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Computer Software

 

Collections

Movie Collector

If you have a decent-sized DVD/Blu-ray collection, a perfect product is Collectorz Movie Collector.

This is a fully featured database for $30 for a basic version and $50 for the Pro version.

The basic version features:

  • Enter by Title and Barcode (Supports generic barcode scanners)
  • Detail Editing
  • Simple Printing
  • Simple Searching
  • Online download of details
The pro version adds:

  • Batch Entry
  • Batch Editing
  • Filters
  • User-Defined Fields
  • Export to HTML for Web Pages
So far I've found few DVDs that are not in their database and the good news is they are back to querying IMDB so their coverage is excellent. Either way, the Pro version is the way to go.

Updates can be had on a subscription basis or on a one-time fee of $7 per update. I recently updated my version 9 software to version 16 for $7. For reference, the update plans are: US $6.95 for 3 months, US $12.95 for 6 months, US $24.95 for a year. Three months is the minimum and what I have used.

Other Collections

If you collect books, music, comics or games, there are Collectorz applications for you:

I used Book Collector at one point but moved my software to my mom's machine so she could track her genealogy book collection. When I was using it it was great, many of the same features as Movie Collector.

Graphics Files

IrfanView

A simple graphic file manipulator, IrfanView is a free editor that will do manual and bulk image manipulation including bit-depth, size and format.

This is a graphic file viewer and editor.

Thumbnailer

SmallerAnimals.com is no longer in business but you can download a copy of Thumbnailer from my site. This version doesn't, in trial mode, allow you to save profiles, but generates thumbnails and web sites anyway.

Audio Players/Ripper

Media Monkey

One of the better free music players (there is a pro version that does more) is MediaMonkey.

The free player plays all formats of audio files via a CD, playlist, by directory or by dragging and dropping titles to the Now Playing panel.

The Gold version will rip CDs, encode in MP3 format as well as transcode and normalize volume. It mixes the music well. Pro/Gold costs $25 for the current version or $50 for this version and all updates. There's not much more they can add that really warrants buying a lifetime license.

WinAmp

This program hasn't been updated in years, but doesn't need refreshing.

Also capable of playing all audio files, it will play CDs and music files. There are plug-ins that do many things including visualizations, but my favorite is the cross-fading plug-in by SqrSoft.

OtsAV DJ

Getting a bit dated is OtsAV DJ.

It plays MP3, WAV and MPG2 files either directly or by importing them into proprietary album files. The cross-fading and audio levels are tight and is still one of the best DJ programs on the market.

It is pricey though, it starts at $220 for audio only and goes up to $1500 for pro TV features.

For an online tutorial, I have written a presentation for version 1.85 Pro here.

GoldWave

Actually a sound editor rather than a player, is GoldWave.

I use this to record my vinyl into MP3s. It is free for limited use, and is $15/year or $45 for a lifetime license. Because I'm basically using this as a one-off, I paid for a year.

There are a huge variety of audio effects. The one thing it lacks is the ability to edit multiple tracks, useful for editing a cross-fade like you'd use for a multi-media presentation (but for this I'd use a video editor anyway).

Audacity Audio Editing Software

Another sound editor is Audacity.

Since my year's license of GoldWave has expired, I hunted around for a free alternative. I don't need all of the features of GoldWave, just record and playback of sounds on my computer.

This is a bit harder to use (to record system sounds, use the WASAPI, driver). But it has comperable features to GoldWave and is entirely free. The downside is it is really slow: It took 10 minutes to open a 10 hour MP3 file, you need a third-party MP3 encoder, zooming by steps on a large file takes a minute, but zooming to selection is fine.

Some losers found in the search: WavePad (couldn't record in loop-back mode), FreeAudioEditor (Wanted to install bloatware).

FreeRip MP3 Converter

FreeRip will look up artist/title information and rip a CD to MP3, , WAV, WMA, FLAC and OGG Vorbis.

FreeRip also converts from one audio type to another.

The Pro version (which now costs 15 Euros, adds multi-core and bulk conversion, faster conversion, and an online help forum.

Web, Comm and Search

WinSCP

This is a file transfer program that supports SFTP, FTP and SCP.

I use it with SSH to transfer files to my Ubuntu Desktop Server. WinSCP is free.

PuTTY

This is a terminal emulator that works over a serial connection and over TCP/IP using SSH or Telnet. It features terminal emulation for character-mapped screen access. PuTTY is free.

Nord VPN

If you're going to do anything at all risky on the Internet, it is good to have a VPN service that both encrypts and effectively hides your location.

Nord VPN is a moderately priced, high performance solution. It costs $11.95/month for a month, $7.00/month for 6 months and $5.75/month for a year.

As expected, it has hundreds of servers all over the world so you can choose a local one for performance or a foreign one for obfuscation.

XAMPP

XAMPP from ApacheFriends.org is an all-in-one web server installation featuring Apache web server, MySQL database, FileZilla FTP server, Mercury mail server and Tomcat java servlet server.

The web server supports PERL and PHP and is a complete local environment used to either host your own server from your home/business or it can be installed on a desktop to use to test your web changes before rolling them live. XAMPP is free.

I use the Apache server to test my SHTML pages prior to rolling them out. Note that for debugging scripts, a good choice is Komodo, below.

Zoom Search Engine

Wrensoft's Zoom Search Engine will spider your site or catalog a directory structure to create a site search capability. My website search has indexed 23,515 pages (including generated blog pages), 88,691 unique words of a total of 4,008,302 words. Indexing takes 45:11 minutes to spider the site and generates an executable CGI with index files. Zoom can generate search files in PHP, ASP, ASP.NET, Javascript and Linux CGI. The product costs $99 for the Professional version and $299 for the Enterprise version. There is a free version but it only indexes 50 pages. The Professional version indexes up to 50,000 pages, there is no limit in the Enterprise version.

Copernic Desktop Search

An offline search engine that catalogs documents, music, pictures and videos.

I use it because it catalogs PDF text which is handy since I scan my bills and receipts. By default cataloging occurs in the background so it won't index if anything else is running including BOINC which also works in the background. To make the indexing more aggressive (but not crazy), go to Tools -> Indexing Performance and select Unrestricted.

The Lite version is free and will catalog up to 75,000 files. The Full version is $50 and has no limits and will search Outlook, network drives, and show a preview in the results window. If you install the Lite version, it will display an ad for the Full version at a discount. I got an ad for $35 but the web site had a deal for half off ($25).

Computer Backup

Acronis True Image

For disk to disk or network backup, Acronis True Image will do a disk clone or disk backup, but the price tag is only $50. (It appears to be on sale for $30). The nice thing about cloning is you can clone to a drive that is not the same size as the original so you can upgrade without reinstalling your OS and apps.

One feature is this product will do an unattended scheduled backup which DVDFab doesn't do. For $100 per year, you can backup to the cloud, which is nice since you can do a disk image to the cloud. But, check out BackBlaze below.

BackBlaze

BackBlaze features unlimited backup to the cloud for $5 per month or $50 per year or $95 for two years.

This is a file-by-file copy of your data files (you can remove the exceptions for program files but it is best to reinstall them from your original media. That being said, I have removed the restrictions so my backup of installation files gets included.

BackBlaze operates in the background and automatically detects changes to files and backs them up without operator initiative.

I do a combination of making disk backups and file backups by using DVDFab PC Backup and Acronis and using BackBlaze to backup the backup files as well as my data files.

Jumpshare

Jumpshare is a cloud storage solution that allows you to both store your data online as well as share it for no additional cost.

Jumpshare costs $100 for 1 terabyte of storage in the cloud (per year). There is a free service that limits file size to 250 MB and a total storage of 2 GB.

I use the paid service to share files (my old time radio shows, for example) and do some file backups, but I use BackBlaze, above, for my automatic backups.

Encryption/Passwords

Rohos File Encryption

Rohos has a mini version of their encryption product for free. It is limited to volumes of 8 GB, the pro version encryptions 1 TB and more. The product is portable so you can put the run files on a USB stick and create a volume on the same stick to encrypt a passwords file, for example.

I have the paid version ($35 minus a $10 discount) so I can encrypt my bill PDFs (like credit card bills) on my backup media that I carry with me. So the content is safe in case I lose the USB stick. Note that a larger volume can be created in the pro version and the free version you start with is updated to handle the pro-created volumes..

To get the discount, install the free app, and use the link in the product to buy the pro version.

LastPass Password Vault

LastPass will store website usernames/passwords, generate secure passwords and rate your password security. LastPass also stores and populates Credit Card info on web pages.

There is a feature to automatically change passwords for major sites, but I wasn't able to get that to work so I've been manually changing passwords.

It will suck all of your passwords from your major browser to pre-populate the database.

You can use a local copy for free or buy cloud storage of your passwords for $12 per year. I think this is very affordable and you can install it on all of your computers for the same fee.

Diff/File Synch

Beyond Compare

This program does two things and does them very well: Compare directories, and compare files.

The directory compare is recursive so you can compare multiple folders and see what files need synching (and it will synch them). This will even compare and synch a local directory with an FTP site (with password saving), excellent for maintaining a website.

The file compare will do a Diff of two files (or graphics) and allow you to edit and synch sections of files.

The program will work for free, but consider paying the $30 or $60 for this excellent tool.

The differences between the versions are: 3-way merging, SFTP, SCC source control, and cloud support. I haven't found these to be necessary.

File Rename

Bulk File Rename

This excellent program uses a series of steps to rename files.

You can replace text, add an incrementing/decrementing number, insert text and completely rename a file.

Bulk File Rename is free for private use and a bit pricey for professional use ($92.95).

File Compression

WinRAR

A very capable ZIP/RAR file backup and compressor is WinRAR.

WinRAR creates single files or multipart backups in RAR and ZIP with self-extracting executable archives if you select that.

The formats it will decompress are:

  • RAR
  • ZIP
  • GZip
  • TAR
  • CAB
  • ARJ
  • LZH
  • UUE
  • JAR
  • ISO
  • Z
WinRAR costs $29 for their pro version, but the free version is very capable.

Text/Code Editor

TextPad

This is a very easy to use text file editor. Also free/trialware, it is worth the approximately $26 to purchase.

It highlights the syntax of code (and HTML) and supports macros for bulk editing of a file. The program works well with structured languages but is not a development environment (IDE).

IDE

Komodo

Komodo, by ActiveState is an IDE for interpreted languages that they produce. Specifically PHP, Python, Perl, Ruby, Tcl, and Node.js.

It is a fully interactive development that supports breakpoints and single-stepping.

I use the environment for developing PERL scripts/CGI.

It costs $147 for the personal version and $295 for a professional license. multi-license and educational pricing is also available. (Look at the bottom of the buy page.)

Remote Access

Real VNC

A moderately secure remote control app, Real VNC is free for a non-encrypted connection with versions ranging from $30 for 128-bit encryption to $44 for 256-bit encryption. I use the free unencrypted version behind a firewall. Even with encryption, this is not a great choice across a firewall.

The paid-for versions support cross-network printing and file transfer, making this a handy app.

TeamViewer

A much more secure remote control app, TeamViewer is free for personal use and a very expensive $809 for three devices and $1689 for an unlimited license. TeamViewer handles hosts that are Windows, Linux (Ubuntu is what I use it with), Mac, Chrome, Android and iOS.

I use TeamViewer on two of my servers (so I can get into my home network from afar, on the Lodge computer and on my Ubuntu Desktop/Plex machine. I also have it installed on my mom's computer so I can support her from out of state. To increase security, I use a long, complex password to avoid unauthorized use. The software is a service that is centrally connected so it operates across firewalls without the need to open and forward a port locally making the connection that much more secure.

Even the free version supports remote file copy and this is very handy. I have found the feature flaky, however. After copying files in batch, a subsequent copy attempt fails until the connection is broken and reconnected.

For some reason, the connection doesn't always work and the target machine needs to be rebooted.

Dell Remote Console Switch Software

With companies switching to blade servers with built in remote KVM services, I picked up a used Dell KVM that supports 16 machines (a dongle is required for each). The good news is you can operate the computers from the console and across the network. The bad news is the software is so old I had to install it on an old XP box and copy the run files to my more up-to-date machines. The good news is this works fine and I can control (in my case 7) machines just as if I was sitting in front of them and take ownership of the keyboard and mouse even during boot-up. The KVM is a Dell 2161DS-2 with Dell 520-294-504 SIPs for $70 and $20/each respectively.

Multimedia Multi-Pack

AVS4YOU

There is a group of programs produced by AVS4YOU and a single license activates all of the programs. Included in the utilities are:

  • AVS Video Editor
  • AVS Video Converter
  • AVS Video ReMaker
  • AVS Media Player
  • AVS Audio Editor
  • AVS Audio Converter
  • AVS Disc Creator
  • AVS Image Converter
  • AVS Photo Editor
  • AVS Document Editor
  • AVS Document Converter
  • AVS Disc Creator
  • AVS Registry Cleaner
One utility that is no longer included is AVS DVD Copy. The good news is a new license will activate this program if you can find it. The other good news is I have it and am sharing it here. Now I doubt that it will copy new disks, but if you have AnyDVD, it will shrink any DVD onto a DVD-R.

I've used DVDCopy, Video Editor and Disc Creator. It's worth the price for the Video Editor alone. What is the price, you ask? Supposedly it is on sale for $59 instead of $200. Now, if you want to live dangerously, you can pay for a year, $39, and just keep using it after it expires.

The license is a one-shot, one-time, one-computer license. There is no moving to another machine. But they will give you a $20-off coupon code to set up a new computer.

 

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