A hard drive for your back pack?

LockBox is Micro Solutions’ latest addition to its “”backpack”” line of portable hard drives. This one checks your fingerprint before you can open any files. The 80-gigabyte version has a list price of US$199 and the price goes up to US$300 for the 200-gigabyte size.

A little commentary music,

please: Fingerprint security is one of the current high-tech hot topics. The marketing argument is that people can hack their way to your password, but they can’t duplicate your fingerprint. This premise alone is questionable, but a more immediate objection is, “”What if the person with the necessary fingerprint is sick or gets hit by a truck?”” Either way, he’s gone.

When we presented this argument to one of the many makers of fingerprint ID equipment, the response was, “”You can also have a password that unlocks the device if the fingerprint owner isn’t present.”” Well, it seems to us, if you can unlock the device with a password, isn’t that just as vulnerable to hacking as any other password device? No satisfactory answer was forthcoming.

Fingerprint protection is a high-tech gimmick, but that takes nothing away from Micro Solutions’ portable drives, which we’ve reviewed before and found to be excellent. More info at www.micro-solutions.com.


Here’s a US$50 CD that teaches you the tricks and turns of using Corel’s WordPerfect 12, the latest version. You might think this is fairly expensive for a training disk, but in fact it’s terrific, just about the best instructional CD we’ve ever run for any program.

Learning Corel WordPerfect 12 is from Lynda Publishing (www.lynda.com). Lynda has instructional CDs on many other programs as well, most of them for graphics. But if you want to go really cheap on learning and getting WordPerfect, here are some reasonable approaches and a couple that really raised our eyebrows:

You can buy the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to WordPerfect 12 for US$19 from Que (www.quepublishing.com), or the much more exhaustive Using WordPerfect 12 for US$40. If you’d rather work from a book than a disk with a talking instructor, there are nearly 900 pages of detail in the latter book.

As we dug deeper into the bowels of the World Wide Web, we found WordPerfect 12, the program itself, for just US$38. Go to www.cnet.com, which lists that price as well as an upgrade price from an earlier version for just US$13.

The pricing is crazy, but why not take advantage of it? Frankly, the WordPerfect Office program is great. Bob has dropped Microsoft Word and uses only WordPerfect now.


The latest CD from Maptech is US$10 and features topographical maps of the 50 highest peaks in all 50 US states. You can look at two-dimensional views from above or three-dimensional side views from any angle. Some resellers use these maps for cabling and wiring of pipe, powerline and road routes for customers in the oil and gas industry and in urban planning.

Maptech makes a lot of specialized maps on CDs, including detailed topographical maps of each state and some European countries. It has navigational maps for U.S. coastal waterways and the Great Lakes, most of northern Europe and the Mediterranean, and much of Canada, northern Latin America and New Zealand. A recent addition is a topographical, road and street map of Iraq for US$300.

The professional versions of these maps usually include access to aerial photographic views of almost any point. Lot of stuff here, most of it in the US$100 to $300 price range. Info at www.maptech.com.



Try www.engrish.com for those who love to be completely politically incorrect. Here’s a Web site with lots of strange and wonderful messages found in advertising, hotels and road signs written by people whose grip on the English language is tenuous at best. Some examples: “”Crunky Chocolate”” (instead of Chunky Chocolate); a computer error message that reads “”scanner something error happens””; a road sign noting “”Unclear Power Plant”” instead of Nuclear Power Plant. And, there is plenty more.

Too many cooks spoil the stew at www.wikipedia.org. This Web site is a collection of articles written and edited by anyone. Despite the chaos this might bring to mind, the articles tend to be learned, though unchecked unless through subsequent editing. There are over a million articles in 100 languages. It’s an attempt to create some kind of compendium of current knowledge and thought. With any such work, there are lots of errors. Tune in and add your own two cents’ worth.

You will find Web winners at www.webbyawards.com. This is place to go to find recent winners of the annual awards for Web sites.


You can hang out the “”Gone Fishing”” sign with Rapala’s Pro Fishing from Activision. Rapala makes fishing lures, and a lure is included in each game box. The disk has fishing advice and enactments in over 500,000 acres of the world’s best fishing grounds, from the Amazon to the Danube. Choose from 700 lures. It’s $30 for Windows at www.rapala.com.

Atari’s Locomotion builds on a previous hit, Transport Tycoon, with a similar theme. Your job is to build rail systems, airports and shipping facilities so your city can grow and become prosperous. It’s by the same game designer who did the enormously popular Roller Coaster Tycoon. It’s $30 for Windows (www.atari.com).

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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