We work hard, and so do our PCs. We humans have useful pain and exhaustion sensations to help us figure out when to take a break. Our poor PCs, though, can't tell us how hard they're working. This month, let's look at a system monitor that improves a PC's reporting ability, a mouse utility that could soothe physical discomfort, and a mood-mellowing puzzle game to help humans and PCs enjoy a little quality time while building a friendly relationship.
But before you move on to these featured files, please scroll to the public service announcement at the very end of this column. Unbeknownst to us at PC World, a recently recommended file arrived with adware. Everyone who downloaded 3D Solar Traveler needs to know what this adware is and how to get rid of it.
Cool as a Cucumber
You put your PC through its paces, so it's good to keep an eye on how it's holding up. How much are you pushing the CPU's capacity? How much of the total RAM are you using? Do you even remember how much RAM it had in the first place? CoolMon, a free program from The CoolMon Project, answers these burning questions and many others.
CoolMon installs an icon in the system tray; right-clicking that icon brings up a small window full of useful tidbits. It arrives with several suggested points of interest for both current stats (CPU usage, processes running, RAM usage, and so on) and important--but easily forgotten--information such as your IP address.
You can alter the window's appearance to suit your taste, but the best part is how much you can customize the information. Perhaps you'd like to know how much room you have left on your hard drive; or perhaps you're a little concerned about your notebook's battery life. The Display Items function lets you select CoolMon tags, which are very similar to HTML tags, from a list. This adds the information to display on CoolMon, and a few seconds with the Delete button removes the information you don't want to see.
CoolMon can remain as simple as it is the moment it's downloaded or grow as complex as you want to make it. Check out The CoolMon Project's site for news, extension programs, and thriving support and development forums.
The Mouse That Roars
Many computer users complain that mousing causes them pain and injury. I myself have been known to mouse with my nonwriting hand just to remove some of the strain. ActiveClick spares me the pain of clicking and lets my wrists relax. With this mouse utility, I park the mouse over a link or button; after a few seconds, it clicks for me.
ActiveClick appears on the desktop as a small window with a few easily identifiable buttons. With the triangular buttons, you can assign ActiveClick to substitute for the left, right, or middle mouse buttons, or the double-click function. Enabling or disabling ActiveClick takes one tap of the big round button. One of the small round buttons brings up the Settings menu, in which you can assign HotKeys and customize the auto-click period. Another small button launches the Help menu. True to the spirit of the program, there's no need to click a button just to see what it does. When you mouse over the smaller buttons on the program window, the title bar explains the button's function.
As you may have guessed, I'm not a medical professional, nor is the author of this program. If you believe you may have any kind of repetitive strain injury, please see a medical professional. Please.
ActiveClick offers a 14-day free trial. The program costs $25.
A Not-So-Jagged Edge
Jig Jag Gold is one smooth customer, richer and more entertaining than you'd expect of a sliding puzzle game. Instead of the simple squares you may remember, Jig Jag Gold's puzzles arrive in unusual, often asymmetrical, geometric shapes. Navigating the square tiles around them can be tricky, and piecing together several different images--each of them a different shape--in these strange spaces can be a real feat.
Unlike a jigsaw puzzle you complete once and then stow in the closet, Jig Jag Gold tests you on several different levels. You can pit your skills against the game in Puzzle, Strategy, and timed Arcade modes. Jig Jag Gold offers good replay value, too. Each of the 75+ puzzles in Puzzle mode can be replayed to attempt completion in fewer moves, and the Strategy and Arcade modes include bonus levels. The pleasant music, reminiscent of the Jeopardy countdown theme, exerts just enough pressure to emphasize the challenge.
You must register to download the trial version, which allows one hour of play--just enough time to scratch the surface. Once the trial's over, you can buy the game for $20.
Boot That Malware Into Orbit
Last month, I recommended a beautiful and educational screen saver called 3D Solar Traveler. It's come to light that this seemingly innocent program--a Shareware Industry Award nominee, no less--slipped some malware past the usual downloads screening process. 3D Solar Traveler 1.03 as formerly hosted at PC World contained a browser helper object called FavoriteMan. This far-from-favorite BHO "helps" by downloading more unsolicited software into your system.
If you're one of the unlucky folks who downloaded 3D Solar Traveler and didn't have a good, up-to-date spyware checker to protect you, please follow the step-by-step instructions on the next page to remove it.
Regardless of whether you downloaded 3D Solar Traveler, you may wish to install a reputable spyware-detection program to help prevent future invasions, and to rid your system of the alien face-huggers that adware such as FavoriteMan installs. Ad-Aware and Spybot Search & Destroy are both free for personal use.
Needless to say, no form of malware is welcome in the PC World Downloads library. Thank the heavens for the alert readers who detected the problem and let me know.