Norton Security products are a boon or a blessing, depending on who you talk to: Joy thinks they’re great; Bob thinks they are evil destroyers. The latest is Norton 360, which you can try for free through February. It’s billed as a rival to Microsoft’s OneCare and has an unusually simple interface. There are four large buttons to click: PC Security, Transaction Security, Tune Up, and Backup and Restore.
PC Security covers anti-virus, firewall, anti-spyware, plus a few other protective routines. Transaction Security protects you from being whisked away to a so-called “phishing” site, a Web site that imitates a legitimate one but is designed solely to collect your personal information. Something like 90 percent of such sites pose as financial institutions. (We regularly get requests to correct our information from banks we’ve never even heard of.) The last two button functions are pretty much self-explanatory, and if a problem comes up, you just have to click a new button that says “fix now.”
PC Security wasn’t so good at eliminating spyware, but we gave them a pass on this as all the anti-spyware programs we’ve run tend to find different spies. We run Spybot: Search and Destroy and Ad-Aware SE Personal every day. Both are excellent and free from download.com. They found plenty of spyware that Norton missed.
Still, it’s all for free right now at Symantec.com. Just remember: It’s a beta version, and sometimes there are bugs.
Tiny Music Box
Do you like to listen to music or nature sounds as you fall asleep? We do, and when we go on a long train trip in December we’re going to take along Samsung’s new K5 player, which holds a thousand songs and has battery life of six to 30 hours.
The K5 could be classified as the world’s tiniest boom box. It’s smaller than most cell phones and has built-in speakers that can fill a room with sound. It has a sleep timer and a classy display face with a small clock that can be set as a wake-up alarm. If used with the speakers, battery life is six hours; when used with earbuds, it extends to 30 hours.
Charging the battery is done from a computer USB port, but if you buy an accessory kit made by Belkin, you can recharge from a car’s cigarette lighter or a wall outlet.
The K5 costs US$180 to US$220 from discount stores; the Belkin charging kit sells for US$35. Web info: Samsung.com and Belkin.com.
Team Business Cards
The software that comes with CardScan Team updates everybody on a network when new business cards are entered. The scanner itself is the same as the CardScan Executive, which sells for US$260, but if you want to have this network-wide sharing capability, the price is US$400. It’s pricey, but probably worth it for businesses that depend on lots of sales leads and contacts. A “personal” CardScan is available for US$160, but is two seconds slower than the other models and scans only in black and white.
The scanner and software work very well together, and we were able to get clear results from quite an odd selection of cards; it even handled a magnetic card. Separation between personal and company names, along with separation between address and other numerical information, like phone numbers, was almost always right on the money. Scanning itself was a fast three seconds per card.
Information from the scanned business cards goes into its own supplied database and/or can be merged with almost any accepted database. You can categorize the information into groups and easily search through those or the whole database. Data can be synchronized with PDAs, iPod-type data storage devices and smart phones.
An interesting feature provides maps. Click on an address and the software can take you to your choice of five different mapping services on the Web. Go to MultiMap.com and you’ll even get the local weather. Learn more about the scanner at CardScan.com.
Spymac.com has approximately 1 million registered users, making it easily the largest international online community for Mac owners. The home page has 50 links to news stories about Apple, and in one of them we learned to our astonishment that about half of all Mac users are 55 and older. (We would have guessed that it was overwhelmingly young people.)
OnlineIdols.com is set up like the TV show “American Idol.” You compete by sending a video of yourself singing, dancing or playing an instrument. There’s a new contest every month. Each winner gets US$400, and presumably some attention for his or her talent.
“The Cult of Mac” by Leander Kahney; US$25 paperback, from www.nostarch.com.
If you love your Mac, you’ll love this book. There are an estimated 25 million Mac users in the world, about three per cent of all computers. It’s small as a percentage, but huge as a potential sales figure for this book.
The book is amusing, not least because Mac owners tend to be a little obsessive. One broke into a woman’s car and stole nothing but her Apple decal. Another writes folksongs about Macs, with titles like “Startup/Hard Drive.”
And as for the co-founders: Steve Wozniak, who designed and built the first Apple, is widely loved and admired, but Steve Jobs is considered “difficult,” to put it as kindly as possible. The standard joke is, “How does Steve Jobs change a light bulb?” Answer: “He holds it up and lets the universe revolve around him.” When Wozniak decided to give the very first Apple to a teacher he admired, Jobs made him buy it.
Do you love a mystery? Joy was quickly hooked by Agatha Christie’s famous “Murder on the Orient Express,” just out as a US$30 PC game from Dreamcatchergames.com. The game comes with a soft-cover copy of the book. The graphics are beautiful, the sound effects just right. Hercule Poirot’s voice is that of David Suchet, who plays the detective in the TV series.