Technology & Gadgets

46 Best Freeware Programs for PC

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Technology & Gadgets

Hardware & gadgets

  • I am renouncing my title as local king of the gadgets. I am abdicating my throne to Patrick G., who pointed out I could use my Bluetooth-equipped V600 Motorola phone as a GPRS connection to the internet for my laptop and PDA. For those who are curious, use the Bluetooth Dial-up Modem service on the host, and for AT&T/Cingular, use phone number "*99#", username "WAP@CINGULARGPRS.COM", password "CINGULAR1". Rumour has it that this can do up to 115 kbps. Shame, oh terrible shame that I didn’t work this out before. This even would have worked in Europe when I was there for a week last month (searching around like an idiot for a Ethernet connection).
  • Good news, my wife bought me a Mac Mini for my birthday. It’ll take 4-6 weeks to come in, heavily back-ordered. She bought the faster processor and the wireless connection. I guess that won’t hurt. Now all I need is to find a decent 3D mouse that works on Bluetooth. It doesn’t yet exist, as far as I can tell, so I’ll have to use this one from Gyration, which doesn’t use Bluetooth.
  • I pine after a Mac Mini to use as my home theatre PC, which , although they really should have given it a digital optical/analog stereo minijack, like the Airport Express. What were they thinking? It means I’ll need to buy an external USB to digital optical adapter (this one is pretty expensive, I’ve seen down to $30), so that I can get 5.1 output, etc.
  • I think the iPod shuffle is a terrible buy, with no LCD, etc. It’s cute and small though.
  • If you’re having trouble playing specific writeable DVD or CD media on a player, check out this site
  • For relative player quality, check out the progressive scan DVD Player shootouts here.
Technology & Gadgets


  • Jamie S. pointed out I can get rid of my totally lame hotmail account, and use only my regular e-mail for instant messaging using MSN or Windows Messenger (I prefer Windows Messenger, because it’s lighter and fluffier)
  • Exeem has been released, but I’m still not seeing a lot of users or even marginally decent throughput (not to mention file selection), so I still end up using ABC, and I still use torrentreactorand to find the torrents for TV shows. Warning, Exeem seems to contain a fair bit of spyware, so be sure to use HijackThis and AdAware. is now down.
  • OK, so you know you need antivirus software otherwise geeks will laugh and point at you when your computer gets infected. But a) you don’t want to pay money, or b) you don’t want your computer to slow down to a standstill. Well, Norton Antivirus makes the fastest Pentium slothlike, so try AVG (the free version, duh) from Grisoft.
Technology & Gadgets


Technology & Gadgets


  • To play ANY KIND OF VIDEO, I use VLC, which can also be used to transcode incoming stream to send to the airportexpress. DVD Jon is involved with the development of this software (it really plays anything, including internet streams and DVDs)
  • My codec for MPEG-4 is not Nero’s rather the one called XviD, which works pretty much universally, including in Windoze Media Player 10.
  • I use iOpener to decrypt music for personal use that I buy on iTunes (no more CDs for me!)
  • My newest DVD player is from NeuNeo (the HD one, of course). If I had HDMI, I’d choose the Samsung 931.
  • BitTorrents to download TV shows when I can’t watch my TiVo. My client is ABC, and my favourite sites are and, and to a lesser extent torrentreactor. A rundown of clients can be found here. When torrents get replaced, I will switch to Exeem, which should be available from
  • Nero is still my favourite burner software, recently updated to 6.6, I also use it to create MPEG-4 (strangely named Nero Digital)
  • Copernic replaces Google Desktop Search as my favourite desktop search agent, after reading a review, although I’m having problems with Copernic on my home machine
  • ActiveSync updated to 3.8 to sync with Windows PocketPC devices (I have an iPAQ)
  • DVDDecrypter to rip DVDs too hard disk (works in cases that DVDShrink fails (below)
  • DVDShrink to reduce the size of DVDs so that I can write them onto a 4.7GB DVD-R or DVD+RW
  • DVD-R for disks that I want people to be able to play in ANY DVD player (most compatible)
  • DVD+RW to backup data (fastest erase, best "random access" )
Technology & Gadgets


  • My web browser is Firefox, with the tabbrowser preference extension making everything open in the same window, and Tab Clicking Options making a double-click close a tab, other speedups I’ve used are here, not to mention the Google mod that makes google be used for everything typed into the location/address bar that isn’t a web address (I’ve also disabled blinking text… who doesn’t [see, still blinking on Jan 9, 2005]. Also, don’t forget to find as you type in the preferences, very cool.
  • for web hosting, including FrontPage extensions, MySQL database and PHP
  • for domain name registration (I never use my web host as my registrar)
  • phpBB is my new forum agent (PHP, MySQL based)
  • I read a lot of my technology news at, some or the most interesting posts are at Slashdot
  • For news about technology risks, etc, I go to comp.risks, which is easier to read here.
  • FrontPage 2003 is my favourite web page editor
  • PHP and MySQL are my scripting and database of choice
  • SquirrelMail is my newly installed webmail client (PHP-based)
Technology & Gadgets

Digital Television in the Bay Area

  • To pick up digital television, I use a UHF/VHF splitter, high-end Titan 7777 amplifier, and a double-wide 8-bay UHF 4228 antenna and a 4-bay single wide 4221 from ChannelMaster. I have the big UHF antenna pointed at Sutro tower, and I’m actually using the small UHF antenna connected to the splitter to point at Channel 12 (11.1 = NBC). I’m still fine tuning this fragile arrangement, and weather is often a problem (most of all when it blows down my antenna.
  • Strangely enough, I can only pick up 56 and 57 (56 = 2.1 = FOX, 57 = 4.1 = KRON) when my antenna blows down. Go figure. Needs some investigation.
  • I’m behind a hill, so the antenna must be angled up to account for the diffraction over the hilltop, and I’m nearly 45 miles from the transmitter. I’ve received a lot of help with my setup from Ken Nist personally, and his invaluable website. Unfortunately, my wife doesn’t permit me to go on the roof as often as I like (view of San Jose is great), so I can’t tweak the antenna like I might want. Volunteers for antenna tweaking duty should apply here.
  • Find a conservative estimate of channels you can pick up at CEA’s antennaweb. You WILL be able to pick up more, and the information seems out of date
  • Up-to-date information on digital television channels in the Bay Area
    can be found here, with a list of transmitter locations I compiled here.
  • My receiver is a Hughes HR10-250 HD DirecTiVo PVR, Satellite and ATSC receiver, with four tuners.
  • Find out the digital channel guide information at TitanTV

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Just finished playing (in December) XBOX Halo 2 at Heroic difficulty and Half-Life 2 at Hard. Halo 2 was good, Half-Life 2 was astonishing, but brought my machine to its knees.