May 2001

Cyber News and Reviews is a monthly column published for parents, teachers & business owners featuring kids educational software reviews, business software reviews (small business & home business), games and entertainment articles, a free resource since 1995.


Reading Blaster Ages 7 - 8 from Knowledge Adventure and Quicken 2001 Home & Business from Intuit Inc.

Reading Blaster Ages 7 - 8 from Knowledge Adventure

Kids, ages 7 - 8, get ready for a fun learning adventure with those famous blaster pals from Knowledge Adventure.  You'll pal up with Blaster, GC and Mel to save the planet Islandia from the Mumblers who are messing up the books.  In the process, you'll be improving your grammer and reading skills.  This is a graphics and sound adventure where kids can't help but learn while playing arcade-style video games as they explore the planet and collect clues to solve the problem presented.  Help is always available through voice prompting.

After a quick installation, you'll see an animated introduction and hear a catchy tune about your best friend being an alien.  Then, you'll sign in and see a map of the planet as the main menu where the action begins.  Reading Blaster offers an number of activities that will keep you and your kids occupied for days.  The areas include Ski Bum Mumbler, Mumbler Maze, Bridge Puzzle, Geyser Valley, Juice Shack, Volcano Climb and Volcano Drop.

To play an activity, click on one of islands of Islandia and you'll meet GC, Blaster or Mel (and some Mumblers) on the island ready to play.  After a quick overview of the game, narrated by a Blasternaud, you'll begin.  The games use the arrow keys to move the characters to their goal.  For example, in Mumbler Maze, you'll move Mel the dog to through the maze to collect gems.  When all gems are found, you'll enter another screen to form a sentence from words displayed.  At Ski Bum Mumbler, you'll read picture books and then answer questions as you ski down an obstale course.  While you're playing, you'll hear music and sound effects appropriate for the activity.  After you've spent some time on each activity, access  Smart Chart to check your progess.  Parents with Internet access can sign up for SmartPoints and the Virtual Classroom, which offers more games and prizes online, plus classes and clubs.

Reading Blaster Ages 7 – 8 sells for a street price of $19.99 and will run on any multimedia PC, Pentium 133 MHz or faster, 32 MB RAM running Windows 98/95/2000 and the Macintosh Power PC, 120 MHz or faster with 12MB RAM.  Both computers require a 12x CD-ROM drive. 

Quicken 2001 Home & Business from Intuit Inc.

If you're in need of small business finance software, but also want help with your personal finances, then Quicken 2001 Home & Business is your best bet for the buck.  It has everything you need to run your business, plus Quicken 2001 Deluxe, for your personal finances, at a great price after rebate.  For your business, you can prepare estimates, create customizable invoices, track jobs, create reports and customers statements, track expenses and payroll, manage accounts payable and more.  With Quicken Deluxe, you can balance your check book and pay bills, create budgets, track your investments, plan for retirement and college, keep your tax records, find some hidden tax deductions and more.  It includes online features that allow you to bank and pay bills over the Internet, get your credit report, stock quotes and research companies. You can even e-mail your invoices to your customers.

Although the business applications included are primarily designed for small businesses with 5 or less employees, its complete in every way supporting basic accounting and invoicing, business reports and graphs, job tracking, estimates and online banking if you dare (I prefer to keep my finances off the Internet).  If you find your business growing, you can easily switch to QuickBooks or QuickBooks Pro offering more features and support for up to 20 employees.

If you're not familiar with the Quicken interface, don't worry, because after a quick installation, you'll quickly (no puns intended) find how easy it is to setup and use Quicken for home and business.  All financial features and functions are easily accessed from the main menu including your banking, investing, household, taxes, alerts, business, planning, reports and more.  The Alerts feature is very useful, allowing Quicken to warn you when certain financial situations arise like if a stock you're watching falls in price or your bank account balance goes below its required minimum.  Whenever you need help, you're just a mouse click away from step-by-step detailed instructions for any task.  If you still have questions, call their toll-free automated help line available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  You'll even find support on the Internet including text and videos.

You'll begin by setting up your bank accounts (makes sense), entering the account name and type of account and then entering your last several transactions.  As your transactions arise, you keep updating them in Quicken.  When and if you need to add more accounts you just create them, and they get added to your list.  If you use the small business feature of Quicken, it is recommended that you keep your business and personal expenses separate.   That's all you need to do to have Quicken begin to track your finances.

A very important next step for your business is to setup your accounts receivables and accounts payables and customize your invoice and estimate forms.  Now you're ready to process your product orders or create estimates for the services you offer and let Quicken track of your receipts and expenses, and process your invoices.  This is a basic need for all businesses, large or small.   Now for the beauty of Quicken: your receivables and payables are linked to the invoices and estimates you generate, and your customer information is shared, making your business life easier.  And, when you're ready to send out those invoices, you can easily e-mail them over the Internet to your client or customer.  If you don't care to use the Internet, you can fax your invoices right from Quicken, or print them for snail mailing.

Quicken offers dozens of features that you may not be using now, but won't be able to live without once you use them.  You'll be able to track your sales or business receipts with reports and graphs, from month to month, predicting futures sales, track sales taxes, prepare business income tax, track your assets, depreciation and more.  Quicken will even offer you advice on running your business and also help you write a business plan, necessary to operate your business more efficiently.  A detailed business plan is necessary if you're looking for outside investors to help your business grow.

Quicken 2001 Home & Business sells for a street price of $54.99 after a $20 rebate, and will run on any multimedia PC, 486/66 minimum, Pentium 90 MHz or faster (recommended) running Windows 95/98/NT 4/2000, with 16 MB RAM a quad-speed (4x) CD-ROM drive. 

Howard Berenbon

Software Companies Mentioned

Intuit Inc.
2500 Garcia Ave.
Mountain View, CA 94043
Phone: 1-800-446-8848

Knowledge Adventure, Inc.
19840 Pioneer Avenue
Torrance, CA 90503
Phone: 1-800-545-7677