Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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April 2000, Week 1 -- 200 Years of Solitude



   Ricoh claims its new "Platinum" series of rewritable CDs will retain their data for at least 200 years.

   This is a big jump, since up till now the lifespan for a general purpose CD has been assumed to be 20-30 years. Going to 200 is the kind of long-term storage many businesses want to see.

   How does anyone determine that a product has a lifespan of 200 years or more? They obviously have not tested it for 200 years. They use what's called accelerated aging techniques, which usually means applying heat and maybe a little ozone. As a practical matter you can use an ordinary oven to accelerate aging in most things; that's what's done to make fake antiques. Sometimes they spray in a little ammonia too.


   The new Ricoh Platinum blank CDs sell for $17.50 for a 10-pack, cheap for the amount of storage they hold. Web site:


   Of course 200 years is nothing special for paper. There are plenty of books around from 200 years ago. Photos fade fast, though.


   Epson's new photo printers use archival color inks with a claimed lifespan of 25 years without fading. That's extremely good for a color print. To prolong the color life of any paper print, keep it out of sunlight, or any ultraviolet light source. If it's film, keep it refrigerated as well.





   Two new utilities from Iolo have been making us smile. We're sure you'll like "System Mechanic 3," which 'does Windows,' as they say. Though we've used just about every clean-up and fix-it utility in the known universe, this one cleaned up more than 2,000 useless files the others had missed. It was fun.

   It also cleans up the Windows "registry," a scary place to tread. Seemed to do it safely, however, even though I quaked every step of the way. System Mechanic 3 is $60, slightly more expensive than similar clean-up utilities, but worth it.


   Iolo's other major product is "Macro Magic," which does just what the title suggests: it helps you create macros. I have run into people who think macros are the greatest thing ever created by the hand of computer man or woman. For the sake of the digitally dyslectic, and those who tuned in only recently, a "macro" is a set of commands that can be triggered automatically. So, for example, if you have a block of text, pictures, or set of commands that connects you to the Internet, you can put those into a macro that can be triggered by keystrokes or mouse click. Macros can even be set to pause for you to enter something, and then continue when you hit the return key.


   Macro Magic generates a macro menu for you in any program you're using. If you remember the trigger keystrokes, fine, but if you don't, just pull down the menu and click on the macro you want. The macro can also be set to trigger whenever a certain screen appears on the monitor.


   This sort of thing is very useful in business and if it seems useful to you, it's $40. The corporate version is $150 for five users.


   Free trial versions of these programs are available from the web site. Iolo phone: 626-793-3993; fax: 626-793-1554; web:


Free maps

   Maptech, one of the best mapping services we've come across, is offering free topographic and nautical maps on its web site:

   For the present the charts cover U.S. coastal waters and the Great Lakes. For most locations, topographical and nautical maps can be viewed side by side. For land topographical maps, most, but not all, states are covered. Coverage is scheduled to expand as the year goes on. This is the largest database of topographical and nautical map information on the web.





--  News on subjects you select, from sources you select, delivered to your desktop by e-mail.

--  E-mails you horoscopes, crossword puzzles and other feature material.


--  Sign up for free online newsletters on just about any subject.


--  The Social Security Administration online. Since you can almost never get through to them on the telephone, this is probably your best bet.

-- Everything you ever wanted to know about pets. Has good links to related sites like animal welfare societies.


-- All about babies. Advice, name selection, health and safety tips, shopping.


--  More free stuff offers on the web. There are several such sites.

  Thief II


 Prince of Persia


Games: two sequels

    "Thief II," a new one from Eidos, the people who brought you Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider series. This is a sequel to an earlier hit and has even better graphics. The plot centers on political corruption. For Win 95/98; 48 MB of RAM and video accelerator card required.

   "Prince of Persia 3D," from Red Orb. This came out a couple months ago but it's so good it has to go in here. This is my all-time favorite action/adventure game, and this 3D sequel is better than the original. The time is the 12th century, and only you, Dick Daring, can rescue the princess, avenge the sultan, etc. A stunningly beautiful game. For Win 95/98, 64 MB of Ram and accelerator required.

   Readers can search more than three years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at or