Reading Blaster for Kindergarten from Knowledge Adventure, JamC@m Digital Camera Version 2.0 from KB Gear Interactive, Disney/Pixar Print Studio, A Bug's Life from Disney Interactive, AddWeb Web Submission Software from Cyberspace Headquarters, LLC, NetObjects Fusion 4.0 Web Editor from NetObjects, Inc. and Nick-O-Matic Design Factory from Mattel Media
Reading Blaster for Kindergarten from Knowledge Adventure
Now with the help of Knowledge Adventure and Reading Blaster for Kindergarten, your kids may be reading books before 1st grade with this underwater reading adventure CD, for kids ages 4 to 6. Join Max Blaster and G.C. in their search for the lost treasure. It includes great animation, music, sound effects with lots of activities to help your kindergarten kid learn reading basics.
You'll start at the underwater main menu with six selections: Sand Dollar Matching, Seahorse Race, Clam Shell Scramble, Letter Dive, Treasure Room and Hidden Picture. Each selection offers at least one game designed to offer some basic reading skills to your child. In the Treasure Room alone you'll find five activities including word flashcards, a message board, a progress chart, B-mail (send mail to a blaster pal) and the Story Corner with 7 stories that you either read on your own of have the them read to you. You'll also find a variation on the match game with letters and letter sounds. And one game requires placing letters in the correct order to spell a word. Moving the mouse pointer over a letter generates the letter sound.
This is CD must have been made for my 5-year-old daughter, Becky, because she was unable to read when she started kindergarten in late August (which is quite normal). After a few weeks with Reading Blaster, I could tell she was recognizing words and letter combinations. Most kids learn to read in 1st grade, so I'm not worried, but it seems that this software is moving her ahead. I watched her working the activities, and she was confident and having fun. Becky said, "I like the treasure hunt, the race game and the sound matching game."
Reading Blaster for Kindergarten sells for a street price of $30 and will run on any multimedia PC, Pentium 90 or faster, 16 MB RAM and a Power Macintosh with 32 MB RAM. Both computers require a quad-speed CD-ROM drive. For more information contact Knowledge Adventure at 1-800-545-7677, or visit their Web site at blasternaut.com.
JamC@m Digital Camera Version 2.0 from KB Gear Interactive
If your looking for an inexpensive digital camera but can't afford the $150 to $800 price tag of the name brand point-and-shoot digitals, then the JamC@am, from KB Gear Interactive, may be worth a try. This camera offers a maximum resolution of 640 x 480 pixels for only $89.99.
The JamC@m is easy to use. Install a 9-volt alkaline battery, center your subject through the viewfinder and then just then just point and shoot (from 6 inches to infinity). A digital (liquid crystal) display on the back of the camera keeps track of the pictures you have left. You can also change the resolution, clear the camera's memory and shut down using a yellow button below the display. It stores 48 photos at the lowest resolution, 160 x 120 pixels, 24 pictures at 320 x 240 pixels and 8 high resolution shots at 640 x 480 pixels. Connection is simple through either a USB port for the Mac and PC or the serial port on the PC (cables are included). Once the software is installed, which includes Microsoft Picture It! 99 and ArcSoft PhotoFantasy 2.0, you can download, touchup your photos and work with some fun effects (distort your pictures and add backgrounds and objects).
I let Becky, who is 5-years-old, take a few pictures with the camera. After a quick demonstration (look through the viewfinder, point and press the shutter button), she had me almost centered in a picture outside our house. I found that the outdoor photos taken with good lighting conditions looked better than the ones taken indoors under low light levels. It's not much of a concern since, since Microsoft Picture It! 99 can fix the lighting and color problems with brightness and contrast adjustments. Also, photos taken in direct sunlight seemed a bit overexposed, but that was correctable as well. Click here for some of the photos taken indoors and out. From within Microsoft Picture It! 99, you can save your photos as a JPEG, BMP, TIFF or GIF format. In this case I saved them as JPEGS. I have to admit that I couldn't get a sharp picture from the Jam@Cam outside under excellent lighting conditions using even the highest resolution. Three of the four photos displayed were taken in sunlight, yet not one was clear. And they did not print out well. Under low lighting conditions, the photos taken indoors, were blurry and not acceptable.
JamC@m Digital Camera Version 2.0 sells for $89.99 and will run on any multimedia PC, Pentium or compatible processor with 16 megabytes of RAM, 90 megabytes of free disk space and a CD-ROM drive, running Windows 95 or Windows 98 with Internet Explorer 4.01 (included). It will also run any USB Macintosh, Open USB port, 32 MB RAM and a CD-ROM drive. For more information contact KB Gear Interactive at 1-800-531-2842, or visit their Web site at kbgear.com.
Disney/Pixar Print Studio, A Bug's Life from Disney Interactive
If you liked Disney/Pixar A Bug's Life movie, then you'll Disney/Pixar Print Studio, A Bug's Life from Disney Interactive. Now, kids (and adults) can create fun art projects and more with this feature-packed print studio hosted by your favorite A Bug's Life characters. Join Flik, Princess Atta and Princess Dot for a tons of creative projects for all occasions including banners, bookmarks, business cards, calendars, certificates, coloring pages, door hangers, envelopes, greeting cards, invitations, letterhead, notepads, photo frames, place cards, place mats, postcards, posters and stickers, all with A Bug's Life theme. All the projects are selected from the leafy main menu with some added sound effects as you select what you want.
Kids love to use the computer to make projects, and my kids couldn't wait to print to their hearts content, in color. They especially liked the coloring pages and certificates. And Becky is now designing the invitation for her next birthday party, and asking if she can design cards for other upcoming events.
Disney/Pixar Print Studio, A Bug's Life will let your kids create lots of neat projects from the world of A Bug's Life. Not only will they have fun with this CD, they'll probably want to buy the video (if you haven't already). It sells for a street price of $19.99 and will run on any multimedia PC, Pentium 90 MHz or faster processor with 16 megabytes of RAM and a quad-speed (4x) CD-ROM drive running Windows 95 or Windows 98. For more information contact Disney Interactive at 1-800-900-9234, or visit their Web site at disneyinteractive.com.
AddWeb Web Submission Software from Cyberspace Headquarters, LLC
So, you say you just opened your Web store and you want people to stop by and visit and even buy some of your products? Well, if you don't promote your Web site to the search engines, no one will come. Now, don't worry, because, you can promote your Web business to thousands of Internet sources including search engines and free for all Web pages in no more than a half hour using one of several Web promotion tools. I have been testing several products, ranging in price from $50 to $150 (more or less) and this month I am reviewing AddWeb 3 from Cyberspace Headquarters, LLC, URL.
AddWeb is a program you can download free from several shareware Internet software sites including from Cyberspace Headquarters (URL). I downloaded the file addweb.exe, a 2 megabyte size file, from webattack.com . The free shareware version (an unregistered demo) works, but limits your site submission to only some of the major search engines with a 30 submission limit. The Standard, registered, version is only $59, so it won't cost too much to upgrade if you like the features they offer. Two other versions are available: the Gold version for $99 and the Pro version for $149. The differences are mainly in the reporting features and the submission process. You can always upgrade to another version if you decide later. After you send your payment, of course, over the Internet through their secure server (or you can call it in), you'll get a registration number to activate all the features so you can submit your Web site URL to more than 1500 Internet search engines and directories.
It's fairly easy to setup and use. Enter your site information, select the search engines, pick your categories, enter your keywords, enter your SMTP server and e-mail address, and you're ready to go. It includes a very good Windows help file, indexed with lots of topics, and a tutorial. And, their reporting feature is excellent. It also offers a few other useful tools including one that checks your Web site ranking in the major search engines and another to help you build a Web page that is likely to give your site a better position in the search engines. And, program and search engine updates can be added online, when available, each time you run AddWeb. After you launch the program, you'll be notified if updates are available, and you can add them immediately. In my submission test, it took about 10 minutes to submit a site to 179 search engines. But, submission time can vary depending upon the speed of the Internet and your connection.
Addweb 3 (version 3.17) from Cyberspace Headquarters, LLC runs on any multimedia PC with a Pentium processor, 16 megabytes of RAM (32 megabytes or more, recommended), running Windows 95/Windows 98 or NT4 (or better). This is a great product at a great price. It's well designed and easy to use, with excellent reporting features and good documentation (that's important to me). If you need to promote your Web site, then Addweb 3 will do the job, and right.
NetObjects Fusion 4.0 Web Editor from NetObjects Fusion, Inc.
If you've noticed a new look to my Cyber News and Reviews column site, then you're right. I used NetObjects Fusion 4.0, a unique Web site designing tool, that allows you to drop in your text and graphics into a pre-designed form to help you quickly create a Web site in a jiffy, with any knowledge of the HTML language. I completely redesigned my column page in my test of one of the NetObjects Fusion, and it was easy as pie. The software is supplied on one CD with a very good, 16-chapter, printed, instruction manual. It also includes several Web applications tools to help you design a professional looking site. You'll find Allaire ColdFusion 4.0 Professional Edition Trial , ColdFusion Server 4.0, Allaire Homesite.4..0, Headspace Beatnik ActionSet 1.1, Live Picture PhotoVista 1.3.1 Trial, Lotus eSuite DevPak 1.5, NetObjects ScriptBuilder 3.0 Trial and NetStudio 1.0.1.
After a quick installation from one single CD, you'll start on Chapter 1 of their very clearly written printed manual, for a quick tutorial on building a Web site in 10 minutes. Then you're ready to take the next step and create your own. You'll find 50 style templates to choose from. Select one style, or you can mix and match them. You can add (and delete) Web pages from the site outline page. As you design your site, you can preview the page through your Web browser. It also allows you to enter HTML direct into your page, and it has another feature that will take any other Web page and incorporate it into your design. When you're done, click on Publish and your pages will be assembled ready to upload. My first try at building a Web site from scratch took about 4 hours, but that was a complete redesign and included some newly written text sections. I spent some of the that time getting up to speed on the procedures for adding HTML directly into the page, placing links and experimenting with different styles, background colors and button types and positioning.
The software is very easy to use, and they haven't missed a thing when it comes to adding text, graphics, links and sound to your Web creations. And if like your help online, while you're working, NetObjects Fusion has a very thorough Windows help file with step-by-step instructions on everything. When you're ready to publish, enter your server and Web space information and NetObjects Fusion will upload your new Web page design automatically.
NetObjects Fusion 4.0 from NetObjects, Inc. sells for $99.95 and will run on any multimedia PC, Pentium 90 MHz or faster processor with 32 megabytes of RAM a CD-ROM drive running Windows 95 or Windows 98 and a Web browser, Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer. For more information contact NetObjects, Inc. at 1-888-892-0702.
Nick-O-Matic Design Factory from Mattel Media
Okay, kids (and adults), if you're a Nickelodeon channel fan, then you need to know about the Nick-O-Matic Design Factory from Mattel Media, for kids ages 6 and up. Now, you can design projects for just about everything under the sun with your favorite Nick cartoon characters. This CD has every imaginable printing project, from Airplanes, Banners, Certificates, Greeting Cards, Keychains, Masks, Photo Frames, Place Mats, Puzzles, T-shirt Transfers to Window Deals, and much more, based on all those wacky and wild Nick cartoon characters. You'll find Rugrats, AAAHH!!! Real Monsters, The Angry Beavers, CatDog, Hey Arnold!, Rocko's Modern Life, The Ren & Stimpy Show and KABLAM! with more than 650 projects and 2000 graphics to help with your designs. And it also includes some Avery printing supplies to help get you started.
Say, you'd like to design a birthday card and want to make it a Rugrat's theme (then you're almost gauranteed to get Rugrat Toys) and have Chuckie and friends on the front? Well, just select Birthday Kits from the main menu of 25 project categories and you're on your way. Find the right graphics, enter your text and add your own photos if you want, and you're ready to print. Besides the birthday card, you can make place mats, place cards, envelopes, a banner and even gift wrap. There's lots of ready made project to choose from, or create your own from scratch.Now, I let Becky (who just turned 5), try this CD. She liked the projects, but lost interest fast. That's because it's lacking music and sound effects to keep her interest. I know it's not recommended for kids her age, but adding some audio, especially voices of some of the Nick cartoon characters, will help even the youngest of kids enjoy the activities. Don't get me wrong, this is a great CD with tons of activities, but a little graphics and sound couldn't hurt.
Nick-O-Matic Design Factory sells for $29.99 and will run on any multimedia PC, Pentium 100 MHz or faster processor with 16 megabytes of RAM and a double-speed (2x) CD-ROM drive running Windows 95 or Windows 98. For more information contact Mattel Media at 1-888-628-8359, or visit their Web site at hmattelmedia.com.
Software/Hardware Companies Mentioned
Cyberspace Headquarters, LLC
22048 Sherman Way, Suite 106
Canoga Park, CA. 91303
500 S. Buena Vista St.
Burbank, CA 91521-8432
KB Gear Interactive
7416 Washington Ave S
Eden Prairie, MN 55344-9482
Knowledge Adventure, Inc.
19840 Pioneer Avenue
Torrance, CA 90503
333 Continental Boulevard
El Segundo, CA 90245
301 Galveston Drive
Redwood City, CA 94063