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     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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September 2000, Week 3 -- Wireless in Venezuela

   At the top of our list this week is Orinoco, which besides being a river in Venezuela, is the name of Lucent's new wireless network for small business and home users. Ten users can be online at once.

   A silver and grey device the size and appearance of a clothes iron, plugs into the wall or your high speed access line and broadcasts the Internet. Range is about 1200 feet (nearly a quarter mile or half a kilometer), much greater than the Intel wireless network that came out several months ago. Speed is greater as well, 11Mb (megabits) a second for the Orinoco, compared to two megabits for Intel. A built-in router splits the Internet connection among 10 users, all of whom will still get the 11 Mb connection speed.

 

   The connection required on the computer end is what Lucent calls a "PC Radio World Card," a PCMCIA card with a radio receiver built in. Laptop users are familiar with PCMCIA cards, which stands for "Personal Computer Memory Card International Association." This one fits right into a laptop and connects it to the Orinoco. You need adapter cards to connect desktop computers.

 

   The Orinoco has a built-in 56k modem and works with both PCs and Macs. List price is $349 for the transmitter, which they call a "gateway," or $449 for starter kit with one card for a laptop. Additional cards are $179-$199. Those are all list prices, however, and since you can't buy directly from Lucent, discount houses will knock 20-30 percent off that.

 

   More info on the web site: www.lucent.com/orinoco.

 

The stamp of approval

   The Internet stamp business has been all gummed up for a while but now it looks like things are starting to peel apart.

   We've been licking our lips to get started on this and we began with a little 4 x 8-inch machine from Neopost, the largest maker of mailroom equipment in Europe. The gadget is called "Simply Postage," simply enough, and it works like a dream. It's enough to make you like mailing things.

 

   Most of the new office mailing systems use your own computer to print legal postage under a contract from the post office. This is simpler and less expensive than using a separate device to make stamps, but the Simply Postage unit contains a built-in electronic scale and a roll of gummed labels, all of which is nice. It comes with $50 worth of free postage contained in memory, but you have to pay $50 to sign up for the system, so it's a wash either way; or free, depending on how you look at it. Monthly lease fee is $15. Web site: www.simplypostage.com 

 

   Other services supply stamps directly to your computer and you can either print with a regular printer or use one of the Dymo label printers.

 

-- At www.estamp.com  the fee for getting your stamps online is 10 percent of the amount purchased, or a monthly minimum of $5.

 

-- www.pitneyworks.com  is a site maintained by postage meter giant Pitney Bowes. Online postage carries a fee of $1.49 a month plus the cost of postage.

 

-- www.stamps.com  has a monthly minimum fee of $2 or 10 percent of the postage purchased, whichever is greater. This site also provides comparison prices for different shipping services and adds "print postage" and "purchase postage" commands to the menu bar in MS Word, WordPerfect, Lotus or Act. Click on the command and print a stamp. You can also do certified and registered mail.

 

More on graphics

  

   MGI's "PhotoSuites 3 and 4, platinum edition," do something quite wonderful: They can create a photo mosaic.

   The software searches through hundreds or thousands of photographs for their color quality. Those colors are then used to create a mosaic replica of a picture. A portrait can be turned into a mosaic of thousands of tiny photographs. The effect is striking.

   Version 4 adds animation and the ability to make all or any part of a photograph transparent, so you can see other images behind it. Both versions are $49. MGI phone: 888-644-7638 or 905-764-7358; web: www.mgisoft.com.

 

Internuts

 

-- www.bizstats.com A major resource for businesses. You can look at sales comparisons by business types for the first six months of this year compared to last, year over year, etc. Look at gross profit margins for different types of businesses: tobacco, 60%; hotels, 62%; doctors' offices, 97%; hospitals, 93%, advertising, 57%, motion picture theaters, 73%; auto repairs, 57%; legal services, 99%.

  
Toybuilders first toy- a scepter 

-- www.ibolsa.com Wall Street news plus real-time quotes, charts and analysis of 10,000 U.S. companies, delivered in your choice of English, Spanish or Portuguese.

-- www.toybuilders.com   How's this for one of the neatest ideas we've come across in a while. You can send in drawings or photographs and have game board pieces and other toys made in the image of family and friends. Replication extends to making action figures like the person in your photo and making car and airplane models to your design. Prices range from $15 for a simple object to $200 for an action figure. You can get them painted or unpainted.

 

-- www.imaging-resource.com  Allows you to look at test photo comparisons for nearly all makes of digital cameras. Make sure you're comparing cameras with the same resolution. Takes a while to load, and really needs a big screen.

 

NOTE: Readers can search more than 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.