Useful computer stuff
There are a number of programs and services that we have found useful over the years. Let us start with support issues. On several occasions over the past year or two we have had computer issues, and needed outside help. When we called Microsoft, it was something like $150 for that incident. Instead, for support we opted to use iYogi (http://www.iyogi.net/). For $139 a year you get unlimited access to their group of 500 Microsoft certified technicians. They have saved my home computer on several occasions. They throw in McAfee anti-virus software, but we prefer Kaspersky. iYogi includes a bunch of optimization software, but we prefer System Mechanic.
System Mechanic (http://www.iolo.com/) allows you to automate optimization of your system. It includes software that does almost everything, including defragmentation of your hard drive, optimization and compaction of your registry, and virtually everything else of which you can think. It should make you machine faster.
Password Safe (freeware at http://passwordsafe.sourceforge.net/) generates and stores passwords. You can use it to load Web pages and enter your user ID and password. While you need to know the Password Safe password, you will not need to remember the lengthy random passwords it generates.
SpinRite (http://www.grc.com/sr/spinrite.htm) checks your hard drive to make sure that each track can be read and written. It moves data from bad sectors to good sectors. If your drive fails, there is a good likelihood that SpinRite will be able to repair it, which is what happened when a hard drive developed bad sectors in the boot section. While System Mechanic has a similar function, we use this.
iBackup (http://www.ibackup.com/) allows you to automate on-line backup of your data. For $9.95 a month it gives you 10 gig of storage. Our system backs up all changed data at 1am.
There are several good disk defragmentation programs, including one in System Mechanic. The best is probably Diskeeper (http://www.diskeeper.com/landing/landing30.aspx?RId=11200&Apid=PPS 0005174&gclid=COvh-Zvl9Z4CFchn5QodXykvKA) with VOPT (http://www.vopt.com/) running second. Diskeeper runs constantly, and appears to use no resources automatically, the most-current version, which we will discuss more fully, soon, in another issue, is claimed to eliminate about 85 percent of fragmentation before it happens. The technology is somewhat magical to us as laypersons.
Our personal favorite firewall/anti-virus software is Kaspersky Internet Security 2010. (http://usa.kaspersky.com/products_services/internet- security.php?icid=50000028). The antivirus definitions update frequently during the day, and we run a complete scan at 3am, including looking for rootkits. It includes the ability to scan your programs to see what needs to be updated for security reasons.
Out of concern for the possibility of my computer being stolen, we have installed PC Phone Home. There is also a version for the Macintosh. http://www.brigadoonsoftware.com/pcphonehome.html). The buried software sends messages to an e-mail account of your choice with the IP address of any internet logon, allowing the police to track the location of the device.
To protect our data, we use encrypted virtual drives, in this case Private Disk (http://www.private-disk.net/). If our computer was stolen there would be no useful data available. To send encrypted e-mail and encrypted files we use PGP. We actually use one of the open PGP programs, FileCrypt Desktop (https://www.veridis.com/pgp/products/filecrypt-desktop.html).
We hope you will find these to be as useful as have we.