My favorite freeware and web applications

About one and half years ago, I listed some of my favorite freebies, including software and online services. As time goes on, more and more freeware and web applications come out every single day, I think I need to revise the list while add some new ones. I believe this list will keep growing in the future.

  • Email
    Gmail, no-brainer. With this better Gmail Firefox extension, Gmail is THE BEST. For local email client, I highly recommend Thunderbird, which I use to backup my Gmail emails on my computer locally.
  • Online RSS reader
    I migrated from Bloglines to Google Reader completely. Basically two features of Google Reader make me stick to it. The first one is its keyboard shortcut support. I am a vi(m) fan so these keyboard shortcuts are definitely my cup of tea. Another one is that Google Reader’s “mark as read” is post wise, but not feed wise like Bloglines does. This makes more sense to me because sometimes I don’t have time to read all the posts in a subscription and want to get back to read them next time. Those unread ones are still marked as new in Google Reader and that’s really useful.
  • Social bookmarks
    Still del.icio.us. Actually, it’s the support of private bookmarks of del.icio.us and this del.icio.us bookmarks extension for Firefox(my favorite web brower BTW) convinced me that I can totally move to del.icio.us. And the extension even supports keywords in bookmarks just like in Firefox. The biggest benefit to use online bookmarks is my bookmarks are automatically synchronized between different computers.
  • Image browser
    XnView. I have used BreezeBrowser for five years and it’s not bad. But its new versions are not free anymore, so I want to make a change. After comparing IrfanView and XnView, I decided to go for the latter one. The main reason for me to make the choice is interface and speed. I like the way XnView handles thumbnails and full image browsing. It has a three-panel layout for convenience of folder browse and image information, but most of the time I hide the other two panels and it’s very neat.
  • Music organizer and player
    MediaMonkey. I am a long term XMMS and Winamp user, then foobar2000 because everybody is saying good words about it. Foobar2000 is good, it’s fast and powerful and with simple yet very configurable layout. But after I tried MediaMoney, I liked it at once. What I like it the most is its very powerful music organizing feature. When it’s combined with the playlist, I think that’s exactly I want from a music player: easy to organize and convenient to make a playlist.
  • File manager
    FreeCommander. Before I chose FreeCommander, I tried UltraExplorer for couple months and Total Commander for several days. The first one is free and very unique for its breadcrumb feature and highly configurable interface. The latter one is not free, and very famous because it’s very powerful with the ability to use lots of plugins. After trying three of them, I decided on FreeCommander because it has almost all the features I want, and it has the interface I am comfortable with, and it’s FREE. Actually what I like it the most is that it has dual panels, tab supported, quick filter supported, and has a user configurable center column for access to frequently used operations and bookmarks. I am looking forward to FTP support in its succeeding versions but so far I am quite satisfied.

Two hacks about WordPress

  • To exclude page links in the navigation bar in the header.
    I have some pages that I want them to be accessible by the public but not listed in the navigation bar. After some search, I found this effective yet simple solution. What I did is to edit the header.php file in the current theme folder. Locate the function wp_list_pages and add exclude=pageID#,pageID# to its arguments, where pageID#s are the ID numbers of the pages to be hidden. Here is an example:

    <?php wp_list_pages('exclude=123&sort_column=menu_order&depth=1&title_li='); ?>

    where 123 is the ID of the page to be hidden.

    UPDATE: Just found a nice plugin, Page Link Manager, that does the same job in a much neater manner. Besides the option page, an “Include Page in Site Navigation” checkbox will be available when a page is being edited.

  • To exclude pages from the Extended Live Archive.
    I just installed this plugin to display the blog archives. It works very well in a very neat and intuitive way. But I found that it also includes pages by default and I couldn’t find the option to disable it. So I searched again and found a solution in their Flickr forum. What should be edited are two files in the plugin folder: af-extended-live-archive.php and af-extended-live-archive-include.php.
    In these two files, locate the following two expressions in both files

    post_status = 'publish'
    p.post_status = 'publish'

    then change them to

    post_status = 'publish' AND post_type='post'
    p.post_status = 'publish' AND p.post_type='post'

    respectively. That’s it. Now ELA displays posts only.

Blog upgraded

Last weekend I spent one night to upgrade this blog from WordPress 1.5.1.3 to 2.2.1. Basically everything goes smoothly except the database character sets issue because there are some Chinese characters in my posts. I searched the web and tried many times and finally it works, though I still don’t know the details because I am really not good at MySQL things. What I did is:

  1. Run SQL query
    show variables like '%character%';

    to check the character sets of the database. If the character_set_database is latin1, change it to utf8 by

    alter database mydb character set utf8;

    where mydb is the name of the database.

  2. Edit wp-config.php, change the line
    define('DB_CHARSET', 'utf8');

    to

    define('DB_CHARSET', '');

These two steps basically solve the Chinese display problem. (References: 1, 2 and 3)

The new version of WordPress is very good, especially the support of widgets and many other improvements from version 1.5.x. I also changed the theme to GlossyBlue 1.4 and modified a little.