Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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August 2004, Week 1 -- Just Out Jotting






   "Jot+ Notes" is a new version of a nice simple note taking program that can handle anything from taking down a name and address to your latest novel.

   At $30 it's a lot cheaper than Microsoft's "One Note," which lists for $180, or InfoSelect, which is $250. Of course it doesn't do all the tricks that those do, but we're talking basic utility here. Jot+ does outlines, but with a plus.

   The outlines expand as you create and click on each heading and the headings can contain an unlimited amount of information. You can put a whole novel into a heading that is only part of a larger outline. Like a tree, the outline grows, with branches, leaves and at its core a solid trunk.


   A tree structure is what you see if you call up the whole subject. But these trees can get huge as you keep adding information, thoughts, musings and literary arabesques. So you can search Jot+ with Boolean "and/or" modifiers and you can create shortcut keystrokes to take you quickly to a particular place.


   We use this program for maintaining our list of reviewable products, but it can be used for addresses, club memberships, recipes, to-do lists, etc. It's easy to read, easy to use, easy to edit, and there's a free trial version. Find out more at


Gonna Sweep That Spy Right Out Of My Hair

 Spy Sweeper



   "Spy Sweeper," from WebRoot, is the right tool for rubbing out spies these days. It was PC Magazine's "editor's choice" and it's ours as well. The first time we ran Spy Sweeper it found over 800 "traces" on Joy's computer and 30 on Bob's supposedly "isolated" computer. (Joy's computer was less than a month old.)

   A trace is a piece of software that tracks the way a program is executed and keeps a record of that sequence for later viewing. Spy Sweeper can detect over 4,500 "traces." Many computers have over a thousand.

   Not all traces are harmful. Some are benign or even essential for running a particular program. To handle situations like that, Spy Sweeper quarantines the traces it finds and if you subsequently find you can't run some program you can restore that trace.


   After doing a sweep, Spy Sweeper can be set to immunize your system against further attempts to place traces, spyware or hijacks. There is a free trial version that works fine but can't be updated; a full version is $30 from the web site:


All the news that's fit to sprint


   "NewsGator" is a program that scans newspapers, news groups and blogs for the latest news on any subject.


   It works very well but as with any search tool, be careful what you ask for and how you ask it. If you ask for the latest "news," you'll  get over a thousand sources, from the New York Times to some guy musing on world events in his personal blog. To avoid drowning in the news you need to choose categories, like medicine, trade, technology, business, etc.


   NewsGator comes in a version for $5 a month that lets you do key word searches. The results here are not what you might expect. The search is very literal. Searching on "Intel" we got 179 news "feeds" but the news covered intellectual property rights, artificial intelligence and in short, anything with the letters "intel" in the subject area. On the other hand, when we searched for news on "Ford" or "General Electric," two of the largest corporations in the world, we got no news.


   There's a $29 version of NewsGator that works only with Microsoft Outlook. There are about two and a half million blogs but this program looks through only the most popular weblogs. The results are surprisingly interesting and come in your email. A lot more info at


Lights out, or not?


   The subject of whether or not to turn off your computer has come up again. In other words, is it safer, nicer, cleaner or more politically correct to turn off your computer when you're through using it, or to leave it chortling to itself while you go party or whatever?


   A couple reporters we knew in Philadelphia hadn't turned their computer off for several years. The Bob half of this reporting duo is more conscientious than that and turned his computer off overnight just a few months ago. The Joy half turns hers off every night. There seems to be no difference in the computer's reliability or useful lifespan. When newer computers are left on without being used, they usually go into "sleep mode" and use far less electricity than the light bulb in a refrigerator.




--  An interesting site and not at all what you would expect. It's divided into three areas: "have more fun," "get more done" and "stay in touch." In each category there are relevant tips and links to other sites. You can click and go to, for example; upload your photo and see how it looks in hundreds of styles. The "athome" site also has publishing templates for creating newsletters.

-- Shop and chat: The site has bulletin boards with the latest news and tips from fishermen and you can buy just about any kind of equipment here. There is news of sport fishing in several countries, and despite the "all coasts" wording in their web address, they also carried fishing news for Lake Michigan.

-- Ever wonder what happened to candy cigarettes? How about candy lipstick, bubble gum crayons, wax lips and fangs? You can buy them here, and a wide selection of other candies you no longer see in the most stores.

--  Has side-by-side feature comparisons between similar types of software, like feature comparisons of different photo editors or spyware checkers.


NOTE: Readers can search more than three years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at and Joy Schwabach at