VISUAL NEWSLETTER – DEC 2003           




The Internet offers a large number of software programs which are free to download. Some are patches and updates to your existing software while others are independent useful programs that you would otherwise have to pay for. Many are almost indispensable to navigate the internet and experience all the features it has to offer.


The first class of programs you should investigate are the Microsoft Windows Updates. These are usually available by clicking Tools & Windows Update while in Internet Explorer. Critical updates fix many significant problems and close security gaps that may allow viruses and hackers to attack your computer. No information is passed to Microsoft during the download of these updates. They are almost always safe and can prevent much more serious problems.


Similar to Microsoft, other software companies, like Symantec, maintain sites where you can update their programs, download the latest virus definitions and such. Anti-virus programs in particular need to be kept up to date at least once a week if they are to provide any protection at all.


Other manufacturers allow you to download improvements to their software free of charge typically for a year after purchase. You may miss out on some excellent improvements if you don’t check for updates.


Many modern web-sites incorporate state of the art features that your computer may not support out of the box. When you visit these web-sites they may recommend that you download the necessary programs to fully explore and appreciate their site. Supplying your e-mail address may be a requirement for some downloads. These necessary program downloads should not be confused with the unnecessary Ad-ware/Spyware programs.


A short list of the better free programs:


Direct X & Media Player are available from Microsoft and provide support for audio and video files encountered on the internet.


Apple’s Quick Time Player supports video movie files used for Movie Trailers and such.


Adobe Acrobat Reader allows you to read a variety of posted documents on vendor and government web-sites. These can be viewed and printed as necessary. We get our payroll changes in this way from the CCRA web-site.


Macromedia’s Flash and Shockwave support high-end audio and video features contained in many newer web-sites. Without them you may see a limited version of the site.


To combat the explosion of Ad-Ware infesting the Internet, new programs like Spybot 1.2 Search and Destroy have become essential to rid your computer of pests. Like an Anti-Virus, these programs require frequent updates to remain effective. even offers a free Anti-virus called AVG with free automatic updates. While they also offer professional versions at a modest cost, the free version is perfectly fine on your home or small office computer.


Many other free programs exist on the Internet but the above list is fairly complete and will allow you to utilize the internet with minimal interference from excess ads.


In the past programs like Real Player and Kazaa were useful to play media files and locate and download software but recent versions have become virtual ad-ware with multiple ads popping up at every use. These programs and a variety of others have useful features if you can stand the constant ads popping up.