Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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April 2006, Week 3 -- Freebies to Go


 101 Freebies




   The May issue of PC World magazine has a section titled "101 Fabulous Freebies." They mean software.


   We're total suckers for this kind of list, and we went through it twice and downloaded lots of programs. First off, we're here to tell you they're certainly not all fabulous and they're not all free, but there is a nugget or two buried in the mud. There are other places to find such programs, as well.


   Process Explorer is a free utility from that tells you what's going on in the background while the computer is running. This was interesting, but we found a better program of this type at competitor PC Magazine's Web site: It's called DiskAction 2, and it showed what was running in the background and how much memory each program was using. Most of them were using zero, so not much to worry about there. The download cost us $8, though.




   Back at PC World's site,, type "101 fabulous freebies" in the search field and click "entire list" to see them all. We liked The GIMP, a free program with many of the features of Adobe Photoshop, and FreeMind, a way of organizing ideas and projects without using the clumsy outline approach you learned at school. This is definitely more flexible and more fun.




A Word or Two



Random House Dictionary

   There's nothing better than an unabridged dictionary when you have unfamiliar words to look up. But Webster's Unabridged must weigh 20 pounds, which is tough to carry around. A lighter solution is the Webster's Unabridged Dictionary available as a $50 download from


   This is a new WordGenius version with special features not found in the regular dictionary. You can also get this as a disk. Along with normal alphabetical searches, the disk has special tools for searching its 315,000 words and abbreviations. For example, if you know a few letters in the word you're looking for -- not necessarily the first few letters -- you can fill in some blanks with asterisks and the computer will likely find the word.




   The WordGenius version also lets you enlarge the text for easier reading and has a spoken pronunciation guide. As you move the cursor across the word, the syllables are spoken out loud through the computer's speakers. We tried this with several words, and it was dreadful; we doubt anyone would be able to pronounce a word correctly using this feature. You can silence the feature, by the way.




The New Floppy Disk



 instant burn



   InstantBurn is a $20 Windows program from CyberLink that lets you treat a rewritable CD or DVD like an old-fashioned floppy. The program remains in the background, and whenever you want to save something you just drag that file over to the InstantBurn icon and it's sent to the disk.


The program supports multiple disk formats, including the new high-density Blu-ray disks. Individual files can be deleted and sent to the Windows trash can, or the entire disk can be erased and you can start over. You can also rename files. A verification function checks to make sure that information written to disk is the same as the file that was sent to disk. A simple program and not expensive. More info at




Photo Albums




 Verbatim Photo Album

   We got a pleasant surprise looking at Verbatim's Digital CD Photo Album. The package comes with Pinnacle's photo editing and album creation software, Verbatim's disk label design software, and an actual album for holding CDs. You can store single shots or make slideshows and burn them to a CD, which can be viewed on a regular TV.


   The album is a covered case that holds 20 CDs. It comes with adhesive disk labels that can be fed through an inkjet or laser printer and a frame that ensures the labels will be correctly centered when applied to the disks. Nothing earth-shaking here, but we thought it was a nice kit for the money. Prices range from $10 to $25 from discounters listed though links at



Crafty PC

Internuts A good source for craft ideas and where to find the special materials for doing them, like where to buy cotton that has a good surface for running through computer printers. The site has nice photos of quilts made this way.



The Numbers Report




   According to Lyra Research, the number of digital images has increased from just under 40 billion in 2002 to nearly 200 billion last year (2005). That number is predicted to increase to at least 500 billion in the next two to three years. Images captured by camera phones are expected to be around 60 percent of the total.







Google, the Missing Manual

   "Google, the Missing Manual, 2nd edition" by Sarah Milstein, Rael Dornfest, J.D. Biersdorfer and Matthew MacDonald; $25 from Pogue Press (


   Another in the series of Missing Manuals, and they're all good. Here we learn where we can go for Web sites that will aid us in complex Google searches. If you go to, for example, you can do advanced Google searches like finding Excel or Word files out on the Web. Another tip: If you type "define" and a space before a word, Google will provide the definition.




That's Entertainment





 Arcade Treasures

   Midway Games has released Arcade Treasures, Deluxe Edition, a $20 package of four CDs of arcade games for the PC. The four disks contain 29 arcade-style action games. Among the most popular titles are Mortal Kombat, Spy Hunter, Rampage and Off Road Thunder. Most of the games look and play just like the more expensive versions issued on single CDs. They're mostly fun, and easy to play. Good sound effects. Info at


   Similar collections of short games are available from Microsoft and Atari, and you can often find them in the low-price racks at office supply stores or on the web.




NOTE: Readers can search several years of columns at the "On Computers" Web site: You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at and Joy Schwabach at