AirDroid: The Android app supports all features, including desktop phone call notifications and texting (which is why I use it). The iOS app only supports file transfer. You can also use the web app. Free and paid versions available. I use the paid version.
Your Phone: This app is built into Windows 10 if you have all the latest updates installed. It’s very much like AirDroid, but from Microsoft. It doesn’t have all the features of AirDroid, such as phone call notifications, but you will be able to make calls with it eventually, which you cannot do in AirDroid. Some issues to be worked out for sure, but it works pretty well.
ESET NOD32 Internet Security: Incredibly effective and lightweight antivirus and security software that simply works very well. I’ve been a loyal use for over 10 years. I’ve used many anti-virus products over the years, but NOD32 is by far the best. No, it’s not free, but you really do get what you pay for in this case.
TeamViewer: Completely free for personal use. Lightweight and easy to use remote access software. Connect from computer to computer (Mac, Windows, and Linux) with ease, or use your tablet or smartphone. I also use it to connect remotely to both of my Raspberry Pis, which I’ll cover in more detail in an upcoming blog post. You can find the RPi version of Teamviewer on their website, but it’s a bit of a pain. Alternatively, you’re welcome to download it from my Dropbox (opens in new tab).
Brave: A free, lightweight web browser from Brave, based on Chromium, which the Open Source version of Google Chrome. Ideal for those who are very privacy conscious and don’t want cookies or ads tracking their online activity. (Note: this may cause some websites to not work properly) Also available for Android and iOS (opens in new tab). Worth noting: importing cookies and history from Firefox or Chrome into Brave tends to break some websites (like GMail), so skip the import. No issue with importing bookmarks, though.
OpenOffice (free alternative to Microsoft Office): Used Microsoft Office for years. Decided I was tired of paying for it (average user uses 10% of it’s features), so I gave OpenOffice a try, and haven’t looked back since. Absolutely love it, and so does my not-tech-savvy-at-all Mom. Not available for Android or iOS, for which I recommend using the free Google Docs (Android, iOS).
CCleaner: A free, lightweight, reliable, and effective junk cleaner for Windows, though it has other features as well. There’s been some controversy with it in recent years since they were acquired by Avast, but they’ve got their act together again and I still recommend it. Also available on Android and Mac. I also recommend CleanMyMac, which isn’t free, but works very well.
VLC: A free, widely used, lightweight media player. It’s famous for playing pretty much any file type you can throw at it. Available for all major platforms.
LastPass: A lightweight, easy to use browser plug-in for Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer. One password to rule them all (so don’t forget it). Also has the option to auto-fill login credentials for many websites, and a secure password generator. Incredibly useful and convenient. Free and paid versions available. I use LastPass constantly every day. I use the paid version. Also available for Android and iOS.
PatchMyPC: Basically an all-in-one installer for all of the programs for Windows I’ve mentioned and many more. Tell it what you want to install (or update) and it will download and install them unattended (mostly) all on it’s own. Incredibly useful and convenient. Completely free program, but they do offer similar services for business.
Ninite: Very similar to PatchMyPC, except you select the programs you want to install or update on it’s website, download the installer, and it does the rest.
Tweetdeck: I have been a loyal Twitter user since it became available. Tweetdeck is basically for power users and allows you to manage multiple accounts and settings. It has all of the same features as Twitter.com, but saves you from having to login/logout to manage accounts, or having to open different pages to access features and settings quickly accessible in Tweetdeck. I always have Tweetdeck open on my second monitor using the “desktop shortcut” feature in Chrome (opens in new tab) to allow it to be used as a web-based desktop program. My only complaint with Tweetdeck is that it doesn’t always show all of the tweets, mentions, and DMs like it should, requiring you to login to the website to see what you may have missed. I prefer TD to products like Hootsuite, one of the main reasons being it has a “dark” theme, which is easier on the eyes.
Dropbox: A wonderful service that synchronizes everything you put in the Dropbox folder on your computer (Mac or PC) with your Dropbox account online, and any other computer you link to your account. Apps for Android and iOS are also available, where you can view your Dropbox account and files, and upload and download those files to your device. Accounts with 2GB storage are free. I really only need less than 100GB, but pay for 1TB (the lowest paid option available).
Pocket: a great free service that basically allows you to bookmark web pages for later viewing using a Firefox browser plug-in. Mom has it installed on her computer as well using my account, and anything she “saves”, I can then view on my computer or devices. Very handy. Also available for Android and iOS.
VeraCrypt: a free Open Source program that allows you to basically create an encrypted file or folder that is password protected. I use it to encrypt and password protect a folder where I keep personal information and documents that I would never want accessed if my computer were ever hacked or stolen. Without that password, it’s just a blob of useless data.
In more technical terms, it creates a virtual hard drive that Windows sees as just another hard drive when it is mounted within VeraCrypt. You can access that “hard drive” as any other hard drive, but to open files or folders within it, you must provide your password. When you’re done accessing the file or folder, you simply unmount the virtual hard drive in VeraCrypt, and Windows no longer sees it or allows access to it.
Express VPN: Like many VPN programs, it effectively creates a secure, encrypted tunnel between your computer and the server you’re connected to, making it appear as though you’re accessing the internet from wherever that server is located. No one can monitor what you’re doing online using a VPN, but they and your ISP can tell how much data is being transferred, they just can’t see what it is.
You DO NOT want to use any free VPN solution. They can’t be trusted. You get what you pay for in this case. (Affliate link above. You get a free month and so do I.)
WSUS Offline Updater: Use this program to legitimately download and install all the latest Windows Updates for your version of Windows in bulk. It downloads them directly from Microsoft, and installs them automatically for you (and automatically restarts if you tell it to), so you can go do other things, but it’s good to check in on it every once in a while. You can also download updates for other computers to a USB thumb drive or external hard drive.
I’m particularly fond of this method of updating because out-of-the-box Windows is often months out of date in terms of updates, and if a computer is connected to the internet from the get-go, it may be vulnerable because it doesn’t yet have all the latest security patches to protect against some threats. So I disable the internet when I do a fresh install of Windows, use WSUS Offline Updater, then enable the internet again. Gives me peace of mind.
I have many apps on my Android tablet and smartphone. They include:
Amazon, WeatherCAN, Audible, Firefox, LastPass, Dropbox, IMDb, CleanMaster, Notepad Free, Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, Talon, Messenger, Repost, Instagram, EasyDownloader for Instagram, CTV Edmonton Weather, CTV Weather Watch, Weather Network, SkyTracker, Wunderground, MyAcurite, Shazam, GMail, Docs, Google PDF Viewer, Alberta Emergency Alert, Pocket, FortisAlberta, Feedly, SwiftKey, Zedge, Do Not Disturb – Call Blocker Premium, Pebble.