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     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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February 2000, Week 2 -- This Map is the Territory

   One of the most interesting programs we've ever seen is "Terrain Navigator" from MapTech. It plots the land and shows you the view.

   Several topographic programs have come out recently, the most widely advertised being "Topo," from DeLorme, a company well known for highway maps. That one's pretty bad, but the disks from MapTech are a knockout.

   The maps themselves cover 35 states, plus the national parks and Appalachian trail. More are added each year. A series of navigational charts cover ports and coastal areas for North and South America and the Great Lakes. Bathometric charts cover the ocean bottom for major fishing areas and are used by commercial and amateur fishermen.

  

 

 

 

 

 

  The detail is astonishing: state maps show individual buildings and vegetation along with roads and trails. The navigational maps come paired with photographs. So, for example, as you are approaching any harbor and many coastal areas, the screen can be split, one half showing the chart, the other half showing a photograph of the area.

   Similar map and view combinations are provided for the Appalachian Trail. This is a popular hiking trail stretching 2,160 miles along the East Coast from Georgia to Maine. Few people attempt it all at once but quite a few hike portions of it over many years, picking up where they left off the year before. The maps are not only extremely detailed but can show the line of sight possible from any position. Photographs accompany the most scenic points. The four CDs covering the Appalachian Trail are $139.

   Terrain maps for the National Parks have been used by the FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency, search and rescue teams and state fish and game agencies. Picking any spot on the map will generate its GPS (Global Positioning System) coordinates and vice versa.

   The Terrain Navigator, required to read the individual terrain maps, is $50; prices for maps range from $29 to around $300 for sets of multiple CDs. Terrain measurements are in both English and Metric units.

 

   MapTech phone: 800-627-7236 or 603-433-8500; fax: 603-433-8505; web: www.maptech.com. Free demo available from the web site.

 

TV or not TV, that is the question.

 

 Studio PCTV

   Many news stories and expert interviews have informed us the television set will soon replace the computer. We will surf the web and use software online, etc., etc. It all seemed pretty unlikely to me, and in fact it's never happened. How about an alternative proposition: that the computer replaces the TV?

   There have been several plug-in cards that let you watch television on your computer, the most popular being the All-In-Wonder card from ATI. "Studio PCTV," from Pinnacle Systems, takes it several steps further.

 

   What they have is a green plastic pad with a red button. It costs $99 and plugs into the USB port on Win 98 computers. Add an antenna or cable feed and you can watch 128 channels. You can not only watch TV, but can output TV signals if you want to create your own program. You can also record programs, using the computer as a VCR (video cassette recorder), and you can tune in FM radio stations.

 

   Push the red button and whatever is on the screen is captured as a snapshot. Create still shots off home videos or training tapes. Included software lets you do video conferencing and create your own movies, which can then be sent out to other TVs. List price is $99. Phone: 650-526-1600; web: www.pinnaclesys.com.

 

Internuts

 

-- www.anonymizer.com  Hides your identity while you browse the web. That way you don't get spam mail later just because you stopped at somebody's site.

 

-- www.disappearing.com  Sets your e-mail to self-destruct a few minutes after it's opened.

-- www.xdrive.com  Store your files somewhere else. Like here. Also take a look at www.idrive.com.

-- www.historicwings.com  A look at all the airplanes you ever want to see, from the earliest days of flight to the latest jet fighters. Plus wartime pinup pictures and nose cone decorations.

-- www.terraserver.microsoft.com  Well known site. A million pages of aerial and satellite images.

 

-- www.earthobservatory.nasa.gov  The official government views.

 

-- www.observe.ivv.nasa.gov/nasa/ootw/current  Galactic peek of the week.

 

Education

  Two new ones in the "JumpStart" series from Knowledge Adventure:

  "JumpStart Toddlers" is aimed at children 18 months to three years old, and takes them on in interactive adventure trip up a river with Dee Dee Duck, off to visit her grandmother.

Jump Start Adventures 4th Grade

  "JumpStart Adventure, 4th Grade," is aimed at ages 8-10 on a hunt to find the "Treasure of Saphire Falls." Numerous puzzles must be solved to reach the goal. This is one of the very best children's series. List price $20, Mac and PC. Phone: 800-542-4240; web: www.knowledgeadventure.com.

Books

 

  "Getting Permission: how to license & clear copyrighted materials, online & off," by Richard Stim; $35 from Nolo Press. Web: www.nolo.com.

 

   Nolo is the largest and best of the legal self-help publishers and here they take on a subject with a lot of uncertainity for businesses. The author is a copyright attorney.

 

NOTE: Readers can search more than three years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@oncomp.com or bobschwab@aol.com.