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Window Manager
Brian Livingston
Shareware for all

I WROTE LAST week about AutoProducer, a free trialware program that makes music videos out of files you copy to your PC from a camcorder or digital camera (see "Muvee makes movies," InfoWorld, Feb. 11). The $59.95 registered version, available at Muvee.com, scans multiple video segments and turns the highlights into professionally edited, multimedia productions in less than a minute. That's a fraction of the time you'd spend hand-editing every scene and clip of music individually with a typical video production program.

This got me to thinking: Other programs must be percolating out there that are just as revolutionary. Yes, we have tools such as Microsoft Excel that allow you to build a complex financial model. But sometimes you don't want to be able to do something; you just want it to be done for you. Wouldn't you like a program that, given all your accounts and credit-card numbers, sucks up all the data into your own customized financial model?

Here, then, are some programs I'd like to see:

Market Prophet. The program automatically inputs all the relevant stats from your chosen stock or bond market during the past umpteen years. It then selects the best investments for you, based on your level of wealth and tolerance for risk.

Weather or Not. Using all the meteorological information from government databases, the program calculates the best dates to plant your zucchini so you don't end up with frostbitten veggies. It's also useful when making reservations for your vacation so you don't end up in Tierra del Fuego on the one week it rains seven days in a row.

Radio You. After being told your favorite recording artists, the program automatically streams from the Internet to your speakers a mix of old and new tunes that perfectly matches your tastes.

Actually, the latter program does really exist. It's called Radio MX and is available from MusicMatch.com (see "The watermark war"). It's a $4.95-per-month service, not a shareware program, but still ...

As a matter of fact, I'm sure programs with all the miraculous features I've mentioned above are already out there -- or are just about finished in some brilliant developer's basement.

And that's what I'm looking for. Oh, sure, I could get 100 Zip files and superficially try each one for five minutes. But that's what other magazines do. I'd rather invite you, the reader, to nominate the programs that you've found, from hands-on experience, have streamlined your life.

To tell me about such wonders, send me an e-mail with "Shareware" as the subject line. The first reader to nominate each program I write about will receive a gift certificate for a free book, CD, or DVD of his or her choice. Send no attachments, please. I'll have my bot download the nominees.



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