Software, hardware, and more.
Sound on the go
Amphony’s 2.4GHz digital stereo wireless headphones are comfortable earmuff types that do a pretty good job of isolating the listener from outside noise. They’re powered by two AA batteries, and their only controls are for on/off and volume; there are no balance or tone controls. The transmitter is a compact unit with right/left RCA jacks, plus a data-out jack and a receptacle for the 9-volt wall-wart. There is no transmitter on/off switch; it turns on when it senses a signal from the source, and off a minute after it loses that signal.
In optimal conditions, the Amphony headphones sound like a decent wired set, with no background noise at all. The indoor range is good; with the transmitter in a central location I got mostly glitch-free coverage anywhere in my three-level house, though the signal didn’t carry well to the outdoors. (Line-of-sight range is about 200 feet.) At this writing, Amphony planned to introduce a $50 range extender (unavailable for testing) that plugs into the data-out jack and improves indoor/outdoor range.
Unlike analog devices such as older 900MHz models, signal quality with the digital Amphony remains perfect until one approaches the reception limit, at which time annoying high-frequency “pops” directly precede a total loss of signal, with no gradual degradation. Interference in the increasingly crowded 2.4 GHz band can be a problem; my microwave oven turned the signal into noisy hash, and a 2.4 GHz phone and Wi-Fi (802.11b) wireless network each caused frequent pops in the headphones while in use. The worst cross-interference was with my X-10 video sender (popular for wireless security cameras); each rendered the other unusable.
In summary, if your interference conditions permit, the Amphony headphones are an excellent alternative to being tethered to your stereo or TV, offering you the freedom to wander anywhere in the house and take your programming with you.-Ken Henningsen
It’s a buyer’s market for anyone who wants to register a domain name and set up a Web site and e-mail accounts. With more than 50 registrars accredited to sell .com and other domains and literally hundreds of companies that will host them, what makes newcomer WebHero.com worth a mention? For one thing, WebHero has a track record. It’s a service from ICANN-accredited registrar Catalog.com, which has been hosting domains for 8 years for corporations like Dollar Rent-a-car and Hobby Lobby.
But WebHero is designed for another audience–a no-fuss a la carte domain registration and hosting package for small businesses. For $99 a year, the service registers .com, .net, .org, .biz, .info, and .us domains and hosts them on either Windows NT or Unix servers with 50MB of Web server space for your site, and 10 e-mail addresses (five POP3 boxes and five forwarding addresses). The POP e-mail addresses can be read from an e-mail software such as Outlook and Eudora, and also remotely from a Web browser using an interface like HotMail’s.
The Web hosting covers most of the bases that businesses require; there’s support for unrestricted CGI scripts, FrontPage 2002 Extensions, and pages protected by secure socket layer (SSL). For media junkies, there’s also support for streaming Real Audio and Real Video media. And depending on which type of server you choose, there’s a choice of development environments: WebHero’s Unix servers use MySQL, PHP, and Python, and the Windows servers use active server pages (ASP), Access, and VBScript.
Better yet, the Web servers are sound. In NetMechanic tests of sites that the company hosts, we found that the server response and download times are near 70Kbps and above for all servers tested–putting WebHero’s servers ahead of some $15-a-month ($180 per year) services we’ve tested. And there’s a step-by-step site builder that works like a pared-down version of the Trellix service used by free site services such as Tripod and GeoCities. With it, you build pages using preset elements, text-entry boxes, and file-upload forms for your own graphics and logos. The initial investment in WebHero is admittedly steep–almost $100 up front is a lot when many hosts will charge less than $30 to start. But after a few months, you’re still paying for those services; WebHero has you covered for a whole year.
To your health
When you want to change your eating habits, keeping track of what you eat is a logical first step. HealtheTech’s BalanceLog software makes it easy to take that step.
BalanceLog requires a Pentium-class PC, 32 to 64MB of RAM, and 30MB of hard drive space. It works with Windows 98, 2000, Me, and NT, but it hasn’t been tested with XP. (No Mac version is currently available.)
The software creates your profile, including age, weight, frame size, and other information. You choose the diet you’d like to follow (the American Cancer Society diet, for example) or you can customize your own, along with any weight-loss or exercise goals. The software recommends a daily caloric intake, and as you log meals each day, it shows how many calories you’ve had. You can create reports, including charts of how much protein, carbohydrate, and fat you’ve consumed. By the time this issue hits the stands, HealtheTech hopes to fix a bug that causes an error when you try to generate certain reports.
The food database includes detailed nutritional information for brand-name as well as generic foods, making meal logging refreshingly simple. Whether you’ve had rice at home or a steak soft taco at Taco Bell, it takes five minutes to see how you’ve done each day. The search engine isn’t very sophisticated, so keep your searches simple.
You can synch BalanceLog with your handheld; I didn’t have one, but the interface looks very similar to what I saw on a PC. You can also log meals on the Web and download the information to your PC. Downloading is effortless, but until HealtheTech implements some PC features on the Web, it’s a transfer option rather than a complete alternative.
BalanceLog makes tracking your diet almost as simple as checking your email.-Holly Dolezalek