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Internet Software

Copyright © 1999-2000, 2002-2007, 2011, 2013-2015 by David E. Ross

Various applications and tools help with surfing the Internet. Some of these are fundamental, allowing the user to send and receive E-mail or to browse the Web. Others make accessing Web pages quicker. And others provide information not otherwise available. Some of my favorite Internet software is listed below. All of these are available as freeware or shareware and can be downloaded through the links at the software names or from secondary sources found with a good search engine. Links to the sources are for home pages. (For some freeware or shareware, the download pages cannot be readily found through the home pages.)

Note that I am using this software on a PC with Windows 7. Some of this software comes in versions for the Macintosh.

I have mixed feelings about paying for software. I resent paying for shareware that others use for free, and I question buying "purchase-ware" when the capabilities of the related freeware are sufficient for me. However, as a software engineer, I must recognize the need of software developers to earn a living. In any case, read the license. In most situations, freeware and shareware are licensed only for personal, non-commercial use. Personal use does not include use at work. Depending on where the software was created and where you are using it, commercial or work-related use of software contrary to its license might result in civil or even criminal penalties.

[On this Web page (and on some of my other pages), I use certain technical terms that appear as links to their definitions. If you select any of those links, the page of definitions will appear in a separate browser window so that you will not have to keep going back and forth between pages. Once the window with the definitions has opened, selecting a link for a different term will reposition the definitions to that term. However, if that window was in the background when the link was selected, it will remain in the background. In that case, you merely need to bring the definitions widow forward.]

DNS Bench
Have you ever seen a task with an Internet application delayed? Often, that might be caused while the application is trying to access a domain name server (DNS). Some DNSs are slow, and some even cease to operate. Have you ever tried to reach a Web site but entered the wrong URI? Did you get a Web page that advertises domains or something else for sale? You have accessed a DNS that redirects your browser rather than reporting your error.

DNS Bench is a tool that scans a large list of DNSs to determine which ones provide the quickest and most accurate results. It also flags those that redirect on errors (something you might want to avoid). Since the quality of DNSs changes with time, I run this every few months. The results allow me to update my Internet setup to use different DNSs. NOTE: Such updates should be done only by experienced Internet users.

Source: Gibson Research Corp

NetScan Tools
Have you ever tried to load a Web page and get no response? When that happens to me, I use NetScan Tools to ping the page's domain. A failure to get a reply to my ping means either the domain's server is down or there is something wrong in the route through the Internet to that server. I can use NetScan Tools to examine that route. If I have an IP address, I can use NetScan Tools to get the associated domain name and vice versa and even the name of a contact person for that domain; this can be very handy when complaining about spam.

Source: Northwest Performance Software

RealPlayer
Some radio stations broadcast into the Internet. See my Music on the Internet page and scroll down to "Streaming Radio" for information.
SeaMonkey
SeaMonkey over Mozilla The first Web browser I used was Netscape. The Netscape company was bought out by AOL before the latter merged with Time-Warner. Shortly after AOL announced that it would no longer develop new versions of Netscape, the Mozilla Foundation was created and acquired AOL's rights to Netscape. (At the Netscape company, Mozilla had been an internal name for the project that developed the browser.)

After releasing several versions of its renamed Mozilla Suite (browser, E-mail and newsgroup client, and other tools), the Mozilla Foundation started unbundling its product. Firefox became a browser-only product, while Thunderbird became the E-mail and newsgroup client. The combined Mozilla Suite was relegated to an internal-only base for the unbundled products.

Although I had experienced the use of Internet Explorer (IE), as a software engineer I much preferred the capabilities of Netscape and the subsequent Mozilla products. The Mozilla browser was especially superior to IE. However, I found that the user interface for Firefox was not as good as the interface of the prior Mozilla browser. Thus, I was happy to learn that a group of Mozilla Suite fans had received permission from the Mozilla Foundation to take the open-source code of the internal-only base and release it to the public under a different name: SeaMonkey. The Mozilla Foundation even hosts the distribution of SeaMonkey. Whew! What a relief! The evolution of Netscape continues.

Source: Mozilla Foundation

Skype
While the Chatzilla component of SeaMonkey is okay for group texting discussions, I prefer Skype for one-on-one real-time texting with my daughter. This is handy while she is at work and cannot tie up her phone. Now that I have a broadband connection to the Internet, we can also use it for voice conversations. My wife's PC has a Webcam, which allows us to use Skype to actually see our daughter and granddaughter.

Source: Skype

SocketWatch
In a world where perhaps more than half the VCRs do not even have their clocks set, why would a few minutes discrepancy make a difference on a PC? If I am exchanging E-mail with my daughter and I received a message from her shortly after I sent her one, I would like to know (without sending another message) if she sent hers before or after I sent mine. I can check the time each message was sent, but that is valid only if the clocks on her Mac and my PC are accurate. I don't know how my daughter sets her clock, but I keep my PC clock synchronized to highly accurate clocks — mostly atomic clocks — that are setup as Internet time servers.

SocketWatch is the only item on this list of software for which I paid to register. It was available as shareware, but in that form it would synchronize my clock not more than three times in one day. The developer is based in Canada, and the price was quoted in dollars. When I inquired, I was informed that foreign payments had to be in U.S. dollars but that the same number of dollars would be accepted if Canadian dollars were remitted. Since the exchange rate was about $0.65US to $1.00Canada at that time, I got about a one-third discount by having my daughter (then living in Toronto) pay for this and then reimbursing her.

Robomagic Corporation is going out of business. All of its software products are now freeware. I do not know how much longer they will remain available.

Source: Robomagic Corp (was Locutus Codeware (resistance is futile?))

Thunderbird
Like SeaMonkey, this "mail-news" client is a Mozilla-based application. For a long time, I used it only for reading newsgroups, not for E-mail (for which I used a very old version of Eudora Lite). When my Windows XP PC died, however, I found that my old Eudora could not be installed with Windows 7. I was then somewhat forced to adapt Thunderbird for E-mail. Then, my ISP outsourced its E-mail services. My wife's installation of Eudora Lite on her Windows XP PC could not be configured for the new service; so I had to install and setup Thunderbird for her, ending some 20 years of Eudora use in my household.

Many of the bugs in Thunderbird that made me not recommend this application have been fixed. While not perfect, Thunderbird is indeed quite good.

Source: Mozilla

VLC Media Player
VideoLAN's VLC appears to handle most or even all of the streaming broadcasts that can also be handled by RealPlayer and Winamp. (Development and distribution of Winamp discontinued at the end of 2013, but a group is trying to resurrect it.) See my Music on the Internet page and scroll down to "Streaming Radio" for information.
WS_FTP
FTP means file transfer protocol, a standard Internet interface for transferring files across the Internet. I use WS_FTP to upload my Web pages onto my ISP's Web server and to download various files (e.g.: software, text). WS_FTP allows the creation of profiles, each for a different purpose. For example, I have a profile to connect to the host of my Web site. For downloading large files (several megabytes), I prefer WS_FTP over using a Web browser. Thus, I have other profiles for downloading new versions of SeaMonkey, Thunderbird, and other applications. WS_FTP seems less likely to fail in the middle of the download, and it can resume from the point of failure if it does fail. Also FTP seems to download slightly faster than do Web browsers, but that might be just an illusion.

Apparently, freeware versions of WS_FTP are no longer available. I am still using a "light edition" — WS_FTP LE — that I downloaded in 2000.

Source: Ipswitch, Inc.


I do not list a spam-filtering application. I use a combination of SpamAssassin installed at my ISP's mail server (not on my computer) and an internal filtering system within Thunderbird.

Note that no Web filtering software is listed. For several reasons, however, I most definitely reject the very concept of a Web filter:

For more information on this topic, see my Unrated.

Also note that I do not list AOL Instant Messenger, Facebook, Twitter, or any similar tool. See "E-Mail" and "What's Missing Here" under Surfing the Internet for explanations.

Last updated 12 November 2015


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