Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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October 2000, Week 5 -- Online and On Course


   How about free training? You can get it, and it's good, from a book dealer.

   We have been taking a "basics" course in "Adobe PhotoShop," the premiere photo editing program, offered free by the Barnes & Noble bookstore chain. Note: it's the course that's free, not the program.

   You sign up for this or any other course at the Barnes & Noble web site: Twelve lessons are offered three days apart by various experts in each subject. To our complete surprise, the PhotoShop course is excellent.


   Who would sign up for a free course on a technical subject from a bookstore? Well it turned out there were more than 3,000 people signed up for our PhotoShop course. They know a good deal when they see one. Dozens of technical subjects are offered.


   How does a bookstore make money offering free courses? They sell course books, of course. In the case of Adobe PhotoShop, though we bought the recommended book, it turned out be useless and was not necessary for the course.


   They're not just selling books. They sell the program, the computer, digital cameras, scanners ... anything that might be related to the particular course you take. You don't have to buy any of this stuff from them, however, and in fact you may already have most of it. What's really interesting here is the surprisingly good quality of the courses we've looked at.





   Most users want and expect that the CD drives in their new computers will also play DVD disks, the kind that are now fairly common for movies. It would be nice if they could also record CDs so you could make your own, either for pleasure or data backup. Ideally, you should be able to record your own DVD disks as well, but that's not readily available yet.

   What's available now are combination CD-RW/DVD drives that allow you to create your own CDs. Only three companies make such drives and Ricoh has just come out with the fastest and the only one available as an add-on for existing computers. It's model number MP9120A and the price is a very reasonable $349.


   Ricoh was one of the first manufacturers to come out with drives that let you create your own CDs, and for a brief period they commanded the market. Competition came on fast, though, and the people who wanted the latest and greatest turned to other labels, like Plexus. Ricoh obviously wants to regain that early lead; their new drive is fast and looks like a winner. It can record a CD at 12 times normal playback speed and rewrite that disk at 10 times the speed, good for, office backups. Software prevents so-called "under-run gaps," which occur when the data being fed to the drive falls behind the drive's ability to record it.


   You can get more technical details from their web site: or; phone information: 877-742-6479.


Family business


 Microsoft Works Suite

   The 2001 version of "Microsoft Works Suite" has links to download phone book and other information directly to a handheld organizer, like the Palm series, or to a cell phone.

   Even without those little extras this is certainly one of the best deals in software. Street price is expected to be around $100 and for that price you get "Word 2000," the encyclopedia "Encarta 2001," financial manager "Money 2001," detailed maps in "Street & Trips 2001," "Picture It Publishing," and of course "Microsoft Works" itself. Works contains a spreadsheet, database, address book and calendar. It used to contain a word processor as well but that task is now carried by MS Word.


   All in all, if you don't already have these or similar programs the package is an exceptionally good deal, hard to go wrong. Distribution is worldwide. Web:


The numbers report


   This October the number of domain names passed 30 million; 18 million of those have the well known "dot com" suffix. The "dot net" ending is next in popularity with three million domain names and "dot org" has two million. You can pick up more details at



   Three interesting stock market sites will start us off today, especially given the rocky performance of the market lately.

-- This site from the Financial Times of London provides a global view of business. You can search by industry or region and get analysts' view of earnings and growth. Links to 27,000 web sites.


-- More global analysis of companies and mutual funds. Can search by sector, performance, region, etc. Impressive.


-- An interesting site that tracks which stock market analysts are the most accurate for which companies. Who really understands Ford, for example.

--  Upload all your Internet bookmarks here and then use them from any computer that has access to the web. The bookmark links are clickable.

-- They offer rewards of $10,000 to people who can provide evidence that any particular patent should not have been awarded by the U.S. Patent Office because it is not an innovation. For example, the site is asking for information on reformulations of gasoline for emission control.


-- There are a lot of job search sites on the web. This one impressed us. They listed 6,769 jobs for writers, for example.


--  A long address for a site in Romania that claims to list all the ".dll," ".ocx" and ".vxd" dynamic link files for all Windows programs, regardless of version. They certainly list a ton of them. Could be just the place you're looking for.


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