VideoLAN or VLC is a compact lightweight video player that Windows, MacOS, and Linux/Unix.
I’ve not found much that VLC won’t play. It’s by far the most stable video player I have found. It also does some other very nice and unexpected things: you can get it to stream video to somewhere else over the net. It’s not meant to be used as an appliance, it’s a little hard to get this set up, but in a pinch, if you need to stream something from the other room for some reason, it works!
Autopano lets you easily automatically and trivially stitch together very wide panoramic images from a set of multiple photos. You don’t even need to take them in a proper sequence! Just make sure you have sufficient overlap.
Their product is not cheap though, at the time of this writing €99 or €199 depending if you buy the Pro or the Giga version. Honestly it’s not so clear to me what the precise difference is between these two versions if you’re just stitching photos together. The Giga version has a few extra nice features like being able to deal with high dynamic range images, but this may not be necessary for all people.
The one thing I think this software lacks is the ability to stack images to increase the resolution.
I only played around with a demo of the 2.0 version, perhaps it’s better now. But I can tell you it did work quite easily, it just didn’t work so much better than Hugin which is free, so I decided to stick with Hugin.
Sweet Home 3D lets you draw sort of 3D drawings of your home or office. I used it to do a virtual mockup of my house.
It’s a little finicky to use. It works best if everything is flat on one level which my house is not. There are small steps up and down into several of the rooms and the house itself is built into a slope with a walk out basement and I didn’t figure out a way to create the sloping land around it (yet!). But it’s a fairly easy program to draw things if you are doing things which are not too complex.
Scratch is an excellent teaching tool for teaching kids to program. It’s essentially like programming with Lego blocks but on the screen. It’s well suited to let kids build little games. This is important because it peeks their interests and gets them involved at an early age. My daughter was successfully using this when she was 8 years old!
AutoGK is another tool for creating avi files with xvid/divx in them.
BitRipper is one of the most minimalist tools for taking a dvd and converting it to an avi file.
DVD43 is a DVD de-crypter that removes the region and restriction garbage on DVDs upon reading the DVD. It presents a clean DVD to whatever video program you are using to watch the DVD. This means that your laptop doesn’t complain when you stick a DVD in it from the wrong region!
I totally do not understand why region codes exist at all. The whole notion seems insane to me. I buy a DVD and then I can only play it where I bought it? And to get around this, all one needs to do is buy a second player? How is this supposed to protect the companies licensing rights? It’s as if some lawyers set out and wrote some license for some material and then ordered some technical person to create something but with no regard for how things get used in real life. Region codes are totally pointless, easy to get around, and only hurt consumers and producers alike.
I don’t really do a lot of encoding but from time to time I want to watch something someone sends me. The two codecs I have had to install have been Xvid and Divx.
For audio, I use Lame. I have also used Ogg Vorbis but it doesn’t work on things like my iPod.
No Windows PC should be without an anti-virus. You can install the free Microsoft Security Essentials anti virus program which works pretty well. I have also heard good things about Avast but I have not tried it. Microsoft Security Essentials is fast, not annoying, and has gotten remarkably good writeups for finding viruses. At the moment, this is what I have put my trust in.
I have used Duplicate File Finder to find duplicate photos on my hard drive. It’s pretty slow but it does work. If you have a lot of duplicate files, it’s output isn’t perhaps all that helpful. It’s biggest help is perhaps showing you which folders contain some of the same files and then you can go from there.
What I find is better and much faster is just to try and combine everything where it belongs. What I do is use SuperCopier. SuperCopier will ask you if you want to overwrite a file (and if you should do it once or for all). In this way, you can merge non-destructively two or more folders. Then when I know all the contents of the other folder has been merged into the other, I delete it.
This doesn’t help you much if lots of names have been changed and that’s where Duplicate File Finder comes in handy. But I have to say in most cases, I’ve found the copy method to be far more efficient than waiting hours or days for Duplicate File Finder to run only to find out that yes, a zillion files here are also there.