Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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  December 2004, Week 3 Keeping Track of Everybody




   Plaxo is a free service that allows you to update the contacts you have in address books created with Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, Mac OS-X, Palm, Netscape or Yahoo. That's pretty much everybody.

   When you join Plaxo (, your address book and appointment calendar information can be made available online from anywhere you can connect to the Internet. Click "Update Contacts" and the Plaxo service sends a message to everyone on those lists asking them to update their information. With any luck, they'll respond.
   In the past, we've seen studies that say about one-third of the population of the United States will have moved within any two-year period, so it's hard to keep up.
     The free service started in 2003, and so far, over 4 million people have signed up. For a fee of $20 a year, Plaxo has a new premium service that allows the user to send cards for birthdays, holidays and other special occasions. A number of extension services are being rolled out by this company, allowing you to send books, flowers and other gifts to selected people on your address list. Visit the Web site to find out everything they're up to.
  Remote Storage

   It's called IBackup ( and it's where you can store all your data in another place in case your system goes blooey. (That's a technical term for "wipeout.") This works equally well with Windows or Mac.
   For $15 a month or $150 a year you can have enough remote storage for 4 gigabytes of data. You can store it straight or encrypted, and you can access the data via the Web from anywhere. An architect noted that he went on the Web and shared an entire design plan with his client while he was in the client's office.
     This backup can be automated with a button click on your desktop screen. Choose incremental or full backup. Or you can "drag and drop" single files or folders. Your system starts backing up files as if you had another disk drive sitting right there on your desk. In fact, the backup is going to large storage drives at Pro Softnet Corp., in Woodland Hills, Calif. Very large backups may take several hours.
     You can get 50 megabytes of remote storage for 30 days as a free tryout of the service. If you want to continue at that minimal level, the charge is $3 a month. From there prices go up gradually to $800 a month for 100 gigabytes with some extra features, like backup histories, snapshot recalls, etc.
  Something for Aunt Dee

   We talked this over, and Joy's position prevailed. She maintained that some people would enjoy seeing online photos every day without having to buy a computer or step out of the house. She could just imagine her Aunt Dee being pleased as punch with an ever-changing display of online photos in a picture frame, one that Joy controlled from afar without Aunt Dee having to do a thing.
   It's the Ceiva 2 Digital Photo Receiver, $150 from Ceiva Logic ( You plug it into any phone jack -- the socket where your phone line plugs in -- and photos from friends, family, whomever, are downloaded into the picture frame while you sleep. There's a monthly charge of $10 for that service, or $100 for a year. That allows for automatic downloads of up to 30 photos a night. Photos can be uploaded to the frame by e-mail and from cell phones.
     Ah, but what if you have only one phone line? Or more correctly: only one phone jack? If that's the case, you can get a "line splitter" at any hardware store, office supply or large drugstore. You plug it into the phone jack on the wall and it provides two jacks. They're cheap: typically around $2.50 or less.
     Buttons on the front of the digital receiver frame let you save photos so they don't get overwritten by the next download, or you can order prints for 50 cents each. Photos that are pushed out by new photos are stored on the company's own site in "albums" of 200 pictures each.
  Home Videos Go on the Web
     Digital Silo ( lets you post your homemade videotapes to the Web. Relatives and friends can then tune in at their leisure, and you don't have to send them the tapes.
     You do have to send the tapes to Digital Silo, though. It provides the box and pays the mailing charges. Fill it up with videotapes -- Digital Silo does the conversion to digital format, if necessary, and posts them to a Web site that can be viewed by those with the proper password.
     This is not a free service. The minimum charge is $89 a year to store up to 10 hours of video for viewing on the Web. If you simply can't control yourself once you're behind the camera, the charge for 50 hours of streaming video is $329 a year.
  Oh No!
     A study from the State University of New York finds that using laptop computers on your lap interferes with male fertility. Heat from the laptop increases heat in your lap by around 3 degrees Celsius. The study found that an increase of as little as 1 degree reduces male fertility by 40 percent.
  Copyright 2004 Universal Press Syndicate