Ira Wilsker's archive

Most users of Windows 7 and Vista simply use the Microsoft default settings for almost everything on their computers. In my experience, they are likely unaware that there are a myriad of customizable settings in Windows that can be used to improve performance, enhance security, change appearance, speed the boot process, and otherwise control just about anything that Windows can do.

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I recently found out that Google’s infinitely popular YouTube video service now offers over a thousand full-length movies for free. Many other full-length movies are also available on YouTube for a fee, typically about $3, but I found enough of a selection of free movies to keep me well entertained for many hours.

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Recently, the president of a local nonprofit community service organization asked me to review a proposal she had received from one of the prominent, heavily advertised, online backup services. The quote to provide automated backup services for all of the computers in the organization (about 10 computers) for a year was nearly $500. I informed her that while the price received was appropriate for the level and quality of service offered, there were better prices available from competitive services.

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Some time ago, I wrote about sources of free academic classes and free college textbooks. Since writing that column, the selection of free courses and textbooks have grown exponentially. Three of the major providers of free academic resources are Khan Academy, Flat World Knowledge, and Apple’s iTunes University.

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Microsoft is one of those companies that many of us have a love-hate relationship with. Despite some possible ill will toward Microsoft based on our experiences with Vista, BOB and a myriad of other software issues, Microsoft does have a kind and generous side when it comes to producing and releasing numerous pieces of useful software for free.

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