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You can't solve a problem until you recognize it. These three tools--an energy saver, a bandwidth meter, and a procrastination fighter--spotlight common issues. All are free.
Save Your Energy
Any running PC--whether in use or not--slurps up power, contributing to greenhouse gas generation and greenback evaporation. The Local Cooling utility integrates into and expands on Windows XP's Power Options Properties.
This freebie from Uniblue lets you specify how long your PC should wait before spinning down the disks, switching to system standby, and so forth. In the program's interface, Local Cooling tells you how much energy your graphics board, CPU, and other components consume. You can accept one of three levels of across-the-board settings, or input your own numbers. Even minor tweaks--shutting off your monitor a few minutes earlier, for instance--can save precious energy.
To reward your efforts, Local Cooling displays those savings in easily understandable units: kilowatt hours, translated into trees or gallons of oil. You can register all of your PCs on a free Local Cooling account, and you can log in to the Local Cooling Web site to compare your conservation efforts to those of other individuals and companies. Cool indeed.
Local Cooling, free
Do You Have the Bandwidth?
Many ISPs limit the amount of data you can move each month; but when you're in the middle of a cycle, it's hard to tell how much of your allotment you've used. BitMeter II, a free bandwidth meter, can help. Its winning feature is the ISP Restrictions screen, where you can specify your ISP's monthly limit and request an alert when you hit a customizable percentage of it.
From the start, BitMeter II tracks your PC's current download and upload speeds. Once you've used BitMeter for a while, you can appreciate the graphs and spreadsheets that the program uses to chart your data transfer patterns by hour, day, week, and month. CodeBox Software, BitMeter's creator, also includes a calculator to help you estimate how long a download will take.
BitMeter II, free
Untangle Yourself From the Web
Perhaps you check the latest funny video on YouTube for just a minute, but those minutes can snowball into hours over the course of a week. The free Firefox extension MeeTimer tots up the time you spend (or fritter away) at various Web sites in categories you define. It can even nudge you if you're about to lapse into a state of indolence.
You decide which category a site belongs in--Procrastination, Search, Work, or one you create and name yourself (such as 'Celebrity Research', 'Window Shopping', 'Well-Deserved Rest & Recuperation', or 'None of Your Business'). When you rest the cursor on the MeeTimer symbol in Firefox's status bar, a pop-up gives you a text breakdown of how you've spent your work week. From the program window, you can fine-tune your reporting and view Advanced Stats going back a full year.
If you request it to, MeeTimer will warn you when you enter a designated Procrastination site. A transparent window reports how much of your work week you've already dedicated to the spirit of Maynard G. Krebs; from there, you can either close the tab or proceed to perdition.
MeeTimer is free to try, but its author at Productive Firefox encourages donations toward further development.
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