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or better yet - Free

I am a disgruntled Windows victim midway through a complete transition to Linux, or any OS that actually works!
Russell Albach

Time again for our annual roundup of applications referred to as Shareware, or Freeware. Freeware is just that, free. Authors develop applications or tools that they create usually for themselves, that occasionally rival similar packages from the major companies. Some charge small fees for the application, and others give it away. The ones that require payment, but allow limited trial use are called shareware, and you are expected to pay after a tryout.

How about a screen saver that is actually fun and entertaining? Try SereneScreen Aquarium. This is the most realistic appearing aquarium I have seen on a computer. The details in this thing are awesome, from the sand to the air bubbles. The air bubbles even have sound to go with them, and are actually soothing to listen to. Fish appear from behind rocks and look like real fish. I need to mention that the faster your computer, the more realistic they appear. If you have an older, slow machine, they appear somewhat lethargic. (Must be government fish). You can get something like an update that creates more, and varied sea creatures. Normally I do not run a screen saver, but simply have the monitor power down. I have so much fun with this one, I leave the monitor on and let the aquarium do itís thing. This one actually helps to relax, and I have started running it in a separate window on the desktop while I work. Recommended. It is shareware.
Created by Jim Sachs.
Cost: $21.95. 

If you read the articles by Dale Swofford in the PC Alamode, you already know about Clone CD by Elaborate Bytes. This is my favorite for making back up CDs. I know about the issues concerning copying a CD you did not buy. The legal issue of making an archival copy of software you bought I believe has been settled, and I have a right to do so. I have damaged floppies, zip disks, tapes, and CDs by various means, such as heat, rolling my desk chair over them, stepping on them, well, you get the idea. Having my own copy saved me from buying the same program twice. Some of the publishers have attempted to prevent piracy through trick manufacturing, or programming code. The only thing they have accomplished is to make disks that do not always work on all machines. So far, I have been able to copy my disks with Clone CD, where my other CD software will not read some of the CDs. For creating data back up CDs, there are better choices, but for duping, Clone CD is the best I have tried. CloneCD 4 by Elaborate Bytes is the ideal CD copy program to make backups of your Music and Data CDs. It writes in RAW mode, allowing full control of the written data. CloneCD 4 produces real 1:1 copies of your CDs. CloneCD 4 works with almost all CD Writers, is rock-solid and very fast. CloneCD 4 does not need an ASPI driver. You use a simple GUI, icon menu to select the function. 
Cost: $33.29.

File Split Pro is a neat little tool I use to send large files through e-mail. Most e-mail accounts have restrictive space limitations, and usually this is not a problem. If you receive a lot of mail and do not keep your box emptied, it can fill up pretty quickly, especially if you receive large data files that are larger than the space limit. A simple solution is to split the files up into pieces you know fit. There are other applications that can accomplish this, among them is PKzip, one of my all time useful tools. I even bought the full, registered version, and stopped using the really old one I had started with. The problem with it is it is not all that easy to use for splitting files. File Split Pro breaks up files into sizes from 256K to multiple megabytes. You start the application, select the size file segments, method of assembly, the file you want to split, where to store it, and hit split. I send the pieces as e-mail attachments and the recipient simply runs an assembly batch file. You do it through a GUI, so you simply point and click. 
Cost: $15.00. 

WinImage is a tool I found while setting up a LRP (Linux Router Project) box. I had a need for an application that could read and manipulate image files. ďWinImage is a powerful disk utility that enables users to make a disk image from a floppy, extract files from image, make an empty image, put the image on blank disk, etc... WinImage also supports many different standard and non-standard formats, including Microsoft DMF format. WinImage is an ASP shareware program. WinImage has many cool features: make a disk image from a floppy; extract file(s) from an image; create empty disks; inject files and directories into an image; change an image format; defragment an image; support for non-standard formats (DMF, 1.68MB...); powerful "Batch assistant" mode that lets you automate many operations. WinImage uses a modern, cutting edge Windows interface, and is available for Windows 3.1x, Windows 95, and Windows NT in English, French, German, Italian, Portugese and Spanish. WinImage is available on Intel x86, Dec Alpha, Mips R4000, PowerPC platforms for Windows NT. WinImage is shareware. You can evaluate it for a period of 30 days. After 30 days, if you are using WinImage, you need to registerĒ. The image files I worked with to make the LRP needed to be modified by both altering some files, and replacing/inserting other files. WinImage allowed me to do this in a fast, easy manner. 
Price: $30.00. 

My favorite MP3 player is still Winamp. It is flexible, easy to use, has terrific skins, and is FREE. I like to listen to music, or old radio shows from the 1940s, and 1950s, like Life of Riley, Our Mis Brooks, The Whistler, etc., while I work. Winamp does everything I want, and does it without fuss. Be sure to try the various types of plugins found at the Winamp web site. Some of them can radically alter the sound of a song. When you set the preferences, select DSP effect, and then get plugins. Download them, run to install, and then go back into the preference/DSP effects menu. Click on the plugin, and then configure. Also be sure during the Winamp installation to select the item that tell Winamp to maintain itís settings even when another application attempts to reset the default player (Media Player). 

For those of you who use Internet Explorer, how about a search engine menu located on your computer, in your browser? You can get a neat tool that makes it easier to search direct from your machine simply by electing a toolbar docked onto the bottom of your browser toolbar/menu. You go to Google, and the installation is run from Google. It creates the tool without you having to do anything. Be aware however, of a possible privacy issue. Google does a good job of explaining this in detail, and I urge you to read it carefully. It concerns information obtained by the use of this toolbar as you use it. You CAN disable this feature and Google tells you how. If you opt out of this feature, you cannot use all of the features available in the tool. The small loss is not particularly significant, so donít worry about it. Just disable that feature and enjoy the new search toolbar on your browser. Free for IE users at  Google . Just click on the Jobs and cool stuff link, and then look on the lower left of the next screen that pops up.

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