Seagate has a portable hard drive the size and shape of a yo-yo. It even has a string, which turns out to be a cord with a USB plug on the end. Plug the USB into a Windows or Mac computer, and you have a respectable amount of convenient storage available to drop in your pocket and walk away.
yo-yo holds five gigabytes, which would be enough to store everything Bob has on a Windows XP computer. These days it is common to see 50-100 gigabytes of disk storage on a new personal computer, but that much storage usually ends up being filled with junk. It’s amazing what you can get onto a five gigabyte drive. Five years’ worth of these columns would fit on one floppy disk, for example. Every column we’ve written in the last 26 years – well over a thousand columns – would take up only one-fifth of 1 percent of this Seagate yo-yo. Sobering.
As with any hard drive, you can store anything that’s in digital format: Photos, music, text or plans for the new ray gun from the Purple Planet. To recover the material, plug the yo-yo cord back into a computer and unload. Comments from early users have been gonzo, five stars all around.
This is the cheapest portable storage you can get, and it’s from the world’s leading manufacturer of disk drives. Prices for the Seagate five-gigabyte pocket drive are running from $115 to $161 (all prices US), depending on where you shop. Check the usual suspects: buy.com, froogle.com, shop.com, amazon.com, pricegrabber.com, nextag.com, etc.
SHARE A WEB SITE
You can create a Web site for free at www.multiply.com. You sign in with a user name and a password, and that creates the site. Click on tabs on the site’s home page to add commentary, photos, a calendar, messages, etc. The site can be visited and added to by friends and family, and part or all of it can be restricted by passwords.
Main activities are Share and Print Photos, Write a Journal or a Blog, Buy or Sell Used Stuff, and Schedule Events. Multiply.com runs ads on your site; that’s how they make their money. We thought the ads were unobtrusive.
THE HIGH-TECH TINKERER
O’Reilly Publishing has launched a quarterly magazine for the high-tech hobbyist. It’s called Make. The price is $15 an issue or $35 for one year.
Think of Make as a kind of Popular Mechanics for the wired and plugged-in generation. The first issue has articles on how to make a steadicam (the kind of expensive camera used for professional news and sports coverage) with some pipe fittings. Other articles cover doing aerial photography from a kite, and how to build a reader that can scan the code embedded in the magnetic strip on credit and security cards. Careful with that last one.
You can get more info and lots of commentary from users at the O’Reilly Web site, www.makezine.com.
MORE MAKE-IT AT HOME
While we’re on the subject of how-to, check out the Web site at www.howtoons.com. They have cartoons that teach children how to make fun stuff like an underwater viewer, a marshmallow shooter, a light bender, an ice-cream maker, etc. For smart kids.
– www.objectdock.com. Walk like a Mac. Or at least have a task bar that looks like a Mac’s. A task bar floats at the top of the your screen, and each item magnifies as you pass the cursor over it, just like a Mac. The task bar automatically puts up a new icon for any program you have opened. Click on the icon and that program opens again. Cute. Also free.
– www.gotmercury.org. Tells you how much mercury is in any kind of fish or seafood. The information is much more specific than what you get from government sites. They give you intake limits adjusted for your weight.
– www.snopes.com. Debunks urban legends. For instance: Giving a toddler dog food and baby formula does not cause their stomach to explode.
FUN AND GAME TRYOUTS
TryGames (www.trygames.com) is almost as good as its name. You can try out dozens of Windows or Mac games in many categories. You can play for free for one hour; if you like the game, you can click to buy it online or on-disk.
We noticed that they do not have the very latest and hottest games. Some have been around for a year or more and are the kind you often see in the bargain bins at office-supply discount stores. Basically, these are like remaindered books, the kind bookstores put out on tables for a dollar or two. We looked at Putt Putt Saves the Zoo, for example, a good children’s game. TryGames was selling it for $10. We did a search for the same game at www.froogle.com, a site we regularly scan for best prices, and found it for $1. We found many quality games for $1 at www.crazyape.com; they had Backyard Baseball, a really great kids’ game, for $2.
Still, when all is said and done, you get to play a game for an hour for free at TryGames. If you like it, then you can search for your best price.
Readers can search three years of columns at the “”On Computers”” Web site: www.oncomp.com and can e-mail the Schwabachs at bobschwab(AT)oncomp.com or bobschwab(AT)aol.com.