Free Software for Your New Computer

If you’ve bought a new PC or Windows laptop recently, it probably came “bundled” with a bunch of free software.  It is a near certainty that the bundled software you got is awful.  Most people I know who make their living from computers (the ones who use Windows instead of Mac OS X anyway) reformat the hard drive and install only what they need to avoid this junk.  Why this software is on your computer in the first place is another story.  This post is about where you can find free software you actually want on your computer.

The Google Pack ( is a great place to start adding software you actually need.  As of this writing, the pack contains 14 applications.  This includes applications like Adobe Acrobat Reader, Firefox, Picasa, Skype, and RealPlayer.  The biggest benefit of adding these applications to your new computer via Google Pack is the updater software.  You can configure it to automatically update applications when there are new versions.

Open Source Windows is another great source for free software.  Unlike the Google Pack offerings, none of the software you’ll find at Open Source Windows is offered by Google.  The types of software are broader in many ways as well.  They include instant messaging (IM) clients, RSS clients, video playback, sound recording, graphics/photo editing, even games.

So if you’ve got a new Windows machine you need to get running, get rid of the bundled software and pay those sites a visit.  It will only cost you a little time, and the quality of the software you’ll get in return makes it a worthwhile investment.

Recommended Listening: Derivative Dangers

If you want to know how long ago the seeds of the current financial crisis were sown, definitely listen to this episode of Fresh Air.  Terry Gross’ interview of Frank Partnoy reveals not just how derivatives came to be unregulated, but who some of the players were in making it possible.  What may disturb you is how many of the people who made the current situation possible are playing key roles in trying to fix it.  Partnoy also authored F.I.A.S.C.O.: Blood in the Water on Wall Street.  He first wrote this book 12 years ago–before the collapse of the internet and telecom bubbles, before Enron, and the subprime mortgage meltdown that triggered our latest financial calamity.

Sometimes, I really love the web

I’m at the airport to pick up a couple of friends, just back from a week in Spain. Adam asked me last week if I could pick him and his fiancée up from the airport. Somehow, we didn’t exchange a flight number along with the airport and arrival time, so I had no easy way to see if anything changed. Thanks to the web, this was no problem.

A search for Dulles Airport brought up their website. A search for today’s arrivals from Spain revealed the flight number and scheduled arrival time (which turned out to be about 30 minutes later than Adam and I discussed last week). I put the flight number into, and not only did it give me both segments of the return flight, it updated the scheduled arrival time and provided a near real-time map of their flight as it approached.

So instead of showing up way too early, I got to Dulles just a few minutes before Adam called to let me know they’d landed. I was able to do all that (and write this post) with my iPhone 3G.