Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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February 2001, Week 4 -- Easy TV


   It took a while but the computer industry has invented television.


   Actually, there have been devices enabling you to get TV reception on your computer monitor for a decade or more, but with this latest gadget from ATI we are now talking about really easy. The "ATI TV Wonder" is a tuner that plugs into the USB port (universal serial bus) on a Windows 98 or higher computer and lets you tune in 125 channels. List price is $99. The device itself is a small red plastic box a little larger than a pack of cigarettes. One end plugs into the USB port, the other end accepts an antenna or cable TV connection. You can also connect a camcorder, which means the device and its software can be used for video conferencing, and you won't be stuck with those fuzzy images from cheap web cams.


   Accompanying software allows the user to watch TV channels either full screen or in a reduced window that can be moved anywhere on the screen. Still shots or full motion video can be captured and used in presentations or sent as e-mail. The same software can be set to record programs at any later time or date or to locate programs that contain pre-defined key words or matching defined subject coverage. You can even use TV broadcasts as a screen saver.


   ATI has made a TV tuner plug-in card for the PC for many years, but what makes this new device noteworthy is that you do not have to open the computer to install it and its small size and light weight make it convenient for laptop users.


   ATI is a major manufacturer of video display boards. Phone info: 905-882-2600 (Canada) or 408-845-6500 (U.S.); web:


Nearly a century of science


   This is one of those wonderful CDs that brings us the fruit of modern technology. It's the complete 20th century collection of the "Amateur Scientist" articles from "Scientific American," from 1928 to 1999. I used to pour over those articles.

   More than 1,000 science projects are described and their operation explained on a level that can be duplicated by any serious home experimenter. Some are quite serious, like building vacuum pumps or exploring chemical bonds. A few repeat experiments that resulted in Nobel prizes. Others have a lighter side, like how to make mead, a popular drink of the Middle Ages, or making soap bubbles that last for years. Even these lighter experiments have implications that can lead to more serious study.


   The Complete Amateur Scientist is fully searchable by subject and contains helpful hints from readers as well as links to companies that can help with equipment and information. It is $90, from Tinker's Guild. Phone: 888-875-4255 or 650-853-1001; e-mail:; web:




-- Wonderful things that never happened. For instance, 1968: Pan Am president Juan Trippe called ABC-TV during broadcasts of the Apollo 8 moon mission to announce that his airline would begin accepting reservations for future Pan Am flights to the moon. The next day the New York Times reported the airline had been deluged with requests for round trip tickets at an estimated $28,000 each. NASA announced it would have a fully functioning Moon base colony by the mid 1980s. (Note: Pan Am went bankrupt in 1991. Some people are still mooning about it. NASA is looking for water.)


--  Remarkably detailed maps of U.S. locations. There are other good map sites but none come close to this for detail and topographical information. The maps and charts here also include coastal and inland waters and aeronautical charts. Some are for a fee but many, if not most, are free. This is not a site to go to for driving instructions, but you can mark a location on a map and then e-mail it to someone or print it out.


--  An unusual site, compiling information on just about anything. There are 1,300 editors and 300,000 members, who contribute links on a nearly endless variety of topics, from hard science to political humor. Some of the links are better than others.


--  Offers a free quote insertion utility called "Qliner." Comes with some quotations already on board, many of them dumb and tasteless, but you can add your own from the clipboard as you move along. These can then be transferred to whatever you're writing or included in e-mail. Quotes can be arranged in categories and configured in English, Spanish, French, German or Dutch.

--  Online pet adoptions. Has links to 1,500 animal shelters in North America.

A tip from the hat

   Here's a handy tip that can make your computing life a little easier:


   If you want to have several programs open at the same time in Windows, you can quickly toggle between them by holding down the "Alt" key and pressing "Tab." This is faster and easier than minimizing one and maximizing the other. It's a handy way to move things around. You can copy selected text or pictures from a program or web site to the Windows clipboard. Then alt-tab to your word processor, e-mail or anything else you're working on and use control-v (the "paste" command) to insert it. You can capture whole web site pages and move them around this way by choosing "select all" from the edit menu.


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