Camera Connect ProTM External PC Card Read/Write Drive
The ActionTec Camera Connect ProTM is an external parallel port PC card read/write drive that accomodates ALL the popular flash memory cards currently in use today. With its three front-loading slots it handles CompactFlashTM and SmartMediaTM without adapters or any PCMCIA Type II ATA flash cards.
As you can see this device is only slightly larger than the average mouse and takes up very little desktop real estate. Installation is a breeze as it is a parallel port device that connects to your PC's printer port and gets its power from your keyboard port. This means you do not have to open the PC nor do you have to fool with software or hardware settings for I/O port addresses or IRQ assignments.
The parallel port connection is "sanitary" as your printer cable is plugged in almost exactly where it was to begin with instead of at the end of a cable or on the back of the card reader which is all too common with most other parallel port devices. This keeps the cables where they were and eliminates most all of the problems associated with extending the printer connection to an external device. It also means that there is only one cable going to the device itself which reduces desktop clutter.
I was impressed with the power tap from the keyboard port. ActionTec uses a double-ended keyboard connector and a PS/2 to standard PC keyboard adapter which can be swapped to suit either a PS/2 keyboard or PC standard keyboard. Total hardware installation time was about two minutes, a little longer if your PC happens to be located on the floor. But all in all, very simple and easy.
Software installation is also easy. Insert diskette, click on the "Add or Remove Programs" icon in the Control Panel and click on the "Install" button and it finds the SETUP.EXE on the supplied floppy diskette. Accept all the defaults and few moments later it reboots Windows. Once Windows is running again go to My Computer and you will now find a new icon marked "Removeable Drive x" where "x" is whatever the next available drive letter is on your system.
Pop in any type of flash memory card and then click on the Removeable Drive icon and Windows beeps once and then opens up a folder showing the files and folders on your memory card. You can access your camera images with any graphic viewer directly on the memory card or use Explorer to copy them to the hard drive first. Data transfer rate is dependant on how fast your PC is and how your parallel port is configured. The Camera Connect Pro will work with any type of parallel port, SPP, EPP or ECP/EPP. The fastest transfer rates will be with the EPP (enhanced parallel port) mode of course. On average it is about 30-50 times faster than using the serial port to get images from your camera and saves battery power for better things like taking pictures.
I experienced no weird Windows behavior after installing the drivers and there was no conflict with my Epson Photo EX either. Some parallel port card readers and/or their software drivers have proven to interfere with "smart" bi-directional printers like most of today's modern photo inkjets.
The "hot-swap" works perfectly as I put in a SmartMedia card, then a CompactFlash card and re-inserted the SmartMedia again and it always showed the proper files and folders.
I give the ActionTec Camera Connect Pro a rating of 5 digicams, it operates as expected, installation is easy, and it is priced below $60 which makes it not only versatile but relatively inexpensive for those of us that need to read from multiple types of storage media.
Check this link to BuyComp, they list it for $57.95 (as of 7/17/99)