When I asked for a list of some of the free software that you use, some of you came through with some good suggestions. Because you’re not a 3 dollar whore in some back water boom-boom bar, I’m not just going to take what you’re giving and walk out. Not today, anyway.
Instead, I tried to compile a list of some of the free software that I find useful. As far as I know, everything listed below is freeware, has a relatively straight forward EULA, and hasn’t triggered any virus or spyware warnings in all the time that I’ve been using them. Most do not even require any form of registration to download.
Just leave the money on the nightstand…
You cant run Perl without a Perl compiler. ActivePerl is the Perl compiler for the windows environment. I’ve been using it for years for various projects at work and home that saved countless hours of manual labor. Perl Newbies can get a lot of great help over at Perlmonks, where I used to frequent quite a bit.
Adaware & Spybot
I like McAfee’s spyware app, but not their retail price. For free, I use Adaware & Spybot for optimal protection against spyware. Both products are good, but in my experience, no spyware app gets rid of all strains. If you use these in conjunction, you stand a much better chance of staying clean. I’ve also heard good things about the Microsoft spyware app, but it’s beta, and in my experience, Microsoft + Beta = Kiss your machine goodbye.
AngryIP Scanner, NMap and Ethereal
AngryIP is a really simple port scanner, while NMAP and Ethereal can actually analyze traffic. With that added power comes added complexity, though. I think I prefer Ethereal to NMap just because it has a better graphical interface. As an admin, I feel dirty just admitting that.
ASpell & IESpell
I use both Aspell and IESpell on different machines, both of which work nicely for spell checking these blog posts. IESpell is slightly better because Aspell lacks an “Ignore All” button, which can be essential for correcting long posts like this one.
This is a free audio editing tool that has put a good layer of dust on my 4 track. I wish I used it more, but sadly, there is little time or energy left by the end of the day.
I rip all my CD’s to MP3′s with CDEX. It’s certainly not the best or the prettiest, but I’ve been using it since the beginning of time, so that’s what I use.
Comcast McAfee VirusScan / Personal Firewall
Although I’m partial to the enterprise version of VirusScan, Comcast provides the retail versions of McAfee VirusScan and McAfee personal firewall to all of their customers for free. When you look at the $40 /year subscription fees of the major virus scanners and the slightly sub par performance of the free scanners like Avast and AVG (they do work, though), this is a no brainer for the Comcast customer. They also have a privacy service for those of you who want to keep your kids off of certain sites. I don’t need that though. Gooooo Porno. See the comcast site for details.
Disk investigator & PC Inspector
When you delete a file in Windows, you aren’t really deleting it off the drive. You’re merely deleting the entry in the MFT (that’s master file table to you non-geeky types). If you think of your hard drive as a book, the MFT is the index. When you tell Windows to delete a file, it merely erases the file entry from the MFT, leaving the actual file on the disk. It’s like erasing chapter 13 from a book’s index, and claiming that it’s deleted, while never actually tearing out the pages in Chapter 13. Both of these tools help you to recover those files by examining the book rather than relying on the index. I don’t prefer one over the other, and I have both loaded just in case.
I saw a 320 Gb hard drive for $117 the other day. If a movie takes up about 4 Gb of space, you could fit 80 movies on that drive, allowing you to watch them all on demand without ever leaving your couch. DVD Decrypter is the program that will copy those DVD’s to the drive to get you started.
So, what if you don’t want people to find out what you’ve deleted? Well, then you need to act like the Department of Justice and use an erasing tool. This tool will overwrite the sectors that you delete files from with random data. You can specify the number of times that it overwrites the data to lessen the chances that anyone will be able to recover it. Remember that additional writes take more time and wear down your hard drive more, so use this only for things that you need to get rid of like dossiers, personal information, or your midget donkey porn collection. If you use the McAfee Privacy service, it includes an eraser, and you don’t need this.
Remember that hand-held football game with the red dots and all the beeping that your parents paid $25 for back in ’82? Yup, me too. I played the shit out of that thing when my Dad wasn’t using it. This is the software version of all of those LED games in one executable. There’s basketball, no passing football, passing football, baseball, and a ton more that I don’t care about.
I need to manage a LOT of MP3′s and Mediamonkey is the best way that I have found to manage them. It supports TONS of ways to manage your music, and has more options than I’m going to even begin talking about here. It even supports looking up album covers from Amazon.
Mixmeister BPM Analyzer
Technically a DJ tool, I use this on every MP3 I create. It can bulk analyze MP3s and add the Beats Per Minute to the ID3 tag automatically. This is useful if you’re not in the mood for a particular type of music, but would like to listen to songs that are a all the same speed. This is a no brainer for a music junkie.
Ever have a situation where a piece of software won’t install because the installation is under the impression that you have an incompatible piece of software installed? But, you really dont? Yea. It happens infrequently, but when it does, it SUCKS. This “last resort” tool from Microsoft will bomb out all pieces of a of a piece of software. Please use with caution. If you use it properly, this can be a life saver, but if not, you may want to lay down and die.
I needed a simple, free script editor that does context highlighting for coding. I used to use Code Genie, but I can’t seem to find that online anymore. I’m open to suggestion on this one, but this is the best I have for now.
The only free office suite that I’m aware of for windows is OpenOffice, which I’ve used in the past, but have not jumped into yet. It seems to have everything that office has, and can write office-compatible documents (and databases), but the word on the street is that it’s become as bloated as Microsoft Office.
I still use IE, and I have no big grudge with it except that it doesn’t do tabbed browsing. Opera is now a free, ad-less browser that includes tabbed browsing, skinning, built in google search bar, a newsreader and a whole bunch of nice tweaks thrown in. Check out 30 Days to becoming an Opera Lover for some pretty neat starter tips.
PhotoPlus & DrawPlus from Serif
You have to register for these, but they are pretty darned good products. DrawPlus is not as powerful as PhotoShop, but it’s not as pricey, either. If you need photoshop power for free, you could use the Gimp, but I found the interface to be too cumbersome for me. DrawPlus is is powerful enough for me, but is intuitive enough that I didn’t have to spend six months learning an interface.
Face the fact that the software that came with your digital camera is crap. Replace it with google’s picture management software that has a really nice interface, and a few basic editing features.
Hailing from Sysinternals, this is like task manager on steroids. Most of the time, I use this to find out what process is hanging on to a .DLL that I want to delete.
The Sysinternals PSTools suite is for executing files on remote machines, doing remote reboots, and other tasks that admins need to do from a command line.
This is a Microsoft tool that helps to automatically keep two directories in sync. Think backups.
I installed this mail client for my parents about a year ago because it is so good with spam filters. I installed it for the same reason, but I may switch to the Opera mail client in the future.
It’s a single application that allows you to log into all the major chat services (AIM, Yahoo, MSN, IRC, etc) through one interface.
TweakUI gives you quick access to some of the tweakable settings in windows, but I only use it because it allows me to auto complete directories in DOS by using [TAB] key (like linux) and because it allows me to create search prefixes. A search prefix is like a shortcut. You can associate the word “GOOGLE” with a google search, or “CPAN” with a CPAN search so that you can simply type “google Jon Dyer” into the explorer bar, and it will query google for you by auto-filling “http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=jon+dyer”
This is a microsoft utility that alows you to compare differences between two directories or files. You have to load the whole Platform SDK to get it, which is kind of a pain in the ass.
I dove into WordPress after seeking add more features to this blog than Blogger had to offer. I looked at various tools including a few full-fledged content management suites before settling in on WordPress for it’s simplicity.
Yes, XP has a built-in firewall, but it only protects you from someone trying to come in to your PC. If something already made it in and wants to call your information back to some server in Russia, the Microsoft firewall won’t even try to save you. You’d be surprised what is accessing the internet behind your back. Do yourself a favor and just disable the thing and load ZoneAlarm to help track both what is trying to get in to your PC, AND what is trying to get out. I have this installed on some machines and the McAfee firewall on others, and like them both equally.