It has been a while since I have written one of these articles combining two of my favorite topics: Software and Free Things. In the past, they have turned collaborative, with members of the community adding their favorite programs and often teaching me. I hope that this time is no different.
I recently played with a couple of Linux distros, starting off with Live CDs (and Live USB installs) and then decided to install Ubuntu on a partition. Ran it quite happily for a while alongside Windows and then during an upgrade, Linux did a "bad thing" to my MBR. Now I don't want to get into a discussion about Super Grub disks (which I tried) on how real men edit Grub manually...I just want to set the stage. I decided that it was time for a clean re-install of Windows. I used to dread re-installations, always dreading that I was going to forget something, but this time I had a clean and painless re-installation using free software products, except for my OS.
I started with Partition Wizard, which I find the most user-friendly and easiest to use partition management software. The Home Edition is freeware (http://www.partitionwizard.com/) and I downloaded and burnt the bootable CD. That let me arrange my drive as I wanted and I could have used that to recover any files that I needed, but in this case, I didn't need anything. More about that later.
Having the drive as I wanted, I could now proceed to a clean install. My preference. I inserted my Windows 7 disk and let it do it's thing. Windows 7 seems to install much faster than any previous version of Windows even thought this wasn't on the fastest PC.
OS installed, I was now ready to add on my programs. I opened a link to Ninite Easy PC Setup, http://ninite.com/ (Thanks to Stardock's own "Shirley" for pointing that site out to me.) I went down the list creating an Uber installer that would basically get me back to where I wanted to be. Moving down the list, I installed:
iTunes and Hulu
OpenOffice, Adobe Acrobat and CutePDF
Microsoft Security Essentials
Flash, Java, .Net and Silverlight
CCleaner, Auslogics Defrag, CDBurnerXP
Now all of these programs are also available as individual downloads from their own websites or from Download.com or similar sites, but because I used Ninite, I could let them all install and go out to the pool, knowing that I was going to get the latest versions and NO TOOLBARS! The installs could not be easier and are unattended, leaving me free time to bask in the sun. Ninite offers you choices, so if you prefer Firefox to Chrome, you'll find it there. I am truly thankful for this site.
The only two programs that I needed to complete my install that are not on Ninite are LastPass (http://lastpass.com/) which I use to manage my passwords and, ironically, Impulse. They are not one Ninite and I wrote to the Ninite folks to ask why they aren't when competitor programs. Within one day of my inquiry, I received a very polite response from Sascha Kuzins, Co-Founder of Ninite, "We add titles to the site mainly based on the number of requests we get from users through our request form and by email." So, if you are like me and use LastPass for passwords and Impulse for games and Stardock products, let the folks at Ninite know and maybe they will add them in. Anyway, at this time, you will need to add these programs on manually.
I mentioned Dropbox, one of the many solutions that allows you to store your files in the Cloud. I have been saving all of my documents, spreadsheets, presentations and PDFs on Dropbox for a while. Again, there are several similar solutions, but I find Dropbox the easiest to use. You can set up Private and Public locations, it defaults to a virtual folder in your Documents folder...again, trivially easy to use. I installed Dropbox, logged in and voila! Everything was back as it should be.
I have only recently switched to OpenOffice for home use. It has gotten so good, for what I need, i just can't justify the expense of an MS Office license. I do find that Microsoft Security Essentials is the lightest and fastest AV and anti-malware solution. I am coming to love Chrome as the browser of choice although I still have Firefox on two of my other PCs. Auslogic is the fastest defrag solution that I have found and again, a very small footprint. I don't do much which images, so Irfanview, which I have used for years, is just fine.
I mentioned that I have three PCs at home. (And I live alone, it is NOT an addiction, I can stop anytime I want...) A great program for controlling multiple PCs not in the same room (for that I would use Multiplicity, of course) is Teamviewer. See http://www.teamviewer.com/index.aspx It is also a superb solution if you are trying to help someone remote. Again, free for personal use.
That's it for now. What are you favorites and what might I have missed?