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April 2002, Week 3 -- Suite Work if You Can Get It

  Microsoft Works Suite 2002

   Microsoft "Works Suite 2002" is sweet work, and you can get it without half trying. It has just about everything an ordinary user might want in working software, and a bargain price.

   For $87 (the price we found at Amazon.com) you get what would be $1,000 worth of software at full retail prices. Looking at the pieces, you get Microsoft Works (spreadsheet, database, calendar, address book, newsletter and card templates), Word 2002 (their best word processor), Encarta Encyclopedia, Money 2002, PictureIt!, and the Streets & Trips 2002 atlas and travel planner.

 

   This is a ton of stuff and I like almost all of it. Some brief comments on the contents: love PictureIt!, am indifferent to Money, okay about Encarta, like Works and Word, and am very impressed with Streets and Trips. Some people have complained about the word processor part of Microsoft Works in the past, but since Word 2002 comes in this new suite, that no longer matters. Web: www.microsoft.com/works.

 

    Interestingly, this package comes already on board Dell "SmartStep" computers that sell for $599. That kinda makes them $499 as a practical matter. It may also be on other brands; I haven't checked them all.

 

Hard Copy

  Canon S900

   Canon has a new photo quality color inkjet printer with an astonishing 3,072 tiny nozzles in its printhead. The printhead is wider than normal, to accommodate all those little inkjets and the result is much faster printing. The new S900 model prints photos at around two minutes for an 8x10-inch picture. In this field, that's very fast.

   What is the difference between a regular color inkjet and a photo-quality inkjet printer? I mean, any decent color printer can be used to print a photograph. The major difference is the number of inks. Most color inkjets use four colors (red, yellow, blue and black), and some have only three, making black by mixing colors. A photo quality printer  has six inks, adding a light blue and light red for better shading.

 

   Street price for the Canon S900 is around $400 or a little less. Web: www.usa.canon.com.

 

   Brother's www.brother.com  new model HL-1440 black and white laser printer has a list price of $299 and prints at 15 ppm (pages per minute). I'm darned if I can figure out where the profit is in these printers; we've been using an earlier, now discontinued model, for a couple of years and it works fine.

 

   They have a color laser for $3,200 and one of those sheet-fed color inkjets for only $199. The sheet-fed models are only a couple of inches across and designed for laptop users who carry their computer, printer and accessories in a briefcase. You print by feeding in a single blank sheet of paper at a time.

 

Slightly out of focus

 

   A lot of people, myself included, post digital photographs to web sites that then make those pictures available to friends, family and colleagues. The sites make their money by selling prints and perhaps a few ads. The recent shut-down of www.photopoint.com shows the risks.

 

   It's common to empty the contents of a digital camera's memory into the computer or upload those contents to the web and then erase the camera's smartcard. The result for many people is that their originals are on a web site. If that site goes, so will the pictures -- forever. Photopoint, nicely enough, is making its storage of photos available to those who posted them for $25 a CD before it shuts down for good. That's nice, but I wouldn't bet on every failed site doing that.

 

   It also points up a problem that has bothered me for some time, and one that is growing because of the trend toward having computing services on the web. You can log on to many sites and have them do your payroll accounts and other bookkeeping, use their word processing software, store documents, etc. And what happens to all that work if the site goes under? Nothing good, I assure you. Keep a backup somewhere.

   Going back to digital photographs for a moment, we use Ofoto www.ofoto.com   for posting pictures for family and friends. Ofoto has been around a long time and I first came across them 20 years ago. (A note to the suspicious: It's not a public company and I don't know anyone there.)

   A seldom mentioned problem with storing and emailing photos, by the way, is image size. The biggest selling point with digital cameras is the number of pixels per picture -- just as someone in printer marketing a few years ago told me the only thing the customer ever asks about is "how many dots per inch?" In the new digital camera world, the more megapixels the better and that's what sells the camera. I like sharp resolution too, but unless you have a cable or other high-speed modem connection it can take one to several hours to upload or download a group of high-megapixel pictures. File compression routines are included in most photo editing programs and it's a good idea to use them.

 

   NOTE: Readers can search nearly 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.