Two questions that I’m sure fellow Salon bloggers and other readers can help me with:

  1. advice duckWhere do you buy music online? I used to be a CDNow user, but since they were bought out last year the selection has dropped and the Amazon interface is much poorer (you can only hear samples from a few songs on each CD). Where do you go for unusual genres and non-mainstream music? Someone recommended GEMM but it looks a bit flaky. And where can you sample the whole CD?
  2. What essential software do you have on your PC? I’ve just bought a new PC and I’m planning on putting the old standbys on it (MS Office, NAV, ACDSee, Acrobat, IE & Netscape, MS Image Composer, Quicktime, RealPlayer, Skype, WinMX, Shockwave, Winamp, WinZip, WMP). What am I missing that you wouldn’t do without? What freeware and utilities have you added that you still use?
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18 Responses to ADVICE WANTED

  1. Evan says:

    1) I don’t buy music online very often (generally just at christmastime, when there’s something I want to give someone and am having trouble finding locally). But most of the times I’ve done so in the past couple of years, it was from Mozilla Firebird is the best browser I have ever used. PuTTY is the best terminal emulator. I hardly ever run anything else on my windows box; it’s just a fancy terminal for connecting to the UNIX systems that I actually live on, so I can’t comment on much else in the windows software world. But I can tell you: Firebird kicks ass.

  2. Susan says:

    I have an iPod with iTunes (for Windows) and I love it. I put my whole CD collection on it, and now I have 1200 songs in my pocket. iTunes is pretty good, although it’s mainly mainstream stuff, they’re adding new stuff freqently. iTunes also gives you a looser license on the music than the other services, allowing unlimited CD burning. Downside is that iTunes only works with iPod (but you can put any mp3 or CD song on an iPod).

  3. Jennifer says:

    There’s also a knockoff of the PC iPod from a South Korean company called iRiver. They’ve just come out this week. Sweetie has one on order, and he’s really geeked.There’s a really cool shareware program called Irfanview, which you can use to look at and alter various types of picture files (it can even make slideshows). We’ve been using it for years. I even downloaded it on to my work computer, as it works much better than the Dell Picture Viewer that was installed on it.

  4. Sean says:

    I use CD Baby to buy a lot of my music. Not only is it a kick in the pants (their confirmation emails have me rolling), but they also have great ways to browse their selection (by flavor is my favorite). For me, too, they’re a local business (PDX, OR).

  5. Dave Pollard says:

    Thanks everyone — I’ll check out your suggestions. I’ve got a CD Jukebox that comes with its own software, so I too carry my whole music collection in my pocket. And there’s a version of iTunes available for Windows now, too, which I’m going to take a look at. But my musical tastes are so eclectic that usually neither the mainsteam music vendors nor the peer-to-peer download services have what I want, so I end up buying directly from indy sources.I also have the usual other peripherals hooked up (printer/fax/scanner, digicam, MIDI keyboard) which is why I’m kinda stuck with Windows. I’ve used ACDSee and Irfanview interchangeably. Evan, if you use Firebird as your browser, how do you ensure that your pages look OK on IE which most readers still seem to use?Anyone used OpenOffice, the free MS Office equivalent that allows you to read and save documents in Office formats and also produce .pdf and flash files? I’ve got Office 2000, but it’s so bloated and slow it’s ridiculous.

  6. john says:

    Utility I can’t live without (only because I have a “server” farm at home: RealVNC (

  7. Jason Jystad says:

    Firebird has become my primary browser as well, I use it for most of my surfing. For that matter I’m using it to post this comment. :) As far as making sure your pages look good in IE also, I do the same thing I have always done – I check it. As a web developer by trade I always have IE, Opera, Firebird, and Netscape installed for testing. Though since Netscape, Mozilla, and Firebird share a rendering engine one could argue that you don’t need to test all of them. I also usually test on IE and Safari on the Mac. In spite of this I do most of my surfing with Firebird.As far as iTunes goes, I don’t even have a pocket jukebox yet. I do plan on getting an iPod someday, unless something better comes out in the meantime, but I really just use iTunes as a player and CD ripper. I have tried evey other player over the years and I regularly go out and try new players and new versions of players I have tried before. I have never found one that had all of the features I wanted. It has been the usual story of “If I could just combine the features from these three players I would be happy”. Until now. I am thrilled with iTunes, every time I think I have a gripe about missing functionality I either discover that the functionality is there or that there is another way to do what I want. I honestly could care less about the store. Don’t get me wrong I think it is a good idea, but I have some things I don’t like about it as well. I may use it in the future, but not so far. I have two primary issues with the store, my musical tastes are all over the map and much of the money still goes to the big record labels and the RIAA. I am trying not to support these twits, I only buy music from them when it is the only way I can get a piece of music I want. I actually buy my CDs direct from the artists whenever possible, that way the money goes where I want it to. If I buy from a label, I try to make sure it is one that treats thier artists fairly. I am currently watching a label called MagnaTune to see how they develop. It looks interesting, though their stable is pretty small yet.I have and do use OpenOffice. I actually vastly prefer it to MSOffice in many ways. There are still things I prefer to do in MSOffice, but more often then not it is just because I already know how to do it there not because OpenOffice can’t do it. As I get better with OpenOffice I use MSOffice less and less. My first experience with it was typing up a paper that had photos in it with text flowed around them. That was so much easier in OpenOffice I just sat there and stared in disbelief. Not because of interface issues either, the program just did what you expected with the photos. If you wanted to drag a photo down two lines of text then you went ahead and did it, getting Word to do that requires much more work. Interoperablility with MSOffice is surprisingly good, there are occasional problems but they are generally easily fixed.

  8. Jason Jystad says:

    (Looking at CDBaby for the first time)*snort* this is pretty cool. :)

  9. Jason Jystad says:

    Oh, I almost forgot to mention. I have been using CutePDF to cut PDFs for a while.

  10. Philip says:

    filezilla(ftp GUI), htmlKit Editor(great code editorwith a ton of HTML support), ditto on VNC (free remote desktop to all Windowsversions), WinRAR(better the WinZip and free), AVG(FREE AV) screw Norton AV bloatware, putty (for ssh), w.bloggar, NeoTrace Express(Graphical ping/trace/whois free as well)MS Office works well for me. It is the business world standard and I can’t afford to have any incompatabilities, I wouldn’t risk my business or reputation to tweak Microsoft. I found using Star Office to be a pain (I was running it under Solaris on my Sparc) It may have got betterit has been a few years since I used it.

  11. Can’t offer anything in the way of online music. But here’s other stuff that makes my Top Ten list.- AudioGrabber for ripping MP3 files- Nero Burning ROM for writing CDs- tightVNC for remote access- DirectUpdate for automatically keeping my dynamic DNS connected to the right IP address- Readerware, the best damn book database on the planet.Best free utility:Dave’s Quick Search Bar <>

  12. Kate says:

    I use iTunes too. I’m a mac user, so it’s a bit more “natural” for me to have found my way to iTunes, but don’t let that stop you! I just bought a few songs from the iTunes music store tonight. Only 99 cents each.

  13. Doug Alder says:

    You need some spyware utilities – Ad Aware and Spybot S&D are good

  14. Stu Savory says:

    Given that the Blog is called “Save the World”, I’d have thought you would have LINUX on your PC ;)

  15. Fiona says:

    I’m usually scared to try this kind of stuff… but this inspired me to give it a shot. I just purchased my first album at the Apple music store. But I don’t have an iPod so I’ll probaby burn a CD. Thanks for emboldening me. I picked Verve Remixed 2. Hot!!

  16. Dave Pollard says:

    Thanks again everyone. The new PC arrives Wednesday so with all these new things to check out I may not come up for air until Friday. If there’s no post Thursday you’ll know why.

  17. Mike says:

    I use MindManager from, 2002 Business edition, along with an XML importer/exporter from BlueBridge Technologies AG ( ). You might also want to check out MindGenius (formerly Ygnius) for an alternative. It’s a great way to organize lots of documents.

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