Be Wehwy Wehwy Kehwful, but Open to Free Stuff

OK, I was channeling Elmer Fudd  when I wrote the title for this post. Sorry! There are lots of good and free software available. But you need to be wehwy careful and do your homework before you download and install any.  Find a reputable source (like me) that recommends the software and a safe way to obtain it.

Here is some of the free stuff I use, along with links to safe web sites where you can download it. I use other free software too, but this is quality stuff and  will save you a considerable amount of money.
Free Anti-virus and Anti-spyware Software:

Microsoft Security Essentials
Microsoft Security Essentials is a great product for home users and small businesses. It is available for small businesses with up to 10 PCs and, it is free!  It is easy to use. It reliably updates automatically. It scans for viruses and spyware in memory and on all your drives by schedule or on demand. And, it has all of the features you would expect from any industry leading Anti-virus software.
You can safely and legally download Microsoft Security Essentials at:

Free Office Productivity Software:

Apache OpenOffice
You would need to have money to burn, if you paid full price for Microsoft Office, before you try Apache’s OpenOffice!  It includes a word processor, spreadsheet, database, presentation application, graphics application and an equation editor!  And, it is compatible with Microsoft Office!  Yes, you read it correctly! Microsoft Office and OpenOffice can easily use each other’s files! OpenOffice and Microsoft Office both use the OASIS – Open Document Format, an industry “open-standard”. OpenOffice is awesome! And, it is FREE!

You can safely and legally download Apache OpenOffice at:

Not Free, but Really Cheap Office Productivity software

Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010

No, I am not crazy, rich or out of touch with the common man!  Read on and I will explain. Microsoft Office 2010 is a great suite of office productivity apps. If you count all its versions, I am reasonably sure that Microsoft Office is the
most used office productivity software on the planet. But, Microsoft Office is expensive!

However, employees of companies and organizations that have a volume licensing agreement  with Microsoft, for Microsoft Office are eligible for the:
Microsoft Home Use Program 
Through the Microsoft Home Use Program (HUP) you can license, download and use Office 2010 Professional for $9.95!  That’s right!  $9.95!  It is a shame that so many people have paid full price for Microsoft Office to use at home, when they may have been eligible for the Home Use Program. There is one little catch in this otherwise amazing value;  when you are no longer employed by the company that approved your home use license, you cannot legally continue to use Office Pro unless you purchase a license. 
A company has to do very little work to offer the HUP to their employees. They have to sign up for the program and approve each employee purchase. After approved, the employee actually purchases their Home Use license directly from Microsoft, then simply downloads the software!   But many companies haven’t heard about HUP!  If you think your company is a volume licensing customer of Microsoft, and you need Microsoft Office for your home computer, then you should tell your management and/or IT department that you would like to participate in the Microsoft Home Use Program. It doesn’t cost them anything but a little time. Check your company’s eligibility…

In keeping with the “practical” spirit of my blog, I will be writing more on this topic soon! So visit again, to read more about quality software that is safe and inexpensive, or absolutely free! 


What Computer Should I Buy?

I get a lot of questions from coworkers and family about what type of computer to buy. Or they will email an ad or ask me about a particular model that they have been looking at. My philosophy on purchasing a computer has changed many times over the years. It has been influenced by the available technology at the time, if I was currently selling computers or not, whether I was on a budget and pinching pennies or, if my employer was paying for my computer. It’s hard to be objective!


One of my favorite questions was always; should I buy a Mac or a PC? Since I am a computer scientist, I should use the consensus of industry expert opinion based upon the preponderance of evidence that exists from the many double blind studies at major research universities, and quote the empirical data. But since I don’t have any idea what that is, I usually just tell them, “I don’t know!” Then, I try to help them find the answer for themselves, by asking them some standard questions:

·         Do you know anyone who uses a Mac?
·         If you do, do you think they are willing to help you when you have an issue?
·         Will your friends make fun of you if you don’t buy a Mac?
·         Will they make fun of you if you do buy a Mac?
·         Do you think that owning a Mac will boost your self esteem?
·         Does your self esteem need a boost?
·         Would you feel bad knowing you paid twice as much for similar capability?
·         You got the money honey?
·         How do you plan on getting the word out that you are now a Mac user?
·         Bumper sticker?

·         Facebook?

Then I always tell them, “I would really like to have a Mac!” When they ask, “Why?”, I tell them, “Because I don’t have one, and they’re really cool!” By this time, they can tell that I really don’t care. Everyone that ever asked me if they should buy a Mac bought one regardless of what I told them. For most things you need a computer for, it probably doesn’t matter one way or the other. I would really like to have one! I have a good friend who updates software and data on fifty or so Macs every day for a lab at a big university. The university paid for his MacBook Pro. It’s really, really cool!

Ok. Here is the part of the post that contains the practical advice. If you don’t keep six files open in Photoshop while you use Dreamweaver to push PHP files to a testing server that is IIS 7.0 on the same PC, it is running SQL Server, and you are not, at the same time, designing your new backyard patio and landscaping with AutoCAD while your are using Excel to work on your budget with pivot tables and Vlookup, then buy a cheaper computer with a screen that you can see!

Today’s entry level computers are probably more capable than most people need. If you’re worried about more hard drive for pictures and music, just buy a Western Digital Passport USB Drive, they are really cool, and you can get a terabyte for about a hundred bucks. And, you can use it on your next computer!

I use my son’s old Toshiba Satellite laptop to write this kind of stuff while I’m sitting on the couch watching TV. I gave him my new HP Pavillion, because he said his Toshiba was broken. I fixed it. I can word process and Google stuff as I go, so it will seem like I always know what I’m talking about. I can surf the web, and use it to do most everything I need a laptop to do, and it is at least four years old. I use a Pentium dual core tower in my office when I am wearing my super user cape. It has a big screen, a big hard drive, 4GB of RAM, and it does everything I need  a desktop to do.

I bought my wife a Compaq Presario at Wal-Mart for $300 about four years ago. It runs Vista(yeah I know… but she doesn’t), burns CD’s and DVD’s, has a big hard drive, and a beautiful 15.6″ screen. It’s great to use for watching movies on our 50″ plasma TV. We hook it up with a $20 VGA/audio cable and use a wireless mouse for a remote. Her “R” and down arrow keys quit working last year, so I ordered a replacement keyboard from Amazon for $13 and fixed it in about 10 minutes. She still loves it!

Oh yeah. If you’re a gamer, you should get the biggest, baddest, fastest computer your Mom and Dad will pop for!


My First Post

This is the very first post on my “to be named later blog.” Or, at least, it is the beginning of trying to determine what this blog should be about. I have a few reasons to start a blog, but I am hoping that the actual process will help this one find its center. I can always start another blog and another, right? 

One good reason to blog is to hone your writing skills. Another is to help you establish some credibility in your field, and perhaps drive a little more traffic to your web site. The additional external links can’t hurt your site’s search engine ranking. And if your site is business related, “monetized” with ads, or you sell services and products, the root of all your reasoning is money! Money is a very good reason!
So here I go! I hope that my blog will be interesting enough to get a few followers. I may even get some interest from others to post their articles as guests. My goals are modest, my reasons many, and my expectations are low. I once told my father, after a session of wallowing in self pity, that I needed to embrace failure instead of always fearing it to the point of paralysis. If I keep failing, but keep trying, surely I will eventually have a success or two. So, in that spirit, I am ready to begin failing at blogging!
I have already taken my first step toward that goal; I am telling my readers that I may suck at this. But if I do, at least, I will always have room for improvement!
I should probably focus on a subject that compliments my business and more directly supports my need to earn a living. I think I will begin by writing about putting technology to use for practical purposes or, about being practical about the use of technology. But, that may give me too much of an excuse to write about esoteric and impractical technology, since practicality is in the eyes of the practitioner. What is one man’s practical is another’s useless. I got it! I will write about technology for the cheap pragmatist!  That should narrow it down to stuff you really need to get that task at hand accomplished, and how you can buy it on the skinny!
See, I am improving already!  Visit “to be named later blog” again, and I promise my next post will actually be interesting and useful to those of us cheap skates who need to make our lives easier. And besides, you just have to find out what I finally name my blog!  What a cliff hanger!  I may actually be getting mo’ better, mo’ faster than I thought!