Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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June 2003, Week 2 -- Going blotto on "blogs."



   In the beginning ... a "Blog" was techie short talk for "web logs," which were simply accounts, often long and rambling, of what the log writer had been thinking/doing/musing about/etc.

   That's the way they started out, anyway. But now the blog world has expanded widely, blogging out, so to speak. Now there are corporate blogs, where the New York Times, the BBC ("updated every minute"), Associated Press and other news gathering organizations simply provide links to their own web sites or summaries of what's new.

 Ernie the Attorney
Ernie the Attorney


   Most blogs are free and some are from famous people and well known organizations. Jazz musician Wynton Marsalis has a blog, about music naturally. But William Bedsworth, an associate justice with the California Court of Appeal, titles his blog "How to Get Rich," and muses on many topics. This, and many other blog links come from "Ernie the Attorney," who has his own blog, and whose main interest seems to be collecting blogs.

   Personal blogs are idiosyncratic, as you might expect, and sometimes idiotic. The facts are sometimes wrong or distorted, the opinions childish and the proffered solutions foolish. But sometimes, the information is right on; so it's a judgment call. As long as you're aware of all this, it can be a lot of fun. You can have your own blog, venting your spleen about pop-top soda cans or undecipherable train schedules -- kind of a small-town Andy Rooney (the commentator on CBS' "60 Minutes" news show.


   You can find lots of blogs at, which for $3.33 a month will host yours. There are plenty more: just go to   or   and search on the key word "blogs."


The new Office


   The new version of Microsoft Office is available in beta form and comes as a "kit." The kit is free but there's a $20 shipping charge. Half a million copies have already been distributed.


   "Beta" means bugs not worked out yet (though in the real world, even final version software still has bugs that haven't been worked out) and some features not implemented. It comes with 14 CDs, and Office now includes web creation software FrontPage, Publisher, Outlook, One Note and much more. One of the improvements to FrontPage includes the tweak that allows your web site to look the same even when viewed through the Netscape browser (about two percent of users).


   Using Outlook, junk mail gets automatically routed to a junk mail folder; we tried this out and it worked very well. The new "One Note" feature lets you create tabs to organize information from any digital file; including sound files. You can apply notes to anything: emails, pictures, calendars, etc.


   We'll have more on this topic when Microsoft Office 2003 comes out in final shipping form, which is expected to be some time this Summer. Meanwhile, readers who want more information right now can go to the web site:


A free "Office"


   Meanwhile, back at the freebie window ... "OpenOffice" is a free MS Office look-alike. It comes in a huge variety of languages and you can get it in either a Windows, Macintosh, Linux or Solaris version.


   This used to be provided as "Star Office" by Sun Microsystems and distributed for free, though Sun now charges for the latest versions of StarOffice. It was developed by a German software company and is now available in a new downloadable version from This version is a revision of the earlier, free, StarOffice. So far there have been 4.5 million downloads and user comments are full of praise.


   OpenOffice is the result of volunteer work from many programmers, including some at Sun Micro, so technical support comes primarily from notes on the web site.


Internuts: Gaming the Internet

Mummy Maze

--  A site that sells small game programs for PC, Mac and Palm. Though they'd like to sell you a game, they're all available as free trials and can be played for fun. Dozens of choices; try the Mummy Maze.

--  Classic and educational DOS games (DOS, not Windows). Has 292 games: pac-man and pong type games, puzzles, role-playing, space shoot-em-ups, duke nuke-em, tetris, wolfenstein 3-D. Many of these are classics. DOS was a lot of fun, and still can be.


-- Again, hundreds of choices. Card games, chess and checkers, arcade games, risk, educational word games, pac-man, space invaders, and on into the night.


--  One of the very earliest sites for free games and one of the most sophisticated. Try bowling, but you have to download Shockwave and Hyperload first (they're free). Select by category: trivia, card and puzzles, action, sports, arcade, etc.




   "Stealing the Network," several authors; $50, Syngress Publishing

   A collection of fictional stories for high-tech workers. The stories are fiction but could be real. The authors are experts in their fields and the information they provide rings real. Some details seem intentionally left out to protect systems from being hacked. Definitely for the technologically well versed. Example: "My name is Dex. I'm a 22-year-old systems administrator ... writing mostly C/C++."


NOTE: Readers can search past columns on our web site: You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at or