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d o n a t i o n s
My hope is that everyone who reads this site saves some money and gets a more reliable computer from the advice on it.

If you feel this site is worthwhile a donation will help cover some of the expenses.

Email and Paypal information is available in the 'contact me' link above.
s o u r c e
I don't normally keep copies of programs on this site - instead there are links to the download pages of the copyright owners. This means you always download an up-to-date version of the program. While I don't have any use for continual updating (change = trouble) it seems reasonable to start a new install with an up-to-date version.

The exception to this rule is if I can't find the original author's site.
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N E A R L Y    F R E E    P R O G R A M S

s e c u r i t y    &    m a i n t e n a n c e
   This page was originally designed for MS Windows. For security a lot of what was required in those days is simply no longer relevant for Android. Cleaning, firewalls and anti-virus are not required. Though they may be in the future. There is no registry or hard drive to worry about.

   Lets see what that leaves.

    B a c k u p    C o p i e s
Description - Makes copies of your files for safe-keeping.
Recommended - Dropbox
Comment - I've been using Dropbox for a while now. When your Android system is connected to it, it will make backups in a hidden file which is then copied to your desktop computer. Backup and restoration are automatic as I found out when I hade a problem with an Android update.
Usage - Once installed you do nothing.
Cost - Nothing.

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o f f i c e
   These days office programs tend to come in small collections. Typically you get:
   o   Word processor - for mainly linear text-based documents,
   o   Spreadsheet - for sequential connected calculations,
   o   Database - for collections of related data,
   o   Presentation - used to produce mainly text-based slide shows.

   In addition there may be one or more of a number of other programs including:
   o   Graphics - a simple drawing program,
   o   Flowchart - a program to lay out process flow diagrams,
   o   Database - for collections of related data,
   o   eMail - a program used to access pop-based email services,
   o   Organiser - appointment and contact related database program.

   Other useful office-type small programs are included with Android eg; a calculator and a jotter. In fact you could add any number of programs as being useful in an office environment.

    O f f i c e    S u i t e
Description - A collection of programs for office-type tasks.
Recommended - WPS Office
Comment - "Lets you view, create and share office documents that are fully compatible with Microsoft Office. WPS Office is 100% free, and with over 210 million registered users and 280,000 Google Play reviews, it is also the world’s most popular, FREE business app."

   I wouldn't argue with that.

   Consists of:
   o   Word processor,
   o   Spreadsheet,
   o   Presentation/slideshow product.

   What more can I say? I've given it a reasonable hammering. For letters, articles and other smaller items its fine. If you try to import larger formatted files from docx it'll screw it up.
Usage - Use as required.
Cost - £6.97(UKP)

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t e l e p h o n e
   These are the programs your telecoms company is fighting to convince you not to use. The technology is called Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP). Simply put, its the transmission of a conversation without the use of a telephone. Since 'landline' telephones have always been a major ripoff money spinner the telecoms companies are fighting a desperate rearguard action to keep them in use.

Free VOIP programs do the same job as a landline telephone plus much more:
   o   voice phone
   o   video phone
   o   instant messaging
   o   sms messaging to mobile phones
   o   chatlines
   o   conference calls
   o   voicemail
   o   contact list
   o   call logfile
   o   free calls to another VOIP anywhere in the world
   o   cheap calls to landline phones
   o   cheap(ish) calls to mobile phones
   o   hifi sound quality when calling VOIP to VOIP
   o   hands-free calls

   When I first started using VOIP programs I found I could call a friend a mile away for a quarter of the price my telco was charging and the sound quality was a revelation. That's on a call routed via the USA (I live in the United Kingdom).
   They are so good there have been rumours that the telcos (who also supply broadband connections) are going to interrupt or delay internet packets generated by VOIP programs. I've seen no evidence of this yet.
   To use a VOIP program you'll need to add a microphone and loudspeakers to your computer, although you may find a headset is easier to use. A webcam is optional. If you want to call landlines and mobiles you'll need to create a prepay account with the VOIP program company and load in a few pounds.

    V O I P
Description - Does everything listed above.
Recommended - Skype
   In December 2010 Skype started a regime of hidden and compulsory updates. I didn't spot this until May of 2011 when I started Skype and it immediately started downloading code. The only way I could stop it was by killing the download process in task manager. This is the sort of behaviour I expect from a program taken over by a piece of malware, hence the panic. So for five months Skype had been downloading and modifying code on my computer without my knowledge. When I complained about it on the Skype forum my access to the forum was cut off after three posts.
   In October 2011 Skype was bought out by Microsoft.
   The hidden updates have ended as far as I can tell. On my PCs I use a very old copy of Skype on which updates are turned off and which was still supported last time I tried it. All my Skype calls are now made under Android which seems to work as well as Skype ever did.
   There's still nothing to touch it if you have friends in other countries.
Usage - Use as required. Skype is available for Android and Windows smartphones.
Cost - Nothing (Landline & mobile calls are charged)
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e m a i l
Backgrounder - email comes in two flavours:
   o   web-based,
   o   internet-based.

   Web-based email requires starting an account with Hotmail, Yahoo, Google etc. and logging on to a page on the Web to access your mail. I have used this form of email but never been keen on it for obvious security reasons. Your emails are retained on the internet server of the email company. If files aren't on your own computer they are at the mercy of someone else's security. A recent occasion when my Yahoo account was hacked caused me to shut it down for good. Not recommended.

   Failing that you need to start an account with an internet service provider. Your broadband subscription will almost certainly include an email service but that can bring its own complications. If you change broadband supplier your email address and account go down the tubes.

   The best option is to have an independant email account. Buying a website and address gives you this automatically, as well as being an email/website address of your choice.

    e M a i l
Description - Creates, collects and displays email messages from a pop3/smtp mail service.
Recommended - Email
Comment - This is the client which comes with Android. It can display several accounts and addresses and combine them into one inbox. It has junk filters. I've yet to have a problem with it.
Usage - Use as required.
Cost - Nothing.
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a r t    &    g r a p h i c s
Serious art and graphics programs really do need a larger screen than 5.5 inches. However there are still some things which can be done on the tiny screen:
   o   Gallery and display
   o   Photo filters
   o   Sketching (If you've got the talent)
   o   Toys for kiddies (of all ages)

    G a l l e r y
Description -  Displays your pictures.
Recommended -  Gallery
Comment -  This is a very simple program which comes with Android. It displays every picture on the computer. If you install a picture-heavy archive it will display all those pictures too.

I'm looking for a replacement.

Usage -  Use as required.
Cost -  Nothing.

    P h o t o    F i l t e r s
Description - A picture editor which applies filters to photos.
Recommended - PicsArt
Comment - Downloaded this on a whim and spent an entire afternoon playing with it. The concept is simple but the results can be remarkable.
Usage - Use as required.
Cost - £3.82UKP plus other purchases from inside the app.

    S k e t c h i n g
Description - Capable of running complex filters and multiple layers.
Recommended - GIMP Inkscape
Comment - Let me quote from the Gimp website:
"GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. It has many capabilities. It can be used as a simple paint program, an expert quality photo retouching program, an online batch processing system, a mass production image renderer, an image format converter, etc."
   Nothing I would disagree with there. To get a better idea of what it can do look at http://www.gimp.org/about/introduction.html
   You really do need a 10 inch screen for this.
Usage - Use as required.
Cost - Nothing.

    T o y s
Description - Fast and lightweight picture and slideshow viewer.
Recommended - Paper Artist
Comment - Take a photo with this and its immediately converted to a greyscale pencil sketch. You can then run a stylus over it to restore the colours. Simple to use and deceptively sophisticated, it can produce pleasant results.
Usage - Use as required.
Cost - Nothing.
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m e d i a p l a y e r s    &    c o d e c s
Media player conjours forth visions of a program which plays sound recordings and videos. My idea of 'media' also includes; photos, comics, newspapers, magazines, novels and anything else which might reasonably be included. I would like one player to play them all. Failing that a graphical archive of all my media which calls relevant players transparently and updates automatically.

Well its a nice thought.

    V i d e o    P l a y e r    &    C o d e c s
Description - Plays video files.
Recommended - MX Player Pro
Comment - This downloads a package of updated codecs and MX Player itself. This player plays PC format videos, mkv, avi, mpg etc. - no modifications required. I've not had it fail to play yet. Sometimes seperate codec downloads are required. Used on a Galaxy Note II it can happily play 720p HiDef with good quality sound.
Usage - Use as required.
Cost - £3.70UKP

    A u d i o    P l a y e r
Description - Plays sound files.
Recommended - Music
Comment - Comes with Android and seems adequate to the task. No complaints about sound quality.
Usage - Copy your folders of MP3s into the music folder of the Note II (or whatever). 'Music' will find them and present you with a nice menu. No need to buy new music unless you want to.
Cost - Nothing
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t e x t    r e a d e r s
What I'm referring to here is the sort of program which presents a page of text on the screen. It sounds like it ought to be easy, but unfortunately it isn't.

Text readers are really another sort of media player (likewise picture viewers).

The problem here is there are several different formats and no universal player. Not that I can find anyway. There are seven main formats and two dead DRM formats which were quite popular. I've listed the players by the three letter filename suffix:
   o   .cbr, .cbz
   o   .epub
   o   .mobi
   o   .pdf
   o   .doc
   o   .rtf
   o   .htm (aka .html)
   o   .txt
& unfortunately:
   o   .lit

If you can't see the suffix on your computer look at the processes section on this website where I describe how to turn it on.

,mobi is the format I use on the Note II. Most Android players can read it and so can Calibre on an MS Windows PC.

    . e p u b ,    . m o b i    P l a y e r
Description - Plays most e-book files.
Recommended - UB Reader
Comment - UB Reader can find your folders of mobi files and create a searchable archive of them. It can then present a chosen book for reading. It keeps your place in a part-finished book.
Usage - Use as required.
Cost - £3.00UKP (varies)

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b r o w s e r s
Android installations usually arrive with two Web Browsers. Chrome and Internet. Both are written by Google and both are free. Both do an adequate job but niether are my choice.

    W e b    B r o w s e r
Description - Displays website pages from the internet.
Recommended - Firefox
Comment - Of the available web browsers I chose Firefox fairly early while I was having trouble keeping WindowsXP going. I have had no reason to change.
   There are two add-ons which make Firefox into a killer app (nearly): Adblock Plus and Flashblock. They remove advertising and the jittery jumpers caused by Flash.
   Firefox for Android can also access your PC Firefox Favourites list if you keep it on the cloud.
   My only complaint with the developers of Firefox is that they should hold their new versions until matching releases of Adblock Plus and Flashblock are ready.
Usage - It does need to be carefully set up. Refer to the Processes section on this site. Use as required. Do not allow it to auto-update.
Cost - Nothing.

    F i l e    B r o w s e r
Description - Displays the folders and files on your Android computer.
Recommended - My Files
Comment - Comes free with Android. Very simple but adequate.
Usage - Use as required. Does not auto-update.
Cost - Nothing.
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g e o g r a p h y
Most Android phones, phablets and tablets come with a GPS sensor. It makes possible route direction finding and traffic condition displays.

    M a p p i n g    P r o g r a m
Description - shows 3d mapping and photos of the whole planet.
Recommended - Maps
Comment - Written by Google, it comes free with Android. It can do everything described above and more. Most modern phablets can run this.
Usage - Use as required. Do not allow it to auto-update.
Download - here
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d e v e l o p m e n t
These programs are useful if you need to make updates while away from your computer. In particular if you write raw code using JavaScript and HMTL of one flavour or another you may find these suggestions useful.
   o   editor
   o   ftp client

Although most of the other programs on my computer are pressed into service at one time or another when I'm building a website.

    E d i t o r
Description - A multi-featured code editor.
Recommended - webMasterLite
Comment - Not had to use it in anger yet. Its basic but seems to do the job.
Usage - Use as required.
Cost - £3.05UKP.

    F T P    c l i e n t
Description - A file transfer protocol client program.
Recommended - WM FTP Client
Comment - Again pretty basic but it gets the job done.
Usage - Use as required.
Cost - Nothing.

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Last update: 4th July 2014
Site & Contents Copyright © 2001-2014 Gerry Parnham BSc - All Rights Reserved

t h i s    p a g e
security & maintenance
art & graphics
media player & codecs
text readers
u p d a t e s
I update this site on a regular basis, so what's here reflects my current kit.

If you find a broken link or a piece of freeware that no longer performs as I describe, please let me know. I'll sort it out. Mail me by clicking on the 'contact me' link at top left of this page.
p r o c e d u r e s
Microsoft have never had the faintest idea of how to design and explain a user interface, you only have to look at an Apple computer to see that.

I've always complained about how badly WindowsXP is set up when first installed and Windows7 is no better. The icons are jammed together, the taskbar is locked in place and too small to use properly. Though with Windows7 you can at least change the colour. This is caused by the fact that Microsoft is populated by engineers who designed Windows to be an engineers toy, then tried to make it easy to use by giving it big letters.

The best way to make Windows7 easy to use is to run it on a large, high definition screen and then follow my setup instructions in the 'procedures' page of this website.
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