Bob and Joy
                                      
 
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                                     A syndicated newspaper column now in its 26th year.
    
                                                                        

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July 2003, Week 2 -- Taking Windows to Task

   
   WinTasks 4

   "WinTasks" is a low-cost utility that lets you see and control what Windows is doing. And believe me, it's doing plenty.

   It may seem like your desktop is clear, or nearly so, when in fact a dozen programs are running in the background, eating up memory and processor time. Unfortunately, WinTasks itself is one of the programs eating up processor time. But we'll get to that.

   Counting all things good and bad, this is a performance enhancer for the PC, and maybe the best way to do it. It works much like Windows own "Task Manager," but better. Task Manager lets you shut down Windows programs one at a time, but WinTasks lets you do them in groups or simply prioritize them. This last is the key to improving Windows performance. Ordinarily, Windows makes no distinction between the computer needs of the program you're working on versus the need, say, to update "MediaPlayer." Who cares about updating some program you use twice a year, or cleaning up the web browser, or defragging the hard drive every three minutes, etc.? Get these things out of the way and into a line.

 

   The Autostart feature lets you disable or completely remove any of the tasks that kick in when you start the computer. Take a look at the right-hand section of your task bar, for example, and count up the number of tasks; that's just the tip of the iceberg. When we took a look at one PC by typing "msconfig" in the "run" command line of the start menu, we found 32 programs running in the background. Almost every new program you load into the computer adds its own little burden. Many are useless.

 

   Clicking on "Modules" lets you see what DLL files are called upon by what programs. DLL stands for "Dynamic Link Libraries" and they are essential for every program and task. Unfortunately, what goes with what is a mystery. This matters when you want to delete something. You will then frequently see the screen question: "Are you sure you want to delete this DLL? It may be required by some other program." Well, who knows. Now you'll know.

 

   WinTasks is $27 from the maker, LIUtilities www.liutilities.com, or $47 for the professional version. The Pro version adds scripting, which is good for business or technically sophisticated users.

 

Internuts

 

   We started this by looking up a web site called "All Things Dutch." This led us on a merry adventure through "all things" land. If you want to find the products of just about any country or region, go to a web search engine and try the search terms "all things" followed by your country of choice. While www.google.com  is the largest search engine and gets a lot of publicity, we tend to prefer www.vivisimo.com. Remember, not all search engines return the same results, and if something doesn't turn up with one, it may with another. Anyway, this was one of the most fun search runs we've ever conducted. Many of the sites have recipes. Here are some of the results:

 

-- www.dutchmarket.com  The only place that claims they have fresh crispy "stroopwafels." Stroopwafels are syrup waffle cookies, and these are from Canada.

-- www.allthingsdutch.com  Like most of these sites, the words describe where you are and what you get.

-- www.irelandstreasures.com  Beautiful jewelry in Celtic designs, Aran Islands sweaters, leprechaun figurines, etc. Recipes. (An Irish friend of mine years ago described Irish food amusingly as "a lot like English food, but not as spicy.")

-- www.asianconnections.com  Recipes for duck pancakes, lots of other products, plus Asian film tapes "up the Ying-Yang," as they describe them.

-- lonelyplanet.com/africa lists over 2000 things to do and places to stay. For a listing of African businesses, see AfricanAdvice.com.

-- www.caribplace.com  All things Carribean. It was here that we found a Jamaican coffee plantation for sale for just over a million dollars (Twenty-five acres in "blue mountain" beans.) We also found a recipe for Tortuga Island Rum Cake.

-- www.italvista.com   Travel services, food, language lessons, art, hotel bookings, recipes, etc. Yum.

 

Books: Easy eBay

 

   There are reports that something around a quarter of a million people now make all or a considerable portion of their income selling things on the eBay auction web site. If we add the "wannabe's," it's more than enough people to support a market for help books.

 eBay Business

   However, it's not just selling that needs more explanation, it's buying as well. Some people use special software that monitors the closing seconds on an item up for bid and then automatically enters a bid for one or two cents more, killing out what you thought was your winning bid. Very frustrating. Personally, I have never been able to buy anything on eBay, even when using the service's "buy it now" feature.

  •    "How to Do Everything With Your eBay Business," by Greg Holden; $25, Osborne/McGraw-Hill www.osborne.com.

 

   The author describes how to attract more bidding on your products, accept credit cards, use online payment services and save on taxes. And there's plenty more in 400-plus pages.

 eBay Business

 
  •    "eBay Business the Smart Way," by Joseph Sinclair; $25, AMACOM www.amacombooks.org. Much the same material as the first book, but somewhat expanded. Has a section on eBay's "special auctions," which do not appear in the regular searches for products. The appendices have lists of tips for buyers and sellers.

NOTE: Readers can search past columns on our web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@oncomp.com or bobschwab@aol.com.

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