There are literally hundred of software programs and applications out there that are free for the taking that are absolute must-haves. You need them to enjoy the Web, to upgrade your system, to improve the performance of your computer, and, in some cases, to fix problems with your existing set-up that you probably didnt even know you had.
If youve purchased or downloaded the new Windows XP operating system, congratulations youre in possession of the best rated operating system in the world. Unfortunately, XP was also written with "the worst default security vulnerability in Windows ever," according to Marc Maiffret, the hacking officer for eEye, in an interview with ZDNet (www.zdnet.com) .
The security hole also exists in Windows ME, if the UPnP feature is turned on, and in Window 98 Second Edition if you downloaded the UPnP feature.
UPnP, which stands for Universal Plug and Play, is a Microsoft invention that allows devices like computers, scanners, and printers to find each other and communicate.
A hacker, disguised as a printer, could infiltrate your system, reading files and deleting files, or causing denial of service attacks.
This download software patch is a MUST!
While youre there, you might want to get the Cumulate patch for Internet Explorer 5.5 and 6.0 this ones listed as a critical.
Faster Internet Downloads
While the biggest bottleneck to fast downloads is definitely bandwith, there are a number of speedbumps built into Windows Operating Systems that slow the whole process down.
Go towww.zdnet.com , and select downloads. Choose "Accelerate your surfing" to see the whole range of small programs that are available to help you maximize your downloads. While youre there, there are add-ons to make your Outlook Express more useful.
They also have a Downloads Directory thats chock-full of links to Shareware and Freeware. You have to know what youre looking for, but this site can direct you to anything.
Or check out the Top 20 Downloads, which is updated weekly. For the week ending Dec. 21, the top five downloads are FireEyes 1.0, which allows you to see who is connected to your PC at any given time; Yahoo Messenger 5.0 instant messaging software; Zero Popup 1.35, which puts an end to those annoying popup advertisements; ZoneAlarm 2/62/362, which protects your Internet connection from hackers; and 3D Christmas in the City Screensaver.
Its a bit dated, but most of the freeware and shareware sites in this story by Time Digital, which has since become OnMagazine.com, are still active. There are sites for PC and Mac users and developers, from childrens software to high level Java programming.
A division of c/net This is the largest collection of downloads on the net, and a lot of the content would be considered freeware or shareware for Mac and PC. There are also daily features on useful or fun downloads, a list of whats new, a list of whats popular, and the sites own recommended downloads.
This site also identifies the type of operating system you are using and directs you towards the most appropriate sites.
For example, using a Mac I was directed to iTunes 2.0.03, a newer version of the popular iTunes MP3 program that allows you to create libraries, burn CDs, and download music to your iPod if you dont know what iPod is, visitwww.apple.com .
Other software I was directed to include Geneforge 1.0, a $25 role playing game that you help to create; ICQ 3.0, a chat program that allows you to set up private chat rooms with friends and associates in cyberspace, and that alerts you when anyone is logged on; OmniWeb 4.0.6 for OS X, a new Web browser that allows you to take advantage of all the multimedia features in the OS X operating system drag and drop functionality, keyboard shortcuts, shrink-to-window zooming, and a browser window you can change to suit your style.
There are literally hundreds of c/net picks to choose from, all of which have been tested and rated by other users.
Audio, video, and communications
http://messenger.yahoo.com , http://messenger.microsoft.com , www.aim.com
While instant messaging may be the bane of the cubicle police, its one of the most popular features available get one. Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL make the most popular versions, but get whichever one your friends have otherwise it wont work as well. The later versions of these programs support Web cams, and multi-connections and its all for free.
To get the most out of your high-speed Internet connection, youll want to download Flash and Shockwave. They can play games, music, cartoons, and Web sites with built-in sounds and graphics.
Most Web sites connected with popular movies, music, sports and games have some Flash content.
Once you have these programs installed, check outwww.romp.com and www.atomfilms.com check out Tim Burtons StainBoy.
www.real.com , www.windows.com , www.quicktime.com
There are thousands of movies and songs online, but all of them appear to use different graphics viewers. To be safe, download them all, and check back frequently for upgrades. It takes about two months for everything to become obsolete these days.
If you dont know what you need, visitwww.versionchecker.com . Its like other freeware and shareware download directories, but it will check your site and tell you what the latest versions are that are available to download.