Lossless Audio Compressor
- Monkey's Audio Compressor
(MAC) is not an audio encoder per se. Rather, it's a compressor.
Small point, but worth noting. Monkey's also serves as a 'front end'
for many command line encoders & compressors.
If you've ever used a Zip file, you
understand how lossless compression works. Unlike lossy MP3 files, which
discard a portion of the audio information deemed unimportant, you lose
nothing with MAC. Songs compressed with Monkey's (and other lossless
codecs) have zero quality loss.
Monkey's is for people who go bananas over audio quality. No matter
how good MP3s or other lossy
encoders get, they'll never match the quality of a lossless codec.
Lossless compressors yield roughly 2-to-1 (50%) compression over standard
wave files. Actually, 2-to-1 compression is optimistic. 60% of the original
wave file is more realistic. By contrast, high-quality MP3 files offer
~6 or 8-to-1 compression (by discarding audio information
Shorten is another lossless
codec that is very popular, tho I've heard it's far from the best. The
folks at the Hydrogen
Audio forums prefer LPAC,
even tho it doesn't support Apple Macs.
Another lossless codec worth mentioning is FLAC,
which stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec.
Since FLAC is Open Source (like Linux), I expect it to grow in
popularity [it's currently at version 1.x]. The other compressors mentioned
here are free, but not open source.
The folks at Project Mayhem have selected FLAC as their lossless compressor
of choice. That alone should ensure that it grows in popularity. The
gang at r3mix forums may follow suit and dump LPAC in favor of FLAC.
With hard drive capacities
now at 250-GBs and climbing, and their prices continuing to drop, more
people are opting for lossless compression everyday. Some people dedicate
an entire monster-sized drive solely for their MP3s, & other digital
media (video, images, etc.). For more info on lossless compression,
see the Radified Guide
to Lossless Audio Codecs.
- Either ZoneAlarm or
will work nicely for you. Both offer both freeware & Pro versions.
ZA is easier to configure; Sygate more configurable. This
site will help you configure Sygate. Some folks use VisualZone
Other software-based firewalls worth mentioning: Outpost,..
and Tiny. If you're connected
to the Net with an always-on broadband connection, you need a firewall
or you're aking for trouble. Some cable
modems have built-in firewalls. You can even purchase a hardware
firewall, such as SonicWALL's
Reviews posted here
and here. Interesting
network-security-related reading is posted here
Firewalls are generally divided into two classes: application-based
and rules-based. The best offer both methods. Application based FWs
are easier to configure. Rules are more complicated, but offer more
control/power. You need to know what you're doing with a rules-only
I haven't tried Smoothwall,
but they offer a freeware version. A separate box running a Linux
firewall is the coolest option. Get configuration help at JustLinux.
Firewalls are notorious for generating quirky networked-related problems,
such as this one.
I try to choose one that offers the greatest security while generating
the least amount of quirky conflicts.
Which firewall is best for you depends more on your computer skills.
If you're a noobie, you want one that offers good protection with minimum
configuration required. If you have skillz, you'll want one that offers
more configuration options.
The topic of Internet
Security is huge. Whole web sites
are devoted to the subject. See Ice
Czars links for more along these lines.
is the easiest decision on this page. Photoshop can do it all, and there
are many plug-ins available for it. So its functionality is virtually
limitless. I wouldn't be surprised if there were a plug-in to get Photoshop
to do yourlaundry. =)
Check out luminous-lanscape
for a quick-start intro (the entire site rocks). Many consider National
Association of Photoshop Professionals to be the ultimate PS resource,
altho it'll cost ya. Nicky
posted some nice Photoshop guides that won't cost ya anything.
by Macromedia is also good for web graphics used in conjunction with
Dreamweaver. Lots of Photoshop books here.
Also, Paint Shop
Pro allows you to do a lot with images for a fraction of the cost
for the MP3s you download, and want to find out about their quality
.. such as which encoder was used to create it.
- SureThing - Self-proclaimed
Premiere CD Labeling Software. Use this program with glossy
labels, and you'll be surprised at the difference they make. I use
Haven't used any other brands. Glossy labels are the key to great quality
Thanks to Ice
Czar for the info.
- the best deal is to purchase the Norton
System Works Pro package, which contains NAV plus a few extra utilities.
It's much cheaper this way, than purchasing each program separately.
You will find a good deal on the NSW Pro package offered here
offers a free version..
Operating a computer without virus protection is incredibly foolhardy,
especially in this day & age. Whe someone tells me they're experiencing
strange problems with their PC, the first question I ask is: "Are
you running virus protection?" If they use virus protection,
I ask, "Are your virus definitions up to date?" If
they are up to date, I ask if their utility is configured to scan incoming
Virii are yet another reason to become familiar with an imaging
utility such as Norton Ghost.
- GetRight - almost a
must-have if you're on dial-up. Review here
FlashGet is free. I haven't
had a chance to try it yet, but have received several positives votes
Jerry Barham writes to say, "I noticed a glaring omission in Download
Managers. Download Manager Plus
(DAP) is the best commercially available download manager, but Download
Express (DE) is every bit as good, if not better .. and it's free.
If you haven't tried DE, you must give it a try."
Many also like AIM. If you have friends
who use different clients, Trillian
lets you use multiple client from a single program. Pretty cool (free).
Internet Relay Chat (IRC)
- mIRC - Apex will set you up
Some also like BersiRC (freeware).
Lots of IRC Help posted here.
Game Server Browser
- GameSpy. Great program.
I actually paid the $20 to register to support these guys. Its free,
tho. The All-Seeing Eye is
another Game Server Browser that's similar to GameSpy.
Explorer comes free with Windows. In fact, it's so entrenched
into Windows that it's nearly impossible to eliminate from your system.
Not surprisingly, it offers the best compatibility with Windows (both
are made by Microsoft). I like it smooth-scrolling feature. I can't
get other browsers to scroll so smoothly.
There are times
when you'll want to use Opera. Best
to have both on hand to meet every need.
I used to keep a copy of Nutscrape on my system, just for the heck of
it, but I noticed quirky system stability issues pop up as soon as I
install it. Maybe M$ is sabatoging, maybe it's just my imagination,
but I no longer install this browser. I also could never get it to scroll
Effects - another easy call. Compositing
is to video what layers are to Photoshop. After Effects has SMP support
(to take advantage of dual-CPU systems). Since Adobe makes both AE &
Premiere, they work well together. Books here.
- Final Draft
- does all the formatting for you. Their motto is just add words. Easy
to learn. Everybody has at least one good story in them. Wendy posted
a short-and-sweet Screenwriting
guide here, based on several classes she took at USC
Film school in Los Angeles.
Drive Imaging & Cloning
Dictionary / Thesaurus
is faster than similar programs that connect to the Internet, especially
if you have a dial-up connection.
I use WordWeb frequently. It also installs a button into MS Word for
easy access/use when you're processing words.
GureNet. A dictionary on
steroids, married to a search engine. Billed as the leading provider
of Answer Delivery solutions. Freeware.
It installs a small collapsible toolbar in the lower-right corner of
your desktop. I usually don't like any program installing anything on
my desktop, but I actually find this toolbar helpful. If you rarely
use a dictionary or thesaurus, you may not.
You can also ALT-click on any word, and GuruNet will automatically bring
up its definition. Cool feature. Best if you have a broadband Internet
For pure searches, I prefer Google,
but for dictionary and thesaurus purposes I prefer GuruNet to either
dictionary.com or Miriam-Webster.
Off-line Page Viewing
Bulletin Board Service
- YaBB is an
acronym that stands for Yet another Bulletin Board.
It's Open Source, which mean that, not only is it free,
but also, that and it has a bunch of enthusiastic coders working on
it. Service Pack 1 to the Gold Release was released 15dec2001.
YaBB is written in Perl. There are over 100 different style templates
available for YaBB, located at the Template
Vault, which allows you to change the entire look of your board
by replacing a single file (template.html) .. which takes only seconds.
The default style looks
like this. I prefer something more along
these lines. YaBB has a great community
of helpful folks that are eager to help.
Another nice feature available for YaBB is the Board
Mod Tool, which allows you to easily modify the board, adding
new features (such as polls) and applying security
patches on-the-fly. It basically modifies the code for you, with
the press a single button, for those of you who are not handy with programming
code. FAQ for the BMT is posted
Bulletin Boards come in two main categories: free and not-free. The
not-free versions can be pricey. You're not going to find one for $19.95.
For example, vBulletin (which
I like) is $160.
Mayhem uses vBulletin. FuseTalk,
uses, is $249.
Back on the free side is phpBB,
which I also like. The Storagereview
It may cause some of your ad-based programs to stop working, so be aware
(of Ad-aware). They may have fixed this is more recent versions.
CPU Stability Tester
- Prime 95
is freeware. Download the .zip file, rather than the .exe. The .exe
file does not work for me, for some reason. Prime95 does not
stress your gfx card, like a 3D game will. So this can help you troubleshoot
and isolate stability problems. HotCPU
Tester Pro (US$20). See here
Optical Character Recognition
- Omnipage. Scan
a document. Output a text file that's editable. I have seen reviews
that prefer FineReader.
Premiere is the closest thing there is to a standard
video-editing program. It was the first of it's kind. It's coded to
take advantage of SMP (dual-CPUs) systems .. now with an Avid-like option
for single-track editing in version
6.0. And it integrates well with other Adobe programs, such as After
Effects and Photoshop. Editing books are posted here.
Mac users will probably want to use Apple's excellent Final
Cut Pro. We prefer FCP to Premiere, but don't have a Mac (but have
used them with FCP). Much as I hate to admit it, FCP is an excellent
video-editing program. We know people who use a Mac for video-editing,
and a PC for everything else.
The thing that makes a Mac & FCP so nice is it's user-friendliness.
People that are not very computer savvy are able to get up and running
with a Mac & FCP easier than on a PC-based system.
When you edit with FCP, one company (Apple) makes the computer, the
operating system, and the video-editing program. This yields less chance
for quirky compatibility glitches, and Macs are generally more user-friendly
Pro is less complicated than other video-editing programs, tho less
powerful. Good for beginners who only want to perform the most basic
A freeware video-editing program worth mentioning is Virtual
Dub. I've always had problems with Virtual Dub tho, giving me errors
If you want to get serious about editing video (and have the cash),
I can easily recommend Avid's
Xpress DV. Avid is considered a professional editing program.
Discreet makes a variety
of superb high-end video-editing program that makes many people drool,
as does Incite.
Many people have written to say they love Sonic Foundry's Vegas,
but I haven't tried it yet. I love everything Sonic
Foundry makes. Their user interface is very intuitive, considering
how powerful their programs are. Many people use one program for editing
video, and another for audio. Since SF is primarily an audio-software
company, this would be the program to get if you concentrate on audio
& want to edit video with the same program. I've used earlier versions
of Vegas that were designed primarily as an audio sequencer and multi-track
compositor. It rocks. Student
Forge by Sonic Foundry is the Photoshop of audio-editing.
Like Photoshop, it's the Windows standard and also employs
a plug-in format.
There are a million plug-ins available for Sound Forge, made by third-party
companies. Many of these plug-ins are more expensive than Sound Forge
itself, which is surprisingly user-friendly for the power it offers.
With each subsequent release, Sonic Foundry continues to include new
features in Sound Forge, without raising its price.
Mac users will no doubt holler about Pro
Tools. We've used Pro Tools and prefer Sound Forge. Syntrillium's
Cool Edit Pro is also great. If you
need something better then these two audio-editing programs, check out
Encryption (Email & File)
PGP, which stands
for Pretty Good Privacy,
is a program that allows you to keep your confidential data secure
(private), whether it's in transit across a network or over the Internet,
or stored on your hard disk. PGP is the brainchild of Phil
Zimmerman, and was free for a long time. Now it's owned by a company
called PGP Corp.
They still offer a freeware
version, but have removed most of its functionality. They probably
want to encourage users to upgrade [read: pay
money for] the personal
version [US$80, for 1 year, $165 for a perpetual
license]. Anyway, I thought I'd upgrade to version
8.0 [released 03dec2002]. What
a mistake that was.
PGP installs Encrypt & Decrypt buttons [plug-in
functionality] to your email client [I
use Outlook Express], which allow you to easily encrypt
& decrypt your email. With the freeware version of v8.0, these
buttons no longer work. Instead a dialogue box pops up saying: This
feature isn't available with the freeware version. You need to upgrade
to the Personal version for plug-in functionality.
I traded a few emails with PGP's "Limited Support"
group, asking them what's the point of even releasing the freeware
version of v8.0, because it has been stripped of all its good features.
You can use the current window or clipboard encryption option
offered in the PGPtray. You may also use Hotkeys found in PGP Options
to this end. With Freeware you are not allowed the use of plug-ins
or PGP Disk.
If you're using Windows XP, you have no choice but to use the freeware
version of PGP
v8.0, because v7.03
doesn't support WinXP. Or you have to pay for the personal
version, which offers the cool features. If you're using Windows
2000, I recommend you stick with PGP
v7.03 [freeware], which is loaded
with all the cool features.
I actually uninstalled v8.0 and reinstalled
v7.03 [Win2000]. My
PGP public key is listed with my contact
info, linked at the bottom of the
main page. I like all that crypto-techno-cyber-geek stuff.
Windows 2000 offers a similar Encrypting File
Service (EFS), which you can read about both here
[how to here].
Windows XP Pro offers a similar
feature. More info posted
If you don't mind spending ~US$29, DigiSecret
(by TamoSoft) is a nice program with powerful encryption that also
allows you to make self-extracting archives.
by Macromedia, which has teamed with Intel
to bring bandwidth-friendly 3D
to the web. Most agree that Director
8 Dymystified is the best book for learning Director. It is one
of the biggest books I've ever seen (~1200 pages), but the lay-out is
very pleasing, and it's enjoyable to read.
Content Management System
- PHPNuke. Freeware. PHP
Website is also worth mentioning, as is PostNuke.
What's with all the Nuke themes?
web hosting provider discourages use of CMS's, claiming that they
put too much strain on virtual servers (multiple sites using the same
server). If you want to use a CMS, they want you to have a dedicated
server. I've also heard that PHP Nuke is inefficient.
Hard Drive Partitioning
- Partition Magic.
This is almost a must-have program. It's especially useful for modifying
preexisting partitions, cuz it can do so without destroying data in
the affected partitions.
I should add that I've heard of people having problems with PM opertions.
Proceed with caution. Reboot before you do anything. Open no other programs.
Perform only one operation at a time. Back-up before you do anything.
Cross your fingers, knock on wood & say a prayer.
FDISK, which comes free with Windows, will work fine for the initial
partitioning. See Doc's Über
FDISK Hard Drive Partitioning Guide for help using FDISK. See my
Guide to Partitioning Strategies
for ideas on the best way to divvy up your drive.
is also supposed to be very good, but I haven't tried it.
Usenet News Reader
- WinMX (you need good nservers.dat
file). Comparative review posted here.
If you want to delve into the technical aspects of file sharing, see
here. Interesting reading here
Morpheus has many fans,
and is used for more than just MP3s. KaZaA
is also popular, but having some legal
trouble. Check out OpenSource giFT.
A program called SwapNut is posted
here. SwapNut = Limewire + new
marketing. There's also eDonkey,
altho people have trouble connecting to their servers.
The most clandestine traders (I hear) are using Internet
Relay Chat. The big boys demand lossless
compression, and simply burn CDs full of lossless files, and trade
that way (sharing files).
3D Design & Animation
- Let me preface by saying I don't use this stuff. It's very complex
and takes a commitment (or a gift) to learn. These are not programs
that you can learn by 'clicking around'.
I heard that 3D
Studio MAX is easiest for the home user to learn, and Maya
is the choice of professionals (Demo & free version here).
Maya books here.
My Maya-using friends tell me that the best book to get started with
Maya is this
one. Review here.
Forums here. 3dsMAX books
I know jack about animation, but I heard some students at USC's
Animation school claim that Soft
Image is the ultimate animation tool. Again, these are not programs
that you can learn by 'clicking around'. Animation books here.
Soft Image books here.
Paint Shop Pro
comes with an Animation program.
- TMPGenc (freeware)
is the best. TMPGenc encodes the best-looking MPEG-1 video. Standard
(VCD) MPEG-1 files are ~10MB/minute. TMPGEnc has plenty of settings
that allow you to increase the file size (I use ~30MB/min), thus improving
It also encodes MPEG-2 files. You have to pay for the MPEG-2 encoding
after a 30-day trial.
The Ligos LSX-MPEG
encoder is another option. For US!29, it offers a plug-in
for Adobe Premiere. TMPGEnc by the clear winner, both in quality
Video Format Convertor
- Discreet Cleaner
XL - considered the standard .. formerly called Media Cleaner
Pro. A freeware program for working with MPEG1/2 files is Flask.
I've had problems getting Flask to do what I wanted, and finally gave
up. Maybe the newer versions work better.
Hard Disk Defragger
- Windows comes with a default defragger, but it sucks (slooow). I heard
that the Windows default defragger for both Win2K & WinXP is made
(a stripped down version), but I haven't confirmed this.
Most people will do fine with SpeedDisk, which comes with Norton
Utilities, which comes as part of Norton
System Works. NSW also comes with Norton AntiVirus and a few other
utilities, which makes this package a good value. The Pro version
of NSW includes a copy of Norton Ghost.
My favorite defragger is Diskeeper.
It's fast, but does not arrange files according to usage.
Defrag is another good option. O&O is a German company that
wins lots of awards for their defragger. It can be hard to justify paying
for a defragger when Windows comes with one (free), and you can get
SpeedDisk, with a handful of other utilities included from Norton/Symantec.
O&O offers three defrag methods. One is only for free space.
If you're a home user like me, the method you want to use is called
Complete/NAME, which rearranges files in ascending alphabetical
order, starting at the beginning of the volume (drive). The last method
is called Complete/DATE, which is for Servers.
The first time I ran O&O Complete/NAME on my boot partition, it
took 5 hours to finish.
is only $19, but I haven't tried it.
Pro. When you want to see where people are from. I use this
program more and more all the time. The freebie version works fine for
will give you a little idea of what the program does. You can also use
it to find out where
emails originate from.
Express. It comes free with Internet
Explorer, which comes free with Windows. Currently at v6.
Plenty of people prefer Eudora
(made by Quallcomm, which is a great company). I tried it, but didn't
care for it. Maybe it's because I'm so used to Outlook Express.
I also tried Outlook
(not Express). But it's more of a Personal Information
Manager (PIM) than an email client. I also found it to be buggy.
Maybe v2002 is better. For a PIM, I simply use a pocket Daytimer (non-electronic).
If you *do* use Outlook, I heard that you want to ensure that you use
the same version as your Microsoft Office Suite. For example, if you
use Outlook 2000, you want to also use Office 2000. Mixing different
version will aggravate program stability issues.
Synchronize PC Clock
- Atomic clock.
But this program crashes my system (W2K) occasionally when it does its
by Macromedia. 90% of web surfers have a Flash player installed on their
system. Flashkit can help get