If you want to try it out before buying the new Windows Vista operating system, you can go to a Microsoft test site: WindowsVistaTestDrive.com.
There’s a demo that installs a link on your hard drive and lets you play around with most of the new features. New features include a calendar and appointment book, a “snipping” tool for improved screen capture, an instant search button, group document collaboration and lots of other goodies. A sidebar that is very much like the one found in the popular Opera Web browser provides a stock ticker, weather reports and address lookups.
If you’re thinking about upgrading to Vista for your present computer, you can go to Microsoft.com and install the “Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor.” At the same site you can search on “Vista editions.” You will find that not all Vistas are created equal, and you may or may not want to pay for the features in the more expensive versions.
Most of the most heavily advertised anti-virus programs have one thing in common: They are very large. This is particularly true of the Norton products we panned recently. It’s called “bloat ware” in the programming business, and the operating principle is: If you can think of anything at all, throw it in there. These programs put so much junk into your computer that they slow it to a crawl, and the worst of them just take control away from you and constantly pester you for updates.
Our best solution so far is AVG Anti-Virus 7.5 from Grisoft. Every tech support person we’ve talked to in the last six months has recommended it. On top of that, it’s free. Good price. Get it at http://free.grisoft.com.
A new service called JuiceCaster (No, we don’t know where they get these weird names) makes mobile photo-sharing pretty easy. If you download the software from JuiceCaster.com, you can take a picture or a video with the phone and have it available to every other cell phone with JuiceCaster in a few seconds. It can also automatically be posted to Web sites like MySpace.com and Flickr.com.
We tried it out with a Nokia 6682 phone, but it would work just as well on any late-model cell phone. OK, let’s get to the test:
We selected the JuiceCaster icon on our phone screen and chose “Create a JuiceCast.” We then chose whether to make it text, photo or video. We chose to do a photo and as soon as we did, the camera turned on. We snapped a shot of Toulouse-Lautrec’s famous Aristide Bruant poster in our office and clicked “next.” We titled the picture, chose whether to make it public or private, typed in a keyword to describe it, and hit “upload.” It was then immediately available to other phones with the same software and on the MySpace page we created for a test.
JuiceCaster works best with the Cingular cell service. If you use others, like T-Mobile or Verizon, you have to e-mail photos to your account before they can be shared.
We want to make one thing perfectly clear, as our peerless leader used to say:
One of our Okidata color laser printers, the model C5100, is a prefect dream to use; the other, model C5800, is something of a nightmare. It tells us we have a paper jam every other page we try to print. Still, fixing the jam only requires disassembling the printer –- what fun!
Our best printer results besides the Okidata C5100 have been with the Konica Minolta Magicolor series. We recently bought the 2430DL. Got it for $350 at Amazon.com. Original price was $538. Yummy deal.
For $10 a month, HappyNeuron.com promises to train your brain for high performance. Each time you log on, your digital trainer suggests games that help you improve logic, concentration, language and spatial skills. We tried some of them and felt a little smarter afterward. Of course, we couldn’t go anywhere but up.
YSN.com stands for “Your Success Network.” Once you’ve got your brain power up, you can read some career advice and self-assessment tests. The site was founded by Jennifer Kushnell, best-selling author of “Secrets of the Young and Successful -– How to Get Everything You Want Without Waiting a Lifetime.” There are lots of career areas to inquire about, and when you go to them, you can read advice from people who actually work in that field. Many of these felt their college education had little value and experience was what mattered most.