Computer, Report for Re-programming

From time to time, I like to take off and nuke my Windows installs from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

I’m actually doing that with my significantly-less-than-super old computer right now, and as a public service and memory aid I’m writing up the steps I took immediately following re-install to get this mug running sweeter than Yoo-Hoo.

  1. Browser: Windows comes with Internet Explorer. The most useful thing you can do with IE is point it at the Firefox (v2.0.0.3 as of this writing) download page and download and install Firefox. Then you can make Firefox your default browser and drag the Internet Explorer icon to the Recycle Bin.
  2. Text editor: download Editplus (v2.3.1) and the US English Spell Checker. Free trial for 30 days; more than worth the price if you work with text files much. FTP features are extremely useful. Jeff and I have used this since Y2K or so, and, uh, we’re Internet professionals, sort of.
  3. Email client: download Mozilla’s Thunderbird (v2.0.0.0). I’m a longtime user of the product. It’s free, and far better than Outlook.
  4. Browser and Email settings backup: download MozBackup (v1.4.6). You can use this to back up your Firefox and Thunderbird data. If you’re migrating from one machine to another, put this on the old one, back up your settings, put this on the new one, import those settings, and you’re Kool and the Gang. Very, very useful piece of freeware.
  5. Antivirus: stay way the hell away from McAfee and Norton and download Grisoft’s AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition (v7.5.467). It automatically updates. It scans whatever you want it to scan. I’ve never had a virus problem on a machine that had AVG watching its back.
  6. SSH client: download PuTTY (v0.60) and drop it somewhere on your disk. No installation routine–it’s a standalone .exe file. I like to put it in C:\Program Files and then make a shortcut to it from the desktop, to pump up PuTTY’s ego and make it feel like one of the larger apps on my machine. This is an outstandingly configurable and stable SSH client should you need such a thing–and given that Windows ridiculously still doesn’t have a native solution, you might need such a thing.
  7. Audio: download Winamp Lite (v5.35). It’s free, and the Lite version (which you kind of have to search for on the Winamp download page–they want you to download a bundle with some other crap) does everything I want it to do as far as playing MP3s goes. For ripping, the current free software standard seems to be CDex (v1.51), though Audiograbber has its proponents. Whichever one you choose, be sure to get MP3gain (v1.2.5) to correct differing volume levels across your albums.
  8. Download management: download Free Download Manager (v2.1) if you want this functionality. It should increase the speed of most of your Firefox downloads while rendering some downloading schemes that rely on redirecting your browser useless; in this case, hit Cancel in the Free Download Manager dialog box to fall through to the default Firefox download process.
  9. FTP client: download SmartFTP (v2.5.1005.33). Free license for personal use. I’ll use this when I want to move a bunch of files around to or from a server.
  10. Instant messaging: download Pidgin (v2.0.0). It used to be called Gaim, but it’s still a multi-protocol free instant messaging client that allows you to not run AIM, Y! IM, and MSN Messenger all at once and still get to those accounts. Not all cute one-off features across the official clients work with Pidgin (winks and nudges and hugz and whatever else the big brains at Short Attention Span User Interface Institute have come up with in the time that I’ve written this sentence), but I don’t generally notice them enough to miss them.
  11. Graphic design: download and install the latest GTK+ 2 environment (version 2.10.6 as of this writing; you probably don’t need GTK+ 2 if you installed Pidgin above) and then download The GIMP (v2.2.14). The GIMP is kind of like open-source Photoshop, and if it’s not close enough for you, you can grab GIMPShop to really fool yourself into thinking you’re using the real thing.

    What am I missing?

    (Don’t say ‘Ubuntu’, Jeff… you’ll trip the jackass filter.)

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