With family spread all over the country, it is nice to be able to help those who are far away with their computer questions. I researched quite a number of remote access programs and was happy to find that LogMeIn.com offers a free remote access program that allows me to connect to another computer and work as though I am at the other computer. LogMeIn Free is easy to set up. I was able to walk my relative through the setup in minutes. Now, they can just sit back and let me fix their computer problems.
For an annual fee, LogMeIn also offers products with features such as file transfer and remote printing. We enjoyed the free trial of LogMeIn Pro before deciding on our free version. It was very handy to be able to drag and drop files from my computer to my son’s computer, but with the free version I can, almost as quickly, copy and paste a document from his computer to mine. All in all, this is a wonderful service. It is easy to use and a great blessing to all of the relatives!
Back in 1978, the Apple ][ had a 1 MHz processor, up to 65K of memory and 280×192 pixel “high res” graphics. A few years later, you could buy a 5MB hard drive for about $1000. Compare this to a handheld Palm or PocketPC device: a 400 MHz processor, a thousand times the RAM, screens up to 320×480 pixels and 2GB external memory in the form of an SD card — 400 times more than the 5MB hard drive! Thanks to this incredible growth in hardware capabilities, the Principalm program from Discovery Software (PrincePalm) can allow a school administrator to store their entire student database — picture, address, emergency contacts, class schedule, recent attendance, recent grades, parking stall, bus info, locker and more — on a portable handheld device.
Principalm works on both Palm and Pocket PC handhelds, uses 128-bit AES encryption to protect the data and is sold as a site license so that the school can let as many staff members as the like use it. Naturally, each user can be given different subsets of the student and teacher data. So… how does the school get all of the student and teacher information onto the handheld? It’s actually quite simple; they use the Discovery Connect middleware that ships with Principalm. Connect extracts data from 50 of the most popular student information systems, including SASIxp, PowerSchool, WinSchool, AAL, Infinite Campus and lots more. Oh, and the actual capacity is far higher than one school; it’s actually closing in on 100,000 students. This means that the school district can give it to security personnel or use it as an emergency backup of the district’s student roster. As of July 2006, Principalm was being used in over 2500 schools nationwide.
I found this file archiving and extracting too by happy accident. I ordered some cd’s to study for the MCAT, and the UPS delivery didn’t make it. When I called the company, angry about the money I had sent for over-night shipping, they sent me a link to download “mp3’s” of their lectures while I waited. I followed their instructions, but to my dismay they were files of a “.rar” type, which my computer could not extract. Windows media player denied the files even existed. I didn’t want to spend any more money on new software, but I really didn’t want to catch a virus! I didn’t want to buy a WINRAR archiver from http://www.rarlab.com.
I am usually wary of free software, but I decided to at least look up the file type on wikipedia. In their external links section they led me to an open-source .rar unpacker. I’ve been using 7-zip ever since and have been very happy. It contained no worms or spyware, and didn’t install unwanted features or icons all over my desktop. I didn’t notice any bugs, and it extracts my files nicely. It also works with windows media player. I am not particularly savvy about software, and I have been burned before. I really am promoting this archiver, and I’ve found myself using it to extract all my compressed files, because it is so easy to use. Here is their site: http://www.7-zip.org
Free Download Manager leaves nothing more to be desired beyond a pithier name. Pith notwithstanding, the name is accurate. FDM is a fully featured piece of Windows freeware which puts other download managers to shame. The front end is remarkably user friendly, and downloads are automatically sectioned into small segments for faster download speeds. Purportedly able to “increase download speed up to 600%”, FDM supports resumption of broken downloads, won’t stress out your RAM, and will download from any remote server.
Another nifty feature is automatic or user set priority rankings, and the ability to browse the internet with higher priority connections, thus speeding up otherwise slow connections. It acts not only as a download manager, but an accelerator as well. And just in case you still happen to be living in 1998, the program supports Windows 9x through XP, as well as Internet Explorer 5.0. Cunning!
Sciral Consistency is an application to help you keep track of repeating tasks. It uses a unique graphical format that is quite different from the standard “to-do” list. When you enter a task, you specify how frequently the task should be repeated. For example, mowing the lawn should be done every 5-8 days. The application shows you the current state of each task in color: blue means you don’t need to do it, green means it’s in the interval when it should be done, yellow is the last day of the interval, and red means it’s past due.
Tasks can be sorted by Name, Due Date, Priority, or Consistency (how well you’ve kept to your schedule). I find it very useful for things that have to be done at fairly long intervals that I tend to lose track of. Things like changing the oil in my car or changing the filter in my heating system. I also use it for shorter-term tasks, like backing up my computer and watering my plants. Like most software, it’s available as a free trial download with a limited number of tasks until you pay for a license. The cost is $25.
ZD Soft’s Screen Recorder – This is one great program for those rare times when you need to record what’s going on on your computer screen. This handy little tool gives you the flexibility of choosing to record the whole screen, a section of the screen, or a single program. Record directly to AVI (allows you to record sound as well) at your selected framerate (allowing you to control the size of the output), all with very little overhead in storage or memory demand. This tool has allowed me to send recordings of actions that have uncovered bugs, record demonstrations, and record testing sessions. Best of all, it’s free.