Instead of highlighting key paragraphs in library books, the chubby IRISPen Express lets you scan each line and sends the text directly...

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Instead of highlighting key paragraphs in library books, the chubby IRISPen Express lets you scan each line and sends the text directly to your computer. No more mistyping or defacing of public property — ideally.

The 5-inch long IRISPen (, $130) looks like a stun gun. Press the tip on paper, and the lime-green glow of the scanner flickers on. The pen scanner has a 6-foot USB cable to connect it to a computer.

To work properly, the product warns that software must be installed first. But slide the CD in, and you end up installing Microsoft Word (huh?). After plugging the pen scanner into the USB port, it found the right software.

The pen has two buttons that trigger four actions. You can choose from a dozen shortcuts. I chose Enter, Tab, Space and Left.

A few other tweaks — setting it to recognize all characters between the first and last space — and I was good to go.

My first scan of Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics looked like this: “A robot not Ir\/urc cJ human being.”

The box claims that IRISPen recognizes 1,000 characters per second. Whatever. After a few more scans and at a rate of one letter per second, it worked: “A robot may not injure a human being.”

Scanning a Web address wasn’t so simple. Even slowly, the address appeared with extra spaces or gibberish. I used my keyboard to clean it up, but if that is always the case, what’s the point?

Too bad one of the shortcut keys on the pen scanner isn’t “start over.”

(Reading the instructions offers tips on improving the scanning of text, numbers and different backgrounds. The $200 executive version also scans multiple lines, bar codes and dot-matrix print.)

But can you imagine scanning in a whole page of text? I can type faster. Plus think of the potential wrist pain from holding the pen scanner upright for so long.

I’m a fan of the company’s business-card reader, which scans business cards and plops the information in a convenient address book. But a pen scanner?

IRIS needs to add memory and battery power so at least you can take it on the road without dragging a computer along. Besides, scanning in one line at a time is tedious.




Puppies. They wriggle, wag and romp, and the next thing you know, they’ve wormed their way into your heart and your Nintendo.

“Nintendogs” is a puppy-ownership simulation for the Nintendo DS system. The game comes in three versions: “Lab & Friends,” “Chihuahua & Friends” and “Dachshund & Friends.”

In each, there are six different breeds initially, but further play will unlock all the other breeds available in the other versions. These puppies never age but they can be trained.

Players select a puppy from a group of frolicking dogs at the kennel. The puppies vary in looks, personality and gender but all are adorable.

Once you select a puppy, it goes home with you. Then the real fun begins.

Your Nintendog will run to the screen to pay attention to you whenever you tap the touch-sensitive screen.

You can train your puppy by repeating voice commands into the microphone. Your bundle of energy can learn to sit or roll over — up to 14 tricks in all.

You bond with your puppy by petting it with your DS Stylus and playing games using balls or discs.

You should feed and water your puppy several times a day and take it on walks. If you neglect your dog, it will not die; but it may wander away and forget all its training.

Owning a Nintendog costs money. You start with $1,000, which is enough to purchase a dog and care for it for a while.

But if you want to acquire additional puppies, you will need to compete in dog competitions to earn more money.

The game has a special Bark mode that allows you to play with other Nintendogs if they come within 100 feet.

Parents, be forewarned that these puppies are so endearing that your children are likely to put pressure on you to get a real dog.

For families where real dog ownership isn’t desired or possible, “Nintendogs” is a great way of experiencing some of the pleasures of owning a puppy.

— Jinny Gudmundsen

Gannett News Service