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Type Faster by Competing in Races

A fun way to improve your typing speed and accuracy is to join an online typing competition at typrX. This typing competition keeps track of your typing speed, while allowing you to compete against other people, either around the world in public races or with friends in private races. To set up a private race with your friends, follow these simple steps.

  • Once you have a typrX account, click the Create Private Race button on the front page and you’ll be taken to the private race page.
  • From there, copy the track code URL and send it to the friends you want to join the race.
  • You can click the Delay Countdown button to add 10 seconds to the clock if you are waiting on your friend to join the race.

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Smoothie With A Capital SMOO

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I'm beginning to like one-trick ponies. I like Toner Tuner, which lets you reduce the amount of toner or ink or ribbon you use when printing, and although I personally don't have much use for it, I think those of you who do presentations will like Smoothie, from Peirce Software. As its name implies, Smoothie has but one task in life - to smooth the edges of onscreen images. Smoothie accomplishes this with software anti-aliasing, the technique of filling in the steps in the jagged edges with intermediate colors so it appears smoother.

Needless to say, if you're planning to print something out on a high-quality printer, you won't want to use Smoothie since the printer will take care of smoothing for you. Also, if you're working on a draft, there's no need to waste time and disk space using Smoothie. But, if you want to give a presentation with class, you might think about using Smoothie to clean up the jagged edges.

Smoothie works only on object-oriented PICT images. You start a new Smoothie document, import a jagged graphic via the clipboard, the Import PICT command, or by subscribing to a PICT edition, check some settings, and then click the Go button. Once Smoothie has smoothed the image, you can switch back and forth between the original and the result to see how well Smoothie has done. At that point you can export the file as a bitmapped PICT, as a one-frame QuickTime movie (for inserting into a multiple-frame QuickTime movie as a title or other static graphic), or save it in Smoothie's native format. You can also copy the image to the clipboard or publish it . It's that simple.

Of course, there are a few settings to fool around with, so you can adjust the number of colors to save, the scaling of the image, the dithering, whether or not the image should be immediately updated (both subscribed and published editions, which makes working in several programs via Publish & Subscribe much easier), and if you wish to use QuickTime compression. It was all quite self-explanatory, and there is balloon help, although I always find balloon help extremely sluggish and prone to freezing my machine temporarily when I use it.

Now, if you're being properly critical, you'd say that this is all fine and nice, but it sounds like a lot of work if you have a lot of images. That's true, and to answer your objection I'd say that Smoothie has a batch processing feature that lets you import a Scrapbook file containing a bunch of images or a folder full of PICTs, convert them in order, and then save the results out to another Scrapbook file, a freely-redistributable Smoothie SlideShow, or a QuickTime movie. The first and last are self-explanatory, but a Smoothie SlideShow is just that, a self-running slideshow application that you can configure for automatic or manual advance and give to anyone.

Also, not having ever used a presentation program seriously, I didn't realize this, but Smoothie creator Michael Peirce tells me that a lot of Smoothie users like to export an entire presentation from PowerPoint or Persuasion as a Scrapbook file and smooth it all in Smoothie, exporting a Smoothie SlideShow. An advantage of this method is that once you've smoothed the presentation, it's all graphics, so you don't have to have the proper fonts installed to get a nice-looking presentation. Presentations with major jaggies are always so painful to watch, and it seems that machines used for presentations never have the proper fonts installed.

Smoothie's manual is clean, clear, and explains why certain options are useful rather than just mentioning that they exist, as so many manuals do. Should you need additional help, Peirce Software provides free technical support for registered users and even maintains an Internet account for ever-useful email support.

Smoothie requires a color-capable Macintosh, and you'd be a fool not to have a hard drive and a fair amount of RAM. It will run in as little as 1 MB, but prefers lots more if possible. Software-wise, you need System 7.0 or later (except for the Smoothie SlideShows, which only require 6.0.2 or later along with Color QuickDraw), and you need QuickTime if you wish to use it for compression.

Smoothie 1.02 lists for $149, but most people will probably go the mail order route, where it costs about $100 from MacZone and possibly others as well. You can order direct from Peirce Software for purchase orders and the like.

Smoothie 1.02
Peirce Software
719 Hibiscus Place
Suite 301
San Jose CA 95117
408/244-6554
408/244-6882 (fax)
peirce@outpost.sf-bay.org

 

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