June 2005, Week 3 --
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
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
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
www.trumba.com. (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
www.photofiddle.com 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
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
www.keyspan.com. By the way, when you do a web search on PS/2
connections, most hits think you're looking for PlayStation 2; you're
"PC Upgrading and Troubleshooting, Quick Steps," by Kirk Steers; $17
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.
"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: <www.oncomp.com>.
You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at
email@example.com and Joy Schwabach at