Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Are You Broke Yet?

Are you completely broke yet?

The Christmas shopping season can do that to you in a quick hurry. One minute you’re drinking champagne and the next thing you know people are tossing coins in your hat as they pass you on the street.

And the worst part is we do it to ourselves, Congress had nothing to do with it, (although I think it would be safe to blame them anyway. They’ve done just about everything else to us in the last few years and if you weren’t broke before Christmas it wasn’t because your Congressman wasn’t trying to suck the life, er…the cash right out of you. I’m always reminded of the line from Miracle on 34th Street, when Shellhammer hears about Kris and his fantasy of being Santa Claus he argues; “Perhaps he’s just a little bit crazy, like painters or poets and or like some of those men in Washington”), we spend ourselves into poverty trying to make sure all of our friends and relatives know just how much we value them.

But wouldn’t it be more value-wise if we didn’t spend ourselves dry? What if we still valued and love our friends and families, but we got them something we could afford. Something they’d use and enjoy for years to come and something free, it is supposed to be the thought that counts.

So in case you’ve forgotten, I’ve made a list and checked it twice and I’m going to remind you of some of the things we’ve talked about this year which you may have forgotten, but I don’t really see how that’s possible when you hang on every word I write and save these postings and print them out and press them between the leaves of your Field and Stream. What you thought I was going to say bible? That wouldn’t be very respectful, now would it?

So let’s start the list with my personal favorite, Faststone Image Viewer.

This is a free image editor, re-sizer and organizer, it is small, so it won’t hog space on your hard drive and it is powerful so you may not need any other image editor. Try it and if you like it maybe next year you can hold off on a coupla lattes and send the ten bucks to Faststone. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean they won’t take your money.

Then there’s Photoscape

It’s a bit bigger, better and more powerful. You can still learn it in a day and spend the rest of the evening watching reruns on television. It will colorize, backlight or manipulate your images and it won’t cost you a cent. See note about donating if you like it.

Then there’s GIMP

GIMP is for the big boys. It will do anything the high priced spread will do and it is free, free, free. It will also take half a year to learn how to use, but if you really want to create photos which will stop traffic this is the beast to do the job. It was written for Linux, but aren’t you glad it will also run under Windows.

When you work with files a bunch you’ll wind up leaving a lot of artifacts lying around. To clean these nasty bits off your computer try Ccleaner

Now I won’t tell you what the C stands for, but if you’ve listened to any of the presidential debates you know already. This little utility cleans up after you like nobody’s business. It even has a registry cleaner which takes care of all the litter in your registry without you having to know any of the arcane and mysterious secrets of the innards of a Windows machine. Try it; you’ll wonder how you managed without it.


Read the form and be sure you get the one that’s free. This little gem will let you talk to just about anyone, just about anywhere in the world and you won’t have to cough up a penny for Ma Bell.

If you’re working at your art, this is fantastic for business conference calls. I can’t tell you how much I wish I had known about this back in the Dark Ages, the nineties, when I started running Poison Pen Murder Mysteries. I could have bought a BMW with what I spent on long distance calls. Now I just do a video link and spend half of the time and none of the money. The Long Suffering still won’t let me have a BMW, but I do it anyway.


This nifty little guy won’t make you thinner, lower your cholesterol or cure the heart-break of psoriasis, but it will tell you what’s lurking inside your computer so that when something no longer lurks and makes funny noises you’ll be able to tell the tech at the computer ER what parts went into the box in the first place.

And last but not least, I have scoured the Internet and found a template for you so that next year you can make your own greeting cards.

No you don’t have to search through the whole site cause I did that for you too. Here’s the direct link which gives you the template for PhotoShop or PhotoShop Elements. If you don’t use one of these two try the site, they have Word templates too.

So there you are, plenty of things you can give your friends and pals and expect that they will actually use them. All of them are free and all of them are safe. I use them on my own computer and have checked the sites so that I know there are no nasty little viruses lurking about to give you the Christmas Kringles.

Now go and jingle your bells it’s almost time to shovel the presents Santa’s reindeer leave, oh goodies!

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