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Useful Programs

Here is a collection of programs and utilities that I would recommend to people. Some of them are useful in keeping your computer free from malware, whilst others are just really useful utilities.

Avast! Anti-Virus

I have tried many different brands of anti-virus software over the years, and now use Avast! religiously. I have found that both McAfee and Norton anti-virus products slow done the computer too much and even an expensive, top of the range machine can be reduced to performing like an old 486 based computer just by installing one of these two. I have also tried F-Secure but was very unimpressed that it would not work with dynamic disks. AVG was popular, and was a recommendation of mine. However since the latest release I would not recommend it. It features a number of adverts encouraging you to upgrade to the costly version. There have also been a number of reports that AVG 8.0's link scanner can skew website usage data which I find, as a website administrator, to be quite unreasonable. As a result I started to use Avast! which I find to be effective, compatible with dynamic disks and completely non-intrusive.

Download Avast! 4 Home Edition here

Firefox

Should be one of the first downloads on anybody's computer. Firefox is the best browser you are likely to ever use, no arguements, it's that good. Now that version 3 has been released, it's better than it's ever been.

Download Firefox from here.

WOS - WebServer on Stick

Webserver On Stick (WOS) is a brilliant tool that enables you to carry your development web server with you in your pocket on a USB key. It is ideal for visiting clients and taking your work with you to show how far you've got on their system. One great feature is that because it is designed to be portable and run from a USB stick it doesn't need to set up any services on your computer and neither does it need installing onto you PC. Once the setup program has set up the web server in the directory of your choosing, it leaves you with an executable file. Run this and you are running a webserver on your computer.

Customise and Download WOS Here

Microsoft Bootvis

BootVis is a tool released by Microsoft to give a visual representation of what your PC is doing as it boots up. It also features an optimization tool that depending on who you listen to, may or may not improve the boot times on your computer. If you listen to Microsoft, the 'optimization' that BootVis does is already integrated into Windows XP and that it runs every three days to keep your PC in tip-top shape. The truth is that every PC I have run it on it has improved the boot time on the computer. It's not always a huge improvement, sometimes only by a few seconds, but an improvement is still an improvement.

Download BootVis Here

Multiple IEs

Have you ever been developing a website and wondering how the older versions of IE render you page? This I consider to be of exceptional importance as despite the release of Internet Explorer 7 back in 2006, the most commonly used internet browser is still Internet Explorer 6. IE6 had a lot of bugs in it with respect to how it ignores (or implements its own flavour of) CSS and had little support for CSS 2.0. I think though that looking at the internet through Internet Explorer 3.0 isn't really a development tool, but an item of fun. The only website I've seen that looks good on IE3 is google.

Download MultipleIEs from Here

HDDGuru

Hard disk drives don't last forever. That's why they are so cheap and so easy to replace. Neither are they able to repair themselves when they start to go wrong. Yes, drive management software can move data away from damaged sectors to other parts of the disk, but you will never get those sectors back. Spotting the start of sector damage can be useful in giving you time to install your operating system, important programs and transferring your data across before it's gone forever. How do you spot the advent of these problems? You need to be able to read the S.M.A.R.T. parameters from the hard disk. To do this I use a tool called 'HDD Scan' from the people at HDDGuru. This standalone program (no installation required) can access the S.M.A.R.T. parameters on the disk and report them back to you. The important one to look at is the 'Uncorrectable Sector Count.' Once this starts to increase, it's time to get yourself a new disk.

Download HDDScan from here

Outlook on the Desktop

Back in the good old days of paper diaries you always knew where your diary was, and more often than not, it was always on your desk where you could grab it quickly for rapid referall. These days people become reliant on Outlook as their calendar of choice, but where is the convenience of quickly accessing your calendar? There isn't. To get to the calendar you'd have to load up Outlook, wait for it to open, switch form the most likely view of your emails, and then look at the calendar, not the quickest of tasks I'm sure you'll agree. This handy little app returns the speed and the convenience by placing your calendar back on the desktop. Now the speed access is easy. A quick minimise of your current application (or if you're untidy using the Window Key + M to perform a 'minimise to desktop') and your calendar is there for you. Also because it's your Outlook calendar you get a fully interactive calendar on your desktop.

Download Outlook on the Desktop from Here

If you have any questions regarding any of the programs above, do not hesitate to drop me an email at alan@alaneden.info

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