Bob and Joy Schwabach

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October 2007, Week 4    


People change cell phones every two years on average. Who doesn't want the newest model? But what about the numbers left behind? Indeed, in just a fewBack-Up Pal months one can accumulate an impressively large list of frequently called numbers, and you would hate to have to retype them into a new phone.

Most cell phone service providers let you store numbers and restore them to a new phone, but you have to stay with the service. If you want to change, there are several devices available for transferring numbers.

We tried out one of the new ones: Backup Pal. This is a circular gadget about the size of a yo-yo and weighing a couple of ounces. It costs $50 from  and comes with two adapters for fitting most Motorola, Nokia and Samsung phones. You can look up your model on the Web site to find out if it works with your phone.

Operation is pretty simple: You don't need a computer; just plug the yo-yo into the phone and push an orange button labeled "backup." Connect the yo-yo to another phone and push the restore button to move the numbers over.

Software for transferring cell phone information first to your computer and then to a different phone can be found at  It has lots of devices to fit the many types of cell phones. Its software works with PCs or Macs. Prices for adapter kits with software range from $40 for a single phone type, up to $80 for a universal kit.

INTERNUTS  has free MP3 music downloads, and the choices run from rock to classical. You can also just listen. We listened to Beethoven's "Waldstein" sonata while we started writing the column and then turned to the Beatles. There are thousands of pieces listed here, all free.  is the Web site for a new show from public television, and it's excellent.The first episode looked at the cyber attack that shut down Estonia's computer system after the government moved a statue Wired Sciencecommemorating the Soviet Union's war dead. Another looked at junk floating in the oceans and found that there was an average of 46,000 pieces of plastic floating for every square mile. Some of the objects have been floating for more than 30 years.  lets you search for the type of document you need: catalogs, spreadsheet reports, invoices, estimates, cookbooks, etc. Some are PowerPoint documents. But all, plain or complex, can be modified to make them your own. You can also contribute by uploading your own documents for others to use. (One we looked at was a "break-up" letter. It was allegedly done by a Marine in Afghanistan who got a "Dear John" letter from his girl back home. He sent back a composite of 57 photos of girls collected from other Marines, with a note that he couldn't remember what she looked like but she should feel free to remove her photo from the group.)


We've been having great fun creating "Wanted" posters in the style of the Old West, using a free Windows program called Poster Forge from (We couldn't resist making a "wanted" poster of our editor, of course.)

You can make movie posters using your own photos, and quite lovely motivational posters, of the type you often see on office walls. The programOutlaw Journalists comes with the templates, and you just drop in the picture you want and add your own message. The posters can be saved as JPEG files and shared on the usual sites: MySpace , Flickr , LiveJournals, etc.

The posters are made with any regular printer using normal letter-size paper. It prints out as four pages, which then have to be glued or taped together to make the full poster. Some printers come with software that lets you create posters in this way. If you don't have that, this one is free.

ProPoster, which isn't free, contains many more templates and provides different sized output. The maximum size claimed is a phenomenal 10 by 10 meters. That would be a picture more than 30 by 30 feet, larger than most billboards. ProPoster is $20 -- $30 for businesses -- also from Ronyasoft.


Let's look at two new programs for making beautiful pictures, either completely created by the user or starting from photos.

A powerful program called The GIMP is available free at . There are versions for Windows, Macintosh and Linux systems, but if you want Gimpto run it in Windows, you should first download an additional program: GTK+ Runtime Environment, also from GIMP is often characterized as a free equivalent to Adobe's Photoshop, not quite as rich in features, but close. If you do a search on "Gimp Galleries" at  you will find many examples.

A more powerful program is the new Xara ExtremePro. The Windows version of Xara Xtreme Pro is $249, and Xara Xtreme is $79, both from . Xara Xtreme, whether Pro or regular version, is considered to be a full-featured competitor to Adobe Illustrator, which sells for $599, a much higher price. Xara

When you're dealing with programs like this, you are into professional areas. The best way to see what they can do, and whether you would be willing to spend the time to learn them, is to go to some of the Web sites and browse their art galleries.


According to a report from PC World Magazine, Microsoft plans to continue selling Windows XP though 2009. Windows Vista has not wiped out the older XP version, which still accounts for nearly half of all PC operating system sales. Two things have slowed the changeover to Vista: One is the higher hardware requirements to run that operating system. But most of all, Windows XP seems to work just fine, so why change? Many people follow the old farmer's repair rule: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."



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