Bob and Joy
                                      
 
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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February 2002, Week 2 -- Let's Do Lunch

   

 

 

   Sigma Designs has produced "EZ Meeting," software that simplifies online conferences. (Who wants to go anywhere these days; flying is for the birds.)

   This is full bore: meaning you can share photos, blueprints, diagrams, Adobe PDF and Microsoft Office documents, and can capture anything shown on screen and save it to your own computer. The initiating party retains control of whatever information is being shared.

   The $99 software creates an Internet based network, either broadband or with regular 56k modems. During the conference, only traffic between EZ Meeting users is allowed to travel back and forth. It works with firewalls and virus protection programs, so no changes are needed there. Each member of the conference must have a full copy of the program to be interactive; limited copies for those who just want to watch and listen are free. Up to 32 people can be connected at any one time.

 

   This is impressive. There are lots of internet meeting programs but none as easy and feature rich as this. A professional version is available for $199 per copy and provides support for sharing three-dimensional files like architectural and mechanical drawings. You can draw, highlight or type on any part of the images.

 

   Trial versions free for 60 days are available from the web site: www.ezmeeting.com. After the trial period expires, the program reverts to "viewing only."

 

Free U.S. address checker

 

   Dymo Corp., which makes the Dymo Label Writer, has a free download addition for Microsoft Word that checks your addresses on letters and envelopes to make sure the spelling is correct and the address is part of a working number series. It fills in the zip code as well.

 

   That's a lot of correction work going on so you have to be online to do it. You go to their site and your software checks all the addresses and automatically fills in any missing parts (U.S. only). Web site: www.dymo.com/addressfixer.

 

Game programming

  

   The "Game Programming Starter Kit, version 5.0" is not for the faint of heart. But if you ever wanted to be a professional game creator, this will get you going.

   I say it's not for the faint of heart because it includes an introductory version of Microsoft's programming language "C++, 6.0." Maybe you already know C++. In that case you'll like having "3D Game Studio Standard 5.12" which is also enclosed. It has huge libraries of ready-made 3D objects, backgrounds, city streets, interiors, etc. Two other books on game design are included in the $50 package from MacMillan Software. Go ahead, knock em dead. Find it at www.macmillansoftware.com.

 

Internuts

 

-- www.americandialect.org  Check out the new word coinages, like ... "wall humping" (it's not what you might think but refers to the practice of rubbing against a door security scanner so you don't have to take the magnetic card out of your pocket), "shuicide bomber" for terrorists with shoe bombs, and "desk rage," for anger in the office.

-- www.mph-nyc.com  This is the home site of a New York design studio, but the best part starts by clicking on "the history of paper dresses." The first paper dress appeared as a promotional gimmick from the Scott Paper Company in 1966. They charged $1.25 for it and sold half a million of them. That started a craze that moved on to paper dresses for celebrities, with celebrities, paper underwear, paper bikinis, and even paper fur coats (they couldn't be cleaned but you could just cut off the dirty parts). A fun site with clever ideas.

-- www.halfbakery.com  A site devoted to half-baked ideas: like a  semi-detachable rear end for your car so other cars would have to keep a safe distance behind you. You can vote on this and other ideas, like roast beef in sandwich pockets made of Yorkshire pudding, medicinal bacon, or, of course, submit your own half-baked ideas.

-- www.factmonster.com  A fact library oriented for kids, but lots of information for everyone. The site has a large atlas, dictionary, almanac and 50,000 articles from the Columbia Encyclopedia. There's a section on child authors, ages four and up. One of them wrote a book that sold over a million copies.

 

 Typing Pal 

Kid Stuff

   It turns out that it's still useful to know how to type. We found a great new typing instruction program for kids: "Typing Pal Jr.," $20 for Windows, from DeMarque in Quebec.

   You learn by playing typing games, with nice graphics and fun sound effects: Zap those incoming meteors! Unlike other teaching programs, Typing Pal lets you go back and correct errors. Web: www.demarque.com.

 

Books

 

Win Zip

 

   "The Book of WinZip," by Jerry Lee Ford Jr.; $15, No Starch Press.

   WinZip is the most popular file compression program on Windows computers and has been around almost as long as Windows itself. Most versions are free. It cuts transmission times for transferring files and saves storage space. Millions of people use it, so what more is there to say? Well, this book is full of tips on how to use WinZip to shrink files by more than 90 percent, quickly update and modify files that are are already compressed, and how to check incoming zipped files before opening.

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.