Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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September 2001, Week 1 -- It's not Lost, We Just Can't Find It


  Data Finder 5.5

   "PC Data Finder 5.5" will find that Windows file faster than you can look like you didn't understand the question. It works with regular text, PDF (portable document format) and compressed files. You can search by word, phrase, proximity ("Spanish" near "translator") or approximation (looks something like "New Yawk").

   PC Data Finder is $40 for the registered version from Silver Lake Tech, but free trial versions are available for this and other utilities. The company also makes "PrintScreen Works," which allows you to print all or portions of the screen, and "BackDora," for backing up your files. Find them at  and


The numbers report


   There are now close to half a billion people online. The Nielsen research report for the second quarter of 2001 finds an estimated 459 million people with access to the Internet, an increase of 30 million since the beginning of the year.


   The U.S. and Canada have 40 percent of the world's well-connected population. Interestingly, that is down from 41 percent last year, as the rest of the world is moving up quickly. Nations with the highest percentage of PC ownership in the home are, in order, South Korea, Sweden and Australia, all with more than 65 percent. The U.S. varies considerably by location and income.


Disk drive utilities

 Drive Works


   We've received quite a few questions about our recent coverage of software that backs up whole disk drives and lets you move the contents to a new drive. Vcom has combined a popular set of such utilities into "DriveWorks" for Windows.

   The package sells for $70 in the boxed version, $50 if downloaded from their web site, and $40 as an upgrade from some of their earlier products. It includes Image Commander and Copy Commander, which as their names imply, allow you to make a complete image of a disk drive or simply copy portions of it. Other utilities in the set are Partition Commander, to partition a disk drive, and Secure Erase, which lets you completely erase files, rather than rely on "Delete." (The Windows "delete" function just deletes a file's location from the computer's "file allocation table." Later attempts to call up that file will fail because the computer doesn't see it's name in the table. It is in fact still there, however, and can be recovered.)


Death to online ads


   "WebWasher," available at, kills all advertisements on web sites. It can also halt cookies and other information retrieval that web sites sometimes collect to track their visitors and accumulate marketing data. The program is free for home and educational use. Free 30-day evaluation for business users, $30 after that.


   WebWasher really does work but it's a little tricky because some sites won't come in or run correctly if you block their ads and cookies. You have full control over all those settings in the program, however, and if one of your favorite sites doesn't come in, change the settings.





--  Web site for the recent air guitar world championships, held in Oulu, Finland. For the two of you unfamiliar with the art of the air guitar, performers play an imaginary guitar, with feeling. This may seem pointless, but is nonetheless popular. Most of the contestants were Finnish, but the winner was English. Plenty of pictures. You can download the video and a soundtrack. Remember: the air guitar is easy to transport and costs nothing to buy and maintain.

--  Rates all kinds of Internet online stores, by reliability, features, return policy, etc. Lists the top ten online stores by category and has customer comments.

--  Provides an intranet for small companies. Use it to keep employees informed of company news, schedule meetings and appointments, share documents, manage products, share customer contacts, etc. Free trial for 30 days, $20 a month and up thereafter.


--  Thinking of getting a high-speed DSL (digital subscriber line) for the Internet? Think again. Some services are a royal pain in the gluteus maximus muscle. Interestingly, in the U.S. this varies by location; the same service can be great in one area and terrible in another. Ratings here. Meet the unhappy customers.


 The Mathematical Explorer


  Step by Step with Office XP



--  A "tip of the day" every day, for Microsoft Office XP, Pocket PCs, Lotus, Linux, the Internet, Macintosh operating system, etc.


   "The Mathematical Explorer," $70 for Windows and Macintosh, from Wolfram Research

    This is an illustrated look at the history of many key developments in mathematics. This is an interesting way of looking at mathematics, and, I think, an excellent way to teach. Covers the development of calculus, the Reimann hypothesis, chaos theory, Fermat's last theorem, the four color problem, etc. It's a good look at a way of thinking.


   "Microsoft Office XP, Step by Step," book and CD, by Frye and Crupi; $45 from Microsoft Press This is the latest in a long series of "Step by Step" books from Microsoft Press, covering almost every topic in their extensive software line. The books are excellent, among the best teaching books we've ever looked at.

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