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Re: Nat. Geo. CDROM

Dear RADSAFErs -

Following are some questions and my answers about the National Geographic CD
set I mentioned.  It was suggested to me that, although this somewhat
peripheral to what we do, the materials may be of interest, especially given
the chance to look at, say, several decades of reporting on nuclear power,
radiation, and so forth.

> What is your value judgement of this product? 

I just got this last week, so I am still in the playing-around stage.  I love
the magazine and have wide-ranging interests, so I am having a blast right
now.  I also see some use down the road professionally (I have already made a
printout of the 1954 article for a class I teach) as well as for my kids in
school.  So far I've looked at articles on the space program,
power, the Panama Canal, and the Netherlands.  My only quarrel with it thus
is that the printouts are sometimes more difficult to read than the image is;
there is the possibility to optimize print quality (I think at the expense of
the graphics) but I have not yet played around with that.  All in all,
I'd buy it for myself or recommend it to others.

> Is there a good search engine? 

The search engine is one of the best I have used.  In addition to turning up
articles with the key words specified, it will also give you articles related
to the one you highlight.  It will also tell you which CD to put into the
drive.  Alternatively, you can put a CD in (each CD holds about 2.5 to 3 years
of issues) and call up the title pages of each issue or the table of
I just got this a week ago (as a graduation present), so I have not yet fully
explored it. Also, the search engine will take you to a specific article, but
not to a specified page, so you can find an article about gold mining, but you
won't be able to find a reference to Botswana gold production within that
article unless it is a major part of the article and included in the keywords
or the title.

> Good graphics? 

It appears that the issues have been scanned in and the older issues are
to read, but still legible.  The photos come in full color, can be rotated (if
they're printed sideways), and you can zoom in or out.  For newer computers,
the quality of the graphics is limited by the scan, for older machines, the
video card and monitor will be the limiting factors.  I am not
and can read everything easily.  The graphics are not razor-sharp, but they're
not bad.

> Reasonable to read on a computer? 

For the most part, yes.  I called up an article about the landslides while
building the Panama Canal and could read it relatively easily on-screen (17"
monitor) and in the printout.  I had to use my bifocals to read the printout,
but that's the case with everything, anymore.  Sigh....

> Most products I see like this translate very poorly to a computer screen. If
> you endorse it, I'll buy it. 

Boy, this just begs for a qualified response.  If you've had a subscription to
the magazine for years and keep back issues, I would recommend this to
you.  It
is just plain neat to be able to look at (for example) how coverage of
radiation and nuclear energy has changed over the past 50 years or so.  I just
finished reading a history of the construction of the Panama Canal and was
happy to be able to read the original articles written during and after the
construction.  I also love reading a lot of articles about virtually
everything.  Searches are actually fun.  And, so far, I have not found the
interface or presentation of the material to be clunky or difficult.  However,
the graphics for older issues and printouts are not razor-sharp.  What you get
on-screen is either the full two-page spread (which is too small to read) or a
close-up that overfills the screen.  I wish they had a variable zoom feature,
but such is life.  If you are willing to overlook some of the (to me) minor
shortcomings, I think you'll like the product.  If anyone is interested, I'll
check when I get home to see if they have a money-back guarantee or a return
period (the CDs contain over 15 GB of information, so there's no way you can
load it all onto your computer).

The opinions expressed above are well-reasoned and insightful.  Needless to
say, they are not those of my employer. (with apologies to Michael Feldman)		

Andrew Karam, MS, CHP					(614) 292-1284 (phone)
The Ohio State University 					(614) 292-7002 (fax)
Office of Radiation Safety					"The mind is not a vessel to
1314 Kinnear Road						be filled but a fire to be
Columbus, OH  43212						lighted." (Plutarch)