I love f.lux, possibly because I spend too much time using a computer at night. This program does one thing and does it simply, “it makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day.” The later it gets, the warmer in color your screen gets. Your eyes will hurt less, and you might even have less trouble getting to sleep than you do after staring at a bright screen way after sunset.
If you find yourself spending hours installing apps every time you build a Windows machine, you should check out Ninite. Just go to Ninite.com, click on all the apps you want (there are dozens to pick from), and Ninite will create a special installer that literally installs ’em all, in the background. If you like it, Ninite Updater costs $9.99 a year, and will take the pain out of updating any of the 92 apps it supports.
Adobe Reader is a bloated mess. The PDF reader built into Windows is meh. Try Sumatra PDF instead. It’s fast, doesn’t take up much space, and works exceedingly well.
Not ready for an Office365 subscription, but working in Google Sheets or Docs not quite cutting it? You’re a prime candidate for LibreOffice, a free and open source office suite. Writer, Calc, and Impress cover the basic office trio for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations, and there’s quite a few more apps bundled with it.
Photoshop is overkill for most folks — even the stripped-down Elements version. That’s why I like Paint.net. It has all the basic photo editing features, supports layers, unlimited undo, and offers more tools and plugins than most folks will ever have time to putter with.
There’s nothing illegal about torrent files, as long as you’re not, say, downloading copyrighted content. And if you’re dealing with big downloads, using µTorrent might be a lot faster than a regular download off a server. µTorrent is tiny — less than a megabyte — fast, free, and the utorrent.com page has links to some great music and video bundles you can legally download with it.
If you want to sync files between Windows machines, or between Windows, OS X, Windows, Linux, and a host of NAS devices, consider BitTorrent Sync. There’s no cloud, so you don’t have to worry about somebody accessing your data, and it finds the shortest fastest path between your machines. Gigabytes? No problem.
I’m not sure if it’s some of the weird cameras I’ve owned, or my experiments with the Raspberry Pi PC, but I’ve had a lot of 64GB cards that Windows was sure could only hold 6MB. Enter SD Formatter 4.0, a free download from the SD Association. It’ll format any type of SD card so your Windows or OS X machine can write to it. Make sure there’s nothing you want on it first!
Need the product key for Windows or any of 300 plus other apps on your PC’s hard drive … or, say, an old drive you found in the closet? The ever so oddly named Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder is the tool for you. Don’t let it install any software you don’t want along with it, but this is an easy to use tool that can save you money. The paid version, Recover Keys, can track down keys from over 8,000 apps!
Can’t get that video to play? Need something to play DVDs in Windows? VideoLAN’s VLC media player is a Swiss army knife for video files, and it has even worked on damaged files that I couldn’t get other players to even open.
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