Top ‘Must Have Apps’ for New Windows PC Installations

Whenever I set up a new Windows installation – whether it be because I get a new computer, reformat and repartition my computer, or am helping someone ‘fix’ their computer by reinstalling Windows – there are a few applications that I usually always install.  These are the top applications that just about everybody needs to have 0n their computers, consisting mainly of freeware utilities and other applications.  Some apps are not free, but I have included freeware applications that are a good alternative where applicable.  Also, a few of these applications are not needed by everybody but I typically install them on my computers anyways, so I wrote this list in a vague most-to-least important order so that the most popular and important apps are first and the least important ones are last.  Anyways, on with the list:

 

Chromehttps://www.google.com/chrome/browser/desktop/index.html

Every computer these days needs a browser, and I prefer to use Google’s Chrome as my preferred browser of choice.  It allows you to visit any web page you need, as well as having a great built in web developer’s toolkit that lets web developers see and play with the different aspects of a web page as they load, helpful for determining what code is rendered for the browser and what CSS it is using.  Chrome also lets you modify the browsing experience by adding different plugins and themes.

 

Firefox – https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/new/

A close number 2 in my book is Firefox, the contemporary to Chrome.  It does just about everything Chrome does, and it is best to have at least 2 browsers installed in case some web site doesn’t load properly in the other.  I also keep two different browsers in case you want to log in to 2 different accounts to any given website.  This lets you be administrator and user on the same site to make sure both parts of the site are working correctly.  Also I like to make sure that every part of the site works in each browser.

 

VLChttp://www.videolan.org/vlc/download-windows.html

In order to play all the media files that you may download, you need a player that will play them all.  The built in Windows Media Player that comes with Windows is not very useful and does not play all file types, so it is usually necessary to have another media player application that can play all your files.  VLC is my go-to media player that will play just about every file type and has many great features.

 

MPlayerhttp://www.mplayerhq.hu/design7/dload.html

Another good player that lets you play all the files you may download is MPlayer.  MPlayer is lower on my list because it has a few ads that are a little annoying but it still makes the list because of all the great features it has.

 

 

WinRARhttp://www.rarlab.com/download.htm

In order to use some of the files that you download that are compressed, you need a good file extraction program such as WinRAR.  WinRAR allows you to compress and decompress files in many different formats like .zip, .tar, .gz, and of course .rar.  There are both free and paid versions of WinRAR that you can download.

 

K-Lite Codec Packhttp://codecguide.com/download_kl.htm

Many audio and video files are compressed with a certain codec, and many of these codecs are not included with video players and must be downloaded seperately.  One way of downloading them all at once is by downloading the K-lite Codec pack.  This pack includes all of today’s popular audio and video codecs.

 

Microsoft Office – https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/office.aspx?q=office

As the standard for office type applications, Microsoft Office is almost necessary for today’s computer users.  I try to install it or an alternative on all systems I work on.  Of course the downside to Microsoft Office is that it is expensive and most users don’t want to have to pay for it only to use it every so often.  If you don’t already have a copy of Office and don’t use it enough to pay for it, I recommend an alternative such as OpenOffice.

 

OpenOfficehttp://www.openoffice.org/download/

A great alternative to Microsoft Office is OpenOffice, which has programs that are equivalent to Word, Excel, Outlook, and all other MS Office apps.  I usually install OpenOffice if I cannot get a license for Microsoft Office because it has much of the same features but you don’t have to pay for it.  OpenOffice is not as polished as MS Office but does have just about all the functionality you need and can read MS Office files.  So if you want the functionality of Office but don’t want to buy it, give OpenOffice a try!

 

iTuneshttps://www.apple.com/itunes/download/

Apple’s media player, iTunes is a must have for anyone with an iPhone or iPad.  I usually install this for most people as a lot of people have iPhones or iPads.  Even if someone doesn’t have an Apple device, iTunes has many good features, including the iTunes store for music, movies, TV shows, and more.  This allows people to buy or rent videos and music to watch on their computer or portable device.  However my favorite feature of iTunes that is the main reason I install it on my own systems is the podcast library.  Podcasts are basically radio shows that can be downloaded and listened to at anytime, and there are tens of thousands of podcasts out there.  I regularly listen to many podcasts and iTunes is the best way to browse and listen to podcasts on the computer.

 

NotePad++https://notepad-plus-plus.org/download/v7.4.2.html

Any power user needs a good text editor, and there are a few pretty good ones for Windows.  My favorite is NotePad++ which is great for developing software and web sites in all different languages.  It has automatic formatting and coloring to help you write and read code for all kinds of languages.  It is a must have for all developers as well as all general users.

 

TextPadhttp://textpad.com/download/index.html

TextPad is another very good text editor that facilitates the editing of all kinds of files.  it automatically recognizes the type of file and helps you edit many different types of source code files for all kinds of languages.  It also has many great text editing features like search/replace, macros, regular expressions, etc.

 

How I ‘Fixed’ My Dell Laptop’s Power Issue

My main computer that I use is my Dell Inspiron 13 i7359 Convertible 2-in-1 Laptop that I purchased about a year ago, and it has performed very well since then.  But two weeks ago I started having some issues.  At first the computer started to tell me that the power adapter was not being recognized as an official Dell product and that it would not charge the battery since the power output could not be determined.  This continued for a few days but I didn’t really pay any attention to it since I usually use it plugged in anyways.  But after a few days the laptop just stopped working at all.  I couldn’t get it to turn on or do anything at all.  I tried everything I could think of and searched the internet for answers to no avail.  I was thinking that the power supply was powering the computer fine but not charging it so it seemed like it was fine but short from sending my computer to Dell and see what they said and possibly pay for them to fix it, I don’t know what I would do to fix the problem.

At this point I was at my wits end I decided to just go ahead and buy a new power adapter and try and see if it works.  So I ordered one on Amazon for $40.  And when it arrived, sure enough it worked and my laptop started up right away.  I was so exstatic that I fixed the problem that I didn’t even mind spending that $40.

So if you are having a similar problem with your dell computer, where it isn’t turning on and you don’t know why, it might be a good idea to go ahead and try a different power adapter.  The reason is that Dell laptops require Dell OEM power supplies in order to function properly.  If they don’t detect that they have a proper power supply they won’t charge, won’t operate at full power, or possibly won’t turn on at all.  If you don’t want to pay for a new power supply because you aren’t sure it will fix it maybe you can try a different one that should work, maybe you can borrow one or use one at a store or repair shop.  Try going to a store that sells computer, like Best Buy or Fry’s Electronics, and bring in your computer and try to plug it in.  Tell them that you bought it there and you want to try a new power supply before you try to return it or something like that.  Or try to find a computer repair shop that has a proper Dell power supply that you could use.  Tell them that you want to get your laptop fixed but you think that it might work with a new power supply and if it doesn’t work you want them to diagnose and possibly fix it.  That way if it does work you know that you just need a new power supply and if it doesn’t maybe they will diagnose it for free and you can then decide if you want to pay to get it fixed or not.

My Background Check Is WRONG

So I was just doing checking out some of the stuff about me online, doing a simple search for my name, and I came across some sites that sell background checks.  I don’t want to give their names because I don’t want to promote them and I think its funny that the info is wrong and I don’t care if they change it.  But you would think that at least the basic publicly available information would be correct, right?  Well not in my case.

Among the information available is date of birth, and my name had a big fat check mark next to it meaning they know exactly when I was born.  But the funny thing is that they are way off on my age.  Not 1 year or even 10 years which would be an easy mistake.  No, they say that I am 80 years old!  I know what you’re thinking, ‘Oh its probably just some other person with the same name.’  But they listed my home town and my relative’s names so it must be the right Jared Connell.  I don’t know what date of birth they have on file or where it came from but it is way off.  The funny thing is that they listed my parents names, and if they know they are my parents, how the hell can I be older than both my parents?  It is an obvious flaw but nobody will ever notice or care to change it.  And my age was listed as 80 years old on more than one background check site so they obviously got the info from the same place.  Either that or one site stole the information from the other.

Not only that but other information was totally wrong.  Like I said, I don’t know where they get the info they sell but it definitely isn’t all correct.  Yes some of it is right, and it is a little scary seeing what they know about you and what somebody can get on you if they have a little free time or some money.  But the point is that not everything is correct.  I noticed that some of the information they have on me was wrong, and all from the stuff they give out for free, before they try and lure you in to pay for more info.  So whether you are looking for someone’s information or trying to pay for a background check be warned that it isn’t all true.  If they can’t even get my age right, what else did they get wrong?  What other information are they spreading about me that is totally false but the people who pay for their services will automatically believe.  Who knows what a prospective employer or somebody else might end up seeing.  Imagine someone with your same name has some bad information that ends up in your report.  All it takes is one slip up and your employer thinks your a convicted rapist and you end up being fired and you don’t know why.  Or maybe you end up in the list of suspects for another crime because of something that another person with the same name did.  The worst thing about the whole thing is that you can’t even enter the correct information even if you wanted to.

I know someone who was looking for information on a person recently.  I can’t remember if they had the phone number and wanted their name, or vice-versa, but they asked me if they should pay for one of these types of background checks. I said that they don’t know if it’s even the right person and not to waste the money.  Especially when you’re dealing with phone numbers.  Nowadays we can take our phone numbers to a new phone company so we can keep the same number even if we switch carriers.  But in the past this wasn’t possible and people’s numbers changed all the time.  One time I had a number I really liked because the last 4 digits spelled something funny and it was an easy way to get people to remember my number so I kept that one for a while.  But eventually I got a new one and let that one go.  Now nobody even knows anybody’s phone number anyways, you just text them once and you’re saved in their phone forever.  Sometimes it’s even good to get a new phone number, maybe you have bills you haven’t paid or a vindictive ex and you want to cut ties.  I personally can’t even remember how many different phone numbers I have had in my life.  The number has to be at least a dozen.  Case in point, the number that the background check had for me hasn’t been in use for at least 10 or 15 years!

So the moral of the story is: don’t trust everything you see on the internet.  Even if it seems like a reputable source they can easily get something wrong and although it may seem trivial to say that I am 80 and easily recognizable as incorrect, other information may not be so easily noticed and will automatically be deemed to be the truth.

How Many Bones Do Sharks Have in Their Bodies? And Why I Hat Click Bait

(SHORT ANSWER TO THE TITLE QUESTION IS ZERO)

Once in a while you come across a banner ad that you really want to click, but you know it is just click bait and they probably wont immediately give you the answer, if they ever even do. They probably want your email address and all kinds of personably identifiable information that you don’t want to give out just for a simple answer to something you didn’t really even care about in the first place.

Now I’m not anti-ads, without advertising most websites would cost money to use and the majority wouldn’t even exist. For example without Ads, no social networks would be around (and if there were any you would have to pay for them). Large websites cost lots of money to run – including servers and bandwidth, programmers, sutomer service reps, HR departments, CEOs and other C-level execs, not to mention the people who keep everything going behind the scenes, like janitors and cleaning crews, etc. Even smaller websites that can be created and administrated with one person out of their home and hosted in a data-center somewhere can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars annually. And without online ads, most sites wouldn’t be feasible to run. But certain ads are totally unrelated to what you want to see, and some of those ads don’t even give you what they promise. I don’t mind ads, but the ones that are just click-bait I don’t really care for.

Ok so that was a long rant which leads me to the title. Ii just saw an ad that was definitely click bait that I didn’t bother to click. (Although now that I think of it I probably should have clicked it since it would have costed them money since I actually clicked on it. The way that on line advertising works in that situation is that they don’t pay just for their ad to be seen, they actually pay for every time it is clicked). So instead of clicking it to find out te answer ]I just googled it. Actually I asked Cortana since I can just say it instead of typing it.  So in case you were wondering, here is what the banner said:

How many bones do sharks have in their body?
a. 10,000
b. 0
c. 20,000+

So I automatically thought it was option b. It couldn’t be option c. because it was too imprecise and it couldn’t be the answer without an actual precise number.  They would have given an actual number and not an estimate. So then I was thinking about how I had heard before that sharks were all cartilage and had no bones at all. But I was unsure, and I just HAD to know now that it piqued my interest. And as it turns out, according to this site here: https://www.quora.com/How-many-bones-are-in-a-sharks-body I was right.  Sharks actually don’t have bones in their body at all.

So all that was just a very long, very convoluted way of saying how much I hate click bait type ads and I try as hard as I can to not make click bait type ads, especially when it is a trick to get you to click on it just to get the answer to some stupid question you didn’t care about in the first place. If you really care just go ahead and google the question instead.  But, however, if you like the site you can go ahead and try to click the ad.  See where it goes.  See what happens.  But if it just to get you to enter your email address just so you can get the answer to question you never knew you wanted to know, make sure you really want it before you answer.

My Note to SiriusXM on How to Improve Their Company.

Recently I wrote an email to Sirius XM on how to improve their company and that I wish they would address these problems before I became a long term investor.  I say long term because I have bought and sold SIRI stock in the past, and it has made me a good amount of money for me.  It would be a drop in the bucked for Warren Buffett but for me it was substantial.  I have been watching their stock price periodically ever since then and I have been wanting to get back in to owning their stock for a long term investment because I have always thought they had huge potentional.  But as it turns out, I think so at least, that they have stopped innovating and  they no longer care about creating any new or exciting products or services.

I have been a longtime fan of Howard Stern – he helps me get through long work days always making me laugh no matter what else is going on in my life.  So when he moved from regular radio to Satellite radio, of course I went right along with him.  I got a Sirius radio and activated it before he even hit the airwaves.  I even invested with the company and made some decent money with it as well.  The stock was worth mere pennies at one time, and right now as I write this it is over $5.  I didn’t make as much as I could have if I had waited to sell it now but needless to say for me it was one of the better investments I’ve made.  I don’t know how long Stern will stay with them, as it is he is already down to only a few live shows a month when he used to be live every week day with only a few breaks throughout the year for vacation time.  But no matter how long he stays, I really think the company could be great even post stern.  Sure it will be a major blow to the company, but as long as they play their cards right they have the opportunity to make great products and services that nobody else can.  They own a certain bandwidth and have satellites in the sky that could be used for tons of diffent things if they wanted to.

For instance at one time they had a product called Sirius Backseat TV that allowed live video streams to be beamed down to cars to entertain the passengers in the back seat.  It was mainly for kids at the time but they didn’t give it enough time to take hold in the market and grow like I believe it could have.  Especially now since Sirius and XM merged, they have twice the bandwidth as they had before.  Not only that but video and audio compression is much better now than it was back then so they could have many more channels now than they did.  Also, the main reason that I think that it failed is because it was only available in about 2 or 3 vehicles, and I think they were all from a Dodge company.  I think it was something like one or two minivans and one SUV.  And it was very expensive at that.  Imagine if all minivans or SUVs that had a rear seat entertainment package had Sirius Backseat TV built in and had a 6 month subscription.   Then also release add on units that include either a drop down monitor or tablet like device that attaches to the back of the seats.  In my opinion I think that it could end up being huge!  Especially back in the day before smart phones and tablets became so prevalent.  I don’t have kids but I imagine that most parents would like something to keep their kids quiet in the back seat while they are driving, And what better way to do this than to have live streaming TV shows beamed straight to your vehicle?  When it was first announced there was only a handful of channels, mostly geared toward children, but as time went on with the increased bandwidth and better compression they could have easily have doubled the amount of channels to include more kids channels, news and/or business channels, general entertainment channels, etc. and then it would be even more of a draw.   Then if they bundled the price with a Sirius radio audio package they could increase their user-base as well as their income per user.

Another thing that disappoints me is that they seem to have stopped creating new and unique radios and other devices.  When Sirius and XM were competing against each other they were starting to get pretty high tech.  And that was almost over 10 years ago.  Sirius had the Stilleto, which I bought as soon as it was released.  It was a portable satellite radio that allowed you to listen to live satellite broadcasts whenever and wherever you are as long as you had reception.  The reception was never really a problem for me and it worked very well.  At that time, XM had their own portable radios that were much smaller and probably had even better reception.  Both companies had rdios ranging form about $40 to over $100 ranging in features and design.  but now they don’t even offer portable radios, and the radios they do offer have not changed much in almost a decade.  Apparently if you want to listen with a portable device you must use your cell phone.  But if you do this not only does it eat through your batter life significantly, not to mention used gigabytes worth of your data plan to listen regularly.  Most data plans these days are between 1 and 10 GB and this can easily be maxed out very quickly, leaving you with no more data to listen to satellite radio or even check your email or watch  youtube – basically anything that uses data is off limits for the next 30 days.

 

And as for the radios, they simply don’t even car about innovation there.

 

And the final nail in the coffin for me is that their website is horrible.  Its hard to navigate, and there are many broken links and as a web designer/developer I can tell that these should be easily fixed but not fixing them makes the company seem very immature to the prospective or current subscribers. Also I tried to sign up for a free trial and it says that my email address is not valid.  I believe it’s because I do not use a free email provider it is automatically deemed to be invalid.  If I am able to receiveand respond to a confirmation email that should be good enough to allow me to get a free trial.  The fact is that getting a gmail, hotmail, yahoo, or other free email account is way easier than owning my own domain and paying for email addresses if my only intent were to get some free internet streaming radio.  The better way would be to blacklist certain known bad email providers (companies like mailinator.com – check it out if you aren’t aware of it)  Aside from the website, I am very disappointed at your lack of diversity in types of radio and innovation in your products.  All the radios are pretty much the same and have not improved in the 10+ years that I’ve been a subscriber.  When I first signed on with Sirius back in 2005 we were promised more high tech radios and great new features.  XM even had better radios at the time than what is available now.  When the Stiletto came out it was very innovative, even though XM had one that was smaller and better, but it was promising.  Then when mobile started getting bigger you guys just dropped the whole idea of portable radios.  Just because I have a cell phone doesn’t mean I want to use it all the time as my radio listening device.  It burns through my data plan and my battery life.  I think that the current radios should all have a single type of connector that can be used for multiple devices like docks and boomboxes.  Then you can make a few different radios with different looks and different features but base them off the same platform to save money.  The same plug would allow only one version of the home dock and the car dock, further saving money.  Then they should make ‘boomboxes’ that come in different versions, one that is cheaper that looks and sounds decent, another model that looks very nice and sounds good that can fit in an office or nice home, and then possibly a top end audiophile version with very good bass response and clear sound quality.  Also I wish SiriusXM didn’t stop innovating, I know you have the airplane and weather stuff but that should be improved upon and marketed better.  If cars with oem headunits and external radios (where possible, obviously they need color screens) all had the ability to show weather and traffic conditions that would be a game changer and another great income stream.  You could upsell customers to get the ‘weather’ or ‘traffic’ packages for another few bucks a month each.  No other device allows you to see the weather on your gps screen.  And if you could add more one-way data communication that would help bring in more income as well.  Imagine if all new cars could have weather and traffic up to date on the screen, that would be amazing.  And on that note, SiriusXM could partner up with GPS manufacturers to sell subscriptions to those services, no music, just the traffic and weather data for a small monthly fee.  Another thing that really bothers me is that you spent all that time and money developing things like Sirius backseat TV for instance and then gave up after like a year or so.  If they would have just continued to work on it and get it into more vehicles (instead of just the 2 or 3 vehicles they supported and then say it wasn’t a success- how can you tell if you didn’t give it a chance to succeed?) and also offer aftermarket devices that could hook into current vehicles with back seat video screens or a stand alone screen that could be installed in the car, or even a stand alone screen that could be used in the car as well as taken out and used by itself- say at a picnic or a soccer game, etc, I believe it could have been huge.  It was right before the smart phone revolution and was in a prime place to take over the market. Parents want their kids quiet and happy in the back seat, business people being chauffeured want news and business data, people in RVs or long haul truckers want TV service while they are in the back not driving.  And with the merger of SiriusXM you now had twice the bandwidth and not to mention compression technology is much better, there could be many more video stations than the few that it was launched with.  And there are tons more opportunities for one-way data services that could be utilized that don’t even take much bandwidth.  Imagine stock quote updates for your favorite stocks.  Or the ability to receive traffic notifications without switching to the traffic channel for your city.  Why even have dedicated traffic stations, when you can make them all universal and just automatically switch to the proper stream you need when your city comes up?  I could go on for days and days how I think SiriusXM could improve their company and products, because I think that if the company sits back and thinks that they can continue to do great because they are now a monopoly since the merger, they are sorely mistaken.  People don’t listen to radio anymore.  They use their phones for entertainment.  And the only reason SXM is still in business (besides Howard Stern’s exclusvity of course) is because of the the fact people want an easy to use solution that is always in their car.  If you require people to use their smart phones to listen, it takes time to load the app, they have to put the phone in the dock, and it uses all their data. With a dedicated radio it turns right on when you get in the car and doesn’t use any of their data plan.  And with most companies capping users at only a few GBs a month this severely limits listening time.  You can’t listen to an hour or more during your commute every day while still having plenty of data left over for normal usage.  You are a SATELLITE radio company and having people rely on their cell phone data justmakes you another internet radio provider.  Then the only thing you have going for you is Howard Stern and once he leaves or retires you have nothing and the company is gone.  Why pay all that money to launch satellites into space just to make everyone stream radio if they want portable content?  Having people move to using their smart phone for everything is a very very bad decision.  And when Howard either retires or moves to podcasting or some other venue, he will very likely take most of the SiriusXM customers with him. Every single person I know with SiriusXM got it only for Howard and probably wouldn’t keep the service if he left. The company needs a contingency plan and they need products in place that will be able to keep people around once he leaves.  He is already down to only a few live shows a month and how much longer do you really think he will stick around?  He already got rid of HowardTV waiting for something better and if he leaves SiriusXM he might just go to one provider that does audio and video of the whole show and leave SiriusXM completely.  The writing is on the wall with and it would be a huge blow to the company to have him leave.  You need more exclusive content and reasons for people to sign up and stick around besides Stern and you need it now. Please, please head my warning, I love SiriusXM.  I joined for Howard Stern and I stayed because it is a good product with much more to offer.  But with the threat of the internet and all the free and low cost solutions for music and talk are a huge threat to SiriusXM.  Other companies don’t have to recoup the cost of the multi million dollar satellites that you had to launch.  So instead of trying to turn the company into an internet streaming service, take advantage of the satellites’ capabilities.  Come up with things that internet streaming companies cannot do and capitalize on them.  You need to really rethink the future of the company and act accordingly.  I’ve been an investor in the past, made tons of money when it was a penny stock and shot up but want to get back in it for the long haul. I want to be a long time subscriber and investor but the way things are going it doesn’t look good from either prospective.  I know this is a long letter but please don’t just throw it in the trash heap. Please listen to a very enthusiastic and dedicated fan who just want to see the company do good.  Thank you.\\\