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Free Tools, Useful Sites

Two terrific desktop calendars and three practical Web sites, plus an observation test and a new twist on the Ginsu knife.


You remember I told you that I gave up using Outlook? That's true, but I still need quick access to a calendar a couple times a day. Coincidentally, two of my e-mail buddies found a pair of handy little calendars, both free for the download.

The one I'm using is QuickMonth Calendar because it's unobtrusive and doesn't have any bells, whistles, or frills. Just roll your cursor over on the clock in your System Tray and up pops a calendar.

Here's what Zachary A. said: "I have long been frustrated with the Windows task bar showing only the time (and today's date if you double-size your task bar). With this great little utility just hover your mouse over the time and you get a full month calendar, highlighting the current date, through which you can scroll forward and backwards."

When I mentioned QuickMonth Calendar to another buddy, Bryan V., he immediately fired back "try DateInTray, too!" Aye aye, sir.

DateInTray is also low-profile, sits in the System Tray, and always shows today's date. Float the cursor over the date and you'll see the day, date, and year. But here's where I run into a problem. If I want to see a calendar, I have to double-click the date icon. I know I'm kvetching, but for me, the whole purpose of the tool is to quickly get to a calendar; that's why QuickMonth Calendar makes so much sense. One other thing: I have to go though a Startup folder rigmarole to get DateInTray to load when I boot the system; QuickMonth Calendar handles that for me.

Try them both and see if either fits your needs. And if neither of them do, you've got another freebie to try: Calendar Magic.

Dig This: How'd you do with the observation quiz from last week? One guy wrote and complained that two many of the test questions were ambiguous. No doubt--but then again, so's life, eh? This week I have Eagle Eyes, a very difficult, unambiguous test to see just how good your powers of observation are. Click the spot when you find the difference. One hint: It's not only the objects, but also the background. [Note to editor: How'd you do?][Note to Steve: I'm an Eagle Eye, buddy. Top that. --Editor]

Dig This, Too: Mini-Putt is an addicting 18-hole golf game. Definitely watch out for #18. [Thanks, Georgia.]

Sites (and Services) You Need to Try
My wife was off on a birding trip this past weekend (in Duluth, Minnesota, of all places, with temps averaging -20 degrees, all for a couple of owls...). Me, I spent some quality time with the Internet and avoided eating broccoli. But I digress. Here are three of the sites I discovered. I'll have more next week.

Hello? HELLO? You probably already know if you live in a dead cell zone. So I'm betting you've thought about switching carriers. The site to check is DeadCellZones because it'll show you what areas you'll find the most cell phone coverage complaints. You can search by zip code, city, or address, and look at complaints about AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. You can even submit a complaint to the site; it's not likely to force anyone to stick a new tower in your area, but it sure feels good to do.

Get a Title: Buying or selling a house? With the market the way it is, I didn't think so. There's a possibility you might do it in the future, though. I discovered a tool you could use. CLTA TitleWizard lets you compare the cost of title insurance from over 80 title companies. I put in my zip code, answered a handful of questions, and came up with 24 companies. The fees ranged from $1800 to $2800.

Unarchive This: Say you're on vacation and using a PC in an Internet cafe. Someone sends you an e-mail with an archived file, maybe compressed with WinZip or RAR, and of course the PC doesn't have the right unarchiving tool. Pop over to WobZip, a still-in-the-works site that'll uncompress over 15 archive types, including .cab, .lzh, .tar, and even .iso. Once unarchived, you'll need to download the files.

Dig This: The coolest video I've seen lately is "The Dog, the Cat and the Rat." They all seem to get along, at least while they're out in public. The story, which I can't confirm, is that the animals belong to a homeless panhandler in , California.

Dig This, Too: The Jedi Ginsu Commercial really captures the essence of all those guys pitching chop-o-matics.

Steve Bass writes PC World's monthly "Hassle-Free PC" column and is the author of "PC Annoyances, 2nd Edition: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer," available from O'Reilly. He also writes PC World's daily Tips & Tweaks . Sign up to have Steve's newsletter e-mailed to you each week. Comments or questions? Send Steve e-mail.

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