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Free and Open Source Software

This section contains outstanding free and / or open-source software that I have used. I have listed them in alphabetical order.

GB-PVR
(free)
Outstanding HTPC media centre software with integrated support for Hauppauge's MVP. It can be customized and skinned and has open interfaces for third parties to write their own plugins and utilities. For me, in the UK, it was the only HTPC software that allowed me to set up my channels painlessly. I had tried every other piece of HTPC software (free and trial versions, with the exception of Mcirosoft MediaCenter) and none of them made it obvious how to set-up the tuner card and EPG. GB-PVR made it easy. I also actively use my PC for other things such as video- and photo-editing, software development and playing games. GB-PVR sets up a Windows service to perform the recording and EPG duties behind-the-scenes. This coupled with a Hauppauge PVR500 card (with outputs MPEG-2 direct to your hard disk) means I can continue with any processor intensive task (such as playing games) without recordings being affected in any way. Fantastic!

HelpNDoc from IBE Software
(free for non-commercial use)

Superb help authoring system that generates .CHM and / or .HTML (web site) help files. It is free for personal and non-commercial use and operates without nag screens or restrictions (it places a discreet and entirely deserved little message saying that the help file was made using HelpNDoc at the bottom of each page). To remove the message and use for commercial projects, the cost is very very reasonable (about £25 at time of writing).

HM NSIS Edit
(free and open-source)
Editor / IDE for NSIS, Nullsoft's free installer software. It works and does the business quietly and without fuss. Just what you need.

NSIS
(free and open-source)
Installer software. Make your own installation packages with lots of features and an extensible architecture.

SharpDevelop v1.1
(free and open-source)
Integrated development environment for .NET languages including C# with integrated NDoc and Nant features. I like the way it automatically added references when you type the using command. The integration of platform invoke signatures is terrific. (Neither of these features are present in Visual Studio Express.) XML editing features are improving with very cool support for syntax checking against custom XSD's. In day-to-day use, my only niggle was the rather hit-and-miss Intellisense (pop-up p-p-p-please!) and dynamic keyword help (ie, F1) which only seemed to work in the SharpDevelop demonstration videos but failed after first use on my machine.

I haven't tried version 2 but it looks even better.

Visual Studio Express Editions
(free, not time-restricted)
Integrated development environments for .NET 2.0 Framework. Presumably in an effort to regain ground against the likes of SharpDevelop, Microsoft released Express editions of Web Developer, Visual Basic, C#, C++, J# and SQL Server for free in November 2005. They are targeted at the solo developer and give you the means to create .NET 2.0 platform applications. Intellisense support is second-to-none while some extra designers for resources and application settings relieve a couple of coding tasks. Edit and Continue debugging has been introduced for C# applications which is simply delightful.

Commercial and Other Software

This section contains links to other software that I have used and have liked so much I paid for them. They are characterized by the ability to obtain quick results and are of reasonable price. I have listed them in alphabetical order.

dbPowerAmp
Music convertor. I love it when a program uses Windows Explorer as its main interface. This is simplicity itself. You right-click your audio file(s) and select "Convert to..." and guess what? It converts the selected audio file(s). Painless and simple and perfect.

Iconomaker
Small Image Editor / Icon Editor. This is one of those pieces of software that does exactly what it says on the tin. I use this instead of my main image editor (Photoimpact 11) to edit and produce icons but it is also perfect for editing any small image. It can save images as icon files but also as PNG and supports easy transparency effects and icon libraries.

Ulead Photoimpact 11
Image editing software. This is a powerful, reasonably priced image editor that supports all the clever complicated stuff that you want it to but also contains a lot of easy-to-use features to obtain quick effective results. It's capable of producing scalable graphics in its own format (UFO). It has some especially powerful batch capabilities where you can perform any operation available within the program on any or all of the images loaded or you can step through a folder and convert all images of one format to another.

Miscellaneous

Tribute to the Beauty of Asian Women
Simply the greatest forum topic in the world. Ever. Unless you're a girl, probably.