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Useful Free Software

Mon 28 July, 2008

Before you read

Why would you spend your precious, precious time writing all of this up for us unworthy beings not able to find these amazing programs for ourselves? In one word – ministry. Much if not almost all Ministry work these days involves IT in some aspect, if I can help even one person to make a multimedia illustration work or be more polished, some handouts look cleaner and more appealing or if one just helps you work faster or keep your computer running better then this has all been worth it. Also, they’re all free (legally free, too) so I’m saving you money that can be used somewhere better.

Will these break my computer or fill it with spyware/viruses/killer bees? All of these programs don’t mess with critical parts of your computer so there should be no reason that your PC breaks if you install any of them. If by some freak chance it happens, don’t sue me. All of these were tested by me and work fine (no viruses/spyware/killer bees either). I’m running Vista x64 so they all work on XP and Vista (in theory).

I’m using a Mac! How dare you neglect me! Sorry but it’s a Windows world, any programs that are Mac compatible I will tag for you. Heaps of these work with Linux too, but if you’re using Linux you probably know about most of these programs already or just coded a program that does the same thing yourself.

The program didn’t work, HELP ME! Uninstall it, reinstall it then restart your computer. If that doesn’t work, then there are alternative freeware programs to some of these that I can point you to. If I know of a good commercial solution, I will let you know about that, too.

This program sucks! Find me a better one! I’ve put here what I believe to be the best program in its field. If don’t like it then there are alternative freeware programs to some of these that I can point you to. If I know of a good commercial solution, I will let you know about that, too. Anyhow, let’s start.

Luke’s Useful Free Software Guide

Multimedia

Audio

Audacity [Windows] [Mac]
Multitrack audio recorder and editor – chop, change, cut, whatever, you can do it with this. Tons of extra plug-ins for it if you need it to do something special.

Image

Paint.NET [Windows]
Originally a Microsoft project to update paint.exe, it was canned but the developers continued with it. Very powerful, does most things you could ever want to do with an image editor and easier to use than the GIMP.

Video

VLC Media Player [Windows] [Mac]
Ever tried to play a file and found that it won’t work? Then you need VLC, it supports pretty much every video format and codec under the sun and it is tiny. Can also stream videos over networks.

Combined Community Codec Pack [Windows]
Pretty much every codec under the sun, if you really don’t want to use VLC then you should get this so that your media player can support whatever you wish to use. Regularly updated with the latest version of every codec. Even if you get VLC you should install this anyway.

HandBrake [Windows] [Mac]
Hate having to switch over to a DVD for an illustration? Rip it straight to your hardrive and insert into your PowerPoint then delete afterwards. Also great for splicing movie scenes into videos from certain youth camps or advertising events, etc.

Real Alternative [Windows]
I hate Real Player, it’s a hunk of junk that hogs too much RAM, spams you with ads and has a terrible interface. Sometimes however I need to view a file that is in a Real format, so I just use this, problem solved.

Converting

MediaCoder [Windows]
Want to convert an audio or video file into a different type? MediaCoder will do every format under the sun and do it well.

TV

DScaler [Windows]
Have a TV card in your computer and hate the player that came with it? Then get this. Like the software that came with your TV card? Get this anway.

Tools

Anti-Virus

Avast! Anti-Virus [Windows] [Mac]
Actually performs better than Norton Anti-Virus, is on par if not better than AVG and has a much nicer interface. Also, it uses a pirate term for the name. I’m providing an alternative here, Avria AntiVir consistently wins many virus software tests and has a free version, the only reason why I don’t like it is that it likes to advertise the fact that there’s a paid version a fair bit.

Anti-Spyware

Spybot Search & Destroy [Windows]
Regarded by many as the best program for finding and deleting spyware, must have if you happen to use the internet (and I don’t think your reading the paper version of this).

Web Browser

Mozilla Firefox [Windows] [Mac]
Are you using Internet Explorer? Well stop it. Firefox is better in every single way, I can’t even begin to explain. Loads pages faster, is more secure, easier to use, has amazing plugins, tabbed browsing + heaps heaps more. (Also better than Safari)

Mail Client

Mozilla Thunderbird [Windows] [Mac]
Same deal as above, get rid of Outlook/Outlook Express. This is much, much more secure and just all round better.

RSS Feeds

FeedDemon [Windows]
FeedDemon is an RSS reader that is more powerful and advanced than FeedReader, but also free. Creating a NewsGator account with it means that you can access all of your feeds on the web or by logging in through the program anywhere.

Synchronisation

Microsoft SyncToy [Windows]
Something good from Microsoft! SyncToy is free and pretty much the best synchronisation tool for keeping two folders identical, great for backing up your USB key to your hard drive.

CD Burner

InfraRecorder [Windows]
Burns CDs and DVDs, does it better than that built in thing for Windows, has almost all the features of Nero and works just as well.

Diagnostic

JDiskReport [Windows] [Mac]
So your Hard drive is full and you have no idea where all the space went, JDiskReport will scan your hard drives and show where all your space is being taken up in a nice interactive pie chart.

CPU-Z [Windows]
Tiny program that gives you every single detail about your computer you will ever need when the tech guy asks, details things I don’t even know about.

Misc

Suite

Google Pack [Windows]
Every Google product as well as some good extras. Contains StarOffice, an enhanced version of OpenOffice which is compatible with all Microsoft documents and as powerful as MS Office. You can choose which things you do and don’t want in the package (uncheck RealPlayer).
Google Earth
, Google Toolbar for IE, Norton Security Scan, Spyware Doctor, Google Desktop, Picasa, Firefox with Google Toolbar, Google Photos Screensaver, Adobe Reader, Google Talk, Skype, RealPlayer, StarOffice.

Instant Messaging

Digsby! [Windows] [Mac in development]
IM Support: MSN/Windows Live Messenger, Google Talk, Facebook chat, Yahoo Messenger, AIM, ICQ, Jabber Social Network Support: Facebook, MySpace, Twitter
Email support: Hotmail, GMail, Yahoo, POP3

I LOVE DIGSBY! Lets you have an icon in your system tray for Facebook, MySpace and Twitter each. Displays on the icon whenever you have new requests, invites, updates, etc. Clicking on the icon will bring up a feed of recent activity and double clicking on the icon will take you to your home page. Gives you notifications of new emails with MSN, GMail and Yahoo mail as well as any extra email address you want to add. Best of all, it combines every IM protocol into one window so you can be logged onto everything and manage it from the one spot.

YouTube

YouTube Downloader [Windows]
Need a video off YouTube? Just put the link in and there you go. Just be careful about copyright.

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Wintercon

Mon 21 July, 2008

I should’ve done this on Friday when I got back so you can all just pretend this was written 5 minutes after I arrived home.

I just got back from spending Monday to lunchtime today at Wintercon, Newcastle Christian Students’ annual conference. It was held at Crosslands in Galston, my fourth camp there now, it’s a great spot if not a bit cold hard to drive to. Overall the week was amazing, Greg Lee’s talks were off the hook and I’ll provide a link to them when they’re uploaded. They were on Guidance and extremely helpful and encouraging, I strongly recommend every young student listen to them. I met some great people and made some good friends that are making me consider Newcastle amongst my considerations for UTS, Sydney or NSW for Uni. I think I’ll go next year even if I’m going to a different uni, it was that good a time.

So to sum up Wintercon is awesome and you should come with me next year even if you’re not studying or even of student age.

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Canberra Trip

Thu 10 July, 2008

So I just got back from a few days in Canberra, I was seeing a good friend called Les Sillis. Some of you may know him, if you don’t know name you may remember an basketball camp with a group of American Christians that was run a few years ago at CCEC, well he organised that. He’s also the man responsible for converting the ex-Rugby League player Jason Stevens who wrote a book about waiting until marriage for sex among others. Anyway, he’s been diagnosed with what the doctors believe is cerebral vasculitis, he was having mini-strokes and has sustained some memory loss. He’s been having chemo treatments as well as other pretty strong medication. Overall he’s doing pretty well though, he’s recovering well and it’s all looking up. Still, prayer for Les would be great.

In lighter news I also visited the War Memorial (now that I think about it that isn’t very light at all), which was an excellent and moving experience. I reccomend it as something to see if you’re ever in Canberra.

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Holidays

Fri 4 July, 2008

Holidays are a strange time. I very much needed this break as it felt like a massive semester and I was working on assignments right up until the end. Also, if there’s anything I love, it’s relaxing and lazing about.

So whilst it’s good to have this rest I also dislike holidays for a few reasons. Firstly I never seem to do much with my friends during holidays, it seems strange but we all just seem to go off and do our own thing and never really get together. Secondly, bible study groups and youth break up. The lack of scheduled looking at God’s word seems to disrupt my walk, I always become slack with reading my bible and prayer during this time.

I suppose that’s all I really had to say about that.

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Welcome

Tue 1 July, 2008

This blog will be up whilst I set up new hosting on my own site for a blog that I shall make very fancy.

This will contain semi-regular reports of what’s going on in and around my life, my thoughts and opinions on all matters of current affairs, theology, love and whatever else I may happen to think about as well as interesting or humourous links to articles, pictures, videos, etc that I find on my travels across the web.