Internet: Red-blooded girls

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Marketers will go to great lengths to get teens interested in their products. Take, for example, the ultra-strange Web site cool-2b- real.com, in which the U.S. Cattlemen’s Beef Board and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association target teen girls. In the Smart Snackin’ link, the site offers food choices for “real girls,” including a barbecue beef sandwich, a bowl of chili and an English muffin pizza with ground beef. A bizarre meating place.

How to | Digital memories

So where do you keep your undeveloped rolls of film? I used to keep them in my sock drawer, and it would sometimes take me weeks to get the film to the lab. With the purchase of a Canon S200 digital camera (a discontinued model, priced at $400), those days are behind me. I’ve become a real shutterbug and have uploaded an abundance of photos onto my computer. But so far, I haven’t made many prints, even though it’s quite simple and increasingly less expensive. Here are some options for developing digital pictures:

PHOTO LAB: Most developers can make prints from digital cameras just as easily as they can from film. Take the camera’s memory card or a CD with your pics burned onto it to the same place you’d take your film.

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Pro: No fuss, and about same price as film.

Con: The drop-off and pickup.

KIOSK: For the hands-on approach, try a kiosk. Kodak has some 700 yellow kiosks around the country in drug stores and photo labs. Slide a CD, floppy disc or memory card into the bank machine-like unit and use a touch screen to select, edit and crop the prints you want.

Pro: Fun to use.

Con: Slightly more expensive, long wait for 24 pics.

HOME PRINTING: Photo-capable printers are dropping in price and produce increasingly better-quality prints. Hewlett-Packard’s hp photosmart 230 mini-printer ($300), spits out 4-by-6 inch prints every two minutes or so. Canon’s i70 ($400) can print anything from wallet-sized photos to 8 1/2-by-11s. The hp printer has slots for memory cards, and some Canon digital cameras can plug right into the i70.

Pro: Do-it-at-home instant results.

Con: Paper and ink run out quickly.

ON-LINE: Upload shots from your camera, log onto a service like Japan Camera’s JPrints or Black’s Online Photo Centre, and send them off electronically, right from your home computer. Black’s lets you edit pictures and add messages like “Hi, Grandma!” A few days later the photos arrive by post.

Pro: Convenient and fun.

Con: Waiting for the mail.

Computing | Etch A Sketch for business types

Microsoft’s tablet PC is the kind of groundbreaking technology that makes sense. Who wouldn’t want a computerized notepad to record your thoughts and send off handwritten e-mails? But like a car that runs on hydrogen fuel cells, this new toy is still too expensive and impractical for the average consumer.

Portable tablets look like a cross between a flat-screen TV and a clipboard, and allow users to scribble notes right onto the screen using a special digital pen. While they come in several different models, all tablets connect to the Net or to other computers wirelessly (Wi-Fi is standard in all) and have no internal CD or floppy disc drives. Some are devoid of a built-in keyboard. Others, like the $3,700 Toshiba Portege 3500 (used for this review), convert from a conventional laptop into a tablet with a twist and snap of the LCD screen.

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With the Windows Journal program, users can scribble notes in different colours and pen-tip thicknesses, highlight the important bits and then e-mail the documents to another person. You can also open Office XP files and make notes directly onto e-mails and documents. Oh, and doodling feels as natural as it did in math class.

While the concept is great, there are some frustrating glitches, particularly with handwriting recognition. The software is supposed to convert your script into type, but it sometimes lacks accuracy, especially with the “@” symbol. Also, while using a pen to scroll down Web pages and click icons is instinctively simple, lefties may find their hand sometimes obscures the screen.

Bottom line, the tablet PC is a technical wonder, but seems a good fit only for business types who work in a wireless environment and see scribbling a memo as more convenient than typing one. For the average user, the high price and hardware limitations mean this gadget is still two or three years away from being revolutionary.

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