Links to Amazing Tools
(Download sites listed at bottom.)
Sometimes, good things are actually free. And remember: free is a very good price!
- Google Earth
- Explore the planet in a whole new way. Waaaay Too Cool. (And much of it is free.)
- NASA Visible Earth
- Not a "tool", exactly, but it does seem to fit well here, next to Google Earth. Lots of cool satellite imagery. Free.
- A very handy photo viewer/editor. Especially useful for its batch processing capabilities. Free.
- VLC Media Player
- A program that will play DVDs from any region. Decidedly useful for people who move around in this world (with its oh-so-foolish differing DVD regions). The interface is rather limited, but hey, it's... Free.
- Speex (warning: this one's rather on the "techie" side)
- I haven't used it much, but it seems quite useful for compressing recorded lectures (i.e., audio files that contain speech). Very limited testing shows that it compresses by about 3x using the default settings plus the "--vbr" option, without noticeably losing the quality of the audio. The problem is that it only operates on PCM (i.e., uncompressed) audio. Most of my files at least have ADPCM encoding, so to process them, I must first convert them to PCM. Ugh. Still, it winds up saving 2/3 of the file space (compared to ADPCM). So, it can be useful. Another problem is nobody does a very good job of explaining how to install the thing. So I will. (Note that if you only want to listen to Speex files, then you only need to do Step #4.)
- Download both the Speex files [select "Windows binaries (tools)"] from this page and the simple Windows interface here.
- Create a new directory somewhere (probably "C:\Program Files\speex" would be a good spot).
- Unzip both of the above into your newly created directory. You should now be able to run Speex, either from the MSDOS command line [can you say, "old school"?] or from the simple Windows interface. Again, I haven't played with it much; I only tested 1 file & the "--vbr" option ... from the command line, yet. Can you say "old school" again? :-)
- To listen to Speex-compressed files:
- You can also download a plugin to enable Windows Media Player to play Speex-compressed files.
- The afore-mentioned VLC Media Player program can play Speex files.
- AccuRadio - Music on your PC
- Nice provision of categories, with ability to deselect a couple artists. Free, with ads.
- Free "Jukebox" programs (e.g., iTunes)
- Also consider your choices for downloadable players (which can be used on your PC with or without buying music), by reading the ConsumerSearch comparisons.
- Restoration - an undelete utility
- Everybody's gotta have one. Here's a nice one, that is Free.
There are surely others. But these have proven sufficient for me.