Bob and Joy
                                      
 
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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May 2004, Week 1 -- Database Envy

 

 

 

  File Maker

   The FileMaker Pro database is out in version 7 and we love it.

   This is one of the great ones. FileMaker was originally made by Apple and at first ran only on the Macintosh. Then it was broken out into a separate company called Claris, and now the company is just called FileMaker. That's because the program is famous now. The only other database I would recommend to most users is Alpha 5, from Alpha Software. The popular Microsoft database, Access, is so cumbersome that I've met people who make more than $100,000 a year just because they know how to use it.

 

   FileMaker Pro 7 comes in versions for either Macintosh or Windows, and the two different operating systems can share data back and forth as if they were one. The program can create a database of pictures as well as text and sound and all of this data can be published directly to the web if you like; great for instant catalogs.

 

   Dozens of templates come ready to go when you install the program, allowing you to work with it within minutes. Templates include ready-made databases for asset management, contacts, expenses, inventory, product catalogs, student records, time cards, library catalogs, personnel files, and on into the night. You can open multiple windows of the same data so the information can be looked at in different ways and compared. Catalogs can be looked at by items ordered and position of display, for example. If you have a list of organization members by name and address, you can see them individually or as a list of all members, by fees paid or unpaid, which members live in certain districts, work for certain companies, etc.

 

   Database size limits have been expanded to eight terrabytes per file. A terrabyte is one trillion bytes -- one thousand billion. Or in only slightly more comprehensible terms: eight terrabytes would hold roughly 1,600 billion words. Near as we can figure that's about enough for a one million volume library, with a hundred thousand typical books or so left over, and lots of illustrations.

 

   FileMaker Pro 7 lists for $299, or $149 as an upgrade from earlier versions. Web: www.filemaker.com. One last note: The program comes with a printed tutorial booklet, a welcome change from the currently common trend of just having a tutorial on disk. It's usually much easier to follow a tutorial from a booklet.

 

All backed up and synchronized

 

   SmartSync Pro makes automatic backups and synchronizes files between computers, and it does both things exceedingly well.

 

   This $35 program is a breeze to use, one of the easiest we've ever run. You start out by checking off a list of files you want backed up on a regular basis. That list includes things you often forget or can't do with other backup programs: all your email, your desktop, my documents, my pictures, favorites and the all-important address book, for example.

 

   The backups are incremental and cumulative, meaning SmartSync just backups the changes you made since the last backup. You can set the program to back up the changes every day, every week or every few minutes. If an original file is lost or damaged, a single click will bring it all back from SmartSync. (I think the best way to do any backup is to an external drive, like the Maxtor "One-Touch" we use, or any of several competitors.)

 

   The synchronization function makes sure separate computers are on the same page, so to speak, having the same information and the same version of files. Unlike most synchronization programs, SmartSync can do this even if the computers are not connected in a local network. You can, for example, synchronize you computer's files with those at work simply by having the program send you the changes by email. Those files are zipped for quick transmission. If you prefer the day's or week's changes can be put on a disk and you can then take the disk home and update your other computer.

 

   SmartSync is free to try and $35 to buy at www.smsync.com. A poll of users at cnet.com  showed 100 percent approval, zero disapproval.

 

Books

eBay Motors the Smart Way

   "eBay Motors the Smart Way," by Sinclair and Spillane; $18 from Amacom www.amacombooks.org.

   The online auction service eBay has quickly become the largest used auto market in the world, doing an estimated $3 billion in used cars and trucks last year. This new book outlines things to be wary of and things you can count on. Tips and tricks and guides to quality verification services. As always, however, caveat emptor.

 

That's Entertainment

 

   One of us has been playing games on pogo.com instead of working on the column. Pogo was recently purchased by Electronic Arts, which added their own popular sports games to the service.

   There are 40 games you can play online for free and a hundred or so more for the princely "Club Pogo" price of $5 a month. You skip the on-screen ads if you join Club Pogo. An average of 3.2 million visitors a day play games with Pogo. Today we added one more, who was playing bridge. Go www.pogo.com.

NOTE: Readers can search more than three years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@aol.com  and Joy Schwabach at joydee@oncomp.com.

 

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