NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, February 2004
The Deals Column
by Bob Click, The Dealsguy
Greater Orlando Computer Users Group
(click to email author)

My Webmaster abilities leave much to be desired, in fact, I barely get the job done, but at least my Web site does the job I wanted it to do for my readers and editors. In spite of my lack of expertise, I often get e-mail from readers and editors who visited my Web site and acknowledge the visit. Sometimes they even tell me they liked the way it is set up and that they think it is easy to navigate. That always makes my day considering my lack of ability and I'm happy it is doing the job satisfactorily. When I originally built it, the people I asked to critique it ripped it apart as I asked them to do, but said it would probably work, and after a few changes, it is doing that. My thanks to the readers and editors for living with my creation.

I also noticed a couple of newsletters that carried articles their editor downloaded from my Web site and even credited my Web site, which is unnecessary, but good. I was excited to see that because it tells me somebody is using some of the articles I posted and that at least I chose something that people liked. My thanks to all the authors (some actually told me they felt flattered) that I had asked for their article and for contributing for my readers.

The Beginning Of The End
I am just about ready to put the DealsGuy column to bed permanently because of the lack of new content availability. Lately, much of what I publish is taken from user group newsletters because vendors often ignore my requests and leave me with nothing for the column at deadline time. I may yet have a couple things that are not something you would buy, but mixing those with some other things from newsletters that I read will keep it going briefly. These will probably not be items suitable for many of my readers, but they may find them interesting anyway. Even with limited sales potential I liked them because they are unique.

On the other hand, I often get announcements for new products that are from unknown companies (several per month) and perhaps you would like to know about those. I assumed that most user groups have somebody who gets the same announcements and may, or may not, make it known to their members. Let me know since it would be something to write about rather than nothing.

Interesting Trade Show
I recently worked the "International Training and Simulator Association" trade show. This was a military show and mostly defense contractors had displays there. There was just about any type of simulator you could imagine, including training for a fire situation. In another booth I saw a concave mirror about five feet wide by three feet high (costing about $12,000) that made me look larger but inverted when I looked at it. Everything also looked 3-D when I approached it. Another large mirror costing about $7,000 was flatter and enlarged everything, even my money, but the numbers on it were still the same. Bummer! One of the uses was in a training simulator for mid-air refueling so the pilot could see the nozzle when trying to connect it to the fill tube, although I understand it is not necessary for the real experience.

Another interesting item was a visor you wear on your head that has lenses to look through attached. Above the lenses at a 90-degree angle were mini screens and you could feed TV or whatever you wanted into them. The lenses would not only let you see what was projected on the mini screens above them, but you could also see right through the lenses. It was an interesting item at about $32,000. I'm not sure what its uses are.

Another interesting exhibit was a semi-transparent world globe about six feet in diameter on a pedestal that seemed to be illuminated and had lines projecting all around it that moved all the time. I wondered if it was for a tactical planning room. There were even tanks and some of the latest guns being shown in the show and I am not at liberty to talk about much of what I saw and asked questions about. After all, I was part of their security. The displays took about 500,000 square feet of exhibit space and attracted about 12,000 attendees. It was interesting that several people were caught during show hours around the show floor trying to film the exhibits with hidden cameras. There was lots of security around the show.

A Ho-Hum Column
I was unable to get a couple of things to come together that I am working on by deadline time, but I'm still working on them. Most of you won't need them, but will like them. The holidays presented a problem for the people I am dealing with so I hope to have something next month, but for this month I have some items you may already know about.

Dear IRS, Please take it easy on me - Yeah Right!
I should have written about Tax Act last month, but it's still not too late. It's a free product to use for your personal income tax. You can go to [ http://www.taxact.com } and do your taxes at no cost in two ways. If you have a dialup connection, you may like the method where you do not have to download anything, but instead, do your taxes right on their web site for free as you answer questions for the information. You can also download their free software and go ahead and fill it in at home. It interviews you as you go through it, asking you questions of all types trying to get your information and data for computing your income tax. It takes a bit of getting used to and I made mistakes last year that I had to go back and fix because of assumptions, but it does work.

I used it last year and was a bit agitated by its constantly bugging me to buy their better version. Actually, I did eventually purchase the $9.95 upgrade, but mostly because it included one free electronic tax filing. Taking that into consideration, the upgrade also has some comparison features included among other things and would actually only cost me $2.00 after doing the e-file since an e-file cost you $7.95 using the free version. One shortcoming I felt it had was if you had any complicated stock transactions. I finished mine after a couple of e-mails back and forth with the tech people at Tax Act. They answered my questions the next day and didn't quite understand my question the first time. When I finally was satisfied and sent my e-filing, they responded by telling me it had been received and letting me know the approximate date my refund would be deposited to my account. They were correct; it took ten days. I sent them a complaint and they may have improved the stock transaction part. It's free so what could it hurt if you don't like it. Remember that my review for Tax Act on my Web site is a year old and I assume there are improvements by now.

Free Antivirus Software
AVG antivirus software by Grisoft has a free version and I understand it is pretty good. I have seen it recommended in several user group newsletters, but I've not tried it myself. You can get it at [ http://www.grisoft.com ]. A word of warning though -- don't try to have more than one AV working at the same time because they often tend to clash.

Print Your Screen, Or Any Part, OK?
PrintScreen by Gadwin lets you capture any part, or your entire screen for printing, copying to the clipboard or saving it into a file. This is a very handy utility and can be had at [ http://www.gadwin.com/download ]. You can choose from six different image formats and they can be resized. Their Web site says PrintScreen 2.0 is an easy-to-use FREEWARE utility.

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 or freebies I have found or arranged, and my comments should not be interpreted to encourage, or discourage, the purchase of any 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 and many interesting articles I have taken from various users group newsletters.

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