Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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December 2003, Week 3 -- Spiders Caught in the Worldwide Web



  Comic Book Library

   These holiday times are tough. And when the times are tough, the tough look for a good comic book to read on their computer.

   Their best bet would be the "Marvel Comic Book Library, volume 1," from Graphics Imaging Technology. The list price is $30, but we found it for $17 at

   Here are 100 original Marvel comic books on one CD for Windows and Macintosh. Want to see Spider-Man, volume one, number one? Well, actually, Spider-Man first appeared in "Amazing Fantasy Comics, #15," which is also here.


   The disk has the first 10 issues featuring 10 popular "Super Heroes." Or, as the people in the comic book business refer to them: "long underwear characters." (No, we're not kidding.) You can view them in regular comic book size or blow them up by 300 percent, making it easy to read the balloons and admire the drawings. You can also size them down to 25 percent.


   You could make these smaller images into greeting cards or clever note paper if it weren't for the copyright problem, and the fact that the programmers fixed it so you can't print out the pictures.


   But we know a way -- heh, heh, heh -- said the evil mad scientist chuckling hysterically from his gadget filled laboratory. (This would be in an overhead comic book view, of course.) We use "Snag-It," which leads us ever so smoothly into our next review topic ... capturing screens. If you can see it, you can snag it.


Capturing the scene on the screen


   There's a new version of Snag-It out (version 7) from TechSmith, and this lets you capture any image on your screen. (You can guess where we're going with this, Spider-Man.)

   In fact you can use Snag-It to capture whole batches of screen images and convert them to any of 23 image formats available in the program and then print them out. Snag-It 7 lets you view all these images as thumbnails, letting you pick and choose through dozens or hundreds at a time.


   You can print saved screens or email them or post them to the web with a click of the mouse button. You can capture all or any part of the image on the screen, and you can even capture screen shots from a video in progress. Snag-It is $40 from TechSmith and the best screen capture program we've ever seen.


The cheapest color laser in the world.

  minolta qms

   So we took the screen shot captured with Snag-It and printed it out with our Minolta Magicolor 2300W, which at $499 is now the cheapest color laser printer in the world.

  This price drop is of more than passing interest to us. Because a few weeks ago, when the printer was $700, we did a little digging and made some calculations and noted that remarkably enough it cost less in the long run to make prints with a color laser than using one of the cheap inkjet printers that commonly sell for less than $30. Well now the color laser printer has dropped to $499, making those prints even cheaper. The other interesting thing was that the color printout we got with the Magicolor 2300W was brighter and sharper than the one we made with the inkjet. All praise to the free market.


   The Minolta Magicolor 2300W is $499 after a $200 rebate. Go to: Special note: Since readers have asked, laser printers don't handle special photo paper well, so don't use that kind of paper.



  Spidering Hacks


   "Spidering Hacks: 100 Industrial Strength Tips & Tools," by Hemenway and Calishain; $25 from O'Reilly Press,

   "Spiders," in computer talk are little bits of code that crawl around the web looking for specific information. For instance: Did you ever wonder how a search engine like Google, or our own favorite, Vivisimo, knows where to find web sites that fit your question? Sometimes that fit is pretty poor, of course, but the reason they come up with a list at all is because search engines send out spiders that constantly roam the web. They are looking for new web sites and the main topics of any web site.

   So ... how would you like to create your own spiders? If you own a business, a spider could roam the web to let you know when a competitor's products were put on sale, or when they have come out with something new. You can search for images of a certain kind, or pieces of information that are buried in seemingly unrelated sites. In order to do this you can't search the whole web (takes too long) but you can put together a list of sites that seem to be worth deep searching.

 Spidering Hacks



   The hacking part is preparing the code that does the searching. You'll need to download some of the Perl computer language and the book tells where to get that. "Hacks" are small pieces of code written to solve a particular problem as quickly and easily as possible. While the popular press usually refers to hackers as people trying to break into computers for some destructive purpose, programmers think of hackers simply as people who are good at writing hacks.

This books is aimed primarily at researchers, librarians and web masters; in short: heavy duty searchers.

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