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.
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.
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.
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.
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
huge difference on my machine think I can spare a 1/2 second
or so when loading a page.
.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.
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
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
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
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.)
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
creator. It adds a print driver. Send your document to
it rather than your regular printer and viola! You've got
a nice professional looking PDF file.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
a simple timeline based Flash animation editor for $100 USD.
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
I've been looking for a good backup program for a while,
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
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.
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.
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.
2.78: Sure it's old. In fact, it's ancient.
I've been using this version of the Winamp music player since
and I like it. It's small, simple and streamlined. Protocal
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
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. Also,
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!)
an NT domain server for some reason. Home has worked well
since I first installed it on Christmas Day
As my buddy Dopper points out to me from time to time,
there's tons of free archiving and compression utilities
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
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.