Stories by Christopher Breen

Guide: to buying an iPod

Choosing the perfect holiday gift can be difficult, particularly when it comes to determining the appropriate Apple portable media player to give to your dearest and nearest. This year, however, it's the tiniest bit easier. And it is because Apple has done us all the favor of leaving last year's iPod lineup in place.

Mac 911

During the past year, Apple Computer Inc. has focused its steely corporate gaze on desktop video -- claiming that soon everyone will be either playing or making movies on their Macs. If this month's collection of queries is any indication, Apple may be on to something. Our readers appear to be mucking with movies with real gusto, but they're encountering minor difficulties in the process.

Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation

Just when you think you've seen the last of her swinging ponytail and improbable chest, Lara Croft is back with another adventure. Thankfully, balanced game play and a focus on problem solving make Lara's latest Tomb Raider escapade, The Last Revelation, one of her most satisfying.

Cataloging Applications, Professional-Strength

Not long ago, only designers and multimedia professionals needed tools to keep track of their image, sound, and video files. But with an increasing number of people using their Macs to make movies, retouch digital photos, design media-rich Web sites, and convert their CD collection into MP3 files, single-user media-management tools such as Canto's Cumulus 5.0 and Extensis Corp.'s Portfolio 5.0 -- applications that help you collate and catalog the files on your hard drive -- may soon be as common on personal Macs as on those found in design studios and publishing houses.

Removable Drive May Be Unreliable

Fantom Drive's FireWire Orb 2.2GB removable drive is functional, but it's not faultless. The Radialogic drivers conflicted with some common extensions, causing our G3/450 to crash on start-up. Also, the drive is particular about boot order -- it mounts only when you first switch on the drive and then boot the Mac. If you boot the Mac first, you must unplug the FireWire connection, turn off the drive, wait 15 seconds, reconnect the FireWire cable, and turn on the drive.

As Exciting as Bingo Games Get

The vast majority of iMac owners don't buy games. However, believing that a portion of these people would if offered the right games, MacSoft has brought Bingo Bingo Bingo to the Mac. The perfect companion for die-hard bingo players, Bingo Bingo Bingo lets you play up to six cards against as many as 100 computer opponents. It also offers more than 100 game variations and lets you adjust the interval between calls. The game includes two fairly weak online components -- a button that takes you to a site offering bingo paraphernalia, and a link to a site where you can play Java-based games of bingo against other players. Bingo Bingo Bingo itself doesn't support multiple players.

Web Tool Will Please Designers

The main strength of SoftPress Systems Ltd.'s Freeway has always been its close adherence to the QuarkXPress interface, making it easy for designers and desktop publishers to transfer their layout and design skills to the Web. With version 3.0, the program offers easier integration with other graphics programs, more and better JavaScript-based Actions, and improved site management. Although Freeway will delight designers, the fact that it still prevents easy access to the underlying HTML code will likely disappoint Web professionals.

News and Stock Tickers

The idea of relying on a daily newspaper to bring you the day's events seems almost quaint, particularly when you can access up-to-the-minute information via the Internet. The hitch is that gathering a wide range of information from the Internet, bouncing from one Web site to the next, takes time. But thanks to two new products from Aladdin Systems Inc., your bouncing days may be over.

Now It's Our Turn

We Breens are slow to boil. When crossed, we tend to lightly simmer-sending up a single errant bubble that only hints at the greater heat within. But there are times when we, like the famed Popeye clan before us, have taken all we can stands and we can't stands no more. In these rare moments, nothing short of a flak jacket, dental shield, and garland of garlic draped casually around the neck provides protection from our wrath-which may help explain the following:

Ferazel's Wand: Engaging Run-and-Jump Adventure

Anyone who's tried to take an eight-year-old to the movies in the last couple of years knows that few films at the local octoplex are both appropriate for younger viewers and entertaining for adults. One can say the same of computer games: those targeting teens and adults often overflow with violence and devilish complexity, while diversions designed for children are often too saccharine for mature tastes. Ferazel's Wand, a side-scrolling run-and-jump adventure from Ambrosia Software Inc., strikes a pleasing compromise that should make players of all ages happy.

Top-of-the-G3-Line Processor Upgrades

Apple Computer Inc. has moved on -- from beige to blue to the latest graphite-and-white G4 systems -- but you and your older Power Mac G3 may not be prepared to follow. If a new Power Mac G4, or even a G4 processor upgrade for your beige or blue-and-white Power Mac G3, would bust your budget, consider a less-expensive G3 upgrade. Macworld Lab tested four 500MHz G3 accelerators -- Newer Technology Inc.'s Maxpowr G3-G3, PowerLogix's PowerForce G3, Sonnet Technologies' Encore G3, and XLR8's Mach Carrier G3 -- and found that, once again, our test results favored the Newer accelerator by a very slight margin.

Steal This Song

Tonight's the night. After months of indecision you've decided to offer your hand in matrimony to that special someone. You've purchased the ring and chosen the ideal spot to pop the question -- the only remaining detail is selecting the perfect song to accompany your proposal. After scanning your record collection for Chad and Jeremy's The Ark -- "Painted Dayglow Smile" is "your song" -- you remember you loaned the record to your brother-in-law last week. What to do?