Useful and Helpful Program Recommendations

So I decided to take the time and compile a list of freely downloadable programs that I think most people should check out, given time and patience (and in some cases, how much they value their sanity). Sorry Mac users, this post is fairly PC-centric. Let’s begin!

Firefox screen shot Mozilla Firefox – If you haven’t replaced Internet Explorer with some other web browser, I really don’t know what to tell you. There could be a multitude of reasons why you haven’t switched yet. The simple fact of the matter is that Internet Explorer is unsafe to browse the internet with. Click that link for evidence and information on Internet Explorer security holes that range from spoofing URL addresses to make you think you’re going to a legitimate site, to automatically installing dangerous trojans and other spyware that mucks up your system. It’s atrocious. Want something different? Try Firefox. Version 1.0.1 was officially released two weeks ago. It’s fast, a fairly small download (under 5 mb), and secure, so no problem with spyware. Get Firefox.

Ad-Aware screen shot Lavasoft Ad-Aware – So let’s say you want to take the plunge and start cleaning up your (most likely) infected Windows PC. How do you detect and remove massive quantities of spyware? Ad-Aware is one of many utilities that helps you accomplish this task. It will scan your entire hard drive and seek out any potentially dangerous programs and files, using the latest definitions downloaded from the Lavasoft website. Combining this program with Spybot Search and Destroy does a great job a cutting down the amount of spyware present on your system. You can download Ad-Aware at this location.

NASA World Wind screen shot NASA World Wind – You have yourself a nice and shiny new browser, now it’s time to have some fun! NASA just released a new program called World Wind that allows you to view satellite photos and elevation data, and project them on globe. It’s an insanely cool program and the detail is actually quite amazing. I actually used this software to create some neat graphics of my study area in the San Gabriel Mountains for my student research competition last week. Another example, here is a great detailed shot of San Francisco, with a small section zoomed in on my house! Amazing detail (note, that is zooming in from the satellite shot of the entire Bay Area that you see to the right of this paragraph). They just released a new version, 1.3, but it’s on the hefty side, weighing in at 171 megabytes! Oh yes! You can view more information on NASA World Wind, as well as download it here.

Picasa screen shot Picasa 2 by Google -If you have a digital camera and find it a hassle organizing all your photographs, the awesome boys at Google released a great program called Picasa 2. It scans your entire harddrive for image files and presents them to you in an easy to use index format. You can add “captions” to your images, which doesn’t rename them, but allows you to search for them in the future. The initial time it takes to add captions to all your images can be tedious, but once it’s setup, it’s quite easy to add new captions to recently imported photos. It also makes finding that random photo from Las Vegas where I mooned Nate quite easy to locate and post for everyone’s viewing pleasure! On top of that, it also has options to rotate your images, as well as fix crooked images (i.e., the horizon is slanted), and great auto-contrast and auto-color settings to make your images look pristine. This is a simple 3 megabyte download. More information about Picasa 2 can be found here.

That’s it for now! Give some of those a try and let me know if you have questions. And no, I didn’t take any money from anyone who makes these programs. 😛