Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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June 2004, Week 4 -- New Low for Lasers





   We've been using a Samsung laser printer, model ML-1430, for a couple of years now. It's black-and-white only, works very well, and had the immediate appeal of selling for only $299.

  The new model, ML-1740, works just like the old model but sells for only $150. And that's the list price! We found it for $115 at Nothing beats a laser printer for clean fast copy. (We mean nothing at that kind of price.)

A long, thin scanner


   We received a "DocuPen" for review but it should have been called Docu-Penance. Because if you can make this thing produce good scans you're a better man than one of us is, Gunga Din.


   What we have here is a scanner the size of a long pencil. Its an 8-inch tube that contains a glow light, an optical pickup and a memory chip. You move the scanner smoothly and slowly across the page and then later you can attach it to your computer with a USB line and load the scanned material into the supplied software. At least that's what it says in the instructions.

   Ah, those darn reality checks: We found that that even at its highest resolution the scans were practically unreadable. This is bad news on two fronts. One is simply that you can't read it. The other is that if you can't read it, neither can the computer -- because all scans are simply pictures of the material, nothing more, and in order to generate text that can be edited or searched, the scanned image must be read by optical character recognition software.


   More than half the scans we tried produced closed to zero. Nada. This is really bad news, because it you scanned a page at the library or were James Bond and scanned it at the enemy headquarters, later when you tried to transfer the information to your computer, you would have zero, nada. Or did we already mention that.


   List price on the DocuPen is $200, or $165 from many discounters. More info at the company web site:


   Meanwhile, we've got a better idea: But a decent digital camera for less than $200, take that with you to copy documents, and then load that picture into the computer. It will be much clearer than anything from DocuPen.


To PDF or not to PDF

   The whole point of pdfFactory is how easy it makes it to create a PDF file. In fact it's easier and faster than Adobe's own "Acrobat," the original program for creating such documents. Convert any document to a PDF just by choosing "print" and the pdf software will be one of your choices from any program's menu.

   You can, as before, opt to simply send the document to someone by email with a click of the mouse, but you can also simply print it. (We want to point out that whenever you email a graphic image, which is what a PDF document is, the file will be several times the size of a plain text file and can take a longer to transmit and require more memory.)


   We have reviewed this program several times over the years and the new version maintains our opinion. We think it is easily the best for taking any document and preserving the layout, formatting and type styles. (For those unfamiliar with the term, PDF stands for "portable document format" and is a program developed by Adobe for making exact copies of any document that can be brought into the computer.)


   The software comes in three versions: the regular pdfFactory, for $50, and pdfFactory Pro for $100. The "Pro" version creates bookmarks and tables of content for PDFs containing several documents and allows the user to encrypt transmissions for security. And oh yes, we said three versions, didn't we. The third version is free. They've always had a free version you can download from their web site and it works beautifully; the only serious difference is it puts the FinePrint company tagline at the bottom of the page when you send a PDF by email. We found, however, that if you print the PDF created with the free version, there is no FinePrint logo at the bottom of the page.


   This is really a great program, in all its versions. More info at their web site:



-- Murder most foul. Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., has put together a database of police reports on 11,000 murders in Chicago from 1870 to 1930. Those were the days. (Chicago has a worldwide reputation as a tough town with lots of murders, but a survey of dangerous places done several years ago put Medelin, Columbia, as number one for violent deaths per capita. Unfortunately, Washington, D.C., was number two.)

--  Site has lots of beautiful pictures for home designs and designs within the home. Lots of ideas here, well illustrated and described. Also covers log homes by Lincoln Logs. (Did you know the toy "Lincoln Logs" so popular with children were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright's son, John Lloyd Wright?)

--   More information about cheese than you ever dreamed possible, including limericks. You can do a search using words like hard cheese, from sheep, and country or origin. Have you ever heard of Norway's most popular cheese, "Gjetost?" We had not, but it is described as made from whey and havng a slightly caramel taste. Sounds interesting. This is an informational site, only; they do not sell cheeses.

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