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April 2003, Week 3 -- The Businessman's Scanner

 

 

  Strobe XP 200

   The Strobe XP 200 from Visioneer is a scanner narrow enough to fit between the keyboard and a monitor. Similar scanners have been around for several years, but this one has some great new features.

   First of all, the Strobe XP is 11 inches long, two inches high and two and a half inches deep. That's small enough so it wouldn't upset a typical desktop arrangement with a PC. The way it works is you simply feed any piece of paper into the scanner and it starts up. You can use a page from a magazine, a newspaper article, a business card, memo, etc.

 

   The great strength of Visioneer has always been its software -- so good it is licensed by Hewlett Packard and other makers for their scanners. The software shows the scanned image and offers you the choice of where to save it. In this latest version you can also put it on automatic pilot and have the scans saved directly to a pre-selected file or program. You can add sticky notes with comments, insert arrows and/or use a color highlighter to emphasize some part of the scanned content.

 

   When you go back to working on something else, the scans are indexed in the background. You can search the scanned files by title, keyword or any notes you attached. If you scan a form, you can fill it out on screen and then email or fax it from Windows. The text in any scanned document can be edited.

 

   The XP 200 works with Windows 98 and up and connects through a USB port. It has a $300 list price from Visioneer, but we found it for $261 at www.everythingusb.com.

 

Tiny music and voice players

 

   The new portable MP3 music players are all about the size of a pack of chewing gum; in fact, they're almost exactly the size of a pack of chewing gum. What is happening is that so-called "thumb drives" -- the tiny flash memory devices that plug directly into USB ports, are being fitted with tiny motion and volume controls plus a small display screen.

 

   The technology is really remarkable. The devices have no moving parts and weigh about two ounces. They run off a single AAA battery and can play continuously for about 12 hours. Capacities so far come in either 32-128MB, enough for one to several dozen selections. A built-in microphone allows voice recording for about five hours. We expect to see FM radio reception added within the next few months.

 MP3 Player

Azio

   The sticking point so far has been price. Amazon www.amazon.com  charges $120 for the 32 MB version of the Nomad MuVo, the market leader. We found a 64MB version at Circuit City, however, that sells for just $80 after a rebate.

   We've been testing the lowest priced player available, the "Azio MP306" from Azio Technologies and we love it. The sound quality is excellent, and a tiny lanyard allows you to hang it from a belt loop (though it took me 10 minutes to attach the lanyard). The title of each piece scrolls across the display screen as it plays but there is no track number, so it's hard to move directly to a piece you want. Other than that, this thing was great. The MP306 sells for $79 and frequently less from discounters. Azio web site: www.azio-tech.com.

 

Backups

 

  Lockstep's new "Backup for Workgroups" is a welcome addition from a company already highly regarded for its "Web Again," a program that restores web sites that have been damaged by hackers.

 

  Backup for Workgroups is designed for offices with 200 or less computer work stations and does not need to be carried on a server. In other words, in small offices, which have their computers networked but don't use a central server, the software can be loaded onto any one of the computers and used from there. Backups can be on demand or automated and in a particularly nice touch, can be mirrored. While most backups are directed to a particular drive, either another hard drive or a tape or CD, this program can direct the back up to two drives. One can be removable and taken away from the site in case of fire, or can be left in place as a guard against mechanical failure of the first backup drive.

 

  The cost is $299 for a package that handles three computers, $399 for five, $599 for 10, and so on. Web: www.lockstep.com.

  MVP Baseball 2003

 

Games

   Baseball fans will love Electronic Arts' new "MVP Baseball 2003," $40 for Windows 98 and up. It's getting to the point where the only difference between the video game and a TV broadcast is that you're closer to the action in the game. This particular version of MVP Baseball puts extra emphasis on base running and the contest between pitcher and batter. You can see the base as if you're the runner and watch the pitch come in as clearly as if you're the batter. www.easports.com.

Book

 

 

 

  "Build Your Own Server" by Tony Caputo; $30, www.osborne.com A well-illustrated book that will take you through the steps of building your own server, to control an office network and host Web sites. All the nuts and bolts are covered here in easy-to-follow form.

 

NOTE: Readers can search past columns on our web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@oncomp.com or bobschwab@aol.com.

 

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