DriveShield is a low cost program that lives up to its name. No matter what changes are made to the computer today, reboot and it will come up as it was yesterday.

DriveShield “write-protects” the hard drive in either Windows or Macintosh machines. Whatever is newly installed on

the computer, including most all spyware and viruses, will be wiped out if you simply turn it off and on again. All will be as it was before.

That’s the good news. The bad news is the same as the good news. Since all will be as it was before, all changes will be lost. Any new work you wanted to keep will be lost, and anything you deleted will come right back again. But … there’s a way around this.

DriveShield creates a “virtual drive,” a partition within the computer’s hard drive, which remains unaffected by the reversion to yesterday. What the user has to do, however, is remember to move any current work to that virtual drive before shutting down. If you install a new program, it has to be installed to the virtual drive or it will be gone when the system is rebooted.

That virtual drive is not password-protected. Obviously, this can get a little tricky, and it pays to be careful. One way of being extra careful is to install new programs to an external drive. Another way is to buy an auxiliary program like Folder Lock, free to try, from www.download.com. This can password protect and encrypt folders and drive partitions.

Who uses DriveShield? Well, many schools and libraries do, and they pay according to the number of computers being protected. Prices generally run from $50 per computer or less. They are interested in keeping sticky fingers out of the system, so to speak. Any malicious programs entered by students or hackers are wiped out by rebooting. Naturally, it is crucial for such institutions that their stored data remain unchanged.

The version being reviewed here, DriveShield Plus, is essentially the same, but intended for home and small business users. Home users with game players and small children in the house can stop worrying about new games or buggy programs being loaded into the machine since rebooting would remove them. Businesses need not worry about malicious data removal or the insertion of spying programs; once again, just reboot. The program will also refuse to acknowledge any requests to reformat the hard drive.

DriveShield Plus is for Windows; the Mac version is called MacShield. The company Web site is www.driveshield.com.

NEW SEARCH ENGINE

Ixquick (www.ixquick.com) is a new search engine from Holland that utilizes a slightly different technology than current popular searches to provide an international “meta search.” Meta searches combine the findings of many different search engines, often ranking the results by frequency of appearance.

Searches can be made in any of 17 languages, including, Chinese, Korean and Japanese. The results are given “stars” for relevance, depending on how high up the list the search terms appear in other search engines.

This can be a mixed blessing. A search on our own names returned the “On Computers” column itself as the primary result, but then gave “Bob Marley,” the late reggae star, as its second finding. Obviously, it was searching on the word “Bob” as well as a combination of words.

The way to avoid this problem is to use Boolean modifiers, which most search engines recognize. These allow you to use quotation marks to define precise fields, and connectors such as “and,” “or” and “not” to delimit a search. Boolean expressions are named for English mathematician George Boole, the developer of Boolean algebra.

INTERNUTS

Cheating on your math test never got these easier. At www.mathforum.org: Answers to your math questions from grade school through college. Many areas are covered: algebra, statistics, number theory, etc. The best feature of all is “Dr. Math,” who explains the reasoning behind each solution, which our teachers never did. The site also has math puzzles.

At www.40mpg.org The site tells you what kind of gas mileage various cars get and how much money you would save if you got better mileage. The Honda Insight was the best economy winner, getting 63 miles to the gallon.

THE NUMBERS REPORT

Last year saw a nearly 50 per cent increase in shipments of colour laser printers, according to Lyra Research (www.lyra.com). These have now become very affordable and are only about $100 more than black ink laser printers. Major makers like Samsung, Minolta and Okidata all sell color laser printers for less than $400. Ink costs are far below inkjet printers on a per page basis.

Monochrome laser printers have dropped to less than $300 — cheap enough for most businesspeople to have one on their desk. Companies and departments are opting for color lasers as the departmental printer.

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