MAKE YOUR OWN CROSSWORD PUZZLES

FastEasyMaking your own crossword puzzle can be time-consuming and tedious.  Joy made one for her P.E.O. woman’s group, but it took hours and looked amateurish. Then she found “Eclipse Crossword,” a free program for generating puzzles that can be emailed, placed online or printed.

Start by putting down words and clues. (It’s best to choose words that are in the same subject area.) When you’re finished, the puzzle is generated automatically. Take your choice of an interactive version you can play with on the screen, or the kind you print for people to fill out later.

In the interactive version, the user is prompted to click on any word in the puzzle to start. Up comes a clue, and you type in your best guess. When finished, click a button to check your results and get congratulations if you were correct. The program is at eclipsecrossword.com.

TOURING SOFTCITY

At first we thought this was a commercial web site masquerading as a public forum. It turns out that’s just what it is, but it’s really terrific, and lots of fun. The place is SoftCity.com, a place to go to try out software, buy it, make comments and learn about new programs.

For example, we clicked on the “SoftCity Café” button and found raging discussions on everything from the Apple iPad to Facebook’s “like” buttons and the new Opera web browser for the Mac. We clicked on a “Creativity” tab and discovered “FontStruct,” a neat little program for creating your own type fonts.

We learned about NexusRadio.com which lets you choose from 11,000 online radio stations and even record the music you hear.  To find out more, we clicked on the reviewer’s name and sent him a message. You can do this with any of their tech experts and reviewers. Read more »

STEM CELL CENTRAL

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Can stem cells cure cancer and other diseases?

StemCell.ChildrensHospital.org is a new website going live today that aims to answer those questions. It has videos,  patient stories, and an area for patients and families to look up specific diseases–like diabetes, Parkinson’s, cancer, etc.

The site notes that doctors are “incredibly good at shrinking cancer tumors, and incredibly bad at curing them.”  More on that topic here.

THE OIL DISASTER: POSSIBLE FIX

We’ve been playing with the new Newsy app for the iPad, a good source for news videos. A recent Newsy video shows the containment dome, which so far isn’t working.

On the New York Time’s Earth blog, Harvard physicist Richard Wilson explains a technique that was used 10 years ago in Brazil to stop a seabed well from flowing.

Bob simplifies it this way: You have a broken pipe that’s gushing oil into the ocean. Part of that pipe is underground. If you could cap the underground pipe, or connect a new one to it, you could contain the oil or capture it. The trick is finding that underground pipe. That’s what the Harvard physicist’s idea is all about. He describes a system of plotting a field of magnetic flux on the seabed floor as a method of gradually zeroiing in on the steel or iron pipe. This worked for Brazil after a zeroing-in process that took about 40 days.

HANDWRITING RECOGNITION

anoto-pendocumentsWe tried out a new pen, the “Anoto penDocuments ,” designed to read your handwriting. There have been several devices of this type over the years and none of them have worked well. This one didn’t work well either.

The idea sounded promising. You start with a form in Microsoft Word, say an expense form or medical record. Load the program and choose “Anoto” in your print menu. Your printer prints the form on a light gray background. Then take your special Anoto pen and fill in the fields. When you’re through, place the pen in a special holder connected to your computer.  And then, says the manual, the form will appear on your computer screen, all filled out and ready to save as a PDF or email.  Oh, yeah?

That’s what the instructions said. In the real world the pen didn’t recognize one word in ten. Our support contact at the company said it was because we had an incompatible printer. We have an Okidata laser printer and a Canon inkjet, but the results were the same with both. These are name brands, so if they’re not good enough, we figured, this thing is brain dead.  It turns out that your printer has to be a “postscript” or “GDI” printer. The company website lists 11 models that they say work best, all of them Okidata. The Anoto lists for $500 and you can find more info at anoto.com.

MOVING UP TO WINDOWS 7

If you’ve been diligently backing up your Windows XP computer, and decide to buy a Windows 7 machine, what do you do with all those backups? You can’t restore an “image” — a complete backup of an XP system– onto Windows 7 without overwriting the operating system.laplink-pcmover1

On May 26, Laplink is coming out with “PC Mover Image Assistant,” software that lets you restore the old image to the new computer running Windows 7. The “image” comes in like a virtual box with all your old stuff in it. You can choose what you want to restore to your new computer, such as programs, files and settings without messing up the new machine. You don’t have to use all the old stuff, just what you need.

If some of your old programs need to run in XP, Windows 7 has a mode that lets you do that. The Image Assistant program, however, will not install XP as a partition on your new hard drive.

POWERPOINT ON THE WEB

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PowerPoint presentations on the web

We’ve been subjected to boring Powerpoint slideshows for years, and they still won’t go away. So rather than fight the situation, we have surrendered. Here’s how to share your PowerPoint presentation on the web, for free.

Go to authorstream.com and upload the presentation, up to a gigabyte in size. (That’s huge, by the way. If you have more to say than that you probably should be executed for being excessively boring.)

AuthorStream turns the presentations into videos that can be placed on YouTube, or shared as a link. You can also post them to Facebook or Twitter, or download a free utility that lets you put YouTube videos into your slideshows. If you wish, they can be password protected. If you want a regular channel on YouTube that lets others subscribe to your presentations as a series, go to Authorstream.com/channels.

SKYPE GETS CHEAPER

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Calls between Skype users are free anywhere in the world, but calling non-Skype users are not. Those calls are now 60 percent cheaper. Prices start at U.S. $1.09 a month for calls to 170 countries.  You don’t have to sign up for more than one month to get the $1.09 rate.

In other Skype news, free video calling with up to five people participating is now available. More info at Skype.com.

KINDLE VS IPAD

kindleAround 2.5 million Kindles have been sold in the last two and a half years.  One million iPads have been sold in a little over a month. Which is better as an e-Reader?

Top 11 Arguments for the Kindle

  1. The “3G” wireless connection on the Kindle is free. You don’t have to be in a Wi-Fi hotspot to download books, or shell out an extra $100 for a 3G version of the Kindle.
  2. The Kindle gives you free sample chapters on any book in their 500,000 book library.
  3. The Kindle lets you look up words,  highlight passages and make notes (and in a few weeks, you’ll be able to share passages with friends) without leaving your book.
  4. Blogs are faster to get through when you have a list of headlines and no distracting graphics.
  5. You can get Kindle tech support any hour of the day or night.
  6. You can read the Kindle in bright sunlight.
  7. The Kindle charges faster.
  8. You’re not forever having to clean the Kindle screen.
  9. The Kindle is cheaper.
  10. The Kindle is lighter. Hold it aloft in one hand while lying on the couch.
  11. The Kindle is easier on your eyes than the iPad is,  if you’re reading a book or long article.

ipad_hero_20100305Top 11 Arguments for the iPad

  1. Glorious color.
  2. Newspapers and magazines have videos accompanying their stories.
  3. Blogs are more useful when you can click on their links.
  4. The Wall Street Journal app is gorgeous, and lets you look at a “now” edition, which is up to the minute. It lets you save  individual stories or sections.
  5. USA Today and the New York Times “Editor’s Choice,”  look just like the real newspaper.
  6. You can play your iTunes collection while running a slideshow of your photos.
  7. You can read the iPad in the dark.
  8. You can easily see graphs and charts without the zoom feature that isn’t available yet on the Kindle.
  9. The touchscreen is a joy to use.
  10. The 3G version has GPS, so you can find out where you are.
  11. Besides being an e-Reader, there are endless apps for games, email, social networking, productivity tools, TV shows and movies.

USING MICROSOFT OFFICE ON FACEBOOK

facebook-iconFor those who want to share Microsoft Office documents with Facebook friends, or switch back and forth between editing a document on the web or their desktop, try this one:

Start at docs.com, sign in to your Facebook account and get a few sample documents to play with. Click “Friends’ Docs” to see what they’re sharing, and “Add a doc” to add one of your own. “Add a doc” prompts you to upload a Word doc, Excel spreadsheet or Powerpoint presentation.