Bob and Joy Schwabach
 

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November 2007, Week 2    

I'M IN TOUCH, YOU'RE IN TOUCH

You may be far away, but your computer is always near. The worst thing about that is you'll never have an excuse to stop working again. For instance, with I'm I'm InTouchInTouch, you can control your home or office computer no matter where you are, or when. (As long as it's not in the middle of the Gobi Desert.)

There are other remote control programs -- LogMeIn , pcAnywhere  and GoToMyPC are the best known -- but we found I'm InTouch to be easy to learn and easy to operate. Easy is a big thing with us. With I'm InTouch you can run programs, get e-mail, print wherever you are, stream video from your webcam and ... transfer files! We emphasize this last one because you cannot do that with the popular free version of LogMeIn; you can, however, with the paid version.

I'm InTouch is not free. It costs $10 a month or $100 for a year. You connect with the service, ImInTouch.com, through the Internet, using a Windows computer. The paid version of competitor LogMeIn, which also has lots of features, costs $13 a month, but cuts sharply to $70 if you pay for a year.

LogMeIn has received lots of publicity, so we won't go into it again right now; check the Web site: LogMeIn.com. If you're a Mac user, you can try VNC Remote Desktop, which is free at MacApper.com . Search on "VNC."

I'm In Touch can be run in open or stealth mode. Stealth is a neat feature to use when controlling an office or home computer remotely. You can set the screen of the base computer to remain dark, and nothing will show, no matter what you're doing with it from your remote location. Anyone walking by that computer would likely think it's off. If you want to monitor kids at home or colleagues at work, you can do so through that computer's Web camera and sound pickup, with no one the wiser. (We'll finally learn who keeps taking our stapler.)

We were impressed with the amount of control I'm InTouch gives the user. You can have lots of other people logged on at the same time to watch a demonstration or work together. You provide temporary passwords to each of them and decide how much control they have. If you allow it, they can control the mouse and keyboard and print copies of presentations and files. You can let them chat on-screen with yourself and each other. To sign anyone off, click on an "X." Then choose "remove user." For a full rundown on other features, go to the Web site: www.IminTouch.com.

INTERNUTS

  FormSpring.com  has a free, simple way to add a survey form to your Web site. It provides the templates and you fill in the fields and questions you want covered. Just click on the "Build" tab to build the form. You have to go to the FormSpring Web site to see the responses to your form in the free version. Paid versions have more form templates and send you results by e-mail.

  Economist.com/charts  is a section of the famous news magazine's Web site that presents extremely interesting charts that do not appear in the magazine. For instance, we learned that most Europeans hold a job for 10 Economist Magazineyears, while most Americans hold one for four years. We also learned that despite new cars being more fuel efficient, gas consumption in the United States is as high as it was in the 1980s. A large part of the reason is the increase in sales of heavier vehicles like SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicles), vans and trucks, which get poor gas mileage.

CREATING VIDEO ADS

Aditall.com  is an oddly named new Web site and service that lets you create video advertisements for a cost of around $300 to $700. It has lots of video sequences that can be captioned, edited and modified with voice-overs to create a professional-looking ad that can be used on a Web site. Creating such ads from scratch, which would involve hiring actors, setting up camera shoots, etc., could easily run $50,000 or more.

The existing videos on aditall are quite professional. Some are funny, some serious, and they cover many categories, from agriculture to high-tech. The video clips average 12 seconds in length, but can be edited with additional AdItAll clips, static shots (such as product logos), voice, text and music. The video editing tools are of the type seen in most video editing programs. If you are unfamiliar with those, don't worry, they are fairly easy to learn and navigate.

You can work this site two ways: The videos already present are quite professional and can be used to create clever and interesting ads. But you can also submit your own videos, and if they are accepted you will get royalty payments if the footage is used. The site will also post requests for certain types of footage. The videos presently up on the site are worth a look.

GAMES

What is it about Nancy Drew adventure games? We can't stay away; we try them all. We've never solved one yet, but they're fun. Ten-year-old girls seem to Legend of the Crystal Skullhave no problem with these games, by the way, only computer columnists. The latest adventure is "Nancy Drew: Legend of the Crystal Skull." Ooooooh! Lots of puzzles, rain, lightning, dark rooms and tricky paths; $20, for Windows, from www.herinteractive.com.


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