March 2005, Week 1 --
Whole Lot of Spinnin' Goin' On
Seagate has a portable hard drive the size
and shape of a yo-yo. It even has a string, which turns out to be a cord
with a USB plug on the end. Plug the USB into a Windows or Mac computer
and you have a whopping five gigabytes of storage available to drop in
your pocket and walk away.
The yo-yo holds five gigabytes, which would be enough to store
everything Bob has on a Windows XP computer. These days it is common to
see 50-100 gigabytes of disk storage on a new personal computer but that
much storage usually ends up being filled with junk. It's amazing what
you can get onto a five gigabyte drive. Five year's worth of these
columns would fit on one floppy disk, for example. Every column we've
written in the last 26 years -- well over a thousand columns, would take
up only one-fifth of a percent of this Seagate yo-yo. Sobering.
As with any hard drive, you can store anything that's in digital
format: photos, music, text, or plans for the new ray gun from the
Purple Planet. To recover the material, plug the yo-yo cord back into a
computer and unload. Comments from early users have been gonzo, five
stars all around.
This is the cheapest portable storage you can get, and it's from
the world's leading manufacturer of disk drives. Prices for the Seagate
five gigabyte pocket drive are running $115 to $161, depending on where
you shop. Check the usual suspects:
Share a web site
You can create a web site for free at
www.multiply.com. You sign in with a user name and a password and
that creates the site. Click on tabs on the site's home page to add
commentary, photos, a calendar, messages, etc. The site can be visited
and added to by friends and family, and part or all of it can be
restricted by passwords.
Main activities are "share and print photos," "write a journal or a
blog," "buy or sell used stuff," "schedule events.
Multiply.com runs ads on your site and that's how they make their
money; we thought the ads were unobtrusive.
The high-tech tinkerer
O'Reilly Publishing has launched a quarterly magazine for the
high-tech hobbyist. It's called "Make" and the price is $15 an issue or
$35 for one year.
Think of Make as a kind of Popular Mechanics for the wired and
plugged-in generation. The first issue has articles on how to make a
steadicam (the kind of expensive camera used for professional news and
sports coverage) with some pipe fittings. Other articles cover doing
aerial photography from a kite and how to build a reader that can scan
the code embedded in the magnetic stripe on credit and security cards.
Careful with that last one.
You can get more info at the O'Reilly web site:
www.makezine.com. Lots of commentary from users
More make-it at home
While we're on the subject of "how-to-do-it," check out the web
www.howtoons.com. They have cartoons that teach children how to make
fun stuff, like an underwater viewer, a marshmallow shooter, a light
bender, an ice cream maker, etc. For smart kids.
www.objectdock.com Walk like a Mac. Or at least have a task bar that
looks like a Mac's. A task bar floats at the top of the your screen and
each item magnifies as you pass the cursor over it, just like a Mac. The
task bar automatically puts up a new icon for any program you have
opened. Click on the icon and that program opens again. Cute. Also free.
www.gotmercury.org How much mercury is in any kind of fish or
seafood. The information is much more specific than what you get from
government sites. They give you intake limits adjusted for your weight.
www.snopes.com Debunks urban legends. For instance: giving a toddler
dog food and baby formula does not cause their stomach to explode.
Fun and Game tryouts
www.trygames.com is almost as good as its name. You can try out
dozens of Windows or Mac games in many categories. You can play for free
for one hour and if you like the game you can click to buy it online or
We noticed that they do not have the very latest and hottest games.
Some have been around for a year or more and are the kind you often see
in the bargain bins at office supply discount stores. Basically these
are like remaindered books, the kind book stores put out on tables for a
dollar or two. We looked at "Putt Putt Saves the Zoo," for example, a
very good children's game. TryGames was selling it for $10. We did a
search for the same game at
www.froogle.com, a site we regularly scan for best prices, and found
it for $1. We found many good quality games for $1 at
www.crazyape.com; they had "Backyard Baseball," a really great kids'
game, for $2.
Still, when all is said and done you get to play a game for an hour
for free at TryGames. If you like it, then you can search for your best
NOTE: Readers can search several years of columns at the "On Computers"
www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at
email@example.com and Joy Schwabach at
Copyright 2005 Universal Press Syndicate