I peruse a lot of DIY fashion/craftilicious websites and “blogs,”* and they always have these “roundups,” like … “Crocheted Nintendo Character Blankets Roundup!” or “Vintage Baby Wear Roundup!” and “Steampunk Bathroom Decor Roundup!” So I am excited to present my very first, very own roundup of Random Software for Undergrads, “Overgrads,” College Kids and Passersby — or Web-ssersby…
[Disclaimer: None of these has blown up my computer, but that’s not to say they won’t blow up yours. I’m sorry to pull a “covering my butt”** move, but download at your own risk, children! It’s a risk we take together.]
1. Free (!) Antivirus
U of T offers Symantec Endpoint Protection and Symantec AntiVirus software free to all students, staff and faculty! You’ll need a UTORid and password to download, and, unfortunately, you have to remove the software from your computer when you are no longer a student, staff or faculty member. Eep.
You can apparently also get help installing it from the Information Commons Help Desk.
For students moving on to “real life” and looking for a program they will not have to remove upon graduation, there are many free antivirus programs available on the internet, trial versions excluded. Before you download and install the first one you see, google geek community reviews of the program and observe “ratings” (e.g., blah out of five stars), if the download site provides them. AVG seems to be a good one. Many programs have their quirks; I once downloaded a “For Advanced Users” spyware thing, and it blocked my internet access (safety to the highest degree?). In terms of antivirus, I use Avira, but occasionally I’ll have an “UPGRADE TODAY” window pop up in my face, even while I’m offline, on my already will-crash-at-the-sight-of-a-jpg computer. In this respect, my free software came with … a price? HA. No. In spite of quirks, I do recommend Avira.
Be wary that free antivirus thingamajigs do not always block adware or spyware as well. In my understanding, one may need a “cocktail” of antivirus, firewall and spyware (and adware and malware and werewolf) programs to get the kind of protection a single $50 program will provide. Patience and some geeky knowledge are required — or just the patience to acquire said knowledge.
http://download.cnet.com/windows/ –> free everytingz h3r3
While we’re on the topic of system maintenance, for all the Windows users out there, you know how that “Disk Clean-Up” guy appears every now and then, when your hard drive’s pants no longer fit? Ccleaner is a more thorough version of that guy. Our computers clog up with all kinds of nonsense, from fragments of deleted files past to temporary-file roommates’ left-behind socks, all kinds of space-filling junk that you don’t need and will slow your computer down. Ccleaner gets rid of a lot of that.
However, computers often get so slow and corrupted that there’s no turning back. At that point, you may need to look into a registry cleaner, but I have yet to find a program that is free and lives up to its promise of undoing three years of shutting down by holding the power button.
Not actually software, but a website that will automatically generate a citation for you based on a book’s ISBN number. This is perfect for (cough-hack-mumble) peoplewholeaveessaystothelastminute (cough). You may still need to cite the page numbers and other information, of course. If you have time, doing a bibliography the long way will aid you in knowing how to do it without reference — provided you’ll be doing bibliographies for the rest of your life, without a computer. I’m just sayin’.
Also not actually software, but a free speed-reading assistant thing! Speed reading involves “looking” at a word and understanding it without “saying it in your head.” This eliminates some of the time required to read it. On this site, you paste whatever article you’d like to read, then click the button and voila — it is flashed back at you one word at a time, however quickly or slowly you wish.
5. Open Office
I might be giving this a try, especially since one now has to pay for Microsoft Office, as separate from the Microsoft operating system (at least in Vista). It includes a word processor, spreadsheet guy, database manager, PowerPoint-link program, and graphics program. I believe the computer labs in Bahen use Open Office, or something similar…
6. A faster Web browser
Who is using Internet Explorer? Raise your hands.
I’m assuming no one raised their hands. But if you did, OMG WHY? Mozilla Firefox is TOTALLY the future, dude. Actually, it’s not. But internet users the world over are switching over to Firefox, or Google Chrome (like moi, ending my severe lag issues), or Opera, or Safari and probably some Apple*** one — all for greater ease of access, speed, and the ability to install add-ons upon add-ons to “improve your browsing experience.”
Firefox has an entire page of “back-to-school” add-ons, including a citation manager, the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “Read It Later” (an alternative to bookmarking every single page you’ll need for an assignment, then never need again) and many more! There’s also Mozilla Sunbird, a calender program I just found last night (along with everything else here). Internet browser add-ons can be fun, but I think we often don’t realize how useful they can be in our academic endeavours. There’s a gadget for everything these days!
And one more, because seven is a luckier number:
7. FreeMind Mind-Mapping Software
Sounds kind of trippy… Basically, it’s an aid in making idea flow charts, like when you write your thesis, then circle it, then draw arrows around it pointing to arguments that support said thesis, but … on the computer. I always run out of room on paper, so why not?
That’s all for now, my children. I didn’t get into Open Office enough, but I gotta leave for class (and Staples, because I broke my mouse). In short, the internet is bigger than Facebook, and useful software doesn’t have to cost your life savings. Explore, look around, find stuff, play with stuff … What else are we gonna do on Earth?
(Lots of suggestions came from here! “Open Source Tools for Students!” — and Google, of course.)
* I write for one and want to start one but I still don’t understand these NEWFANDANGLED TECHNO THINGS that the kids love with the Facebooks and the tweeter [sic]…
** Oh, come on (pulls your mind out of gutter)
*** Safari? Oh, whoops.