The challenges ahead for the Washington Post's new editor.
Hit the mute button and put all the rumors to rest. Apple's new line of iPods has arrived. Before a relatively small audience of a few hundred at San Francisco's Moscone Center, Steve Jobs showed off Apple's refreshed, repriced and resized line of iPods—the first revamp of the line in two years.Already the best-selling digital music player on the market, the iPod nano now also plays video. "It's also incredibly thin," said Jobs as he pulled out a new square nano that plays video on a 2-inch color screen and sports a metallic case that's available in silver, black, blue, green and a (Product)Red special edition. Battery life is a very respectable 24 hours for music and about five hours for video. A 4-gigabyte version of the device is priced at $149 while an 8-gigabyte version will cost $199. Both of the new models are $50 cheaper than existing versions with the same amount of memory. Apple said the entire nano line will be available immediately.But it was the iPod Touch that created...
First-time parents Michele and Steve Brigham of New York can't imagine life without their 6-year-old daughter, Courtney--or the family camcorder and camera. Like millions of other parents, the Brighams have videotaped and photographed their daughter's first breaths, first steps, first birthday and dozens of other events in a rapidly growing library of more than 1,800 minutes of videotape and 3,000 photographs. "It may seem excessive," admits Michele. "But I think Courtney will appreciate it all when she grows up." Unfortunately, she might have nothing to look at. By the time Courtney turns 30, sunlight may have faded most of her color childhood photos, and in the off chance that the tiny VHS-C videotapes featuring her many firsts survive decades of heat and humidity, there probably won't be a machine to play them back on.Home videos and snapshots aren't all that are at risk. Librarians and archivists warn we're losing vast amounts of important scientific and historical material...
MICROSOFT'S ACTIMates Interactive Barney ($109.95; 800-426-9400) does more than giggle, but he's no Tickle Me Elmo. Squeeze his purple appendages and he launches into a preprogrammed repertoire of silly songs and games, while tiny motors flail his arms and tilt his head. Plug in optional transmitters to a VCR or PC, and he becomes a wireless buddy for on-screen exploits. But all this still hasn't made Barney more lovable.
NAMING YOUR BABY has never been so easy. With more than 14,000 names--from the usual to the unusual--the Baby Name Finder (channel.parentsoup.com/babyname) can help expecting parents find the moniker of their dreams. Want a three-syllable Swedish name of Hebrew origin beginning with the letter G? ""Gabriel'' fits the criteria. Or choose your child's name based on one of the many categories such as virtues (Faith, Constance), U.S. presidents (Dwight, Ronald), states (Georgia, Virginia) or movie stars (Humphrey, Sigourney). The adventurous can find names like Blephilia (a flower), Sardonyx (a gemstone) or Axl (a rock musician). If only our parents had this when we were born.
GOT DICK TRACY envy? Resolve it with Seiko's MessageWatch ($79.95-$189.95; 800-724-3585). Like Tracy's, this timepiece does much more than tell time. For a small monthly fee, it notifies you of phone, e-mail and voice-mail messages. Throughout the day you'll also get sports scores, weather forecasts, lottery numbers and stock closings. But there is a catch. While Seiko says it's planning national coverage soon, service is still limited to the New York City area, southern California, Seattle, Portland, Ore., and Las Vegas.
THE IDEA OF CONtrolling lights and appliances in your home from your armchair isn't new. But IBM Home Director ($99; 800-426-7235) makes it easier. It connects your PC to a master module, which in turn sends instructions over your home's existing electrical wiring to other modules attached to your lamps or appliances. It can set your lights to turn on at dusk, based on your geographical location, and start your coffee in the morning. If you have remote access to your PC, you can dim lights from the road--causing guests to think there's a poltergeist in the house.
FOR THE DEFINITIVE TOUR of all things Simpsons, check out Fox Interactive's Virtual Springfield ($29.99; www.foxinteractive.com). Once you get past the disc's awkward navigation controls, you can roam around the 3-D town, drop in on the Simpsons' house, lounge in Lisa's room or peek inside Bart's closet. Join the family on a pilgrimage across town for the Rev. Timothy Lovejoy's sermon, where clicking on the Simpsons' heads reveals what they're really thinking. You can also hang with Homer at the nuclear power plant or head over to Moe's Tavern to toss a few back with the fellas. After this tour you might just say, ""Ich bin ein Virtual Springfielder.''
IF YOU DIDN'T KNOW already: the typewriter is an antique. Keyboard aficionados from five continents enjoy reminiscing at The Classic Typewriter Page (xavier.xu.edu :8000/~polt/typewriters.html), where classifieds offer the old machines to buy, sell or trade. The mailing list puts you in touch with other fanatics, and answers to FAQs tell you where to order silk half-inch ribbons. Get tips on the art of restoring your typewriter (""Fishing line can be a helpful replacement for carriage-pull strings''), find a list of repair shops or just read through typewriter collectors' loving anecdotes.
WHEN IT COMES TO computing, you can never have too much memory. That's the kind of thinking that Intel's banking on with its new StrataFlash memory chip, which can store twice as much information as the previous generation of chips. That may make for smaller and smarter cell phones, personal computers, digital cameras and any other electronic device that must store data even after it's turned off. Thanks to fierce competition from rival manufacturers, the cost of Intel's 64-megabyte memory chip may be as low as $29.90. That's an easy price to pay for progress when compared with 8-megabyte chips that only last year sold for about $32. Better get ready for more products with ""Intel inside.''
ONCE KIDS TIRE OF using the speech synthesizer in Eyewitness Children's Encyclopedia to curse like a sailor, they'll realize that this CD-ROM ($39.95; 888-342-5357) speaks for itself in other areas. While more superficial than other discs DK Multimedia has released, the disc will engage kids with its colorful graphics and byte-size information. Children can search for specific topics or explore broader subjects such as Nature or History. They can also take a breather in the bad-joke section (where Dracula's favorite coffee is said to be "de-coffin-ated"). There's a section on animation, featuring a hand that morphs into a spider-and then provides links to a biography of Walt Disney and info on arachnids. There are 20 virtual worlds (including a garden, a city and a mountain), each a beautiful piece of eye sandy for hungry minds.
Just what every college student needs: yet another reason to stay glued to the computer screen. PointCast (www.pointcast.com) has just come up with a College Network, offering news and information for the E! generation. Not coincidentally, the network includes feeds from E! Online, info on student discounts and local entertainment listings. Another feature is University Wire, a daily compendium of 120 campus newspapers. PointCast also hopes university administrators will use the network to make announcements.
BEFORE THE Calculator came along to make our lives easier, people used the abacus, slide rules and a variety of adding machines. The Calculating Ma- chines home page (www. webcom.com/calc/) pays tribute to these devices and their creators. The historical information is interesting, but more compelling is an archive of cheesy print ads for adding machines from the '30s to the '50s. And there's a Java applet that simulates the 1885 Felt & Tarrant ""Comptometer'' adding machine.
YEARNING TO LEARN to open a coconut, change your oil, cope with insomnia, clean your computer or smoothly shave your face and legs? Well, www.learn2.com gives step-by-step instructions on all of the life skills your parents forgot to teach you. And if the problem keeping you up at night isn't listed, the answer standing between you and lifestyle nirvana is only an e-mail away.
IF OWNING A HOME is the American Dream, then why does obtaining a mortgage cause so many sleepless nights? For most people, the problem is lack of information. But now an online mortgage bro-ker called HomeShark (http://www.homeshark.com) is here to help explain the process - and even find you a cheaper loan. Start with the tu-torials to determine how expensive a house you can afford and decipher mortgage-speak. (Coming soon: a ""wizard'' to help you choose between, say, a 30-year fixed mortgage at 7.5 percent and an adjustable-rate loan starting at 5.5.) Then, if you want, procure a mortgage online - everything short of signing the paperwork. HomeShark encrypts sensitive financial data and promises to keep the information private. Log on - and toss the Sominex.
WIRED MAGAZINE'S online presence, HotWired (www.hotwired.com), has redesigned itself to appeal to ""Web participants,'' who are basically those people who'd rather read, or create their own replica of, the popular e-rag Suck than watch Seinfeld. The site's creators believe that 17 of the 75 million estimated Webniks fit the bill. The result looks like a snazzier, more legible version of its old self, which was good to begin with.
SOLITAIRE ADDICTS AND COM- pulsive Web surfers, beware. You may not be alone. Corporations with Big Brother tendencies can now monitor their employees' computer activity with com.Policy, a new package of surveillance software from Silverstone. The program keeps a comprehensive log of all programs launched and sends your boss snapshots of anything that's on your computer screen as often as every five minutes. ""This isn't about spying,'' says Silverstone's James Cofano, who denies his product's Orwellian characteristics. ""It's about increasing productivity and helping companies develop and deploy a computer-use policy.'' That may sound good to employers, but to their employees it may just sound like newspeak.
FLAKE WORLD (www.flake.com), the Web's pre-eminent cereal-box-collecting site, hasn't been revamped for more than a year. It's still up, but its maker, Scott Bruce, has been focusing on a book (out this fall) he rather joylessly describes as ""my own personal Vietnam.'' Since 1989, Bruce has been combing famous cereal cities like Battle Creek, Mich., and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, home of Quaker's Quisp, to assemble the ""definitive collection'' of the important boxes and toys from the '60s.
DIGITAL-DESIGN GURU KAI Krause specializes in powerful image-manipulation software that's elegantly built, jazzily named (Power Goo, Convolver, Bryce) and easy to use. His latest product, Kai's Photo Soap ($49.95; 800-472-9025), is aimed at people who want to repair a picture that they've taken. It has tools to sharpen or color-correct images, eliminate red eye and seamlessly remove unwanted background objects. Once you've cleaned up your pictures, Photo Soap lets you organize them in a virtual photo album, add a frame, create a poster or greeting card and more. Once you get started, you'll have hours of good, clean fun.
LOOKING TO FIND OUT IF A FILM IS A BLOCKBUSTER OR SIMPLY A BUST? LOG on to Moviefinder.com (www.moviefinder.com). Created by the entertainment-obsessed folks at E! Online, the site offers an encyclopedic database of films new and old. Almost every listing includes a synopsis, a trailer and links to reviews from newspapers and magazines. Siskel and Ebert wanna-bes can register their own reviews, which are compiled with other users' ratings for a composite score. Based on what you've thumbed your nose at in the past, the site can also generate a personalized list of flicks worth renting. And if you step away from your Dolby-surrounded couch, Moviefinder.com will e-mail you a reminder a day or two before your must-see movies air on TV, are released on video or hit the theater. It even locates the video-rental store nearest you and lists screening times at your local multiplex. Log on, log off and pass the popcorn, please.
MOST ZINES STINK, but you find that golden 10 percent, and you're hooked for life," says Chip Rowe, the editor of a new book about zines-- both print zines and their electronic counterparts, e-zines--and its companion Web site (www.zinebook.com). He claims it's the most comprehensive site online dedicated to the best of these paragons of serf-obsessed self-publishing that The New York Times once dubbed "the magazines of 'me'." To make sure the site wasn't just a promo for the book, Rowe posted full-length interviews with all 62 featured zine editors -including himself. The site also contains links to seminal articles on the history of zincs, reviews, copyright issues and valuable ad-vice on how to start publishing your very own ode to you. "It's brilliant," Rowe says of his book in full self-promotion mode. That's a bit much, but we like it, too.
If Beavis and Butt-Head traced their roots, they'd undoubtedly dig up the perpetually stoned Jeff Spicoli, played by Sean Pennn in the 1982 film "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." His wit and wisdom as an originator of dopey humor is preserved for today's digital generation at WAVBAZAAR (www.wavbazaar.com/fasttime.shtml). Among the resonant Spicolisms available for quick and easy download are the sardonic query "Hey bud, what's your problem?" and the maxim "All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz and I'm fine." While those may not be words to live by, they're funny enough for posterity.
CONNECTIX HAS DEsigned some of the most useful software for the Macintosh, like RAM Doubler and Speed Doubler. Now it's come out with Connectix Virtual PC ($149; 800-950-5880), a software emulator for Power Macintosh computers that can imitate a Pentium PC with full printing, modem and network support. It's capable of running not only DOS and Windows 95 but OS/2 andWindows NT as well. Connectix Virtual PC supports the popular SoundBlaster Pro audio standard, so users can run PC-only games like Quake and Tomb Raider. (One caveat: games that require DirectX run very slowly.)
IN THIS AGE OF MULTImedia, the lowly book has to work a little harder to hold a child's attention. Golden Books Family Entertainment ($18-$17; 888-782-8268) gives the printed page a fighting chance with its Smart Page technology. Each storybook page has icons that children can touch to activate sound, music and voices. Extra Smart Pages let kids play matching, memory and sequencing games, and can determine right or wrong answers. First in the series: Disney's "Hercules."
THE WAY THE SHERPAS SEE IT, last year's assault on Everest was jinxed from the start when two climbers had sex in a tent. They sniggered outside, Jon Krakauer recounts in his book ""Into Thin Air,'' then worried that disaster would follow. Soon, ei ght died, from wealthy clients to a couple of the world's best climbers. Others, like New York socialite Sandy Pittman, barely escaped with their lives, frostbitten and shaken. This year, many climbers are back again, and the word at Everest Base Camp is no more ""sauce-making,'' as the Sherpas put it. But the goddess Chomolunga, who Tibetan Buddhists believe lives inside Everest, is still angry. Some of the Westerners asked a Sherpa to cook pork, and he has been praying for five days to purify himself as a result. Last week word emerged that six more climbers have perished this year, four foreigners and two locals, all of them strong climbers. Three of them, including German banker Peterko Kovalcic, who was in his late 20s, had...
NOBODY LIKES A critic, right? Wrong. We think you'll love or at least like - Lise, Clare, Andrea and Sibyl. They are the girls who created Girls on Film (www.girlsonfilm.com), a sassy Web zine devoted to ""Chicks, Flicks and Politicks.'' Forget the summary thumbs-up or -down reviews - there aren't any. But there are plenty of insightful - and caustic - critiques on everything from a film's poor plot to a character's bad coif. ""We've definitely got an attitude,'' says Lise, who credits the site's success to its tone. ""[It's like] you're talking flicks with your best girlfriends.'' We think Pauline Kael would be proud.
AS A FILM, ""THE CITY of Lost Children'' was an eye-popping spectacle that suffered from a thin story line. Ironically, that thin plot - a slow-witted strongman and a little girl team up to stop an evil scientist who kidnaps children for their dreams makes for a strong CD-ROM ($49.95; 800-438-7794). The filmmakers' brooding vision, which blends Gaultier and Giger in equal measure, is faithfully re-created in the game's expressionistic 3-D sets. The gameplay is fluid and quick, particularly in MS-DOS mode, and the wide variety of characters make for an entertaining interactive experience.
THE RING CYCLE AT THE Metropolitan Opera in New York just ended, but Wagner fans aren't as devastated as usual. Why? It's now possible to have Valhalla on your desktop with the Media Cafe's The Ring Disc, a single CD-ROM containing all 14.5 hours of the four-opera cycle ($99.99; 888-746-4347). On the screen, a running commentary, a piano-vocal score and a German libretto with English translation can appear simultaneously. The late-'60s recording of Sir Georg Solti conducting the Vienna Philharmonic provides rich sound, with glorious singing from such stars as Birgit Nilsson. (A warning: the singers and their roles aren't listed anywhere on the CD, a decision that will perplex most opera lovers.) The database of characters, symbols and leitmotifs is as vast as the search engine is fast. More than 100 essays, most by singer and voice teacher Monte Stone, clarify plots and who's who, but the still-photo images are disappointing - except for a 19th-century Brunnhilde who's shown in a...
BARBIE ISN'T JUST A DOLL, she's a trademark Mattel is fighting for on- and offline. The battle continued last month, when the company filed a copyright- infringement lawsuit against Miller's magazine, which caters to collectors of anything and everything Barbie. ""[She] is one of our most valuable assets,'' says Lisa McKendall of Mattel, which sells more than a billion dollars' worth of Barbies each year. ""We will protect our trademark.'' That may be bad news for doll fans like Dean Brown, who created the Barbie Chronicles (www.erols.com/browndk) Web site for fun, not profit. His photographs place Barbie in famous works of art, like Whistler's painting of his mother and Botticelli's ""Birth of Venus.'' ""I don't think I'm decreasing her value in the marketplace,'' he says. Neither does the creator of the Plastic Princess Page (http://d.armory.com/~zenugirl/barbie.html), which offers up a complete history of Barbie's origins, descriptions of her many outfits and links to other sites...