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     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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April 2000, Week 4 -- So You Wanna be in Pictures?

 

   The Academy Award winning film "American Beauty" was something of a hidden boost for the screen writing software "Final Draft."

   Final Draft was used to write the screen play for American Beauty, as it was for "The English Patient," "The Cable Guy," "As Good As It Gets," "The Talented Mr. Ripley," "Ronin," "The Usual Suspects" and about a dozen other movies and TV shows. The program just came out in version five.

 

   Film scripts have a definite format for Hollywood studios. And scripts submitted without that format are usually dismissed from consideration immediately, under the assumption they were written by amateurs who don't understand the business. Whether that attitude is right or wrong is immaterial; that's the way it is.

 

   What a script program does (and there are others as well) is format the page in accepted mode. That includes using different type styles for action, dialogue, transitions and whatever else is going on, and keeping track of your characters. The program remembers each character's name and as soon as you type the first few letters it fills in the rest, creates the proper indent, and switches type styles.

 

   If you move pieces around, the program renumbers the scenes and pages to keep things in order. This is probably the most important assist a computer can provide, because you're always going to be moving pieces around.

 

   Final Draft is $299 for Windows or Macintosh. Phone: 800-231-4055 or 818-995-8995; web: www.finaldraft.com. A by-the-way: The company is co-hosting a screen writing contest at the web site www.express.com. Winning prize is $10,000 and an all expense trip to Hollywood to meet with agents, directors and producers. Entry fee is $45. Last year's winner has his script in production.

 

The Buddy System

Turn One PC into Two

   I think I've written about this stuff three times now, but there always seems to be tremendous interest in it, and maybe you didn't read those other columns. Besides there are new versions.

   The "stuff" in question are "Buddy" and "Applica," two systems for turning one PC into two or more. Plug a card into your PC and add another keyboard, mouse and monitor. Viola, as they say in fractured French, you've got two computers.

 

   Though there is only one computer actually involved, today's processors are so fast that they are twiddling their digital thumbs most of the time, waiting for you and me to do something. All this idling time can be put to use by a second operator. It will seem to both users that they are in complete control of the computer.

 

   The Buddy system, "Buddy-B210A," is $169 from discounters and comes with a 50-foot cable, long enough to have the second keyboard and monitor in another building. The more expensive Applica system, $249, comes with a 25-foot cable but offers sound, which the Buddy lacks.

 Applica Multimedia

 

   Keyboards are less than $20 these days, ditto for mice. Decent color monitors are less than $200. So, anyway you cut it, it's a cheap way to add a second computer and ... you don't have to install new programs.

   Phone for Applica: 800-487-2243; web: www.applica.com. Phone for Buddy: 888-654-5415; web: www.vegatechnologies.com.

 

A cautionary note on modems

 

   Changing computers and modems recently brought the slightly shocking discovery that I could no longer connect using my older DOS programs. It turns out that not all PC modems will work with DOS; in fact it's becoming rare. Check the system requirements on the box. If the modem says you must have Windows 95 or 98, it probably will not work when you drop back into DOS. If the system requirements specify only a processor speed, with no requirement for operating system, it will probably work with DOS. I learned this the expensive way, by going through four modems.

 

Internuts

-- www.si.edu  Official site of the Smithsonian Institution, in Washington. Rich resource center of libraries, research, pictures, etc.

-- www.medicinenet.com  New medical information site. Looks professional and well done. There are now more than a dozen such sites.

 

-- www.geohistory.com; www.geomapping.com; www.geoweather.com; www.geotraffic.com; etc. These and many other "geo" sites are part of the "GeoPortals" hosting service. Their greatest utility lies in their links to other sites. For instance, if you wanted maps, geomapping would not only provide you with maps of their own but many links to university map libraries, government sources, etc.

-- www.starchefs.com Recipes from chefs, some famous, some known in their neighborhoods. Also carries job listings in the field, auctions, kitchen supplies.

-- www.benedict.com All about copyrights and how to protect them.

-- www.totallyfreestuff.com The web is full of advertising linked give-aways and participations. Thousands are listed here.

 

-- www.ugo.net  The "ugo" stands for "underground online." The site has slightly weird games and animations.

 

-- www.happypuppy.com Good gamer site. Lots of demos and commentary on games for all machines.

 

-- www.gamepc.com Site for company that puts together "screamers" for game buffs. Several other companies on the verge of doing the same. Just assemble the fastest of everything plus lots of memory and you're there.

 

NOTE: Readers can search more than three years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@oncomp.com or bobschwab@aol.com.