The 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities
November 25, 2005 1:18 PM   Subscribe

The 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities There are a lot of great freeware products out there. Many are as good or even better than their commercial alternatives. This list features my personal pick of the "best of the best."
posted by Postroad (45 comments total)
 
You missed out the best freeware viewer of HEALPix maps projected on a sphere.
posted by snoktruix at 1:25 PM on November 25, 2005


Most useful thank you Postroad. As something of a technological numpty I have oft wondered which of all these free majiggers were worth having. Very comprehensive.
posted by Captain Najork at 1:28 PM on November 25, 2005


46? That's not a proper list. It has to be a multiple of ten!
posted by RokkitNite at 1:30 PM on November 25, 2005


Cool. Thanks!
posted by Smedleyman at 1:30 PM on November 25, 2005


You think 46 is odd, click on to page two that lists 47-81.
posted by my sock puppet account at 1:32 PM on November 25, 2005


Would I be nit-picking if I pointed out that Firefox (and probably a number of other "bests" on that list) is not Freeware? It's open source. And we all know that Gratis != Libre.
posted by Plutor at 1:42 PM on November 25, 2005


Software is in a sad state when 8 of the top 10 are anti-malware apps.
posted by joegester at 1:44 PM on November 25, 2005


Firefox number one. Really going out on a limb there.
posted by justgary at 1:45 PM on November 25, 2005


This list features my personal pack of the "best of the best."

I don't understand. Are you saying this is a self-link, or is it your oblique way to apologize that this is a single-link post?

Here are some of the best free and open source programs I use almost every day:
fedora linux firefox mutt irssi screen OpenSSH urxvt xmms mplayer python postfix gimp gcc X
and the dozens of hardware drivers and other behind-the-scenes software I'm not even thinking about.

Tags for this comment: smug unix user
posted by jepler at 1:46 PM on November 25, 2005


Funny that they don't mention any kernels...
posted by cytherea at 1:47 PM on November 25, 2005


Er, the 47-81 page is a blatant pimping of the author's email newsletter. Bah!
posted by JHarris at 1:48 PM on November 25, 2005


(windows) Software is in a sad state when 8 of the top 10 are anti-malware apps.
posted by justgary at 1:48 PM on November 25, 2005


What joegester said...but, of course.... this wasn't a Mac list...
posted by HuronBob at 1:50 PM on November 25, 2005


Meh. Nothing here I would go out of my way to replace.
posted by mischief at 2:02 PM on November 25, 2005


I was going to point out the same thing as Joegester. If it was a mac list, 10 out of 10 of the products would be useful and enjoyable. It's a sad state of affairs for all you PC people that so much time and effort has to be spent of guarding and removing malware.
posted by eperker at 2:02 PM on November 25, 2005


Note that about half of them are utilities for dealing with problems like spam, viruses, spyware, etc, rather than getting real work done. A sorry state we've come to...
posted by QuietDesperation at 2:10 PM on November 25, 2005


I don't understand. Are you saying this is a self-link, or is it your oblique way to apologize that this is a single-link post?


That's a pull quote from the top of the linked page.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:28 PM on November 25, 2005


del.icio.us/popular
posted by sjvilla79 at 2:45 PM on November 25, 2005


Nice post.
posted by caddis at 2:46 PM on November 25, 2005


Useful post.
posted by caddis at 2:46 PM on November 25, 2005


Thank you.
posted by caddis at 2:46 PM on November 25, 2005


fun stuff, I think I've downloaded at least 12 of these in the last few minutes...
posted by tiamat at 2:50 PM on November 25, 2005


(windows) Software is in a sad state when 8 of the top 10 are anti-malware apps.

To be pedantic I count six out of ten. Firewalls and anonymous browsing can be very useful to anyone regardless of their OS and are not necessarily related to malware. Still, not a great state of affairs.

An interesting list. Thanks.
posted by dodgygeezer at 2:58 PM on November 25, 2005


I'm happy to see Keynote on the list. I am doing a major research project at the moment and Keynote has made it much, much easier. Unfortunately the developer is shutting the project down.
posted by LeeJay at 3:02 PM on November 25, 2005


Oh, bleah. The time and effort I spend in guarding and removing malware consists entirely of:

(1) Using firefox and thunderbird or pine instead of IE and Outlook Express.
(2) Going through a router, which I'd have to do anyway with 2 desktops and a laptop talking to the net.
(3) Allowing windows update to do its thing.

Never had any instance of any kind of malware, ever, even once. I suppose this has a lot to do with never having had any urge to click on the bouncing monkey or have little buddies in my browser.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:14 PM on November 25, 2005


It's a sad state of affairs for all you PC people that so much time and effort has to be spent of guarding and removing malware.

Puh-lease. I haven't got a single anti-spyware or anti-virus program running on my system. Know why? Because I don't need one. Know why? Because I don't run untrusted code. It's pretty fucking simple: when PC users finally get it through their heads that the default action to anything popping up on their computer should be "CANCEL or CLOSE" not "OK, SURE WHATEVER THX" then half this list will become moot.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:16 PM on November 25, 2005


You think 46 is odd

I'll speak only for myself here, but I know 46 is even. So there.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:28 PM on November 25, 2005


A thread about 46 ways to fix or work around the security problems with Windows computers is hardly FPP-worthy — unless you're stuck using Windows, I guess.
posted by Rothko at 4:48 PM on November 25, 2005


you're stuck using Windows, I guess.

or use it by choice. stop trolling.
posted by fake at 5:10 PM on November 25, 2005


Civil_Disobedient writes "Puh-lease. I haven't got a single anti-spyware or anti-virus program running on my system. Know why? Because I don't need one. Know why? Because I don't run untrusted code. It's pretty fucking simple: when PC users finally get it through their heads that the default action to anything popping up on their computer should be 'CANCEL or CLOSE' not 'OK, SURE WHATEVER THX' then half this list will become moot."

What you say is true. However, complaining that users are stupid isn't going to solve the problem. Windows is marketed and sold to people who have no idea what "untrusted code" means. I clean systems for a living (among other things), and the user isn't the issue. Trying to change behavior of users who do not understand the problem is not a solution. And the poor state of security in Windows is not a responsibility of those users, or anyone else except Microsoft. Systems marketed and sold to such end users should be much more difficult to compromise out-of-the-box. Perfect security isn't possible, but people shouldn't have to be well-versed in security to keep from being easily compromised. Believe me, when you give up on the idea that everyone should understand what's going on with the technical aspects of their computers, it makes the present situation much easier to understand.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:28 PM on November 25, 2005


A thread about 46 ways to fix or work around the security problems with Windows computers is hardly FPP-worthy — unless you're stuck using Windows, I guess.

What about a thread about 46 very useful utilities, only a small fraction of which have anything to do with security. You know, like this thread?
posted by Elpoca at 5:55 PM on November 25, 2005


Hey, while we're on this, any good p2p recommendations? Limewire seems to be just awful lately.
posted by moonbird at 9:34 PM on November 25, 2005


Moonbird, have you tried Soulseek? YMMV, but for me, it's the best source for rare \ obscure stuff I've found ever since Audiogalaxy went away.
posted by InnocentBystander at 10:04 PM on November 25, 2005


Moonbird I would highly recommend eMule. It requires little setup other than feeding it a URL such as this so you have some servers to connect to.
posted by FissionChips at 12:11 AM on November 26, 2005


the user isn't the issue

I disagree. There's a difference between understanding what's "under the hood" and understanding situational occurances that will FUBAR your system.

To extend the analogy: most people don't know how their car operates, but understand that plowing into a bunch of schoolkids at 100 mph. while they're crossing the road isn't going to produce good results.

Unfortunately, there's no training program in place for users to get licensed to connect to the internet, so, like a bunch of teenage n00bs, they get into their cars and all of a sudden the world is open to them. Without being handed any instructions, and without understanding any consequences.

When they come to you for help, ("I done crashed my computer into a tree!) it's your duty to educate them. Of course they won't want to listen. That's fine. Tell them you like getting their repeat business.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:59 AM on November 26, 2005


To extend the analogy: most people don't know how their car operates, but understand that plowing into a bunch of schoolkids at 100 mph. while they're crossing the road isn't going to produce good results

How about this analogy? You're driving down the road and the windshield falls into your lap. While dealing with the spiky glass, the right wheel comes off and gas starts spewing from a leak in the tank. The sparks from the dragging axle sets the mess on fire. Kaboom! Now you are in geosynchronous orbit with little bits of glass embedded in your posterior.
posted by storybored at 9:17 AM on November 26, 2005


No, that analogy doesn't work. See, here's the problem:

driving down the road and the windshield falls into your lap

The problem is that "it just [xxx]" means not operator error. That's the big difference. In general (99% of the cases) people don't "just get" viruses. They actively download something from an anonymous source, whether it be by email or by browser, then get 0wned.

Your analogy absolves users from personal responsibility by supposing everything bad that happens to us is "just" someone else's fault but their own. I realize it's not a popular notion these days, but when people refuse to accept responsibility for their actions they hand over any power over their own personal growth. "Aww, poor thing, let me make you a world where you can't ever screw up," is bad for evolution.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:34 AM on November 26, 2005


Civil_Disobedient writes "The problem is that 'it just [xxx]' means not operator error. That's the big difference. In general (99% of the cases) people don't 'just get' viruses. They actively download something from an anonymous source, whether it be by email or by browser, then get 0wned."

Yes, but you can't really do the same thing on many other OSes. An unpriviledged user can't install anything, and almost all multi-user OSes warn against running as root (or administrator). Windows should not default to administrator, but it does, and MS does nothing to warn the user against running as root. There should be multiple idiot-proof popups, asking "Are you sure? Eunning as administrator puts you at risk! USE SPARINGLY!" Of course, the fact that many third-party software vendors require their software be run as admin isn't helping, but MS does nothing to discourage this.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:01 PM on November 26, 2005


Sorry for the typos ... you get the idea.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:02 PM on November 26, 2005


Look. I have just *chosen* to move back to PC's after being a Mac user for the past three years. Trolling aside I'd like to highlight that with a couple of apps and a general common sense approach, being a Windows user does *not* mean being on a perpetual backfoot when it comes to security. In fact I'd go so far as to s""$%%^£%^$&*($"%^$^*%$^%^%^&*$^

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posted by nthdegx at 12:15 PM on November 26, 2005


C. Disobedient, you're right my analogy doesn't fit the virus situation exactly. My analogy applies more to the generally yucky quality of Windows. (Ironically i'm in the middle of installing a new hard drive on my Windows system, and it's taken so far about four hours)..

However (not gonna let u off too easy now :-) )....re:

"Your analogy absolves users from personal responsibility by supposing everything bad that happens to us is "just" someone else's fault but their own."

Yes, to clarify I agree the end users are still responsible. But there's a big difference between making that responsibility easy and making it hard.

Given that viruses and malware exist, users should do what they can to avoid them. But a system or product which allows bad things to happen easily is *poorly designed* and deserves to be condemned.

How about another analogy: When you want to reformat your hard drive. Should the system ask you whether you want to do it or not? And should the system allow you to back out of it, if you suddenly realize you didn't want to reformat?
posted by storybored at 2:47 PM on November 26, 2005


Windows should not default to administrator, but it does

There are problems (large, looming problems) with Windows, don't get me wrong. The problem is, IMHO, with DLL's. You can't have users install system-wide DLLs that have access to fundamental parts of the core without running into problems. The current design requires administrator rights for even the meagerest of installations, and that's stupid. I agree. But to fix the problem, you'd have to re-do everything. I would actually pay money for a Windows operating system that was optimized from the ground up, with all memory holes plugged up, and DLLs abandoned forever, that still weighed in at less than 100 Megs. I know they can do it. But people like me are few and far between, so Microsoft will instead concentrate on the "Gee-Whiz" market.

a system or product which allows bad things to happen easily is *poorly designed* and deserves to be condemned

No doubt.

When you want to reformat your hard drive. Should the system ask you whether you want to do it or not?

Er, yes. And it does. I'm actually of the opinion that Windows could do well to lose some of the annoying, "Are you sure you wanna do this?" messages (though clearly not for important functions like reformatting a HD).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:57 PM on November 26, 2005


...so then if there was no such "are you sure?" message for reformatting a hard disk and someone accidentally toasted their hard drive, would you consider that to be the user's fault?

I guess what i'm driving at is there's responsibility and there's good design. If something is designed well, my responsibilities should be few and simple.
posted by storybored at 7:09 PM on November 26, 2005


No love for Nutshell?
posted by weirdoactor at 8:11 PM on November 26, 2005


Good stuff -- thx!
posted by purplesnow at 12:45 PM on November 27, 2005


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