United States burning up the e-mail lines

IT'S IN THE E-MAIL A recent report by Nielsen//NetRatings says that 75 percent of homes with Internet access send and receive e-mail.

The article, from ASP News (,,3411_1120841 ,00.html,) says that from 80 to 90 percent of Internet users use e-mail, versus 20 to 30 percent who use chatrooms or instant messaging, or the 30 to 40 percent who look for audio-visual content or listen to the radio over the Internet.

Jupiter Media Metrix, which measures online usage and trends, predicts that in three years 71 percent of the U.S. population will be online, as compared to about 55 percent today ( /press/industryProjections.xml#ususers.)

THE NIELSEN//NetRatings report also notes there were 531.3 million Internet users dialing up from home in the first part of 2002. If even half those folks are using e-mail several times a month, there's a whole lot of e-mailing going on.

I know a cousin and I have added our share to the e-mail bit pool with a flurry of e-mails (what comprises a flurry, anyway?) about an upcoming road trip she is considering.

While looking up directions from Clovis to Tuolumne County, I discovered an interesting Web site that uses satellite photos, aerial photos, and United States Geological Service topographic maps to create digital maps of many areas in the United States.

The site ( uses a feature called LandViewer which automatically loads when you start by pushing the "Begin Your Search" button.

I used the ZIP Code Search feature and sat back to wait a bit as LandViewer loaded, then a file containing information about my ZIP code downloaded and displayed an excellent topo USGS map rendering of my area. Unlike the maps at, which allow a viewer to "zoom in" or "zoom out," I couldn't find that feature with LandViewer.

Additionally, the aerial photos apparently aren't for the common folk to look at it, as the feature didn't seem to be working. Whoops, just crashed the Mac. Let's try this Web site on a PC. Whoops, again. The Web site doesn't seem to like Netscape 6.2. Let's try Internet Explorer 6.0 and bingo! The maps show up correctly, with choices available including Satellite 3-D relief images, USGS topoquads and air photos.

Tools available for use with the map gallery allow you to select an area and learn about it (acreage selected, latitude and longitude, etc.). A very cool tool lets you click and measure the distance as the crow flies on your maps. Of course, you can print, download or e-mail your map as well.

Check it out, but leave your Mac home, don't try it with an older PC, and only use Internet Explorer. Enjoy.

SOFTWARE UPGRADES At Cnet, we find a free program called CatchUp that will help us find upgrades for programs on our Windows PCs, from 95 through XP.

Download and install the file (at 137K, it's small), and when you launch the program it will take you to the CatchUp Web site which walks you through finding appropriate updates.

Check it out at

BUDGET DIGITAL CAMERAS For Dad or the grad, a low-cost (less than $300) digital camera may be in your plans. If so, get on over to Cnet for their top five choices (,) starting with the Sony Cyber Shot DSC-P30. I've used this camera for about eight months, and for most uses it's great. I've added more memory, and I'm considering the 2x telephoto adapter.

The camera, a gift from my folks, turned out pictures so great that my dad bought one for Mom, who naturally didn't want to use it because of the small video finder. So guess who has racked up around 4,000 pictures already?

If you're looking for a little better quality and more manual and semipro features, look into the mid-priced digital cameras. Cnet lists their top five ( beginning with the Olympus Camedia C-3040 Zoom.

If you're not already using a digicam yourself, check these out there is no easier way to keep in touch, with photos that is, than a digicam and e-mail. One thing to watch out for if what you really want is a digital movie recorder, don't expect these digicams to fill the bill.

KLEZ VIRUS At the risk of breaking the drum from pounding it so frequently, from the numbers of computers infected with Klez that we've seen in the past few days, it is clear that many of you don't have anti-virus software on your home computers.

Or, if you do have anti-virus software, it's not up-to-date. Just this morning, a fellow brought in a PC that was indeed infected. He had been patiently waiting for Norton Anti-Virus to e-mail him that it was time to update, yet he had mistakenly not signed up for the alert service. So, thinking his machine was completely protected, he opened the wrong e-mail and the infection was under way.

Again, folks, if you don't use your computer for anything related to the Internet, then you don't need to worry. If, however, you browse Web sites and get e-mail, then you need anti-virus protection. And you need to keep it up to date.

EQUALLY IMPORTANT is backing up stuff on your computer that you really would rather not lose if the computer crashed. For example, you might have financial data from Quicken or Quick Books. Your bookmark list and e-mail address list are other examples of data you might not want to lose

Or a set of pictures of the new grandkid. Whatever, if you don't make backups of your important data, then you are risking losing all that material. Not if, when.

So remember to backup your important files, either manually or automatically, and keep your anti-virus software up to date.

Marv Dealy is a lifelong computer enthusiast and businessman in Tuolumne County. His columns can also be found on The Union Democrat Web site: Reach him by e-mail at