Bob and Joy Schwabach
 

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May 2008, Week 3   

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A DROP IN THE INDIAN OCEAN

You can post  a video to YouTube for private or wide audience viewing, but there's a ten-minute limit. There are free programs, such as SecureZip fromSecure Zip securezip.com  that let you compress and encrypt a file with just a couple of mouse clicks. That's nice for sending it through email, but not convenient for a large group.

There's a free and easy solution available from a new service called Drop.io. The "io" suffice stands for Indian Ocean. (Who knew?)  The "drop" in the Drop.ioname is to indicate how easy it is to use: You simply drop your file into its digital ocean.  Drop.io will store your video, audio, text or photo files for free if they're less than 100 megabytes, or you can have a whole gigabyte for $10 a year. All postings are dropped from the site after one year, unless you renew. Or, you can set a termination point, such as one week later, after which the file will be deleted.

No one has to register to use the site. You can start storing files immediately just by giving your site a name. Listening to files is an unusual feature here. You can use the site to create a kind of digital broadcast. Just go there andbrijit joy click on "phone" to get a special number to record your voice, which is then converted to an MP3 file. You can record a message, a lecture, a song, anything audio, and it can be called up again  on the Web.

You can drop files into the drop.io ocean by email, fax, text message or phone call. You can have an unlimited number of drop sites.  A single drop.io page can have a hundred files as long as they're each no more than one megabyte. Or, if you want, every time you call or send a message, you can have a different drop file location. (We don't know how they keep up with this, but it has worked for us so far.) The files that are dropped in can also be sent out. Anyone who has a link to the file can download it to their computer or to disk.

Like many other online storage sites, you get a special web address for your files, and that address can be password protected. (Even without a password, Google won't find it. A drop.io file is only known to those who have the link.) You can give different people limited access to the files, and even give some people editing privileges. This seems like a lot of power for free, so the cost must be covered by the custom work they do for companies.

Spread Those Spreadsheets Around

A Windows utility called "eXpresso" allows a number of people to collaborate on the same spreadsheet, online at the same time. Now that businesses have employees scattered across the world, such collaboration can be very useful.

You can do the same thing with "Google Docs" (Docs.Google.com), which lets workers collaborate on a Google version of a spreadsheet.  But people eXpressowho are used to Microsoft's Excel, by far the most popular spreadsheet, would likely not want to learn a new system. You can also collaborate with others using the spreadsheet contained in Microsoft Office Live , but in that case, each participant would have to download the whole spreadsheet to his or her computer. The collaboration could not be in real time as any changes would have to be uploaded and then the spreadsheet downloaded again by others in the group.

The use of eXpresso online is free if there will be no more than five spreadsheets  at any one time. You need only go to the website, www.eXpressoCorp.com , and register to begin. All spreadsheets are kept behind firewalls and have other security measures to keep them from prying eyes. Templates are available online for quickly setting up spreadsheets for expense reports, mortgage amortization, etc.

A professional version costs $79 a year to subscribe and provides a plug-in utility that lets you use eXpresso offline. This is handy for creating graphs and adding Excel's advanced features.  You, as the administrator, can set limits on what each participant may enter or do with any spreadsheet. You can assign some cells in a sheet to be available to only one person; this is only true of the professional version.

The Game is Afoot

We were pleased to receive an early visit from the Duchess of Zouch, who inquired if we could help in the recovery of a lost emerald of considerableLegacy Games value. This would be our first case in the new mystery game: "The Lost Cases of Sherlock Holmes."

We accepted her commission, of course, and proceeded at once to the Duchess's estate and began a careful examination of the downstairs study.  We needed seven clues to provide direction that would lead to the recovery of the jewel, but alas, could find only six, leaving us, so to speak, without a clue. We stopped then for a spot of tea and some fine Turkish tobacco for our pipe.

The game was afoot, but we have found it beneficial to take some moments to consider the information already acquired and its import before continuing the pursuit. The search required that recovery be made within a specified time, adding some difficulty to the matter. The game is $20 from legacygames.com.


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