PERSONAL TECH

Cartoon spinner conquers new front


Published: Monday, January 3, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 2, 2005 at 11:56 p.m.
The web-spinning Spider-Man is a multimedia sensation who has conquered comic books, cartoons, video games and movies. Now his eyes are set on the world of CD-ROMs. A new 11-disc set, ''40 Years of the Amazing Spider-Man,'' has high-resolution scans of every issue of ''Amazing Spider-Man'' from No. 1 (March 1963) to No. 500 (December 2003).
Also included is ''Amazing Fantasy'' No. 15, from 1962, the first appearance of the wall-crawling superhero.
A collector trying to amass the individual comic books would probably have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars; the CD-ROM set is $40. Other Marvel superheroes who have received the CD-ROM treatment include the Avengers, Captain America, Daredevil, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man and the X-Men.
Each comic book reproduced in ''40 Years of the Amazing Spider-Man'' is complete, including advertisements and letter columns. The pages and covers are scanned from copies of the comics. Older issues are yellow with age and show some wear and tear; the newer ones are in better shape.
But the condition of the comics will not interfere with the reading of the stories, which chronicle Spider-Man's evolution from teenage outcast to college student to married man. Milestones include the first appearances of Dr. Octopus, the Green Goblin and the Punisher; the death of Peter Parker's first love, Gwen Stacy; and the discovery by Aunt May that Peter is Spider-Man.
  • LARGE-CAPACITY HARD DRIVE TO GO IS MORE THAN JUST A FLASH OF MEMORY: One drawback to small, durable USB flash drives is limited capacity. They are fine for taking a few files across town, but they cannot hold digital films or a Web site photo archive.
    The new USB 2.0 Pocket Hard Drive from Seagate (seagate.com) is different. The sleek gray disk crams the storage power of a 2.5- or even a 5-gigabyte hard drive into a shockproof, palm-size chassis, rendering USB flash drives unnecessary for anyone willing to spend a bit more money.
    The drive sits in a rotating shell with slip-proof rubber feet. The shell houses a retractable USB 2.0 cable. Its most attractive feature, perhaps, is its ability to partition its memory: users can cordon off and password protect one or more sections of the drive to store sensitive information, whether it is a plan for an initial public offering or love letters.
    The five-gigabyte model, which is available at major consumer electronics stores (both on- and offline), is $160 to $200; the 2.5-gigabyte model costs $125 to $150.
    The drive is bus powered, meaning it gets its juice from your computer. That eliminates at least one worry - loss of data because of battery failure - from your life.
  • A FORCE FIELD IN FLAT GRAY TO PROTECT A WIRELESS NETWORK: As wireless networks have proliferated, computer security companies have come up with increasingly complex defenses against hackers: password protection, encryption, biometrics. Insulating the interior of a house, apartment or office from radio-wave interference is a simpler concept that has yet to become a popular consumer strategy, but a new product called DefendAir from Force Field Wireless could change that.
    Available online at forcefieldwireless.com, the product is a latex house paint that has been laced with copper and aluminum fibers that form an electromagnetic shield, blocking most radio waves and protecting wireless networks. Priced at $69 a gallon and available only in flat gray (it can be used as a primer), one coat shields Wi-Fi, WiMax and Bluetooth networks operating at frequencies from 100 megahertz to 2.4 gigahertz.
    Two or three coats will achieve the paint's maximum level of protection, good for networks operating at up to five gigahertz. Force Field Wireless also sells a paint additive ($34 for a 32-ounce container, enough to treat a gallon of paint) and $39 window-shield films.
    Harold Wray, a Force Field Wireless spokesman, said the paint must be carefully applied. ''Radio waves find leaks,'' he said.
    It should be applied selectively, he said, because it might hinder the performance of radios, televisions and cell phones. ''Our main goal is to shield your wireless radio waves from hackers and outside interference,'' he said. ''Plus, today, many people watch cable television.''
  • IPOD-TO-CAR SOLUTION AVOIDS SOME OF THE PREVIOUS POTHOLES: Music and driving go together like a horse and carriage, but for many iPod owners, crossing the portable player with the car audio system has been an exercise in frustration. FM transmitters can be unreliable in radio-heavy urban areas, and other options require the user to have a certain kind of stereo or car.
    The iCruze from Monster Cable, however, is designed to work with a large number of factory-installed or aftermarket car audio systems to put the iPod and its music library in the driver's seat.
    Using audio cables, the iCruze can be connected directly to the car's CD player or satellite radio unit and to the iPod. Once cabled together, songs and playlists on the iPod can be selected through the CD player's dashboard controls or embedded steering wheel buttons.
    For stereo systems that do not display song and artist information, there is an optional 20-character backlit LCD screen for the iCruze to display information from the iPod.
    The iCruze (monstercable.com) will be available next month for $200. It works with iPods made in 2003 or later and iPod Minis. With a fully wired iPod blasting out tunes or audiobooks for the daily commute, the time stuck in traffic may pass just a bit more quickly.
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