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August 2002, Week 1 -- Lost in a Quandry

   

 

With a little help, PDAs can show maps and your position, but not much else.

  

   Handheld PDAs ("Personal Digital Assistants) can be connected to a GPS (Global Positioning System) receiver. They're small. You plug the receiver into the base of the PDA and it receives the satellite signal and displays your location on the small screen.

   The problem for all users is they may not have a map for where they are at the moment. If there's no map, the satellite information normally just provides your location in latitude and longitude. Not too useful. People generally buy map software for their home area or a place they know they're going to visit. It gets expensive fairly quickly.

 Street Atlas USA

   DeLorme has a nice new $40 mapping program that is designed to go with handhelds and has street maps for the entire U.S. It's called "Xmap Street Atlas USA, Handheld Edition," and works with Palm, Handspring, Sony Clie and the Pocket PC. You load the two CDs into your computer, select the area you're going to be in, and load that part of the map into the handheld. As an extra fillip the software will pinpoint hotels, restaurants and points of interest for that area and provides phone numbers. There are four million such places listed in the two disks.

 

   DeLorme also sells a GPS satellite receiver separately for $130 and adapter cables for $20-$50. Web: www.delorme.com.

 

Spam blocker

 

   Junk email has come to be referred to as "spam," much to the annoyance of the Hormel Company, which makes the canned meat, Spam. What can you do? These things stick.

 

   "Choice Mail" is a $30 program from DigiPortal Software www.digiportal.com  that actually does block spam. It works well with Windows 98 and up, though not with mail coming in through AOL. Be forewarned that this is not completely trouble-free.

 

   The underlying premise is that all email is spam until proven otherwise. You put acceptable email addresses on an approved list. Anyone else receives a three-line form by return email. They must list the reason they think you want to receive their email; for example: it's from your mother. You get an alert that a new sender is registering and requesting your acceptance. You can accept or reject. Sorry, mom.

 

   Not everyone needs to fill out a new sender registration form. The program creates a temporary "new senders" list of all senders not already on your approved list. This list stays in your computer for four days. You can go over the list and approve the senders you want.

 

   You automatically register a whole bunch of people when you first install the program. It looks at your address list in Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express or Eudora and treats those names as already approved. You can try it free for 14 days by downloading the program from the web site: www.digiportal.com.

 

To Mac and Back

 

   "MacOpener," is a $50 program from DataViz www.dataviz.com that lets users of the popular "Ipod" music player from Apple use the Ipod with PCs equipped with FireWire ports. PC users can open most Mac disks, including floppies, Zip, Jaz and CDs with music data that is compatible with the Ipod. It works in conjunction with "EphPod," a freeware program from TrentSoft at www.ephpod.com.

  Movie Maestro

 

Now hear this

   "SmartSound Movie Maestro" lets you produce that professional sound track as background for home movies or business presentations. Music can be pulled in, blended, brought up and toned down from any source on disk or in the computer. You can change the positioning of the background sound simply by dragging pieces with the mouse. If the length of a video sequence is changed, the music will automatically adjust to fit.

   This is a nice piece of software, with an easy learning curve; comes with six CDs of background music. It's $50 from Sonic Desktop Software www.smartsound.com.

 

It's cool to grease your computer

 

   Evergreen is selling a new conductive grease that you apply between the central processing chip and the heat sink. The heat sink is a piece that looks like the cooling fins on a motorcycle engine (though much smaller, of course) and it's job is to, well ... get rid of the heat.

 

   Many computers run hot and all of them give off some heat. In general, the faster the processor the hotter it runs. At a certain point the heat begins to interfere with the working of the central processor. Applying a conductive grease between the processor and the heat sink provides better contact between the two surfaces. Better contact means more effective heat transfer. "Viola," as they say in fractured French, we get some cooling improvement.

 

   Evergreen Technologies calls their grease "TherMagic" and it sells for $7 from discounters or $9 from the Evergreen web site: www.thermagic.com.

 

Internuts

 

-- http://calculator.socialsecurity.org  A free social security calculator from the Cato Institute that estimates what your returns would be from various investment plans if Social Security became privatized, as it is in Chile. This system is being proposed by President Bush.

-- www.crimescene.com  Crimes scene photos, evidence and a discussion of how the case was solved or why it is still unsolved. You can offer suggestions to try and help solve the case.

-- www.16by9tv.com  A "not too technical" home theater handbook. What you need to get to set up a home theater. This is a hot subject for high tech homes.

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.