Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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May 2003, Week 1 -- Maximum Defrag


   "Defrag" is computer talk for "defragmentation."

   Over time, the hard disk, or any other drive, accumulates fragments of data scattered all over the drives. This slows down the computer and contributes to other errors. Defrag pulls related pieces together again. It's probably the single most effective thing you can do to keep the computer running well. Some corporate system managers have it done to every computer in their system every day.


   Windows has its own built-in defrag utility, but better and usually faster ones are produced by Executive software, which makes "Diskeeper" for business users. They now have a version for home users as well, identified as such on the box.


   The Diskeeper feature that appeals to most users is "set and forget." Using set and forget, the program itself evaluates when the hard drive is becoming too fragmented and automatically performs a defrag. The process is invisible to the user, who can continue working while it takes place. List price for the home version of Diskeeper is $35 from (Pssst: We found it for $23 at Amazon.)


"It's a miracle!"

 Skip Dr.

   Got a scratch, spin it. A scratch on a CD, that is. Among the odd devices that sometimes catch our attention is "Skip Doctor," a spin-your-disk gizmo from Chicago that removes scratches.

   It comes in two versions: hand cranked for $35 and motorized for $55. Put the disk on the circular tray and "spray it with the magic fluid," the directions say. The magic fluid turns out to be water, but the truth in labeling points out that it is specially filtered water, then adds that you can use regular water if you run out of the magic water. When you turn the crank or turn on the motor, a wheel with a soft edge turns to lightly rub the disk, which is also turning to present its full surface for the rub down.


   The net result of this is that it works. Or as one user described it: "It's a miracle!" Scratched disk plays again. Program or music saved. Further info at




--  Odd and amusing news stories. An animal rights group campaigning against meat offered the town of Hamburg, NY, $15,000 to change their name to "Veggieburg." The folks at Hamburg declined. Meanwhile ... armed robbers attempt to hold up a deli where police are in the middle of investigating a previous holdup. Another police report cations people to watch out for "an unarmed but potentially dangerous" monkey, which they describe as "small, dark and hairy."


--  You know all the things that sometimes strike a wrong note in movies and television shows? This site lists them. They have 348 examples of mistakes in the recent remake of Titanic, but 78 were refuted by other nitpickers. In "Gladiator," one scene shows Russell Crowe wearing spandex pants under his Roman skirt. Myself, I noticed two glaring errors in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," and my major nit complaint about "The Matrix" is that the science underlying the Matrix world is so silly it's beyond stupid.

Poisoned Town in Macedonia Seeks Help

--  Ten thousand books online. If you can't get to the library, try here.

--  See many of the same stories you get from local newspapers and TV but done as others, from outside the U.S., see them. There are also many stories never covered in the American press simply because they are too localized to another country, but nonetheless quite interesting.





   "Project 5" from Cakewalk is the full deck for professional musicians using a synthesizer. The program not only stores the data you put in, but provides the sounds for your mixer. The program can handle both analog and digital sounds. Record your own piano, add effects, lay down tracks, do layering, loops, etc., and do it all on the fly, as they say.

   Project 5 comes as two CDs, one for the synthesizer program, the other for recorded sounds. On screen there are more indicators and controls than a movie set starship, you don't have to use all of them. You can compose using a kind of video piano roll, if you like, altering the pitch, duration, level, echo, etc., of the various parts as the music rolls by.


   This program replaces thousands of dollars worth of physical equipment. We need to emphasize that this is professional level, so if you're not there, you could get pretty frustrated. As with most synthesizer programs, you should have a fast processor, lots of memory and plenty of space on the hard drive.


   Project 5 is for Windows 2000 or XP only, and comes in the most beautiful packaging we've ever seen for software. It's $429 from Cakewalk, slightly less from discounters.

 Windows XP Power Pack


   "Windows XP Power Pack," by Stewart and Sjouwerman, et al; $50, Que Books How to take control of just about every feature of Windows XP, including how fast it runs. The book comes with an attached CD with a wealth of Windows utilities. You can block spam, control other PCs on a network, mirror files in real time, generate log-on scripts, search out spyware, and perform dozens of automated tasks.


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