Holiday gifts from Bass International

You can't kid me. I know you're not working this week, even if you're reading this while in the office. I'm loafing around, too, and plan on keeping it up until after the first of the year. So spend some time listening to my radio station and playing around with the holiday time killers I found.

Listen to Bass Radio on LaLa

I put together a little over three hours of mostly piano jazz with some other favorites, like Miles Davis. I creatively named the station Straight Ahead Jazz . There are no commercials, and the music plays right from the site, so you don't need a media player.

You also don't need to register with LaLa; if you do, you become eligible for winning an iPod or Zen.

Unfortunately, I'm not eligible for much of anything, including any of the players, because I don't want it to look like I'm promoting the station. I'm doing it for altruistic reasons. Seriously. I love jazz and want to promote it. I'm also enjoying the CD trading on LaLa.

And if you don't like jazz, you can choose from some 400 other stations .

Must-have tool: WinSock XP Fix

Although more than 11,000 people have downloaded it already, I worry that you may have missed a tool you absolutely must have on your PC: WinSock XP Fix.

Some of you may be interested in the whys and wherefores, the technical details of Winsock problems. There's lots to read, especially if you're having trouble falling asleep. Start with an MVP tutorial, then move on to Microsoft's blazingly complicated explanation .

Stop IE7 from being the default

Internet Explorer 7 is annoying. I upgraded, even though I use Maxthon.

But IE7 insists, despite my protests, that it's the only browser I'm going to use when I click a link in my e-mail program. (Yes, I did try resetting it in Internet options, but IE has a mind of its own.)

The argument was settled with PC-Tools.net's SetBrowser , a freebie that just says no to IE -- by way of a Registry setting. You might want to keep a copy on your PC, just in case.

Program updates galore

I just discovered File Hippo , a nifty site that caters to those of us wanting to get the latest versions of our favorite applications. The page is spotless, with just the updated programs (including the version numbers) and one unobtrusive ad.

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Fabulous time wasters

Mike's Electric Stuff . This site is for very-hard-core geeks only. Think digital nixie tubes, photoelectric cells, and fun with plasma.

Mensa Test . Think you're quick mentally? Try this. It's a timed test and you have just 10 seconds to click on the answer. (Careful, there's sound.)

Magic Trick . A buddy of mine, George Siegel (he's now a member of the Hollywood Magic Castle and a magic aficionado) sent me this last week. It's a stunning variation on a very old technique. (For the magicians in the audience, think of the standard stage illusion that starts with the letter Z. Work through the magician's routine and it'll make sense.)

Christmas lights

Last year about this time I told you about an Astonishing Computerized Christmas Light Show. This year's entry is equally astonishing.

M&M's 50 Dark Movies

The site's spooky and the music's weird. The goal is to find the 50 movie titles hidden in visual riddles within the picture. [Thanks to Brent K. and his 68 buddies.]