Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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February 2001, Week 1 -- Accounting for Tastes




   QuickBooks Pro is out with a new features for a new millennium. This is the much expanded business version of Quicken, a program used primarily by individuals.

   The popularity and durability of this series is remarkable. After all, accounting software is not exactly a crowd pleaser. We first wrote about Quicken nearly 20 years, and now it dominates its market segment. The only significant competitor is Peachtree Accounting.

   The new feature they are proudest of in QuickBooks is online billing. You can make out an invoice and immediately fax or e-mail it to the customer, sometimes receiving payment back by return e-mail. The program can handle multiple pricing levels for the same products or services, thus covering discounts for regular customers, bulk buyers, aunts and uncles, etc.


   For those unfamiliar with this program, it handles billing, inventory tracking and payroll, the primary requirements for a small business, It's designed for businesses with up to 20 employees.


   QuickBooks comes in three versions; the standard version is $149, and the Professional and online versions are $249 each. Phone info: 800-446-8848 or 650-944-6000; web:


How to keep everyone informed


   Here's an interesting idea with a few bugs. It's a web-based service called "Instant Folders," from Punch Networks. What it does is allow many people to receive a folder of information on any subject, whether that be schedules, rules and regulations, appointments, etc. That folder is automatically updated for all parties on its list whenever the controlling editor makes changes. The files sent to each recipient's "instant folder" are encrypted, so there is protection for sensitive information.


   So far, so good. It's $49 a year for everyone registered to make changes in the folder. There's a free 30-day trial and if you only need to read changes, not make any, there is no further charge. The annoying feature is a screen that appears every time you start Windows, insisting that you log onto the Internet.


   Bottom line: This can be a very useful program, and you should either ask the company's technical support how to get rid of the annoying startup screen or figure out a way to do it yourself. Putting that aside, it updated files and folders from one machine to the other quickly and easily. Web site: Phone: 206-343-7661.


 USB and Firewire for all


   Older Windows computers can't use the new USB (universal serial bus) and Firewire peripherals. But a new add-on card from StarTech lets those users add two USB and three Fireware ports to almost any PC. Suggested retail price is $118 (not bad for what it adds). This seems pretty useful to me, since not having USB or Firewire these days is a real handicap. In fact if you're editing video on your PC it's hard to see how you can get along with one of these high-speed connections.


An alternative approach for USB is the use of adapters. You can buy adapters that plug into a PC parallel port at one end and have a USB connection at the other. Belkin is a leading maker.


   You can get more information on the StarTech add-on board by calling the company at 800-265-1844; web: Adapter info can be found at



Iguasu Falls

--  A new web site from Equis, the maker of the popular stock charting software, MetaStock. This is certainly the most sophisticated chart service we've ever seen, and it's free. Ton of information.

-- One-day hikes all around the world. The first pages covered hikes in Peru, Australia and America's Blue Ridge Mountains. Beautiful pictures accompany each description.


--  Large collection of unintentionally funny headlines, explanations, corrections and ads. For example, there is an item from the Pennsylvania Department of Highways explaining that they had not intended to pave over a dead deer and the matter would be corrected.

--  Registers domain names and has a "for sale" list of already registered domain names that might suit someone's business or organization.

--  Free templates and expert advice on putting together your resume. Templates are styled for many different situations and lines of work.

--  Links to many legal information sites, attorneys who specialize in various areas, and U.S. Supreme Court decisions going back to 1893.


 That's entertainment


   Two new fun packages from Microsoft: "Classic Board Games" and "Casino," both for Windows 95 and up.

 Classic Board Games

   The titles basically tell you each program's contents: chess, checkers, poker, roulette, and many others. What I like about programs like these is that so many times, sitting at the computer, you would like to play a game that doesn't require a lot of time, has no violent action and no learning curve. Adventure and action games require considerable user involvement, but playing poker or checkers is light entertainment and almost everyone knows the rules as soon as they start. Each program is $25 if ordered online from Microsoft and shipping is free. The CDs play beautiful background music as the games progress. Web site:


Readers can search more than four years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at or