Columns from the NCTCUG Journal, 2004

Keeping Up December 2004
by Paul Howard (NCTCUG)

It was a hard-fought election, but the results are in. The group’s slate of candidates for the Board of Directors, both officers and members at large, were elected unanimously. Personally, I ran out of money to run TV spots in the battleground states, but triumphed after all.

The group’s name change, to National Capital Technology and Computer User’s Group, was approved, along with the proposed changes to the Constitution and Bylaws. Thanks for your suggestions on changes to our organizational documents. I believe the revisions helped bring our governing documents in line with the reality of today’s operation of the group, and clarified some issues that were subject to confusion.

You’d think with more than 15 years’ practice, I could get it right. Unfortunately, I was unable to readily convert the Word Perfect document I prepared for the fiscal year 2004 Treasurer’s report to Microsoft Word, which imports best to the MS Publisher program Blair uses to produce the Journal. As a result, about half a dozen words were dropped from the second paragraph of the article. Also, Blair had to wrestle with the table of the cash flow report, which I’d hoped would save her production time. The full report is on the web, along with the latest versions of the Constitution and Bylaws, at:

USB Port Struggles
I mentioned in an earlier article installing add-in cards for USB 2.0 ports, on machines with Windows XP as the operating system. Ron Schmidt bought the same card I purchased from CompUSA, and had challenges with the installation under Windows 98SE. Ron brought his machine to the October SIG meeting, and the gang proceeded to help with the installation.

All were puzzled by the insistence of the program on loading additional components from Win98. However, the USB 2.0 ports seemed to work, and data could be accessed and written to a USB hard drive and thumb drive. Ron reported back that he had downloaded a special driver for the Sandisk Cruzer thumb drive, and that it now worked properly.

As the NCTCUG crew was working on Ron’s system, Jim Rhodes mentioned he frequently had trouble with USB devices not be recognized. Roger Fujii pointed out that USB devices often work better when plugged in after boot up. When left plugged in through system shut down and reboot, they may not be recognized as the system restarts.

41-5415 This meeting was also used as a showcase for a variety of tech toys. One of the exhibits was a Sears “Endurable” flashlight, about the diameter of a standard double D cell light, but only half as long. With substantial rubber end caps, this light uses 4 AA cells, with illumination provided by 5 super bright LEDs. Several members own this unit, and while pleased with the apparent ruggedness and features of the light, all agreed that the pushbutton switch, which cycles through “Spot” “Flood” and “Both” settings, requires excessive force to operate.

dvm850bl Micro Center’s latest flyer offers a three and a half digit multi-meter (DVM850BL) by Velleman Components for $10. When first introduced, these hand held meters, a replacement for the typical VOM (volt ohm meter) would cost approximately $250. I built my first such instrument from a Heathkit about twenty years ago, and it cost about $100. The Velleman meter, about 2 3/4 inches wide and 5 ½ inches high, includes a “touch and hold” function, and back light. Ranges: 5 - DC volts from 200mv to 600V; 2 - AC volts 600 & 200; 5 - DC amps from 200ma to 10A; 5 ohms from 200 to 2 megohms; plus audible continuity; diode polarity / forward voltage drop; Transistor hFE (gain) for PNP and NPN transistors. Includes yellow rubber “shock / drop” shell with stand.

34-82146 Several years ago I bought a similar digital meter from Sears (Craftsman 82140) in a special package (34-82146) that included a “fat pen” sized Voltage Detector (92174) for $19.95 in a sale I’ve seen several times since. The Sears meter doesn’t have the transistor gain range, including instead 1.5 and 9 volt battery ranges, which tests with a load on the cell / battery in question. A set of alligator clip adapters, which plug on to test lead tips (Radio Shack 270-354A, $2) make a handy addition to any meter.

The “fat pen” voltage detector is a great safety device if working on household electrical wiring, to make sure that the circuit being worked is off, or when troubleshooting switch legs in multi-switch circuits, looking for unmarked hot wires. This detector works on a proximity basis, without requiring a direct connection to a hot wire. A warning buzzer sounds, and a light illuminates in the presence of 100-240 Volts AC. Radio Shack carries a less sophisticated device (22-106) for $6.95.

22-113 Another useful gadget for household electrical projects is a Circuit Breaker Identifier (Radio Shack 22-113, $30). This is comprised of two parts, a signal transmitter that plugs into a receptacle (or lamp socket with an adapter) and a receiver that has a LED lamp and piezo buzzer that will indicate which breaker the transmitter is plugged into.

Having arrived at the computer hobby via life-long interest in electronics and TV repair, I still have Akro-Mills cabinets full of discrete electronic parts. Last week, I found a “close out” item at Radio Shack for $5 - an Electronic Components Tester, which will identify transistor types and leads, diode anode leads, SCR gate and anode leads. Catalog 22-330, if you can find it. Not surprisingly, it’s referred to in Radio Shack’s automated documents library as a “junk box tester.”

TG100 TT100 For those trying to identify or troubleshoot telephone wiring, a KP100 Tone and Probe Kit by Test-Um, Inc. was displayed. This consists of a tone set that injects a warble tone signal or “talk battery” on a pair of wires. The companion tracer probe is used to identify the correct conductors by picking up and amplifying the test tone when the probe tip is near the desired wire pair. About $90, available at Micro Center, along with a variety of LAN and telecommunications test equipment.

Bring your latest technology gadgets to a meeting soon!

Keeping Up October 2004
By Paul Howard (NCTCUG)

Last time, I mentioned putting a page on the Group’s web site about computer protection. The topic has had extensive coverage in the press lately, with articles in the Washington Post and Consumer Reports magazine, among others. Based on those publications, I added a number of links to additional software products for fighting viruses, spyware, and other ugly realities of modern computing. [see ]

Checking out the web sites for these products has been interesting, because the business is truly international. From Iceland, the home of one of our sentimental favorites, FProt, I found companies originating in Finland, Russia, Germany, Czech Republic, Romania, Cyprus, and Malta, in addition to the US. Some, like Eset, makers of NOD32, a highly-rated antivirus product, made uncovering their home base difficult, but I’m reasonably certain they’re of Czech origin. Several of these companies offer “free for home use” versions, and software that will work from a floppy, for those times when your computer is really hosed up.

Technology prices keep falling. Just as the cost of 512 megabyte USB key chain drives seemed to settle around $80 with a rebate, an ad arrived with an additional $30 rebate on such a unit. I seem to recall the hard drive pioneers paying more than $1000 for a 5 meg drive, and we all shook our heads trying to figure out how you could possibly ever fill one up.

Paperport Box The same set of ads included an offer of Scansoft’s Paperport 9 for $30 after rebates. This is a great program, in my opinion, for scanning things and turning them into PDF files that can be viewed on the web. It also includes a module that allows “printing to PDF” - so anything you send to a printer can be turned into a PDF file.

What’s really surprised me is the apparent rebound in prices of CD-R media. For a while, the prices on even name brand media had dropped to the point where it was frequently possible to get a package of 50 CDs for $5 or less, sometime even free after rebates. Lately, the low price of a 50 pack will be $20, with deals reducing the cost to around $10 with buy one, get one free promotions. So, has everyone taken to backing up so regularly the CD manufacturers can’t keep up with demand?

I’ve been doing a bunch of upgrading to my computers recently. My backup desktop system uses an AMD Duron 1300 processor, and has always seemed somewhat sluggish. I added a new video card from Micro Center with 32 megs of video RAM, to replace this machine’s “video on the motherboard” which shared system memory. This system was using PC100 SDRAM, and I’d been keeping my eyes open for a deal to supplement this.

It’s amazed me that this older memory is often priced higher than the “latest thing” - so I hadn’t seen any tempting bargains. The motherboard only has two SDRAM slots, and they were occupied with 256 and 128 meg modules. Several weeks ago, an ad appeared for a 512 meg module of PC133 memory, which this motherboard also supports, so I jumped at it and took advantage of a $30 discount. This memory was from PNY, and surprisingly, I got the rebate back before I was able to publish this article.

USB card Months ago, I responded to one of Chuck Robert’s articles and demos on system backup by buying a housing for a USB backup drive and USB add-in card. I later discovered that I’d failed to scrutinize the box closely enough, and the card wasn’t a USB 2.0 spec. Both my desktop systems had USB 1.1 ports.

I’ve now added cards to both systems that provide four external 2.0 ports, unfortunately on the rear of the system, and one internal port on the card. I probably won’t be able to use the internal port, unless I find a flash card reader or another such device that will fit in a 3.5 inch drive bay - the only available space on either of my systems.

Belkin case The installation of the cards went reasonably smoothly, although I had to change slots in my backup system for the card to be recognized. I also found that when I installed the USB 2 card in my primary system that the card slightly pulled out of the PCI motherboard slot, as I tightened the card mounting screw. During upgrades to other systems, I found similar problems with cards not fitting properly, and wound up doing surgery on the mounting bracket with a Dremel Mototool. Granted, the system case could be the problem, if the plane of the motherboard and the back of the case aren’t at a ninety degree angle. However, I’m inclined to suspect poor quality control in production of the cards and their mounting brackets.

Now I have to drop a hard drive into the housing and start backing up !!

Keeping Up August 2004
by Paul Howard (NCTCUG)

Every few years the NCTCUG gang has to do what all of us face at home - cleaning up and organizing. We had such a session in place of a board of directors meeting in June, and went through much of the group’s accumulation in the Carlin Hall attic. Over the years, our members have generously donated monitors, computer systems, reference books, VCRs, and other tech related materials.

In our collection, we had a number of items that were ready for recycling, such as monitors that no longer reliably displayed all three basic colors that make up a CRT display. We had a VCR that would no longer rewind, and several other technology artifacts we just felt were no longer likely to be useful. We disposed of a 386 system that we doubted would be of much use to anyone after stripping out several drives. We also took the opportunity to label several recently donated items as NCTCUG property.

Over the last few months, Bill Walsh and John Keys have presented
programs in the APCUG “Presentation in a Box” series from microprocessor manufacturer Intel, on topics of “Digital Home Experience” and “Hyperthreading Technology.” We were pleasantly surprised to receive an email from Kathy Whittle of Webworking Services, who coordinates the distribution of the Intel programs, offering NCTCUG a motherboard and Pentium 4, 3.06 GHz processor donated by Intel.

The group’s board of directors established a committee several months ago to suggest what approach we should use in acquiring a new demonstration computer - buy an assembled system, from a national manufacturer or screwdriver shop, or assemble a system from parts ourselves. Intel’s timely offer made the decision for us.

The new system incorporates Hyperthreading Technology, and will be available for members to borrow between meetings to become acquainted with this technology. This will also allow us to install a current operating system. Members may recall that our previous demonstration system couldn’t be persuaded to load Windows XP - we spent four meetings trying but never got past “19 minutes remaining.” The basic assembly of the new Intel-based system has been completed. We hope to spend the next meeting loading software, and putting the finishing touches on the system, such as wiring the front panel USB and audio ports. Pictures of the new system and assembly process are available on the NCTCUG web site.

Are You Using Protection?
The continuing profusion of virus attacks makes the use of anti-virus software absolutely essential for anyone using the internet and/or email. Virus definitions need to be regularly updated - most major programs now perform that chore automatically when the user goes on-line, if you’re using a current version. Don’t leave this to chance - if you’re not sure you have what you need, or how to configure or operate your AV program, get in touch with a NCTCUG officer and ask for help. In the same vein, anti-spyware and firewall programs are a worthwhile investment in computer security. There are commercial and freeware products available in all these categories - don’t go unprotected !! We’ll try to place a web page with links to resources for computer protection on the NCTCUG web site over the next several weeks.

USB Floppy Worthwhile Laptop Accessory
As laptops become more popular and affordable for many users, the new purchaser often discovers that their new pride and joy is missing something that they’d find useful. Frequently left out are 3.5" drives. These old standbys are becoming less needed with the advent of solid state “keychain drives”- also known as “thumb” “jump” “flash”or “mobile” drives, depending on the manufacturer. However, as we’ve discovered at a number of recent user group meetings, although many computers have USB ports, lots of older systems utilizing Win 95 / 98 don’t have the necessary software drivers installed, and the keychain drives won’t work. Being able to exchange files with 3.5" drives still comes in handy. Iomega is offering a great solution for new laptop owners - a combination 3.5" drive and a multislot 7 in 1 flash memory card reader with a USB interface.

Keeping Up
by Paul Howard (NCTCUG)

I was cutting the grass this morning, hoping that I’d have it short enough so I could apply fertilizer with weed killer after the rain that’s predicted. I’ve had long wet grass clog the spreader, and thus waste a day, the rain, and time. Then I realized, that aside from using the Internet to try and second guess the weather, technology sure hasn’t impacted my yard chores very much. I can’t plug in more memory, or upgrade to a faster processor.

I mentioned that “
WeatherBug” appeared on my computer system after one of the many XP updates I’ve loaded onto my system, while other user group members reported not having seen this program. It burrows in and starts on boot up, insisting on dialing up to get the latest temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, and a host of other weather statistics. It gets current realtime information from various sources close to your location - you provide your zip code. There are 25 locations within 10 miles of my house, mostly schools, but including Dulles Airport and the US Geologic Service that can be selected to feed data into the WeatherBug application.

Lots of other weather information is available, including forecasts, weather maps, camera views, and radar information. When you’re on-line, Weatherbug gives a chirp and lets you know when the National Weather Service issues an alert for your area. Give it a try - there’s a mode that allows you to select advertisers that run in a banner of the Weatherbug console. Those banners will nag at times about updating to the paid version, but it’s not that annoying, and I’ve used the ad-sponsored service for months. ( )

Rebates, Rebates, Rebates
When I look back at the last four or five months, I begin to think I need to find a 12 Step group for Rebate-a-holics. Here’s the pile: Norton Internet Security; Audiobahn CD-Rs; Turbotax Deluxe / Quicken Deluxe; Turbotax Federal eFile; State eFile; Turbotax State; Norton AntiVirus; Nova Development’s Art Explosion 600,000. These items totaled $394.69, and I’m expecting checks for $184.94 in rebates - almost 47% savings. I won’t mention the other $27 I missed ‘cause I didn’t follow my own rules i.e., apply for rebates the same day you buy stuff! It’s hard to convince me it’s not worth 15 minutes to fill out the coupons, clip the proof of purchase seal or bar code strip from the box, and use the scanner to make a couple of copies.

Toshiba Laptop I recently “invested” in a Toshiba laptop - it appeared in a CompUSA 20th Anniversary ad with a special series of rebates in one Friday’s POST. Rebates included $100 from Toshiba, $150 from CompUSA, plus another $100 from CompUSA to price match the same computer offered by Circuit City in the Sunday ads. Then, there was the $187 in free merchandise I was able to select as part of the Anniversary Sale. That provided a Belkin Wireless Router / 4 port switch, and a wireless LAN card.

My other big weakness is restaurant discount coupons. “My name is Paul.............”

Keeping Up May 2004
by Paul Howard (NCTCUG)

Stuffit Deluxe Meeting Demonstrations
At our March Internet SIG
meeting, Ron Schmidt discussed several products from Aladdin Systems. The group was introduced to Internet Cleanup, which works with Micro$oft’s Internet Explorer browser. Ron demonstrated various features of the program, including removal of cache and history files, cookies, spyware, web bugs, and ActiveX controls.

Ron also demonstrated Stuffit Deluxe, a file compression and archiving program. Stuffit arose from the Mac world, but is now available for Windows machines. This program will create and extract files in a wide variety of compressed formats, including its own .sit format, which the company claims results in smaller files than other popular formats, such as .zip. Stuffit is touted for backup up purposes, reducing file size for email transmission of many files, and offers 512 bit encryption for privacy.

Web Site Additions
A new section of the NCTCUG web site will feature information about past meetings, for those who haven’t had the opportunity to attend. A link to this section is prominently featured on the home page. For example, you’ll find a form to purchase Aladdin Systems’ software at a discount. Here’s the URL:

We’ve also introduced a web page with a discussion of the Smart Computing subscription program for NCTCUG members, which provides a bonus publication with paid two or three year subscriptions. If NCTCUG members as a group purchase a total of five subscriptions in a given quarter, using the form provided, or entering group information with a web subscription, Smart Computing will provide a free subscription to NCTCUG for use as a door prize at our meetings.

New Computer / Video Projector
The Internet SIG meeting was also the roll-out of the Dell 3300MP computer / video projector, which will greatly enhance our attendees’ ability to see screen images of computer software demonstrations, as well as video taped programs from our vendors. The projector was purchased jointly with the Washington Area Computer Users Group. Much of the funding was obtain via community service grants and matching gift funds from the Verizon Foundation, made to the two user groups.

Through a lucky sequence of circumstances, a discount of $220, and free shipping (another $22) was obtained through the efforts of NCTCUG’s 1st VP, Ron Schmidt. Also, Dell announced a new, improved model after the initial selection was made, resulting in greater brightness and extended lamp life for the same price. Extended warrantee coverage, from two to three years was purchased, and the unit will be covered by loss, theft and damage insurance.

Screen Shots
Over the years, I’ve had the need at various times to capture what’s on the computer screen and use it to demonstrate a problem I was having, or to illustrate an article. I learned that hitting the Print Screen key would save the image on the screen to the clipboard, which I could then paste into another application, such as Word or WordPerfect, or a graphics program, for further manipulation. Several months ago, I read in a magazine that using the <alt><Print Screen> combination would capture just the current active window – very handy when you’re only trying to capture a small area of a program display, rather than a full screen view.

The “Tips” column in January’s Smart Computing magazine took that a step farther – after getting the image into the clipboard, invoke <Start> <Accessories> <Paint> and paste the image into the Paint program. It can be manipulated in Paint, or saved out as a BMP or JPG file (or .GIF, .TIF or .PNG), and manipulated or used in another program. Talk about hiding in plain site – I’d completely forgotten that the Paint program existed in Windows – hadn’t used it since Windows 3.1.

How Long Have You Been Using Computers?
There’s always another opportunity to demonstrate my ignorance. Because there’s at least 748 ways to copy files, I managed to look like a complete dolt the other day when I couldn’t readily find Windows Explorer on an unfamiliar system, and needed to copy a bunch of material from a CD to a thumb drive. I’ll be calling on my user group friends to demonstrate file management techniques from My Computer and other similar resources. I’ve gotten addicted to Power Desk, a great little file manager, which makes me completely blank on other ways to perform simple tasks. Guess I’ll need to take the Windows XP Basics course !!

Wireless Networking - Is Yours Secure?

Bought a new laptop on March 19th, and had the opportunity to discover that CompUSA does honor its price protection policy, when Circuit City offered the same Toshiba A45-S150 for $100 less two days later. I could spend several pages talking about the rebate perambulations with this purchase, but instead - a cautionary tale.

One of the features of this new machine is built in 802.11g WiFi connectivity. While noodling around with the new toy, checking out the task bar icons, I moused over one, and got a bubble note that said I had a wireless connection - say what? With some right clicks, and investigation, first thing you know, I’m surfing the web sans wires.

Unless you intend to provide ISP services for your neighbors, or like the TV commercials, perhaps a wide screen TV and $20K girl robot <grin>, run, don’t walk, to the news stand and pick up a copy of the March issue of Smart Computing or Maximun PC . Read their cover stories on wireless networking. Invoke all the security features and suggestions for keeping your wireless network secure. Otherwise, the chalk marks in front of your house may not be hopscotch related, and you might find gearheads war-driving by your house at all hours. You, too, may be asking, “Where’d my wallet go?”

Keeping Up March 2004
by Paul Howard

Meeting Presentations Coming Your Way

Dodge the snowflakes !! Learn more about your computer, software, and technology at upcoming NCTCUG meetings. Through our membership in the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), we’ll be offering demonstrations from a variety of companies in the form of “Presentations in a Box.” Companies put together printed presenter guides, and PowerPoint slide shows on their product(s), so that one of our members can demo the product or discuss the topic without having to spend weeks in preparing. While there’s still work involved, the “pain” is substantially reduced, and we all gain knowledge of new products and services. Generally, there are handouts and trinkets for the audience, gift for the presenter, and door prize items for the audience, and offers for reduced user group pricing.

Price Grabber Jim Rhodes presented, a web-based site allowing comparison of product prices and vendors, at the January Internet SIG meeting. Opportunities exist for individuals and businesses to sell products through Some interesting features include “bottom line price” which when chosen as the sort key for a particular product, adds product price and shipping / handling charges, for a true low price presentation. Another feature allows you to enter a price you’d be willing to pay for a particular product - you get an email when a vendor’s price meets your price point. Several web sites offering product reviews, such as PC World, use as the source of price comparisons when you chose a link to check prices. Handouts and raffle T-shirts completed the evening’s offering.

Smart Computing At the February general meeting, I’ll be talking about various publications of Sandhills Publishing, including Smart Computing, PC Today, and Computer Power User, and a series of computer related references and guides. Attendees will receive copies of Smart Computing, and there will be door prizes, including a year’s magazine subscription, a five volume reference library, and other guides and reference publications. A special program for NCTCUG members will also be introduced. Members purchasing subscriptions of two or three years in length will receive a reference guide as a bonus. For every five subscriptions purchased, NCTCUG will receive a subscription gift certificate for door prize purposes. More details will be available soon on the web site, or contact me for information.

Ron Schmidt will be presenting information on products of Aladdin Systems, when he’s able to return to our meetings after recovering from the challenges of hip replacement surgery.

Dean Mires will be taking several meetings to present portions of the new Microsoft Office suite, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Door prizes will be available.

We seek newsletter reviews or meeting presentations for Microsoft Works suite, and Digital Image 9 suite. ‘Presentation in a Box’ materials not currently available for these products.

Here are some of the other products and topics we need presenters for - please contact me for more details - and to volunteer !!

Blue Squirrel Spam Sleuth - Spam stopping software
Action Front Data Recovery Labs - HD data recovery services
TechSmith Corporation - Snagit & Camtasia
Jasc Software - Paint Shop Photo Album 4 / Paint Shop Pro 8
Intel - Centrino Technology, two other topics
AMD - seminar presentation material
Active PDF - PDF Composer

In Memoriam
Robert W. MacFarlane

Bob MacFarlane
Bob MacFarlane, a member of NCTCUG’s board of directors, passed away on December 13th, 2003. Bob’s thoughtful advice will be missed at our meetings. He’d participated in the audit of the prior two fiscal years of NCTCUG’s financial records on November 17th, helping review the transactions that keep the group operating. Bob drew on his many years of financial experience in federal government service, and as treasurer of his church.

In remembrance of Bob, a dozen NCTCUG members have contributed a total of $180 to the Meals on Wheels Program of the Arlington Presbyterian Church. During the funeral service for Bob, his minister noted that, when she’d visited Bob during a hospital stay several years before, his first words were to “tell the Meals on Wheels coordinator I won’t be able to drive this week!” We hope our contributions will help carry on this work our friend felt so important.

Keeping Up Feb 2004
by Paul Howard (NCTCUG)

Well, girls and boys, another New Year dawns. How many of your resolutions have you broken, and we’re not a month into 2004? I’m totally guilt-ridden, having also made a raft of pledges to exercise, eat right, clean up the basement, etc., etc., on my retirement in November. (Pass the pizza, Chuck, I need my strength for all those chores <grin>!) And in just a few weeks we have to pass that other great integrity challenge - now where was that paperwork for claiming the backyard squirrels as dependents on form 1040?

My primary computer must have been re-cursed by the wicked witch shortly after Halloween. After putting in my second replacement hard drive in October, and starting the laborious process of reloading software, it’s off in Neverland again. Booting takes an hour, and the display’s in 16 colors, with all kinds of nastygrams about “programs can’t run” with that display setting. I’ve been lazy about tearing into the computer and finding a cure. My backup machine’s been putting along and allowing me to keep my web chores up to date, although my email correspondence is suffering badly, with my master email directory on the sick machine.

GPX TV/Radio The advent of the recent “Code Orange” security update seemed to call for additional preparation around the old homestead. Fairfax County was testy about parking an Abrams tank at the curb in front of the house, so I decided to invest in comm equipment instead. As many of us found out a few months ago when Isabel blew through Virginia, we are mightily dependent on the good old electric power companies. Your GameBoy is guaranteed to have eaten or worn down your last batteries that fit in the portable radio when the lights dim and flicker out.

We used a battery - powered TV sparingly during Isabel. It required 10 “C” cells, and while it does a respectable job as B&W TV and FM / AM radio, the battery pile weighs as much as the TV/radio unit. For that matter, so does the “wall wart” for those times when you have power. This unit was made by GPX, and cost about $30 at Hecht’s after redeeming a manufacturer’s coupon. See:

Grundig FR200 So, what’s the solution for those times with no battery availability? Picking up on the BayGen Freeplay radio of the early ‘90s, Grundig offers the FR200 AM/FM Shortwave radio, complete with crank for dynamo operation. Turn the crank handle for 90 seconds to charge the internal NI-MH battery pack, and you’ve got about an hour’s worth of playing time at reasonable volume. The radio includes a little flashlight bulb (and a spare!), so you can pick your way around furniture - once you find the radio, of course.

Also included is a surprisingly substantial case and carry strap, but you’ve got to remove the radio from the case to operate it. The radio can also be operated from three “AA” cells, or a 4.5V DC adapter (not included). Tuning is of the manual slide rule variety, with a fine tuning knob, although the ratio isn’t substantially different from the main tuning knob. And, you don’t have to order from the paper with the big shipping and handling fee - Radio Shack carries the FR200 for $39. This unit is probably a hit - it comes in multiple colors, and the web site features a fancy flash animation. For more information, see:

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