Keith's Picks and Pans

One of the great things about the Web is being able to find good information about things.  All kinds of things.  There are places for reviews of certain types of things, i.e.,'s book reviews.  But for some things there aren't any standard places to look.  But with web indexing and web search engines, the nice thing is that if you just post it on the web, people can generally find it.  So I'll post a variety of experiences here.

Emergency Street Atlas 2005 Review and Comparison

New: 8/19/04, just got the new Street Atlas 2005. Please note this is a downgrade. The new version does not include the capacity for multiple draw files or multiple route files. If you want to manage multiple route files within Street Atlas, do not order this upgrade! It is possible with this version to drag and drop route files from a Windows Explorer window onto the map to load it, but the program can only handle one route at a time. And, it cannot use multiple draw files, nor can you turn off the draw file to hid the map tags. If you want these capabilities, you must order the "Plus" version. And, though the upgrade price for 2005 is $40, they will charge you another $80 to upgrade to the Plus version. If you order the Street Atlas 2005 CD, but need the Plus version, I suggest you call them at 1-800-349-1896 and ask for an RMA number and return it for credit, then order the Plus version. I will post a more detailed review once I get the Plus version.

Lightweight Tent Stake Comparison

In March 2004, was looking at lightweight tent stakes.  You can find a variety of lightweight stakes at suppliers such as REI, Campmor, and the like, including Vargo Outdoors and MSR and Easton stakes. Titan Mountain Sports (part of Simon Metals) sells award-wining stakes via its own website; the Vargo Outdoors stakes found at REI are similar but slightly different. The Vargo Outdoors stakes have a pointier end, making it easier to stick into the ground. My picks thus fare are a mix of the ultralight Vargo stakes for tent corners, and the larger and longer Easton aluminum stakes (which I've used for years, and only broken one) for pullouts.

Here's what I found:

6g  6.25" Titanium Vargo Outdoors Ultralight (wire) Skewers
6g 6.25" Titanium Titan Mtn Sports (Simon) Ultralight (wire) Stakes
8g 6.5" Titanium Vargo Outdoors Standard (wire) Stakes
9.5g 6" Aluminum MSR Needle Stake (square stock)
10g 6" Titanium Vargo Outdoors Ultralight Ascent (angle-stock) Stakes
12g  ?" Aluminum Vargo Outdoors Summit (Y stock) Stakes
12g 7"  Titanium Titan Mtn Sports Standard (wire stock) Skweres
12g 9" Titanium Titan Mtn Sports Standard Pigtail (twisted wire stock) Stakes
14g 8.25" Titanium Vargo Outdoors Long (wire) Stakes
14g 6" Titanium Vargo Outdoors Regular Ascent (angle-stock) Stakes
14g 6" Titanium Vargo Outdoors Nail Pegs (rod stock)
14g 9" Aluminum Easton Aluminum Stake (tube stock) with Cord
?g ?"  Aluminum MSR Groundhog Stake
21g 12" Titanium Titan Mtn Sports Long (wire stock) Skewers
25g  10" Titanium Titan Mtn Sports Heavy Duty (Twisted wire stock) Pigtail Stakes

PlanPlus for Microsoft Outlook Review

Love it.  Hate it.  This add-on for Microsoft Outlook almost makes it into a good PIM (personal information manager).  I've yet to find the perfect PIM.  I want:

I really don't care squat about Outlook's email capabilities: Discussing [anti-virus] solutions in the context of Microsoft's inherently insecure e-mail software is like deciding what kind of paint you're going to put on the barn once the fire's out. -P. J. Connolly (noted computer security maven). I use Pegasus, the hacker's email program (but easy enough for anyone to use) available at; it is a true high-security email program.

I also think that, for prioritizing tasks, there is nothing better than the old DOS program, MaxThink, available from; however, it won't integrate with anything, and won't do any of the other things above.

I used the original Franklin Planner from Outlook and upgraded to the new PlanPlus when they came out with it in fall of 2002. Gak, this was a terrible "upgrade" -- the conduits to the Palm were slow as molasses, the program crashed all the time, and the conduits added a garbage entry to the email fields of all of your contacts. Nonetheless, PlanPlus had some features that made it at least potentially superior to the old Franklin Planner for Outlook, especially the Quick Prioritize dialog box, which gives just a flavor of what MaxThink could do.  Quick Prioritize allows you to view all of your tasks for the day, sorted by rank, categorized into A, B and C as far as importance.  You can drag to another place on the screen, and the numerical ranks automatically update (if you have the checkbox checked for auto-ranking, which you should!).  You can also drag to another day. Limitations:  you can check a task as complete, but you can't edit it or delete it from this screen, and you can't double-click to open the task in Outlook. And, you have to click a button to exit and actually save the changes. Nonetheless, it's a great tool. Here's a picture:

But, since you can't forward tasks "en bloc" (all at once) in this dialog box, it's a pain to forward 35 tasks to the next day.  A useful companion to this is a particular Outlook view of tasks, which can be achieved by View > Customize this View > Group by Start Date.  This view looks like this:

You can click a task, then shift-click another task, and then drag every single one of them to another day.  Slick. Note that I've chosen those fields I find useful, your choices may vary. (I find % complete and Due Date to be virtually useless, in fact, changing the Due Date without changing the Start Date makes my task list so complex I hate it.  So I just use the Start Date for everything. If you change the Start Date and never touch the Due Date than the Due Date will always be the Start Date. I just show the Due Date so in case I accidentally change it I will see it and change it back to the Start Date).

The update to 1.0.5 in December 2002 improved the installation, but I found that, contrary to the instructions, the install process automatically installed PlanPlus for Palm automatically. So when I did as they said, using Control Panel to deinstall both Franklin Planner for Outlook and Franklin Planner for Palm, and then installing PlanPlus for Outlook, rebooting, and installing PlanPlus for Palm -- well, that last bit actually de-installed PlanPlus for Palm, so I had to reinstall it again.  But, the new conduits are PocketMirror and are about 10x faster, installation won't delete all of your other conduits, the garbage in the email fields in contacts is gone, there are fewer awkwardnesses in the install in general.

There are still a few problems with PlanPlus; for instance, if you have set up rules for Automatic Formatting in Outlook (Calendar > Edit > Automatic Formatting) which colors appointments with certain colors based on keywords, PlanPlus installation will wipe this out (just write it down prior to installing PlanPlus, it just takes a few minutes to re-enter; I typed the rules into a Note in Outlook so I can easily reproduce if I have reinstall PlanPlus or an update and forget to write it down first).

Anyway, PlanPlus isn't perfect, it's still limited, but PlanPlus with Outlook serves as a reasonable PIM. There are still some painful limitations; here is my wishlist:

Available and more information from Also see my review of the earlier Franklin Planner for Outlook for more on syncing between laptop, desktop and Palm-OS handheld.

Babyproofing Reviews

Topo USA 4.0 and Street Atlas Deluxe Reviews

Franklin Planner for Outlook Review

Teaching Company Tape Reviews

Lightbulbs, Floodlights and Spotlights, A Tutorial: which bulbs to use?