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     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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July 2003, Week 5 -- Breakfast With Spam

   

   I have lost count of the number of spam fighting programs we've tried. They all work, more or less, and they're all not worth a nickel.

   The problem, oh programmers from the Purple Planet, is this: It takes more time to use a spam filter and review its results than it takes to simply delete the spam in the first place. It doesn't just take a little more time, it typically takes five to ten times more time.

 

   Outlook Express for Windows is by far the most popular web browser in the known universe. It comes with every new computer. Log onto the Internet and in comes the spam. The fastest way to cut it is to click on the first piece of email that comes in. Then hold down the shift key and hit the down arrow to move through the list. If you get a lot of spam, you can move through the list even faster by hitting the "page down" key. As long as you hold down the shift key, while you're doing this, they will all be highlighted. You can scan the subject headings and senders as they go by. Take you finger off the shift key and hit the delete key to delete the whole group.

 

   Now the problem is ... as you rapidly go through the list you might miss something you actually wanted. I get 400-500 pieces of spam a day, so it's easy to miss something and I apologize to any readers who might have been accidently deleted. On the other hand, the same thing can and does happen using spam filter software. So at least you'll save time and money.

 

   One solution for personal email is to create a second or third email address and just use that for correspondence, no browsing. All Internet service providers let you have more than one mail name. Now pardon me for a few seconds while I delete my email. Meanwhile, some kind words about storage ...

 

That's what they mean by "flash"

 

 Sandisk

   Sandisk's new "Ultra" series flash cards are the fastest on the market. Data can be downloaded into the card at 6MB (megabytes) per second, about twice the speed of other cards. That's six million characters or a little over one million words a second. Readout is at 9MB per second.

  Flash cards have become a staple for digital cameras and MP3 music players and are becoming increasingly popular when packaged as so-called "thumb drives." These drives are about the size of a person's thumb or a small package of chewing gum and can be plugged directly into the USB ports on PC and Macintosh computers.

 

   In fact, SanDisk, which is the largest maker and marketer of flash memory cards, has its own thumb drive called the "Cruzer." What is unique about the Cruzer is that the flash memory card -- the crucial part of any thumb drive -- is removable. This opens lots of uses. Different cards can be used to store data on different subjects. Or, they can be plugged in and out of cameras and music players. A heavy user could have a file of flash memory cards, each carrying not only data but whole programs. The mental picture of such a file is kind of amusing: a vast library of information and programs could sit on a user's desk in a container about the size of a small Rolodex.

 

   Which brings up the question of cost. Prices are falling fast and have already dropped to about half what they were early in the year. Sandisk's 1GB (one gigabyte or one thousand megabytes) card now have a list price of $329, where they were listed at $1,000 last winter. Cards with a storage capacity of 128MB sell for around $50 and 512MB for about $150-$200. You can get more information at www.sandisk.com.

 

Internuts

 

-- www.opensecrets.org  Site is maintained by a watchdog group that tracks political contributions. In short, they follow who gets what from whom. Also tells you who's stayed overnight at the White House, and what they gave to get it (usually a lot).

 

-- www.highschooljournalism.org  This site is sponsored by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. It has links to high school newspapers all across the U.S. plus lots of news organizations. Has information on scholarships and journalism programs. Any high school can post its newspaper content to this web site and there's no charge.

 

-- www.mainstreetmom.com   Lots of advice, tips and heart to heart chatting from mothers to mothers. Also has comments on new products for the home and kitchen. It's thumbs down on Heinz' new green ketchup, and the very thought of Ore Ida's chocolate french fries produced retching noises from one mother's kids. Blue french fries fared no better.

 

Gadgets and gizmos

Web Camera

   Nice new clip-on camera for laptops. It's the "Mobile Connect," $60 from Veo. Image editing software comes with it and you can use the Windows Messenger program for video conferencing. Three clicks and you're on and sending pictures. Top image resolution is 640x480 dots, which actually is pretty good. Web site: www.veo.com.

 

Virus utility

 

   "EZ Antivirus," for Windows from www.my-etrust.com. Small downloadable file and $25 a year for the service and it works. Includes all updates. EZ finds all the viruses on your disks and then asks you whether you want to remove them or not. Why would anybody say no? Well...

 

   Some programs have little bits of code that look like viruses but are necessary to the program operation. This doesn't come up often, but I have had it come up. So, it's worth reviewing the list before killing them all.

 

Web Watchdog

  kidDefender

   "Kid Defender" is a computer use tracker from Actiontec. The aim is to watch where your children are going on the web and what they're saying. The tracking is done by Actiontec and the adult user can log onto their web site to follow what the child is doing either after the fact or in real time. If you're tracking in real time and don't like the child's selection you can block that site right then. You can also block sites in advance.

   The program is easy to set up and use and keeps a clear log of the child's computer use. There are many other programs and ways to do this but our experience with Actiontec has been good over the years and so it's worth recommending. Pricing is $40 for the software, which includes one year's worth of tracking service from Actiontec's site. Or the software can be downloaded for free and then there's a $5 monthly charge monitoring service. Web: www.actiontec.com.

 

Games

 

 

   "Star Trek: Elite Force II," $40 for Windows, from Activision. One of the best Star Trek games and the most fun for those who like fast action and good graphics. Ugly, brutal aliens are threatening Earth colonists on a distant planet and only you, Dick Daring, can save them. Users have given it four or five stars, which is high for any game. Web: www.activision.com.

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.