Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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May 2001, Week 2 -- Web Watcher


 Site Recorder 

   "SiteRecorder" makes a copy of a web site whenever changes are made. It then sends an e-mail notification of those changes to the web master. This can be very useful for sites that are updated by more than one user.

   The $795 utility from Lockstep seems expensive for what it does, but in a business environment it provides an audit trail of who did what to the company web site and when, so it may be worth it. The program works with Windows 98 and up. A trial version can be downloaded from the Lockstep web site at Phone: 877-932-3497.


Super calculator


 Calculation Center


   Wolfram Research has cut Mathematica down to size with the release of "Calculation Center." The $295 program takes the most useful features of the $1,495 Mathematica juggernaut and puts those on a hybrid disk for Windows and Macintosh.

   As a practical matter the giant Mathematica program was used mostly in academia; engineers and business users were often put off by its long learning curve and cumbersome size. In Calculation Center those users can select functions from sets of pull-down menus.

   Those functions include some very sophisticated maneuvers: "Contour Plot," for example, constructs a three-dimensional surface plot from any set of data points, including those making up a digital picture. This is high-tech image processing.

   You can read in data of any kind, including text. The program understands standard mathematical notation, handles symbolic and numerical equations and works with real or complex numbers. An impressive new package. Phone info: 217-398-0700 or 217-398-0747; web:


Calling the Internet




   "Internet Phone Jack" from Quicknet looks like a chocolate bar but is actually a plug-in for PCs that lets you make phone calls over the Internet. There are a few other cards like this but the special features on this one make it worth special notice.

   Making phone calls over the Internet saves a lot of money, particularly on international calls, but the sound quality is terrible. The worst features are echoes and time lags between responses. Phone Jack uses hardware based echo cancellation and compression to remove those annoyances as much as possible. Having the functions performed by the add-on card also reduces the load on the computer's central processor.

   How it works in practice: Your regular telephone plugs into the back of the Phone Jack card and the phone rings when you receive an Internet phone call. To make a call over the Internet, simply pick up the telephone and call. If you prefer, you can also call using a microphone and the computer's own speakers.


   The card is "plug and play," $160 for Windows 95 systems and up. Phone info: 415-864-5225; web:


Three blind mice


   See how they run, as the nursery rhyme goes:

 MiniScroller Mouse

   We looked at two mini mice and one grown-up. Minis are for laptop users or small hands. The "Super Mini Optical Mouse" from Atek Electric, is about the size of a flattened lipstick tube. It connects by cord to any USB port and the cord is made with Kevlar fiber (used for bullet-proof vests). Retail price is $50. Phone: 888-889-9990; web:


   The second mini mouse (why doesn't someone come out with a Mickey Mouse?) is the Belkin "MiniScroller," which uses a standard mouse ball. It's twice the size of the Atek mouse above but only half the size of a regular desktop mouse. Connection here is again through the USB port. The price is very mini: just $15. Phone info: 800-223-5546; web:

 Cordless Mouse


   Logitech's new "Cordless MouseMan Optical" is full size and works with PCs and Macintosh. It includes a wheel that allows you to scroll up and down a page without moving the mouse. It's a top of the line mouse and so is the price: $70. Phone info: 800-231-7717 or 510-795-8500; web:

   Mouse Talk: Some people believe optical mice are always better than rolling balls because of their precision and not having to clean the ball. I think the extra precision matters little and cleaning the ball is easy. Cordless, on the other hand, is very nice. Cords can bind and make the mouse hard to handle, cordless has complete freedom of motion. The downside is that the mouse is battery powered, and when the battery dies so does the mouse.


--  A site designed for entrepreneurs and business in general. Type in a key word and get a list of articles, discussions, conferences, experts to call, etc. We tried several subject areas and were impressed; the information covered a wide range and was thought provoking.


--  The site is sponsored by Time-Warner Books and offers free online publication for aspiring writers. If a book's first chapter appears to draw a lot of attention, the company will move it on to one of their own readers and consider it for publication. There are more flaws in this approach than a $3 diamond, but, hey, it's a start. The site also has free online writing courses.


--  This site should be in your permanent bookmarks. It's the Public Broadcasting System. This address leads to a feature on Nikola Tesla the famous Serbian scientist and inventor who emigrated to America early in the 20th century and tried to develop broadcast electric power.

--  Find out what's happening in your zip code: local movies, events, etc. Tried my own zip code and got no movie or events information, but did see a good assessment of the area.

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