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October 31, 2006

Earthcomber: a Halloween Treat

Earthcomber ( offerswill turn your pocket pal into a personal travel assistant and navigator with or without GPS for FREE! The download is free, your personal account is free, and it’s free to use.

Perhaps you are wondering how such a useful, full-featured product can be offered free to all users. The way the company stays afloat is to sell advertising. It’s a good deal for both independent and national brand businesses too because you can get listed for as little as $35 per year. Earthcomber will put your pizza parlor in front of a customer who actually is seeking your product. The other revenue stream for Earthcomber is the sale of “Spot Guides,” which we’ll discuss below.

If you own a business and want to find out more, follow this link:

After downloading and installing Earthcomber, you must set up your preferences by indicating maps that you want downloaded to your device memory, which can be to main or expanded memory. Then you must tell Earthcomber your interests to include as well. The major categories include auto needs, business, essentials, fun times, let’s eat, my day off, night life, outdoors, personal & pet care, public places, shopping, touring. Under each of these categories you may selection a sub-list. For instance, under Public Places you can check off airport, bus station, church, college, elementary, high school, mall, middle-junior high. Post office, shopping center, stadium-arena, train station. You can also specificy the range in miles you want listing to appear from your present position. You can add or subtract from your list of preferences at any time.

If you are in a hurry, you can simply allow Earthcomber to supply a list of standard favorites. Or you can use the favorites Wizard to speed you through the process.

When you first start using Earthcomber, the opening screen allows you to set your location using GPS or by indicating it on a map.

Earthcomber offers a wide array of “Spot Guides.” These guides can vary from fashion finders to detailed itinerary maps to historic tour guides. The three I have installed are Movies on the Move, Lewis and Clark Expedition, and Find a Grave. The first two are free and the third one costs under ten dollars. The most expensive Spot Guide is about $15. With the purchase of a Spot Guide, you get free access to all the Earthcomber maps to download from the Website.

The Movies on the Move Guide is a handy reference for selecting a film to see by title from an index, the box office top ten, or from a list of new releases. Tapping on the movie title brings up its details with a synopsis. It will then give you directions to the theater, if you need them. It can also assist in selecting a movie to watch on TV or to rent.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition is a marvelous historical tour guide. I live in Idaho near where the expedition traversed the state with the help of the Nez Perce. While I have visited most of the sites mentioned in their journals, I have learned some new things from this fascinating spot guide and look forward to retracing their incredible journey from beginning to end one day.


The screen shot above illustrates a sample page of the guide with a site description. Notice the Information, Description, and Map tabs. As always, Earthcomber stands ready to guide you to your desired destination with or without GPS.

Find a Grave on the Web averages 25,000 hits a day. Now, thanks to Earthcomber, there is a mobile version that will alert you and guide you to over 9000 graves of the famous and infamous all over the country. There is an informative description of the inhabitant of each gravesite with links to further biographic information.

You can search for sites by region, claim to fame, date, or name. You can locate all famous graves within a certain radius or just grave of a certain characteristic such as famous actors or murderers. A fame ranking from 1-5 designates the relative fame of graves. Earthcomber also lets you create a plog (map log) of your favorite locations on a map that you can save and share.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at the paucity of famous graves in Idaho with a population of fewer than one million, but at least it’s a manageable number. At least Idaho have five times more famous graves than Nevada. If this were a contest for the most famous graves, California would be the winner by a large measure. It must be all those dead actors who are responsible for escalating the numbers.

I plan to use this storehouse of information as an entertaining and informative source for geocaching on my travels around the country.

This fascinating guide should satisfy the ghoulish nature in anyone. It’s a perfect gift or adjunct to your bag of Halloween trick or treat. It will set you back $9.95, which is not a lot for so much information and functionality.


Earthcomber may not have every single McDonalds in the country, but it won’t let you go hungry or run out of gas. It is a versatile travel companion and navigator that works with or without GPS. I especially like the way it learns about your preferences and suggests points of interest along the way that you might have missed otherwise. I also appreciate the discussion groups maintained by Earthcomber . If you there is not a group that tickles your fancy, you can start your own. Considering the price (free) I think you can afford to allow it some space on your PDA.

Posted by tim at 11:31 PM | Comments (0)

October 13, 2006

SnagIt: a super screen capture solution

I feel as if I just stepped out of a time machine that catapulted me from the Paleolithic to the Cyberage non-stop. I’m almost embarrassed to tell you how long I’ve been using my old screen capture program. I dimly remember first installing it from a 3 ¼ floppy disk, if that tells you anything. When I discovered the wonders of SnagIt, I felt that I knew what it would be like for a Neanderthal to step into the 21st Century.

Yes, SnagIt is a screen capture utility, but it is so much more. It allows you to capture images in a variety of ways. You can capture an entire screen or any part of it, save it to a file in a variety of formats, email it, or paste it into a document or a PowerPoint presentation. With SnagIt, you can even capture an entire scrolling window, which just blows me away. You can capture a menu or selected text. What about videos? No problem, you can also snag Flash files.
Check this out: You can enter a URL and automatically capture the collective set of images, video, and audio files from a Website. You can also specify the type of files you want to download from a selected site, e.g. .doc, .ppt, .xls, and so forth. Tell SnagIt if you want to retain the hyperlinks or not in a screen capture.

Actually, there are 40 different ways to capture images—too numerous to list here. I mean you can even specify shapes to capture such as rounded rectangles, triangles, wallpaper and much more. Hey, you can even schedule a time to capture an image on a recurring basis.

With an Alt+Click, you can capture multiple areas on a screen simultaneously. Didn’t I tell you this program was amazing?

The irony is that you cannot snag SnagIt because once you invoke it, it disappears from view to reveal the object beneath it. I had to use that ante-diluvium software to capture the SnagIt screen below.

Once you have captured an image, there is a wide choice of outputs. You can save it to a variety of appropriate file types. You can send it to the clipboard, a printer, a scanner, or a fax. You can email it, FTP it, or IM it. Save it as a .pdf file, if you like. SnagIt allows you to convert saved images from one format to another.
Here are some of the things you can do to edit an image in a SnagIt Photoshop-like environment: You can resize it, scaled or unscaled by percentage or pixel specification. You may adjust the color depth using grayscale, monochrome, half tone, or custom color depth to your own liking. You can invert or substitute colors, adjust brightness, and play with the advanced color settings: hue, saturation, and gamma. Change the image resolution, if you need to for various publication requirements. Insert captions, borders, and a variety of edge effects. SnagIt will automatically select and trim dark areas from your photos. If you’re concerned about others copying your work, SnagIt will allow you to insert a watermark.

My only complaint and recommendation is that SnagIt incorporate some means of capturing PDA and Smartphone screens. Then it would indeed be the ultimate, perfect screen capture solution.

Actually, I have simply opened screen shot images saved on my Pocket PC or Smartphone, manipulated them with SnagIt tools, then used them in articles and reviews.

I honestly don’t know how I ever survived without this marvelous program, and I’m glad our paths finally crossed. If you’re not using this incredible product, you should. It will set you back $39.95, and that’s a wise investment for all its multi-faceted functionality. You can get a copy from the developer at If it were in my power, I’d give SnagIt the software of the year award for every year since the Ice Age. SnagIt is to my productivity like oil is to engines—a slick necessity.

Posted by tim at 05:57 PM | Comments (0)

October 07, 2006

A Peculiar 2 GB SD/USB Expansion Card

As a student of archaeology, I learned early on how to operate a shovel. In my more advanced studies, I learned about an important aspect of human evolution—the shovel-shaped incisor. The curvature of the shovel-shaped incisor allowed greater surface area in a smaller lateral space that accommodated the subsequent reduction of the jaw in Homo sapiens, which probably contributed to speech as well. Recently, I received from a curious, more highly evolved SD/USB card that I would describe as shovel-shaped.
USBSD Card.jpg
The USB tab would be the handle of the shovel and the SD tab is the spade part. I am accustomed to the SanDisk version that you have to fold down to reveal the USB tab. Well, this one is fully circumcised and ready for business without the extra foreplay.

I always worried about what would happen if I clumsily broke off the fold down part. Now I see it wouldn’t matter one whit. Proporta’s clever engineers have simplified the insertion process no doubt after careful consideration and an appreciation of what really matters when you are in need of some extra daticular activity.

The only possible objection may be that when you insert the card into the SD slot, you are leaving a gap on either side of the USB tang that may allow dust to enter the port. Clearly, the obvious solution is to avoid using this card during a dust storm in the desert. Otherwise, a little pocket lint is probably not going to hurt anything.

With the proliferation of expansion card types, I try to stick to a single card that will fit as many of my devices as possible. That way, I can easily transfer data back and forth between my camera, laptop, desktop, Tablet, Pocket PCs, and Smartphones. While I may have created compatibility among my devices, the rub comes when I want to share data with someone who cannot accommodate an SD card. Fortunately, the USB slot is almost ubiquitous and a universal standard. That’s where this handy SD/USB card shines bright and saves the day because you can proudly plug this promiscuous puppy from Proporta into almost any computer.

What would make this card even more remarkable is if it were also a caddy or served as an adapter for a mini-SD card or even a micro-SD card…perhaps in future editions. Meanwhile, I’m very pleased to have this handy shovel in my toolkit for the easy transfer of data, which you can really pile up with the 2 GB capacity. I dig it, and so will you. This spade is an ace.

To get yours, go to It will set you back $109.95, which is about five cents a megabyte. Compare that to the price of the old 3 ¼”, 1.44 MB floppies that I seem to remember used to cost a buck a piece. Can you still buy those? If anyone wants any, I have a whole drawer full waiting to be shoveled out.

Posted by tim at 09:47 PM | Comments (0)