March 2005, Week 5 --
The Two Computer Shift
Once in a while we find a program so much fun and practical in use
that it makes us want to go out and buy another computer. We found one
last week. It's "Multiplicity," from Stardock, and what it does is let
you control two to six computers with one keyboard and mouse.
Multiplicity is just software -- no extra hardware required. What
we did was install it on a desktop and a laptop computer and put them
side by side. We connected both of them to our D-Link router and were
off and running. If you don't use a router you can also connect them by
wireless or through a Firewire link.
The two computers became one, though they were running completely
different programs. Slide your mouse off the edge of the screen on one
computer and it appears on the other. The changeover is active and
Copy something to the Windows clipboard and you can paste it into a
document on the other computer. Type control-c to copy anything defined
with the mouse, then move the mouse pointer over to the other screen.
Hit the control-v keys to paste from the clipboard. Joy copied a 214
megabyte folder of her cookbook files and transferred it to the laptop
in less than a minute. It takes the "pro" version to do a whole folder.
You can surf the web on one screen and work on another. Rendering
graphics scenes sometimes takes several minutes; you can let one
computer do that while you work on the next scene. A parent with a young
child can let them play on one of the computers and then quickly slide
the mouse over to save them just before their character gets killed and
they start to cry. (Game characters get killed so easily.)
This is fun to use and useful to boot (sorry about that pun).
Multiplicity software for linking two computers using Windows XP or 2000
lists for $40. The Pro version, for linking six computers is $70. Both
these and a free trial version can be found at
Lasers for less
Two major makers of laser printers have dropped prices on their
latest machines to less than $400. The savings on ink costs are terrific
and this is certainly the way to go; we use color laser printers almost
exclusively now and very seldom turn to an inkjet printer.
Samsung's new CLP-510 sells for around $400 or a little less,
depending on what you find with a web search of the discounters.
Minolta's latest offering, the Magicolor 2400, sells for about the same.
We've found, by the way, that there's something a little tricky
about prices on the web and you often get just as good a deal or better
from local ads in newspapers. No shipping costs, either. The reason for
the tricky prices is some retailers will quote very low prices for a few
items so their name comes up first in a web search for best deals. The
prices can change literally overnight and there seems to be a kind of
game going on. The $400 price on the two printers mentioned above is
their suggested list price, so you should expect to pay no more than
For $100 more, Samsung has the CLP-510n, which is network
compatible. Minolta has the Magicolor 5440DL, also for $100 more, which
can print photos directly from a digital camera by attaching it to the
printer with a USB cable. That sounds great but a few more words need to
Color laser printers print photos very well, but they do not print
them well on the glossy photo paper used by inkjet printers. Laser
printers use a hot roller to melt the ink powder onto a page.
Unfortunately, this sometimes melts the emulsion on the surface of photo
paper. The result is a mess on the paper and may even leave a mess on
the heat roller, requiring some expensive repairs. We use Hewlett
Packard's heavy duty (28 pound weight) paper for laser printing photos;
not photo paper.
Internuts: the singing physicists
www.physicssongs.org A wry collection of songs about physics, astro
and otherwise, maintained by a professor at Haverford College. There's
one by James Clerk Maxwell, generally recognized as the 19th
century scientist who had the most impact on the 20th century, who often
sang it while lecturing, and another by J.J. Thomson, discoverer of the
Where the spies hide
We got an interesting report from Symantec a few days ago, focusing
on what you're doing when spyware and other unpleasant visitors invade
The software company found there was a considerable difference in
the number of spies, ads and other annoyances attached to your computer
depending on the kind of web sites you're browsing. Here's a summary
from an hour's worth of browsing in each of various categories:
Sports: 17 pieces of adware, 2 spyware, 0 hijackers, 72 cookies.
Kids' sites: 359 adware, 0 spyware, 3 hijackers, 31 cookies.
Game sites: 23 adware, 4 spyware, 2 hijackers, 68 cookies.
News: 3 adware, 1 spyware, 0 hijackers, 26 cookies.
Travel: 64 adware, 2 spyware, 1 hijacker, 35 cookies.
Shopping: 0 adware, 0 spyware, 0 hijackers, 10 cookies.
What stands out in this survey is the relative innocence of
shopping sites and the remarkably treacherous ground of gaming and
children's web sites, which are sometimes one and the same.
NOTE: Readers can search several years of columns at the "On Computers"
www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at
and Joy Schwabach at
Copyright 2005 Univeral Press