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March 2000, Week 3 -- It Doesn't Get Any Cheaper Than This

   Hey. Before we get to the main topic, I want to interrupt this broadcast to tell you it doesn't get any cheaper than this. I mean really cheap.

   It's called "Monster Drive" and it's from Caleb Technology, a company I never heard of before. But that doesn't matter. What matters here is that they have a 144 MB (megabyte) removable cartridge drive for $49. The list price is $79, and they're giving a $30 rebate on that. On top of that it's an external drive, which are usually more expensive than the ones that fit inside a PC. The drive also reads normal PC floppy disks. For comparison's sake, the 100MB Zip drive from Iomega, the world's largest maker, sells for around $150, and does not read floppy disks.

 

   I don't think anybody can make money selling a drive like this for $49, so it must be like that old joke, the one where the punch line goes: "Yeah, we lose money on every sale, but we make it up on volume." Or it could be the Gillette strategy: give the razors away and make money on the blades. The 144MB disks sell for $35 for a five-pack, which is actually cheaper than comparable disks.

 

   This low-ball pricing is probably a sign that we're near the end of the cartridge drive business. Very few makers would be willing to compete at these prices. The phone number for Caleb Technology is 303-786-9600; web: www.calebstor.com.

 

Snap Shots

  

   IBM's new web cam, the "Pro Max PC Camera" has a socket in the back to connect to a regular video camera or VCR.

   This lets you take pictures just like any other web camera, and you can also plug in another camera or use a connecting cable from a VCR to view a video tape. You can edit the video, send it off to friends, add it to a conference or a presentation, etc.

 

   As far as we've seen, this is the only camera with a connector that lets you bring in outside video. And the best part is that it converts those analog signals to digital, which is what most of the video editing programs need.

 

   Getting that older video signal into digital form used to be an expensive process (needing something like a $1,000 conversion card plugged inside your PC), but now there are other low cost solutions. Belkin Components www.belkin.com makes a small black box that does the job without having to go into the computer to install a card. It's about the size of a cigarette lighter, with a USB connection on one end and a video plug on the other. Around $110 from discounters.

 

  Video is so important and so pervasive in modern life and business that new cameras and software come out almost monthly.

 Life TV

   LifeView, a new company, has a combination video capture and TV tuner for Windows 98 for $140. Like a device from Pinnacle Systems we wrote about a couple of months ago, this permits you to bring TV programs into your Windows PC and has connectors in back for plugging in external video sources. The small (1x4x4 inch) gray and purple box has a capture button on top to seize an image from tape or broadcast.

  

   The whole question of whether USB is appropriate for video capture raises arguments in the industry. A connection called "FireWire" is faster and found on Macintosh and some Windows computers. On the other hand recent changes to USB will double the speed of that connection and likely make the whole discussion moot.

   The Pro Max is made for IBM by Xirlink, Inc. and costs $129 list price. Resolution is 640x480, fast becoming a minimum standard for this type of camera. The camera comes with a considerable amount of video editing and conferencing software. Phone info: 408-324-2100; web: www.xirlink.com. LifeView's phone is: 510-661-2968; web: www.lifeview.com.

 PC Digital Camera

   The hottest web cam right now is the "3Com Home Connect PC Digital Camera" for $150. The name isn't catchy and the price isn't cheap but the camera was the "editor's choice" selection in at least two leading computer magazines recently. Its 640x480 pixel resolution is the same as the IBM camera, but it truly shines, so to speak, in low light. In dimly lit areas this camera is likely to deliver the clearest picture. 3Com's phone: 877-949-3266; web: www.3com.com.

 

Internuts

 

-- www.quicktake.com  A site for doing surveys online. Results are quick.

 


#34 Walter Payton

-- www.speakersdirect.com  Pick a speaker or entertainer for the next meeting. You name the price, they'll come back with an okay or not.

-- www.eatchicken.com I like a web site that tells you what they're about right up front. No mistaking this one, which is sponsored by the National Chicken Council. Lots of recipes and stuff. I'll bet you didn't even know there was a National Chicken Council.

-- www.cyberkids.com There are a lot of sites for children. More games and puzzles here. Something to do on a rainy day.

-- http://csc.parkland.cc.il.us/~tnave/Project3/shuffle.htm Contains the lyrics for the famous "Superbowl Shuffle" music routine recorded by the 1985 Chicago Bears. Interestingly, the song and video were recorded in mid-season, long before the playoffs or Super Bowl. They just knew.

-- http://web.mit.edu/invent  All about inventions and inventors. Sponsored site by MIT.

-- http://rubegoldberg.com  A collection of wacky inventions by the late cartoonist Rube Goldberg.

   NOTE: Readers can search more than three 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.