FAVORITE FREEWARE YOU CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT!
by Paul Verizzo
Update 2005: This is getting a bit long in the tooth. I'm not sure if some programs work with current OS's or subject programs like AOL. Most of them have been incorporated into later (post Windows 98 OS's.) Even Atom Time has an equivalent in XP! In fact, I'm just going to leave this up because I'm too lazy to reroute my hyperlinks and take it off!
Definite Addition: Irfanview, an incredible graphics and media program. Small, clean, fast!
I guess that's a bit of an exaggeration, but most of these programs have become an essential part of my computer life. Some correct problems with the way Windows does things, some are an nice add-on to make things easier. Interestingly, most of them do things that the Evil Force (Microsoft) should have done to begin with, either by common sense or recognizing operational defects. A program that does a good job isn't always easy to use or may have irritating habits, but most of these do a great job AND are easy to live with.
Almost everything here is freeware. A few authors ask for a gift, and not necessarily money. Is it worth a postcard to Finland for a guy's hard work and generous contribution to the computer community? I think so. (As to "guys", no offense to female programmers, but I recall that all of these authors are male. In fact, I've only ever seen one free/shareware product by a woman!) If you experience dead links for downloads, please let me know and I'll find another.
(My favorite favorites are noted by red **'s)
Here are the programs and what they do:
AOL ANTI-TIMER: If you have AOL, you need this! A "ponger" that keeps you connected and eliminates those irritating "You've been on line WAY too long and we're going to kick you off unceremoniously if you don't respond to this message instantly!" You can set it to let you get kicked off at a specific time. It will also count how many messages were ignored, and if you are really cynical, can set a "Nah dee dah" thumb nosing audio to activate. Anti-Timer is useful if a big download will take 2 hours, for instance. Set it, go to bed, AOL will disconnect after the time you set.
A True Story!
If you aren't on AOL, use CONNECTION KEEPER. It's not as sophisticated, but it does the job.
RAM BOOST: At first blush, it sounds like one of the RAM compressions programs that were popular when RAM was so expensive, but it's not. This gem does the same work as a shareware I almost paid $25 for. Set your minimum ram and how much you want to regain when you hit that minimum, and it does it automatically. For instance, you have 96 megs ram. Set minimum at 10 megs, desired amount 48 megs. Anytime your RAM drops below 10, RAM Boost automatically will try to boost it back up to 48 by clearing out junk data to your hard drive. (Hint: There is a default setting of RAM Boost only working when the CPU is running at 25% capacity or less. I have it at 100% and have not experienced problems. Experiment.) If you choose, it will flash a little "Optimizing" note whenever it any is at work.
**CACHEMAN**: As in Cache Manager. The function Microsoft forgot. This is a beaut; it will reduce crashes and speed up everything when there is lots of data flying back and forth. It does so by not letting the Windows cache hog all of your memory. There are pre-determined selections for both 95 and 98 users, broken down by activity: CD burning, games, etc. Or use default, or choose your own settings. The following isn't real clear within the program. Cacheman does not run continously. Open it up from "Programs", change your settings, and reboot. Cacheman: Use it!
CAPTURE EXPRESS 2000: Called a "Screen shot" program, but that name is already taken. Back in the Dark Ages of DOS, you could push that button labeled "Print Screen" and pretty soon, your printer would make a copy of the screen. Well, sort of. You can still do it by sending Print Screening to your Clipboard, open Paint, Paste from Clipboard, then print from there. Whew! Or, run Capture Express. It runs in the systray for easy access, and gives you the option of saving the screen image in several common formats. It is slightly advertising supported, so it will ask a few preference questions upon installation, but I have not found this irritating at all. Or you can buy it without ads. To use,. you can select the entire screen or just a window, plus other variables. Similar programs cost $20. This is free. Very nice.
GO!ZILLA: ZD Net reviewed this program and said, "Five stars doesn't do it justice." Go!zilla will speed up downloads by finding the best server and routing, manage your downloads, download later at a time you select, and much, much more. Hint: Turn off that gorilla roar, its tiresome after the third time. Too much to cover here, read the FAQ.
**TEMPCLEANER**: It does what the name says. Get rid of those old temp files in the Windows folder that some programs - ahem, like Microsoft ones - drop hither and yon. Simple, quick, you need it.
**ATOM TIME**: This is a must have, must use! Some motherboard clocks are really poor time keepers and this little gem will set your time right whenever you feel like adjusting your clock. Essential if you want to "snipe" on the auction sites. Have your best bid ready to submit, wait until 9 seconds before close, and zap those other guys outta there! To use, and presuming you are online, start Atomic Time, click "Check", and it will compare your clock to the National Bureau of Standards atomic clock in Boulder, Colorado. (There may be a fraction of a second difference due to signal transit times on the internet.) Click "Adjust" and the program readjusts your BIOS' clock! Wunderbar!
**ANNOTATE FILES**: Whoa, dude! How often have you wanted to say something about a file, but had no place to put the info except a whole 'nother file - which of course would get separated from the first? With this little gem when you right click on the file and select "Properties", there will be a second tab labeled "Annotate". Type or paste in whatever you want. Nice photo to download with explanation? Highlight the text, right click to "Copy", open the file (this is after saving previously), and drop the verbage into the box with "Paste". No more 64 character file names!
AND NOW, MY FAVORITE BILL (GATES) BUSTING, PROVE HIM A LIAR PROGRAM:
1999 may go down in business and computer history as the year MicroScum finally got its comeuppance. While the feds and Billz Boyz were arguing whether or not Internet Explorer was an intregral part of Windows 98, an Australian biologist, repeat, biologist, by the name of Shane Brooks severed the "unseverable" connection. He put his program on the Internet as "Donationware"; you like it, send him a few shekels.
That version is now freeware. His new 98lite Pro, costing a very reasonable $25, installs easier and offers the 98 Lite Micro version, which I use. Micro loads only the essential Windows files, often a total of only 70 MB. No help files, no bull, no memory overhead. Here's a good comparison: Have you ever seen Windows shut down in 2 seconds? Mine does, and during use, it screams. Click. Instant results!
I am getting ahead of myself. By ripping the IE (Internet Explorer) out of Windows 98, your system will run perhaps 35% faster (Micro version even quicker) and without all of those annoying "features" for the easily amused. You will not have the "Web look" options anymore. When you click on "Programs" it will be in the old (faster) Win 95 interface, where the panels pop out, left to right. Much more functional that the 98 "improvement" using the little arrows at the top or bottom of one column. There are five Windows 95 files you will need from the 95 CD in order to install 98Lite. I will presume you have the rights to use those files, probably having upgraded from 95. They are included in a folder called 95 Files. Wasn't that creative?
Mr. Brooks has written programs so that you can choose to install from scratch (preferable) or remove IE and its parasitic connection only. You CAN still use IE 4 or 5 as your browser, just install it like any other program after removal. Win98Lite doesn't prevent IE brower use.
Go to: http://www.98lite.net Visit this site before you do anything!
OTHER VERY IMPORTANT AND EQUALLY USEFUL AIDS
BACKING UP WINDOWS: Did you know that even after five years and four major releases of Windows that you can't back it up from within itself? Many files that are in use during Windows become "locked" and you either can't read them or replace them or both. If you try to do it from DOS using XCOPY, you lose your long files names which are essential for the registry to operate. What's a user to do? Once again, Freeware to the rescue!
How Back Up Windows
WINDOWS TIPS: Every Power User has his/her favorite ways of speeding things up or doing things that aren't obvious. I've included four pages of my faves, some you won't find elsewhere - I figured 'em out myself. Wow. :)
Paul's Win Tips
WINDOWS HELP ON THE INTERNET: Yes, Virginia, there are places to get help that are much more helpful than the so-called Help files! Obviously and unfortunately you must have access to the Internet. (I can hear you screaming, "If I had access, I wouldn't NEED help!!") My absolute favorite is by a hero named Bud Allen. His site is thorough, informative, and often refers specific topics to the Microsoft support "paper" on the topic. Hint: Bud uses one of those infernal "triple window" looks. If you are on Netscape, after you find what you want and it's in the big right hand window, put your pointer over it, right click, and select "Open in new window". Now you can print from there without the other junk, too. To get back where you were, just close it. If you are using Internet Explorer, you.....have just been had. Too bad.