Bob and Joy
                                      
 
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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February 2006, Week 1 -- Sync of Swim, Free Style

Good Sync


   Keep that laptop in touch with the desktop. We found a nice free program that synchronizes files between computers, hand-helds, flash drives or any storage device.

 
   It's called GoodSync, and you can get it from www.goodsync.com. We liked two things about it: It's easy to use, and it did a better job than some of the sync programs you have to pay for. (Should we mention again that it's free?)
   
     GoodSync compares files bit by bit. That means digital bit by bit. So if all you did was change the font on a document, GoodSync will recognize that change and update the file on the other computer.
   
     To use it, you browse to the folder that has documents you want to synchronize. Then you browse to the folder on the drive or computer you want to bring up-to-date. Clicking "analyze" will tell you what those folders have in common (sometimes useful for its own sake). Clicking "synchronize" will bring the target file in line with the source file.
   
     We are currently using the program to keep our Web site files synchronized on a desktop, a laptop and our external storage device, a Maxtor One Touch drive. There are advanced options we can use so that as the Maxtor drive is plugged into one of the computers, GoodSync automatically updates its files. We can also set it to sync files on certain dates, or if you work on a network, to keep them constantly in sync.
   
     A word of caution: What if you want to keep earlier versions of files? Rename them and save them with a slightly different name, like plan1, plan2, etc.

 

 

 

   Those who just want the program for personal use can synchronize up to 20,000 files a month for free. Businesses and power users have to pay $20 for a professional version.

 

 

  A Very Handy Scanner
   
Plustek 820 card scanner    The Plustek Opticard 820 (www.plustek.com) is a small portable scanner that was announced a year ago but is just now becoming available.
 
   The scanner measures about 2 inches by 6 inches and weighs half a pound. It can be used as a business card scanner, but what takes it beyond other card scanners is its 4-inch scanning slot and accompanying software. You can scan a business card, but you can also feed it 4-by-6-inch photos, which is the most common print size you get from stores and some of the new photo printers. A 4-inch feed slot is also wider than a standard business card and conveniently wide enough to take small newspaper clips and note paper.
   
     The scanner gets its power from the computer through a USB cable; no power transformer is required. This certainly cuts down on the weight and makes it very portable.
   
     The Opticard 820 scanner comes with three handy programs:

 

  Iris software scans business cards and moves the information into your address list. It had no trouble distinguishing names from phone numbers and addresses. The software can read and separate words in major European and Asian languages.

 

 

 

  Presto! organizes pictures, creates an image database, can load and save images in many different formats and can even be used to create Web pages.

 

 

 

  Mr. Photo is by NewSoft. It has photo editing tools and can handle video and screen captures. It can be used to create business cards, slide shows, wallpaper, screen savers and even organize photos into catalogs.

 

 

     List price for the Opticard 820 and software is $149, but the package is hard to find. A Google search found it for 80 pounds at BizRate in England: http://uk.bizrate.com. That converts to about $143 currently (January 2006). It also seems to be selling well in Germany.
   
     Fortunately, in these days of Internet-based commerce, it makes little difference where you buy something. And since the power comes from the USB port, there's no need to worry about voltage differences in various countries.
   
  Smiley Sticker Shock
   
     We recently bought a new Samsung LCD monitor for our new H-P computer. We paid $350. This is one-third the price we paid for a Samsung LCD monitor of the same size five years ago. And the new one even has stereo speakers and a socket for plugging in video.
   
     For that matter, the computer itself cost a third less than a similar one we bought just over a year, and the new one has twice as much memory, storage and double layer DVD drives.
   
     Yep, things keep getting cheaper in high-tech. Flash memory thumb drives have gotten so cheap you can buy them in six-packs, like ball-point pens. Businesses give them out as freebies carrying the company logo. You can buy 32-megabyte thumb drives for around $10. Think that's too small to bother with? One megabyte is enough to hold 500 letter-size pages of double-spaced type. The 1-gigabyte Sandisk flash memory card had a list price of nearly $1,000 when it came out a few years ago and can now be had for less than $60. Do a Web search for best prices on any of this stuff; try www.flash-memory-store.com for starters.
   
Sky Vector Internuts
 

  www.skyvector.com: Provides full-color topographical maps for all the airports in the United States and its territories. The maps show the surrounding territory, terrain heights and approach lanes.

 

 

  www.cristina.org: How and where to donate old computers. Covers locations in all 50 U.S. states and many international sites.

 

 

  Books

Word Annoyances

 
   "Word Annoyances" by Guy Hart-Davis; $20 from www.oreilly.com.
 
   Lots of tips and step-by-step instructions for getting over all the annoyances in this most annoying of all word processors, which we still use every day. The easy-to-follow section on how to do a mail merge should be worth the price of admission; this annoyance alone is enough to drive people nuts.
 
NOTE: Readers can search several years of columns at the "On Computers" Web site here at www.oncomp.com or at www.uexpress.com/oncomputers . You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@aol.com and Joy Schwabach at joydee@oncomp.com.