Bits & Bytes
Hot games and great websites
Published: Monday, September 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, August 31, 2003 at 10:57 p.m.
CELL PHONE SECURITY
Computer security has been hogging the airwaves lately, pushing cell phone security into the background. But there are plenty of hackers out there who would love to take advantage of your lack of concern. Check out Cornell University's page at www.cit.cornell.edu/cellphone/security.html on tips for keeping your cellular conversations and information private.
When shopping around for a mortgage loan, people often hear FHA loans mentioned, especially for first-time buyers or borrowers with less than perfect credit. Read up on all things FHA at Fhalibrary.com, where you'll find out who's eligible for these types of loans and what requirements must be met in order to receive funding.
CREDIT CARD RATES
While we're on the subject of loans, be sure to keep an eye out for your credit card rates, especially those that are in the ballpark of your age. It's no secret that credit providers like to use any excuse to jack up your rate, so be sure to shop and compare for the best deal out there. Check it out at www.bankrate.com/brm/rate/cc_home.asp.
NEW COLLEGE FOOTBALL MASTERPIECE
It's a crisp fall afternoon and a college football fan is glued to the television, where his favorite team is hammering its traditional rivals into the gridiron.
If that mythical fan isn't watching a real game, it's probably because he can't stop playing the latest in EA Sports' excellent series, "NCAA Football 2004."
Sports titles normally leave me cold. But when I guided my alma mater, the mighty Fresno State Bulldogs, to a convincing win over their WAC rivals San Jose State in my first try, I was hooked.
I'm now 2-1, with a close victory over Hawaii after a drubbing by San Diego State.
Every year, EA fine-tunes and enhances the series to make it more realistic and more fun to play. I'm not sure what they'll come up with next year, but it will have to be spectacular to top 2004.
Try to find something missing. You can do everything from playing a quick game with just the push of a button to creating a school and running its football program season after season, hiring coaches, recruiting athletes, scheduling and even focusing on one star to get him on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
The game offers scores of new teams this year, including a bunch of new Division 1 squads and dozens of historic teams. You can play one of the 20 greatest college games ever. If you're feeling a little weird, you can play a "mascot" game, in which all the players are dressed in the school mascot's outfit.
The game has a realistic look and feel, and it sounds great, too, with some of the best sports commentary yet for a videogame.
The game is available for Xbox, PlayStation 2 and Game Cube, but only the Sony version can be played online.
"NCAA Football 2004" is a truly great game, the best sports title going at the moment (I haven't tried "Madden 2004" yet) and a hugely entertaining and involving experience.
GOOGLE TASK BAR
Google has done it again - this time creating an enhanced task bar for your browser that actually blocks pop-up ads. I've been using it for a few days, and the results are noticeable. To download the new feature, go to www.google.com and follow the appropriate links. You'll be up and running in less than two minutes. For now, this Google function only works for PC users.
If you're still trying to convince your mother-in-law to get hooked up to the Internet, perhaps she might feel better about the whole thing if she has something tangible to read about the entire process. That's where the University of California at Berkeley's guide to browsers comes in. Simply print out a copy at www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/Browsers.html and before you know it, you'll be on the receiving end of daily e-mails pestering you for photos of the kids.
While there are dozens of ATM providers, a large majority of them are part of the Star network. If you're looking for the nearest cash machine in your own city or parts elsewhere, go to www.star-systems.com and click on ATM Locator.
SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS
That FICA charge on your paycheck may mean nothing to you now, but you may need to count on your Social Security in the future. The U.S. government has created an electronic guidebook to the program, which helps explain why the money is taken out and where it goes. Check it out at www.ssa.gov/pubs/10024.html.
Throwing away an old computer isn't as easy as putting out last week's trash. In fact, your machine may be filled with personal information as well as components that could be harmful to the environment. Check out the advice on Ciol.com for effective and safe ways to separate yourself from your old computer.
ONET, the Occupational Information Network, collects the information on numerous jobs and breaks each occupation down for the average worker. It's a great place to start for anyone who's thinking about changing careers. It's also helpful when employees are preparing for those performance reviews that just happen to avoid mentioning all the extra work that's required on the job. Go to www.job-descriptions.info.
If you're in the market for a new Macintosh computer, be sure to check out the deals at Lowendmac.com. The site scours the Web for the latest deals on all things Apple. You can find discounts on discontinued items and new products without checking the numerous Mac retails sites.
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