Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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August 2002, Week 3 -- And Still More Wireless Networks


   The world is going nuts for wireless stuff and I'm going into a cave.


   My adult son is in the process of connecting every new wireless gizmo he can lay his hands on to his family's own computers. He said he had the sudden thought that if there was an alien flying overhead with a vision range in the radio wavelength (instead of our own visible light wavelength) the house would be lit up like a disco club in full swing.

  Wireless Access Point

   The newest wireless offering is from Actiontec, a company that we have always had good results with before. It's latest wireless hub operates at 54 Mbps (megabits per second) which is five times faster than what is currently available from most other makers.

   The "ActionTec 54Mbps Access Point" uses the new 802.11a wireless protocol, instead of the 802.11b used by nearly everybody else. You can forget about those numbers, however, and concentrate on the speed differences, which is all that matters to the user. The transfer speed makes this wireless hub fully competitive with wired ethernet networks, while hubs using the older 802.11b protocol were much slower than wired networks.


   The "Actiontec Access Point" costs $220 from discounters; the high-speed connector cards that are required for each computer in a network are $60 each. Up to 128 computers can be linked in a network with just one hub. The indoor operating range is about 100 feet, which is typical for wireless networks. For the technically hip, fast moving and aware, the hub broadcasts in the 56GHz (gigahertz) band, so there won't be any interference with cell phones and other wireless devices.


   More technical specs and other info can be found at


Free online classes


   Hewlett Packard is offering free online classes at their new learning site: The classes cover business subjects: desktop publishing, designing business documents, etc.; software: Adobe Photoshop, MS Excel, MS Word, etc.; and a couple of courses appropriate for real estate and personal skills.


  A few other sites from large companies also offer free classes. Bloomberg Business News, for example, offers classes in investing and portfolio management. Bookseller Barnes and Noble has online courses in a huge variety of subjects. All of them use books recommended and sold by the company, but you don't have to buy the books to take classes. Some classes require a fee, but most are free, like "Be Your Own PC Doctor," which we're going to sign up for.



   We felt like cutting a rug, so to speak, this week. So we went looking for odd weaves.

-- The web site has a virtual exhibit of the collections. Currently available: Anatolian (read "Turkey") slit-tapestry weaving, Soumak and Kelim weaving of the Caucasus, and Cult Kelim.

-- a dealer's site but very interesting because of lots of color pictures of the unusual collection of oriental carpets, tribal saddle bags and Swedish and pre-Colombian textiles.


--  Another commercial site. They'll braid a flat rug in whatever design, color and size the customer wants.


The gamer's card

   ATI's Radeon 9000 Pro for Windows is on the market and was immediately rated best video card of its class (the gamer's class) by gaming magazines. The Canadian company is in one of those struggles to the death with Nvidia, the other major maker of fast graphic chips and both of them are showing the scars of battle. The stock of once high-flying Nvidia has declined nearly 90 percent since last year, and ATI is down over 50 percent.


   ATI seems to be winning this battle, and it's a key one as the video game industry becomes a major force in the struggle for the computer shopper's dollars. The new Radeon 9000 Pro has 3D color and several shading routines for that "full immersion" feel when playing a game; it provides a superior display for DVD movie disks too. Price is around $150 from discounters. Web:



   The "Cybergun Desert Eagle .50AE" should knock a few bad guys down in compatible arcade games. It is a full-size replica of the Israeli 50 caliber Desert Eagle automatic. Have no fears that anyone will mistake it for the real thing, however, since it's made of translucent bright green plastic.

   The toy Desert Eagle substitutes for the firing buttons on game controllers for PlayStation and shoots a light beam at the TV screen, either NTSC and PAL systems. It has recoil, like a real gun, and has to be "reloaded" when empty; $33 at



 Tricks of Game Programming Gurus 

   "Tricks of the Windows Game Programmers," volumes 1 and 2, by Andre LaMothe; prices $54 and $45, from Sams Books

   If you think this is kid stuff, think again. Sales of computer games topped movie box office last year for the first time and it looks like the start of a trend. Best-selling computer games are almost always a team effort, but you can still start alone.

NOTE: Readers can search nearly four years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at or