GEEKNOTE: I've collected a bunch of programs and utilities over the years that make me more productive. Many of them are free or inexpensive. Here are a few of my favorites, in no particular order:
CLEARTYPE: This one actually goes back over a decade. Microsoft offers Cleartype support in Windows XP and newer operating systems. Cleartype optimizes fonts so that they display crisper on flat panel displays. It's free and a "must" for anyone using an LCD or LED display. http://www.microsoft.com/typography/cleartypeinfo.mspx
VUEPRINT: Originally released in 1995, this graphics program lets you crop pictures, resize them, and save them in very compact files. This program is essential if you like to email pictures to family and friends. I paid to use earlier versions for years. It is now free. http://www.hamrick.com/upg.html
FIREFOX: This free browser is both faster and safer than Internet Explorer. http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/new/
NOSCRIPT: A free add-on for Firefox that lets you decide what websites can run scripts on your computer. I've lost track of how many times this has kept me safe from dangerous websites. http://noscript.net/
SITEADVISOR: McAfee's Siteadvisor gives you advance warning if a site that comes up in your searches isn't safe. It is free. http://www.siteadvisor.com/
THUNDERBIRD: My favorite alternative to Outlook Express, Windows Mail, and Live Mail. Thunderbird is free. http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/
WS_FTPLE: I've used both the Pro and free "LE" versions for years to transfer files back and forth between my desktop and various web servers. The WS_FTP software simply works. http://www.wsftple.com/
FILEZILLA: This one is a new favorite on my Windows 7 system at the office. It is an FTP client much like WS_FTP and it also works the way I do. It is free. http://filezilla-project.org/
OPEN OFFICE: This Office suite started out as "Star Office" and has been continuously improved over the years. If you don't need all the features in the Microsoft Office Suites, Open Office should work just fine. It is free. http://www.openoffice.org/
GOOGLE ALERTS: Want to know if folks are talking about you or your company online? http://www.google.com/alerts (Free)
GOOGLE ANALYTICS: This free service is a must if you want to know how much traffic your website is getting. http://www.google.com/analytics/
HOOTSUITE: This service lets me coordinate my posts on twitter, Linkedin, and Facebook. It is relatively inexpensive ($9.99/month).
MICROSOFT OUTLOOK: I like Outlook because I can easily integrate both my work email and my calendar in one easy to use tool. You have to pay for Outlook, but it is a very good program.
MICROSOFT SECURITY ESSENTIALS: Of the free AV programs, this one is the pick of the litter.
F-SECURE ANTIVIRUS: There are actually several variants of this product, all of which we sell. I've been personally using F-Secure AV products since before Gulfcoast Networking was a company. The F-Secure AV products simply work.
F-SECURE ONLINE BACKUP: Similar to Carbonite, but slightly less expensive. This product provides cloud backups of your valuable documents and pictures and it is generally "idiot proof" once you set it up.
GRC SHIELDS-UP: Gibson Research's free Shields-Up! test is a great way to see how exposed your computer is to the Internet. https://www.grc.com/x/ne.dll?bh0bkyd2
EXPENSIVE GEEK TOOLS: We spend thousands of dollars a year on the tools that let us test sick computers on our work benches, remotely service customer machines, and monitor customer networks. While I love a number of these tools (eg. Spinrite and our Bomgar Box), they aren't going to be something that most folks are going to want to run out and buy on the off chance that they might need them.
CLASSIC SHELL: Finally, for those of you who have a new machine with Windows 8 and you miss the start button, give Classic Shell by Ivo Soft a try. http://sourceforge.net/projects/classicshell/
That's it for this week. Feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions about your computer.
Rob Marlowe, Senior Geek, Gulfcoast Networking, Inc.
(Rob also serves as deputy mayor of the City of New Port Richey. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not necessarily represent the position of the city.)