MCPL Tech Notes

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The Trouble With “Trial Versions”

You’ve entered into a local big box retailer planning to purchase a new desktop computer. A salesperson greets you and shows you a particular model that would be “perfect” for your needs. It’s got a fast processor, lots of RAM and comes equipped with Microsoft Word and Norton’s Anti-Virus … or does it?

A closer inspection of the sticker beside the computer reveals that it does indeed have a fast process and lots of RAM; however, the versions of Microsoft Word and Norton’s Anti-Virus are merely 30-day trial versions. At the end of the trial period, you’ll either be permitted to use a crippled version of the software or cut off all together. Despite the situation you find yourself in, you will likely be constantly pestered to buy the full version of the product. You decide to keep shopping.

Sadly, the scenario I’ve just described happens a lot without the closer inspection of the sticker. Many times a new computer owner won’t discover they’ve got a “trial version” until after setting the computer up in their home. It’s a problem that really needs addressing at the retail level.

When shopping for a new PC and need a particular program, be sure to ask questions. It’s also good to examine the sticker closely before making the purchase.

If you’ve already been bitten by the “trial version” problem, below you’ll find a list of free/low-cost alternatives for various types of programs.

1. Open Office
• Quality suite of office programs that has a word processor, spreadsheet maker, and much more. You can actually work on the same document within Open Office and Microsoft Office if you save in the Office file formats.

2. AVG Anti-Virus
• AVG has both a paid and free version of their anti-virus. If you’re a home user, there’s no need to buy the full version unless you want a few of the extra features. You’ll never be asked to pay a subscription fee.

3. Microsoft Security Essentials
• A free anti-virus/anti-spyware tool from Microsoft that is surprisingly robust. Both this and the aforementioned AVG offer a strong level of protection that will tax your system much less than Norton’s Anti-virus.

4. Paint.Net
• Paint.Net is an easy-to-use photo editor that offers multiple layer editing and lots of color tools. It’s not as complex as Photoshop, but it also isn’t $600.

5. Audacity
• A two-track audio editor perfect for those wishing to dip their feet into the pool of podcasting. While it’s great for beginners, veteran audio people will likely get a little frustrated with its lack of features.

If you have any other suggestions for free alternatives to expensive programs, please share them in the comments. Thanks.

NOTE: Some computer ship “Starter” versions of Microsoft Word and Excel 2010 (no download available). These aren’t trials, but stripped down, ad-supported editions of the full programs. I’ve had lots of experience with Microsoft Word Starter 2010 and have ran into no problems whatsoever. The only annoyance is that a small advertisement appears in a toolbar in the lower right-hand side.

Filed under: Advice

Test Drive Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9

Internet Explorer hasn’t had the best reputation amongst the tech savvy for quite a while. Those that hate the product often cite its security, speed and penchant for crashing as its main problems. While it’s true that earlier versions of the browser were quite problematic (if you’re using IE6, an immediate upgrade is suggested), its last two iterations were actually quite good. Sadly, though, IE’s dogged reputation prevented the aforementioned tech savvy from giving it another chance.

A few months ago, Microsoft released a public beta of Internet Explorer 9 to see how it functions in everyday use, which I’ve been using for a short amount of time. My experiences so far have been great! The interface is very clean (think Google Chrome) and things load much more quickly. No security concerns have arisen since the install.

If you have Windows Vista or 7 (XP won’t be getting IE9), you may try out the Internet Explorer 9 beta by clicking here. Remember, this is an early (but almost ready for release) version so you may suffer an occasional problem. If that last sentence made you cringe, I’d suggest waiting for the full release.

Filed under: News

June, July Tutoring Sessions Available at Harbin Memorial

We will be handling the computer classes a bit differently in the months of June and July. In lieu of having an occasional full class, we’re switching to one-on-one tutoring sessions only.

We will be offering sessions on most Wednesdays at Harbin Memorial during the months mentioned. Almost every third week, there will be a night session beginning at 6:00 PM. If you’re interested in additional information or would like to sign up, please call 338-4760.

Filed under: Library News

Commonwealth Office of Technology Conducting Broadband Survey

The library received an email recently letting us know that the Commonwealth Office of Technology is currently mapping and verifying broadband access in Kentucky. This, according to the email, is step one in their plan to increase the availability of high speed internet across the state.

Click here to participate in the Public Broadband Survey.

Filed under: News

Typosquatting Defined

Typosquatting is the act of purchasing a domain close to an existing one (i.e. Ebbay.com in lieu of Ebay.com) and linking it to a page of advertisements and links. The people that perform this act hope to lure folks that frequently make typos to their site and earn revenue from the aforementioned advertisements and links. These type of pages can contain malicious software, however, there usually just attempts to earn revenue.

If you’re ever presented with a page full of useless links instead of what you were looking for when trying to visit a new site, be sure to double check your address.

Filed under: Advice, Tech Term

Chuck Norris Malware Sweeping Across the Web

If you use default manufacturer login and passwords for your computer equipment, be warned. There’s a nasty bit of malware circulating across the internet called “Chuck Norris” taking advantage of folks who never adopt unique passwords for their routers and DSL modems. The malware, dubbed Chuck Norris due to a comment relating to the actor appearing within the code, attempts to guess default modem/router passwords when it comes in contact with your computer. Should it be successful, it will add your computer to something called a botnet, which is a network of infected computers the person responsible for the malware could command to do his or her bidding.

So, if your administrator login is ADMIN and your password is PASSWORD, be sure to change them while you can. Make them something unusual and memorable!

Filed under: Advice

Google to Test Fiber Optic Internet Access in the US

Google recently announced plans to begin testing fiber-to-the-home internet service across the country. For those unfamiliar, fiber-to-the-home is an incredibly fast way of accessing the internet (100 + times faster than average speeds) via fiber optic cables. Fiber service is available in bigger cities; however, most rural areas have been ignored.

Currently, Google is accepting nominations for communities to begin testing the fiber service in. So, if you’re interested in seeing something like this come to the area, visit this link, click get involved, and fill out the application.

Here’s a video provided by Google on their plans:

Filed under: News

One-on-One Computer Training in January

I’m making it a New Year’s Resolution to update Tech Notes more often. I apologize for the amount of time it has been since my last entry.

Below you’ll find a list of the remainder of our January One-on-One sessions. If you see one you’d like to sign up for, call us at 338-4760.

Tuesday, January 19 9:30 am or 2:30 pm @ CC Computer Training
Thursday, January 21 9:30 am or 2:30 pm @ HM Computer Training

These dates are first come, first serve. Call now if interested. Thanks.

Filed under: Library News

Free File: Recuva

My Windows desktop is often cluttered with icons and files. In the past, I’ve occasionally deleted things I needed and not realized it until after emptying the recycle bin. If this has happened to you in the past, I have a free file to recommend that you’re going to love.

Recuva, by Priform, makers of the most-excellent CCleaner, is a program made to recover files you’ve accidentally deleted from your hard drive of USB flash drive. During our recent Summer Reading Program at the library I accidentally erased an audio file I’d been working on with the kids. Not too long after the incident, I installed Recuva and it managed to recover all but 15 seconds of the audio. It found two Word documents I needed as well.

As with Priform’s other products, Recuva is a completely free download. You may acquire it via Recuva.com. Should you have any questions on how to use the program, feel free to comment on this post.

Filed under: Free File

Windows 7 Pre-order Now Live

Microsoft hopes to win back the countless number of folks it lost due to displeasure with Windows Vista with the next version of their operating system, Windows 7. It doesn’t release until October, but you may currently pre-order the upgrade and save around $79.99. The upgrade works if you have either Windows XP or Windows Vista.

Click here for an article from Microsoft about the pre-order and how to take advantage of it.

Filed under: News

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