

EBeam's more compact hardware - two small pods that attach to the top corners of your whiteboard - makes it the natural choice for travellers. The capture software lacks some of Mimio's polish, but it gets the job done. Remote users can obtain full-featured meeting access by downloading a free copy of the software, and a handy Java client permits anyone who has a Java-enabled Web browser to look in on the meeting.

NetMeeting users may prefer Mimio's more robust software, while people on the go should favour EBeam's more compact hardware and Java client. Either product offers an economical, portable alternative to an expensive, heavy electronic whiteboard.

Electronics for Imaging EBeam

Distributor: Micra Digital

Price: $999

Phone: (02) 4325 4666

URL: www.e-beam.com

Virtual Ink Mimio

Distributor: Wilson and Gilkes

Price: $995

Phone: (02) 9914 0900

URL: www.gilkon.com.au; www.mimio.com

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Eric Dahl

PC World

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