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Free Software Rules (11/07)
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The Pit BLOG

November 2007

Free Software Rules

I love free software, and it's not because of the price. In fact the opposite, I am always willing to pay for good well written software. I love free software because in many instances, it is also the BEST software. Let's take a look.

Firefox. I am now a 100% Firefox convert. The browser is faster, has more features, and more customizable than Internet Explorer. My favorite Firefox feature are all the extensions. My personal favorite extension is the download status bar which allows you to easily manage your downloads from within the browser. It's a great lightweight extension.

Thunderbird. I have been, am, and always will be a heavy email user. My list of complaints about Microsoft Outlook is long and lengthy. #1 on the list is Outlook's use of a proprietary file format called PST to store all of your email. The proprietary format makes it quite difficult to move and share your emails with other email programs. Plus on top of this, Outlook is dog slow when doing an email search. If I wanted to find an email that someone sent me several years ago, Outlook would literally take 30-40 minutes to find the email. The hard drive light would be blinking the entire time, disallowing other work to be performed.

Compared to Outlook, Thunderbird is a breath of fresh air. Searches are lightening fast. I save and archive every email that I receive. Maybe it's a little manic, but it has saved my butt many times, in many ways that I could have never preconceived. As my mail database gets larger, Thunderbird consistently seems up to the task of finding my emails quickly and when I need them. Plus backing up and restoring is a breeze since Thunderbird using an open file format for email archival.

Paint.net is a full feature image editor written by ex Microsoft employees.

Paint.net. I had been using PaintShop Pro for close to 10 years when it started crashing under Vista and I found Paint.net. Paint.net was written by the same Microsoft engineers that wrote the original Microsoft Paint. Paint.net does many things better than Paintshop Pro 8. The magic selection wand is very powerful, and quickly allows you to delete unwanted sections. The design makes it easy to manage multiple pictures simultaneously. Lastly making transparent gifs is two times easier than PaintSthop Pro. If Paint.net could read PSD files, I would never use Paintshop Pro ever again.

FileZilla. It was sometime in the mid 90's, when Bill Gates turned Microsoft on a dime to focus on the internet. They accomplished a great deal, but it is unbelievable to me that Windows still does not have an FTP client. The good news is Filezilla is totally free and as full featured as its pay per license brothers. It's a great product, and maybe mentioning them in this article will help these guys out a little.

In addition to these great applications, I have also found two free applications that do functions that no other pay application does (to my knowledge).

WireShark. This cool utility allows you to sniff your internet connection. WireShark allows you to see all the information your firewall sees. All the information that is being sent to your PC, and more importantly from where it is being sent. It's a handy tool for debugging infinite loops that I have a propensity to accidentally write.

Sizer. As computer screens get wider and wider, sometimes, it is counter productive to use windows in full screen mode. Some web sites become unreadable at wider screen resolutions. I have found when browsing the web, that most web sites are viewed best at 1024 pixels wide. Unfortunately, Windows has no easy way to fix the width of your windows. That's what Sizer does.

Not to be redundant, but the reason I use these applications is not because of price. It's because they do the best job regardless of price.

Join the Discussion
faith_michele: The Pit Blog: Free Software Rules (Thu, 22 Nov 2007 11:02:36 GMT)
For photos and re-sizing images, I like Faststone.

https://www.faststone.org/
low351: The Pit Blog: Free Software Rules (Wed, 21 Nov 2007 17:04:29 GMT)
QUOTE(choicefresh @ 11:31pm Tue Nov 20 2007) [snapback]1445038[/snapback]

What is the difference between Paint.net and GIMP? They sound like the same thing...


I'm not familiar with Paint.net but I've been using GIMP for years. And one thing that stands out is that it CAN alter and load .psd files... I'll take a look at Paint.net but it would have to be pretty good to match Gimp.

Okay, I took a look at Paint.net, it's not close to GIMP in functionality.. but. If you want to use layers and don't have the time for the steep learning curve with Gimp, (I bought a book and it was 2 weeks before I got passbly good) then Paint.net is your program. It's also a program I would recommend to someone wanting to do some light graphics and effects. It's pretty good for what it does.

On the other hand if you want to do stuff that you'd need Photoshop for then you should really think about learning Gimp. If you have Gimp already then I don't see any reason to get Paint.net. If you have Photoshop (lucky you) then you still might want gimp because it does some things easier than PS and like I said you can save it as a PSD.
brandon: The Pit Blog: Free Software Rules (Wed, 21 Nov 2007 08:00:51 GMT)
QUOTE(chengrob @ 5:32pm Tue Nov 20 2007) [snapback]1444928[/snapback]

Hi Brandon,

I am not currently a user of Open Office. The article was the software that I *use*. I am using Office 2000 still because of pivot tables. Open Office still does not handle that well. I don't use pivot tables, but I receive quite a few. So I have not migrated.

When I wrote the article, it is a glaring omission and I probably should have mentioned why.

Thanks,


Well, I feel stupid now. Although, I must admit, when I first read the article, I didn't think it wold just be open source software that you use, I thought it would be in general.
choicefresh: The Pit Blog: Free Software Rules (Wed, 21 Nov 2007 04:31:35 GMT)
What is the difference between Paint.net and GIMP? They sound like the same thing...
chengrob: The Pit Blog: Free Software Rules (Tue, 20 Nov 2007 22:32:42 GMT)
Hi Brandon,

I am not currently a user of Open Office. The article was the software that I *use*. I am using Office 2000 still because of pivot tables. Open Office still does not handle that well. I don't use pivot tables, but I receive quite a few. So I have not migrated.

When I wrote the article, it is a glaring omission and I probably should have mentioned why.

Thanks,
andycool22: The Pit Blog: Free Software Rules (Tue, 20 Nov 2007 19:53:48 GMT)
QUOTE(EclipseWebJS2 @ 6:51am Fri Nov 16 2007) [snapback]1443643[/snapback]

Many people can't use FileZilla because they think there aren't many free FTP sites available.


www.justfree.com offers 80 GIGABYTES of free webhosting space (accessible through FTP) and www.50webs.com offers 60mb of free space.
brandon: The Pit Blog: Free Software Rules (Tue, 20 Nov 2007 16:53:56 GMT)
No mention of Openoffice.org? For shame.
rarchimedes: The Pit Blog: Free Software Rules (Sat, 17 Nov 2007 11:21:25 GMT)
FTP has become rather hazardous to use, as it has almost zero security, but I must admit that I do use it when I need to send or receive large files to or from people I know. A fun alternative is to use a gmail account as a hard drive, and then allow others to download from it. There are quite a few utilities for that purpose to be found here:

Gmail disk drives

If that is too chancy for you, you can send very large attachments to your or someone else's gmail account, and then forward them to somebody else's gmail account, from where they can be downloaded. If your ISP has limits on email attachment sizes, you can use most modern zip utilities to split a compressed file into fixed segment sizes that can then be attached to multiple emails and reassembled at the other end. The biggest problem with almost all uploads these days is that almost all of us have highly asymmetric upload/download speeds, with upload being the drastic loser. That's why it is nice to store something on gmail where it can be sent multiple times at download speeds.

I am a collector of free utilities, and have several that I use on a daily basis. The most important is my clipboard manager, called Yankee Clipper III. You can access your last 200 items that you have copied to your clipboard. It is a lifesaver for saving long posts like this one done through my browser...found here:

Yankee Clipper III

The other thing that I use every day is irfanview, written by Irfan Skiljan. You can view almost any image or video clip ever created and listen to almost any music file...and convert between most forms as well as do a bit of simple image editing. It's fast and very, very small.

irfanview

As for browsers and email, the original Mozilla, now SeaMonkey, has much of the same code as FireFox and Thunderbird, with Thunderbird being almost identical. SeaMonkey is much more mature than FireFox, running cleanly with many more simultaneous tabs than FireFox while being compatible with many FireFox extensions.
spark4me: The Pit Blog: Free Software Rules (Fri, 16 Nov 2007 13:25:56 GMT)
As an avid Paint.NET user, I would like to point out that Paint.NET was not developed by current or former Microsoft employees or engineers, as this article incorrectly states.

From www.getpaint.net ......
QUOTE
It started development as an undergraduate college senior design project mentored by Microsoft, and is currently being maintained by some of the alumni that originally worked on it.


It was written by college students, not Microsoft employees.

Other than that, great and quite useful post!
Intratech: The Pit Blog: Free Software Rules (Fri, 16 Nov 2007 12:20:20 GMT)
QUOTE(EclipseWebJS2 @ 10:51am Fri Nov 16 2007) [snapback]1443643[/snapback]

Many people can't use FileZilla because they think there aren't many free FTP sites available.

Some people use it to upload their work to servers.
EclipseWebJS2: The Pit Blog: Free Software Rules (Fri, 16 Nov 2007 10:51:04 GMT)
QUOTE(cmunson @ 1:17pm Wed Nov 14 2007) [snapback]1443036[/snapback]

Rob reminds us that some of the best software in life is free ...

A few of his favorites:

https://www.pcpitstop.com/news/rob/rcheng0711.asp

Many people can't use FileZilla because they think there aren't many free FTP sites available.
cmunson: The Pit Blog: Free Software Rules (Wed, 14 Nov 2007 19:17:09 GMT)
Rob reminds us that some of the best software in life is free ...

A few of his favorites:

https://www.pcpitstop.com/news/rob/rcheng0711.asp
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