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© St. Petersburg Times, published February 21, 2000

Like BlackIce but free

Well, it's free for some, such as non-profit groups or individuals. ZoneAlarm 2 is a program that's much like Network Ice's $40 BlackIce, a program that protects your Windows computer from attacks via a network. Either program is useful for computers hooked to cable modems or DSL. While dial-up modem users will benefit, always connected machines are more likely to be attacked just because they're, well, always connected. If you're smart and proactive enough to have a virus scanner installed on your PC, fear alone should drive you to get protection like either of these programs, especially since one is now free.

Quick, to the meeting mobile! ~pcm2/action_item.gif

Faster than a speeding bulldog, he leaps tall tales in a single bound. Nihil's Action Item cartoon gave me a chuckle and really gave a co-worker a much needed lift after being dragged, kicking and screaming, into yet another rambling, buzzword infected meeting. Of course, my peers and superiors are on to me and I don't get invited to meetings anymore. For reasons that are best left untouched in a family newspaper, you understand. A tip of the topper to Scott Morris for passing this one on.

Powerful TLA lookups

There are a few good ways to look up three-letter acronyms (or TLA) on the Web, but few offer cross-referencing like this one. A check for DSL brought back references to G.Lite and all the variations of DSL. Nice. The interface is mildly annoying. It goes over the top with HTML frames -- one of those good ideas at the time but horrible for you, the user, in practice. Just right-click in the area with the content and open it in a new browser window unless you like reading long documents in the viewable area of a Palm organizer screen. Now my wife and I can finally communicate about the subtle intricacies of TCP/IP, WAP, XML-RPC and why haven't you done those dishes yet?

Internet storage version 1.5

Those free Internet storage places are starting to hit their stride and offer services that go beyond just offering a place to stuff 20 or so megabytes of your personal stuff. I-drive appears to be one of the leaders, offering something called Filo, a software add-on to save Web pages you like or, say, Web-generated confirmations and receipts with a click of the Windows mouse. It's good when you're on the road without a printer. The service will also synch up to 50 megabytes of your files from your PC, which is a great way to back up your data files while you sleep. While the synch is Windows-only, there's a tip of the fedora toward the Mac: Filo is cross-platform. Of course there's browser access for the Unix crew and other weirdos who won't conform but none of the sexy stuff -- yet.

Get smarter (for free)

Its contents are not doctoral material but that adds to this site's charm. Knuckle draggers like me enjoy plain English. contains a multitude of mini-courses to help you understand such diverse topics as parenting, search engines and how to be a better boss. I particularly like the Notes feature that allows you to store your own annotations on documents. Readers get great content for free and authors can earn a percentage of the advertising revenue. I rambled through quite a bit of this site and found the content to be a bit dry in places but, on the whole, very accurate. Good job.

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