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     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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October 2000, Week 4 -- The Mouse That Scored

  iFeel Mouse

   Logitech's "iFeel Mouse" provides tactile feedback as you roam the wide-open spaces of the computer screen. You feel a little bump when you go over a Windows icon, a little resistance when scrolling down a page, like pulling down a window shade.

   This tactile feed back is provided by two miniature motors and an optical sensor built into the mouse case; it is neither heavier nor larger than a typical computer mouse. Software lets the mouse recognize features common to nearly all Windows programs and provides a standard response.

 

   The feeling is odd but amusing, though it may not be to everyone's taste. You can find out by trying one at one of many large computer and office supply stores that will have the mouse on display. List price is $60 or $40, depending on the model. Phone: 510-795-8500; web: www.logitech.com and www.immersion.com.

 

Utilities: "Stuffit" does Windows

 

 

 

   This is a famous Macintosh program from Aladdin Systems and has been around for a decade or more. What made Mac owners happy all those years is now available for Windows as well.

   Stuffit has almost no learning curve and offers single click "compress and e-mail." It can send compressed files in almost any format, Windows or Macintosh, and easily creates self-extracting files.

   This is one of the all-time great programs and it's nice to have it for Windows. One nice feature: there are no "wizards" to help you through operations. I've always disliked wizard options, which are very popular in Microsoft programs and now extend to others as well. This program is so easy to use you don't need any wizards.

 

   Stuffit 5.5 has a list price of $30, and typically sells for around $20 from discounters. A free trial version is available from their web site: www.aladdinsys.com. Phone info: 831-761-6200; e-mail: info@aladdinsys.com.

 

Turnabout

 

   The above "Stuffit" utility made the switch from Mac to Windows because that's where the market is. But some programs are going the other way. The leading statistical program for academics, SPSS, just came out in version 10 for the Macintosh.

 

   SPSS stands for "Statistical Program for the Social Sciences" and has been the standard in academia for many years. It's also used by pollsters, demographers, marketing departments, government, etc. The program is used worldwide. The academic price (college faculty, staff and students) is $449; the price to commercial purchasers is $949. There's a $50 discount for each if you order online.

 

SPSS phone info: 800-543-2185 or 312-651-3000; web: www.spss.com

 

Internuts: Museum hopping

-- www.museumspot.com This is an offshoot of the extraordinarily useful "libraryspot.com" site. It has links to museum sites around the world, all of which have pictures and educational exhibits online. One major link is worth its own place below:

-- www.museumstuff.com A major site for linking to museums but unlike "museumspot," the links appear to be to U.S. museums only. Both these sites are great resources for teachers, and for learning at home. Try the link to museum shops. The San Diego Zoo shop, for example, claims the biggest selection of stuffed animals in the world. Great for holiday shopping.

-- www.museumnetwork.com We got here through museumspot.com and found our way to still more museums - 33,000 of them worldwide - including one of my all-time favorites: the Victoria and Albert in London. Direct web site:

 

-- www.vam.ac.uk The Victoria and Albert is a museum of decorative and industrial arts. Over 2,000 images.

 

Internuts: Program hopping

 

   www.windowstracker.com   This site just blows me away. Like the museum sites above, stop in for a visit and you can spend the day. Only this one has nothing to do with museums, it's all about updates for Windows programs, drivers, freeware, shareware and even expensive ware. The site covers Windows, Macintosh and the Palm operating system used for their handheld devices.

  Star Wars Math

 

Education

   LucasArts, which used to just do games, has branched into educational software, starting out with "Star Wars Math: Jabba's Game Galaxy," $30 for Windows and the Mac Power PC. Jabba the Hut, of Star Wars fame, runs a game arcade on the planet Tatooine, where unfortunately you have crashed landed. You can gain needed spare parts by winning at his puzzles in mathematics and logic. For ages 6-9. Web: www.lucaslearning.com.

Books to fix what ails the system

  Upgrading and Repairing PCs

 

 

  "Upgrading and Repairing PCs, 12th edition," by Scott Mueller; $50 from Que Publishing, www.quepublishing.com.

   As you can tell from the title, the first of these huge volumes came out in 1988. It quickly became a standard reference work for repair shops and home PC builders alike. The book is often packaged with a video tape that shows you the more common upgrades and installations. This latest edition has much more information on accelerator cards for gaming and the new wireless accessories.

   "Troubleshooting, Maintaining and Repairing PCs," book and CD, by Stephen Bigelow; $60 from Osborne-McGraw/Hill, web: www.osborne.com.

   Another massive (2,000 pages) reference and instructional guide, the kind of thing you have to have when you're trying to figure out what went wrong. The CD contains 120 diagnostic tools and utilities to help you figure it out. This is a major reference tool for PC technicians.

 

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