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Rip You Off, Sir?

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Don’t you hate it when someone tries to sell you something that’s already available that they got for free? It’s like a dude selling flags at the parade when the American Legion guy right behind him is giving them away. Not cool.

What brought this to mind was a column by John Dvorak at pcmag.com (more on him below), a man who has been writing about computers since the first lightning bolt hit a pile of sand and created silicone. He was talking about how Adobe was selling stock images (that it acquired by buying Fotolia in January) — mostly, really bad stock images — and thus was becoming competition for the people actually using their products to create images they hope to sell. Never a smart business move.

Anyway, one of his examples of nasty was Corbis, a company founded by none other than Bill Gates. A photo of the Civil War ironclad, the Monitor, showing the cannon in the turret being viewed by two very Civil War-attired officers, will cost you $110 (for internal use) or up to $1,735 (for Internet or TV use).

However, Corbis copied it directly from the Library of Congress collection of old photos, which are available completely free online.

Yep, go to www.loc.gov/library/libarch-digital.html, and you’ll find a fascinating collection of photos, cartoons, posters and newspapers, many of them from the Civil War era and earlier, downloadable and free. There are hand-colored photographic prints of Europe that are stunning, baseball cards, fine art prints and tintypes. There are more than 1 million images. It’s wonderful.

Oh, there’s also www.loc.gov/jukebox that has recordings from the early 1900s. You can listen to many of them, but not download most. It’s still fun.

If you do a Google search for free stock images, you’ll get an often-questionable collection of “free“ sites that usually have a paltry collection of free images and a whole bunch that you pay for. So the quest was on for truly free pictures, etc.

The best I’ve found so far is www.morguefile.com/archive, which has about 360,000 photos and a decent search feature. Type in “heart,“ for instance, and you’ll find 765 images of wedding-cake toppers, calico hearts and (oops) even the occasional actual human heart, so that’s enough to overwhelm any Valentine’s Day card or February newsletter. The term “morguefile“ refers to archives of old issues that newspapers once kept for reference. A bit of nostalgia.

If you know of any sites you trust, please pass them along, and I’ll list them in future columns.

Another Vote for Windows 10

Now, back to John Dvorak. Like many crusty columnists (ahem), he is no fan of a lot of what passes as innovations by Microsoft, so he was no fan of Windows 8. But a July column was entitled, “Windows 10 is a Clear Winner,“ where he declares, “I am forced to deliver a rave review of Windows 10.“

One could be cynical and inquire if he was “forced“ by the stunning wonderfulness of Win10 or by a large Microsoft employee named Vito, but I digress. He did admit to being stunned. One major compliment was that the people who actually use computers (as opposed to tablets and phones) appear to be back in charge of a computer product. We can only hope for more of that.

He also advises to take your time doing any upgrade to Win10 on existing units until there is more feedback. After all, you have a year. True, that.

As long as we’re digressing, let me mention that I encountered a friend re-reading an old column of mine on the copy of The Business Monthly that I strategically left on my kitchen table. When I asked her how she liked it, she replied, “It was as good as the first time“ — which, if you contemplate it, could mean anything. Very diplomatic.

After the Upgrade

So, the mess in August that caused nearly 1,000 cancelled or delayed flights at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport and Reagan National Airport, in Washington, D.C., on a Saturday, with some people not getting to their destinations until Monday, was caused by (wait for it) a software upgrade to the air traffic control center intended to “speed jetliners to their destination.“

Anyone who has tried to get out the door at the last minute with a laptop that had suddenly gone into upgrade mode (“Do not turn off your computer“) knows a minor version of this frustration. The regular version is when an “upgrade“ hoses something that had been working perfectly well.

The biggest worry about Win10, as it turns out, is that there is apparently no way to turn automatic updates off. Hopefully, this will be addressed before something similar happens.

Last Words

Don’t you just love it when a piece of spam comes addressed to “Last Name“ or, even better, “{List Name}“? Someone needs to learn the nuances of their Spam-O-Matic software.

Cliff Feldwick is owner of Riverside Computing and handles PC troubleshooting, network setups and other techno-wienie stuff for small businesses, when not waiting for upgrades to finish downloading. He can be reached at 410-880-0171 or at cliff@feldwick.com. Older columns are online at http://feldwick.com.