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Solutions

Cost of free software is often poor support

By JOHN TORRO
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 3, 2003

Q. I found the Dec. 9 Solutions column a little misleading. In giving a solution for the person with the problem with the antivirus program, it makes it sound as though all freeware programs are trash, especially antivirus programs. I use and advise my friends and family to use Grisoft's AVG (www.grisoft.com). The program is rock solid. The only disadvantage to the free version is that it is limited for use on noncommercial systems and lacks some bells and whistles, most notably, scheduling is set to a specific time and cannot be changed.

Spreading paranoia about freeware programs, in my humble opinion, is a disservice to your readers. Would you also advise them to buy a firewall program when the best available (Zone Labs ZoneAlarm) is free for noncommercial use? Perhaps it would be better to initiate a column devoted to freeware that would evaluate programs and provide insight as to what is available, what is worthy and what to avoid. In this economy, I think your readership would appreciate learning how to save a buck or two.

* * *

A. Paranoia? I think that may be a little strong. While I'm sure your expertise in computers allows you a little more freedom in what you choose to put on your PC, most users do not have this expertise and, therefore, when things go wrong, who do they call?

Most shareware programs do not offer phone support or extensive self-help Web support, if any at all. As a veteran of 20-plus years of commercial software development, I can tell you that the most expensive aspect of the software business is often providing technical support. Most software authors cannot afford to provide personal support on software that is given away for free. It is a simple matter of economics.

Antivirus software is very important. If it is not updated on an almost daily basis, it is useless. It is also relatively inexpensive (less than $39) to purchase commercial antivirus software that is updated daily and provides technical assistance to its users.

I'm sure that reader who wrote in with the problem after installing AVG would have gladly spent $39 to have avoided the mess that occurred after installation. In fact the same day we received your e-mail, we received one from another reader where the AVG installation trashed the system.

I'm not saying that AVG is a bad program. However, writing installation scripts is very complicated considering the wide range of PCs and the various Windows versions. Unless AVG provides free phone support for its freeware product, I have to make other recommendations to our readers.

Links between wired, wireless

Q. D-Link support has not provided any answers for my networking problem (Windows XP Pro). I have four wired and two wireless computers in my local network. Using a router, I can access the Internet, but cannot see any computers on my local area network, depending on which network card I use. Please do not send information about file sharing. It is correctly configured on all computers on the network.

* * *

A. I'm guessing that this may be related to the builtin firewall of the router. Check the documentation to see if additional ports need to be opened to allow peer-to-peer communication between wireless and other PCs on the local area network.

Also, try enabling the 802.11 Ad Hoc configuration mode on the dwl-650 (card) properties.

I replaced my home network's router with a D-Link 604. It is an excellent product, simple to set up and is highly recommended to anyone who wants to share a broadband Internet connection between multiple PCs on their home LAN.

Message indicates virus

Q. When I start Windows, the following pops up on my screen: "Windows Script Host loading script c:\windows\temp\floyd\floyd.js failed (access is denied)." I click the OK, which removes it from the screen. But it pops up every time I start Windows. Did I pick up a virus?

* * *

A. There are some relatively old references to this file as being virus related and it would be safe to assume that this is what you're experiencing. Either update your antivirus program or buy a new one if it is more than 4 years old. Meanwhile, you can try booting to a DOS prompt: Type: CD \windows\temp\floyd and delete the file with the DEL command.

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