Bob and Joy
                                      
 
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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  December 2004, Week 4 -- Go Fish!

 

 

   We found a really fun service and it's free! Singingfish (www.singingfish.com) lets you search the Web for streaming audio, video, music and movies and play them on your computer.

   We searched for recent comments on the economy and got a discussion on National Public Radio and then a video of a conversation between Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman and economist Thomas Sowell, this last from the Princeton University Web site. You can pick up some pretty interesting stuff this way, from places you would never ordinarily search. Being University of Chicago types, we had never visited the Princeton Web site, for example.
     The homepage gives you some quick choices: finance, sports, news, music, TV, etc. You can also click for a "family filter" to block material that might be inappropriate for children. A nice touch is an "I'm Bored" button, which lets you leaf through a selection of quirky, funny video clips. There's also a "staff favorites" button, mimicking the popular "staff favorites" shelves you often see in video rental stores.
     Singingfish is a service of America Online (AOL), but we were able to use it without being on AOL. It appears to be completely free, and you can save your searches. Love this service.
  A Network Drive in Your Pocket

 Ximeta

   The NetDisk Mini from Ximeta is a so-called pocket hard drive, 1-by-3-by-5.6 inches, weighing 1.5 pounds (680 grams). Capacity is 40 GB or 80 GB (gigabytes), and it works with Windows, Macintosh and Linux systems. The drive is very fast and can draw power from either the computer's USB port or its own tiny transformer, which, by the way, has a retractable cord, a feature we always like to see.
     There are several of these portable hard drives on the market, but this one has a feature not found on any other: It has both USB and Ethernet ports on the back and can serve as either a personal or a network drive. The drive is "hot swappable," as they say in the business, which means you can switch it back and forth between the Ethernet and USB ports and it will automatically detect what it's connected to. The 40 GB hard drive lists for $230 at Ximeta's Web site (www.ximeta.com), but we found it at www.newegg.com for $200.
  Max Storage

 

   The new version of Maxtor's OneTouch drive is called the OneTouch II and comes in capacities of 250 GB or 300 GB. This drive is famous for its "one-touch" backup system. Just as the name implies, once you install the software and connect the drive, you have only to push a button to back up your files or your entire system. If you connect it to a Macintosh, you get something even neater than that: You can make a bootable backup of your entire Mac system, applications, operating system, files and all.
     The OneTouch II is almost exactly the size of a typical hardcover book, a mystery novel, for example. The weight is 3.1 pounds, and it connects to the computer by either USB or FireWire. The drive is definitely portable, but not a pocket drive. One user said he uses eight of these in rotation for a complete business backup system, and added that he has taken the drives on many trips and never experienced a breakdown.
     Maxtor doesn't sell directly from its own Web site (www.maxtor.com), so it's open season on pricing, and good deals abound. We found the 300 GB (that's a lot of storage) version for $280 at www.zipzoomfly.com and $275 at www.newegg.com. The 250 GB size sells for $230 at newegg. Any way you slice it (sorry about that pun), it's less than $1 a gigabyte for a drive with lots of features -- especially the one-touch button. The whole drive or individual files can be password-protected.
  Getting Well Connected

 

 

 

 

   Keyspan's USB Parallel Transfer Cable is what you need to transfer files between an old computer, which has no USB port, to a new computer, which may have only USB ports. We've also used it to connect the USB port on our new computers to the parallel port on some printers.
   None of this is crucial stuff, but when you need it, you need it. Keyspan makes a lot of these adapter cables, and if you're stuck for one, look for a fix at its Web site: www.keyspan.com. We have several adapters from them.
Kid Stuff

Dora the Explorer

   Got kids around? Age 3 or older? You're in luck: They can play Dora the Explorer: Fairytale Adventure from Atari for Windows ($20 from www.atari.com). The program comes with a tiny Dora doll in the box.
Literally De-Bugging
     Fellowes has an antibacterial keyboard and mouse for Windows that it says will protect your system and software from damaging bacteria. And here we thought it was viruses we had to worry about, not germs.
   The company cites a study that claims computer keyboards have 400 times more bacteria than toilet seats. We obviously should have been using toilet seats attached to the computer instead of keyboards, but we never thought of it.
     If we are making fun of this gimmicky product, it's because of something more serious underneath. And that is the bacteria that will remain. Whenever an antibacterial agent is used, there are nearly always some bacteria that survive. These reproduce, and you are stuck with a strain of bacteria unaffected by the germicide that was supposed to kill them.
     Still, if you're really phobic, you can find more info on the Fellowes Web site (www.fellowes.com), but no prices. We found the Microban keyboard/mouse combo for $50 at http://dealexpress.zoovy.com.

 


 

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