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     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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  February 2003, Week 2 -- I-Spy the Competition


PicaLoader

   "PicaLoader" lets you download, manage and view pictures - up to 700,000 at a time -- from any part of the Internet.
   The program can work with 50 web sites at a time. Pictures will be downloaded even if they are linked to the site by JavaScript, VBScript and Jscript. The download instructions can be given to restrict the pictures by size color, definition and other attributes. The software can also be set to reject duplicate pictures.
     One of the uses suggested by the maker is downloading all the pictures from a competitor's catalog. Is this legal? It probably depends on where you are; many places don't recognize copyright laws. Once the pictures are downloaded - and remember: you can download 700,000 of them at a time, they can be viewed full size, as a running slide show, or as so-called thumbnails. Images can be collected and filed.
     PicaLoader runs under Windows 95 and up and is $50 from the maker, VOWSoft Ltd. www.vowsoft.com. A free trial version is available from the web site.
  One more spam stopper
   Okay, now we're going to look at one more Spam stopper, and this is a good one.
   It's "Spam Crusher" and what this program has working for it is a built-in list of thousands of known spammers and the domain names they send from. The list is continually updated by the program maker, American Systems. Then, like most other anti-spam programs, you can add your own blocked addresses and offensive words. Names and sender addresses from friends and business associates are permitted by the filter and you can add more of these to the list as well as more blocking terms, on the fly, as they say, as email is coming in.
     Spam Crusher is $20 and there's a free 30-day trial version from www.americansys.com.
Home on the range with wireless networks
    The claimed 150-foot range for wireless computer networks exists only under the most ideal conditions. In the real world it's often only a third of that. LinkSys, a major maker of such systems, is now offering a range booster, the WSB24, for LinkSys setups, that increases whatever range you're getting by about 20-50 percent. In some situations, that extended range will make the difference. It's $99 from www.linksys.com.
It's splitsville for MP3
     "MP3 Splitter and Joiner" from EZ SoftMagic does just what it's title says and lets you edit pieces of any recorded material into small MP3 files that can be entered individually or joined into longer takes.
     The problem this fixes comes up all the time. You might record a two-hour concert or a half-hour radio program but you don't need or want all of it. If you burn the recording to a CD - and most new computers come with CD burners built in these days - you have to burn it as one long track. It obviously makes much more sense to split out what you want.
     The program uses a slider bar to position the cuts where you want. If you're not sure of the time mark on the recorded material you can use the "listen" feature to be sure of what you're getting. You can easily create your own albums and speech recordings this way. A tag editor lets you identify the bits and joined pieces on the CD's directory. The program can handle splits and joins as long as 17 hours of audio material in one editing session.
     MP3 Splitter and Joiner is $20 for Windows and a 3-day free trial is available from the web site: www.ezsoftmagic.com.
  Internuts
     What with the dollar falling against many currencies, and the continuing turmoil in stock markets, I thought it might be a good idea to mention a few web sites for stock market information. There must be a hundred such sites but I'm only mentioning ones that I have found most useful over the past couple of years.
-- www.cboe.com CBOE stands for the Chicago Board Options Exchange. This is the largest exchange for trading stock options. You can look up option prices for any stock or market index that has options, and for any future period up to two years ahead. While most people don't trade options there's lots of interesting information here. For instance, if you click on the "market statistics" button you get daily information on the "VIX" (volatility index), which traders often refer to as "the fear index," providing a clue to peaks and valleys of market optimism.
--  www.bigcharts.comThis is the place to go for a quick chart on any stock or index. As you delve deeper into the site you can find fundamental information, like price to earnings ratios, dividend payments, etc. You can also get the latest news on stocks and the market. This is provided through a link to CBS Market Watch: www.cbsmarketwatch.com. This site provides brief summaries of recent news and is pretty up to date.

-- www.thomsonfn.com The amount of information here is staggering. If I could only go to one financial web site, this would be it. They not only provide the "VIX" but the put/call ratio during the day, up volume and down volume, advances and declines, etc. As you move further into the site you can look up insider trading figures for U.S. stocks - how many company officers and directors are buying their own stock or selling it, and how much of it. You can also look up seasonal patterns: Do auto stocks do better in the winter or the summer? Do toy companies top out before or after Christmas?
   You can look up any "On Computers" column from the last three years by going to our web site: www.oncomp.com. You can contact the author at bobschwab@oncomp.com or bobschwab@aol.com.
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