Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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Active Desktop Calendar


















Photo Fiddle






Logitech Cordless Presenter










PC Upgrading and TroubleShooting






Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 -Soaked!

June 2005, Week 3 -- Desktop Calendars

   This one is called simply "Active Desktop Calendar," and it's what Joy uses all the time for appointments and our to-do list.

   What she likes about it is that it's always in your face. Meaning: instead of having to open a program to view what's on your calendar, this one is always on the startup screen. You can still have you favorite wallpaper up, but in addition you have a column on the right-hand side that shows your upcoming appointments and the to-do list. The calendar itself appears as an overlay on the Windows wallpaper screen.

   It may not seem like much but it's surprising how useful something like this is. There are at least a dozen other programs that maintain an appointment calendar and it feels like we've tried them all. This one is the cleanest: just click on a task to edit it or add another task. The program can be set up for more than one user. It's $20 from the maker:

A "connected" calendar

   Another good calendar program is "Trumba," which is not a one time purchase but available by subscription for $40 a year.

   What's different about Trumba is you can create online calendars that can be shared with others and/or posted to the web. Friends and associates can be given a password to log onto the site and see what's coming up; particularly good for clubs, schools, churches, etc. You can create multiple calendars so you can have one for business, one for family, picnics, whatever.

   The calendar can be set to send out automatic e-mails advising people of upcoming events and meetings, and the recipient need only click on the event to add it to their own calendar. Trumba can be synchronized with emails and addresses in Microsoft Outlook for fast and easy communications.

   Trumba was created by the developers who did VISIO, a well-known program for making organizational charts, flow-charts and floor plans. It's easy to use and kind of fun. You can get more info at (P.S. "Trumba" is a Sardinian word for the horn used by a town crier to announce news.)

The really big picture

   Photo Fiddle is a web site where you an upload a photo and use their software to create interesting special effects. You can make a photo look like a pencil sketch, stained glass, oil painting and create collages of many photos.

   All that is free. Where they make their money is selling you special prints. An 8 by 12-inch photo can be printed on canvas for $25, or framed under glass for $30. For the really big picture you order the photo stretched onto a 6 by 24-foot canvas for just $2,800.

How you say ...

   If you need to learn a new language without living among native speakers for a few months, "LingvoSoft Flash Cards" can probably help. It is a collection of four computer games that flash words on the screen in languages ranging from Albanian to Indonesian to Slovak. The program is $40 and available in formats for Windows, smart phones and Palm Pilots. The number of languages available depends on your platform. Web site is

Now presenting ...

   Logitech's new cordless presenter is $80 and designed for people making a Powerpoint presentation to walk around and talk directly to the audience, instead of hanging back at the computer and being a disembodied voice. It's $80, but at least it puts you out front again. Web info at


   Older Windows computers and some Macs have what are often called PS/2 connectors. These are small round sockets that are also called DIN connectors. That stands for "Desutche Industrie Normal" and has been the standard connector in Germany for many years. It's often used for the keyboard connection in older computers.

   Unfortunately, new computers usually don't have DIN sockets. So, a frequent problem for computer users is 'how do I connect this thing to the other thing when my cable doesn't fit USB ports?' We found a USB to PS/2 cable adapter for $19 at Keyspan By the way, when you do a web search on PS/2 connections, most hits think you're looking for PlayStation 2; you're not.


   "PC Upgrading and Troubleshooting, Quick Steps," by Kirk Steers; $17 from Osborne/McGraw-Hill

   An extremely easy to follow book. The "Quick Step" series is always profusely illustrated (sometimes three or four to the page) so you can readily see what's supposed to be visible on the screen when you make changes. A good book for upgrading memory and drives and curing many common PC problems.

Kid Stuff

   "Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 -- Soaked!," $30 from Atari

   This is an add-on for Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 and ordinarily such add-ons aren't worth mentioning, but the main game was such a runaway seller that a lot of people must have it. The add-on has "Soaked" in the title because ti allows you to create water parks to go with you roller coasters. The kids we've seen play this just love it. You need a fairly powerful home computer to run it.

NOTE: Readers can search several years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: <>. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at and Joy Schwabach at