technofile by al fasoldt
Bit Player for June 1, 1997
By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1997, The Syracuse Newspapers
I've written many times about the latest Internet software tools for general use. This week I'll open the door to my home office here at Countless Pines—a little corner of Van Buren overlooking the Seneca River—and tell you what I use myself to make Internet browsing faster, easier and more fun.
My PC is a Dell Pentium with 96 megabytes of RAM and the latest version of Windows 95 (Revision B, also known as OSR2). I have a 28.8 kbps Motorola professional modem. (I've always suspected that the "pro" line adds 50 percent to the set of features and 100 percent to the price. But it's a very solid modem.)
To help automate the dialup software, I use RTV Reco, from http://www.clearlight.com/~rtvsoft/files.htm. This freeware program sits in the Windows 95 tray, out of the sight, and automatically clicks any buttons I tell it to watch for. RTV Reco forces Windows 95 to redial the connection if it's lost. I also use it to hit those annoyware buttons automatically. (They're the ones that pop up to remind users that they haven't yet paid for certain shareware programs.)
I use Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.02. I like it the way it works, I like the price (free) and I especially like the Favorites. Because they are actual shortcuts, they can be copied, e-mailed and sorted easily. I also use one of the nearly hidden features of Internet Explorer all the time: I click on the address line at the top of the window, type a question mark and a search word, then press Enter. IE immediately goes to the search site I've chosen as my default and starts a search.
A tip: Use Tweak UI to set the default search site in Internet Explorer. Find out more about Tweak UI and the Power Tools on the Files page at my site, http://www.dreamscape.com/afasoldt/.)
For e-mail, I use Outlook, part of Office 97. Like American democracy, Outlook isn't perfect, but it's far ahead of whatever is in second place. Enhancements to Outlook arrive week by week, too. Check http://www.slipstick.com/exchange/ for a good Web site that tracks Outlook developments.
To read newsgroups, I use Internet News from Microsoft. It's included in the full Internet Explorer installation. It, too, is evolving, and needs only a couple of improvements to turn into one of the best newsgroup readers for Windows 95. (My wife, Nancy, uses Agent, the commercial version of Free Agent. It's clearly more advanced than Internet News, but I don't like Agent's interface.)
To automatically download binary files from newsgroups, I use News Robot, available from http://www.primenet.com/~smbaker/sbnews/sbnews.html. News Robot seems to be the best of many similar programs, and it takes advantage of one of the most underrated features of Windows 95—its ability to run scores of operations at the same time without taxing the main tasks. Be warned that if you use an auto-downloader, you need plenty of free disk space.
For ftp transfers, I use EasyFTP from Symantec. You do not need to be a nerd or an atomic scientist to use it. You just drag and drop. It's part of Internet FastFind. For more information, visit http://www.symantec.com/iff/.
I'm very pleased with Citizen 1, an incredibly advanced Internet search program. A lot of readers ask me for help finding information, and Citizen 1 makes the task a lot easier. Citizen 1 is free. Pick up a copy at http://www.citizen1.com/. (Citizen 1 runs best if your PC has a lot of memory. Don't say I didn't warn you.)
I use Internet Phone (http://www.vocaltec.com) and icq (http://www.mirabilis.com) to keep in touch with my family and friends. I've written about each one before—see the Columns page on my Web site or at the newspaper's site at http://www.syracuse.com/pluggedin/.
For general text editing while online, I use two text editors. Both serve as excellent substitutes for Microsoft's dingy Notepad and both are free. They are QuickEdit (http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/John_Maddock/qef.htm) and Notespad (http://www.bremercorp.com/ —choose the "freeware" link and navigate to the freeware directory at the ftp site, then look for "ntspad32.zip").
technofile: [Articles] [Home page] [Comments: email@example.com]