Suggested Computer Tools and Resources

Online volunteers use a variety of computers, software and operating systems. The Virtual Volunteering Project staff is committed to not limiting online volunteer opportunities to only one type of computer user.

Also, online volunteers often have better software and hardware than the not-for-profit or public sector organizations they are assisting. It is the volunteers' responsibility to provide materials in formats the organization they are helping can use; it is NOT a volunteer's responsibility to insist that the organization upgrade or change its computers or software.

The Virtual Volunteering Project volunteers have provided information on tools and shareware available to help your computer to be compatible with others', and to help you perform various online tasks.

For instance, the VV Project staff uses Macintosh computers. While we can read most any file generated from an IBM/clone, such users often cannot read some of our files. So, we ask that volunteers submit all of their work in text-only formats, either within the body of an e-mail, as an attachment; as an .html file attached to an e-mail; or via our FTP site. We do the same when transferring files to volunteers

The VV Project and its volunteers subscribe to the "open source" philosophy. This philosophy goes beyond free and open access to source code. In applying the open source philosophy, the Project hopes that others -- volunteers and nonprofits alike -- will be able to use our resources and alter them to fit their needs (while still giving the VV Project appropriate credit and recognition. There are lots of online resources to help agencies and volunteers better understand the open source movement.

Suggested Resources to Help Volunteers and Agencies Share Files and Resources

We ask that ALL VOLUNTEERS utilize Aladdin's free expansion utilities when stuffing or unstuffing files to be used by the Virtual Volunteering Project. These free utilities are available for Windows, Macintosh and DOS. Visit http://www.aladdinsys.com/expander/index.html to learn more and to download these tools.

To view Adobe Acrobat PDF files, you need to have Acrobat Reader installed on your computer. You can download this free software from the Adobe Web site. Sight-impaired users can download the free accessability plug-in for acrobat (the plug-in converts the file to text that is able to read with any screenreader). More information about .PDF files and resources you can use to read and create these files are available in this Handbook.

For Macintosh computer users who need to FTP as part of an online assignment (upload files to a particular area on our Web site), we recommend Fetch, a free software program available from http://www.dartmouth.edu/pages/softdev/fetch.html

For IBM/clone computer users who need to FTP as part of an online assignment (upload files to a particular area on our Web site), our online volunteers recommend:

CuteFTP
A trial version can be downloaded from http://www.cuteftp.com

FTP Explorer
a freeware FTP program that can be downloaded from http://www.ftpx.com/

WS FTP
a freeware FTP program that can be downloaded from http://www.shareware.com
or
http://www.ipswitch.com/cgi/download_eval.pl?product=WL-1000
or
http://www.thefreesite.com

Evrsoft 1st Page 2000 free web builder
http://www.evrsoft.com/1stpage/
A free web builder (and favorite tool of one of the VV Project's online volunteers) to create and manage Web sites. "Ask any professional web builder and they'll tell you the sad stories behind using standard WYSIWYG editors. Professional web builders know that WYSIWYG editors never create clean html code which means they'll end up wasting more time fixing, cleaning and correcting code later on. With this common problem in mind, you'll be glad to hear that 1st Page never ruins HTML code, infact it doesn't even add unwanted html codes to your important projects." Evrsoft 1st Page 2000 helps you write, edit and improve your HTML and let you author websites faster, easier and better. "Whether you're a beginner or an HTML guru you'll find 1st Page 2000 great to use!"

Maintaining Flexibility-Support for Mac and PC Compatibility

Macs and IBM/clones have come a long way from their oil-and-water-don't-mix past. As the marketplace has become flooded with IBM/clones, developers for both platforms, especially Macintosh, have strived to help users share information.

IBM/Clone users must have all of their files saved using names that are eight letters or less, followed by a three-letter file extension -- for instance, thisfile.doc or data1.xls, etc. When a Mac user sends an IBM/Clone user a file, either the Mac user must name the file correctly (the kind of software used determines the file extension); or, the IBM/Clone user must rename the file.

The most important thing when sharing files between IBM/Clone and Mac users is that they have compatible software; they don't necessarily have to have the same software, however. For instance, ClarisWorks (AppleWorks), a Mac program, can read a variety of different kinds of word processing files generated by other software. Microsoft Excel (available for both machines) can read a variety of different kinds of spreadsheet and database files generated by other software.

One large issue in inter-platform file sharing is just being able to open the files and save them on the different computers. There are a few sites that offer downloads of shareware and freeware that address cross-platform problems. In reading just the descriptions of what's out there, you start to learn about what might be important in troubleshooting compatibility issues.

Publish magazine exists for graphic designers, a large group with cross-platform concerns. Their web site, www.publish.com has a software closet with various shareware, freeware and postcardware that helps interpret data between the two platforms. You must register to enter the software closet, but it is free. Some titles that seemed promising were:

  • DOS 2 Mac 2.1;
  • DOS-Namer 1.7.3;
  • Name Cleaner 1.8.0; and
  • Word 6.0 Convertor for MS Word.

C-Net has a web site called www.download.com that has lots of different shareware to address all kinds of issues. It lets you indicate whether you are a IBM/clone or Mac user and gives different menus to choose from. One of our volunteers says she has had good luck with the File and Disk Management subcategory from the Utilities Menu, for both platforms.

Under the Mac listing, there are a few descriptions that sound useful:

  • Cross Platform 1.0
  • File Lift 2.21
  • Name Cleaner 1.8.1.

And the PC:

  • Executor 2.0 w beta
  • Internet Text Translator
  • Mac-in-Dos
  • RK Mac-Win3.5
  • TransMac 3.1
  • X change for Windows

Troubleshooting

Troubleshooting advice is available on www.zdhelp.com. This is a site run by Ziff-Davis, publishers of MacWeek and (I believe) PC Magazine. Upon entering compatibility in the search box, a one-screen list of tips and FAQs came up. The descriptions indicate that the corresponding information would help with common cross-platform problems like sending compatible e-mails and opening image files.

Coyote Communications also offers the document Keep Your Computer Humming: Basic Computer Maintenance and Problem Solving, at http://www.coyotecommunications.com/tech/humming.html. These are general tips for all computers, and specific information for both Macintosh and IBM/Clone PC maintenance and problem-solving, basic printer problem-solving, and things to do before you call technical support.

Other Resources

Tek-Tips
http://www.tek-tips.com/

an award-winning community of thousands of computer professionals with over 800 support forums and an ever-expanding link library for every conceivable support issue. Free e-mail notification service to let you know when your questions have been answered. Membership is free and totally confidential, and no cookies are used. Forums are divided into two groups and seven subgroups: SOFTWARE (MIS, Programmers, ISPs, Instructors) and HARDWARD (Server Rack, Communications Rack, Wiring Closet)

Free Help With Databases & Software
http://www.coyotecom.com/database/freedb.html

In addition to tutorials and printed support material that come with database software package, companies often provide free online bulletin boards, Web sites and automated fax libraries where users can get more specific or updated answers for database questions. There are also Internet discussion groups centered around discussing the use of particular types of database packages. Participants in the groups are software users just like you, although many are often advanced users.

Resources For Users of Older Computers
http://www.coyotecom.com/database/old.html

Not-for-profit and public sector organizations often don't have the option to buy or to upgrade their computers to the latest and greatest toys on the market. And older computers can't use the latest software and systems version. Still, you CAN get a lot out of such older computer systems -- you can surf the Internet, send and receive e-mail, create databases, do desktop publishing, etc. This tip sheet shows that a lot can be done with just a little technology, and where to find resources for older computers.