Making E-Mail Even Easier

MailStation is a $100 gadget that -- while far from perfect -- can do the basic job of sending and receiving e-mail. It's a 2.2-pound keyboard with a 6-by-2 1/2-inch flip-up screen. Although it comes with an AC adapter, the unit also takes three AA batteries, making it portable.

You plug the device into a standard phone line, hit the "Get E-Mail" button to the right of the monochrome display, and MailStation makes a local call to automatically collect new messages and send any that you've written.

The MailStation is simple to operate, and I think the product has a good chance of attracting its target audience: people eager for access to e-mail without the hassle of learning how to operate a PC.

Icons on the high-resolution screen make it easy to read new messages, write outgoing messages and maintain an address book for those you correspond with regularly. But there are trade-offs -- a smaller-than-normal keyboard, for instance. You have to subscribe to MailStation service for $8 to $10 per month.

-- Mike Langberg, Knight Ridder

MailStation

by Cidco Inc.

1-800-718-1242

www.cidco.com/mailstation

$100 for device, now sold only by the manufacturer; monthly e-mail service is $8-$10

Making E-Music With SoundJam

SoundJam MP is a Macintosh application that lets you produce and distribute music in the Internet's MP3 format.

One of its most desirable features is its ability to convert other sound file standards such as AIFF, WAV, QuickTime and others to MP3. You don't have to abandon your current collection of music files.

SoundJam also lets you control the amount of compression -- if you sacrifice a little of it so the file size is bigger, the audio quality can actually be as good or even exceed CD quality.

SoundJam can also "stream" MP3 files, letting you hear the file before it has been completely downloaded.

-- Craig Crossman, Knight Ridder

SoundJam MP

by Casady & Greene

1-800-359-4920 or 1-831-484-9228

www.casadyg.com

For Macintosh

$39.95 at Web site; store version costs $49.95 and includes an audio cable