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     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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February 2002, Week 2 -- It's in the Air

 

   Wireless is the buzzword of the year and what it's all about is linking computers (handheld and otherwise), cell phones and maybe even game machines, into networks. If you think you're busy now, wait till everything happens at once. In Finland they're downloading on their cell phones these days.

 Wireless Cable/DSL Router

   Danger, tech stuff: 802.11b, sometimes called "wi-fi," for wideband fidelity, is the buzz number that goes with the latest buzzword. It's a broadcast protocol for delivering a lot of information in a short time, which is just what you need if you're going to walk around downloading your e-mail and browsing the Internet at lunch. Speed is 11 megabits a second, which is as good as the wired networks in most offices. Coming up is 802.11a, which despite having a lower letter designation (a instead of b) will be newer and faster, with a transmission speed five times that 802.11b. No waiting, as they say.

 

   While it's tough to use wireless networks in large companies (too many walls and long distances), it's a good fit for small business and home users. We mentioned some of the earlier systems last year and have a few of the latest in hand. What you need is a router, the core that links the pieces and little transmitter/receivers for each computer in the network. Prices run around $100-$200 for the router and then another $50-$75 for the cards for each computer.

 Home Gateway

   There are a dozen makers of this kind of equipment but the best ones seem to be Linksys www.linksys.com which offers the fastest links, Netgear, ActionTec www.actiontec.com  and Belkin www.belkin.com. Belkin is not the fastest but for the economy minded offers the best deal, only $100 for the router, and that's without a discount. Linksys' lowest price router comes in at only $150, however.

 Wireless-Ready
Home Gateway

   Wireless is the way the world is going all right but you should take one notice: it's not secure. It's almost impossible for an outsider to tap into a wired network, but practically anyone with a receiver can listen and watch what's going on through a wireless network. This may or may not matter to you.

 

More on defragging

  Diskeeper 7

 

   Over time a hard drive's information storage becomes fragmented because data is entered and erased at different times. When new data is entered there is often insufficient room next to the main program so it is stored wherever the computer finds space. This scattering slows the operation of the computer and in particular the programs that are most fragmented.

   It can easily take an hour or two to "defrag" a big hard drive using Windows, but that time can be cut to minutes with "DiskKeeper 7." The defragmentation process is also more thorough than the routine built into Windows. The price is $49 for single users, $249 for networks. The maker, Executive Software, has been at this for a long time.

   This is a useful product for businesses, many of whom defrag either part or all of employee hard drives frequently. In a network the system administrator can defrag linked computers from his unit. Web: www.execsoft.com.

 

Personality testing

 

   Who among us has not wondered about our inner self? The proper study of mankind, as Pope observed, is man. (In his usage, man embraced woman.)

 

   One of the best known tests for answering this question is the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, developed by psychologist David West Keirsey. Taking the test provides a preliminary analysis of who you are, and you can take it for free at www.keirsey.com. More detailed analysis costs $15. They admit to a one-in-four error rate in assessing your personality. Not great, but let's face it: people are complex. Or maybe they just have complexes.

  Disney Print Creations

 

 

Something for the kids

   "Disney Print Artist," around $20 for Windows, is from Sierra Interactive, not Disney, but features Disney characters and scenes in an easy to use print program. The object here is to be able to print out greeting cards, calendars, party invitations, certificates, etc. You can add lettering to any of the more than 6,000 Disney images. Web: www.sierra.com.

Books: From junk mail to your mail

   Here are two books from the same author, for businesses wanting tips and routines for controlling their e-mail.

 

 Overcome Email Overload

   "Overcome Email Overload with Microsoft Outlook 2000 and Outlook 2002" and "Overcome Email Overload with Eudora 5" are both by Kaitlin Duck Sherwood and appear to be self-published; $30 each, at www.overcomeemailoverload.com.

   That doesn't mean they're not good, however. There's a lot of useful information here, from someone who is obviously an expert on the subject. Here's an example of a tip I settled on years ago: don't use automatic filters to delete junk mail. Such filters sometimes block mail from friends and colleagues. Look mail over first and use the delete key instead; you don't have to open everything to tell if it's junk mail. Another: make sure the option to automatically download e-mail attachments is not checked in Microsoft Outlook. Automatic downloads open the door to viruses. The download may even appear to be from someone you know. Normally, I won't download anyone's attachments. That may seem paranoid, but you know what they say: even paranoids have enemies.

 

NOTE: Readers can search nearly four 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.

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