We’ve been using a Samsung laser printer, model ML-1430, for a couple of years now. It’s black-and-white only, works very well, and had the immediate appeal of selling for only $299.

The new model, ML-1740, works just like the old model but sells for only $150. And that’s the list price! We

found it for $115 at www.buy.com. Nothing beats a laser printer for clean, fast copy. (We mean nothing at that kind of price.)

A LONG, THIN SCANNER

We received a DocuPen for review, but it should have been called Docu-Penance. If you can make this thing produce good scans, you’re a better man than one of us is, Gunga Din.

What we have here is a scanner the size of a long pencil. It’s an 8-inch tube that contains a glow light, an optical pickup and a memory chip. You move the scanner smoothly and slowly across the page and then later attach it to your computer with a USB line and load the scanned material into the supplied software. At least that’s what it says in the instructions.

Ah, those darn reality checks: We found that even at the highest resolution the scans were practically unreadable. This is bad news on two fronts.

One is that you can’t read it. The other is that if you can’t read it, neither can the computer. All scans are simply pictures of the material, nothing more, and in order to generate text that can be edited or searched, the scanned image must be read by optical character recognition software.

More than half the scans we tried produced close to zero. Nada. This is really bad news, because if you scanned a page at the library, or were James Bond and scanned it at enemy headquarters, later when you tried to transfer the information to your computer, you would have zero, nada. Or did we already mention that?

List price on the DocuPen is $200, or $165 from many discounters. More info at the company Web site: www.planon.com.

Meanwhile, we’ve got a better idea: Buy a decent digital camera for less than $200, take that with you to copy documents, and then load that picture into the computer. It will be much clearer than anything from DocuPen.

TO PDF OR NOT TO PDF

The whole point of FinePrint’s pdfFactory is how easy it makes creating a PDF file. In fact, it’s easier and faster than Adobe’s own Acrobat, the original program for creating such documents. Convert any document to a PDF just by choosing “”print”” and the PDF software will be one of your choices from any program’s menu.

You can, in this new version 2.25 as before, opt to simply send the document to someone by e-mail with a click of the mouse, or you can also simply print it. (We want to point out that whenever you e-mail a graphic image, which is what a PDF document is, the file will be several times the size of a plain text file and can take longer to transmit and require more memory.)

We have reviewed this program several times over the years and this new version maintains our opinion. We think it is easily the best for taking any document and preserving the layout, formatting and type styles. (For those unfamiliar with the term, PDF stands for “”portable document format.”” It’s a technology developed by Adobe for making exact copies of any document that can be brought into the computer.)

The software comes in three versions: the regular pdfFactory, for $50, and pdfFactory Pro for $100. The Pro version creates bookmarks and tables of contents for PDFs containing several documents, and allows the user to encrypt transmissions for security.

And, oh yes, we said three versions, didn’t we. The third version is free. FinePrint has always had a free version of pdfFactory you can download from its Web site and it works beautifully; the only serious difference is it puts the FinePrint company tagline at the bottom of the page when you send a PDF by e-mail. We found, however, that if you print the PDF created with the free version, there is no FinePrint logo at the bottom of the page.

This is really a great program, in all its versions. More information is at the Web site: www.fineprint.com.

INTERNUTS

Give me Chicago or give me death should be the theme of this Web site. At http://homicide.northwestern.edu: shows murder is most foul. Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., has put together a database of police reports on 11,000 murders in Chicago from 1870 to 1930. Those were the days. (Chicago has a worldwide reputation as a tough town with lots of murders, but a survey of dangerous places done several years ago put Medelin, Colombia, as No. 1 for violent deaths per capita. Unfortunately, Washington, D.C., was No. 2.)

Trading Spaces want-to-bes should visit www.designbasics.com. This site has many beautiful pictures for home designs and designs within the home. Lots of ideas here, well-illustrated and described. Also covers log homes by Lincoln Logs. (Did you know the Lincoln Logs toys so popular with children were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, John Lloyd Wright?)

This Web site (www.cheesenet.info) is for real cheeseheads. More information about cheese than you ever dreamed possible, including limericks. You can do a search using words like “”hard cheese,”” “”from sheep”” and country of origin. Have you ever heard of Norway’s most popular cheese, “”Gjetost””? We had not, but it is described as made from whey and having a slightly caramel taste. Sounds interesting. This is an informational site only; it does not sell cheeses.

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