Earth to Thought Leader

Article excerpt

My family gets a great kick out of Quanta Press mailings. Addressed to "Journalist/Thought Leader," the firm's review discs appear accompanied by gas masks (the world terrorism disc), incense (the yoga disc) or posters and calendars (space and fractal discs).

It is impossible to generalize about Quanta discs. Some are substantial, well-thought-out efforts, while others could just as easily have been delivered on paper or floppies. It is time to briefly look at the stack of recent (and not so recent) Quanta releases that has accumulated next to my PC. Prices are not indicated because most Quanta discs are sold at substantial discounts off the list price.

Roger Ebert's Movie Home Companion 1986-1992 features 1300 full-length movie reviews, eighty interviews with stars and directors, and more than twenty Ebert essays. The entire text or text subsets can be searched by keyword using the FolioViews search engine. The reviews and other material are well-written and, as befits their newspaper origin, get to the point without the extensive digression typical of more academic film criticism.

Motion picture fans looking for a quick way to locate cinematic works associated with a given actor, writer, director or concept should find Ebert's work easy and rewarding to use. The entire package - text and access software - consumes just over 7MB on the CD.

Prescription Drugs - A Pharmacist's Guide describes in non-technical terms the 200 most prescribed medications in the United States. Typical usage, side-effects, interactions and the data source are provided for each drug. The information was compiled from standard drug reference manuals, government publications, drug manufacturer publications and other sources. It was edited, rewritten and reorganized by a registered pharmacist and technical writer.

Smartdoc for DOS from Compton's NewMedia is the MS-DOS retrieval engine for Prescription Drugs. Searches by article title, i.e., drug name, are supported. Keyword access is provided via an "Idea Search" mechanism that analyzes a group of words and provides a list of articles in which they appear accompanied by a relevancy ranking. All multiple word searches are AND searches - OR and NOT operators are not available.

One shortcoming is that direct printing or downloading of an entire article is not supported. Articles can only be printed a window at a time. Saving to a disk file works the same way, with the contents of a series of windows individually saved in a "notebook," which then may be saved to a file from the Tools menu.

The Windows retrieval engine lacks relevancy ranking, but otherwise operates similarly, notwithstanding a very different look. A Macintosh retrieval engine is provided but was not examined. …