Desktop Graphics Applications
GIMP: A bitmap graphics editor, originally made for Linux/Unix platforms. You’ll need to install this file first before running the main installer. Try Paint.NET first to see if it suits your needs before trying GIMP.
Google SketchUp: A 3D design application. Can be used to create 3D renderings of houses, etc. If you make your house in SketchUp, you can upload it so that it appears in Google Earth. It takes a little bit of getting used to, but it’s quite fun and rewarding to use.
Kerkythea: A 3D photo-realistic rendering program. Can render Sketchup files. This is a really great app. I’ve used to to render my house, as well as create 3D corporate logo backgrounds for our Vista rollout at work. A great starter tutorial, and their gallery speaks for itself.
Paint.NET: A bitmap graphics editor made for Windows. A quantum leap from MS Paint
7-Zip: An archiving utility in the same vein as WinZip. Handles all common compressed files except for RAR files. I can’t do without this. It handles ZIP files much quicker than the Windows XP inbuilt ZIP file handling.
Audacity: A free sound recording and editing application.
Google Chrome: Lightweight, fast, easy to use browser.
Greenshot: An excellent, configurable screenshot utility. Similar to Vista’s snipping tool, but better.
ImgBurn: A CD-burning application. Works well, and gets the job done. I use this instead of Nero nowadays.
HTTrack Website Copier: A great utility that scans all links on a website and creates a complete browsable local copy of the website. Awesome if you want to save a copy of a website onto a laptop for offline reading/browsing.
KeePass Password Safe: A free, open source, light-weight and easy-to-use password manager for Windows. You can store your passwords in a highly-encrypted database, which is locked with one master password or key file.
MagicDisc: A utility designed for creating and managing virtual CD drives and CD/DVD discs. Use it to mount ISOs.
PDFCreator: A PDF printer. Create PDFs from any application that supports printing. I’ve been using this one for years now, and I couldn’t do without it. There have been cases where this has done a better job than the Adobe PDF printers that you have to pay for.
PDFill PDF Free Tools (and the paid editor): Free Toolbox to Merge, Split, Reorder, Encrypt, Decrypt, Rotate, Crop, Reformat, Header, Footer, Watermark, Images to PDF, PDF to Images, Form Fields Delete/Flatten/List, PostScript to PDF, PDF Information, Scan to PDF, and Create Transparent Images.
VLC Media Player: A good quality media player. It can handle DVDs straight out of the box, unlike a plain Windows XP installation. The default interface is a bit plain, but you don’t use a media player application to watch the interface.
Windows Live Writer: A nice, clean, easy to use Windows blogging program that can access different types of blogging platforms. This page was written using Live Writer. It even picks up the style that your blog is using and presents it when you are creating entries.
Systems Administration-related Utilities
Advanced Installer: While not an open-source product, there is a free version of this. Use it to create MSI files. Easy insertion of files, folders, and registry entries into MSI files. Quite handy.
Autopatcher: An offline Windows/Office updating application. Allows you to select which updates you would like to cache, and you can then run the tool when disconnected from the Internet or any networks from a portable hard drive, for example. Well worth the download. This can speed up PC rebuilds by hours.
Cacti: A SNMP graphing system that uses PHP and MySQL. Very nice interface, but hard to add custom graphs for devices that you can’t find solutions to. Much better than using MRTG.
Hobbit Monitor Xymon systems & network monitor: A systems-monitoring system that runs on Linux systems. When used together with the BBWin client, sends reports of events, as well as other stats such as CPU, disk usage, etc. Interface is a little dated, but functionality is good. It appears that there’s a new .NET based client under development – so that’s something to keep an eye on also.
PStoEdit: I use this to convert EPS files to EMF format for use in Word. EMF files print as well as EPS files, but look better when editing the soft-copy of the document. This way you can embed your corporate logos/letterhead into your Word documents, maintain crisp printability, and have high-res (vector) branding in your Word->PDF documents. Note that you need to pay for the plugin that allows for EPS->EMF conversion, but it’s worth it.
SpiceWorks: A free, ad-supported helpdesk/ticketing/asset tracking system. Very good interface, plus the community has input into future features.
TeamViewer: A free (for private use) remote support application. Easy for the remote end to install. Works well. Can also be used over internal networks/VPNs with IP addressing rather than the default ID/Password.
Windows SteadyState: A set of tools designed to lock down a PC for kiosk/home purposes. Very useful. Also includes a write-blocking hard disk driver that resets the drive to its previous state upon bootup.
Drupal: A PHP-based content management system. Very flexible, overall I’d use this again sooner than Joomla.
Google GMail: The best webmail solution, hands down. Free IMAP support, heaps of storage, clean interface, useful Labs plugins, labelling/tagging is excellent.
Google Reader: When combined with the appropriate smartphone app, Google Reader is invaluable in helping you keep up with technology and other news.
poMMo: A mass-mailing system that uses PHP/MySQL. Very slick interface.
Umbraco: The newest/most popular up-and-coming .NET-based CMS. Bit of a steep learning curve, but worth it. Very easy once you’ve mastered the basics. Very easy for the end-user to manage their site with. Has an excellent, helpful community. Highly recommended.
CentOS: An Enterprise-class Linux Distribution derived from sources freely provided to the public by Red Hat, a prominent North American Enterprise Linux vendor. This means you get the stability of Red Hat Enterprise, without the cost or branding. Another plus is that they offer a cut-down server CD. I use this for all my Linux servers.
Billion: Billion make good quality modem/routers. I use them myself, and would recommend them over Netgear, Netcomm, DLink, and Linksys – all of which i’ve had problems with. One thing I do recommend to do though, is to do a search on the WhirlPool forums before commiting to any particular model – regardless of the make.
Dell: I’m quite happy with my Dell M1330. Just do yourself a favour and get a 7200RPM or solid state hard drive if you do buy one. If I did it all again, I’d probably get the new MacBook – although that was released a few weeks after I got my Dell.