SHCC WYSIWYG Article from June 2001

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This article appeared in the June 2001 WYSIWYG newsletter.

Software / Technology Review

by Rick Schummer

Software, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Recently I have loaded new versions of several software packages. Some of them are minor updates; some of them are major jumps. This commentary/review is what I have recently liked and what I have found to be a disappointing. Each review gets the RAS Asterisks, up to a maximum of 5.

 

The Good

Copernic 2001 Plus
I have been using Copernic for more than a year now and I find this one of the most useful PC web- based applications available. What is your favorite web search engine? Find that the return results are more than a bit overwhelming? Ever wish that you could do the same search on multiple search engines and get the best results all in one place? This is exactly what Copernic does. It takes the search criteria and hits multiple sites at one time and then presents the best hits from each engine in one easy to review list. There are numerous categories and numerous techniques of searching the world wide web. Results can be viewed in the Copernic browser (a decorated Internet Explorer) or in your personal favorite. Also comes in watered down free version at www.copernic.com. *****

Instant Messenger
If there ever was a program or software tool that I was skeptical about, it had to be Instant Messenger. There are several flavors of this, the most popular is AOL's. I have started to use Microsoft's IM and have found it to be most useful. My partners and I have very diverse locations with our homes in the Detroit area. The closest any of us are to each other is over 20 miles. This means long distance calling via our wonderful Ameritech land lines or to use precious cell minutes. With Instant Messenger we have eliminated the majority of need for using the phone. This program is a "chat" program. Basically it logs into a chat server and allows people who have pre-registered with each other (commonly referred to as a buddy list) to know when you are online and available to chat. It is instantaneous and works around the world based on the connection to the internet. In fact, one of my partners was recently in Amsterdam and we had a "conference" call and it was like we were here in Michigan. Cool technology. Only problem is that the various chatters have not conformed to a standard so AOL and Microsoft IMs do not work together. ****

ZoneAlarm 2.6
If you are not running a personal firewall and have access to this page from your computer then go get this product. It is free for personal use and only costs $30 for the professional version. It keeps people who have no business snooping around your computer from doing so. I personally used this even when I had a dial-up line. I have had people try to get to my computer via my connection. This product keeps people out, has an intuitive interface and is simple to set up. I'd give ZoneAlarm 6 stars if it made mathematical sense! *****

 

The Bad

 

Symantic Cleensweep
I received Cleensweep for free when I purchased TurboTax. It was worth every penny I paid <g>. This product monitors installation of other software and logs the changes it makes (like files added, registry entries made or changed) during the install process. It then allows you to uninstall the software based on these logs. Conceptually a terrific idea. I had seen older versions of this tool and was impressed. I immediately loaded the package and installed another piece of software. Granted, I did not read the user guide, but found the software difficult to use and found the interface unintuitive. This is the true barometer of good software in my opinion. It should only need a help file for more detailed explanation of how it works, not to tell you how to use it. Cleensweep is not easy to use and in my opinion is the worst package in this regard since LapLink 4 for DOS. I immediately swept it from my PC. *

 

X-Drive
I promoted the X-Drive.com website during a presentation on computer backups at the SHCC in May 2000. This site offers free space to copy files from your computer to the web server. You start out with 25 megabytes and can earn more free space with usage and referrals. If you want you also can buy space for a reasonable fee. So why the turn of heart on this site? I recently went to use it after not visiting the site for quite some time. It let me log in, but failed to upload a single file. The error message it displayed was not very descriptive either. I emailed the technical support people and was given a very terse response. I guess I had not been to the site in 6 months so my account expired. So I asked for it to be reactivated. Nada. Their policy is to not reset the login id. You have to sign-up for a new account and lose all your accumulated space. You also need a different email address. Too bad, and I was just starting to test out the new Explorer FTP client to upload files directly as if the website is a mapped disk drive. FreeDrive.com is a competitor that is worth a look. **

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