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Not Ready for Vista? Try a Clean Install of XP

Windows Live Mail is a godsend for cheapskates like me - I get a half-dozen PR pitches a day that I want to glance at before tossing. There's a whitelist option - e.g., e-mail from people you trust is never thrown out - as well as blacklisting options for people and even countries. Spam filtering also tends to keep out various digital nasties that hitch rides on e-mail.

If Microsoft's automatic update doesn't download Internet Explorer 7 ( ucts/winfamily/ie/default.mspx), you'll want to add it to your collection, too. Lots of improved security, as well as useful features like tabs for browsing. But aficionados still give open-source Firefox the edge.

Vista also includes some new applications that go beyond security. More on that next week, along with other possibilities, like a Microsoft-free lifestyle.

A laser printer is no longer a big expense

Laser printers have always been more expensive to buy, and less expensive to operate. How much less varies among brands and usage patterns, but, excluding the cost of the equipment itself, a laser-printed page costs 2 to 21/2 cents versus 4 to 6 cents for inkjet.

I wouldn't mind the extra cost of the inkjet if it made my life simpler, but it actually makes it more complex with my HP photo printer. I print a lot of photos, and not much text, and I'm forever swapping paper stock in and out (and invariably putting the wrong side up every now and again). And then there's the black cartridge for text that I have to swap with a gray one every time I print photos. And I have to change software settings. It's a given that I'll screw up one or more of these things every time I print, wasting ink and paper - the latter being especially pricey when I'm using archival-grade photo paper.

Last time I was about to head out and buy a hundred dollars' worth of black ink cartridges, I found an awfully cheap laser printer at my favorite Web site, a Brother HL-2070N printer on sale for a mere $90, including shipping, at I got two, one for my office in Bay Shore, one for my home on Fire Island. A great little printer, it connects to a local area network and runs at a zippy 20 pages per minute. The best I've seen it on sale for lately is $119, still a pretty fair price, but it occasionally shows up cheaper as a loss leader. Now I am a much happier camper who just changes printers rather than paper, ink, settings, etc.

- Lou Dolinar