Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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October 2000, Week 3 -- All Together Now




   Upgrading computers with new software bedevils us all, from the managers of large business systems down to home users. They oughta be in "Picture Taker," so to speak.

   A bit of buzz is circulating about this relatively easy to use approach to installing, removing or updating software. It is aimed primarily at business users and allows a systems manager to change the software configurations in every machine on a network in a small fraction of the time required by older programs like Symantec's "Ghost."

   Two nice features: The program handles all versions of Windows. The other is "Conflict Checker," which used to be a separate program but is now included with Picture Taker. This checks Windows registry files for possible conflicts between new software and old. This feature alone would make me breathe a sigh of relief.

   Picture Taker is from Lanovation and has received compliments and awards from a couple of major computer magazines recently and quite a few user endorsements. The price for corporate use is a minimum of $2,000, which licenses 100 users; a single user version is $40. Phone info: 612-379-3800; web:



  Paint Shop Pro 7

   Version 7 of Paint Shop Pro works like a combination of Adobe PhotoShop and Illustrator rolled into one, at a fraction of the price. The good news is you can do almost anything with images and text. The bad news is there's a learning curve. They say it's short, but we thought it was pretty long. If you don't mind some brain exercise you will end up commanding a graphics powerhouse.

   Paint Shop started life as a shareware program. That's one of those programs you get for free and are asked to send a payment if you like it. There are many thousands of shareware programs but this was one of the great ones. It never had one of those intuitive, easy to use, interfaces but it packed an amazing amount of graphics editing power into a very low priced package.


   The latest version is $109, or $39 if you are upgrading from an earlier version. A free 30-day trial is available from the web site:; phone info: 952-930-9800.







-- "DIY" stands for do-it-yourself, and there are tutorials here for pouring concrete, fixing plumbing leaks, laying tile, etc. The site also sells tools and supplies, but you are not required to buy from them.

-- One of several new sites that allow you to conduct surveys online. You can collect responses to a questionnaire for up to 30 days from the survey launch.

-- You can call or e-mail an oncology nurse to talk about non life-threatening cancers. Support groups form here as well.

-- Want to know what the world looks like through the eyes of an electron microscope? Scary, that's what. Take a look at the micro rogues galleries at some of the following sites:

-- The National Center for Electron Microscopy, Berkeley, California. Click on "gallery" for recent shots.

--   The Ecole Polytechnique in Lausanne, Switzerland. Good pictures. Site is in English.

-- The electron microscope at the University of Sydney, Australia.





--  The electron microscopy lab at Mississippi State University.

-- The Boston Museum of Science. Click on "exhibits," then "online."

-- Almost everything you ever wanted to know about the periodic table of elements, which is something everyone should know a bit about (and no, I'm not kidding). Site is the creation of a chemist at the University of Sheffield, England.

   A NOTE ON ALL THIS: Several of the sites above did not come up when using Microsoft's Internet Explorer and the Earthlink Internet Service. But when I switched to America Online, they came up immediately. A lot of people knock AOL for its strident commercialism, but hey, this is the one that works.


Encyclopedia Rex

  2001 Grolier Encylopedia

   Grolier's, World Book and Encyclopedia Britannica are all out in new editions, all for around $50. The Britannica is available for free online for 15 days, but $5 a month if you want to have it there as a handy reference. It's worth noting that it's cheaper to buy the disk than pay for a year's worth of online service, and a lot more convenient too, I think. All of the encyclopedias are online these days.

   Grolier's has 38,000 articles on its CD version, but if you go online they have clickable links to 22,000 more articles in "The New Book of Knowledge" and the "Encyclopedia Americana." World Book has a clever "go back in time" feature which brings up simulated web sites from the past. Get the latest on what's happening in the Aztec Empire, for example.


   I spoke with some librarians about these choices and the prevailing opinion was that Grolier's was best for school children and that World Book best bridged the gap between student and adult users. And, contrary to the common opinion, that the Americana was superior to the Britannica in many ways, but still hard to beat. Grolier runs on both Windows and Mac operating systems.


   Web sites:;;



  Windows Me Secrets

   "Windows Me (Millennium edition) Secrets," by Livingston & Straub; $40 from IDG Books. This comes in two volumes of about a zillion pages each and is absolutely great. Despite the "Millennium edition" subtitle, almost all of what the book deals with applies to Windows 98. And it deals with plenty: everything you need to finally figure out what the heck Windows is doing and take control of it yourself. Worth its weight in memory chips.

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