Bob and Joy
                                      
 
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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December 2003, Week 2 -- Microsoft Gets Better

 

 

 Digital Image

 

   Microsoft's new Digital Image Suite 9 is the successor to PictureIt, a nice photo editor now made much better. In fact, most of the new Microsoft products we've been seeing look much better than what we used to get. We attribute this to more and more of their programming being done in places like India and Romania instead of Redmond, Washington.

   Digital Image Suite is $130 from discounters, not cheap but there are some real nice features here. It has the easiest "red eye" removal we've ever used. Clicking on the "red-eye auto fix" button instantly removes red eye. Another click fixes poor exposures, another straightens the picture, etc. Another click makes a "flip book" of photos and you can send that to anyone.

 

  The feature we really loved was "smart erase." Take the mouse and draw a line around any object you don't want in the photo and then choose "fill in." Poof, it's gone. If there are any traces of the object's former presence, you can select a blending brush which makes it look like there was never anything there. We had this big rock in front of Joy over at the Indiana Sand Dunes, for example; so we selected smart erase and poof, no rock.

 

  All of the things you could possibly want to do with a photo are listed off to the left of the screen: like add text or pictures, add a frame, resize, crop, create antique effects, watercolor and brush stroke effects, etc. There's no hunting through menus, which is so frustrating in many programs, here you just select a feature and click. You can click to change a color photo to black and white, useful for seeing how a picture will look if published without color.

 

   Some users have complained that Digital Image Pro doesn't enhance photos as much as Ulead's PhotoImpact, which is true. We love PhotoImpact, which we recently reviewed. But what you have to love here in Digital Image Suite is that it's so easy to use. Web info: www.microsoft.com/discover.

 

A simple slide show

  PhotoShow Deluxe

  "PhotoShow," from Broderbund, posts slide shows to the web. Lots of programs can do this, including the one reviewed above, but they usually have it as one feature out of many. This program is only $10 and if all you want to do is organize your photos for a slide show, what more can you ask?

  PhotoShow is unbelievably easy to use. It shows you thumbnails of any group of pictures in your computer. Click on the ones you want to show, and then click on the button labeled "share." That posts the pictures to the Broderbund web site. Fill in the name and email address of anyone you want to be able to view the show and you're done. You will get a confirmation from their server when everything is ready to view, which is usually within seconds. At any time during a slide show you can click to pass it on to someone else; type in their address and off it goes. PhotoShow is at www.broderbund.com.

 

Internuts

 

-- www.livemanuals.com   Ever lose the manual for your new digital camera, computer, printer, etc.? Are you kidding? Are frogs waterproof? Our experience has been that the shortest measurable unit of time is the interval between when you open the box and you lose the manual. Recover here. The site doesn't have everything, but you can click on any of several categories and find current manuals for everything from digital cameras to VCRs to washing machines.

 

-- www.microweb.com/pepsite  A comprehensive list of places to donate your old computer equipment. They provide the names of contacts and their addresses, all over the world. It may be a door stop to you, but a real treasure to someone else.

 

-- www.intel.com/go/hotspots  A directory for wi-fi hotspots, which are broadcast nodes for wireless computing. You know: you drive around and park outside somebody's house who has a good transmitter going, and you can all hook into the Internet. Or it could be in a hotel or an office building. Free access. New York City has 688 hotspots.

 

That's Entertainment

 Cat in the Hat Games

 

 

-- "Price of Persia: the Sands of Time;" $40 for Windows, $50 for Playstation 2, Xbox and Game Cube.

  The first version of Prince of Persia was the best computer game I'd ever seen. The second continued the saga and quality. A couple of following versions fell off a cliff, but now the Prince is back, as fast, clever and fun as ever. A winner; four stars from almost all gamers.

-- "The Cat in the Hat," from Vivendi Universal; $50 for Playstation 2 and Xbox; $30 for Windows and Game Boy.

Critics have thoroughly panned the movie but the kids seem to like it and the box office has been pretty good. Much the same can be said for this game, which was panned by some teen players but enjoyed by younger children. Most players liked it. Web: www.catinthehatgames.com.

 

Books

  PC Toys

   "PC Toys," by Barry and Marcia Press; $30, Wiley Publishing www.wiley.com/compbooks .

   This is a fun book, handy too. It contains 14 do-it-yourself projects. They include how to put together a home or office surveillance system, build an automatic tracking system for a telescope, automotive diagnostics, temperature and humidity sensors, a control panel for a model railroad, etc. The book comes with a Windows CD that includes a list of parts suppliers. A must for hobbyists and tinkerers.

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

 

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