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with Mary Lou McNatt

Learn tips and hints to use a variety of electronic and technical equipment to enhance work with volunteers.

~ April 2005 ~ Topics

Downloading those Amazing On-line Tools

I'm always surprised at the new tools and resources I find on the Internet. They continue to grow and amaze me. We've all learned that the Internet is a great place for exchanging ideas, or reading about subjects that are of interest to us. One uses of the Internet I really enjoy is its ability to transfer files from one computer to another.

Downloading and transferring files, especially from sites that you are not sure of, can include some risk. Knowing some tips to follow when downloading files or programs can keep you and your computer safe.

What Are They?

First let's look at some of the terms you need to be familiar with and how they work before you begin to download or use software programs on the Internet:

    Shareware is software that you can try for a limited time. At the expiration of the trial period, you are expected to send payment to the creator of the program if you wish to continue to use it. Upon receipt of payment you are usually sent a permanent version of the software or a password to unlock the software for complete usage.
    Freeware means there is no expectation for payment. Freeware refers to programs that you use at no cost. Sometimes freeware applications are not of the highest caliber. Examples include file-sharing programs, anti-virus software, FTP clients, firewalls, games and more. Some, but not all of these programs, might install junk on your computer.
    The idea beyond Ad Supported Software is that you can have the package for free if you can just put up with the "little" banner advertisement that comes with the software and displays on the top.
    Adware is software that tracks your surfing habits and generates pop-up ads.
    Spyware, the more dangerous of the all the programs, covertly records your keystrokes, surfing habits, passwords, credit card numbers, e-mail addresses and other confidential information through your Internet connection, and can report them back to advertisers. Spyware can install itself and run on your computer without your knowledge or consent.

Be careful when installing some software applications, particularly freeware. Many of the free services are paid for by advertising and you see the banner ads within the applications when they're running. There is always a potential for rogue code to be running on your machine without your knowledge or consent. Some shareware and freeware programs are bundled with adware and spyware.

How To Be Safe?

Downloading is copying a program or file from a computer on the Internet to your computer. Most sites make it pretty easy to download their programs. The steps you take to download a file can be as easy as point and click. Recent developments in operating systems make downloading software much easier. A good tutorial on downloading software is found at: http://help.tucows.com/tutorial_download.html.

There are a few things to remember when downloading software. Follow these guidelines to help eliminate troubles when you download.s

1. Update Your Virus Software
Remember--when downloading software, only use sites that can ensure their software is free from viruses. When downloading any new software, before you open it - always check for viruses. Always keep your virus software updated.

2. Know What You Named It and Where You Save It
Once you click on the "Download Now" link (or similar words), an operating system window guides you through saving the program to your computer. You have the option of saving it to your hard drive or to a removable disk, or any other storage device attached to your computer. Make sure you record the drive and directory path where the software is being saved.

After the download is complete, locate the software and decompress it if needed. The file you downloaded more often than not is a compression of the many files required for the program which are now installed on your computer so is no longer required for operation of the program. You can do one of three things with it:

  • save it where it is in case reinstallation is ever needed
  • copy it to other storage for possible future needs
  • discard (delete) it.

Always take the time to look at where you are downloading the file to on your computer.

3. Read the Instructions
Before you download anything off the Internet, make sure you read the fine print and be selective about what you download to your computer. While you are going through the install screens, take a moment to read the screens and look at what's going on.

There are different options that are available to you when downloading files.

1. Download a Zip file. A Zip file is the result of applying compression software to a file. Compression software reduces the file's size so that it downloads quicker than it would in its original state. Zip files have .zip after the file name. You will need special software to decompress the file at your end before you can begin to install the program. If you don't already have software to unzip your downloaded file WinZip has an excellent free evaluation program you can download and use to decompress files. Go to: http://www.winzip.com/downwzeval.htm to download a free evaluation copy.

2. Run the program from its current location. This is the exception rather than the rule. You must read the directions before downloading a program. If the instructions tell you to run the program from its current location, check this option rather than the save to disk option.

3. Download a self-extracting executable file. The file that is downloaded is not compressed in the Zip format and is typically installed by double-clicking the file after it has been downloaded. In many cases this file will be named "setup.exe." Windows® system and security updates are typically downloaded and installed with little or no action required by you. In most cases, however, you must restart your computer after the update had been installed to successfully apply the update.

The dialog box will display a message when the download is complete. Click Close or the X in the upper right of the dialog box to close it. Always read what it says --- it could help.

There are many amazing tools and programs available to help you do your job, make your job easier, and are just plan fun to use. For the most part you will not experience any problems when downloading files from the Internet but to help keep you and your computer safe remember to keep your virus software updated, know where you are saving files to, and read the instructions and fine print.

Plan an EDU-VACATION - April 26-29, 2005

Training for managers of volunteers, leading to a certificate, is being held April 26-29, 2005. Sponsored by Washington State University, the Volunteer Management Certificate Program will be held in Port Hadlock, Washington, in the shadow of the Olympic Mountains. Topics include:

Recruitment Evaluation
Training Management and Supervision
Recognition Risk Management
Diversifying the Volunteer Pool The Internet as the Manager's Next Best Friend

Interactive Case Models based on student process is the focus of Learning Activities.
For more information, visit the website at: http://www.emmps.wsu.edu/volunteer.

Mary Lou McNatt has many years of experience working with volunteer programs, advancing our profession and has a passion for introducing the advantages of technology to volunteer programs. She was instrumental in obtaining Ivan Scheier’s body of work on volunteerism and putting it online. She can be reached at mlmcnatt@indra.com.

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