Soft | PC

I have recently started using quite a bit of open source software and I wanted to take the time to dedicate an entire post towards it.  Often times, open source solutions are often better than their pay based/commercial alternatives.

One thing that I absolutely *HATE* in either freeware or pay-based software is attempts to subtly corrupt your browser or computer.  This is typically done by having default installation options include sending you spam, manipulating your browser to add unwanted tool bars, changing your home page, or using your computer resources.  These options by default should be turned off, not on.

Currently, a list of programs (both freeware and open-source) I am using is listed as follows…

1.  PDFCreator – This program is great for creating PDF’s from web pages, word documents, power point slides, etc.  The program installs a virtual printer on your computer and gives you the ability to make PDF’s out of any document.  The only disadvantage this software has is links (like cross references in MS Word) are NOT preserved.  Therefore, if you are writing a lengthy paper and add cross references (figure, equation, reference, etc.) dynamically linked in Word, they are not preserved with PDF Creator.   Other than this minor flaw, it does everything else I could ask for with minimal overhead.

2.  VLC PLayer – This video player is pretty awesome for being free.  It plays DVDs and most other movie files.  It will also play audio files should you chose to set it up to do so.

3.  Dameon Tools Lite – This utility is useful for mounting iso-images so you can install or view iso contents without having to ever burn the actual iso.

4.  JabRef – This software is a great citation manager.  You can important a bibtex and then view the appropriate citation.  I have found this particularly useful to work in conjunction with CiteULike.  I post a given IEEE article to CiteULike with the FireFox CiteULike Button (you have to register to CiteULikesee these instructions).  This automatically extracts all of the article information (author, title, journal/conference, abstract, etc.) and ports it to CiteULike.  Then I extract the article’s bibtex and copy it into JabRef.  I like both as I use JabRef to extract the citation of the article, whereas I use CiteULike to store the article’s PDF copy.

5.  Input Director – This piece of software is a favorite of mine.  It will allow you to switch between two computers (side by side) and control those computers with a single Mouse/Keyboard.  You can switch between the computer screens as though they were a single monitor.  Check out this earlier blog post I did documenting the advantages input director has over synergy.  Note – this software only supports windows, if you are using multiple OS’s, then you’ll have to go with synergy.

6.  Digsby – This software is great for managing multiple chat clients.  I was using Pidgin, but recently decided to change it  up and give something else a try.  Digsby will let you interface with most of your common clients (ICQ, AIM, GoogleTalk) and even social networking chats (MySpace, Facebook).

7.  AVG – AVG isn’t open source, and is actually freeware.  Viruses only become a problem when you actually get them, until then no one really spends their waking hours worrying about viruses.  Furthermore, if you’re somewhat savvy about your computer and internet usage, it’s pretty easy to avoid malware/viruses.  I think this is what puts Norton in trouble with the consumer market, aside from corporations, the average user really doesn’t care that much about virus protection to actually pay for it.  Hence this is where AVG really capitalizes by being a FREE virus scanner.  I can’t really attest to how good AVG does its job as it’s the only virus scanner I really use.  I was using Norton and I will say AVG has A LOT less overhead than Norton does (or did when I used it).

8.  Filezilla – Filezilla is an awesome FTP client software.  I was using SmartFTP, but then they got really greedy and wanted something ridiculous ($36.95 for a stinking FTP client) for their software.  I would have paid about 10 to 15, but 37 is pretty steep for simply needing just FTP functionality.  Filezilla does everything I need an FTP browser to do and does so at a pretty awesome price.  I definitely recommend it!

9. Cobian – This open-source software is an excellent backup solution.  Its GUI is easy to use and understand will allow you to back up your data to another drive (internal or external) or to a remote location.  You can automate the backups with their scheduler and do backups such as incremental, full or differential.  Check out this blog post I did where I comment more in depth about their software.

10. VirtuaWin – VirtuaWin is an open source software solution for Virtual Desktops for Windows.  I came across this program recently, and it is by far my favorite open source software out of everything I have come across.  This program will let you create virtual desktops (very similar to what Linux has had for years).  I know MS has a Powertoys equivalent, but as expected this open-source program is far better.  The program will let you create several virtual desktops and toggle between them via hot keys.  With each different virtual desktop you get a fresh new task bar (at the bottom).   This way, say you have a bunch of plot Windows open in Matlab your examining, along with email (Outlook or Thunderbird) and some other web pages.  Then say you want to look at some word documents and open a chat client, you can start a new virtual desktop and open those programs on a clean slate with a new task bar.  With VirtualWin you can even move windows from one virtual desktop to another.  This software is incredibly valuable for multitasking.

11.  Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware – This is advertised as an effective anti malware application.  While I do like the application, my use of it is limited in that it has not yet identified (and therefore removed) any malware.