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Frequently Used Programs

April 7.2006 by Dave "Marauder" Kratky

I've had some folks asking me lately about the different utilities that get used here around the FRAGtopia head offices (ex. my basement) on a regular basis, and I'm bored, so I decided to do a little write up on what's installed on my machine right now that I find useful and use on a regular basis. Some of these (such as True Launch Bar) are must have utilities, others like Winamp are just sort of handy.

Acrobat Reader 7: Considering how many things around the internet are in Adobes PDF (Portable Document Format), from white papers to manuals, you pretty much have to have this little fellah installed.

AdAware 1.6 SE: A great free spyware detection and removal utility, it's only downfall is that you have remember to manually run it and keep it up to date.

Dream Weaver MX: As far as I'm concerned, Dreamweaver is the best utility for doing website design and updating for the professional who isn't into notepad. (WYSIWYG for the win!) It's not cheap, as starting price is around $400 USD, but it's worth it. All of the websites I create are done in Photoshop and Dreamweaver, including the mighty FRAGtopia.

Eye Spy FX: The best software I've found so far for setting up a webcam for viewing. You can create user accounts on it, and password it as well, so it's great for privacy or a single security webcam.

FRAPS: Want to record those games you're playing, but don't want to set another computer up to do it? FRAPS is the ultimate solution for recording on the fly, and as a nice bonus, it can show your frame rates too. Flexible, effective, cheap and super easy to use.

Internet Explorer 6: The stock Windows Internet Browser. I get told constantly that I should get Firefox, since it's somehow safer than IE by all my tinfoil hat wearing, Microsoft is out to get me nerd friends. Screw you paranoid, IE works fine, and it's convenient. I don't use it to go to "strange" websites a whole lot and I'm careful about what I click on so I don't think that security is an issue. Every webpage I go to also works which is something that I haven't been able to say about Firefox. And I can do Windows updates. I've tried Firefox, and it is a little faster, but it's not a huge difference on my machine think I can spare a 1/2 second or so when loading a page.

Flashget .098: Another ancient utility that's served me well over the years. Flashget is a download accelerator that lets you open multiple connections to a server, or download all of the linked files on a certain page. I also use it if I want to download a movie or flash that's impeded into a website. The version I have was bundled with spyware if I remember correctly, but worked fine once I tore that crap out. I'm not sure about the new versions.

McAfee Virus Scan 10: You're got to have a virus scanner if you're on the internet, and McAfee 10 is the replacement for my beloved Norton Antivirus 2003. Regrettably Norton 2004 is complete ass, and it's gotten progressively worse every year since. There's nothing like having your high end gaming computer bogged down with Norton. Thus far I'm liking the Mcafee, but for next year I'm serious considering just running AVG free, or perhaps purchasing their retail product. I do like to support people who make good stuff.

Microsoft Antispyware: The prequel to the current Microsoft Defender antispyware software. Originally Giant Antispyware, it's a utility that runs in the background much like a virus scanner and keeps an eye on what's going on on your system. MSAS actually works. The new Microsoft Defender seems to crash more frequently, and often finds a system that's riddled with spyware as being clean. Microsoft Antispyware when run then finds tons of infections, as do Spybot and AdAware. Thanks for screwing up something that actually seemed to work well, Microsoft. I'm always surprised that a company will buyout someone else to get their product then cripple it and release crap. My current Microsoft Antispyware expires in July. I weep for it's demise.

Nero OEM
: The best darned burning software I've ever used. I originally used the B's Creator that came with my LG DVD-RW, but the damned thing wouldn't burn ISOs, so I got myself a LG version of Nero, and it's great. Fast and simple. I don't need anything fancy so it meets my needs rather nicely.

Open Office 2.0: Microsoft says that Open Office is okay for people with very simple needs. That would be me and probably about 90% of the folks out there. Open Office is a free project that gives you much of the functionality that's built into Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, and Powerpoint) and does everything that I want, but costs about $400 USD less. It always amazes me that Microsoft keeps bringing out newer versions of Word. Everything that I do right now in my word processor I could do quite nicely with my Commodore 64 back in 1984. Does it let me type? Yes. Does it let me spell check? Yes. Done and done!

Outlook Express: It's simple, it comes with Windows and it works great for emails. I refuse to use a more complicated third party utility, and Outlook has way more stuff on it than I need. I'm also pretty good at fixing OE if it breaks. (Which fortunately hasn't happened to me yet.)

PDF Creator
: It's useful to be able to create PDF files to send customers, but I'm not willing to send our friends over at Adobe a truckload of money just to do that little task, so I use the free and very excellent PDF creator. It adds a print driver. Send your document to it rather than your regular printer and viola! You've got yourself a nice professional looking PDF file.

Photoshop 6: I'm not actually sure what version their at with Photoshop right now, as they seem to insist on using letters instead of numbers for the revision, like most other software publishers. I know my version is old, I've had it for ages and it's great. I don't see any reason to buy the newer version. I use Photoshop for all my graphics design work. The only thing I've found it can't do (which drives me right up the freaking wall) is draw a curved line. My Deluxe Paint 2.0 on the Amiga back in the early '90s did this. *sigh* So frustrating. Sometime I have to purchase Illustrator for my curvy lines and logo design work, but at the moment I can't afford it.

Power Director 3: I'm rather fond of recording my gaming and making videos. Most recently I've been working on a complete Molten Core Raider's Handbook for my World of Warcraft guild, complete with videos of all the encounters. A few years ago I was trying to find something that would meet my needs, but be cheaper than the $900 USD Adobe Premier. Premier is just awesome.. But ouchies. It's way too expensive for home use. I did a little research and came across Cyberlink's Power Director. It's a timeline based editor with tons of effects and it's quite easy to learn. It's not as powerful as Premier and has it's own little annoying foibles but for what I do it gets the work done, and it's $100USD. Much more reasonable for the nerd on a budget who doesn't like to pirate their software.

PowerDVD: It came with my LG DVD-RW and it works great. I used to use WinDVD, but it.. well, it sucks. PowerDVD seems to be much more stable. Again, I just use the basic features. All I want is a player that plays my movies.

Snagit 7: I capture screenshots quite often. In fact I've got a folder with over 4,700 screenshots from pretty much every game I've played in the last few years. A large number of games seem to have an annoying habit of not allowing you to take screenshots, or putting them in strange places, in strange formats. (Damn you TGA!) I started using Techsmith's Snagit many years ago, and it works great. It'll even let you capture little movies, which is quite nice when you're trying to show a customer what buttons to click on. Just start recording and send them the clip. It's a life saver.

Spybot 1.4: Another of my favorite free spyware detection/removal utilities, Spybot also immunizes your system and blocks known spyware websites. Combine this little guy with AdAware and you've got a powerful set of tools. (Of course the best policy is just to be careful of what you're clicking on and installing.)

SwishMAX: Ever want to make little animations for a website? I tried to teach myself Flash, but unfortunately I don't have the time these days to teach myself hard to use applications... Also I don't really want to spend the $400 USD that Macromedia wants for Flash just to do the occasionally animation. Enter Swish! It's a simple timeline based Flash animation editor for $100 USD. I bought it years ago when it was cheaper, but at $100 it's still well worth the money, and it's amazingly powerful. I've designed everything from small animations to complete websites, and even used it to create the intro from the Planet Marauder website.

Syncback: I've been looking for a good backup program for a while, and Maximum PC mentioned these guys in their latest issue. The free version works fine, but I'll probably spend the $25 to support them. Automated backup and synchronization of folders, and it's dead simple to set up and use. Amazing, especially for the price.

Teamspeak: Lots of people use all sorts of different types of voice communication. I like Teamspeak and it works like a charm for clan/guild chatter and matches. It's simple to use and set up, and the server can run on almost anything.

Trillian 2.0: I used ICQ for many many many years, but then I found out about Trillian from Dman. It's a instant messenger client that will allow you to send and receive on ICQ, AOL, AIM, MSN and also includes an IRC client and a few other toys. It's great software and saves you running a pile of different chat clients if you've got friends on the different networks. The free version seems to have some stability issues, although it always worked fine for me. I'm running the full version of 2.0 at the moment, and it's been flawless for almost three years now.

True Launch Bar: One of the coolest things that I saw in the Windows XP beta screenshots back in the day was a little replacement for your quickstart menu bar that allowed you to have various menus that would pop up when moused over or clicked on so you could keep all of your programs sorted. It didn't make it to the final version of XP, but lo! True Launch Bar appeared. I first bought it back in 2003 and I've been in love with it ever since. It makes using my computer so much simpler. TLB is definitely money well spent. Try it for a few days and you'll get hooked too.

Winamp 2.78: Sure it's old. In fact, it's ancient. I've been using this version of the Winamp music player since 2001, and I like it. It's small, simple and streamlined. Protocal bugs me from time to time about using it but it makes me happy. I don't need a music player that does all sorts of odd crap, I just need it to play my MP3s and MODs, and Winamp 2.78 does all that. I could use Windows Media player, but it's just bloatwear crap these days. A
lso, I like the skin I have on it. I guess I'll upgrade to version 5 someday, and I'll probably just purchase it as well to support the Winamp guys.

Windows XP Home: There's no real reason to have Pro, no matter what Alienware and Dell says. I've never seen any differences between Home and Pro in a home/gaming/small business environment, and it's not needed unless you're running dual processors (not dual core.. dual processors!) or you've got yourself an NT domain server for some reason. Home has worked well since I first installed it on Christmas Day 2001.

Winzip: As my buddy Dopper points out to me from time to time, there's tons of free archiving and compression utilities out there, and I know that Windows can uncompress Zip files without any third party utilities. I've been using the free version of Zip for many many years however and just like it.... So I finally bought it. It's nice to be able to make self extracting files.

So there you have it! Other than games, that's pretty much all the stuff I've got installed on my computer right now that I use on a regular basis, and you know the secret shame of Marauder... He uses an awful lot of old software, but hey! Whatever gets the job done is good with me. I'm a simple sort and I've always believed in the old saying: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

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