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Category: Software

Best of Free: Adium

If you’re anything like me, you’ve created an account with just about every IM service out there. I, for one, still have/use a Yahoo!, Microsoft, Google, and AOL IM account. For some, this means running four different chat clients at the same time, but solutions have existed for years. Even Mac’s built-in iChat supports multiple accounts (though they don’t support that many services).

Enter Adium. This IM clients combines all of your contacts from all your accounts into one “Buddy List” and chat interface, saving you not only the system resources required to run multiple chat programs, but all of the headaches of trying to juggle them all. The only thing that you’ll need to pull out another app for is video chat (which I’ll talk about later), as the Adium client does not yet support it.

Best of Free: Microsoft Security Essentials

Anti-virus apps are the hardest to distinguish between when it comes to performance and reliability (just because its not finding viruses, doesn’t mean they aren’t there). It’s even harder to pick from the free ones. AVG used to be the best free solution, but has become bloated and overly filled with advertisements to ‘upgrade’ to the paid version. The AVG engine has also declined in it’s ability to detect threats.

So what do I recommend, Microsoft Security Essentials. This free download (for users of legitimate copies of Windows) performs admirably: it isn’t a resource hog, detected all of the known threats I threw at it, and integrates nicely into the rest of your Windows environment. My only complaint is that you can only schedule one scan and not the “daily quick scan and weekly full scan” that I prefer. However, it still beats the pants off its free competition and a number of commercial apps, as well.

Best of Free: uTorrent

uTorrent (read: micro Torrent) is by far the best application for downloading torrents. It is light-weight, runs on both Windows and Linux, and works better than most others I’ve used. While there are other BitTorrent clients available, nothing even compares to uTorrent’s performance.

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.

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.

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.