Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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September 2001, Week 4 -- There's a Fungus Among Us

 Panda Antivirus


   Computer viruses are arriving with ever increasing strength and frequency. I get four to five a day, and about an equal number of reader letters asking me what to do about theirs. Well if there are bugs in the house, get a Panda.

   We're referring, of course, to "Panda AntiVirus Platinum," from Panda Software The program costs $30 for individual users, and there are multi-user rates for corporations. It works with all versions of Windows, DOS and the IBM operating system, OS/2. It can detect and destroy 60,000 viruses. Since new ones appear frequently, Panda Platinum logs onto its parent's web site and updates itself automatically every day. You can also set it to update and scan for new viruses at more frequent intervals.


   One very nice feature here is that Panda not only detects and destroys incoming viruses, it does the same for outgoing viruses. In other words it protects you, the unwitting carrier, from getting someone else really annoyed by sending them a virus you didn't know you had. Nearly all the viruses I receive come through e-mail from people who had no idea they were transmitting them. This is the way companies computer systems get shut down. Someone in the organization opens an e-mail attachment with a virus, which then attaches itself to everyone on their mailing list. Since other people in the company are always among this group, poof! -- 300 computers have the virus. ) The e-mail screening function works with all major browsers and e-mail programs.


   The company has offices in more than 30 countries and the program is generally available through stores and online retailers.




-- A set of links to government information by subject categories: business and the economy, for example; health; science and technology; benefits and grants, etc. This is the right site to start searching the public information available from the federal government. Also has news reports.

--  This contains a collection of more than 16,000 photographs taken and digitized by the staff of NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, over many years. The photo albums can be browsed by category or searched directly for a particular subject. Subjects cover views, events and creatures, from as they put it, "the surface of the sun to the bottom of the sea." Despite the range, most of the photos are surprisingly uninteresting, though there are some real jewels.

--  Just to prove there are people around with much too much time on their hands, you can turn to this bunny destruction site. No angry letters from friends of the furry, please; the bunnies being destroyed here are marshmallow candy bunnies. How long can a marshmallow bunny withstand a direct attack from an infrared laser? How does a marshmallow bunny look when tied to a brick and dropped from a height of 13 feet? Not good, believe us.

Long-life photo paper


   Kodak has come out with several new papers for printing photos on inkjet printers. The one that interests us most is "Kodak Ultima Picture Paper," which is expensive at $13 for a box of 15 sheets but carries the claim that the prints will last more than 30 years. The sheets come in standard letter size of 8.5x11 inches, and half-size ($10 for a box of 20) for making smaller 4x6 inch prints.


Music: plain and fancy


 Teach Me Piano

   "Teach Me Piano Deluxe" is $70 for Windows, from Voyetra It does everything but rap your knuckles with a ruler in the process of teaching you to play the piano. We love it.

   Among several annoying features are foghorn, gas blasts and other unpleasant sounds that issue from the speakers every time you make the slightest mistake. Scoring seems unnecessarily harsh. You can get a low grade even when you haven't made any mistakes. Put all these annoyances together and it still comes out to be the best piano instruction program we've ever run. Try it, you'll like it (if you don't go nuts first).

   For composers at the professional level, or very sophisticated amateurs, the best program out there right now appears to be Sonar, for Windows, from Cakewalk, which unfortunately costs nearly $500.


   Sonar is actually version 10 of the Cakewalk Pro Audio series but there were so many changes and advances that the company felt the program deserved a new name, and so it does. The program has a new centralized interface and makes it easy to build musical loops into compositions. The loops can be mixed with audio and routines from MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) devices. (If you watch any rock band you will them bring in MIDI routines frequently from controls on keyboards or a console.)


   A musical loop can inserted into a composition simply by marking the beginning and end of the loop with your mouse and then clicking the insertion point. That not only does the trick but the program will automatically adjust the key and tempo of the loop to match the composition.

  The Accidental Project Manager



   "The Accidental Project Manager: Surviving the Transition from Techie to Manager," by Patricia Ensworth; $35, Wiley and Sons <>. A kind of cheat sheet for engineers and technicians promoted to positions beyond their ability. Or as they used to say at my old paper: cream rises till it sours. Best of luck.

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