My blog’s existential crisis … sort of. :)

I have the lamest (yet valid) reason for not blogging in over a week  now: I didn’t know what to say. For the first time in awhile, I felt thoroughly jaded about writing yet another how-to or kvetching about the latest software/hardware fault. There are a ton of sites that I’ll defer to when it comes down to the technical nitty gritty of things, but I hope that my scribblings may have made sense of someone out there. It’s been over 2 weeks since I moved back to Vista and I must confess that I have forgotten what Ubuntu feels like. That sounds like a betrayal even to me, but some context is in order.

Before throwing up my hands in despair and wiping off Windows from  my laptop, my laptop had a lot of experimental (beta quality) software on it and had witnessed scores of uninstallations that clog disk performance. My computer was rapidly becoming as sluggish as my 3 year old XP desktop PC and I didn’t know how to fix it. I was not infected with any virii or rootkits that I knew of, but I had a lot of programs installed and I experimented a lot with my laptop. The final straw was when some of my personal files became corrupted after running a couple of diagnose-and-repair programs and I threw up my hands in defeat. I’d experimented a lot with virtual machines and was becoming rapidly enamored of the Ubuntu/Linux distribution. I backed up my personal and professional files in two places and said “hasta luego” to Vista. Imagine my giddiness when my computer booted up & was ready to roll in less than 1 minute! However, Ubuntu’s “downfall” at my hands came because of a single issue.

Fast forward to mid-March when I restored my laptop to its factory conditions with my recovery DVDs. I installed my essential programs which are:

  1. Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007 (everything except the Business Contact Manager or Office Accounting 2008) :- I love Office 2007. Eye candy and extremely functional.
  2. Adobe Acrobat Professional 8 :- I paid for this and it is worth its weight in gold! Of course, this was an educational version so it was less than $60.
  3. Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer 2.1
  4. Acronis True Image 2009 :- Worth the money I’ve paid for it. I would purchase it again in a heartbeat!
  5. Acronis Disk Director 10 :- A master at slicing and dicing drives i.e. partitioning, etc
  6. Microsoft Expression Studio Suite :- Got this for free at Microsoft DreamSpark; The included Microsoft Expression Encoder 2 is one of the best converters for .AVI files i.e. AVI to WMV in high quality. I love it!
  7. Ultraedit Text Editor :- Fast and killer at handling huge text files. It’s mostly a Notepad replacement for me, but I wanted the best of the best and Ultraedit was the unanimous victor.
  8. Norton Internet Security 2009
  9. Secunia PSI :- For keeping tabs of programs that need updating or that have reached the end of life period.
  10. PC Wizard
  11. Fraps :- For high quality capture of games I’m playing or simply for recording the entire desktop by monitoring the desktop windows manager. Well worth the dough I dropped for it and it comes with free upgrades for life!
  12. Gizmo5 :- I love this program although the call quality could do with some work. I use this to communicate with my folks in Nigeria by buying Call Out minutes. I get the most bang for my buck that way.
  13. Imgburn :- this program lets the user be awesome as Kathy Sierra would say. It’s so easy to use that a cavewoman like me can use it without tearing out her hair!)
  14. Wireshark :- I fire this baby up whenever I’m out of my home network to monitor HTTP traffic leaving & entering my computer. I always use my SSH tunnel whenever I’m on public wifi or on an insecure/hostile network so I try to inspect my HTTP packets for any cleartext passwords, etc. Yes, I’m a tinfoil hat wearer. 🙂
  15. Nmap :- I haven’t fully gotten the hang of this, but I know that I intend on tapping into its power.
  16. Camtasia Studio 6 :- THE name in creating awesome screencasts and I won a license of this fantastic program via a contest on Gottabemobile.
  17. Snagit 9 :- THE name in taking awesome screenshots of whatever you’re doing. 🙂 I’ve paid for this baby twice because it’s that good.
  18. Netalyzer :- Every computer needs one of these. ‘Nuff said.
  19. 7-zip :- For unobtrusive unzipping & zipping needs, 7-Zip is the program to beat.
  20. FeedDemon :- I would be very lonely in the world without FeedDemon. 🙂 I kid, but this program is a desktop RSS reader that backups up my subscriptions and has handled my feeds with minimal hiccups.
  21. Filezilla (and/or Winscp) :- The masters at FTP/SFTP/SSH connections.
  22. Putty :- For making SSH tunneling on my laptop possible. I heart you, Putty.
  23. Xobni :- the Outlook plugin
  24. Firefox :- bestest browser EVAR!!
  25. Cyberlink Youcam 2 (for whatever reason, this program won’t receive updates and I’m in the market for an alternative webcam program like Logitech’s Quickcam software for the Logitech Pro 9000)
  26. Speedcrunch :- This calculator is faster than the built-in calculator in Vista and has even more functionality. I love that it saves all calculations for me so it gives me a reason not to buy the latest shiny thing that catches my eye. 🙂
  27. WinDirStat :- This nifty program tells me which folders are hogging up all my hard drive space. It’s thanks to this program that Nero 9 is not on my laptop anymore. I discovered several GBs in some folders created by Nero 9. I had no idea what those folders were for and I was too scared to delete them.
  28. TheSage dictionary :- Free dictionary that can search online (Wikipedia, Google, etc) from the application’s interface. I debated long & hard about replacing Wordweb Free with this program, but now, I have no regrets. The Sage is just as fast (if not faster) than Wordweb Free.

After installing these 28 programs and installing their updates, I slowly “rolled” out more program installations while carefully monitoring the Performance Information and Tools monitor for any problem programs. One software tool is conspicuously absent and that is Nero 9 which I used to swear by. The reason I have kept Nero 9 off y computer lies in the fact that it is overkill for my purposes (as I’ve learnt the hard way). I don’t want this post to become a screed, but Nero 9 has actually gotten in the way of doing stuff instead of making stuff drop-dead easy. So, I went with Imgburn for its simple 1-click options.

As of today, I’ve added a lot more programs to my computer, but I’ve been discriminating in what I put on my laptop. These programs see less usage than the 21 above, but they are on my laptop because I want them there. They are:

  1. Windows Live Writer
  2. Microsoft Streets & Trips 2009 (with GPS)
  3. DVDFab
  4. ConceptDraw Professional 7 :- A worthy alternative to Microsoft Visio Professional 2007. For making neat drawings that would take forever in Word. 😛
  5. ConceptDraw MindMap 5
  6. Microsoft Math 3.0 :- Don’t ask. It’s not worth the 20 bucks I paid for it because it’s slower than molasses. I recommend SpeedCrunch if a vanilla calculator will suit your needs.
  7. GPG4Win :- Every now and then, I get this bee in my bonnet that I need to encrypt my email conversations. I’m not in cohorts with evil people so my paranoia is largely unjustified. However, if I did encrypt all my email, no one would be able to get in touch with me because my contacts are not tinfoil hat wearers like me!
  8. Quicktime 7 Pro and QuickTime MPEG-2 Playback Component :- I went Pro over 2 years ago and it’s definitely worth it. I purchased the MPEG add-on because at the time, I needed that capability. Worth it? Meh.
  9. Spacejock software :- You can’t beat free & high quality software. yBook is an e-Reader that simply works OOB (out of box). It is my alternative to the ~ $300 Amazon Kindle. Eat your hearts out, suckers! 😛
  10. Woopra :- A web analytics program
  11. Skype :- I have about 2 contacts on Skype (my husband and a friend of ours). 🙂 However, I need Skype on the laptop because I can make video calls to my husband and when my husband is jamming with his friend (my 2nd contact), they call me via Skype and I can listen to their music.
  12. CCleaner :- This program is not on my must-have list because I already do a lot of the tasks it performs manually. I’ve been burned by mediocre “clean up” software (*cough* TuneUp *cough*) so I’m leery of such applications. However, CCleaner has a very good reputation so I’m comfortable with running this program once a quarter. 🙂
  13. Bulk Rename Utility :- a free program by Jim Willsher for bulk renaming. It does what it does simply and fast. Tons of options to satisfy any needs (extension changes, sequential numbering, etc). A specialized tool, but not essential. It also has a dedicated 64 bit version.
  14. ColorPic :- Another specialized tool for when I’m optimizing my Adsense ads and I need to pick matching colors. 🙂

Right now, my computer is humming right along with me when I click to open things, etc. I haven’t had the Performance Information and Tools monitor tell me that any issues have been documented by the computer. I haven’t had the computer bluescreen (BSOD) on me yet *knock on wood* although my experience with Windows tells me that even BSODs happen to the best of us.

I will be updating this post with links to the programs later so enjoy!