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Freeware And Shareware

Bill Klutz does consulting work, primarily in the areas of Management and Computer Applications/Hardware/Software. 

There is Freeware (software you download and keep for free), Shareware (software you try for free and keep for a fee), Disasterware (my term for programs you thought were going to do one thing, but, because of inherent design deficiencies, cause your operating system to struggle, or frequently crash, block out other programs from functioning correctly, have hidden agendas — information gathering, frequent pop-up ads to block portions of your screen, and generally make work for you as you try to get rid of them), and Userware (my term for programs that are free, shared, and often require no downloading or a small program to access them online). We use these programs everyday, when we access the Internet, but don’t really give them the notice we should. 

Let me cover a few, and perhaps give you some new and useful information. Hope one or more of these will prove to be helpful.  

Search Engine Sleeper
There is Yahoo, Google, Altavista, and lots of other good search engines already, so why check out an obscure new contender like ILor? For starters, it's built on top of Google, so you get the same excellent search results that you get at Google's site. But ILor gives you four new options for viewing the results. Just place your cursor over a link on the results page, and you can add the link to a custom list. You can view the list later, if necessary (great, if you're searching several topics and want to track all relevant results). You can even e-mail the list it to a friend. You can also open any link in a new window (and avoid having to hit the Back to return to your results); open the link in a minimized window that's out of the way until you need it; or anchor your results page (this puts a link to the page in a small window so you can dig deeply into a site and then return to your results with a single click). There are other things you will probably like as you use the search engine. The tools are so useful you'll probably wonder why Google didn't think of them first and offer them now.
Uncle of Search Engines. 
If a butler named Jeeves can have his own search site (Ask Jeeves), then why not Uncle Sam? Billed as a "one-stop shop" for government information, FirstGov can link visitors to any of more than 47 million pages across all three branches of the federal government. You can track your Social Security earnings, apply for a student loan, download needed government forms, look up consumer product recalls, or find out what the FDA has to say about herbal health remedies. A tutorial, primarily for new users, can help you navigate the site. 

Warning:  Government sites are notorious as prime targets for hackers, so give careful thought to supplying sensitive data online, such as your Social Security number.

Headline News. 
If you suffer from information overload, you might consider Infogate. I think the utility program and service are terrific. They can cut through the mass of news on the Net to zero in on stories you want to read. The 790KB Infogate download produces a toolbar with a live feed of headlines (which are updated as long as you're connected to the Internet) categorized by topics you can control. Click the Personalization button and type keywords to get breaking news from sources like CNN and Reuters. You can also set the toolbar to alert you when the latest information is available (e.g., NCAA tournament scores, NBA playoff scores, World Cup Soccer scores) come in. To read full stories, just click on a headline while you're online, and a window will open with links to the stories. The program also has a "follow me" feature to send information to some cell phones and/or pagers. (But, wouldn’t that be the same information overload you are trying to get away from?)

Spying Software.
Your latest fantastic free download covers your screen with pop up ads. Could the program contain spyware? (Generally, ad-supported software that deposits a tracking tool on your hard drive to collect data about you and your surfing habits for advertisers. Not all ad-supported software contains spyware, and most ad companies say the data they collect isn’t matched to your identity.) Spychecker can help you find out and let you decide what to tolerate. At the Spychecker site, type in the name of the program you are considering for a download, and Spychecker will tell you whether that program contains a known spy. The site also supplies the name of the advertiser behind the spyware, as well as a link to the company’s privacy policy. To see whether your PC is already infected with spyware, you can use a program like Ad-aware, a free 833KB utility that detects and eliminates the most commonly used spyware. Good Hunting!

Where’ the Manual?
If you can’t find the manual to your brand name stereo, cell phone, etc., LiveManuals has manufacturer product guides with diagrams for a bevy of goods (coffee makers, video conferencing equipment, digital cameras, printers, fax machines etc. Sorry, but you won't find PCs.), as well as warranty and support information. You will, however, need to download the LivePlayer plug-in to view the manuals. Then you can view the manuals in your browser, and can print out the pages you need. If you can't figure out how to operate the product after reading the manual, you can view a tutorial with audio. You can also open a product portfolio that lets you store a list of products you own, to help you track when your warranties are due to expire. (You have to supply your address, too, so if you opt to use the service, let's hope that the database is well protected against hackers.)

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