March 2004

Cyber News and Reviews is a monthly column published for parents, teachers & business owners featuring kids educational software reviews, business software reviews (small business & home business), games and entertainment articles, a free resource since 1995.


The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring Game from Vivendi Universal and Sierra Entertainment, TurboTax Deluxe 2003 from Intuit Inc.

By Howard Berenbon

The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring Game from Vivendi Universal and Sierra Entertainment 

If you’re a follower of Tolkien, that fabulous author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings then The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring, from Vivendi Universal and Sierra Entertainment, is a game you’ve got to get.  Enter into Tolkien’s fantasy world of Middle-earth in this new 3D fantasy adventure game (the fantasy world that most 20th century fantasy titles are based on) and join the main characters like Aragon, Legolus, Gimli, Pippin, Merry, Sam, Gandolf the Wizard and Frodo the Ring Bearer in a fight against evil and the Dark Lord.  Enter and re-live the great battles you’ve only read about in the trilogy: at Helm’s Deep, Osgiliath, Cirith Ungel, and the plains of Rohan.  You’ll find great graphics, music and sound effects as you bolding fight your battles against evil (or you can fight against the good guys if you select the evil side).

Installation takes about 5 minutes from 2 CDs included.  Your computer must have DirectX 9.0 installed and the appropriate graphics card for this 3D environment, but no need to worry because you can install the latest version of DirectX with the installation.  However, if you don’t have the right video card, the game will install, but may not run as fast as with the correct card.   On installation, I found my HP 514n had more than enough speed (Celeron 2.3 MHz) but did not have the required graphics card, and the game play slowdown was noticeable.  The minimum CPU clock speed is 800 MHz

Once installed, you are transported into the world of Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings.   The game begins with a video introduction and narration.  You’ll fly by snow-covered mountains and over great battles as you hear the one poem that sums up the struggle in Middle-earth and the realities in world of Tolkien: “One ring to rule them all, One ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them, in the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

After the introduction video, you’ll create your character (just enter your name) and select either the Single or Multiplayer option.  After clicking Play you have four play options: Good Campaign, Evil Campaign, Skirmish and Tutorial.  Of course if you’ll want to fight against the evil side and you’ll select Good Campaign.  Then you can select the difficulty level: medium, easy or hard (medium is the default).  Get ready to begin your first campaign.  A map of the area is displayed, where you will Grey Ledge for your first encounter.   But before you can begin any fighting you must go through your objectives, which are displayed.  In this campaign, your objectives are: Construct an encampment for reinforcement, Construct a mill, Construct a Foundry, Construct ad Dwarf Hall, Construct a Watchtower, Upgrade the Stronghold, Construct a forge, Destroy the main encampment and Kill the Orc captain.

You’ll use the keyboard and mouse to complete your objectives, which is similar to other real-time strategy games.  For example, use “A” for Attack Move, “H” to Hold Position, “T” for Patrol, “G” for Guard and “S” for Walk/Run toggle.  The mouse wheel is used to zoom in and out of the scene.  There’s also a mini-map in the lower left-hand corner of the screen that you can use to move to different parts of the campaign area.  After completing your objectives at Grey Ledge you’ll go out to the second campaign, The Siege of the Hills.

The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring sells for  $34.99 and will run on any multimedia PC, Pentium III 800 MHz or faster processor, 32 MB RAM with Windows 98/ME/2000/XP and an 8x CD-ROM drive.  DirectX 9 and compliant video card required. 

TurboTax Deluxe 2003 from Intuit Inc.

It’s that time again, approaching April 15.  Time to get your tax act together and file your Federal, State and Local income taxes. Our review of TurboTax 2002 last March was our first time tackling taxes using a personal computer.

TurboTax is the best, computerized, tax preparation program available.  If you do your own taxes and haven’t tried TurboTax, it’s time to take a chance and do it!  Because once you use TurboTax you’ll never turn back to your old ways of tax preparation.  If you have an accountant, or take your taxes once a year to a tax preparation service, you should consider giving them a break (not to mention saving the expense), and try TurboTax.  If you’re worried about accuracy, Intuit guarantees that their calculations are 100 percent correct.  In fact, many tax preparers are using TurboTax (or similar software) to prepare their clients’ taxes, so why not use TurboTax?  Unless you have some extremely special tax situations, you’ll find TurboTax a breeze at doing your taxes, and you can save yourself hundreds of dollars in fees.  And even if you have some special tax situations, you can solve them, and file your taxes on time without any extra help.  All forms and instructions are included either on the CD or online.   It will figure the best possible way to file your taxes giving you the highest legally allowable refund.  As you enter your data, you’ll see the actual form displayed at the bottom of your screen.  Also, if you have a question about a particular entry, you can enter your question into a search box at the top right of the screen, or check you can check your question against commonly asked questions listed below the search box. When you’re done, it prints all the forms, or you can file electronically, and keeps a record for next year’s taxes.

After a quick installation from a single CD, you’ll be on your way to completing your income tax forms in no time.  TurboTax Deluxe allows one free state data download, and you should do that before you begin your return.  Any other downloads are $29.95 each.  Next, you can begin your taxes either by loading in the previous year’s return, or starting from scratch.  If you filed using TurboTax last year, your personal information and basic tax structure is already on file and it will be used in the new return.  All you have to do is enter in the new numbers and anything additional that may have changed from last year to this year.  When you’re entering your tax information, you have a choice of having TurboTax ask you questions (the Interview) and enter the answers and numbers from your tax documents, or go directly to each form and fill in the blanks on your own.  This is a great feature.  You’ll probably want TurboTax to ask you questions and enter the answers from your document, but later if you’ve forgotten some information, or made any mistakes, you can easily add it to the proper form, by bringing up the form and filling in the blanks.  As you progress through your taxes, everything is explained as you go.  Also, TurboTax is working in the background and calculating the amount of tax you will owe or refund you should expect so far, which is displayed in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.  Of course, this number will change as you complete each return.

If you haven’t used a tax preparation program, you should.  It’s a real time saver, especially if you made a few errors or forgot to enter some important tax data.  With TurboTax, you just correct the mistake on your computer, or add misplaced tax information and reprint.  If you’re doing your taxes with paper and pen, you most likely will need to redo several forms to correct even a single error.  Any mistake on a tax return takes time to correct.

This is “must-have” software for anyone who wants to tackle his or her own income tax forms and save the expense of paying a professional; and at just $29.99 it’s a bargain.   If you are the type of person who gets nervous as tax time approaches, once you’ve used TurboTax, this will never happen again.  Even if you have a more complex tax situation: maybe you run a small business or two, you have stocks and bonds, and have kids to claim as dependents, own some rental property and have a second home, etc., TurboTax will work for you.

TurboTax Deluxe 2003 sells for  $29.99 (after a $10 mail in rebate) and will run on any multimedia PC, Pentium 200 MHz or faster processor, 32 MB RAM with Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP/NT 4.0 and a 4x CD-ROM drive. 

Software Companies Mentioned

Intuit Inc.
2500 Garcia Ave.
Mountain View, CA 94043
Phone: 1-800-446-8848

Vivendi Universal Games, Inc.
4247 S. Minnewawa Ave.
Fresno, CA 93725
Phone: 1-866-341-0879