Plugged in

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Sure, you could turn to digital photos, music or "bash the other guy" games if you're looking to have fun with your computer. But some of the best toys on the market are the ones you can plug into your USB port.

It's been a while since we last looked at the unique tools that fill the holes that are your USB connections. This week we've found some very unique ones at ThinkGeek (

The USB Desk Assortment ($15) is one of the most versatile gadgets if you have eight inches of desk space to spare. It's a multi-function contraption that operates from one USB connection.

You get a mini-lamp to battle the dark, a cup warmer for your mug of coffee and a mini-vacuum that seems more likely to pick up dog hair or dust than it does food crumbs. At the center of this device, where the modules connect to one another, is a cup with a lighted base to hold your pens and pencils and add mood to your surroundings.

If whimsy is more to your liking, go for the USB Crunching Dog ($10). These plastic canines - available in beagle, dalmatian and labrador - do only one thing. But they do it well.

From the moment you plug this gadget in, the dog starts doing sit-ups. There is no on-off switch. The dogs will do their crunches nonstop until your computer shuts down or the repetitive nature of the thing causes you to pull it from its USB port and throw it across the room.

If you're looking for missiles to take on that special enemy across the office or dorm room, try the USB Rocket Launcher ($30). Load the included software and this gadget will fire three rubber-tipped plastic missiles more than 19 feet each. As for aim, this product has 45 degrees of vertical tilt and can spin completely around to take on attacks from any direction.

Finally, if you frequently use instant messaging (Yahoo IM, AIM, Apple iChat, WebEx) or make phone calls using VoIP services like Skype, a pocket-size USB Speakerphone ($18) can improve the experience. This gadget even has built-in noise suppression and echo cancellation features.

As with almost all USB products, just plug them in and they're ready to use or amaze your friends.