And Now For Something Completely Geeky


It started with a computer

I was attending a technology seminar, where the assistant was a Northern Illinois University graduate student. I’m familiar with the program, along the work that the department head accomplished, concerning genetic modeling at Argonne National Laboratory. This led to a nice conversation between us. The NIU student was trying to sell a laptop computer for $500. I knew a Geek college student, majoring in computer hardware, at Devry University. He reviewed the equipment specifications, and offered a price. The price became my bartering chip, and soon I had a computer for under $500. Let’s see if we can turbo charge it with free software.


Stability and Security


This NIU student turbo charged the PC with hardware upgrades, like a new CPU.  It’s a windows PC running XP, and I had the seller upgrade to the latest service packs. Any recommended software, you can search for in Google. Use your hosting company’s virus protection. Otherwise I recommend the Avast home edition for monitoring real time, and Clamwin as a backup (it doesn’t have real time monitoring).  Use VirusTotal for questionable files under 10 Meg.  Set up the Windows firewall, and enable automatic updates. Get your drivers up-to-date.  Thank God for RadarScan (free version) and DriverAgent to find my updates.  There was a $30 price for DriverAgent, but it was worth it, for obvious reasons. My old PC only has 200 Meg of disk space left, and there wouldn’t be any room for the .Net framework RadarScan needs. I highly recommend running both. Windows Defender, a Microsoft product, is a good partner against Spyware.


Multimedia and Communications


As you know, Windows comes with the IE browser. My recommendation is to add Firefox and Google Chrome to the mix. For podcast, add Itunes and Juice, along with FeedDemon for RSS feeds. For media players, Windows has the Windows Media Player. Itunes has the Safari Browser embedded, along with QuickTime, but add RealPlayer. For communications, Skype and Gizmo5 satisfy my VOIP needs. You can throw in a cool, free VOIP driver called SoliCall, along with Call Graph for Skype recording (also present in SoliCall).


Business Applications


Nothing matches the power of Microsoft Word like Open Office. You need Java to run it, which is embedded with most versions. Sending and receiving files by FTP, is accomplished with FileZilla. For business accounting applications, I endorse GnuCash. As you are aware, many files downloaded are in a zip format. Rather then run WinZip, I endorse 7-Zip or J-Zip.


End Result


The end result is a computer with updated drivers. It’s like putting a rebuilt transmission or engine, inside a car. The money I save on software could be hundreds, or thousands. Just price how much Microsoft Office sells for these days. Open Office can convert to Word format. If I run RadarScan once a week, it informs me what software needs updating. I encourage everyone to run the latest, production ready versions.

Randy Kemp




4 thoughts on “And Now For Something Completely Geeky

  1. Since writing the article, I discovered the omission of PDF file writers. For this endeavor, I endorse CutePDF Writer and PrimoPDF.

  2. I’m having great success: noise reduction software hybrids of Noise Free VOIP and SoliCall, with the latest version of Skype. I’m ready for my interest radio show at

  3. Today I had a problem with spyware. When I opened a Microsoft Hotmail message via the web, it downloaded Anti-virus 360 -, a spyware. Avast detected it, but couldn’t stop the spread. A bit of Google searching located Spybot Search and Destroy. This freeware removed the threat, and even has a resident component. Now I run both Spybot and Avast.

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