Bob and Joy Schwabach

This Column Appears in:
Birmingham, AL  "News"
Little Rock, AR "Democrat Gazette"
New Britain, CT "Herald"
Orlando, FL, "Citizen Gazette"
Vero Beach, FL, 'Press Journal"
Kaneohe, HA, "Midweek"
Geneva, IL, "Chronicle"
Shreveport, LA "
The Times"
Worcester, MA Telegram & Gazette"  
Carlisle, PA, "Evening Sentinel"
Fort Myers, FL "News Press"
Spokane, WA, "Northwest Online"
Bangkok, Thailand,  "Post"
Shanghai, China “Daily News”
Hanoi, Vietnam "Vietnam News"  

Recent Columns

April 2008, Week 1
1. Toktumi
2. More iPod Stuff
3. Internuts
4. Book: "Mac OS X: Leopard"

March 2008, Week 4
1. Bonanza.
2. Learn to read and write.
























  April 2008, Week 1


Toktumi (pronounced "talk to me") is a combination land-line and Internet phone system for small businesses. You can make and receive either kind of call from the same standard handset you have on your desk or table.

For $19 you get software and a lightweight dongle about half the size of a packToktumi of cigarettes. The dongle weighs less than an ounce and plugs into any USB port on a PC.

The dongle has two sockets on the back for plugging in standard phone cords. One socket takes the phone line coming from your wall jack, the other handles a cord that goes directly to your phone. This gives you the option of making and receiving regular or Internet phone calls.

To make Internet calls, most of which are free or very low cost, you simply click on an icon to turn on the Toktumi software. As long as you have this software running, all your calls will be Internet calls. If you get a call on your land-line phone while you are using Toktumi, it works like call-waiting.

We found that the device and software worked as claimed, and the sound quality on Internet calls was about as good as land-line calls. Some calls we tried broke up during the conversation, but we think that has little or nothing to do with Toktumi since our experience has been that Internet calls sometimes break up no matter what you're using. The quality of such calls seems to vary with weather conditions and the amount of Internet traffic at the time.

The Toktumi service charge is $13 a month. For this, you get a separate phone number and 10 extensions for other people in your company. Because of these extensions, those people can be called directly. You also get a voice mail selection service that can provide routing messages, such as "Press one for sales."

 A conference call feature allows up to 20 people to participate in calls from anywhere in the world. If you want to order some food or make an appointment for a haircut, a clickable feature brings up "Google Local" on your screen, which shows a list of appropriate businesses nearby.

Toktumi requires that incoming Internet phone calls be made to the special number provided with the service. We were advised that later this year you will be able to use your regular phone number as a Toktumi number as well. More information on this interesting approach to business phone systems can be found at .


We have been pitched on so many speaker accessories for iPods that we could start a catalog. But the iTempo 800 from Genius takes a different approach. It is a combination portable radio, CD player and tape deck, and then there's a socket on the top for your iPod.

Our past encounters with equipment from Genius has left us with the impression that "right around average" would be a better name, but this radio combo is a step up. In addition to the CD and iPod dock, the iTempo 800 has an iTempo 800alarm clock and an S-Video connection, so you can display photos and videos from your iPod on a big TV screen. A wireless remote lets you control all this from the couch. Sound quality was good and plenty strong. For some reason it seems to be selling well in India, but we found it at, for the odd price of $153.47.

INTERNUTS  has pictures of weird houses and structures made with recycled materials. For example: a safety tunnel made out of a shipping SuperUse container, a house made from recycled cardboard, a chandelier made of bananas, and so on.  is a nice place to go when you feel like listening to the radio on your computer. You can tune by subject heading, like talk shows for conservatives or progressives, or your choice of classical, jazz, world music and many others. You can even browse by country. There are hundreds of choices on places and subjects, from stations all over the world. It also has a free trial on software that lets you time-shift broadcasts, so you can pause or turn to something else and then come back to the program.  lists what's going on in any American town if you just type in the ZIP code. You get not only events but also a summary of local issues.


"Switching to the Mac, Leopard Edition," by David Pogue ($30 from ).

Mac users get very few viruses, no spyware and very little spam. It is generally accepted that this is because Macs represent less than 10 percent of the Mac: missing manualinstalled base and therefore there's less incentive for malicious hackers to write such code. Pogue disagrees with that assessment and says it's because the OS X operating system is much newer than Windows and was designed with Internet use in mind.

The handiest parts of the book are the appendices, especially the one titled "Where'd It Go?" Every time you expect to find a function where Windows put it, you can look here and find out where Mac put it. One good example: To uninstall a program on the Mac, you simply drag its icon to the trash barrel. This leaves no bits and pieces behind.



NOTE: Readers can search several years of columns here at or seven years worth of columns at