DO-IT-YOURSELF CDS LEAVE LITTLE ROOM FOR EXCUSES : LATEST RELEASES MAKE HOUSEHOLD REPAIRS A SNAP.Byline: Mike Langberg Knight-Ridder Newspapers
I've been avoiding the subject of home repair CD-ROMs for a very personal reason: I'm trying to convince Debbie, my wife, that I'm too klutzy for most weekend projects.
Well, my days of leisure are over.
There are five home repair CD-ROMs on the market now, four of which are new or newly revised in the past six months. Although just one of them is worth buying, it's clear I can no longer plead ignorance when it comes to patching those holes in the wall and fixing that dripping rain gutter A rain gutter (also known as eaves trough, guttering or just gutter) is a narrow channel, or trough, forming the component of a roof system which collects and diverts rainwater shed by the roof. .
So here goes. Please keep in mind that I'm only covering home repair in this column. There are a number of CD-ROMs on tackling major projects, such as wallpapering a bedroom or remodeling remodeling /re·mod·el·ing/ (re-mod´el-ing) reorganization or renovation of an old structure.
bone remodeling a kitchen, as well as interior design, where you can look at and easily alter layouts for a room or an entire house. But I'll put off reviewing those categories until some time in the future.
The five home repair CD-ROMs are:
HOME IMPROVEMENT ENCYCLOPEDIA (Books That Work, (800) 242-4546; Windows; $29 street) is the best of the bunch, covering more topics than its competition and providing several nice supplementary features. I'd give it a rating of 3-1/2 stars on my four-star scale, but I'm withholding final judgment for two reasons.
First, the CD-ROM CD-ROM: see compact disc.
in full compact disc read-only memory
Type of computer storage medium that is read optically (e.g., by a laser). isn't due in stores until late April or early May. I looked at a pre-release version that the developers said was complete except for some quality-control double-checking. But I've learned from painful experience that finishing a CD-ROM is a lot like stopping a leaky leak·y
adj. leak·i·er, leak·i·est
Permitting leaks or leakage: a leaky roof; a leaky defense system.
Adj. 1. faucet - you may think the job is done until the last minute, when you suddenly discover some hidden problem that puts you way behind schedule.
Second, Home Improvement Encyclopedia takes an innovative - and therefore risky - step in the way you get information off the disk. Books That Work is producing what appears to be the first consumer CD-ROM using a World Wide Web browser The program that serves as your front end to the Web on the Internet. In order to view a site, you type its address (URL) into the browser's Location field; for example, www.computerlanguage.com, and the home page of that site is downloaded to you. to access text, graphics, audio and video from the disk itself, so I wasn't surprised to find a few rough edges. The CD-ROM also requires the new Netscape Navigator An earlier Web browser for Windows, Macintosh and X Windows from Netscape that provided secure transmission over the Internet. Soon after its introduction in 1994, Navigator, or just "Netscape," as it was commonly called, quickly became the leading browser on the Web. 2.0, which is included on the disk. I found the installation process for Navigator somewhat confusing, although Books That Work promises better documentation by the time the CD-ROM ships.
If Home Improvement Encyclopedia arrives on time, and if the installation process is clearly explained, the CD-ROM will be a valuable resource for amateur do-it-yourselfers.
The disk explores almost every category that's important to homeowners, including outdoor tasks such as roof repair. Each task comes with clear, step-by-step instructions, often accompanied by a short animation showing how the work should proceed. Home Improvement Encyclopedia, by the way, is the only CD-ROM in the group that doesn't simply scoop up Verb 1. scoop up - take out or up with or as if with a scoop; "scoop the sugar out of the container"
lift out, scoop, scoop out, take up
remove, take away, withdraw, take - remove something concrete, as by lifting, pushing, or taking off, or remove something text and illustrations from a pre-existing book; the developers created all the material exclusively for the disk.
Beyond the tasks themselves, users will find extensive advice on everything from selecting tools to landscape design. A section on hiring a contractor, for example, includes ``Seven Warning Signs of Fraud,'' cautioning against such tactics as ``a `special' price if you sign right away.'' Many of these pages are accompanied by the names and phone numbers of contractor organizations or suppliers, along with links to the Web itself.
Home Improvement Encyclopedia also has a handy collection of 13 little programs such as estimators to calculate how much paint is required for a room and selectors for picking the right kind of adhesive. And a ``Home Inspector'' on-screen on·screen or on-screen
adj. & adv.
1. As shown on a movie, television, or display screen.
2. Within public view; in public. questionnaire collects information about your house, then generates a monthly reminder list of routine maintenance chores. If Debbie finds out about this, my fate is sealed.
HOME IMPROVEMENT 1-2-3 (Multicom Publishing, (800) 850-7272; Windows, Macintosh, $35 street) is drawn from a book of the same name put together by experts at the Home Depot The Home Depot (NYSE: HD) is an American retailer of home improvement and construction products and services.
Headquartered in Vinings, just outside Atlanta in unincorporated Cobb County, Georgia, Home Depot employs more than 355,000 people and operates 2,164 big-box chain of hardware stores. Released in October, the CD-ROM is well-designed and fun to explore but adds almost nothing beyond what's in the book. I give it 2-1/2 stars.
You can buy the CD-ROM alone for about $35 or get a package of the disk and book together for about $45. If you take the package, you'll quickly realize the disk is almost identical to its print counterpart. That's not all bad - the book is an excellent, easy-to-understand guide to all kinds of home-repair tasks, with three to six color photographs or illustrations on almost every one of its 480 pages.
The CD-ROM primarily adds audio narration in presenting the book's text and graphics. Also, each of the 12 chapters is introduced by an actor in an orange Home Depot apron apron,
n a piece of clothing worn in front of the body for protection.
n a labioincisal or gingival extension of an orthodontic band that aids in retention of the band and in proper positioning of the bracket. offering 30 seconds of upbeat advice. ``Some plumbing projects require a professional, but homeowners can save a lot of money on small jobs,'' says a friendly man in the plumbing chapter. ``You can do it
A smattering of video clips A short video presentation. and animations provide guidance on everything from applying paint to removing doors from their hinges Hinges may refer to:
tr.v. su·per·im·posed, su·per·im·pos·ing, su·per·im·pos·es
1. To lay or place (something) on or over something else.
2. against a background image of a concrete floor, making the words hard to read.
READER'S DIGEST Reader's Digest
U.S.-based monthly magazine. Founded by DeWitt and Lila Wallace, it was first published in 1922 as a digest of articles of topical interest and entertainment value condensed from other periodicals. COMPLETE DO-IT-YOURSELF GUIDE (Microsoft Corp., (800) 426-9400; Windows 95; $35 street) looks slick, but doesn't deliver much more than you'd get from the books on which it is based, ``Reader's Digest New Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual'' and ``Reader's Digest Book of Skills & Tools.'' What's more, the CD-ROM, released in mid-April, only runs on Windows 95 - disenfranchising those running a Macintosh or Windows 3.1. I give it two stars.
Microsoft does its usual first-class job of dressing up reference material with lots of classy class·y
adj. class·i·er, class·i·est Informal
Highly stylish; elegant.
classi·ness n. background illustrations and clever little sound effects sound effects
sounds artificially produced to make a play, esp. a radio play, more realistic
sound effects npl → efectos mpl sonoros
, such as the clank of a hammer hitting a nail as you go from one section to another. Inside is nothing more than very short instructions on common home repair tasks accompanied by brief descriptions of tools and materials.
I was also bothered by occasional lapses into home-repair jargon, such as this sentence from the section on replacing light switches: ``In an armored cable system - grounded by virtue of the cable's metal sheathing - simply attach the pigtail A cable that has an appropriate connector on one end and loose wires on the other. It is designed to patch into an existing line or to terminate the ends of a long run. Contrast with patch cord. to the metal box.'' I don't know Don't know (DK, DKed)
"Don't know the trade." A Street expression used whenever one party lacks knowledge of a trade or receives conflicting instructions from the other party. what ``pigtail'' the authors intended me to attach, and the CD-ROM doesn't offer any further explanation.
The 64 video clips and 98 animations, filling one-quarter of the screen, run for only 10 to 30 seconds and rarely convey more information than static illustrations in a book. There are also 16 helpful estimators. But most do-it-yourselfers won't find the interactive material in Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide of much benefit.
EVERYDAY HOME REPAIRS (Parsons Parsons, city (1990 pop. 11,924), Labette co., SE Kans.; inc. 1871. It is a shipping point for dairy products, grain, and livestock. Manufactures include ammunition, wire and paper products, plastics, and appliances. Technology Inc., (800) 223-6925; Windows; $29 street), released in mid-April, is yet another book dumped onto CD-ROM, taking text and photographs from the Black & Decker Home Improvement Library. I give it two stars.
The developers have made only a minimal effort at adding multimedia material. An audio narration for the book's instructions doesn't do anything to improve the learning process. What's more, ``Everyday Home Repairs'' only covers 100 repair tasks - significantly fewer than its competitors.
A constantly cheerful man and woman appear in one-minute video clips at the beginning of each of the six sections - such as electrical, plumbing and floor repairs - to dispense some generic advice that could just as easily be delivered in text. ``Eighty percent of all problems with windows and doors are caused by a lack of lubrication lubrication, introduction of a substance between the contact surfaces of moving parts to reduce friction and to dissipate heat. A lubricant may be oil, grease, graphite, or any substance—gas, liquid, semisolid, or solid—that permits free action of ,'' says the woman at one point. ``That's why a lot of the step-by-step jobs shown here deal with the right way to clean and lubricate lu·bri·cate
v. lu·bri·cat·ed, lu·bri·cat·ing, lu·bri·cates
1. To apply a lubricant to.
2. To make slippery or smooth.
To act as a lubricant. different types of doors and windows Doors and Windows is a multimedia disk by the Irish band The Cranberries. Track listing
SIMPLY HOUSE (4Home Productions, (800) 773-5445; Windows; $39 street) is simply terrible. It, too, throws a book into electronic form - with the added insult of a clumsy interface that constantly gets in the way of finding information. I give it 1-1/2 stars.
Released in early 1995, Simply House does nothing more than reproduce the text and illustrations from ``The Stanley Complete Step-by-Step Book of Home Repair.'' The producers appear to have spent a considerable amount on production but didn't put enough money into animations or videos that would help us follow the book's instructions. Instead we get another perky perk·y
adj. perk·i·er, perk·i·est
1. Having a buoyant or self-confident air; briskly cheerful.
2. Jaunty; sprightly.
perk couple - Linda and Bob - who deliver mindless chatter, even wasting our time by earnestly explaining the difference between a cabinet and a closet. Thanks, Bob.
The CD-ROM's introductory sequence invites you to walk through a virtual house by clicking the mouse, visiting different rooms where you can perform pointless tricks, such as turning on the lights. This walk-through only impedes your progress in reaching the two important locations - a ``categories'' screen and an ``index'' screen that point you to specific articles from the book.
What would I recommend before you take hammer and saw in hand?
If you're itching itching
Stimulation of nerve endings in the skin, usually incited by histamine, that evokes a desire to scratch. It is often transient and easily relieved. Pathological itching with skin changes usually signals dermatologic disease. to start right away, go to a local bookstore and find a home-repair book that you like. None of the CD-ROMs available today offers enough extra insight to justify the hassle and expense.
If you can wait a month or so, I'd seriously consider ``Home Improvement Encyclopedia.'' Just make sure to read the installation instructions carefully.
Good luck, and I hope you get all your repairs done quickly enough to still have time for a nap in the back yard.
Photo: ``Everyday Home Repairs,'' features fix-it tips from the Black & Decker Home Improvement Library.
Knight-Ridder Tribune Photo Service