INTRODUCING INTEL® CORE™2 DUO.

THE WORLD’S BEST PROCESSORS.
For more information on why Intel® Core™2 Duo processors are the world’s best overall processors, please visit www.intel.com/core2duo
Intel’s new Core™2 Duo desktop processor multiplies everything you and your computer can do.
Now you can experience performance up to 40% faster and over 40% more energy efcient.
Learn why at intel.com/core2duo
Performance based on SPECint*_rate_base2000 (2 copies) and energy efficiency based on Thermal Design Power (TDP), comparing Intel® Core™2 Duo E6700 to Intel® Pentium® D
Processor 960. Actual performance may vary. See www.intel.com/performance for more information. ©2006 Intel Corporation. Intel, the Intel logo, Intel Core, the Intel Core logo,
Intel. Leap ahead, and the Intel. Leap ahead. logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the United States and other countries. All rights reserved.
MAKE FREE VIDEO CALLS
. . . FINALLY, IT REALLY WORKS
HOW TO BUY A
VISTA-READY PC
WEEKEND PROJECT
BUILD A HIGH-TECH
DOGHOUSE
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OCTOBER 17, 2006
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Centrino and the Centrino logo are registered trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the United States and other countries. Microsoft and Windows are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.
All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. While Toshiba has made every effort at the time of publication to ensure the accuracy of the information provided herein, product specifications, configurations, prices, system/component/
options availability are all subject to change without notice. Toshiba is not liable for pricing, typographical or photography errors. Reseller/Retailer pricing/products may vary. © 2006 Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.
PC
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 7
OCTOBER 17, 2006 VOL. 25 NO. 18
FIRST LOOKS
36 Consumer
Electronics
BlackBerry Pearl
Archos 604
Wi-Gear iMuffs
MB210
Canon PowerShot
S80
Canon PowerShot
SD550 Digital
Elph
Kodak EasyShare
V570, V705, C533
Fuji FinePix E900,
FinePix V10
Sony Cyber-shot
DSC-N1, Cyber-
shot W100
Olympus Stylus
720 SW
Nikon Coolpix S6
Panasonic Lumix
DMC-LX1, DMC-LZ5
Casio Exilim
EX-Z850
Samsung
Digimax L85
HP Photosmart 927
50 Software
Napster 2.0
MTV Urge
eMusic
AllPeers (beta)
Hopscotch
30 Hardware
Sony VAIO
VGC-LS1
HP Photosmart
A516
Dell XPS M1710
(Intel Core 2 Duo)
Gateway FX510XT
Falcon Northwest
Mach V with Core
2 Extreme
WinBook Jiv Mini
Dell XPS 700
Sony VAIO
VGC-LS1
Technology BOB
There.com
Mpire.com
Glide Effortless
Netgear Power-
line HD Ethernet
Adapter HDX101
63 Small Business
Dell 1200MP
Projector
Gateway FPD1975W
Iomega Rev 70
Hamachi for
Windows 1.0.0.61
(beta)
73 The Best Stuff
Award-winning
products, all
in one place.
32 Buying Guide:
Vista-Ready
Desktops
46 Buying Guide:
Point-and-Shoot
Digital Cameras
Photo: Corbis
COVER STORY
Is tech support up to snuff when things
go wrong? PC Magazine readers give us
the lowdown on product reliability and
tech support quality. Our survey results cover their
experiences with thousands of digital cameras, cell
phones, cell-phone services, VoIP services, HDTVs,
satellite radios, ISPs, routers, and MP3 players.
Reader
survey
page 80
Buy a Vista-ready PC
page 32
Free video calls
page 105
High-tech doghouse
page 105
READERS’ CHOICE:
CAMERAS, CELL PHONES
& SERVICES, MP3 PLAYERS,
HDTVS, AND MORE
8 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
PC Magazine, ISSN 0888-8507, is published semi-monthly except monthly in January and July and three issues in No-
vember at $44.97 for one year. Ziff Davis Media Inc, 28 E. 28th St., New York, NY 10016-7940. Periodicals postage paid
at New York, NY 10016-7940 and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Address changes to PC Magazine, P.O.
Box 54070, Boulder, CO 80328-4070. The Canadian GST registration number is 865286033. Publications Mail Agree-
ment No. 40009221. Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to P.O. Box 503, R.P.O. West Beaver Creek, Richmond
Hill, ON L4B 4R6, Canada. Printed in the U.S.A.
OPINIONS
11 First Word
Jim Louderback
75 Bill Machrone
77 Michael J. Miller
78 Inside Track
148 John C. Dvorak
PIPELINE
21 Welcome to
guided Web
searches
ChaCha hooks
you up with a
human assistant.
Also, unmanned
underwater
vehicles.
22 Future Watch
Take a gander
at the sharpest
man-made
object ever.
CONNECTED
TRAVELER
24 Seattle
TECHNORIDE
26 Toyota Camry
Hybrid
Solid-oxide fuel
cells test success-
fully; next-gen
Chevy Camaro for
2009; third-genera-
tion BMW iDrive.

27 Bill Howard
ALSO INSIDE
16 Feedback
16 Abort, Retry, Fail
SOLUTIONS
119 Ask Neil
Force unique
numbers in Excel;
send e-mail on
the road; Windows
updates for a
slow machine.

122 Ask Loyd
Access Raid 1 hard
drives; transfer
mirrored Raid
1 data.

124 SMB Boot Camp
Opening your
Web storefront.

126 Security Watch
Getting to the
bottom of rootkits.
128 Software Solutions:
Which letter goes
with which drive?
Customize your
drives’ icons and
you won’t forget.
GAMING &
CULTURE
144 Games on a plane
Here are some you
can play on short
or long flights.
GEARLOG
147 Yamaha’s
Silent Cello
Through muting
electronics,
this instrument
stays quiet.
After reading about your favorite (or least
favor ite) tech companies in this year’s Reader
Satis faction Survey, visit us at PCMag.com,
where we’ve posted the results of our cell-phone
satisfaction survey. Which manufacturer makes
the phones with the best call quality? Web
browsing? Tech support? The answers, provided
by our knowledgeable readers, are online now
at go.pcmag.com/bestphones.
PCMAG ONLINE
BUI LD I T
THE ULTIMATE DOGHOUSE
The surge in smart home electronics got us think-
ing, What about our four-legged friends? For all the
world’s Fidos, we present the totally hooked-up doghouse. Fea-
turing a dog’s-eye-view collar cam, motion detectors, and tem-
perature sensors and controls, the doghouse links to a handy
Web interface, letting you check on your pooch from work.
REAL- WORLD TESTI NG
FREE VIDEO CALLS
Free phone calls are great, but what about video?
Today’s instant-messaging clients bundle live
video in with free phone calls and chatting—a cool way to
connect family and friends. But is the quality good enough?
And will Aunt Sophie use it?
SMB 20 AWARDS
Our first small-business awards celebrate 20 com-
panies using technology in innovative ways to grow
their businesses. From la la media to YoYoNation, companies are
using tech to shave costs, expand market share, speed time to
market, and improve customer relations. We also tell you how to
nominate your business for our 2007 awards.
PCONTENTS
imagine your emotions amplified.
Imagine a whole new way to see, hear, and feel movies. The new
Samsung Blu-ray Disc™ player BD-P1000 gives you an amazing
5 times the resolution of standard DVD — making full use of your
HDTV. With backwards compatibility, it also converts your existing
DVDs to near high-definition, adding sharpness, richness, and
color. Add to this superb 24-bit audio and you’ll discover details
that heighten the emotional experience of everything you view. With
Samsung, it’s not that hard to imagine.
To learn more, visit www.samsung.com/bluray
Available at:
Samsung Blu-ray Disc

player BD-P1000
©2006 Samsung Electronics America, Inc. All rights reserved. Samsung is a registered trademark of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. All product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies.
®
very helpful and clearly American tech support
rep picked up in less than a minute, and after about
5 minutes of diagnosis, cheerily offered to send me
a replacement. He didn’t even take a credit card,
asking only that I return the dead battery. With
that, I became APC’s biggest fan.
That’s how tech support should be done. APC is
not a huge company, and it sells fairly simple prod-
ucts. But if this Rhode Island tech company can get
it right, what’s stopping Dell, HP, and others?
Business innovation. I was energized by the
hundreds of submissions for our first SMB awards,
from which we picked 20 companies that have
truly used technology to deliver a competitive
advantage. The winners range from a tiny yo-yo
community to an innovative user of scheduling
technology to fly jets around the country. Don’t
miss our profiles of the winners, starting on page
89. My congratulations go out to them and to all
the companies and individuals using technology
to build better businesses and lead better lives.
The more we get out of technology, the better
the world can be. Executive editor Carol Gon-
sher and West Coast editor Sebastian Rupley put
together a tremendous package of stories about
these businesses. Want to know more? Join me and
three of the CEOs we honored in a free Web-based
seminar as we explore how they are making a dif-
ference. You can register for the live event right
now, at www.pcmagcast.com.
There’s a lot more inside this issue as well. I
was particularly amazed by the following:
AT&T has gotten its VoIP act together. Skype
and Vonage may steal the headlines, but AT&T’s
CallVantage program gets the nod for service and
reliability from our readers. Other big winners
include Sony for HDTV, Motorola for cell phones,
and tiny Cowon, challenging Apple for the MP3
crown. Results and winners on page 80.
Video calling has arrived. I’m still scarred by
our webcam experiment at ZDTV, where we gave
50,000 of the cameras away and invited the audi-
ence to participate. They weren’t ready for prime
time, but they are now! SightSpeed and Skype came
out on top, but you’re the real winner. You can now
use your PC to make video calls that not only cost
nothing but sound and look good. Page 105.
Wait until you see the picture of this virtual
cello. It sounds as good as it looks. Page 147.
APC is not a huge company, and it sells fairly simple products. But if this
company can get tech support right, what’s stopping Dell, HP, and others?
BY JIM LOUDERBACK, EDITOR
FI RST WORD
TALK TO THE CHIEF
You can contact
Jim Louderback at
Jim_Louderback
@ziffdavis.com
For more of his
columns, go to
go.pcmag.com/
louderback

N THI S I SSUE, WE BRI NG YOU THE
second part of our annual Reader Sat-
isfaction Survey. We heard from nearly
15,000 of you, and you told us which
companies are doing best at delivering
reliable products and good service. Be-
fore you head out to buy a digital cam-
era, HDTV, camcorder, wireless router,
or satellite radio, see what users of these products
think. Combine that with our excellent reviews,
here in the magazine and at PCMag.com, and you’ll
be equipped both to save money and to buy a reli-
able product for today and tomorrow.
With all the reports of bad customer service
outsourced around the world, I wanted to share
an experience I had recently with a product that
stopped working. I’d picked up an external univer-
sal notebook battery from APC to fuel my addic-
tion to computing on long flights. It routinely dou-
bled my computing time. But as I was preparing to
fly to California from New York before Labor Day,
it inexplicably stopped charging.
APC’s phone number was conveniently printed
on the underside of the battery. The receptionist
answered on the second ring and transferred me
straight to tech support. That alone was a break-
through. It’s often impossible to find a vendor’s
phone number, and if you do find it and call the
main number, often you end up in an endless
phone-tree loop, or they give you the tech support
number and make you hang up and call again. The
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 11
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Jim Louderback
EDITOR, REVIEWS Lance Ulanoff
EXECUTIVE PRODUCT DIRECTOR, PCMAG.COM NETWORK Robyn Peterson
EXECUTIVE EDITORS Stephanie Chang, Carol L. Gonsher,
Vicki B. Jacobson (online), Jeremy A. Kaplan
ART DIRECTOR Richard J. Demler
MANAGING EDITOR Paul B. Ross
REVIEWS SENIOR EDITORS Sean Carroll (software, Internet, networking),
Dan Costa (consumer electronics), Laarni Almendrala Ragaza (hardware),
Carol Mangis (TechnoRide), Sebastian Rupley (West Coast, Pipeline)
LEAD ANALYSTS Cisco Cheng, Robert Heron, Davis D. Janowski, Mike Kobrin,
Neil J. Rubenking, Joel Santo Domingo, Sascha Segan, M. David Stone, Terry Sullivan
REVIEWS EDITORS Brian Bennett (consumer electronics),
Gary Berline (software, Internet, networking), Jen Trolio (hardware)
WEB PRODUCERS Rachel B. Florman, Molly K. McLaughlin
PRODUCT MANAGER Gina Suk COMMERCE PRODUCER Arielle Rochette
PRODUCT REVIEW COORDINATOR PJ Jacobowitz
INVENTORY CONTROL COORDINATOR Nicole Graham
FEATURES FEATURES EDITORS Dan Evans, Sarah Pike, Erik Rhey
SENIOR WRITER Cade Metz STAFF EDITOR Tony Hoffman
ART SENIOR ASSOCIATE ART DIRECTOR Michael St. George ASSOCIATE ART DIRECTOR Liana Zamora
ASSISTANT ART DIRECTOR Aaron Able GRAPHICS DIRECTOR David Foster
STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Scott Schedivy
PRODUCTION PRODUCTION MANAGER Jennifer Murray
COPY CHIEF Elizabeth A. Parry COPY EDITORS Margaret McVeigh, Ann Ovodow, Steven Wishnia
ONLINE SENIOR PRODUCER Yun-San Tsai PRODUCER Mark Lamorgese
ASSISTANT PRODUCER Whitney A. Reynolds
NEWS EDITOR Mark Hachman NEWS REPORTER Natali Del Conti
ASSOCIATE EDITOR Kyle Monson ASSISTANT EDITOR Jennifer L. DeLeo
UTILITY PROGRAM MANAGER Tim Smith COMMUNITY MANAGER Jim Lynch
CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Helen Bradley, John Clyman, Richard V. Dragan, Craig Ellison,
John R. Delaney, John C. Dvorak, Galen Fott, Bill Howard, Don Labriola, Bill Machrone,
Ed Mendelson, Jan Ozer, Larry Seltzer, Don Willmott
INTERN Veronica DeLeon
EXTREMETECH.COM EDITOR Loyd Case SENIOR TECHNOLOGY ANALYST Jason Cross
TECHNOLOGY ANALYST Victor Loh
CORPORATE PRODUCTION ASSISTANT PRODUCTION DIRECTOR Ivis Fundichely
PRODUCTION MANAGER Michelle Chizmadia TRAFFIC MANAGER Amanda Allensworth
CHIEF CONTENT OFFICER Michael J. Miller
THE INDEPENDENT GUIDE
PC Magazine is the Independent Guide to Tech-
nology. Our mission is to test and review com-
puter- and Internet-related products and services
and report fairly and objectively on the results.
Our editors do not invest in firms whose products
or services we review, nor do we accept travel
tickets or other gifts of value from such firms.
Except where noted, PC Magazine reviews are of
products and services that are currently available.
Our reviews are written without regard to adver-
tising or business relationships with any vendor.
HOW TO CONTACT THE EDITORS
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on staff covers what, go to www.pcmag.com/
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If you are dissatisfied with a product advertised
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Please include copies of your correspondence
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trademark owned by Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries. Diskeeper Corporation • 7590 N. Glenoaks Blvd. Burbank, CA 91504 • 800-829-6468 • www.diskeeper.com
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WARRANTY
YEAR
TECH
SUPPORT
THE FUN SIDE OF THE FORCE
In Jim Louderback’s First Word column (August 22,
page 11) he asks, “Was I missing any recent humorous
games?” The first game that came to my mind was
LEGO Star Wars. While it’s not a game of comedy,
the cutscenes were hilarious to watch. What’s even
better is that someone finally learned to not take the
Star Wars universe so seriously!—Tim Rabaut
happened: Except in rare cases, the PC was
fast enough.” I disagree with this. I think
what actually happened was that a chip/
system being less than twice as fast as its
predecessor didn’t make a difference, and
that was the total non-graphics, non-disk
speed gain for five years or so. As Jim says,
network stuff became more important.
I agree . . . I loved that game! And I can’t
wait to play the sequel (LEGO Star Wars
II, scheduled to be released in September).
—Jim Louderback
WHERE SPEED MATTERS
In First Word (September 5, page 11),
Jim Louderback wrote, “around 2001, it
Therefore, a small processing gain was
low on the list of buyers’ needs.
However, there are many uses for
speed gains of a thousandfold or even a
millionfold and more. The examples you
give for needs—encryption, security,
and transcoding—require at most only
a couple of extra processors to keep up
with I/O improvements and multicore
chips (where “multicore” is 2 to 16). The
real needs are for the various things that
are essentially unbounded (NP-complete
or more computationally intensive) and
for graphics stuff.
For image enhancement and improve-
ment, users would like to be able to
see t he resul t s of movi ng sl i ders
“instantaneously” (say, in
1
/30 second).
Most of the tools don’t react nearly this
fast when working with full images of
even 100K pixels. The tools normally
process just a small part of the image,
say 40K pixels or so, and don’t update
even this rapidly enough. We could use
performance gains of 500 or so to see
4-megapixel images five times as fast;
this is just for the simplest image enhance-
ment on medium-sized images.—Mark
Fineman
THAT OL’ HARD DRIVE BOTTLENECK
Jim Louderback’s column (First Word,
September 5) about chips mattering again
missed the mark. He talks about chips not
mattering much in the recent past, but
says they will now experience a rebirth
of sorts. The reason chips don’t matter
and will continue not to matter is that no
matter how fast they get, they still have to
go through the hard drive bottleneck.
I’ve upgraded my computers many
times with the latest chipsets, and although
the speed difference between chips might
be fourfold, the overall gain in the speed of
my programs is maybe 10 to 15 percent.
What we need is not more chipset
speed or larger hard drives; what we
need is faster throughput. How about a
10-gigabyte flash memory drive? Most
of my programs would work on that,
and my speed would be lightning fast.
This is where the drive makers need to
FEEDBACK
16 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
ABORT, RETRY, FAIL
BY DON WILLMOTT
ARF NEEDS YOU! If your entry is used, we’ll send you a PC Magazine T-shirt. Submit your entries via
e-mail to arf@ziffdavis.com. Ziff Davis Media Inc. shall own all property rights in the entries. Winners
this issue: Jeff Wells, Warren Wong, Phil Osman, and Roxanne Adams.
Refreshing honesty from the
folks at Monster energy drinks.
That’s one heck of a migraine.
ARF on the Road: Cabo San
Lucas, Mexico. The Wi-Fi
surf shop trend continues!
Well, wait a minute and maybe it’ll change.
concentrate their efforts, and then chip
speed would be important once again.
—Rick Sutliffe
Throughput is important, I agree. The new
hybrid drives and Windows Vista’s ability
to use flash for a special RAM cache should
help. But you are right in that larger hard
drives alone don’t solve the overall system
performance problem.—JL
I’LL STICK TO KNOCKING DELL
Regarding Jim Louderback’s “We Should
Praise Dell, Not Bury It” (go.pcmag
.com/jldell), Dell didn’t recall those
batteries out of the kindness of its heart.
Everyone knows that safety issues are a
public relations nightmare—especially
if someone gets seriously hurt. Dell does
recalls only on safety issues. If a product
is known to be defective but is not
dangerous, it’s nearly impossible to get
Dell to fix it for free.
My Dell Inspiron 5150 had a known
issue with the motherboard, but because
it was just out of warranty, I was told that
there was no way I could get it fixed for
free—even though I pointed out the 57
pages (not posts) of users with exactly the
same problem (the machine shuts down
if you touch the case in a certain spot) on
Dell’s own support forum.
It took more than a week of fighting as
well as a complaint to the Better Business
Bureau to get to speak to someone who
was not in a Bangalore call center reading
from a script. The BBB complaint got
me through to a representative in Round
Rock, Texas, who took care of my issue,
but only after I had fought with her
for days. This was the first issue I have
encountered with Dell’s dismal record of
“customer support.”
Companies should not be applauded
for doing the right thing. It should be the
norm, not something that warrants a pat
on the back.—David Eckert
HELP US EVADE GOVERNMENT
SPOOKS
Jim, my request is simple. I believe the only
expense you may incur is a little labor for
the time it takes to set it up! Can you please
give your entire staff the okay to modify all
their e-mail software so we can send them
encrypted e-mails? Since we are aware
of George W. Bush and his nasty habit of
listening in on our telephone conversations
and trying to read our every e-mail, I think
we should encrypt all e-mail!—Kelly
We’re sorry, your e-mail was rejected by the
SENDMAIL program at PC Magazine due
to offensive and/or antigovernment content.
Please cleanse and send again.
NO BOZOS!
I am so incensed with the “Be Your Own
DJ” article that appeared on page 74 of
your August 22 issue (“fire that overpriced
bozo you hired for your daughter’s
wedding”). Obviously, I’m in the business.
Where do you get off publishing such an
insulting article? I and other “bozos” have
been entertaining for years, and we have
been responsible for a lot of very happy
memories from a lot of families.
Your article suggests that all you
need in order to be a DJ is a computer
or iPod, but there is a lot more involved
with running a wedding than just playing
tunes. The worst part of it is that a lot
of us “bozos” use iPods and computers
in our work, and some of us even read
your magazine (until now!), so how dare
you insult us like that? I will do my best
to let my fellow “bozo” DJs know what
trash you’re printing, if they haven’t
seen it yet. Please, please, please cancel
my subscription!—Russ Moschetto, Russ
McQueen Entertainment
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The author states clearly later in the piece
that yes, it does take more than simply
plugging in an iPod or laptop to be a real DJ.
Beat-matching, cross-fading, and hooking
up a microphone for announcements are
among the important skills that a DJ needs
to master. The term “bozo” was not intended
to be a statement on the entire industry of
professional DJs, but rather a lighthearted
call to action for those of us who have been
to weddings or other events at which the DJ
disappointed us by not playing requests,
playing inappropriate songs, or otherwise
imposing an awkward progression to the
event. The Chicken Dance: Need I say more?
—Erik Rhey
IS GETTING CHIPPED BAD FOR YOUR
HEALTH?
I hope the photos and instructions
on inserting RFID tags into a human
(September 5, page 99) will be your last
on that subject. This is not necessary,
as there are many other ways to have a
personal RFID tag without inserting it.
The disturbing trend is that this has been
promoted as being “cool”—as in your
caption, “Got one yet?”
The possible aftereffects on a reader
who does this are bad enough (injury,
infection, and more), but that this is
somehow made to appear to be the trend
of the future is distressing.
RFID tag technology will certainly
be changing, and it will be much more
convenient to be able to have a tag on a
wristband, wristwatch, ring, or another
item where it can be swapped, updated, or
improved without surgery. Let’s bury this
harmful trend now.
If you want to provide a service on the
subject of RFID, then cover the obstacles
to implementation of RFID systems,
such as the high cost of the middleware
necessary for businesses to use them. That
is a much more relevant topic.—Larry G.
DeVries
The intersection of technology and our
bodies has fascinated science-fiction
writers and fans for decades. Today,
cyborgs and bionics—as popularized
in the 1970s by The Six Million Dollar
Man—are rapidly becoming a reality. In
most cases, failing organs are replaced or
enhanced by technology, but I think the
use of this type of technology to facilitate
everyday activities shows just how safe and
commonplace it’s becoming. This disturbs
you? Better not read our upcoming story,
tentatively titled “Cryogenics, Cybernetics,
and You: A User’s Guide to Subdermal
Technologies.”—Jeremy Kaplan
IN SEARCH OF PRODUCT FEATURES
INFORMATION
What happened to the Summary of
Features that used to be in the hard copy
of PC Magazine? It is truly a valuable tool,
as no one product is good for everyone.
I use it with my personal criteria, and
when it is inconsistent with the reviews,
I analyze the review for the reason for
the discrepancy. This ensures that I make
an informed decision, knowing what the
pitfalls are with the product that I pick.
—Eric Goldman
We provide feature summaries in our
Buyers’ Guides where it makes sense, along
with specs and features in our reviews. But
we are also providing an expanded set of
features, specs, and much more online. Just
follow that “go” link that accompanies the
review for more data than you can shake a
stick at—and a nifty and convenient way
to compare multiple products together on
one screen.—JL
WHO IS BILL GATES?
I’ve been working on Microsoft Windows
since its first few years; the first version I
worked on was Windows 3.0. Since then,
I discovered that Windows is just a poor
imitation of the Apple Macintosh System.
I am wondering why Apple didn’t just
sue Bill Gates for having used the idea
that their software was built on using
“telepathy.”
The only explanation I have received
for this was from the director of the
business-school program during my study
for an MBA in the U.S. She said, “He’s a
shark.”
Fr o m my s t u dy o f b u s i n e s s
administration, I believe he must have
done something much more shrewd than
sharklike. Maybe he bought a controlling
share of Apple’s stock (I have no idea, I am
just presuming).
If you have another explanation, please
tell me.—John Clinckerhosen
I wouldn’t call Bill Gates a shark; he seems
like more of a mockingbird to me. Or at
least he used to. Now, based on what the
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has
been able to accomplish, he seems more
like a saint.—JL
HOW TO CONTACT US
We welcome your comments and suggestions.
When sending e-mail to Feedback, please state
in the subject line of your message which arti-
cle or column prompted your response. E-mail
pcmag@ziffdavis.com. All letters become the
property of PC Magazine and are subject to
edit ing. We regret that we cannot answer let-
ters individually.
PIPE
WHAT’S NEW FROM THE WORLD OF TECH
BOOK NOOK As part of Google’s effort to scan the world’s books and distribute them on-
line, you can now download PDF versions of classic public domain works at books.google
.com. Harvard, Oxford, and Stanford Universities all have libraries participating in the effort.
Searching with a Partner
ChaCha uses the “two heads are better than one” approach to searching
Some ChaCha guides earn $5 an hour to aid
in searches, while experienced ones with good
success rates can make twice that. Do you have a
friend who recently received a diagnosis of breast
cancer? A topic expert who knows how to navi-
gate available Web information about the general
category of cancer and the specific type of breast
cancer can instant-message with your friend as
she searches, helping to narrow down results so
that she finds sought-after information quickly.
Jones bristles at the suggestion that human
assistance has been tried before in Web search-
ing. “It hasn’t been tried before in terms of the
real-time interaction we’re pursuing,” he says,
adding that the site is driven by advertising; it’s
not a paid search service. Hook up with a guide
and try some of your own searches at the site—
and let us know whether or not the human touch
helps.—Sebastian Rupley
RE THE RESPONSES YOU GET BACK
from search engines all over the
map, so that you have to sift them
to find what you were looking for?
Scott Jones, an entrepreneur from
Indiana, wants to change that with
his new ChaCha search engine.
Jones helped reinvent voice mail in the 1980s,
and owns a slew of patents. “Over 600 million
people now use the voice mail technology I invent-
ed,” he says. His proposition for overhauling Web
searching is simple: introduce living participation.
Human assistance in searches has occurred at sites
such as Ask.com, but ChaCha mobilizes armies of
paid human assistants who specialize in certain
topic areas. Unlike other efforts to include human
intelligence in the Web search process, and unlike
Yahoo! Answers, ChaCha provides guides who
help searchers in real time.
Microsoft intends to open
Xbox 360 game develop-
ment to all comers. At the
company’s site you can
down load XNA Game Studio
Express software and start creating, though cur-
rently you can create games only for Windows. Lat-
er this year Microsoft will release tools to migrate
the games to Xbox 360. Through a partnership be-
tween Microsoft and DigiPen, summer workshops
beginning in 2007 will encourage kids, ages 10
through 16, to build their own Xbox 360 games.
Can you build a stealth
submarine? If so, the
Defense Advanced Re-
search Projects Agen-
cy (DARPA) is interest-
ed. In August DARPA
held its annual event to
evaluate student-built
autonomous under-
water vehicles (AUVs).
Teams from MIT,
Johns Hopkins Uni-
versity, and other
schools showed their
stealth subs. Each
team was required
to build a completely
autonomous under-
water system capable
of traversing a body
of water, navigating a
series of gates, return-
ing to a recovery zone,
and determining the
maximum depth of
the zone. No remote
assistance was per-
mitted. In this photo,
Ian Williams from the
University of Texas (go
Longhorns!) is seen
submerging his au-
tonomous under water
vehicle. DARPA’s event
is less a competi-
tion than a show, but
SubJuGator, an AUV
built at the University
of Florida, has domi-
nated several annual
competitions.
AQUANAUT
GOT GAME? LIGHTS, CAMERA…CLICK
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 21
As evidenced by Sony's $65 million deal to acquire
Grouper, online video sites are red hot. YouTube
continues to rule the roost by a wide margin.
Top Online Video Sites, by Market Share
Source: Hitwise
Google Video Search
MSN Video Search
Yahoo! Video Search
MySpace Videos
YouTube 42.9%
24.2%
9.6%
9.2%
6.5%

LTHOUGH IT LOOKS LIKE SOME KIND OF SCI-FI
snake, that’s actually an extreme close-up of the
sharpest man-made object ever. The photo is a
field-ion microscope image of the tip of a very
sharp tungsten needle. Each semispherical globu-
lar shape is an individual atom. The longer shapes
are traces—like comet tails—of the atoms as they moved while
being photographed.
This photo, made by researcher Moh’d Rezeq working with
Robert Wolkow at the University of Alberta and the National Insti-
tute for Nanotechnology, illustrates how powerful microscopes
assist nanotechnologists in exploring, altering, and improving
materials at nanoscale. As for the needle itself, its sharpness can
aid its role as an ultraprecise electron emitter—a key process as
nanotechnologists work on creating everything from ultrastrong,
steel-like alloys to hard drive materials that can rapidly expand
storage capacities.—Sebastian Rupley
The robotic hand seen
here is flashing “scissors”
in a game of rock-paper-
scissors. It’s the end result
of a new brain-to-machine
interface created by Honda
and ATR International. The
technology enables the
decoding of brain activity
and the use of the extracted
data as instructions for a
robotic hand without cut-
ting into the brain.
How does it work? Mag-
netic resonance imaging
technology (commonly
called MRI) tracks hemo-
dynamic responses in the
brain—essentially mapping
the brain activity that’s
associated with a certain
gesture. For example, when
you make the shape for
“scissors” with your hand,
the associated activity in
your brain can be identified
and mapped by software.
The brain’s responses are
decoded by a computer
and then sent to the robotic
hand. Look for commercial
applications in the coming
months.
BUT CAN IT
FLIP PEOPLE
OFF?
FUTURE
22 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
EXTREME CLOSE-UP
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Stan, you can depend on
Ricoh color to stand out.
We could use
a little color, Jerry.
ONE FAST MACHINE
Get a load of the Quiet Supersonic
Transport (QSST) plane, from Super-
sonic Aerospace International. The
company has finalized the design for
one of the fastest passenger jets ever,
designed to cut the travel time for long-
distance jaunts in half. The supersonic
jet is supposed to be able to fly coast to
coast in an eye-opening 2 hours.
The speedy bug-smasher (seen in
an artist’s rendering here) was achieved
by placing Lockheed Martin’s Skunk
Works under contract. It’s designed to
produce a sonic boom noise level of
less than one-hundredth of the Con-
corde’s, earning the jet permission to
fly at super sonic speeds over populated
areas. The QSST will travel at speeds up
to Mach 1.8, should seat 12 passengers,
and is aimed at government and busi-
ness travelers. For a progress report, see
Supersonic Aerospace’s Web site, www
.saiproject.com.
CONNECTED
Grand Hyatt Seattle
721 Pine St.
www.grandseattle
.hyatt.com
The Grand Hyatt Seattle
is located in the city’s
business district and
within walking distance
of the Pike Place Market
and Washington State
Convention and Trade
Center. All rooms offer
both wireless and high-
speed wired Web ac-
cess (around $10 a day),
digital video on demand,
and even remote-control
blackout drapes, as well
as an in-room safe (in
which you can both store
and charge your laptop).
Hotel Andra
2000 4th Ave.
www.hotelandra.com
For the trendier traveler,
the coolly modernist
Hotel Andra is situated in
the Belltown neighbor-
hood, with its artsy res-
taurants, coffeehouses,
and galleries. All rooms
have flat-screen TVs, and
suites feature wall-hung
plasmas. Even the eleva-
tors have plasma TVs.
Wireless Web access is
available throughout the
hotel ($9.95 a day), and
high-speed wired ac-
cess is available at lobby
workstations.
W Seattle
1112 4th Ave.
starwoodhotels.com
The W Seattle prides
itself on providing a
peaceful oasis for the
traveler, complete with
Bliss Spa toiletries.
Rooms offer DVD play-
ers and 32-inch plasma
TVs with Internet access
and current movies on
demand. You can also
borrow DVDs and CDs.
Each room has two dual-
line telephones (one
cordless), and Ethernet
Web access.
BEST WIRED
HOTELS
FREE WI-FI HOT SPOTS
TOP TECH
ATTRACTIONS
Experience Music
Project
325 5th Ave. N.
www.emplive.org,
www.sfhomeworld.org
Rock fans will swoon
at the obsessively
detailed, interactive
exhibits at this swoop-
ing Gehry-designed
museum, especially
the gallery dedicated
to hometown son Jimi
Hendrix. Make your way
through the EMP with
the Museum Exhibit
Guide, a digital gadget
that provides audio and
text information about
whichever exhibits
you’re next to.
The Microsoft Visitor
Center
4420 148th Ave. NE,
Redmond, Building 127
www.microsoft.com/
museum
At the Center you can
explore the software
giant’s history (a 30-
foot timeline shows key
events in Microsoft’s
30 years), its current
products, and futuristic
research on such topics
as gesture-based com-
puting. Open Monday
through Friday, 9 a.m.
to 7 p.m., but call ahead
to make sure it’s not pri-
vately booked.
Space Needle
400 Broad St.
www.spaceneedle.com
This Seattle icon was
built in 1962 for the
World’s Fair and has
been giving visitors a
breathtaking view of
the city ever since. After
you’ve ascended and
circled the outdoor ter-
race, head inside to play
with interactive touch-
screen displays that of-
fer info about the sights
you’ve just seen.
WHILE YOU’RE IN TOWN Bordered by Puget Sound, deep-
blue lakes, and gleaming mountains, Seattle could hardly
have a more stunning setting. Downtown is quite walkable
(despite a few steep hills); make sure to take in the lively Pike
Place Market and its fish tossers. Hop on the Bainbridge Island
ferry for a terrific skyline view, then disembark for a tranquil
waterside lunch. There’s plenty of nightlife; music, bars, and
galleries abound. Try the stylish Pink Door restaurant on Post
Alley for great Italian food and (the night I was there, at least)
an accordion cabaret act.
S E AT T L E
AIRPORT FACTS The Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) offers high-speed wireless Internet access (from AT&T) everywhere
(except in the subway and the upper floors of the garage), and it’s even free. I was able to hop onto the network easily from several dif-
ferent locations within the airport. Instead of traditional public phones, Sea-Tac has Internet phones with keyboards; you can e-mail
from them for 50 cents per message, or voice-call for a fee that starts at $1.30 for 5 minutes.—Carol Mangis
FAST FACTS Seattl e
i s home to Mi crosoft
and Nintendo of Amer-
ica in nearby Redmond;
mobile-phone content
provider InfoSpace; and
dot-coms Amazon and
drugstore.com.
Wet Rep Though it’s ac-
tually just 44th on the
annual rainfall list for
the U.S., Seattle boasts
three of the six floating
bridges in the world.
And it has more house-
boats than any other
American city: Close
to 500 reside on Lake
Union, Lake Washington,
and Portage Bay.
Ancient Grounds
1220 1st Ave.
This peaceful coffee bar and folk-art gallery near
the Seattle Art Museum offers free Wi-Fi and
plenty of outlets.
City Buses
Since the beginning of 2005, Seattle bus commut-
ers have enjoyed free wireless Internet access as
they ride. Read the Net while you roam!
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1000 4th Ave.
Not only can you hop onto free Wi-Fi at the new
public library in the heart of downtown Seattle, you
can even buy a cup of coffee there.
24 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
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26 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
NEED MORE REVIEW?
Check out Bill’s extended
analysis of the Camry at
go.technoride.com/
camryhybrid
$26,480 to $30,390
l l l l h
EPA MILEAGE 40 mpg
city, 38 mpg highway.
PROS Very good fuel
economy. Roomy cabin.
Reasonable power. Near-
flawless fit and finish.
Affordable navigation
system. Easy-to-negotiate site.
CONS Some trunk space lost to hybrid batteries. Odd
mechanical noises (common to hybrids), some shudder
when engine starts (uncommon). Build-your-own site is
missing some options. Little personality.
BOTTOM LINE A roomy five-passenger hybrid with
very good fuel economy. You can learn to live with the
minor hybrid drivetrain noises and noticeable engine
restarts. Other than that and a lack of personality, this is
a near-perfect car.
TOYOTA CAMRY HYBRID
HY HAS TOYOTA BECOME THE WORLD’S NUMBER ONE
automaker? Look no further than the 2007 Camry Hybrid.
It’s an incredible combination of fuel economy, roomi-
ness, and fit and finish. About all that’s missing is the
sense of automotive character found in its competitors
and in its sibling, the Prius Hybrid.
The Camry Hybrid costs about $2,400 more than a non-hybrid Camry. You
get a four-cylinder gas engine, electric motors/generators at the two front
wheels, a continuously variable transmission, and a huge NiMH battery pack.
The Denso navigation system has more tech features than on past Toyotas and
thus is harder to use, but it’s learnable. On our car, it was a bargain: $1,200 for
DVD nav plus premium audio and Bluetooth, according to the window sticker.
Other tech goodies include a keyless-start fob (standard), a “multi-info”
LCD, a line-in jack for music players, six airbags, tire-pressure monitoring, and
the ability to attach XM or Sirius satellite radio. There is no sport package for
the hybrid; if you want that, go for the V6 gas-engine Camry. And the govern-
ment tax credit on this car ($2,600) drops 25 percent after September and will
fade away within the year. But most drivers should make back their hybrid pre-
miums anyway. So long as you need transportation and not an extension of your
ego, the Camry, either hybrid or gas, is hard to beat.—BH
AN INCREDIBLE PACKAGE
THIRD-GENERATION BMW IDRIVE
In November, BMW will debut a new and improved iDrive
cockpit controller with the X5 SUV. Focus-group sources
report that BMW has sought feedback on a system not
unlike Audi’s best-of-breed MMI controller. The result: The
new iDrive will have eight keys on the center console stack
to assist its four-way controller. You’ll be able to program
destinations, numbers, or audio settings into each button,
bypassing the iDrive’s previous slide, turn, and press meth-
odology. Yet another version may be in the works with the
2008 replacement of the BMW 7 Series.—BH
The Denso nav system
is a bargain because
of the standard LCD
Eight programmable
keys make the new
iDrive easier to use
TECHNORI DE
BI LL HOWARD
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 27
AUTO BLACK-BOX DISCLOSURES IN 2011
IG BROTHER HAS BEEN WATCHING SOME OF US DRIVE
for a decade now. In another couple years, you’ll know if
you’re under scrutiny. The National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration has ordered automakers to disclose which
of the cars they sell have black boxes, starting with 2011
model-year vehicles.
Black boxes, or Event Data Recorders (EDRs), are
nothing new. PC Magazine columnist Bill Machrone re-
ported four years ago that black boxes were built into passenger cars as early
as 1996. In 2005, two-thirds of GM and Ford cars had black boxes installed.
The safety-related reasons are obvious: As younger Americans run out of
other things to die from, automobile ac-
cidents have become the number-one
cause of death for people up through
their late 20s. An EDR can capture the
seconds before, during, and after a
crash and report speed, acceleration,
whether brakes were on or off, whether
seat belts were worn, and airbag de-
ployment. This would help research-
ers to understand more about accidents and to design safer cars. As EDRs
become more sophisticated, they’ll be able to record not just a few seconds
but all data from the previous hour, day, or month. And they could upload the
information to you for analysis.
EDRs are “good news, bad news” technology. The information could be
used to help you in a court case. But if you’re in a collision while doing 74 mph
in a 65-mph zone, your EDR data might count against you. Insurers could even
use that information to decline to renew your insurance. EDRs are great for
monitoring teen drivers but not so great when police who are looking to write
more tickets want to plug into your EDR. Luckily for speed fiends, getting a
warrant for a car’s EDR isn’t easy. GM’s policy essentially maintains that it won’t
use the recorded data unless the cops ask for it, you sue GM, or you sue some-
one else.
Are EDRs infallible? Some people involved in lawsuits say the sensors may
get some data, such as vehicle speed, wrong. But the presumption of the po-
lice and of juries is that the technology just plain works.
Bill Howard is the editor of TechnoRide.com and a contributing editor of
PC Magazine.
An EDR can capture
the seconds before,
during, and after
a crash.
GM Chairman Rick Wagoner announced plans to build an all-new ver-
sion of the Chevrolet Camaro sport coupe, based on the award-winning
concept car showcased at this year’s North American International Auto
Show. The company was apparently inspired by the overwhelming re-
sponse from car enthusiasts to bring the concept into reality. The new
Camaro will be almost identical to the concept car: a thoroughly modern
interpretation of the 1969 model. The front-engine, rear-wheel-drive
sport coupe will feature an independent rear suspension and will be of-
fered in a variety of models. Buyers will choose between manual and
automatic transmissions and V-6 and V-8 engines. The new Camaro will
complement Chevy’s already popular portfolio of performance vehicles,
led by the Corvette and including its broad SS lineup.—EAP
NEW CHEVY CAMARO FOR 2009
SOLID-OXIDE FUEL CELLS
TEST SUCCESSFULLY
In August, Franklin Fuel Cell reported a success-
ful test of Solid-Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) technol-
ogy on 16 different types of fuels, including pro-
pane, methane, ethanol, natural gas, and diesel.
Franklin’s technology requires no desulfurizing
process, which it claims allows for smaller, more
efficient, and cheaper cells. The company believes
this technology will be the key to a smooth transi-
tion from fossil fuels.
Since 1999, automakers such as BMW and
Delphi Automotive have looked toward SOFC as
a promising alternative to combustion engines.
The system’s ability to run on many hydrocarbon
fuels could help eliminate our dependency on any
one kind of fuel in case of a shortage. But SOFC’s
high operating temperature makes it impractical
to use in a car. Even so, BMW has said it hopes to
introduce SOFC systems as auxiliary power units
into its automobiles by the next decade.—Errol A.
Pierre-Louis
USEFUL KEYBOARD SHORTCUTS for navigating digital magazines
PAGE DOWN flip to next page
PAGE UP flip to prior page
ENTER zoom in on left page
SHIFT
+
ENTER zoom in on right page
ENTER zoom back out to full-page view
C flip to Table of Contents
HOME flip to front cover
END flip to back page
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USEFUL KEYBOARD SHORTCUTS for navigating digital magazines
PAGE DOWN flip to next page
PAGE UP flip to prior page
ENTER zoom in on left page
SHIFT
+
ENTER zoom in on right page
ENTER zoom back out to full-page view
C flip to Table of Contents
HOME flip to front cover
END flip to back page
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CH-CH-CHANGES
RIM’s BlackBerry, the
e-mail addict’s con-
stant companion and
best friend, sure has
changed over the years.
But from the looks of
things, it’s for the better.
Our review has all the
details (page 36).
Speaking of change,
Intel’s introduction of
the Core 2 Duo marked
a significant speed shift
in desktop computing.
Now it’s gone mobile.
We review Dell’s new
laptop on page 31.
No category
changes more rapidly
than software. Inside we
cover the latest in music
services from MTV and
Napster and new ways
of making online con-
nections work for you,
whether it’s entertain-
ment (There.com) or
utility (AllPeers).
PC Magazine has
seen its share of change
this year, but one thing
remains consistent:
We love technology as
much as you do. The 38
products we cover in this
edition of First Looks
should tell you why.
OUR RATINGS KEY:
l l l l l
EXCELLENT
l l l l m
VERY GOOD
l l l m m
GOOD
l l m m m
FAIR
l m m m m
POOR
30 HARDWARE
32 Buying Guide:
High-End Vista-
Ready Desktops
36 CONSUMER
ELECTRONICS
46 Buying Guide:
Point-and-Shoot
Digital Cameras
50 SOFTWARE
63 SMALL BUSINESS
73 THE BEST STUFF
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 29
F I R S T L OOK S
HARDWARE
FI RST LOOKS
SONY VAIO VGC-LS1
NOT AN IMAC, BUT JUST AS PRETTY
NTO THE EVER-SHRINKING WORLD OF ALL-IN-
one desktops comes Sony’s latest entry, the
Sony VAIO VGC-LS1. Its gorgeous, 19-inch,
silver-bezeled WSXGA widescreen “floats”
in a clear polycarbonate base, and carvings
in the polycarbonate are backlit for the power indi-
cator, drive light, and Wi-Fi lights.
The entire PC is built into the screen and comes
with an integrated webcam, a built-in TV tuner, and
a slot-loading dual-layer DVD burner. Its integrated
Intel GMA 950 graphics don’t handle 3D games that
well, but the LS1 isn’t meant to be a gaming system.
Instead, it's a great multimedia system. With a 1.83-
GHz Intel Core Duo T2400 CPU, 2GB of system
Sony VAIO VGC-LS1
$2,099 direct
l l l l m
PROS Compact all-in-
one form factor. Looks
like a widescreen TV.
Wireless keyboard and
mouse. Dual-core good-
ness. Vista Premium
compatibility. Integrated
webcam.
CONS No HDMI or
composite-video input.
Tuner isn’t HDTV. Short,
60-day Internet security
subscription. Ugly IR
receiver.
memory, and a 250GB hard drive, the LS1 achieved
near tower-PC-level performance on our Adobe
Photoshop CS2 and Windows Media tests. Built-in
SD card and Memory Stick readers make the LS1 a
great base station for your digital life.
In my opinion, the LS1 gives the iMac a real run
for its money, but it doesn’t go far enough. If only
Sony had built the IR receiver into the screen bezel
and included HDTV, it would have been a shoo-in
for an Editors’ Choice nod. Still, the LS1 is a good-
looking, powerful Media Center PC. If you don't
care about HDTV, it will fit right into your bedroom
or home office.—Joel Santo Domingo
>> For more in-depth analysis: go.pcmag.com/vgcls1
30 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
Integrated webcam
Wireless keyboard
and mouse
Looks like a
widescreen TV
Clear
polycarbonate
base
PC's in the
back!
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 31
DELL XPS M1710 (INTEL CORE 2 DUO)
A WINNING CHOICE FOR GAMERS
HE PHOTOSMART A516 COMPACT PHOTO PRINTER BRINGS SOME-
thing new to the party: nearly waterproof output. Measuring
4.6 by 8.7 by 4.6 inches (HWD) and weighing 2.6 pounds, this
dedicated photo printer can print from most memory cards,
PictBridge-enabled cameras, and computers. It lacks a photo
kiosk–style menu, but the 1.5-inch LCD and front-panel buttons let you print
multiple copies, print multiple photos per page, and choose which photos to
print from a memory card.
On my tests, it took up to 1 minute 45 seconds to print from a computer,
and up to 2:06 to print from a camera or a CompactFlash card. All the pho-
tos I printed with the A516 displayed true photo quality—they were easily a
match for photos you’d get from a local drugstore or consumer photo lab.
Although the photos will show a water stain if you let a drop of water dry
on the surface, they didn’t smudge when I held them under running water and
rubbed them, even immediately after printing. For now, the water-resistant
output is worth the higher price (29.2 cents per photo)—a result of HP’s
new ink and paper. The total package offers enough features to earn the
A516 an Editors’ Choice for low-cost photo printers.—M. David Stone
>> For more in-depth analysis: go.pcmag.com/hpa516
HP PHOTOSMART A516
A QUALITY LOW-END PHOTO PRINTER
UR FAVORITE LAPTOP FOR GAMING, THE DELL XPS
M1710, gets a performance boost with an upgrade
to the new 2.33-GHz mobile Intel Core 2 Duo
R7600 processor. On SYSmark 2004 SE bench-
mark tests, this iteration of the laptop shows a
19 percent improvement over the previous M1710 (with its
mobile 2.16-GHz Core Duo CPU) on Internet Content Cre-
ation and a 5 percent increase on Office Productivity. On the
video-encoding tests, its scores improved by more than 20
percent, and the system finished Adobe Photoshop tests in
exactly 1 minute—the fastest I’ve seen for any laptop.
The combination of the Core 2 Duo CPU and the nVidia
GeForce Go 7900 GTX graphics card helped improve the
system’s 3DMark 2005 scores (at 1,024-by-768 resolution),
too. Its Doom 3 scores leapt 28 percent, and Splinter Cell
scores rose 15 percent. Battery life suffered a little—the sys-
tem ran for just 2 hours 23 minutes—but chances are you’ll
be plugged in most of the time anyway.
Dell also integrates the as-yet-unratified n-standard
wireless. In informal testing, I saw pretty fast transfer rates.
The Dell XPS M1710 (Intel Core 2 Duo) continues to
shine as the best gaming laptop on the market, retaining its
Editors’ Choice.—Cisco Cheng
>> Check out our extended Intel mobile Core 2 Duo (code-
named “Merom”) coverage in our next issue. For more
in-depth analysis: go.pcmag.com/dellm1710
HP Photosmart A516
$99 direct
l l l l m
PROS True photo qual-
ity. LCD for previewing
photos. Water-resistant
output. Prints panora-
mas at 4 by 12 inches.
CONS The LCD is small by
today’s standards. Users can’t
adjust the LCD angle for better
viewing.
Dell XPS M1710
(Intel Core 2 Duo)
$3,789 direct
l l l l h
PROS Outstanding over -
all performance. Inte-
grated 802.11n wireless.
Improved gaming perfor-
mance. Netgear 802.11n
router included with purchase.
CONS Lack of range with 802.11n.
Cheaper than other Core 2 Duo
laptops but still pricey.
Prints 4-
by12-inch
panoramas
Now has built-in
draft-n wireless
2.33-GHz mobile
Intel Core 2 Duo
CPU inside
1.5-inch LCD
screen
FI RST LOOKS
HARDWARE
GATEWAY FX510XT
$3,966 direct, $4,240 with 21-inch widescreen monitor
l l l l h
The Gateway FX510XT doesn’t look as flashy
as boutique gaming boxes, but when in
comes to performance, it’s what’s inside that
counts. This gaming/media system boasts an
Intel Core 2 Extreme processor, a terabyte of
hard drive space, and a pair of ATI Radeon X1900 XT
graphics cards. The system proves more than ready
for Windows Vista Premium, with a built-in TV tuner,
4GB of DDR2-667 SDRAM memory, and space for up-
grades. The FX510XT turned in a 501 on my Internet
Content Creation test—it’s only the second PC I’ve
seen score over 500 points. It scorched my Adobe
Photoshop CS2 action set, posting the second-fast-
est time of any desktop I’ve tested. This monster even
runs our gaming tests at 60 frames per second (the
benchmark for smooth game play) or faster, including
at the highest (2,560-by-1,600) resolution.
Of course, these goodies come at a price—but
compared with the $6,000 and $7,000 PCs the
FX510XT is up against, it’s a relative bargain. With
plenty of power inside, most buyers will overlook one
of its only drawbacks—a less-than-flashy facade.
—Joel Santo Domingo
>> For more in-depth analysis: go.pcmag.com/fx510xt
BUYI NG GUI DE
High-End Vista-Ready
Desktops
HE HOLIDAY BUYING SEASON
is almost here, and if you’re
shopping for a desktop PC this
year, here’s one more thing
to consider: the 800-pound
go rilla that is Microsoft Win-
dows Vista. For the consumer
with a high-end machine in
mind, that means looking for a system that can han-
dle the best that Vista has to offer.
Once Vista is released (in January 2007, accord-
ing to Microsoft), U.S. customers will have three ver-
sions to choose from: Vista Home Basic, Vista Home
Premium, and Vista Ultimate. Vista Home Basic will
be the default for budget PCs, just as Windows XP
Home Edition is the current standard. Vista Premi-
um will be the standard for mainstream and Media
Center PCs. It features the much-vaunted Aero ef-
fects (including translucent windows and Flip 3D),
as well as HDTV and DVD authoring, and mobile
and tablet interfaces. Vista Ultimate takes the kitch-
en sink approach, tacking on all the business-related
features of Vista Business and Vista Enterprise. It
includes such high-end features as a built-in Web
server, dual-processor support, remote desktop
capability, virtual PC, game performance enhance-
ments, and podcast creation support, as well as spe-
cial online services and tech-support options.
Remote for
integrated
TV tuner
Plain exterior hides
a Core 2 Extreme
processor and 1TB
of space
32 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
ARE YOU READY FOR WINDOWS VISTA?
A high-end system will let you take advantage of more of the
features in Windows Vista.
GOOD
(Vista–capable)
BETTER
(Premium-ready)
BEST
(Ultimate-ready)
Processor 800-MHz 32-bit
(x86) or 64-bit
(x64) processor
1-GHz 32-bit (x86)
or 64-bit (x64)
processor
Dual-core, 64-bit-
capable processor,
1.66 GHz or faster
RAM 512MB 1GB At least 2GB
Graphics
card
DirectX 9 graphics
support
DirectX 9 graph-
ics support with a
WDDM driver*
DirectX 10 graphics
support**
Hard drive
space
20GB with 15GB of
free space
40GB with 15GB of
free space
As much as you can
afford
Optical
drives
CD-ROM drive (can
be external)
DVD-ROM drive (can
be external)
Dual-layer DVD burn-
er (can be external)
* 128MB of graphics memory (minimum); Pixel Shader 2.0 at 32 bits per pixel. ** 512MB of graphics memory.
DAZZLING VISTA-READY DESKTOPS
RED denotes Editors' Choice. All prices are direct. Products are listed from best to worst by rating.
Falcon Northwest Mach
V with Core 2 Extreme
l l l l h
$6,995 SILENT SPEED The Mach V's amazingly fast Core 2 Extreme processor should handle
Aero effects with ease. A unique liquid cooling system means it’s quiet, too.
Gateway FX510XT
l l l l h
$3,966 INNER BEAUTY The FX510XT's plain-Jane exterior hides plenty of Vista Premium–
ready power inside.
WinBook Jiv Mini
l l l l h
$1,200 MINI-ME PC One of the smallest PCs available with a built-in TV tuner, this compact
Media Center PC packs plenty of power—and Vista capability—into a slim space.
Sony VAIO VGC-LS1
l l l l m
$2,099 PICTURE PERFECT An all-in-one MC PC, the LS1 puts a 250GB hard drive, a 1.83-GHz
Intel Core Duo, and Vista Premium compatibility behind a pretty, 19-inch widescreen.
Dell XPS 700
l l l h m
$3,700 BIG AND FLASHY Its LED-ringed chassis is supersize but sexy—and there are game-
ready graphics, Vista-compatible components, and space for upgrades inside.
For a system to earn a “Vista Capable” sticker
from Microsoft, all it needs is an 800-MHz pro-
cessor, 512MB of system memory, and a DirectX
9– capable graphics processor—specs that are com-
mon even in “budget” (read: cheap) systems these
days. As long as you’re using a system bought within
the last few years, Vista Home Basic should run on
your current machine.
Systems that are Vista Premium-ready carry
a longer list of goodies: at least 1GB of system
memory, a 1-GHz or faster processor, DX9 graphics
capability, Pixel Shader 2.0 at 32 bits per pixel (mil-
lions of colors), 128MB of graphics memory, 15GB
of free drive space on a 40GB or larger hard drive,
DVD-ROM, and an audio-out port. Most if not all
high-end gaming systems produced in the last few
years, as well as more recent mainstream systems,
fall into this category.
There’s no “Ultimate” certification program
(yet), so you’ll want to look for really high-end fea-
tures to make it worthwhile. Since Ultimate sup-
ports the BitLocker data encryption scheme from
Vista Enterprise, you should look for a PC that
supports TPM (Trusted Platform Module) secu-
rity hardware if you plan on encrypting your files to
keep them away from prying eyes.
If you’re going to use other features—like IIS
(Internet Information Services), Ultimate’s built-
in Web server—then you should go for a dual-core
(or quad-core) system with at least 2GB of system
memory and a large hard drive, particularly if you’re
going to build your own Web sites and serve multi-
media. You can do work from home, accessing your
work desktop and vice versa using Ultimate’s Re-
mote Desktop feature, but you’ll need an always-on
Internet broadband connection to use this function
effectively.
If you’re a hard-core gamer, a high-powered
enthu siast graphics card (or two) like the ATI Rad-
eon X1950, the nVidia GeForce 7950 GX2, or the
upcoming GeForce 8 series will give you a leg up
on the game grid. HDTV tuners will come in handy
if you’re looking to build the Ultimate PC to go
along with Windows Vista Ultimate. The Gateway
FX510XT, our Editors’ Choice, is a good example
of a high-end desktop that can handle all that Vista
Ultimate has to offer.
Keep in mind that, while the system you buy (or
even the one you currently own) may not be Vista
Premium- or Ultimate-ready, you can bring many
recently produced desktops up to speed by adding
system memory (an easy process), a new graph-
ics card (somewhat more complex), or more drive
space (easy with an external drive, slightly more
complex with an internal). The situation is similar
to the transition from Windows 98 to XP a few years
ago: A good system today with room for upgrades
tomorrow will be fine for using Windows Vista.
VISTA-READY, AND THEN SOME The Falcon North-
west Mach V with Core 2 Extreme will certainly
handle Vista in all forms. Our test system came with
Falcon Northwest
Mach V With Core
2 Extreme, it should
easily handle Aero
effects.
>> For the full Vista-ready desktop reviews: go.pcmag.com/desktops
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 33
2GB of system memory and a whopping 300GB of
hard drive space for digital photos and video, music,
and games. An overclocked Intel Core 2 Extreme
X6800 processor and dual ATI Radeon graphics
cards in a CrossFire configuration should handle
Vista’s Aero effects without breaking a sweat. If you
want to keep Vista on its own hard drive, adding
extra drives to the Mach V’s case is a cinch.
RUN VISTA, SAVE SPACE The class leader among
mini Media Center PCs, the WinBook Jiv Mini also
bears a Vista Capable sticker. One of the smallest
E X P E R T V I E W
BY JOEL SANTO DOMINGO
CAN YOU UPGRADE TO VISTA?
NE QUESTION I HEAR A LOT THESE DAYS IS “CAN I UPGRADE
to Vista when the time comes?” Depending on your current
setup, you may be able to get your system ready for the
brave new world of Vista. Or you may decide that you’re
better off just getting a new Vista-ready system instead.
Here’s what you need to consider.
MEMORY Do you have at least 512MB? One gigabyte of
system memory is a more comfortable amount, and 2GB is
just about perfect for all iterations of Vista, though you may want 4GB to 8GB
if you’re a hardcore gamer or a multimedia maven.
GRAPHICS If you have integrated graphics or a DX9-capable graphics card,
it is likely that you can use Vista in its basic form, without all the fancy Aero
effects. If your graphics card has at least 256MB of dedicated graphics mem-
ory, Aero will work fine for you. Users of PCs with PCIe X16 slots will be able to
upgrade to the new DX10 graphics
cards when they’re available later
this year. DX10 will be a Vista-
optimized graphics standard.
HARD DRIVE While you can install
Vista on any machine that has at
least 15GB free, you may want to
upgrade to at least 250GB if your
current system has less than 80GB.
You’ll need the room if you upgrade to any new Vista-optimized programs.
PROCESSOR Upgrading a processor is intimidating. If your processor is too
slow for Vista (Intel Celeron Via C3, or AMD Sempron processors that are
slower than 800 MHz), buy a new PC.
CUT AND RUN If your system came with Windows 95, 98, or ME originally, buy
a new system—even if you have the wherewithal to upgrade, it will likely be up
to only the minimum Vista requirements. If your system came with Windows
2000, it will probably be able to handle the hardware upgrades needed to run
Vista Business or Home Basic, but won’t run Vista’s multimedia offerings. If
your Windows XP system’s invoice reads 2004 or later, then you should be in
good shape for Home Basic and Premium.
For those brave souls who plan to upgrade to Vista-ready levels, I salute
you. One hint: Wipe your machine’s C: drive and install Vista from scratch
rather than upgrading from an existing copy of Windows XP. Just remember
to back up your data.
You may decide
you’re better off buy-
ing a new Vista-ready
system instead.
PCs available with a built-in TV tuner, it comes
with 1GB of system memory, a 100GB hard drive,
and a 1.66-GHz dual core Intel Core Duo T2400
processor that makes it perfect for light multimedia
duties (like those it will perform as a Media Cen-
ter PC with DVR capabilities). Since it is a mini PC,
there’s no room for internal upgrades, which limits
you to the integrated Intel GMA 950 graphics. This
setup should be capable of running the Aero effects
in Vista Premium, though I’ll be testing GMA950’s
performance with Aero once more stable versions
of Vista are available.
WHAT A DELL! The Dell XPS 700 is a high-powered
gaming system with a case that is certainly unique. I
looked at a system built around an Intel Core 2 Duo
E6700 CPU, which, while not Intel’s top-of-the-line,
will certainly get the job done quickly. Dual nVidia
GeForce 7900 GTX cards make this a system that
will also benefit from Vista Ultimate when the time
comes. It’s in some ways a better value than the
Mach V, but the Gateway FX510XT wins the bang-
for-the-buck battle with its kitchen-sink approach
for less money.
PRETTY, TO BOOT The attractive Sony VAIO VGC-
LS1 is a very good all-in-one Media Center. Only a
couple of faults, like its external MCE IR receiver
and lack of HDTV inputs, keep it from earning a
perfect score. It dons a Vista Capable sticker and
should also run Vista Premium, though the system
won’t be able to take advantage of some of Premi-
um’s features, like game optimization and HDTV.
Two gigabytes of memory, a dual-core Intel Core
Duo T2400 processor, a dual-layer DVD burner,
and a 250GB SATA hard drive help the LS1 earn its
Vista stripes.—JSD
WinBook Jiv Mini
Packs power and Vista
capability into a slim space.
34 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
Multi-Function Center
®
models that are designed
with exactly your needs in mind.
Business today is about communication. And sometimes a single
net wor ked i magi ng devi ce i s not i deal for faci l i t at i ng
that communication.
That’s why we offer a full range of intelligent Multi-Function Center
®
solutions designed to optimize the productivity of any part of
your company.
More than print, fax, copy, and scan, we have some models with
unique features like duplexing, networkability, expandable paper
trays, even a security function that enables only specific
personnel to access printed documents. All of which makes this one
product line with the vision and value to see things your way.
A VARIETY OF MODELS AVAILABLE AT: Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples, Fry’s Electronics, Costco, Brandsmart,
PC Richard, MicroCenter, BJ’s Wholesale Club, J&R Computer World, CDW, Insight, Techdepot.com, PC Connection,
PC Mall, Zones, Quill, PC Nation, TigerDirect.com, Gateway.com, Provantage, Amazon.com, Buy.com, and other fine resellers.
Compatible with sales, accounting, marketing...
and most important, your vision.
COLOR
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For more information please visit our Web site at www.brother.com
MFC-8460N
LASER
FLATBED
MFC
about $399
B
u
ilt-in
Net work Inte
rfa
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e
CONSUMER ELECTRONICS
FI RST LOOKS
BLACKBERRY PEARL
A BERRY NICE E-MAIL DEVICE
HE PEARL, A DELICIOUS LITTLE MULTI-
media smartphone, just happens to be
a BlackBerry as well. Slimmer than a
closed RAZR, this is the first Berry with
a camera and music/video players.
The Pearl looks elegant—black with chrome
accents—and slips easily into any pocket. After six
years, RIM has ditched the BlackBerry scroll wheel
in favor of a glowing trackball set right below the
screen. Not only is it well placed for one-handed
use, but you can finally move the cursor horizon-
tally without resorting to a key combination.
Of course, something had to go to make the Pearl
this tiny, and that’s the keypad. The device comes
with RIM’s hybrid SureType keyboard, which puts
two letters on each key and relies on predictive text
to guess what you meant to type. And the keys are
really, really small.
Blackberry Pearl
$299; as low as $199
with contract
l l l l m
PROS The first Black-
Berry with a camera as
well as music and video
players. Sharp screen.
Very pretty.
CONS Tiny keys. Music
and video players lack
navigation and good PC
sync options.
A quad-band world phone, the Pearl has strong
reception and sharp, clear audio. The speakerphone
is loud enough for indoor and in-car use. The new
1.3-megapixel camera, an MP3/AAC music player,
and an MPEG-4 video player are all of startlingly
high quality. But RIM’s desktop suite handles multi-
media rather clumsily. For example, there’s no easy
way to reformat songs, videos, or pictures for opti-
mal playback on the phone.
The BlackBerry’s traditional push e-mail fea-
tures remain very strong, with the ability to merge
POP3/IMAP, Yahoo! Mail, and corporate accounts.
Web browsing also works well on the phone’s small,
bright 240-by-260 screen. As long as you can cope
with the small hybrid keyboard, the Pearl is a class-
ier, more powerful alternative to the Sidekick and to
other BlackBerry models.—Sascha Segan
>> For more in depth analysis: go.pcmag.com/pearl
Hybrid keyboard
helps keep the
phone small
Move the
cursor with
Pearl's glowing
trackball
Just 0.6 inch thick
First Blackberry with
a built-in camera
36 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
J UMP TO NEXT PAGE >>
D
D
I
G
I
T
A
L

F
L
O
W
Content Can’t Wait:
Digital Flow and the
Content-Driven Business
A CDW Special Report
We live in the age of digital content—
documents, spreadsheets, images,
graphics, video, and any other digital
information. Anything that slows
the movement of content is slowing
down your business. Whether you’re
creating, managing, delivering, or
preserving information, digital content
only succeeds when it can easily move
from place-to-place, user-to-user, and
application-to-application. Anything that
makes it difficult for team members to
share, comment upon, and revise their
content is a productivity roadblock your
company doesn’t need.
800.399.4CDW | CDW.COM/DIGITALFLOW | PCMAGCONNECT.COM/CDW
S pec i a l Adver t i s i ng S ec t i on
©2006 CDW Corporation
You’ve got a lot of content.
(We’ve got everything you need to manage it better.)
Managing a growing amount of content can be time-consuming and frustrating for any business. That’s where the
concept of Digital Flow comes in. Digital Flow uses technology to make dealing with your information more
efficient —from content creation to content management and storage. CDW is your one-stop resource for Digital
Flow. We’ve got the hardware and software products, as well as the expertise to answer your questions and create
solutions. So call today and start creating, sharing and working at your very best.
—Lisa Jonas
Manager, Digital Flow Category, CDW
How does your company create, capture, or
acquire content?
What is your team or business doing to manage
and control the fow of information?
How are you archiving and storing this
information to assure preservation and
make reuse possible?
Ultimately, how do you share, deliver, and
output your business information and
communication assets?
Did any of these questions get you thinking about how your
business information fows?
The questions you’ve just read address the challenges that people and businesses face
when dealing with digital information. Each question demonstrates an example of how the
creation, flow, and management of information can get bogged down, costing valuable time
and wasting profits. Worse, this “information traffic jam” can result in tremendous inefficiency
and missed opportunities.
If you are spending more time “fghting with content” than creating or using it, or if the access to
or movement of content around your business just seems “too slow,” you have a problem with
Digital Flow, a term we use here at CDW to describe how information flows in our
customers’ organizations.
At CDW, Di gi tal Fl ow i s the ongoi ng process of del i veri ng
intelligent solutions that evolve with our customers’ need to
manage digital content.
For our customers, Digital Flow is the movement of content, in
whatever form it takes, and the constant effort to streamline
processes, improve ef ciency, and remove barriers to using content
efectively and securely.
CDW has found that many—even most—of our customers sufer these problems to at least
some degree. Best case, they are annoyances. Worst case, they can strangle a business’ ability to
communicate efectively with customers, partners, or even with itself.
Because the problem is so widespread—yet
dif cult for people to fully understand—
CDW has created a Digital Flow team
to examine the problems and help our
customers and friends fnd solutions for
them. I’m part of this team and this report is
part of my work.
It’s a fact: If content can’t move,
neither can your business.
PRODUCTS FOR DATA, DOCUMENT, AND DIGITAL MANAGEMENT 3
S pec i a l Adver t i s i ng S ec t i on
To be creative, all you need is your mind.
(To be productive, a little technology can help.)
The Creative Solutions You Need When You Need Them.
Being creative can be difficult. But translating that creativity into something tangible
can be even harder. Whether it’s a design idea, a digital photograph or even a video
clip, CDW’s Digital Flow solutions can help bring your ideas to life and set the
content you need into motion. Content Creation provides creative solutions to make your
ideas work with you, not against you. Let the experts at CDW customize a solution for you
today, and get those great ideas in your head out into the world around you.
Offer subject to CDW’s standard terms and conditions of sale, available at CDW.com. ©2006 CDW Corporation
• Includes the latest releases of Dreamweaver
®
,
Flash
®
Professional, Fireworks
®
, Contribute

and FlashPaper

• Offers Web designers and developers a new
level of expressiveness, efficiency and simplified
workflow to create Web sites, interactive
experiences and mobile content
• Provides easier-than-ever, high-quality video
tools – new graphic effects like blends and blurs,
performance optimizations, improved user
interfaces and integration support for today’s
latest technologies
Adobe
®
Studio 8
• Combines full versions of Adobe Photoshop
®
CS2,
Adobe Illustrator
®
CS2, Adobe InDesign
®
CS2,
Adobe GoLive
®
CS2 and Adobe Acrobat
®
7.0
Professional software and includes Version Cue
®
CS2, Adobe Bridge and Adobe Stock Photos
• Delivers the next level of integration in
creative software
• Includes Adobe Photoshop CS2 for all your
professional image-editing needs
Adobe
®
Creative Suite 2 Premium
• Digital SLR with Sony DT 18-70mm lens
• 10.2 (effective) APC CCD Sensor;
23.6 x 15.8 mm; RGB primary color filter
• Bionz

Processor LSI with Dynamic Range
Optimizer (DRO/DRO+)
• Memory Stick
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• 30 ~ 1/4000 sec. shutter speed with Bulb
$
999
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For Windows
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For Mac
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Upgrade $409.99 CDW 895737
Full version $955.99 CDW 895738
CDW is an authorized Adobe
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Reseller.
The Elements of
Digital Flow
Digital Flow includes all the content that a
business uses. In trying to understand how
content fows in our customers’ businesses, we’ve
divided the content processes into four distinct
groups:
• Create/Capture/Acquire
• Manage/Control
• Share/Deliver/Output
• Archive/Retrieve
Surrounding these four sets of processes is an overriding factor:
Security, the lack of which is the ultimate roadblock to Digital Flow.
Without security, the very foundation of a business’ content processes,
its Digital Flow, are undermined and vulnerable.
Create/Capture/Acquire
Digital content is all around us, but where does it come from? And
how do we make the process of creating, capturing, and acquiring
content as ef cient as possible? Answering these questions are
important frst steps toward an improved Digital Flow.
Most people think they know where “content” comes from—they create
it themselves. But content can also be captured from other applications,
like a database, or acquired from outside sources. Capturing might also
include scanned documents and digital photographs, as well as audio and
video fles.
Digital Flow encompasses all of the information paths within a business,
as well as the entire lifecycle of that information. Obviously, there are
many places where Digital Flow can be slowed or break down entirely.
When that happens, people and businesses lose valuable time, money,
and opportunities. Many times, an inef cient Digital Flow is so much a
part of a business or process that no one recognizes the problem until
the problem impacts mission-critical business processes. It is in these
painful moments that businesses come to realize that productivity and
ef cient processes can have a signifcant impact on the bottom line.
A clean, unrestricted Digital Flow begins, well, at the very beginning, where
content is created or enters your business. The keys here are improving
user ef ciency, increasing team efectiveness, and removing roadblocks.
Factors that impede Digital Flow include:
• Choosing the wrong tool for the job. Sometimes it’s best to use
specialized tools, even if a general-purpose tool might also do the job.
• Poor user training. Many businesses assume users have somehow
fgured out the most ef cient ways to use their applications.
What if everyone could use their core applications 10 percent
more ef ciently. How much time would that save?
• Not having the proper tools. Not everyone needs the highest-
performance desktop or notebook computer. Not everyone
needs a high-speed wireless connection when they travel. But
some workers do. Hampering these people’s productivity to save
a few bucks is short-sighted and can actually cost more over the
long term.

• Likewise, it can pay to invest in automated systems, including
document scanners with automatic document feeders that can
speed important company workflows. Would turning your
company’s paper documents into electronic documents
improve productivity?
These are certainly factors to consider, and CDW has tools for the job.
Manage/Control
Digital Flow sometimes breaks down because no one is responsible for
managing the content or because there’s no easy way for a group to
work with it. Here are some of the issues:
• Many users have access to collaboration tools, but don’t use
them. Why? Because they can be confusing and represent a new
way of working with content.
• Adobe Acrobat 8.0 Professional and Microsoft Of ce include
powerful collaboration tools. But, they are most efective only
if everyone both knows how to use them and puts the
technology to regular use. One “non-user” can create havoc in a
collaborative workfow.
• Many people don’t realize that Adobe Acrobat can be used to
create a review process for almost any document type. It can
track responses, monitor changes, and allow users of the free
Acrobat Reader to fully participate.
• The “Track Changes” feature in Microsoft Word allows workers
to pass a document around, add comments, make changes, and
see what changes have already been made by others.
• Content can be managed in FileMaker Pro, an easy-to-use
database that allows content to be stored along with the
descriptive information necessary to retrieve it.
PRODUCTS FOR DATA, DOCUMENT, AND DIGITAL MANAGEMENT 5
S pec i a l Adver t i s i ng S ec t i on
Have any ideas you’d like to share with the group?
(We can make it easy.)
The Solutions You Need When You Need Them.
You’ve finally done it. Created the perfect presentation. Taken a jaw-dropping photograph. Or
finished an applause-worthy video. So what’s next? As part of CDW’s Digital Flow solutions,
Content Management gives you the tools to not only create, but also to share your brilliance
with everyone around you. Let the experts at CDW customize a solution for you today, and allow
your creativity to flourish.
Offer subject to CDW’s standard terms and conditions of sale, available at CDW.com. ©2006 CDW Corporation
• Provides full privacy – 100% of stored data is
protected by 128-bit hardware-based encryption
• Fast data transfer rates of up to 24MBps read
and up to 14MBps write
• Strong password protection
Kingston
®
DataTraveler Elite
- Privacy Edition
• Multi-format, network-ready printer
• Prints up to 24" paper width
• Print resolution: up to 2400 x 1200 dpi
with HP PhotoREt IV
HP Designjet 130nr Printer
$
1895
99
CDW 629703
512MB $64.99 CDW 948190
1GB $99.99 CDW 948193
2GB $166.99 CDW 969700
4GB $339.99 CDW 948197
• Printer, copier and color scan to e-mail
• Print and copy speed: up to 45 ppm
• Print resolution: 1200 x 1200 dpi with HP FastRes 1200
• Duty cycle: 200,000 pages per month
• Parallel and Ethernet ports
HP LaserJet 4345mfp Multifunction Printer
Stapler/ stacker
(CDW 721946)
sold separately
$
2599
99
CDW 699866
A PDF file
can be used
electronically or
printed to create
an exact duplicate
of the original,
regardless of the
application used
to create it.
Share/Deliver/Output
Putting content to work usually requires the ability to share it with others.
The tools you use depend largely on how you plan to present the content
to the recipient:
• Adobe’s PDF (portable document format) is a powerful tool for
creating electronic versions of content that can be shared across
diferent kinds of devices running diferent operating systems.
• A PDF fle can be used electronically or printed to create an exact
duplicate of the original, regardless of the application used
to create it.
• Inkjet is the choice for printing the highest quality photographic
images and can also be used for business documents, graphics, and
other output.
• Printers should connect directly to your of ce network for easy
access by all users.
• An investment in paper handling accessories, such as duplexers,
envelope feeders, and additional paper trays can save money by
improving efficiency and allow you to create professional-
looking documents.
Archive/Store/Retrieve
Creating efective content can be expensive, but some of it will be vital to
your business. Having a means to safely store and easily retrieve content
is important to protecting your investment and allowing your content
to be easily found for reuse and reference.
• Questys Pro, GlobalTech Archive X, and FileBound Enterprise
Content Management: These three applications are designed
to preserve, protect, and retrieve your digital content.
• Roxio Easy Media Creator 8: This popular program makes it
easy to create backups of your important content in either
CD or DVD format.
• Quantum SuperLoader:
Provides a complete
backup, recovery, and
archive solution in one box.
• LaCie EthernetDisk :
Provides independent, stand-alone
storage accessible to anyone on the network .
• Adaptec SnapServer: Network-attached storage for data
protection and data availability.
Digital Flow’s Swiss Army Knife
If you could have only one tool for improving Digital Flow, Adobe Acrobat
might be that tool. This versatile program was frst designed to allow
creative professionals, such as graphic designers, to share their work with
others who needed to view a fle, but didn’t have the program used to
create it. Acrobat has since evolved into the preeminent business tool for
sharing, collaborating, and distributing virtually any document. Acrobat
allows work to be shared between Windows, Mac OS X, and other
operating systems. It has also become a standard for publishing paper
documents in digital form.
Acrobat makes it easy to revise and comment upon digital works, and
includes features that enable an ef cient digital workfow.
Many people think that’s where Acrobat stops, though it’s really just the
beginning. Acrobat’s breadth of features addresses the desktop-level
needs of virtually any document process. Acrobat also supports the
design, creation, and distribution of electronic forms. These can look like
their paper counterparts, but are easily flled out and submitted online.
Document management tools, from the desktop to enterprise systems,
can ready and index content created in the Acrobat PDF format,
which is increasingly accepted for long-term storage of online
documents and copies of paper documents that have been scanned
and preserved digitally.
Adobe Acrobat fles can be created and read by many programs. There
are third party vendors that ofer a PDF component, but these programs
generally lack the functionality and features of the Adobe products.
Adobe Acrobat and other products that implement the PDF fle format
are useful additions to almost any Digital Flow.
Conclusion
Effectively managing Digital Flow—how your company creates,
manages, shares, and stores its digital content —can make an
important contribution to business success. In this report, I’ve ofered
some of what CDW has learned in helping our customers optimize
Digital Flow in their small and medium-sized businesses. CDW has the
technology and tools that can improve your company’s Digital Flow.
A dedicated account manager is ready to help make the right choices
for your business. Call us anytime.
PRODUCTS FOR DATA, DOCUMENT, AND DIGITAL MANAGEMENT 7
S pec i a l Adver t i s i ng S ec t i on
Does your data spend too much time
in the lost and found?
(We have the technology to help you reclaim it.)
The Data Control You Need When You Need It.
In a fast-paced business environment, you can’t afford to be slowed down. Especially by
documents and files that are hard to find, hard to distribute and just plain hard to deal with.
As part of CDW’s Digital Flow solutions, Content Management will give you the upper-hand
over unruly data. The ability to archive, manage, control and share electronic files will allow
you to streamline your workflow and increase productivity. So call the experts at CDW today,
and start making your data work as fast and efficient as you do.
1
Assumes 2:1 compression. Offer subject to CDW’s standard terms and conditions of sale, available at CDW.com. ©2006 CDW Corporation
• Color duplex scanner
• 50-page Automatic Document Feeder (ADF)
• Fast 25 ppm and 50 ipm scanning in color,
monochrome and grayscale at 200 dpi
• Includes ultrasonic double feed detection,
embossed card scanning capability and long
document scanning up to 34"
• Bundled with Adobe
®
Acrobat
®
7.0 Standard,
Kofax
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VRS

4.0, QuickScan

and ScandAll 21
Fujitsu ScanPartner fi-5120C
• Storage capacity: up to 1.28TB native, 2.56TB
compressed
1
• Data transfer rate: up to 36GB/hr native, 72GB/hour
compressed
1
• Includes one eight-slot removable magazine (double
your capacity by adding a second magazine)
• Features include: Remote management, barcode
reader, rackmount kit, Symantec Backup Exec

Quickstart software, StorageCare

Guardian,
and DLTSage Tape Security
• Also available with SDLT 600, LTO-2 and LTO-3
for higher capacity requirements
Quantum SuperLoader
TM
3 DLT
V4 Autoloader
• Reliably create, combine and control Adobe
PDF documents
• Allows for easy, more secure distribution,
collaboration and data collection
• Auto-recognizes form fields
• Enables advanced features in Adobe Reader
• Saves in Microsoft Word
Adobe
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$
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CDW is an authorized Adobe
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NEW VERSION
Call
FI RST LOOKS
CONSUMER ELECTRONICS
ARCHOS 604
A PMP WITH MASS APPEAL
F YOU’ RE LOOKING FOR WIRELESS HEAD-
phones for your iPod, the iMuffs MB210
make a compelling choice. An upgrade to the
MB200, these headphones deliver a decent
wireless audio experience for users of the
latest generation of iPod or Bluetooth-enabled cell
phones.
Available in black or white, the headphones sup-
port Bluetooth 2.0 and easily connect with Blue-
tooth-enabled phones. Controls are conveniently
placed, and the band fits snugly over the ears.
The sound quality is a little better than that of
the originals, with less muddiness and more clarity,
plus a decent amount of bass. But the MB210 head-
phones definitely fall short of greatness. On most of
my phone calls using the headset, I had no trouble
hearing people on the other line. On one call, how-
ever, my friend jokingly asked whether I was calling
her from the inside of a tunnel. So much for noise
canceling.
On the whole, the iMuffs MB210 are good alter-
natives, but not replacements, for your favorite ear-
buds or headphones. I just wish they didn’t cost $50
more than the previous version, which provided a
similar audio experience when paired with older
iPods.—Molly K. McLaughlin
>> For more in-depth analysis: go.pcmag.com/mb210
WI-GEAR IMUFFS MB210
WIRELESS IPOD AUDIO
Wi-Gear iMuffs MB210
$179.99 direct
l l l h m
PROS Wireless dongle fits securely into
your iPod and through most cases. Prod-
uct makes calls with Bluetooth phones.
CONS Mediocre audio. Noise-canceling
function doesn’t work consistently on
phone calls.
Archos 604
$349.99 direct
l l l l m
PROS Excellent audio
quality. Fine video qual-
ity. Removable battery.
CONS No analog video
recording out of the
box. Button layout still
isn’t optimal.
HE ARCHOS 604 IS THE FOLLOW-UP TO
the company’s impressive AV 500 por-
table media player. The new version
has a slightly bigger screen and a differ-
ent button layout, but it retains many of
the features that made me love its predecessor. But
one big difference is that you get a lot less this time
around. Many of the accessories are now optional
extras—including the DVR docking station, which is
required for recording video from analog sources.
The brushed-aluminum body, which is equipped
with a kickstand, feels solid and slim. The 4.3-inch,
480- by 272-pixel LCD is brightly backlit and sharp,
with a very good viewing angle. I got 4.5 hours of
continuous video playback, a good performance for
this type of device.
If you already have a DVR, you can easily forego
the $99 docking station and simply use the Archos
604 as a very competent portable video player that
has plenty of nice features. For example, the player
comes with a 30GB hard drive and a removable,
rechargeable battery.
It’s a bit of a shame that the portable DVR func-
tionality is now optional, but ultimately, it may
help avoid the sticker shock that has kept many of
Archos’s high-end players out of the hands of the
masses.—Mike Kobrin
>> For more in-depth analysis: go.pcmag.com/
archos604
Plays many types
of video fi les,
including DivX
Bright 4.3-inch
LCD screen
Shuttle buttons
control the iPod
remotely
Wireless
adapter uses
iPod's battery
for power
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 45
FI RST LOOKS
CONSUMER ELECTRONICS
HIS PAST SUMMER A SLEW OF
companies launched more
than three dozen new digital
cameras, all in anticipation of
the coming holiday season.
And although high-priced
D-SLRs (digital single-lens
reflex cameras) certainly
made news, most of the new devices were inex-
pensive point-and-shoot models. Professional-
grade D-SLR cameras with all their fancy features
and accessories are simply overkill for the average
shutter bug. If you’re looking for a solid, easy-to-use
digicam that’s perfect for capturing—and not miss-
ing—life’s important events, you’re in luck. Here’s
a down-and-dirty laundry list of what you need to
know when comparing cameras.
First off, know how many megapixels your pro-
spective camera has, since this spec directly affects
the size of photograph you’ll be able to print and
how much cropping you can expect to do. If you’re
CANON POWERSHOT S80
$549.95 list
l l l l h
Sure it’s a bit of a splurge, but the Canon
PowerShot S80 is without a doubt the
best, most full-featured compact I’ve
ever used. Though the device weighs
just 7.9 ounces, it comes loaded with
features. For example, I love the 3.6X zoom lens.
And it has a wide-angle, 28mm view that’s perfect
for capturing large slices of an interior or outdoor
landscape. There’s a beautiful 2.5-inch screen
for framing shots, and the camera’s sensitive
8- megapixel sensor captures excellent images.
I’m also impressed by the S80’s smooth and
clear video quality. As versatile point-and-shoot
cameras go, you’d be hard-pressed to find some-
thing better.—Terry Sullivan
>> For more in-depth analysis: go.pcmag.com/s80
BUYI NG GUI DE
Point-and-Shoot
Digital Cameras
a first-time buyer and are interested only in print-
ing relatively small, 4-by-6 or 5-by-7 snapshots, I
suggest a 6-megapixel, entry-level digital camera.
Cameras ranging from 6 to 10 megapixels provide
enough resolution for 8-by-10 and 11-by-14 prints.
For those who also view their camera as a fash-
ion accessory and plan to tote it along everywhere,
many models are extremely compact, some less
than an inch thick. The Canon PowerShot SD550
Digital Elph, for example, slips easily into the
pocket of your jeans but comes with a 2.5-inch LCD
screen. Still, you’ll definitely give up some features
on tiny cameras like these, such as manual settings
and articulating LCDs screens. You should keep in
mind that the smaller the device, the smaller its but-
tons tend to be. Be sure to feel a camera’s dials and
buttons to see if they’re too small, too big, or just
right for your fingers.
Definitely take into account the camera’s zoom.
Most point-and-shoot digital cameras give you at
least 3X optical zoom, but a number do have 5X, 6X,
Has both glass
viewfi nder and a
2.5-inch LCD
Weighs only
7.9 ounces
Nice wide-angle
3.6X zoom lens
46 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
POINT-AND-SHOOT CAMERAS IN REVIEW
RED denotes Editors' Choice. * Optical zoom lens. Products are listed from best to worst by rating.
Canon PowerShot
S80
l l l l m
$549.95
list
8MP 3.6X* THE BEST Although it's a bit expensive, this solid, compact camera takes
excellent photos and is packed with nice features.
Canon PowerShot
SD550 Digital Elph
l l l l m
$449.95
list
7.1MP 3X* VERSATILE Fun and ultrasmall, the Elph performed very well on our
tests. It will appeal to a broad section of shooters.
Fuji FinePix E900
l l l l m
$500.00
street
9MP 4X* FOR ENTHUSIASTS With its high megapixel count and sophisticated
imaging system, this compact camera will please many enthusiasts.
Sony Cyber-shot
DSC-N1
l l l l m
$499.95
list
8.1MP 3X* NICE VIEW A unique ultracompact that combines good shooting and
photo viewing, all wrapped up in a stylish design.
Fuji FinePix V10
l l l h m
$349.00
list
5.1MP 3.4X* THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT! The V10 takes very good photos, offers
advanced shooting features, and even includes four games.
HP Photosmart
R927
l l l h m
$399.99
list
8.2MP 3X* SHAPE UP Versatile and affordable, the R927 has a myriad of features,
from capture options and shooting modes to an unusual Slimming Effect.
Kodak EasyShare
V570
l l l h m
$349.95
direct
5MP 5X* WIDE ANGLE For those who want to capture unusual views of the world,
the V570 is compact yet has both a zoom and a wide-angle lens.
Casio Exilim
EX-Z850
l l l m m
$399.99
list
8.1MP 3X* SLIM BUT SO-SO Small, sleek, and silver, this ultracompact takes pretty
good pictures—but we expected sharper images.
Panasonic Lumix
DMC-LX1
l l l m m
$599.95
direct
8.4MP 4X* ALMOST PRO Good for those who want something smaller than a D-
SLR, with lots of pro features and controls. But images are noisy.
Panasonic Lumix
DMC-LZ5
l l l m m
$279.95
list
6MP 6X* STEADY SHOT Image stabilization works well, but this camera's perfor-
mance falls a bit short in other respects.
Kodak EasyShare
C533
l l l m m
$179.95
list
5MP 3X* BUDGET BUY A decent choice for budget shoppers looking for an easy-
to-use compact camera that snaps reasonably good pictures.
Sony Cyber-shot
W100
l l l m m
$349.95
direct
8.1MP 3X* LIGHTS OUT Though it takes sharp pics, this ultracompact doesn't quite
live up to the promise of its low-light features.
Samsung Digimax
L85
l h m m m
$400.00
street
8.1MP 5X* STAY AWAY Not quite as bad as last year’s Digimax, but pretty close. It
takes images that aren't sharp and suffers from major shutter lag.
or 7X optical zoom lenses. (Many may advertise
digital zooms as well, but keep in mind that using
a digital zoom degrades your image quality.) Note
the aperture range, too, and see how low the tele-
photo end of the zoom range is: The lower the num-
ber, say f/4 or f/3.5 (which indicates a more open
aperture, even at full zoom), the better the lens will
perform in low light.
ANGLES, FLASHES, AND FORMATS Also consider
the camera’s wide- angle capabilities. Some mod-
els give you a much wider view than the standard
35mm-to-40mm (35mm equivalent) view. For exam-
ple, the dual-lens ultracompact Kodak EasyShare
V570 and its successor, the EasyShare V705, both
have a 23mm lens, one of the widest on the market.
Nearly every point-and-shoot comes with a
flash. Find out how versatile it is. For example, you
may want to try using the slow-sync mode in cer-
tain situations. Slow sync lets you avoid the “black-
curtain effect,” in which your subject is exposed
correctly but the entire background is completely
lost in black. A camera with a slow-sync mode
leaves the shutter open after the flash is fired to get
better exposure for the background. Not all cam-
eras have this, but high-end models such as the
Canon PowerShot S80 do.
Before you buy, check out the list of supported
file formats. The great majority of point-and-shoot
cameras support only the highly compressed JPEG
image format. However, some higher-end point-
and-shoots, such as the Fuji FinePix E900, offer
RAW modes.
What’s the difference? In short, when shooting
JPEGs, you’re letting your digital camera choose
what kind of sharpening, color settings, and other
settings, such as white balance, to apply to the pho-
to. With RAW images, you’re seizing control, and
it’s assumed that you’ll be applying these settings
in a final image-editing phase. Of course, the down-
side to working with RAW files is that they’re large
and take up lots of memory.
In most cases, it’s best to shoot in the highest
quality JPEG mode on your digital camera. I’ve
found that the default mode is generally the second-
highest setting and/or compression rate.
SPECIAL FEATURES Then there are specialized
features that you might find useful at times. The
Kodak EasyShare V705 and EasyShare V570 have a
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-
N1 This 8-megapixel
shooter is also stylish.
Fuji FinePix E900
Compact, but will
satisfy even pro users.
>> For more camera reviews online: go.pcmag.com/digitalcameras
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 47
panorama mode that stitches three photos together,
right in the camera.
A number of Fuji cameras, including the Fuji
FinePix V10, quickly snap two shots—one with
and one without flash—letting you decide which
image best captures the moment. Or how about
taking the Olympus Stylus 720 SW right into the
pool with you? This camera is waterproof up to 10
feet, so you can take both photos and video, with
sound, under water.
E X P E R T V I E W
BY TERRY SULLI VAN
PHOTO MANAGEMENT: YOU NEED A PLAN
Y WIFE OFTEN ASKS ME IF I’VE PRINTED ANY OF
the hundreds of images that I take each month.
My response is always the same: “I’m working on
it.” Part of the reason for my digital picture back-
log is that I’m reluctant to print anything unless
I’ve noodled around with it in Photoshop first. But
in truth, what I really need to improve is my work-
flow—or, to put it more precisely, my “picture
management process.” No matter what you call it, you must have a system for
handling images or your pictures will go nowhere fast.
PICK A FORMAT Most people usually end up printing small, 4- by 6-inch snap-
shots and maybe sharing a few pictures on the Web. To do this, you can shoot
in the default JPEG format of most cameras. But if you want larger, fine-art-
style prints, I recommend taking pictures at the maximum possible quality set-
ting, or even in RAW format, which
allows for higher-quality image files.
GET THEM OFF THE CAMERA Once
you’ve captured pictures you’re sat-
isfied with, you need to move them
over to the PC. One way is to hook
up the camera directly (via USB
cords) to your computer. More con-
venient is to remove the camera’s
memory card and transfer the images using a memory card reader.
BACK THEM UP Once the images are on your system, be sure to back them up.
I suggest making copies of untouched, original image files, perhaps by dump-
ing them onto an additional hard drive or burning the files onto a DVD or CD.
EDIT FOR BEST QUALITY Virtually all image-editing software products let
you crop, rotate, adjust, and manipulate your shots for best printing results.
Check out color-management tools as well to ensure that your computer
monitor is displaying your images correctly.
PRINTING IS OPTIONAL If you want to print in the comfort of your home, an
inexpensive photo printer will do the trick. A machine like this is fine for print-
ing the occasional snapshot, but because you have to supply your own ink
and paper, costs can quickly add up.
SHARE ONLINE Instead of printing, consider using a photo-sharing site such
as the Kodak Gallery (www.kodakgallery.com) or Phanfare (www.phanfare
.com). You can also order prints directly from these sites. That means your dis-
tant relatives—or even your wife—can print your photos themselves.
Terry Sullivan is PC Magazine’s digital camera expert.
You must have a
system for handling
images, or they will
go nowhere fast
A big point-and-shoot bonus that’s lacking in D-
SLRs is the ability to shoot video clips. The quality
of these movies varies tremendously, however, from
one camera to the next. At the moment, the best de-
vices, including the FinePix E900, shoot video clips
in VGA-size (640-by-480) at a rate of 30 frames per
second with sound.
For an even greater level of control over your
images, check whether you can set the exposure—
through the shutter speed and aperture—manually.
Also, some point-and-shoots, like the Nikon Cool-
pix S6, now offer wireless options. It’s tricky to set
up, but the S6 features an integrated Wi-Fi radio for
transferring picture files over to your computer.
Others, like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ5 and the
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N1, offer non-telescoping
zooms and image stabilization.
In addition, camera companies are now increas-
ing image sensor sensitivity (which you set in the
ISO settings of the camera), allowing you to shoot
in low-light situations without using a flash. In the
past, high ISOs often increased image noise (usual-
ly evident as tiny colored dots). Newer cameras are
better at controlling image noise at higher ISOs.
Accessories are important, so see if your camera
can handle them. For example, some small cameras
come with a tripod socket for attaching a tripod.
No single camera can be perfect for every occa-
sion. But with unparalleled ease of use and supe-
rior image quality, the point-and-shoots listed here
come pretty darn close. Be sure to choose carefully
before you buy, though I’m confident you’ll find
these models quite compelling—TS
Kodak EasyShareV570
Two lenses are better than one.
The V570 packs
both wide-angle
and zoom lenses
48 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
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SOFTWARE
FI RST LOOKS
NAPSTER 2.0
FREE—AND THIS TIME, LEGAL—NAPSTER TUNES
APSTER’S FREE AGAIN—SORT OF. NO,
you can’t swap MP3s with strangers—
that ship sailed in 2003. But from any
Web browser, with no client software
and no purchase, Napster 2.0 lets you
stream complete songs, free. Well, three times each.
Still, you get access to over two million tracks.
Napster is basically a subscription service,
though. You pay $9.95 per month for unlimited
streaming and downloads to your PC, and for
$5 more you can add To Go, which lets you copy
downloads to portable players. For downloading
and ripping CDs, you need Napster’s client. Even if
you don’t subscribe, however, Napster 2.0 deserves
bookmarking. It requires no sign-in, sign-up, or
plug-in installation (which Rhapsody requires). Still,
there are catches. The biggest: 32-Kbps bit rate for
Napster 2.0
Limited version, free;
unlimited downloads,
$9.95 monthly; with
To Go option, $14.95
l l l l m
PROS Three free
plays of every
song in the
Napster library.
No software or
registration required.
Cut-and-paste Web link
for songs. Dozens of
prefab playlists you can
stream instantly.
CONS Low- quality
streaming for non-
subscribers. No videos
or radio stations. A few
tracks play only 30
seconds for nonsub-
scribers.
free songs. They sound better than expected, but it’s
still AM-radio league. To hear tunes a fourth time,
you’ll have to buy them for 99 cents or subscribe.
Napster’s pop-up player works very well in
Internet Explorer and Firefox, and has good features.
I also like Napster’s innovations, such as the one-
click mail-this-song-to-a-friend option. Don’t look
for music videos or radio stations (Rhapsody has
both), and the once-promising wiki-like Narchive
community feature is AWOL—at least for now.
But neither that unfortunate loss nor the anemic
bit rate for free songs diminished my enjoyment of
the site’s musical feast. I expect that many past sub-
scribers will strongly consider rejoining Napster. I
know I did.—Rick Broida
>> For more in-depth analysis: go.pcmag.com/
napster20
50 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
Legit albums.
The RIAA won't
bust down
your door
Our reviewer subscribed,
but to take a test drive, you
don't even have to sign in
search, such as the very cool PowerCharts, which
lets you find music based on over 100 criteria.
Navigation is simple, as is fetching songs. My
one gripe: There’s no player for the 30-second song
snippets; the service launches your audio player
instead. But all in all, eMusic should be your first
stop if you have a penchant for new music and a
distaste for DRM.—RB
>> For more in-depth analysis: go.pcmag.com/
emusic
eMUSIC
TAKE BACK THE MUSIC
TV’S NEW MUSIC SUBSCRIPTION
service, Urge, debuted alongside
Windows Media Player 11—or rath-
er, inside WMP 11; the service is
fully integrated into Microsoft’s lat-
est player. While there’s debate about whether that
gives MTV an unfair advantage, I’m more interested
in judging Urge on its own merits. It’s a solid—but
confusing—addition to a crowded space.
Unlimited streaming and downloads (128 Kbps
and 192 Kbps, respectively) cost $9.99 per month.
With All Access to Go, which lets you copy tunes to
two PlaysForSure-compatible portable players, you
pay $14.99 total. Single tracks cost 99 cents to pur-
chase permanently, whether or not you subscribe.
The home page hits you with a messy onslaught
of new releases, song and album lists, and more.
Intuition won’t take you far at this portal—Napster
and Rhapsody do instant gratification way better.
Still, a simple side-pane nav tree gives one-click
access to playlists, 130-plus radio stations, and cat-
egories. WMP’s killer search can be slow, but the
depth of offerings makes the wait worthwhile.
MTV URGE (BETA)
ONE HIP MUSICAL MESS
NRESTRICTED. 192 KBPS. VARIABLE-BIT-
rate MP3s. A two-week trial (credit
card required) with 25 free downloads,
no strings attached. That’s why I’m
ears-over-heels for the eMusic online
service. You lose unused monthly allotments, but
download your quota and you pay 25 cents or less
per track. And you keep your songs if you cancel—
not so with services such as Napster To Go.
There’s a hitch, of course: You can’t buy tunes à
la carte, and to get more songs than your subscrip-
tion includes, you have to buy “booster packs”—
ten extra downloads for $4.99, for example. Fortu-
nately, these don’t expire as long as you’re a paying
subscriber.
The six-year-old service holds more than 1.5 mil-
lion tracks—most from lesser-knowns, but there’s
plenty of mainstream goodness, although not really
big names. Still, half the fun is discovering new art-
ists. And eMusic has plenty of features to help you
MTV URGE (BETA)
$9.99 monthly; $14.99
monthly with To Go
option
l l l h m
PROS Seamless integra-
tion with Media Player
11. Tons of programmed
content. Great for find-
ing new music. Works
easily with portables.
CONS Busy, convoluted
interface. Slow, buggy.
Poor playlist organiza-
tion. No podcasts or
videos (yet).
eMUSIC
40 downloads, $9.99
monthly; 65, $14.99;
90, $19.99
l l l l m
PROS Unprotected
MP3s for 25 cents
apiece or less; 1.5 million
tracks; attractive, easy-
to-navigate store.
CONS Requires sub-
scription. Light on
mainstream artists.
Just one of many
features for
discovering new
artists
Not easy to
sift through
playlists
Genre-specific “super” playlists update regu-
larly and can sync to your portable player. Sifting
through playlists can be a chore, though. And while
I had no trouble downloading tracks and syncing
them with a Creative Zen Vision:M, I couldn't track
download progress—a major annoyance.
For discovering new music, Urge stomps
iTunes, despite lacking a few of the leader’s key
staples—podcasts and videos. MTV has both in
the works, it says. In the meantime, give MTV Urge
a look, especially since you can get the full service
free for 14 days—RB
>> For more in-depth analysis: go.pcmag.com/
urgebeta
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 51
FI RST LOOKS
52 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
SOFTWARE
ALLPEERS (BETA)
BIG TRANSFER? NO SWEAT
HE INEXPLICABLY NAMED BOB LIMITS THE USE OF ANY
device that plugs into an AC outlet—unlike the simi-
lar PC Moderator, which works on desktop PCs only.
While I’d recommend BOB for controlling single TVs,
it’s less useful in a multiple-TV home, and it’s easily
defeated when used to limit access to a PC.
BOB can manage time on a daily or weekly basis. The plug of a
device you want to manage locks into BOB, which you then plug
into an outlet. Using a number pad, you create up to six users, giv-
ing each a unique PIN. To turn on a managed device, users must
enter the correct PIN. With several kids, TV sets, or both, manage-
ment is a problem. With one TV, if the kids agree to watch the same
programs, they can combine their time, each logging in as another’s
time ends. BOBs don’t network, though, so you can’t set a per-child
limit on multiple electronics.
To limit computer usage, connect the cord of the monitor, not the
PC to BOB (suddenly cutting PC power is a bad idea). Unfortunately,
most monitors (and PCs) have removable power cords. Plugging in a
new cord easily bypasses BOB. Not so with PC Moderator, which also
offers more extensive reports and more granular time management.
BOB is reasonably priced, simple to set up, and easy to use, but if you
want the best, I still recommend PC Moderator.—Ben Z. Gottesman
>> For more in-depth analysis: go.pcmag.com/hopscotchbob
HOPSCOTCH TECHNOLOGY BOB
PARENTAL CONTROL—SORT OF
Hopscotch
Technology BOB
$100 street
l l h m m
PROS Simple to set
up and use. Works on
nearly any AC-powered
device. Doesn’t conflict
with software. Supports
six users.
CONS Not so effective
for managing multiple
devices. Easily defeated
as a PC controller.
Limited reporting. Time
limits not as granular as
with PC Moderator.
AllPeers (beta)
Free
l l l m m
PROS A quick and
easy way to send large
files from machine to
machine. SSL-protected
transfers.
CONS Works only with
Firefox. Sender or inter-
mediary must be online
for receiver to get a file.
Cord of the
controlled
device locks
into the
compartment
underneath
LLPEERS HOPES TO EASE THE PAIN OF
sending large files over the Internet by
leveraging the power of peer-to-peer
networking. Simply drag a file to your
browser window and this new service
copies the contents to another AllPeers user’s sys-
tem—for free. The app works only with Firefox,
however, and performance was spotty when I tested
it. Still, this beta shows promise.
I had set-up problems, and the service went down
several times during testing, but when AllPeers
worked, the speed was acceptable. A customized
version of BitTorrent drives the utility, so if you
send a file to several people, others can help send
it once they receive parts of the file. Using the app
is easy. After keying in e-mail addresses or AllPeer
usernames to create a contact list, you can choose
a name and send files via drag-and-drop or dialog
Minimal interface
doesn’t clutter
the browser
boxes. You can send off-line recipients a notice that
the file is on offer. Once online with the app open,
your intended recipient can download the file—pro-
vided that you or others you’ve sent the same file to
are online. SSL encryption protects transfers.
AllPeers plans to make the software browser-
agnostic, and I expect performance to improve. But
even now, the service does what it promises with
little fuss.—Cade Metz
>> For more in-depth analysis: go.pcmag.com/
allpeersbeta
J UMP TO NEXT PAGE >>
Sony recommends Windows
®
XP Professional.
How did we fit so much performance into
such a sleek package? Beautifully.
Sony
®
VAIO
®
SZ. Your ideas have never looked so good. Its exceptional battery life
1
, lightweight design,
and built-in wireless WAN
2
means uncompromised performance and mobility. Powered by Intel
®
Centrino
®

Duo Mobile Technology, the SZ bridges the gap between style and performance. sony.com/vaio-sz
1
Actual battery life may vary based on product settings, usage patterns and environmental conditions.
2
Subscription to Cingular Wireless required.
See www.sony.com/cingular for complete offer details, price plans, service terms and conditions, and coverage map. Call 1-888-739-VAIO (8246) for
service activation. Coverage is not available in all areas and is subject to transmission and other limitations. Display image simulated. ©2006 Sony
Electronics Inc. All rights reserved. Sony, Sony logo, VAIO, VAIO logo and like.no.other are trademarks of Sony. Intel, Intel Inside, the Intel Inside logo,
Intel Centrino, the Intel Centrino logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the United States and other
countries. Cingular Wireless is a registered trademark of Cingular Wireless LLC 2006. Windows is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation.
the backbone of business
The SMB market is the backbone of business: nearly 99 percent of all companies are small to
mid-sized. The sheer numbers – by some estimates more than 40 million in the United States
– make it a crowded and competitive sector. The best and brightest keep their market edge by
using their small size, speed, and mobility to their advantage, and by doing business whenever
and wherever possible.
The technology behind these businesses has to be strong and flexible in order to keep up with
the unpredictable nature of mobile business.
The right choice in portable, professional computers must be small and light to make a
roadworthy companion, but portability shouldn’t mean sacrificing power. Small businesses
need all the power of a desktop in a size slim enough for a briefcase or back pocket.
Professional notebooks must also easily network and collaborate with other mobile users,
while keeping sensitive data safe. And they must be as flexible as their users, many of whose
PC demands change daily.
In other words, mobile business computers need to serve up the power of a world-class
business in a design slim enough for a podium, café bar, or boardroom table.
To answer the needs of the small-business market, Sony presents a VAIO
®
fleet of four distinct
mobile computers that can each accomplish top-tier performance for years to come. The BX,
TX, UX and SZ Series VAIO computers deliver the kind of industrial power and security one
would expect from mobile workhorses, while impressing audiences with smartly-engineered
features in a slim, stylish design.
S pec i a l Adver t i s i ng S ec t i on
S pec i a l Adver t i s i ng S ec t i on
POWER:
Computers deployed into a mobile workforce have to
be powerful enough for the most resource-draining
demands. VAIO computers offer best-of-breed power,
with features that boost chipset and graphics
performance, whether running presentations,
teleconferencing
8
with the office, or enjoying rich
multimedia entertainment during down times.
Multitasking becomes easier as well, thanks to Intel
®

Core

2 Duo processors, designed specifically for running
parallel processes on notebook computers. With two
execution cores on a single chip, the processors can
boost performance while using less power. On the
ultra-portable UX Micro PC, a Core Solo processor
powers Windows
®
XP Professional and other PC
applications on a machine that can fit in a pocket.
In addition to processors, other VAIO computer’s features
are powerful too. The hybrid graphics card available on SZ
Series models can, with the flip of a switch, change from
a powerful but economizing internal graphics processor
to an unreserved and robust external processor that
answers high-performance needs.
PORTABILITY:
In spite of their power, VAIO computers are highly
portable computers defined by their slim dimensions
and travel-conscious features.
All of the computers are built with maximum efficiency
in mind. The highly portable TX Series notebook, for
example, weighs 2.76 lbs
1
, carries an 11.1" display
2
, and
lasts up to 7.5 hours
3
with a standard battery charge.
Portability is part of the overall design approach for
Sony VAIO computers, but is perhaps best exhibited
by the UX Micro PC . These fully functional computers,
running Windows XP Professional, feature smartly
designed 64-key keyboards and stylus
devices that slide out from underneath
a 4.5" screen
2
.

Portability also means having
convenient features for on-the-go
productivity.
To make for easier viewing in unpredictable conditions
on the road, VAIO business computers make use of LCD
XBRITE

and XBRITE-ECO

technology – the latest in
glare-reducing screen technology – that cuts down on
reflections while preserving crisp and clear colors in
direct light.
As another example, the BX Series computer comes with
a swappable bay, which keeps the computers slim while
allowing the greatest degree of flexibility in configuration:
users can add a DVD double layer burner
4
, an extra
80GB
5
hard drive, or other peripherals when they’re
needed. And all of these units can be shared among the
office.
MOBILITY:
In today’s business world, ultimate portability means
getting work done from anywhere. For mobile
professionals, being productive means having the
Internet on demand. Sony VAIO computers provide
many options for peak performance on the road and
away from the office.
The entire Sony lineup comes ready for wireless
networking
6

with 802.11 compatibility in every computer.
Sony has tuned their VAIO
®
computers to the particular
demands of the SMB market. The VAIO computer addresses
the chief concerns of small business computing, delivering powerful,
portable, mobile, secure, and widely compatible computer systems, with a
sleek style and inventive design features that make a lasting impression.
S pec i a l Adver t i s i ng S ec t i on
But sometimes, the most mobile workers need
more. Thanks to the built-in WAN capabilities
on a select number of VAIO computers, there’s
no need to track down hotspots before getting
down to business. The TX Series notebooks
come wired for compatibility with the Cingular
Wireless Broadband Network.
VAIO computers also assist mobile workers
by helping them achieve state-of-the-art
communications abilities from anywhere. Built-
in .3 mega pixel cameras included in the UX Micro
PC and optional Bluetooth
®
9
headsets allow
mobile professionals to keep in touch with their
business, no matter where it takes them.
SECURITY:
Securing personal information and confidential
data becomes even more important when taking
computers on the road. Small and mid-sized
businesses in particular struggle with mobile
security demands, as they lack the deep reserves
of IT support available to larger companies.
With these SMB needs in mind, Sony designed
their VAIO computers with ample built-in
security features to help assure user protection
while making the systems easy to manage,
lessening the demands on administrators.
Many of the VAIO
®
computers come with integrated
biometric security systems – fingerprint sensors
that provide a simple solution to data protection,
while saving resources at small companies who
don’t want to spend extra time and effort on
password management. The biometric system
does the work of remembering other logins, like
those to secure Web sites, so protection doesn’t
always mean having to memorize passwords.
Sony’s Trusted Platform Mobile security chip is
another VAIO Professional feature that helps
secure company data from thievery. Compatible
with TCG Version 1.2b, which assures trusted
There is a VAIO computer for every
brand of business user, from the ultra-
mobile, always-connected road warrior
to the high-end user looking for top
processing power in a slim, convenient
design. Sony VAIO computer complement
individuals’ needs and work styles,
assuring that there’s a computer to fit
every personality and style.
TX Series
Truly mobile professionals get their job
done anywhere. For those who want
to make an impression wherever they
roam, the TX Series notebook redefines
the look of premium mobility with a
sophisticated and smart style.
These notebooks are highly portable, weighing 2.76
lbs
1
, and standing as little as .83 inches thin, with a 11.1"
widescreen LCD display
2
(measured at its widest point)
.
The notebooks come encased in carbon-fiber shells that are more
often the stuff of jet planes and race cars; they are lighter and
stronger than typical magnesium alloy casings, and stand out with
a distinctive look.
The TX stands apart in size and performance. Packed in its small shell,
the TX comes with an ample 80 GB
5
of hard disk space and is powered
by a ultra low voltage Pentium
®
M processor or Core Solo Ultra Low
Voltage Processor that economizes energy. As a result, the notebook
can last between four and seven-and-a-half hours with a standard
battery charge
3
, which keeps train and plane commutes productive,
even without an outlet.
They are also highly connected devices. Besides integrated 802.11
wireless LAN
6
and Bluetooth
9
connectivity, the TX notebook comes
equipped for the Cingular Wireless Broadband Network, granting
uninterrupted Internet access across thousands of miles in the U.S.
Thanks to Sony SmartWi

technology, which allows for hassle-free
toggling between the three wireless protocols, users can maintain
maximum productivity and convenience wherever they roam.
SZ Series
For some frequent business travelers,
notebook performance is more
important than portability. Answering the
mobile needs of these demanding high-
performance users, SZ Series notebooks
can offer the best of both worlds
without compromise.
The SZ notebook comes as light as 3.7 lbs
1
with standard battery
.
Thanks to a well-thought-out design, despite its small size, the
machine is a powerful performer. The SZ notebook is highly
configurable and comes loaded with up to 2 GB of RAM, 160 GB
5
of
hard disk space, and a double layer DVD burner
4
that packs up to 8.5
GB of data onto a single disk for easy archiving.
The new SZ, with its Intel Core 2 Duo processor, manages parallel
executions of memory-intensive programs and features dual graphic
chips for the ultimate in visual preference: just flip a switch to choose
between a powerful and resource-minded internal processor and a
S pec i a l Adver t i s i ng S ec t i on
computing between devices and platforms, the chip
is built onto the computer motherboard and enables
cryptographic data to be safely generated and encoded
onto an entire computer volume, helping keep confidential
data in company hands.
The BX Series and SZ Series of VAIO computers also come
with hard disk password protection, a serious security
feature that places password protections directly onto
hard drives, to protect sensitive content even if a drive is
remounted on another computer.
Data theft isn’t the only concern for mobile professionals.
Security also means protecting vulnerable data from
drops, dents, and dings.
In response, many Sony VAIO BX notebooks come with
hard drive shock protection, a special provision intended
to reduce the risk of data loss from hard drive collisions.
Equipped notebooks employ a 3D acceleration sensor
which detects sudden movements like a hit or topple,
and quickly locks the hard drive head to prevent it from
colliding into the hard disk.
COMPATIBILITY:
Mobile workers may often work alone, but that doesn’t
mean their notebooks should have to. In fact, assuring
compatibility over networks and between peripherals
becomes even more important when traveling between
different workplaces.
Sony’s VAIO computers work with networks of handfuls
or hundreds.
To ensure the mobile devices mesh with wireless
networks, select models of Sony VAIO computers use
SmartWi

technology to manage the three wireless
technologies – WAN
7
, LAN
6
and Bluetooth
®
9
—with the
press of two keys (this feature is only applicable for
systems that include WWAN).
Expansion and compatibility are two more points where
VAIO computers shine. The optional multi-bay on BX
Series computers, for example, allows swapping of
powerful, optional devices like DVD/RW drives
4
and hard
drives between users, while the highly portable UX Micro
PC uses a port replicator.
The SZ notebooks all support ExpressCard

technology,
which allows special add-on modules for extra memory,
wireless devices, or multicard readers at throughput
speeds much faster than standard PC cards. The
notebooks also accept Memory Stick
®
storage media, for
data from compatible digital cameras, audio players and
cell phones.
Also on the SZ, TX, and BX Series, Sony has made
connecting the PC to projectors and other displays simple.
A smart display sensor automatically calibrates the
machine to configure video settings and resolutions for
the connected display, to launch presentations without
a worry.
STYLE:
Computers become a reflection of their owners, especially
when they become inseparable traveling companions.
To make the right impression, notebooks should look
good, too.
The Sony VAIO computers are slim but powerful devices
1

Weights and measurements are approximate and may vary.
2

Screen size measured diagonally.
3

Actual battery life may vary based on product settings, usage patterns battery and
environmental conditions.
4

DVD Media/Formats are not universally compatible.
5

GB means one billion bytes when referring to hard drive capacity. Accessible capacity may vary.
A portion of hard disk space is reserved as a recovery partition.
6
Requires compatible wireless access point(s). Some features may rely on Internet services
which may require a fee.
7
See www.sonystyle.com/cingular for complete offer details, price plans, service terms and
conditions and coverage map. Call 1-888-739-VAIO (8246) for service activation.
8
A broadband connection is required along with third party services which may require a
subscription fee and other service fees.
9
Ability to use this Bluetooth enabled product with other devices may vary as not all Bluetooth
devices are compatible.
10
Not all Windows Vista features are available for use on all Windows Vista Capable PCs. All Windows
Vista Capable PCs will run the core experiences of Windows Vista, such as innovations in organizing
and finding information, security and reliability. Some features available in premium editions of
Windows Vista—like the new Windows Aero™ user interface—require advanced or additional
hardware. Upgrades to Windows Vista may require additional fees.
Check www.windowsvista.com/getready for details.

© 2006 Sony Electronics Inc. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. All rights reserved. Sony and VAIO are registered trademarks of Sony. Windows is a registered trademark
of Microsoft Corporation. Intel, Intel Inside, the Intel Inside logo, Intel Centrino, Intel Centrino logo are trademarks of registered trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the United States and other
countries. Cingular Wireless is a registered trademark of Cingular Wireless LLC 2006. Third party marks are trademarks or registered trademarks of the applicable owner there.
S pec i a l Adver t i s i ng S ec t i on
with a distinctive style all their own, allowing
business users to handle work in their own
unique way. They reflect a certain kind of
sophistication and intuitive design that makes
a smart statement, with thoughtful design
packaged in sleek, modern casings.
TX Series notebooks show a flair for contem-
porary design with smooth lines and compact
features. The 11.1" WXGA screen
2
with XBRITE


Technology makes for a small and attractive
footprint, while the 2.76-lb
1
case is a slim
companion for mobile computing.
Some notebooks, like the TX Series, come with
carbon-fiber shells that are more durable than the
magnesium alloys predominant in the market and
show off a unique textured look while offering
greater protection against the elements.
Other models show off thoughtful design in
their small packaging. On the highly portable UX
device, a touchscreen slides upwards to reveal a
64-key QWERTY keyboard, while two cameras are
encased into the unit, one for taking photos, the
other for videoconferencing
8
.
LONGEVITY:
IT managers know how expensive it is to deploy
a mobile fleet of computers, and small and mid-
sized businesses don’t have a lot of extra resources
to invest in systems that don’t last. Sony products
have more than a one-year life cycle. With best-
of-breed performance and ability for expansion,
the computers will scale with small businesses’
needs, affording ultimate mobile productivity and
performance for years to come.
For more information visit
www.sony.com/business
high-performance external chip with even greater graphics power.
The visual results on the SZ are outstanding, thanks to the 13.3"
1

widescreen LCD with layered-on XBRITE technology, which improves
visibility and reduces glare.
A luxury version, the SZ Premium, adds even more style and choice.
The machine features a carbon-fiber case and a LED backlight that
portrays brighter, true-to-life colors without reducing battery life.
UX Micro PC
Those who are on the cutting-edge of the
mobile market and spend more time
on the go than at their desks need a
compact productivity tool that provides
the ultimate in portability and
communication.

UX Micro PC’s are tailor-made for the ultra-
mobile set – they weigh 1.1 lbs
1
and boast a SVGA screen
only 4.5" wide
2
. And yet, they are powerful, fully functioning PC
devices in their own right. With Intel Core Solo ultra low voltage
CPUs, UX Micro PC’s are capable of running Windows Vista

10
and
familiar office applications, allowing users to seamlessly integrate
the highly portable computers into existing PC configurations.
Smart and sleek industrial design makes interacting with the UX an
easy task. A 64-key integrated QWERTY keyboard slides out from
behind the screen for traditional input, while a stylus, touchscreen,
control buttons, and rotating screen orientation allow the UX to be
configured however users choose, for communication at a moment’s
notice. An integrated fingerprint sensor adds an additional layer of
security to protect sensitive data.
The computers are set for next-generation wireless communications,
thanks to a built-in camera, microphone and wide area networking
through the Cingular EDGE network
7
.

BX Series
Built for a workforce of a handful or
hundreds, the BX Series notebooks represent
the ultimate in VAIO PC configuration
and adaptability, and can equip teams
of any size or need.
BX notebooks come with Intel Core 2 Duo in an array of sizes (14", 15.4"
and 17" wide
2
), for individual choice in mobility and productivity.
The BX notebooks take a modular approach to computing by
incorporating Sony’s special AdaptivePlus

Technology: a design
philosophy based on sharing business resources to maximize
productivity and efficiency. Here, the technology takes the form of
multi-function drive bays that accommodate peripheral setups like
a double layer DVD/RW drive
4
, extra 80 GB
5
hard drive, weight saver
unit, or adapter bay. Units are interchangeable between all three
notebook sizes and can link to a docking station, allowing resource
sharing in the office as well as on the road.

S pec i a l Adver t i s i ng S ec t i on
FI RST LOOKS
60 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
SOFTWARE
THERE.COM
VIRTUAL WORLD, REAL MONEY
PIRE’S AJAX-BASED SITE, WHICH AG-
gregates listings from eBay, Over-
stock.com, Yahoo! Shopping, and
Amazon Marketplace (Craigslist,
too, but those listings appear sepa-
rately), may just become your new deal finder. The
simply laid-out home site displays a search box and
popular products. Listings on the search results
pages, where you'll spend the most time, look much
like those on eBay—the source of roughly 50 to 60
percent of the items, says Mpire.
MPIRE.COM
AUCTION MPORIUM
Mpire.com
Free for buyers; sellers
pay a fee
l l l h m
PROS Listings from
multiple sites can save
buyers time and $$$.
Stats show going rates,
price trends. Advanced
search filters results.
Tool for listing on eBay.
CONS Searches are a
bit slow. Interface needs
tweaking.
There.com
Basic service, free;
premium, $9.95 one-
time fee
l l l l m
PROS A captivating 3D
virtual world complete
with beaches, lounge
chairs, martini glasses,
and loads of beautiful
people.
CONS A virtual Hulk
Hogan Fu Manchu
mustache will cost you
almost $3.
Plenty of
helpful tools
The site’s cool, Ajax-powered tools and info pro-
vide its real appeal. A slider lets you quickly narrow
price ranges, for example, and search results supply
tons of data, such as the average, the range, and the
30-day trend for prices. Stats can mislead, as with
the $8,400 iPod price I got (it was a bulk lot), but
the tools are fun and, used wisely, informative. The
search engine does well at providing relevant re-
sults, which you can tailor with advanced options.
Buyers don’t pay, but sellers do. Sellers can also
pay extra to place ads on relevant results pages and
to have their results listed at the top. MpireLauncher,
a free tool, helps merchants set up eBay listings. I
have minor gripes—the search is a bit slow, for
example, and the interface needs work—but I rec-
ommend Mpire.com to anyone who likes auctions
and comparison shopping.—Sean Carroll
>> For more in-depth analysis: go.pcmag.com/
mpiredotcom
HERE.COM COMBINES SOCIAL NETWORK-
ing with 3D-game virtual reality. Graph-
ics quality doesn’t match that of Quake
4, but it’s pretty good. Using keyboard
arrows, you move your avatar through
the environment, but you don’t shoot anyone—you
host parties, do stand-up comedy, walk fashion run-
ways, and above all, talk—via text-messaging or
(with the premium service) real-time voice.
The client—a 500MB download—runs well
on older hardware, and the company says it even
works over a 56-Kbps dial-up connection. A simple
tutorial walks you through the basics, then drops
you into a tropical paradise filled with 3D beauti-
ful people (and their speech bubbles, launched by
typing). Others can accept or decline chats, which
you can make private. When voice-enabled avatars
(marked by microphone icons) get close, the users
can hear each other.
Therebucks (1,800 per U.S. dollar) let you build
a unique persona; you can use them to buy every-
thing from clothing to portable sound systems. The
Chat-list that
hot avatar
site encourages users to design their clothes, acces-
sories, and even homes. Personalization stops at
nudity (and profanity), however. Premium members
can make Therebucks by buying and renting real
estate or making and selling products.
Worried about privacy (or just weirded out by
the whole scene)? You’re at the wrong site. But
other wise, you’ll have a great time just exploring.
Jump in and see if you like it.—Cade Metz
>> For more in-depth analysis and a video tour:
go.pcmag.com/theredotcom
Kyocera’s KM-C3232 Delivers Across-the-Board Productivity for Your Team
For an affordable color document solution that maximizes business productivity, harness the power and
reliability of the KM-C3232. At 32 color or black and white pages per minute, its versatile print, copy,
scan and optional fax capabilities combine with advanced finishing options for compelling business
communications. The KM-C3232 is one of a series of color MFPs designed to keep your business
color needs in-house and within budget. Optional Kyocera software solutions maximize your hardware
investment. It’s everything you need to keep your document communications secure, connected and
brilliantly productive. That’s the power of People Friendly. Learn more: www.kyoceramita.com
“#1 Copier/Multifunction Product in Overall
Customer Satisfaction Among Business Users”
– According to J.D. Power and Associates
Vibrant color. Superior functionality.
Must be one terrific MFP.
KYOCERA MITA CORPORATION. KYOCERA MITA AMERICA, INC. ©2006 Kyocera Mita Corporation. “People Friendly,” “The New Value Frontier,” the Kyocera “smile” and the Kyocera logo are trademarks of Kyocera.
J.D. Power and Associates 2005 Copier Customer Satisfaction Study
SM
. Study based on responses from 1,730 business decision makers. 16 major brands serving the U.S. market were included. www.jdpower.com
FI RST LOOKS
62 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
SOFTWARE
NETWORKING
GLIDE EFFORTLESS
APPS, PLEASE (HOLD THE OS)
IRELESS NETWORKS SUFFER FROM LIMITED
range, interference, security problems, and, at
distances, speed degradation. But wired sys-
tems have one obvious disadvantage: wires.
Manufacturers have tried to use household
wiring to carry network signals but with limited success. The
Netgear Powerline HDX101 may revive the technology, though.
This is the first such product I’ve seen that’s easy to set up
and fast. Using Ethernet cables, you connect each device on your
network to an HDX101 adapter that plugs into a nearby AC outlet.
That’s it. To increase security or set QoS (Quality of Service)
parameters, you can use a simple, well-documented PC utility.
The adapters must plug directly into outlets (a surge suppres-
sor or even a power strip quickly degrades the signal), so they
can block other devices from plugging in. The hardware costs
more than wireless equipment, too. But it works with any OS and
connects to almost anything that has an Ethernet port.
The 45-Mbps performance I got is better than with wireless
technologies when distances increase. Your mileage may vary,
depending on the condition of your wiring, but if you run into a
snag with wireless, I recommend this alternative.—Oliver Kaven
>> For more in-depth analysis: go.pcmag.com/powerlinehd
NETGEAR POWERLINE HD ETHERNET ADAPTER HDX101
A WIRED NETWORK—INSTANTLY
Netgear Powerline
HD Ethernet Adapter
HDX101
$110 street
l l l l m
PROS Easy setup and good
performance.
CONS Expensive. Wall-plug
design can block access to
other outlets.
Glide Effortless
300MB storage, free;
1GB, $4.95 monthly or
$49.95 yearly; 4GB,
$9.95 or $99.95
l l l l m
PROS Capable new
online word processor.
Mobile access. New tool
for syncing data with a
PC. Glide apps and data
are accessible anywhere.
CONS A bit unreliable
and buggy. Sign-up
requires credit card,
even for free version.
LIDE EFFORTLESS HINTS AT A FUTURE
in which we access apps and data via
browsers, and the OS loses supremacy.
Within Firefox or IE, this remarkable
Flash environment lets you store, use,
and share everything from music to documents.
This version nicely dovetails with Glide Mobile,
giving you access from Pocket PC devices running
Windows Mobile 5.0 (only the Treo 700w has of-
ficial support, though). You can browse and open
files—even videos—with amazing speed.
The new release adds capabilities beyond e-
mail, contact management, and the sharing of
photos, videos, and music. Glide Calendar lets you
track appointments and share them with other
users. Glide Sync lets you synchronize files of all
types across Glide, Glide Mobile, and your PC. The
most welcome addition, Glide Write, handles aver-
age Word docs well, although complex ones can
give it trouble.
The package is elegant but has rough edges. I es-
pecially question why you must give credit card info
when registering for the free version. Dialogs could
be better, and periods of inactivity cause trouble
with file access via Glide Mobile. I had similar prob-
lems with the Glide Effortless upload tool, but this
elegant app is well worth trying.—Cade Metz
>> For more in-depth analysis: go.pcmag.com/
glideeffortless
Unique menus
give you more
tool options each
time you click
Buy the two-adapter
kit—it's $21 less
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 63
DELL 1200MP PROJECTOR
FOCUS ON PRESENTATIONS
HE 19-INCH GATEWAY FPD1975W MAY NOT HAVE THE BELLS AND
whistles of higher-end LCD monitors, but its allure lies in its
reasonable price and in basic features that take care of every-
day business. Certain upgrades are available for this high-
resolution, widescreen panel, but they increase the price.
The monitor comes with a tilt-only stand and connectivity that is limited
to one DVI and one analog port. For an extra $69.99, you can buy a height-
adjustable stand that lets you tilt, swivel, and pivot the screen 90 degrees for
portrait viewing. The stand also includes a four-port USB 2.0 hub.
With a 16:10 aspect ratio and a 1,440- by 900-pixel resolution, the
FPD1975W supports the HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protec-
tion) protocol for displaying high-definition images through the DVI inter-
face. While watching a movie, I was impressed with the panel’s performance
for the most part, although I did notice occasional motion artifacts. There
was also evidence of ghosting during a round of Doom 3, but that’s to be
expected from a display with an 8-ms pixel response rate (black to white).
On a brighter note, the panel did an amazing job of displaying small fonts.
All told, the FPD1975W is a serviceable 19-inch widescreen model. For
the price, its basic features do the job.—John R. Delaney
>> For more in-depth analysis: go.pcmag.com/fpd1975w
GATEWAY FPD1975W
A JUST-SO LCD MONITOR
OTABLE AMONG PROJECTORS WITH AN
800-by-600 (SVGA) pixel resolution,
the DLP-based Dell 1200MP Projec-
tor offers an impressive package. The
easily portable system (weighing
just under 5 pounds and measuring 4 by 9.9 by 8.4
inches) is ideal for displaying simple Excel charts
or PowerPoint presentations.
I measured the 1200MP’s brightness at 1,850
lumens, which should easily display a reasonably
large image in typical ambient lighting. An excel-
lent contrast ratio of 339:1 ensures that colors pop
off the screen. The 1200MP also projects still images
without any visible jitter. The only issues were typi-
cal of a single-chip DLP projector: Yellow veered a
bit toward mustard, and there was a rainbow effect,
with white areas breaking up into red, green, and
blue when I shifted my gaze.
Gateway FPD1975W
$229.99 direct
l l l M m
PROSAffordable. Good
small-text reproduction.
CONS Weak grayscale
performance. Adjustable
stand costs extra. One-year
warranty.
Dell 1200MP
Projector
$699 direct
l l l l m
PROS Scores
well on bright-
ness, contrast
ratio, image
quality for pre-
sentations, and audio.
Reasonably portable.
CONS Image quality for
full-motion video is less
than ideal.
The 1200MP’s weakness is full-motion video.
Watching a DVD through an S-Video connection,
I found the image to be reasonably bright, with
acceptable flesh tones, but the colors were a little
punchy, and edges showed some rippling.
Despite the less-than-ideal quality of full-
motion video, the 1200MP offers the best value
and balance of features in its class. For brightness,
contrast, and image quality, it’s way ahead of the
competition.—M. David Stone
>> For more in-depth analysis: go.pcmag.com/
dell1200mp
Optional USB
speaker bar
Volume is strong
enough to fi ll a small
conference room
Good tactile
feedback—
fi rm control for
focus and zoom
FI RST LOOKS
64 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
SMALL BUSINESS
IOMEGA REV 70
BACKUP REVS UP
EED TO GET CONNECTED TO ANOTHER MACHINE OVER THE
Internet? Consider Hamachi, a zero-configuration virtual pri-
vate network (VPN) that runs as client and server software
on Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows 2000, XP, and 2003. It let
me create a network and connect Windows PCs to it no mat-
ter where they were as long as they had Internet access. Each node joins a
password-protected network mediated by a server that Hamachi runs.
My only installation difficulties came from personal firewalls I was run-
ning, not the VPN software, and Hamachi easily navigated multiple layers
of network address translation (NAT). I separated test machines with four
firewalls running NAT, but the utility easily added and connected every com-
puter to the VPN. I also connected a laptop over Verizon’s EV-DO service—
performance was painfully slow, though. Over non-cellular connections, the
VPN performed just fine, both with a single network and linked ones.
This is a good solution for those looking to connect to a remote machine
and transfer files. You can leave the software running on your home com-
puter, and access it from anywhere on the Internet for free. You can also
run a secure intranet—or any other application that can map a Windows
drive—over Hamachi. This is a handy free tool for creating VPNs quickly
and easily.—Matthew D. Sarrel
>> For more in-depth analysis: go.pcmag.com/hamachiwinbeta
HAMACHI FOR WINDOWS 1.0.0.61 (BETA)
FAST, FREE VPN CONNECTIONS
Hamachi for Windows
1.0.0.61 (beta)
Free for up to 16 member
networks. Premium version,
$4.95 and up monthly
l l l h m
PROS Easy to install, config-
ure, and use.
CONS Slow at times. Relies
on shared network password
instead of individual user
passwords.
Iomega Rev 70
External, $599.99 list
with one cartridge;
internal, $579.99; car-
tridges, $69; four-pack,
$249.99
l l l l h
PROS Small, fast, high-
density disks. Easy in-
stallation and operation.
Portability.
CONS Expensive com-
pared with hard drives.
No alternative suppliers
for cartridges. Retro-
spect backup software
uses proprietary format.
Hamachi's
zero-confi g
claim is no
hype
VERYBODY NEEDS TO BACK UP DATA,
and the Iomega Rev 70 can help. This
handy device uses single-platter remov-
able hard drive cartridges similar to
those of its predecessor, the Rev 35, but
doubles their capacity to 70GB. The backup drive
comes in a USB external or ATAPI internal config-
uration, and Iomega plans to have a SATA version
later this year.
The included EMC Retrospect Express software
took 34 minutes to transfer 10.4GB of files from my
IBM T42p laptop and another 30 minutes to com-
pare and verify them. When I tried several Rev 35
cartridges, the device read at full speed but wrote
much slower than with the 70GB media.
I appreciate being able to tuck the media away
off-site, the freedom to use separate cartridges to
back up other machines, and the software’s data
verification—but not Retrospect’s proprietary for-
mat. I want the ability to read individual files in a
backup instead of having to search for them using a
particular application, so I prefer solutions like the
freeware Cobian Backup.
The 70GB cartridges are slightly pricier than
their 35GB predecessors, but the drive lists for $200
more—a bit of sticker shock if you’re used to the
absurdly low cost of high-capacity hard drives. Still,
the Rev 70 is a price-performance winner compared
with tape backup.—Bill Machrone
>> For more in-depth analysis: go.pcmag.com/
iomegarev70
Removable
disk—see ya,
tape backup
J UMP TO NEXT PAGE >>
For the name of a reseller near you or further information, please call Acer
or visit our Web site: 800-571-2237 - www.acer.com/us
Acer recommends Windows
®
XP Professional.
September/
October 2006
• Intel
®
Centrino
®
Duo Mobile Technology
- Intel
®
Core

2 Duo Processor
- Mobile Intel
®
945PM Express chipset
- Intel
®
PRO/Wireless 3945ABG network connection
• Genuine Windows
®
XP Professional
• 2GB DDR2 533 SDRAM
• 160GB
1
hard drive
• Modular Blu-ray Disc

drive
• 5-in-1 card reader for optional MultiMediaCard

,
Secure Digital card, Memory Stick
®
, Memory Stick
PRO

or xD-Picture Card

• 15.4" WSXGA+ (1680 x 1050) TFT display
• ATI
®
Mobility

Radeon
®
X1600 graphics
• VVoIP via integrated camera
• 802.11a/b/g WLAN, Bluetooth
®
,
Bluetooth
®
VoIP phone, gigabit LAN,
V.92 modem
• One-year limited warranty
2
Acer TravelMate 8216WLHi
$2,999
INTEL
®
CORE

2 DUO PROCESSOR T7400
(4MB L2 CACHE, 2.16GHz, 667MHz FSB)
GENUINE WINDOWS
®
XP PROFESSIONAL
(LX.TEG06.038)
Enhanced Efficiency.
Secure Manageability.
The Acer TravelMate 8210 features the new, energy-efficient
Intel
®
Core

2 Duo Processor, providing improved
manageability, enhanced security and twice the power
to drive your business opportunities.
New
P
r
i
c
e
s
s
h
o
w
n
a
r
e
e
s
t
i
m
a
t
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d
s
t
r
e
e
t
p
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i
c
e
s
a
n
d
d
o
n
o
t
i
n
c
l
u
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t
a
x
o
r
s
h
i
p
p
i
n
g
.
R
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t
a
i
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o
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s
e
l
l
e
r
p
r
i
c
e
s
m
a
y
v
a
r
y
.
Acer
®
TravelMate
®
8210
Acer recommends Windows
®
XP Professional.
Acer
®
TravelMate
®
4670
• Intel
®
Centrino
®
Duo Mobile Technology
- Intel
®
Core

Duo Processor
- Mobile Intel
®
945 Express chipset
- Intel
®
PRO/Wireless 3945ABG network connection
• Genuine Windows
®
XP Professional
• 120GB
1
hard drive
• Modular Super-Multi drive
(DVD+R, DVD-R, DVD-RAM)
• 5-in-1 card reader for optional MultiMediaCard

,
Secure Digital card, Memory Stick
®
,
Memory Stick PRO

or xD-Picture Card

• 15.4" WXGA (1280 x 800) TFT display
• 802.11a/b/g WLAN, gigabit LAN, V.92 modem
• One-year limited warranty
2
Acer TravelMate 4674WLMi
$1,599
INTEL
®
CORE

DUO PROCESSOR T2500
(2MB L2 CACHE, 2GHz, 667MHz FSB)
GENUINE WINDOWS
®
XP PROFESSIONAL
2GB DDR2 533 SDRAM AND
ATI
®
MOBILITY

RADEON
®
X1600 GRAPHICS
(LX.TD706.032)
Acer TravelMate 4672WLMi
$1,129
INTEL
®
CORE

DUO PROCESSOR T2300
(2MB L2 CACHE, 1.66GHz, 667MHz FSB)
GENUINE WINDOWS
®
XP PROFESSIONAL
1GB DDR2 533 SDRAM AND
INTEL
®
GRAPHICS MEDIA ACCELERATOR 950
(LX.TB506.059)
New
For the name of a reseller near you or further information, please call Acer or visit our Web site:
800-571-2237 - www.acer.com/us
Prices shown are estimated street prices and do not include tax or shipping.
Retailer or reseller prices may vary.
Acer Technology
for Your Mobility
Acer SignalUp
This technology strategically postions two
PIFA antennas on the notebok's top panel
to generate an omni-directional signal
sphere for superior wireless reception.
Acer DASP+
To limit hard disk damage, Acer
has equipped select notebooks with
DASP+ technology, featuring:
• Acer GraviSense senses sudden
directional changes (such as a fall) and
automatically retracts the disk heads
to prevent surface damage
• Acer Anti-Theft alerts the owner if
the system is moved
• Acer Disk Anti-Shock Protection
safeguards the hard disk against
knocks and provides an unmatched
level of protection.
Acer GridVista
Easy-to-use software designed to
automatically split the screen in up
to four separate windows and make
the most of available screen space.
The one-plug Acer ezDock allows you to add or remove devices
instantly, without turning off your notebook computer. This compact
docking solution has 21 interface ports and two card slots.
Acer
®
ezDock Docking Station
$299
COMPATIBLE WITH THE TRAVELMATE 8210, 8200, 8100, 4670, 4650, 4400, 3010, 3000, C310, C200;
FERRARI 5000, 4000, 1000
(LC.D0103.004)
Desktop Replacement
Acer
®
Aspire
®
5630
• Intel
®
Centrino
®
Duo Mobile Technology
- Intel
®
Core

2 Duo Processor
- Mobile Intel
®
945GM Express chipset
- Intel
®
PRO/Wireless 3945ABG network connection
• Genuine Windows
®
XP Media Center Edition 2005
• 1GB DDR2 533 SDRAM
• 160GB
1
hard drive
• Integrated Super-Multi drive (DVD+R, DVD-R, DVD-RAM)
• 5-in-1 card reader for optional MultiMediaCard

,
Secure Digital card, Memory Stick
®
,
Memory Stick PRO

or xD-Picture Card

• 15.4" WXGA (1280 x 800),
Acer CrystalBrite Technology
• Intel
®
Graphics Media Accelerator 950
• VVoIP via integrated camera
• 802.11a/b/g WLAN, 10/100 LAN, V.92 modem
• One-year limited warranty
2
Acer’s all-in-one office solutions offer power,
security and flexibility comparable to a desktop
PC. Benefit from maximum productivity and
complete connectivity in a stylish, compact and
reliable notebook for the enterprise and
medium-size companies.
New
Acer Aspire 5633WLMi
$1,049
INTEL
®
CORE

2 DUO PROCESSOR T5500
(2MB L2 CACHE, 1.66GHZ, 667MHZ FSB)
GENUINE WINDOWS
®
XP MEDIA CENTER EDITION 2005
(LX.TEG06.038)
Acer Empowering Technology
One touch of the Empowering Key and you can easily take
control of your notebook's security, performance,
settings and communications.
Acer Flat Panels
Acer
®
TravelMate
®
2450
Acer TravelMate 2451WLMi
$669
INTEL
®
CELERON
®
M PROCESSOR 410
(1MB L2 CACHE, 1.46GHz, 533MHz FSB)
GENUINE WINDOWS
®
XP PROFESSIONAL
(LX.TCL06.063)
• Intel
®
Celeron
®
M Processor
• Genuine Windows
®
XP Professional
• 512MB DDR2 533 SDRAM
• 60GB
1
hard drive
• Integrated DVD-Dual drive (DVD+/-RW)
• 15.4" WXGA (1280 x 800) TFT display
• ATI
®
Radeon
®
Xpress 200M graphics
• 802.11b/g WLAN, 10/100 LAN, V.92 modem
• One-year limited warranty
2
Acer Empowering Technology
One touch of the Empowering Key
and you can easily take control of your
notebook's security, performance,
settings and communications.
If you’re a professional or running a small or
medium-size business, let Acer’s powerful and
efficient mobile solutions give you the freedom to
take your work on the road. Optimized for the
multitasking you do every day, these notebooks
deliver total connectivity and unbeatable value to
help drive your growing business.
Mobility at Work
Prices shown are estimated street prices and do not include tax or shipping.
Retailer or reseller prices may vary.
Acer recommends Windows
®
XP Professional.
• 24" wide-screen TFT LCD
• 1920 x 1200 native resolution
• 1000:1 contrast ratio
• 178°/178° horizontal/vertical
viewing angles
• VGA, DVI-D signal connectors
• 500 cd/m
2
brightness
• 6ms gray-to-gray response time
$699
(ET.L6102.018)
Acer
AL1916 Ab
• 19" TFT LCD
• 1280 x 1024 native resolution
• 700:1 contrast ratio
• 150°/135° horizontal/vertical
viewing angles
• VGA, DVI-D signal connectors
• 300 cd/m
2
brightness
• 2ms gray-to-gray response time
$229
(ET.1916B.0DF)
Acer
AL1916 Fbd
• 19" FT LCD
• 1280 x 1024 native resolution
• 700:1 contrast ratio
• 140°/140° horizontal/vertical
viewing angles
• VGA signal connector
• 300 cd/m
2
brightness
• 8ms response time
$225
(ET.1916B.008)
Acer
AL2416Wd
For the name of a reseller near you or further information, please call Acer or visit our Web site:
800-571-2237 - www.acer.com/us
Acer
®
TravelMate
®
4220
• Intel
®
Centrino
®
Duo Mobile Technology
- Intel
®
Core

Duo Processor
- Mobile Intel
®
945GM Express chipset
- Intel
®
PRO/Wireless 3945ABG network connection
• Genuine Windows
®
XP Professional
• Integrated Super-Multi drive (DVD+R, DVD-R, DVD-RAM)
• 5-in-1 card reader for optional MultiMediaCard

, Secure Digital card,
Memory Stick
®
, Memory Stick PRO

or xD-Picture Card

• 15.4" WXGA (1280 x 800) TFT display
• Intel
®
Graphics Media Accelerator 950
• 802.11a/b/g WLAN, 10/100 LAN, V.92 modem
• One-year limited warranty
2
Acer TravelMate 4222WLMi
$899
INTEL
®
CORE

DUO PROCESSOR T2300
(2MB L2 CACHE, 1.66GHz, 667MHz FSB)
GENUINE WINDOWS
®
XP PROFESSIONAL
1GB DDR2 533 SDRAM AND 120GB
1
HARD DRIVE
(LX.TCJ06.013)
Acer TravelMate 4220AWLMi
$799
INTEL
®
CORE

SOLO PROCESSOR T1350
(2MB L2 CACHE, 1.86GHz, 533MHz FSB)
GENUINE WINDOWS
®
XP PROFESSIONAL
512MB DDR2 533 SDRAM AND 100GB
1
HARD DRIVE
(LX.TCJ06.085)
New
Acer recommends Windows
®
XP Professional.
Display sold separately.
Acer
®
AcerPower

S285
• Intel
®
Pentium
®
D Processor
• Genuine Windows
®
XP Professional
• 1GB DDR SDRAM
• 120GB
1
SATA hard drive
• DVD-Dual drive (DVD+/-RW)
• SiS Mirage

graphics
• Gigabit LAN
• One-year limited warranty
2
Acer Veriton 2800
$689
INTEL
®
PENTIUM
®
D PROCESSOR 820
(2x1MB L2 CACHE, 2.80GHz, 800MHz FSB)
GENUINE WINDOWS
®
XP PROFESSIONAL
(VT2800-U-P8200)
Acer AcerPower S285
$599
INTEL
®
PENTIUM
®
D PROCESSOR 820
(2X1MB L2 CACHE, 2.80GHz, 800MHz FSB)
GENUINE WINDOWS
®
XP PROFESSIONAL
(APS285-U-P8201)
Acer Flat Panels
• 17" FT LCD
• 1280 x 1024 native resolution
• 500:1 contrast ratio
• 140°/140° horizontal/vertical
viewing angles
• VGA signal connector
• 270 cd/m
2
brightness
• 8ms response time
$189
(ET.1706B.008)
Acer
AL1706 Ab
Acer
AL1717 Bbmd
Prices shown are estimated street prices and do not include tax or shipping.
Retailer or reseller prices may vary.
• 17" FT LCD
• 1280 x 1024 native resolution
• 700:1 contrast ratio
• 150°/135° horizontal/vertical
viewing angles
• Two 1.0W integrated speakers
• VGA, DVI-D signal connectors
• 300 cd/m
2
brightness
• 8ms response time
$199
(ET.1717B.MD8)
Acer
®
Veriton
®
2800
• Intel
®
Pentium
®
D Processor
• Genuine Windows
®
XP Professional
• 512MB DDR2 533 SDRAM
• 80GB
1
SATA hard drive, 7200RPM
• CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive
• Intel
®
Graphics Media Accelerator 950
• Gigabit LAN
• Three-year limited warranty
2
Display sold separately.
• 19" wide-screen TFT LCD
• 1440 x 900 native resolution
• 700:1 contrast ratio
• 150°/135° horizontal/vertical
viewing angles
• VGA signal connector
• 300 cd/m
2
brightness
• 5ms response time
$195
(ET.1916B.W08)
Acer
AL1916W Ab
For the name of a reseller near you or further information, please call Acer or visit our Web site:
800-571-2237 - www.acer.com/us
Acer
®
Veriton
®
6800
• Intel
®
Pentium
®
D Processor
• Genuine Windows
®
XP Professional
• DVD-Dual Drive (DVD+/-RW)
• Intel
®
Graphics Media Accelerator 950
• Gigabit LAN
• Three-year limited warranty
2
Acer Veriton 6800
$949
INTEL
®
PENTIUM
®
D PROCESSOR 945
(2x2MB L2 CACHE, 3.40GHz, 800MHz FSB)
GENUINE WINDOWS
®
XP PROFESSIONAL
2GB DDR2 533 SDRAM AND
250GB
1
SATA HARD DRIVE, 7200RPM
(VT6800-U-P9451)
Acer Veriton 6800
$799
INTEL
®
PENTIUM
®
D PROCESSOR 945
(2x2MB L2 CACHE, 3.40GHz, 800MHz FSB)
GENUINE WINDOWS
®
XP PROFESSIONAL
1GB DDR2 533 SDRAM AND
160GB
1
SATA HARD DRIVE, 7200RPM
(VT6800-U-P9450)
Acer Veriton 6800
$689
INTEL
®
PENTIUM
®
D PROCESSOR 820
(2x1MB L2 CACHE, 2.80GHz, 800MHz FSB)
GENUINE WINDOWS
®
XP PROFESSIONAL
512MB DDR2 533 SDRAM AND
160GB
1
SATA HARD DRIVE, 7200RPM
(VT6800-U-P8200 )
Display sold separately.
For the name of a reseller near you or further information, please call Acer or visit our Web site:
800-571-2237 - www.acer.com/us
Acer Notebook Service Upgrades Protect Your Valuable Investment
Quality is built into every notebook PC Acer makes, and each comes with a one-year standard
limited warranty.
2
It includes hardware technical support via toll-free phone plus a concurrent
International Traveler’s Warranty for travel outside the U.S. and Canada. Extra protection is
available with one of these upgrades:
2-Year Extension of Limited Warranty (146.AB820.EX2)
$99
Prepays freight to and from Acer repair depot.
Excludes extension of International Traveler's Warranty.
It’s a tough world out there, and accidents do happen—sticky spills, dangerous drops, nasty
knocks—which is why you should consider the Total Protection Upgrade. It runs concurrently with
the limited warranty
2
and limited warranty extension and covers the cost of a replacement unit
if your covered notebook cannot be repaired.
2-Year Extension of Limited Warranty + 3-Year Total Protection Upgrade (146.AD077.002)
$199
Prepays freight to and from Acer repair depot.
Excludes extension of International Traveler's Warranty.
©2006 Acer America Corporation. Information and prices are subject to change without notice. Pricing is effective fromSeptember 17, 2006 through October 31, 2006. Product images are
representations of some of the models available and may vary fromthe model you purchase. Acer, TravelMate and Veriton are registered trademarks and AcerPower a trademark of Acer
Inc. Aspire is a trademark of Acer America Corporation. Celeron, Celeron Inside, Centrino, Centrino Logo, Core Inside, Intel, Intel Logo, Intel Core, Intel Inside, Intel Inside Logo, Intel Viiv,
Intel vPro, Itanium, ItaniumInside, Pentium, PentiumInside, Xeon, and Xeon Inside are trademarks or registered trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the United States and
other countries. Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others. Microsoft and Windows are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the
United States and/or other countries.
1
When referring to storage capacity, GB stands for one billion bytes and MB stands for one million bytes. Some utilities may indicate varying storage capacities. Total user-accessible
capacity may vary depending on operating environments.
2
For a free copy of the standard limited warranty end-users should see a reseller where Acer products are sold or write to Acer America Corporation, Warranty Department,
P.O. Box 6137, Temple, TX 76503.
Prices shown are estimated street prices and do not include tax or shipping. Retailer or reseller prices may vary.
Acer Aspire 9805WKHi
$2,799
INTEL
®
CORE

DUO PROCESSOR T2600
(2MB L2 CACHE, 2.16GHz, 667MHz FSB)
GENUINE WINDOWS
®
XP MEDIA CENTER EDITION 2005
(LX.AAM0J.017)
Acer
®
Aspire
®
9800
• Intel
®
Centrino
®
Duo Mobile Technology
- Intel
®
Core

Duo Processor
- Mobile Intel
®
945PM Express chipset
- Intel
®
PRO/Wireless 3945ABG network connection
• Genuine Windows
®
XP Media Center Edition 2005
• 2GB DDR2 667 SDRAM
• 240GB
1
hard drive
• Modular HD DVD-ROM drive
• 5-in-1 card reader for optional MultiMediaCard

,
Secure Digital card, Memory Stick
®
, Memory Stick PRO

or xD-Picture Card

• 20.1" WSXGA+ (1680 x 1050) TFT display,
Acer CrystalBrite Technology
• NVIDIA
®
GeForce
®
Go 7600 graphics
• VVoIP via integrated camera
• 802.11a/b/g WLAN, Bluetooth
®
, gigabit LAN, V.92 modem
• One-year limited warranty
2
Acer recommends Windows
®
XP Media Center Edition.
Home
Entertainment
A remarkable solution for stunning mobile
multimedia entertainment. Cutting-edge
technology combined with the Acer
CrystalBrite screen, powerful graphics and
complete connectivity make this the ideal
choice for no-compromise entertainment
all around your home.
w
w
w
.
p
l
e
a
s
i
n
g
.
i
t
-
A
D
V
THE BEST STUFF
EDITORS’ CHOICES IN KEY CATEGORIES
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 73
PORTABLE MINI
HARD DRIVE
Seagate ST9160821U2-
RK External 160GB
Hard Drive
Massive storage capac-
ity. Dual-head cable.
Works with current
Mac and Windows OSs.
$130 street
Seagate Technology
LLC
go.pcmag.com/
seagate160
SUPERZOOM
DIGITAL CAMERA
Panasonic Lumix
DMC-FZ7
12X optical zoom.
Good image stabiliza-
tion. Decent video.
Very inexpensive for a
superzoom.
$399.95 direct
Panasonic Corp. of
America
go.pcmag.com/
lumixDMCFZ7
MORE ON THE WEB
We’ve got 87 Product
Guides and thousands
of up-to-date reviews on
the Web. See them all at
go.pcmag.com/guides
CAMCORDER (HD)
Sony HDR-HC3 HDV
1080i Handycam
Incredible video
quality. Excellent
sound. Performs well
in extreme lighting
scenarios.
$1,499.99 direct
Sony Electronics Inc.
go.pcmag.com/hc3
HDTVS
Sharp Aquos
LC-32D40U
Stylish. Stunning color
quality. Realistic pic-
ture. Lots of ports.
$1,599.99 list
Sharp Electronics
Corp.
go.pcmag.com/
32d40u
CELL PHONES
Chocolate By LG/LG
VX8500
Beautiful. Stereo Blue-
tooth. MP3 support.
$149.99 to $249.99
direct
LG Electronics
go.pcmag.com/
chocolate
LAPTOP
Dell XPS M1710
(Intel Core 2 Duo)
Outstanding perfor-
mance. Integrated
802.11n wireless.
Improved gaming
capability.
$2,845
Dell Inc.
go.pcmag.com/
dellm1710
PERSONAL FINANCE
(BASIC)
Quicken Basic 2007
Excellent tools. Easy
setup. Terrific interface.
Inexpensive.
$29.95 direct
Intuit Inc.
go.pcmag.com/
quickenbasic07
iPOD DOCK
Soundcast iCast
Immune to interfer-
ence. Excellent sound
quality. Easy to set up
and operate.
$299.99 list
Soundcast Systems
go.pcmag.com/icast
SPEECH
RECOGNITION
Dragon Naturally-
Speaking 9.0
Professional
Impressively accurate
speech recognition
without training. Even
better with training.
$899 direct (other edi-
tions, $99 and up)
Nuance Communica-
tions Inc.
go.pcmag.com/DNS9
COLOR LASER
PRINTER
HP Color LaserJet
1600
SOHO-perfect. Great
color laser quality. Fast.
Low price.
$299.99 list
Hewlett-Packard
Development Co.
go.pcmag.com/hp1600
DESKTOP
Gateway Profile 6 SB
All-in-one space-
saving design. Dual-
core performance. TPM
and other business-
related security
features. Room for
expansion. Easy-
to-service chassis.
$1,049.99 direct
Gateway Inc.
go.pcmag.com/
gateway6sb
SECURITY SUITE
Zone Alarm Security
Suite 6.5
Our favorite firewall.
Decent antivirus. New
ID theft prevention/
recovery resources.
$69.95 direct
Zone Labs LLC
go.pcmag.com/zass65
ANTISPYWARE
Spy Sweeper 5.0
Streamlined UI. Fewer
annoying pop-ups.
Improved rootkit and
keylogger protection.
$29.95 direct
Webroot Software Inc.
go.pcmag.com/
spysweeper5
Spyware Doctor 4.0
Removed nearly every-
thing we threw at it.
Status page clearer to
use. Multiple “guards”
keep spyware off your
clean system. Protects
itself against direct
attacks.
$29.95 direct
PC Tools
go.pcmag.com/
spywaredoctor4
High standards. Remarkable performance.
The Xerox DocuMate 152 scanner, winner of
PC Magazine's Editors’ Choice Award is the
ultimate office productivity tool. Convert docu-
ments into PDF, TIF, JPG, BMP or most other
major file formats with One Touch. Drop in an
original. Push a button. It’s that easy! The
DocuMate 152 also features One Touch scanning
that allows you to scan-to print, -to- e-mail, or -to-
storage, and then share documents while offer-
ing the highest level of image quality and OCR
accuracy. The scanner offers nearly $400 in
bundled software including ScanSoft PaperPort,
OmniPage Pro, business card scanning software,
and X1 Desktop Search. Control of your paper
documents is one button away!
The Xerox DocuMate 152 scans at 30 images per minute
and creates searchable PDFs with the touch of a button.
Put information you need right at your finger tips for under $600.
There’s a new way to look at it.
Learn more: xeroxscanners.com/pcm10a
© 2006 XEROX CORPORATION. All rights reserved. Xerox, DocuMate and There’s a new way to look at it are registered trademarks of Xerox Corporation in the United States and other countries and are used under license. All other trademarks are the
property of their respective owners and are hereby acknowledged.
®
®

Y SON AND I HAVE BEEN
talking about person-
alizing computers—
adapting them to our
hobbies and interests.
We have a lot of music
gear between us, and
right now a Toshiba
Qosmio is poised above the synthesizer keyboard.
It’s a pretty good shot at being an all-around digital
media workstation, equally competent at both audio
and video. I’d love to have the dual-core version and
another gig of RAM, which would help for video
editing. He’d like more disk space for big video files.
I suppose, in time, we’ll both have what we want—
because mix-and-match personalization, formerly
the sole province of desktop/tower machines, is
now an integral part of the notebook market.
A tower machine can kick the stuffing out of
most any notebook in sheer performance, but it
lacks the portability and silent operation, not to
mention the built-in uninterruptible power sup-
ply. There are some very quiet tower machines and
cases, but they’re big and bulky, not really suitable
to my lifestyle. Just in this past week, I’ve moved
that Qosmio around incessantly. From its usual lo-
cation, on the rack over the synthesizer, I edited a
slide show for church. I brought it to the basement,
where I was testing the frequency response of an
upgraded output transformer in a guitar amp that
I was modding. Then it was up to the family room,
where I was testing some new monitor speakers.
The speakers in question are the JBL LSR4326P
studio monitors, the most technologically sophis-
ticated speakers I’ve ever worked with. (Studio
monitors are speakers used by audio engineers
and musicians to monitor sound while they’re re-
cording, but they’re good for anyone who enjoys
hearing nuances. They’re bi-amplified two-way
speakers, intended for near-and mid-field listening.
They come with a measurement microphone and
have onboard hardware and software so that you
can adjust them to the room’s acoustics. Unless a
room has nonreflective panels, nonparallel walls,
and similar acoustic treatments, it has a natural
resonant tone or two, somewhere in the bass range.
These resonances, or room modes, can make bass
notes sound unnaturally heavy. If you’re listening,
the tone is muddy. If you’re mixing, you’ll tend to
Spectacular Speakers
The new JBL computer speakers I tested
are the most technologically sophisticated
speakers I’ve ever worked with.
MORE MACHRONE
You can contact
Bill Machrone at
Bill_Machrone
@ziffdavis.com
For more of his columns,
go to go.pcmag.com/
machrone
de-emphasize the bass, which will make it sound
thin in a different acoustic environment.
The JBLs implement HiQnet, an Ethernet-based
protocol. The speakers communicate with one
another, as well as with HiQnet-equipped studio
consoles, amplifiers, and even wireless microphones.
You connect the speakers to your PC through a USB
cable. With JBL’s software, you can initiate and
monitor the room-mode correction (RMC) process,
manage the configuration of additional surround
speakers, and fine-tune the frequency response with
parametric low- and high-frequency equalization
controls. The software displays the frequency and
amount of room-mode correction.
I positioned the Qosmio and the measurement
mic at my listening position and started the RMC
sequence. The speakers emitted several fast sweep
tones, lights on their front panels flashed, and the
equalization was done. The JBLs had found the same
bump at 50 Hz that I had found with my test tones
and spectrum analyzer. I played one of my favorite
test tracks, Karrin Allyson’s “Robert Frost,” which
has a prominent bass line. I switched RMC on and
off from the Qosmio, and the difference was marked.
It took less than a minute to make the necessary
adjustments, as opposed to the hour or more I had
spent tuning my old surround decoder/equalizer.
I compared the JBLs with two other studio mon-
itor systems—the highly regarded NHTpro M-00
and S-00 monitors and subwoofer, and an M-Audio
Studiophile LX4 three-piece system. The two-way
JBLs stayed right with the subwoofer-equipped
systems in bass performance, but few monitors can
touch the NHTpros for creating a laser-sharp ste-
reo image from their aggressive tweeters. They’re
a hair’s breadth away from harsh, but they reveal
every nuance in a mix. I should mention that the
JBLs’ street price is around $1,200; the three NHT-
pro pieces will set you back about $1,000; and the
LX4 setup is under $300. The LX4s can’t quite
match the effortless power and crisp imaging of the
others, but they’re amazingly good for the price.
BI LL MACHRONE
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 75
BUILT-IN MODULAR BAY add a weight-saver,
media drive or 2nd battery
SUPERIOR CONNECTIVITY Wi-Fi, Gigabit Ethernet,
modem and optional Bluetooth 2.0
DUAL-FUNCTIONALITY
it’s a notebook and a Tablet PC
© 2006 Fujitsu Computer Systems Corporation. All rights reserved. Fujitsu, the Fujitsu logo and LifeBook are registered trademarks of Fujitsu Limited. Centrino, Centrino Logo, Intel, Intel Logo, Intel Inside
and Intel Inside Logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the United States and other countries. Microsoft and Windows are registered trademarks of Microsoft
Corporation. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
The Fujitsu LifeBook T4200 Tablet PC with Intel
®
Centrino
®
Duo Mobile Technology proves just how far Fujitsu
will go to deliver the most reliable products. It’s manufactured in-house so we can maintain the highest quality
standards. The Fujitsu LifeBook T4200 Tablet PC also features the industry’s first bi-directional LCD hinge and a
brilliant, 12.1" XGA display with wide viewing angles, so it’s impressive any way you look at it. And whether you
use its keyboard or powerful inking capabilities and pen-driven navigation, you get the best of both worlds.
Go to us.fujitsu.com/computers/reliability for more information.
Taking Tablet PC reliability to the
ends of the earth. And beyond.
The LifeBook
®
T4200 Tablet PC takes reliability and convertibility
farther than ever before.
Fujitsu recommends
Windows
®
XP Tablet
PC Edition.
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 77
MI CHAEL J. MI LLER
My biggest concern is with applications
and drivers whose current versions just
don’t work with Vista.
S I WRITE THIS, I’VE JUST BEGUN
using release candidate 1 of
Windows Vista and the beta 2
technical refresh of Microsoft
Office 2007. These are versions
that, though they aren’t quite
ready for shipment, are good
enough that Microsoft is try-
ing to get them into the hands of lots of testers. In
fact, the company expects to get out over six million
copies of Vista RC1 in the next few months, leading
up to shipping the final version to large companies
in November and to the rest of us in late January.
Lots of questions remain for Microsoft, for sys-
tem makers, and for those of us who have to decide
whether to upgrade to the new operating system.
How stable and compatible will Vista be? My
biggest concern is with applications and drivers
that just don’t work with the new OS. Some pro-
grams, such as communications and security pack-
ages, will clearly need new versions. Though Vista
RC1 appears to be more stable, I’ve still run into a
few issues and have therefore concluded it’s too
early to make a judgment.
How well will Vista and Office perform? The lat-
est builds are clearly faster, and Microsoft continues
to make improvements. On a machine with a mod-
ern processor and 1GB of memory, the combination
seems to work pretty well. But I’m not so sure about
the performance of Vista and Office, particularly on
machines with 512MB of memory or less.
The manufacturers of computer systems also
face some unknowns at this point.
Which version of Vista will customers buy? Re-
tail computer vendors have to decide which ver-
sion to preinstall. Although Microsoft says users
can upgrade, most people won’t do that. The low-
end version, called Home Basic, will be in the least-
expensive models, but most PC Magazine readers—
and most U.S. consumers—will likely opt for Home
Premium, which has the new graphics, Media Cen-
ter, and Tablet PC functions. Small businesses will
probably choose Vista Business, and big companies
will get Vista Enterprise.
Most consumers won’t have a choice between
Vista and Windows XP; Vista will be on all retail
computers the day it ships. Direct customers will be
able to choose between Vista and Win XP. I expect
small businesses to choose Vista and big businesses
to continue to buy Win XP. Such businesses typi-
cally wait for the first service pack to upgrade.
32-bit or 64-bit? For the next year or two, I ex-
pect nearly every system maker to choose the 32-bit
version because it provides better support for legacy
devices. Only those systems with very large memory
requirements really need 64 bits right now.
Who will upgrade to Ultimate? This is a special
upgrade that combines the features of the business
and the Home Premium versions. You’ll be able to
upgrade without installing a new OS. But so far, it’s
unclear what you’ll get from such an upgrade.
Peripheral support is also an interesting ques-
tion, as the OS will come with a variety of features
that are enabled only as you add special hardware:
Tuner or no tuner? Home Premium has all the
features of Media Center Edition. Most machines
will ship without a TV tuner, but adding one and
getting the TV features will be easier.
Tablet or no tablet? With Vista Premium or
above, you plug in a tablet PC to get all the features
of the tablet, including improved handwriting rec-
ognition and gesture support.
Some questions won’t be answered until after
the OS is out and people get to use it.
How secure will Vista be? Microsoft is address-
ing security in several ways, including forcing peo-
ple to accept system changes. But no OS that allows
users to install applications can be totally secure.
How cool will Vista games be? The best games
we’ve seen so far are simulated demos that use Vis-
ta’s Direct X 10 graphics, but no hardware supports
it yet. For the first year or two, most games will be
designed for older hardware and XP. It’ll take a while
to see if Windows games can make a difference in a
world dominated by the Xbox and PlayStation.
The big question is: Will Vista really matter
now that more applications are appearing on the
Internet? Vista may herald the development of
more appli cations that have both online and offline
modes. The next few months promise to be interest-
ing, as Vista is finally moving toward completion.
Vista’s Unknowns
MORE MILLER ONLINE
Read Michael J.
Miller’s insights daily
on his blog, at
blog.pcmag.com/miller
WANT MORE
DVORAK?
John writes a weekly
column for our Web
site, too.
go.pcmag.com/dvorak
You can e-mail him at
pcmag@dvorak.org
I NSI DE TRACK
BY JOHN C. DVORAK
78 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
and scanner I’ve ever used. My advice: Go out
and buy one. It even scans slides with incredible
accuracy, typically producing a 7,200-by-4,725
image. With a slide-in tray to hold discs, it can
label or decorate those now-popular printable
CDs and DVDs, making your collection slick-
looking and without a lot of stick-on labels. And
it’s also a great high-res photo printer. What also
impressed me a lot was the setup. It’s brain-dead
easy. Flawless. This is one incredible personal
printer. A model of perfection. Do I sound enthu-
siastic enough?
What’s Wrong with the Batteries Dept.:
Appar ently, the millions of faulty batteries Sony
shipped to Dell and Apple will be recalled. If
you have a Dell or an Apple laptop, please get
these dangerous batteries replaced. They could
ignite just sitting there. A bigger question to me,
though, is exactly how long these batteries have
been in the wild. I wonder, because almost a year
ago a friend of my son’s had a Dell laptop battery
blow up in his dorm room. This was long before
the problem was identified. He was thrown out
of the dorm, as nobody believed his story that he
didn’t do anything. I wonder how many other odd
mishaps went unreported.
Interesting Study Dept.: EETimes.com recent-
ly did a study of American versus Indian engi-
neers. In the summary, it states that there is an
interesting contrast “between go-getter engineers
in India and today’s typical U.S. engineer, who
is older, better compensated, and generally more
complacent.” I thought this was a somewhat dis-
ingenuous summary, because the results—the
way I read them—actually said that American
engineers are simply happier in their respective
companies than Indians, who feel they are getting
gypped. I suppose this means complacent, but
it seems more like an indication that American
firms are better to work for. It’s no coincidence
that many Indians are here in the U.S., happily
working in American companies. Are they there-
fore complacent? I just think that complacent is
the wrong word to use.
Untold Story Worth Telling Dept.: At the most
recent LinuxWorld meetings in San Francisco, IBM
went on and on about how it’s going to push even
more forcefully into the open-source game, saying
that its impact over the next few years will be more
significant than over the past 15 years. I have this
theory that open-source is unlike closed-source in
that it gains momentum over time, while closed-
source loses momentum over time. Apparently,
IBM thinks that time has come. Yikes.

ATCHI NG THI NGS
Fal l Apart Dept. :
Video on the Web
has f i nal ly found
itself after years of
struggle. The model
is simple and easy;
just look at YouTube
.com and you’ll see it. Flash animation. It’s ubiqui-
tous, it’s universal, and it works everywhere except
among the stubborn few who “hate Flash” only
because it is used in certain obnoxious advertising
campaigns.
The alternatives to Flash movies are grim and
inadequate. Certain sites use proprietary players.
They work when they work, but who needs the
aggravation? There are WMV players or streams
that open up a Windows media player. The
old RealPlayer also requires itself to be loaded
and opened. And the Apple QuickTime player
constantly asks you if you want to upgrade.
Upgrade? Why?
Unless your system is virgin, you can get
numer ous annoying error messages, download
requests, or failures from WMV content as well
as RealNetworks stuff. (At least the Apple player
always works.) Worse, with RealNetworks, old
players overwrite new ones, and the whole thing
fails. You can end up with a mess of players
on the system, none of which work right. I’m
amused at how the Windows player refuses to
play certain AVI files, saying that it cannot find
the codec, while curiously, it played them fine
the year before.
As far as I’m concerned, unless you’re stream-
ing hi-def content to the TV over the network so
that you can watch IPTV shows, anything you
play on your computer should be Flash and only
Flash. The alternatives are painful, flaky, and most
important, unnecessary.
Genuinely Interesting Hardware Dept.: Okay,
I haven’t plugged a printer recently, but now I
must. I am incredibly impressed with the Epson
Stylus RX700. This little sub-$400 six-color ink
jet device is the best all-in-one printer, copier,
Unless you’re streaming hi-def content to the
TV over the network so that you can watch
IPTV shows, anything you play on your

computer should be Flash and only Flash.
The best ISPs aren’t necessarily the fastest ISPs.
At least, that’s what our readers say. Two months
before PC Magazine readers rated their ISPs for our
Reader Satisfaction survey, we asked them to run a
software utility that would actually test the speed of
their broadband connections (“Find the Fastest ISP,”
August 22 issue), and the results don’t always match
the survey’s. AT&T receives one of the lowest DSL
scores on our survey—even though the utility test puts
it among the fastest services. Meanwhile, EarthLink’s
cable service receives one the highest reader satisfac-
tion scores for speed, even though tests show that its
speed is average at best. Tests can tell you something
about a service, but not everything.
BETTER VS. FASTER
SURFSPEED UTILITY
(Kbps)
OVERALL READER
SATISFACTION SCORE
CABLE
Optimum Online 235 8.0 a
Cox 210 7.7 a
Comcast 206 7.1 d
Road Runner 198 7.7 a
Adelphia 191 6.9 d
EarthLink 190 8.1 a
Charter 178 6.9 d
Insight Broadband 177 7.1 c
Mediacom Online 149 7.0 c
DSL
AT&T Yahoo! 195 7.2 d
BellSouth 171 7.6 b
Verizon 165 7.4
EarthLink 129 7.4
Qwest 109 7.2

ISPs

Cell Phones &
Service Providers

Satellite Radio

VoIP

Digital Cameras

HDTV

MP3 Players

Network Routers
ISPs
80 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
BY CADE METZ
Last month you told us all about your
desktops, notebooks, and printers.
Now you tell us about everything else.
THIS YEAR WE treat Internet service providers a little differ-
ently. Rather than lumping all providers together, we separate
these ISPs by technology: cable, DSL, fiber, satellite, dial-up.
Among cable providers, the Readers’ Choices are WOW!
Internet, which offers its services in the parts of the Midwest,
and EarthLink, available in various states around the coun-
try—with an honorable mention for Central Florida–based
Bright House. Each receives an overall score of at least 8 out
of a possible 10—significantly better than average. Meanwhile,
Adelphia and Charter bring up the rear, with overall scores of
6.9 out of 10—significantly worse than average.
DSL isn’t as localized, and some services are available nation-
wide. The best provider this year is one of the smallest: Speak-
ERE’S PART 2 OF OUR ANNUAL READER SATISFACTION SURVEY. YOU—
the die-hard PC Magazine subscriber and PCMag.com member
—share your experiences with several thousand digital cameras,
cell phones, cell-phone services, VoIP services, HDTVs, satellite
radio services, Internet Service Providers, network routers, and
MP3 players. If it’s a digital must-have, you rate it—and the company that sells it.
How reliable is it? Is tech support up to snuff when things go wrong? Would you
buy it again? It’s all here, and quite a read, if we do say so ourselves.
easy was head and shoulders above the competition. It wins a
Readers’ Choice with the category’s only significantly above-
average overall score (8.6). BellSouth gets an honorable mention
with a better-than-average 7.6, and AT&T (including SBC Ya-
hoo!) tanked, with a significantly worse-than-average 7.2.
Verizon is the only vendor with enough responses in the
high-speed fiber category, but its overall score of 8.5 is quite
good, and its 9.1 for satisfaction with speed comfortably tops
every other ISP’s. For satellite, HughesNet (formerly Direc-
Way) is the only company with enough responses to be includ-
ed here, but its overall satisfaction score is so low (5.4) that we
can’t award it a Readers’ Choice. Heck, people who have stayed
with dial-up (here, EarthLink is king) are more satisfied.
a Significantly better
than average
b Better than average
Within the average
range
c Worse than average
d Significantly worse
than average
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CABLE
WOW! Internet (104 responses) 8.2 a 8.2 b 7.0 a 8.3 b 8.2 a 7.9 7.8 a 7.0 26% — 8.4 a
EarthLink (353) 8.1 a 8.2 a 6.0 a 8.1 b 8.2 a 7.9 b 7.4 b 6.5 15% a 6.6 8.0 a
Bright House (320) 8.0 a 8.2 a 5.6 b 8.3 a 8.0 a 7.8 b 7.6 a 6.8 32% c 6.9 8.0 a
Optimum Online (782) 8.0 a 8.1 a 4.8 d 8.4 a 8.1 a 7.5 7.0 6.6 21% b 7.0 b 7.8 a
Cox (1,477) 7.7 a 7.8 5.4 b 8.1 a 7.7 a 7.6 7.2 a 6.6 25% 6.7 b 7.8 a
Road Runner (2,356) 7.7 a 7.9 a 5.0 d 8.1 a 7.7 a 7.6 7.0 b 6.6 30% d 6.7 b 7.7 a
RCN (120) 7.5 7.7 5.7 b 7.9 7.6 7.4 6.8 6.5 20% — 7.6
Cable One (141) 7.3 8.0 5.3 7.8 7.0 c 7.5 7.2 7.0 b 20% — 7.3
AOL (102) 7.1 7.5 5.5 7.1 c 7.0 7.9 6.4 c — 6% a — 6.9 c
Comcast (4,806) 7.1 d 7.3 d 4.2 d 8.0 b 7.2 d 7.4 d 6.5 d 6.0 d 30% d 6.1 d 7.1 d
Insight Broadband (103) 7.1 c 7.2 c 5.4 7.9 6.9 c 7.1 6.8 6.1 30% — 7.4
Mediacom Online (241) 7.0 c 7.2 c 4.6 d 7.5 c 6.9 c 7.7 6.3 c 6.2 34% c 6.2 7.1 c
Adelphia (830) 6.9 d 7.5 c 4.5 d 7.5 d 6.9 d 7.0 d 6.5 d 6.2 c 27% 6.2 6.6 d
Charter (1,096) 6.9 d 7.5 c 4.8 d 7.4 d 6.9 d 7.2 c 6.3 d 5.9 d 27% 5.8 d 6.8 d
AVERAGE 7.5 7.7 5.3 7.9 7.5 7.5 6.9 6.5 24% 6.5 7.5
DSL
Speakeasy (61 responses) 8.6 a 8.4 b 5.2 8.1 b 8.9 a — 8.6 a — 10% — 8.0 b
BellSouth (911) 7.6 b 7.6 b 5.9 b 7.4 b 7.8 b 7.8 a 7.1 6.4 16% c 6.8 7.5 a
Alltel (132) 7.4 7.4 6.1 7.2 7.5 7.6 7.2 7.1 b 13% — 7.3
EarthLink (388) 7.4 7.5 5.3 c 7.1 7.5 7.7 7.0 5.3 d 7% a — 6.9 c
Verizon (1,572) 7.4 7.3 c 6.5 a 7.1 7.7 7.3 c 6.9 c 6.1 10% a 6.5 7.6 a
MSN (84) 7.3 7.4 6.2 7.3 7.6 7.5 6.7 — 8% — 7.1
AT&T** (2,171) 7.2 d 7.2 d 6.4 a 7.0 d 7.5 c 7.5 6.5 d 5.8 d 13% 6.4 7.2
FrontierNet (94) 7.2 7.6 5.5 6.8 7.3 7.4 6.9 6.4 27% c — 6.8
Qwest (431) 7.2 7.3 5.9 7.0 c 7.5 7.0 c 6.9 6.6 14% 7.1 7.2
Sprint (142) 7.1 7.2 5.2 c 7.1 7.4 7.5 6.8 6.4 15% — 7.1
AOL (89) 7.0 7.6 5.5 7.3 7.5 7.9 b 7.0 — 4% b — 6.9
CenturyTel (94) 7.0 7.1 5.4 7.1 7.4 6.9 7.0 6.5 21% — 7.1
AVERAGE 7.4 7.5 5.8 7.2 7.6 7.5 7.0 6.3 13% 6.7 7.2
FIBER
Verizon (270 responses) 8.5 8.4 7.3 9.1 8.9 8.0 7.8 7.1 11% — 8.9
SATELLITE
HughesNet (124 responses) 5.4 6.2 3.3 5 5.4 6.2 5.2 4.5 17% — 5.0
DIAL-UP
EarthLink (136 responses) 7.3 a 7.8 b 5.9 c 5.7 b 7.8 a 7.9 b 7.3 b 6.1 1% — 7.1 b
MSN (78) 7.0 b 7.2 5.9 5.4 7.2 7.6 6.9 — 0% a — 7.1
NetZero (59) 6.4 7.6 7.8 a 5.3 7.0 7.0 — — 2% — 6.8
AT&T** (76) 6.3 7.1 6.2 4.7 6.9 7.3 6.2 — 3% — 6.5
PeoplePC Online (53) 6.3 6.9 7.6 a 5.2 6.8 — — — 2% — 6.7
AOL (16) 5.8 d 7.1 4.6 d 4.4 c 6.1 d 7.2 5.8 c 5.2 2% — 5.7 d
AVERAGE 6.5 7.3 6.4 5.1 7.0 7.4 6.6 5.6 1% — 6.7
* The overall score is based on answers to the question “Overall, how would you rate this Internet service provider?” It is not the average of the other scores
in this table. ** Including SBC Yahoo!
CABLE: WOW! INTER-
NET, EARTHLINK
WOW! scores highest.
But you can’t get its
service unless you live
in certain parts of the
Midwest. And EarthLink,
available in various
states across the coun-
try, is only just behind.
DSL: SPEAKEASY
It’s a small company,
but readers love
Speakeasy. No other
DSL vendor—or cable
company, for that
matter—even comes
close to its overall
score, an 8.6 out of 10.
HIGH-SPEED FIBER:
VERIZON
Yes, Verizon is the only
vendor in this subcat-
egory. But check out
its amazing 9.1 for
satisfaction with speed.
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 81
HOW TO READ
THE TABLES
RED denotes Readers’
Choice. Except where
noted, scores are on a scale
to 1 to 10, where 10 is best.
– Indicates that we
do not have enough
survey data to give
the company a score.
a Significantly better
than average (at least
2 confidence intervals
up from the average)
b Better than average
(at least 1 confidence
interval but less than 2
confidence intervals up
from the average)
Within the average
range
c Worse than average
(at least 1 confidence
interval but less than
2 confidence intervals
down from the average)
d Significantly worse
than average (at least
2 confidence intervals
down from the average)
Confidence intervals
are calculated with a
statistical t-test, and these
will vary from vendor to
vendor, depending on the
number of readers providing
data and the consistency
of their responses. This
can give different mean-
ings to identical numerical
scores, because the more
responses a vendor gets—
or the more in agreement
readers’ assessments
were—the smaller its con-
fidence interval. (That is,
we’re more confident in
the statistical sample.)
SATELLITE: NONE
Satellite may be your
only broadband option
and HughesNet may be
the only vendor, but its
incredibly low scores—
including an overall
score of 5.4!—are in
no way deserving of
a Readers’ Choice.
DIAL-UP: EARTHLINK
Still wanna go the
cheap but slow route?
EarthLink is your best
bet. Readers rate its
service a 7.3 out of 10.
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CONTRACT
Verizon Wireless (6,672 responses) 7.5 a 5.7 d 6.8 7.1 a 7.0 a 6.3 a 7.7 a 7.7 a 7.8 a 7.7 a 7.8 a
US Cellular (391) 7.3 a 6.3 b 6.9 6.3 c 7.1 b 6.2 7.7 a 7.8 a 7.5 a 7.5 a 7.4 b
Alltel (687 responses) 7.2 b 6.1 7.1 b 6.6 6.7 6.2 7.5 a 7.6 a 7.4 a 7.4 b 7.4 b
T-Mobile (1,774) 7.2 a 6.7 a 7.4 a 6.9 a 7.3 a 6.6 a 7.1 7.2 7.0 7.1 7.4 a
Cingular Wireless (5,613) 6.9 5.8 d 6.7 c 6.9 a 6.4 d 5.9 7.2 b 7.1 c 7.3 a 7.3 a 7.2 a
Qwest (79) 6.8 6.2 6.6 6.0 c 7.2 b — 7.4 7.5 7.0 7.1 6.8
Sprint (2,361) 6.8 c 5.9 c 6.8 6.6 6.2 d 5.4 d 7.0 7.2 7.0 7.2 6.9 c
Cellular One (297) 6.6 c 5.7 c 6.7 6.6 6.4 c 5.1 c 6.8 c 6.8 c 6.9 7.0 6.8
SunCom (57) 6.5 6.7 6.8 6.6 6.3 — 6.4 6.5 6.3 c 6.3 c 6.6
Nextel (748) 6.4 d 5.4 d 6.3 d 6.2 c 6.4 c 5.8 6.2 d 6.5 d 6.3 d 6.5 d 6.4 d
AVERAGE 6.9 6.1 6.8 6.6 6.7 6.0 7.1 7.2 7.0 7.1 7.1
PAY-AS-YOU-GO
Virgin Mobile (301 responses) 7.4 a 7.6 a 7.4 a 6.1 7.5 a — 7.2 7.5 b 6.9 7.1 7.5 b
T-Mobile (342) 7.2 7.0 a 7.3 a 6.5 7.2 a 6.4 7.0 7.3 6.9 7.1 7.3
TracFone (467) 7.2 b 6.9 a 7.0 b 5.4 d 6.3 c 5.3 c 7.2 7.3 7.1 7.1 7.4 b
Verizon Wireless (339) 7.1 5.7 d 6.3 c 6.4 6.8 6.6 7.5 b 7.5 b 7.5 a 7.4 b 7.4
Alltel (90) 7.0 6.6 7.2 b 6.8 b 6.8 — 7.8 b 7.4 7.2 7.3 7.3
Cingular Wireless (543) 6.7 c 5.9 d 6.4 c 6.3 6.3 c 5.9 6.9 c 6.9 c 7.0 7.0 7.1
Nextel (72) 6.7 4.9 d 6.0 c 6.3 6.5 — 6.4 c 6.7 6.5 6.5 c 6.7
Sprint (187) 6.6 c 5.7 c 6.3 c 6.3 5.7 d — 6.8 7.2 6.6 c 6.9 6.7 c
AVERAGE 7.0 6.3 6.8 6.3 6.6 6.0 7.1 7.2 6.9 7.0 7.2
* The overall score is based on answers to the question “Overall, how would you rate this cell phone provider?” It is not the average of the other scores
in this table.
a Significantly better
than average
b Better than average
Within the average
range
c Worse than average
d Significantly worse
than average
CONTRACT:
VERIZON WIRELESS
Like paying a fixed
fee each month for a
bundle of minutes?
Readers say your best
bet is Verizon, though
they complain fees
are a bit high.
PREPAID:
VIRGIN
If you’d rather pay
by the call, readers
recommend Virgin.
They’re happy with
the fees as well as the
service itself, giving
Virgin an overall score
of 7.4 out of 10.
CELL-PHONE
EXTRAVAGANZA!
What else do readers
say? Be sure to check out
the ratings for specific
cell-phone models—and
a full list of cell-phone
Readers’ Choices—at
go.pcmag.com/
readerschoicephones
Cell-Phone Services
82 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
RATING THE CELLULAR universe can be tricky.
Satisfaction with service providers is driven by
network quality, but also by the phones offered.
Satisfaction with phones is driven in part by the
network. We start by comparing the major servic-
es, separating contract plans from prepaid plans.
Among contract plans, Verizon Wireless is the
Readers’ Choice, with 7.5 out of 10; among the pre-
paids, it’s Virgin Mobile, with 7.4—both scores are
significantly above average.
Unfortunately, you can’t use just any cell phone
with any service. And, strangely enough, some
phone manufacturers’ results vary by provider. For
instance, LG phones on Cingular’s GSM network
score 6.5, significantly worse than average, over-
all, but on Verizon Wireless’s CDMA network, LG
phones score 7.2, better than average. The results on
individual phone models are available at go.pcmag.
com/readerschoicephones. You’ll also find there a
full list of Readers’ Choices for cell phones.
THERE ARE ONLY two satellite radio vendors: the
one that has Howard Stern (Sirius) and the one
that doesn’t (XM). In readers’ eyes, not much more
separates the two. Both receive overall scores of 8.1.
Both services require technical support 10 percent
of the time. And scores are similar for initial setup,
ease of use, variety and quality of content (take that,
Howard!), customer service, and technical support.
It’s worth noting, however, that Sirius users
are a bit happier with what they’re paying for
the service, and XM users are a bit happier with
Satellite Radio
sound quality and reliability. Sirius users rate fees
at 7.0 out of 10, whereas XM users give a 6.6. XM’s
sound quality score is 8.4, compared with Sirius’s
8.2. And XM’s reliability score is 8.3, compared
with Sirius’s 8.1.
Because there are only two vendors in this cat-
egory and their scores are fairly similar across the
board, we aren’t awarding a satellite radio Read-
ers’ Choice. Pick based on the features you’re
most interested in—and probably, whether or not
you like Howard Stern.
EVERYONE KNOWS the Voice over IP phone ser-
vice ads are right: If you’re still using plain old
telephone service, you’re paying way too much.
But we also know that horror stories from those
who have made the switch are all too common-
place. So what’s your safest choice if you’re going
to make the jump?
According to readers, Cablevision’s Optimum
Voice leads the way, with AT&T CallVantage just
behind. Both land Readers’ Choices. Optimum
Voice receives a significantly better-than-average
overall score of 8.0, and all its other scores are at
least better than average—save an ease-of-setup
score of 8.4, which is merely average.
Worth noting, however, is that Optimum Voice
is available only in the New York metro area,
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ALL VOIP PHONES
Optimum Voice (244 responses) 8.0 a 8.4 8.2 a 8.2 a 7.6 b 6.9 b
AT&T CallVantage (102) 7.9 b — 8.3 b 7.9 7.7 b —
Cox (55) 7.8 — 8.4 b 8.1 — —
Road Runner (312) 7.7 8.5 b 8.3 a 8.0 b 7.7 a 6.7 b
Packet8 (84) 7.5 — 7.5 8.0 b 7.3 —
Vonage (1,478) 7.5 8.0 7.4 d 7.6 6.7 d 5.3 d
Comcast (227) 7.3 7.9 8.0 b 7.7 7.3 5.9
SunRocket (226) 7.1 c 7.7 c 7.0 d 6.9 d 6.9 5.9
Lingo (68) 6.5 c — 6.4 d 6.5 c 5.8 d —
Average of VoIP for Phones 7.5 8.1 7.7 7.7 7.1 6.1
Skype: PC-to-PC only (205) 7.7 b 8.5 b 7.8 7.9 b 6.9 —
Skype: PC-to-phone users (359)** 7.6 b 8.7 a 7.6 7.8 6.5 c —
* The overall score is based on answers to the question “Overall, how would you rate this VoIP provider?” It is not
the average of the other scores in this table ** Indicates people who did not respond “Yes” to the question “Do
you only use this service for PC-to-PC calling?”
a Significantly better
than average
b Better than average
Within the average
range
c Worse than average
d Significantly worse
than average
OPTIMUM VOICE
Readers give Optimum
Voice the highest rating
of any VoIP offering in
the country. The only
trouble? Optimum is
available only in and
around New York City.
AT&T CALLVANTAGE
Scores a bit lower than
Optimum (a 7.9 com-
pared with an 8.0). But
anyone can use it—any-
where in the country.
VoIP
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 83
a Significantly better
than average
b Better than average
Within the average
range
c Worse than average
d Significantly worse
than average
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ALL SATELLITE RADIO
Sirius (1,568 responses) 8.1 8.2 8.4 7.0 a 8.2 8.4 8.1 7.8 6.1 8.4
XM (2,730) 8.1 8.3 8.5 6.6 8.4 b 8.3 8.3 b 7.6 6.0 8.3
* The overall score is based on answers to the question “Overall, how would you rate this satellite radio service?” It is not the average of the other
scores in this table.
NONE
Only two players, and
their scores are pretty
similar. It all comes
down to what you’re
looking for. Sirius users
are happier with price.
XM users are happier
with sound quality.
where Cablevision’s broadband service is avail-
able. By contrast, any broadband user can sign
up for CallVantage. AT&T’s overall score is a tad
lower, at 7.9—still better than average.
Readers are also pleased with Skype, but that’s
a different animal. Skype is free for PC-to-PC
calling, but you pay if you want to connect with
people who have regular phone numbers. Skype
also won’t work with just any telephone; it needs a
headset, or a set of speakers and microphone con-
nected to a PC, or a dedicated Skype phone like
the Linksys CIT300. We’ve removed Skype from
the overall VoIP averages, but note that the over-
all scores for both PC-to-PC Skype and PC-to-
phone Skype are better than the average for pure
phone setups.
84 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
a Significantly better
than average
b Better than average
Within the average
range
c Worse than average
d Significantly worse
than average
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ALL DIGITAL CAMERAS
Canon (6,560 responses) 8.4 a 7.0 b 7.9 a 8.5 a 8.3 a 8.4 b 9.1 a 8.2 a 8.8 a 7.5 a 5% 7.2 a 9.0 a
Panasonic (529) 8.4 a — 7.7 — 8.2 8.8 a — 8.2 a 8.9 a — 3% b — 8.6 a
Nikon (2,612) 8.3 a 7.0 7.4 8.1 7.9 8.1 9.1 a 8.0 a 8.8 a 7.7 a 8% d 7.3 a 8.7 a
Casio (444) 8.1 a — 8.0 a 8.2 — — — 8.3 a 8.6 a — 8% c — 8.3 a
Konica Minolta (694) 8.0 a — 7.4 7.8 7.8 7.9 c 8.8 7.9 8.4 a 6.7 7% — 7.3 d
Pentax (318) 7.8 b — 7.4 8.0 — — 8.6 7.8 8.3 b — 7% — 7.8
Sony (2,890) 7.8 a 6.6 7.6 8.2 8.0 b 8.2 — 8.0 a 8.4 a 6.4 4% b 6.5 8.2 a
Olympus (2,251) 7.7 a 6.6 7.4 c 8.1 7.9 8.1 8.5 7.6 d 8.3 a 6.6 6% 6.4 8.1 a
Fujifilm (1,271) 7.6 b 6.9 7.5 8.1 7.8 7.9 c 8.1 c 7.9 b 8.2 6.4 5% 5.7 c 7.9 b
Kodak (2,826) 7.5 6.6 7.3 c 8.2 7.7 c 8.2 7.8 c 8.1 a 8.2 6.7 4% a 6.3 8.0 a
Samsung (179) 7.3 — 7.1 c — — — — 7.8 7.9 c — 2% b — 7.6
HP (802) 7.1 d 6.4 c 7.1 d 7.9 7.6 c — — 7.8 7.8 d 6.0 c 6% — 7.5 c
Toshiba (78) 7.1 c — — — — — — 7.5 7.6 c — 8% — 6.3 d
Polaroid (58) 5.8 d — — — — — — 7.1 c 7.0 d — 3% — 6.5 c
Vivitar (82) 5.8 d — — — — — — 7.0 c 7.1 d — 4% — 6.0 d
AVERAGE 7.5 6.7 7.5 8.1 7.9 8.2 8.6 7.8 8.2 6.8 5% 6.6 7.7
DIGITAL CAMERAS LESS THAN A YEAR OLD
Canon (2,813 responses) 8.7 a 7.4 8.3 a 8.7 a 8.5 a 8.7 b 9.2 8.4 a 9.0 a 7.5 4% 7.2 9.2 a
Nikon (1031) 8.7 a — 7.8 8.2 8.3 9.2 8.3 9.1 a 7.9 4% — 9.0 a
Panasonic (315) 8.6 a — — — — 8.9 a — 8.4 9.0 a — 4% — 8.8 a
Konica Minolta (200) 8.4 — — — — 8.3 9.0 8.3 8.8 — 8% — 7.6 d
Casio (259) 8.3 — 8.2 8.3 — — — 8.5 b 8.6 — 11% c — 8.5
Sony (868) 8.3 — 8.1 b 8.6 b 8.4 8.3 — 8.3 8.7 — 4% — 8.6 b
Olympus (499) 8.1 c — 7.7 c 8.3 8.1 — 8.7 8.0 c 8.6 — 4% — 8.5
Pentax (109) 8.1 — — — — — — 8.1 8.6 — 4% — 8.3
Fujifilm (339) 8.0 c — 7.9 8.3 8.1 — — 8.1 c 8.4 c — 2% b — 8.2 c
Kodak (948) 8.0 d 7.0 7.8 8.3 8.0 c 8.4 — 8.3 8.5 d — 3% b — 8.4
Samsung (88) 8.0 — — — — — — 8.3 8.5 — 2% — 8.1
HP (238) 7.7 d 7.1 7.7 — — — — 8.3 8.2 d — 4% — 8.3
AVERAGE 8.2 7.2 7.9 8.4 8.2 8.5 9.1 8.3 8.7 7.7 5% 7.2 8.5
* The overall score is based on answers to the question “Overall, how would you rate this camera?” It is not the average of the other scores in this table.
THE TOP THREE are still the top three. This year, as
in last, Canon, Nikon, and Panasonic are the over-
all Readers’ Choices among digital camera manu-
facturers, though Panasonic’s ratings take the
slightest of downturns. Of those three, Canon is
the undisputed king of the hill, with better-than-
average (if not significantly better than average)
ratings for every camera type, from budget mod-
els to digital SLRs. The Japanese manufacturer
also receives Readers’ Choice awards in each of
the subcategories except for superzoom models,
where Panasonic again takes the prize.
There’s only one area in which Canon’s scores
are less than stellar: percentage of cameras that
required repair. Here, its score (5 percent) is
merely average. That’s worse than Kodak, Pana-
sonic, Polaroid, Samsung, and even Vivitar—but
it’s not as bad as Nikon’s repair rate. Nonetheless,
Nikon gets a second Readers’ Choice for digital
SLRs, alongside Canon, even though its 8 percent
overall repair rate is significantly worse than the
survey average.
Only one vendor outside the top three receives
Readers’ Choice in a subcategory: Casio, which
scores particularly well with compact cameras
(a significantly above-average 8.0 out of 10). Who
brings up the rear among camera makers? Pola-
roid and Vivitar. But HP isn’t that much better.
CANON
A great choice—no
matter what sort of
camera you’re buying.
Readers give Canon
better-than-average
ratings for everything
from budget models
to digital SLRs.
NIKON
Most of Nikon’s digital
cameras get middling
ratings from readers,
but boy, do they like
Nikon’s digital SLRs.
Nikon is right up there
with Canon in that
subcategory.
PANASONIC
The place to go for
superzooms. And
although Panasonic’s
scores are down slightly
from last year, its overall
score is neck and neck
with Canon’s.
SUBCATEGORIES:
Budget: CANON
Compact: CANON,
CASIO
Ultracompact: CANON
Enthusiast: CANON
Superzoom:
PANASONIC
Digital SLR:
CANON, NIKON
Digital Cameras
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 85
IT’S ABOUT TIME. This year, along with satellite ra-
dios, we add HDTVs to the mix. And, as you might
expect, readers rate all sorts of vendors offering
all sorts of HD technologies, from plasma TVs and
rear-projections to good ol’ CRTs. But two compa-
nies stand out: Pioneer and Sony.
If you look at the overall scores across all
technologies, Pioneer is king, with a significantly
above-average overall score of 9.0 out of 10. This
has a lot do with the fact that readers prefer plas-
mas to all other HD technologies. Pioneer is one
of the biggest plasma vendors, and it’s the lone
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Pioneer (206 responses) 9.0 a — — — 9.1 a 8.7 b 9.0 a — 7% — 8.8 a
LG (133) 8.5 b — — 8.5 b 8.6 — 8.7 b — 5% — 8.3 b
Sony (2,082) 8.5 a 8.4 a 8.3 8.6 a 8.5 8.5 a 8.8 a 7.4 b 6% a 7.0 8.6 a
Sharp (282) 8.4 b — — 8.4 b — — 8.6 b — 8% — 8.3 a
Panasonic (838) 8.3 a 7.8 — 8.3 8.8 a 7.9 c 8.6 a 6.7 7% b 6.5 8.3 a
Samsung (1,192) 8.3 a 7.8 — 8.3 b 8.5 8.4 a 8.5 b 6.6 12% c 6.5 8.3 a
Hitachi (433) 8.2 — — — 8.4 8.2 8.5 6.6 11% — 8.1 b
HP (51) 8.2 — — — — — 8.2 — 4% — 7.8
Mitsubishi (641) 8.2 — — — — 8.2 8.4 6.8 12% c 6.6 8.0
Dell (168) 8.1 — — 8.0 — — 8.2 — 11% — 7.9
JVC (132) 8.1 — — — — 8.3 8.2 — 19% c — 7.9
Vizio (128) 8.0 — — 7.9 8.2 c — 8.3 — 6% — 8.2 b
Toshiba (643) 7.9 c 7.9 — 8.1 — 7.9 c 8.3 6.5 9% 6.5 7.8
Philips (331) 7.8 c 7.6 — 8.0 8.0 c 7.7 c 8.1 c — 7% — 7.6 c
Westinghouse (107) 7.8 — — 7.8 c — — 8.3 — 3% b — 7.5 c
Sanyo (57) 7.7 — — — — — 8.3 — 2% b — 7.8
Zenith (59) 7.7 — — — — — 8.2 — 10% — 7.1 c
RCA (204) 7.5 d — — — — 7.5 d 7.9 c — 13% — 6.9 d
Syntax Olevia (108) 7.5 c — — 7.5 c — — 8.0 c — 9% — 7.4 c
AVERAGE 8.1 7.9 8.3 8.1 8.5 8.1 8.4 6.8 8% 6.6 7.9
HDTVS LESS THAN A YEAR OLD
Pioneer (94 responses) 9.2 a — — — 9.2 a — 9.2 a — 5% — 9.1 a
Panasonic (361) 8.7 a — — 8.4 8.9 — 8.9 a — 2% a — 8.8 a
Sony (830) 8.7 a 8.4 b — 8.6 a 8.6 8.9 a 8.9 a 8.1 3% a — 8.8 a
LG (106) 8.6 b — — 8.5 — — 8.8 b — 5% — 8.5 b
Mitsubishi (111) 8.6 b — — — — 8.6 8.5 — 6% — 8.3
Samsung (574) 8.5 b 7.8 — 8.5 b 8.6 8.7 8.7 b 7.2 6% — 8.4 b
Sharp (153) 8.5 — — 8.6 b — — 8.6 — 8% — 8.4
JVC (71) 8.4 — — — — — 8.4 — 18% c — 8.1
Dell (107) 8.3 — — 8.1 — — 8.3 — 11% — 8.1
Hitachi (98) 8.3 — — — — — 8.6 — 2% b — 8.2
Toshiba (214) 8.1 — — — — 8.3 c 8.3 c — 12% c — 7.9 c
Vizio (110) 8.1 — — 8.0 — — 8.4 — 6% — 8.2
Philips (178) 8.0 c — — 8.1 — — 8.3 c — 6% — 7.9 c
Westinghouse (94) 7.9 c — — 7.9 c — — 8.3 — 2% b — 7.5 c
RCA (55) 7.8 c — — — — — 8.3 — 5% — 7.5 c
Syntax Olevia (73) 7.5 d — — 7.5 c — — 7.9 c — 11% — 7.3 c
AVERAGE 8.3 8.1 — 8.2 8.8 8.6 8.5 7.7 7% — 8.2
* The overall score is based on answers to the question “Overall, how would you rate this HDTV?” It is not the average of the other scores in this table.
a Significantly better
than average
b Better than average
Within the average
range
c Worse than average
d Significantly worse
than average
Readers’ Choice for this segment of the market,
with a 9.1 out of 10. It’s also the Readers’ Choice
for rear-projection TVs, with an 8.7.
In the big picture, across all technologies, Sony
is just behind Pioneer, with an overall score of 8.5,
and it receives a Readers’ Choice award for CRTs
(8.4), and LCDs (8.6). Readers also shared their
experiences with front-projection TVs, but Sony
was the only vendor rated. And because Sony
received only 50 responses in total, a Readers’
Choice in that niche category will have to wait
until next year.
PIONEER
No one comes close.
Pioneer garners the
highest overall score.
The company comes
out ahead on rear-
projection TVs and,
in particular, plasmas.
SONY
Looking for an LCD
model—or even a
good old CRT? Look
to Sony. And Sony’s
scores are pretty darn
good for rear-projection
models, too.
SUBCATEGORIES:
Plasma: PIONEER
Rear-projection:
PIONEER
CRT: SONY
LCD: SONY
Front-projection: NONE
HDTV
86 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
a Significantly better
than average
b Better than average
Within the average
range
c Worse than average
d Significantly worse
than average
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ALL MP3 PLAYERS
Apple (6,292 responses) 8.4 a 7.8 a 8.3 a 8.5 a 8.7 a 8.6 a 8.3 a 6.5 8% d 6.6 8.6 a
Cowon (109) 8.3 a — — — 9.0 a 8.0 a 8.7 a — 6% — 8.4 a
Archos (200) 7.8 b — — 7.9 8.4 b 7.6 7.9 — 8% — 7.6
Creative (1814) 7.7 a 7.4 a 7.8 8.1 8.4 a 7.7 a 8.1 a 6.3 5% 6.4 7.9 a
iriver (609) 7.6 b 7.4 b 7.7 7.9 8.4 a 7.2 c 8.0 a — 4% — 7.5 b
mobiBLU (55) 7.5 — — — 8.4 b 7.1 7.8 — 4% — 7.6
Dell (400) 7.4 6.8 7.3 c 7.7 c 8.0 7.6 7.6 — 9% c — 6.9 c
SanDisk (897) 7.4 7.2 b 8.0 b — 7.9 c 7.4 7.8 b — 4% b — 7.6 a
Samsung (307) 7.3 7.5 b 7.1 c — 8.2 7.4 7.8 — 5% — 7.3
Sony (682) 7.3 7.0 7.9 8.2 7.9 c 7.5 7.7 — 2% a — 7.5 b
Toshiba (61) 7.0 — — — 7.9 7.2 7.4 — 7% — 7.1
Rio (662) 6.9 d 6.5 d 7.7 8.0 7.6 d 7.3 7.3 d — 5% — 6.5 d
Panasonic (153) 6.8 c 6.7 — — 7.4 d 7.1 c 7.3 c — 1% a — 7.1
Philips (163) 6.8 d 6.3 c — — 7.7 c 7.4 7.3 c — 4% — 6.6 d
MPIO (55) 6.7 c — — — 7.7 6.4 c 7.1 c — 4% — 6.1 c
RCA (328) 6.6 d 6.5 d — — 7.5 d 7.0 c 7.2 d — 3% — 6.4 d
AVERAGE 7.3 7.0 7.7 8.1 8.1 7.4 7.7 6.4 5% 6.5 7.3
MP3 PLAYERS LESS THAN A YEAR OLD
Apple (3,343 responses) 8.5 a 7.8 a 8.4 a 8.7 a 8.8 a 8.6 a 8.4 a 6.5 6% d 6.8 8.6 a
Cowon (71) 8.3 a — — — 9.0 a 8.0 8.7 a — 7% — 8.5 a
Creative (804) 8.0 a 7.7 a 8.0 8.4 8.5 a 7.8 a 8.2 a 6.5 4% — 8.2 a
Samsung (171) 7.7 7.8 b — — 8.5 b 7.7 8.0 — 4% — 7.7
iriver (190) 7.6 7.5 — 7.6 c 8.5 b 7.2 c 7.9 — 2% — 7.7
Sony (259) 7.6 7.4 8.0 — 8.1 7.7 8.0 — 2% b — 7.8 b
SanDisk (649) 7.5 7.3 8.0 — 8.0 c 7.5 7.9 — 4% — 7.7
Dell (124) 7.2 6.7 c — — 7.8 7.1 c 7.4 — 7% — 6.9 c
Rio (123) 7.0 c 6.5 c — — 7.7 c 7.5 7.3 c — 4% — 6.9 c
Philips (75) 6.9 c — — — 7.9 7.4 7.3 c — 3% — 6.7 c
RCA (101) 6.9 c 6.8 c — — 7.8 c 7.2 7.5 — 1% b — 6.9 c
Panasonic (66) 6.8 c — — — 7.4 c 7.0 c 7.0 c — 2% — 7.0 c
AVERAGE 7.5 7.3 8.1 8.2 8.2 7.6 7.8 6.5 4% 6.8 7.6
* The overall score is based on answers to the question “Overall, how would you rate this MP3 player?” It is not the average of the other scores in this table.
IT’S NO SURPRISE: Apple is a Readers’ Choice for a
line of MP3 players known as iPods. You may have
heard of them. But here’s some news: A company
called Cowon America, part of a Korean mul-
timedia giant, scores nearly as high for its play-
ers, which generally go by the iAudio moniker.
And, radical as this may sound to Apple, a few of
the Cowon players are actually compatible with
music subscription services, earning the company
a Readers’ Choice as well. Just a few steps below
those two you’ll find Archos, Creative, and iRiver;
on the low side, three vendors score particularly
poorly: Philips, RCA, and Rio.
Despite its high overall score—8.4 out of 10—
Apple does have one problem area: quality con-
trol. According to readers, 8 percent of its units
require repair. Worse, this isn’t just because of
older players dying: Apple had a high percentage
of units needing repair among its players less than
a year old as well. (Oddly, so does Cowon.)
It’s also interesting to note that Apple’s tech
support and repair satisfaction numbers are rela-
tively low compared with the company’s inordi-
nately high scores for desktops and notebooks
(6.5 compared with 8.1 plus; see go.pcmag.com/sr).
With so many PC users buying iPods, this may
support the theory that Apple’s desktop and note-
book scores are artificially inflated by the anti-
Windows crowd. Or maybe not.
We also notice that reader satisfaction with
MP3 players increases as the capacity increases—
and this applies even with iPods. Readers are
much less happy with players with less than 1GB
of storage—like the iPod shuffle—than they are
with hard drive–based and large-capacity flash
storage–based units.
APPLE
You knew it would
be. iPods are the
most widely used
MP3 players, and the
most popular. Overall
score: 8.4 out of 10.
COWON AMERICA
Never heard of ’em?
They’re the guys
behind the iAudio
players. And Cowon’s
survey scores are
almost as high
as Apple’s.
MP3 Players
S P E C I A L
O F F E R
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THE WINNERS
Desktops: APPLE, SONY
Notebooks: APPLE, LENOVO/IBM
Printers: CANON, HP
READERS’ CHOICE PART 1 RECAP
WE DIVIDE ROUTER manufacturers into two sub-
categories. No, not wired and wireless, but com-
panies that offer primarily routers integrated with
your broadband modem (listed in italics in the ta-
ble) versus standalone routers, which connect via
Ethernet to the modem.
You’d think integrated models would be easier
to set up and use, but that doesn’t seem to be the
case. Readers are generally happier with vendors
that focus on standalone models. All three Read-
ers’ Choices—Apple, Cisco, and Linksys—sell
dedicated routers primarily, and the vendor with
the lowest scores, Actiontec, for the most part
sells integrated routers.
Linksys doesn’t score quite as high as Cisco (its
parent company), or Apple, but it’s worth noting
that Linksys routers are the best mainstream op-
tion. Apple routers are typically used only with
Macs, and Cisco routers are meant for corporate
networks. Linksys’s overall score is significantly
above average (8.1), as are its scores on reliability
(8.2), percentage requiring repairs (3 percent), and
likelihood of recommending (8.4). An honorable
mention goes to Buffalo, which had a better-than-
average overall score (8.1) and also garnered the
best ratings for routers less than a year old. As with
Apple, only 1 percent of its units required repairs.
a Significantly better
than average
b Better than average
Within the average
range
c Worse than average
d Significantly worse
than average
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ALL NETWORK ROUTERS
Cisco (137 responses) 9.0 a — 9.2 a 9.2 a — 3% — 8.9 a
Apple (132) 8.8 a 8.8 a — 9.0 a — 1% b — 8.8 a
SonicWall (54) 8.4 b 7.9 b — 8.7 b — 7% — 8.0
Buffalo (105) 8.1 b 8.1 b — 8.4 — 1% b — 7.9
Linksys (9,537) 8.1 a 8.1 a 8.3 8.2 a 6.5 3% a 5.7 8.4 a
Belkin (1,064) 7.9 7.9 b 7.9 c 8.0 6.3 3% — 7.7 b
USRobotics (179) 7.9 7.9 b — 8.0 — 3% — 7.6
D-Link (3,469) 7.8 7.7 b 8.2 8.0 6.5 3% b 6.5 b 7.9 a
Netgear (2,697) 7.8 7.7 8.3 8.0 5.6 d 2% a 4.9 7.9 a
Siemens (77) 7.8 — — 8.3 — 3% — 7.5
2Wire (436) 7.8 7.8 7.9 8.2 7.3 a 3% — 7.4
Motorola (183) 7.7 7.7 — 8.0 — 2% — 7.5
SMC Networks (239) 7.7 7.4 c 8.1 7.9 — 4% — 7.4
Microsoft (260) 7.6 c 7.5 — 8.0 — 1% b — 6.5 d
AirLink+ (89) 7.5 7.5 — 7.7 c — 2% — 7.3
ZyXel (72) 7.5 7.4 — 7.6 c — 6% — 7.1
3Com (97) 7.5 7.5 — 7.7 c — 3% — 7.4
Westell (291) 7.3 d 7.2 c — 7.5 d 6.2 6% — 6.6 d
Dell (78) 7.2 c 7.1 c — 7.5 c — 5% — 6.7 c
Actiontec (181) 6.9 d 6.9 d — 7.1 d 6.6 9% c — 6.3 d
AVERAGE 7.8 7.7 8.3 8.1 6.5 4% 5.7 7.5
NETWORK ROUTERS LESS THAN A YEAR OLD
Buffalo (54 responses) 8.5 a 8.5 a — 8.6 a — 2% — 8.4 b
2Wire (167) 8.0 b 8.0 — 8.2 b — 5% — 7.6
Linksys (3,377) 8.0 a 8.0 a 8.1 8.1 a 6.4 4% b 5.5 8.4 a
Belkin (439) 7.9 b 7.9 b — 8.0 6.4 4% — 7.8 b
D-Link (1,298) 7.9 b 7.8 8.5 b 8.0 b 6.5 4% 6.2 8.0 a
Netgear (1,011) 7.9 7.8 8.2 8.0 5.6 c 3% a — 7.9 a
USRobotics (75) 7.8 7.9 — 8.0 — 3% — 7.6
Motorola (63) 7.7 7.7 — 8.1 — 5% — 7.6
AirLink+ (60) 7.5 7.4 — 7.6 — 3% — 7.4
Westell (102) 7.3 c 7.3 c — 7.5 c — 9% — 6.6 c
Actiontec (77) 6.9 c 6.9 c — 7.1 c — 10% — 6.1 d
AVERAGE 7.8 7.7 8.3 7.9 6.2 5% 5.8 7.6
Italic type denotes primarily integrated cable or DSL modems and routers. * The overall score is based on
answers to the question “Overall, how would you rate this router?” It is not the average of the other scores in this
table.
APPLE
Steve & Co., take
another bow. But in
this case, they’re not
exactly king of the hill.
Cisco scores higher.
CISCO
Yes, this is bit odd.
Cisco routers are meant
for corporate networks,
not the home kind. But
readers use them—and
give them the highest
marks of any vendor.
LINKSYS
This is how Cisco
intends to sell home
routers: through
Linksys, the company
it purchased in 2003.
And unlike Apple, Linksys
targets everyone.
Network Routers
MISSED PART 1 OF OUR SURVEY? IT WAS AN AWFUL LOT LIKE
last year’s desktop, notebook, and printer survey. Once again,
Apple and Sony were Readers’ Choices for desktops, receiving
some of the highest ratings —while HP/Compaq and Lenovo/
IBM got some of the lowest. Only eMachines and its parent
company, Gateway, showed major improvements here.
For notebooks, in another repeat of 2005, Apple took another Readers’
Choice, followed closely by Lenovo/IBM, scoring much higher—as always—
than on the desktop portion of the survey. At the other end of the spectrum,
Averatec and HP/Compaq notebooks scored lowest. And yes, we had the
same two Readers’ Choices for printers—Canon and HP—though with HP
showing a few signs of faltering.
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 87
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Will today be the
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I
T’S NOT THE GO-GO NINETIES ANYMORE, BUT
the capitalist spirit is alive and well among
the hundreds of small and midsize busi nesses
we considered for our first PC Magazine SMB
20 Awards. From YoYo Nation, a two-person
outfit using open-source software to cultivate
an active worldwide community of yo-yo
enthu siasts, to a Web-based T-shirt company
making a tidy profit in customer-designed
wear, there’s no shortage of innovation.
Small businesses are the lifeblood of the U.S. economy.
There are millions of them, and they generate 60 to 80 per-
cent of new jobs every year. Thanks to the Web and the
abundance of services and tools that have sprung from it,
small businesses have unprecedented possibilities. Using
technology smartly can help companies shave costs,
expand market share, get products and services to
market faster, and improve customer relations.
Our SMB 20 Awards celebrate the entre-
preneurs—many of them PC Magazine read-
ers—who are using technology in inno-
vative ways to grow their businesses.
Several themes emerged among our
winners. Some are successfully using
existing models such as online auc-
tions, and many companies are
lowering the cost of goods through
technology. Open-source software
made a strong showing as well.
We selected the winners by how
effectively and imaginatively they’re
using technology, with quantitative
metrics such as revenue growth
also considered. To nominate your
own business for our 2007 awards,
visit us online at go.pcmag.com/
smb20.—Carol L. Gonsher
We celebrate
small and midsize
businesses that
use technology in
innovative ways
to drive growth.
OUR FIRST
SMALL-BUSINESS AWARDS
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 89
90 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
JETS INTERNATIONAL
Employees: 25
Location: Quincy, Massachusetts
Launched: 1999
Best tech advice: “You have to be flexible, so make
sure your technology is flexible.”
www.jets.com
Not every small business can compete against
highfliers like Warren Buffett, but with its innova-
tive use of technology Jets International has man-
aged to carve out a niche in the aviation business.
Seven years ago, company founder and CEO
Nathan McKelvey was managing a few private
aircraft and taking evening classes when he
began writing code for the aviation industry.
“At the time, everyone was focused on private
airfare as if it were a commercial airline ticket,
that is, always a round trip,” says McKelvey.
Instead, he based his reverse-auction system on a
long-haul-trucking model, which enabled passen-
gers to book flights one way, say from New York
to Palm Beach, with other passengers booking
otherwise-empty return flights. For private
operators, the system meant fewer jets
sitting on the tarmac and fewer “dead
head” or empty flights. For customers,
it offered flexible schedules and the
advantage of lower fares to enjoy the
luxury of private air travel.
The traditional private aircraft op-
tions can be extremely costly and often


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lack flexibility. Fractional ownership outfits such
as the Buffett-backed NetJets offer deals that cost
upward of $400,000—plus monthly maintenance
charges—for a 16
th
share of, say, a Hawker 400XP.
But most people, even the superrich, don’t want
to be concerned with the hassles of rising mainte-
nance and fuel costs. “They just don’t want to be
in the aviation business,” points out McKelvey.
Then there is the jet card alternative; Marquis
Jet is one outfit that uses them. A jet card works
like a very-expensive commuter’s ticket. It can cost
$299,000 for a Marquis Jet Card with 25 hours of
air travel time on a Gulfstream IV-SP. Conversely,
at Jets International, buyers can book a private jet
for just one short flight for a few grand.
What makes Jets International’s deals possible
is an online booking and auction site that gives
fliers a choice of preapproved aircraft operators.
Buyers post a trip request and operators can instan-
taneously enter a cost quote. Customers can even
specify a specific type of jet, get detailed safety
reports on operators, look at reviews from other
customers about previous trip experiences
with particular jets and crews, or check
out interiors and flight amenities using
an online 360-degree photo tour of the
jets. Fliers can also receive RSS feeds
apprising them of special discounts on
one-way empty segments.
In its first year of operation, Jets Inter-
national made $1.2 million in revenue. Last
year, the company topped $17 million in sales,
says McKelvey. But getting there wasn’t easy. “It
was a major integration project to get schedule
information from operators,” says the CEO, who
recalls training aircraft operators in logging on
to AOL so that he could track minute-by-minute
aircraft availability. “When I first started, I had
a server running faxes; then it was e-mail, then
finally XML feeds.” McKelvey still has to work
with operators uploading flight data to FTP sites
and filing Excel spreadsheets, “but we’ve made
huge inroads,” he says.
Launched into the teeth of the dot.com bust,
McKelvey’s business had an inauspicious debut.
“I thought I had made a huge mistake. I was hav-
ing a difficult time getting jet operators to bid on
flights,” he says. But then scores of high-flying In-
ternet companies shut their doors and other firms
cut back on expensive travel. “Suddenly, I had jet
operators pounding on my door,” says McKelvey.
Today, Jets International enables buyers to
use reputable regional operators at competitive
prices. It also avoids the expense of maintain-
ing its own fleet of planes, and it helps operators
squeeze additional revenue from their aircraft.
With its innovative technology Jets Interna-
tional eliminates the traditional broker and the
card programs and gives fliers the freedom of
choice.—John R. Quain
HIGHFLIER Jets International CEO Nathan McKelvey survived the dot-com
bust with an innovative reverse-auction system for booking private flights.
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 91
COE & COMPANY
Employees: 19
Location: Metairie, Louisiana
Launched: 1992
Best tech advice: “The integration of
communications is key.”
www.coesolutions.com
While evacuating from the New Orle ans area
ahead of Hurricane Katrina, Charles Coe Jr.
tapped a couple of times on the screen of his HP
iPAQ and by doing so may have saved his
small accounting technology consulting
business, Coe & Company, from a disas-
ter of its own.
From his car, Coe approved a change
request from his technical manager to
switch the com pany’s e-mail and Web
site to Network Solutions’ off-site hosted
service. “I had backup tapes in the car, but
having a backup is not the same as having the
right software and hardware—and it’s not the
same as being able to communicate with employ-
ees and customers,” he says. Thanks to the pre-
scient change in e-mail service and the adroit use
of several other communications tools, Coe was
able to keep his company afloat.
After the storm, Coe contacted employees on
their handheld Pocket PCs and pointed them to
the company’s BlogSpot blog for more informa-
tion. Then he held Skype conference calls and,
using Microsoft Dynamics software to iden-
tify key customers (“the ones without whom we
wouldn’t be able to pay the mortgage”), divided
up the chore of contacting clients. “BlogSpot lit-
erally saved our company,” says Coe, by allowing
customers to tell him they needed assistance.
The phones couldn’t be forwarded because
the switch was under 6 feet of water, but with
Skype, customers knew the company was up and
running. A programmer in Australia was able
to maintain communications with the company
using Skype. And one client who had evacuated
from Cozumel to Mexico City in front of Katrina
contacted Coe using Skype soon after the storm.
But how does Coe measure success? “We’re
still in business, and we didn’t lose a single em-
ployee.”—JRQ
SURVIVING KATRINA CEO Charles Coe Jr. (front)
says Skype and Blogspot kept his tech consulting firm
afloat during and after Katrina.
YO! Weber Hsu, a
partner at YoYoNa-
tion.com along with
Pat Cuartaro, turned
a passion into a Web
phenom with the
help of open-source
software.


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YOYONATION
Employees: 2
Location: New York City
Launched: 2005
Best tech advice: “You can use free or open-source
software without compromising quality.”
www.yoyonation.com
By using the right technology and tapping into
the social-networking phenomenon of online
communities, Weber Hsu and F. Patrick Cuartero
have managed to launch a successful business on
a shoestring. Or rather, a yo-yo string.
YoYoNation is a specialty e-tailer for hard-core
yo-yo enthusiasts, conceived by Cuartero to feed
his passion for yo-yos. (He enjoyed a “semiprofes-
sional yo-yo career” before college beckoned, and
is the reigning yo-yo world champion.) He and
Hsu examined the yo-yo community online and
thought they could do better.
The company set up its retail space using X-
Cart and built a community forum using Simple
Machines Forum (SMF) open-source software.
SMF proved to be critical to developing the
kind of community in which “customers
are treated like friends because they
have the same passion,” says Cuartero.
And if he couldn’t figure something
out on his own, he’d have help within
an hour from the SMF community. In-
deed, several key features of YoYoNa-
tion were developed with help from the
open-source community.
The company uses its Web site to develop
brand loyalty. A few hours spent on an e-mail
blast and a discussion forum are significantly less
costly than a traditional marketing campaign. So
far it seems to be working. Collectors, professional
players, and people who simply want top-of-the-
line yo-yos are flocking to the site. Results have
been modest so far, with just over $33,000 in sales
last year and 700 active members, but the found-
ers say they’ve experienced double-digit growth
every month. They hope to be a million-dollar
company by the end of this year.—JRQ
92 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
FOR MORE WINNERS,
TURN THE PAGE AND
OPEN THE GATEFOLD.
BACKCOUNTRY.COM
Employees: 250
Location: Park City, Utah
Launched: 1996
Best tech advice: “Plan on spending the same
amount of money on your e-commerce site as you
would on a physical store.”
www.backcountry.com
For outdoor e-tailer Backcountry.com, choosing
open-source software wasn’t so much a political
decision as it was a practical one.
“When we started in the nineties with just
$2,000, we would have paid for a solution at the
right price, but it didn’t exist,” says John Bresee,
company president. Off-the-shelf options were
simply too expensive for a small business just
starting out, so the company set about building
what it needed with open-source code.
Today, what makes the company a standout is
how it uses Linux, Apache, PostgreSQL, and XML
in everything from site design to its call center to
its back-office operations.
In character with its open architecture, Back-
country.com even uses an 8,000-page wiki run on
open-source MediaWiki software as the company
intranet; the wiki acts as a repository of company
information and a place where any employees
can have their say in the business.
Keeping it all running smoothly and reli-
ably takes 20 IBM blade servers and a
smart team of 22 software engineers.
But the company’s CIO, David Jenkins,
says open-source software has been
saving the company roughly $1.7 mil-
lion annually.
Investing in such technology de-
velopment helped make it possible for
revenues to nearly double last year, to ap-
proximately $52.5 million. Backcountry.com’s
growth is likewise reflected in the five specialty
sporting-goods stores it has added, as well as its
recent move into a 208,000-square-foot ware-
house.—JRQt
TOG TEAM Backcoun-
try.com founders John
Bresee (left) and Jim
Holland (right).
TEES TO GO CustomInk founders Dave Christensen
(left) and Marc Katz model some of their products.


E
-
C
O
M
M
E
R
C
E
CUSTOMINK LLC
Employees: 100
Location: Tyson’s Corner, Virginia
Launched: 2000
Best tech advice: “If a technology is critical to your
business success, it’s got to be something that you
control.”
www.customink.com
Turning custom T-shirts into a $23 million dollar
business takes technological ingenuity. CustomInk
has done it with a mix of CRM software, an online
just-in-time ordering and supply system, and a
custom-built online design application.
At the online store, which also sells
custom mugs, hats, and more, buyers
create their own custom T-shirts using
a Java-based “design lab.” Online shop-
pers can add logos, clip art, and custom
letters and then see how their designs will
look on particular shirts onscreen before
they place an order. Once a customer makes a
selection, the order is routed to one of dozens of
preapproved screen printers, the blank apparel is
ordered, and the shirts are drop-shipped from the
manufacturer to the printer. The streamlined pro-
cess can accept orders for as few as six shirts.
“We have thousands of orders at any given
time,” says Marc Katz, company president and
cofounder, who adds that the average order is
$400. He says his company should sell over three
million shirts this year. “You could never do that
without the right information technology.”
CustomInk is now experimenting with digital
textile printing. Using a machine akin to an inkjet
printer, the company can offer one-off, what-you-
see-is-what-you-get custom shirts.—JRQ
OPEN SOURCED Online retailer Backcountry.com uses open source software in
everything, from its back office to its Web site.
FINALISTS
Jhe Righl Jechuology. Righl ^way.
JM
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Business success s
FOUNDVALUE
Employees: 20
Location: San Francisco
Launched: 2004
Best tech advice: “Don’t start a technology
company for technology’s sake. You have to
solve a consumer or business need.”
www.foundvalue.com
Everyone knows you can make money
selling stuff on eBay, but not every-
one knows what will sell and what
won’t. FoundValue has developed a
unique service to help sellers.
What’s different about Found-
Value is that it has added a layer
of automation and service to help
people sell items on the world’s largest
auction site. Rather than opening storefronts
where customers can drop off items to sell
online, founder and CEO Stella Kleiman de-
cided that first people needed help determin-
ing what to sell.
So using Microsoft .Net and AJAX (Asyn-
chronous JavaScript and XML), the compa-
ny developed a Web-based service that lets
sellers find a local, trained FoundValue “e-
specialist” who will assist them. Customers
can tell e-specialists online what goods they
have so that the specialist can research items
before visiting a client’s home. E-specialists
then pick up the customers’ goods and sell
the items on eBay.
Kleiman estimates that FoundValue’s
platform saves from 1 to 3 hours of time per
transaction for the company’s more than 300
specialists nationwide. And though gross
sales were just $500,000 in 2005, the compa-
ny hopes to triple revenues in 2007.—JRQ
LA LA MEDIA INC.
Employees: 23
Location: Palo Alto, California
Launched: 2005
Best tech advice: “The most powerful technol-
ogy you can build is the part that lets custom-
ers give you feedback.”
www.lala.com
We all make mistakes, like buying ABBA and
Ted Nugent CDs that we end up hating but
can’t return. So Bill Nguyen, founder of lala.
com, thought music lovers should be able to
correct such unfortunate errors in judgment
by trading those CDs with someone else who
wants them.
Lala.com is the first online music store
in which fans can trade CDs they have for
CDs they want for $1. The company
connects members with other mem-
bers who have discs they want and
charges an average of 75 cents to
ship a CD.
To date, Nguyen claims the ser-
vice has a music catalogue that is
twice the size of Amazon’s, and he
says that la la makes it easier for custom-
ers to discover new music they might like.
“You identify other people as friends, and so
their musical interests are given a weight on
your taste.”
The vast array of CDs and the complexity
of the site’s virtual trading floor require some
nifty search techniques, as well as AJAX pro-
gramming. Indeed, the custom-built technol-
ogy is essential to la la, with 21 of 24 employ-
ees listed as software programmers.
To keep everyone happy, la la gives 20
percent of every trade to the musicians who
contributed to the recording. And if an art-
ist is no longer living, la la makes a contribu-
tion to a charitable foundation that provides
health care for working musicians. Now that
sounds like a fair trade.—JRQ
PLAY IT AGAIN
FoundValue’s CEO
Stella Kleiman uses
e-specialists to help
people sell their ga-
rage goodies for top
dollar on eBay.
starts with a great idea.
SAN DIEGO SIGN COMPANY
Employees: 10
Location: San Diego
Launched: 2001
Best tech advice: “Google AdWords can have the
biggest impact on a small company.”
www.sdsign.com
If it weren’t for technology, some companies
wouldn’t even be in business. According to the
folks at the San Diego Sign Company, they were
nearly out of business before they learned to
leverage technology.
“We closed our sign shop and moved it into
our house,” says company vice president Eric
Van Velzer. “We had mortgaged everything and
were nearly broke.” Then the company started
working online. Customers could browse de-
signs and formats on www.sdsign.com, or upload
their own designs, which could be made into
banners on a Seiko printer that could print signs
6 feet wide. Van Velzer and his colleagues now
use several Web services to keep costs down:
PayCycle for payroll, Google AdWords for mar-
keting, Guru.com for outsourcing its catalog,
Alibaba.com to locate Asian subcontractors,
and Skype for communication with internation-
al clients and vendors.
Today, the company has graduated to a 10-
foot-wide printer and is moving into a 7,000-
square-foot warehouse. It had sales of $1.7 mil-
lion last year.
Now San Diego Sign deals with customers
ranging from small churches and mom-and-pop
businesses to Apple, Taylor Made Golf, and Cold
Stone Creamery. And the business now reaches
clients in Canada and Puerto Rico. “These are
customers we couldn’t have even imagined hav-
ing several years ago,” says Van Velzer.—JRQ
LA LA LAND Lala.com is the first online music store
where music fans can trade CDs they have for ones
they want for $1 each.
TRIO La la media founders (from left) Billy Alvarado, Bill Nguyen, and John Cogan
rely heavily on Web software and search techniques to fine-tune their virtual trad-
ing floor for unwanted CDs.
BANNER YEAR San Diego Sign moved its brick-and-mor-
tar sign shop online—and found a profitable market.
(But it grows with the right techno
CASESTACK INC.
Employees: 110 (420 with recent merger)
Location: Santa Monica, California
Launched: 1999
Best tech advice: “Get the right people who can fig-
ure out where the technology should be applied—and
where it shouldn’t be applied.”
www.casestack.com
“It’s the kind of industry where a lot of things can
go wrong,” admits Dan Sanker, CEO and founder
of CaseStack, a nationwide logistics, warehousing,
and shipping services company for medium-size
businesses. So Sanker turned to technology to
reduce costly mistakes.
“What’s different is that our software
has filters and built-in intelligence to make
sure the data is all accurate,” says Sanker.
The Web-based Microsoft .Net programs
have enough smarts not to hold up a cus-
tomer’s 40,000-pound order just because 5
pounds of products are not in the warehouse.
And optimizing software links the company’s net-
work of 21 warehouses to over 1,000 independent
truckers to determine if orders can be consolidated,
what trucker has the best on-time reputation, and
who has the best pricing.
By reducing errors and integrating with cus-
tomers’ order-management systems, CaseStack
has grown revenue 620 percent over the past three
years. It’s now looking to expand internationally,
thanks to its recent merger with AtomicBox Logis-
tics, which has a distribution center in Shenzhen,
China. The merger expands CaseStack from 110
to 420 employees.
Sanker says the key is the flexibility to work
with not only XML but also EDI and flat files
from customers. Now he’s working with RFID
systems to squeeze out even more efficiencies
and information in the future.—JRQ
HANDYMAN MATTERS INC.
Employees: 22
Location: Lakewood, Colorado
Launched: 1998
Best tech advice: “Technology is constantly
changing, so it’s important to keep up with
the changes and be open-minded.”
www.handymanmatters.com
Sometimes it’s the small things that
matter. Like odd jobs around the house
that are too small for a contractor but
too difficult for you to tackle during
half-time on Sunday. Getting someone
reli able to do the work can be difficult, which
is where Handyman Matters comes in.
The franchising outfit trains local crafts-
men (and women) and then sells their services
nation wide online. Jobs are distributed to re-
gional franchisees who then perform mainte-
nance, repair, and minor remodeling on resi-
dential and commercial properties. The typical
job is about $300.
Handyman customers fill out a work request
online, which is then sent to the appropriate
territory. “We created our own Web-based soft-
ware that then estimates the amount of time
required, schedules a time, and does the dis-
patching,” says company vice president Mark
Douglass. All job tracking is done online and
downloaded into QuickBooks Online. Cell-
phone text messages alert craftsmen to jobs,
including links to Google maps with driving
directions.
It’s a level of customer service and global
reach that would be difficult without the tech
infrastructure. The company has 130 franchi-
sees in the U.S., Canada, and Ireland.
“Our motto is to do the little jobs,” says Dou-
glass. And thousands of little jobs a day can
really add up. The company says it posted $3.4
million in sales last year.—JRQ

S
E
R
V
I
C
E
S
FINALISTS
KEEP ON TRUCKIN’
CaseStack uses
sophisticated Web-
based software to
orchestrate delivery
of packaged goods
across the country.
olgy.)
RAISING THE CUR-
TAIN Sew What?
founders Megan
Duckett and busi-
ness partner/husband
Adam James Duckett
turned a kitchen-table
business into a global
enterprise.
SEW WHAT? INC.
Employees: 33
Location: Rancho Dominguez, California
Launched: 1992
Best tech advice: “Try to have a technology
budget, even if it’s small. You can do it incre-
mentally.”
www.sewwhatinc.com
Video conferencing and search-engine op-
timization aren’t technologies one would
naturally associate with a custom theatrical-
drapery manufacturer. But those are just two
of the technologies Sew What? has enlisted
to raise the curtain on new business oppor-
tunities.
With a sophisticated Web site that in-
cludes digital swatches, instructions on using
different types of fabrics, and the ability for
customers to upload multimegabyte designs,
founder and president Megan Duckett says
she’s shaved days off the time it takes to pro-
duce custom curtains.
She also deployed a host of technologies
to improve customer service. “We can now
do daily reporting to clients using live video
feeds, send progress photos, and trade in-
stallation diagrams,” she says. The practical
benefits have been immediate. By creating
customized templates in QuickBooks Enter-
prise, Sew What? enabled sales reps to send
copies of flame-proofing certificates to cli-
ents’ PDAs so that fire marshals can see the
documents instantly.
How has such technology affected Sew
What?’s business? The company has gone
from about 600 clients a year to around
3,000, says Duckett, with the likes of Sting,
Madonna, and Prince seeking its services.
“Eighteen months ago, 80 percent of our cus-
tomers were in California,” she says. “Now
it’s about 33 percent in California and 67 per-
cent around the world.”—JRQ
FOR MORE WINNERS,
TURN THE PAGE.
Intel, Intel Logo, Intel Core, Intel Inside, Intel Inside Logo, Pentium and Pentium Inside are trademarks or registered trademarks
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100 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
ICE SAFETY SOLUTIONS
Number of employees: 5
Location: Fremont, California
Year launched: 1999
Best tech advice: “Large corporations are so tech-
savvy. If you’re trying to get their business, you
have to be savvy too.”
www.getice.com
Unlike so many ultrasmall business-
es, ICE realizes that technology is vi-
tally important to even the simplest of
tasks. ICE, short for “In Case of Emer-
gency,” provides safety instruction,
including training in CPR and first aid,
to individuals and businesses. The five-person
company recently applied for and won an Intel
Technology Grant; it used the money simply to
move scheduling and invoicing onto the Web.
The result cannot be exaggerated: Founder Pa-
mela Isom is sure ICE would have folded with-
out the grant from Intel and the move online.
As the company attracted more and more
business clients, its basic internal operations
couldn’t keep up. It lacked the staff to schedule
training sessions promptly over the phone, and
sending invoices via snail mail was a nightmare.
Now the company’s Web site offers an online
calendar, where clients can book training ses-
sions on their own. Big clients use customized
product sites, where they can quickly purchase
the equipment they’ll need. And online data-
bases notify clients when their training certifi-
cations have expired. Not only is the company
still operating, but revenues have increased by
45 percent in the past year.—Cade Metz
HERMANN BROS. LOGGING & CON-
STRUCTION INC.
Number of employees: 86
Location: Port Angeles, Washington
Year launched: 1968
Best tech advice: “You don’t have to invest tons
of money for a technology to be effective. Some-
times, all you need is $500.”
Technology can transform any business, old
school or new. Look no further than Hermann
Bros., a 38-year-old logging and trucking com-
pany that hauls lumber and wood chips across
the Pacific Northwest. Two years ago owner Bill
Hermann and his team streamlined truck routes
with a pair of wide-area wireless services and
boosted revenue by $500 a day.
One of the company’s key customers is the
nearby Interfor-Pacific sawmill. As Interfor cuts
its lumber and wood chips pile up in massive
overhead bins, Hermann Bros. empties them and
shuttles the chips to various paper mills. Interfor
runs 24 hours a day, and Hermann’s truck driv-
ers had to swing by every so often to see if the
bins were full. If they weren’t, that was valuable
driving time—at $75 an hour —down the tubes.
Today, drivers and dispatchers can check the
bins remotely via BlackBerry handhelds or the
Web. Each bin is equipped with a weight sensor
that sends out a wireless signal the moment it’s
full. And a new GPS system keeps tabs on
the trucks, so the closest driver is dis-
patched.
The GPS service was $500 per
truck, with ongoing costs of $40
month. It’s a high-tech way to spruce
up a low-tech business—and it works.
Over the past three years, total revenue
is up 20 percent.—CM
WEDRIVEU INC.
Employees: 35
Location: San Mateo, California
Launched: 1988
Best tech advice: “Before you convert your back-
office software, put some extra money aside, be-
cause it’s going to take a lot of time.”
www.wedriveu.com
Until early this year, WeDriveU relied on
QuickBooks and ACT! by Sage to conduct its
business. The company, which provides chauf-
feurs to customers who want to use their own
cars (“Your car, our chauffeur”), was like many
others. It had started out with a modest invest-
ment in technology, but it needed to grow.
“I was managing Los Angeles remotely,” says
president Dennis Carlson, “but I couldn’t get any
important data out of it.” So he purchased Ever-
est Software’s ERP business automation soft-
ware. It’s already improving customer service
and should help the company expand beyond
the five cities WeDriveU currently serves.
One of the business processes that take a
lot of time is gathering ride details. The new
software enables customers to sign into their
personal accounts, letting them see their ride
history, pay online, and change their profiles. It
has helped improve WeDriveU’s accuracy and
allows the company to forward information auto-
matically to drivers via e-mail or the Web.
Moreover, Carlson will finally be able to
expand. The new platform should be able to
handle up to 22 cities.—JRQ
TO THE RESCUE Mov-
ing to the Web was a
lifesaver for Pamela
Isom’s business, ICE
Safety Solutions.
FOR MORE
WINNERS,
TURN THE
PAGE AND
OPEN THE
GATEFOLD.
NUMBERS GUY Equa-
tion Research CEO Mike
Travis runs his business
virtually, with employees
around the U.S. working
from home.
DIAMOND DATA SYSTEMS
Employees: 75
Location: New Orleans
Launched: 1993
Best tech advice: “Use collaboration and confer-
encing software to share information.”
www.diamonddata.com
After Katrina, Joey Auer, the CEO and founder of
Diamond Data Systems, found himself in a Red
Cross shelter. “They were logging in people in
Excel, and there was no way to find somebody,” he
recalls. Fortunately, Auer’s firm, as an information
technology consultancy to federal, state and com-
mercial clients, was able to help. The Louisi-
ana Department of Social Services hired
the company to set up wireless commu-
nications for the shelters and delivered
Verizon EV-DO wireless cards to about
30 shelters following the storm.
Of course, to do that, Auer had
to keep his own company running. He
accom plished this initially by using SMS
to communicate, then using Microsoft Windows
SharePoint to form collaborative sites online.
“People posted their status online this way, and
then we began using WebEx”—which the com-
pany now finds invaluable for day-to-day opera-
tions. The result was not just corporate survival:
“We actually realized growth in 2005,” he says,
with revenues of $7.6 million.
Quickly deploying such collaborative tools
also enabled Diamond to do the necessary heavy
lifting to help clients after the storm. “We had
one guy fly in on a helicopter with guards to land
on a roof downtown just to carry out the client’s
servers,” says Auer. Now that’s what we call cus-
tomer service.—JRQ
EQUATION RESEARCH
Number of employees: 34
Location: Everywhere, U.S.A.
Year launched: 2000
Best tech advice: “If an off-the-shelf software pack-
age handles only 80 percent of what you need to
do, why use it to handle anything it all? Build your
own.”
www.equationresearch.com
Full disclosure: Equation Research runs PC Mag-
azine’s annual Reader Satisfaction Survey. Are we
biased? It just means we know firsthand what an
incredible company this is. Handling research for
all sorts of media companies, ad agencies, and big
brand names, this 34-person business took in over
$2.3 million in revenue in 2005—and it doesn’t
have an office.
Equation is a virtual company. Every employ-
ee works from home, in cities from New York to
California. That saves all sorts of office costs and
commuting hours. But it also means Equation can
seek out new talent anywhere in the country.
One important technology that makes this
possible is a specialized Web-based application
that keeps close tabs on company operations.
Built with Java and AJAX, this “job track-
ing system” monitors everything from
daily employee task lists and long-term
company goals to billing and invoicing.
And it’s designed in such a way that key
employees can quickly change it—with-
out any programming experience.
The application is so effective that many
of Equation’s clients are asking if they can use it
in their own businesses. Will the company sell
it? Maybe, maybe not. At this point, Equation Re-
search is doing just fine, with revenue expected
to grow another 20 percent to 30 percent in
2006.—CM
INFOHANDLER
Employees: 7
Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Launched: 1994
Best tech advice: “Approach open-source software
with caution, because integrating it yourself can be
difficult.”
www.infohandler.com
InfoHandler helps schools to reduce the admin-
istrative overhead required to meet the needs of
special-education students. Its ezEdMed software
service, aimed at managing Medicaid payments,
“can take a therapist less than 5 minutes a week
to fill out, and yet a school district may recoup as
much as $1 million in revenue,” says CEO Steve
Daugherty. Ironically, the company found it also
needed a solution to solve its own administrative
headaches. It found one, says Daugherty, by going
to a hosted service.
The company tried using contact managers
like ACT, online CRM services, and open-source
bug tracking software, but Daugherty says all the
solutions were underpowered, expensive, or awk-
ward to manage for a small staff working out of
separate home offices.
Now he uses Visitar’s 360° Care, which in-
cludes VoIP services, follow-me numbers, e-mail,
CRM, and project management. “For the first time
we’ve been able to generate a report on what’s in
our pipeline,” he says. “I don’t know how we ever
made it before.”—JRQ



O
U
T
S
O
U
R
C
I
N
G
FINALISTS
BACK TO SCHOOL InfoHandler’s Steve Daugherty and
Tom Crumbaugh help schools across the country man-
age services for special-needs kids.
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 101
oDESK CORP.
Employees: 40
Location: Menlo Park, California
Launched: 2004
Best tech advice: “Don’t be afraid to try different
things—just monitor the results.”
www.odesk.com
“Small and medium-size businesses are waking up
to globalization,” says Gary Swart, CEO of oDesk.
His company manages workforce outsourcing
for companies seeking programmers and techni-
cal writers, enabling companies in Chicago and
California, for example, to hire programmers in
places as far-flung as Moldova and India.
oDesk’s largely open-source–based platform
includes online team rooms that allow clients and
hourly employees to check in, collaborate, and
monitor work projects. “The biggest hurdle was
helping companies monitor worker produc-
tivity,” says Swart. So the company uses
keystroke monitoring and software that
takes a screen grab of workers’ desktops
six times an hour. About 50 percent of
oDesk’s developers also use a webcam
so that employers can see their work.
Rather than finding such technologies
invasive, “many developers like it because
they no longer have to constantly justify their
existence,” says Swart. oDesk also uses its team
rooms for its own developers, and has automated
recruiting with online exams, English-aptitude
tests, and follow-up interviews over Skype.
Is it working? Swart says the company is grow-
ing at a rate of about 15 percent a month.—JRQ
REVENUE CYCLE SOLUTIONS INC.
Employees: 151
Location: Westchester, Illinois
Launched: 2004
Best tech advice: “Build your own technology only
when it’s going to be a differentiator.”
www.revcs.com
“Technology costs put an enormous burden on
health-care providers,” says Greg Richards, man-
aging partner of Revenue Cycle Solutions (RCS).
“So when they have a budget for IT, they usually
spend it on clinical care and neglect the back
office.” That’s why millions of dollars in insur-
ance claims go unpaid every year. RCS hopes to
stop that trend.
RCS developed its own platform, built on
Microsoft FoxPro, to automate the collection of
unpaid small-balance hospital insurance claims.
They’re usually for $200 or less; it isn’t cost-
effective for most hospitals to collect them. To
reduce the cost of collection, RCS’s systems in-
tegrate with hospital patient records and insur-
ance companies’ electronic systems, looking for
filing-rule errors and performing automatic que-
ries with insurers. As a reward, RCS collects a 10
percent commission on recovered money.
RCS is also deploying new systems in its own
back office, particularly for job recruitment and
training. Initial interviews are conducted via an
interactive voice-response system and uploaded
to the Web. In the end, recovering money for its
customers is the bottom line for RCS, which says
its technology not only makes the job possible,
but also reduces labor costs by 33 percent.—JRQ
37SIGNALS LLC
Number of employees: 7
Location: Chicago
Year launched: 1999
Best tech advice: “Less is better. The beauty of a
good technology is that it’s simple.”
www.37signals.com
37signals was just another Web design firm in
danger of bursting with the dot-com bubble.
Today, it’s one of the hottest software devel-
opers on the Web. How did it succeed? By
keeping things simple.
Software development is often much
too complicated and ridiculously time-
consuming—and the end result is bloat-
ed and buggy applications. 37signals real-
ized it could compete with the big boys by
reducing the practice to its bare essentials.
In 2003, CEO Jason Fried and his cohorts built
a tool called Basecamp for managing their own
client projects. The app was so simple and effec-
tive, the company decided to sell to outside busi-
nesses. Then Fried realized that he could adapt
Basecamp to create all sorts of business apps.
So the company built a wonderfully modular
development platform called Ruby on Rails, and
the rest is history. In just two years, the company
used Rails to build four more apps, and revenue
jumped by 500 percent in 2005 alone.
Rails soon became the hottest development
platform on the Web, and the company now has
thousands of developers across the world work-
ing to improve its code—all for free. This has
raised the company’s profile to heights you’d
never expect of a seven-person operation. Rev-
enue continues to grow at a 10 percent clip each
and every month.—CM
MEET THE WINNERS!
Join PC Magazine editor-
in-chief Jim Louderback
for a live, interactive,
online chat with three
of our SMB 20 –winning
CEOs. October 5, 2006,
at 2 p.m. EDT.
ON CAMERA To manage
workforce outsourcing
around the world, oDesk
monitors worker produc-
tivity online.
102 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
© 2006 Google Inc. All rights reserved. Google and the Google logo are trademarks of Google Inc
Intelligent info sharing
Imagine secure search within your organization that’s as easy as search on Google.com.
With the Google Mini or the Google Search Appliance, you’ll get fast search across all the
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management systems, file servers and desktops.
The Google Mini supports 50,000 to 300,000 docs, and with
a starting price of $1,995, it’s as cheap as a laptop. The
Google Search Appliance also works right out of the box and
can scale to meet the search needs of any size organization.
For more information about the Google Mini or the Google
Search Appliance, please visit www.google.com/enterprise
HE FIRST EXAMPLE OF THE VIDEO-
phone concept appeared in 1927,
in Fritz Lang’s sci-fi masterpiece
Metropolis. Even though that was
nothing more than a guy stand-
ing behind a fake video screen, it
sparked the imagination of technologists around
the world. Video calling became a reality decades
later, but it did not garner wide adoption for sev-
eral reasons: The phones were too expensive, the
quality was pathetic until broadband came along,
and many people don’t want others to know what
they look like when they answer the phone.
Although the newer video-calling services are
not a replacement for your landline phone or com-
mercial VoIP services such as Vonage, they’re a cool
Instant-messaging clients with video are a cool way to con-
nect to family and friends. But is the quality good enough?
And more important, can you get your Aunt Sophie to use it?
BY DAVIS D. JANOWSKI
Free Video Calls
way to connect with people in your life who are far
away. You’ll need a PC, a broadband connection, and
a webcam, but using such services should make you
feel like you’re really getting your money’s worth
out of your monthly Internet bill.
Yes, there are hurdles—namely, getting less tech-
savvy family members and friends to download the
client and set it up correctly; then they’ll have to deal
with a frustrating array of webcam and headphone
quirks as they get the setup to work. And they’ll have
to leave the client running on their PC regularly,
with the volume up high enough to hear you call.
We had four testers try four chat clients with
video—SightSpeed 5.0, Skype 2.5, Windows Live
Messenger 8, and Yahoo! Messenger 8.0 with
Voice—to see if the quality is really up to snuff.
MORE ON THE WEB
To read reviews of full-
fledged video phones
from Ojo, Packet 8, and
AOL, visit go.pcmag
.com/videophones.
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 105
REAL- WORLD TESTI NG
R E A L - WOR L D T E S T I N G
F YOU’RE LIKE ME, YOU PROBABLY HAVE
family and friends scattered far and
wide—even in different countries—with
few occa sions to gather in-person. Skype
2.5 may well be one of the best ways out
there to keep in touch without running up
an astronomical phone bill. Skype 2.5 is a free soft-
ware app that lets you make free Skype-to-Skype
phone calls, chat via instant messaging, do confer-
ence calls with other Skype members, and even
make calls to landlines (for a small fee). And now
that it has video capa bility, it is perfect for calling an
overseas relative who wants to see the new baby or
reconnect to a long-lost friend from high school.
Skype was pretty simple to download and install
on my system (the webcam I used took longer to set
up). Once I created a log-on password, I could up-
date my online profile and search for people I know
to see whether they were Skype members.
Once the service and my webcam were enabled,
I called my parents in the Philippines and my sis-
ter in Philadelphia (both Skype members), and we
could actually see each other as we spoke. My par-
ents got to talk and interact with their grandson,
whom they haven’t seen in person in two years.
The quality of the video wasn’t ideal, and there was
some lag time in the transmission of the video sig-
nal, but this is to be expected when calling overseas,
where broadband quality and Internet connections
can be spotty.
The biggest boon is the money I save on long-
distance calls. Before using Skype, I was doling out
19 cents a minute off-peak (and about 25 cents peak)
on my landline, along with a monthly surcharge
for just having the service. I’m saving about $45 a
month, and my parents, who are retired, are sav-
ing even more. Being able to have a face go along
with the voice is icing on the cake. My family and
I love this service and will keep using it.—Laarni
Almendrala Ragaza
Skype 2.5
Logitech QuickCam
Fusion
$99.99 direct
L l l l h
The QuickCam uses
a true 1.3-megapixel
sensor, and thanks to
a colorful 640-by-480
video feed, the image
quality is excellent.
Logitech’s RightLight
helps brighten videos.
$99.99 direct
go.pcmag.com/quickcam
Creative WebCam
Live! Motion
$129.99 direct
l l l l m
This double-duty web-
cam can rest on your
desk or clamp onto
an LCD monitor. A
200- degree pan and
105-degree tilt with face
tracking means you don’t
have to sit motionless.
go.pcmag.com/
webcamlive
Digi/Inside Out Net-
works Watchport/V2
$180 street
l l l l h
This expensive but
power ful CCD webcam
lets you swap lens covers
for a wide-angle, close-
up, or telephoto view. Its
detachable base lets you
mount the camera on a
wall or tripod. And with
the AnywhereUSB pro-
gram, you can watch the
video feed remotely.
go.pcmag.com/
watchport
Axis 205
$199 list
L l l l m
About the size of a deck
of cards, this camera has
a built-in Web server.
Just plug it in to your
network and it’s ready
to stream video images
directly into Internet
Explorer. Axis now offers
the upgraded 206.
go.pcmag.com/axis205

Y BOYFRIEND AND I PRACTI-
cally started our relationship
on Yahoo!’s instant-messaging
program, so it seemed appro-
priate for me to test Yahoo!’s
video chat with him. We both
have webcams and are the self-proclaimed dorki-
est techie couple ever, so I did not have to walk him
through the process. Although we both live and
work in downtown San Francisco, we chatted three
times over the course of a week with Yahoo!’s video
chat, for about 10 minutes or so each time.
If more people had webcams, I would certainly
have more Yahoo! video conversations, but on my
list of 75 IM contacts, I could locate only three peo-
ple who had one.
Yahoo! does not really have video chat, but it has
voice service and webcam capabilities that can work
together for a video-phone feel.
The voice service works well. The caller hears
little or no echo of her own voice, and the recipient’s
voice is just as clear as, if not clearer than, on a mo-
bile phone call. There is some delay, but that mostly
depends on broadband availability.
The video is a little choppy but otherwise ade-
quate. It certainly wouldn’t work for showing off
dance moves, but you do get the feel of the conver-
sation just fine.
It’s not that easy to use, though. You have to
manage three separate windows for just one con-
versation: the initial IM window, where you manage
video and voice; the webcam window; and another
window for the person you’re calling. Why can’t Ya-
hoo! put the webcam views side by side with the IM
window in a single interface? And it’s somewhat an-
noying that Yahoo! puts ads into the video window
of the person you’re talking with.
I’d say the overall Yahoo! video experience is pos-
itive, although I still prefer Skype for video calls be-
cause of the window manageability. I will continue
to use Yahoo! on occasion because I like the music
channels that the messenger offers, and I’m quite
amused by its smiley icons.—Natali T. Del Conte
Yahoo! Messenger 8.0
with Voice
WEBCAM
REVIEWS
106 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
ONVINCING ME TO TRY OUT SIGHT-
Speed was easy. I’ve already got a
video camera, and I’ve been itching to
get my family and friends to join me
online. Persuading them turned out
to be the toughest part. I visited my
mom in Boston and installed a webcam for her, but
it was only after I stressed the “free phone calls”
aspect (oh yeah, with video too!) that she jumped
on board.
Once she was ready, she surprised me by install-
ing the software on her own and calling me at the
computer one day. Apparently, the software setup
really is that simple. Once it was up and running,
SightSpeed worked pretty well, though we saw
several “network congestion” errors, and dropped
frames were fairly common, too. That’s Comcast’s
service, however, not SightSpeed. (And we can
prove it! Visit www.pcmag.com/fastestISP to learn
more.)
It was harder to get my aunt in Israel on board.
She already uses Skype to chat with my cousin in
Atlanta, and since the service works very well,
she saw no reason to switch. Who can argue
with that? I explained that SightSpeed uses some
very advanced codecs, giving it markedly better
video quality. She signed on—and marveled at the
improved video quality. There was a bit of a lag
between audio and video, but to be fair, that was on
an international call, and I didn’t see the same lag
between New York and Boston.
At first we called each other on the phone to
set up the video calls, but eventually, we enabled
a phone-ring sound from our computers’ speakers.
This made receiving calls extremely easy: Leave
the app running in the system tray, and it’s just like
a regular incoming phone call. We’ll definitely be
sticking with SightSpeed.—Jeremy A. Kaplan
SightSpeed 5.0
FTER COLLEGE, I MOVED BACK HOME
with my parents on Long Island,
landed a job in Manhattan, and
commuted to save money. After
two years of living at home, ridicule
from my friends, and the release of
the movie Failure to Launch, I decided not to make
that movie a reality. I found a studio apartment in
Manhattan, moved in, and planned not to see my
parents for a while. Back at Jacobowitz head quarters,
however, my overbearing, computer-savvy parents
(a dangerous combination) insisted on staying con-
nected and knowing every detail of my life. Enter
Logitech and Windows Messenger Live 8.
I thought I’d help alleviate their empty-nest syn-
drome by giving my father a virtual tour using the
Logitech QuickCam for Notebooks Pro attached to
my Dell laptop, and the Windows Messenger client.
The chat client installed without a hitch, and
Messenger’s Vista sign-in color scheme makes the
program pretty to look at. But unfortunately, the
user experience was not as flawless. Both my father
and I were on cable-modem connections, behind
routers. We had no problem making the connection
for video calls to each other, but audio was choppy
and video was far from smooth.
To make sure the problem wasn’t with our PCs
or Internet connections, we signed on to AIM and
tested audio calls through there. We began killing
services, programs in our start-ups, and anything we
could think of that might be hogging bandwidth and
system resources. Unfortunately, we were stumped;
nothing we did significantly improved the quality. I
think video chat is definitely a good way to stay in
touch with the ’rents, but I think I’m going to look
elsewhere for a better app—because I’m sure not
moving back home.—P.J. Jacobowitz
Windows Messenger
Live 8
VIDEO
CHAT AT A
GLANCE
Here’s a summary
of our findings after
testing, along with
some tips for video
chatting with family
and friends.
1
SightSpeed
rules!: It proved
the easiest to
set up and use,
and video qual-
ity couldn’t be
beat. Even in our
lab-based testing,
SightSpeed came
out on top.
2
More Skype users
means more free
calls: Because
this is the most
commonly used
free VoIP service,
you’ll be more
likely to find
friends and family
using it (mean-
ing the calls are
free). Skype has
a handy account
to deposit money
for making non-
Skype calls.
3
It’s slower to go
across the pond:
For international
calls, VoIP is fine,
with little or no
lag time. But if
you want to do
video, expect
delays—no matter
if you’re calling
Madrid or Manila.
4
Use it to call your
kids at State U:
Kids are always
online, so take
advantage of
their greediness
and the school’s
broadband by
giving them a
webcam when
they ship off to
college.
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 107
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 111
BUI LD I T
BY GREG STEEN
Motion sensors, video cameras, and Internet
access create the very best canine château.
Is your dog worth the ultimate treatment?
The Ultimate
Doghouse
112 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
B U I L D I T
A
T HEART, THE FORCE-SENSOR MAT IS
a large, pressure-activated switch.
When the dog lies on the mat, the
completed circuit sends a signal to
the computer, via a Phidget 8/8/8
interface kit. (And for double verification, you
can use the Dog Vision collar-cam.)
1
Shape the mat. The mat is made of parallel strips
of conductive metal separated at 1-inch intervals
by nonconductive foamy material. When pressure
is applied, the metal strips bend and complete the
circuit. Trim the mat parallel to the main strips so
you don’t cut your switch.
A SMART
DOGHOUSE
NEEDS . . .

A force-sensor mat,
to tell me when my
dog is at home

A temperature-
sensitive doghouse
fan

A controllable pan/
tilt webcam with
audio and Internet
streaming capa-
bilities, perched atop
the doghouse to
check on my dog

Dog Vision, a
wireless cam
mounted on
a dog collar, also
with streaming
capabilities, to
let me see what
my pet sees

Two temperature
gauges, to monitor
the environment
inside and outside
(comfort is key to
a happy pooch)

A motion sensor,
to let both the
dog and me know
when someone or
something is roving
in the yard behind
the doghouse
2
Wire it together. Connect wires to the thinner
strips of metal at each end of the mat that run
perpendicular to the metal strips.
3
Add the Phidget.
Connect one wire
to one of the digital
input grounds on
the Phidget inter-
face and the other
wire to one of the
numbered digital-
input connectors.
Try not to get too
tangled in the wires
connected to the
digital outputs from
other parts of your
doghouse.
4
Place the mat. Finally, slip the mat under
a rug on the doghouse floor. Now you’ll
know when your pooch is in his domicile.
Where Do I Start?
P
EOPLE ARE PET LOVERS. THEY HAVE
been for thousands of years, and
day after day, their pooch passion
grows stronger. But modern man
no longer prowls the fields with his
best friend, so he can’t keep constant tabs on his
prized companion. Until now. For all you dog
lovers out there, this Build It’s for you. I’m go-
ing to show you how to build a high-tech doggy
domicile that delivers real-time status updates
on your favorite slobberer while you toil away
at your day job.
But first—and I cannot stress this enough—
before you start your DIY pet project, go over your
ideas with your local veterinarian or the ASPCA
to ensure the safety of your beloved companion.
Dogs like to chew and nibble, so you should take
precautions (which we don’t have room to cover
here) for those things with any gadgetry that you
put into your project. Also, each dog is differ-
The Force-Sensor Mat
ent and has different needs; be sure your project
won’t be stressful for your dog.
After researching several turnkey sensor solu-
tions, I discovered Phidgets, sensor and control
interfaces that deliver real-time data to your com-
puter via the USB port. The friendly and helpful
folks at Trossen Robotics hooked me up with the
Phidgets and sensors that I needed for install-
ing both the sensor mat and the motion sensor.
For the camera, I picked up a cool JMK wireless
model that runs on battery power. Then I built a
dog-monitor service with Microsoft Windows to
keep an eye on my doghouse. The service sends
e-mail alerts to my custom Web application,
which I’ve dubbed the Doggy Dashboard.
But of course, it all starts with a doghouse—
in this case, the Handyman’s Large Doghouse
from PetSmart. After setting that up, here’s how
I integrated the hardware and then developed
the software.
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 113
T
HE PAN/TILT ASSEMBLY CONSISTS OF A COUPLE OF SERVOMOTORS ATTACHED TO THE
PhidgetServo controller. One servomotor controls the horizontal axis of the camera
(pan) and the other controls the vertical (tilt). This gives you a high-level and program-
matically simple way to change the position of your webcam remotely via the Web site.
Remember, this is going to stream over the Internet, and because most of us don’t have
a lot of upstream bandwidth at home, choosing a lower bit rate will give a more consistent stream.
You’ll have to test to see what frame rate works best, balancing clarity with consistency.
1
Attach the mounting bracket
to the pan servomotor. Keep
your screwdriver handy.
D
OG VISION IS A WS-309AS WIRELESS VIDEO CAMERA ATTACHED TO
a normal dog collar. The CCD camera connects to an A/V radio
receiver that in turn connects to an A/V converter on my PC. Then,
using Windows Media Encoder again, I grab the stream and make
it accessible to the Doggy Dashboard, to see in real time what the
pooch is seeing. Take precautions to protect the battery and camera assembly
from those big paws: After all, dogs like to scratch beneath their collars.
1
Camera meets collar.
Position the camera
toward the bottom as
ballast. Hook the 9-volt
battery adapter to the
power input and you’re
ready to stream.
2
Tune in. Set the cam-
era receiver to the
dog- collar camera’s
frequency. Then
mount it to the dog-
house roof and adjust
the antenna.
3
Capture the stream.
Next you’ll need to
hook the analog com-
posite-video output
of the receiver to the
video capture card in
your computer.
ELECTRIC BLING In retrospect, I should have
trimmed the extra RCA jacks. Kaya didn’t mind.
2
Attach the “C” bracket to
the mounting bracket. Later
you’ll attach the camera.
3
Put the second servomo-
tor into the pan-mounting
bracket. Then attach it to the
“C” tilt bracket.
5
Mount the assembly and
PhidgetServo controller.
Then connect the servos to
the controller circuit board.
6
Hook the board to your PC
via USB. Create a Windows
Media Encoder session, fol-
lowing the handy Wizard.
4
Mount the USB webcam. Fix
it to the top of the tilt servo-
motor bracket.
7
Select compression settings.
In the Live Broadcast wizard,
choose Low Bandwidth video
and Voice Quality audio.
8
Choose an open TCP/IP port.
(The default is fine.) Then
click Start Encoding to get
broadcasting!
Assemble a Pan/Tilt Camera
Dog Vision: An On-Collar Camera
114 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
A Temperature-Activated Doghouse Fan
B U I L D I T
I
T WAS IMPORTANT TO ME THAT MY DOG-
house not get too hot. Though Dog Vi-
sion and the pan/tilt house camera give
a good view of Fido’s world, I needed
something to get a sense of what it feels
like as well. I hooked up a pair of temperature
sensors to an old PC case fan, so the computer
could activate the case fan if either sensor re-
corded that the temperature was above a certain
point. Heat rises, and a doghouse roof will ab-
sorb heat from the sun, too, so mount the sen-
sors out of direct sunlight and where they won’t
feel roof heat. For parts, I used the Phidget Inter-
faceKit 8/8/8, a 9-volt battery, an IRF510 power
MOSFET transistor from Radio Shack, some
wire, and two analog temperature sensors.
THE MOTION SENSOR
Fido doesn’t like surly
neighbor dogs sneaking
up on him from behind
his doghouse, so as an
added tidbit I mounted a
motion sensor just under
the pinnacle of the roof
in back, cutting a hole
for it with a keyhole saw.
Again, the Dog Monitor
service writes a log entry
when motion is detected;
I thought e-mail alerts
would be too frequent
to be useful.
DIGITAL
DOGHOUSE
PARTS
Interface kit.................$90
Motion sensor
....................................$40.50
Two analog
temp sensors.........$19.80
9-volt battery
connector.................$0.50
JMK WS-309AS
wireless camera/
receiver kit.............$49.95
Pan/tilt kit..............$119.75
Video capture
card...............................$100
MOSFET
transistor....................$1.99
Floor mat
switch........................$12.50
Logitech
Quickcam
Pro 3000.......................$70
Old case fan.................free
TOTAL...................$504.99
6
Mount your sensors. I hung two sensors, one inside
and one outside. I drilled a hole to bring the lead
to the interface kit, which I mounted outside.
5
Add a transistor. This acts as a switch, turning the
power source on and off when you tell the Phidget
Interface to change the state of the digital output.
4
Wire the fan. Attach the positive lead from the
battery connector to the positive output of the fan. 3
Ready a battery connection. Attach a 9-volt
battery connector to the battery and strip some
wire casing from each lead.
1
Wire the interface. Connect a wire to one of the
Phidget Interface digital output grounds and
another to a digital output.
2
Prep the fan. Cut the PC power connector from the
case fan and strip the positive and negative power
leads to the wire. Expose about an inch of wire.
8
Link it with code. A few lines of code make the
system write entries to the log at specified intervals,
recording temperature and turning on the fan.
7
Insert the fan. I measured the case fan carefully.
Then with a keyhole saw, I cut out a section of
the back wall and mounted the fan.
116 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
Tying It All Together with Software
T
O TIE IT ALL TOGETHER, I CREATED A
“Dog Monitor” Windows service to
keep an eye on my doghouse. The
service sends e-mail alerts to my
custom Web application, which I’ve
dubbed the Doggy Dashboard. It lets me see the
Dog Monitor and use Dog Vision—that’s live,
streaming video from my pooch.
The Doggy Dashboard consists of two com-
ponents: a sortable view of the messages from
the Dog Monitor service and a control panel for
the webcam streams. The webcam on the dog-
house is pan/tilt enabled, and the Doggy Dash-
board lets me rotate the camera’s position. The
pan/tilt control is AJAX-enabled as well, so the
page doesn’t have to reload completely when the
camera’s position changes.
The people at Phidgets have developed a great
API for their devices. It lets you easily create cus-
Next Steps
M
AKING THIS ULTIMATE DOGHOUSE DIY PROJECT LAST IN
the outside world means you’ll need to protect the gad-
getry from the elements, as well as from dog breath/teeth/
slobber/fur. For example, you could encase the battery on
the dog-collar cam with a rugged, nontoxic plastic shell,
so the dog won’t eat battery acid. And a Mini-ITX flash-based computer
system would be ideal to manage the sensors, run the Doggy Dashboard,
power the webcam encoder, and host the Doggy Dashboard Web site.
There are also many great Phidgets I didn’t use that would add great ex-
tensions to the project. For example, a pH sensor could check the acidity of
the dog’s water to make sure it’s drinkable. If the sensor detects an unaccept-
able value, it could trigger a servomotor to dump the water bowl and refill it
again with a simple pump hooked to a Phidget interface kit. Or you could take
an analog force sensor and place one under the dog’s food bowl to detect when
the bowl is empty.
The possibilities for the DIY-inclined are limitless. I hope this introduc-
tion has inspired you to start your own DIY adventure. So good luck, good
computing, and set the servos to scratch Fido’s chin one time for me.
DOGGY.NET
Phidgets are easy
to code, even for
nonprofessional coders.
THE DOGGY DASHBOARD
Check in on Fido from your
office cube.
tom programs to work with the monitoring data
collected from the different Phidgets sensors.
Libraries are available for many different pro-
gramming languages, but I chose to the use the
.Net framework’s COM wrapper to help create the
Windows service that sends those e-mail alerts.
Not a super-duper developer yet? Don’t worry,
sample code and a pretty good set of documents
are provided on www.phidgets.com, or you can just
download the stuff I wrote from PCMag.com (go
.pcmag.com/doghousecode).
YOU BUILT IT!
Our DIY MP3 boom-box project was
enticing, but the ratty old Sanyo
we used lacked polish. Leave it to
MIT mechanical engineering major
Alisha Schor to one-up us. Here’s her
(mostly finished) project. Have you
been working on something great?
Send your submissions to
diy@pcmag.com
Want to see
your creation
in PC Magazine?
E-m
ail us!
B U I L D I T
ASK NEIL SOFTWARE
A
Sure, it’s easy enough to do. Suppose you
want all the numbers in column A to be
unique. Start by clicking in cell A1 and se-
lecting Data | Validation from the menu. Click the
drop-down list that is titled Allow and select Cus-
tom from the list. A box titled Formula will appear;
enter this formula: =COUNTIF(A:A,A1)=1. Now
click the Error Alert tab and enter an appropriate
title and error message. For example, you could set
the title to “Unique Values Only” and the message
to “You must enter a value that is not already pres-
ent in this column.” Then click OK to accept the
validation rule.
Now click the heading for column A to select
the entire column. Again select Data | Validation
from the menu. Excel will ask if you want to
extend data validation to the additional cells.
Click Yes, click OK, and you’re done. If you acci-
dentally attempt to enter a nonunique value in
column A, Excel will block it and display the
error message you defined.
CAN’T SEND E-MAIL WHEN TRAVELING
Q
I have a dial-up NetZero account. It works
well for me, and I download my e-mail to Mi-
crosoft Outlook whenever I need to. When I
use my laptop with hotel or airport Wi-Fi, though,
the incoming messages I get through NetZero’s
POP3 come into Outlook okay, but I can’t send
anything out of the application. Is there anything I
need to change in the SMTP settings?—Art Sagy
A
The POP3 and SMTP e-mail protocols are
fairly brain-dead—witness the ease with
which hackers and viruses can “spoof” mes-
sages so they seem to come from somebody else.
One way ISPs can limit abuse by hackers is to lock
down their SMTP servers, making them available
only for IP addresses inside their network. When
you log on through Wi-Fi or plug in to a foreign
network, you get an IP address belonging to that
network. You look like an intruder to your ISP, so it
refuses you access to its SMTP servers.
One solution is to use Web-based e-mail while
on the road. Your ISP may offer Web access to your
regular e-mail account. If not, you may need to read
your mail and write your responses, then connect
via dial-up long enough to send your outgoing mail.
UPDATES FOR A SLOOOOW COMPUTER
Q
Although we have broadband at work, I
can’t yet get it at home in North Cornwall,
England (I have a 56-Kbps dial-up con-
nection). My Microsoft Windows XP updates are
way out of date. Even a 2.75MB download can
take over an hour. With a few “critical” updates
and other wise “fixes,” I’d need a 24-hour dial-
up connection, and no need to use the phone!
Can I download the updates at work (which
I am permitted to do), save them on my pen
drive, and then install them at home? My soft-
ware is legal, so needing the serial number isn’t
a problem, but would it work? Or does Micro-
soft offer a solution?—Andy Hearnden
A
A system that’s so out of date probably
doesn’t even have Windows XP Service
Pack 2. SP2 is over 100MB to download, so
you may want to take advantage of Microsoft’s CD
offer. Visit www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/sp2 and
click the link that says Order the CD. Shipping is free
in the U.S.; you’ll have to pay £6 for shipping to the
U.K. Once you’ve installed SP2, Microsoft encour-
ages you to share the CD with your friends.
FORCE UNIQUE NUMBERS IN EXCEL
Is there a way I can keep duplicate
numbers from being inserted into
a column in Microsoft Excel (in other
words, allow only unique numbers
in the column)?—Wayne Buchler
NEED ANSWERS?
Each issue, PC Maga-
zine’s software expert,
Neil J. Rubenking,
tackles your toughest
software and Internet
problems. Send
your questions to
askneil@ziffdavis.com
Excel’s Data Validation
feature can confine the
user to entering only
numbers that are not
already present in a
given column.
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 119
Create your
own error
message
There’s no problem with downloading updates
at one location and installing them elsewhere.
Here’s what you’ll want to do. At your slow home
system visit www.windowsupdate.com and let it con-
jure up a list of the updates you need. Make a copy of
this list, take it with you to work, and go to support
.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=323166. Follow
the instructions and links there to download your
updates from the Windows Update Catalog. Then
bring the update files home and install them. You
don’t need a serial number to download the updates,
though you may need to validate your existing copy of
Windows. When finished, check in at www.windows
update.com to see if more updates are needed.
TAB IN WORD NO LONGER INDENTS BULLETS
Q
I have done something to Microsoft Word.
The Tab key no longer indents bullets. In-
stead, it inserts a tab character. How can I
change its settings to cause it to indent a bullet
when the Tab key is pressed?—Lee Fields
A
You can remedy this in a trice. Select Tool |
Autocorrect Options from the menu and click
the tab titled Autoformat as you type. Check
This setting in Microsoft
Word’s Options dialog
dictates whether or
not the Tab key controls
indentation.
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 121
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the box called Set left- and first-indent with tabs and
backspaces and click OK. Despite the description,
this setting also affects how the Tab key changes
indents. With it checked, Tab and Shift-Tab increase
and decrease the indent level. Without it, they both
insert a tab character into the document.
ASK NEI L
TRANSFERRING MIRRORED
RAID 1 DATA
Q
My motherboard supports two SATA drives
through the Intel connection. I have a Max-
tor 130GB and a Western Digital 160GB
drive in RAID 1 (in two partitions). I want to replace
both with 300GB drives and mirror what’s on the
130GB drive to the new drives, with new partitions
so I can use the full 300GB. How do I get the cur-
rent mirrored information (includes boot Windows
XP) to the 300GB drives?—Stephen
A
There are many ways to do this, but by far
the easiest is to use a partition cloning tool,
such as Symantec Ghost or Acronis True
Image. These either clone a hard drive or back up
exact copies of the disk (called a disk image) to files
for archiving. We’ve used both in the lab and tend
to prefer the current (9.0) version of True Image.
Since you have only two SATA connections, it’s
likely to be a multistep process. The current ver-
sions of True Image and Ghost support backup to
optical drives, other hard drives (including external
drives), and over the network. Install the imaging
software on your system and then create a bootable
CD or DVD (containing all the software you need to
restore the disk image) from the app.
With just the two SATA ports, you will need
another physical drive or DVD burner. The physi-
cal drive could be external (USB or FireWire), or an
internal IDE drive if your motherboard has free IDE
ports. If you use a DVD burner, you’ll need multiple
DVDs (about 15 to 20 DVD-R single-layer discs for
80GB of actual data). If you use a hard drive, make
sure it’s at least as large as your RAID array.
Be sure to enable any error-checking options
on the disk-imaging software. (If one of the DVD-
R discs is corrupt, you’ll lose all the data.) Imaging
your hard drive can take several hours. As your data
is precious, consider making a second backup.
Once you’ve backed up the hard drive images,
power the system down and remove the existing
hard drives without formatting them or destroying
their data. Make a note of which SATA port each
drive was connected to.
Set up your new RAID 1 array with the RAID
BIOS setup, then insert the bootable CD you made
earlier and boot into the image-restore utility. You
can then clone the disk image onto the new RAID
array. Once that’s done, you should be able to boot
normally from the hard drives. The process of setting
up the RAID mirror might change the boot drive or-
der. You can correct this in the system BIOS setup.
ACCESSING RAID 1 HARD DRIVES
I’ve tried different methods of
backing up my hard drive data.
My latest was to set up two 400GB
hard drives in a RAID 1 configura-
tion (on my Dell XPS 600) where
one drive duplicates the other drive’s data.
The drives are used for photo storage only
and have an operating system installed.
NEED ANSWERS?
ExtremeTech.com’s
editor, Loyd Case,
tackles your toughest
hardware problems
each issue. Send
him yours at
askloyd@ziffdavis.com
I haven’t found a way to differentiate between or
look at both drives. Is there a way I can be sure
that both contain the same data and one drive
hasn’t died?—Gerald Wallace
A
A RAID 1 volume behaves like a single drive
while replicating the data on both drives.
You can’t access them individually. But
should one drive fail, or begin generating errors,
you’ll get a message from the RAID manager soft-
ware that one drive is corrupt. Most modern RAID
systems, including those built onto motherboards,
will begin the rebuilding process automatically.
If you get an error message that leads you to
believe that one drive is starting to fail, you can
reboot and go into the RAID BIOS to see which
drive is failing. The key combinations vary between
RAID BIOSs, but there’s usually enough of a delay
during boot time for you to press the proper keys.
You can then power the system down and replace
the failing drive with one of equal capacity. When
you reboot, the system will rebuild the mirrored
volume. That process could take several hours.
Intel’s Matrix Storage
Manager RAID manage-
ment software ships
with RAID-capable
Intel motherboards. This
screen shows two RAID 1
volumes, including their
associated hard drives.
122 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
ASK LOYD HARDWARE
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Light the way.
A hosted online storefront solution can launch your
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Your Web Store’s
Grand Opening
SMB BOOT CAMP
124 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
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BY MATTHEW D. SARREL
S A TEENAGER, I HAD A SUMMER JOB
working in White’s Barnegat Light
Market as a stock boy. Mike White,
the second-generation owner, used to
walk around the store constantly with
a clipboard and take inventory. Then he would walk
back to the stockroom, present us with the clip-
board, and say, “You can’t sell a product that isn’t
on the shelves.” Businesses today don’t rely only on
physical shelves but also on virtual shelves. If you’re
looking to open a Web storefront, then at the very
least you’ll need to build the shelves, stock them,
and provide an easy checkout process.
The first step in building a Web storefront is to
shop for and select an e-commerce service. The
process will be easier and faster if you know be-
forehand which features are most important and
how to evaluate them.
One of the most powerful features a hosted
e-commerce solution offers is a wizard that will
take you from start to finish in the development
of a fully operational Web storefront. Along with
the wizard is usually a choice of templates, so you
can update the site. Make sure that your provider
offers a template that you can customize easily.
The ability to import catalog data is crucial be-
cause you don’t want to waste time and employee
resources typing in product information. Equally
important is the ability to export data so that you
can track and analyze it locally.
Another vital element is to have multiple ways
to accept payment. PayPal is a big convenience, as
is the ability to process credit cards directly. Also,
a good shipping program is absolutely neces-
sary for a successful Web storefront. Any hosted
e-commerce solution must include automated
and accurate shipping modules that tie in with the
major shipping companies, such as USPS, UPS,
FedEx, and DHL.
It’s not enough merely to build a store; you’ve
got to bring customers in via successful market-
ing. Look for a provider that lets you build and
use a mailing list. The ability to run promotions,
such as gift certificates and coupons, and an
affiliate program can also be important. Integra-
tion with XML-based shopping feeds, such as Ya-
hoo! Shopping, is critical because it will increase
your exposure.
The importance of good service and support
at a fair price goes without saying. Make sure that
support is available when you need it and in the
method that you need. You can’t underestimate
the value of picking up the phone and straighten-
ing out a problem instantly. Every minute your site
is down or acting flaky could translate into dozens
of lost sales when users become frustrated and de-
cide to click somewhere else. Also, make sure to
demo each service that interests you and evaluate
it in terms of the features listed in this article.
If none of the Web storefront providers seem
right for you, then you may want to consider
building your own site and adding a standalone
e-commerce shopping cart, such as MIVA Mer-
chant or Actinic Catalog. There are also plenty of
ASP, PHP, and Perl solutions that a Web developer
can integrate into your site. Whatever solution you
choose, it will definitely save you the headache of
carrying around a clipboard like Mr. White.
Matthew D. Sarrel is a consultant and former tech-
nical director of PC Magazine Labs.
Yahoo! SiteBuilder, the software included with Mer-
chant Starter, uses simple templates and tutorials.
Silence is sweet. HP engineers work hard to make
our industry-leading workstations perform noiselessly.
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© Copyright 2006 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice. Prices may vary.
Simulated images. Dual-Core is a new technology designed to improve performance of certain software products. Check with software provider to
determine suitability. Not all customers or software applications will necessarily benefit from use of this technology. Intel, the Intel logo, Xeon, and Xeon
Inside are trademarks or registered trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the United States and other countries. Microsoft and Windows
are U.S. registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation.
HP recommends Windows
®
XP Professional
126 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
Your Own Personal Matrix
How rootkits can take over your computer and steal data under
your nose—and how to stop them.
backdoor Trojan-horse programs took the top slot,
infecting 62 percent of the 5.7 million computers
found to have a malicious-software problem. Root-
kits accounted for only 9 percent of the total PCs
infected—although that would increase to 14 per-
cent if you count the “rootkit-like” copy-protection
software that music giant Sony BMG included on
some CD titles.
Yet researchers worry that hiding techniques
are only getting better. The next generation of such
rootkits adhere more to the hidden-matrix concept,
offering up a simulated reality not only to the user
but also to the operating system. At this year’s Black
Hat Briefings security conference, researchers
Joanna Rutkowska and Dino Dai Zovi gave separate
presentations on rootkit techniques that would fool
a user and the operating system into thinking that
the computer was completely clean—when the
system was really running inside a virtual software
world. One of the rootkit concepts even borrowed
its name from The Matrix: Blue Pill.
While rootkits are a pernicious problem today,
there are defenses. Several security firms offer root-
kit detection utilities. Antivirus firm F-Secure offers
a rootkit detector, dubbed BlackLight, in its Inter-
net Security Suite product. And as mentioned ear-
lier, Microsoft’s free Malicious Software Removal
Tool also gets rid of some rootkit programs. A third
popular rootkit-detection utility, RootkitRevealer,
comes from software firm Sysinternals.com, which
Microsoft acquired in July.
However, detecting that the operating system
is running inside a virtual computer will likely
become a lot tougher as companies become more
enamored with virtualization. Many companies
run virtual servers on large mainframes for reli-
ability reasons: If one virtual machine goes down,
another can instantly be created to take its place.
Computer-chip companies, seeing the interest, have
built features into their latest processors to make
virtualization easier. Future rootkits will exploit
these functions to hide better.
In the end, running your operating system of
choice in a virtual environment may become the
norm. It’s just that some people will be in the wrong
virtual world.
Robert Lemos is a freelance journalist and the editor-
at-large for SecurityFocus.
BY ROBERT LEMOS
HE MATRIX HAS YOU.
Those four words—which ap-
peared on the retro computer screen of
Keanu Reeves’s character, Neo, in the
1999 hit movie The Matrix—have reso-
nated with hackers around the Internet. No wonder,
then, that a technology for taking control of a user’s
computer, more often than not for malicious ends,
echoes the reality behind those words.
Just as Neo had to come to grips with the fact
that the world as he knew it was a well-crafted sim-
ulation, computer users today have to watch out for
programs, known as rootkits, that attempt to take
over a computer that appears normal.
Rootkits are all about stealth: In the past, such
programs have replaced common commands with
their own modified versions. When the user of an
infected computer connects to the Internet using
Microsoft Windows’ network driver, the system
might instead route data through a malicious driver
that also copies any important data—such as user-
names and passwords—to the attacker’s servers.
The programs are not yet all that common.
When Microsoft released data on the malicious
code cleaned from its customers’ computers by the
company’s free Malicious Software Removal Tool,
SECURITY WATCH
KEEP YOURSELF
SAFE!
Subscribe to our
Security Watch
newsletter and get
up-to-date info on
the latest threats
delivered to your
inbox automatically:
go.pcmag.com/
securitywatchletter
FAST FACTS
ON ROOTKITS
5.7 million
Number of computers
on which malicious soft-
ware was detected.
3.5 million
Approximate number
infected with “backdoor
Trojan horses.”
530,000
Approximate number in-
fected with rootkits (not
counting Sony BMG’s
DRM rootkit).
Source: Microsoft Corp., 2006.
CODE OF STEALTH
Rootkits find many places in a computer's software to hide, using their
concealment to eavesdrop on the user or control the system.
HIDING IN
USERLAND
Example:
HackerDefender
Userland rootkits, such
as HackerDefender, hide
in files and processes of
the OS’s kernel. They
essentially clone certain
system tasks, allowing
attackers access.
A PARASITE IN THE
VIRTUAL HOST
Example: Blue Pill
Many companies run
servers as virtual
machines; infecting a
host machine allows the
rootkit to control all the
virtual machines
running on that host.
THE SHIM IS IN
Example: ACPI rootkit
research project
Infecting firmware with a
rootkit—sometimes
called a shim—is
difficult, but once there,
the shim can be hard to
detect and has complete
control over how the
operating system boots.
Source: Rootkit.com, 2006.
Tools to help secure your network, where and when you need them.
The Microsoft
®
Malicious Software Removal Tool —over 16 million instances of malware removed
and counting. Read the white paper, based on data collected by this effective tool. It arms you with
a clear view of the security landscape, including the latest trends, threats, and countermeasures.
Find it now at microsoft.com/security/IT
© 2006 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Microsoft is a registered
trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.
SOFTWARE SOLUTIONS
128 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
N THE EARLY 1980S, WHEN THE COMPUTER REVOLUTION BROUGHT US
removable storage media, all we had to worry about was two floppy
drives—A: and B:. By the late 1980s, the advent of consumer hard drives
eliminated the need for swapping those 5.25-inch disks, but we had
another drive letter, C:, to contend with. Since then, the alphabet soup
has boiled over—the latest Media Center PCs with multiple memory-card slots
can have drive letters A: through P: inside. My Media Center PC is one of sev-
eral computers in my home, and I’d given up on keeping track of what these let-
ters represent—until I figured out that Microsoft Windows could show me at a
glance which leads to the SD card from my camera, the Memory Stick Duo card
from my Sony PlayStation Portable, or the CompactFlash card for my PDA.
Your system will of course vary, but I have two hard drive partitions, a large
media drive, two optical drives, and a bunch of letters corresponding to the four
memory slots on the front of the machine.
Drives that have hard disks or flash memory can easily be labeled by cre-
ating an Autorun.inf file in the root directory of the drive, which calls up the
icon from one of the files within the hard drive. Drives with removable storage,
such as DVD-R and memory card slots, cannot. They must be labeled within
the Windows Registry.—Dave Mathews (www.davemathews.com), freelance
writer, inventor, television host
Customize Your Drive Icons
2
CHEAT SHEET
Next, make a cheat sheet of the drive let-
ter that you see in the address bar and the
type of memory that you inserted. If you do
not have all the memory types, you can use
a process of elimination to figure out the
missing ones, borrow some from friends,
or perhaps accept a mysterious drive icon
or two for now.
1
REMOVABLE DRIVE P???
To name your drives, you’ll need to figure
out which drives and slots correspond with
which drive letters. Just insert discs and
plug in memory cards one at a time, and
when you get the pop-up dialog asking
What do you want Windows to do? select
Open folder to view files, then check the
address bar.
3
FUN WITH AUTORUN
If all you’ve got is hard drives and USB drives, you
can avoid editing the Registry and use an Auto-
run file instead. To set up the label, open Notepad
and input these three lines of code:
[autorun]
label=Your XYZ Drive
icon=\foldername\fi lename.dll,5
Save the file as Autorun.inf in the root directory
of the drive. Note that you must change the type
named in the Save as type box to “All files,” or the
file will end up being named Autorun.inf.txt, and
it won’t work.
The second line of code, the one beginning
with label=, simply indicates the text you’ll see
under the drive icon. The final line of code refers
to the icon DLL file and the number of the icon
you want to use. Several hundred icons are stored
within DLLs; you use this number to select the
icon. But finding that number is a roundabout
process: Open a Windows Explorer window, then
click Tools | Folder Options, then select the File
Types tab. Leave the first file type selected and
click on Advanced, then on Change Icon. This will
show you all the icons that Windows has available
in its core system32.dll file. To choose one, start
counting with zero in the upper left corner and
count up by one as you go down. The first icon in
the second column is numbered 4, the third col-
umn begins with 8, and so on.
Of course, if you have a bank of icon files
stored elsewhere on the drive, you can point to
one of those instead. With some versions of Win-
dows and certain removable drives, you will need
to put the icon file on the drive and point the icon
path to that volume. You also may have to reboot
for the changes to appear.
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 129
6
PRETTY PICTURES
Finally, take a look in My Computer at your
listing of drives. You should see the sweet
success of your efforts—and an end to the
drive-letter alphabet soup of frustration.
4
ENTER THE REGISTRY
For the rest of your drives, you’ll need the Win-
dows Registry (Start | Run, then enter regedit).
Before you make any changes, back up the cur-
rent settings (File | Export; then choose a name
like Backup.reg). That done, navigate to HKEY_
LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\
CurrentVersion\Explorer\DriveIcons. If your
vendor’s version of Windows doesn’t contain the
entry DriveIcons, right-click on Explorer, select
New, right-click on Key, then name it DriveIcons.
Refer to your cheat sheet to help create these
entries: Right-click on DriveIcons, then New,
then Key. Name this key the drive letter of your
first device—just the letter. Right-click on this
entry, select New, then left-click on Key and input
DefaultIcon for its folder name. Right-click on the
drive entry again, select New, then left-click on
Key and input DefaultLabel for its folder name.
Now we need to assign the values to these
keys. Click on DefaultIcon on the left, then
double-click the (Default) REG_SZ entry on the
right pane. For the Value data, input C:\windows\
system32\shell32.dll,204—the last number
corresponds to the icon you want for your drive
type. Next, click on the DefaultLabel folder on the
left, then again double-click the (Default) REG_
SZ entry on the right. For the Value data, input the
name you want to see under the icon.
You’ll be doing this for all your
drives...you might want to make
an icon cheat sheet as well.
5
OR, TAKE THIS SHORTCUT
The bad news is that you now have to repeat all
those steps for each of your remaining drive let-
ters. To make things a bit easier, you can also just
copy the following lines into a text file, modify
them and add entries according to your system
(see the screenshot for more examples of entries
from mine), save it as Driveicons.reg. and close. .
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\
Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\
DriveIcons\E]

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\
Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\DriveIcons\
E\DefaultIcon]
@=”C:\\windows\\system32\\shell32.dll,204”

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\
Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\DriveIcons\
E\DefaultLabel]
@=”Dual Layer DVD-RW”
Double-click on the file and tell the dialog box
that yes, you’re sure. All the Registry entries will
be created automatically
130 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
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OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 131
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OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 133
Redline Your Forensic
Data Capturing
19755 Nordhoff Place, Chatsworth, CA 91311 U.S.A.
Tel 818.700.8488 Fax 818.700.8466
www.logicube.com www.logicubeforensics.com
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a new standard in computer forensic data capturing solutions.
Standardize on the Logicube Talon Standard
• Capture while verifying data at up to 4.0 GB/min.
• Hardware-based MD5 or SHA-256 verification
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134 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
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OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 135
ABERDEEN
The Straight Talk People
S I N C E 1 9 9 1
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AMD, the AMD Arrow logo, AMD Opteron, combinations thereof, are trademarks of Advanced Micro
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• Dual AMD Opteron™ Processors
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• ServerWorks HT2000 Series Chipset w/64-bit
Support
• Up to 32GB DDR-333 Reg. ECC Memory
• Up to 4 x 750GB (3.0TB) Hot-Swap SATA or
4 x 300GB (1.2TB) Hot-Swap SCSI Drives
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ABERDEEN STONEHAVEN A144
3U Dual AMD Opteron™ 8 SATA/SCSI
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• Dual AMD Opteron™ Processors
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• AMD 8000 Series Chipset w/64-bit Support
• Up to 16GB DDR-400 Reg. ECC Memory
• Up to 8 x 750GB (6.0TB) Hot-Swap SATA or
8 x 300GB (2.4TB) Hot-Swap SCSI Drives
• 760W Hot-Swap Redundant Power Supply
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ABERDEEN STONEHAVEN A381
1U Quad AMD Opteron™ HPC
64-bit High Performance Computing workhorse
server/cluster node. Superior cooling with
plenty of power to handle any project.
• Quad AMD Opteron™ Processors
w/HyperTransport and 1MB Cache
• AMD 8000 Series Chipset w/64-bit Support
• nVidia nForce Pro 2200 Chipset w/64-bit Support
• Up to 64GB DDR-333 Reg. ECC Memory
• Up to 3 x 750GB (2.25TB) Hot-Swap SATA or
3 x 300GB (900GB) Hot-Swap SCSI Drives
• 1000W AC Power Supply w/PFC
• 5-Year Warranty
Quads Starting at
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7,195
ABERDEEN STONEHAVEN A134
4U Quad AMD Opteron™ 8 SATA/SCSI
Best of both worlds, all-inclusive server with
enterprise-class 64-bit HPC Quad power along
with maximum storage capacity.
• Quad AMD Opteron™ Processors
w/HyperTransport and 1MB Cache
• AMD 8000 Series Chipset w/64-bit Support
• Up to 32GB DDR-400 Reg. ECC Memory
• Up to 8 x 750GB (6.0TB) Hot-Swap SATA or
8 x 300GB (2.4TB) Hot-Swap SCSI Drives
• 950W 3+1 Hot Swap Redundant Power Supply
• Ultra Cool with Superb Air Flow
• 5-Year Warranty
Quads Starting at
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ABERDEEN STONEHAVEN A484
2U Dual AMD Opteron™ 6 SATA/SCSI
“The Ultimate Linux Server... Too fast for our
benchmarks... We recommend Aberdeen servers
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• Dual AMD Opteron™ Processors
w/HyperTransport and 1MB Cache
• AMD 8000 Series Chipset w/64-bit Support
• Up to 16GB DDR-400 Reg. ECC Memory
• Up to 6 x 750GB (4.5TB) Hot-Swap SATA or
6 x 300GB (1.8TB) Hot-Swap SCSI Drives
• 460W Hot-Swap Redundant Power Supply
• 5-Year Warranty
Starting at
$
2,959
ABERDEEN STONEHAVEN A261
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OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 137
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138 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
The device shown is:
a) a computer
b) a keyboard
c) a monitor
d) a TV
e) all of the above
i-One. The All-In-One LCD PC.
No tower, no cables, no extraneous input
devices. The i-One is ready to go straight
out of the box with Windows
®
XP
pre-installed.* Everything is built-
in: hard drive, touchscreen, CDRW-
DVD, all the same connections as a full-size
PC including an integrated 10/100/1000 Ethernet
connection, and an optional TV tuner. And at speeds of up to 3.2
GHz with 2GB DDR RAM, the i-One definitely stands alone.
To order your stylish i-One risk free call us at 888.834.4577.
Ideal for the following applications:
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SPECIFICATIONS: 17” LCD
Display, Intel Pentium® 4 up
to 3.2GHz, up to 2 GB DDR
RAM, 300GB Hard Disk, 1Gb
LAN, CDRW-DVD Combo,
3-D sound w/ 2 built-in
speakers. Touchscreen and
wireless LAN are optional.
Copyright 2006 Cybernet Manufacturing, Inc. all rights reserved. The Cybernet logo and i-One are trademarks of Cybernet Manufacturing,
Inc. Intel, Intel Inside, Pentium, Celeron are trademarks of Intel Corporation, or its subsidiaries in the United States and other countries. All
other registered trademarks are property of their respective owners. *Windows
®
XP not included unless ordered with the unit.
www.cybernetman.com
Answer: e
Financial Kiosk/POS
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140 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
See more. Do more. Be more productive.
Matrox DualHead2Go is an easy to use, palm-sized box that lets you attach two monitors
to your notebook or desktop computer. Don’t limit yourself to one monitor, start experiencing
the benefits of multi-monitor productivity today—it’s simpler than you think.
Visit www.dualhead2go.com/pcmag or call 1-800-362-9343 for full product details.
Need More Space?
Add an additional monitor with a Matrox DualHead2Go
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OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 141
TEACH YOUR CELL PHONE NEW TRICKS
Fetch.
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Unleash your mobile potential.
Losing your data can be a serious problem. Now you can
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142 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
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OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 143
Energize Internet Speeds! Improve your internet connection up to
200% by adjusting your Windows Internet settings based on your
connection type.
Recoup System Resources! Eliminate unnecessary background
processes and get back memory and processor cycles stolen by
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Many people are astounded about the amount
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Try our free privacy scan to see what
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There is a wide variety of software whose intent is to
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144 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006 Illustration by A. Richard Allen
BY JEREMY PARISH, 1UP.COM
Who needs snakes when the right titles can
entertain you in-flight?
T’S A SCIENTIFIC FACT: SAMUEL L. JACKSON
is the Man. In his career, he’s been a Jedi, a
hitman, and most recently, a tough-as-nails
FBI agent who battles venomous snakes at
15,000 feet. Not everyone can be Sam Jack-
son, of course, which is bad news if you
ever end up on a serpent-infested plane.
Fortunately, there are a number of game titles
that are perfect for wasting time on snake-free
flights. Until the Department of Homeland Secu-
rity gets totally hysterical and outlaws all electronic
devices, you can tote the following titles on your
flight. Enjoy ’em while you can.
REGIONAL FLIGHTS Short flights of an hour or so
are tricky when it comes to killing time; half the
flight is spent rising or descending, with the stew-
ardess looking sternly over your shoulder to make
certain that your approved electronic devices are
switched off. Since you don’t really have a lot of
Games on a Plane!
time in the air, you need something you can jump
into, enjoy, and put down a few minutes later. For
flights like this, the PSP reigns supreme.
Capcom Classics Collection Remixed | PSP
Short flights are made for short games, and when
it comes to instant gratification, it’s hard to top
the classic arcade titles. After all, coin-op games
were designed to give you 3 minutes of frenetic fun
before killing you off and demanding another quar-
ter. Capcom Classics, as it happens, has more than
20 titles fitting that description—and fortunately, it
requires no quarters.
WarioWare Inc. | GBA
When it comes to quick bursts of intense fun, Wario-
Ware: Mega Microgames is pretty much impossible
to beat. And with a structure that alternates micro-
games with brief breathers, you can even keep up
with the in-flight film between rounds.
IN-AIR GAMES ONLINE
We’ve picked even more
games ideal for in-flight
entertainment. See the
list at our gaming site,
www.1up.com
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 145
MOD WORLD
CROSS-COUNTRY FLIGHTS These jaunts are re-
ally ideal for most portable games. It’s about 6 hours
from one end of the U.S. to another, which is enough
time to really get into a game—although you’ll likely
want something with a little more lasting power
than WarioWare’s microgames.
For these trips, the Nintendo DS is
the perfect system. With the Wi-Fi
off (and FAA regulations prohibit
the use of wireless devices, blah
blah blah), a DS is good for about
5 to 6 hours of game time.
New Super Mario Bros. | DS & PC
New Super Mario Bros. is hand-
ily broken down into dozens of
stages, all of which are easily fin-
ished in just a few minutes each.
But it works best on longer flights
thanks to the dopey save system,
which lets you record your prog-
ress only after you’ve completed
certain vital landmarks. “Mamma
mia” indeed.
Lumines | PSP & PC
Lumines is a pretty lousy game if you can get to
it only in little spurts. The music always plays in
the same order every time, and as great a song as
“ Shinin’” is, even the strongest mortal starts to
crack after a few hours of listening to it over and
over again. On the other hand, if you have a few
hours to devote to Lumines, it’s totally great. Bring
some headphones, slip into the zone, and don’t let
those ladies with their delicious pretzels and soft
drinks distract you.
OVERSEAS FLIGHTS The Game Boy Advance is the
perfect hardware for those seemingly endless half-
day overseas flights. With both an expansive library
of games from which to choose and unparalleled
battery life, Nintendo’s 32-bit workhorse is the per-
fect thing to take your mind off being 30,000 feet in
the air. Even the superbright GBA
SP+ is good for a dozen hours of
gaming, perfect for the meaty, tac-
tical RPGs it has in abundance.
That’s more than enough to keep
you entertained while you jour-
ney to Japan.
Advance Wars | GBA
War is hell, except when the war-
riors are cute little guys in ador-
able little engines of destruc tion.
In that case, war is advanced—
Advance Wars, that i s. The
friendly little death machines are
deceptive, though, because these
wars require serious strategy
and planning. You’ll need every minute of your air
time to work out effective battle plans in campaign
mode. Bring along the superb sequel for surviving
the flight home.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance | GBA
With all its battles, side quests, level-raising, and job
training, a full game of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
clocks in at, oh, about 120 hours. That’s half a dozen
round-trips from Texas to Tokyo. Of course if you
can afford to fly internationally that often, you can
probably afford to hire someone to power-level your
characters and save you some serious trouble.
AUCTION BLOCK MOD WORLD
TOP10
WTF: Work
Time Fun
Part-time jobs as
wacky mini games.
Monster Hunter
Multiplayer hunting
RPG.
Bounty Hounds
Obliterate alien
races!
Valkyrie Profile:
Lenneth
A remake of the PS1
RPG.
Earthworm Jim
A revival of the clas-
sic title.
SOCOM:
Fireteam Bravo
Warlike action—
including online.
Need for Speed:
Most Wanted
Car customization
and police chases.
Exit 2
The sequel, with
spy-vs.-spy action.
HOT PXL
Collection of varied
mini games.
Ghosts ’n Goblins
3D version of Ghouls
and Ghosts.
Source: 1Up.com. Ranked
by online buzz.
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
New Super Mario Bros. is ideal
for cross-country flights. Play as
Mario on a DS or a PC.
MOST POPULAR
PSP GAMES
New York Yankees
toast You could give
it to a Red Sox fan as
a gift!
eBay price: $1.50
1950s jukebox phone
Mounts on the wall.
Evokes diner nostalgia.
eBay price: $9.99
Prize-winning
paper airplane
Seller claims it’s
undefeated.
eBay price: $1
Cyrus Bavarian wanted
to do a case mod based
on thinking outside the
box—the beige box, that is.
So he outfitted a chair with
computing muscle, using
Plexiglas and bolts. The
computer chair has an AMD
FX-53 chip, an ASUS SK8V
motherboard with a power
supply sitting alongside it,
an ATI 9200 graphics card,
a 320GB Seagate hard
drive, and an NEC CD/DVD
drive that opens right
between the chair’s legs
so the user doesn’t have to
lean or get up when flipping
discs. “It’s still just a box!”
Bavarian proclaims about
other case mods.
Log on today.
The best place on the Web to learn about new
technologies, find new gear, discover new ways
to build and modify your systems, and meet
fascinating techheads… just like you!
visit www.extremetech.com
BUILD IT, TWEAK IT, KNOW IT
GEAR

ARENTS WHO HAVE EXPERIENCED LIFE WITH A BEGINNING STUDENT
of any instrument played with a bow will want to give a shout-out to
Yamaha. The company’s silent cello is the newest addition to its line
of silent instruments, which also includes a silent viola, silent violins,
and even silent brass instruments.
For the silent cello, viola, and violin, Yamaha eliminates the inter-
nal amplification cavity found in traditional instruments. Instead, a studio-quality
audio pickup is connected to a digital internal effects processor (powered by two
double-A batteries) that places the sound in a user-selected acoustic space, such
as a concert hall or practice room. The instruments aren’t entirely silent, but they
allow a musician to practice at
1
/1,000 of the unmuted volume. We found the cello
(shown above) online for prices ranging from $1,395 to $1,857. Shop carefully, and
harmonize quietly.—Sebastian Rupley
SMS IS SPOOKY
Do spirits use SMS? The
Spacewriter Textable iBall
receives and displays text
messages via its included
mobile-phone SIM card.
Get more news from the
beyond at Gearlog.com
OCTOBER 17, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 147
LOOK MA, NO NOISE
J OHN C. DVORAK
Illustration by Geoffrey Grahn
DVORAK LIVE
ON THE WEB
Go to www.Cranky
Geeks.com on October 5,
2 p.m. eastern time, to
see Dvorak and Neil
Gaiman, New York Times
best-selling author,
discuss blogging and
online publishing.
148 PC MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17, 2006
NUMBER OF HOPELESS CITIZEN
journalist initiatives are emer-
ging, most of them promoted
by idealistic professionals
such as Jay Rosen, Dan Gill-
mor, and Jeff Jarvis, who are
disappointed with the way
things are going in the world
of news reportage. The most notable is Backfence,
a series of mundane, localized news sites that fo-
cus on reports submitted by citizen journalists.
But in this instance, a citizen journalist is no more
a journalist than someone who adds comments to
a football forum—it’s laughable.
For local insight, I’d suggest a list of local blog-
gers—and note that most bloggers call themselves
bloggers, not journalists. There is no pretense.
What trumps these citizen journalist schemes is
Digg, one of the two or three hottest new sites on the
Web. Though its founders, Kevin Rose and Jay Adel-
son, speak about democratization of the news, Digg
is actually a watchdog or consolidation site where
you can link to stories written by professionals on
real news sites. Digg points you there by user votes.
To get the most out of Digg, you should be in the
right nerd/geek demographic and immune to its
celebrity-obsessed groupthink. The site skyrock-
eted to prominence with the story of Paris Hilton’s
hacked PDA. That can’t be a good sign.
Whatever you think of Digg, it’s not destroying
the old establishments or reinventing news report-
ing. But unlike the citizen journalism initiatives, it
doesn’t pretend to.
Citizen journalism, to me, is like citizen profes-
sional baseball—it’s just not practical. You can’t
play professional baseball just because you think
the Seattle Mariners stink. You’re not a good enough
ballplayer. Yes, bloggers have been breaking news
stories here and there, but it’s usually because they
amplify something that media professionals have
already written about but that was ignored by the
major media. Bloggers, millions of gadflies, have
been hounding Big Media.
The main reason these anti–Big Media initiatives
have appeared is that the media are seen as letting
us down in every way. Big Media picks the wrong
stories, so we have to use Digg to find the right ones.
The media’s news-gathering problems aren’t going
to be solved by bloggers or citizen journalists.
Newspapers are not disrespected and dying
because of their reporters. The business model is
the problem. They have cut investigative and inter-
national reporting significantly. They are top-heavy
with entertainment-news coverage and excessive
pandering to advertisers to meet corporate bot-
tom-line requirements. Pandering means not just
writing softball articles but creating an uncritical
editorial cushion of fluff upon which advertisers
can feel comforted. And there is the pervasive fear
of offending the reader with reality.
Once, the newspapers all got fat from what
Rupert Murdoch once called the “river of gold”—
the classified ads. That river is drying up fast.
Ironically, this loss of classified-ad revenue and the
complaints about it have hurt newspapers’ credibil-
ity the most. They are supposed to be smart and on
top of things; didn’t they see this coming? How can
we trust anything they say about anything if they
can’t even see a trend in their own business?
It will be a while before this is resolved and the
public finally gets served quality information. My
fear is that it’s too late; that the public doesn’t care
and would rather hear about Britney’s baby than
about corruption in high places. It’s easier to take.
Citizen journalism is like citizen professional baseball. You can’t
play pro baseball just because you think the Seattle Mariners stink.
TAKE EVERYTHING YOU LOVE ABOUT
TECHNOLOGY AND MULTIPLY IT.
TAKE THE FUN, THE GAMES, THE CURIOSITY,
THE EXPLORATION, THE CREATIVITY, THE EXCITEMENT,
THE PROGRESS, THE LEARNING, AND THE PASSION…
AND AMPLIFY IT.
NOW TAKE EVERYTHING YOU DON’T LIKE –
THE LAG TIMES, THE LOCKUPS, THE STUTTERSTEPS...
AND DELETE IT.
IT’S A NEW WAY OF COMPUTING.
IN FACT, IT’S COMPUTING THE WAY IT WAS MEANT TO BE.

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