Convert fax to e-mail

The days of the fax machine may be numbered. If only everyone would just get e-mail, the venerable fax would already be long gone, but that day may never come. Most of us PC users have been sending faxes directly from our computer for years, but receiving faxes has always been a problem. The computer has to be turned on, and the telephone has to be free to receive a fax, especially difficult in homes with a single phone line.If you have a home fax machine, and still need it for the odd correspondent who writes you letters by hand, fear not. You can trash your fax machine, will all its paper jams, busy signals, and error messages, and replace it with one of the free “fax-to-e-mail” services now available on the Internet.

“Jfax” is the leading fax service that lets you throw out your clunky machine and receive all your faxes as e-mails, which you simply print out (on plain paper), on your computer’s printer.

Visit the company’s website and sign up in about ten minutes, online. You’ll be assigned a new fax number, which your correspondents dial exactly the same way as for a regular fax. The difference is that when they send a fax to your Jfax mber, it is forwarded to an e-mail server, converted to a graphics file, and sent on to you as an e-mail attachment.

“Jfax” has a Canadian competitor, an Ottawa-based company called Protus. Late last year, Protus launched Canada’s first national IP fax service network. The first segment of the network provides local area code fax numbers in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.

Protus Fax-to-Email and Desktop Fax let you quickly and easily receive and send faxes from your PC. For $6.95 a month, you get a new fax number that directs incoming faxes to your e-mail account. To read your fax, you simply view it using standard PC operating software. Combining Fax-to-Email and Desktop fax converts your PC into a virtual fax machine.

When you log on to the Net, you’ll see an e-mail with the subject “Fax received from… and an attachment, which you can print out and/or save on your computer’s hard drive. The service is free, provided you are willing to accept a new fax number that may be outside your home area code. The one I received in Toronto, for example, had an area code for a number in northern California, which did cause some initial confusion with correspondents

Jfax charges about $20 a month to assign you a new fax number within your home area code, and also give you free voicemail service that lets people send you voice messages as e-mail attachments.

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Free e-mail while travelling

Those just getting started on the Net may not be aware of another free service that can very handy for travelers. Dozens of Internet “portals” (gateway websites) such as,, offer free e-mail services that let you send and receive e-mail from a web browser anywhere in the world. The services are free because you have to look at some advertising while you send and receive mail.

Anyone who has tried to use his or her standard e-mail address while out of town knows the drill. First, you have to find out if your Internet Service Provider (ISP) offers local dial-up service in the area you’re visiting. Then, you have to find the number, and re-configure the computer you’re using to dial in to your ISP.

That’s a lot of work just to get your e-mail, but there is an easier way. Sign up with one of the many free e-mail services, who will give you a new address that you can use when on the road. This has absolutely no effect on your permanent e-mail, but gives you a new mailbox you can use to send and receive e-mail from anywhere in the world.

Once you have a free e-mail address, you simply visit the website with the Netscape or Explorer browser, and “log-in” with your new user name and password. Your mail is waiting on the site, and you can send mail just as you would at home. With this system, you can use anyone’s computer (a friend’s, a hotel’s) to send and receive your e-mail, without changing any settings. To sign up, visit one of the sites listed here.

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Seeking knowledge

The people at Encyclopedia Britannica have seen the light, as far as selling their vast deposit of information. Following the same principles of the free e-mail service providers, Britannica has put the entire contents of its encyclopedia online and made access free to everyone.

The company says that advertising on the site will provide more revenue than recent sales of either hard cover books or CD versions. Again, we are the beneficiaries, as long as you don’t mind seeing some ads along with the information on the subject you’re researching. A keyword search not only gives you the encyclopedia entry, but a raft of related websites and information sources.

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Should you go DVD?

Those in the process of buying a computer are offered a confusing array of choices that often require quite a bit of technical knowledge. The latest dilemma is the choice between getting a DVD (Digital Video Disc) drive or a CD-RW (Compact Disc, Rewritable) drive on your PC.

DVD is a great new format that offers super high capacity and lets you watch movies on your PC, but that’s where its usefulness ends. For most people, selecting a CD drive that reads and writes discs offers a multitude of possibilities that DVDs just can’t match.

With a CD “burner”, you can make copies of your favorite music CDs, or make compilation CDs, with all your music in the order you want it in. If you’re scanning family photos, you can easily create photo CD albums that you can share with anyone who has a regular CD drive on their computer. And if you have more than one computer, copying files onto a CD can make the transfer of large files between computers fast and easy. A 850-megabyte CD is also a great way to back up your computer files for easy retrieval, and eliminates the need to buy a separate “zip” drive for file protection.

So unless you’re determined to watch movies on your personal computer, a CD burner is probably the way to go on your next machine. That is, until the electronics manufacturers come out with their next new format–remember the eight-track?