Brett Rants

Installed Programs

The ones I know about, at least.

Programs on My Machine

This page being a listing of the programs (organized by problem domain ) that I have loaded on my computer as of mid-May 2016. These are the programs that I would miss and feel the need to reload upon the purchase of a new machine (and not just the flotsam I haven't bothered to clean up or that were loaded as support). In times past, I would have written this out on a piece of paper. And in fact, the reason I'm doing this now is because I came across such a piece of paper. It was, of course, woefully out of day... as will be this page, soon enough.

I suppose I should, also, mention that I run Windows. And although I'd been thinking seriously about switching over to Linux (Arch Linus, if you must know), with the recent announcement that Windows 10 will soon support native Linux binaries, I see little reason to make the switch now.


I could have called this section programming; but no, I program almost exclusively in Python. Another language would most likely be better served by a different tool chain.
Python 2.7
I'm on 2.7.8, but that last '.' hardly matters to me. I currently use the Anaconda distribution. But upon reloading, I'd import the libraries I need one by one.

Eclipse with PyDev
This is my IDE (Interactive Development Environment) of choice. I can't say that it's better than the alternatives. But of all the alternatives I've tried, it was the first one that really agreed with me. Also, the main reason for loading libraries one by one would be to avoid the overload I get for syntax completion. There are too many options and I don't need selections for libraries that I never use.
There are other smaller tools that I use. But in the end, they are of little importance. If I couldn't get them to run on a new machine, I'd soon find a different solution or work around.


These pages do not write themselves, you know. Nor do I simply snap my fingers to load them to the server.
I hand code these pages using Notepad++ with the JSLintNPP syntax highlighter/debugger and the language set to Imperial English. That last was an error upon setup, but I've come to enjoy the flavour it provides.

Is my FTP client of choice. I don't use a CMS (Content Management System) like Django, Drupal, or WordPress. So, the directory layout on disc is the same as on site. To load it from disc to server, I use this. It's astoundingly easy.

Or on windows, WinHTTrack. This bad boy will download a website, structure intact. I'm busy making my own scanners/downloaders, but neither will work so well on dynamic (CMS) sites. Still, it's worthy of mention, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all that. Downloading a website en-mass makes it way easier to understand what's happening under the hood, exposing all the JavaScript as that does.
I started to learn HTML syntax using Kompozer. But I've outgrown it. And find the tags Kompozer used are not my liking now that I understand the other options out there. Still, a great place to start and worth noting.

Also, I have the XAMPP stack loaded, just never use it. I am not a full stack developer by any stretch of the imagination.


The tool chain for novels and short stories.
Microsoft Word
I've tried moving to Open Office, but I don't like it as much. Meanwhile, simple text files lack the proper formatting abilities (italics, underline, etc.)

Nuance PDF
I will lose this when I upgrade machines as I have it under one of those pesky limited install licences. Originally, it was acquired for breaking apart large 1000+ page pdfs, files that the free alternatives choked on. I will miss it. I really like how easily it converts a .doc to a .pdf.

Images and Graphics

I'm mainly a word guy. So rather than writing in support of imagery. I usually create imagery to support my writing.
My image viewer of choice. I also call it from the command line from within Python as a simpler alternative to PIL.

OpenOffice Draw
I use Draw for graphical layouts. Almost all the 8.5"x11" text/graphic spreads on this site were made with Draw. For cracking pdf's, I use (I'm pretty sure) the oracle-pdfimport extension (or if that doesn't do the trick, aoo-pdf-import). I found this easier than using Nuances suite for loading a pdf, changing it, and outputing a new one.

Inkscape is a pure vector graphics image creation program. It's what I use to make my watermarks or other stand alone 'crafted' image files. For something like a business card, I might make the graphical effects in Inkscape, export that as a png (with clear alpha channel) and import to OpenOffice Draw to add the text and format multiple copies on a page for printing.

As Inkscape is to Vector Graphics, Audacity is to sound. I'm not much of a sound guy. But this is my goto for editing sound files or changing their format (lame_enc.dll plugin required for the later).

It's a simple gif maker. Whenever possible, I make my gifs inside a Python program (at the same time that I create the feeder images). But if I want a gif from unmodified photos, unFREEz is what I use.
I probably would reinstall ImageMagick and ffmpeg, as well. But as so many other programs call these two under the hood, they'd probably get reinstalled anyway. I like MoviePy for making gifs; but it's just a Python wrapper that calls whichever of these two is already installed. In fact, it's surprising to me how 'inbred' so many computer programs are. If I'd known MoviePy was just going to call ImageMagick or ffmpeg, I probably would have simply called them from the command line as a subprocess. But, whatever. Rant for another day. I also have openCV (open Computer Vision) loaded, but I use the Scipy/Scimage stack far more often. These last two are Python libraries and it comes to mind that at the end (or on another page), I should go down my list of must have (numpy, skimage) Python libraries, versus those that I use (MoviePy). Do I really need a wrapper at this point? End rant.


Microsoft Excel
A simple table is almost always all that I need. There are plenty of free alternatives. I'd rather use Excel.

GNU Cash
GNU Cash a minimalistic double entry accounting program. The 'books' for last year took up 15kb on disk, the same thing in QuickBooks may well have taken up 15mb. It's simple, easy, and free. And it doesn't do a tenth of what QuickBooks does. Unfortunately, I'm not that sophisticated, so what GNU Cash doesn't have simple looks like needless complication and flashy bells and whistles to me.

This is actually hardware (a scanner) and not software. But running an electronic office (as of 2016, started in 2006, so I like to think I know what I'm about when it comes to being paperless) requires the ability to convert from paper to digital. ScanSnap is expensive, not free, top of the line, but worth it in my opinion. I get better images at a smaller memory footprint than anything else I've tried. And a small memory footprint is important to me (see back-up, below).

Gadwin Printscreen
Perhaps odd that I would put this in financial, but whenever I'm on some website where it would be appropriate to 'print this page for your records', I print the screen to an image file using Gadwin Printscreen. Actually, what I usually do is take screen capture after screen capture and stack them together using Nuance into a single pdf. So, for a standard online transaction, I might have 5-10 images capturing the different steps. These are just temporary, however, and get killed from the record after a year, like notes to a phone call that are discarded after they are no longer relevent.


True, most of my correspondence is one sided (me as an author or other authors to me, gad, they can be a stupid lot, those authors), but other times it's a two way street.
Internet Explorer
It may not seem like it, but I'd have to say this is my browser of choice as I use it for the 'important' stuff.

Mozilla Firefox
I use Firefox for the rest, so it's the browser I use most often. So, security not just by closing down the browser between sites. But security by having different browsers for different purposes.

iPhone Safari
What I really use for browsing, when I'm just browsing. Ah, a person can't get too paranoid. A whole different-machine level of paranoia going on there.

Windows Live Mail
This was my main mail client when I was working: simple, clean, never gave me any grief.

Mozilla Thunderbird
Maybe I have too many email addresses? Nah.

SMS Backup
There was a time when I cared about my Text Message correspondence. Maybe, someday I will again. To pull the SMS out of the iPhone (actually, the on disk computer back up), I used EaseUSMobiSaver and/or iBackUp Extractor. Oh, and as of this posting, in
C:\Users\Takosori\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync
there is a file that starts with 3d0d7e... (that's a zero, and goes on for quite a few digits from there). This file contains the (SMS) text message history. Trust a computer company to give a file a stupid name like that rather than something reasonable like sms_history.db.

Computer Management

It's as much about not hiring the wrong people as it is hiring the right.
I'm paranoid, so I do a full root scan on a regular basis, along with whatever Norton feels is appropriate. I use Norton, because I get it for free. Yeah, it sucks in it's own special way (it's slow, takes up a lot of resources, fails to auto-magically fix problems itself, and let's cookies that it later decides are low security risks to take up residence on my machine), but from what I've seen, all that seems to be par for the course when it comes to security.

CCleaner is little more than a wrapper (a nice GUI: graphical user interface) around a batch program. Still, it works. Cleans out the hard to reach temporary files. I use it monthly. Most of these defensive programs I use on a monthly basis: some this day of the month, some that, so I don't get overloaded on any one day (and to keep the bad guys guessing).

Zeroes out the empty bits on the hard drive. Delete operations just kill the header. This overwrites the entire thing. Before drilling the cores and incinerating the hulks, this is the sort of operation the military performs on its old hard drives. Or in other words, I like to be thorough.

Provides a nice graphical representation of how the hard disk is being used. I'm sort of obsessed with having a small data footprint. This allows me to better see where my hard drive space is being used.

Process Explorer
These programs are not being listed in order of importance. All the previous in this section, I use once a month. I have Process Explorer running all the time on my machine. It's an upgraded replacement for the default TaskManager: and ironically, can kill many programs that the later cannot. I have sixty one processes currently running on my computer. And when my computer overheats (runs hot, slow, or whatever), I generally know why (the offending process). Though, that doesn't mean I know what svchost.exe is up to this time. Oh, yeah, svchost.exe and TrustedInstaller are not team players, not one little bit.

I don't use WireShark as much as I should. Let's just say, if you're connected to the Internet, your computer is probably having a lot more conversations than you have any idea. This program detects, traces, and I presume allows one to intercept (and preferentially block) all of those exchanges. And if you care about SMTP, HTTP, and/or TCP/IP protocols at a packet level, then this is the program for you. Many a hacker has started with less.

Eh, does iTunes even belong on a list like this. Well, maybe, somewhere. I like my iPhone. Sure, it's annoying. Windows is annoying. Linux is annoying. They are all annoying. But for a phone, I definitely prefer Apple's rendition. Someday it will all be an integrated lifestyle choice, at which point, I'll probably go Microsoft. Have I mentioned their embracing Linux? Yes, well, then doesn't that sort of imply the type of expansive mindset a person like me might appreciate?

Back Up

num_copies_data - 1 = data_importance

I like this formula. Oh, sure. It's just a clever saying, but without a few dozen copies of my data, I have a hard time sleeping at night.
7zip is a compression utility with one of those simple GUI's that will take a gigs worth data (or more, but moving more than 1-2 gigs is hard, difficult, impossible for most systems) and compress it down into the format of one's choosing using a variety of algorithms with optional password encryption (.zip, .tar, .7z, if that was unclear). It's fantastic. I used to use TrueCrypt, but like 7zip better. TrueCrypt uses images, which means the size is pre-determined (user selected in advance); whereas 7zip just makes the file as large as required (so, dynamically allocated).

Duplicati is a free, dedicated, back up utility: compression and encryption included. It's more specialized that 7zip. I use 7zip to unzip code packages. I don't think Duplicati can restore anything but it's own files. Heck, like so many things, I wouldn't be surprised to learn Duplicati used 7zip or some of the same libraries under the hood. But suffice to say, Duplicati is great at running incremental backups, diff'ing between back ups, and only updating the bare minimum. On a typical day, I might have 20,000kb worth of diff's, which is all that needs to saved to keep the restore up to date. For a simple point of reference, this file is currently at 16kb (as I write), so really, we're talking about a few images or pdf's taking up most of the space on any given day.

Got to store those back ups somewhere.

I am philosophically apposed to the concept of cloud-documents, but Google has so many free services. I say, use them all.

KeePass 2
KeePass is an encrypted database, designed to store passwords. But I've not run into any size limitations, so along with passwords, I use it to store phone numbers, addresses, and everything and anything like that. There's also an iPhone app. So, I manage it on the computer and pass the .kdbx (KeePass data-base extension, I'm guessing) through iTunes into the phone to take everywhere, your (and/or my) passwords need to be.
And I do believe that's it. (The Python Libraries will have to wait for another day).

But while I'm on the subject of Back-Ups, if anyone is looking for the Next Big Thing™, I would really like a free back-up service that was non-erasable and eternally retrievable. The basic concept being: I install the service and it just works, no cost, no worry, no nothing. Most importantly, if I am hacked, no one can go into the system (enter into the website, make a phone call, or whatever) and delete the data. It's there, forever. I have enough normal back ups. What I need is something solid: gun to my head solid. And if all else fails and I can't pull my data from somewhere else, well, I don't know how much my data would be worth. All of it, for the past ten years, if this service was the sole surviving repository. Well, that would be worth a pretty penny to anyone who cared about their data. However, I already have enough self-serve free options. So at this point, I'm only willing to pay after the fact (and not in advance or as I go), if I have no other choice. So, what I am describing is a fail-safe back-up on spec. Though, I wouldn't discount the amount of money a person might be willing to spend to retrieve the sole remaining copy of that novel that they spend five years of their life perfecting, a deceased loved one's final correspondence, or wedding pictures / family album.

Of course, the truth is, it would probably be easier to start a club and exchange thumb drives once a month. But that doesn't solve the crazy espionage gun to the head, data persistence no matter the externalities. But, whatever. I spend a lot of time working on data persistence. It's one of the reasons the size of my data footprint is so important to me: smaller size equals easier implementation of multiple data redundancy plans.

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Facilitated by a minimalistic-footprint, data is persisted through multiple-redundant pathways utilizing a variety of readily-available, free, and open-source resources

Just sort of rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?

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