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     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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June 2001, Week 1 -- Hard Copy

 

 

   Xerox, recently given up for dead, has come back with a multi-function office machine aimed at home and small business users. The price has been dropped twice in as many months.

   The Xerox "M940 WorkCentre" combines printer, scanner and copier in one desktop unit for $199. Canon just started selling a nearly identical machine for $149. You can bet your last nickel that every major printer manufacturer will follow suit with low priced machines of their own. As Bugs Bunny used to say: "You know, of course, that this means war."

 

   These multi-purpose, multi-function desktop units have become too cheap to resist. You can go up in price and get a few extra features but basically little else. Moving up to the Xerox M950, for example, adds a document feeder tray but there is no other difference. In general, when you go up in price in printers what you get is more copies per minute, but the quality remains the same.

 

   We liked the look of the new Xerox unit, and especially liked each ink color having its own cartridge. Ink is a major expense for these machines and separate cartridges mean you don't have to throw out the whole thing just because you ran out of blue. The print head required cleaning twice before we got a good copy, but the process was semi-automatic and took little time. Once that cleared, the quality was a high 1200 x 1200 dpi (dots per inch) in color. Phone info: 800-832-6979; Web: www.xerox.com.

 

Archival printing

 

   On another, and much more expensive front, Epson has a new $5,000 printer that produces color prints up to 24-inches wide. But the main claim to fame for The Epson Stylus Pro 7500 is that its special inks will produce color-fast photo quality prints that are projected to be stable for two centuries or more. That projection is an extension of laboratory tests, of course.

 

   The Stylus Pro 7500 can print on cloth as well as paper and poster board. And, like most Epson printers, each ink color comes in a separate cartridge. Phone info: 800-463-7766; web: www.epson.com.

 

   A much more reasonable Epson photo quality printer is the new Epson Stylus Photo 785 EPX, at around $250. This one makes no claims for archival long life prints. The inks from these two printers are not interchangeable, by the way.

    MacCare Unit

 

Mac utilities

   Casady & Greene have put together a "MacCare" package of seven award-winning utilities to keep your Macintosh alive: Conflict Catcher, Chaos Master, CopyAgent, Disk Warrior, PlusOptimizer, NetBarrier and VirusBarrier.

The chief utility in this group is "Conflict Catcher 8," which tests startup files for possible conflicts and crashes and can usually rebuild the desktop after a crash. "Disk Warrior" recovers lost data and prevents most directory problems. Street price is expected to be $130; phone info: 831-484-9228; web: www.casadyg.com.

 

Internuts

-- www.realrates.com  What people in the computer business say they charge for freelance services: The rates depend a great deal on where you are and who's paying the bill. C++ programmers in London charge $100 an hour; Java programmers in Berkeley, Calif., $150/hr. Lotus Notes experts are getting $130/hr in Atlanta, but only $85/hr in Dallas. Technical writers in Birmingham, Ala., get about $36,000/yr, in Seattle it's $56,000/yr. Site also has chat groups where freelancers can discuss jobs and rates.

-- www.cpuniverse.com  Advice from a magazine publisher on how to succeed as a freelance technology worker. Links to associations. Wants you to subscribe.

-- www.computerjobs.com  Listings for more than 25,000 computer related jobs, with salaries posted. A good way to find out what you're worth. Similar sites are the previously covered www.monster.com  and www.dice.com.

 

-- www.timeout.com  What's happening in 33 cities around the world, mainly Europe and USA. Did you know Chicago has more than 2,000 hot dog stands? You can see photos at Water Tower Place in the city center. Meanwhile, back at the Field Museum ... see the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton ever found. It's 41-feet long and 65 million years old. The skull weighs nearly a ton.

-- www.foodtv.com  Those cooks on TV are cooking so fast that two minutes later you can't remember what they said or what they put in the pot. Here you can click on recipes from 38 TV cooking shows. How about "seafood cabbage pancakes" from Ming Tsai on "East meets West?"

-- www.orst.edu/dept/lpi/infocenter  Excellent vitamin information site from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. Lots of lists of foods and their vitamin composition.

 

The next sound you hear

   A new series of headsets from Plantronics provides digital sound quality and noise canceling circuitry. The best part is that they come with a signal processor built into the line that attaches to the computer and can work without a sound card. The signal processor has noise-canceling circuitry. Plantronics has been in the headset business so long I think they invented heads. Prices run $90-$140. Phone info: 800-544-4660; web: www.plantronics.com.

NOTE: Readers can search more than four years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@oncomp.com  or bobschwab@aol.com.

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