Tuesday, January 21, 2003

We received a very nice memo at work today outlining the measures management was taking to address our fundraising/budget shortfall. One was that full-time staff will have the option of going down to 36 hours per week while keeping full benefits. With a few other cuts, we're hoping that that enough people take advantage of this to make up the shortfall. I would like to do it, but the pay cut is a little scary. Four extra hours a week for writing would be very nice. Anyways, for those of you who are doing well, please don't forget that nonprofits all over the country are facing decreased individual and foundation giving as well cuts in government funding. We need your support more than ever.

In keeping with the budget cut theme, I'm jumping on the list bandwagon and sharing my favorite free utilities for PCs. These programs make working with donated PCs and no technology budget to speak of a lot easier. Here they are in no particular order.

1. Pdf995 You can create .pdf files from MS Office applications with this program. The free version gives you an Internet pop-up ad every time you use it. For $9.95 you can get a license key to turn the advertising off. Since Adobe doesn't provide a nonprofit discount on Acrobat, this is a huge savings.

2. Adobe Acrobat Reader
For most people, this one's been an essential for years. Even if you don't need to create .pdf files, if you use the Internet you're going to need to be able to read them. I'm constantly amazed by the number of I work with who aren't familiar with .pdf files until they need to download and read them.

3. Aladdin Stuffit Expander
This program unzips compressed .zip files and will run on a variety of platforms. If you haven't got a program like Winzip preloaded, this is the free alternative. I'm still running into people who don't know what this is until they receive a zipped file attached to an e-mail. You can purchase the full version, Stuffit, that allows you to zip files starting at $24.99 for the home version.

4. Diskeeper Lite
Windows NT and 2000 need defragmenting just like earlier Windows version even though they say they don't. I noticed an immense difference in speed the first time I ran Diskeeper Lite on a Windows NT machine. You have to register to use it but it's worth it. I dream of someday installing the full version which automates the defragmentation on all the PCs in our network. Diskeeper starts at $29.95 for the home version.

5. Sysinternals PageDefrag
Diskeeper Lite can't touch the paging files and registry hives which also tend to bloat on Windows NT, 200 and XP. Pagedefrag will defragment those files on start-up.

6. Spybot Search & Destroy
I've used a few different spyware detectors/removers but found this one the easiest and fastest. I used it last week to clear up a Xupiter infestation on a workstation. I'm still not sure how it got through our safeguards, but it was gone in minutes with Spybot. Patrick M. Kolla and his PepiMK Software have made this available as freeware but it works so well, I think everyone will want to make a donation to him. He needs it to pay for bandwith, etc.

7. DriverGuide.com
Okay, this isn't a program, but it's been my most visited website (outside of Compaq and Miscrosoft - ewww!) while working on donated computers. It's never let me down in a search for a device driver I needed, no matter how obscure. You have to sort through some chaff but it's well worth it to search their driver listings before going anywhere else for older PC drivers. You have to register and then sign-in to use it.

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