Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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March 2001, Week 2 -- All the Numbers Fit to Print


   The recently released "Mathcad 2001" for Windows permits real-time acquisition from National Instruments analog boards and their attached sensors.

   The boards are widely used in scientific experiments and quality control and accept a nearly unlimited range of remote sensors. Coupling them to Mathcad permits instant calculation and transmission of the data to other programs. The new Mathcad has add-ins for data exchange with Visio, AutoCAD and Excel, WAV file support for reading audio files, and accepts images.


   This is an extremely sophisticated mathematics and calculation program and the one most commonly used in engineering departments; over 90 percent of large U.S. corporations and nearly all universities use it. It used to be fairly inexpensive but the new version has jumped in price: the "Professional Edition" has a list price of $800 for Windows, the "Premium Edition" a list of $1,600.


   This is the first program to implement the viewing and editing features of the new "Math ML" standard on the web. Mathcad is made by MathSoft. Phone: 617-577-1017; web:


The garden of earthly delights



   Sierra's "Complete Land Designer 3D Design Collection" for Windows is bigger than ever, combining eight previous programs in one, for a street price of around $70.

   There are more than 4,500 plants catalogued here, for a wide variety of climates and land use. As with previous versions of these programs, there are many landscape designs to start with and all plantings can be viewed in color and 3D, at several stages of their development. The set also includes the "Ortho Problem Solver," a good guide to pest control.


   Sierra phone info: 800-757-7707; web:


   Additional notes: The largest U.S. mail order supplier of seeds and plants is "Burpee," at But over time, looking for unusual shrubs and fruit trees we came across a couple of small suppliers we thought worth passing along:

-- "Aloha Tropicals", in California, has interesting flowers, plants and fruit trees, like Kona (Hawaii) coffee, bread fruit and sugar cane.

-- A place with plants you never heard of is "The Nursery" in TyTy, Georgia, where they have things like jujube and strawberry trees. We bought a couple of fig trees here and they had figs! Prices are very low.


The air battery


   Here's a little something off our usual beaten path. It's a disposable air battery for cell phones, from an outfit called Electric Fuel. I call it an air battery because it utilizes a zinc-air electrolytic reaction slightly similar to the combinations used in the making of fuel cells. The battery has lots of little holes and is activated by the oxygen in the air.


   I bring this up in a computer column because I have been reading so many stories in the general press telling me that cell phones that can access the Internet and collect e-mail and other files will soon become commonplace. I have my doubts about using a phone to access the Internet. What can you see on a one or two-inch screen? As for e-mail ... have you ever seen those people clustered outside of office buildings so they can get some reception on their cell phone? I had a cell phone a couple years ago until I realized I had made only two calls in a little over a year. When I tried to make a third call the battery was dead.


   The disposable battery comes already fully charged when you buy it and has a claimed life five times greater than the batteries that come with the most common commercial cell phones. The list price is $17. Phone info: 212-529-9200; web:




--  A service that sets up web cameras to monitor your business. The cameras are connected to the Internet and you, the subscriber, can dial in at any time to visually monitor what's happening. Prices depend on number of cameras and location.


--  A medical site under the supervision of a doctor at Cornell University. Lots of articles and references for both doctors and patients. The patients section has recent research on health, like diets that control high blood pressure and the evidence for same. Updates are frequent. This site is not afraid to go against the conventional medical wisdom (which is often extremely conventional).


--  Offers a free automated patient reminder service for doctors, dentists and therapists who agree to switch their telephone service to one of the leading phone service providers selected by iVoice. Patient reminder services call patients to remind them of upcoming appointments.


--  A good place to start if you're looking for business-to-business web sites. Has links to many services and sites.


--  A web site that lets you log onto other web sites anonymously. Some people don't want their e-mail address collected by web sites for marketing purposes.


Games: Take your best shot



   "Oni" is a shoot-em-up with the speed of a Saturday morning cartoon show. The game is done in the Japanese style of animation sometimes called "Anime" or "Japanimation." There is far less animation and it's much less fluid than the familiar Disney style, which makes it cheaper to produce of course. Anime has a large following and fans are sure to like Oni, who is a real killer of a cute girl. For Win 98 and up; web:

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