December 9, 2003 - to go back to the Index Page

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December 9, 2003 - to go back to the Index Page
HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE
10
Larger-than-Life
Dream Screens
Plasma & LCD HDTVs
www.pcmag.com
NAPSTER vs. iTUNES
The New Music Face-Off
3 HOT NEW TABLET PCs
T H E I N D E P E N D E N T G U I D E TO T EC H N O LO GY
DECEMBER 9, 2003
GREAT
Gadgets
MUST-HAVE
GIFT IDEAS
FOR YOUR HOLIDAYS
65
MICHAEL J. MILLER
Forward Thinking
ONLINE MUSIC STORES SCORE
FINALLY, WE HAVE AT LEAST FOUR online music
stores for Windows that are decent alternatives to
peer-to-peer file-sharing networks. Apple’s iTunes,
Napster 2.0, and the new MusicMatch Jukebox let
you download songs for about 99 cents each (and
most albums for $9.99), and they all have a simple approach to digital rights management. (For reviews,
see First Looks, page 38.) The fourth service, BuyMusic.com, has many of the same songs as its competitors but with a complicated pricing scheme and
rights policy.
iTunes was the first
major service to offer
pay-as-you-go downloads of single songs,
and it has a lot of exclusive content from
artists, including the
Eagles and Sarah
McLachlan. You’ll find
the favorite playlists of
popular artists as well
as 5,000 audio books.
The latest version lets
you easily share music
with other computers,
buy gift certificates, and give the kids an allowance.
The downside: Although iTunes can create MP3
files, its native file format is AAC, so tunes can be
played back only from iTunes or an iPod. If you already have music in Windows Media (WMA) format, you’ll need another music player.
Napster 2.0, now owned by Roxio, marries the online store concept with an updated version of the
company’s pressplay service. So you can use it either
as a store or as a streaming music service. Unlimited streaming costs $9.95 a month—good if you have
broadband and use just one computer. Extras include
a message board and a feature that lets you see what
your friends are playing (if they let you).
Napster is primarily a store. It’s not designed for ripping CDs, and it doesn’t have many of the jukebox features of the other services. Napster is planning a plugin that lets you use Windows Media Player (WMP) to
manage the rights to Napster’s files. Napster supports
only a single digital music player, but since it supports
WMA files, you can use WMP to put music on many
other digital music players that WMP supports.
Still the best jukebox on the PC, MusicMatch Jukebox offers a slightly
smaller library than the
other two services, but
it’s better integrated
with the jukebox and
radio features. As a result, its personalized
recommendations can
really help you discover new music.
The Artist On
Demand feature is
part of the $4.95-permonth MusicMatch
MX service. MusicMatch Downloads are
in WMA format, and Jukebox also plays MP3s. The
service supports several digital music players.
So which one do you choose? If you have an
iPod and are sure to stay the Apple route, then go
with iTunes. If you want more flexibility in a music
player (maybe you have a flash memory–based
player instead of a hard drive–based one), then you
need Napster or MusicMatch Jukebox. If you’re
going to use a service mostly on your desktop, then
Napster is the best. But if, like me, you have an extensive collection of music on CDs, then MusicMatch Jukebox may be the best choice for occasional downloading.
If, like me, you
have an extensive music CD
collection, then
MusicMatch
Jukebox may
be the best
choice.
H O L I DAY G I F T A DV I C E
IT’S THAT TIME OF year again. I’m already getting
more questions than usual from friends about what
computer to buy for the holidays. You’ve got several choices this year: the traditional consumer desktop, the dedicated gaming system, the Media Cen-
ter PC, the all-in-one machine, and the consumer
notebook. Most people will be happy with any of
today’s midrange models. For about $1,000, you can
get a system with a 2.4-GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor or an AMD Athlon 2400 or better, 512MB of
www.pcmag.com DECEMBER 9, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
7
Forward Thinking
MICHAEL J. MILLER
RAM, a graphics accelerator, an 80GB hard drive,
If you travel occasionally—between home and college
Windows XP, and a CD-RW drive.
or office—then you’ll be happy with one of the new conIf you have an interest in video editing, look for a sumer notebooks. You can get one with a 15- or 17-inchsystem with a FireWire port and a DVD–recordable wide screen, which is big enough to watch movies on.
drive, which is also a smart idea for anyone who backs up Most people will buy Windows-based systems, but for
files frequently. A Media Center PC is the way to go for the more graphics-minded, an Apple desktop or notepeople who want to use their
book is a better choice. Macincomputers to record and watch
tosh systems deliver a more
For about $1,000 you can get
TV shows, view photos, and lisintegrated set of built-in applicaten to music from 10 feet away. I
tions—and less security worries.
a system with a 2.4-GHz Intel
have one of those at home and
The trade-off, however, is that
like it a lot. Gamers should get a
fewer applications are available
Pentium 4 processor or an AMD
system with one of the high-end
for Mac OS than for Windows—
Athlon 2400 or better.
graphics accelerators and multiespecially the latest bleedingple optical drives.
edge games.
GADGETS, PERIPHERALS,
AND OTHER GIFTS
THE SELECTION OF HOLIDAY GIFTS that
work with PCs is plentiful, from digital
music players and fancy mice to keyboards and software. For “Gadget Mania”
(page 103), we collected some of our favorite gadgets and peripherals, and for
After Hours (page 186), we reviewed
our favorite holiday software. A digital
music player is my favorite gift recommendation, but a keyboard, a mouse, a Web
camera, and speakers also make
wonderful gifts. Or you may
want to pair a digital camera
with a photo printer. One
thing’s for sure: Buying peripherals is easier than ever,
now that plug-and-play
technologies like USB
have worked their way
into the market.
STRIDES IN SEARCHING
I’M ALWAYS LOOKING FOR neat little products, and I recently got a couple that are worth your attention. A few
months back, I wrote about the new Google toolbar, and
now the folks from AltaVista have made their own toolbar. Like the Google
version, AltaVista’s offering lets you search
directly from the toolbar (using the AltaVista search engine, of course), and it blocks pop-ups. And like Google,
it can translate a Web site into different languages. But it
also lets you do currency conversions and quickly get the
weather and time for a particular location.
You can find it at www.altavista.com/toolbar. I find that
the Google toolbar is a bit faster for most tasks, but if you
frequent international sites, try AltaVista’s version.
Amazon.com has launched a neat new feature that
lets you search for keywords within the text of
books. Title and author
searches are old hat, but text search can help you uncover a
wider selection of books on a particular topic. About half the
books on the site are indexed this way. Such a search may
overload you with titles, but I like the concept, since it makes
even more information accessible to more people.
GADGET OF THE MONTH
THE ETYMOTIC RESEARCH ER-6
Isolator earphones (www.etymotic
.com) are tiny earphones that fit
into the ear canal and deliver great
sound. Of all the headphones I’ve
tried—and I’ve tried a lot of them—
they block outside noise the best.
I wouldn’t wear them outdoors because of safe8
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
ty concerns, but they’re fantastic for wearing at home or
on a train. For more general-purpose use, however,
I still prefer the excellent Sony MDR-NC11 Noise Canceling Headphones.
MORE ON THE WEB: Join us online and make your voice heard.
Talk back to Michael J. Miller in our opinions section,
www.pcmag.com/miller.
䊛
Contents.1
DECEMBER 9, 2003 VOL. 22 NO. 22
www.pcmag.com
Looking for incredibly useful ways to pass the time on the Web? Go to www.incrediblyuseful.com.
38
First Looks
39 Apple iTunes Music Store for Windows
40 MusicMatch Downloads
40 Napster 2.0
39 Samsung Napster YP-910GS
40 Dell Digital Jukebox
43 Gateway M275XL
44 HP Compaq TC1100
44 Sharp Actius TN10W M
C OV E R STO RY
46 Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther)
103
50 Microsoft Small Business Server 2003
52 IBM ThinkPad R50
52 IBM ThinkCentre S50
54 Microsoft Works Suite 2004
54 Surado Smart Contact Manager Pro 4.1
56 Canon i960 Photo Printer
GADGET
W
ait till you see the terrific consumer
electronics devices (and related
gear) shipping for the holidays.
Our gadget guide includes sections for video,
audio, mobile tools, and products for kids and
gamers, as well as a few fantasy gifts to boot.
You’re sure to find something you want, so you
might want to leave this story open on the coffee
56 Epson Stylus Pro 4000
table, where your loved ones can find it.
57 Microsoft Project Professional 2003
57 Microsoft Project Server 2003
ON THE COVER
57 Microsoft Project Web Access 2003
58 IBM Rational Rapid Developer 2003
Holiday Gift Guide
page 186
Napster vs. iTunes
page 38
59 Documents to Go Premium 6
59 iGo Quickoffice Premier 7
ALSO IN THIS ISSUE
192 Backspace
62 Feedback
10 Larger-than-Life
Dream Screens
page 130
Great Gadgets
page 103
3 Hot New
Tablet PCs
page 43
www.pcmag.com DECEMBER 9, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
15
Contents.2
DECEMBER 9, 2003
27 Pipeline
VoIP: Back from the brink.
27
MSN serves up broadband video.
28
Phishing for online IDs.
28
Peeking at your neighbor’s network.
28
Transmeta delivers its Efficeon chip.
28
A supercomputer on the desktop?
30
COMING ATTRACTIONS: Sony PCV-V100G all-in-one, $299 Systemax PC, Olym-
Don’t miss our daily
high-tech gift picks,
plus Ultimate Gift
Baskets for the
geeks, gamers, and
others in your lives.
(www.pcmag.com/giftguide)
pus printers, Hitachi interactive video system, MicroSolutions RoadStor.
VIDEOCONFERENCING
149 Look Again
130 Dream Screens
Is your current TV older than those
Seinfeld reruns? Consider a sleek LCD
or plasma TV. We look at five plasma
and five LCD screens in the $3,000 to
$9,000 range.
76 Solutions
76
10 Things to Do with Old PCs: Don’t
throw out that old PC just yet! You’d
be surprised how useful it can be.
78
Hardware: How many pictures
will fit on your camera’s flash
memory card? What about image
quality? We answer your questions.
80
Office: Follow our instructions to
create a macro that takes the hassle
out of filling long ranges in Excel.
84
Security Watch: Even if you surf
the Web casually, your machine is
at risk. We smash the myths and give
you practical tips to avoid attacks.
88
Internet Business: If you’ve ever
checked an aircraft’s journey from
departure to arrival, you’ve probably
used FlightView’s technology.
We show you how it works.
16
www.pcmag.com
GIFT GUIDE EXTRAS
27
H A R D WA R E
Online
Whether you need to
meet with clients
halfway around the
world or want to
keep in touch with
family across the
country, videoconferencing can save
you a lot of time and money. Improved
software, more powerful systems, and
faster Internet connections have given
this technology a huge boost.
95
User to User: Here’s how
to format equations in Word,
rename files based on their
date/time stamps, and more.
Opinions
7
67
69
71
73
Michael J. Miller: Forward
Thinking
Bill Machrone: ExtremeTech
John C. Dvorak
John C. Dvorak’s Inside Track
Bill Howard: On Technology
Personal Technology
FIRST LOOKS
New reviews every week!
Coming soon:
• Olympus C-5060 Wide Zoom
• Pioneer Elite DVR-57H
• SoundPix Plus 2.0
(www.pcmag.com/firstlooks)
N E W S A N D A N A LY S I S
The latest technology trends:
• Security for home wireless LANs
• There: Get to know a new online service
• XML: How it’s faring
(www.pcmag.com/news)
TO O L S YO U C A N U S E
• Discussions: Log on and participate!
(http://discuss.pcmag.com/pcmag)
• Downloads: Check out our indexed list
of utilities from A to Z.
(www.pcmag.com/utilities)
EXCLUSIVE COLUMNS
DVORAK ONLINE
K Each Monday, John C.
Dvorak gives you his
take on what’s
happening in high tech
today. Visit www.pcmag.com/dvorak.
ULANOFF ONLINE
K And each Wednesday,
Lance Ulanoff puts his
own unique spin on
technology. Visit
www.pcmag.com/ulanoff.
186 After Hours
Software for the Holidays: Our new
titles will make great gifts for kids,
adults, and gamers alike. Titles include
PC and console games, photo-editing
and CD-burning tools, greeting card
kits, and genealogy software.
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Coming up:
• 64-bit Windows
• Extending wireless to your car
• Geek gift guide
(www.extremetech.com)
w w w. p c m a g . c o m /p i p e l i n e
T E C H N O L O G Y T R E N D S & N E W S A N A LY S I S
LET THERE BE SIGHT
In a column written for the
Journal of Visual Impairment
& Blindness, futurist Ray
Kurzweil predicts: “We will
have reading machines within
a few years that are not just
sitting on a desk, but are tiny
devices you put in your pocket.
We encounter text everywhere, and these pocket-sized
reading machines will enable a
blind person to read this
material.” By 2010, he suggests, the gadgets will be tiny
enough to pin on shirt lapels.
Net Phones Reach Out
VoIP is back from the brink.
hat goes around
comes around.
Voice over IP
(VoIP)—services that use the
Internet for telephone calls—
have been around since the
mid-1990s but have never
really caught on.
Now VoIP is on the verge
of a renaissance. Over 5 million
people will subscribe to VoIP
services by 2007, says Arizona
research firm In-Stat/MDR.
Much of the resurgence is due
to new VoIP offerings.
ILLUSTRATION BY BOB DALY
W
The New Jersey–
based company Vonage provides VoIP service without
routing calls through PCs.
When you sign up for its DigitalVoice service, the company
gives you a phone number and
sends you a free analog telephone adapter. Plug your
phone into the adapter and
the adapter into your network
router and you’re ready to
make calls.
For $34.99 a month (including Call Waiting and caller ID),
you can make unlimited calls in
the United States and Canada.
The company has divvied out
more than 50,000 phone numbers thus far.
Meanwhile, the Dutch com-
pany Skype is offering a VoIP
service based on peer-to-peer
networking. Designed by Niklas
Zennström and Janus Friis,
who built the peer-to-peer
network Kazaa, the service
borrows Kazaa’s basic framework, creating a network of
users that operates without
a central server. But whereas
Kazaa lets users trade files,
Skype lets them make VoIP calls.
“Our students seem to have
latched onto it simply because
of the link with Kazaa,” says
Stacy Pennington, an IT manager at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee.
Skype, which now boasts
800,000 users, is a throwback to
VoIP’s earliest days. It’s free.
Finally, with a different spin
on new ways to make phone
calls, San Diego–based SIPphone is offering an $80 phone
with an Ethernet port, which
you can plug into your broadband router to place calls. Now
there are many new ways to
give a person a jingle. See www
.extremetech.com/voip for
hands-on reviews of SIPphone
and Skype products and services.—Cade Metz
MSN Goes
Hollywood
SECURITY SHIFT
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
has announced a string of
new security initiatives,
including the release of
monthly software patches to
give IT managers more predictable security. Microsoft
will also release Software
Update Services 2.0 in the
first half of 2004; this is
billed as a combined problem
patching, scanning, and
installation solution for
Exchange Server, Office, SQL
Server, Visio, and Windows.
WANT TO CATCH A MOVIE? MSN,
Microsoft’s online service, is offering a beta version of MSN Video—
its free, high-resolution broadband
video service—to a small group of
MSN users for testing. The final version is due this winter.
MSN Video will offer on-demand
news, sports, and entertainment
video, including The Tonight
Show, NBC Nightly News, Meet
the Press, and other shows from
NBC and MSNBC. Users will be able
to watch entire shows or view
customized video segments
whenever they want.
The business model is to offer
video advertising services in lieu of
charging subscription fees. “We
will offer rich broadband content to
all consumers, because the broadband services MSN will offer advertisers is the next generation of
brand advertising on the Web,”
says Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for MSN.
Based on Windows Media Player 9 Series, the service can reach
playback speeds of up to 300 Kbps
and deliver 5.1-channel surround
sound.—Sebastian Rupley
SECRET MESSAGES
Xerox researchers are working
on Switch-A-View, which harks
back to old invisible-ink strategies used to hide codes on
objects, making the codes
visible only under black lights.
The company has developed a
way of overlaying two or three
images on one picture, which
can be viewed only by using
light of a certain color. One
example application would be a
specially marked cereal box for
which you visit a Web site to
illuminate a secret message.
No Stopping the Shopping
Despite doom and gloom for some e-commerce
businesses, market researchers estimate that
the number of online shoppers has continued to
increase. The survey data includes those who
have researched products and services online,
even if they made their final purchases off-line.
U.S. online shoppers age 14 or older (in millions)
66.9
2000
80.4
2001
93.3
2002
101.7
108.4
2003*
2004*
* Projected.
Source: eMarketer, September 2003.
www.pcmag.com DECEMBER 9, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
27
PIPELINE
003.
er 2
to b
Oc
ur
ve
he second round of
Transmeta Corp.’s
mobile-computing efforts
came recently when the company announced the Transmeta
Efficeon TM8000 chip, a lowpower, x86-compatible processor with a redesigned version
of Transmeta’s Code Morphing
Software (CMS). The chip is
positioned to compete with the
Intel Centrino line of processors, and a number of hardware partners
have signed on
to ship Efficeon
systems in the
fourth quarter.
Analysts say that
Transmeta faces an uphill climb
in its effort to carve out market
share, however. The company’s
original, highly touted Crusoe
processor did show up in some
inexpensive, power-efficient
subnotebooks but was an
underwhelming performer.
“Efficeon is clearly Transmeta’s last chance to enter the
big-time market, as its prior
attempts have fallen short,” says
Gerry Purdy, principal analyst
at research firm MobileTrax.
Look for reviews of the first
Efficeon systems in an upcoming issue.—SR
T
c.,
as
The $40,000 Supercomputer
Is a supercomputer still a supercomputer if it can
teraFLOPS in a system with 40 of our chips and
sit on your desk? The answer may soon be yes.
consume only 120 watts of power.” Today that kind
ClearSpeed Technology has designed a
of horsepower typically costs about $500,000 and
coprocessor that’s capable of pushing standard
needs special cooling systems. A ClearSpeed-based
Intel- and AMD-based PCs to
teraFLOPS system could cost as little
as $40,000 and sit on a desk.
supercomputing speeds. The
Of course, a teraFLOPS PC won’t
ClearSpeed CS301 is a massively
A ClearSpeedmake you a better DOOM player. But
parallel coprocessor containing
based teraFLOPS CS301-based machines could be
64 processing elements, each
with its own floating-point unit
system could cost as ideal for scientists doing weather
and local memory. One CS301 is
and prediction, as well as
little as $40,000 research
capable of performing 25 billion
computational biology and drug
and sit on a desk. research. Today, such tasks run on
floating-point operations per
multi-million-dollar, warehouse-size
second, or 25 gigaFLOPS, making
it ideal for math-intensive tasks.
supercomputers. But in case you
(One teraFLOPS is equal to 1,000 gigaFLOPS.)
insist on being the first on your block with a really
“The key,” says Mike Calise, president of
screaming game machine—and you have 40
ClearSpeed, “is that we do this at extremely low
grand to spare—the first PC supercomputers are
expected to be available next year.—John R. Quain
power, less than 3 watts. So you could get 1
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
[
[
ILLUSTRATION BY BOB DALY
on
28
launch cleverly disguised e-mail campaigns that
appear to be from reputable
companies such as Citibank,
eBay, and PayPal. A typical
bogus e-mail may request the
recipient to “confirm” personal
information. A surprisingly
large number of people follow
the instructions, handing over
their identities.
Now you can fight back.
“Online identity theft has
reached epidemic proportions
and is a serious problem facing
businesses and consumers,” says
Pavni Diwanji, CEO of MailFrontier, an antispam developer. The
new fraud detection capabilities
in MailFrontier’s Matador 3.5
find known and unknown fraudulent e-mail by identifying
seven signs of mischief. And to
educate consumers, the firm has
launched the Fraud Resource
Center, which posts fraud alerts.
The FTC also has tips on avoiding ID theft at www.consumer
.gov/idtheft .—Carol Levin
EK
S
neighbor is a home
TA
G TO KE A P
wireless networks
remote worker with
N
I
E
LL
has apparently
business reports
Percent of home Wi-Fi
spawned a new
and private docusers who
would peek at a neighbor’s
variety of
uments on his
wireless network if given
Peeping Toms.
network.”
the chance
44%
can see a neighbor’s
In an October
As Wi-Fi
wireless LAN
21%
study on
becomes
more
have accidentally logged
home-networkpopular, Paulo
on to a neighbor’s
wireless LAN
4%
ing trends by
suggests that
y
of
In
wireless-gateway
peeking
will in20
re
i
0h
: 2W
om
rce
e W iprovider 2Wire, 44
crease, because users
F i us e r s . S o u
percent of home Wi-Fi
don’t know about proper
users admit they would peek at
security measures. “Companies
their neighbors’ wireless netship out default addresses, and
works if given the opportunity.
many people don’t change
Some 21 percent can see their
them,” she says. “A neighbor can
neighbors’ wireless networks,
take over a person’s access point
and 4 percent have “accidentaland screw with it.”
ly” logged on to a neighbor’s netWhen installing Wi-Fi software,
work, where some peeked at
you may not realize that you need
files and surfed the Internet.
to select the check box that auto2Wire’s numbers might even
matically encrypts traffic. (2Wire
be conservative, according to
commissioned the study to push
InStat/MDR senior analyst
its own gateway, which has an
Gemma Paulo. “Many people I
encryption key to activate during
know, including colleagues, get on setup.) Even people who are
another person’s network,” she
aware, however, sometimes
says, “especially in neighborhoods refuse to encrypt, because it
with houses close together.”
slows down their networks slight2Wire’s poll could spell trouble ly. Setting up user names, passfor service providers, who lose
words, and firewalls can protect
out when neighbors of broadyour wireless network.
band users access the Internet
To update Robert Frost, one
without paying. But Paulo calls
might suggest, “Good firewalls
file spying in particular “very
make good neighbors.”
dangerous, especially if the
—Alexandra Robbins
THE RISE IN HOME
Ba sed
pam and viruses are
enough to worry about,
but now online fraud is
reaching epidemic proportions.
Consumers logged over 100,000
Internet fraud complaints last
year—double those of 2001—
according to the FTC. And
identity theft jumped almost 80
percent from June 2002 to June
2003, says research firm Gartner. The total cost of identity
theft over the past five years
equals a cool $60 billion.
Some of the blame for the
staggering rise is due to phishing, a sneaky method of getting
unsuspecting victims to reveal
their credit card and bank
account numbers. The scammers
Transmeta,
Round 2
Nosy Wi-Fi Neighbors
W
I
Phishing for
Online IDs
PIPELINE
Sony’s Stunning All-in-One
It looks like an LCD TV, but behind the
glossy black 15-inch screen lurks a powerful multimedia PC. Ideal for cramped
spaces, the Sony VAIO PCV-V100G all-inone desktop PC will incorporate a TV
tuner and the company’s Giga Pocket
personal-video-recording software.
Weighing less than 17 pounds, the unit
will be easy to move from room to room.
It will be powered by a 2.4-GHz Intel
Pentium 4 processor and will come
with an 80GB hard drive and
integrated DVD/CD-RW
drive.—Jamie M. Bsales
A Real PC for $299
We’ve seen low-price computers based
on Linux before, but Systemax is
rolling out a Windows XP–based PC
that includes a 1.1-GHz Intel Celeron
processor, 128MB of RAM, a 20GB hard
drive, a CD-ROM drive, and even a
Lexmark Z705 color printer—all priced
at $299 after rebates.—JMB
$1,600 street.
Sony Electronics Inc.,
www.sonystyle.com.
$299 direct. Systemax Inc., www.systemax
.com, www.tigerdirect.com.
Interactive
Plasma Display
Olympus Debuts Home Photo Labs
Ink jet printers are great, but for true continuous-tone photo printing, you need a dye-sublimation printer. The Olympus P-10 Digital
Photo Printer produces true photo-quality 4-by-6 or 3.5-by-5
borderless prints in less than
45 seconds. The P-10 also has
the convenient PictBridge
technology, which lets you
connect a compatible digital
camera directly to the printer
without using a PC. The
higher-end Olympus P-440
Digital Photo Printer produces five different print
sizes up to true 8 by 10 in
only 75 seconds.—JMB
P-10 Digital Photo Printer, $200
street; P-440 Digital Photo Printer,
$500. Olympus America Inc.,
www.olympusamerica.com.
30
$12,000 list. Hitachi Software Engineering America,
www.hitachi-soft.com.
Be MTV
Store Photos
On the Go
With the Micro Solutions RoadStor portable
drive, you can archive
digital photos on the road
automatically without a PC.
You can also assemble slide
shows on the fly and play DVD
movies.—JMB
Hitachi Software’s Interactive Communications
Group has introduced the
Hitachi StarBoard P-50X, an
interactive 50-inch plasma
display device for presenters
and educators. Integrated
sensors in the 16:9 HDTV
display’s bezel, combined
with the company’s StarBoard
software, let presenters run
and annotate computer
applications or digital video
right on the plasma screen
using a supplied pen or even
a presenter’s finger. Annotated
data can be saved in several file formats, including HTML.—JMB
$249 direct.
Micro Solutions Inc.,
www.microsolutions.com.
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Our favorite instant-videocreation software is getting
even better. Muvee autoProducer 3 will have a host of
new features, including support for
still images and improved integration
with DVD-authoring tools. Simply import
a clip, pick a style and background music,
and let the program do the rest.—JMB
$49.95 direct.
muvee Technologies,
www.muvee.com.
HANDS-ON TESTING OF NEW PRODUCTS
43
44
44
46
Gateway M275XL
HP Compaq TC1100
Sharp Actius TN10W
Mac OS X 10.3
(Panther)
50 Microsoft Small Business
Server 2003
52 IBM ThinkPad R50
52 IBM ThinkCentre S50
54 Microsoft Works Suite 2004
54 Surado Smart Contact Manager
Pro 4.1
56 Canon i960 Photo Printer
56 Epson Stylus Pro 4000
Online Music Stores: Are They
Music to Your Ears?
BY TROY DREIER
THE MAGAZINE
WORLD’S LARGEST
COMPUTER-TESTING
FACILITY
After a rocky beginning, to say the least, the Internet and the music industry are finally getting along. We tested three new online services—Apple iTunes Music Store for Windows,
MusicMatch Downloads, and Napster 2.0—to see which delivers the best features and
selection. • Early efforts to bring music online fell into two camps: illicit file-sharing setups
such as Napster and Kazaa, and industry-sanctioned subscription services such as pressplay and Rhapsody. But as the tepid response to the latter showed, users didn’t want to pay
an ongoing monthly fee for a service with strings attached—such as no transfers to a CD or portable player,
having songs “expire” after a set time, and so on. • Instead, as Apple iTunes Music Store for the Mac showed,
Match Downloads marries the
company’s top-notch jukebox
program with the ability to purchase songs online. And the nowlegit Napster 2.0 is the first to
merge an à la carte shopping site
with a subscription service. All
three bring lower prices (99 cents
per song, $9.99 for most albums)
and a sense of fun and immediacy
to online music shopping.
The Apple iTunes Music Store’s home page highlights new and
exclusive content.
38
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
In addition to music sales,
each program aims to be your
main interface for storing, downloading, and organizing your
music library (be it songs you
purchase or files you rip from
CDs you already own). Each can
burn your music selections onto
CDs that can be played in any CD
player. But we found that the application with the best online
music store (Napster 2.0) is certainly not the best jukebox (a distinction that belongs to MusicMatch). So you might well find
yourself purchasing in one applet but organizing in another.
Another caveat: While each
of the services offers hundreds
of thousands of songs, many
hundreds of thousands more are
missing. As for the types of
MusicMatch Downloads makes it easy to browse through any
music genre or decade with convenient links along its left side.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY THOM O’CONNOR
users wanted to download as
much or as little as they liked and
pay only for what they bought.
Now that the winning formula
has been hit upon, it’s rapidly
being improved.
Apple has brought iTunes
Music Store to the Windows
world and has added some nifty
new shopping features to complete its jukebox abilities. Music-
• • • •• •• •• •••• •••••••••••
58 IBM Rational Rapid
Developer 2003
59 Documents to Go Premium 6
59 iGo Quickoffice Premier 7
57 Microsoft Project Professional
2003
57 Microsoft Project Server 2003
57 Microsoft Project Web
Access 2003
music available, the three services reviewed here don’t vary
all that much. All have strong
rock catalogs and a good assortment of country, jazz, classical,
and other major genres. But we
couldn’t say that one is amazing
for jazz or another huge on 1950s
rock; each has a fairly representative sampling.
Apple iTunes Music
Store for Windows
Apple iTunes Music Store for
Windows is a virtual clone of
the Macintosh iTunes offering—which is a good thing. The
store contains the same clean,
white-themed interface and
easy navigation that made
iTunes an instant hit when it
was introduced. It also delivers
very good jukebox capabilities
that certainly give MusicMatch
and Windows Media Player
stiff competition.
iTunes Music Store offers
clear navigation that makes
finding songs as easy as shopping in a well-laid-out realworld music store. Downloads
are high-quality 128-Kbps AAC
files, which to our ears sounded nearly as nice as 160-Kbps
WMA files. Songs you purchase
are yours forever and can be
played on three computers,
transferred to an iPod, and
burned to CD an infinite number of times (as long as the
playlist a song is in changes
after every ten copies).
With this release, Apple has
added some notable improvements. The catalog now approaches 400,000 songs and includes content from all five
major labels and over 200 independents (the service didn’t
have any indie content when
WHAT THE RATINGS MEAN
lllll EXCELLENT
llllm VERY GOOD
lllmm GOOD
llmmm FAIR
lmmmm POOR
first launched). The store includes playlists of favorite songs
compiled by celebrities like
Moby and Sting. And in addition
to music, you can browse 5,000
audio book titles from Audible
.com to play on your iPod.
Searching and finding songs
in iTunes Music Store was a
pleasure—the easiest among the
three services we tested. That
said, to stay competitive, the
store will need to add community features. Without them, it
feels sterile—like a lovely, welllit superstore after closing time.
Thankfully, iTunes Music
Store is also a strong jukebox.
You can rip CD s into AAC or
MP 3 formats, burn CD s, and
create playlists (including
smart playlists, which add relevant songs as titles are added to
your library).
If several computers on your
local network are running
iTunes, you can turn on sharing
to see and play each other’s libraries. iTunes Music Store’s
biggest downfall, though, is that
it can’t play WMA files. So if
you already have a library of
WMA tracks, you’ll need to use
a different player.
If you’re a Windows user with
a new iPod, iTunes Music Store
should be your first destination.
If you’re more interested in acquiring music to play from your
PC or burn to CD, it’s also a fine
choice. But if you already own
another type of portable music
player that doesn’t support AAC
files, one of the others here is a
better choice.
Apple iTunes Music Store
for Windows
Requires: Microsoft Windows 2000 or
XP (latest service packs recommended). Apple Computer Inc., 408-9961010, www.apple.com. llllm
Napster Player
Targets iPod/iTunes Combo
How’d they fit all that in there? That will be the first question
you’ll ask after checking out the 6.0-ounce ••• ••••••••••••
•••••• •• player. Roughly the same size (and price) as the
Apple iPod, the Napster player manages to cram in a lot of
features the iPod lacks.
First and foremost among them are the FM tuner and FM
transmitter. With the latter, you can broadcast stored content
to an FM radio (such as in your car); most other players require
a separate device for this. The player broadcasts over four
different frequencies, but its range is extremely short—less
than one foot in our testing.
With its 20GB hard drive, the Napster player doubles as a
digital voice recorder. It can also record directly from the radio
and then transfer those recordings to the PC via the included USB
2.0 cable. The process is wonderfully easy: Simply click the
Record button when a station is playing and the recording starts
a second later. You can easily transfer the resulting WMA file out
of your player’s library and onto your PC’s hard drive the next
time you connect your player. Battery life was good at 10 hours,
which is better than the 9 hours we clocked on the 30GB iPod.
The Napster player is not without its faults, though. For
starters, it has only five equalizer settings (versus the iPod’s 22),
and there are no games or time killers as on the iPod. The sleek
industrial design of the iPod, with its intuitive one-thumb operation, is also superior to the Napster player’s various buttons.
Also, you can’t create playlists on the player itself, as you can
with the iPod. But the Napster player integrates smoothly with
the new Napster 2.0 music service,
where it is easy to create playlists
and move them to the player.
If you use the FM tuner, FM
transmitter, or recording capabilities, the Napster player is
the way to go. If you want the
most satisfying user experience in a portable player, the
iPod is still top dog.—TD
Samsung Napster YP-910GS
Direct price: $399.
Requires: Microsoft Windows 2000
or XP. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., 201-2294000, www.samsungusa.com.
lllmm
www.pcmag.com DECEMBER 9, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
••
FIRST LOOKS
Dell Lets the Music Play
Dell is diving into the crowded portable
music player market with the Dell Digital
Jukebox. True to the winning Dell formula,
the device doesn’t break any new ground
but rather delivers a solid feature set at a
price that undercuts its competitors. The
DJ is available with a 15GB hard drive for
$249 (direct) or a 20GB drive for $329. And
that’s before the $30 instant (not mail-in)
rebate on the 20GB model. A 20GB Apple
iPod, by comparison, costs $399.
At 7.6 ounces, DJ is larger and heavier
than current iPods (6.7 ounces). Both DJ
models support MP3, WAV, and WMA
playback. The player has a clear, functional interface that’s simple to use. A vivid
blue backlight helps when using the
device in dark rooms. The front of the
Digital Jukebox features a jog dial, Menu
and Back buttons, and three playback
MusicMatch Downloads
Building on its strength as the
leading non-Microsoft music
player for Windows PCs, MusicMatch has launched its own online store, accessible through the
MusicMatch 8.1 player utility.
The store is fun to browse, since
it offers personalized suggestions based on your taste, lists of
popular songs by year, and great
biographical information.
MusicMatch Downloads offers higher quality than the competition; all downloads are 160Kbps WMA files. You can play
purchased tracks on three computers, transfer them to portable
music players that play WMA
files, and burn them to CD as
much as you like (as long as you
change the playlist after every
five burns).
The store has offerings from
all five major music labels and
over 30 independents, but the
catalog is relatively skimpy compared with the others, listing
about 250,000 songs. (The company says it plans to offer over
500,000 tracks by year end.)
Some of our searches came up
empty, like for the White Stripes
and Rufus Wainwright—an expe40
buttons The
DJ includes
a voice
recorder but
not an FM tuner
and transmitter,
which the Napster
player has.
Users can create
song lists on the player
itself, although the
process is tedious (you
need to load songs into your
Selected Songs list, from
which you can then make a
playlist). One other complaint: When you
choose to play a song from the middle of
an album, the Digital Jukebox plays only
that song. It doesn’t continue with the
rest of the list, as does the iPod. We do like
rience we encountered far less
often with the other two stores.
That said, MusicMatch Downloads usually had at least some
content for the popular artists we
searched on, and when it didn’t, it
recommended similar artists.
In addition to purchases,
MusicMatch Downloads offers
streaming radio stations, as well
as Artist Match Radio and Artist
On Demand Radio services.
Artist Match Radio is free and
builds an instant streaming
radio station with artists similar
to the ones you’ve selected.
Artist On Demand Radio, available with an MX Platinum subscription ($4.95 a month), creates a radio station with only the
artists you specify. And chalk
one up for integration: When
streaming one of the stations,
the player shows you which
songs are available for purchase.
MusicMatch 8.1’s jukebox capabilities are the strongest in
this roundup and benefit from
an interface overhaul of the 8.0
version. It’s now much easier to
navigate the player’s many features, including some you won’t
find in the iTunes or Napster
utilities—such as a lyrics tag and
the ability to make CD cover art
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
the ability to delete songs from the player,
a feature the iPod lacks, though the
deleted tunes reappear when you next
sync with a computer. Battery life is
impressive: We got about 16 hours of
continuous play versus around
9 hours for the iPod.
Though less elegant than the
Apple iPod, the Dell Digital
Jukebox is generally easy to
use, works well, and delivers
great sound. We don’t know
how much of a splash it will
make in such a crowded field
(now with the release of the Samsung Napster player as well), but Dell is
certainly putting forth a good, affordable
first effort.—TD
Dell Digital Jukebox
Direct price: 15GB, $249; 20GB, $329. Requires:
Microsoft Windows 98, Me, 2000, or XP. Dell Inc.,
800-999-3355, www.dell.com. lllmm
your desktop wallpaper. It can
rip and burn with ease, and, unlike the others, it syncs with a
variety of players.
Like the iTunes store, MusicMatch Downloads doesn’t offer
community features, so it can feel
dry. But it is a convenient way to
add to your catalog, especially if
you’re already using MusicMatch
Jukebox as your repository. Once
the aisles are more fully populated, this may turn out to be the
best music store/jukebox combo.
MusicMatch Downloads
Requires: Microsoft Windows 98 SE,
Me, 2000, or XP. MusicMatch Inc.,
www.musicmatch.com. lllmm
Napster 2.0
While all three of these stores are
good efforts, Napster 2.0 (now
owned by Roxio) is currently the
best online music store, thanks to
its combination of winning perks:
It combines a monthly subscription service with pay-per-track
shopping; it has a catalog of over
500,000 tracks (460,000 of which
can be downloaded) from major
and minor labels; and it offers
a great user experience when
you’re browsing and trying to
discover new artists.
The app’s simple navigation
lets you browse within the
major genres, search on your
own, and even watch music
videos. Napster hosts its own
magazine, Fuzz, which provides
more depth on current artists.
You’ll find that you can lose
hours simply browsing among
Napster’s useful lists, articles,
and message boards.
Napster is really a rebranding
of pressplay, an early subscription service, and it integrates
pressplay’s outstanding community features, which let you see
what songs are currently being
streamed by other listeners and
even lets you view the libraries
of individual users. (If you’re
concerned about privacy, don’t
worry: Sharing is optional and is
turned off in new accounts.)
For à la carte shopping, permanent downloads are 128-Kbps
WMA files (just slightly lower
quality than iTunes or MusicMatch), and they can be stored
on up to three computers and
burned over and over, as long as
the playlist is changed after every
five burns. Songs can be transferred to any portable player that
supports WMA files, but the Napster utility itself transfers directly only to the new Samsung Nap-
FIRST LOOKS
Napster 2.0’s genre pages spotlight not only new content but
also songs currently being streamed by other members.
ster portable player (see the sidebar “Napster Player Targets
iPod/iTunes Combo”). For other
players, you’ll need to use Windows Media Player to transfer
Napster-sourced content.
The unlimited streaming subscription ($9.99 a month) is well
worth the money—if you don’t
mind being tied to your computer when listening to tunes. You
can drag and drop available
Convertible Tablet PCs
Start to Mature
BY KONSTANTINOS
KARAGIANNIS
ver a year ago we got
our hands on the first
batch of Tablet PCs.
Like any new breed of product,
the entries were both innovative
and imperfect. Yet gradually the
handwriting recognition got
better, stylus-to-ink latency disappeared, processors got a little
faster, battery life got a little
longer, and screens became easier to stare at. Tablet PCs have
been turning into a much more
viable portable PC choice, especially the “convertible” designs
with keyboards (as opposed to
keyboard-less slate models),
since they can be used as a tablet
or as a traditional laptop.
To survey the current state of
convertible technology, we got
in three of the newest units
available. Two are brand-new
designs from Gateway and
Sharp, while the HP offering is a
noteworthy refresh of its first
design from last year. One new-
O
comer to watch for, but which
was not ready in time for this
story, is the Toshiba Portégé
M200, a 4.6-pound convertible
that will replace the Portégé
3500 series (our Editors’ Choice
from last year). It will feature a
12.1-inch SXGA+ screen and a 1.5GHz Centrino processor.
In wireless testing, none of the
units particularly impressed us.
Overall throughput was below
average compared to other notebooks we’ve tested.
Keep in mind when considering the price, too, that you still do
pay a slight premium for the convertible form factor and the digitizer to ink-enable the screen.
But at least these days you do get
a machine that’s a lot more competitive with its non-Tablet PC
brethren on the market.
Gateway M275XL
Giving a quick glance to the large
chassis of the Gateway M75XL
($2,099 direct), you’d never think
it was a Tablet PC—just a slim
songs into playlists, then save the
playlists in your library. (To
transfer them to CD or a portable
player, of course, you need to buy
the songs.) If you have cable or
DSL broadband, the service
streams at 96 Kbps, which may
not be CD quality but is still a lot
better than most Internet radio.
Slower connections go as low as
20 Kbps, making broadband a
must for acceptable quality.
We were impressed with the
depth and breadth of Napster’s
catalog. Napster offers Billboard charts going back to 1956,
providing a browser’s paradise.
The interface could use a little
work, though, since it seems to
mix streamlined pages designed for Napster and boxy
browsing pages left over from
pressplay. Also, navigation isn’t
nearly as smooth as in iTunes
Music Store in terms of maneu-
vering within artist and album
views.
As a jukebox, Napster trails
the others. It can’t rip tracks
from a CD, and it lacks niceties
such as a visualizer and smart
playlists. Also, while it syncs
with the Samsung Napster player, tracks must be dragged over
individually; there’s no Sync button, as there is in the iTunes and
MusicMatch utilities.
As an online music store, Napster 2.0 does its name proud with
the sheer volume of offerings
and its outstanding community
features. If you don’t mind using
a different utility for more advanced jukebox functions, it’s
currently the best choice.
Napster 2.0
Price: $0.99 per song; $9.99 for most
albums. Requires: Microsoft Windows
98, 2000, ME, or XP. Roxio Inc., 866280-7694, www.roxio.com. llllm
The Gateway M275XL is indeed extra-large
for a Tablet PC, featuring a 14.1-inch screen.
That makes it a little too
bulky to carry around for
long periods in the
crook of your arm, but
for desktop use it’s fine.
notebook with a
14.1-inch
screen. Even
the product literature calls it a multimedia notebook, and it performs like a decent one, housing
a 1.6-GHz Pentium M and 512MB
of DDR SDRAM. There’s even a
built-in DVD/CD-RW combo
drive. However, carrying around
the big screen and the unit’s innards does add up to a crook-ofthe arm-challenging 5.7 pounds.
Think of it as a Tablet PC more
suited to desk use.
The screen rotates and locks
down to become the biggest bit
of convertible screen real estate
we’ve seen—sort of. That is, the
14.1-inch screen is still locked into
an XGA (1,024-by-768) resolution,
due to the limitations of the digitizer. You can’t mark up “larger”
images at full magnification,
for example, as you
could on any other
Tablet PC. Also, if
you’re used to high-resolution 14.1-inch screens,
you’ll find that most icons
and menus look somewhat
zoomed in and pixilated. And the
Gateway uses a standard notebook screen, which means one
poor viewing angle from the keyboard up: Hold it as a tablet and
any tilt away from the hinge will
result in a color wash or photonegative effect.
There’s still plenty of innovation here, though. The screen
converts with a smooth hinge
and locks with an effortless latch.
On the side of the unit, a 4-in-1
memory card reader makes it a
wonderful system to use with
digital cameras and other portable devices. It’s expandable,
with a PC Card slot as well as
www.pcmag.com DECEMBER 9, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
43
FIRST LOOKS
FireWire and two USB 2.0 ports.
Having a 60GB hard drive on the
go is nice, too, and this is the only
convertible here to come with
productivity software (Microsoft
Works 7.0, though not the better
Works Suite, which includes a
full version of Word).
A user who doesn’t particularly like the small fonts associated with high-resolution
displays might prefer the screen
the centrally placed swivel
point where the screen attaches
to the keyboard. The design
puts the screen too close to
your fingers, and the screen
wobbles from typing impact.
And if you try to use it on your
lap, it wants to tip backwards.
The major improvements
are to the 10.4-inch screen. We
love that it has extremely wide
viewing angles all around. You’ll
The HP Compaq TC1100 is a convertible
convertible. You can use it with the keyboard or detach the keyboard and carry
just the 3.1-pound slate.
Right now, it’s
the best Tablet
PC around.
on the M275XL. Users
looking for a full-featured notebook might
also find this Gateway
just right, with the digitizer feature as a bonus.
But someone who needs to
use the tablet mode frequently would be better off with a
lighter device.
Gateway M275XL
With 1.6-GHz Pentium M, 512MB DDR
SDRAM, 60GB hard drive, DVD/CD-RW
combo drive, 14.1-inch XGA screen,
wired and wireless Ethernet, $2,099
direct. Gateway Inc., 800-846-2000,
www.gateway.com. lllmm
HP Compaq TC1100
If we had a PC Magazine Most Improved
Product of the Year
Award, the HP Compaq
TC1100 ($2,399 direct)
would be a memorable winner.
Usually, new revs of products
fix only one or two of the problems we found in older versions. The TC1100 did the opposite, fixing all but one.
Unlike other convertible designs, the TC1100’s keyboard not
only swivels and hides for slate
usage, it actually comes off altogether. When the keyboard is removed, the slate is a 3.1-pound
device that’s a joy to carry. With
the keyboard, it’s 4 pounds and
still very easy to tote around.
Our one unanswered gripe is
44
like the look of
the images onscreen no
matter
how you
tilt and use
the device. Even
glare seems minimized, making it easier to read documents.
We like that HP still kept a glass
cover on the screen (most others use polymer) but also managed to update the digitizer from
its lackluster old version (which
lacked pressure sensitivity) to a
pressure-sensitive one. Adding
even more pizzazz to the 10.4inch screen is the choice of GPU.
Rather than go with Intel’s Extreme Graphics 2, as most
tablets do, the TC1100 uses the
32MB nVidia GeForce4 Go 420, a
4X AGP solution.
Another major improvement
is the move away from the
Transmeta platform to the 1.0GHz Pentium M. While the old
HP tablet performed abysmally,
the new one does quite well for
a unit with a low-voltage chip.
And it’s not limited to Centrino
The streamlined Sharp Actius TN10W
is the company’s first Tablet PC, and
it’s a good effort.
Our biggest gripe
concerns the screen,
where we saw
some graininess.
wireless, using an
802.11b/g implementation.
There’s even a
third type of
wireless—
Bluetooth—along
with two USB 2.0 ports.
Look into adding one of HP’s
docking options to take advantage of an optical drive, monitor,
and keyboard for desktop use.
The built-in 40GB drive will be
fine for most office applications.
On the go, even with its lessthan-perfect keyboard, the HP
TC1100 is still better than a slate,
avoiding kludgy USB keyboard
solutions. And, to give credit, it’s
better as a slate than most pure
slates, too, right down to its
wonderful, thick stylus.
HP Compaq TC1100
With 1.0-GHz Pentium M, 512MB DDR
SDRAM, 40GB hard drive, 10.4-inch
XGA screen, wired and wireless (b/g)
Ethernet, Bluetooth, $2,399 direct.
Hewelett-Packard Co., 888-999-4747,
www.hp.com. llllm
Sharp Actius TN10W
The Sharp Actius TN10W ($1,999
direct) also uses the new-generation LCD panel that delivers a
good image from all four angles.
A hair heavier than the HP, the
Actius is a 4.2-pound convertible with keys that feel good despite the 18-mm (not full-size 19mm) key pitch. The stylus that
pops out of the side with a slide
release is an equally comfortable input device.
In notebook mode, the device
shares some of
the trade-offs of a
typical subnotebook. At 30GB, the
hard drive is on the
small side, and there
is no built-in optical
drive. The Actius does have
FireWire and two USB 2.0 ports,
as well as PC Card and CF slots.
Converting to tablet mode is
slightly clumsy because of the
swing latch that locks the screen
down, but the overall locked
tablet feels wonderful in the arm.
The 12.1-inch screen is a size at
which XGA still looks fantastic.
However, the screen does show
some grain, almost as though
you’re looking through a film;
this is most noticeable against a
white background such as in
Word. You might get used to the
graininess, but it’s worth noting.
The response of the device
in real-world use is excellent,
despite the midlevel combo of a
1.1-GHz Pentium M and 256MB
of DDR SDRAM. The Actius
turned in the most consistent
wireless performance in our
testing, and it also took nice advantage of Centrino on our battery life test.
Were the screen grain less evident, this would be a close to
perfect convertible Tablet PC.
Sharp Actius TN10W
With 1.1-GHz Pentium M, 256MB DDR
SDRAM, 30GB hard drive, 12.1-inch
XGA screen, wired and wireless
Ethernet, $1,999 direct. Sharp Systems
of America, 800-237-4277,
www.sharpsystems.com. llllm
Multimedia
Content
Creation
Winstone
2004
Business
Winstone
Battery
Mark 2004
(hr:min)
High scores are best.
Bold type denotes first place.
Processor
RAM
Business
Winstone
2004
1 foot
60 feet
120 feet
160 feet
Gateway M275XL
Pentium M (1.6 GHz)
512MB
16.1
17.2
3:38
4.8
4.2
1.5
0.4
HP Compaq TC1100
Pentium M (1.0 GHz)
512MB
12.7
13.6
3:10
3.5
3.0
1.0
0.8
Sharp Actius TN10W
Pentium M (1.1 GHz)
256MB
12.1
13.1
4:31
4.5
4.0
2.3
1.0
RED denotes Editors’ Choice.
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Wireless throughput (Kbps)
FIRST LOOKS
Put a Panther in Your Mac
TROY DREIER
ac users, prepare to
pounce. Panther, the
code name for Apple’s latest operating system iteration, Mac OS X 10.3, delivers
enough useful and eye-catching
improvements—like Exposé,
fast user switching, and iChat
AV—to warrant an upgrade.
Complete the easy, if somewhat lengthy, installation procedure (which took half an hour
on a new dual-G5 but nearly an
hour on a slower, 933-MHz G4),
and you’ll be ready to start exploring the 150 improvements
that Apple has packed in.
The signature improvement
for 10.3 is Exposé, an ideal solution for those who find it a hassle to switch between open applications. Depending on how
you configure it in System Preferences, you can either press a
key or move your cursor to one
corner of the screen to activate
Exposé. Once you do, your open
windows will resize and fly
across the screen, arranged so
that you can see them all at
once. Click on one to choose it
and it will take the foreground.
It’s a true time-saver, not to
mention fun to watch. Exposé
can also show all of the open
windows in the current application or quickly hide all the open
windows to show the desktop.
M
user name will show in the top
right of the screen, with the other
user accounts listed in a pulldown menu below it. Select a different account, type in the password, and the screen will rotate
like a cube to show the next ac-
count’s desktop. Any open applications can keep running unaffected in the background.
iChat AV, Apple’s new videoconferencing and instant-messaging tool, is now out of beta and
a part of the OS. This is good, as
it’s now more stable, but bad in
that iChat AV is no longer free to
those who don’t upgrade to the new OS
(it costs $29.95 if purchased on its own).
To see how it compares with other IM
tools, see this issue’s
roundup “Videoconferencing: Look
Again,” on page 149.
Speed is also a big
reason to upgrade to
Fast user switching is a welcome
10.3. If you’ve got a
feature of the new Mac OS—and it
G5 machine, with its
looks cool, too.
a 64-bit processor,
you’ll certainly feel
Fast user switching is a nifty the improvement, as the entire
improvement for Macs with mul- OS has been optimized for the
tiple user accounts. Activate it in new chip. But even on the two
the System Preferences and your older Macs we tested (a 93346
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
MHz G4 and a 733-MHz G4),
common tasks—opening applications, resizing windows, saving files, and so on—always felt
noticeably faster and more responsive than under OS 10.2.
Other improvements run
through all of the Mac’s main
systems and applications. The
improved Finder window has a
several worthy improvements in
10.3. It now uses the Safari browser’s rendering engine to display
HTML messages. The new message-threading feature groups all
the messages in a thread together. Unfortunately, the applet still
doesn’t support message priority
settings, as most other major
mail program do.
One of Mac OS X
10.3’s main attractions is Exposé,
which makes
switching among
open windows
quicker and more
elegant than
previously (inset).
new section, called
the Sidebar, that
holds customizable places that
you can zip to in one click.
If you have a .Mac account,
you’ll see your iDisk mounted automatically in the Finder and on
your desktop. You can chose to
have iDisk create a local copy of
your stored files, so that you can
access them even when off-line,
then have them synchronize automatically when you connect.
It’s also now a snap to browse
your network directory straight
from the improved Finder.
FileVault will be a relief to all
those concerned about security.
Turn it on in System Preferences
and it will automatically encrypt
everything in your Home directory, unencrypting and reencrypting on the fly as you use
files. It gets high marks for handiness, but we wish it let users
specify what files they’d like to
encrypt; as it is, it’s an all-ornothing affair.
Apple’s Mail client has gained
OS 10.3 offers Windows Active
Directory support, letting Mac
users seamlessly log into and use
Windows managed networks.
Users can call up Internet Connect in System Preferences and
quickly create a new VPN connection. Also, Apple’s Mail and
Address Book utilities both
now work with Microsoft Exchange Servers.
Other, smaller improvements,
such as a fax option built into
every print dialogue box, the
ability to search within the text
of a PDF, the new Font Book utility that lets you view all of the
fonts on your system and try
them out, are too numerous to
mention. Suffice it to say that
with the speed and usability enhancements, the $129 (direct)
price is more than justified.
Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther)
Direct price: $129. Apple Computer
Inc., 408-996-1010, www.apple.com.
lllll
FIRST LOOKS
Microsoft’s Solid Small-Business Platform
BY LARRY SELTZER
M
icrosoft Small Business
Server 2003 is de-
signed to court small
business in a big way. Now in its
third iteration, the system is
showing some polish, and the
company has sweetened the pot
with aggressive pricing and
more permissive (though not
perfect) licensing rules.
SBS 2003 is a bundle of several products, all of which run on
one server. The $599 Standard
Edition includes Windows
Server 2003, Exchange Server
2003, and Outlook 2003, along
with five Client Access Licenses (CALs), which you need either for each computer or for
each user. The $1,499 Premium
Edition adds SQL Server 2000,
ISA Server 2000 (for network
security and proxy server functions), and FrontPage 2003
(for Web design). Each component delivers improvements
substantial enough to recommend SBS 2003 to both existing
users and newcomers.
Microsoft includes a Quick
Start setup chart, guiding you
pictorially through the setup
steps. But as easy as the Setup
Wizard makes things, the only
small businesses owners who
will be able to set SBS up by
themselves are computer professionals. Setting up a network
is just too complicated for nontechnical users to do without
a consultant or system integrator. We tested the preloaded
configuration.
The preloaded version boots
into a Setup Wizard that configures the network and client systems. The wizard does an excellent job of covering common
decisions, such as whether you
have the server connected directly to the Internet or to an external router. SBS 2003 detected
our Linksys router and allowed
us to use it for DHCP (or you
could choose to use SBS 2003’s
built-in DHCP server). At the
end of the wizard, a to-do list
appears and walks you through
50
the remaining setup steps.
The to-do list instructs you to
set up the server software, including options for a certificate
for secure access, firewall (if appropriate to the configuration),
and more. The procedures are
thick with security options, such
special page on the Web server
and followed instructions to
connect the client system computer to the domain. When you
then log on to the domain from
the client, applications and service packs are pushed to that
client system.
The setup wizard delivers a to-do list that walks you through
the remaining steps.
SBS 2003’s native remote-access abilities let users get to
server-resident mail and data without going through a VPN.
as setting up password policies
and having Exchange strip out
executable attachments.
One of the initial procedures
configures client setup, and the
process is easy and automated.
Only Windows 2000 and XP
clients are directly supported;
PCs running earlier versions of
Windows can be set up manually. After giving SBS 2003 the
names of computers to set up,
we used each client to browse a
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Easily our favorite features in
SBS 2003 are remote access and
remote administration. SBS
2003 includes VPN support, but
better options are available
without the hassle of setting up
a full-blown VPN. You can access many network functions
that reside on the server—including your e-mail through
Outlook Web Access—directly
through the built-in Web site on
the server. After logging on
from a remote system to the secure Web site on SBS 2003, we
connected to Remote Desktop
on our Windows XP network
clients. Another welcome feature of SBS 2003 is that it
nudges you to create a plan for
backing up your server, even if
it’s only to back up the data directories to a separate folder on
the network.
A limitation in the previous
version of the product prevented you from running additional
servers for certain processes
you wanted to isolate, such as
Exchange. The good news is that
SBS 2003 does allow you to run
extra servers; the bad news is
that you can’t take the programs
that came with SBS 2003 and run
them on any system other than
the server where SBS 2003 itself
is installed. So if you want to run
SQL Server on another box, you
need to buy a second copy of
SQL Server. Not only will this
cost you more money, but best
practices argue against running
so many critical network functions on a single server system,
as SBS does.
We also discovered that
when SBS 2003 sets up users on
client systems, it gives those
users local administrator accounts. Microsoft does this in
order to avoid problems with
applications, but such a solution is less than ideal in these
security-conscious times, and it
creates the potential for serious
problems if a client system is
compromised (say, by a Trojan
horse program).
So although we don’t agree
with all the choices Microsoft
made, it’s hard to beat the value
and powerful out-of-the-box
functionality, especially in remote access. The vast majority
of Win NT 4.0–based small businesses should move to this product quickly, and quite a few Windows 2000 customers would be
better off with it as well.
Microsoft Small Business
Server 2003
Direct price: Standard edition, $599;
Premium, $1,499; $99 per extra CAL.
Microsoft Corp., 800-936-4900,
www.microsoft.com. llllm
FIRST LOOKS
The R50 weighs a pound more
and has a larger chassis.
The R50 comes with either a
desirable value-class notebook 14- or 15-inch display; the T Seavailable today. Sharing many ries offers just the 14-inch. Becommon parts with the flagship cause the R50 uses the industryIBM ThinkPad T41, the R50 saves standard 12.7-mm bay, you can
you about $400, comparably get a rewritable DVD drive (a
equipped. The trade-off is bulk: $400 upcharge over the readonly DVD drive, though), where
the T Series uses a 9.5-mm bay
that at best supports a CDRW/DVD-ROM drive. IT departments will be happy to know
that the T series, X series, and
R50 can share a common software image and most of the
same batteries, optical drives,
and modules.
The only place IBM appeared to cut corners is with the
PC Card bay. Although the bay is
tall enough to accept two standard
The IBM ThinkPad R50 is larger and
Type II cards, it has
heavier than other models in the flagship
T series, but it’s also less expensive.
only one connector internally. But
ThinkPad Takes Life’s Knocks
BY BILL HOWARD
s your notebook willing to
take one for the team? The
IBM ThinkPad R50 notebook
is. New drive-protection technology from IBM parks the hard
drive’s heads if it senses that the
unit is falling. Should the
notebook hit the floor with
a sickening sound, the
drive and its data are likely
to be intact—even if the
computer itself is damaged.
The active protection comprises IBM-tuned software and
a small accelerometer that measures sudden sideways or downward movement. It filters out
slower motions, and you can set
it to ignore the short choppy motions you’d encounter flying over
the Rockies or riding an Amtrak
train on an old track. But drops
of as little as a foot trigger the
head-parking system.
The R50 is arguably the most
I
IBM Rethinks the Corporate PC
BY JOHN DELANEY
he new IBM ThinkCentre
S50 is the company’s latest offering in the ThinkCentre line of managed PCs
aimed at corporations. The S50’s
diminutive size (3.3 by 12.2 by
14.1 inches HWD) is well suited
to cubicle environments where
desktop space is limited but processing power and manageability are essential.
As with most small-formfactor systems, the S50 has limited upgrade potential. There are
no open drive bays and only two
DIMM slots, enabling a maximum of 1 GB of memory. That
said, the S 50 does have two
available full-sized PCI slots
(using a riser card), eight USB
2.0 ports (two up front), and
built-in Gigabit Ethernet, which
should be fine for the typical life
of a corporate PC.
From an IT management perspective, the S50 is as good as it
gets. All ThinkCentre systems
T
52
ship with IBM’s Rapid Restore
Ultra disaster recovery software,
which allows users to restore
their systems to a working state
without IT intervention.
Serviceability in the tool-free
chassis is also top-notch. The
case is hinged and flips up to the
rear when you depress two reThe IBM ThinkCentre S50 is
an emminently serviceable
corporate desktop. The new
ThinkVision L170p monitor
delivered a sharp image.
lease buttons. This reveals the
drive bay assembly, which is also
hinged and flips up towards the
front of the system. In addition
to tool-free PCI slots and drive
caddies, the entire system
board can be removed by
pressing the blue tabs that
hold the board in place.
Our review system
also came with IBM’s
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Embedded Security Subsystem
option ($52.99), which provides
hardware and software protection from unauthorized user access and locks down vital user
in use, it’s hard to tell the T
series and R50 apart. The keyboard is very comfortable, and
the unit has both a TrackPoint
and TouchPad for navigation.
IBM rates battery life at about 6
hours with the standard six-cell
battery (we couldn’t get our new
battery test to run on the R50). A
protruding nine-cell battery
should increase life by about 50
percent. On our speed and wireless tests, the 802.11b-equipped
R50 performed right in the middle of the pack compared with
other notebooks we’ve tested.
All things considered, there’s
nothing not to like about the IBM
ThinkPad R50. And the active
protection system is a welcome
innovation.
IBM ThinkPad R50
Direct price: With 1.5-GHz Pentium M,
256MB RAM, 40GB hard drive,
DVD/CD-RW drive, 32MB ATI Mobility
Radeon 7500, 15-inch XGA Microsoft
LCD, Microsoft Windows XP Professional. $1,769 direct. IBM Corp.,
www.thinkpad.com. llllm
information, such as passwords
and encryption keys. We also
received an IBM ThinkVision
L 170p 17-inch LCD flat-panel
monitor ($449), which in its native 1,280-by-1,024 resolution
displays bright and crisp images
easily viewable from all angles.
The S50 turned in respectable
scores on our benchmark
tests (18.1 on Business
Winstone and 24.4 on
Multimedia Content Creation Winstone). But the
real attraction is the manageability and serviceability of this little workhorse system. Throw in
IBM’s standard three-year
parts-and-labor warranty
program and you have a
secure, easily managed platform for the enterprise.
IBM ThinkCentre S50
Direct price: With 3.2-GHz Pentium 4,
512MB SDRAM, 40GB hard
drive, DVD-ROM drive,
Intel Extreme 2 graphics,
Microsoft Windows XP
Professional, $1,769. IBM
Corp., 888-746-7426,
www.ibm.com. llllm
FIRST LOOKS
Microsoft Works Suite: Quite a Smorgasbord
BY EDWARD MENDELSON
hile Microsoft Office 2004 garnered
all the attention, the
Redmond giant quietly released
its other productivity stalwart:
Microsoft Works Suite 2004. Sure
to be a fixture on midpriced and
value-priced PCs, Works 2004 is
like an all-you-can-eat buffet:
You can find better individual
choices, but the number of entrees is hard to beat.
At the core of the five-CD
suite is the Works program itself,
comprising a database, spreadsheet, calendar, and task launcher. The package also packs Microsoft Word 2002 (not the latest
2003 version), Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia Standard 2004
(not the Deluxe version), Microsoft PictureIt! Photo Premium 9 (not the higher-end Digital
Image 9 Pro), Microsoft Money
Standard 2004 (not the Deluxe
or Premium editions), and Microsoft Streets & Trips 2004.
Experienced Office users may
want to avoid Works 2004’s
brightly colored, task-oriented
interface, which insists on offering options like “Organize a fantasy sports team” and “Start a
fundraiser.” There are five main
pages, each with icons or tabs
leading to tasks and projects.
The Home page has a calendar and contact list (automatically populated from your Outlook Express address book). An
oddly named Templates page
displays dozens of icons in categories like Home & Money or
Vehicle Data. Most of the icons
lead to MSN Web sites devoted
to travel information, auto pricing, financial planning, and
other research topics.
The Programs page lists the
suite components and launches
helpful wizards that format
databases and spreadsheets for
special purposes like DVD inventories or unit-conversion
calculations. Icons on the Projects page lead to to-do lists for
such tasks as moving to a new
home or planning a family re-
W
54
union. The last page on the interface is a History list of all the
projects you started: The full list
can be cleared, but you can’t
delete individual items.
Because Microsoft Word is
included in the suite, you won’t
find the low-end Works word
The Template
page leads to
tasks to be
performed
either on one
of Microsoft’s
Web sites or
in the corresponding suite
component.
processor on the menus—even
though it is there and many
users will find it easier to navigate than Word. (You can find it
in the Program Files | Microsoft
Works folder; the file is named
WksWP.exe.)
Do note that just the main
program is sold separately as
Works 7.0 ($54.95 direct), without Word, PictureIt!, and all the
other goodies. But to us, the real
allure is those add-ons. If you
need Word and even just one
more of the programs in the
suite, Works 2004 is an impressive bargain.
Microsoft Works Suite 2004
Street price: $100. Microsoft Corp.,
800-426-9400, www.microsoft
.com. llllm
Get Organized with SCM Pro
BY CAROL ELLISON
relative newcomer to
the sales-force automation space, Surado Smart
Contact Manager Pro 4.1 takes on
big guys like Act! and Goldmine
with a palette of easy-to-learn,
easy-to-use, and well-documented tools. While competing
releases have pushed into the
enterprise with increasingly robust customer relationship management tools and optional editions that integrate other office
systems, SCM Pro delivers a
healthy suite of CRM tools and
sales-force automation functions specifically designed for
small businesses.
SCM Pro delivers all you’d
want—and then some—from a
contact manager. Its main contact record screen has an Outlook-like look and feel, so you
can easily navigate from a tree
window that arranges all contacts alphabetically by name or
company. The contact records
are versatile; you can enter up to
12 telephone numbers and access a complete history of activity with the client, including
pending quotes, customer contact and marketing preferences,
customer sales profiles and histories, as well as industry back-
A
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
ground and notes.
From the activity calendar,
you can schedule appointments
and follow-ups, assign to-dos,
create quotes, and link them to
sales opportunities. The message center lets you send e-mail,
broadcast faxes, or send pager
messages. All of these activities
can be automatically linked to
contact records to build complete client histories that help
you view the status of the work
in progress.
because SCM Pro checks for and
eliminates duplicates and assigns defaults. Once the
records are imported, you can
associate e-mail history and activities with contacts—an even
longer process. It took nearly 45
minutes to complete the association on 72 contact records, but
it’s a one-time process that’s
well worth the time for the additional functionality.
If you’re already committed
to Act! or Goldmine, there’s no
compelling reason to switch to
SCM Pro. But if you’re just starting a CRM system for your small
SCM Pro’s
graphical
sales funnel
lets you view
the status
of sales
opportunities.
The installation wizard
prompts you for a password,
lets you choose how to receive
alerts, and imports contacts and
activities from Outlook 2000 or
Outlook XP. Importing Outlook
records can be time-consuming
if you have a large contact file,
business, the package’s ease of
use makes it worth a try.
Surado Smart Contact Manager
Pro 4.1
Direct price: Single user: $179.99;
network version, $499. Surado
Solutions Inc., 800-478-7236,
www.surado.com. llllm
FIRST LOOKS
Canon Shows Its Photo Skills
BY M. DAVID STONE
imed at photo enthusiasts and
professional photographers, the
Canon i960 Photo Printer delivers
high-speed photo printing, the wider color
gamut that typically comes with six-color
output, and the ability to print directly from
PictBridge-compatible digital cameras.
The PictBridge port for connecting a cable
from a camera is conveniently located on the
front. But what you won’t find are slots for
camera storage cards to let you print directly
from the cards or transfer files. This feature
is often included on lower-end photo printers but is rarely used by true photo enthusiasts, who prefer to view their images on a
large display and edit with the power of the
photo-editing software.
Like most of Canon’s photo printers, the
i960 uses a separate cartridge for each ink
color and a separate printhead, so setup
consists of installing the printhead, then
snapping in each cartridge. This takes more
steps than with most printers, but the
arrangement keeps costs down, since you
don’t have to throw out unused ink when
one color runs out.
A
Output quality is
good to excellent and
easily in the same
league as the best
ink jet printers
we’ve tested (see
“More for Your
Money,” November
11, page 106). Images
rate as true photo
quality on glossy
photo paper and come
surprisingly close to
photo quality on plain paper.
Graphics maintained sharp edges and saturated colors, and text in default mode was
readable at 5 points or smaller in most of the
fonts we tested.
With 3,072 nozzles, the i960 can print at its
claimed maximum 4,800- by 1,200-dpi resolution without making you wait forever. On
our tests, the unit took from 1 minute 8 seconds to 1 minute 17 seconds to print 8-by-10
photos. The 5.0- by 6.3-inch photo from our
standard-quality suite took just 37 seconds.
As expected for a printer optimized for
photos, performance on standard business
The Canon i960 Photo Printer is
perfect for photo enthusiasts and
amateur photographers.
applications is relatively slow. We timed
the i960 at 1 minute
56 seconds for the 1page Excel spreadsheet and at 4 minutes 10 seconds for the
12-page Word file in
our standard performance
suite. Its scores place it
in about the middle of
the pack of photo printers
we tested for that recent roundup.
The slow speed for business applications
means that unless you have extremely light
printing needs beyond photos, you probably
won’t want the i960 as your only printer. But
if you’re looking for a printer—particularly a
second one—that delivers photos in a hurry,
the i960 should be on your short list.
Canon i960 Photo Printer
Street price: $200. Requires: Microsoft Windows
98, Me, 2000, or XP; or Mac OS 8.6–9.x or OS X
10.2x; USB 1.1 or 2.0. Canon U.S.A. Inc., 800-6522666, www.usa.canon.com/consumer. llllm
Epson Delivers Professional Printing Power
BY SALLY WIENER GROTTA
AND DANIEL GROTTA
The 17-inch-wide carriage of the
Epson Stylus Pro 4000 is your first
clue that this may not be an ordinary ink jet printer. And it’s not:
The Stylus Pro 4000 is far and
away the best, fastest, most
versatile printer in
its class, capable of
producing superb,
exhibition-quality
photo prints,
graphic art proofs,
posters, and just
about any other
output pros could
possibly want.
The Stylus Pro 4000 is
an intelligently designed,
rock-solid device rated to
deliver over 20,000 8.5-by14 pages before requiring factory service.
Although large and boxy, the unit allows
easy, unimpeded access to the print engine,
ink cartridges, and paper paths. It can accommodate virtually any type of media up
56
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
to 17 inches wide: rolls, cut sheets up to
17-by-22, and card stock up to 1.5-mm thick.
It allows full-bleed borderless printing as
well as double-sided printing.
Epson’s new, auto-aligning, 1-inch-wide
piezoelectric printhead produces a maximum resolution of 2,880 by 1,440 dpi, with
variable droplets as small
as 3.5 picoliters. Thus
the Stylus Pro 4000
provides higher
resolution and
smaller droplets
than the Canon
i m a ge P ro g ra f
W2200 or the HP
Designjet 120nr,
against which it
The Epson Stylus Pro
4000 is hefty, but its print
quality makes up for the extra pounds.
vidual dots with the naked eye.
The Stylus Pro 4000 uses the same sevencolor, high-capacity, waterproof UltraChrome ink cartridges as the Epson 7600 and
9600 pro-level printers. But it accommodates
eight rather than seven cartridges, permitting
the Stylus Pro 4000 to switch automatically
between Photo Black and Matte Black instead of requiring a manual tank switch.
The printer is both fast and quiet. A fullbleed 16- by 20-inch color photo took about
10 minutes, twice as fast as the Epson Stylus
Pro 7600. Image quality is outstanding, with
a very wide color gamut, great detail, true
blacks, and excellent, accurate color. The
level of archivability and color fastness is
quite high. Wilhelm Imaging Research rates
the Stylus Pro 4000’s new media’s lightfastness at 85 years for color and more than 100
years for black-and-white.
In short, the Stylus Pro 4000 sets a new
standard for professional graphics printing.
Epson Stylus Pro 4000
competes. Although the output is not truly
continuous-tone, the dispersion pattern is
so tight that it’s impossible to discern indi-
Street price: $1,800. Requires: Microsoft Windows 2000 or later, 128MB RAM, USB or FireWire
port. Epson America Inc., 800-463-7766,
www.epson.com. lllll
FIRST LOOKS
Microsoft’s Project Family Delivers
BY NELSON KING
icrosoft is tackling the unruly
problems of enterprise project
management with promising new
versions of three key products: Microsoft
M
Project Server 2003, Microsoft Project Professional 2003, and Microsoft Project Web
Access 2003.Taken together, the solutions
successfully parse the hard-core details of
managing projects company-wide.
In the Microsoft scheme, Project Server
performs the role of coordinator and information organizer, more or less as a typical
application server. Project Professional is
the tool experienced or professional project
managers would use
to marshal resources
and develop project
schedules that are
published through
Project Server. Project Web Access is a
browser-based user
interface (generated
by Project Server)
that disseminates
and updates information (such as task
assignments and
time sheets) to all involved.
Many of the improvements new to Project Server require using other Microsoft
products. A good example is Microsoft
SharePoint Services (recently revamped
and folded into Microsoft Windows Server
2003), which provides sophisticated document management, such as check-in, checkout, and document versioning for project
elements. Likewise, there are major improvements in the project Portfolio Analyzer
and Portfolio Modeler based on the relationship with Microsoft SQL Server 2000
Enterprise Edition.
Feature control and security have been
much improved in the new system. For example, previously any user with read/write
access to a project could change its baseline;
now baseline changes are controlled by
global permission settings. As we discovered in testing, however, the dynamics of
user authentication and feature permissions
between the operating system, Active Directory, SQL Server, SharePoint, and Project
Server can be complex and require a lot of
network savvy.
For its part, Project Web Access has become a much more collaborative tool, with
features such as the new Team Build that
makes it possible for project participants
(with permission) to add and update resources. It also demonstrates how seemingly small features can mean a great deal to
the usefulness of the system. For example,
in the previous version only project managers could approve time sheets; now, more
realistically, permission to approve time
sheets can be granted on an individual basis.
Project Professional continues to be one
of the best-designed tools for generalized
development and monitoring of project
schedules. Most of the enhancements in the
current version are a result of tighter integration with Microsoft Office 2003, as it
shares look and feel, support systems, and
Enhancements
to Project Web
Access 2003
have greatly
increased the
control and
functionality of
project management over
the Web.
the underlying use of XML. On the content
level, other integration with Office 2003 is
less impressive. For example, an add-in for
Microsoft Outlook implants features from
Project Web Access into the Outlook Calendar—but not Outlook’s Tasks area.
And in some ways, Microsoft hasn’t quite
caught up with the competition in the packaging and integration of the overall enterprise system. Old hands in this market, like
Primavera Systems with its TeamPlay Enterprise Suite, provide products that are conceptually easier to understand and somewhat more polished in implementation.
On the other hand, the breadth and pricing of what Microsoft offers for enterprise
project management is very competitive.
But be aware that upgrading is not a snap,
and taking full advantage does require a
commitment to using the latest-and-greatest supporting Microsoft products.
Microsoft Project Professional 2003
Direct price: $999. llllm
Microsoft Project Server 2003
$1,499; includes five Client Access Licenses (CALs)
for Project Web Access 2003. llllm
Microsoft Project Web Access 2003
$133 per CAL. llllm
Microsoft Corp., 800-426-9400, www.microsoft.com.
www.pcmag.com DECEMBER 9, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
57
FIRST LOOKS
Best Practices Made Perfect for Software Architects
tion in class diagrams. A unique feature is
the ability to generate sample data for database tables, a huge time-saver.
We suspect the complexity in this tool
will take some getting used to. Unlike as in
the BEA tool, you model business transactions using Java code attached to individual
methods in components in property windows, rather than visually. There are, how-
plications, with several additional architects for designing live Web pages. Previous generations of CASE tools suffered
from a one-size-fits-all approach to user interfaces. Not so with Rapid Developer.
First, a theme designer tool lets you manage fonts and colors in your style sheets
with ease. We especially liked the Site Architect, which displays the flow between
Web pages, along with thumbnails of actual Web content, so you can find your way
around a Web application quickly.
Once you drill down into individual Web
pages, a capable WYSIWYG tool lets you design Web forms, with easy access to standard Web form items and tables, which can
display data from underlying objects. Although it’s no Dreamweaver, Rapid Developer’s support for themes makes it a very
useful Web page designer, all the more impressive in that this is a modeling tool with
roots in UML and software engineering, not
graphic design.
IBM Rational Rapid Developer
Adding support for validation and other
IBM Rational Rapid Developer’s powerful class
2003, promises a lot of design
business logic for working with business
architect lets you model database tables and busipower along with built-in use
objects in Web pages is less intuitive than it
ness entities using both some traditional UML and
of best practices for designing
could be, though. In Rapid Developer, you
powerful wizards for getting up and running fast.
software effectively.
add script rules to pages for initial values,
Rapid Developer offers a
validation, and other options, rather than in
very different approach to crea visual layout. Besides offering
ating Java enterprise applications, one that
connectivity through Web sermoves the furthest away from editing
vices, Rapid Developer highsource code. While this probably means a
lights improved support for
harder learning curve, this tool offers a truly
integrating with mainframes,
innovative approach to building software.
including in-depth support for
CICS applications.
Setting up the software was effortless.
The only limitation we could
The options for supported app servers are
find is that Rapid Developer
wider here than with WebLogic. The delacks an interactive debugger.
ployment flexibility is apparent from the
(Only BEA offers that feature in
start, as Rapid Developer lets you choose
the current crop of advanced
the architecture for your app and designate
Java tools.) Otherwise, generatwhether you use messaging options and the
ing and deploying a project was
like. These options in turn govern how apa veritable snap. We also liked
plication code is generated and deployed.
With built-in support for style sheets and internathat deployment options can be
(Although support for the older Microsoft
tionalization, Rapid Developer’s page designer lets
swapped out easily, so you can
COM standard is bundled here, IBM has no
you create highly customized Web pages that
work easily with a JBoss locally,
current plans to support .NET.)
display data from business components, including
At the heart of Rapid Developer are its
for example, and WebSphere on
EJBs and Web services.
seven architect tools, which provide views
a production server.
of your application—from business compoRapid Developer makes an
nents and classes to Web pages. The Class ever, dozens of code snippets (templates) to impressive case for dropping a code-cenArchitect is the best we’ve seen in the cur- speed up programming chores. When the tric approach to building J2EE projects. It
rent crop of advanced Java tools. It lets you Rapid Developer wizard generates code for offers enough software engineering smarts
design business objects and classes using you and maps your objects to EJBs, this cus- to keep sophisticated architects happy, yet
traditional UML notation, and it provides tom code will be preserved. We used this fea- it’s still easy enough for working developextensive dialog options for advanced fea- ture successfully to tweak order-processing ers to master.
tures like database, messaging, and custom logic for an online e-commerce application.
IBM Rational Rapid Developer 2003
business logic. We liked that you could view
Rapid Developer really shines compared Direct price: $5,995. IBM Rational Software, 800the layout of all components in an applica- with WebLogic when building JSP Web ap- 728-1212, www.ibm.com/rational. lllll
BY RICHARD V. DRAGAN
ava-based Web applications are a staple
of many enterprises today, but coding
this software is often complicated. A
new breed of development tools, called
Architected Rapid Application Development (ARAD), is entering the market to address this problem. ARAD tools simplify J2EE
application building, with an eye toward
connecting systems with Web
services and reusable components (like Enterprise Java
Beans). This lets software architects and even business analysts design business objects
and workflows more easily
than ever before.
We recently looked at BEA
WebLogic Workshop 8.1, an important player in this space
(reviewed in “Brave New Apps:
The Development Tools,” August 5, page 121). A new solution,
J
58
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
FIRST LOOKS
PDA Office Files Go Native
Margi Presenter-to-Go compatibility for
BY BRUCE BROWN AND MARGE BROWN
or some, the Holy Grail of Palm OS projecting PowerPoint presentations, and a
computing is the ability to transfer streamlined interface for both the PDA and
Microsoft Office files from a PC to a companion desktop applications.
PDA and back again seamlessly. The latest
Documents to Go uses a single interface
versions of two Palm OS productivity for its comprehensive mobile Office bundle,
suites improve the process. DataViz’s Doc- which works well on a PDA’s small screen.
uments to Go Premium 6 and iGo Quick- Microsoft Word users, especially, will benoffice Premier 7 let you view, edit, and cre- efit from the instant gratification the utility
ate files in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and delivers, and there are features enough to
justify the investment for many Palm users.
other popular file formats.
Previously, PDA file
Documents to Go
transfer required a PC
Premium 6
connection for file
Street price: $50. Reconversion and synquires: Palm Desktop 4.0
chronization. In these
or later, Palm OS 3.5 or
later, 8MB RAM on PDA
programs’ latest verrecommended. DataViz
sions, native file supInc., 800-733-0030,
port is added to allow
www.dataviz.com.
lllmm
the wireless transfer
of Office files via inIGO QUICKOFFICE
frared beaming, BluePREMIER 7
tooth, e-mail, or a
iGo Quickoff ice
memory card.
Premier 7 includes a
While the latest
You can edit tables in native Word
PC companion proversions of both profiles in Documents to Go Premium.
gram and four PDA
grams have many imutilities: Quickword,
provements, we focused on native file technology and found Quickpoint, Quicksheet, and Quickchart.
successes and limitations in each app. For We found this four-pronged interface
our tests, we exchanged Word, Excel, and more cumbersome than Documents to
PowerPoint files on a Secure Digital (SD) Go’s single UI.
card between Palm Tungsten T and T3
With Quickoffice, you can open and edit
PDAs and a Dell Inspiron 8200 notebook.
native Word files on a PDA. You can open—
but not edit—Excel and PowerPoint files.
DOCUMENTS TO GO PREMIUM 6
For presentations, native support is limited
Documents to Go Premium 6 supports to Outline view and Slide Notes text. To disWord and Excel files in addition to many play PowerPoint’s Slide and Thumbnail
popular word processing,
views, you must transfer files
spreadsheet, PDA, image,
to the PDA via synchronizagraphic, and Microsoft
tion. We successfully transPowerPoint file types. On a
ferred all three Office file
PDA, Documents to Go contypes to our PDA via SD card
verts native file formats to the
and moved revised Word files
to our notebook.
program’s proprietary format
Other enhancements in this
so you can open and edit the
version include an improved
files. We were able to change
Quickoffice offers
desktop interface for downfonts, type styles, colors, ta81 spreadsheet
loading images to Quickpoint,
bles, and spacing in the Word
functions in its
an expanded spell-check dicand Excel files on the TungQuicksheet PDA
tionary in Quickword, and imsten T and then view the reviapplication.
proved navigation tools in
sions on our notebook with no
Quicksheet. But the more
synchronization process. But
the transfer of Excel charts does require comprehensive file support of Documents
to Go makes it the better choice.
desktop synchronization.
Other enhancements include spell-check
iGo Quickoffice Premier 7
and word-count tools for Word files, supStreet price: $50. Requires: HotSync Manager 3.0 or
port for password-protected Word and later, Palm OS 3.5 or later. iGo Corp., 800-588-4593,
Excel files, selective file synchronization, www.igo.com. llmmm
F
www.pcmag.com DECEMBER 9, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
59
“I gave up on phone support when the MSN representative
told me he didn’t know anything
about DSL service in Redmond, Washington.”
L I N U X K E E P I N G PAC E
I DISAGREE WITH ONE of your assertions in “Where Is
Windows Going?” (November 11, page 97). In the sidebar on Linux, you list several factors that prevent the
Linux desktop from growing in popularity. I used to use
Windows, but I switched over to Linux because of some
very useful software there. I recommend it for anyone
interested in the sciences, as Linux has inherited lots of research software originally prepared on Unix workstations. And contrary to your
article, Linux has killer apps: KDE is a complete UI that offers a word
processor, spreadsheet, and presentation package, and I find it more
intuitive and pleasant than Microsoft Windows. OpenOffice.org is
even more impressive in the killer category; it can do virtually anything Microsoft Office can, and you can’t beat a price of zero dollars.
JAMES W. DOW
I N D I A N I VY L E AG U E
IN INSIDE TRACK (October 28, page 63) John C. Dvorak discusses
the outsourcing of technical support and other IT-related jobs to
India. I am disappointed in his condescending attitude toward the
Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). He says IIT “considers itself on
a par with or even better than MIT and other U.S. engineering- and
science-oriented institutions.” In fact, many Silicon Valley executives and IT-related university faculty also consider IIT to be on that
level of excellence.
Dvorak writes, “I hate to be a skeptic, but I have to ask whether
there are that many qualified and talented designers in India.” That
seems to be a little ethnocentric, considering that India has about four
times the population of the U.S. On March 2, 2003, 60 Minutes reported: “Last year, 178,000 high school seniors took the [IIT] entrance
exam....Just over 3,500 were accepted, or less than 2 percent. Compare
that with Harvard, which accepts about 10 percent of its applicants.”
Contrary to Dvorak’s assumptions, India has plenty of qualified and
talented designers, thanks in part to the success of IIT.
C.N. LE
O U TS O U R C E D I G N O R A N C E
JOHN C. DVORAK’S DISCUSSION of outsourcing problems is right
on. I tried several times over a six-month period to upgrade my MSN
How to Contact Us
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your message which article or column prompted your response.
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We regret that we cannot answer letters individually.
w w w. p c m a g . c o m /fe e d b a c k
62
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
dial-up account to MSN DSL. The company’s Web site
indicated DSL was offered in my area, but after several
weeks, I got a letter saying it was not available. Each
time I phoned MSN, I got a foreign representative who
could not explain the problem. So I’d try again. I gave
up when the representative told me he didn’t know
anything about DSL service in Redmond, Washington,
where I live. I told him his employer was located in Redmond. Then
I talked to a neighbor of mine who works at Microsoft. He referred
me to someone who explained the problem. In the end, I signed up
with Comcast, which had a serviceman installing my high-speed
hookup within 36 hours.
WILLIAM ENGSTROM
D I SA P P O I N T E D W I T H P OW E R P O I N T
MICHAEL J. MILLER HIT the nail on the head in his comments about
Microsoft Office 2003 (October 28, page 8). I prepare PowerPoint presentations for a living, and the program’s graphics engine has been in
dire need of an overhaul for years. With each new version of Office, I
get my hopes up, only to learn Microsoft has dropped the ball again.
DALE OWENS
S O U P AT YO U R OW N R I S K
IN BILL MACHRONE’S “Program Your Car’s Performance” (Fall
2003, page 41), he lambasts auto manufacturers for not providing engine control unit reprogramming services as aftermarket companies
do. There is a very good reason: the government. State and federal
requirements demand that auto manufacturers produce vehicles
that meet very stringent environmental guidelines. That extra 20
horsepower that Machrone touts may come at the expense of not
meeting these requirements. It is also illegal in many states to tamper with preprogrammed calibrations in vehicles, and Machrone
should have been a little more careful to mention that.
DAVID ROSA
Corrections and Amplifications
n In our review of the Handspring Treo 600 (First Looks, November 11, page 42), “10
hours of phone standby mode” should read “10 days of phone standby mode.”
n In “Batten Down Those Ports (Security Watch, October 28, page 72), “Intuit’s Norton
Internet Security” should read “Symantec’s Norton Internet Security.”
n In our recent feature on DVD recording (“The Burning Question,” October 28, page
115), an unfortunate error appears on the top of page 121. We printed, “We deem DVD-R
media performance (copying videos) the most popular use of recordable drives.” We
meant to say, “We deem recordable-media performance (copying videos) the most popular use of recordable drives,” and “rewritable performance (packet reading and writing)”
is a less important indication of speed. The comment was intended to reflect the way
people use these drives—not which format they choose. Additionally, we indicated that
storage vendor LaCie is located in Canada (page 117). The company is in fact headquartered in France, and its U.S. subsidiary is in Hillsboro, Oregon.
w w w. ex t re m e te c h . c o m •
BILL MACHRONE
ExtremeTech
Bugged by Jitter
nd you thought you were the only one!
My column on the external causes of
monitor jitter (“SAD Day for CRTs,” October 28) prompted dozens of you to
write in. The improperly constructed,
electronic ballast–equipped fluorescent lamp I wrote
about was capable of interfering with just about anything, including radio and TV reception. But readers
identified other items that were just as bad.
It’s clear from the e-mails that good old 60-Hz
electromagnetic fields are by far the worst culprits.
Larry Krakauer writes:
I was visiting a friend who complained about “wiggle” on his monitor, which had been back for repair and
replaced once. Having seen this before, I simply picked
up his low-voltage desk lamp and moved it 3 feet away
from the monitor. No RF radiation there—just a cheap
60-Hz transformer in the base, with a hefty magnetic
field around it....At a previous company building, an
image on the monitor in the VP of engineering’s office
wriggled madly due to the high-tension lines about 50
feet outside his fourth-floor window. I suggested moving the monitor to the far side of the office, where the
problem went away. But he liked his office layout, so
he gave the monitor to someone else and bought a
special magnetically shielded monitor for himself.
A
DIMMER CRASHES SERVER
As you can see, higher voltages create bigger fields,
and you have to look farther for the source of interference. Large industrial motors, such as those that
power air compressors, pumps, elevators, and the
like, can have huge electromagnetic fields or can
generate spurious voltages, called back EMFs, on the
line. Simple wiring mistakes can make big problems,
too, as John Culbert relates:
I was the yard electrician at a Miami megayacht
marina, where the staff had a horrific problem with the
Xenix server someone had foisted on them. Every morning it would lock up, and every evening it would lock up
again. Since the administrator was 150 miles away and
had been unpaid for a while, the office staff asked me to
look at it. One look at the wall switch and I had the
answer. A dimmer for incandescent service had been
installed—to control fluorescent lights!
This is a big no-no, since the chopped wave put
out by a dimmer can cause a fluorescent ballast to
emit big flyback voltages and spikes, which then
travel through a building’s wiring, causing other mischief. Culbert replaced the dimmer with an ordinary
on/off switch, and all was well.
Steve Quiett reports that those little space heaters
often found in drafty cubicles are also often the culprits in monitor jitters. The problem is more likely
caused by the fan motors than by the heating
elements, but you never know. Quiett says that his
support staff knows to look for them now.
Jim Tolson, a broadcast engineer, recommends mu
metal, an alloy of nickel, molybdenum, iron, and copper that shields magnetic fields. The stuff is expensive, ranging from $20 to $30 per square foot of foil.
Thicker sheets cost much more, and they are hard
to find. Tolson says mu metal is indispensable in
crowded editing suites where monitors often interact
with one another. But a custom-made shield for a
large CRT can cost more than the CRT, so replacing it
with an LCD monitor may be more cost-effective.
FAST EYES AGAIN
A few people have pooh-poohed the “fast-eyes”
hypothesis, but the fact remains that some people
see flicker at much higher frequencies than others.
Also, your peripheral vision and your direct vision
respond to flicker differently. Some people are sensitive to beat frequencies, the difference between
flickering sources at two different rates. When lights
are flickering at 120 Hz and a monitor is refreshing
at 85 Hz, the 35-Hz difference may be perceptible to
some individuals.
Obviously, fluorescent flicker bothers Charles
Hutchings a lot. He sent a manifesto that begins,
“Fluorescent lights are evil and should be outlawed.
I don’t care how much money/energy they save.” He
goes on to recommend several methods, including
wearing a cap, to eliminate fluorescent lights from
your line of sight.
Jitter and flicker are two different phenomena, but
both can drive you to distraction when you’re trying
to get work done. So look for the likely sources—
then the unlikely ones.
Good old
60-Hz electromagnetic
fields are by
far the worst
culprits for
causing interference.
Bill Machrone is VP of editorial development for Ziff Davis
Media. Visit his digs at www.extremetech.com. You can
also reach him at [email protected]
www.pcmag.com DECEMBER 9, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
67
John C. Dvorak
Co-opting the Future
logs, or Web logs, are all the rage in some
quarters. We’re told that blogs will evolve
into a unique source of information and
are sure to become the future of journalism. Well, hardly. Two things are happening to prevent such a future: The first is wholesale
abandonment of blog sites, and the second is the
casual co-opting of the blog universe by Big Media.
Let’s start with abandoned blogs. In a white paper
released by Perseus Development Corp., the company reveals details of the blogging phenomenon
that indicate its foothold in popular culture may
already be slipping (www.perseus.com/blogsurvey).
According to the survey of bloggers, over half of
them are not updating any more. And more than 25
percent of all new blogs are what the researchers call
“one-day wonders.” Meanwhile, the abandonment
rate appears to be eating into well-established blogs:
Over 132,000 blogs are abandoned after a year of
constant updating.
Perseus thinks it had a statistical handle on over 4
million blogs, in a universe of perhaps 5 million.
Luckily for the blogging community, there is still
evidence that the growth rate is faster than the abandonment rate. But growth eventually stops.
The most obvious reason for abandonment is simple boredom. Writing is tiresome. Why anyone
would do it voluntarily on a blog mystifies a lot of
professional writers. This is compounded by a lack
of feedback, positive or otherwise. Perseus thinks
that most blogs have an audience of about 12 readers.
Leaflets posted on the corkboard at Albertsons
attract a larger readership than many blogs. Some
people must feel the futility.
The problem is further compounded by professional writers who promote blogging, with the
thought that they are increasing their own readership. It’s no coincidence that the most-read blogs are
created by professional writers. They have essentially suckered thousands of newbies, mavens, and
just plain folk into blogging, solely to get return links
in the form of the blogrolls and citations. This is, in
fact, a remarkably slick grassroots marketing scheme
that is in many ways awesome, albeit insincere.
Unfortunately, at some point, people will realize
they’ve been used. This will happen sooner rather
than later, since many mainstream publishers now
B
see the opportunity for exploitation. Thus you find
professionally written and edited faux blogs appearing on MSNBC’s site, the Washington Post site, and
elsewhere. This seems to be where blogging is
headed—Big Media. So much for the independent
thinking and reporting that are supposed to earmark
blog journalism.
So now we have the emergence of the professional
blogger working for large media conglomerates and
spewing the same measured news and opinions
we’ve always had—except for fake edginess, which
suggests some sort of independent, counterculture,
free-thinking observers. But who signs the checks?
The faux blog will replace the old personality
columns that were once the rage in newspaperdom.
Can you spell retro? These are not the hard-hitting
independent voices we were promised. They are just
a new breed of columnist with a gimmick and a stern
corporate editor.
This trend is solid. A look at Columbia Journalism
Review’s recent listing of traditional-media blogs
shows everyone getting into the act: ABC News, FOX,
National Review, The New Republic, The Christian
Science Monitor, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street
Journal, and so on. The blogging boosters, meanwhile, are rooting like high-school cheerleaders over
this development. To them, it’s some sort of
affirmation. In fact, it’s a death sentence. The onerous Big Media incursion marks the beginning of the
end for blogging. Can you spell co-opted?
I’m reminded of the early days of personal computing, which began as a mini-revolution with all
sorts of idealism. Power to the people, dude. IBM was
epitomized as the antithesis of this revolution. But
when IBM jumped on board in 1981 and co-opted the
entire PC scene, it was cheered. Welcome, brother!
Apple even took out a semiflippant full-page national newspaper ad welcoming IBM. Actually, the ad reflected Apple’s neediness and low self-esteem. IBM
represented affirmation about as much as Big Media
is affirmation for the hopeless bloggers.
Another so-called revolution bites the dust. Big
surprise.
The onerous
Big Media
incursion
marks the
beginning of
the end for
blogging.
MORE ON THE WEB: Read John C. Dvorak’s column every
Monday at www.pcmag.com/dvorak. You can reach him
directly at [email protected]
www.pcmag.com DECEMBER 9, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
69
Inside
Track
JOHN C. DVORAK
ony Zigs Instead of Zags Dept.:
We’ve all been anticipating that
Sony would use its PlayStation
architecture to create a powerful desktop computer. At the
time I wrote this, the company was
developing a super CPU jointly with IBM
and Toshiba, called the Cell Microprocessor. It’s already road-mapped for a 65nanometer process and expected to be
part of Sony’s $4 billion investment in
new 300-mm fabrication facilities. In the
meantime, what happens? The company
decides to roll out a questionable home
entertainment product that is a combination PlayStation and super-TiVo, with
DVD-RW capability.
Expected to sell for just under $1,000,
the Sony PSX system comes with either a
160GB or 250GB hard drive. According to
reports, the big drive can record 325
hours of video. This means you could
watch 8 hours of recorded TV a day for
almost three months solid. This is too
much TV. Get a life.
I question putting a TiVo and a
PlayStation together, since you end up
with two competitive devices using the
same monitor. That just seems dumb. I
suspect the PSX will swiftly become a collector’s item.
Then There’s AMD Dept.: At a recent industry conference, Fred Weber, CTO of
AMD’s CPU group, made a couple of interesting comments. This was a keynote
address, which nowadays means a sales
pitch for the company, with a few hints
about the future to keep it from being
totally boring. What stood out to many
observers was that AMD is considering
extending the x86 instruction set.
The idea is to include circuitry that
benefits networking systems and palmtops in such a way that developers can
have specialized code plus x86 as a tagalong. As die size shrinks, this kind of
opportunity is quite inviting. Weber also
mentioned that people who need multiprocessor machines would get phenom-
S
enal performance increases if the multiple CPUs were made on the same die.
This is not only a practical idea. We’ve
heard chit-chat about a “computer on a
chip” or “system on a chip” for at least a
decade. Quality control issues and
expense always stood in the way.
Never Click on Weird Attachments
Dept.: There’s the story of Van T. Dinh, a
day trader who was recently busted by the
SEC for allegedly using a key-logging backdoor to hack the computer of another
trader. Dinh used that trader’s account to
buy stock futures; he needed to dump on
someone fast. The scheme was simple, and
I’m surprised it isn’t more common.
Using an alias, Dinh began prowling
around in an online stock-chat forum,
until he got the e-mail addresses of some
of the traders. Using yet another alias, he
then e-mailed these folks the key-logging
backdoor, claiming in a long letter that he
was beta-testing a new stock-charting
software system and wondering whether
they could help.
Apparently, one unsuspecting sucker
executed the software and wasn’t suspicious when it didn’t really do anything.
Now Dinh had a backdoor and simply
key-logged until he found the guy’s online
brokerage information and password. He
could buy and sell from the guy’s account.
The link to this story was sent to me by
Grey McKenzie, the founder of SpyCop,
the anti-key-logging software system
that I use. I reckon he’s been waiting for
some of these horror stories for years.
Expect more in the future. He tells me
that SpyCop now has over 400 surveillance software products in its database.
Bad news. Go to www.spycop.com for
more information.
Microsoft recently acquired a company called PlaceWare, which has a Webbased product for group meetings over
the Internet. It’s typically used for seminars and conferences. This is probably
the first time Microsoft has backtracked
on its dubious belief that broadband will
PlaceWare
uses the Web
for images and
slides while
using the telephone for
voice. This is
not progress.
be ubiquitous two years ago.
PlaceWare, like many other systems,
uses the Web for images and slides while
using the telephone for voice. This is not
progress. Meanwhile, Microsoft is pumping the technology with expensive TV
ads, as though the mass market would be
interested.
My experience with the product came
with an invitation to listen to and watch
the Bill Gates keynote at the Microsoft
Office 2003 launch event on October 21.
When I hit the Web site on the day of the
event, I got this message: We appreciate
your interest in this event. Unfortunately,
participation to this event is now closed
due to overwhelming attendance. Great. So
much for scalability.
This item is from the South China
Morning Post, citing an ITU report titled
“The Birth of Broadband,” which compares download times for a single 4GB
digital-video file: It takes 20 minutes in
Japan with an ADSL link of 26 Mbps, 26
minutes in South Korea on a very highdata DSL link of 20 Mbps, 44 minutes on
the ITU leased line of 12 Mbps, 6 hours
with a 1.5-Mbps cable modem in the
United States, and 12 hours on ADSL in
Switzerland. To make this even more
annoying, the paper mentions that you
can get high-speed DSL in Japan for $24
(U.S.) a month. Think about the implications of this.
www.pcmag.com DECEMBER 9, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
71
B I L L H OWA R D
On Technology
Seasonal Shopping Guide
ecause of the holiday season, and because
people are looking for one more tax writeoff, a disproportionate number of personal PCs are usually sold in the last two
months of the year. Here’s some advice
I’ve been giving to friends, neighbors, and family
members about PCs and hot technology gadgets.
If you’re shopping for a PC, give serious thought to
buying a notebook. The small size and portability are
often worth the higher cost. And most notebooks are
fast enough for typical users.
If you’re shopping for a desktop PC, you should
probably consider a Windows XP Media Center Edition PC, even though the hardware component that
most distinguishes a Media Center PC—the TV
tuner—doesn’t work very well. That’s why Dell
Media Experience makes so much sense: It’s an
interface that’s a dead ringer for Media Center Edition, except it has no TV tuner (or PVR). Microsoft
sells Media Center PCs without tuners only in China.
As always, buy a CPU that’s about two notches
down from the top; that means 2.6 or 2.8 GHz this
year. You’d pay a stiff premium for going with the
fastest—3 or 3.2 GHz. I would get 512MB of RAM,
even if 256MB is probably adequate for now. You
should decide how big a hard drive you need. For
storing documents and e-mails, any size is okay; for
photos, most hard drives are large enough; for video,
no hard drive is big enough, but buy at least 120GB.
Consider a graphics adapter with dual-monitor
support, so you can have one monitor for your work
and a second for e-mail, pop-ups, and so on.
LCD monitor prices have dropped so low that you
should probably get one instead of a CRT. And get a
DVD–recordable drive, not a DVD/CD-RW or CD-RW
drive. Whether DVD+R or DVD-R will win out is still
not clear, so the easiest solution is to buy a multiformat drive that handles both. Regardless, most
write-once DVDs should work in most DVD players.
Think about a wireless keyboard and wireless
mouse to reduce cable clutter on your desktop.
Microsoft has a nice offering, but the layout of the
directional keys is messed up, so I’d look elsewhere.
Logitech has a good selection of wireless offerings.
Should you hang on to your current computer and
upgrade? Only if you can get by with just one upgrade, meaning bumping up only your RAM or your
B
hard drive, for example. If you have to upgrade RAM
this month and your hard drive next month, you may
as well buy a new machine. If you must upgrade,
watch the computer-store circulars for loss-leader
hard drives and memory upgrades. Your ideal PC is
going to cost $1,000 to $2,000, not $500 to $1,000, so
buy the right stuff now. Your goal should be to avoid
opening your PC’s case, because only bad things happen when you open computer cases. Something falls
out or something doesn’t fit back in right, and easyopen cases aren’t easy-close cases. The tool-free
thumbscrews holding drives in place are so tight that
you’ll need a screwdriver anyway. The one exception
is the Mac case, which is gorgeous. I am disinclined
to buy a Mac because of the price premium, but I
hope you’ll consider one, to keep Apple afloat and
keep Microsoft and Intel honest.
A digital camera is another key year-end purchase.
Cameras differ in quality, but the make-or-break feature is really the inclusion of a docking module.
Docks from vendors such as Fujifilm, HP, and Kodak
also act as chargers, and as you may know from firsthand experience, unattended rechargeable batteries
go flat after a couple of weeks. Buy a camera with at
least 3-megapixel resolution, think about 5MP, and
consider only the optical-zoom spec—not the nearly
worthless digital zoom. If you want to take sports
photos of kids or friends, go beyond a 3X optical
zoom to 6X to 10X.
A welcome stocking stuffer is a set of rechargeable
nickel hydride double-A batteries for cameras—about
$5 per battery. Over the past few years, the storage
capacity per battery has just about doubled. Another
small present that’s sure to please is branded blank
DVD and CD media; bargain brands have too many
problems.
Finally, digital media hubs are just about ready for
prime time. These devices pull MP3s off your PC (via
wired or wireless Ethernet) and play them on your
stereo. Look to Linksys, Prismiq, and SMC for devices
costing from $200 to $300 each. The hard drive jukeboxes from audio makers are terrific, but at $1,500 to
$3,000 each they cost twice what they should.
LCD monitor
prices have
dropped so low
that you should
probably get
one instead of
a CRT.
MORE ON THE WEB: You can contact Bill Howard directly
at [email protected] For more On Technology
columns, go to www.pcmag.com/howard.
www.pcmag.com DECEMBER 9, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
73
w w w. p c m a g . c o m /s o l u t i o n s
commonly available Y cable, such as Radio
Shack part 42-2551 ($7 list).
To integrate your PC with your home
theater setup more completely, you may
want a few more items. Buy a wireless
keyboard/mouse combo for about $50
and you can control the show from your
couch. A video card with a Video Out
Whether you’re a tech-savvy enthusiast or a rank newbie, there connector will let you hook your PC to
your television, eliminating the need for
are plenty of uses for your old machines. BY WARREN ERNST
a monitor. If you’ve networked your PCs,
you can play music files directly from
If you’ve been using PCs for a while, you’re bound to have an old one you your main PC through the stereo.
Try multiplayer games. When your
don’t use much, if at all. With 2-GHz computers available for well under
family members complain that you spend
$1,000, what good is an old 300-MHz Pentium II system? The answer de- too much time playing PC games, you
could simply cut down, or you can conpends on your willingness to experiment, have fun, learn, and prevent pol- vince them to join you. Once your home
lution. Here are ten things you can do with that old PC, starting with tasks network is set up, you can have mini-LAN
parties any time you want.
for relatively “better” old PCs, and work- your newer one.
The real trick is finding games that work
ing our way down to the real junkers.
Make a multimedia player. Most com- well with your oldest computer. Perhaps the
Learn networking. With two comput- puters have sound cards, and any system best choice is DOOM 95, which works fairly
ers on hand, you can take a stab at mak- later than a Pentium 200 can run Win- well even on a 486DX/66 system and runs
ing a LAN. All versions of Windows since amp skip-free. Try installing your favorite smoothly on a Pentium/200 computer. As the
name suggests, the game
Windows 95 have networking features
works within Windows 95
built-in, so you won’t need additional
and later, and it supports sevsoftware. On the hardware side, you’ll
eral different types of netneed an Ethernet card for your old maworks. Free demos are availchine (around $15, and your new PC probably already has Ethernet built-in) and eiable at Id Software’s FTP site
(ftp://ftp.idsoftware.com/
ther a network cable (from $2 to $30,
idstuff/doom/win95/doom95
depending on its length) or a hub or
switch (about $40) with standard CAT5
.zip), but a Google search for
DOOM 95 1.9 download reveals
networking cables.
many more reliable sites. You
The Windows Help files aren’t too
can find the full version,
helpful, but there are dozens of excellent
along with dozens of expanWeb sites that walk you through
FIGURE 1: There’s plenty of demand for older computer
sion packs, on eBay.
the process. One of our favorites is
components. Check out eBay to see how it’s done.
Install Linux. Unless
World of Windows Networking (www
you’ve been living under a
.wown.com), though it can be a little
overwhelming at first. A simpler page for digital-music software on the old ma- rock, you’ve probably heard about Linux,
Windows 95/98-only networking can be chine. (MusicMatch Jukebox is the PC the free, Unix-like operating system for PCs.
found at TunisiaDaily (www.tunisiadaily Magazine Editors’ Choice in our issue of If you have ever considered trying it but
.com/answers/networking.html.) You can November 11.) If you want your MP3 or were afraid of what it might do to your exalso check out our extensive coverage of WMA collection to play on your living- isting Windows setup, why not try it on a
home networking at www.pcmag room stereo instead of your computer, different computer?
Linux supports a surprisingly wide
.com/networking and our issue of April 8. you’ve got a digital jukebox ready to go.
For basic music playback, you can con- range of older hardware. In fact, someIt pays to learn the basics of networking first, because some of the other sug- nect your sound card’s 1/8-inch stereo plug times the older the hardware, the betgestions below are greatly enhanced to a pair of RCA female plugs—labeled AUX ter Linux supports it. There are verwhen your old machine is networked to input on the back of most stereos—with a sions, called distributions, that are
10 Things to Do
With Old PCs
SOLUTIONS
he 30,000-Foot View
How Many Images Can You Fit on a Fla
IMAGE SENSOR
IMAGE
RESOLUTION
UNCOMPRESSED
FILE SIZE
Less than 1-megapixel
640 x 480
900K
1-megapixel
1,280 x 960
3.5MB
2-megapixel
1,600 x 1,200
5.5MB
78 Hardware: Using flash
memory.
display real-time positions of airplanes in flight, RLM Software's FlightView technology collects and processes
ormation from various sources. Transponders aboard aircraft beam altitude, speed, and position data to FAA ground
tions, which relay the information to RLM in Boston. RLM analyzes the data and passes it on to a proprietary databas
her RLM databases contain geographical data, jet routes, flight schedules, gate changes, delay announcements, and
ather data. FlightView processes the data and creates dynamic Web pages that plot the flight paths of airplanes.
Airplanes
with transponders
Geographical
data
Aeronautical
data
Schedule
data
Gate changes
and delays
Weather
data
?
i
80 Office: Fill in Excel
ranges.
84 Security Watch: Websurfing myths.
88 Internet Business:
Tracking flights.
f
li h i
95 User to User: Tips and
tricks.
M A K I N G T E C H N O L O G Y W O R K F O R YO U
suitable for very old computers, too.
Debian Linux (www.debian.org) is
well suited to slower machines, and it
is also friendly and well documented
enough for beginners. If you have a
PC faster than 300 MHz or so, you may
want to try Mandrake Linux
(www.mandrakelinux.com), which is
considered the most friendly and comprehensive Linux distribution out
there. It can feel a little slow on a
Pentium/166, however.
If you have a broadband connection,
you can download CD-ROM images of
Linux and burn your own installation
discs for free. Alternatively, you can purchase Linux for a small fee (ranging from
$5 to $80) or buy a Linux book that comes
with Linux discs. Check out PC Magazine’s “Get Started with Linux” at
www.pcmag.com/linux.
Make a printer/file/Web server. If your
old computer is in good shape but just
too slow for your needs, it may make a
fine server.
If you have a few printers connected to
a few computers, consider connecting all
the printers to your old computer and
setting up a network to your newer machines. This way, you leave one computer on all the time, which saves energy, and
you’ll be able to print from any networked machine to any of the printers.
Similarly, consolidate files if you and
the users of your other networked computers are always trying to locate the
same data. Finding MP3s and shared documents becomes a snap when there’s
only one household My Documents and
My Music location. And you’ll have only
one directory to back up.
If you have broadband and a household
router, your service provider may let you
host a Web (or other) server, but be sure to
check your terms of service. Even Windows
98 can host a personal Web page and hundreds of files for the occasional visitor to
your site. Just make sure that you have updated your OS with the latest fixes and have
a solid antivirus program and firewall in
place. Apache is a free, high-quality server
software package (www.apache.org).
Donate your unwanted PC to a local repurposing of an old compact—and
school. If you really have no use for an old hopelessly broken—Apple Macintosh
machine or two, call your local school or is to turn it into an aquarium, called a
school district. Many districts have mini- Macquarium. We’re really talking about
mum donation standards, such as accepting a fishbowl stuffed inside the shell of an
nothing older than a 486-based system, so old computer, but the effect is quite
spiffy if you’re into retro-technolbe sure to ask. Some PC makers have
their own donation proogy or faking out your
grams. Dell, for examfriends. Why have a
ple, works with a founscreen saver imitate
dation that provides
real life, when you can
computers to disabled
have real life imitate a
children
(www.dell
screen saver? On the
.com/recycling). Gateway
Macquarium page at
buyers can request a reLow End Mac (www
cycle/donation form,
.lowendmac.com /
which, when validated by
compact/macquarium
a recycling center or char.shtml), you’ll find links
ity group, entitles them to
to photos, plans, and
discounts on future pureven ready-to-purchase
chases. (More on recycling
kits. The plans can be
FIGURE 2:
below.)
modified to work with
Turn your old monitor into an aquarium
Take it apart. Did you ever wonany PC monitor.
for the ultimate
Recycle it. If none of
der how a CPU is connected to a
conversation
these ideas tickle your
motherboard? Are you not sure how
piece.
fancy, don’t just throw
to remove a hard drive? Do you want
to practice inserting and removing RAM
your computer away. The
modules? An older computer is an excel- Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (www
lent practice PC for maintenance and up- .svtc.org) estimates that consumer elecgrades. You might want to keep it around tronics constitute 40 percent of the lead
just to perform trial runs before taking a found in landfills, and other toxic materiscrewdriver to your new $2,000 PC.
als, such as cadmium, barium, and merStrip it and sell the parts. Somewhere cury, are all found in PC components. Bein the world, some small business or cause of this, many municipal refuse and
volunteer organization is getting by recycling companies don’t offer curbside
with old computers that work just fine. pickup of computer equipment.
Fortunately, computer-recycling comBut when those machines break, getting replacement parts can be very dif- panies meet this challenge. PC recycling
ficult. Your old motherboard, video is sometimes free; otherwise there may
card, hard drive, network card, or other be a modest fee ($5 to $15). Call your city,
component could be invaluable to town, or village hall to find out whether
your area has a computer-recycling prosomeone out there on eBay.
When posting your items for sale, try gram. You can also search Google for
to include the full name of the compo- computer recycling in your area, or check
nent, including any part numbers, serial the Yellow Pages. Some computer vennumbers, and FCC ID numbers printed on dors, like Dell and HP, accept PCs for rethe part, because that’s what a potential cycling and reward you with gift certifibuyer will search for. Also, don’t expect cates or discounts on future purchases.
to make more than a few dollars on any
item. The point here is to help someone Warren Ernst is a computer consultant,
author, and journalist. You can visit his Web
else out, not make a killing.
Turn it into an aquarium. The classic site at www.warrenernst.com.
www.pcmag.com DECEMBER 9, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
77
SOLUTIONS | HARDWARE
Flash Focus
We answer your questions about using flash memory
effectively with your digital camera. By Don Labriola
O
ne measure of just how pervasive flash memory has become
is the volume of mail we receive
on the topic. The story “Flash Memory:
Pick a Card” in our issue of September 2
(www.pcmag.com/article2/0,4149,1213531,
00.asp) describes the variety of flash formats available, but digital-camera users
wanted to know more. Here are some of
the questions we see most often.
What’s the best
file format for storing photographs on
flash cards?
How can I tell how many photographs
will fit on a flash card?
This one requires some math—and a
little guesswork. If you’re storing uncom-
How Many Images Can You Fit on a Flash Card?
The best format
IMAGE SENSOR
depends on your
Less than 1-megapixel
application. Profes1-megapixel
sional photogra2-megapixel
phers need the
3-megapixel
highest
picture
4-megapixel
quality possible at a
5-megapixel
given resolution,
and the best way to ensure that is to save
photographs in uncompressed TIFF or
“RAW” format, which stores full-color
information for every captured pixel.
The problem with uncompressed
images is the huge amount of space they
consume, which can easily exceed 10MB
for a single photograph. This significantly reduces the number of images
you can squeeze on a flash memory card
or CD, makes photos more cumbersome
to edit, and increases the time it takes to
transfer them to a PC or portable device
or to upload them to the Web. Consequently, most people choose to store
images in JPEG format, which provides a
good compromise between picture quality and file size.
JPEG employs a lossy compression
algorithm, which means that every time
you save an image in JPEG format, you
irrevocably lose at least a little bit of
information. But this isn’t as big a drawback as you might think, because JPEG
supports variable levels of compression.
Storing a JPEG image at its highest quality
level results in little degradation, but saving it with maximum compression set-
78
tings can produce a 90 percent reduction
in size. Because of this flexibility and the
ubiquitous support for the JPEG standard
in Microsoft Windows and on the Web,
we recommend JPEG for all but the most
demanding applications.
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
the answer to this question depends on
how you use your camera. If you upload
your photos to a computer at the end of
the day, simply pick a card that can hold
a full day’s output. If you use a 64MB card
with a 3-megapixel camera, for example,
you should be able to shoot 80 to 90 JPEG
images without having to swap media.
Most amateur photographers should consider larger cards only if they plan to
shoot uncompressed images or if they’ll
use their cameras to capture audio annotations and video clips, both of which
require large amounts of storage space.
Remember that your requirements may
change if you take your camera on an
extended vacation without taking your PC.
It can make sense in such cases to use a
rapid-turnaround photofinisher to dump
your daily crop of photographs to CD, but
most people find it more
convenient and costeffective to purchase
IMAGE
RESOLUTION
UNCOMPRESSED
FILE SIZE
AVERAGE JPEG
COMPRESSED
FILE SIZE
APPROXIMATE
JPEGs PER
64MB CARD
640 x 480
900K
70K
850–1,050
1,280 x 960
3.5MB
280K
200–275
1,600 x 1,200
5.5MB
440K
125–175
2,048 x 1,536
9MB
730K
75–100
2,290 x 1,710
11.2MB
900K
60–80
2,592 x 1,944
14.4MB
1.1MB
50–75
pressed TIFF or RAW images, simply
multiply each picture’s color depth by its
resolution (remember that a megabyte
consists of 1,048,576 bytes). Most cameras
capture images with 24-bit color depth,
which means that a 1,600-by-1,200 image
would require 1,600 x 1,200 x 24 bits =
46,080,000 bits, which converts to
5,760,000 bytes (or approximately 5.5
megabytes). On most types of flash
media, a small amount of storage is consumed by system files, but you should
still be able to fit eleven 1,600-by-1,200
TIFF images on a 64MB card.
Predicting the size of a JPEG file is a
little trickier, because the exact amount of
JPEG compression depends on a camera’s
image-quality setting, the internal workings of its compression algorithm, and the
amount and type of detail in the photograph itself. Despite all this, you can
estimate based on typical images and
common JPEG settings. The table shows
ballpark ranges for the number of 24-bit
JPEG photos you can store on a 64MB
flash card.
What size flash card should I buy?
As with most other buying decisions,
enough
storage to
last the entire trip.
Is it better to buy one
large card or several smaller
ones?
This is largely a matter of taste, and
there are advantages to both options.
Many people prefer the convenience of
carrying only one card and knowing that
it’s always stored safely inside the camera.
But having multiple cards provides backup ammunition in case your primary card
is damaged, lost, or stolen.
A more important buying consideration
is cost, according to Gartner analyst
Joseph Unsworth. He says that the flashcard market is driven primarily by price,
and every flash technology has a capacity
“sweet spot” that offers the lowest cost per
megabyte. For example, if a 128MB card
costs 30 percent more than an equivalent
64MB unit but is one-third the price of a
256MB card, then one 128MB card is obviously a better buy than two 64MB cards.
Don Labriola is a contributing editor of
PC Magazine.
SOLUTIONS | OFFICE
Automate Long Fills
In Excel
It’s easy to create a macro that takes the hassle out of filling
large ranges in Excel. By Mark J. Brickley and Alan C. Cutting
H
ow many times have you number of highlighted columns. We’ll
dragged a formula down an store the information we gather in the
Excel sheet only to find yourself variables numRows and numCols for use
a thousand rows past your destination? later in the routine. And we’ll define a
You can easily solve that frustration with third variable called fillRange to hold
a few lines of VBA code. If you’ve never information about the range involved
written anything in Microsoft Visual Basic (more about that below).
DIM statements are used to define the
for Applications (VBA), this is a great
opportunity to learn some of
the basics.
Let’s begin by asking
Excel for a hand in writing
the VBA code using Excel’s
recorder to create a macro.
Once you have the basic
code, you can modify it to
your specific needs. Since
our new Excel feature deals
with copying formulas, we’ll
let the recorder watch us
copy a selection of cells
down a range.
THE COMPLETE macro code and the
Select a few cells, such as the range C5
InputBox.
through E6 (don’t worry that the cells are
empty). Now start the recorder by selecting Tools | Macro |Record New Macro. kind of variables you want. FillRange
Enter BigFill as the name of the macro and, needs to hold information about a range,
if you like, designate a shortcut key. Click while numRows and numCols hold whole
on OK. Use the copy handle to grab the numbers (integers).
Add the necessary lines of code—the
range of selected cells and drag it down a
few rows, say to E9. Stop the recorder first four lines under Sub BigFill() in the
either by clicking on the Stop button on the figure—just before the line that starts
floating recorder toolbar or by selecting with Selection.AutoFill.
The InputBox function uses two arguTools | Macro | Stop Recording.
Now press Alt-F11 and you should find ments: Prompt (the question we are askyourself in the VBA editor. If your code ing the user) and Title (the title of the
isn’t visible, you’ll need to get to Module1. InputBox). And notice the dots in the
If you don’t see a project window on your statement, which grab the number of
left, select View | Project Explorer. Then columns (numCols = Selection.Columns
double-click on Modules and again on .Count). In VBA, these are used to sepaModule1. You should now see the code as rate an object (such as a Selection) from
any properties or methods it may have.
in Figure 1.
Believe it or not, there are very few One of the properties of a selected area
changes to make. The two locations that in Excel is that it contains columns. A
method we can apply to
cite a specific range (C5:E9)
WATCH THIS!
this area is to count these
need to be changed to match
Walk through BigFill’s
columns.
the fill area. We’ll use an
creation with our
InputBox to ask for the numThe next step is to define a
animated demo at
ber of rows to be filled and
range that is unknown at the
www.pcmag.com.
simply have Excel count the
time we write our routine.
80
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
For this we need to know two things:
where the cursor is and the address at
the other end of the fill range. The
cursor’s location is fairly simple; VBA
provides an object called the ActiveCell.
We can find the end of the range using a
property of the ActiveCell, called Cells.
The Cells property treats the row and
column values as an index, so that the
rows and columns get numbered starting
from wherever the cursor is. So assuming
the cursor (the ActiveCell) is in the first
row and first column, the command
ActiveCell.Cells(2,3) refers to a cell in
the second row, third column. You’ll
notice that the addressing scheme is Row,
then Column (opposite of the way Excel
references cells).
Since we know the number of rows and
columns to be filled
(numRows and nuCols),
those two values will
define the ending location of our fill range.
The range to be filled
will extend from the cell in
the upper-left-hand side of
the range to the cell at the
lower-right-hand corner of
the range. The upper left cell
will be Cells(1,1) and the other corner
will depend on the number of rows and
columns; it will be Cells(numRows,
numCols). So starting at the cell that is currently active (the first cell in the group),
that range will go from Cells(1,1) to
Cells(numRows, numCols). Here’s the VBA
statement:
ActiveCell.Range(Cells(1,1),
Cells(numRows,numCols) )
To complete the code, set the variable
that will hold the range equal to the line
above and substitute this range with our
starting range C5:E9. Your completed
code should look like the lines in Figure
1. Now return to your worksheet and run
the macro using your shortcut key or by
entering Alt-F8 to bring up the Macro
dialog and choosing Run.
You can make the macro even more
useful by adding it to Excel’s Tools menu.
Visit www.pcmag.com to learn how.
Mark J. Brickley and Alan C. Cutting are
professors of computer information systems
at Roger Williams University in Bristol,
Rhode Island.
SOLUTIONS
w w w. p c m a g . c o m /s e c u r i ty wa tc h
T H E LO O KO U T
Top Five Myths About
Safe Surfing
Don’t let a false sense of security put you in danger.
By Leon Erlanger
R
ecently PC Magazine conducted
a survey that asked participants
to rate their broadband ISP services. We found out that many users don’t
completely understand the seriousness of
potential threats or how to protect their
PCs. The following are responses to the
top five security misconceptions we
encountered.
your PC so that others are protected.
I can protect my PC if I disconnect from
the Internet or turn it off when I’m not
using it.
Wrong. If you connect to the Internet
at all, you are a target. You could download a virus when you connect and not
activate it until days later when you read
your e-mail off-line. Even if you rarely
I don’t keep important things on my PC, connect to the Internet, you can get a
so I don’t have to worry about security.
virus from a file off of a network, floppy
There was a time when this statement disk, or USB flash memory drive.
was partially true, but that time has long
I can protect myself from viruses by
not opening suspicious e-mail
attachments.
Wrong again. The next virus
you get may come from your best
friend’s or boss’ computer if his
e-mail address book was used to
propagate an attack. Nimda and
other hybrid worms can enter
through the Web browser. And it
is possible to activate some
viruses simply by reading or previewing an e-mail. You simply
must have a PC-based antivirus
FIREWALLS can block inappropriate communicapackage.
tion to or from your computer.
since passed. Current viruses, worms,
and other threats, including the famous
Love Bug, Nimda, and Blaster, spread
blindly across the Internet to thousands
or millions of PCs in a matter of hours,
without regard for who owns them,
what is stored there, or the value of the
information they hold. The purpose of
such attacks is nothing less than to
wreak havoc. If you ignore the reality of
these attacks, you are certain to be hit at
one time or another. Even if your computer is not attacked directly, it can be
used as a zombie to launch a denial-ofservice or other attack on a network or
to send spam or pornography to other
PC s without being traced. Therefore,
your civic responsibility is to protect
84
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
I have a Macintosh (or a Linuxbased system), not a Windows system, so I don’t have to worry about being
attacked.
It is true that most attacks target
Microsoft Windows–based PCs, but there
have been attacks against Mac OS and
Linux systems as well. Some experts have
predicted that the Mac virus problem will
get worse, because Mac OS X uses a version of Unix. And although these systems
have some useful security features, they
can still be attacked.
My system came with an antivirus package, so I’m protected.
Not quite. First, if you haven’t activated your antivirus package to scan
incoming traffic automatically, you are
not protected against e-mail and Web
browser attacks. Second, new threats
FAULTY PATCH
LEAVES IE OPEN
An incomplete patch has opened a vulnerability in Internet Explorer, and
security experts say there are at least
four methods attackers can use to compromise vulnerable PCs.
Recently, experts identified a new
Trojan horse, known as Qhost-1, which
has been discovered on many machines.
Qhost-1 appears to change some of the
DNS settings on infected machines and
adds a couple of entries to the Registry,
but it doesn’t seem to take any other
immediate actions. The cumulative patch
(www.microsoft.com/technet/treeview/
default.asp?url=/technet/security/
bulletin/MS03-032.asp) that Microsoft
issued in August to fix a pair of flaws in IE
does not completely solve the problem.
In order to exploit the weakness, an
attacker needs only to entice a user to
open a malicious e-mail or visit a Web
site, where a Trojan horse or other malicious code could be automatically installed on a user’s PC.
Officials at the CERT Coordination
Center suggest that editing the Registry
to delete a key related to the problem is
the most effective method of preventing
exploitation. The key that needs to be
renamed or deleted is HKEY_LOCAL_
MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\MIME\Data-
base\Content Type\application/hta.
Because IE is the only browser vulnerable to this specific exploit, users could
avoid infection by switching to an alternative browser, such as Netscape Navigator or Opera.—Dennis Fisher
appear daily, so an antivirus package is
only as good as its last update. Activate
the auto-update features to stay on top
of the latest threats. Third, an antivirus
package can’t protect you from every
threat. In most cases you need a combination of solutions, including, at minimum, antivirus, a personal firewall such
as Zone Labs’ ZoneAlarm Pro, and a
plan for keeping your operating system
and software up to date with security
patches. Antispyware and antispam utilities (such as PepiMK Software’s SpyBot
Search & Destroy and Norton AntiSpam
2004) will also help keep you safe.
Leon Erlanger is a freelance author and consultant.
SOLUTIONS
Checking the Flight Line
FlightView enlists an advanced infrastructure to bring live aircraft
tracking to your desktop. By Alan Cohen
Y
ou might say RLM Software
has an eclectic group of
customers: airlines, airports,
rental car companies, travel sites, and
neurotic mothers. Indeed, anyone who
has ever tracked an aircraft online—
checking its mile-by-mile journey from
departure to arrival—has probably used
the company’s technology, which has
found its way onto many of the most
popular travel sites on the Web, as well
as RLM’s own site (www.flightview.com).
Its FlightView system provides live
status reports on the progress of 5,000
flights an hour—and has soothed more
than a few maternal nerves.
RLM Software, based in Boston, has
been developing real-time flight information systems since 1981, but a turning
point came in 1994, when the company
began to receive radar data directly from
the Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA), becoming the first authorized
vendor of such data outside of the
airlines carriers. Today, that data forms
the backbone of a sophisticated information-gathering and processing system
that can paint accurate, Web-ready snapshots of the status of airplanes in flight,
including altitude, speed, position, and
flight plan—as well as the weather
conditions they face.
Data is pumped into RLM from a variety of sources on a variety of schedules.
Radar data—derived from transponders
on aircraft that beam position and speed
information down to tracking stations—
comes from an FAA center located in
Cambridge, Massachusetts. At RLM, the
company’s radar-processing software
analyzes the data, checking for anomalies
and errors.
For example, an aircraft flying over
the Atlantic Ocean may send two
position reports a few minutes apart,
each noting the coordinates of the
plane’s position. RLM’s technology will
88
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
then check to see whether, given the aircraft’s speed, it could cover the reported
distance in the elapsed time. Errors in
radar data seldom happen, says RLM
vice president Mary Flynn, but when
they do, the FlightView system can
correct them.
The cleansed radar data is then fed
into a database that also contains schedule information from airlines or third
parties (updated twice a month) as well
as any updates on gate information or
delays received from the airlines. The
messages aren’t available for every airline;
currently, only about half a dozen send
them directly to RLM. A second database
contains geographical data—mapping
information provided by the National
Imaging and Mapping Agency, which is
updated once a year.
A third database contains aeronautical
information, such as jet routes, and is
updated every 56 days. The fourth and
final database stores weather information
obtained from Meteorlogix and the
National Weather Service.
At RLM, the four databases—on Gateway servers running Microsoft Windows
NT 4.0—are processed by proprietary
business logic software to create an XML
feed that can then be sent to RLM’s farflung customers, who use the data in different ways. RLM can also host the feeds.
Airline customers, including JetBlue Airways and Alaska Airlines, use the FlightView feed to power flight-tracking tools
on their Web sites, letting users click on
flight numbers and see real-time in-flight
pictures including maps and flight plans.
A small number of airports—including
Boston’s Logan International Airport and
Las Vegas’s McCarran International Airport—have integrated FlightView with
their own sites, and American Express,
Expedia, Travelocity.com, and USA
Today use the technology as well. Car
rental companies, including Avis, Hertz,
and others use FlightView as a revenuegenerating tool. By monitoring an inbound customer’s flight and checking for
delays, a rental car company can better
manage its resources. For example, it can
offer a car reserved for a customer who is
still circling Cleveland to someone who
has just walked in the door.
All of these uses generate revenue for
RLM, too, through subscription fees that
range from $200 a month to several thousand. Perhaps the real winner, however, is
your mother, who no longer needs to wait
up for your phone call, telling her you’ve
arrived, safe and sound.
The 30,000-Foot View
To display real-time positions of airplanes in flight, RLM Software's FlightView technology collects and processes
information from various sources. Transponders aboard aircraft beam altitude, speed, and position data to FAA ground
stations, which relay the information to RLM in Boston. RLM analyzes the data and passes it on to a proprietary database.
Other RLM databases contain geographical data, jet routes, flight schedules, gate changes, delay announcements, and
weather data. FlightView processes the data and creates dynamic Web pages that plot the flight paths of airplanes.
Airplanes
with transponders
Geographical
data
Aeronautical
data
Schedule
data
Gate changes
and delays
Weather
data
?
Dynamic maps for FlightView,
airline, airport, or travel Web sites
FAA ground station,
Cambridge,
Massachusetts
RLM radarprocessing
facility,
Boston
FlightView Windows NT
servers
SOLUTIONS
w w w. p c m a g . c o m /u s e r to u s e r
PC MAGAZINE’S COMMUNITY OF
EXPERTS AND READERS
Restrict Browsing to a Single
Domain, Revisited
Your tip is quite effective, and it is indeed
less extreme than using a HOSTS file. But the
Your advice in the issue of June 17 (page
proxy restriction is not effective over a VPN
79) regarding browser restriction to a
connection. Also, you may need to add
single domain is fairly extreme. Most
supporting domains to the domains you
browsers (IE and all Mozilla flavors, at
want. For example, if you use this tip to limit
least) have a built-in feature that will
access to just www.pcmag.com, you won’t
accomplish this task
get many of the
much more easily.
pictures, as they are
Just set your browshosted on http://
er to use a nonexiscommon.ziffdavis
tent proxy server.
internet.com. If
In IE’s Internet
portions of your
single site don’t come
Options dialog, go to
through, right-click
the Connections tab
on the page, choose
and click on the LAN
View Source from the
Settings button. In
pop-up menu, and
the LAN Settings
see whether you can
dialog box, check
identify additional
the box titled Use a
domains that should
proxy server for
be permitted.
your LAN. Next click
The Group Policy
on the Advanced...
Editor is for systems
button and type in
FIGURE 1: You can restrict browsing to
running Windows
any name you wish
specific domains by setting up a nonexis2000 and Windows
in the HTTP: field (I
tent proxy server and adding exceptions.
use blockdomains)
XP. Those using
and 80 in the Port:
Windows 9x can
field. Check the box to Use the same proxy
accomplish the same thing by editing the
server for all protocols (Figure 1). Then
Registry, but only for the current user. Type
REGEDIT in the Start menu’s Run dialog.
enter the domains you want to allow in the
Navigate to KEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE
Exceptions box titled Do not use proxy
\Policies\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\
server for addresses beginning with:. Now
Control Panel and find or create the DWORD
all URLs will go to a nonexistent proxy
value Connections Tab in the right-hand
server (that is, nowhere) except for the
pane. Double-click on it and set its data to 1;
sites you’ve designated.
this will hide the Connections tab.
If you are really serious about restrict—Neil J. Rubenking
ing Web domains, after doing the above,
launch the Group Policy Editor by entering
Gpedit.msc in the Start menu’s Run dialog.
Navigate to the policy User Configura-
When Adding Memory Yields
Out Of Memory
My system runs Windows 98 SE. I had
512MB of memory but increased to 1GB
because of dropping memory prices. But
my system constantly displays messages
saying that the system is running out of
memory or doesn’t have enough memory to
run certain programs. This never happened
before I upgraded!
JOHN S. BRYAN
Windows 9x (95, 98, and Me) is not designed
to support that much memory—at least not
in its default configuration. At start-up, it
reserves space for a memory cache called
Vcache, whose size is proportional to the
amount of memory on the system. This
space is drawn from a memory area called
the system arena, which is used by Windows
internally for other purposes. When the
amount of memory is much larger than
512MB, the Vcache can consume all or most
of the system arena, causing Windows to
report insufficient memory.
The solution is to put a lid on the amount
of memory allocated to the Vcache. Open the
file C:\Windows\System.ini in Notepad and
find the section header [vcache]. Look
within this section for a line beginning
MaxFileCache=. If you don’t see this line
before the next section header (the next line
of text in square brackets), insert a
MaxFileCache= line just after the [vcache]
header. You need to set it to 512MB, but
the values are expressed in kilobytes, so the
correct number is 512 multiplied by 1,024,
or 524,288. Edit the line so it reads
MaxFilecache=524288, save the
System.ini file, and restart your
system.—NJR
tion\Administrative Templates\Windows
Shrink the Programs
Menu
Components\Internet Explorer\Internet
Control Panel\Disable the Connections
page. Right-click on this policy, click on
Properties, and check the Enabled box
(Figure 2). Now no one will be able to
remove the proxy settings used to block
all domains. This part is not necessary
unless you’re blocking sites from fairly
savvy users.
DOUGLAS HAWKS
FIGURE 2: Using the Group Policy Editor,
you can hide the Connections tab from
IE’s options, thus blocking users from
undoing your restrictions.
When I install a new program on
Windows XP, I get a message
that a new program is installed.
Unlike some, I don’t mind the message. The
problem is that I have so many programs
installed that I can’t even see the new
program. What can I do?
DON FOUT
Windows 9x is not designed to support more than
512MB of memory in its default configuration.
www.pcmag.com DECEMBER 9, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
95
SOLUTIONS
If your Programs menu is too long to scroll through,
think about reorganizing its contents.
One solution is to choose a single-column
scrolling menu. Right-click on the taskbar,
click on Properties, and choose the Start
menu tab. There are two buttons titled
Customize; click on the one that’s not disabled. If you see an Advanced tab in the
resulting dialog, click on it. In the scrolling list
of options, check the box titled Scroll Programs. Now your Programs menu will display
as a single column, with arrows at the top
and bottom to scroll through the options.
If your Programs menu is so big that it
extends off-screen in multicolumn mode,
however, you may find that it takes too long
to scroll up and down in single-column mode.
Either way, you can benefit by organizing the
Programs menu.
Right-click on the Start button and choose
Explore; this will display the Start Menu
folder in Windows Explorer. Open the Programs folder (which directly corresponds to
the Programs menu). Within this folder, each
subfolder represents a submenu, and each
shortcut represents a menu item. Find a
group of folders or shortcuts that all fit the
same category. Right-click on the right-hand
pane, choose New | Folder from the menu,
and name the folder for that category.
Now drag all of the matching folders and
shortcuts into the new folder. Right-click on
the Start button again, but this time choose
Explore All Users from the menu. Open the
Programs folder again and check for folders
or shortcuts that should go into the submenu
you just created. If you find any, create
another subfolder with precisely the same
name and drag those folders and shortcuts
into it. This is necessary because Windows
XP builds the visible Start menu from both
your personal items and the All Users items.
By moving related items into a submenu,
you’ve reduced the size of the main Programs
menu. Repeat the process for more groups of
related items until you’ve brought the Programs menu down to a reasonable size.
Note, however, that moving program file
HOW TO CONTACT US
E-MAIL K [email protected]
FAX K 212-503-5799
MAIL K User to User, PC Magazine, 28 East
28th St., New York, NY 10016-7940
If we print your tip, you’ll receive a PC
Magazine T-shirt. We regret that we
cannot answer letters individually.
96
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
shortcuts can have an annoying side effect:
When you uninstall a program, it won’t remove file shortcuts that aren’t in the usual
locations. Keep this in mind when you uninstall a program, and double-check to make
sure dead shortcuts are deleted. PC Magazine
Utility Library subscribers can download
SMClean, which finds and removes dead Start
menu links along with any empty Start menu
folders (www.pcmag.com/utilities).—NJR
Super-Superscripts in Word
I often need to use superscripts on superscripts in Microsoft Word 2002. For example, I may need to enter an equation like e to
the power of 7x squared. The only way I’ve
found to add the super-superscript is to
type first the superscript character or
characters (7x in this example), then the
super-superscripted character (2). I then
select the 2 and choose Format | Font, then
Character spacing, and I adjust the height
by setting Position to Raised and setting By
to 3 points. Is there an easier way?
NEIL KATZ
For complicated equations in Word 2002,
you may want to use the Equation Editor.
Assuming you have the Equation Editor
installed, you can launch it from Word by
choosing Insert | Object, selecting the Create
New tab, finding Microsoft Equation 3.0 in
the Object Type list, and clicking on OK.
For simple equations like the one you
describe, you may want to fall back on
Word’s Equation field. A Word field translates
a command into a result. If you know the
command, it’s easy to enter the field. First
type Ctrl-F9 to enter the field code markers
(which look like curly brackets). Then enter
the field commands between the markers
(see Figure 3). In this case the field would
read Eq e\s\up2(7x)\s\up4(2). This tells
Word to create an equation by entering an e,
followed by a superscript that is 2 points
higher, using the text 7x. Then enter a superscript that’s a total of 4 points higher than
the e, using the text 2.
For the complete list of equation field
commands in Word 2002, choose Help |
Microsoft Word Help. Select the Answer
Wizard tab and type Equation field as the
item to search for, then click on Search. In
the Select topic to display list, choose Field
codes: Eq (Equation) field and explore the
options.—M. David Stone
FIGURE 3: Using the Equation field, you
can create the format for basic formulas.
Trouble with Fast User
Switching
I just installed Windows XP Home Edition
and I wanted to enable Fast User Switching.
When I go to User Accounts in the Control
Panel and select Change the way users log
on or off, I get an error message saying: A
recently installed program has changed
the Welcome Screen and Fast User Switching. To restore these features, you must
uninstall the program. The following file
name might help you identify the program
that made the change: MSGINA. What
program is this, and how do I uninstall it?
JASON TRAVIS
MSGINA.dll (Microsoft Graphical Identification and Authentication) is part of the normal
Windows log-on, and it is involved in managing Fast User Switching (UFS). Sometimes
third-party remote-access products not
originally designed for Win XP will use a
Registry setting to replace MSGINA.dll with
their own files, causing this problem. If
you’ve installed a remote-access product
recently, your best bet is to uninstall it. If not,
you can untweak the Registry to force the
system to use the original MSGINA.dll file.
Launch REGEDIT from the Start menu’s
Run command and navigate to the key
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft
\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon.
In the right-hand pane you should find a
value named GinaDLL; the data for this
value may give a clue as to which program
caused the change. Rename the value to
NOT_GinaDLL, so you can undo the change
if necessary. Once you change the value,
Windows will use the correct file and reenable Fast User Switching. You may need to
restart Windows before activating FUS.—NJR
Rename Files to Match
Date/Time Stamp
My digital camera generates filenames
like IMG001.jpg, IMG002.jpg, and so on.
This isn’t useful, because the filenames
don’t describe anything, and I often run
into problems with duplicate filenames
when I transfer images to my computer. Is
there a simple way in Windows XP Professional to rename a group of files, with each
filename made up of the date and time of
file creation? For example, I’d like to see
filenames such as 20030730_143222.
BOB ROBERTS
A batch file using the FOR command can do
the job in one very long string. The FOR
command was designed to apply a specific
command to all files matching one or more
file specifications. For example, the command
can copy all JPEG files in the current folder to
a new name starting with the word backup:
"FOR %%M IN (*.JPG *.JPEG) DO COPY
%%M backup%%M"
The FOR variable, defined immediately after
the word FOR, can be any uppercase or lowercase letter preceded by a pair of percent signs.
Every occurrence of the variable in the DO
portion of the command is replaced in turn by
each filename matching the file specifications.
That’s about all the FOR command does in
DOS or Windows 9x, but the Windows
2000/XP version is vastly more powerful.
Among other things, it can supply each file’s
Pass a file specification to this batch file
by entering DATENAME *.JPG, for example,
at the command prompt. It will display each
matching filename followed by its
date/time stamp in brackets and then its
extension. This works because the
Windows 2000/XP FOR command
BEFORE: Digital-image files
named in numerical order.
date/time stamp and file extension, both of which are used in
building the new filenames.
We’ll start with a demonstration of this capability. Use
Notepad to create a file called
Datename.bat containing just
these two lines:
@ECHO OFF
FOR %%V IN (%1) DO ECHO %%V [%%~tV]
%%~xV
AFTER: Our batch file
renames the images
based on their
date/time stamp.
allows a number of
qualifiers in the FOR variable that yield
different results. Inserting the qualifier ~t
before the variable letter gets the date/time
stamp in a format such as 05/16/03
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All registrations and trademarks are properties of their
respective owners. © 2003, Interlink Electronics, Inc.
SOLUTIONS
Is there a simple way to rename a group of files, with
“
each filename indicating the date and time of creation?”
09:54a. Inserting ~x returns the file extension, including the initial period. That’s the
information we’ll need to build the new
filenames, but the date/time stamp requires further processing.
Used with the /F command line switch,
the Windows 2000/XP FOR command parses
lines of text into individual words. If the value
in parentheses is a filespec, FOR parses each
line of each matching file. If it’s a literal string
(set off in double quotation marks), FOR
parses just that string, which is what you
need.
By default, the parsing function simply
returns the first blank-separated word from
each line, replacing the FOR variable with
that word. But adding a tokens= qualifier
makes FOR /F auto-create additional variables to hold multiple words, and a delims=
qualifier defines additional characters as
word separators.
We’ll try it first with a hard-coded date/
time string. Replace the second line in your
batch file with this line:
FOR /F "tokens=1-5 delims=/: " %%J
FOR %%V IN (%1) DO FOR /F "tokens=1-
IN ("05/16/03 09:54a") DO ECHO %%J %%K
5 delims=/: " %%J IN ("%%~tV") DO ECHO
%%L %%M %%N
Rename "%%V" %%L%%J%%K_%%M%%N%%~xV
The command retrieves the first five
words from the string, using the characters
slash, colon, and space as word separators.
%%J is the defined FOR variable; %%K through
%%N are generated automatically.
The output of this command looks like
this: 05 16 03 09 54a. The filename format that you want to employ with your
image files is ordered by year, month, and
day, with no spaces, so edit the command to
end like this:
When you pass a file specification to this
batch file, it will report all matching files
along with the corresponding date-based
filename. After you’ve verified that the
command works, simply delete the word
ECHO to switch its function from reporting
the filename changes to making them.
There’s one last complication. If two files
have exactly the same date/time stamp,
attempting to rename the second one will
cause an error and halt the processing.
Unless you can guarantee that each file will
have a unique date/time stamp, you’ll need
to avoid this possibility. Thus we reach the
final amazingly long command:
DO ECHO %%L%%J%%K_%%M%%N
Now the result looks like 030516_0954a,
which would be suitable for a date/time–
based filename.
The next step is to combine the two techniques, putting each file’s date/time stamp in
place of the hard-coded date and creating
new filenames based on the data returned.
Remember, this is still a single command line
in your batch file:
FOR %%V IN (%1) DO FOR /F "tokens=15 delims=/: " %%J IN ("%%~tV") DO IF
EXIST %%L%%J%%K_%%M%%N%%~xV (ECHO
Cannot rename %%V) ELSE (Rename "%%V"
%%L%%J%%K_%%M%%N%%~xV)
With that, the batch file is complete.—NJR
PHOTOGRAPHY BY THOM O’CONNOR
With the holidays approaching, geeks are starting to dream of the
gadgets they crave. Apparently, everyone else is, too: Nearly
three-quarters of all U.S. households are likely to purchase at least
one consumer electronics product this holiday season, according
to the Consumer Electronics Association. On
the following pages are the products
we’ll have on our gift lists.
IN THIS STORY
104
108
112
120
126
128
Music
Digital Imaging
Mobile & Useful
Kids & Games
Carrying Gear
Fantasy Gifts
OUR CONTRIBUTORS:
Bill Howard and Bruce Brown are
contributing editors of PC Magazine. Jamie M. Bsales is a senior
editor. Matthew D. Sarrel is a
technical director. Robyn Peterson
is a Web producer for ExtremeTech.
Jennifer Harsany is an intern.
Senior editor Carol A. Mangis and
associate editor Jeremy A. Kaplan
were in charge of this story.
www.pcmag.com DECEMBER 9, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
103
Delphi SKYFi Portable Audio System M
The Delphi SKYFi XM-based mini boom box is hands-down the best way to hear 100
channels of satellite radio at home, in the yard, or at the beach. Use AC or batteries
to power the system. You can also connect the tuning module to a car or home
stereo receiver with separate mounting kits.—BH
$130 street. Delphi Corp., www.delphi.com/products/consumers/skyfi.
TDK Dig-It CD-R M
Hunting down a specific CD-R can be
a challenge. After all, unless you make
your own customized labels, each CD
is virtually identical. The myriad of
stylish designs and tribal patterns liven
up these CDs but still allow room for
writing names, dates, and any other
info you want.—JAK
e
ric can
op
o d e.commilar
t
i
a
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ha zRa ee s s in ou
n’t d; Bi o thr ture ct y
o
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o
lin in yo Sele re th d th vend
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Bu mpa em f and nce o come.—J
co o th cts rt. O als ric
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Ten-pack, $8.99 list. TDK Electronics, www.tdk.com.
Skullcandy LINK
Skullcrushers K
Gamers and lovers
of bass-heavy music
can shut out competing noise with this
well-designed headset. Each earpiece has a
built-in vibration woofer.
You can even wear these
over a hat and still catch those
all-important sound waves.
You get plugs for both PCs and
portable players.—CAM
$89.95 direct. Skullcandy, www.skullcandy.com.
104
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
GADGETS AND GEAR
Bose QuietComfort 2 K
Consider the Bose stereo headphones
a long-term investment for your personal
listening experience. The built-in noise
cancellation and comfortable ear cups are
perfect for extended periods of listening,
and the sound quality is outstanding.—BH
$299 direct. Bose Corp., www.bose.com.
Dell Digital Jukebox M
If you’ve been craving an Apple iPod but can’t swing the
price, the Dell Digital Jukebox is a tad more affordable.
It’s not quite as small and the controls aren’t as slick, but
a 15GB unit is just $249. And the music still sounds
great.—BH
Apple iPod (40GB) K
The new Apple iPod (40GB)
is the most sought-after
MP3 player. It can hold a
whopping 10,000 songs, and
perks include 8 hours of battery
life, touch-sensitive controls, and a
wired remote. The iPod works with both
Windows and Macintosh computers.—TD
$499 list. Apple Computer Inc., www.apple.com.
20GB, $329 direct; 15GB, $249.
Dell Inc., www.dell.com.
Philips Digital Camera Key Ring,
Philips MP3 Key Ring L
For easy transport of the latest tunes or quick snapshots at
your fingertips, get Philips’s two key ring USB devices. The
digital camera has 1-megapixel resolution, enough for taking
fun shots on the go. The MP3 player is available with 64MB or
128MB of memory. The snazzier 128MB version has controls
woven into the included neck lanyard.—BH
64MB, $100 street; 128MB, $130; 128MB with neck lanyard, $150. Philips Consumer
Electronics North America Corp., www.philips.com.
www.pcmag.com DECEMBER 9, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
105
GADGETS AND GEAR
Prismiq MediaPlayer
The Prismiq MediaPlayer is a standout among
digital media hubs that transport MP3 audio from
PC to stereo receiver. It can also send photos to
your TV, play MPEG
videos, browse the
Web, and do
instant messaging.—BH
$249.95 direct. Prismiq Inc.,
www.prismiq.com.
Cambridge SoundWorks Radio CD 740 L
Finally, a clock radio that plays both audio and MP3 CDs.
Think of the Radio CD 740 as a 12-pound bedside stereo with
a snooze alarm. Back panel inputs are handy for connecting
to portable MP3 players or pumping the audio for your
TV and DVD player in your bedroom or dorm room.—BH
$399.99 direct. Cambridge SoundWorks, www.hifi.com.
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Verbatim Digital
Vinyl CD-R M
As anyone who has sifted
through stacks of copied CDs
can attest, blank discs are
bland. Make your music less
ordinary with these CDs,
which look like vinyl records
right down to the grooves.
Just don’t try to play one on a
turntable.—JAK
Ten-pack, $10.60 direct. Verbatim
Corp., www.shopverbatim.com.
Hauppauge MediaMVP K
The Web is a multimedia
wonderland, but taking that entertainment to your TV makes it so
much more fun! Using your Ethernet
network (or 802.11b in a future version), the Media MVP
brings your PC and TV together in a clean, simple interface.
A remote lets you control the show from the comfort of
your couch. And all this comes at a very sweet price.—JAK
$99.99 list. Hauppauge Computer Works Inc., www.hauppauge.com.
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P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
I’mASpeaker L
CD/MP3 players let you carry
lots of your own music, but
how do you share it? Try
I’mASpeaker, the cleverest
CD-carrying case ever, with
an NXT flat-panel speaker and
battery slot built into one side
of the case and a pouch on the
other for your music player.
Even the mono version puts
out surprisingly good
(and loud) sound.—JAK
Mono version, $24.99 direct; stereo,
$34.99. TDK Electronics, www.tdk.com.
Virgin Pulse
Portable TV/DVD
J
When you realize that the
Virgin Pulse TV/DVD combines
a DVD player, TV, and radio with
a 10.4-inch screen, this device
(one of the first from cool
British company Virgin) turns
from a cute package into
a real bargain. It’s light enough
to carry from room to room
(or dorm to dorm), yet the
speakers pack a wallop.—JAK
$499.99 list, Virgin Pulse Inc.,
www.virginpulse.com.
J
HandHeld ZVUE!
A perfect teen gift that won’t bust your budget, this personal video
player blasts MP3s and shows full-motion video and JPEG images in
color. Music videos, cartoons, and more will be available on ZCard!,
MMC, or SD cards (starting at $5.99 each). And of course, you can
also play your own MP3s and video.—CAM
$99 list. HandHeld Entertainment Inc., www.hheld.com.
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Sony DSC-U50 Cyber-shot Digital Camera
This quick-powering 2-megapixel camera is small and
sleek enough to tote in a pocket or handbag. And it has
an innovative lens that rotates 210 degrees, so your selfportraits might actually turn out well. It comes in black,
silver, or metallic orange.—CAM
$249.95 direct. Sony Electronics Inc., www.sonystyle.com.
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P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
GADGETS AND GEAR
HP Scanjet 4670 K
Here’s a gimmick that actually
works: The HP Scanjet 4670 is
a 1-inch-thick picture frame with
a built-in 2,400-dpi scanner. Tilt the
frame away from the easel stand, drop
in a photo, and hit the Scan button. For
books or oversize objects, lay the scanner on top, make overlapping scans,
and HP’s stitching software creates one
big, beautiful image.—BH
$200 street. Hewlett-Packard Co., www.hp.com.
HP DVD Movie
Writer dc3000 L
M Panasonic D-snap SV-AS10
The size of a business card, this stylish 2-megapixel flash camera
is compact enough to go anywhere. It also packs in an MP3/WMA
player, a digital voice recorder, and a QuickTime video recorder
(using Secure Digital cards, which hold up to 512MB). It comes in
blue, silver, or copper.—BH
Inside this sleek unit are an
analog-to-digital converter
and a DVD+RW drive. Simply
hook up your VCR or analog
camcorder to the HP DVD
Movie Writer dc3000 to
transfer video to DVD in
a snap. For more elaborate
productions, you can fire up
the included video-editing
software.—JMB
$300 street. Matsushita Electric Corp. of America, www.panasonic.com.
$400 street. Hewlett-Packard Co.,
www.hp.com.
Sharp Viewcam VL-Z7U L
The presents, the laughter, the tears.... Capture all
the holiday magic. Weighing just about a pound and
capturing video on MiniDV tapes, the Sharp Viewcam
VL-Z7U is an easy-to-use, go-anywhere camcorder
with excellent features for the price.—JAK
$500 street. Sharp Electronics Corp., www.sharp-usa.com.
J
Gyration Media Center Remote
Control your Media Center PC with a flick, swipe, or
shake of your wrist. Thanks to a built-in gyroscope,
adjusting the volume and navigating the menu are
as easy as waving your hand—up to 100 feet away.
And since mousing takes place in the air, you
can finally throw out that old mouse pad.—RP
$179.95 list. Gyration, www.gyration.com.
www.pcmag.com DECEMBER 9, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
109
GADGETS AND GEAR
Verbatim
DigitalMovie DVDs M
Epson Stylus Photo 2200
This wide-format photo printer will output
images up to 13 by 129 inches. The seven
different color cartridges are rated to last
up to 80 years each. A paper roll feeder
and automatic paper cutter are included with this impressive package.—BB
$700 street. Epson America Inc., www.epson.com.
J
Radiant Frame
Digital images look great on your bright LCD monitor but lose
their punch when you print them out. Combining special ink
jet paper and a backlit photo frame (several styles are available), the Radiant Frame can light up your memories, serving
as a display or an excellent nightlight.—JAK
Film may be slowly deteriorating in vaults, but your
movies can be safely preserved digitally on the stylish
new Verbatim DigitalMovie
DVDs. Available in either
DVD-R or DVD+R format,
the discs have a writable
space for title info and
enough class to make even
home movies remind you of
the silver screen.—JAK
Three-pack, $12 street. Verbatim Corp.,
www.shopverbatim.com.
$29.99 list. Radiant Frames, www.radiantframes.com.
Creative WebCam
Notebook M
Stay connected on the road with
the portable yet powerful Creative
WebCam Notebook, which makes
it easy to send and receive videos,
instant video messages, and even
multimedia e-mails. The diminutive WebCam has an adjustablefocus lens and a 640-by-480 resolution, and the device is powered
via the USB cable.—JAK
$49.99 direct. Creative Technology Ltd.,
www.creative.com.
AG Neovo E-19A
Flat-panel LCD monitors don’t have to cost
as much as a small
Buick. This gorgeous 19inch monitor with integrated amplifier and
speakers will make your
images crisp and bright. The
170-degree viewing angle
means your friends won’t
have to take turns to watch
your slide shows.—BB
$700 street after rebate. AG Neovo,
www.neovo-usa.com.
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P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003
GADGETS AND GEAR
Hitachi G1000 K
Here’s something for the serious gadget freak: a high-speed wireless
data phone/PDA complete with speakerphone capability, an integrated
digital camera, and a QWERTY keyboard. It includes an SD card slot
for multimedia and other files. Microsoft Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition
makes this a capable PDA and multimedia playback device.—BB
$650 street. Sprint PCS, www.sprintpcs.com.
Digipower
Digital Camera
World Travel Charger
Globe-trotting digital
photographers, take some
weight out of your travel
bag. This battery charger
features three built-in plug
types for use in more than
50 countries, and it can
bring your lithium ion
battery back to life in as
little as 1 hour.—CAM
J
SanDisk ImageMate 8 in 1 Card Reader/Writer
The SanDisk ImageMate 8 in 1 Card Reader/Writer adds up to
four simultaneous flash drives to your computer via your USB port,
making it easy to transfer digital images or other files to another
media format for friends or coworkers. The ImageMate
supports CompactFlash Types I and II, Memory Stick, Memory
Stick Pro, MultiMediaCard, SecureDigital, SmartMedia, and
xD-Picture Card.—BB
$39.99 list. SanDisk Corp., www.sandisk.com.
$40 street. Digipower,
www.mizco.com.
Sennheiser PC 150 L
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112
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
These ultracomfortable padded PC headphones have a noise-canceling microphone
(perfect for online gaming chat and Internet
telephony), a mute switch, and
an inline volume control.—CAM
$65 street. Sennheiser Communications A/S,
www.sennheisercommunications.com.
GADGETS AND GEAR
J
Motorola IMfree
If you’re one step away from investing in another PC just so your children can send instant
messages, check out the clever Motorola IMfree. Simply plug in the base to your PC’s USB port,
and they can chat on AOL Instant Messenger from up to 150 feet away from that PC.—BB
$100 street. Motorola Inc., www.motorola.com.
J
Nokia 3650
The slick design of the
Nokia 3650 proves that
high-powered digital
phones don’t have to look
boring, and its impressive
features won’t overwhelm you
with loads of buttons. The 3650 is
a GSM/GPRS phone that works on
today’s relatively high-speed GSM data
networks, and it has an integrated digital
camera and built-in Bluetooth.—BB
$300 street. Nokia, www.nokia.com/us.
iGo Juice70 K
You’ll need only one transformer in your
laptop bag if it’s the shiny iGo Juice70.
This device comes with connectors for
the most common notebooks and
can plug into home outlets and
DC outlets in cars and planes.
The optional Peripheral Powering System cords let you
recharge a cell phone or
a PDA at the same time
as your notebook.—BH
$119.99 direct; Peripheral Powering System,
$19.99. iGo Corp., www.igo.com.
Samsung
A600 K
Digital phones with
integrated cameras are
handy for point-andshoot picture taking. And
the very bright display on
the Samsung A600 swivels, making
it easier to show images to others
or capture an image of yourself.—BB
$350 street. Sprint PCS, www.sprintpcs.com.
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P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
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GADGETS AND GEAR
L Verbatim
Store ‘n’ Go USB Drive
Visioneer
Strobe XP 100 K
Belkin OmniView
SOHO Series 4-Port KVM
Switch with Audio
Do you have too many PCs
cluttering your family room
or home office? With this
sophisticated and powerful
device, four PCs can share the
same keyboard, mouse, speakers, and monitor. You’ll be
surprised by how much space
this gadget can liberate.—BB
For scanning
receipts, color
photos, and everything in between,
a sheet-fed scanner is
faster and more convenient than
a flatbed model. The 600-dpi Visioneer
Strobe XP 100 is reasonably priced,
and it’s so small it fits under the chin of
your monitor. The device nestles easily
in a laptop bag, draws power from
any USB port, and can go
anywhere.—BH
Plenty of folks are using flash
memory thumb drives to
carry files from work to home
and back. Verbatim’s new
version uses ultrafast USB
2.0 for file transfers,
supporting up to 8-MBps
read speeds and 5MBps write speeds.
It also comes with
optional password protection.—CAM
32MB, $29 list; 1GB, $349. Verbatim
Corp., www.shopverbatim.com.
$200 street. Visioneer Inc.,
www.visioneer.com.
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Logitech
Cordless
Desktop MX
For Bluetooth
Why stop at cordless
typing and mousing? The
Logitech Cordless Desktop
MX for Bluetooth also includes
a wireless hub that lets you connect Bluetooth headsets, printers,
and even phones. The keyboard and
mouse in this powerful package are
loaded with cool controls.—BB
$180 street. Logitech Inc., www.logitech.com/bluetooth.
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P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
GADGETS AND GEAR
M Socket GPS Nav Kit with Bluetooth
Using a PDA and a GPS device together in your car with
navigation software can be a super aid to keep you on your
route—or even tell you where you are. But connecting a
GPS to a PDA with a cable can be a nuisance and
adds to dashboard clutter. The Socket GPS Nav
Kit with Bluetooth, used with Bluetoothenabled Pocket PC devices, eliminates the
cable connection so you can place the GPS
unit where it gets the best satellite signal and
keep the PDA where you can most easily read
the display. The included NavTech maps and route
data help you find your way.—BB
$530 street. Socket Communications Inc., www.socketcom.com.
M
HP iPAQ Pocket PC h2215
Power users will be especially
pleased with the impressive HP
iPAQ Pocket PC h2215. It has a
fast CPU, a terrific 3.5-inch
color backlit display, integrated Bluetooth wireless
radio, and two types of
expansion slots. And
with the cool bundled
Nevo software, you
can use this PDA as
a remote control
for your home
entertainment
devices.—BB
$400 street.
Hewlett-Packard Co.,
www.hp.com.
J
L
Microsoft Wireless Optical Desktop Elite
Type and scroll in comfort with this dynamic duo. The
keyboard has a leatherlike cushioned palm rest and a scroll
wheel on the left-hand side of the keyboard. There is another
scroll wheel on the included Microsoft Wireless IntelliMouse
Explorer so you can move vertically and horizontally on a page
simultaneously, making this tool a dream for zipping around
digital images zoomed to 500 percent.—BB
$104.95 list. Microsoft Corp., www.microsoft.com/hardware.
Targus Deluxe Mobile Bundle K
The perfect gift for any notebook owner, this bundle includes a cable lock,
a retractable 8-foot telephone cord, a 7-foot Ethernet cable, and the IBM
ThinkPad Wireless Optical Mini Mouse. You can use the mouse up to 3 feet
away from the tiny transceiver, which plugs into your notebook’s USB port.—BB
$60 direct. Targus Inc., www.targus.com.
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P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Palm Zire 71
Has someone on
your list asked for a
PDA, an MP3 player, and
a digital camera? Check
out the nifty Palm Zire 71:
You can check off all those
items with a single purchase.
With its bright color display, you’ll
have no trouble viewing images,
playing games, or using the screen as a
viewfinder to shoot pictures.—BB
$300 street. Palm Inc., www.palmone.com.
GADGETS AND GEAR
LASR GameCase for Sony PlayStation 2 M
Nyko Air Flo Mouse K
Hordes of aliens got you sweating? A tiny, builtin fan in this optical mouse will keep your
palms dry, at least. The fan draws its power
from the USB connection and has a threeposition setting for more, less, or no
cooling.—JAK
With this well-padded carrying case, gamers on
the go can easily tote two game pads, ten CDs
or DVDs, game manuals, and of
course, the PS2. A fan vent helps
prevent overheating so you can
play without having to unpack
your console.—CAM
$30 street. LASR Accessories,
www.lasraccessories.com.
$39.99 list. Nyko, www.nyko.com.
Neurosmith Musini,
Musini Magic Wand, Together Tunes M
We loved the Neurosmith Musini last year and featured it in our
holiday gift guide (December 24, page 144). It creates music from
external vibrations (dancing, stomping, and so on). The Musini
Magic Wand is another way for kids to interact with the
Musini: Wave it in the air to conduct spontaneous symphonies. And for very
young music lovers (3 months
and older), the Together Tunes is
a colorful cloth block with tuneful
activities hidden on each of its
six side panels.—CAM
Musini, $59.99 list; Magic Wand, $29.99;
Together Tunes, $59.99. Neurosmith LLC,
www.neurosmith.com.
LeapFrog Leapster L
A new educational tech toy in
LeapFrog’s excellent lineup,
the LeapFrog Leapster is a
handheld gaming gadget for
kids age 4 to 8. Instead of
merely mashing buttons, kids
will acquire reading and math
skills.—CAM
$80 list; games, $25 each. LeapFrog
Enterprises Inc., www.leapfrog.com.
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P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
GADGETS AND GEAR
MadCatz LumiCON K
Do you like to play in the dark? The MadCatz LumiCON game pad
can light your way with its internal LED glow. The controller, available for the Microsoft Xbox and the Sony PlayStation 2, also does force feedback. The
macro button lets you program complicated moves on four separate buttons.—CAM
For the Xbox, $24.99 list; for the PS2, $19.99. MadCatz Interactive Inc., http://madcatz.com.
EverGlide Attack Pad
Stay one light strip ahead of the pack with this neat illuminated
mouse pad. The bright LEDs are visible even with the lights on,
though they are most effective in a dimmer environment. The Attack Pad also looks cool with the popular light-up Auravision EluminX keyboard (www.eluminx.com).—JAK
$29.95 list. EverGlide, www.gamerzstuff.com.
Saitek Cyborg evo K
This PC-game controller has loads of fine
features: It’s adjustable for right- or left-handed
gamers, and new software lets you preprogram
the stick for each of your games. And
we guarantee you won’t find a more
stylish joystick.—CAM
$39.95 direct. Saitek Industries,
www.saitekusa.com.
J
Hasbro VideoNow
Here’s a personal video player made for kids, and at
this price, it won’t matter much if they drop it into
their cereal bowls. The Hasbro VideoNow plays
proprietary discs (in black-and-white) that star
SpongeBob SquarePants, Jimmy Neutron, Hilary
Duff, and other kid favorites.—CAM
$50 list; discs, $7.99 each. Hasbro Inc., www.hasbro.com.
Sony eyeToy M
Put yourself into the game—literally. Use this innovative camera
with your Sony PlayStation 2, and your image appears in the
on-screen action. Move your arms and head to control the game.
The package includes 12 mini-games that work
with the Sony eyeToy, including Beat Freak,
Wishi Washi, and Keep Ups.—MDS
$39.99 list. Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.,
www.eyetoy.com.
MORE ON THE WEB:
For more gift ideas, check out our Ultimate
Gift Baskets as well as our daily gift
ideas at www.pcmag.com/giftguide. And for
hundreds of archived gadget reviews, log on to
www.pcmag .com/afterhours.
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P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Oregon Scientific Accelerator Vision
This “laptop” is for kids age 9 and up. It has
lots of on-board activities, including
games, trivia quizzes, a typing tutorial, an address book, a calendar,
and a word processor. With
the included cable you can
connect the unit a
grown-up’s PC to
synchronize, send
e-mail, create
a Web page,
and visit newsgroups via Oregon Scientific’s site,
www.safe-site.net.
—CAM
$119 list. Oregon Scientific Inc.,
www.oregonscientific.com.
GADGETS AND GEAR
Disney by KidzMouse
Optical Mouse
L
These half-size mice are perfect for kids’
hands. New additions to the KidzMouse line
are Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh
optical mice. Both come bundled with Disney
Magic Artist Studio software.—CAM
$36.95 direct. KidzMouse Inc., www.kidzmouse.com.
Belkin Nostromo SpeedPad n52 K
Keyboards and mice are good enough for computing,
but they’re hardly the best devices to use for taking out
a dissident Gungan. Handle your light saber easily
with this clever all-in-one design, which combines
a keyboard and mouse in one slick unit.—JAK
$49.99 direct. Belkin Corp., www.belkin.com.
J
RadioShack ZipZaps SE
This is the next best thing to the Indy 500. Following on the success of last years’
RadioShack ZipZaps micro RCs (miniature racing cars), the new RadioShack ZipZaps SE
line offers six-person racing thanks to six selectable 27-MHz frequencies, headlights and
taillights for night racing, and better maneuverability. Build your first car with the starter
kit; buy additional cars and body kits to increase and customize your fleet.—CAM
Starter kit, $24.99 direct; additional cars, $19.99 each; body kits, $6.99 and $12.99 each. RadioShack Corp., www.zipzaps.com.
Nintendo Game Boy
Advance SP M
Play Donkey Kong Country on one
of these stylish devices, and people will
probably think you’re checking your
e-mail. Two new colors (flame and onyx)
make the Nintendo Game Boy
Advance SP even more
crave-worthy. We bet your
kids will want their own,
too.—CAM
$100 street. Nintendo of
America Inc., www
.nintendo.com.
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Ideazon Zboard
Keeping track of the key commands for every
game you play can be dizzying. The Ideazon Zboard’s
interchangeable keysets can solve this problem. Get one
specific to your favorite game, such as Delta Force: Black
Hawk Down, and you’ll find the Explosives and Radio Detonator
buttons at a glance.—JAK
Base starter system, $29.99 direct; keysets, $14.99 each. Ideazon Inc., www.ideazon.com.
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P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
GADGETS AND GEAR
RoadWired Podzilla K
Until one portable device really can do everything, the RoadWired Podzilla is handy for carrying all your gadgets. It can
easily tote a phone, a camera, a music player, a PDA, and
a gaming device along with all the cables, batteries, and power
bricks. Wear it with the shoulder strap or on your belt.—CAM
$69.95 direct. RoadWired, www.roadwired.com.
Case Closed Bags
iPod Cases L
As if your Apple iPod wasn’t
good-looking enough! These
groovy cases come in enough
colors and materials for
all the cool kids to find their
perfect matches.—CAM
$19.95 to $29.95 direct. Case Closed
Bags Inc., www.caseclosedbags.com.
Body Glove
Armband MP3 Holder,
DVD Carry Case
L
These additions to the
Body Glove line of technology accessories are made from the company’s
signature neoprene, which makes them water-resistant,
easy to grip, well cushioned, and of course, stylish.—CAM
MP3 holder, $14.99 list; DVD cases, $9.99 and up. Fellowes, www.fellowes.com.
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P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
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GADGETS AND GEAR
Tumi Organizer
Computer Briefpack M
The Tumi Organizer
Computer Briefpack’s
domed pouch holds
all the odds and ends
that would otherwise
fall to the bottom.
Go with leather if
you aim to impress,
or choose the less
expensive and
longer-lasting
ballistic nylon.
—BH
Napa leather, $495 direct;
ballistic nylon, $350. Tumi Inc.,
www.tumi.com.
Higher Ground
Gear Back Office K
Closed, it’s a supercomfortable backpack
laptop case. Open, it turns into an organized
workplace for your lap or your desk, with compartments
for plenty of mobile peripherals and extra room for a
second laptop. Heat shielding keeps your lap from overheating, and materials are thoroughly waterproofed.—CAM
$149.95 direct. Shaun Jackson Design Inc., www.highergroundgear.com.
GADGETS AND GEAR
Audi A8 L M
If you want to make a technology statement without being overwhelmed by complexity, the new Audi A8 L is the high-tech car you’re looking for. The 70-plus microprocessors work harmoniously, and the dashboard’s LCD panel controller, called
the Multi Media Interface, takes minutes—not days—to master. It has GPS navigation, electronic stability control, a 15-speaker Bose audio system with a CD changer,
OnStar telematics with automatic airbag notification (meaning it calls for help when
airbags open), parking sonar, and a sunroof. And it’s a dream to drive.—BH
Base price, $68,500. Audi of America, www.audi.com.
Canon EOS-1Ds Digital L
Rather than asking for a digital camera
as a holiday gift, ask for the Ferrari
of cameras. The EOS-1Ds’s magnesium
alloy body encases an 11-megapixel
CMOS sensor in this professional
SLR camera, which can manage 3-fps
continuous shooting so you won’t miss
the action. And with interchangeable
lenses that range from ultrawide angle
to super telephoto, you’ll be sure
to get the right shot.—JAK
EOS-1Ds body, $8,999 list; standard 50-mm lens,
$120; standard 28- to 80-mm zoom lens, $170.
Canon USA Inc., www.usa.canon.com.
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Pioneer PDSP-1 Digital Sound Projector
Some of us just don’t want 5.1 or 7.1 speakers
ringing in a room. And some of us (well, very few)
might have enough disposable income for this
remarkable solution. The Pioneer PDSP-1 is the first
digital-sound projector ever; it uses a single-source
speaker panel with 254 tiny, amplified speakers to
deliver 5.1-channel surround sound, with more than
500 watts of power.—CAM E
$40,000 list. Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc.,
www.pioneerelectronics.com.
128
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Reviewed in this story
PLASMA TVs 134 Gateway 42" HD Plasma TV l l l m m
The era of the hang-on-the-wall
TV is upon us. All ten of the LCD
and plasma panels we tested
are beauties. Sure, they’re
pricey, but you deserve one.
OPENING PHOTO: BETTMANN/CORBIS
134 NEC PlasmaSync 42VP4 l l l m m 138 Philips 42FD9934 l l l m m
138 Pioneer PDP-4330HD l l l l m 138 Zenith P42W34 l l l m m
LCD TVs 142 NEC LCD4000 l l l l m 142 Samsung LTN325W l l l l m
142 Sharp 37" Aquos LCD TV l l l l l 144 Westinghouse W33001 l l l m m
145 Zenith L30W36 l l l m m 132 HDTV Technology 134 Editors’ Choice
136 Performance Tests 137 It’s All About the Content
ou were the first on your block to get a broadband
Internet connection, the first to install a Wi-Fi network, and the first to splurge on a media hub for the
family room. Your next tech status symbol: a big,
beautiful flat-panel TV to hang on the wall. New display designs have made possible giant screens that
are only a few inches thick, and prices for these slender screens are no
longer stratospheric. We’ve rounded up five plasma and five LCD
screens ranging from 30 to 43 inches diagonally, with prices ranging
from about $3,000 to $9,000. Most are at the low end of that range.
These displays are still much more expensive than standard CRT
television sets, which is why market research firm iSupply/Stanford
Resources projects that CRTs will maintain an 80 percent market
share worldwide in 2007. But for TVs 30 inches and larger, the CRT
share will drop to 51 percent, and other designs will take over.
Plasma will account for 13 percent of the 2007 market, and LCD a
whopping 23 percent, iSupply predicts.
These displays look awesome! A flat screen shows a lot less glare
from ambient room light than the curved screen of a traditional
CRT. It’s also thinner and much lighter. And prices are plummeting
as production ramps up to meet increasing demand. Plasma manufacturing has become more efficient, and the major LCD makers
are starting factory lines that handle “mother glass” substrates
more than 3 feet square. And the pace of innovation is impressive.
Last spring, Samsung demonstrated a single LCD panel that was 54
inches diagonally with 1,920-by-1,080 resolution, designed to handle
the highest-resolution high-definition television images.
We chose plasma and LCD TVs for this roundup, since they are the
most likely to succeed in the short term. Both are relatively mature
technologies, but they’re still evolving rapidly. (See “HDTV Technology” on page 132 for information on other designs.)
Plasma panels work by running an electrical charge through a mixture of inert gases in a series of vertical channels. The charge causes
the gases to emit invisible ultraviolet light, which strikes phosphors
that give off visible colored light. (This is similar to the process that
occurs inside a fluorescent bulb.) It is difficult to make very highresolution plasma TVs, which is why most have fairly modest resolutions—well suited for NTSC and DVD images.
Unfortunately, plasma panels lose their brightness over time, and
there is no way to reverse this aging process. The average useful
life—to the point where the display is only half as bright as it was
originally—has been increasing steadily but still comes to only a
By Alfred Poor
Product photography by Thom O’Connor
www.pcmag.com DECEMBER 9, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
131
F L AT- S C R E E N T V s
bit more than half of a CRT’s typical 50,000 hours.
LCDs rely on liquid crystal material that acts like tiny shutters to block or transmit light. Currently, each pixel consists of
three subpixels, red, green, and blue; the displays need one or
more transistors at every subpixel location, which adds up to
millions of transistors per display.
Fortunately, LCD production has become more reliable, and
manufacturers are able to build quite large displays. Resolution is
not a serious limitation with LCD technology, as the subpixels can
already easily be made very small. LCDs have another advantage
over plasma panels: The LCD backlights are rated to last about as
long as those in CRTs, and many are designed so that the backlights can be replaced to restore the panels’ original brightness.
LCDs have their problems, however. The liquid crystal material doesn’t maintain consistent brightness and color accuracy at all
angles. And the pixels cannot switch as rapidly as those in CRT or
plasma screens, so fast-moving images may look blurred or
smeared. LCD engineers have addressed these problems, but the
best LCD is still not as fast as a CRT display or plasma panel.
Most entertainment programming is produced at resolutions
that are very coarse by computer monitor standards. NTSC and
DVD output is about the same resolution as the old VGA standard: 640 by 480 pixels, or 853-by-480 in a 16:9 wide-screen
mode. Many of the plasma panels in this roundup have resolutions no better than this, which makes them well suited for these
signals but not so good for high-resolution images.
The hot new technology is high-definition (HD) digital content.
TVs can receive HD content through a broadcast signal, cable, or
DLP
LCD
LCoS
Plasma
Our contributors: Alfred Poor is a contributing editor of PC Magazine, and
Nick Stam is director of PC Magazine Labs. Associate editor Jeremy A.
Kaplan and PC Labs project leader Glenn Menin were in charge of this story.
LCD and plasma are just two of many technologies you’ll find
when looking for a new television set. Study this brief primer
for an introduction to each type of TV technology.
HDTV TECHNOLOGY
CRT
satellite receiver. A special over-the-air receiver is required for
broadcast HD, and an HD cable box is needed for cable.
HD signals come in several different resolutions—720p, 1080p,
and 1080i—referring to the number of horizontal scan lines in
the image, known as the vertical resolution in computer monitor
terms. (480p and 480i are not considered HD.) The p stands for
progressive and the i for interlaced.
Interlaced images show the odd-numbered lines of each image
on the first pass, then the even-numbered lines on the next. A progressive image shows all the lines with each screen refresh. The
extra resolution of progressive images makes a stunning difference, but you need both a signal source and a display that can
show them accurately. All the displays we tested have to scale
down the image (and lose information) to show a 1080i image. But
many of them can show the other modes without scaling.
Everyone on our 12-person jury, which was charged with rating image quality, would have been happy to take any one of the
tested screens home. Yet we did find significant variations in
features, image quality, and ease of use. And we found that
image quality varied with the type of input signal we sent.
If you’re not planning to buy a large display this year, you probably won’t be able to hold out too much longer. And remember,
every model can display input from a computer, so you can always
justify one as something you need for work, right?
HOW DOES IT WORK?
ADVANTAGES
DISADVANTAGES
Direct view: In standard TV design, a single CRT uses
three electron guns to excite RGB phosphors.
Relatively low cost; deep black levels and excellent
contrast ratios; long life.
Heavy and bulky. Picture not as sharp; horizontal HD
resolution much less than the 1,920 lines in true 1080i.
Rear projection: Three small CRTs generate an RGB
image, which mirrors enlarge and project onto a screen.
Excellent price/performance ratio; lowest cost. Deep
blacks, excellent contrast ratios, multiple scan rates.
Needs calibration for optimal quality. Beam convergence
can be a problem. Not as bright; limited viewing angles.
Front projection: A lamp shines through a spinning RGB
color wheel. Colors sequentially hit a Digital Micromirror
Device, and the image is projected onto any display surface.
Small, lightweight design scales well. Bright image;
excellent picture geometry. Some DLPs target 720p
resolution; 800-by-600 to 1,280-by-1,024 is available.
Mounting the projector can be a problem. The color
wheel can produce a rainbow effect, dithering, lack of
shadow details. Pricey bulbs; possible stuck mirrors.
Rear projection: As above, a lamp shines through a
color wheel onto a DMD, made of numerous tiny mirrors
that steer light onto or away from a screen.
Thin and lightweight. Very bright, sharp images.
Good viewing angles side to side. Reasonable cost.
The color wheel can produce a rainbow effect,
dithering, lack of shadow details. Expensive bulbs with
limited life. Possible stuck mirrors.
Direct view: Liquid crystals are sandwiched between
two glass and two electrode plates. A current twists
selected regions of crystals to block or pass light.
Fairly lightweight. Brighter than plasma; some
designs are nearly photographic with HD content and
head-on viewing. Excellent picture geometry.
Costly, requiring an active-matrix substrate with at least
one transistor for every subpixel. Possible dead pixels
and viewing-angle limitations.
Front projection: A high-intensity lamp shines light
through three transmissive LCD microdisplay panels
(RGB), and the image is projected onto any display surface.
Small, lightweight design scales well. Bright image;
excellent picture geometry. Some target 720p resolution; 800-by-600 to 1,280-by-1,024 is available, too.
Mounting the projector can be a problem. Possible dead
pixels initially or over time; weak black levels. Expensive
bulbs with limited life. Pixel structure is visible up close.
Rear projection: As above, except that optics steer
the light to a display screen.
Thin and lightweight. Excellent picture geometry.
Reasonable cost.
Possible dead pixels initially or over time; black levels
not very black; limited contrast ratio. Pixel structure is
visible at close range (screen-door effect).
Rear projection: Liquid crystals are layered atop a
reflective metal. Light shines on the chip; a voltage
twists selected liquid crystals, and light reflects off
the metal. Optics enlarge the image onto a screen.
Barely visible pixel structure even at close range.
Natural-looking images with good color saturation.
Possible dead pixels initially or over time. Black levels
could be blacker; limited contrast ratio. Expensive
bulbs with limited life.
Direct view: Millions of individual cells filled with gas
emit UV light when excited by an electrical charge. The
light strikes RGB phosphors, which emit visible light.
Thin, flat display. Fairly lightweight. Excellent color
saturation and picture geometry. Wide viewing
angles; very large sizes.
Costly; can suffer from dead pixels and burn-in; limited
contrast. Glass may cause image degradation under
direct lighting. Brightness decreases over time.
Portions of this chart were derived from ExtremeTech’s interview with Gary Merson, senior editor of The Perfect Vision.
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P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
F L AT- S C R E E N T V s
P L A S M A T VS
ALL REVIEWS BY ALFRED POOR
Gateway 42" HD Plasma TV
$4,000 direct. 800-221-9616, www.gateway.com.
OVERALL RATING: l l l m m
Many technology companies are shifting
from computers to consumer electronics,
but Gateway was one of the first to make a
big splash. In 1996, the company launched
the Gateway Destination, a home entertainment computer system, and in the past
year it has promoted large plasma displays
in a big way. At $4,000 direct, the Gateway
42" HD Plasma TV is one of the least
expensive displays we tested.
The 42-inch display has a native aspect
ratio of 16:9 and a native resolution of
1,024 by 1,024 pixels, which means it does
not have the square pixels of most displays (otherwise the aspect ratio would
be 1:1). It can display up to 1,024-by-768
resolution or 720p HDTV without scaling
down and losing detail. But it will have to
scale up at these or any lower resolutions
that use square pixels.
Beyond its competitive price, the display has some attractive features, including a remote control with separate buttons for different signal sources, so you
don’t have to cycle through a list to get
the one you want. The Gateway has two
sets of component video inputs, in addition to analog RGB for computers with
pass-through, and a DVI digital connection with high-bandwidth digital content
protection (HDCP) support. On the other
hand, it has limited picture-in-picture
(PIP) functions because it has only a single tuner; you need two separate tuners
to get the most from PIP. The on-screen
menu is a bit old-fashioned compared
with some of the more graphical interfaces we saw.
On our tests, the display was slightly
better than average on deinterlacing tasks;
and we saw less breakup in fine patterns
when using an interlaced signal. On the
downside, color tracking was poor, as
shades of gray looked tinted at different
points in the spectrum. When we changed
between different HD-resolution signals,
the image was blanked by a blue screen,
which was more jarring than the simple
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P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
black blanking others used. The
Gateway also had problems with
brightness uniformity, showing noticeable horizontal bands of varying
brightness. And images had a greenish
NEC PlasmaSync 42VP4
tint overall at the factory settings.
There’s nothing particularly wrong
with the Gateway, and its price is appeal- handy for presentations. The 42VP4 has
ing. But some competitors deliver a separate picture settings for different sigbetter picture—though you’ll probably nal inputs and two sets of component
video connectors, one with RCA jacks and
spend a little more.
the other with BNC connectors. There are
D-sub connectors for RGB analog input
NEC PlasmaSync 42VP4
and pass-through output, as well as a digi$4,495 list. 800-632-4636,
www.necvisualsystems.com. l l l m m
tal DVI connector. But it’s missing an
The NEC PlasmaSync 42VP4 is a compet- antenna input and PIP functions.
itively priced 42-inch display with a fairOn our tests, the panel showed good
ly complete feature set, but it’s designed dark-gray response, fast switching
for commercial installations. As a result, between HD modes, and, despite the scalwe found some significant holes for ing, almost no pixel jitter with a 1080i
home entertainment, such as the lack of signal. And it was one of only three units
to pass a 3:2 pull-down test (converting
PIP and an antenna connection.
It has a wide-VGA resolution of 853 by 24-frame-per-second movies to 30-fps
480 pixels, which is one of the lowest of NTSC video).
the group. That’s sufficient to handle 480p
The image quality was good, but color
and NTSC signals without a problem, but tracking was poor, and some of the colors
anything higher requires scaling down the appeared somewhat off at the factoryimage and losing some detail.
default settings. (Yellow looked slightly
The industrial-style on-screen menu muddy.) The black level was a bit high, so
system is plain but provides access to use- detail in shadows did not look sufficiently
ful functions, such as a long-life setting dark, and the display had more noise on
that decreases brightness to extend the the black-level test than the other proddisplay’s useful life. The remote control ucts reviewed here did. Nor was it as
provides access to an on-screen pointer, good at edge detection or handling
Sharp 37" Aquos LCD TV
Sharp decided a few years back that LCD TVs would revolutionize the entertainment world. If analysts’ predictions about sales figures are even close to correct, that
bet will pay off handsomely.
The top-of-the-line product in the company’s impressive lineup is our Editors’ Choice
winner, the Sharp 37” Aquos LCD TV. It’s easily the most expensive LCD we looked at,
selling for $6,499.95 list, but its design, features, and quality make it a pretty reasonable
buy, if you consider what large plasma panels have cost in the past. Our jury didn’t rank
the image quality highest, compared with the other panels here, but since all of the TVs
we looked at offer excellent pictures, that shouldn’t deter you too much.
If the cost of the Sharp makes you quake in your boots, consider the Samsung LTN325W,
at $4,499 list. The combination of very good picture quality, an abundance of features, and
a reasonable price tag earns it an honorable mention.
P e r f o r m a n c e Te s t s
Judging Video Quality
Imagine entering Best Buy,
Circuit City, or your favorite
retailer to comparison-shop
for a large-screen flat TV. You head to
the video department and pace back and
forth, inspecting the image quality, pricing, and design of all your choices. If
you’re lucky, you can switch to DVD or
NTSC content. But chances are you’ll get
only great-looking high-definition content from a special disc player or DVD
content. Rarely will you get to watch a
cable feed, since it just doesn’t look so
hot—especially when you’re viewing
weak NTSC signals—thanks to deinterlacing and scaling artifacts.
Prior to the store visit, you’ve presumably done research on the Web and
asked knowledgeable friends for opinions. But your buying decision still
depends strongly on comparative image
quality. So in designing our test methodology for this story, we decided to construct our own display showroom in our
labs, where we were able to compare
image quality across all ten panels
reviewed in this story at once.
HOW WE TESTED
We placed the giant screens atop tables
of equal height on two tiers so we could
position ourselves for head-on viewing of
each tier, as well as viewing at horizontal
and vertical angles. We rated the display
quality of three types of content: high-
136
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
definition video, DVD, and NTSC cable
broadcasts. We used component YPrPb
inputs to deliver DVD and HD content,
and wherever possible we sent an NTSC
signal through coaxial cable inputs. We
also viewed PC and DVD content through
VGA and DVI ports if available.
High definition. Since our testing facility does not have HD cable or satellite
access, and since we weren’t able to set
up an antenna to receive HD signals over
the air, we needed prerecorded material.
We also needed to test both 720p and
1080i formats, besides running video
clips and test patterns.
For our jury testing, Sencore—a leader
in video-testing equipment—provided us
with a Sencore VOP920 Video Player
preloaded with various high-quality HD
clips. We looked at Hawaiian scenes with
volcanoes, lush landscapes, people, tropical birds, marine life, and other animals;
we then watched an extraordinary Blue
Angels clip that highlighted fast motion
and the razor-sharp details of the planes
on the airstrip.
Sencore also supplied numerous
video test patterns (produced by Sencore, DisplayMate, and Sarnoff Labs),
recorded at 480i, 480p, 720p, and 1080i.
We switched the VOP920 among the
corresponding output modes to test how
the HDTVs handled different input signals. Finally, Sencore provided us with its
VP300 VideoPro Multimedia Generator,
IRD3384A ATSC Integrated Receiver
Decoder, CP5000 Color Analyzer System,
and ATSC997 Signal Source Generator.
DVD. For jury testing of DVD content,
Samsung loaned us its new progressivescan DVD player, the Samsung DVDHD931, which has DVI and component
outputs. We used Ovation Software’s
DVD Avia: Guide to Home Theater to
calibrate brightness and contrast, along
with the “Montage of Images” sequence
from Joe Kane Productions’ new test disc
Digital Video Essentials. Genesis Microchip provided a test DVD using some old
FutureMark Video2000 test clips (now
included in PCMark2002 Pro) so we
could inspect 480i deinterlacing and
scaling abilities. (Much content viewed
on large screens—from NTSC cable,
satellite, VCRs, video cameras, and most
DVD players—is still 480i.)
Cable. To judge how each screen handles standard analog NTSC television
broadcasts, we used our building’s cable
feed; though not the strongest signal, it
was adequate. We fed our Time Warner
Cable coaxial connection through an
eight-way Channel Plus DA-8200HHR
distribution amp with no discernable
loss. In this way, we sent a cable signal to
most displays simultaneously.
PC. We connected an HP Media Center
PC to the VGA ports (where possible) to
see the screens display PC content.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
To watch all the sets simultaneously, we
needed video distribution amplifiers and
F L AT- S C R E E N T V s
JURY TESTS: IMAGE QUALITY
A Above average
C Average
B Below average
OVERALL
BRIGHTNESS
COLOR
HD (1080i)
DVD (480p) NTSC
HD (1080i)
DVD (480p) NTSC
HD (1080i)
DVD (480p) NTSC
C
B
B
B
B
B
B
B
B
C
A
A
A
A
N/A1
N/A2
C
B
N/A1
N/A2
A
A
N/A1
N/A2
PLASMA TVs
Gateway 42" HD Plasma TV B
NEC PlasmaSync 42VP4
C
Philips 42FD9934
B
Pioneer PDP-4330HD
A
B
C
A
A
A
A
A
A
B
A
N/A1
C
A
N/A1
C
A
N/A1
NEC LCD4000
A
A
N/A1
A
A
N/A1
A
A
N/A1
Samsung LTN325W
C
A
A
C
C
B
C
C
B
Sharp 37" Aquos LCD TV
Westinghouse W33001
Zenith L30W36
C
A
B
B
B
C
B
B
C
A
A
A
B
B
C
B
B
B
A
B
B
B
A
A
B
A
A
Zenith P42W34
LCD TVs
numerous cables. Kramer Electronics
provided its professional-grade, low-loss,
18-port Kramer VM54 component video
distribution amp with BNC connections.
Kramer loaned us many 25-foot BNC
cables, and we used BNC-to-RCA
adapters when necessary to connect to
component YPrPb inputs on the TVs.
To test for any degradation from
signal distribution, we also acquired
distribution amps from Key Digital
Systems (KDS), including its KD-CDA12
and new DH-12. Many retailers use KDS
distribution amps, including Best Buy,
and we appreciated that they could also
distribute audio. Monster Cable provided us with multiple 4m Monster
Video 2 Component Video Cables to
attach the KDS units and the TVs.
After setting all this up, we were
finally ready to watch TV. We viewed
all the test clips in controlled conditions
using varied lighting.
The displays in this roundup are
designed for different signal types than
the typical analog or digital RGB information sent to a computer monitor. We
kept this in mind when optimizing and
configuring the displays for our jury.
In a darkened environment, we performed black-level and saturation adjustments using Avia, the previously mentioned video calibration DVD. With these
brightness and contrast settings as a
baseline, we fine-tuned each display for
a given signal using standard controls
like tint, color, brightness, and sharpness.
We divided our jury of 12 into three
groups and instructed each group to
evaluate brightness, color, or overall
impression. While all viewed content at
the same time (first DVD, then HD and
NTSC), each group was instructed not to
talk with the others. To assist our jurors
in identifying differences among
screens, we paused the video on certain
scenes: for our brightness jurors, highcontrast scenes with significant negative
space, and for our color jurors, frames of
sky, ocean, and skin tones.
VIDEO VERDICTS
Based on our jury test results, we
ranked the screens as above average,
average, or below average. The NEC
LCD4000 emerged as above average in
the categories of brightness (DVD and
HD), color (DVD and HD), and overall
(DVD and HD). A plasma entry, the
Pioneer PDP-4330 HD, was its closest
rival. One other plasma, the Gateway
42" HD Plasma TV, almost always
ranked below average. We did note a
slight green tint on the Gateway that we
could not totally eliminate, which contributed to its below-average scores.
Three of the ten screens we tested
did not have TV tuners. The Philips
display was capable, but its NTSC cable
connector was loose, and we could not
get a replacement unit in time.
In general, NTSC signal quality left a
lot to be desired compared with the HD
and DVD signals. With this NTSC signal,
the Pioneer screen earned above-average scores for both color and overall
quality, as did the Zenith L30W36, while
the Westinghouse model ranked tops in
brightness.—Analysis written by Glenn
Menin and Nick Stam
It’s All About
Content
o
ne thousand channels and
nothing’s on, right? Nothing
high-definition, you may
argue. After all, to take full
advantage of a large, high-resolution TV,
you need an HD feed. With a low-resolution cable signal, such a TV will only
magnify the flaws. So how much content is really broadcast in HD?
Of the roughly 1,600 terrestrial television stations in the U. S., over 1,000 are
broadcasting digitally as of early October 2003, with many delivering highdefinition content, according to the
National Association of Broadcasters
(NAB). One year ago, just 200 digital
channels existed. The NAB wouldn’t
specify how many digital TV, (DTV)
stations are broadcasting HD, content,
but it claims a large number. Most ABC,
CBS, NBC, WB, and PBS affiliates are
already sending HD, content over the air.
Most network prime-time shows are
available in HD. HBO and Showtime offer
15 to 20 hours a day in 1080i, and ESPNHD delivers the new Playmakers series
and a few key sporting events per week
in 720p. Mark Cuban’s 24-hour HDNet
provides sports and movies at 1080i,
and Discovery-HD distributes the entire
evening fare at 1080i. We’ll see much
more content over the coming year,
including 19 UPN stations owned by
CBS that are being designed for HDTV,
according to Robert Seidel, VP of engineering and technology for CBS.
What do you need to receive HD
content? You have three choices: digital
cable, satellite, and over-the-air reception. Not all cable systems provide HD
content today, and those that do have
limited distribution. Satellite reception
requires a pricier “three-LNB” dish and
an also-expensive HD receiver (from
$400 to $700). Over-the-air reception
can provide free HD content from local
DTV stations if you are in range of the
transmitting towers—usually up to 75
miles. Such hookups often require
expensive roof-mounted antennas and
an over-the-air tuner, which can run as
high as $500.—NS
www.pcmag.com DECEMBER 9, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
137
F L AT- S C R E E N T V s
PLASMA TVS
scrolling text. Our jury was pleased with
quality from DVDs, however.
The entertainment limitations are not
serious, as most entertainment systems
have other components that can provide
equivalent functions; for example, a VCR
can decode a cable signal and pass the data
along to the TV. The picture quality is
good, but some other displays are better.
Philips 42FD9934
$5,999 list. 800-531-0039, www.philips.com. l l l m m
Philips got the ball rolling for flat-panel
televisions in the U.S. with a memorable
televised ad campaign a few years ago. The
model name Philips 42FD9934 may not be
as memorable, but the display makes an
impression nonetheless. With a list price
of $5,999, it’s not the least expensive choice
in the group, but it’s competitive.
The 42-inch display has the same 1,024by 1,024-pixel resolution as the
The 42FD9934 is the only
display we tested that has
front-panel connectors for
camcorders and sound sources,
which means you can easily
make a temporary connection
without having to dig through
your component stack.
On our tests, dark-gray response was good, and the panel
showed the fewest scaling artifacts on 480p-mode images. On the
other hand, color tracking was poor, and
the panel appeared more susceptible to
image burn-in than the other plasmas.
(Burn-in was not a factor at all for the
LCDs.) The black level was a skosh high,
resulting in a loss of contrast.
The panel also had difficulty with
edge detection, deinterlacing tests, and
text crawl. It was among the slowest to
switch between HD modes, and it could
not handle our 720p test signal at all; the
screen just remained blank.
You’re unlikely to have a problem with
the 720p limitation, and the other
problems are not
so serious. The
extra features of
the Philips panel
are appealing, but
you may be happier going with the
Pioneer or Sharp
model if you have
some extra money
to spend.
Pioneer PDP-4330HD
$9,000 list. 800-421-1404, www
.pioneerelectronics.com. l l l l m
Pioneer PDP-4330HD
Gateway model, which leads to the same
scaling problems for all resolutions. The
on-screen menu is unusual, with a
strange, animated branching structure
that contracts and expands as you navigate. It can be confusing at first, but it’s
more fun to use than the stodgy interfaces
on most other panels.
Television watching could become a
career with this model; you can choose to
surf between either 2 channels or 9, and
the PIP feature can monitor up to 12
channels at once. The remote can control
other devices, and you can rename the
input signal sources.
138
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
You get what you pay for, in which case
you’d expect a lot from the $9,000 Pioneer PDP-4330HD—more than twice the
price of most competitors we tested. Indeed, the image quality was among the
best we saw.
The Pioneer plasma display comes
with a separate controller module so you
can keep the Medusa-like mass of wires
with your component stack, rather than
having a tangle of wires going to the display. The box also has handy front connections for AV devices such as camcorders, making them simple to hook up.
The multifunction remote control has a
handy sliding switch that you use to
select the device you wish to control.
Zenith P42W34
Instead of showing black areas on the
sides of the screen when displaying content with a 4:3 aspect ratio, this panel has
its sides colored a neutral gray to avoid
burn-in. Although it has separate picture
settings for different signal sources, it has
limited PIP features.
The PDP-4330HD’s picture quality was
among the best in our roundup, and it has
the highest resolution among the plasma
screens we tested: 1,024 by 768 pixels. But
since the screen has a 16:9 aspect ratio,
the pixels are not square; this may lead to
scaling artifacts at nonnative resolutions.
Colors were good, gray-level response
was strong throughout the entire spectrum, and noise in the background black
level was the lowest among all the plasma
panels. But color tracking could be improved; the black level was a bit high, and
the panel was a little slow when switching HD modes.
Measuring 43 inches diagonally, the
PDP-4330HD is the largest display in this
roundup by an inch, not to mention far
and away the heaviest. You won’t notice
the extra size (though if you’re installing
it yourself, you might note the weight),
but you are likely to notice the excellent
picture quality. If the price is not a budget breaker, this one should go on your
wish list.
Zenith P42W34
$3,800 street. 877-993-6484, www.zenith.com.
lllmm
The least expensive plasma display in
this group, the Zenith P42W34 delivers a
confounding mix of good and not-sogood features and performance results,
leaving it in the middle of the pack.
The 42-inch display has wide-VGA resolution at 852 by 480 pixels, which means
that it scales down any image with a resolution higher than NTSC or 480p and
F L AT- S C R E E N T V s
PLASMA TVS
may lose detail as a result. The P42W34
has a digital DVI input but only one set of
component video inputs. It has an RGB Dsub connector for a computer connection
but no pass-through connector, so you
won’t be able to display your presentation on a second monitor. It has PIP features but no cable input, so you might not
be able to take advantage of PIP.
The on-screen menu is similar to that
of the Zenith L30W36 (reviewed among
the LCDs), and we found it easy to use,
but the remote control is puzzling. The
buttons for the PIP features—which you
might use frequently—are hidden under
a sliding hatch.
On our tests, the display posted mixed
results. It was one of only three models to
succeed on a 3:2 pull-down test, and it did
well on the deinterlacing and edge-detection tests. Colors looked good, and it was
clearly the fastest at switching HD
modes. On the other hand, the dark-gray
response was poor; hence little detail
was visible in shadowy areas. Color
tracking was not good, and there was lots
of noise or pixel jitter in scaled-down
720p and 1080i HD test patterns.
Where does this leave the P42W34? If
you want a bargain plasma display, it’s
probably your best choice. Otherwise,
you can do better with the Pioneer or
even the Philips model.
• • • • • • • •• • •• • • • • • • •
Download this table at • • • •••• •••••• •
y YES o NO
••••• •••••
Gateway 42" HD Plasma TV NEC PlasmaSync 42VP4
Philips 42FD9934
Pioneer PDP-4330HD
Zenith P42W34
Price
Monitor weight (pounds)
$4,000 direct
68.8
$4,495 list
62.8
$5,999 list
79.4
$9,000 list
108
$3,800 street
75
Dimensions, in inches (HWD)
Visible screen (diagonal, in inches)
Native resolution/aspect ratio
Rated contrast ratio/brightness
Composite inputs
Component inputs
25.5 x 40.9 x 3.7
42
1,024 x 1,024 / 16:9
25.9 x 47.8 x 3.7
42
1,024 x 1,024 / 16:9
28.1 x 47.9 x 3.8
43
1,024 x 768 / 16:9
Info not available
RCA (3), S-Video (3)
RCA
24.5 x 40.7 x 3.2
42
852 x 480 / 16:9
1,000:1 / 1,000 cd/m2
RCA, S-Video
RCA, BNC
24.0 x 40.1 x 3.5
42
853 x 480 / 16:9
Info not available
RCA, S-Video
RCA, BNC
Other video and data inputs*
Audio inputs
DVI, analog RGB, RS-232
Stereo RCA (6 sets)
DVI, analog RGB, RS-232
Stereo RCA (3 sets)
Analog RGB
Stereo RCA (7 sets),
center RCA
DVI, analog RGB, RS-232
Stereo RCA (3 sets)
DVI, Analog RGB
Stereo RCA (2 sets),
stereo minipin
Audio outputs
Bare wires (L&R)
Headphone
Bare wires (L&R)
Bare wires (L&R)
Separate media connection box
Stereo RCA, subwoofer RCA,
headphone
o
o
y
y
o
Supported SD, ED, and HD modes
480p, 480i, 720p, 1080i
1080i
480p, 480i, 720p, 1080i
480p, 720p, 1080i
Film mode (inverse 3:2 pull-down)
y
y
y
480p, 480i, 525p, 525i, 540p,
625p, 625i, 720p, 1080i
o
o
o
y
y
o
y
y
o
y
y
o
User can assign names to input sources
User can assign separate picture
settings to input sources
o
y
o
y
y
y (for input groups)
o
y
o
o
Power consumption
Speakers
340W
Built-in
275W
Optional ($295)
300W
Built-in
370W
Built-in
250W–340W
Optional ($399)
•••••••
NEC LCD4000
Samsung LTN325W
Sharp 37" Aquos LCD TV
Westinghouse W33001
Zenith L30W36
Price
Monitor weight (pounds)
$5,800 street
57.3
$4,499 list
48.5
$6,499.95 list
39.7
$2,999 list
41.9
$3,700 street
48.5
Dimensions, in inches (HWD)
Visible screen (diagonal, in inches)
Native resolution/aspect ratio
23.8 x 37.4 x 5.6
40
1,280 x 768 / 16:9
23.5 x 31.5 x 3.4
32
1,280 x 768 / 16:9
23.1 x 37.3 x 3.2
37
1,366 x 768 / 16:9
21.1 x 34.8 x 8.5
30
1,280 x 768 / 16:9
19.7 x 29.9 x 4.1
30
1,280 x 768 / 16:9
Rated contrast ratio/brightness
Composite inputs
600:1 / 450 cd/m2
RCA, BNC
600:1 / 500 cd/m2
RCA (3), S-Video
800:1 / 430 cd/m2
RCA (3), S-Video (3)
500:1 / 500 cd/m2
RCA, S-Video
400:1 / 450 cd/m2
RCA, S-Video
Component inputs
BNC
RCA, BNC
RCA
RCA, BNC
RCA
Other video and data inputs*
DVI, analog RGB, RS-232
DVI
DVI, analog RGB, RS-232
DVI-D, analog RGB
DVI, analog RGB, RS-232
Audio inputs
Stereo RCA (2 sets),
stereo minipin
Stereo RCA (5 sets),
stereo minipin
Stereo RCA (3 sets),
stereo minipin
Stereo RCA (4 sets),
stereo minipin
Stereo RCA (2 sets)
Audio outputs
Stereo RCA, bare wires (L&R) Bare wires (5), subwoofer
RCA, headphone
o
o
Bare wires (L&R)
Bare wires (L&R)
y
Stereo RCA, subwoofer
RCA
o
480p, 480i, 720p, 1080i
o
o
480p, 480i, 720p, 1080i
y
y
480p, 480i, 720p, 1080i
y
y
480p, 480i, 720p, 1080i
y
y
480p, 480i, 720p, 1080i
y
y
Discrete input selection buttons on
remote
o
o
o
y
o
User can assign names to input sources
User can assign separate picture
settings to input sources
o
y
y
y
o
o
o
y
o
o
Power consumption
235W
140W
144W
150W
170W
Speakers
Optional ($380)
Built-in
Built-in
Built-in
Optional ($299)
Dual-tuner split screen
Discrete input selection buttons on
remote
Separate media connection box
Supported SD, ED, and HD modes
Film mode (inverse 3:2 pull-down)
Dual-tuner split screen
RED denotes Editors’ Choice.
•••
1,000:1 / 600 cd/m2
RCA (3), S-Video (2)
RCA, BNC
* An analog RGB connector is often described as a VGA connector or a 15-pin D-sub connector.
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
1,200:1 / 1,000 cd/m2
RCA, S-Video
RCA
o
F L AT- S C R E E N T V s
LCD TVS
NEC LCD4000
$5,800 street. 888-632-6487, www.necmitsubishi
.com. l l l l m
The NEC LCD4000 is positioned for commercial installations in conference rooms
and stores, so it is missing some of the features you would expect in a television
monitor. But it makes up for this with excellent picture quality. As the largest LCD
shipping today, the LCD4000 shows us
where LCD TV will be tomorrow.
The 40-inch display is slightly smaller
than the plasma models in this roundup,
and it costs a tad more than the average
plasma. In terms of resolution, however,
there’s no comparison. Like almost all the
other LCDs we reviewed, this one has
wide-XGA 1,280- by 768-pixel resolution;
the only plasma that comes close is the
Pioneer PDP-4330HD, which costs more
than half again as much.
The NEC LCD4000 has versatile inputs,
including a DVI-D connector, D-sub and
BNC connectors for analog RGB, and component video using BNC connectors. It
also has pass-through connectors for audio
and video signals. The limited but easy-touse on-screen menu has separate picture
settings for each input source.
On the downside, this model doesn’t
have a TV tuner or antenna connection,
and it doesn’t support PIP. The remote
control has relatively few features, and
the display is set up for presentations.
Samsung LTN325W
142
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
T h e
LCD 4000
delivered
eye-popping
contrast and vivid images, earning high marks
from our jury on several
quality measures. One reason for the contrast was a dark black level; another reason
was the very poor dark-gray response. As
a result, shadow areas looked attractively
dark, but detail within them was missing.
The colors appeared oversaturated at the
factory settings, so some video clips
looked vibrant but unrealistic.
The display performed well with our
test images, though the edge-detection
image did not have the sharp focus we
saw with some competing models. On
the other hand, the unit made HD mode
switches swiftly and cleanly.
The NEC LCD4000 is not aimed at the
home entertainment market, but it’s well
suited for the task nevertheless. And it
offers better image quality than most of
the plasma displays. Take a good long look
at this one, as you may like what you see.
Samsung LTN325W
$4,499 list. 800-726-7864, www.samsungusa.com.
llllm
The Samsung LTN325W is a good example
of how well an LCD panel can work as a
TV. With a retail tag
of $4,499 list, it is
priced on a par with
the plasma panels.
And although this
32-inch display is
indeed smaller than
a 42-inch model, it
still fills an impressive portion of your
field of view.
This Samsung
model has a
w i d e - XG A
resolution (1,280by-768) and a pair of NTSC
tuners for PIP and split-screen options.
You can rename the input sources and
create separate picture settings for each,
Sharp 37” Aquos LCD TV
and the panel has connections for two
component video inputs. It also has a
DVI-D connector that supports HDCP; an
optional adapter is compatible with the
new high-definition multimedia interface
(HDMI) connector, which lets you transfer uncompressed digital image information between AV components.
The on-screen menu is easy to use, and
the multifunction remote has a small LCD
window that indicates which device is
under control at the moment and how
much battery power remains. A sliding
hatch hides buttons for some of the more
advanced controls.
Picture quality was very good, although our jury wasn’t overly impressed
with the NTSC signal. The LTN325W did
well on our edge-detection tests. It was a
little weak on the darkest gray levels, and
the viewing angle had a noticeable effect
on brightness. Colors at the factory settings were slightly off, with green shifted
slightly toward blue and yellow looking a
little dingy. As a result, video clips looked
a bit gray and dull. We also noticed some
image breakup when switching HD
modes; the screen did not blank as effectively as some others do.
None of these are fatal flaws, however,
and the Samsung LTN325W’s aggressively
low price makes it an attractive choice.
Lightweight, small, and versatile, this is a
good one to consider.
Sharp 37" Aquos LCD TV
$6,499.95 list. 800-237-4277, www
.sharpusa.com. l l l l l
Five years ago, Sharp set some
bold and ambitious goals: to
become the world leader in
LCD televisions and to make
LCD TVS
them the dominant technology for home
entertainment. Having won about half the
market share in the exploding LCD TV
market, Sharp has succeeded in at least
part of this quest. Its top-of-the-line display is the impressive Sharp 37" Aquos
LCD TV, which carries a top-of-the-line
price of $6,499.95, making it the most expensive LCD we reviewed.
The Aquos has the highest resolution of
the group, at 1,366-by-768, though it has
only 10 percent more columns than the
other LCDs—not a huge difference. It
comes with a separate controller box,
where you can hook up all of the cables to
your component stack. The box also has a
convenient set of connectors on the front
for temporary hookups to camcorders.
The multifunction remote control has a
handy slider to make it easy to select the
device you wish to control.
Zenith L30W36
The on-screen menu’s attractive, Windows-style interface is easy to use. The
panel doesn’t have a lot of features, but
some of them do come in handy. For example, when viewing 4:3 content, you
can zoom to fill the screen and scroll the
image up or down to choose which part
gets cut off. So when watching sports,
you can scroll to view the top score line.
Or if you’re watching a cable news station, you can scroll down to include the
text crawl at the bottom.
The Aquos was the only LCD to pass
the 3:2 pull-down test. And it had less
smear on moving images than any of the
144
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Westinghouse W33001
rival LCDs, though none were as good
as the plasma screens. Skin tones were
natural, and we saw plenty of detail in
both shadows and highlights. Even
extreme viewing angles had little impact
on brightness or
shades of color.
Our minor criticisms: The factory setting for yellow was a
little too light, red was
a bit dark, and switching HD modes was a
tad slow. And although
the Aquos didn’t wow
our jury, even a belowaverage score is plenty
good. Finally, you can’t
program different picture settings for each
input. If you’re intent on
eking the best quality out of several different picture sources, and you plan
to program the ideal settings for each,
you’ll find this an annoying limitation.
Sharp’s head start in the market is
clearly visible in the Aquos. It’s a mature
product with well-designed features and
excellent image quality. This Editors’
Choice winner should go to the top of
your short list.
Westinghouse
W33001
$2,999 list. 866-287-5555, www
.westinghousedigital.com. l l l m m
Tied with the Zenith L30W36 as the
smallest display in this roundup, the
Westinghouse W33001 is the lowestpriced panel as well. The $2,999 W33001
has an impressive design, but once you
start to use it you’ll find some limitations.
The on-screen menu is attractive, with
colored icons for easy navigation, and the
remote control has a separate button for
each input source, so you can choose
quickly and confidently. And there are
separate picture settings for each input
source. So far so good.
At the same time, the lack of a dedicated button on the remote for the PIP
feature is inconvenient. Initiating PIP
takes at least three button presses. The
layout on the remote is not intuitive, and
a flip hatch covers some of the buttons.
On our tests, the image was very stable
on a 1080i signal, and the W33001 had the
fewest scaling artifacts of any display at
that resolution. We used a distribution amplifier to send the same images to all units
at once, but the Westinghouse was the
only one to show pronounced, scrolling
ONLINE More on the Web
•
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for our sister site, ExtremeTech, including his interview with industry guru Gary Merson,
reviews of HDTVs, and plans for building an HD home theater PC. At PCMag.com, you’ll
find a wealth of news and reviews of other TVs, displays, DVD players, and so on.
www.extremetech.com/hdtv • www.pcmag.com/displays
Legal Notice
State of California
horizontal bands. This flaw disappeared
when we connected it directly to the
source. Yet all the others could handle the
degraded signal without a problem.
Some signals made images that did not
fill the screen, and the picture controls
would not let us move the images enough
to fix this. The W33001 was the worst LCD
in terms of smearing on moving images,
and it had serious de-interlacing problems.
Color tracking was off, colors were too
vivid, and there was a general green cast to
images at the factory settings.
Although our jury members would
have been very happy to go home with
any of the displays in this roundup, a careful comparison leaves the Westinghouse
toward the bottom of the stack. It’s a good
display, but you can do much better.
Zenith L30W36
$3,700 street. 877-993-6484, www.zenith.com.
lllmm
The 30-inch Zenith L30W36 has a $3,700
street price—just right for one of the
smallest displays in the group. It has
some good features and had strong test
results, unfortunately offset by some
detracting factors.
The L30W36 has the same wide-XGA
1,280- by 768-pixel native resolution that
most of the other LCDs offer. It has connections for analog RGB with a D-sub
connector, and a DVI-D connector
includes HDCP support. But it has only
one set of component video connectors
and no cable TV input. The on-screen
menu is simple yet easy to use, as is the
remote control, though the channel control buttons are hidden under a sliding
hatch that could be inconvenient.
On our tests, the L30W36 was the most
susceptible to the effects of changes in
viewing angle, with significant shifts in
both brightness and color. Its smearing of
moving images was also significant.
Dark-gray response and color tracking
were weak. On the other hand, it was the
fastest of all at HD mode switching, and it
showed almost no pixel jitter on 1080i images. The black level was a little high, but
video clips looked good, with accurate
edge detection.
The Zenith L30W36 is not as versatile
as the others we reviewed, nor did it rank
highest in picture quality. And in view of
its smaller size, its relatively high price
makes it less attractive than some of its
competitors. E
DECEMBER 9, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
145
If you bought in the United States certain Fujitsu Desktop 3.5" IDE
hard disk drives ("HDDs"), or a personal computer or other
system containing these Desktop 3.5" IDE HDDs, this notice is to
inform you of a proposed class action settlement that could affect
your legal rights. The HDDs were in computers and other systems
sold under many manufacturers’ brand names. (Some were also
sold separately.)
Please read this notice carefully. However, this is only a
summary of the full class notice. You can obtain a full class
notice, which explains your rights and the settlement, by
calling toll-free 1-800-878-2618. You can also download a
copy of the full class notice at www.hddclassactionsettlement.com.
The Lawsuit: A lawsuit was filed in a
California state court against Fujitsu
Computer Products of America, Inc., HewlettPackard Company and Gateway, Inc. on
behalf of a class of all U.S. residents who
bought certain Fujitsu Desktop 3.5" IDE
HDDs in the U.S. The lawsuit claims that
these HDDs, which were sold starting in
2000, contained a defective computer chip
and a bug in the controller firmware, which
resulted in unacceptably high rates of failure
and problems with data integrity. The
defendants have denied these claims and
asserted a number of defenses.
The Settlement: A proposed settlement
has been reached in the lawsuit. If the
Court approves the settlement and you are
a member of the class, you may be entitled
to recover costs of a replacement hard drive
(up to $45) as well as costs of data recovery
services (actual costs up to $1200).
To determine if you have a Desktop 3.5"
IDE HDD in your computer or other
system, you may review the full class
notice, log onto the Settlement Administrator’s
website (www.hddclassactionsettlement.com),
or phone the Settlement Administrator
at 1-800-878-2618 for a list of model
numbers of the HDDs and other information
that may help you determine if you have
an HDD. You may also download a free
utility at www.hddclassactionsettlement.com
that may help you determine if your
computer contains an HDD.
Hearing Notice: A Final Hearing will be
held before the Honorable Jack Komar
of the Superior Court of California for
the County of Santa Clara, located at
191 North First Street, San Jose, California
on March 2, 2004 at 9:00 a.m. to determine:
(1) whether the proposed settlement is fair,
reasonable and adequate; (2) whether to
certify a settlement class; and (3) whether
to grant plaintiffs’ counsels’ application for
an award of attorneys’ fees and expenses
and certain awards to the named plaintiffs.
How To Claim Benefits: If you are a class
member and wish to participate in this
settlement, you need do nothing further at
this time, except that: (1) you must retain
your Desktop 3.5" IDE HDD if you still
have it; (2) you must retain proof of
purchase of any replacement hard disk
drive; (3) you must retain receipts for
any data recovery services; and (4) if
you do not receive notice of this settlement
by mail or email, you must register by
calling 1-800-878-2618, register on-line at
www.hddclassactionsettlement.com, or
write the Settlement Administrator at the
address below in order to receive future
notices about the settlement, including
the Claim Form you will need to claim
benefits if the settlement is approved.
HDD Class Action Settlement
Administrator
P.O. Box 9000 #6146
Merrick, NY 11566-9000
Right to Object, Opt Out, Seek to
Intervene, Retain Counsel: If you are a
member of the class, you also have the right
to exclude yourself from the settlement
("opt out"), or object to the settlement or
to the payment of plaintiffs’ attorneys’
fees and expenses, or seek leave from
the Court to intervene. These rights must
be exercised by January 30, 2004. The full
class notice explains what you need to do to
exercise these rights. You also have the
right to consult an attorney of your choice at
your own expense.
For the full class notice or other information,
please call 1-800-878-2618; visit either
www.hddclassactionsettlement.com or
www.classactioncounsel.com; or write
to the HDD Class Action Settlement
Administrator, P.O. Box 9000 #6146,
Merrick, NY 11566-9000 or at email address
[email protected]
Key dates:
Opt out Date:
Objection Date:
Hearing Date:
Hearing location:
January 30, 2004
January 30, 2004
March 2, 2004, 9:00 a.m.
Santa Clara County Superior Court
191 North First Street
San Jose, California
Please do not contact the Court.
Dated: Oct. 7, 2003
The Honorable Jack Komar
Judge of the Superior Court
VIDEOCONFERENCING
LO
OK
AGAIN
Videoconferencing has been
around for years but until
recently has suffered from poor
video quality and clunky software. Now the latest generation
of videoconferencing software
deserves a second look.
BY M AT T H E W P. G R AV E N
I L LU S T R AT I O N BY
Y U KO S H I M I Z U
REVIEWED IN THIS STORY
150
iChat AV l l l m m
152
iSpQ VideoChat 6.2 l l m m m
152
MSN Messenger 6.0 l l l m m
154
SightSpeed Video Messenger
155
Vibe Phone 1.6 l l l l m
llllm
156
VidiTel l l l l m
158
Yahoo! Messenger l l l m m
152
Editors’ Choice
154
It’s in the Camera
156
Scorecard
158
How We Tested
www.pcmag.com ISSUE DATE, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
000
T
he business world is more global than
ever. You have clients on both coasts,
business associates in Europe, salespeople to meet in Chicago on Monday
morning, and developers to talk to in India
should go into choosing a videoconferencing solution. Anyone
you want to meet with online will need a Webcam and the same
app you use. And if you plan on meeting with people in more than
one location, you’ll need software that supports more than two
users per meeting. If collaboration is important, you’ll also want
tools for sharing information, like shared whiteboards and the
ability to show applications and files to remote users.
on Monday afternoon. The telephone is useIf you’ve found a program of acceptable quality, probably the
ful, but if only there were a way to meet face next-most-important consideration is whether the application
to face with these people and see what they’re talk- will work from behind a firewall—either a corporate device or
ing about—without spending all your time and money on an inexpensive small-office router that uses Network Address
airlines and hotels!
Translation to share IP addresses. Some videoconferencing apps
The solution you’re looking for is videoconferencing. Using require ports to be open that your firewall may be blocking. On
the Internet for videoconferencing isn’t a new concept; com- your home router you can tweak settings and set
panies have tried for years to market such applications. But special rules (if you know how), but getting
videoconferencing applications from five years ago, like your IT department to open ports on
CUseeMe and early versions of Microsoft NetMeeting, proved
the corporate firewall will probably
too difficult to set up for mainstream use, and they tended to be next to impossible.
work badly. These programs were simply more trouble than
None of the solutions we review
they were worth. Meanwhile, high-end enterprise solutions are perfect. If you’re looking for
LOG ON TO
began to appear from companies like Polycom, delivering high only basic videoconferencing cawww.pcmag.com
quality for larger conferencing needs but requiring very ex- pabilities, you can test the waters
for more reviews,
pensive specialized hardware and sophisticated setups.
free, using a popular IM client such
news, and opinions.
Since then, software has improved; systems are more powerful, as MSN Messenger or Yahoo! Messenger. Some users will find these apps
and broadband connections are more prevalent.
more than adequate, while others will deAnd now videoconferencing software desire better quality and less latency and will need
serves a second look from the people who
Our contributors:
to step up to one of the premium products.
dismissed it early on. The seven apps we
Cisco Cheng is a technical
The prices for these applications vary greatly, as do the inreview in this story are very easy to use
analyst for PC Magazine Labs.
cluded collaboration tools. Choosing the right videoconand include some handy features that
Associate editor Matthew P.
ferencing program involves a balance of cost, quality, feamake collaboration online more proGraven and PC Magazine Labs
tures, and firewall compatibility. (Sounds simple, doesn’t it?)
ductive and less of a chore.
project leader Jonathan Roubini
were in charge of this story.
In the pages that follow, we help you decide.
Of course, a lot of considerations
more
on the
web
iChat AV (public beta)
$29.95 direct; included with Mac OS X 10.3. Apple
Computer Inc., 800-692-7753, www.apple.com.
OVERALL RATING: l l l m m
As the suffix implies, Apple’s new iChat
AV adds audio and videoconferencing to
the company’s instant-messaging program. We tested a public beta, but the
final code should be available by the time
you read this, bundled with Mac OS X 10.3
(also known as Panther; reviewed in First
Looks on page 46) and sold separately for
users of Mac OS X 10.2.5 or later. We are
pleased with iChat’s ease of use and
video quality—the best here— but like
MSN Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger,
iChat is best suited for personal use.
There isn’t a lot to say about iChat AV.
It is purely a messaging client and doesn’t
offer many user-changeable settings or
extra features, such as application sharing.
Setup is simple. Conveniently, you can
log on using either a .Mac or AOL Instant
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P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Messenger (AIM) account. Unfortunately,
iChat AV requires several open ports in
your firewall, ruling it out as a business
solution for most Mac users.
If a user on your buddy list is using
iChat AV and has audio or video support,
a green phone or camera button will appear next to that person’s name. Because
iChat is compatible with AIM, you can
contact PC users who are on the AIM network—a useful capability. You can’t, however, establish videoconference connections with PC users. Your cross-platform
communications options are limited to
text chat.
iChat AV will work with any Mac-compatible FireWire-based digital camera.
For our tests, we used the sleek Apple
iSight, which supports 640-by-480 VGA
resolution. iChat AV is set to 352-by-288
and can be scaled up to full-screen. For
this, the application interpolates the
image, offering very high video quality.
Apple iChat AV offers the best video quality in
this story. But it’s better suited to home users
because of limited features and firewall issues.
When set up on a connection with no
firewalls, iChat AV offers an excellent
videoconferencing experience. The video
and audio are very good, and the streams
VIDEOCONFERENCING
m SightSpeed Video Messenger
m VidiTel
For decades, we’ve seen videoconferencing depicted as the technology of the
future. But while videoconferencing has been around for years, it hasn’t offered the quality or convenience George Jetson or Captain Kirk would expect.
The problem is that until recently, videoconferencing has been cumbersome
and offered poor video quality. Fortunately, computer-based videoconferencing products have made a lot of progress over the past couple of years and are
benefiting from broadband connections, faster PCs, and improved compression. These products still aren’t perfect, but several are quite good. Some offer
very high video quality, some work flawlessly from behind firewalls, some include impressive tools for collaborating remotely, and some are free. Which product is right for
you will depend on your specific needs.
Consider testing the waters with one of the no-cost IM clients. Both MSN Messenger
and Yahoo! Messenger support free videoconferencing. AOL Instant Messenger will be
adding support in the near future.
Serious business users should check out the premium solutions. For basic videoconferencing capabilities, we recommend SightSpeed Video Messenger. It works from behind
most corporate firewalls and delivers some of the best video quality we’ve seen. And it’s
cheap. Unlimited minutes cost $29.95 per user per month. But you can use SightSpeed at
no charge for up to 100 minutes a month (with a limit of 10 minutes a day).
For those with more sophisticated videoconferencing needs, VidiTel, at $35 a month,
may be worth the price. The video quality is good, though not quite as smooth as SightSpeed’s. But VidiTel offers a lot of notable features that let you collaborate online.
Among other things, it supports group conferences, provides simple application sharing, and works seamlessly from behind firewalls.
exhibit minimal latency. You view the
other party in a large window. Within
that window is a smaller one that displays
your own stream. You can move this
smaller window to any corner of the
larger one, or you can close it.—Jonathan
Roubini
iSpQ VideoChat 6.2
$39.95 direct. nanoCom Corp., 540-961-5411,
www.ispq.com. l l m m m
iSpQ—pronounced “eye speak”—offers
an impressive number of capabilities, including multiperson video chat (for three
or more users) and video e-mail support.
Unfortunately, poor quality and a variety
of problems make this one of the least
compelling solutions in our roundup.
iSpQ’s greatest fault is that it has major
limitations when working from behind a
firewall. To begin with, we tested the software with both a Linksys BEFW11S4
router and a Netgear FWAG114 Prosafe Dual
Band Wireless VPN Firewall. We were unable to receive video through the Netgear
router, and it took an hour of tweaking port
settings and speaking to iSpQ’s tech support to establish a video connection from
behind the Linksys device.
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P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Corporate firewalls are far more problematic, since most corporate users can’t
open firewall ports. iSpQ is simply not an
option for business users.
Once set up, the software
is relatively easy to use and
offers some interesting features. For example, you can
invite up to four people into
a video chat room. (Note that
with each additional person
you’ll need more bandwidth,
or else video and audio will
be compromised.) And you
can easily record a video
with audio and “Vmail” it to
your friends and family.
The procedure for adding a
buddy to the contact list could have been
designed better; a video chat invitation or
message has to be sent and accepted. We
were frustrated that we had to start an actual conversation (either video or text
chat) each time we wanted to add a user to
our list.
Video quality also left much to be desired. When we tested video throughput
while using a standard phone for audio,
there was at least a 2-second delay be-
tween the speech and the video. Most of
the time the video was choppy over cable
modem connections. And on occasion,
the program froze and forced us to relaunch it.
In-call features include a push-to-talk
button (as on a walkie-talkie) and a
hands-free mode. Other options are the
ability to change the video size (160-by120 or 320-by-240), your display name,
and the sound settings. iSpQ also offers a
network diagnostic tool that can detect
whether the program is compatible with
your Internet connection.—Cisco Cheng
MSN Messenger 6.0
Free download. Microsoft Corp., http://messenger
.msn.com. l l l m m
Microsoft currently offers two similar
messaging clients: MSN Messenger 6.0,
which is aimed at home users, and Windows Messenger 5.0, which is geared
toward enterprise users. This distinction,
however, is quite confusing. Microsoft
claims that the big difference between the
two IM clients is that Windows Messenger
supports connectivity with Microsoft Exchange IM servers and IM servers that use
SIP (Session Initiation Protocol). But while
MSN Messenger is, in theory, designed for
the general consumer, we found it a more
flexible business solution than Windows
Messenger. Unfortunately, the video latency is excessive for serious use.
ISpQ offers an impressive assortment of features.
Unfortunately, it has too many problems, and its
video quality makes it unusable.
A free download, MSN Messenger offers live videoconferencing, whiteboards,
and application sharing in a very intuitive
interface. Most important, it works from
behind a firewall. Interestingly, Windows
Messenger is not as firewall-friendly.
We tested MSN Messenger from
VIDEOCONFERENCING
It’s in the Camera
You can be running the best videoconferencing software available, but if your Webcam isn’t up to the challenge, the video
quality won’t be very impressive. Remember that software
packages compress the video stream; if your image is poor to
begin with, compressing it will only make things worse.
These days, you can buy a high-quality CCD camera for about
$100. CCD technology offers a much better experience than
CMOS-based Web cameras. We reviewed two high-quality Webcams, one midrange model, and two budget units. Additionally,
we looked at the Apple iSight, since
Apple’s iChat AV service doesn’t
support the USB-based cameras
we tested.
If economy is more
important than top-quality
video, the D-Link VisualStream USB PC Camera
DSB-C110 ($29.99 direct)
Apple iSight
might be for you. The
VisualStream offers 352by-288 resolution—provided by a 0.2-inch CMOS sen-
behind a corporate firewall and from behind a Linksys BEFW11S4 router, and we
were able to connect for video chat
through each. To be safe, Microsoft recommends downloading the latest
firmware for your NAT routers to avoid
any potential connection problems. We
did have some problems using MSN
Messenger’s application sharing and
whiteboard during a videoconference.
This was mainly a bandwidth issue;
we recommend that you have an extremely fast broadband connection
when using all three features at the same time.
The setup is very simple:
Just type in your Hotmail or
.NET Passport account and
you’re automatically registered to use the software.
Once you sign in, you can
start videoconferencing.
To connect with another
user, you click on the appropriate name in the contact
list, which gives you the option to start a video conversation. Once video is launched, two video
screens are displayed, so you can see
yourself and the person you are chatting
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P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Ezonics
iContact
sor—and manual focus,
and it comes with ArcSoft’s PhotoImpression
and VideoImpression.
While it’s also a desktop cam
like the Logitech QuickCam Pro
4000 (reviewed opposite), the DLink unit doesn’t include a microphone or
a button to take snapshots. Of course, it also costs about $70
less than the Logitech model. (D-Link Systems Inc., 800-3261688, www.dlink.com. llmmm )
The Ezonics iContact ($39.99), which also uses a 0.2-inch
CMOS sensor with 352-by-288 resolution, delivers slightly better
quality than the D-Link camera. It’s not as smooth, however,
when handling motion.
The iContact comes bundled with software that lets you
manage your pictures and create and e-mail video clips. You can
stand the unit on your desk or clip it onto a notebook or LCD so it
hangs halfway down the screen. Depending on how your video
software is set up, this can let you get more direct eye contact
with your conference partners. (Ezonics Corp., 925-468-0818,
www.ezonics.com. llmmm )
with. Bear in mind that video communication is limited to one-on-one with MSN
Messenger.
Video quality is not good. And in testing, our video feed lagged a simultaneous
phone call by about 2 seconds.
MSN Messenger includes some of the
best extra utilities we’ve seen. For example, it is the only application in this
roundup that supports real application
sharing—meaning a user can see and
control applications on the remote system. One user can browse Web sites
while the remote user watches in real
time. The Whiteboard, which is similar to
Microsoft’s Paint utility, can be used to
share images, sketches, and so on. In addition, Windows XP’s remote assistance
is available with a simple button click.
This utility lets one user take complete
control of another user’s desktop.
Although a variety of platforms support MSN Messenger, some of its features
require both users to be running Windows XP. For example, we could not use
the application-sharing and remote-control features when one user was on a
Windows 2000 system. Likewise, the
Start Videoconference option (which initiates audio and video simultaneously)
works only when both users are running
Windows XP. Otherwise, you must use
separate buttons to launch the video and
audio feeds individually.—CC
SightSpeed Video Messenger
100 minutes a month free; unlimited access, $29.95 a
month. SightSpeed Inc., 888-738-7733, www
.sightspeed.com. l l l l m
MSN Messenger is a pretty good free videoconferencing solution. Business users, however,
will prefer a product with better video quality.
SightSpeed Video Messenger is
a solid solution for one-on-one
interaction, personal or business.
The program’s claim to fame is
its excellent video, and our tests
proved the claim true. In this roundup,
SightSpeed provides the best video quality
on a PC, and it shows very little latency.
VIDEOCONFERENCING
Creative Labs offers a camera specifically designed for laptops. The Creative WebCam Notebook ($49.99) is the size of
a double-A battery and clips onto a laptop screen. It’s more
expensive than the VisualStream or the iContact but offers
higher video quality, with 640-by-480 resolution. It also uses
a CMOS sensor.
We were much happier with the smoothness of movement
when using the WebCam than when using the iContact or the
VisualStream. The images this Creative device produced,
however, turned out grainier than the others. The camera
can swivel horizontally nearly 360 degrees, so you can
capture the image of something happening in front of
you rather than capturing yourself. The bundled
software, Creative WebCam Monitor, includes a
motion detection mode, a scheduler, and a feature
for automatically uploading images to a Web site.
(Creative Labs Inc., 800-998-5227, www.creative
.com. lllmm )
Next to the Apple iSight, the Logitech QuickCam
Pro 4000 ($99.95) is the priciest model we tested. It
offers the same 640-by-480 resolution as the Creative
WebCam Notebook but produces a far better image, thanks
to the CCD technology.
The camera comes with built-in microphone and a button to
Setting up the software is quick and
easy. As soon as you launch the application, you see a blank contact list along
with administrative options such as
Making use of peer-to-peer technology,
SightSpeed offers the best video quality of
the Windows-based solutions in this story.
adding and removing contacts, accessing
call logs, and managing membership.
On our tests, using SightSpeed from
behind a firewall was effortless. SightSpeed works through most firewalls; only
on rare occasions do some firewalls using
NAT (which masks IP addresses) block it.
capture 1.3-megapixel still images. The bundled software is very
intuitive and, like the Creative software, offers such features as
image and video capture and motion detection. Logitech also
offers a cool feature called Face Tracking. When you select this
option, the camera will automatically follow your face and even
digitally zoom in on you if necessary.
We are really pleased with this camera. The
only drawback is the size, which, while perfect for a desktop setup, is a little bulky
for travel. (Logitech Inc., 800-2317717, www.logitech.com. lllll )
Unlike the other cameras in
this roundup, the Apple iSight
($149) is FireWire-based. It
supports 640-by-480 VGA
resolution and has excellent
Logitech
video quality. We are very
QuickCam
pleased with the iSight’s design,
Pro 4000
and we like its built-in microphone, which delivers very clear
audio for videoconferencing. The
iSight is also the only camera here that
has auto-focus. (Apple Computer Inc., 800692-7753, www.apple.com. lllll )—JR
In such cases, you must make sure that
port 9000 is open.
Starting a videoconference is as simple
as clicking on the name of the user you
want to talk with. While conferencing, you have some in-call options such as volume control,
video off and audio mute, statistic monitoring to measure data
throughput, and text messaging.
You can also hang up at any time
with a single button click.
As we mentioned, SightSpeed
provides the best video quality
among the products in this
roundup, thanks to a few factors.
First, the software creates a peerto-peer connection between systems, rather than going through
the company’s servers, so it can
deliver data more efficiently and
with less latency. Second, SightSpeed uses
a unique compression method, which
strips out about 80 percent of the data
from a video stream without removing
data that is critical to the viewer.
On our tests, we counted out loud,
“1, 2, 3,” and at the same time ticked off
the numbers with our fingers. The video
and audio were smooth and in sync on
both ends. We also chatted, simultaneously using our SightSpeed connection
and a traditional phone call. SightSpeed’s
delay was less than 1 second.
Unfortunately, SightSpeed lacks certain frills that some users will want.
Conferences are limited to one-on-one
sessions, and there are no applicationsharing or whiteboard features. But it’s
an excellent choice for business users
looking for a basic videoconferencing
solution.—CC
Vibe Phone 1.6
100 minutes, $4.95 a month; 250 minutes, $9.95 a
month; 650 minutes, $19.95 a month (all based on a
yearly contract). GlobalStreams Inc., 314-997-5100,
www.vibephone.com. l l l l m
Vibe Phone 1.6 is the most straightforward software in this story, delivering
high-quality audio and video without requiring you to tweak too many settings.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t include many of
the extra features you get with other programs in this story.
When you run the software for the first
time, the audio and video setup wizard
guides you through positioning your camera and speakers; it even helps you set up
ideal lighting. Here you can also set other
preferences, such as specifying whether
you use a headset or speakers so the software can adjust the output accordingly.
Vibe Phone worked effortlessly on our
tests. Even when using the software from
www.pcmag.com DECEMBER 9, 2002 P C M A G A Z I N E
155
VIDEOCONFERENCING
behind a corporate firewall, we didn’t have to
change any settings.
Once the simple setup
process is done, you can
add people to your
buddy list by entering
e-mail addresses. Oddly
enough, you can see live
video of each caller before you pick up the
call—a feature for callers
to be aware of. This
means that when you send invitations to
a videoconference, the invitees can watch
you without your knowledge until they individually accept or reject the invitation.
Vibe Phone’s interface is fixed; you
can’t resize the window. Nor can you
view the video stream in resized format
or full-screen—an option available in
most of the other products in the
roundup, including the freeware.
We particularly like a feature that lets
you share images during a call. You can
share pictures from your computer and
choose from a list of basic transitions.
This lets you do a presentation while
talking on Vibe Phone, though you have
to move through the pictures by clicking
on one image at a time.
Vibe Phone doesn’t offer a text chat
feature, something that all the other products support.
The company’s pricing scheme works
like that of a cell-phone provider; you purchase a yearly contract and a set number
of minutes per month. Only the user who
initiates a conference is charged for minutes during the meeting. If you don’t plan
to use the product very much, you can get
away with paying $4.95 a month for 100
minutes, but if you will be videoconferencing fairly often, you’ll need a more expensive monthly plan.—JR
Vibe Phone is a fairly well-rounded solution,
providing good video quality and a very simple
setup. But it’s light on the frills.
contact list is created, where you can easily add names by entering e-mail addresses. You can also add groups of contacts. Active contacts—those who are
online at the moment—are indicated by
check marks; you can start an instant
meeting by clicking on the Meet icon, or
you can press the Lobby icon to join a
password-protected room.
The company claims its software is capable of handling meetings with as many
as 200 users. You can specify up to 8
users to broadcast video, while the other
192 broadcast audio only. In testing, we
created as many as 6 simultaneous video
feeds with no serious problems.
We like VidiTel’s handy features for
large-meeting situations. During a meeting you can send private text messages to
other participants, or you
can post public messages to
the entire group. VidiTel
also offers a form of application sharing: A user can
open a file and work in it
while everyone in the meeting room watches. Unlike
MSN Messenger, with its
true application sharing,
which supports remote control of software, VidiTel lets
the other users see your application but not actually
work in it. Other in-call features include a video and
VidiTel
$35 a month per user. Santa Cruz Networks Inc., 831459-7190, www.viditel.com. l l l l m
Santa Cruz Networks’ VidiTel
offers the best combination of
features and quality for business users. It works seamlessly
through most corporate firewalls, supports large multiperson meetings, and includes a variety of communication tools that are
invaluable when collaborating online.
During setup, VidiTel’s
configuration wizard tests
your camera and audio
settings and automatically
configures the software
for the best performance.
For corporate firewall
compatibility, VidiTel has
the best design among
the products we saw.
According to the company, the software uses TCP
port 443, an SSL port
that is open on most firewalls. This means that
u s e rs s h o u l d n’ t h ave
any problem connecting
from work.
Once the software is set up, a blank
It may cost more than the other
products in this story, but
VidiTel is worth the price if you
need a sophisticated videoconferencing solution.
SCORECARD
–EXCELLENT
–VERY GOOD
l l l –GOOD
l l –FAIR
l –POOR
lllll
llll
Direct price
Audio/video
quality
Firewall
compatibility
llll
llll
ll
ll
l
l
llll
ll
llll
iSpQ VideoChat 6.2
MSN Messenger 6.0
With Mac OS X 10.3, free;
for Mac OS X 10.2, $29.95 direct
Download, $39.95
Free download
SightSpeed
Vibe Phone 1.6
Unlimited access, $29.95 a month
s100 minutes, $4.95 a month
llll
llll
llll
lllll
lll
lllll
VidiTel
$35 a month per user
llll
lll
lllll
Yahoo! Messenger
Free download
llll
ll
lll
iChat AV
RED denotes Editors’ Choice.
156
Ease of use
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Group conferencing
4
Application
sharing
4
Whiteboarding
4
Community
directory
OVERALL
RATING
4
lll
4
4
ll
lll
llll
llll
4
4
4 (view only)
llll
4
4
lll
VIDEOCONFERENCING
PERFORMANCE TESTS
How We Tested
To reflect the experience of average business and home users, we tested each
videoconferencing program both across the Internet between two corporate
networks and using broadband connections between two home networks.
We tested all the Windows-based programs on both a MicronPC Millennia
with a 2.53-GHz Pentium 4 and a Dell Latitude D600s notebook with a 1.6-GHz
Pentium M. For video and audio input, we used a Logitech QuickCam Pro 4000
and a Logitech Internet Chat Headset on each end. Apple’s iChat AV doesn’t support USB cameras, so to test that product we used Apple iSight cameras on Apple
iMacs with G4 processors, as well as on Apple PowerBook G4s.
We simulated a corporate setup using two separate symmetric DSL (SDSL)
connections, each using the same speed for uploads and downloads. One line
was rated at 1.2 Mbps, the other at 1.5 Mbps. In testing, our connections never
reached even half the available bandwidth. And since every Internet-connected
network should be behind a firewall, we tested with one at each end to see
whether the programs would still be able to connect.
We also tested on a home setup, where the two parties were using different
cable Internet providers. Typically home broadband supports much faster downloads than uploads. The cable connections performed at around 800 Kbps for
downloads and 200 Kbps for uploads.
To address the issue of latency—the delay between when something happens
on one end and when it’s seen or heard on the other—we had the two participants in each videoconference talk over a regular phone line. We observed the
delay by comparing the telephone voice with the lip movement in the video.—JR
audio mute button, an interrupt function
(which lets you break into a conversation), and an auto-talk option, which
chimes you in whenever you speak.
In general, VidiTel’s video and audio
quality was good. We tested it with four
test subjects in a virtual meeting room,
and the video and audio were clear, with
only a slight delay. When we added more
members to our meeting, however, the
quality began to degrade, and the video became choppy. A useful bandwidth meter
lets you monitor your connection, so you
can limit the number of users before video
and audio quality begins to suffer.
VidiTel offers more capabilities than
some users will need. For basic videoconferencing, one of the other programs
in this roundup would be more economical. But if you are a serious business user
who needs a versatile solution, VidiTel
will be worth the price.—CC
start interacting with other Yahoo! members at no cost. But though it offers the
best possible price and a variety of impressive features, Yahoo! Messenger is
best suited to personal use because of its
firewall limitations and poor video quality when operating in standard mode.
The main interface is the buddy list,
from which you can contact your friends
and colleagues or check your stocks, cal-
Yahoo! Messenger
Free download. Yahoo! Inc., 408-349-3300,
http://messenger.yahoo.com. l l l m m
All you need to start using Yahoo! Messenger is a free Yahoo! account. Once you
register and download the client, you can
158
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
In Super Webcam mode, Yahoo! Messenger
delivers good video quality. But from behind a
firewall, standard mode is unacceptable.
endar, and address book, plus news and
weather, all via the tabs at the bottom. Although the service is free, no banner ads
appear in the buddy list; other tabs display small banner ads.
To add a name to your buddy list, you
can enter a Yahoo! ID or Yahoo! e-mail
address. Alternatively, you can perform
searches, using keywords, name, and so
on. But finding the correct user this way
can be difficult, since Yahoo! has so many
users, and the personal info listed for individual users is spotty at best.
You can initiate a voice or videoconference connection directly from your buddy
list or while you are already in a standard
chat session (two-person text messaging)
or conference (multiperson text messaging). Unfortunately, Yahoo! Messenger
doesn’t offer a convenient button for
launching a video and audio connection;
you must start the two streams separately.
When initiating a video connection, you
can invite the other party to view your
Webcam stream, or the one you’re calling
can request to see it.
Yahoo! Messenger supports two methods for voice conversation: via the Talk
button (as on a walkie-talkie) or using the
Hands Free mode, which allows continuous two-way conversation.
Video is handled in one of two ways,
depending on your Internet connection.
Super Webcam mode creates a peer-topeer connection between two computers.
This method offers good video quality,
though it is not on a par with premium
services like SightSpeed.
Because Super Webcam requires multiple ports to be open—some of which are
typically blocked by corporate
firewalls—most business users
will be forced to use the standard Webcam mode, which
sends data through Yahoo!’s
servers. This method is very
choppy, and we don’t recommend it for videoconferencing
unless there is no other option.
Another point to keep in
mind is that Yahoo! Messenger
is meant to be a social tool for
the Yahoo! community. You
have to be careful when setting
preferences; otherwise you
may accidentally create a
videoconference that is open to the public, so any stranger can find and view
your meeting.—JR E
w w w. p c m a g . c o m /a f te r h o u r s
T E C H N O L O G Y O N YO U R T I M E
Software for the Holidays
KIDS
These new PC titles will make many giftees happy this year.
A L L R E V I E WS BY CA RO L A . M A N G I S
Backyard Football 2004
The Backyard series of sports
games never fails to captivate
the kids. In this version, they can
pick juvenile versions of NFL
stars, including Marshall Faulk and Donovan McNabb, to play
on their teams.
Ages 7 and up.
$19.95 list. Atari,
• • • •••••••••••••• •
Barbie Swan
Lake: The
Enchanted
Forest
This very pretty
game is a perfect gift for
Barbie fans. It’s loaded with
creative activities, games, and
puzzles. Kids help Barbie make the
forest beautiful and are rewarded
with a magical surprise at the end.
Ages 5 and up. $29.95 list. Vivendi
Universal Games Inc.,
• • • •••••• •••••• .
186
Cyberchase Carnival
Chaos
Hamtaro: Wake Up
Snoozer!
Help Jackie, Matt, and Inez find
the Mega Bolt, which the evil
Hacker has stolen. Based on the
terrific PBS show ••••••••••,
this game takes kids on a fun
adventure inside a computer,
teaching challenging math
concepts along the way.
Ages 8 to 11. $19.99 list.
Riverdeep: The Learning Company,
• • • •••••••••••• •••••••• •
Hamtaro and the Ham-Hams
need to find their friend Penelope. Along the way, kids can
practice simple addition and
subtraction, shape identification,
and phonics; the challenges ramp
up automatically, according to
players’ skill levels.
Ages 4 to 7. $19.99 list.
Riverdeep: The Learning Company,
• • • •••••••••••• •••••••• ••
Dora the Explorer:
Animal Adventures
Bilingual Dora travels through the
rainforest and makes friends with
animals in this game based on
the TV show. A variety of activities at three difficulty levels will
keep preschoolers’ attention
while they solve simple puzzles
and learn some basic Spanish at
the same time.
Ages 3 and up. $19.95 list. Atari,
• • • •••••••••••••• •
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
story mirrors that of ••••••••••,
J.R.R. Tolkien’s first Middle Earth
book, but there’s lots of extra
adventure and exploring, too.
Ages 8 and up. $29.99 list. Vivendi
Universal Games Inc.,
• • • •••••• •••••• •
Imaginext Pirate Raider
In this kids’ action/adventure
game, youngsters build and man
their own pirate ships, then set
off on an ocean journey. The
game is lively, colorful, and
engaging for both boys and girls.
Ages 4 to 7. $29.99 list. Vivendi
Universal Games Inc.,
• • • •••••• •••••• •
I Spy Fantasy
In the I Spy games, kids hunt for
objects hidden in lushly designed
backgrounds—and I Spy Fantasy
may be the most visually rich of
the series. There are three discrete worlds to explore, with lots
of games and challenges.
Ages 6 and up. $19.99 list. Scholastic, • • • ••••••••••••••• ••••••
Pajama Sam: Life is
Rough When You Lose
Your Stuff
HAMTARO: WAKE UP SNOOZER!
The Hobbit
Kids embark on a quest playing
as Bilbo Baggins. The exciting
Our hero Sam’s room is a mess,
and he can’t find his favorite
comic book. Kids help him navigate through eerie territory to
find it. The game is humorous
and fun—and might even encourage players to clean up a bit.
Ages 5 and up. $19.95 list. Atari,
• • • •••••••••••••• •
AFTER HOURS
Putt Putt:
Pep’s Birthday Surprise
www.learningcompany .com.
In this newest version of the
charming puzzle/adventure series,
Putt Putt—the happiest animated
car ever—surprises his friend Pep
with a birthday party. The game
changes each time it’s played, so
kids will always find surprises.
Ages 3 to 6. $19.95 list. Atari,
www.atarikids.com.
Zoo Tycoon:
Complete Collection
Strawberry Shortcake:
Amazing Cookie Party
THE HOBBIT
Join Strawberry and her friends
on a deliciously sweet journey to
collect ingredients for cookies.
Three difficulty levels keep the
game challenging, and kids even
get printable cookie recipes.
Ages 4 to 6. $19.99 list. Riverdeep:
The Learning Company,
Applying the sim genre to
managing a zoo is a winning idea. This deluxe package
includes the original game along
with the expansion packs Dinosaur Digs and Marine Mania,
making for many hours of fun.
You also get the Bonus Endangered Species Theme Pack, with
extra animals such as whale
sharks and Komodo dragons.
Ages 6 and up. $29.99 list.
Microsoft Game Studios,
www.microsoft.com/games.
ON L I NE
M OR E O N T H E WE B
www.pcmag.com/afterhours
Go to our Web site for
more Quick Clips and
Gear & Games reviews.
GROWN-UPS
A L L R E V I E WS BY CA RO L A . M A N G I S E XC E PT A S N OT E D
Adobe Photoshop
Album 2.0
Photoshop Album 1.0 quickly
became our favorite for managing
a large library of digital images,
and Version 2.0 is a winner as
well. A new feature called Collections lets you group images for a
special project without affecting
your tags.—Matthew P. Graven
$49.99 direct. Adobe Systems
Inc., www.adobe.com.
AfterBurner CD/DVD
Labeling Systems
Nearly all of us burn CDs now.
This kit makes labeling them fast,
easy, creative, and fun. It comes
with a UFO-shaped label applicator that is pretty much foolproof.
$24.99 list. Avery Dennison
Office Products, www.avery.com.
BATTLEFIELD 1942
Battlefield 1942: Secret
Weapons of WWII
Fans of war games and firstperson shooters alike went wild
for the original game. This
expansion pack gives you additional weapons to use in the
game, such as the experimental
Wasserfall Guided Rocket, the
Family Tree Maker 11
Sturmtiger, and the Natter
Rocket Plane.
$29.99 list. Electronic Arts Inc.,
www.battlefield1942.com.
Better Homes and
Gardens Home
Designer Suite 6.0
Whether you’re building a dream
home or you just want to dream,
this software puts the planning
in your hands. It’s packed with
powerful tools that let you
create blueprints, do 3-D modeling, generate estimated project
costs, and even create a virtual
tour of your home.
$99 list. Chief Architect, www
.homedesignersoftware.com.
The version number tells you
how long this venerable genealogy software has been around. If
you’re an experienced family
researcher or just getting started,
you’ll find tools here to help. New
in this version are PDF output
capability, a newer and easier
tutorial, CD backup, and simple
data importing and file merging.
$49.99 list. Riverdeep: The
Learning Company, www
.learningcompany.com.
signature slow-motion feature:
Bullet Time 2.0.
$49.99 list. Rockstar Games,
www .rockstargames.com.
Neighbours from Hell
In this cartoony, tongue-in-cheek
send-up of reality TV, you play
pranks on your horrid neighbor
Hallmark Card Studio
2004 Deluxe
Create your own greeting cards
with the help of the Hallmark experts. The software is simple for
just about anyone to use. The
deluxe version offers 1,000 new
Hallmark cards, 10,000 art images,
and more than 85 fonts (including
50 exclusive Hallmark fonts), along
with a host of other extras.
$49.99 list. Vivendi Universal
Games Inc., www.vugames.com.
NEIGHBORS FROM HELL
“on camera.” When you successfully evade a barking dog and an
alarm-raising parrot or your
practical jokes succeed, you are
rewarded with cheers and laughs
from the virtual audience.
$30 list. Encore Inc., www
.neighbors-from-hell.com.
Call of Duty
Play as a member of a squad of
soldiers in World War II in this
intense first-person adventure.
The graphics are impressive
throughout the 24 missions.
This game will give you hours
on hours of adrenaline rush.
$49.99 list. Activision, www
.activision.com.
Max Payne 2:
The Fall of Max Payne
In the sequel to the cinematic
action game Max Payne, Max falls
in love with a murder suspect.
The film noir feel of the original
game is strengthened by more
realistic animation, and you’ll also
see improvement in the game’s
XIII
A single-player or multiplayer
thriller with a distinctive comicbook sensibility, an intriguing
story, and innovative game play,
XIII will please first-person-shooter
fans (and conspiracy theorists).
$39.99 direct. Ubisoft,
www.ubisoft.com.
www.pcmag.com DECEMBER 9, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
187
AFTER HOURS
EVERYONE
A L L R E V I E WS BY CA RO L A . M A N G I S E XC E PT A S N OT E D
eMedia
Piano &
Keyboard
Method
Journey to
the Center
of the Earth
This role-playing
adventure game,
inspired by the Jules
Verne novel, features gorgeous
graphics and a compelling plot.
It’s 2005, and you play as a
young journalist who explores a
new primitive world deep under
the Earth’s surface. Your choices
determine the fate of this world
and the outcome of the game.
$19.99 direct. Viva Media LLC,
www.viva-media.com.
JOURNEY TO THE
CENTER OF THE
EARTH
Learn basic keyboard
concepts, including sightreading, accompaniment creation, and transposition, with
over 300 lessons. They comprise
videos, recordings of analog
instruments, and MIDI tracks that
you can play along with, and
you’ll get direct feedback when
you hit the wrong key.
$59.95 list. eMedia Music Corp.,
www.emediamusic.com.
Final Fantasy XI
This is the much-anticipated first
online game in the popular Final
Fantasy series. You first create
your own character using extensive customization options. Then
you can explore within 100 areas
on the vast world of Vana’diel and
team up with other players for
adventuring.
$49.99 list, plus $12.95 a month.
Square Enix USA Inc., www
.square-enix-usa.com.
Hoyle Majestic Chess
This colorful chess program
geared to beginning players
takes the age-old game to a new
level by turning the tutorial into
an entertaining, story-driven
adventure. Once you learn the
basics of the game, you can play
against the computer or go
online and try your skills against
other live players.
$29.99 list. Vivendi Universal
Games Inc., www.vugames.com.
188
Tiger Woods PGA
Tour 2004
Playing as the intrepid sleuth
herself, you’re invited to an
amusement park at the Jersey
Shore to unravel mysterious
happenings. Fans of mysteries
and puzzle games alike will be
delighted by this game.
$19.99 list. Her Interactive,
www.herinteractive.com.
Fore! Golf on the virtual greens of
this top-notch sports simulation.
Now you can create and customize your own golfer character
in EA Sports Game Face. Also new
are more licensed and fantasy
courses, an expanded Career
mode, and online game play.
$39.99 list. Electronic Arts Inc.,
www.easports.com.
Uru: Ages Beyond
Myst
Law & Order II:
Double or Nothing
Can’t get enough of the TV show?
This game features voice acting
by Jerry Orbach and
S. Epatha Merkerson, among
others of the cast. Like the show,
the game is divided into the
investigation of a crime and then
the trial, so you play first as a
detective, then as an ADA.
$29.95 list. Legacy Interactive
Inc., www.lawandordergame.com.
Microsoft Encarta
Reference Library Plus
DVD 2004
HOYLE MAJESTIC CHESS
Nancy Drew: The
Haunted Carousel
New elements this year include
Discovery Channel videos, expanded literature guides and
improved curriculum guides, and
a more dynamic, context-sensitive
time line. These supplement the
rich, often-updated content,
replete with multimedia, sidebars,
quotations, excerpts from
great books, additional
reading, and vetted
links.—Sean Carroll
$69.95 list.
Microsoft
Corp., www
.microsoft
.com/learn.
TIGER WOODS PGA TOUR 2004
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
URU: AGES BEYOND MYST
Railroad Tycoon 3
Who doesn’t love a train? This
3-D empire-building game lets
you create your own rail empire
on nearly any scale, from sky
views of continents to detailed
close-ups of locomotives, buildings, and landscapes. The soundtrack features bluegrass and
blues, and the package includes
a map editor for creating your
own scenarios.
$49.99 list. Take-Two Interactive
Software Inc., www
.railroadtycoon3.com.
The newest chapter in the
well-loved Myst franchise
offers what you expect:
gorgeous 3-D graphics,
intriguing and challenging
puzzle solving, and huge
worlds to explore. What’s
new is the online gaming capability, which offers access to a
social, ever-changing Myst
universe.
$49.99 list. Ubisoft,
http://uru.ubi.com/us/.
Visual Thesaurus
Visual Thesaurus’s remarkable
Java-based 3-D interface gives you
The Sims Double Deluxe
For loads of mainstream gamers,
The Sims still rules. This special
package gives you the
original game and two
expansion packs: The
Sims Livin’ Large and
The Sims House Party.
You also get bonus content,
including walls, floors, and
other objects in African
and Asian design themes.
$44.99 list. Electronic
Arts Inc., www
.thesims.com.
THE SIMS DOUBLE DELUXE
a highly engaging way to explore
the English language. Enter a word
and watch related words and their
relationships pop up on-screen,
slowly orbiting the original word.
Click on a related word and it
becomes central, with its own
branches. Mouse over connecting
lines to see word relationships.
$29.95 direct. Plumb Design Inc.,
www.visualthesaurus.com.
AFTER HOURS
CONSOLE
A L L R E V I E WS BY J E N N I F E R H A R SA N Y A N D M AT T H E W D. SA R R E L E XC E PT A S N OT E D
Here are the most anticipated console games for
this holiday season.
Game platforms include
the Microsoft Xbox,
Nintendo GameCube,
and Sony PlayStation 2.
Dino Crisis 3
KIDS
Disney’s
Extreme Skate
Adventure
Medal of Honor:
Rising Sun
This game lets kids do skateboarding tricks as their favorite
Disney characters. Play in twoplayer mode to see whether
Simba can outskate Buzz
Lightyear.
$39.99 list. All platforms. Activision Inc., www.activision.com.
Jim Henson’s Muppets
Party Cruise
You’ll want to play along with
your kids. The 30 mini-games
involve Kermit, Miss Piggy, and
the rest of the Muppet gang
enjoying a leisurely cruise.
$19.99 list. GameCube and PS2.
TDK Mediactive Inc.,
www.tdkm.com.
The horror returns, as you fight
gruesome creatures in space.
This fast-moving game
gives you 60 minutes of fullmotion video.
$49.99 list. Xbox. Capcom Entertainment Inc., www.capcom.com.
Start in Pearl Harbor and fight
through five campaigns to keep
the Japanese forces from gaining
control in the Pacific. You’ll be
amazed by the realistic environments on land and sea.
$49.99 list. All platforms. Electronic Arts Inc., www.eagames.com.
The Simpsons Hit
and Run
In this improved sequel you can
play as your favorite character
(even Apu) and complete over 50
missions at 7 difficulty levels.
$49.99 list. All platforms. Vivendi
Universal Games Inc., www
.thesimpsons-hitandrun.com.
Wallace & Gromit in
Project Zoo
Help Wallace and Gromit rescue
baby animals from the zoo. There
are 6 levels, 24 missions, and a
dozen challenging mini-games.
$39.99 list. All platforms. BAM!
Entertainment Inc., www
.bam4fun.com.
GROWN-UPS
Armed and Dangerous
This heist story, set in a fantasy
war, is carried out with squadbased action. You’ll battle with
some crazy weapons—such as
Topsy-Turvy, which turns the world
upside down and drops your
enemies to the ground.
$49.99 list. Xbox. LucasArts,
www.lucasarts.com.
190
WALLACE & GROMIT
SOCOM 2:
U.S. Navy SEALs
The SEALs are back with four new
environments, better capabilities
for online and off-line play, and an
improved single-player mode.
$49.99 list. PS2. Sony Computer
Entertainment America Inc.,
www.us.playstation.com.
Viewtiful Joe
This cel-shaded side-scroller
presents the story of a young
comic-book fan who gets sucked
into an action movie. The graph-
P C M A G A Z I N E DECEMBER 9, 2003 www.pcmag.com
TONY HAWK’S
UNDERGROUND
$49.99 list. Xbox. Microsoft
Game Studios, www.microsoft
.com/games.
SoulCalibur II
ics are remarkable.
$39.95 list. GameCube.
Capcom Entertainment
Inc., www.capcom.com.
EVERYONE
DDR: Ultramix
Dance like your pants are on fire,
with new songs and online competitions. Online capabilities mean
you can see player rankings and
share moves with your friends.
$64.99 list ( with dance mat).
Xbox. Konami Digital Entertainment, www.konami .com/
ddrxbox.
Microsoft Xbox
Music Mixer
Add fun to your Xbox: Share
photos and music stored on your
PC. And with the Karaoke feature,
Music Mixer strips out the vocals
of your CDs so you can sing
along.—CAM
$39.99 list. Xbox. Microsoft
Game Studios, www.microsoft
.com/games.
Prince of Persia:
Sands of Time
This terrific game returns with
puzzles, traps, and better interaction. The main character has
700 animations, and you can
interact with everything you see.
$49.99 list. All platforms. Ubisoft,
www.ubi.com.
Project Gotham
Racing 2
For Xbox Live, this sequel to the
best Xbox racing game has more
profiles and twice as many cars
and cities as the original. There
are 5 skill levels and 5,000
photos per city track.
The original was one of the best
fighting games ever, and the
second version does not disappoint, with many game modes,
unlockables, frenentic one-onone combat, and beautifully
rendered environments.
$49.99 list. All platforms. Namco,
www.namco.com.
PROJECT GOTHAM RACING 2
SSX 3
Choose from up to 10 paths on
each course instead of just one.
There are also more mountains,
13 levels, a challenge mode, and
slopes built just for crazy stunts.
$49.99 list. All platforms. Electronic Arts Inc., www.eagames190
.com.
Star Wars Rogue
Squadron III:
Rebel Strike
This anticipated game returns
you to the classic Star Wars
world. The stunning graphics are
almost indistinguishable from
the movie’s.—CAM
$49.99 list. GameCube.
LucasArts, www.lucasarts.com.
Tony Hawk’s
Underground
This is the game for the skate
punks on your list. Tony isn’t the
main character anymore; you are,
and online game play adds even
more fun to the mix.—CAM
$49.99 list. All platforms. Activision, www.activision.com.
NO ONE LIKES CELL PHONES THAT RING TO THE TUNE OF “CAMPTOWN RACES”
J
Edited by Don Willmott
Okay, now that we’ve narrowed the
focus.... (Microsoft Windows XP)
J
J
Apparently Qwest makes its employees
work two jobs. (Qwest ads)
Here’s hoping
your wife was
not watching
when you sent
this item to
Backspace.
There’s nothing like being struck by
lightning to calm your nerves.
(Calm Before the Storm screen-saver ad)
J
(Yahoo!)
J
J
J
Sheesh. When is a store locator not a store
locator? (The Roof Box Company site)
How’s this for marketing?
Our product may frustrate
and disgust you. (TVision
online documentation)
w w w. p c m a g . c o m / b a c k s p a c e
If your entry is used, we’ll send you a PC Magazine T-shirt. Submit your entries via e-mail to [email protected] (attachments are welcome)
or to Backspace, PC Magazine, 28 E. 28th St., New York, NY 10016-7940. Ziff Davis Media Inc. shall own all property rights in the entries. Winners this
issue: Brian Altenhofel, Bobby Bathmann, Kent Bridwell, Ram Dutta, Gary Garnier, and David Graham.
PC Magazine, ISSN 0888-8507, is published semi-monthly except 3 issues in October (10/14/03 is the Fall 2003 issue) and monthly in January and July at $39.97 for one year. Ziff Davis Media Inc, 28 E. 28th St., New York, NY
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