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INTRODUCTION: This page lists some of the programs that will help you get the most out of your computer. I have personally tried out everyone of them. Keep in mind what programs are available here for downloading and when you need them (after a re-install or upon acquisition of a new computer) just come back here to look for them. To make it easier I've put all the links for direct downloading separately. Click here.

  Free and useful software to download and install (2)  

NOTE: I have no dealings at all with the marketing of any of the products mentioned below (other than as an end-user) and the recommendations are provided as a public service. In short, I've nothing to sell. Only those programs that are free (or at least have a free version) are included. Many of the sites will ask for your email. If you do not wish to be overwhelmed by spam mail may I suggest that you create an email account with either Yahoo, Outlook or Gmail just for this purpose.

With digital cameras giving you photo sizes of 2560x1920 you will need a photo editor to size them down to 640x480 in order to email them to friends. You might also want to crop certain parts of the photo (you want just the face, for example) or rotate the Eiffel Tower so that it's in a vertical position. If there are red eyes you will want to remove them and adjustments will have to be made for photos that are over-exposed or under-exposed. This is where Faststone Image Viewer becomes really indispensable.

Similar to Spybot and Ad-Aware in its functions Spyware Terminator goes a step further by scanning in the background and thus providing real-time protection to your computer even while you are using it.

You know that when you delete files from your computer they go to the Recycle Bin folder. And that when you empty the Recycle Bin folder you cannot find the files anymore in your computer. On the surface that is true. But not quite so because those deleted files still remain somewhere on the hard disk waiting to be rewritten by some new files. So long as no new files are created to take over the space they are occupying they can still be retrieved with some data recovery programme or undelete utility such as FreeUndelete. So what can you do to ensure that they are well and truly deleted? This is where Eraser comes in. This free software is able to erase deleted files permanently by overwriting the segments that contain them over and over again with some insignificant data. You can thus be sure that all private and confidential data such as passwords, bank account numbers, etc. that have been deleted are really erased from your computer for good. It's a sort of shredder, if you like.

When my Nero program expired I started looking for a free programme to burn an audio CD as well as a data CD for files and photos. After some searching I came across Express Burn and found it to do its job simply and well. Good to have around if you do not want to pay for such software. When you install it you will be given six products to choose from. If you need just a programme to create a CD you only need to tick the box "Express Rip CD Ripper". They didn't say anywhere that it's a trial version but after using it for over a month I suddenly got the message that it had expired. So if you have to look for another free CD/DVD burner here it is. It's called Burn4Free. I've just burnt a DVD with it successfully. However I found that it also installs its toolbar without your asking for it. This toolbar created some conflicts in my computer. So regretfully I had to uninstall the software.

If certain videos or animations don't open in your PC it could be due to the absence of one or the other of these two programs:
(a) Flash Player which allows you to watch Flash animations on your PC; and
(b) Java which is necessary for certain online games and to view the applets (images in 3D) in some fanciful pages.
Click on the name to download. They're both entirely free.

I-Lock (Instant Lock) is a program that allows you to password-protect a folder (directory) and making it invisible to other users of your computer at the same time. It is ideal for use in the office computer if you have a personal folder in it. Though it also has a paying version, you can download the free version from here. (a month later) Yo, yo, hold on, it's not really free as it falsely claims (and as I was made to believe). Read what follows.
(Updated on September 1, 2007) WARNING: DO NOT download this program. It says it is free but it is not really free. It is free to try for 30 days only and at the end of that period it just doesn't work anymore. But there is more to it than this. You will now not have access to the folders or files that you have put inside I-Lock for protection anymore (they cannot be seen by anyone, not even by you!) UNLESS you pay them to register the program. To me this appears to be cyber blackmail - either you pay up or you won't be able to get your files and folders back (as they are hidden from your hard disk)! - PJG (Actually you'll get your files back when you uninstall (NOT delete) the program, but then how many people will think of this?)

A London School of Economics report in 2002 said that 9 out of 10 children aged between 8 and 16 years have viewed pornography on the internet, quite often unintentionally when an innocent sounding word is googled. Naomi is a free programme that is meant to filter out pornography and other obscene sites. It does this by closing such a site immediately when it is clicked on. Though not always 100% accurate (legitimate and innocent sites have sometimes been closed) it has a feature that allows you to stop filtering for the current session in such a case.

Are there files or folders in your PC that you simply could not delete? For quite some time now I've been cracking my head trying to remove a file with a strange name CAH8BYBZ that appeared just as mysteriously on my Desktop and stubbornly refuses to go. I had the same problem with a huge folder (containing two entire websites for offline browsing and taking up over 20 megabytes of valuable space) that just refused to be deleted although I had uninstalled HTTrack, the programme that created them. In the first case the following message appeared: "Cannot delete file: Access is denied" and in the second "Cannot delete Folder. It is being used by another program." The software that came to my rescue was Unlocker which just removed both the file and the folder in a second and without much ado.

You don't have Photoshop or any other photo editor and you need to touch up your photos taken with a digital camera? No sweat, no hassle! Nothing can be easier. You don't even have to download or install anything, as you can do it online from Picnik. Just upload your photo to their site after registration (which is immediate and cannot be simpler - you're only asked for your email address). So whether you need to give more light to an underexposed photo or to remove a red eye or to crop, rotate, and resize a photo it is done instantly in real time. When you've done what you wanted to do just save the touched-up photo to your hard disk!

If you want to record yourself singing you can do so with the Recorder that comes with Windows XP (go to Start - Programs - Accessories - Entertainment and click on Recorder). Put your microphone or headset on, and when you are ready to sing, click on the small, red, round button. When you have finished recording save the file with the .wav extension. However the file size in its present state is really too big to be of much use. In order to reduce its size considerably you will need to use a program like WAV Converter which you can download for free.

Go here to learn about how to make use of SpyBot Search and Destroy and where to download it.

After having recorded a TV programme with Freebox's digital video recorder I then transferred it to my computer's hard disk with FTP. However, as it had the extension .ts (Transport Stream) neither my Windows Media Player nor RealPlayer could open it. I finally managed to open it by installing VideoLAN (VLC Media Player) which can handle this type of streams. You can download VideoLAN for free here. Good to have it around. In fact when neither WMP nor RP can open a multimedia file the chances are that VLC will be able to do it for you. For instance if you copy a video clip from YouTube to your hard disk (go here to find out how you can do this) you will not be able to open it with either WMP or RP as the YouTube file carries the .flv extension but you will be able to do so with VLC Media Player.
If you have Real Player it will be even easier for you to download videos from YouTube to your hard disk. Just go to: Tools - Preferences - Download and Recording then put a tick on "Enable Web Downloading and Recording". In future whenever a video clip plays there will be a "Download this video" for you to click on.
And remember there is not only YouTube. There is also Dailymotion. If your .avi file is bigger than 100,000Mb you will not be able to upload to YouTube but you can with Dailymotion (they allow files up to 150,000Mb).

This site allows you free uploads of files up to 1.5 gigabytes in size in order to be able to share them with your friends. The files will be kept there for up to 90 days. If you are willing to pay there is another version that allows your files to be stored forever. It's called http://www.gigasize.com. A little warning though. I had to click on Download two times before I could finally save a file that I had put in there earlier. In fact after typing the 3-letter code and clicking on Download you have to wait a minute or so while the processing takes place. Once this is ended you have to click on Download again a second time for the real download to take place.
In the course of your surfing you are bound to come across .pdf (portable document format) files. These files are created with Adobe Reader (formerly called Acrobat Reader) and will display exactly the same on any computer system (whether Windows, Macintosh or Unix). In fact such files look exactly like original documents as they have a fixed layout similar to a paper publication and preserve the text, drawings, photos, etc. faithfully. However in order to open them you will need to have Adobe Reader installed on your computer. If you don't have it go here to download Adobe Reader for free.

Are you looking for a free and complete anti-virus program with updating facilities? Although it's free it's also one of the best AV programs out there. In fact it warned me of the bugbear virus contained in an attachment file just 3 days after it first made its appearance. I am talking about the Grisoft Anti-Virus. Don't pay attention to all the talk about it no longer being free. It IS still free and will continue to be free. But you have to install Version 7.5 which you can download from here. For those who already have the Grisoft AV running you still have to install this Version 7.5 file. The only difference is that during the installation process you should not choose "Install" but rather "Repair installation". If you do this your present version will be updated to the new version and it will continue to be free after January 2007.

If you are behind your computer much of the time it might be a good idea to have an e-calendar (or Web calendar) where you can enter the time and date of your dentist's appointment, train, friend's birthday party, etc. even if it is in a few months' time. You can open one at 30 Boxes unless you prefer the Rainlendar.

Need a place in internet to keep your files so you can have access to them from your office or home or anywhere in the world? Then go to www.box.net and sign up for 1 Gb (gigabyte) free storage space. If you need more than that you'll have to pay but 1 Gb is more than you will ever need for ordinary purposes.

An innovative idea for your child's 18th birthday is to offer him or her an e-photo album tracing his or her growing up from babyhood to the age of maturity (of course you will first have to scan all those old photographs taken before the time of the digital camera). This e-album is made possible thanks to the facilities offered by Flickr.  In today's age this is a better storage ground than the unwieldy and bulky family album that has been a classic for centuries. Thanks to their system of Tags you will be able to group all the photos of each year together (when your album runs over a timespan of 18 or more years you'll see how important this feature is). There's a free version as well as a pro account.

Another place where you can store your photos to share them with friends is Fotolog though it only allows you to upload just one photo a day if you don't have a paying account with them. Hardly my cup of tea!

Have you heard of TinyURL? It could make your surfing life much easier. Let's say you come across an interesting site which has a very long url (address) such as http://www.mapquest.com/maps/map.adp?ovi=1&mqmap.x=300&mqmap (it could go on for another few lines). It's going to be impossible for you to remember it. But if you should just copy the whole url and paste it into their box you will be given something like http://tinyurl.com/abcde. In future you only need to type this new url to access the site you wanted. Like to give it a try? Just copy this whole url (it is actually what you'll get when you type "focus malaysia" in Google's search box):
into the box here, then click on Make TinyURL! and see what it gives. It will come out with the much shorter "http://tinyurl.com/hqqvp" (24 letters instead of the 71 letters originally).
Enter a long URL to make tiny:
If your Outlook Express is not working as it should you might want to give another similar email program a try. It's called Thunderbird and works in much the same way as the more established Outlook Express.

Let's say your PC breaks down and you need to create a Word document. Don't panic! You can still do it. Just go to a cybercafe and enter this URL: http://zohowriter.com. You either sign up for free or if you don't want to you can still make use of its online word processor by clicking on "Login as demo user". But if you are using it for real I'd suggest you sign up so you can then email the created file to yourself or whoever or have it saved there for easy access from anywhere in the world later on (once you sign in you will have your own My Docs folder there). In fact after creating it you can save it as a Word file (ie. with the extension .doc) or even have it saved as a PDF file. If you are surfing from your own PC you can also save it to your hard disk from there.

If you cannot afford to buy Microsoft Office (which contains Word, Excel, Powerpoint etc) you can still have its equivalent for free. I'm referring to OpenOffice (its official name is OpenOffice.org) which is being used by more and more people today. Click on its name to install this open source program. By the way the equivalent for Word there is called Writer.

You don't have Excel on your computer at home and you need to create a spreadsheet? No problem at all, just go to Google Spreadsheets and work online from there. Save it with the .xls extension and your colleague will be able to open it under Excel. No one else can have access to it as you are saving it inside your own personal account.

If the photos from your digital camera are too dark, have "red eyes" or need cropping there's no need to look for the expensive and sophisticated (read "complicating") Photoshop (costs US$649 by the way). There is a photo editor called Picasa, very easy to use and what's more, completely free for the taking. Mr. Keith Paterson, webmaster of Silverhairs has written an interesting article about it here.

With this program (it's free) you'll be able to type all your passwords, your bank account numbers and any other information of a confidential nature in a single text file using Notepad or Wordpad (but not Word) and be sure no one else can read it. To use the technical term it's automatically encrypted. Only you can read it because in order to open the file you have to type in the same password that you saved it with. The program is called LockNote. Go there for more.

From time to time you might need to take a screenshot or "screen capture" of what appeared on your screen eg. a "funny" message that popped up from a website that you are visiting or even part of a photo. There is a program to help you do this easily. It's called MWSnap. Thanks to Keith Paterson, webmaster of Silverhairs (http://www.silverhairs.co.uk/) for the tip. It is also very easy to use. Once you click on the programme you choose either "Fixed rectangle" or "Any rect. area". If you choose the former then you go down a bit to "Select the rectangle size" and specify the size of the rectangle you want. Whatever it is click on your selection and the screen will open and there you are - ready to copy whichever part of the screen you want.

If you like to have an idea of how safe a site is before visiting it then you should install SiteAdvisor's free software. Through its safety ratings it will help protect you from all kinds of Web-based security threats such as spyware, adware, spam, viruses, browser-based attacks, phishing, online fraud and identity theft. Each time you make a Google Search and the results page appears, the sites that have been tested and found to be safe from all the above dangers will have a green tick after their site titles as follows:
On the other hand a site that is potentially dangerous to enter would have a red X after its title as below:

Talking about phishing these crooks who use their intelligence to prey on the naivety of some internet users are able to make you think that you are on a genuine site by using a fake URL address such as "http://signin.ebay.com@", the whole idea being to give you the impression that you are on an ebay site when you are not. There is a little program called SpoofStick that will show you if a site is authentic eg. if you are on a real ebay site it will signal it with the words "You're on www.ebay.com" or "You're on signin.ebay.com". When you see this you can be sure of the site's authenticity. This is what you'll see, for example, if you have SpoofStick installed and you are on my site:

Want to gahooyoogle? Yes, I repeat, Want to gahooyoogle? The two leading search engines today are undoubtedly Google and Yahoo. How would you like to have the best of both worlds i.e. have the results of both Yahoo and Google for your search? It's possible. Click here to try it.

Recently I had the shock of my life when each time I clicked on a link given in the results of a Google search the same unrequested page came up (one was MorwillSearch.com and the other AdultFriendFinder.com - an adult site). This is called "browser hijacking" and is the work of a type of malware program that hijacks your browser from the site you're trying to visit and redirects it to a totally unsolicited website. They are able to do this by altering your HOSTS file (go here to read more about it). Fortunately, there are a few programs that can come to your aid, among them Ad-Aware, Spybot and HijackThis, all of which have already been mentioned (see below). Joining their ranks in the fight against browser hijacking is CWShredder.

To get full hardware information about your computer (type of monitor, operating system, motherboard, CPU and BIOS, etc.) all you have to do is to install Lavalys' Everest Home Edition (it's free).

For many years the two principal browsers (or navigators) for internet used to be Internet Explorer and Netscape. This is no longer the case as Netscape has been superseded by Firefox. I have both IE and Firefox installed because sometimes when a page doesn't come out well in IE it will appear correctly in Firefox. Both IE and Firefox, however, are considerably "heavy" browsers. If you have an old computer better surf the Internet with a "lighter" browser such as Opera or Safari.

Have you ever wondered how you could send a really big file (up to one gigabyte i.e. 1,000 megabytes) to someone? It is unlikely that you can send a file that big by email. The solution is to send it to some place from where he/she will be able to retrieve it. There is no software to download and no personal details to fill up. Just go to YouSendIt and you'll see how really simple it is.
More useful software to download (3)