Add-Ons, Apps & Computers, Oh My!

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

November 29, 2008

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Categories: The Balancing Act

Levi in one of his frequent poses.  I figure the image captures computer problems quite well.

Levi in one of his frequent poses. I figure the image captures computer problems quite well.

Today, I got to see an iPhone up close and personal.  It was sleek, had a good weight, and was pretty clear to hear.  The text was flashier and shinier than my old Motorola v325.  “Thou shall not covet thy neighbors possessions” rang strongly.  But, I realized something as I held back my drool of the shiny, new iPhone.  I realized I prefer my free add-ons to 99 cent apps.

Recently, our computer crashed.  We got the blue screen of death’s father: the black screen of death.  “Insert boot media into drive,” commanded my screen on Monday while failing to recognize the CD drive.  Fortunately, we have multiple hard-drives, one of which was waiting to be used because it was partitioned properly.  It took us 4 days to remember the importance of updated drivers.  And, we are very thankful for a working, stable laptop with wireless so our ‘browsing needs’ weren’t compromised.  This also allowed us quick access to getting that updated Ethernet driver that was causing so many problems.

Once the driver was installed, like magic, the computer recognized the modem, and we had instant Internet!  A miracle on Thanksgiving Day!  Instead of taking the day to relax while I arranged the meal, Peter worked on the computer.  He cleaned up the area behind the computer, organized the insane wires and fitted them with twist ties, installed the old and newer hard-drives, updated the drivers, and started getting the desktop back on track.  He was up for 20 hours by the time he got home from work early Friday morning.  Later, that evening, I realized we also need the video controller driver so we could then install the monitor driver.  Now we have (knock on wood, eh) a quicker computer, with files where I want them (i.e., not on C: with windows) and a crisper, cleaner display.

I really like to use Outlook and Firefox.  With using the laptop and the desktop regularly, I found it necessary to use a product put out (not created by) Microsoft called Sync Toy, and then I began using more add-ons with Firefox. I briefly played with Thunderbird on the laptop, but because I had my Outlook didn’t focus my attention there.  It was a joy to have all my bookmarks exactly as I want them on the computer I am using.  Sync Toy worked like a gem to quickly and efficiently organize my files.  I don’t need the frills offered by Migo’s software, and I found Migo worked much too slowly.  Not to mention the fact they have been sending me annoying advertisements to upgrade from $20-$40 for a software program I got free with purchase of my jump drive!

So, the computer crashed.  I habitually ask whatever email client I am using to leave messages on the server.  The question isn’t, “If my computer crashes…,” rather, “What do you do when your computer crashes?”  So, I leave backups.  (Peter is also quite habitual about this, although we organize things differently.) I began to use Thunderbird because I had no desire to try and fix our problem desktop until after Thanksgiving.  What good is a simple email client, though, if it doesn’t have a calendar?  So, I looked.  And it does.  Thunderbird has Lightening, and by adding an add-on you can simply use your on-line calendar.  I had already been writing things down in my planner, entering them into Outlook, and syncing them with a tool from Google to my Google account.  So, now, I just had to add that calendar address to Thunderbird and I have a freeware version of what Outlook could do.  Having multiple copies of something doesn’t do much good, you really need to be able to access the original data.  Google’s idea of labeling items will go far for organizing people and offices.  So, syncing is another option that has come a long way since Microsoft’s Briefcase feature.

Seeing my friend’s iPhone today was fun.  It was kind of like being a kid in the candy store, but the proprietor was the devil saying look but dont’ touch!  Regardless, I realized something in light of these computer problems.  The apps sure look like a lot of fun, but the freeware versions are often just as good, and as the name suggests, they are free.  So, I’ll hold out for my free-ware, touch screen phone, which I’ll probably buy used in 10 years.

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