Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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  January 2003, Week 3 -- Now Hear This

   In December we reviewed a Windows utility -- "Express Web Pictures," that automatically downloads pictures from the web. Now we have a similar utility that searches for sound effects.
    It's called "FineSound Palette 1000" and is a whale of a lot of fun (finds whale sounds with no trouble). Useful too. Let's say you want the sound of thunder. In a few seconds FineSound downloads a couple dozen thunder rolls, peals and claps, along with a picture of their waveform. You can listen to each sound, choose what you want, and edit the waveform to that final pitch, so to speak, of perfection.
     The "1,000" number in the program's title refers to the capacity of the search file. You can collect and download up to 1,000 sound files at a time and store them on your hard drive for later recall and editing. This is the $20 version of the program. For $50 you can get a version that handles 10,000 audio files for each search session.
     Composers and film makers will love this, and so will anyone making presentations or juicing a web site. I decided to make my own rain CD to sleep by. Both programs are available at
  File that for me
File-Ex    Let's say you used the FindSound program above and just downloaded that perfect thunder clap or set of crashing waves and now you want to save it to disk. But you have not created a folder for saving these sounds effects. You will just have to save each one to the Windows desktop, or stop what you're doing, minimize each program file, go to "My Documents" and select "create new folder." Then open all the stuff you were working on and save the sound files to that folder.
     What a nuisance. This looks like a job for "FileEx!" FileEx 3.0 is for Win 95 and up and what it does is let you create file folders on the fly. But, as they say in those late night TV commercials, that's not all it does. It lets you add long file names to files from earlier versions of Windows. It automatically takes you to the last file you were working on in any application, so you don't have to dig it out again. It lets you make a copy of that file before you start working on it again. You can move that copy, or the original, to another folder, or another drive. Sort files by date, size, type, etc.
     This is one of the handiest of Windows utilities. It's $20 from
  --  This is a site put together by the McGregor Bridge Club of Ft. Myers, Fla., and they have an excellent bridge tutorial program you can download for free. Also has quizzes on bridge strategies and lots of playing tips.
  --  The American Contract Bridge League runs this site, Has free learn-to-play software, info on bridge clubs, tournaments, etc., and links to other bridge sites. You can search for clubs near your city or state; many welcome all comers.


--  You can play bridge online with others.
--  Information on the best credit card deals for airline miles and other benefits. Also described special non-credit card deals, like getting airline miles for asking for price quotes on new cars.
--  An online sci-fi humor magazine. It's a one-man show. The editor publishes sci-fi short stories and pays $20 for submissions that are accepted. He likes puns.
  Books: The Works

Home Networking

   Here are ten volumes, released in one fell swoop from Microsoft Press, that constitute a full working library for major Windows programs and operating systems. All start with the words "Faster, Smarter." So we have "Faster, Smarter Windows 98; HTML & XML; Office XP; Web Page Creation," etc. I think they're great. I've always been pleased with the books from this press, which with rare exceptions are restricted to Microsoft products. They're well laid-out, well illustrated and easy to follow. List price is $20 for each book.
  Kid Stuff

   "Backyard Baseball 2003," for ages 7 and up; "Backyard Hockey," ditto, both from the best children's game makers this side of the spiral galaxy. What used to be Humongous, is now part of the Infogrames stable, but the quality is still there, and kids love it.
   The baseball games is sandlot style on any of four different fields. Your team-mates are someday-to-be famous ball players, only here they are still kids (Sammy Sosa at 8). Play single games or a whole sandlot season. Around $30, for Windows or Macintosh.

Disney Coaster

-- "Disney Coaster," $20 for Windows, for all ages, follows a couple of smash hit roller coaster games from early last year. Though it follows what others started, there are advantages to that: you get the best features of the others plus many new ones. The design and play reminds me of the simulated coasters in the short-lived DisneyQuest amusement parks designed for downtown locations. The game is great but requires a 333mhz or faster processor.
  NOTE: Readers can search nearly four years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at  or