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Essential Free Software for Your New Computer

by Jason Wire Aug 17, 2010

If you don’t know what a torrent is, you need to bring yourself up to speed…literally. Torrents revolutionized downloads and filesharing as a way for users to download many different “pieces” of a file from different users simultaneously.

The torrent merely acts as a map for your computer, and once it begins running, rather than download the first season of Mother Angelica in succession, it downloads parts from anywhere in the file until its finished. And because you’re getting it from 300 different people, you’re getting 10 times the download speed while they only upload at a tenth of the normal rate.

To make a long story short, download BitTorrent, head to ThePirateBay, and find some cool torrents that have a high seed-to-leech ratio (number of people uploading versus people downloading). You’ll be glad you did.

VLC Media Player

Despite the advancements in technology, media files haven’t shrunk too much since the early days of Napster, and by and large the file formats have become more varied and confusing. Will my player cooperate with .mp3, .oog, .mp4, .mpeg…and so on?

With VLC Media Player, none of this really matters, because it plays absolutely everything. I’ve never once received a “codec error” in the five years using this, and its superbly-simple-straightforward interface makes everything ten times easier than using the memory-heavy Windows Media Player (or, god forbid, iTunes).


My father is 55 years old, and to say that he uses the “hunt-and-peck” method of typing is an understatement. He called me once to tell me “Hey Jason, I just signed up on the Facebook, but nothing’s happening. When does the Facebook start working?”

Despite his preference to the good ol’ outdoors over pixelated landscapes, when I introduced him to StumbleUpon it was love at first sight. It’s basically the Pandora of web sites, the automatic-awesomeness generator, and all-around boredom conqueror and procrastination enabler. If you’ve never used it, head to StumbleUpon and get the toolbar now.


Any Stumbler worth his salt knows the feeling of Stumble Eyes: Dry, bloodshot, with a screen burning itself into your skull amidst the darkness of the room at 2am.

Yet fear no more, weary traveler, for F.lux has arrived, and it’s a free and magnificent way to reduce eye strain while computing. Based on your settings, it adjusts the screen to the perfect settings for the time of day and type of light being used in your room. Sayonara, Stumble Eyes!

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