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Blog: Living Cheap in Kansas

How to live on less, save on just about everything and be green too!

Showing 3 posts in the Computers category for this blog.
Cheap at Work
Friday, March 25, 2011

A few months ago I was asked to be part of a group at the County department in which I work which is doing disaster recovery planning.  Our name for it is COOP (or Contingency Of Operations Plan).  As part of the IT (computer) group, it was my responsibility to come up with a plan to have computers and phones prepared and stored offsite in case our office building is destroyed or damaged to the point that no one can get back in and get any equipment of supplies.  Considering that I had no budget for this, it was going to be a challenge.  However, being the curb shopper and lucky scrounge I am, it wasn't that difficult.

First I sent out an e-mail to all the other IT people in all the County departments to see if they had any computers and monitors they were planning on getting rid of.  An IT guy from a department just down the hall replied that he had a few PC's we could have.  A co-worker and I grabbed a cart and hot-footed it over to see what he had available.  We found several PC's and were about to leave with them when I noticed several boxes of what appeared at first glance to be laptops.  I asked about them.  "Oh," he said, "they are some tablet computers we had for a project a few years ago, but they were slow and no one liked them so we aren't using them anymore.".  My eyes lit up - "Ooh, can we take one and test it ?" I said.  "Sure.  he replied.  "We have docking stations, cases, extra battery chargers and even car chargers."    So Bob & I grabbed a couple with docking stations and power cords and headed back.   Needless to say, once we completely cleaned off the hard drives and reinstalled Windows and the applications we would need, they ran beautifully.  They had dual-core processors and 2GB of RAM!  Even have them running on the internal wireless network.  We took all 24 tablets and almost all the accessories (except the hard cases which we really didn't need).  Then a few days later I contacted the warehouse where County offices sent equipment they didn't want anymore and came up with plenty of keyboards and mice to go along with them.  Now all I need are phones (VoIP and expensive), network cables and power strips.  Still got a couple of weeks though so who knows...

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Free Stuff for Computers
Friday, January 08, 2010

Since I work with computers every day, I've found some really great free software available on the Internet for such things as virus protection, spyware and malware cleaners, word processing, spreadsheets, drawing software, browsers and e-mail.  You have to be REALLY careful on the Internet.  Just because something says "free" doesn't mean it actually is.  Many times it will say "free download".  You can download it for free, but if you actually want to use it, you'll have to pay.  All too often, once you have downloaded and installed something, it is next to impossible to get rid of it.   Sometimes they are actually malware that will install and then nag with popups until you purchase the software.  BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN DOWNLOADING ANYTHING!!

So here is a list of stuff that is actually free to download and use. 

Virus Protection:  My favorite is Avast.  Download from .  This is free for home use.  Once you download and install it, you will need to register it at the website.  Then they e-mail a license number that you enter into the software.  You will need to re-register about once a year, but there is no charge.  It works great and does daily free updates. 

Spyware Prevention/Removal:  My favorite is still Spybot Search and Destroy.  It can be downloaded from  Do be very careful when downloading.  There are a lot of look-a-likes out there that are really malware.  This does take some configuring - you need to immunize your computer and set up frequent scans.  They have other good products as well.

Another one is SuperAntiSpyware.  Located at, this product does a great job of cleaning off spyware and malware.

Check out  for a product that can be used to really clean and speed up your computer.  Ccleaner (formerly known as Crap Cleaner) removed temporary and unused files and registry entries that are no longer being used.  You can also use it to remove software that Windows refuses to uninstall.  When you run the registry cleaner, you'll need to run it about three times to get all the junk.

Need to do a presentation, or have word processing or spreadsheet functionality that is compatible with Microsoft Office but don't have $$$ to spend?  Check out  Free open source software that provides word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, graphics and database functionality.  Moreover, it can open and edit and save Microsoft Office (up to 2007) files. 

Firefox is a great browser alternative to Internet Explorer.  Available from  it provides more functionality that IE has even considered.  It is much more secure and protected against malware and spyware invasions.   Their Thunderbird e-mail product provides a great local e-mail client as well.

More to come...



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What I do
Thursday, January 07, 2010

In real life I'm a computer tech at the local wastewater department.  I get paid to be a geek.  I work with two other self-professed geeks - worked with them for over 18 years.  We get along great  - most of the time.   We are part of the local county government and as such, money is tight.  However, a few years ago I figured out that since other county departments seemed to spend a lot of money on computer equipment and replace it rather quickly, I would acquire their castoffs  (for free) that were still in great shape and had a least a couple of years of life left.  They were delighted that we would come and pick them up - they didn't have to clean off the hard drives and take them to surplus. We took all they had and then used the best ones to replace older machines and saved spares in case we had to repair them.  We could always fix one faster with spare parts rather than waiting for a tech to come on a warranty repair.  Granted, then we had to take stuff to surplus, but it was worth it.  Over the past few years, I've acquired flat panel monitors and printers as well as computers.  Sometimes we would buy a few sticks of memory to add to the computers, but overall we saved (the county) a LOT of money.

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AnnieM (Contact)
Olathe, Kansas USA
About Me:

I've been a cheapskate just about all my life. In doing so I've learned to do just about everything. I can sew, paint, hang wallpaper, install tile and flooring, pull and replace toilets, sinks, garbage disposals and faucets. Remove and replace ceiling fixtures and fans, replace outlets and switches, I've installed windows (both on houses and on computers!), I can rehab almost anything from furniture (repair, reupholster and refinish) to computers (I built my husband a good laptop using three broken ones that I got for free)! I've taken cheap to a whole new level!

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