BOOT CAMP 211 (05/02/02)




The idea of an individual or a company, giving away computer software or charging only a nominal sum for it still makes a lot of PC users suspicious. Nevertheless, the fact remains that for little more than the cost of an Internet download, or a PC magazine, you can get professionally written programs that rival the best commercial software; sometimes they’re a lot better! Added to that are the countless utilities and patches that fill the gaps, fix the bugs and make the big-name applications and operating systems more useable and friendly.


We’re talking about shareware and freeware, zero or low-cost software that might just restore your faith in human nature, and PCs. Mind you there’s also a fair amount of dross out there, and a few programs are laced with advertisements and hidden ‘spyware’ features, not to mention the odd virus, so you have to keep your wits about you, but if you take sensible precautions you are fairly safe.


There’s nothing sinister about shareware and freeware, for the most part it is small specialist programs that would be difficult, or uneconomic to market through normal channels. Doing away with expensive packaging and advertising and distributing the software via the internet and computer magazine cover discs allows the author to charge a realistic price, some give their programs away through simple altruism.


A lot of shareware programs only operates for a ‘trial’ period – usually 30 days -- or have some functions disabled. They are normally unlocked by entering a registration code, sent to you by email, soon after you’ve paid a modest licence fee. Most companies accept credit card payment on line so the registration process usually only take a few minutes. Registration usually entitles you to updates and upgrades, a full user manual and technical support. Many shareware programs are fully functional and the author relies on the users good faith to pay up. If you find a shareware program genuinely useful I urge you to pay, to help keep this vibrant and innovative segment of the software market alive and healthy.


Over the next three weeks we’ll be looking at some useful and popular shareware and freeware titles. I make no apologies for including some old favourites, without which no self-respecting PC would be complete. This week we will begin with the basics, to assist downloads, and keep your PC safe so without more ado, here’s the first batch.


WINZIP 8.1, 1.8Mb, Windows 9x/SE/ME/NT/2000/XP, shareware

If you haven’t already got WinZip get it now! You’ll need it to ‘decompress’ many shareware and freeware programs that are ‘zipped’ to speed up the download. WinZip can handle most file formats, including ‘zip’, ‘TAR’, ‘Uuencode’ etc., but it does a whole lot more. It can compress large files to a fraction of their normal size, so they can be sent over the Internet, or archived on single or multiple floppies and files can be password protected. This latest version is compatible with all versions of Windows; it’s very easy to use and integrates seamlessly with most Internet browsers.



PARABEN DOWNLOAD MANAGER, 760k, Windows 9x/SE/ME/NT/2000, shareware,

Absolutely essential if you have a dial-up connection and routinely download large files and are frustrated by long delays and interruptions. By automatically splitting files in segments it can greatly reduce download times, and even resume where it left off if the connection is broken. Incredibly easy to use and lots of useful features, it should pay for itself in no time at all.



AD-AWARE, 834kb, Windows 9x/SE/ME/NT/2000/XP, freeware

This program could give you a nasty shock the first time you use it! AdAware scans your hard disc looking for ‘Spyware’ programs, these are little nasties left behind by some Internet sites that can report back to their masters on your web-surfing habits. AdAware seeks them out, destroys them and prevents new ones infecting your system. If you are concerned about privacy you should definitely check your PC now!



ZONEALARM, 2.8Mb, Windows 9x/SE/ME/NT/2000/XP, freeware,

Next to a virus scanner a firewall could be the most important security program that you have on your PC. A firewall blocks access to your computer from hackers, and if you doubt there is a threat, there’s a good chance that within minutes of installing ZoneAlarm you will receive your first ‘alert’. The problem is bad enough with dial-up connection but it is vital that you are protected if you have an ‘always-on’ or broadband connection. ZoneAlarm also stops programs on your PC from connecting to the Internet without your say-so, and again you will be surprised how many applications, some of which you may not even know about, send data from your PC without your knowledge. ZoneAlarm is completely free to personal users, there are no strings and it works on all versions, though read the FAQs (frequently asked questions) on the ZoneLabs web site if you’re using Windows XP.



AVG ANTIVIRUS, 5.0Mb, Windows 9x/ME/2000/XP, freeware,

If you haven’t got an up to date virus scanner on your PC you really are asking for trouble. It’s no good hoping the program that came with your PC is going to protect you – probably a ‘lite’ version of a commercial package -- unless it is regularly updated with new virus signatures. Good virus scanner software can be expensive, but you don’t have to spend a fortune. AVG Antivirus is free – to home users and it will provide you with good level of protection. AVG operates in the background, monitoring incoming data and emails for viruses and infected macros. It can be scheduled to automatically update its virus database and check for threats.


Next week – Shareware and freeware, part 2





A technique used to reduce the size of a file, making it smaller, more manageable and quicker to send over the Internet



Program, usually put onto your PC after visiting a web site, that makes use of your internet connection – without your knowledge or permission -- to send data back to its parent site



A distinctive section of code within a virus program that scanner software uses to identify them 



Here’s an extra bonus freeware program, for anyone who listens to music on their PC and has scrabbled around with the mouse, trying to mute the sound or lower the volume when the phone rings. Global Audio Control (900kb) assigns simple keyboard shortcuts to all of your PC’s audio controls, it’s a real time-saver, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it. Suitable for Windows 9x/NT/2000 it can be found at:

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