Freeware Recommendations

Because none of these utilities are open-source, I’m not going to bother writing entire reviews of each proggie. However, I did want to offer up my stamp of approval for each one.

The applications I’m going to recommend in this post range from media applications to Web development apps to general miscellaneous utilities.


Parental Filter
First of all, I want to tell you all about a program I just recently discovered while setting up a computer for my family to use. It’s an Internet filtering program designed to keep children from viewing sites that are inappropriate. The program is called simply “Parental Filter”.

Parental Filter is a very flexible filtering utility for Windows. When you install the proggie, it comes pre-built with a huge list of Web sites that are automatically blocked. You can add more sites to or remove sites from the utility. You can also have PF block sites based on keywords and partial matches.

You can also set up a partial allow list, which lets you filter in specific sites that might otherwise trigger the filter. So, if you want your kids to be able to view medical Web sites (which might normally get blocked because of some of the language), or if there are particular sites that might trigger the filter (maybe something like kidsexchange.net–which is a real Web site; called Kids’ Exchange, not Kid Sex Change) you can set PF to allow those sites.

If you really want to keep your kids in the dark, you can set up PF to block everything on the Internet unless you specifically allow it.

You can set PF to run as a hidden background system process or simply as a regular program. You can configure it to require a password to alter the settings, or to allow anyone to change the settings.

SyncBack
SyncBack is a simple back-up and synchronizing utility to allow you to quickly and easily back up and restore your files. SyncBack can be used to synchronize files between your hard drive and any of the following locations: the same hard drive, a separate hard drive, an external drive or flash drive, an FTP server, etc.

You can set up SyncBack to synchronize your files (compare files between the source and the destination and replace older copies with newer copies either direction), back up your files (only replace files when they exist on the source but not in the destination or when they are older in the destination than in the source) or restore your files (the opposite of backing up).

You can configure SyncBack to perform the actions on the entire disk or choose individual subfolders that you want to sync/back up.

Winamp
Well, I don’t think I really need to say anything about Winamp because of how wildly popular and well-known it is. Quite simply, it’s a great media player.

mp3Tag

mp3Tag is a fantastic utility for use with your media files. This proggie can be used to rename your audio files, edit your ID3 tag information, automatically obtain tag information and cover images, etc.

You can use mp3tag to collect the tag information from the CDDB database or from Amazon.com (among other sources). You can use it to rename your mp3 files based on the information contained within their tags, or update their tags based on the filenames.

mp3tag supports the following audio file formats:

  • Advanced Audio Coding (aac)
  • Free Lossless Audio Codec (flac)
  • Monkey’s Audio (ape)
  • Mpeg Layer 3 (mp3)
  • MPEG-4 (mp4 / m4a / m4b / iTunes compatible)
  • Musepack (mpc)
  • Ogg Vorbis (ogg)
  • OptimFROG (ofr)
  • OptimFROG DualStream (ofs)
  • Speex (spx)
  • Tom’s Audio Kompressor (tak)
  • True Audio (tta)
  • Windows Media Audio (wma)
  • WavPack (wv)
Tech Tags: HTMLCenter syncback parental+filter mp3tag

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3 Responses

  • Anthony R

    I can’t get parental filter to work properly. The allow list is supposed to be a “numerically sorted DESC list of network byte ordered values representing big endian addresses”.

    Yeah, I don’t know what that means. There is no help file. And Jesus, although he appears on one of the program screens, is not helping me to find the answer (go figure).

    So how did you get the allow list to work?

  • I saw your post on CNET about harddrive backups and got to this review of SyncBack…
    I agree with you about SyncBack…it’s a great product…especially for being free.
    Regarding your review on “Parental Filter”:
    I personally haven’t check this one out…although I will now….but another one to check out is “K9” (http://www1.k9webprotection.com).
    It’s a very workable solution…works “behind the scenes” and is fairly difficult for even very savvy kids to go around. (I’m a computer geek myself and I couldn’t get around it very easily.)
    I very highly recommend “K9”.
    Later!
    Dan
    http://dantharpmusic.com

  • Thanks for the info, Dan. I’ll be sure to check out K9.

    I tried the most recent version of Parental Filter after reformatting our family computer, and am not nearly as impressed as I initially was. The new version is much more difficult to configure than the old version was.

    I think Anthony (the person that commented above you) was probably using the newer version.

    I would actually recommend trying to find an older version of Parental Filter and giving it a shot.

    You can certainly try a new version, too, but I don’t think you’ll find it nearly as easy to use as the old version (I think the old version I was using is pre-1.0, and the latest version is 3.x).

    Good luck with it; and, again, thank you for your suggestion to try K9.

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