Big Brother’s Watching

Passwords mean very little with this product

There’s just one word to describe Spectorsoft’s Spector Professional Edition 3.1–scary. The spy software application lets IT administrators closely monitor and record e-mail, keystrokes, and just about any activity on a PC–online and off–all without the user’s knowledge.

The program is easy to set up and is invisible to the user; to launch Spector, IT administrators simply use command keys that they set up, type in a password, and select the Play button to quickly scan the PC. The application takes snapshots of a computer monitor as often as 60 times per minute. We were able to view snapshots of e-mails, keystrokes, Websites visited, chat conversations, and instant messages.

Spector lets you customize settings so you can, say, keep data for up to 999 days (provided you have the disk space) and/or take a screen shot every second or 20 seconds. The program also lets you specify keywords–for example, “sex” or “I hate my job”–and sends an alert via e-mail whenever those words are used. ($149.95; www.spectorsoft.com)

TIME FOR AN UPGRADE?
Adobe Photoshop’s newest version
If you’re a die-hard Adobe Photoshop user, you’ve likely been earnestly awaiting the latest release, version 7.0. While those loyal to the product aren’t likely to be disappointed, those on the fence will have a lot to consider. Are Photoshop’s changes merely cosmetic or do they offer valuable enhancements? Should you upgrade?

Photoshop does offer some useful tools such as the file browser that lets you easily browse images, view thumbnails, and modify them, and the Healing Brush Tool (similar to the Stamp Tool), which can prove invaluable for those who work with digital photographs and need to, say, smooth out wrinkles and fix other skin defects. And Adobe has improved Photoshop’s interface capability, making it easier to change brush sizes and save custom tool settings.

But while these improvements are welcome, they are by no means the major changes one would expect in a point upgrade. With Photoshop costing $609, the price seems a bit steep for these few enhancements. Should you upgrade? If you use the application regularly and mostly for digital images, by all means upgrade. Other digital artists might want to wait until a more robust version appears. ($609; upgrade, $149; www.adobe.com)

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