NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, January 2003
The Deals Column
by Bob Click, The Dealsguy
The Greater Orlando Computer Users Group

(click to email author)

My wife and I attended Fall Comdex and the APCUG activities. It was nice seeing friends I seldom see otherwise. In spite of losing still more sponsors, APCUG did find a few new ones, which is hard to do these days. It was sad to hear about Casady & Greene scaling their operations to bare bones. Luckily Bonnie Michell was able to remain and our user group prices are still on the Web site. I feel that APCUG is asking too much of the vendors, causing us to lose them. I don't agree that you folks would not attend the APCUG functions without the FREE meals.

I asked a couple of APCUG officers about the stats for APCUG attendees and was told to count them in the book in our package. Someone later announced 350 attendees and I counted over 124 user groups represented, "according to the book." Guess I shouldn't bother asking next time.

Not much in the way of deals this month with only three days between my return from Comdex and the column deadline. I'll fill in with Comdex comments, which is another sad story. You probably knew that there were 1000 less booths at last year's Comdex and this year was no exception with yet another 600 fewer booths. Everything including registration was inside the LV Convention Center (old part) with plenty of space left over. Many booths were smaller than last year and there were numerous booths with names, but no occupants. Key3Media, owner of the Comdex shows, is severely stressed financially, and for sale. On the other hand, they have already announced that Comdex will be back in Las Vegas next year Nov. 15 - 20, 2003 (to dispel rumors), and I believe it will still exist there, but we'll see.

I noticed that the trend started by Microsoft of having a Partner's Pavilion with many of their associated vendors parked in a six foot booth within several small islands of booths has spread to many other large vendors, too numerous to mention. That way those vendors can get exposure to the show floor's attendees, but at a greatly reduced cost. Comdex officials also complained bitterly about the many companies showing their wares at private suites in nearby hotels without bearing the cost of Comdex. Those officials certainly have a point, but they seem to miss the point of making the show affordable. I work in trade shows all the time and am aware of the tremendous costs for an exhibitor, some of which are ridiculously high, such as freight.

PDAs and accessories were in abundance as well as wireless networking. I saw a small keyboard for the Palm that was interesting (just slightly larger than the Palm itself), but the guy wouldn't work out an offer except to sell them to me in quantity so I could do it myself. No thanks. The Wrist PDA caught my eye and it was a PDA in the form of a wristwatch, using the Palm OS. Take a look at [http://www.abacuswatches.com]. Looks like the ultimate in data portability.

Mercedes had their lineup of cars on display again this year since they are one of the sponsors for the Tech Fair. The one with the retractable steel roof, which quickly folds together and into the trunk, was pretty impressive while still leaving adequate trunk space, priced at only $86,000, but I forgot my Visa. You could test drive them outside in the parking lot on an obstacle course laid out with pylons, and I'm told you could run the heck out of them.

The Tablet PC was also in high profile at Comdex, but was not very popular among attendees. I was impressed by the dual screen laptop I saw. You heard correctly, two screens for your laptop and the keyboard was lying there separate with the laptop sitting on its side folded open. [http://www.dualscreen.com] Mitsumi is introducing a floppy drive that also contains three other slots for plugging in your memory cards and it will read them direct, to be introduced soon. Mitsumi also displayed their Parrot shaped PDA that retrieves e-mail, alerts users to new messages, reads messages aloud and reminds users of appointments. Don't know if it needs crackers or not. [http://www.pc-mascot.com] The USB (solid state) drives about the size of the cigarette lighter were all over the place, and some media people even got one in their press kit. I never struck gold there but one company promised me a deal on them. We'll see. I heard that one last year.

Toshiba was showing their new 63" digital flat screen display, which was very impressive, to be introduced in a month or so. Others had their own new large screens and some were just as bright while not being gas plasma. Many people, including myself, do not like the new aspect ratio (width versus height, 16 x 9) of the new high definition displays, but it looks like they will cram it down our throat anyway. How about CyberLock's line of cylinder locks that can be programmed and can keep track of their usage without the user's knowledge. Great product. [http://www.videx.com].

A booth was selling Nisis digital cameras (Pocket DV2) [http://www.nisis.com] that would take both stills and AVIs. It was small and stills could be 1280 x 1024 or 640 x 480 pixels while an AVI would be 320 x 240 pixels. It could also be used for a PC cam and there were other features. I decided that for $120.00 I'd take a chance. He was selling them as fast as he could get them out of the case and write them up. Later, I saw that Jerry Stevens also had them in his booth with his ink jet refill products. Wish I had known that. Actually, I had even talked with Jerry before without noticing the two different cameras he was selling.

DVD was everywhere in all forms, both hardware and software, too numerous to mention, even replicators. However, there are still two major camps, each saying theirs is the best. There was almost no Linux there (I only saw United [http://www.unitedlinux.com], but there was a small open source two-day show called ApacheCon at Alexis Park Resort. I didn't find out soon enough to go.

For people with pets was the iSeePet by AlphaOmega Soft. It makes it possible to provide for your pet when you are away from home. In other words, at the office you just stop your work briefly and connect to the Internet. Then you can take a look at your pet and push the button to give the pet a small or large dinner. I'm sure that little break would pick up many people's day. [http://www.iseepet.com]

I'm out of space, but I've tried to mention items that others probably would not write about. I also have one of the order forms for Comdex CDs and videos. There was much more, but enough of this dribble, let's look into the two deals.

Still Good
The Gear Software deal is still good for January. To find this DealsGuy special, go to [http://www.gearsoftware.com] and look for the DealsGuy link on their Home Page. The coupon code is "Click." The keyboard offer from Man and Machine for free shipping is only good until January 15, 2003. Visit [http://www.man- machine.com] and use the code "Click."

How About A Backup For Your AntiVirus Protection!
That's right, many still accidentally trigger a virus, and quicker than the wink of an eye, it goes into your address book and merrily e-mails itself to all your friends. That is if you are using Outlook or Outlook Express and have not installed the patches, and perhaps even then. What's that, you've been meaning to do just that "when you have time!" The same with updating your AntiVirus? Sure!! Viralock is used in conjunction with whatever antivirus software you are using. Its job is to allow the virus NO escape from an infected computer. To reiterate: while traditional antivirus products work mainly to PREVENT a virus intrusion, Viralock works seamlessly beside your normal AV to prevent all viruses, known or unknown, from getting out of your computer to infect your friends, which would be very embarrassing.

It does this by encrypting the e-mail addresses found in popular e-mail programs such as MS Outlook and Outlook Express. You may say that your present AV will do the job of preventing you from ever getting an infected computer. Haven't you read that viruses such as some Klez variants can go in and turn off your AV while it does its dirty work? With Viralock, this won't matter since the e-mail addresses in your program will be encrypted to prevent this. Feel better now? Take a look at [http://www.viralock.com] for a better explanation.

The normal selling price is $19.95, but until February 28, 2003, you can buy it for just $14.95 by getting it from their Web site and using the coupon code "DealsGuy" to order. You can also download a free version for trial if you prefer. Remember that Viralock is NOT an AV, but is used in addition to your AV protection. Designed mainly for MS Outlook and Outlook Express right now with a Eudora version in the works.

An Interesting Spam Tool.
I saw SpamNet at Comdex and you can try the beta version free right now until it is finished with the development. We are all sick of spam (except Hormel, of course) and SpamNet is a Microsoft Outlook add-in that stops spam immediately. SpamNet does not delete spam, but only moves it to your Spam folder with just a click of your mouse. Every time a consumer uses the one- click "block" feature to remove spam from their in-box, they also notify the SpamNet community at large. This automatically blocks spam for all other SpamNet consumers. On the other hand, if they think a certain message is NOT spam, they can click an "unblock" button to share their knowledge with the network. It's sort of like a "community" fighting spam together.

I haven't studied it to see how all this works, but you can download the beta version from [http://www.cloudmark.com] as well as read up on what it is all about. I did read just recently, in a UG newsletter, a short write-up by a member who was pretty happy with the service. Check it out. You'll be surprised at who the cofounder is.

That's it for this month. Meet me here again next month if your editor permits. This column is written to make user group members aware of special offers I have found or arranged, and my comments should not be interpreted to encourage, or discourage, the purchase of products, no matter how enthused I might sound. Bob (The Cheapskate) Click [Bobclick@mindspring.com]. Visit my Web site at [http://www.dealsguy.com] for past columns. Also, I keep adding interesting articles (taken from user group newsletters) to my "Articles of Interest" page for viewing or downloading.

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