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October 2002, Week 5 --The Compression of Space and Time

 

 

  

 

   Less is more, as Mies van der Rohe liked to say. It also saves disk space.

   "Stuffit" is a program well-known in the Macintosh world but came to Windows rather late. It is a file compression utility, and by benchmark testing has a higher compression factor than the well-known PKZip and WinZip programs. It is fully compatible with those programs and can read and write to compressed files from other programs going back a decade and more.

   We last reviewed Stuffit more than two years ago, so it's certainly time to catch up on the new features. One of the nicest is a single-click feature to compress and e-mail a file right from Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint. The advantages of course are much faster and cheaper line transmission.

 

   The "ArchiveSearch" function lets you search through compressed archives to find any file by title or key words. The archives do not have to be expanded for the search. True to its Macintosh heritage, the program can search both Windows and Mac compressed files.

 

   You can also automate Stuffit to compress and store files at the end of the work day, or any other time period. Compressed files can be encrypted with a 128-bit key code; it would take anyone a long time to break that.

 

   Compressing or de-compressing can be done simply by dragging it to the Stuffit icon. Compressed files can be made self-opening (quite a few readers have written to complain they can't open some zipped file they were sent). What's more, you can choose an icon for the compressed file and have an e-mail automatically sent back to yourself when the recipient opens the file.

 

   Stuffit Deluxe is $40 from their web site: <www.stuffit.com>. The standard version is $25 and you can download a free evaluation copy.

 

Movie, movie!

  movie shop

   "MovieShop," version 6 of Broderbund's popular video editor, suits home, school and small business users and offers a ton of features. It uses the drag and drop method now common with video editing, enabling the video editor to move frames and sequences around in a kind of video version of a music composition program. Sound effects and voice can be added at any point. The program can show the whole storyline at one time, making it much easier to see where clips should be moved.

   The program offers 10 "layers" of editing. What they call layers are similar to tracks in a music recording. The video image is one layer, the voice or sound pickup is a second layer, background music a third layer, voice-over a fourth, titles a fifth and so on. I like to think of them as tracks, rather than layers. Finished videos can be burned to CD or DVD formats.

  Maple 8 

   MovieShop is for Windows 98 and up, $50 in the regular version, $90 for deluxe. Web: www.broderbund.com.

Mathematics

"Maple 8" is like a slightly junior version of Mathematica, but only slightly. It is used by engineers and mathematicians worldwide. The student version is only $129 and near as I can figure just the same as the professional version costing several hundred. How do they know you're a student? A subtle question. A lot more info at their web site: <www.maplesoft.com>.

Internuts

 

-- www.ustreas.gov/auctions/irs Mainly properties and vehicles seized for non-payment of taxes. They used to mail notices of sales but now this web site is the only source of public information.

 

-- www.optillusions.com Forty-five optical illusions that will have your eyes rolling and your head spinning. Seeing isn't always believing.

Miss Piggy

-- www.superlaugh.com A very funny site. Q: What is a shin bone? A: A device for finding furniture in the dark. Or, actual instructions on packages:  There's a warning on the bottom of Teco's Tiramisu Dessert package that says "Do not turn upside down." Could be the wrong place for that warning. New ways to describe the stupid: "The cheese slid off his cracker." "The receiver is off the hook."

-- www.dumbwarnings.com  As long as we're onto funnies ... from a Swedish chain-saw manufacturer: "Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands." Computer error message (several brands): "Keyboard not detected. Press F1 to continue."

 

-- www.nomoreaolcds.com  What can you do with all those promotional CDs AOL keeps sending out? Send them to these guys, who are trying to accumulate a million of them, which they promise to send back to AOL. Only 935,000 to go.

  Law & Order

Law and Order

   The hit TV show about the American criminal justice system has been forced into a computer game for Windows. You investigate a murder case and try to accumulate enough evidence for an arrest and conviction. It's not easy and there is a time limit. The TV show is complex, so you should be a die-hard fan of the show to play this game. www.lawandordergame.com

Books

 Quicken 2003 

  "Quicken 2003, the official guide," by Maria Langer; $25 from Osborne/McGraw-Hill www.osborne.com. Quicken has a huge user base and this book is full of tips and methods for making the program do what they want.

NOTE: Readers can search nearly 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.

 

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