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Fun stuff

NEWLN: Computer CommentNEWLN: (750)NEWLN: JOE FASBINDER United Press International

If you skip this column, you won't miss anything you need. But there might be something here you want.

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Like 'The Laffer Utilities Version 4.01' -- a program whose package announces upfront that one of its best qualities is an 'innocuous title that easily slips through Purchasing' so your company will pay for it without blinking an eye.

Don't look for previous versions of this software. 'Version 4.01' is merely tacked on to make the package look more like something that might belong in an office.

There really are utilities inside this new software release from Sierra in Coarsegold, Calif. They are designed, in the words of creator Al Lowe, 'to organize your non-workday.'

Al Lowe is probably best known for creating Leisure Suit Larry, a silicon-based sleazeball who has chased millions of silicon-based women across millions of PC-based computer screens in four different Leisure Suit Larry computer-game adventures.

The packaging for The Laffer Utilities bills Leisure Suit Larry as 'America's leading inefficiency expert,' which is perfectly believable. Larry serves as a host for your tour through this software, which is perfectly appropriate.

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What you cannot believe is Page One of the manual, listing a bunch of fake utility functions such as QUIKSCRW, which it says will 'turn a 300-baud modem into 9600 baud with a 3/4 inch lag bolt,' and FASTRPLS, which it says can 'increase clock speed 500 percent by lowering refresh rate to once a month.'

The package comes with a card that proclaims:

'Warning! Everything on Page One of this manual is false. Page One is designed to ensure maximum comfort levels of office management with TLU (The Laffer Utilities) while disguising its real purpose.'

The card goes on to detail what is really on the disks. The contents include a database crammed with hundreds of stupid jokes; a utility program to generate weird sound effects; a form for creating office betting pools; and a utility to generate instant decisions, based entirely on chance.

This is truly the PC utility package for everything you do at the office that has nothing to do with work. Just don't get caught.

For Mac users -- who sometimes feel overlooked since most mindlessly silly software was written by and for PC users -- some new sound-effects software holds great potential for nostalgic weirdness.

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Sound Source Unlimited Inc. of Westlake Village, Calif., has come up with not one but two packages of what it calls 'Soundware.' Both packages feature sounds from the original 'Star Trek' television series.

Once you load 'Soundware,' you can assign any sound it contains to various functions your computer performs like starting up, shutting down, inserting a floppy disk or changing disk drives.

Then whenever that function is performed, the sound plays.

For example, you turn on the computer and Spock's voice -- digitized directly from the orignal television tapes -- announces: 'Computing now. '

It's really disturbing and not very professional. It's also fun.

In addition to dialogue, there are sound effects and music cues from the original television series.

The sound effects and music can be used with a variety of sound- generating programs such as MacroMind Director and Symmetry's Mariah. But they really shine when used with the SoundMaster utility that comes packed with either Soundware package.

SoundMaster comes configured with the 'SoundWare' as a Macintosh control panel device so you can change the settings on the fly, selecting music or sound effects for everyday Mac functions.

Soundware Volume One contains something called 'the Logical Collection, all you'd expect in a debut library.'

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That includes such things as Sulu saying 'bridge to Captain,' and Scotty's fervent, 'It will never work!'

On the sound-effects front, you can use the transporter. It sounds just like it did on TV. And it might be interesting to arrange to have the sound played whenever you copy a file.

Volume Two -- subtitled 'for the seasoned Trekkie' -- includes a cut containing the sound of a tricorder and the voice of 'Bones' pronouncing: 'It's dead.'

Volume Two also has a lot of good special effects.

The problem is that neither collection has a table of contents. You have to buy them both and get them home and then discover that nowhere in the digitized Final Frontier does anyone say, 'Phasers on stun.'

As Bones once said, 'I can't explain it, Captain!' In fact, Bones says it in a cut on Soundware Volume One.NEWLN:

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