Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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November 2002, Week 1 -- Utilities: Help is on the Way



 System Suite


   Once again Ontrack's "System Suite" saved our computer. We ran the "Fix-it Utilities" program and when it asked if we wanted to remove a virus and 6,368 items that were unused and unnecessary. We said "Sure, go ahead." Did we also want to clean our Windows registry and optimize the system? Hey, in for a penny, in for a pound.

   This is not the first time our bacon, so to speak, has been saved by System Suite. So many programs are run through our computers that they always get messed up eventually. A guy down in Florida who runs a lot of programs told me he just wiped his hard disk and started all over again about every 9-10 months. So far, Fix-it Utilities has worked for us several times for several years. (I hate having to reformat the hard drive.) The only problem I've encountered is that it consistently wipes out a driver connected to a DOS program I still use. Since I know this, I just reinstall it.


   Ontrack was recently acquired by Vcom Products, so you have to go to a new web site to find it. System Suite 4.0 is $54 as a download for Win 95 and up, $60 boxed; Fix-it Utilities is $45 on its own. (Might as well go the whole hog.) A final note: When PC Magazine ran it they rated the program five stars; the next best suite of utilities, Norton System Works, got three stars.


 Color laser printers



   Hewlett Packard's new "Laserjet 2500" printer is the best color laser we've tried in the budget price range under $1,000. We ran one from Minolta earlier in the year but had some problems before we got it printing steadily. The color was also just not as good as HP's model 2500.

   Another major difference between these two color laser printers was not just the quality but the weight. The shipping weight on the Minolta was over 130 pounds. Your average person was not going to be moving that around. The HP 2500 is only slightly smaller than the Minolta but its shipping weight was 63 pounds, less than half as much. Setup was simpler as well, with the insertion of the three color and one black cartridge easy and reasonably foolproof. For its part, Minolta has dropped its price to $799 for the "Magicolor" laser printer.


   Up till now it's been accepted that you get your brightest colors and best intensity with inkjet printers. But the color from this new Laserjet is as good as anything we get from our inkjets. Print speed is a minimum of 16 ppm (pages per minute) in black and 4 ppm in color, both ratings when set for the highest quality output. Both modes are considerably faster than inkjet printers and normal color output seems to run closer to about 10 ppm.


   There's no question that $995 seems like a lot to spend for a color printer -- especially in these days when office supply stores are selling low end color inkjets for less than $50. But ink costs are much lower with the laser printer and $995 doesn't seem that high to me for speed and quality.


   The model 2500 works with either Windows or Macintosh computers, parallel or USB connectors. On the downside we could not get our Dell computer to recognize the printer when connected through the USB port, but it connected immediately when we switched to using a parallel cable.


HP web:; Minolta:




--  This is a special project put together by the Ramapo Catskill Library System in Middletown, NY. The result is absolutely great. They have links to more kids' sites than we've ever seen. They have thousands of clip art images for kids. They have sports, art, science, games, contests, reference, machines and inventions, society and government, geography, history, popular entertainment, and on into the night. It's an Internet gateway for kids.



--  Everything you ever wanted to know about bubbles but were afraid to ask. "Professor Bubbles" (a guy in Wilmette, Illinois who makes bubble machines) has put five people all together into one giant bubble. Best to use a hula hoop.

-- Travel information on places to stay. Has thousands of places to stay, calendars for Morris dancing festivals, toe wrestling, sheepdog trials and other peculiarly British activities. Poorly maintained and often out of date, but interesting nonetheless.

-- Lots of boxes, particularly boxes for moving. A commercial site, so no great prices, but a much larger selection than we've seen elsewhere.

Kid Stuff


   We just got four new children's programs to look at from Humongous, all sequel adventures of well known and loved characters:  "Freddi Fish and the Case of the Haunted Schoolhouse" is for ages 4-7; "Putt-Putt Travels Through Time," ages 3-6; "Pajama Sam, No need to Hide When It's Dark Outside," ages 5-8, and "Spy Fox, Dry Cereal," ages 6-9. Any parent who has purchased one of these before needs no further description. If you haven't, take our word for it, Humongous makes the best children's programs we've ever looked at. All are for Windows and Macintosh, $20 each. Web:

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