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Your favorite freeware? (Read 5667 times)
Rad
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Your favorite freeware?
Jun 28th, 2011 at 6:02pm
 
I'm thinking of re-do'ing the Freeware guide/list, as much has changed I/we wrote it.

http://radified.com/Articles/freeware.htm

I am curious about your current fave free/OS app, the one you simply cant live without .. and (especially) WHY you like it (.. what it does for you).

For me its Daemon Tools Lite. Currently at v4.40, released January.

http://www.disc-tools.com/download/daemon

Lets me watch ISO's that contain instructional content, such as those at Lynda.com

http://www.lynda.com/

I also like/use Notepad ++ daily:

http://notepad-plus-plus.org/ (v5.9.2, released earlier this month).

but there are MANY good text-editors out there.

I could really get carried away here, but those are at the top of my list.
 
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Dan Goodell
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Re: Your favorite freeware?
Reply #1 - Jun 30th, 2011 at 7:44pm
 
I don't use Daemon Tools, but for a similar purpose I use Virtual CloneDrive (http://www.slysoft.com/en/virtual-clonedrive.html) to access cd/dvd iso files.  Ideal for something like my netbook, which doesn't have a CD/DVD drive.

I'm an avid fan of virtualization, so also use Virtual PC and VirtualBox on a daily basis:

Virtual PC (http://www.microsoft.com/windows/virtual-pc/support/virtual-pc-2007.aspx) is ideal for quick testing of questionable or sketchy applications, or websurfing questionable sites with virtual impunity.  My main machine doesn't even have Flash or javascript enabled--if sites require those, I visit them from a virtual machine instead.

VirtualBox (http://www.virtualbox.org) is not as easy as Virtual PC for "quick-test-and-throw-away" projects, but has USB support so is ideal for creating small virtual machines dedicated to specific purposes.  I have one vm for my scanner (with scanner drivers and photo editing apps), another vm for my cellphone (drivers, transfer apps, editors), and another vm for music ripping and editing.  Avoids cluttering up my main machine with all sorts of junk and driver conflicts.  (BTW, my C: partition, which contains XP and MS-Office, is 12GB yet still has 35% free space.)

Other indispensable software that goes on every PC I cleanup for friends includes the following:

Bullzip PDF Writer (http://www.bullzip.com) is an excellent and straightforward pdf writer.  No ads, and can append pages to existing pdfs.  (They started adding junk in ver. 7, so I prefer sticking with ver. 6.)

Foxit Reader (http://www.foxitsoftware.com/products/reader) is a better pdf reader than Adobe Reader.  Lightweight, and doesn't defile your system with lots of crud like Adobe AIR.

ImgBurn (http://www.imgburn.com) is a lightweight yet full-featured replacement for whatever outdated burning software your computer came with (Nero, Roxio, Sonic, et al).

VLC Media Player (http://www.videolan.org) is a great, lightweight replacement for Windows Media Player, PowerDVD, or whatever outdated DVD player came with your PC.

KLMCodec (http://codecpackguide.com/klmcodec.htm) replaces Quicktime and Real Player. Get rid of their spyware and the annoying habit those programs have of constantly reinserting themselves in your PC's startup sequence.

Autoruns (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb963902) is better than msconfig for exploring and controlling Windows startup processes.

Teamviewer (http://www.teamviewer.com) is a simple (doesn't install anything!) yet outstanding remote assistance app.  Like Citrix GoToAssist, but free and doesn't require you to have that wretched Microsoft .Net garbage.

 
 
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NightOwl
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Re: Your favorite freeware?
Reply #2 - Jul 12th, 2011 at 12:25pm
 
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Rad

For years I have used a free program called *PowerDesk*--it's a file manager that allows for a *dual-pane* setup so you can drag-n-drop from the *source* pane to the *destination* pane, and see exactly what you are doing.  Also it can list the files and folders by details in alphabetical lists, or by creation date, or type of file lists--I have never been comfortable with the WinXP *folder* view in Windows Explorer.

But, that program has not been available for years--got bought out and the new *owners* let the *free* version wither and die--I think only the *paid* version exists now.

When I started to dabble with Win7 and the possibility of using the 64 bit software, I read that older file management programs would probably not understand the 64 bit programming and the would not be able to show all the files accurately. 

So, I started looking for a replacement for that old *PowerDesk* program--and I found this:  FreeCommander

Once configured, it is almost exactly like the old *PowerDesk* program.  The one feature it does not have--in the old *PowerDesk* there was a toolbar icon that you could select to *Delete* a file or folder that was a permanent deletion--it by-passed going to the *Recycle Bin*--and you did not have to *confirm* your deletion--so no added steps--once you hit *Delete*--it was gone!  FreeCommander requires an intermediate confirmation to say you are *sure* you want to permanently delete the file or folder!  (Oh, well--I guess it is a little safer!)

Quote:
You can take FreeCommander anywhere - just copy the installation directory on a CD or USB-Stick

So, it doesn't have to actually be installed on a system to use it!  Haven't tried this feature as yet, but it sounds interesting!

And, looking here:  FreeCommander ~ Some Recommendations , you can get some ideas on how much you can *customize* the program.  Look down the page at *Alternate INI Files for multiple setups ---*.  Lots of different options!


 

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Rad
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Re: Your favorite freeware?
Reply #3 - Jul 12th, 2011 at 9:52pm
 
Thanks gents.

Yeah, virtualization.

That dual-pane file manager sounds useful.
 
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Re: Your favorite freeware?
Reply #4 - Jul 13th, 2011 at 11:54am
 
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Recalled another program worth mentioning:  Karen's Replicator v3.6.8

It's an easy to use backup program that can create a copy of files elsewhere on your system.  The backups are *simple copies*--so they are not altered into proprietary formats like *.gho* or *.zip* or whatever.  Also, not compressed.  You can open the files with whatever appropriate program they're associated with.

I saw that Karen passed away this last year.  Her family, for now, is maintaining her website--but that may not last.  So, if anyone wants to try her backup program should download a copy sooner than later.
 

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Re: Your favorite freeware?
Reply #5 - Jul 13th, 2011 at 12:03pm
 
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Not necessarily *free* programs--but these articles talk about whether you need third party programs or *free* programs for Windows--these are geared more towards Win7--but, interesting:

Don’t pay for software you don’t need — Part 1

Don’t pay for software you don’t need — Part 2

Don’t pay for software you don’t need — Part 3

 

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Re: Your favorite freeware?
Reply #6 - Jul 13th, 2011 at 5:37pm
 
I tried Karen's Replicator 3 or 4 years ago.  I don't recall why I was disappointed with it, but I did like that it made straight copies and didn't use proprietary formats.  I eventually found SyncBack, which is similar to Karen's but easier to use.  (Their webpage pushes their paid versions, but they have a free version buried in there if you dig around.)

Oh, now that I think about it ... I think I remember one of the reasons I didn't like Karen's was that it couldn't do scheduled backups unless you left Karen's running all the time in the background.  Is that still the case?  SyncBack lets you schedule it with Windows Task Manager and doesn't have to have SyncBack left running all the time.

I remember reading those three "Don't Pay for Software..." articles as they came out.  They're mostly about features built into Win7 that take the place of third-party software.  While I agreed with most of it, I took strong issue with the author's assertion that the backup software and partitioning software in Win7 are good enough.

Microsoft has a long history, going back to DOS 4.x,  of putting out software that creates backups with proprietary formats that only work with the same OS version that created the backup.  Backups created with one version of DOS or Windows could not be read if you no longer had the same OS.  There's just no way in the world I'm going to trust my backups to Microsoft.

And the assertion that Microsoft's partitioner is adequate is laughable.  It's buggy, can't move partitions, sometimes can't even create partitions correctly, and really only works if you give control of your entire hard disk to Microsoft.  Legions of linux users and buyers of Dell laptops with Dell's MediaDirect feature have found this out. 

Furthermore, it can only shrink a partition to its last in-use sector.  Unless it's a fresh Windows installation, your ability to shrink the partition is going to be limited because your partition likely has in-use sectors scattered all over the place with lots of interspersed free space.

(Poignantly, note one of the other tips in those articles is that you don't need to defrag anymore.  While I won't necessarily argue with that, it shouldn't be lost on the reader the consequences this has on the efficacy of Microsoft's partitioner.)

Of course, the author of those articles gave away his bias when he wrote, "I personally hate disk partitioning. I've railed against it for years."  You'd think he would know better.  There's no point arguing with someone with that level of myopia.


 
 
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NightOwl
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Re: Your favorite freeware?
Reply #7 - Jul 15th, 2011 at 10:21am
 
@
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Quote:
There's no point arguing with someone with that level of myopia.

It such a pleasure to read your perspective on various topics!

Quote:
"I personally hate disk partitioning. I've railed against it for years."

I remember thinking that Leonard obviously did not appreciate the *beauty* of creating Ghost type images, and being able to restore one's system, often times within minutes, to a functional state after something goes terribly wrong--but, you put it into succinct words that captured that concept exactly!

Does his system never crash or experience bad software installs (bet he probably only uses a virtual system and recovers easily by starting over)?

Quote:
Oh, now that I think about it ... I think I remember one of the reasons I didn't like Karen's was that it couldn't do scheduled backups unless you left Karen's running all the time in the background.  Is that still the case?

Yes, that's correct.  It has its own built-in scheduler.  And, if/when you shut down, it always *stalls* the shut down with a warning *pop-up* notice about not being able to run any scheduled backups if you close down Windows (duh!).  After 15-30 seconds, eventually Windows closes the program down and proceeds with the shutdown.  And, if a scheduled backup is missed while the system is closed down, it then has a start-up pop-up message about running the missed backup *now*.  There is a check box for you to say *always run a missed backup when Windows starts*, but, the program doesn't seem to remember that selection, and again shows the pop-up each future time as well.

Quote:
Karen's running all the time in the background

Do you think it uses a *lot* of resources?  Seems like everyone wants their program running in the background!  The ATI video card wants its helper program up and running, Adobe Reader, my HP printer, Java updater, Google ToolBar and Update Services, NEC USB 3.0 Host Controller (I guess support for their controller is not *built-in* to WinXP) to name a few.  It's often difficult to know which processes and *services* can be disabled--and how best to do that--always wonder what functions might be effected negatively.

Quote:
SyncBack lets you schedule it with Windows Task Manager and doesn't have to have SyncBack left running all the time.

Thanks for that reference.  I'm going to give that a try!

Quote:
VLC Media Player ( http://www.videolan.org ) is a great, lightweight replacement for Windows Media Player, PowerDVD, or whatever outdated DVD player came with your PC.

Also, thanks for that reference.  One of the first things I noticed when I upgraded to a new motherboard last year, which has a built-in HD audio chip, is that my older PowerDVD program would no longer work--I think it's an audio incompatibility--but, it could be other issues as well.  I did a trial of the more recent PowerDVD and it works fine--but, it was going to cost $50 if I wanted to keep using it--no option to *upgrade* from my older v4.xx--which works just fine on my older system--don't know why that software can't work on this newer hardware--why it has to be incompatible and not backward compatible--it's still the WinXP OS--but, I guess PowerDVD is hooking into using the audio and video on its own, and not using the OS to feed necessary audio and video data.

So, that VLC Media Player may just do the necessary trick!  Initially, I had trouble loading the first DVD to try it out (might have been new user unfamiliarity), and then it crashed when I tried to exit.  But, those problems have not reoccurred--still testing to see how everything works.

Quote:
note one of the other tips in those articles is that you don't need to defrag anymore.  While I won't necessarily argue with that

I think Leonard goes onto say after that statement that the reason you don't need to defrag is that Win7 does that in the background automatically on a weekly basis or some such.  I guess the question is, does it defrag in a fashion that improves things--or does it leave data scattered all around like you mentioned.

As a side note:  when I was testing one of the big third party defraggers a couple years back, I looked at the fragmentation report for the OS partition shortly after doing a defrag--the two major sources of fragmentation were the Windows Swap File, and the System Restore Points.  After I moved the Swap File to its own partition on a separate HDD, and disabled the System Restore Point program--my OS partition showed very little fragmentation for an extended period of time!  That was on WinXP at the time--I can't speak for Win7 at this time.

Quote:
And the assertion that Microsoft's partitioner is adequate is laughable.  It's buggy, can't move partitions, sometimes can't even create partitions correctly, and really only works if you give control of your entire hard disk to Microsoft.

Don't really want to do that!  The *Microsoft Way or the Highway* attitude has always been a *pain* once you find out there are other ways to do things!  Why exactly does everyone have to have a *bit-locker* Master Boot Record and partition when only a very few will actually have Win7 Ultimate with the capability of actually using that *feature*?!

I thought they had improved some of those functions in the latest Win7 version--thought I read somewhere that you can manipulate a partition without data loss--but, I don't know that for a fact--no personal experience.  Also, thought if you used the partitioning tool *manually*--i.e. not letting the Windows *installer* run amok on its own, that the tool could work okay--but, you (or others) have found it to be *buggy*--interesting.
 

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Re: Your favorite freeware?
Reply #8 - Jul 16th, 2011 at 5:33am
 
NightOwl wrote on Jul 15th, 2011 at 10:21am:
Does his system never crash or experience bad software installs (bet he probably only uses a virtual system and recovers easily by starting over)?

That's a subject I've wondered about for a long time.  My guess is that none of those tech journalists or experts keep their systems very long--they probably upgrade their hardware every 2-3 years, and always jump at the newest OS as soon as it comes out.  If he's never kept a system for very long, he probably has never gained an appreciation for the benefits of imaging and restoring.  By the time his system starts getting gummed up and slow, he's replacing it anyway.  That's the only plausible explanation I can think of why somebody who's technically savvy could fail to see the obvious benefits of partitioning.

I think most tech journalists don't have much appreciation for, or experience with virtualization.  Occasionally, I'll hear someone on some tech podcast exuberantly describing virtualization like they've just discovered it.


Quote:
Do you think [Karen's Replicator] uses a *lot* of resources?

I suspect it uses hardly any resources at all when just sitting in the background waiting to run a scheduled backup.

But that's not what bothers me.  What bothers me is the potential conflicts or complications that can be introduced by so many background processes going all the time--especially if/when you have to try and troubleshoot why something isn't working right.

Furthermore, it irritates me when there's a clean way and a messy way to do something, and some program or programmer takes the messy way.  The clean way is to let Windows Task Scheduler launch your program at the appointed time, with command-line parameters if necessary.  Don't force the user to leave it running all the time.  (And if you program doesn't accept command-line options, then fix your program.  It's not that hard.)


Quote:
Seems like everyone wants their program running in the background!The ATI video card wants its helper program up and running, Adobe Reader, my HP printer, Java updater, Google ToolBar and Update Services, NEC USB 3.0 Host Controller (I guess support for their controller is not *built-in* to WinXP) to name a few.

Yeah, I hate that, too!  That's why I don't use Adobe Reader (see: Foxit), Java, Google ToolBar or Desktop, or anything from Apple.  The only one of those I might occasionally--rarely--need is Java, but I put that in a virtual machine instead.  (Apple is one of the worst offenders.  I'll bet most iTunes users aren't even aware Apple also snuck Safari and Quicktime on their computers.)

For many printers, I can get away with manually installing drivers instead of using the manufacturer's bloated installer.  If I can extract the files out of the installer, I stick them in a temporary directory, plug in the printer, and let it generate a yellow question mark in Device Manager.  Then I start the "Update driver" wizard, point it to the temporary directory, and it finds and installs just the driver files without all the extra software bloat.

I do the same for network cards.  I hate those driver installation programs that add a bunch of "easy setup" network management garbage.

As I mentioned earlier, if those bloated installers are unavoidable I prefer to put them in a dedicated virtual machine.


Quote:
I thought they had improved some of those functions in the latest Win7 version--thought I read somewhere that you can manipulate a partition without data loss

Well yeah, to a degree, but the amount of manipulation you can do is rather limited.

Think of it this way: Vista and Win7 can manipulate partitions as long as you don't have to touch any in-use data sector on the hard drive.  That means:
  • you can't move the front edge of any partition (because doing so requires moving the partition boot sector);
  • you can extend the back end of a partition into unallocated space (which, by definition, would have no in-use data sectors);
  • you can decrease the back end of a partition as long as the part being truncated contains no in-use sectors (IOW, you can reduce the size of a partition to its last in-use sector).

Within those restrictions, you can resize partitions without data loss.


Quote:
Also, thought if you used the partitioning tool *manually*--i.e. not letting the Windows *installer* run amok on its own, that the tool could work okay--but, you (or others) have found it to be *buggy*--interesting.

Are you sure you're not confusing this with the Win7 SRP problem, where manually creating partitions will avoid the SRP?

I've previously documented one serious bug in the Vista partitioner here: "Vista Bug - Misinterpretation of Logical Partitions."  This bug still exists in Win7.



 
 
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Re: Your favorite freeware?
Reply #9 - Jul 16th, 2011 at 6:23pm
 
Another suggestion to add to the "favorite freeware" list:  R, "a free software environment for statistical computing."
 

ple • o • nasm n. “The use of more words than are required to express an idea”
 
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