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Free Web-based e-mail service gives you all the fax


The ancestry of these devices can be traced back to the early days of radio. Today they're as commonplace in a business as a telephone.

The fax machine represented a major change in how businesses communicate -- and they remain a must-have piece of office equipment.

And today, most modem-equipped computers have the ability to send and receive faxes from your desktop -- no need to run that letter through a fax machine. Just set it up and your computer modem becomes a virtual fax machine.

That's handy, but suppose you need to receive a fax while you're traveling on the road? Or maybe you don't have a fax machine and need a way to receive them at home or with your laptop computer -- no matter where you are.

Imagine having a fax number that can accept your faxes any time of the day, and then deliver them to you on demand -- all through your existing Internet e-mail account.

It's not a concept, it's a service now offered by a Web site called eFax.com.

The idea of receiving faxed documents in your e-mail sounded intriguing, so I decided to give it a test run.

It took only a few minutes to fill out the form and submit it to receive my eFax account information. I received via e-mail a fax number, a 4-digit PIN number, and also a small fax viewer program that speedily displays the received faxes.

I created a test fax in Microsoft Word, and using my existing fax software, dialed up my own fax number, entered the PIN number, and sent the document.

The connection was quick and efficient. A text and graphics-intense two page fax was transmitted in about 2 minutes.

I then checked my e-mail -- and immediately, my test fax was received as a file attachment. I clicked on the attachment icon, and the two-page fax popped open in a window created by the fax viewer software I had just installed. Cool!

Hard drive space is often at a premium, especially for laptop owners; but eFax.com uses ultra-compression to make their fax documents as small as possible so they won't fill your hard drive.

eFax offers three levels of service. The basic eFax service I tested is free. It's a bargain, no doubt about it.

The other two levels add some features that business owners and travelers would find useful.

eFax Toll-Free lets you give your customers a toll-free number to call when sending you a fax (the basic eFax service requires a long-distance call).

eFax Plus allows you to send faxes using your favorite e-mail software. The service also can convert the faxes you receive to plain text -- handy if you want to personalize a document in a word processor for a client.

The fees are competitive, and if you need to send and receive faxes frequently while traveling, you might eFax more efficient and cost effective than trying to use the hotel fax machine.

For more information, visit the eFax Web site at www.efax.com.

APPLE LAWSUIT. Apple Computers appears to be serious about protecting the niche it created when it unveiled the futuristic-looking iMac computer.

The company announced recently it was filing a lawsuit against eMachines Inc., for illegally copying the iMac design for their own PC version, dubbed the eOne PC.

This is the second lawsuit Apple has filed as a move to protect the design of its hot-selling iMacs.

The eOne debuted early this month, and was priced several hundred dollars lower than the Apple iMac.

Apple filed a lawsuit in July against Future Power, a company that was posed to release an iMac knock-off called the E-Power PC.

In both cases, Apple seeks to block production of the models, as well as unspecified damages.

HOAX OF THE WEEK. If you received an e-mail warning about a bill in Congress that would establish a five-cent charge for e-mail messages, you aren't alone.

This e-mail has been making the rounds for months, according to the Urban Legends Reference Page.

The message sounds quite authentic, and details how the government is quietly trying to push through legislation -- "Bill 602P" -- that would permit a five-cent surcharge on every e-mail delievered.

This particular hoax had its beginnings in Canada, but quickly was adapted to the U.S., complete with a reference to a newspaper editorial that allegedly praised the idea of an e-mail surcharge. The hoax e-mail in some cases even includes a link to a congressional e-mail list.

The alleged editorial doesn't exist, nor does "Bill 602P." It's one of the many e-mails that help clog our system, and for many users like me, worry us to death until we figure out if it's real or a hoax.

So far, nearly every e-mail hoax I've received will contain one common phrase (though the wording will vary): "Send this e-mail to as many people as you can."

To find out more about e-mail hoaxes, visit the Urban Legend Reference Page at http://snopes.simplenet.com.

ONLINE BANKING NEWS. The Federal Reserve gave its OK last week to a rule that will allow consumers to receive their bank statements via e-mail or a Web site.

With more people using online banking, the move is a no-brainer. And banks see some big savings if they can use the Internet to offer legally required account information: no printing or mailing costs, for starters.

Customers would have to ask for and approve of online delivery of their account information, and state they had the required computer equipment to access the data.

With more and more banks offering some sort of online banking, the move is simply common sense.

Does your bank offer online banking? If it does, it's worth a try.

I used online banking for most of a year, and found it absolutely invaluable. If you aren't sure, check with a customer service representative. You may find out it's coming in the very near future.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to jbrooks@myoldkentuckyhome.com, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.

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