PERSONAL TECH

Rewind your hard drive, block intruders


Published: Monday, January 10, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 9, 2005 at 8:41 p.m.
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DriveShield Plus software helps you start your day all over again with a click of a button.

The New York Times
Suppose that in the middle of a bad day you could just click a button and start over. That is the idea behind DriveShield Plus, software from Centurion Technologies.
DriveShield (www.centuriontech.com; $60; Windows only) can help home users guard against unauthorized changes.
The program works by write-protecting the hard disk; all changes made during a session are saved to a temporary storage space. When the computer is restarted, all changes made since the last reboot are washed away and the computer reverts to its earlier state.
Deleted files reappear and settings changes, software installations and registry changes are reversed.
Such a technique can guard against mishaps; it can also help fend off adware, spyware and viruses. While it does not block malicious programs from executing during a session, it does reverse changes and wipe away newly installed programs.
To save changes like settings adjustments or software updates and installations permanently, DriveShield Plus can be disabled temporarily.
There is also a feature called Persistent Storage, in which you can designate an area of the disk to save items like e-mail messages, documents, photos and music files. The program assigns a drive letter to that region of the disk.
  • A high-speed connection makes friends with TV: In the late 1990s, when only four out of 10 American households had computers, Microsoft snatched up a start-up company that made Internet-enabled set-top boxes for television sets, which were present in almost every household at the time.
    Web TV, as it was called, never really caught on, at least partly because computers rapidly became cheaper and more powerful. But now Microsoft is making another run at set-top technology aimed at making television much more interactive.
    Sleek and smart, MSN TV 2 Internet and Media Player is what its name suggests. Rather than depending solely on a slow dial-up modem, MSN TV 2 is also broadband-ready, able to provide access to high-speed content. It also provides e-mail, chat and instant-messaging features.
    MSN TV 2, which costs $200, has two USB ports for media card readers, printers and adapters to link the device to a home wireless network. It can be operated with a remote control or a wireless keyboard (both included). Sold under Thomson's RCA brand, it runs a new version of the MSN TV service, a Microsoft spokesman said, enabling it to play Windows Media music, video and photo files.
    MSN TV 2 is being sold online and in electronics stores including Best Buy, Circuit City and CompUSA. MSN TV service costs $10 a month for consumers with broadband service and $22 a month for dial-up users; discounts are available for those willing to buy by the year.
  • Home-row training wheels for youngest SpongeBob fans: If you are old enough to love "SpongeBob SquarePants," you are old enough to type. That seems to be the theory behind the new KidzMouse keyboard for children 2 to 10 years old. The SpongeBob SquarePants keyboard was designed for the small hands of children, with fewer keys and a rugged housing.
    The bright-colored keys (pink for vowels and numbers; yellow for consonants and punctuation) have rounded tops. The bottom catches spills, and the keyboard is decorated with characters from the cartoon.
    While a typical computer keyboard has 104 keys, the SpongeBob keyboard has 67. The familiar top row of function keys are missing, as is the number pad. Adults with large hands might find the keyboard difficult to use, but SpongeBob fans may not see that as an imposition.
    The keyboard is available for $29.95 online at kidzmouse.com and at retailer stores.
  • College prep help that goes with you: If you are looking for a way to encourage a teenager to prepare for the SAT or the ACT, Kaplan, the test-preparation company, has one answer: software that runs on hand-held computers, cell phones and smart phones.
    The programs, one for the SAT and one for the ACT, each offer about 600 practice questions and a range of test-taking strategies. The questions are presented in a flashcard layout, with answers that explain how to arrive at the correct solution. In a game-like feature, users can compete against a clock or against other players on the same device, or, in some instances, across the Internet and through infrared ports.
    In the SAT program, the questions and strategies are tailored to the format for the new SAT, which takes effect in March.
    The Kaplan Mobile programs cost $19.99 each and are available online from Handmark (handmark.com), which developed the software, or at electronics stores for $29.99 for both.
    The programs are compatible with Pocket PC and Palm OS devices like Hewlett-Packard's iPaq and PalmOne's Treo; they are also available for Java-capable cell phones from Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Sanyo, Sony Ericsson and others.
    For the high school student on the go or for one with free time, the Kaplan Mobile programs may offer useful tools to gain an edge.
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