Saturday, March 21, 2009

A search for software (pt1)

GEEK ALERT: This article is quite technical in nature. Despite being written for a non-geek audience, there are just some technical things that can't be ignored and still keep the article complete and accurate. If you are a non-geek, simply ignore the terms you don't understand, and you will still get three quarters of it.

I have been looking for a replacement for the old DOS filing systems I have been using on an "off line" computer since the 90's. (Even in the 90's MS-DOS was slightly out of date, but at this point, I fear I will soon not have any hardware that it will even run on.) The biggest problem with this task: I custom built most of this over the years, and it has a lot of custom functions that are just the way I like them.

I had several requirements in mind for the replacement programs. First, I wanted freeware. I'm cheap, but also I wanted after I got my system up and running, to be able to duplicate it on others' systems, without incurring expenses. Second, since I and some of my friends run older systems, it has to be stingy on computer resources. This cuts out Open Office, as it is free, but it is a resource hog. Third, for both security and economic concerns, it has to run completely off line - never accessing the Web, except possibly for upgrades, and then only with the user's permission. Lastly, it needs to run on Win2k and WinXP, since those are my platforms of choice, at this time. (I may in a few years, switch to Ubuntu Linux, but I need something to bridge the gap)

The fist thing I found out is that most of these programs, even the older ones, balk at my old 800x600 monitor. Statistically in the technology department, I recently slipped into the bottom 10% of the Internet users, and bottom 20% of the country as a whole. The majority of the world is using either 1024x768 or 1280x800(widescreen) resolution.

I figured I would need at least two programs to replace the suit of programs I have built in DOS. First something to keep track of birthdays and other info about friends and family, with a reminder system for that and other tasks, a to-do list, and a general purpose notebook. Basically this describes something (in a big leather book) called a "Day-Runner" from the 1980's, and is known as a PIM today. The other would be a database, mainly for my checkbook.

PIM stands for Personal Information Manager, and it allows you to keep all you information in electronic form. All your appointments, tasks, to do lists, notes and contacts are stored in a graphical and easily accessible form.

In my search, I found many dead ends. Most of the download sites today are loaded with shareware, which the authors want paid for. (And rightly so, since they did the work to create those programs) And many of those "free download" sites charge for the right to browse and download freely.

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