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     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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October 2003, Week 2 -- Shared Internet Connections

   
 

 Dual PC Modem

   Actiontec's "Dual PC Modem" lets two or more Windows computers share the same Internet dial-up connection. A dial-up connection is tech talk for using an ordinary phone line and not a high-speed cable.

   It seems strange to still work on dial-up systems when the hip, fast-moving and aware crowd are all having cable hookups, but there are advantages. For one, it's cheaper. It costs nothing extra to connect your computer to a phone line whereas it usually costs $30-$50 a month for a high-speed connection. For another, there's sometimes little difference in speed. We have both kinds of connections on one of our computers, so we can try the same kind of hookups readers have. And it's true that the cable hookup is usually much faster, but sometimes it isn't. Oddly enough it depends on the time of day and what we're calling up on the web. And you always know this much with a dial-up connection: if the phone is working, you can get online.

  

   Returning to the hardware at hand, you can connect two computers directly to the Dual PC Modem, a tiny black box, and connect that to the phone line. But if you connect the tiny black box to a wireless access station -- they normally sell for around $50 -- you can then connect several computers to the Internet through the same phone line. Those computers would have to have wireless receiver cards installed, however, which adds to the expense. Still, it beats paying $30 a month forever.

 

   Actiontec has been specializing in modems for quite a few years now and we've always been happy with their equipment. This one has a faster through rate than most phone line modems and comes with a built-in firewall to prevent hack attacks. List price is $79. for Win 98 and up. Web: www.actiontec.com.

 

Music and motion

  

   Cakewalk takes a big step forward with "Mediaworks," which includes all the music features of their award winning "Pyro" program and adds routines for making videos, photo albums and slide shows.

   As with Pyro, you can still create MP3 and Windows media files, mixing, copying and arranging music to your taste. You can move those files to any of the portable music players now on the market. Now you can add music to photo albums and slide shows and burn the whole thing to CDs or DVDs with included software. You can copy any CD or DVD if they do not have built-in copy protection routines.

 

   An often overlooked feature of this kind of software is that it is not confined to copying music or photos, but can copy any kind of digital data, which makes it useful as backup program for personal and business files. If you can get the information into the computer, you can burn it to a disk.

 

   Cakewalk Mediaworks lists for $79 from the company, or $49 for previously registered users of other Cakewalk programs. A very nice CD and DVD burner for Windows. Web site: www.cakewalk.com.

 

Video tape to DVD

 

   Hewlett Packard, in a mad rush of putting out 300 consumer products in one month, came up with something that many readers have asked for. It's a simple way to convert video tapes to DVDs. They call it the DVD Movie Writer Dc3000 and it lists for $399.

 

   It's really a combination video digitizing card and a DVD recorder but since it's all in one unit, it's easier to handle. You connect "Movie Writer" to your VCR with one cable and the other end to a Windows computer's USB 2.0 port. The video signal comes in, is digitized and transferred to the computer, which then spews it back out to the DVD recorder and "Viola" as we say in our fractured French, you've got a DVD movie.

 

That's Entertainment

 Sim City Rush

   For the past couple of years or more there has been a trend toward issuing expansion packs for popular games. This can be good news or bad news, depending on whether or not you have main game. It's bad news and an extra program to buy if it sounds good and you don't have it; but it's good news if you have the main program and like it, because then you can stay with a game you know and enjoy. Three expansion packs have just come out for some of the most popular computer games in the known universe. All are for Windows and sell for around $30. Web info at www.eagames.com.

 

-- "SimCity 4: Rush Hour," adds planes, trains, automobiles, ferry boats and tanks to the wildly popular SimCity 4 game. Try your hand at traffic control. Create accidents and cause gridlock. Try to deal with flying saucer landings.

  Zero Hour

-- "Command & Conquer: Zero Hour," adds nine commanders, their weapons, strategy and goals to the most popular combat game of the past several years.

-- "Medal of Honor: Breakthrough," is the newest expansion pack for a World War II battle game that has quickly become a hit. This pack adds battles in North Africa and Italy, including the key battle for Monte Casino.

 

Books

  

   "Genealogy Online, seventh edition," by Elizabeth Crowe; $25, Osborne-McGraw/Hill www.osborne.com. Find your family line or somebody else's. On the other hand, as Mark Twain once remarked of the old line New England aristocracy he met: "The best part of them is six feet underground."

NOTE: Readers can search past columns on our web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob or Joy Schwabach at bobschwab@aol.com  or joydee@oncomp.com.