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     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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April 2001, Week 3 -- Reality Check

  

  

   We just received a report that even the executives of wireless connection companies don't use their cell phones or Palm Pilots for browsing the web. They use cell phones for making phone calls, and the so-called PDAs (personal digital assistants) as address and appointment books -- just the like the rest of the world.

   These are the same people trying to sell devices for the new wireless world of computing. They get a lot of publicity in popular magazines but the stuff doesn't seem to work that well.

 

   The study was done by "ComVentures," a venture capital firm that invests in exactly these kind of new wireless communication companies. While executives of the companies are pushing the idea of a new world idiom where everyone will access the web and communicate by wireless, they admitted they don't use these features themselves because "they are just too slow." Interesting. Also sobering.

 

The corporate screenwriter

  

   "Final Draft," is the leading script program used by Hollywood screenwriters (it carries the endorsement of Tom Hanks). Now they have come out with a version aimed at those writing scripts for corporate training films and radio and television ads.

   The new program works much like the movie version, the key features being a double column entry form and the linking of spoken lines with scene descriptions. If a piece of dialogue or instruction is tied to a particular image, they stay together no matter where the image is moved in the script. The two parts, audio and visual, are entered in two separate columns for easy identification and editing.

 

  "Final Draft, Audio Visual" is $250 for either Windows or Macintosh, and $150 now for a limited time. Phone info: 800-231-4055 or 818-995-8995; web: www.finaldraft.com.

 

Useful Downloads

 

-- "SafeMail," is an e-mail encryption program with a five-star rating from users. Decoding the e-mail is dependent on typing a key sentence or phrase that the sender provides. The downside is the receiving party must have the same program. It's free to try, $50 to keep.

 

-- "Stay Connected," is a Windows utility that usually prevents your ISP (Internet Service Provider) from disconnecting you. If you are disconnected anyway, the utility redials and reconnects immediately. Free to try, $20 to keep.

 

-- "DLL Show," tells you what each Windows DLL (Dynamic Link Library) is in use for any program you run. About 200,000 people have already downloaded this one. Free to try, $25 to keep.

 

-- "Photocopier," turns your scanner into a copier by transferring the scanned material to the printer. You can make some size adjustments and select color or gray-scale. Free.

 

NOTE: I'd like to point out here that many new scanners come with a print button that does this automatically. You can also scan a page, move it to another program and print from there, thus copying the page. But this little utility does make it simpler.

 

Where to find downloads

 

   There are several sites on the web for downloading shareware; best known are zdnet.com, tucows.com, download.com, and pcworld.com. You should be aware that downloads often carry ads or sell your contact information to merchants. Some shareware is not well behaved and can cause your system to lock up or create problems with other programs. This happens to us so regularly that we take it as a part of computing life. Our computers experience weird problems on the average of three or four times a week.

  

Internuts

-- www.drivershq.com  Drivers for almost all computer peripherals and devices, plus a utility that checks your system to see if you have the latest ones. www.download.com  is also a good source for drivers.

-- www.omnichoice.com  Selects your best deal on phone service, depending on your use pattern.

-- www.gardening.usda.gov  Advice on plant selection for different regions. Just click on the map. (Did you know the Department of Agriculture has a resident county agent for every county in America?)

-- www.iwon.com Win a million dollars for clicking on ads, news and other items. They give away $10,000 a day, and a $1 million dollar prize each month. Lots of competition.

-- www.gocheat.com  Big site for game cheat codes. Links to other sites. Like ...

 

-- www.cheatcrawler.com Web's biggest site for cheat codes. They're called cheat codes, but they make the games more fun.

 

Games: A whole lot of shakin going on

 

 

   Things that go bump are getting to be part of the game. There's the "iFeel" mouse from Logitech, and a new set of earphones called "Rumble FX" from Evergreen Technologies. These are both force-feedback devices, which react in tactile and audible ways to stimuli from games. You can also get force-feedback joysticks, which have been out for several years.

  While other force feedback devices work only with games designed to trigger their sensors, the Rumble FX headphones work with any game and can be used with Windows, Macintosh and game machines. Web: www.rumblefx.com.

  

  "Black & White," from Lionhead Studios and Electronic Arts, is the latest game to make use of force feedback controllers. It's designed by Peter Molyneaux, a founder of the famous British game company, Bullfrog. Game uses lots of artificial intelligence. Web info: www.black.ea.com.

   NOTE: Readers can search more than four 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.

 

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