Some Useful Windows Tools or “My Top 10 Favorite Software Products”

I just saw some guy who posted his top 10 most useful applications on his blog.  He lists, among them "Mozilla Firefox", "Wallpaper Master", "Eudora", and "Partition Magic". 

Wow.  It struck me that his list wasn’t anything like what I’d list out as my own most useful applications which I suppose goes to show how different people’s interests & priorities are.

So instead I compiled a list of my own Top 10 Favorite Software Products in no particular order, however to give you an idea of my mindset, these are the tools in which I say to myself, OMG if I didn’t have this tool, I’d be slummin’ it.  I’ll even write a little explanation of each below.

  1. CCleaner 1.39 & Diskeeper 2007 for Windows Vista (TIE)
    If your PC is slow, you’re gonna be unproductive. 
    I really max out my laptop.  The hard drive’s full, I have memory loaded up, my CPU gets pegged a lot, the NIC is constantly sending and receiving.  And my pet peeve is watching Windows grind to a halt – that happens 3 times out of 4 because the hard drive is creating a bottleneck.  Too much clutter, too much fragmentation, too much space unnecessarily used.  Ultimately, degradation in performance of my PC is the biggest timewaster for me.
    Enter CCleaner which upon every boot, clears out the Temp folders of all major applications, IE temp directory, any dump files or installation turds, cookies, etc. etc.  It’s the ultimate free housecleaner.  Then after finishing the housecleaning, keep everything organized for fast access on your hard drive by continually defragging the file system using Diskeeper 2007 for Windows Vista.
    (Note:  In all fairness, I might also add Raxco’s Perfect Disk 8 which is another really great defragging product.  It’s just that Diskeeper’s folks sent us copies first and thus their product got installed on our new Windows Vista laptops before I ever tried Perfect Disk so I just haven’t had the time to do my own personal little shootout between the two tools but I can tell you that their previous product for Windows XP was pretty awesome.)
  2. Applian Replay AV 8.1 & ZuneIT
    I hate having to be "online" to do research or learning… because when you’re in a car or on a plane, that’s not really an option.  (Although the short lived Internet service on Boeing airliners was sooooooo cool.  Oh I wish they’d bring that back.) 
    Replay AV in a nutshell allows Windows Vista to record & convert any non-DRMed video you find on the Internet or interally on your corporate LAN. (Real, Windows Media, Quicktime, or Flash)  In other words, if you ever want to view a seminar, a LiveMeeting/WebEx, or a broadcast offline or you want to archive it for rebroadcast later, this is the tool for you.  I personally depend heavily on this tool to watch internal presentations & seminars when I’m not connected to the corporate network.  And it works with Windows Vista.
    And ZuneIt falls into the same category.  It allows the archival of content from any number of video sites for offline review by downloading the content in the background and converting it to Windows Media .WMV files in the background.
  3. SlingMedia Player for Windows Mobile
    What?  A TV playback tool can’t be "the most useful" tool you have!  Au Contraire – let me explain.  Imagine sitting next to an executive from one of your customers, and he’s using a Blackberry to read mail.  Now imagine showing them RSS Feed reader on your Windows Mobile device… access to a Sharepoint portal site…. a executive broadcast of Steve Ballmer using Windows Media …then capping it all off with live TV from your DirecTV dish at home.
    Yep.  It’s that effective.  SlingMedia is a closer and it works… it really does.  Not to mention it lets me watch "Heroes" while I’m eating lunch in the commissary of my customer.  <grin>
  4. Deepnet Technologies Blackjack Counter
    I like tools that help me make money.  Even in my spare time.
    A guy named Dan Pronovost wrote a series of applications that allow you to "train" yourself how to count cards in Blackjack, leveraging multiple systems and multiple strategies.  It has the original Thorp HighLow system along with Ken Uston’s count and it even has multi-level counting with the appropriate indicies if you’re really that good.  You can buy Knockout and a few other systems to plug in for a $10 fee each.
    This is a helluva application because it’s available for both Windows & Pocket PC and it’s both a trainer as well as a simulator.  And they support Frank Scobelete’s Speedcount:  An amazingly easy to learn counting system that is far an away better for beginners than any other counting systems I’ve ever seen.  Heck – it’s probably better for a lot of experienced folks being that it doens’t burn out your brain like HighLow can… but I’m not Stanford Wong, so what do I know.
  5. RemotelyAnywhere LogMeIn Free
    Some of the best advice I’ve gotten came from Steve Wynn of Bellagio fame at a recent talk he did at UCLA, and it goes something like this: 
    "Always stay in control.  Always be ready to take complete control on a moment’s notice.  Don’t let anyone else determine your fate."
    Have you ever wanted to be able to remotely control ANY of the 5 or 6 computers in your home from work over a dynamic DHCP cable connection?  Have you ever wanted to be able to provide tech support for your Mom and Dad’s home computer through their PPPoE DSL connection? 
    Enter LogMeIn Free.  This is a free remote control tool+service that you install on PCs & secure with a password.  Every time the computer boots up, it registers with a central directory on the Internet and it’s this registration that enables you to connect to any one of a set of remote computers BEHIND NATTED FIREWALLS & ROUTERS for free.  No other product provides this for free and in fact, it’s so convenient, it’s crazy:  All the machines you have access to are listed on a web page on the Internet and are remotely controllable simply with a mouse click and a password.
  6. Microsoft Foldershare
    Computers are supposed to do work for you, so why should I have to access a remote computer to get a file?  Why should it have preemptively brought the file to me the night before?
    Imagine being able to dynamically & on-the-fly synchronize any folder to any other computer you own and imagine this works across port 443 (SSL) meaning it’ll penetrate most firewalls.  Now imagine this synchronization working bidirectionally so that a change on any one of the computers in this group of PCs will automatically replicate that change to all the other computers – peer-to-peer.  Now imagine it’s free.
    That’s Foldershare.  It’s a piece of software that loads at boottime and it keeps any folder you want in sync with any other folder on any of your other PCs… at home or at work or both.  It’ll keep your "Internet Favorites" in sync across all machines.  It’ll keep your My Documents in sync across all machines.  It’ll keep your Music, cookies, Outlook PST files, Word dictionaries, etc. all in sync across all your computers.  All you have to do is set it up.
  7. DUMeter & Network Utilization Gadget (TIE)
    I’m one of those people that likes to know what the heck’s going on with my computer and one of the things I’m constantly asking is, "Am I getting any I/O over my network connection?  Is it working?"  If I run IE, I expect to see some network traffic and if IE’s slow to respond, I question if it’s the web site, my workstation, or my network config itself.
    DUMeter (for WinXP) is a tool that loads at boottime that tells me in a little windowed histogram if I’m getting any network I/O up or down.  the Network Utilization gadget (for Windows Vista) is probably just as good and it’s free for Windows Vista users.
  8. Spacemonger 1.4
    Have you ever asked yourself, "Where the heck did all my disk space go to?"  Usually it’s occupied by just a few folders containing either a LOT of data or a few individual files that take up a LOT of space.  Sean Werkema’s Spacemonger give you a heatmap so to speak of your hard drive.  It visually maps out your entire hard drive and represents directories & files with rectangles of proportionally large sizes relative to their actual byte size.  It gives you the ability to drill down into directories and delete files & folders that are no longer necessary.  Having free hard drive space is so important to the performance of your computer, this tool is an absolute dream to have available and the 1.4 version is free.  I’ve used it for probably 5 years faithfully and it’s a good piece of software.  There are others but this is lightweight, requires no installer, and is free.  (Note:  I bought the 2.1 version of Spacemonger which is NOT free, however I really don’t use it.  I bought 2.1 exclusively to show my support of Sean’s work and the value I’d gotten out of Spacemonger 1.4.  In fact, I wish we’d just acquire his technology, make him rich, and build it into Windows.  I just wish he didn’t seem so anti-Microsoft at times…)
  9. Microsoft Outlook 2007
    Yeah, this might seem like a colossal "duh", but Outlook 2007 gets the official G4TV XPlay designation of "bitchcakes" from me.  Outlook 2007 is my life.  It contains all my business information and it’s the center of my communications with my friends and clients.  It’s fast, it’s flexible, and it’s intuitive.  And it’s a favorite of mine for certain.

    Here’s just 7 of the reasons I love Outlook:
    NO VPN NECESSARY:  It can securely access a corporate Exchange mail server without a VPN using RPC over HTTPS.
    DELEGATION:  It’s got delegated access to calendars, inbox, etc.. NO ONE ELSE provide anywhere near the support for delegated access that Outlook 2007 does.
    FORMS:  It’s got standards-based XML forms!  It integrates with Infopath to enable you to send forms for other people to fill out directly within email and have the results exported into Excel or a SQL database!  Bitchin’!
    ADDONS:  It’s got a TON of software addons & 3rd party support & it’s easy to program because it’s so extensible.
    POSTMARKING:  In a phrase, postmarks protect you from SPAM.  Postmarks are computationally intensive calculations that have to be executed on the sender’s machine relative to the content of an email, and if you receive an email that has a postmark in it (the results of the calculation), you know that the email is not likely SPAM because it took a lot of CPU power to create the postmark.  The end benefit is that Outlook users can send and receive email amongst each other without getting their email thrown into JunkMail.  Spammers aren’t likely going to try to postmark their SPAM because it would be too inefficient.
    RSS SUPPORT:  Keep up to date with the world by using RSS, but have the content downloaded for reading on an airplace while having it indexed for rapid content searching using Windows Vista Search.
    RIGHTS MANAGEMENT:  Wanna make your email self-destruct after 30 days?  Wanna make your email unforwardable?  Wanna prevent people from cut-and-pasting or printing out your email?  Wanna keep an emails contents internal to the company, never to be forwarded externally?  Outlook’s Rights Management makes that possible.
    I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better mail personal information manager out there.

  10. Zagat-to-Go 5.0 for Windows Mobile
    Have you ever been in a new city and wondered, "Hey – I wonder where there’s some good eatin’?" 
    The Zagat-to-Go application is a program that installs on your Windows Moblie Pocket PC or Smartphone and allows you to sort through the best restaurants in a given city.  The ratings work just like sorting an Excel spreadsheet – even with the 1000+ restaurants in Los Angeles, and all the contact information you might need is in the database.  And the databases for every city are downloadable and updatable as they get revised… all over the cell connection on your Windows Mobile phone.  It has maps, phone numbers that dial straight from the interface, it adds contact information to Pocket Outlook, and it even allows you to add your own notes to each restaurant. 
    It’s great for the person that’s on the road a lot.  Or the chowhound.

BTW:  I have to give that first guy props… on his list of Top 10… he went to "11" just as BBSpot does in tribute to Spinal Tap. <grin>

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