This weekend I took the leap...

I'd been planning to reformat my laptop so I could get a fresh start. It was getting pretty bad. Turning my computer on in the mornings was a 30-minute committment minimum. Even after adding the maximum amount of RAM, it was still slow and tedious to do simple tasks like open Outlook or Adobe Photoshop (which I use every day).

One of the problems I was having was that the software meant to PROTECT me from work slow-downs was actually CAUSING them. My spyware and virus scanning software was constantly soaking up system resources. Plus, they would pop up every few minutes to alert me to some new threat, tell me about updates or otherwise inform me that they were doing their job. I don't want to be updated on progress, I just want the job done.

So I ditched them. I'm now "mucking about in the sewer of the Internet without the benefit of hip waders," as my friend Todd would say.

But one step I've taken seems to have helped. I've boycotted Microsoft.

To be more specific, I've boycotted the Microsoft Office Suite. I use Word, Outlook and Excel every day, but over the years I've discovered they are the continuous targets of viruses, spam, and spyware. Outlook is more vulnerable than Katie Holms to the advances of Tom Cruise.

So, for my revamp, I've taken a leap. I'm refusing to install Microsoft Office and am instead relying on new software to cover my butt.

First, I'm using Mozilla's varoious software to replace Internet Explorer and Outlook.

For web browsing - Firefox is an excellent web browser, with all the functionality of IE plus tabbed browsing and pre-integrated Google searching.

For e-mail - Thunderbird handles e-mail in a way that Outlook has never dreamt of, blocking junk mail in a no-hassle, easy to use kind of way.

For calendar and scheduling - Sunbird is the ticket so far. The only complaint I have at the moment is that the alarm on scheduled events A) isn't a default and B) doesn't seem to have any sort of audible sound attached to it.

But beyond that, I've ditched my much beloved MS Word, Excel, Access, Power Point, etc. OpenOffice.org offers a free office suite that can do the job of all of these programs. It can even open and save to their document formats. So even though I'm using freebie software (donations are welcome), I can still work with my old documents and even work between OpenOffice and the Microsoft suite.

If anyone is interested, here are the links for downloading these software packages:

Firefox: http://www.mozilla.com/

Thunderbird: http://www.mozilla.com/thunderbird/

Sunbird: http://www.mozilla.org/projects/calendar/sunbird.html

OpenOffice.org: http://www.openoffice.org/

Also handy, Yahoo Instant Messenger, which now has the ability to make phone calls (at a small charge): http://messenger.yahoo.com/

And if you really want something cool, try Google's Desktop search engine, which indexes and searches your HARD DRIVE as well as the web. This is much better than Microsoft's useless search tool: http://desktop.google.com/?promo=mp-gds-v1-1

Enjoy! My next big step is going to be ditching Microsoft all together and going with a Unix-based operating system instead of Microsoft Windows XP. Anyone have any suggestions? Let me know!



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Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
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