Home » 2012 » September

My required Windows software

I try not to do it too often, but every few years you’re faced with reinstalling your PC. The reason for this can be various, such as replacing your old PC or recovering from a crash. Of course, the remedy for crashes are backup images, but those can sometimes be out of date. I do a daily data backup but only about yearly a system state backup. And then there’s managing your different systems (PC, laptop(s) etc.) to contain the same software as well.

So a few months ago when I built my new PC I decided to list the software I was installing for reference and to make a blogpost about it. I’ve tried to group related software and for some I’ve added a little description describing its task it’s doing for me, but haven’t included links to their respective websites yet. I might add them in the future though.

Programming

Since I’m a programmer by profession I need to have access to several languages and tools. These tools and languages have several needs which can be either work, school or hobby, or and combination of these.

Visual Studio 2010 Pro

A most excellent IDE for developing C# projects. I’ve also used the Express editions which are as well, but for my school projects the Pro edition is more suitable. Thanks to the DreamSpark initiative I have a free student license.

Haskell Platform

This is the way to go to get the Haskell toolchain installed on your PC (be it Windows or Linux, there’s probably an OSX version as well). For now Haskell is purely a hobby language for me.

BlitzMax + BLIde + MinGW + Logic GUI + Maximus

Another hobby language for me is BlitzMax. If you want to really enjoy programming in BlitzMax you need BLIde; it’s the ultimate BlitzMax IDE available. MinGW is also required for being able to install 3rd party modules and for installing these modules I use Maximus. Maximus is currently the only module manager for BlitzMax and provides a single repository for hundreds of 3rd party modules. Logic GUI is used for building MaxGUI forms.

gVim

For years I’ve used Crimson Editor for most of my coding needs and it has served me well for several years. But development on CE had halted and the editor started to outdate. After that I’ve used Dreamweaver a lot at work and Notepad++ after that. I never really liked the last two and before I got to gVim/Vim I tried several others such as Aptana, Eclipse and NetBeans. I hated them all. I then decided to give gVim a shot and sure it took some time to get used to the (all) the key commands and shortcuts but the invested time has been worth it. With gVim I can do more with less key presses which is rather nice for someone who has ‘delicate’ hands.

Strawberry Perl

I used ActiveState Perl before but made the transition to Strawberry Perl a couple of years ago. I use Perl both professionally and personally. Perl for Windows had always been behind on *nix but with Strawberry Perl there’s finally decent support for XS modules (that are cross-platform compatible) as it comes with MinGW. ActiveState always had PPM but it had always been behind or lacking some (crucial) modules. I’m not sure on the current state of ActiveState Perl but I guess it has improved over the years. For me Strawberry Perl gives me a very decent and robust Perl compiler for Windows.

NetBeans

I don’t like Java. I really don’t like it. I prefer C# over Java. The reason I need to use Java is because of school. I’ve had very bad experiences with Eclipse so I gave NetBeans a try (it was also the preferred IDE of my teacher). NetBeans is OK and so far I can manage with it. It’s also not as slow as I had expected of a Java application.

Virtualization

This has been possible for several years but only since the last 5 years or so I’ve found performance on normal consumer PC’s to be acceptable. I think virtualization is awesome and I use it all the time to run a private home server as well as setting up project specific virtual machines.

Virtual Box

Virtual Box is free and very performant, at least for home usage. It’s also free. I’ve used VMWare Workstation and VMWare Server (free) in the past and they’re good alternatives. My issue with the Server edition is that you’re required to have a password protected account on your Windows machine (not sure if this is still the case though). Its website interface is a tad bit slow as well. Virtual Box doesn’t have these issues and has a clean and responsive GUI. On my new i7 PC the virtual machines run very fast. So far I’ve been able to run Windows 7, OSX Snow Leopard and several Linux distributions, all at the same time and still very performant.

Vagrant

If you don’t know Vagrant yet you really should look it up. It’s an application for quickly building a customized virtual machine which can be automatically provisioned by a tool such as Puppet or Chef. I use Vagrant for Maximus and work related projects. Thanks to Vagrant it doesn’t matter on which machine I’m working on. All I’ve got to do is execute a vagrant up command and the virtual machine is being configured, booted and provisioned for my project so I can start developing. Thanks to Vagrant you no longer need to spend time on getting your development environment in a similar state as your production environment.

Office

I really only use office suites for text processing.

MS Office 2012

I’ve never really liked MS Office. It has become better ever since they introduced the Ribbon interface. Some hate it, but I like it. The only problem I’ve still got, even after all these years, is that MS Office always messed up my markup. Paragraphs get converted to headings, or the other way around and messing up the auto-generated index. I really only use MS Office at work or when my fellow students use it for writing project reports.

LibreOffice

I always used to have OpenOffice installed, but switched to LibreOffice due to all the commotion around it. I enjoy the auto-suggestion for earlier used words when typing as it can speed up writing your text. One thing that has started to annoy me though is that, just like MS Office, LibreOffice is starting to mess up markup as well.

Internet

A bit of a general category since most listed applications connect to the internet someway.

Dropbox

Dropbox is an awesome tool to have a shared directory on all of your devices (PC’s, mobiles, tablets and whatnot).

Google Chrome

The fastest browser around to my taste. It has replaced Firefox as my main browser several years ago. It’s not perfect though. Memory usage can become quite high, but most if not all browsers share this same problem. When starting Chrome it can sometimes happen that a tab won’t display the website in the whole frame. Another annoying issue is that there’s a commonly used Flash video player that rarely works. The developer tools have surpassed those of Firefox as well.

Mozilla Firefox

Firefox used to be my favorite internet browser, but after version 3.5 the browser has become too slow to be usable for me. I still use it a lot for developing websites for work, but Firebug has become more of an annoyance than an enjoyment. It occasionally happens to me that when editing a CSS property that the whole property disappears. This an only be remedied by reloading the entire page and to try again.

Thunderbird

This has been my e-mail client for years. At work I use MS Outlook but I find it to be too slow and clunky. The same can now also be said for Thunderbird though. I really enjoyed Thunderbird 3, but all versions after that are just horrible. On my i7 PC the latest Thunderbird runs fine, but that’s thanks to the CPU. I haven’t found an alternative to Thunderbird yet though. Till I find one I’ll stick with it.

PuTTY / PuTTYtray

A very decent SSH (and Telnet, and more) client for Windows. I use it all the time to manage the Linux servers I need to administer. I recently replaced PuTTY with PuTTYtray as it supports clickable links (useful whilst in IRC) and window transparency.

Skype

A very nice solution for setting up voice chat during a game! I’m not too fond of its interface but it works. The chat system and history can be a bit confusing and for some reason my headset never stays the default audio device.

Pidgin

Aside from Skype I’ve still got some other IM accounts such as MSN Messenger. Pidgin supports lots of protocols and makes it possible to be signed on to them at the same time. I used to mostly use it for IRC but these days I run irssi on my Raspberry Pi so I hardly log in anymore. But it’s still nice whenever I need to get on MSN Messenger or Facebook Chat.

ยตTorrent

A lightweight BitTorrent client. I don’t use it a lot but it never hurts to have BitTorrent client available.

Shrew Soft VPN

A free and OpenSource VPN client which I use to connect to my employer’s network. I also use The Greenbow Client for this, but only got one license for it and since I use several machines that doesn’t really work out. I’ve also found Shrew Soft VPN to provide more stable connections than The Greenbow Client does.

FileZilla

Lightweight and free FTP client. I also use a small application called FTP Sync which was developed at work to automatically upload changed files. It’s actually a simple Perl script, very useful but I can’t distribute it.

GrabIt + Spotnet + Quickpar

Usenet is a wealthy source of information and content. I don’t download a lot but when I do I use Usenet because of its speed. GrabIt is a nice and speedy Usenet client. Spotnet is used to quickly find something and Quickpar is for repairing damaged or incomplete files. All these applications are free to use.

Multimedia

Music, video and games.

iTunes

Probably not the best music player out there, but it’s required for my iPod Touch and iPad, so I have to use it.

VLC Player

The video player that plays all video formats. I used to install CCCP which came with Media Player Classic. That used to work well for me in the past but with new video codecs coming out and such VLC Player has proved to be better. I do wish that VLC Player wouldn’t rebuild the font cache as often as it did.

Steam + Desura

I’m not really a PC gamer and had to get used to the digital distribution of games. At first I didn’t want to use it as I used to like to own a hardcopy of a game. These days on PC I find availability on Steam the main reason to get a PC game or not. If it’s not on Steam I won’t get it as it means I need to store the installer of the game somewhere. For console games it’s the other way around though, I prefer a hardcopy.

Because some games from certain bundles only came on Desura I decided to install that client as well.

Maintenance

It’s not the most fun thing to do but it’s something that needs to be done. Thanks to the tools listed below maintaining my PC has become effortless.

Free Disk Analyzer

Whenever I’m in need of cleaning up my hard disk I use Free Disk Analyzer to index my hard disk and then sort on file size. Doing so you can list big files fast, regardless of their location. It’s a nice method to delete that lost .iso file you forgot about. Though these days having a huge disk drive of 2TB this has become less of an issue.

Defraggler

With the Windows file system NTFS you’re required to defrag your hard disk from time to time. Whilst Windows has had this tool built in for years, the software shipped with Windows Vista and 7 doesn’t indicate how fragmented your data is, or show any progress. Defraggler solves this issue.

MS Security Essentials

For me this is the only tool I need to keep my PC clean from viruses, spy- and adware. I’ve used McAfee, Norton and AVG in the past and even though they’ve always kept my system free from junk I found them to be too heavy. MS Security Essentials is a lightweight and no-nonsense solution. It’s also free of use.

Acronis True Image Home 2012

I’ve been using Acronis for imaging (Linux) servers at work for years as well as my own PC. For my PC I’ve scheduled a daily data backup. I used to do a incremental with a maximum of 30 days backup but decided to have this limit removed. Whenever it needs to rotate backups it’s using up twice as much of disk space and it takes a lot of time to get this task done. Instead every now and then I move all the incremental backups to a separate directory, let the backup task run and have it create a new incremental backup. Afterwards I can simply delete the other backups.

Other

More general software I require.

Adobe Reader

For reading PDF files of course. I’m sure there are decent alternatives available but Adobe Reader has always worked well for me

KeePass

A password database that’s also available on iOS (and I think Android as well). You can and should password protect your KeePass file and store all your user credentials in this file. I use the password generation tool in KeePass all the time when signing up for a new account somewhere. Thanks to KeePass practically all my passwords differ from each other as they are generic. In case on of the websites I’m signed up with gets hacked only that account needs to get its password changed.

WinRar

The lifetime shareware application for un-rarring, zipping and tarring.

VirtuaWin

One of the best thing that Linux OS’s provide are window managers that support several desktops, like Gnome and Xfce do. I really missed this on Windows but with VirtuaWin you can have virtual desktops as well. I only use 2 virtual desktops: 1 for personal stuff and the other one for work related stuff. On my work-desktop I’ve got my editor opened, Firefox, several command lines and other required tools. When taking a break I an easily switch back to my personal-desktop and when getting back to work the applications on my personal-desktop won’t distract me from work.

Adobe CS5

I only use Adobe CS at work really. I’m terrible at graphical design and only use the tools for processing designs which were handed out to me by a designer. Of the CS tools I mostly use Photoshop and Fireworks. Fireworks is actually a really nice application and if you’re in need of creating an HTML image map this is the tool to go with!

MySQL GUI Tools + MySQL Server

This package provides MySQL Query Browser and MySQL Administrator, two fine tools for working with MySQL. I use Query Browser for every query related action. I used PHPMyAdmin in the past but it’s inferior to Query Browser in so many ways. Administrator is for managing my local MySQL Server and I also use the built in backup/restore functionality a lot. I believe it generates the same output as mysqldump.

VirtualCloneDrive

I used to use DaemonTools Tile for mounting ISO’s but I’m not very fond of all the adware that gets installed when you’re not cautious. VirtualCloneDrive works just as well and is also freely available.

ImgBurn

These days I don’t burn .iso files or other images much but for the rare occasion I’m in need for it I use this tool.

TimelineFX

A particle editor which was written in BlitzMax. I’ve had it for a couple of years now and have yet to really use. One day I’ll be in need of particles and then this tool will be readily available!

Spriteforge

A Blitz 3D based product which I purchased several years ago. It’s a tool for creating spritesheets out of your 3D models. Just like TimelineFX I’ve not used it a lot but it’s a nifty tool.

SlikSVN

I hardly use Subversion but when required it’s available on my command line. Beats the cluttering that TortoiseSVN does to Explorer.

MSysGit

Git for Windows which I use all the time. Would be nice if it were a little bit more performant and Git GUI didn’t crash as much when staging files.

BatteryCare

One of my laptops doesn’t give me an indication on how much time my battery has left, but this tool does. It can also show the battery’s last full capacity and how far it has degraded. Under Linux this is usually achieved by doing a cat /proc/acpi/battery/info (or something similar) but Windows doesn’t provide this information out of the box. Thanks to this tool I’ve been able to mark two new batteries as faulty and get them replaced for a good one.

Free to Play and Online Gaming

Online gaming is everywhere. Whether you’re looking for a good PC/Console game or a good online bingo site, there’s something for everyone. More and more these days it seems that developers are shifting towards the Free to Play model.

A lot of the Free to Play games really aren’t free to play. Sure, you’ll be able to play for free to a certain extent. But as soon as you get the hang of it most developers want you to purchase extra skills, levels or accessories. You are of course free to decide if you purchase all these extras. The thing is that these free games can quickly become more expensive than a normal game you would’ve bought from your local retail store. One baffling example is the free to play Theme Park game on iOS. You basically get to build one ride and shop, and after that you’ll have to pay big bucks to get new rides and shops. This causes the game to be a lot more expensive than usual. Basically you get to play a very short demo.

I’m not against the free to play model, but it should make sense and not be aimed to rip off the customer. A game like Tribes: Ascend for PC does it right in my opinion. You get to play the full game by unlocking (most) stuff by putting in a lot of hours. Don’t have the time? Then purchase the unlocks. For now a lot of free to play games are stripped down demo’s and I don’t think that’s the way to go.

Time will tell if the free to play model will survive. I think it will as long as a developer doesn’t overdo it with the in game purchase options. My personal preference though is to buy a game. That way there won’t be any surprises and you (hopefully) get what you pay for. It’s also a lot more honest towards the customer, whether it’s a game you play online on a website or a normal console game, you know what you’ll have to pay upfront.