Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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June 2000, Week 4 -- Fire Wire!


   CDs and the small drives that read and write them have become the new medium of choice. They're used for backup, recording music, storing photos and even making short movies. We found a good one down below.


   Most of them use USB connectors, but as all computer buffs know, FireWire is the fastest way to get the information in and out. It is more than 30 times faster than the ubiquitous USB connections, and that transfer speed is about to double with new software being readied for the Fall. FireWire comes built into some Macintosh models but must be added as a plug-in card for Windows machines.


   Prices for drives capable of both reading CDs and writing their own from blank disks run around $300-$400. External drives, which you can carry around, and I almost always prefer, cost more than the internal drives fixed inside the machine. The faster the drive can read and write CDs also raises the price.


   The lone exception I've found to this pattern is the new "Que! Fire," from the little known Japanese company QPS, Inc. This drive has a list price of $399. It's external and comes packaged with the drive, the fire-wire card you need to make it work with Windows computers, all necessary cables and a nice looking carrying case that holds it all. The more I look at this setup the more I think it's one of the best deals I've seen all year.


   The Que!Fire is a CD-RW, which means it is a read/write and a rewritable. It can write to a blank CD at 8X, rewrite an already used CD at 4X, and play a CD at 32X. Whenever you look at CD drives, the higher those numbers, the better -- and more expensive.


   But this drive is not expensive; in fact it's a bargain. Tucked into the carrying case along with all the attachments are Adaptec's Easy-CD Creator software (pretty much an industry standard), Direct CD for the PC, and Adaptec Toast (for the Mac). For more information you can call them at 800-559-4777 or 714-692-3588. The web site is, but is techy and a little awkward.


Back to back

   Sometimes things go together, at least ... sort of. This time it's "Backup Now!" (The use of exclamation points in titles has become overdone in the tech world, but what can you do?)

   Backup Now is a new backup program designed specifically for CD-RW drives. The version we have is aimed primarily at network servers and designed to work with Windows NT and Windows 2000 computers. A version for Windows 95/98 is due out soon. It comes with its own CD creation software, a competitor to Adaptec Easy-CD Creator.


   One of the strengths of this software is the ability to designate whether the files being burned onto a CD are music, photos, normal backup, or live audio. This last is unusual; you can select audio from any input -- tape deck, turntable, microphone, etc., and burn that onto a CD in real time. This is recording on-the-fly, as they say.


  The Backup Now! software both accepts and translates between formats. So you can mix and match WAV and MP3 music files on the same CD, for example, but you can also choose to translate each into the same format. Built in compression routines allow storage of up to one gigabyte on a single CD. Files extending beyond the capacity of a single CD receive a prompt to insert a new blank disk, which will then continue.


  Backup Now! has $130 list price, from Newtech Infosystems. Phone info: 714-259-9700. A free trial version is available at the web site



-- There's hydrogen and oxygen and all the fuming halogens, iridium and cesium and lightweight aluminium. Etc. All the elements are here if you want to make something out of it.

-- Quotes and research for investors. The site has an astonishing number of links to other sites and these are ranked one through ten in 16 categories.


Play ball!

  Backyard Baseball 2001

   This is probably the most eagerly awaited children's game of the year. It's "Backyard Baseball, 2001," $20 on hybrid CD for Mac and Windows.

  The first version of Backyard Baseball was the most popular game we ever tested with children. Boys and girls as well were fascinated for hours. The new game is even better. The same child players that were in the first game are also in this one: Pablo Sanchez, Kenny Kawaguchi, Keisha Phillips, Dimitri Petrovich and others. To these have been added present baseball stars, like Cal Ripken, Mark McGwire, Mo Vaughn and Randy Johnson, but as children. So choose up sides and "batter up!"



 Adobe Photoshop 5.5 and Illustrator 8.0


   "Photoshop 5.5 and Illustrator 8.0: advanced classroom in a book," by the training staff of Adobe; $45 from Adobe Press.

This is straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak. So if you're a professional or earnest amateur in the graphic arts business, you probably should pay attention. For beginners, and there are many who often start with Photoshop, it would be best to start with an earlier book, on Photoshop 5.5 alone. Both books come with lesson files on CD.


NOTE: Readers can search more than three years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at or