Bob and Joy Schwabach

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July 2008, Week 4




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We tried a new Internet radio the other day and it jumps sound-years ahead of our best choice from last year.  

This new front runner is the Aluratek Internet Radio Alarm Clock, which has built-in wireless reception and retails for around $150. Unlike other alarm clockAluratek RadioInternet radios we have tried, it actually looks like an alarm clock radio. There’s even a “snooze” button. 

Just plug it in anywhere near a wired or wireless Internet connection and you’re ready to go. There are 11,000 stations to choose from and they are all organized by genre and location. You can choose Chinese humor broadcasts, for example (but you better know Chinese), or Swiss dance bands. We tried stations for swing, boogie woogie, blues, cool jazz and baroque classical. With 11,000 stations, you can go on twisting the dial, so to speak, for ages. The radio’s memory lets you build a list of your favorite stations so these can be revisited quickly. 

The display screen shows the time and date when you’re not tuning in stations and it’s big enough to be easily readable from 10-20 feet away. If you prefer your own collection of music, there’s a USB slot in the front of the Aluratek and you can plug in a flash drive and listen to that. You are not confined to music stations but can tune in news, lectures, drama, interviews, regular FM broadcasts and other programs. 

There are no monthly charges for bringing in the Internet stations and we found the Wi-Fi reception built into the Aluratek good enough to pick up stations even when we moved the receiver to put several walls between it and our wireless router. Sound quality was excellent. More specs and other information is available at  

Most Internet stations have no commercials, so it’s just voice or music without interruptions. How they support themselves without ads or subscription fees is a mystery to us. Of course, we don’t have ads on our web site either, so who are we to try and figure out their altruistic leanings.  

The Return of System Mechanic 

System Mechanic is one those all-in-one utility programs that cleans your computer and irons your shirts. We’ve been leery of such programs over the years because they have often messed up our computer to the point of no return. This one, however, has been around for more than 20 years and is pretty reliable by now. 

The new “System Mechanic 8” did a great job cleaning up our very buggy System MechanicWindows PC test computer. It cleaned out 1.6 gigabytes of extraneous files, fixed six security flaws and repaired two broken shortcuts on the desktop screen. It also cleaned out spyware and  boosted our Internet performance. Each of its actions, by the way, comes with its own “undo” button, in case you aren’t happy with the results.  

One of the best things about the new version of System Mechanic is that it has a light footprint, as they say, using little memory and processing power. This means it doesn’t slow down your computer while protecting it. Many other utility packages we’ve run have slowed our computer to a crawl. If wasn’t that they didn’t work, it was that you turned to stone waiting for them to do it. 

Mechanic 8 provided a good snapshot of what was going on inside our computer. We clicked on “reports” and found out how much memory was being used and what we could do to improve the situation. The computer had 50 startup programs running, for example.  

These are programs that have installed small executable triggers when they were loaded and these trigger the computer to bring those programs up immediately ready to run. After all, say many programmers, why would you not want my wonderful program running all the time? For each of these, System Mechanic had a description of what it did and an option to disable it. Getting rid of these startup programs is a major way to speed up your computer.  

By the way, if you make a wrong decision, either with this program or any other, you can nearly always cancel the mistake by using the “System Restore” function in Windows XP or Vista. You can find this function by going to “Programs” from the desktop menu, then “Accessories,” then “System Tools” and then click on “System Restore.” A box will pop up showing a calendar and asking you to select a date you would like to go back to. This little digital time machine will then restore your system to when you last liked the way things worked. Don’t worry about losing any files you saved since that date, the restore process will not change those. 

System Mechanic costs $35 a year from Iolo ( (That’s everybody’s new business model. They used to just sell you the program, and that was the end of it. The new business model is to charge a monthly or annual fee, and that way you can pay forever instead of just one time.) 

The Anti-Disaster Drive 

Some individuals and businesses transfer their files to a remote storage Sentry Safelocation as a precaution against fire or flood destroying their computer and its contents. But some would also like to have their files and programs available right away if they only had a hard drive that could survive the fire or flood.  

We found one. It’s the “Sentry Safe” 250 gigabyte drive, which we found for $370 on a web search. It’s not cheap as drive prices go but it is tough. It can withstand 40 minutes of direct heat as high as 1550 degrees Fahrenheit (843 degrees Celsius), or being completely submerged for up to 24 hours. 

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