Keyspan has a small black box that lets computers on a network share printers, scanners, external hard drives and just about any other peripheral.

Ordinarily, networked computers can share such equipment only if it comes “”network ready”” from the manufacturer; there’s often a price premium for

that. But if you connect the Keyspan USB Server to the network, all linked computers can share any peripheral that is also linked to the box.

The Keyspan USB Server lists for US$129 from Keyspan’s Web site (www.keyspan.com). But just as you might suspect, we looked around on the Web and found it for US$99 at www.spacecentersystems.com.

This is a good device to let small workgroups share peripherals. Be sure to download version 2 of the software, which will automatically switch equipment into “”wait stage,”” ready for the next user when the current user is through. The initial software version required users to disconnect from the server before someone else could use a linked peripheral.

MP3 ON A STICK

SanDisk has a nifty new digital music player. The Cruzer Micro MP3 Companion takes plug-ins of the company’s new Cruzer Micro flash memory drives. The drives are about the size of a half-stick of chewing gum and almost as thin. Download music to one of these thin sticks and plug it into the new player.

The player is about the size of a pack of cigarettes (whatever those are) and comes packaged with earphones and battery for a list price of US$70. It has a little display window that shows the titles as you scroll through. We tried it and loved it; the sound quality was excellent — “”fantastic,”” Joy said. If you buy several of the little drives you can assign them categories: show tunes, classical, jazz, rock, etc., and switch sticks as the mood moves.

The Cruzer Micro stick can be used just like any other flash memory drive. They come in sizes from 128, 256 and 512 megabytes for SanDisk list prices of US$40, US$55, US$110. But we did a search at www.cnet.com and found them for US$22, US$35 and US$70.

Though the thin memory sticks can plug into any USB port and be used for recording any kind of digital information, they are the only kind that will work with the Companion music player. This was undoubtedly a marketing decision by SanDisk so you would have to buy these thin flash drives if you want to use its music player. We think that was a mistake; if it had made the player to work with any size flash drive, the players would fly right off the shelf.

Using the Cruzer Micro drive and its player was a breeze. There are several programs for downloading and converting music to go with the half-dozen portable players on the market right now, but we found that Windows’ own Media Player is easier to use than any of them and works fine. You can find it in the Programs list in Windows under “”Accessories,”” and then “”Entertainment.”” More info on SanDisk can be found at www.sandisk.com.

HOW TO DO IT

In case you’re confused about how to download, store and play digital music, you can sign up for a free online course at Cnet Help (http://courses.help.com).

The “”Digital Music Made Easy”” course is sponsored by Sony and starts Aug. 16. Other current free courses cover things like digital video, introduction to XML, Macromedia’s Dreamweaver, etc. Courses change regularly.

INTERNUTS

Your picture can now be made into poster at www.dotphoto.com. This is one of several new photo sharing services, and what caught our attention is it will make posters from any of your pictures. A 2-by-3-foot poster costs $46; a 12-by-18-inch poster costs $20. The prices aren’t great, but sometimes it’s nice to have a picture made poster size. Choose a photo and then click “”posters.””

For those hard to find reads type in www.chambal.com. A reader alerted us to this rare book service. It has a great search engine. Type in a title or author and the site comes back with a clickable list covering many dealers that carry what you want. It’s a good way to compare prices and condition. Covers regular and audio books.

BOOKS

“”Beginning Game Programming”” by Michael Morrison; US$35 from Sams (www.samspublishing.com).

If you ever had ambitions to be a game designer or just want to spend a hobbyist’s time at making your own, this book takes you through the steps of creating seven computer games for Windows, complete with background music, sound effects and score records. You start by building a “”game engine,”” which can then be used as the core for many games, limited only by your imagination. The programming language for doing this plus the computer code for seven finished games are included in the accompanying disk.

THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT

The “”big”” computer game release this month is Doom 3, from Id and Activision. It’s pretty awful, in the literal sense of the word. If you like being scared out of your wits, you’ll love this one.

But the game that captured our always slightly off-centre attention is In-Fisherman, for Windows, from www.ebgames.com. The game was designed with advice from the editors of In-Fisherman magazine, who created game competitions at American lakes. You can fish for bass, pike, muskie or 27 other species at lakes ranging from Florida’s Okeechobee to Michigan’s Lake St. Clair.

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