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The Shareware Report Print
So you think your desktop wallpaper is dull, eh? Ya need somethin' to brighten it up, make it snappy. Give Webshots Desktop a whirl, why doncha? With Webshots Desktop, you can download a daily image (or more) and have your desktop wallpaper change daily. {mosadsense4joomla ad_layout="A"ad_align=""}The galleries Webshots Desktop provides can be staggering, from wildlife to sports to fine art, so you can change your desktop to suit your mood. You can even have its screen saver revolve images you specify. We like how we were able to place a calendar in our desktop's corner, always noting the date for us.


You can also manage your images, as well as create your own collections and add your images. The Webshots camera sits in your system tray to alert you when new images are available for downloading. With the free version, you're limited to five 800 x 600 daily downloads, but over time your collection of images for cycling increases, and you can tell Webshots Desktop to change your image periodically. And the Web site provides enough activity to keep you occupied: You can upload and share your photos, send e-greetings, and store your photos online.

So let your desktop suit your mood. Give it a shot.

Where to get it: http://www.webshots.com/homepage.html
Price: Basic version is free.
Webshots Unlimited provides more storage space and other features.
Requirements: PC running Windows XP or Windows 2000

Tools? What Tools?

Of course, pop-up browser windows (and, worse, pop-under windows) can create a nuisance for the casual Web browser. But what if you have a legitimate use for them, for example, letting an enlarged image pop up when the user clicked on a thumbnail image? Or, what if you've created a website dedicated to a timed event, and you want to count down the number of days?

You can always use JavaScript for these and many other functions; however, a learning curve accompanies JavaScript when you're new to HTML coding.

Webmaster Tools can help you incorporate familiar scripts into your Web page without requiring you to be a JavaScript master. The button- and-window interface presents a series of twenty-six options. After selecting one, say, thumnail pop, you just complete the parameters and click the Create Pop-up Script button. Voila! Your code appears in the lower window, ready for you to copy and paste it into your HTML code. Another button even copies the script to your clipboard for you.

Webmaster Tools includes color picker, drop-down menu, and special character wizards, among others, so these little utilities will always be available. Mouseovers, page borders, image protectors--all useful utilities to keep in your Webmaster toolbelt.

Where to get it: http://webmastertools.sawpit.net/
Price: Free.
Requirements: PC running Windows XP or Windows 2000

In Search of Dave

The old Cheech and Chong skit about "Where's Dave?" no longer holds true for us.
We know where Dave is: He's right on our computer desktop.

Dave's got it all. He's knowledgeable, quick, and most of all, he's always available. No, we're not talking about the coauthor of this column, dear reader (although, truth be told, our own Dave does possess those qualities). We've discovered another, more useful Dave for our desktop: Dave's Quick Search Deskbar, by Dave Bau.

Since installing this tiny JavaScript program on our desktops, we can do searches for nearly anything, no matter what we're doing: email, word processing, programming, or whatever. Dave's Deskbar integrates with your taskbar. We simply type in the keywords we're searching for into the text box and the Deskbar opens a browser to Google and starts searching. Using different characters, we can do all kinds of searches, like Yahoo searches, look up word definitions, get stock quotes, find phone numbers, comparison shop, and a lot more. We can check the weather, look up song lyrics, and even check the nurses' PDR for medication information. Dave's Deskbar includes a calculator, clock, and a calendar that links to your favorite datebook online or off.

There's so much that you can do with Dave's Deskbar that you'll need to refer to the help occasionally. But Dave's Deskbar is customizable. If you know a little HTML and JavaScript, you can add your own searches. Dave's the complete package. And best of all, Dave's right here.

Where to Get It: http://notesbydave.com/toolbar/doc.htm
Price: FREE
System Requirements:IE 5.5, and 6.0, on Windows 95, 98, 2000, and XP

Help for Dishpan Registry Hands

Are your hands red and rough from manually scrubbing your Windows Registry? Are your nails dry and brittle from scraping errant and obsolete information left behind from programs you've deleted? Do you suffer from Registry bloat?

Well, weep no more! RegScrubXP from Lexun FreeWare, scans your Registry and detects various problems, including deleting unnecessary information, which results in a cleaner, faster Registry. At least, this junk consumes space; at worst, it can corrupt your Registry, rendering your system unusable.

As usual, you should back up your Registry before using RegScrubXP or working on it at all, using RegEdit. We were impressed with how RegScrubXP let us pick and choose what we wanted to change. Especially useful is the XP Tips and Tweaks option, which let us modify system settings, like speeding up window display, setting our CD drive to autorun, and shutdown XP faster.

RegScrubXP is not for the newbie; you shouldn't tamper with your Windows Registry if you don't know exactly what you need; however, if you're an intermediate-to-advanced user, RegScrubXP supplies a unified method that helps you find problems. You can let RegScrubXP fix problems automatically as well. Try it, won't you?

The Help documentation, surprisingly detailed, provides a quick tutorial to get you started. Help for dishpan registry hands? You're soaking in it!

Where to get it: http://www.lexunfreeware.com
Price: Free. Donations are welcomed.
Requirements: PC running Windows XP or Windows 2000

Sound Advice for Old Gamers

Sometimes we just can't let go of old habits. After more than a decade, we still find ourselves yearning to recapture those early days of game computing. You can only play so many rounds of Warcraft or Grand Theft Auto before hankering for simpler times when computers ran slower and the Internet was something only geeks and eggheads frequented.

Where are those games we knew so well, like Sierra's King's Quest series? Sure, we've kept the disks, but with today's speedy Windows XP operating system, those old disks serve better as coasters. Today's newer, faster systems are just too quick for the old games.

Luckily, we found VDMSound. It's a program that overcomes one of today's system's problems with older software: sound compatibility. VDMSound is an open, plug-in oriented platform that emulates an MPU- 401 interface and a SoundBlaster-compatible implementat ion. VDMSound is also currently under further development to improve existing joystick emulation, and possibly VESA support.

VDMSound emulates drivers that were king during the ISA computing years. It's completely independent of your audio hardware type and settings. No need to pull out the sounds cards that won't work in today's PC anyway. VDMSound works with any soundcard. Heck, it'll even work on computers that have no audio hardware at all (for instance, instead of outputting sounds through your soundcard using the standard Windows drivers, VDMSound can easily output them to disk).

If all this sounds good to you old PC game players, get back in the game with VDMSound.

Where to get it: http://www.ece.mcgill.ca
Price: Free
System Requirements: Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000 and Windows XP.
Does not work on Windows 95, 98 or Me.

Masterminding Our Own Business

Bill's a videophile. Dave's an audiophile. As mediaphiles, we use to carry all sorts of files like AVI, MP3, or WMA on Zip disks or burn them to CDs, just so we could bring our favorite movies and songs wherever we went: the office, school, radio station, or home. But those days are over, now that we've got Mastermind by DivX. Mastermind is a free, media management service that lets us manage and organize our video and audio files, access them, and play them back wherever we are.

Mastermind is personal, so we're not sharing our media with others. It's also private: Most of our media files are kept on our Scryber Labs PCs and a few files are stored on our Web space on our hosting company's server. None of our files reside on Mastermind's servers.

To run Mastermind, all we needed were a free account on the DivX web site and the free client software downloaded to any computer from which we planned to access our files. Once our accounts were set up, we could access the Mastermind web site from any of the computers to which we had downloaded and installed the Mastermind client, log onto our account, and access our files. As long as our PCs in the lab are up and running, we can access our files.

Mastermind currently supports AVI files for movies, and MP3 and WMA for audio. The company plans to add support in later versions of the software. We may be the brains behind our operation, but DivX is the Mastermind behind our portable media.

Where to get it: http://www.divx.com
Price: Free
System Requirements: Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000/XP and access to the Internet with browser. The current Beta version of the client software supports AVI, MP3, and WMA.

2003 © Bill Dubie and Dave Sciuto

Bill Dubie and Dave Sciuto are the hosts of The Computer Report, New England's longest-running technology talk show.
Contact them at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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