We found three services that let you establish a private meeting place on the Web. There you can engage in live chat and share photos and files and your thoughts with family, friends and colleagues. All the services are free, but have slightly different features.
Yahoo offers its 360 Degrees
site at http://360.yahoo.com. On the left-hand side of the 360 page you can post a picture and any other personal information you want. On the right-hand side is a list of “”linked”” people who have access to this private site and can post their pictures as well. In the middle is your stuff.
You can share photos, live text chats and invite others to join. An unusual feature is a Yahoo radio station, where your friends can listen to your selections.
The site has RSS feed, which lets you pull information from other sources and link them to your page, making it all available to visitors. RSS stands for “”Really Simple Syndication.”” It is a key feature of blogging, and these private meeting places on the Web have a lot of similarities to blogs.
Imeem is a free software download from www.imeem.com. The look of the screen is very similar to Yahoo’s,and so are the features. You create a private network, and those who are allowed in can view your photos and thoughts and send and receive instant messages. You can create a number of “”meems”” for special purposes, and each has its own “”friends”” links.
With Imeem you have complete control over who has access and when. If you are busy with some project and want to hear only from certain people, those people can be allowed access while others are shut out.
My Space can be found at www.myspace.com and requires that you post personal information. It wants to know your age, marital status, sexual preferences and “”body type.”” Of course, you can lie about all that stuff and who’s to know, except for everybody who knows you. You can look for people with certain physical characteristics, view their pictures, and look over only people who are nearby. This makes it like a dating service.
As with all these private Web spaces, small ads appear on your page; that’s how the providers are able to offer the service for free.
Kodak’s EasyShare digital camera received the No. 1 user satisfaction rating recently from the J.D. Power consumer research service. That was interesting. It appears that after years of burying its head in the sand and pretending the digital camera revolution wasn’t really happening, the world tapped Kodak on the shoulder and it woke up.
So we got one and tried it out. We tried the EasyShare V550, and they certainly have put in the “”easy.”” It lists for more than $400. This is a breeze to use, thin, lightweight and snappy looking, and takes extremely sharp pictures and videos. The LCD viewing screen at the back is large and sharp. It’s the easiest camera we’ve seen for making videos, with the length limited only by the size of the memory chip. Kodak finally has it right, and we loved everything about it.
The camera fits on top and the printer lets you rattle off 4-by-6-inch prints, either individually or in groups. The print quality is very good, but the big “”but”” here is the ink and paper.
Ink and related supplies have big profit margins. Until recently, for example, nearly all of Hewlett-Packard’s profit came from selling ink. It turned out to be an ink company. For Kodak, the big money-maker was always film. It could sell cameras at cost because film was where the profit was. Of course, that’s all history now, but the model remains: sell high-profit consumables.
The Epson PictureMate printer, which turns out prints of the same size in what looks like slightly better quality. This is a better way to go, so … get the Kodak camera, use the Epson printer.
The Kodak EasyShare V550 comes with a small PhotoFrame Dock (not a printer dock) at no extra charge, and this is a pretty nifty addition. You put the camera on top of the dock, turn it on, and you can have a continuous slide show running on the camera’s own large display screen. The dock connects to the camera power pack, so you won’t run down the battery.
At www.wikihow.com: An online “”how-to”” guide for a huge variety of tasks. They range from the obvious, like how to fix a leaky faucet, to oddities like how to make an Abraham Lincoln costume.
At www.drivesavers.com: This is a commercial site for a service that recovers data from damaged hard drives, but it’s well done and has an interesting “”museum”” of hard drive “”disk-asters.”” Check out the “”Toasted Toshiba”” and the “”Sunken Treasure.””