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COMPUTERS : Hometime Puts Pros' Advice at Your Fingertips


Some people are born convinced they know how to use hand tools around the house--which must be what keeps so many home repair firms and insurance estimators in business.

My own untutored adventures have included water spouting from steam radiators triggered by a wrong furnace valve, electrifying dishwasher controls caused by a wrong wire and collapsible door frames due to choosing the wrong design. Most of these episodes began with my wife observing that I didn't know what I was doing and ended with results confirming her opinion.

There's a better way if you have a multimedia-ready PC. It's called Hometime Weekend Home Projects (IVI Publishing, $45).

Weekend Home Projects features home improvement expert Dean Johnson, who appears on public television's "Hometime." Using a point-and-click interface running under Windows enables you to call up more than 60 minutes of how-to videos, as well as written materials.

The videos are the soul of the program--it's easier to observe someone doing the program than it is to decipher a written explanation. You can freeze, fast-forward or reverse the frame. But there's a lot more that may save a project (and a marriage).

Where appropriate, the software will allow you to generate shopping lists and time frames from dimensions you've entered. That should greatly ease two of the most common woes of the fledgling do-it-yourselfer: wrong or insufficient materials and wildly optimistic time estimates.

There is also a notebook that allows a user to enter text and print or save it.

Areas covered in the program include plumbing, ceramic tile, electricity, framing, drywall, building a deck, paints and stains, windows, doors and trim, wallpaper and flooring.

The software also walks you through a list of basic hand and power tools and steers you to suppliers for materials of all kinds.

Although thorough, there's a lighthearted tone to the advice.

Installation and use are easy, but Weekend Home Projects wants to see some serious multimedia PC muscle: a 486SX running at 25 megahertz or better PC, eight megabytes of RAM, double-speed CD-ROM drive, 256-color VGA monitor, Windows 3.1 or later, MS-DOS 5.0 or later, a 100% Sound Blaster compatible 16-bit audio card and an accelerated right-bit video card. It includes QuickTime 1.1 Windows video viewer with the software.

Hometime Weekend Home Projects is available in software outlets.

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