Bob and Joy Schwabach
 

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  January 2008, Week 5

SPEAK UP

Spokeo regularly checks 36 social networking sites for people who are on yourSpokeo e-mail lists and posts their current social site activity and photos on your screen. (Joy discovered one of her nephews this way.)

These social networking sites are the future of the Web, near as anyone can see ahead, which is not far. But it isn't just the truth that is out there, it seems to be half the world. People post pictures, their latest activities, music selections, their political and philosophical thoughts, even recipes. Everybody's out there!

Popular sites tracked by Spokeo include the well-known MySpace as well as Flickr, Friendster, Twitter, Xanga, YouTube, LinkedIn, Slide, Digg, Pandora, etc. It even tracks your contact's "wish lists" at Amazon.

When you sign up for free at Spokeo.com, the site scans your address books and finds your contacts. Because many of us tend to accumulate lots of e-mail addresses over the years, Spokeo has the potential for abuse. New postings might be ads or scurrilous comments or indecent photos. To control such abuse you have the power to remove anyone from your social contact list. You can link favored names into groups.

TO DO OR NOT TO DO

The charmingly named RememberTheMilk.com  provides a to-do list you can share with others. It's so easy to use you don't even need to read the instructions.

At the Web site, click to add a new task. By default, this task goes on your "personal" list, but you can put it on a "work list" or "study list" or your "in box." Remember the milkYou can attach a note to any item, or a tag or a Web site address. If it's a date or appointment you want to be reminded of, the program will send you an e-mail or text message ahead of time. If you connect these lists with your Google Calendar, a small arrow will appear on dates that have a longer description. Click on the arrow and the task opens up.

KEYBOARDS

This column is being typed on a Merc Stealth keyboard made by Ideazon. "Merc" stands for "mercenary," like a soldier of fortune, because this is a gamer's keyboard. The "Stealth" part comes from the marketing department, and we have no idea what it means.

We don't play the action games that this is designed for, but it's quite a good keyboard for normal use. In fact, Bob now uses it regularly. The Merc Stealth has illuminated keys, so it can be used in the dark, should that ever come up. You can choose red, blue or purple for the backlighting, and switch between them.

Along with the normal PC layout, there are 41 extra keys, most of which can be programmed. They're meant to make game play faster and easier -- one of them is marked "jump," for example, and another is marked "duck" -- but you don't have to use them that way. Sockets along the back edge of the keyboard are for attaching headphones, a mouse and two USB devices of your choice. That's a lot of functionality for $90 from the Ideazon store at Ideazon.com

Keyboards are the one computer attachment we use all the time. Bob says he hasn't found one that's totally satisfactory since the Atex keyboard used by many newspapers, magazines and book publishers. Unfortunately, while still around, that keyboard does not work with PCs or Macs.

Other keyboards: You can get a tiny box that projects a keyboard layout onto a desk or any flat surface; laser sensors detect the movement of your fingers and determine when you clicked a key or note. This has a nice super-spy look, but otherwise has little appeal. Itech sells one for about $180 at Laser-Keyboard.com.

For something definitely different we tried the Flexible Waterproof Compact Keyboard from Adesso, which we found for $30 at Buy.com. This is a full-size Flexible KeyboardPC keyboard made from some kind of synthetic rubber or soft plastic. You can roll it up and tuck it into your knapsack. It is unaffected by spills, and you can wash it off under the faucet. On the downside, it doesn't feel right to Joy, who is a touch typist, and it would take some getting used to for anybody. It's fun, though. When all is said and done, Bob is still looking for the perfect keyboard.

POKER THROUGH HISTORY

Here's a novel twist: It's Texas Hold-em poker played against famous historical figures like Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Dracula, Abe Lincoln, Stalin, Cleopatra and many others. The characters are nicely drawn and animated. (Watch out forSherlock Julius Caesar, who bluffs a lot.) Imagine Poker is a free download for Mac or PC from CandyWriter.com. For $20, you get all future versions for free.

You can set up a tournament using all 20 of the current characters (the Abominable Snowman will even trek in from the Himalayas.) But the part we thought most interesting was a "ghost" figure you can click on to see your hand's odds of winning. Drawing to inside straights is not a good proposition.

 


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