The CD-ROM Software Column

by Nick Thomson

Welcome to the September 95 issue. This issue features reviews of World War II Encyclopedia (Europe), as well as reviews of two educational products from Manaccom - Lander Gold and Education CD. That ever popular additional component, Naomi's Notes, is there too.

If you have general questions (not technical support!) about any of the products reviewed during the past 6 months, please feel free to ring me on 241 3239 in business hours or Monday - Thursday, 7.30pm - 9.00pm.

REVIEW: World War II Encyclopedia (Europe)

The release of this program is quite timely, what with the recent celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of VE and VJ days. It is quite an interesting collection of Archival material about the European 'theatre' in World War II. It will be interesting to see if Attica (the makers) come up with a similar product on the Pacific War. The material is gathered from the Imperial War Museum, BBC Sound Archives and the Hulton Deutsch photograph collection. It includes 15 video clips, over 200 sound clips and about 60 biographies and documents.

The program comes with quite a well illustrated and helpful booklet that takes you through the installation process and introduces you to the various features of the program. There is also online, context-sensitive Help available.

Picture unavailableThere are two ways to search for information in the program - Timeline or Search. Timeline is a sequence of photographs and audio clips that take you chronologically through the events of the war in Europe, from early 1939 (Hitler addressing a pre-war rally) to late 1945 (recollections of prisoners of war). If you begin the Timeline at the beginning it will move one screen at a time through the whole war (127 screens in all). It is quite an interesting way of getting a quick overview of the European war. The only annoyance of this feature is that as each new screen is displayed the photographs to be imported from the CD - the delays can become a bit annoying. Diagram 1 (55K) is an example of one of the Timeline screens.

You can click on the timeline at the bottom of the screen at any point to move directly to that point of the war, and you can stop or replay the audio clip if you wish.

Picture unavailableTo use Search you click on the Search panel in the Home screen (to get to Home screen from Timeline you click on a Home screen icon). You then type in the keyword you are interested in (e.g. spitfire) and press Enter. You can make the search more specific by selecting or de-selecting on the various media icons - sound, art, video, photo or document), but there is no facility for carrying out more advanced searches with operators such as AND or OR. It is possible to use wildcards e.g. if you enter Chur*, then the program will locate all records beginning with Chur. Diagram 2 (33K) is an example of a Search screen.

While this package provides a very interesting and useful overview of the European theatre in World War II - it cannot really be described as a comprehensive encyclopedia - for example, when I was trying out Search it was unable to find any archive items for entries such as Hurricane, Barbarossa or Rommel.

Two other features are provided to assist those who may be carrying out research projects of one form or another - Notepad and Trail. Notepad allows you to copy and save records in a personal notepad - so you can assemble in one place a collection of items on a particular topic. Trail keeps a list of the records you have visited in your current session, to make it easier to go back to them if you wish.

The video clips are black and white BBC news/documentary, and while there are not very many of them, they are interesting and quite informative. They include such topics as the German invasion of Russia, the Battle of the Atlantic, Hitler's leadership and the liberation of Belsen concentration camp. They can be viewed in small box or full screen, and the quality is generally quite good, although it breaks up a bit in full screen mode.

Overall, this is a useful reference product for students of European history, but it is not as comprehensive as I would have liked.

System requirements
386SX or higher running Windows 3.1, 2Mb of RAM, 3Mb of Hard disk space; CD-ROM Drive & Sound Card; SVGA display. RRP $79.95

For further info contact Dataflow Tel: (02) 310 2020, Fax: (02) 319 2676

REVIEWS: Lander Gold and Education CDs

Lander Gold and Education CD are two multimedia education products from Manaccom, a company best known in Australia as a distributor of shareware. Lander Gold and Education CD are two CD-ROM products that could be regarded as registered shareware. They are good value, and contain a number of very well constructed educational games, but like many other shareware products that I have tried, they also include a few bugs. For example, in theory you should be able to install and run Lander from Windows, but almost every time I tried to run one of the modules from Windows I got a message telling me that "The DMA Buffer is too small", and the program wouldn't run. When I ran it from DOS it worked fine most of the time, except that on a couple of occasions when I tried to run Henrietta's Book of Spells I got a runtime error and the whole system locked. The only problem within DOS was that it used memory in such a way that if I tried to run my screensaver packages the games wouldn't run properly - so I apologise - but no screen clips on this occasion.

Aside from these difficulties, I found the games to be quite good - particularly the use of sound effects and music.


Lander has four modules: Count and Add - five games designed as an introduction to counting and adding for younger children; Hooray for Henrietta - help hopeless Henry make it to the church on time to marry Henrietta by solving problems of various levels in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division; Henrietta's Book of Spells - rescue Hopeless Henry from the clutches of Morgana the wicked witch by solving a variety of word puzzles; Spellbound - rescue Hal (Henry's cousin) from Morgana the Morbid and Professor Grime by solving a variety of word puzzles.

The games are colourful and have quite an interesting 'plot' - my two younger children have found them to be enjoyable and challenging - the novelty has not yet worn off - their favourite being Hooray for Henrietta.

The graphics are of 256 colour VGA quality, but perhaps the most impressive multimedia feature, as I mentioned above, is the use of sound effects and music - much better than many other educational games of this type that I have seen. Of course, to get the full benefit of this you need a soundcard. The program comes with a colourful, well illustrated and easy-to-understand parent/teacher/user guide that provides quite detailed information about what each game does and how (from an educational point of view) to make the best use of it. There is also National Curriculum information, but since this related to the UK it is of little relevance to Australian users. The Parent Teacher sections are particularly useful in terms of how to use the games with various age groups and levels. There is also comprehensive on-disk documentation available for each game.

All four games have a parent teacher section that enable you to set such things as the range of words or the types of mathematical operations to be included, and it is possible to record and/or print out the results obtained by each child.

Education CD

This is a collection of educational shareware, with a couple of games like Save Our Pizzas and Skunny Kart thrown in. Overall, this package is not as impressive as Lander, though there are a few quite useful, well presented games. There are brief notes on each game supplied with the program (a couple of pages) and installation instructions within the CD holder. However, there is also on-disk documentation available.

Math Rescue is an educational arcade game for ages 6 and up that tests the various mathematical operations in the context of having to solve the problems before time runs out in your quest to save the world from the number hungry Gruzzles.

Word Rescue tests skills in spelling, logic, word meanings and reading in the context of helping Benny Bookworm find the words that have been hidden by the Gruzzles (who don't want anyone else to read). The story line is quite interesting, and features EGA/VGA quality graphics and quite good use of music and sound effects. However, the instructions are not very clear and it took me a while to figure out how to play it. There are quite a few levels, and at times the graphics reminded me of Captain Comic.

The package also includes Adventure Math, a maths program that covers basic addition and subtraction, Henrietta's Book of Spells (see under Lander above), a demo version of Things for Kids - a junior drawing/painting program and two games - Skunny Kart and save Our Pizzas. The last two are lots of fun, especially Skunny Kart, but they could hardly be described as educational. Things for Kids is well constructed and provides a good variety of drawing activities.

All in all, two quite interesting educational packages - Lander Gold is by far the superior of the two.

Naomi's Notes

Greetings yet again. Today I reviewed "Education Pack" by Manaccom.

This CD is a small collection of supposedly educational CDs. Although a few of the games were Educational, a few weren't such as "Skunny Kart" which is basically a Go-Kart race in which you're the driver. The games were amusing and fun, for younger ages, but really don't provide much educational value, except for "Word Rescue" parts 1, 2 and 3 in which you go around matching words with pictures and finding letters to make up a word, also the graphics of the games aren't all that terrific. A major set back in our system was it wouldn't play all of the games such as "Adventure Math" and "Save our Pizza," but the games I did try were reasonable. It doesn't provide many games but isn't too bad. So basically I wasn't majorly impressed, but as I said some of the games were quite fun so I wasn't too disappointed either. I give it a 2 and a half rating out of 5.

System requirements
Lander - RRP $69.95
286 or higher, 530K of RAM; CD-ROM Drive; Soundcard recommended

Education CD - RRP $49.95
286 or higher, 640K of RAM, 3Mb Hard disk; CD-ROM Drive; Soundcard recommended

For further info contact Manaccom Tel: (02) 484 9277, Fax: (02) 484 9313

Nick Thomson manages his own business, providing management consultancy and training in such topics as Strategic Planning, Team Building, Client Service, Time Management and Conflict Resolution. He can be contacted on (06) 241 3239.

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