Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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October 2002, Week 2 -- Surveillance



 Grand e-Guard


   We got a small box in the mail and after shoveling off the tech-speak on the outside, found a nifty surveillance board for Windows on the inside.

   "Grand-e-Guard" is a circuit board with sockets for four composite video cameras. Composite video is the most common type of camera still in use for surveillance, different from the newer digital video that has recently led the surge in sales of hand-held cameras. The number of composite video cameras in use is huge. This card accepts composite video in NTSC and PAL, the most common American and European formats.


   The software can adjust picture quality on all four cameras separately or simultaneously and can set them to operate continuously or only when motion is detected. Imagery is stored to disk at compression rates up to 300 to one. If the disk fills up you can set the software to over-write the earliest saved material. The date and time are recorded.


   Pricing on the card and software is $150 from their web site, but cameras, ethernet card for remote surveillance through the Internet, audio pickups, etc., are all extra.


The Numbers Report


   Some time last April the one billionth personal computer was shipped.


   Of course many of those computers, starting with the earliest days of the Apple, Atari and Commodore, have become door stops and boat anchors now. And lots of people have purchased several computers over the last 20 years or so. (I must have gone through at least a dozen myself.) But still, any way you cut it, a billion is a very large number. Small, desktop, computers have forever changed the way companies and individuals do their work. It was also 20 years ago that one of the most highly placed editors in American newspapers confidently said to me: "This personal computer stuff is all a fad, you know." The second billion computers are expected to be sold in the next five years, the highest growth area being Asia.


Interesting Downloads

 Cross Eyes

--  What is MS Word up to? In short, when your Microsoft Word pages come out looking weird, for reasons you can't fathom, it would be nice to see the codes. The very useful "show codes" command has been in WordPerfect and XyWrite (a word processing program used by many journalists and other professional writers) but not in Microsoft Word. When something strange is going on with the display, how can you find out what's causing it? "Cross Eyes" is a $75 add-on for Word that reveals the codes. It's expensive but oh so useful. Once you can see the codes you can delete or change the codes that precede the strange looking part of your page. You can also copy codes that make the page look good and insert them elsewhere.


--  "Color Wheel" is a useful tool for artists. They're available in art stores as cardboard wheels showing complementary and contrasting colors and you can get it on a disk here for $20.


-- "CD-Rom list creator. A free utility that prints a list of files you've burned to a disk. For instance, if you have saved a lot of pictures to a CD, this will print a label that lists those pictures.


-- Keeps track of U.S. savings bonds and calculates accrued interest.



Fall Colors website

-- A government site for people who like to look at the leaves turning color in the Fall. Site is run by the Forest Service. Also has web cams covering the best color spots, driving routes, and describes the chemistry of leaf color changes

-- Want something to listen to in the car on the long drive to your country place? You can find more than 20,000 books, newspaper and magazine articles, lectures, radio programs, etc., that can be downloaded to your computer and burned to CDs, tapes or MP3 players. This is a subscription service starting at $15 a month.

--  Places to donate old computers, printers and similar equipment.


--  Part-time and full-time jobs for teenagers anywhere in the U.S. Type in a zip code and you get a list of jobs for teens in that area.




   "Using Office XP," by Bott and Leonhard; $36 from Que Books You can also get this from Amazon for $27, and you want it because it contains a CD with "Woody's Office Power Pack for XP." Woody's Power Pack adds features Microsoft should have but didn't: you can right-click any word in MS Word for a quick spell check, for example. Lots of other helpful tools for Office programs.


That's entertainment?

Nancy Drew

   We are huge fans of the Nancy Drew mysteries from Her Interactive, but the latest offering: "Secret of the Scarlet Hand," $20 for Windows, is going to be an exception. Somewhere along the way, the writers forgot it was supposed to be a mystery and decided to turn it into an educational tract, and a boring one at that. The real mystery is how Nancy Drew became a victim of political correctness.

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