Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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 About Us




May 2002, Week 3 -- Okay, Roll Em




   "Camtasia" is a Windows program that acts like a video camera inside the computer. It can capture an endless number of static or scrolling screens to make product presentations, training and educational films.

   They are not really "films" of course, but a string of captured screen shots. The capture can include cursor movements, so the viewer can watch as the cursor is moved from one part of the screen to another to point out the next step in a process. The next screen can then show that next step. If video is part of an on-screen presentation, Camtasia can capture that video sequence as well. It can also be used to freeze or print single frame shots of any part of the video.


   This is a powerful teaching tool. It will capture web surfing activities, pop-up windows and even video conferences. Screens can be annotated with notes and voice commentary can be added at any point. The user can open a storyboard window and move scenes around for better organization. In short, the work proceeds much like making a movie except the shots all come from whatever is in the computer.


   The simulated videos it produces can be viewed with any of the three major desktop viewers: QuickTime, RealPlayer and Windows Media Player. The compressed file can be sent out on disk or emailed to any Windows PC. Camtasia, version 3.0, lists for $150 from TechSmith You can download a free trial version from their web site.


   NOTE: TechSmith also makes "SnagIt" ($40), which we have used for many years to capture screens. It can capture the whole screen or any part, and is very useful to take snapshots of a screen for book and manual illustrations, or to send as email. It is kind of a skeleton version of Camtasia.


Pocket portability


   Pockey is a miniature portable hard drive from Pocketec. The first one, which we wrote up about a year ago, was about the size of a deck of cards, but thinner. It held 10GB (gigabytes) and connected to a Windows or Macintosh computer through the USB port.

   Their second effort is the same size and comes in 20, 30 or 40GB versions (weight 5.5 ounces). But the real joy is that the connection is USB-2. The new USB-2 standard is 40 times faster than the older version and can transfer data at up to 480MB (megabytes) a second; it would take less than a minute to download 20GB. If you don't have USB-2 available on your computers, or on only one computer, no problem: the drive is backward compatible with the older USB standard as well.


   The latest "Pocketec" drive is hot switchable between Mac, PC and Linux systems and needs no additional power supply; it gets its power from the computer connection. It requires no driver software for Macs with OS (operating system) 10.1 or Windows ME, XP or 2000. This is a little jewel or a portable drive and what I use myself for backup.


   Pocketec USB-2 lists for $199-$399, depending on the capacity. The 30 and 40GB drives include a free USB-2 PCI adapter card. Pocketec web:



 Calculation Center 2

   A new version of "Calculation Center" from Wolfram Research adds Math-ML2 support, which allows users to share their work over the web and retain all symbols and notation. This program is aimed primarily at engineers and mathematicians, though some people have used it for stock market analysis. Retail pricing is $295, for Windows or Macintosh, though there are large discounts for students and teachers. Web:; email: This is a pretty nifty program and one of the best ways to visualize complex equations.


Home improvement


 Total 3D Home Deluxe


   "Total 3D Home Deluxe" and "Total 3D Landscape" are out in new versions 4.0 for Windows. Though most users do floor plans and plot layouts with programs like this, these new versions contain lots of home improvement lessons from the Black & Decker tool company library. Learn how to build fences, decks, lay flagstone walks, etc.

   One of the best features of these programs is cost estimating. You can put together a bill of materials and get a pretty clear idea of what a project will cost, minus the bill for labor. The landscape program lets you choose from more than 4,000 plants and the computer will "grow" the plants for you so you can see what the landscaping will look like over time.

   Both programs are for Windows 98 and up, $40 each list price, from Individual Software




--  A totally enormous site full of funny stories, funny pictures, funny quotes, law suits, etc. For example, quotes from President George W. Bush: "The vast majority of our imports come from outside the country." And ... "If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure." There are plenty more like these.

--  Free software for those old operating systems: DOS, Windows 3.1, Win 95 and early Macintosh. Think that nobody out there still uses DOS? Think again. Some wonderful programs here; oldies but goodies.

--  Free virus scan for your PC. You have to download software but there's no charge.


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