Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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May 2001, Week 3 -- Progress (of a sort)




   You can get a folding keyboard for your handheld computer for just $99. The handheld computer industry is about to invent the laptop.

   The accessories for handhelds now rival those for desktop computers. You can even get Microsoft Word. The good news is it is now possible to list your appointments for the day in several typefaces. (Try to hold your excitement in check.) The bad news is that when you put it all together and weigh it, you might as well have bought a laptop computer in the first place.

   The keyboard is nice, and it's tough to use a computer without a keyboard. Despite the fantasy that we will all simply write on a tablet to communicate with our computers, all such efforts have failed miserably -- losing many millions of dollars in the process. "Stowaway" from Think Outside (as in: "think outside the box") is a nod to reality, and comes in versions for all the popular handhelds.

   Think Outside has already shipped a million of these things. They are in fact full size keyboards that fold up into the size of a large, thick wallet. They are usually sold through the manufacturers of handheld computers. Check those company's web sites and the Think Outside web site: For a wide range of keyboards and other handheld accessories, take a look at


Gone Fishin


 Terrain Navigator 2001


   This is hard to resist: The digital map maker Maptech (888-443-8500,, has put together a fishing map of the Florida coast, pinpointing over 14,000 of the best spots to drop a line.

   The spots have descriptions of what you can expect to catch at each one and list more than 47,000 species of marine life. The fishing spots were selected by local guides and then put into a map that shows the exact latitude and longitude of each one, along with the depth of the water and tides and currents.

   The map display shows sandbars, holes, coves and underwater shelves. Right-clicking any point allows you to transfer the location to a GPS (Global Positioning System) device. Aerial photographs are included for many of the sites to aid in visual navigation.


   CDs covering Florida's east or west coast and the Florida Keys are $200 a set. Maps of the Keys alone, from Miami down to Dry Tortuga in the Caribbean, are $50.


All thumbs

   A new version of the thumb drive we wrote about a year ago is smaller and now attaches to your key chain. It's called "Q." and is made by Agate; phone: 408-956-7950; web:

   The solid-state drive is smaller than a pack of chewing gum and comes in capacities of 16-64 MB (megabytes) at $70-$200. One end is a USB connector, the other end has a hole for your key chain. No power supply required.


   These small memory sticks are obviously the future path for many devices. The memory is composed of "static" RAM, which does not lose data when the power is off. Static RAM is more expensive than the dynamic RAM, used in most computers, but the price has been falling. Add some circuitry and you can record voice, store music, take pictures, etc. To load or unload information, just plug the small stick directly into a USB port.



--  Political cartoons from around the world. You may think everybody out there hates America. Not to worry: they hate each other too.

--  Britney Spears explains the physics of semiconducters. Well, actually ... Carl Hepburn of the University of Essex in England actually explains the physics; Britney hangs around and looks winsome. Close enough.




--  Hook up your bicycle, treadmill, wheel chair or rowing machine to the computer and race against other people crazy enough to do the same thing. Several courses, including mountains, deserts, rivers, etc., are available at $10-$25 each. See your position in the race on the computer screen as you exercise. Who's competitive?

--  Play Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and Trivial Pursuit. The graphics are primitive, but what do you want for free?

--   Interesting site for reviews and commentary on books old and new. Also has biographies of authors.

--  A joint effort with Twenty million used and rare books from several thousand book sellers.


--  Reviews, essays and opinion pieces from newspapers and magazines around the world.




   "NetCaptor" is a remarkable new Internet browser available free from It has lots of features that should have been in Outlook and Netscape, but the most immediately useful one is a set of tabs it creates at the bottom of the Windows screen for each site you visit. To return to that site, simply click on the tab. Go back and forth to cross-check information, or to read one site while another is loading. If you don't want a site tabbed, you can delete it. Hate pop-up windows when you're browsing? PopupCaptor will automatically block them.


   Tabs can be grouped and called up as a set -- all the stock market sites you follow, for example, or music sites. It took a few minutes to get used to, but after that NetCaptor was easy and great. Search on key word: "netcaptor." Cautionary note: This is a beta version and may have bugs.


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