There are a variety of routine tasks I would recommend when setting up a new Windows PC which may be used within the POLAN network, which I'll review below briefly.
It is assumed that WindowsXP (Professional or Home edition - either should be fine for our purposes) is the windows OS being discussed.
Common "Fresh out of the box" install tasks include:
UPDATE WINDOWS: Visit http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com from within Internet Explorer and apply ALL the latest & recommended security patch clusters. Any "recently" purchased machine will already have "SP2" installed, but if you are updating an old machine this is a critical option that may have to be installed specifically.
UPDATE WEB BROWSER: Visit http://www.mozilla.com/ and download & install the "FireFox" web browser. In my opinion, you should make it your default web browser (fewer security holes than Internet Explorer!). While you are there, you might also want to download "ThunderBird" Email client, an excellent email program (that is also free..)
INSTALL GOOD (FREE) ANTIVIRUS SOFTWARE: Uninstall any crippleware or time-limited function Anti-Virus software (Demo of Norton, McAfee, etc which may have been bundled with your system) and instead get a copy of the free-for-personal-use, "AVG AntiVirus", available from the URL: http://free.grisoft.com . I've used AVG for many years and I find it to be an excellent product with smaller "resource footprint" than many of the big-name-vendor products. By default it schedules a full system scan DAILY, which is overkill IMHO - I recommend disabling this feature from the scheduler. FOOTNOTE: Another good candidate application is available at http://www.free-av.com/ if for any reason you have problems or don't like AVG.
INSTALL GOOD (FREE) ANTI-SPYWARE SOFTWARE: Install anti-spyware programs, Ad-Aware and SpyBot, availale at the URLs http://www.download.com/Ad-Aware-SE-Personal-Edition/3003-8022_4-10399602.html?tag=tab_rev and http://www.spybot.info/en/download/index.html respectively. Install both programs with default options, allow them to update automatically at time of install, and run these apps at least 3-4 times per year (updating and scanning your system) to help catch annoying "spyware" apps that might otherwise infest your system and kill general performance.
INSTALL HANDY FREEWARE UTILITIES: Install some handy freeware apps that are worth their weight in gold:
- CutePDF: Allows you to "Print to PDF" from any windows application. Works well and is 100% free (no annoying ads even). Convert that Word (webpage, XLS Spreadsheet, whatever) document into a PDF document in a jiffy. http://www.cutepdf.com/Products/CutePDF/Writer.asp
- Foxit Reader: Acrobat Reader has been "the" PDF reader for too long, and has become bloated and cumbersome in recent years. Fortunately, there is an alternative available which is small, fast, free, and even has some extra features over AcroRead (such as "Annotation"). http://www.foxitsoftware.com/pdf/rd_intro.php
- Treesize: Helps diagnose where disk space is consumed. http://www.jam-software.com/freeware/TreeSizeSetup.exe
- NotePad Light: Great text editor. http://www.fookes.com/ftp/free/NoteTab_Setup.exe
- Iceows: Think of it as "free winzip" archive app but with more archive formats supported. http://www.iceows.com/HomePageUS.html
- Open Office: MS-Office compatible Office App. VERY good IMHO, especially if you do NOT have extensive "doc sharing with MS-office-people issues". Alternately, all Dal Staff and Students are eligible to use the non-free "StarOffice", a slightly better version of OpenOffice supported by SUN and available at the URL: http://ucis.dal.ca/services/downloads/staroffice.html . OpenOffice is available at the URL, http://www.openoffice.org/ and is free-for-use for ANYONE (not just Dal Staff and Students)
- AbiWord: If all you want is word-processing and OpenOffice is overkill, or you have an older/slower system, then Abiword is a fantastic word processing app to try. All the "core" features (squiggle underline spellcheck, etc) are here, with none of the bloat nor "tedious annoying so-called-helpful" autoformat nonsense of MS_word. http://abisource.org/
- Putty SSH Client: If you need basic console-text access to Unix servers, then SSH is almost for certain the only way to go. This free SSH client works well on ALL windows platforms (Win95->WinXP). http://the.earth.li/~sgtatham/putty/latest/x86/putty.exe
- WinSCP: This is the easiest way to drag-and-drop files between your local windows desktop and a remote unix system, doing file transfer via SCP or SFTP protocols. Freeware, works on all windows platforms. http://winscp.net/eng/download.php
- Cygwin-X: If you need more sophisticated access to remote unix hosts, including X-forwarding of graphical applications to your windows environment, then you might consider trying to install Cygwin-X, a free-open-source port of many linux tools to the windows environment, allowing Xwindows apps to render display to your screen. NOT a trivial install, bandwidth intensive installer (requires approx. 80 megs download of misc files) and can sometimes be a bit fiddley to setup. But it does work! http://x.cygwin.com/
- Image Viewer - IrfanView: IrfanView has been around for many years now and remains an outstanding image viewer application which also provides very handy manipulation features (crop, resize, rotate, TWAIN acquisition, etc etc etc. A MUST for anyone who ever has used the (terrible) MS_Photo Editor and wondered why there was nothing better. Well, there is. http://www.irfanview.com/
- Everything Else!?! There are approximately 10^25 freeware apps available on the net, and sorting through them is more or less a slow business. Fortunately the presence of Freeware review / summary sites, such as this "top 50 freeware apps" - at the URL, http://www.techsupportalert.com/best_46_free_utilities.htm - help simply the task for those who might want more free goodies on their PC.
Other Stuff I WON'T tell you how to do:
There are a few things I won't document here, which I will take care of if you contact me for help, namely:
- Setup Wireless networking for laptops so they work with POLAN wireless routers on 5th floor of Oceanography
- Setup non-wireless networking for Desktop PCs or Laptops so they work with POLAN network
- Possibly, install MatLab if you are eligible / need it.
- Possibly, install MS-Office, if you first arrange to pay for a license ($120 approx from PCPC). [Note that there is no "magical free site license" for MS_Office and I cannot condone piracy or illegal installs].
- Possibly, other specialized software installation and configuration as per your specific needs.