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Tech goals for the New Year

Jan 06, 20034 mins

Simplify technology, concentrate on your business

As we kick off the New Year, I’ve got some changes to tell you about. For starters, my column is stepping up from twice monthly to weekly. (Newsletter readers will need to click here to read additional installments.) Also, we’re changing the name from SOHO Tech to Small Business Tech, which better reflects our mission to bring you business and technology advice, as well as weekly hands-on product reviews. Face it, small business owners need to be savvy technologists to some degree, and the more we can help you meet the challenges and make the right choices, the more successful you’ll be.

We’ll also tackle specific problems such as how a small law firm with four computers networked together can back up its data and share information. How a modern home with multiple computers, including one piloted by a teenager, can set time limits and Web surfing controls, and keep everyone’s e-mail private. We’ll look at how a small company with multiple computers can avoid creating a sinkhole of time and money, without hiring a full-time IT manager. And, of course, we’ll stay on the lookout for ways home office users can get the most bang for their buck.

Like Linux?

Those of you interested in an inexpensive way to play with Linux on a personal system will want to look at Lycoris’ Desktop/LX product. For $29.95, you get a gorgeous-looking desktop ready to work right out of the box.

Installation, often a problem with Linux, works quickly and easily using a fairly recent Windows system with an open disk partition larger than 1G byte. Lycoris happily installed itself into the open partition on my Windows 2000 PC and set up a dual-boot screen for itself and Windows. Installation failed on two older systems, a Pentium and a Pentium II, but my old Dell OptiPlex Pentium III/450 system running Windows 2000 worked the first time.

The basic Desktop/LX includes the KDE interface, prettied up. The productivity applications are KDE’s Word Processor, Spreadsheet, Presentations, Organizer and Address Book. These are comparable in power to Microsoft Office, but don’t offer as much integration or emphasize Office compatibility, as do some other Linux-based productivity suites. However, the KDE Word Processor can certainly support your next memo, press release or novel. For an extra $49.95, the Lycoris Productivity Pak offers heftier programs with better Windows interoperability, and also includes a PDA Sync program.

For those of us who spend much time in e-mail and on the Web, Lycoris includes the recent Mozilla Version 1.1 browser and e-mail applications. If you know Netscape 4.6 or above, you will feel at home in Mozilla and appreciate the extras. The e-mail and newsreader applications work well, and viruses targeting Outlook users will ignore you – an outstanding benefit.

Like music? Lycoris comes with an MP3 player, RealMedia player, and plays your CDs automatically when loaded. More utilities are available for free download at, including CD burning software. A fun introduction to desktop Linux.

Eval Pal

New for the New Year: I want to be your Eval Pal. The best way to find cool little products or utilities is a friend’s recommendation. This year, I’ll regularly highlight tools that save time or money, or simplify a sticky problem.

To start, let me direct your attention to JS Pager, a handy (and free) desktop utility that converts your messy Windows desktop into multiple organized desktops just a hotkey away from each other. From programmer Johann Strand, JS Pager can be downloaded from or directly by clicking here.

I always considered Windows a worse analogy than a desktop. If your desk looks like mine, things get covered and lost easily. JS Pager or another virtual desktop manager (such as MultiDesk, TriDesk Virtual Desktop or Sdesk, all free) can keep a large number of applications open yet keep your desktop neat. It may not be better to look good than to work well, but a cleaner desktop is a good start for the New Year.