Markham, Ont.-based ATI has a new All-In-Wonder card that has been sweeping “”best of everything”” awards from all the trade shows and magazines. It’s a display card that can turn your Windows machine into a digital video recorder (DVR) if you are in Canada or a TiVo box if you are in the U.S. and more.
large circuit card plugs into an empty slot on a Windows PC motherboard and can act as a personal video recorder, DVD player, 3D game machine, radio jukebox and video editor. It can tune in 125 channels, and you can watch, back up or pause any of them while the All-In-Wonder continues to record that same channel or any other program to your hard drive. You can do the same with FM radio broadcasts, and the card can automatically convert them to MP3 format and record them to CD or DVD.
With the built-in TV tuner, you can watch 16 channels at once and even split them between two monitors. The show can go on while you do your regular work by moving the picture to either a small window or a full-screen display faded in the background. Find out what’s playing and when, using the Gemstar Guide Plus and remote control, both included. The All-In-Wonder card can convert VHS tapes to DVDs, and you can then use included software to edit the videos and create special effects.
For pure beautiful display and fast screen drawing, the card has 256 megabytes of video memory and the world’s fastest graphics processing setup. This graphics card is so hot, literally, it comes with its own cooling fan. This brings us to a point worth talking about:
The All-In-Wonder X800 XT is expensive, with a list price of $449, but we found it for $380 at www.amazon.com. The high price is why you almost never see something like this in a new computer. But you can plug it into most existing computers, or you can use it as the display card for a new one built to your own specifications.
You generally don’t save money this way, but you get to choose the components. Remember: Computer makers often choose components based on low cost; you don’t have to. The end cost for a custom-built is often only a little more than you would pay for an ordinary computer.
There’s a step-by-step tutorial on building your own computer at PC Magazine (www.pcmag.com), and there are books on the subject. The May issue of PC World (www.pcworld.com) has an article on selecting the best motherboards. There’s also www.extremetech.com, a Web site that covers components for custom-built computers. It lists prices and offers recommendations.
Creating a virtual drive
One of the many annoyances of the computer age is the request to “”Please insert the disk”” when you want to run a program. Then you have to figure out what you did with that disk and try not to say anything really bad in front of the kids. One solution is to load it all onto your hard drive and never have to look for the disk again.
You can do this with VirtualDrive 9.0 from FarStone Technology. It allows you to copy the contents of any CD into a partition it creates on your hard drive. You can do this many times with many disks. Since most new computers come with hard drives that have far more storage capacity than most people use, this seems like a good thing to do with all that space.
NOTE: Some programs won’t let you load their contents onto a hard disk. They contain a programming routine that checks to see if you have the disk in the CD drive. Presumably, this is to prevent illegal copies from being made, but it’s a big nuisance.
VirtualDrive is for Windows, free to try, and under $50 to, from www.farstone.com. So far, over 10 million users have downloaded it.
At www.quackwatch.com: Alerts and explanations primarily focused on medicine. (Could there possibly be medical quacks?) Also discusses questionable health foods, fad diets, needless surgery, dubious dentistry, etc. Lists some “”experts”” by name, with links to other articles.
At www.boundlessgallery.com: A gallery of beautiful paintings for sale. There must be several of these on the Web, but this one impressed us for quality and prices. Artists can post their work for free.
At www.kaboose.com: A search engine for kids. The result for every search is a site designed for children.
We just learned that when you buy some piece of computer equipment from giant discount house CDW, it will also provide tech support for that equipment. We have bought from CDW in the past and didn’t even know this. Our recent tech support experience from manufacturers has not been good, so we figure the retailer can’t be worse.
“”Essential SharePoint”” by Jeff Webb; from www.oreilly.com.
SharePoint is a free download for users of Windows Server 2003. Server 2003 is an expensive (around US$600 to US$1,000) Microsoft program that makes one computer able to serve many users. The SharePoint software then allows many people in a work group to collaborate in real time on the same document or file, in a Web site created automatically by the program. (You can read a sample chapter of any book published by O’Reilly by going to the Web site.)