Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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May 2003, Week 2 -- D-Link for D-Speed

 PCI Adapter


   D-Link made its name with light and easy wireless networks. Now they've come out with a set of high-speed USB adapters for PCs and one of them has an unusual feature.

   The "Combo PCI Adapter" is a plug-in card for desktop PCs and comes with both USB-2 and Firewire ports. USB-2 was the PC industry's response to Apple's Firewire system, which moved information into the computer at 400-480Mbps (megabits per second), great for editing video. Just so you can get a handle on that number, it would be roughly the equivalent of 10 million words a second. The "Combo" card provides two of these ports along with three for Firewire.


   Some video cameras come with Firewire cables and some software expects and works cleanest with Firewire data feed. So it's nice to have both kinds of connections on the same card. Other cards in this new line add USB-2 to laptops and desktops and they have also a new 4-port USB-2 hub. Other makers, like Belkin, make similar hubs and adapters and you can shop around for price.


   List price on D-Link's nice Combo card is $100 from its web site: We also found it for $80 from, a discounter for this kind of equipment.


Your photos on TV

 Photo Viewer

   Sandisk's "Digital Photo Viewer" is a small box that accepts almost all the memory cards used by digital cameras and displays their pictures on a TV set. The viewer comes with its own power supply, a cable to connect it to a television set, and a remote control. Insert the camera memory card into the viewer and lean back; it's slide show time without the heavy equipment. Since most digital cameras can also record a limited amount of video, it's also home movie time.

   The Digital Photo Viewer is the size of two decks of playing cards and weighs just a few ounces. Button controls on the top and on the remote control provide the same features as slide viewer carousels: next picture, previous picture, pause, etc.


   The viewer accepts four kinds of camera memory cards. Since Sandisk is the leading manufacturer of such cards, you can be sure they understand this part of the business. We looked at several sources for pricing and found it was all over the lot. List price on their web site is $79, but a check for discounters through Froogle  found prices ranging from $54 to $73.





-- A wacky site for personality tests and science projects. Take a simple test and the computer promises to identify your sex with astonishing accuracy. Another test promises to determine whether or not you're a mutant.

-- Step-by-step instruction in origami, the Japanese art of folding paper to represent animals and objects. You can do some pretty amazing stuff, and it will keep you busy in the doctor's office waiting room.

Star Clusters

-- Lots of pretty pictures of galaxies and star clusters photographed with equipment sensitive to infrared light.

-- Restaurant and hotel reviews from a well-known service. They collect comments from customers who have been to the various places rated, and you can add your own comments.


Car stuff


   Autobytel is a commercial site designed for selling cars. They've been around for a while and we never paid it much mind but recently they put on some interesting consumer information material, so it's worth passing on.

   You can get free reports on any make and model of car you want and it will tell you the mileage, safety report, reliability and other information normally found only from non-profit groups like Consumer Reports. There's a used car buying guide which seems quite straight-forward and not set up to sell you something. There are also satisfaction ratings from owners of each make and model. I'm a little leery of these as most people tend to report satisfaction with whatever they happen to have bought; after all, they selected it, so it must be good.


   All in all, this was surprisingly detailed and honest information, and it's free.



  Hiding in Plain Sight

   "Hiding In Plain Sight: Steganography and the Art of Covert Communication," by Eric Cole; $35, Wiley Publishing

   The author is a security consultant to the CIA and discusses the problems of defense and offense in the transmission of digital messages, particularly email. Not only text, but pictures, video and audio can be embedded in inconspicuous parts of what looks like an ordinary message. Such hidden files can also be encrypted, making them doubly hard to recognize and decipher.


That's Entertainment

 Galactic Civilizations

   "The Fate of the Galaxy is in Your Hands." At least that's what it says on the "Galactic Civilizations" box from Stardock  and who knows, it might be true. This is one of those huge PC brain-busters. It looks like a lot of fun but you have to spend time learning the system and dealing with a lot of alien races. In other words, there is an audience for this kind of complex game, but it is not the same as the audience that likes shoot-em-ups. Know your player. Enhancements and playing guides are available at


NOTE: Readers can search past columns on our web site: You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at or