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Friday, January 21, 2005

"Free! Where?"

As the cogs and wheels of Internet time have turned, the overall tenor of the World Wide Web has become a tad too commercial, especially from the viewpoint of wired warriors that remember the "good ole' days of 1996".

However, there are still the odd corners of the 'Net that remained unscathed by commercialistic sinkholes and sometimes they are provided by the least likely sources, such as everyone's favourite target of derision, Microsoft and my favourite purveyor of wicked "ÜberTechnology",

In a recent press release, Microsoft declared that the Internet would be spam and spyware free in less than two years. While slightly pretentious in the face of the current spam cyclone that assaults our inboxes every day, Microsoft has taken a first step towards a spam free future by purchasing software developer, "Giant" and repackaging their somewhat obscure, but critically acclaimed anti-spyware package. Currently available as a free beta download from:
, Microsoft's "AntiSpyware" is well worth watching, let's hope that it remains a free add-on for Windows!

Another type of popular freebie are add-ons for Microsoft's Internet Explorer, most of which are actually nasty spyware components in disguise, however, there are two toolbar add-ons for IE which are perfectly safe and quite useful. One comes directly from Microsoft, called the "MSN Toolbar" ( ) and one from Google, called, oddly enough, the "Google Toolbar" ( ). Both of these toolbars offer easy access to web searches,
plus the ability to block annoying pop-up advertisements on websites.

Going a step further, UK software firm, "Netcraft", has released a special toolbar for IE ( ) that helps people avoid being hooked by "Phishing" scams by blocking the websites of known "Phishermen".

Following Microsoft's practice of purchasing useful software developers and then releasing their programs for free, Google recently purchased a nifty little tool for viewing, organizing and manipulating picture files called "Picasa", which they have just updated and released as Picasa 2: .

Not to be outdone, Microsoft also has a free picture utility called "Photostory": and a huge, searchable, selection of free clip art for users of their popular Office software, available from: .

There are actually tons and tons of useful freeware programs available online, so it's often worth poking around the download sections of large websites. Microsoft's and Google's are just the start, exploring the freeware collections of sites like can be the start of some excellent adventures! Just be sure to carefully read the description of any software you are considering downloading.

posted by Kusari 11:48 PM

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