Questions and answers to fill your computer Christmas list

Lots of people are talking about the best of the holiday season already and with Christmas edging closer here we are talking about lots of computer goodies under the tree.

Lots of people are talking about the best of the holiday season already and with Christmas edging closer here we are talking about lots of computer goodies under the tree.

For many people that will mean a Windows 7 computer, which will mean a run to the bookstore for the next series of “Dummies” books on how to actually use the thing.

But this week’s reader mail will answer some new questions of a consumer-y nature.

Q. You have mentioned in the past that Microsoft Office may not be the best buy for an office suite.

However I use Office at work and I am not sure I want to really re-learn anything else.

However, I am not down for the huge retail price tag. Can I use the free downloaded version on the Microsoft website?

A. That is a beta of Office 2010, which you are welcome to use, of course, but do know it will expire at the end of the beta period.

(Also know that being beta software, you will run into unfinished things, some bugs and you are not entitled to any support.)

You probably know about, the free office suite that you can download and use for nothing.

The most cost-effective way of getting the real Microsoft Office is to (legally) obtain the academic version, which you are allowed to do if you have a student in your home. This version is readily available at college bookstores, some retail outlets and on eBay.

Q. You mentioned a free anti-virus product from Microsoft in a previous column but I am having a hard time finding it. Is it just as good as the commercial products? Why is it free?

A. If you go to the Microsoft website and look for Microsoft Security Essentials you will find the new free anti-virus and anti-spyware suite. It is free for non-commercial users and yes, I would say as an anti-virus product it is just as effective as most commercial products. (Testing labs will show variations in all products, of course.)

Microsoft is giving it away for a couple of reasons; one, to increase the security of Windows, which has been taking a beating lately in comparison to Apple’s OS X, and two, because few users signed up for its paid OneCare product and it had the thing sitting there anyway.

Q. If I live in a rural area (on a farm) and I don’t have neighbors anywhere near me do I need to turn on wireless security on my router?

I thought not but my son said I should anyway but I thought it would slow everything down.

A. You don’t have to if security is not a concern for you.

If you notice a bunch of farmers in combines parked on your land using laptops, you might.

Q. What anti-virus product works with Windows 7? Is there one built in?

A. There is not one built-in because of anti-trust concerns from the various governments of the developed countries of the world but I would download and use Microsoft Security Essentials (mentioned above.)

James Derk is owner of CyberDads, a computer repair firm and a tech columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. His e-mail address is

Just Posted

Updated: Collision expert backs version of crash of driver accused of manslaughter

Daniel Newsham accused of manslaughter in fatal 2016 collision

Red Deer artist highlights the dinosaur connection of Alberta birds

Jeff Powers is fascinated by winged creatures

Murder charges laid against woman from the Sunchild First Nation

The 25-year-old female victim was found dead on Dec. 12

WATCH: CP Holiday Train rolls into Lacombe

Kelly Prescott performed for hundreds of Central Albertans

Fashion Fridays: How to change your beauty routine

Kim XO, lets you in on her style secrets each Fashion Friday on the Black Press Media Network

WHL’s Thunderbirds, Silvertips open to NHL joining Seattle hockey market

TORONTO — The Seattle area’s major junior hockey teams aren’t worried about… Continue reading

Canadian freestyle skier Karker excited for Dew Tour’s modified superpipe

Rachael Karker has a renewed sense of confidence heading into her second… Continue reading

CBS settled with Dushku over ‘Bull’ star’s sexual comments

LOS ANGELES — CBS reached a $9.5 million confidential settlement last year… Continue reading

Kanye reignites Drake feud on Twitter, alleges threats

LOS ANGELES — Kanye West is not sending Christmas cheer to Drake.… Continue reading

Councillors in Toronto, Ottawa vote to allow retail cannabis stores

TORONTO — Councillors in Toronto have voted to allow retail pot shops… Continue reading

Barry Cooper: Separation has become a real possibility, thanks to Ottawa’s abuses

In the past couple of weeks, a retired senior oil executive, Gwyn… Continue reading

Most Read