There are hundreds of products out there. Some good. Some excellent. Some necessary. Some poor. Some harmful. I am good at what I do but I make no claims at knowing everything. Find your local expert for this. I wrote product and precision software for 35 years. Precision? Nothing is as precise as software that goes into phone systems. When you push the '9' key, you want a '9'. An '8' is not close enough -- and you sure do not want a '0'!
Back to business. I have listed some software products here. I think that my opinion of these is valuable. You may have different opinions.
I hate invasive software. I hate this concept of getting more
than you asked for or wanted in the first place. I understand
it. I understand the reason for the companies wanting to do it
but I hate it.
What am I talking about? For example, yesterday I got a prompt
for a new version of Adobe Reader. You know, the program, the
ONLY program, that reads .PDF files. Adobe Reader Version 8, on
its own volition, downloaded and installed this slide show
program, As far as I am concerned if Adobe makes it, I hate
it. Their programs are counter-intuitive, abysmally slow, and
crowd out other things. I have no idea why anyone would want a
.PDF file in the first place but somebody likes them as they are
popping up everywhere and I understand full support of the darn
things is included in Windows Vista. But after tolerating the
installation of Adobe Photo Shop Album Starter Edition, the darn thing
automatically inserted itself as the default operation on opening any
picture files. Installing yourself so that I can use you is one
thing. Installing yourself such that I must use you in place
of programs that have already proved themselves valuable is just plain
vulgar. I never uninstalled any program so fast in my life.
The other complaint I have is getting a collection of software when
I only wanted one. You can end up with the Google toolbar and
Weather bug and a whole bunch of other programs on your system when you
are not looking just because they come with a product you want.
This is sort like the Adobe problem but not exactly. The Adobe
things came together. These other programs are apparently
unrelated but grouped more or less for increased visibility. Do
not get me wrong here, I sort of like the gadgets of the Google
toolbar, They are sort of cute and I understand that Windows
Vista has its own gadgets. I think will shall be seeing a lot of
that word. I have my own toolbar with its own gadgets. But
when I want a toolbar, I shall ask for it.
Microsoft Streets and Trips. My opinion of this is long enough to have its own page!
System Protection Software is critical -- and these are as good as anything you can buy -- and are all free
Inbound FAX is good for those people
(like doctors) who do not like email.
In the rare event that your hard drive fails is corrupted, this Disk Recovery program is better than the store experts use.
Internet Explorer 7 is really bad -- do not
Firefox is a browser for everyone.
This malicious program cleans your registry like throwing the baby
with the bath water. All of the other free scans ran for 3 to 10
minutes scouring all sort of things and came up with fairly consistent
error findings. This program ran for about 15 seconds and came up
with some similar large error counts. The problem is that I have
whether or not it did anything useful. I am still recovering from
the damage -- and they offer no refunds.
For example, every folder on the screen linking to a directory was
removed. I keep many such links so that I do not have to go
searching for my files.
Ultimate Registry Cleaner cleaned my system tray up and removed the
little speaker ICON for adjusting volume. A few toggles in
control panel put it back but Ultimate Registry Cleaner had no business
removing useful and legitimate ICONs. My eFax ICON is still there
but it is blank -- I have to look for the blank space or move the
cursor down until eFax announces itself.
Ultimate Registry Cleaner also cleaned up a bunch of programs in the
startup process. I am still finding things that no longer load
automatically. My DVD43 encryption program was one of the ones
Ultimate Registry Cleaner also destroyed the registry database for
some of my programs. For example, ZoneAlarm lost its
database: all the programs had to be re-authorized.
Microsoft Word will not print to my printer; it just hangs up and I
have to abort it. It took a while but I got that fixed too.
Attempting to recover to the day I installed this malicious program
fails with the message saying no changes made and to attempt another
restore point. It says this to any restore point.
I wonder what the new blank entry in Control Panel is.
Maybe it is not new but when I click on it, nothing happens. So I
have either lost a function or it just inherited a blank entry.
Maybe the other cleanup programs would have caused the same damage
but I think that since they took much longer to scan the registry,
their analysis was probably in the ball park and not over the left
field fence like Ultimate Registry Cleaner.
In other words, buy something with a little guts and not just an off
the wall wannabee. Calls to support seem to be a means for you to
be their guinea pigs to improve their product. They could do
better by comparing their results to a real registry cleaner product.
After running the Ultimate Registry Cleaner with the above results,
I ran the RegCure product. It again ran for about 15 minutes and
again came up with about 1200 registry errors. So other than
causing a lot of damage, the Ultimate Registry Cleaner did not really
do any good. Maybe the "baby with the bath water" was not a good
analogy. Maybe "baby instead of the bath water" would have been
I had to try it and I got it at a really good price. Dragon is
speech-recognition software -- I think it is the best that there
This program ONLY inserts text into existing text pages. It does NOT give you any voice command or response capabilities for your computer. That costs another $2,000. In other words, you cannot tell your computer to start a new email and then insert what you say. You must manually open the email form, click on the text portion and then start talking. It will not tell you that you have email and then read it to you.
And control of your text is complicated. Getting it to correct
errors causes you more typing than if you typed the entire text
yourself -- and much more frustrating.
My recommendation is to wait for something substantially more useful
than this toy.
I received a disk with my camera. It has picture viewing and
editing software. This is normal as many people do not know how
to use the standard Windows software for doing these things. Some
legacy camera makers (i.e. Kodak) have interfaces that require you to
use their programs and not standard Windows options. But! I mean:
BUT!!! What came on the disk is a program called ACDSee. The
standard version may have installation options. I hope so because
the version that came with my camera is pernicious. It has
installed itself all over my system. I cannot open any menu
without seeing ACDSee there at the very top. Any graphics file
automatically loads ACDSee. I hate it. It is my computer
and I have tuned it to where I want it to be. When I add software
I hope to have some control over where it goes and how it is
used. ACDSee just installed itself everywhere. I always try
to say "I do not like being treated as stupid as you are". I, of
course, can never say this as people treat it as an insult. But
the idea is that some of us have more experience than others, some of
us really are smarter than others (it took me a long time to learn that
this is true) and of course there are different value systems. In
this context, if you give me software, give me menu choices as to how
much and in what context it is to be used. Do not presume that I
have the same values, knowledge, and intelligence as yourself and just
install your shitty software all over my system. Yours, OK.
Mine. No. It may not be fair but because the camera company made
a mistake, I will recommend against using ACDSee. This means that
hundreds of people in my classes this year will hear: ACDSee?: Never
under any condition."
Many “free” software products that you find on various web pages are only half free. For example, a registry cleanup program, Windows Registry Repair Program Pro, downloads, installs, and runs for free. It finds many registry errors and tells you about them. Great. But the next step is the zinger: if you want it to correct the problems, you must pay. This is NOT free.
I do not like paying high prices for software. I like free software but I am wary of it. Those that I recommend I have used for more than one year and have seen positive results in doing so.
I understand the need for McAfee and Norton to charge high
prices. They have high expenses and advertising costs. They
have neat little bubbles that pop up and down to let you know they are
working. This costs money. More money (high price) does not
mean better. A salesman with threats of disaster does not make it
There are plenty of Freeware and Shareware programs out there.
I used to like Shareware but not so much anymore -- they are mostly
like "free download" software.
Many free programs are developed by individuals trying to make the world a better place. Many of these individuals are on tight budgets. I have seen several good products lost because their authors could not afford to continue them. If a free program that you value asks for a donation, give them a donation! If you use it, donate something. Free things are not free to the people supporting them.
Note: I recommend any of these. Never use two Anti-Virus programs simultaneously. Never use two Firewalls at the same time. Using two of any system program can cause irregular results.
I suggest the following software to keep your system operational.
All of the programs listed here are really free: no special copies, just plain free.
Company: Zone Labs
is the premier firewall – around
for years before Microsoft even thought you needed one.
You can have it working transparently like the MS firewall or with
extensive options including information on attacks to your computer.
Warning: You need a firewall
if your are going wireless. This is not a choice. A
firewall is good if you are dial-up. Don't procrastinate -- use a
firewall. The Windows XP SP2 firewall is a minimum
firewall. It is good enough. If you really want to be
confident, use Zone Alarm. There is no better firewall than Zone
Product: AVG Anti-Virus
The Grisoft Anti-Virus
automatically downloads updates and
maintains itself in current operation. This is a corporate
anti-virus than is available for free for personal use.
Downside: This program schedules periodic file scans of
your entire system. If you have gigabytes of files as I do the
time spent on this is aggravating.
Warning: You need an
anti-virus. This is not an option. Either one listed here
Product: Avast Anti-Virus
The Avast Anti-Virus
automatically downloads updates and
maintains itself in current operation.
It claims to be the basic driver program for several of the
primary better known anti-virus programs. Unlike Grisoft, Avast
scans your total files once at installation and then periodically
scans new files. Both programs scan all emails.
Company: Patrick M. Kolla
Product: Spybot Search and Destroy
Description: This is rated one of the best anti-spy products.
Product: AVG Anti-Spy
have not tried this but since I like the AVG ANti-Virus, I am sure that
this is of the same high quality..
Warning: You need an anti-spyware. This is not an option. Here is the deal. If you are infected with a malicious spy, anything you type, including your account numbers and passwords are sent to someone else. It is highly unlikely that you will like the results. Spybot S&D is very good at finding spies on your system.
Company: Javacool Software LLC
Description: This software prevents various Activex Spy programs from being able to attach themselves to your system.
Note: You need both an anti-spy program and an anti-Spy ActiveX program.
Warning: You might
want this program. It keeps spies from attaching to your
system. Spybot S&D will eventually find them but
SpywareBlaster keeps them out in the first place..
Company: Yourware Solutions
Product: FreeRAM XP Pro
Improves Windows Memory Management. I find this handy but not
essential. If nothing else it makes me feel good.
Description: This ingenious program is invaluable for mobile people. There are pay-for options and free options. I use the free options.
Process: Go to the website and register. You will be assigned a FAX number somewhere in the USA. You really do not care where –– if where is important, you can pay for a number in your desired location. You need to tell eFax your email address among other information. When someone sends a FAX to your number, you receive it as an attachment to an email. You can then read or print it.
Why? Doctors and Financial advisors will not use email – but they will use FAX (do not tell them it is emailed).
There is also an outbound FAX option but it costs money. I use other services for outbound FAX.
Product: Outbound FAX. This is not a program but a website service that will Fax your files (and add a cover page).
Description: Like eFax this website is invaluable for mobile people. There are pay-for options and free options. I use the free options.
Process: Go to the website and register. You can send 2 free Faxes every day. You can send more if you want to pay for them (price is by Fax and is low). Or you can pay for every Fax and have their cover page (with advertisements) removed..
Why? Sometimes you just need to Fax.
When my malicious SONY not only cleared my hard drive, but also cleared my external backup drive, I went to Google and searched for "recover hard drive software". I got pages of companies which recovered hard drives and some software packages to do this. Since my professional life was devoted to software hardware drivers I went immediately to some of these sites. I downloaded three products:
The first 2 found nothing at all to recover except the new files -- which needed no recovery. The interfaces of the two products were virtually identical and could have been written by the same person. They did list several hundred of what I think were directory entries with unintelligible names with red 'X' through them. Cozy but useless.
The Quetek program ($40) was able to identify virtually the entire 65G of backup data. It took three days to identify the data and another week to recover my critical files -- but the Quetek program worked as advertised. It took three months to recover my picture files -- about 200,000 of them. I am totally impressed.
I am one of those people who have the highest respect for Bill
Gates, his charity, and his software. But Microsoft really blew
it with this new browser. Worse than that Bill Gates has gone on
TV and said that he has produced a new and better browser and that some
people are not wanting it. Now I have lost respect for him.
I cannot warn you strongly enough to NOT download IE7. If it
works, and that is a big if, it is very, very slow.: As you are
aware, I do computer consulting work for individual PCs. Until a
couple of weeks ago I saw zero PCs on which IE7 worked. Now they
are rolling in working -- but slow.
Last August, I started download Beta versions of this
software. They crashed my computers. When the official
release came, I tried that -- same results. When I saw others
with the same problems, I wrote this section.
If you do instal it, regardless of what the installation notes say.
it cannot be uninstalled. If you manage to uninstall it, it
leaves behind new network interface software that slows everything
down. In several cases, Windows Recovery refused to recover to
any date prior to the installation of IE7.
Friends who have gone to the Microsoft Help site were informed that
they could not uninstall it. The IE7 blogs are full of people
the same problem. My daughter tells me that it was on national
news to not install it. A month later Bill Gates went on TV.
If your IE ICON is a small 'e' with a BLUE halo, you still have IE6. You are still safe. To not install IE7:
You may have to repeat the last step ("Install Updates") periodically.
While we are on browsers, you might download Firefox (www.firefox.com). As far as I
can tell, Microsoft created IE7 to catch up to the things you get for
free from Firefox. The differences are that Firefox is faster, it
does not damage your computer software when you install it., and
you get a whole bunch of features that you soon cannot live without.
There are many of these popping up. To me, by far, the best is
Skype. One of the worst is Net2Phone (their FAX option lies about
confirmations and your destination may receive a totally black page).
Here is the concept: The Internet is a data transmission
process. Data Transmission was useful for intra-corporation
communications. The Internet was originated by the DOD as
ArpaNet. In the 1990's public usage of data networking and
the Internet exploded. The voice companies transmitting analog
(even digitized analog), got swept away (sort of like the Big 3 auto
makers by the Japanese) because they could not see past their paradigm
and their profit margins.
In any case, recently the data transmission protocol (TCP/IP) was modified to
carry a priority flag (voice needs priority) and Voice Over IP was
invented. At first it was choppy but as transmission speeds
improved, VoIP got better. No one will say it is perfect but it is
effectively free. You can call anywhere that there is an Internet
connection through the normal Internet.
What costs you is the service (Net2Phone, Crystal Voice, and Skype, etc.) that you use to translate what you say
into a microphone into data to be sent up the line. Yahoo,
MSN, AOL, and Google are getting into the act. I like Skype
because they encrypt all of their messages and it works better than
some others. Skype also has many free calling options.
I like this site for their news. Any attempt on either of my computers to see their movie clips causes my browser to hang. I have sent multiple support requests to them. No reply. No nothing. Their news is centrist and a little more "balanced" than I like.
I like this for their news. The format is ok, not as "pretty" as msnbc.com but the news clips work just fine.
Don't get me started. This is nothing more than full time adds
for the the Bush Crime Family.
This used to be a good news site. I liked their configurable
content and format abilities. But they abandoned this in favor of
more glamour and loss of content. For example, previously they
had a currency convertor section. You could specify which
currencies you wanted to watch. This is gone. Instead they
contracted with a French company to provide a canned set of
conversions. You can no longer watch currencies unless you want
to interrogate them individually each time you visit the site.
This means I can no longer watch the Mexican Peso conversion although I
can watch the Japanese Yen. Maybe the French at Yahoo want to
watch the Yen. Mostly I want to watch the currencies that I must
deal with -- and Yahoo no longer provides that. As of this week,
there is no Yahoo choice so I shall stop using Yahoo.
Windows Vista is not as bad as you have heard: IT IS FAR WORSE!
Software written for XP will not work and your only resolution will be to by a new product version.
One difference is a small change in how program addresses are
stored. Under XP, Windows stored directory addresses missing the
final backslash. Under Vista, these same directory entries
include the terminal backslash. The problem is that to reference
a file in that directory, the program needs to have the
backslash. Without the backslash, a program looking at the saved
entry does not know if the entry is a file or a directory. The
problem is that Windows in all versions should have saved the final
backslash. Adding this in Vista makes all program products that
worked under XP (and inserted their own backslash) to fail under Vista
(as the full address now has a double backslash). Vista could
have treated the double backslash as a single backslash and solved the
problem for everyone.
Real memory here, folks. Not disk drive size. The price
of each of these has dropped so fat that not only is more better but it
may be all you can get. In the 1980's and 1990's disk drives went
from a maximum of 32M to Terabytes. In 1993 you could buy a 500M
disk drive (with extra drivers) for $500. Amazing to those of us
who grew up on IBM mainframes. Now you can not even find one that small
and can buy a 1 or 2 Terabyte drive for about $180.
But you will need many Gigabytes as the Windows interface for
program products is clumsy and needs very large software modules to
operate. People call it "bloatware".
But the Vista problem is real memory called RAM. Under XP, few
users needed any more memory than 500M. In fact additional above 500M
could actually slow you down. Under Vista you start with 8 times this
much and go up from there. In other words buy 4 GB of RAM with
your Vista computer. HP sold me my laptop with 1 GB although the
Costco page advertised it as having 2 GB. When I complained, HP
support offered to sell me the missing 1 GB. I bought the 4 GB
elsewhere. Why? WIth only 1 GB, Vista on my laptop took
over 30 minutes just to power up as it copied programs and drivers to
page space. Every time it powered up. With 4 GB it only
takes 5 minutes. Currently I am only running this HTML editor and
my Vista performance meter indicates that I am using 40% of that 4
GB. 40%!!! That is 1600M. More than 3 times what XP used while
executing everything but the kitchen sink.
I grew up on computers that measured memory in Kilobytes. I
cannot even envision what you would have to do to use up 1
gigabyte. And I need 4 Gigabytes. RAM may be cheap now (buy
it while the price is down) but 4 GB (And maybe 8 would be better?)
Here Vista did it right but only if you have "Dreamworks".
Here is the deal. You can have a blank background (called
"Wallpaper"). Wherever you do not have your program active in a
Window, and there are no Windows ICONs, the screen is "painted" with a
background color -- which you can specify.
Which color you choose makes no difference to speed or memory requirements and you must have at least a chosen color for Wallpaper. Repainting happens every time you open or close or move a window. It is a simple operation: move to each video location (pixel) a value representing that color. Pretty fast as these things go.
You can have a centered picture for your Wallpaper. Windows
loads the picture into its memory space (RAM) and where that
picture exists on the screen, the corresponding color value from the
picture is moved to the video pixel. Where your picture does not
cover, your background color is painted as if you had no picture.
You can have a tiled picture so that multiple copies of your picture
are displayed with no sign of your background color. This is also
fairly rapid as Windows just translates each pixel to be repainted
against your picture. A simple multiply for each of the
vertical and horizontal painted locations. This is true whether
you have a small brick making thousands of bricks on the screen or a
picture of your kids displayed 4 times. Not a problem.
But Centered or Tiled changes as you increase your screen pixel
density: the pictures appear smaller and smaller. People do not
like this. The easiest solution is to take a picture editor and
enlarge the picture to the size of your screen.
But "stretch" is a different problem and Windows likes to prefer
stretch. Why prefer? They can take a generic picture and make it
cover your entire screen regardless of your screen size or screen shape
or pixel density. This is great for them but the cost to you is
really, really high. For each pixel on the screen to be
repainted, that pixel must be translated into the original picture and
moved to the screen memory. Remember. For no picture, just a
color move was needed. For a centered picture, a choice of
background color or an exact location within the picture is needed. For
a tiled picture, a simple move from a virtual grid of the same picture
is needed. But Stretch must translate every pixel to be repainted
against a picture of a different size and shape. This is at least
8 times as much effort as any of the other backgrounds -- and for each
repainted pixel. For the entire screen this is from 500,000 to 4
million pixels! Unless you have a very, very fast processor and
memory card this is so slow that you can watch it happen.
In other words without the Vista "Dreamworks" option and on any
previous version of Windows (including XP), treat the "stretch" option
for Windows background with the same respect as you would a black widow
spider. Removing stretch is an instant 10% improvement in your
But here is where Vista did it right. When you specify
"stretch" or "full window" (new), Windows makes a copy of your picture
and saves it. This copy is exactly the same number of pixels as
your screen both high and wide. This picture is then used in place of
your original and is treated as a centered picture. Fast -- and
you never see what they did -- unless you are like me and play with the
I cannot tell you what Microsoft did here but most devices need a
Vista-specific driver which will also, probably, work under XP.
You can imagine why: either decreased tolerance of sloppy interface or
additional status requirements. In any case I just returned a printer
that came with an XP driver disk. I went online and installed
their Vista driver download. Their drivers were so bad that I
just gave up and returned the printer. Here the Vista customer
and the Vista developer both lose.
Under DOS and WIndows, a file directory entry included a byte for
protection status. This included; HIdden, Read-Only, System, and
Archive attributes. Window NT (read: Windows XP) added
security levels similar to UNIX. That is, each file and directory
has a grid of permissions. This grid includes users and
operations. For example, only user group Beta can both read and
modify the file. Any one from Group Alpha may read the
file. Only George can delete the file.
Under Vista, this permission grid is so complex that it is possible
to create a file and never see it again and never know where it
went. For example, I download a group of picture files from a
news group onto a set of directories on an external hard drive that I
originally used under XP. Vista will not permit me to copy these
files from their download directory to a directory that it did
not create. You can waste many ours attempting to generate
matching or compatible permission attributes for these files.
The Windows Explorer will lie to you about these permissions.
For example, you can display a directory and get a little green box
next to a status line. This indicates that some of the entries
are "Marked" If the box is clear, none are marked. If the
box is checked, all are marked you may tell Windows Explorer to remove
all of the marks or ad all of the marks and will it proceed to display
pretty ICON pretending that it is doing something useful. It may
do this for hours. When it is finished you will find that nothing
has changed and the little green box will reappear. The same is
true if you go into the Security dialog and attempt to update the
security grid. This feature would not be a bad thing if explained
carefully to the novice and it worked properly. With no
explanation and not working, I have done my best to remove all
permission from all files and all directories that I can find.
It's coming. Windows Vista will become the 21st century
Windows ME. But. Window 7 is built upon WIndows
Vista. Why not? Supposedly Microsoft has heard the crying
and weeping of its customers and made WIndows 7 more friendly. In
truth I suspect that what they have done is given the software vendors
a couple of years to get used to Windows Vista. Time to make
their own products more compliant with Vista while acting to make the
customer interface more like XP. The Vista interface may go back
to working like XP (maybe) but it still uses the Vista software and the
only help you get will not be from Microsoft but software and hardware
vendors that want to sell you their stuff regardless of how high
Microsoft makes them jump. Given a choice I would keep XP until
Windows 7 Service Pack 1 is released. And certainly buy no
version of software that says Vista compliant or you will need to buy
another copy when you go to Windows 7.