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Author: Sean

Father. Soldier. Geek.

Best of Free: 7-Zip

Still paying for commercial applications WinZip or WinRAR? 7-Zip, an archiving application for both Windows and Linux, can open most popular archives and compress to ZIP, BZIP2, and 7-Zip’s own 7Z format.

Best of Free: Firefox

Given the spotty, unsecure history of Internet Explorer, Firefox is a good choice of browser for your and your family’s computer. It’s available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, providing you with a familiar browsing experience regardless of which OS you happen to boot.

One of my personal favorite features of Firefox is its Add-ins feature: allowing new, customized functionality to be added in with a few mouse clicks. For example, AdBlock Plus uses an ever-expanding database of advertisers to block banners, advertisements, and other unwanted content from web pages, saving me bandwidth and the inconvenience of dealing with flashy ads in the first place.

Like many of the other pieces of software coming to this list, Firefox is open-source, making any bugs that exist more likely to be found.

If you’re not using it already, go ahead and give it a try. I think you’ll like what you find.

The Best Things In Life ARE Free

Free

Chances are if you’re paying for a commercial application to get something done, there’s a free alternative that’s just as good, if not better.

Over the next week or so, I’m going to cover over 50 pieces of software that if you’re not using, you should be!

Handbrake 0.9.4 Released

Handbrake, my personal choice for ripping DVDs onto my MacBook Pro, has updated their awesome app to version 0.9.4. This open-source app has received over 1,000 changes including 64-bit support.

64-bit mode (of course running on a 64-bit platform) encodes videos up to 10% faster than the 32-bit builds. At this time, there isn’t a 64-bit build for Windows, but both Mac and Linux versions exist.

New changes include soft subtitles (subtitles you can turn on and off), constant quality encoding (eliminating the need for 2-pass encoding), and a live preview mode. Settings for PSP, PS3, and XBox seen to have disappeared, but any of these devices should support the “Normal” mode which uses Main Profile H.264. Also absent are AVI and XVid, but as support for the superior H.264 codec is nearly everywhere, they will not likely be missed.

Backup In The Cloud

Backupify is a web service that makes regular backups of your online accounts, including Gmail, WordPress, Facebook and the like. That way, if a service goes away, your data won’t. Backupify offers Twitter backups for free and three additional premium plans that range from $3.95 to $14.95 per month, depending on how much storage you need.

Panda Cloud AV Out Of Beta

Panda Security, the company that develops the anti-virus software I use, has made Panda Cloud available for download.

Cloud is a constantly updated, cloud-run anti-virus program that provides near real-time protection from threats. Panda Cloud, as its name suggests, does most of its computing, file-checking, and signature updating on servers,  providing a very unobtrusive app on your system with a very small memory/CPU-cycle footprint.

Panda Cloud is free for home and non-commercial use on Windows systems.

Free WiFi in Airports and Virgin Flights

From now until January 15, all Virgin American flights and the following participating airports will be offering free WiFi for the holidays:

  • Austin (AUS)
  • Baltimore (BWI)
  • Billings (BIL)
  • Boston (BOS)
  • Bozeman (BZN)
  • Buffalo (BUF)
  • Burbank (BUR)
  • Central Wisconsin (CWA)
  • Charlotte (CLT)
  • Des Moines (DSM)
  • El Paso (ELP)
  • Fort Lauderdale (FLL)
  • Fort Myers/SW (RSW)
  • Greensboro (GSO)
  • Houston (HOU)
  • Houston Bush (IAH)
  • Indianapolis (IND)
  • Jacksonville (JIA)
  • Kalamazoo (AZO)
  • Las Vegas (LAS)
  • Louisville (SDF)
  • Madison (MSN)
  • Memphis (MEM)
  • Miami (MIA)
  • Milwaukee (MKE)
  • Monterey (MRY)
  • Nashville (BNA)
  • Newport News (PHF)
  • Norfolk (ORF)
  • Oklahoma City (OKC)
  • Omaha (OMA)
  • Orlando (MCO)
  • Panama City (PFN)
  • Pittsburgh (PIT)
  • Portland (PWM)
  • Sacramento (SMF)
  • San Antonio (SAT)
  • San Diego (SAN)
  • San Jose (SJC)
  • Seattle (SEA)
  • South Bend (SBN)
  • Spokane (GEG)
  • St. Louis (STL)
  • State College (SCE)
  • Toledo (TOL)
  • Traverse City (TVC)
  • West Palm Beach (PBI)

Check it out while it is still available.

Anti-Virus Tests Conducted

Recent test results released by AV-Comparatives.org compare the effectiveness of 16 popular anti-virus products. The sixteen products were:

  • Avast Professional Edition 4.8
  • AVG Anti-Virus 8.5
  • AVIRA AntiVir Premium 9.0
  • BitDefender Anti-Virus 2010
  • eScan Anti-Virus 10.0
  • ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4.0
  • F-Secure AntiVirus 2010
  • G DATA AntiVirus 2010
  • Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2010
  • Kingsoft AntiVirus 9
  • McAfee VirusScan Plus 2009
  • Microsoft Security Essentials 1.0
  • Norman Antivirus & Anti-Spyware 7.10
  • Sophos Anti-Virus 7.6
  • Symantec Norton Anti-Virus 2010
  • Trustport Antivirus 2009.

The testing focused only on the effectiveness of removing malware, so the tests were conducted only with samples that the anti-virus software was able to detect. None of the products scored “very good” in malware removal and Microsoft, eScan, and Symantec were the only products to score “good” in both removal of malware and removal of leftovers.

The full report is available here (PDF).

Windows 7 WMI Issues

I’ve noticed a number of installations are crashing on my Windows 7 machine (Home Premium 64-bit). They come from different vendors (Apple, Valve, etc.) and are for both 32- and 64-bit applications. The one thing they have in common? They are distributed as .wmi files.

I’m still looking into the cause of this problem and will post as soon as I could figure it out.

Free TV on Hulu, Your Days Are Numbered!

Chase Carey, the deputy chairman of the co-owner of Hulu, says the site will start charging users to access content as early as 2010.

“It’s time to get paid for broadcast content online,” Carey said at the B&C On-Screen Summit in New York. “I think the free model is a very difficult way to capture the value of our content. I think what we need to do is deliver that content to consumers in a way where they will appreciate the value. Hulu concurs with that, it needs to evolve to have a meaningful subscription model as part of its business.”

It seems like Hulu’s days alive are numbered as well, with many voicing their displeasure on Gizmodo. If Hulu was not making money before, why did we have to sit through all those commercials? I, for one, feel that Hulu would not be viable as a pay service, as what is provides is available in other free forms, albeit with less-streamlined methods (i.e. torrents, home-made DVR, etc.)