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     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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September 2002, Week 2 -- The Sound of One Finger Tapping

 

 

 ShuttlePro

   "Shuttle Pro" from Contour Design is a keyboard substitute. Or call it an enhancer. I love this type of device, because it simplifies computer life.

   Shuttle Pro works with both PCs and Macs and is aimed primarily at video and audio editing. But that's because the disk that comes with it has lots of music and video control presets. In fact, it can be used as a shortcut controller to simplify and speed the use of any program and already has some presets for Microsoft Excel, Word, Internet Explorer, Adobe Acrobat, etc.

   The device itself looks like a soft silver shoe with buttons. On top are 13 programmable buttons, one spring-loaded knob and a shuttle ring that moves screens back and forth as you twist it. With these tools, almost every conceivable editing task is under one-touch control.

 

   Shuttle Pro came out just a few months ago and was initially marketed to Mac users, primarily because the Mac is such a powerful tool for video editing. Mac users went nuts over the device. Now the PC majority can hop aboard as well, and the ride is great. You can program the buttons for single commands or any sequence of commands. Pick the ones you most commonly use and computing will be a one-click pleasure. Believe me, I have used programmable keyboards for almost 20 years and they are the cat's pajamas and the widget in the works that makes the wheels go around. Pricing is around $100 from most suppliers; web info at www.contourdesign.com .

 

Multiple memory card reader

  Media Reader

 

   Belkin has put it almost all together in a single $55 unit that reads most of the memory cards used by digital cameras, MP3 players and PDAs.

   The "8-in-1 Media Reader/Writer" pretty much says it all in its name. Along with the usual suspects in memory cards, the 8-in-1 can read and write to the IBM Microdrive used by some digital cameras and other devices. Items read by the device can be dragged and dropped into any other program.

   The Belkin 8-in-1 works with USB ports in either PCs or Macs. This is a trend we are seeing more of in new peripherals. We are beginning to see convergence between the abilities and compatibility of the two main desktop systems and that is a good thing. The 8-in-1 comes with several photo editing programs from Ulead, which has long been one of our favorite groups of editing programs; the Ulead programs alone used to cost more individually than the price of this whole package. Belkin web: www.belkin.com.

 

Music, professional level.

 Sonar XL

 

 

   The top of the line in professional music editing software for the desktop computer is "Sonar XL, version 2.0."  Users include Ray Charles, Michael Jackson, Shawn Clement (Batman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, etc.), and many others.

   This is a Windows only program, unusual for music software, and like most such software works best with a very fast processor and lots and lots of memory. With a 616-page manual you might expect a considerable learning curve. That's true if you want to know everything but you can be up and composing fairly quickly. You can cut and paste, edit and move blocks of music around as if you were using a word processor. One of the most useful tools is the ability to create musical loops, on the fly!

   Sonar is from Cakewalk and replaces that company's Cakewalk master program. Pricing runs $479 for Sonar and $600 for Sonar XL. The full range of features for this program would take more space than this whole column, so I suggest you turn to their web site: www.cakewalk.com.

 

Music, easy running.

 

   "MusicMatch 7.2" is "oot and aboot" as Canadians sometimes say, and better than ever. This is the number one program for letting your computer act as a jukebox and it's free. The deluxe version, with extra features is $20.

 

 

 

 

   In operation it is simplicity itself: The program accepts input from any digital source. On the way out it can burn your selections onto new CDs, tapes, DVDs, etc. Web info: www.musicmatch.com.

Internuts

-- www.3men.com  This is a fun cooking tips and recipe site put together by three guys who describe themselves on the opening page as "3 Men With Nothing Better To Do." The cooking tends to be backyard barbecue and large scale: how to roast a whole pig, for example.

-- www.nga.gov  The "NGA" initials stand for the National Gallery of Art, and the site has art tours of current and permanent exhibits as well as art selected for children's puzzle games. The current special exhibit is "Treasures of Ancient Egypt."

-- www.victorpest.com A commercial site but full of information on poison-free pest control. Control plant bugs with simple water sprays or a mix of soap and water, for example. Garlic confuses mosquitoes. White flies are attracted to yellows; cover yellow paper with petroleum jelly and trap them.

 

Books

Idea Kit

   "Adobe Photoshop Elements Idea Kit," by Lisa Mathews; $35 from Adobe Press. The price is high for this slim volume of tips and tricks, but Photoshop Elements is increasingly packaged with other products and a lot of people will end up owning it. The author knows her subject, since she used to work for Adobe writing user guides and creating demos. Web: www.peachpit.com.

NOTE: Readers can search nearly 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.