Remote control

LogMeIn looks like it should be a dish in a Chinese restaurant, but it’s actually a service for controlling your home or office computer from afar. After a couple of hours of knocking herself out, Joy got it going, and it’s pretty neat.

You can work directly from its Web site,, or download the appropriate software from there to any flash drive or miniature hard drive you want to carry around when you travel. Plug that into a guest computer, like those available at libraries and Internet cafes, and the LogMeIn screen appears. Enter your password, and you’re in control. Oh yeah, we forgot one other thing: Don’t forget to leave your home or office computer turned on and connected to the Internet.

The LogMeIn software has to be installed on any computer you want to control from a remote location. You can then log in, so to speak, from the Web site or from the software installed on the drive you carry with you.

The flash drive version is called Ignition, as in space launch talk: “Houston, we have ignition.” We had some problems using this at first because Ignition is a brand-new service, just starting in March. But after making pests of ourselves, we got it going, and it was worth it.

We are able to transfer files, edit documents and in general do just about anything we could do if we were sitting in front of our home machine. We could use this to fix problems on someone else’s computer if it’s loaded with the software and we’re given permission.

If your home machine needs a password for entry, you’ll have to enter that in a second log-in screen that comes up asking you for that password and your Windows username. You may have to turn off some protection software on your home machine, as this may block remote control access. (Test it out before you go a long way from home.)

If you sit down at the remote computer and realize you forgot to bring your little flash drive with Ignition, never fear, you can log into the LogMeIn Web site and work from there. The company says it’s more secure to use its Ignition software on a flash drive.

There are two versions of LogMeIn: One is free and meant for casual users, while the Pro version costs $13 a month, or $70 a year, and has more features. Ignition is an extra service that costs $50 a year, but it’s per account, not per computer, no matter how many computers you want to control.

If you’re thinking about the cost of a flash drive added onto that, don’t. These things have become roadkill; we found a 1 gigabyte flash drive at for $10, and we’ve seen smaller capacities sold as six packs for $20. Flash memory has gotten real cheap.

Stumble upon this has long been a great site to start a trip through the weird and wonderful world of Web sites. Go there, click “stumble” and start on a journey to places you’ve not only never been to, but never imagined existed.

Now StumbleUpon has added weird and wonderful videos. We found C2C, a four-man DJ team, who mix hip-hop with jazz and sounded great. We found guys dancing on treadmills, and watched a half-dozen joggers and a couple of bikers fall into a water hole on a woodsy trail, no one spotting the hazard. StumbleUpon Videos is, as we used to say, a gas. You gotta watch a series of German shoppers go splash into a water bed. Click on “share” to e-mail any video.


If you need a programming job done, like creating a specialized database, you can do a search on “freelance coders” at or Programmers from all over the world will provide background information on their experience and abilities and quote rates that start as low as 50 cents an hour. (Now that’s a global economy!)

The utility file

For $20 a year you can have access to more than 140 free downloads from a program library maintained by PC Magazine at (scroll to the bottom of the page to subscribe to the Utility Library). Almost all of these programs are small utilities. They are designed to do things like monitor your PC’s processor and memory efficiency, show how many programs are running in the background and what they’re eating up, speed up file searches, clean up the registry file, create calendars and appointment books, etc. Joy likes NoteWhen, which puts the equivalent of yellow sticky notes anywhere on your screen.

You can get all or nearly all of these programs for free from Web sites like and, but the advantage of paying for the PC Mag list is that the programs have supposedly been vetted. That means they’ve been tried out by the magazine’s staff, they work and are bug- and spyware-free. Bob has tried several over time and found that some of them work well and some don’t, and some of them are kind of pointless. Still, $20 isn’t much to pay.


Photoshop Type Effects Gone Wild, book and disk, by Al Ward; $35 from

People love fooling around with typefaces, ourselves included. It was the biggest selling point of the Macintosh when it came out, and many hours were spent creating outlandish styles. Some people sent letters printed with a dozen different type styles (very hard to read). For a long time you couldn’t do that with a PC, but the cheaper machines finally caught up. With the aid of this well-illustrated book, you can learn how to make letters and words that look like they were made from smoke, water, fire, etc. You can duplicate a commercial product’s label exactly. Fun, fun, fun.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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