This site is intended to bring together in one place, information and
links used for setting up your PC Wholesale laptop and PC Wholesale desktop computers
and keeping them running smoothly. If you have suggestions for
additional tips, please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org. The site will
eventually be better organized. For now, it is organized simply as a
list of suggested
software, and other suggestions that are likely to be useful. See
related topics topics on this site for infomration about the Internet, PC Wholesale, creating
web sites, and for recommended hardware for your home office.
The following are the programs that I use, and the reasons why.
- Linux - I run Linux as the operating system on my main computer at
home, and if you are technically inclined, you should too. But, there
is lots of software that won't run on Linux, and for that I use
Windows XP. If you are not technically inclined and ready to learn a
new operating system, then for now you are probably better off
sticking with Windows. The rest of this page is devoted to
suggestions for Windows, even though Windows is only my secondary
operating system. I mention Linux because the system is significantly
more reliable than Windows, and at least because most viruses and
malicious code today target Windows, Linux tends to be less vulnerable
to the most common of todays attacks on security.
- The Firefox
web browser - This is the browser you should be using. Internet
explorer has too many bugs and is so widely used that it is a target
for exploits that can harm your system. Though not bug free, as of the
time I am writing this, the Firefox browser has had fewer and less
serious exploits than Internet Explorer, and they were quickly fixed.
I also find the user interface to be nicer, and the browser to run
faster. Firfox will run under either Linux or Windows.
- The Thunderbird
mail reader - If you want to read your e-mail locally, downloading it
from the server, then this is the main reader you should be using.
Outlook has too many bugs and vulnerabilities, and is so widely used
that it is a target for exploits that can harm your system.
Thunderbird provides better security, and greater extensibility. I
also find the user interface to be nicer. Thunderbird will run under
either Linux or Windows. For even greater security, consider
installing the enigmail extension to Thunderbird.
- Gmail Though not software, if
you are looking for a mail server, and a new email address, consider
gmail. At the moment it is in beta, and you may have to wait to get
an account, unless you have a friend who uses gmail and can send you
an invitation, but it is well worth it. The gmail service is free and
provides 100GB of storage, but more importantly, it provides better
ways to organize the email you receive, and a very effective search
method to find things from within that 100GB. It also supports
forwarding of email to other addresses, and downloading using POP, all
- Use the Picasa photo
organizer to manage your photos. Recently bought by Google, Picassa
is a free tool for sorting, annotating, searching (based on
annotations and labels) and performing basic manipulations on your
- Google Desktop is a useful
tool for searching for files on your local hard drive. The tool
extends Google search to most kinds documents on your computer that
contain text. One search finds documents in email, web pages, word
files, text files, spreadheets, etc. Searches are fast, and I have
found Google Desktop to save me lots of time searching for thing that
I never used to be able to find. Beware, however, because this search
tools also makes it easy for anyone else using your computer to find
document, including not only documents that you might not want them to
find, but even documents that you have deleted (like the network
version of Google, the index contains cached summaries of documents
as they were indexed, even if the document has since been removed).
While a potential security and privacy problem, if you are the only
one that uses your computer, this can be a feature in that you may be
able to go back and view earlier versions of documents that have
changed on disk.
Depending on the options you select when you install the desktop
search function, Google Desktop will also index the web pages you have
visited, so that when you do a search you find not only documents on
your computer, but
web pages you have recently viewed. This is useful when you remember
seeing something on a web page, but can't remember where. But again,
there are privacy issues if your computer is used by someone else.
They can do a search for something like the letter "a", and Google
Desktop search will display all of the web pages you have recently
- Get your own domain name - Would you like an email address that
you can keep, even if you change ISP's or mail repositories. Services
like Gmail, Yahoo!, and Hotmail will give you an email address, and
some of them will even forward your mail elsewhere, like to the
mailbox at your internet service provider, but you may be concerned
about what happens if they change their terms later. By getting your
own domain name you not only protect yourself from such future
changes, but you can have an e-mail address that is more meaningful
after the @-sign. Unfortunately, a domain name is not free, but it is
inexpensive. See the page on web hosting for a discussion of the best options
for registering a domain name.
Other Suggestions to keep your computer running smoothly
Does your system run slowly on startup
If you are running windows XP and you find you system has been taking
longer and longer to boot since you first got it, the problem is
likely that over time you have been adding more and more programs to
your system startup. You might not realize it, but many of the
programs you may downloaded and install want a preferred place in your
system and set themselves up to start automatically whenever your
system boots. Most of these programs don't really need to be in the
startup at all, and all that they do is make it take longer to boot,
and hog memory needed by your other programs, slowing down the system
To see just what is running on startup, you will want to run the
program "msconfig", which is likely already installed on your system.
To run it, go to the start menu and select "run". Type msconfig and
select "OK". The programs that start automatically can be viewed
under the startup tab. But be careful! Many of these programs
actually are needed for certain features of your system
to run properly, especially your
anti virus system, so you
will want to investigate the purpose of the auto started programs
before disabling them. A good source for information on msconfig is
Similar performance problems plague windows vista, but msconfig does not work on vista. If you are using vista, you can use TweakVista to accomplish similar results. TweakVista is not a free program, but they do offer a limited time trial which will likely be long enough to clean up your system the first time. Since Vista and XP both then to acrete these startup problems over time, you will have to run it again down the road, probably after the trial expiration, but by that time you will have seen the results, so you will know if it is worth the purchases.
Is your system infected with spyware?
By now you should know that you absolutely need to run
antivirus software on your system. It is also a good idea to scan your system
for spyware. Spyware often accompanies, or is part of, programs or
plug-ins that you have chosen to install on your system. Such
software may send personal details, or information about your
activiites to other sites, or record the information in such a way
that the information is presented to certain sites when you visit
Some software takes your personal information and sends it to people trying to steal your identity.
Some spyware will pop up ads when you visit certain sites or
type certain keywords, and it may try to redirect traffic to
An anti-spyware system will tell you about the spyware running on your
system, or advise you about the spyware like behavior of software you
have intentionally installed, and it may give you the option to remove
the offending software, or to disable certain aspects of it. Most
publishers of anti-virus software also sell anti-spyware products, and
there are several purely anti-spyware products on the market. But you
don't have to pay extra to scan for spyware as there is a good freely
available package that you can download and run called Spybot Search and Destroy. This is
an excellent product that was developed and is maintained by
volunteers (Patric Kolla and others). While they do not require you
to do so, if you find the program useful, you are encouraged to make a
donation through paypal on their website.
See my Security and Privacy
web site for more information on spyware.