Dec 12, 2014

How to install all your software on a fresh Windows install

One word: Chocolatey.

Have you ever got a new computer, and spent the first week finding the software you're used to, downloading and installing every one? Did it ever happen that you couldn't find the right download location? Well, this may be the solution.

Chocolatey is a package manager, sort of like a program store, or if you are familiar with apt or rpm from linux, it's much like that. It's command line based, and that's a good thing. In my opinion it's very often a great thing...

In short, it lets you download and install all the different software that has been packaged and uploaded to the chocolatey database. It also handles dependencies, for instance the .NET framework, or python 3, or any other prerequisite.

The great thing about it being command line based is this:
You can create a script that installs all your favourite software.

Doesn't that sound sweet? I realize that it may not appeal to all of you, but as a computer geek and developer, it's very helpful, not to mention cool. It's also a real time-saver since most of the installations require no user input at all.

So to get started, you need to visit Chocolatey, copy the text from the first box on the page, and paste it into an administrator command prompt.

Next, you need to either install programs from command prompt like so:
choco install vlc (installs vlc media player)

Or you can install everything from a config file, like my example below, just save it with a .config extension!

choco install filename.config

You can see my sample config file here, it includes my favourite development tools:

Have fun setting up your next computer in a jiffy!

And remember to contribute; if you find that something's missing from Chocolatey, it's easy to upload your own package for it! Please read Chocolatey's guide first, there are some rules to follow.

Dec 9, 2014

The search for a great free antivirus on Windows 8

So, I just got a new laptop. It's a great little machine, a Dell XPS 13, and it came preloaded with very little software. That's a good thing if you ask me!

One of the handful of programs preinstalled was MacAfee antivirus. It came with a free one-year license, and I decided to take it for a spin. That did not last very long... I constantly noticed it eating CPU time, slowing down  my computer while eating away battery. Huh! It did have some cool features such as an online central for managing all your MacAfee enabled devices, but that just didn't help. I had to find something less intrusive.

I tried AVG, which I remember that I liked some years ago. It's still free, and it looks like it's working well, but it's just so annoying with all the sales pitch! You have to be very alert to click the right button and not end up buying and expansion or upgrade. It's like "free to play" antivirus, so it had to go, too. In addition, it feels a little overzealous with what pages and extensions it alerts the user about.

Then I went to Avast, which I run on my desktop computer. It's not bad, but even Avast's free version is getting a bit naggy. It does not slow down my computer, however, which makes it better than AVG and MacAFee.

Then finally I arrived at my current choice: Avira. It has a free edition, it does not slow down your computer, it does not nag too much about purchasing the full version, and it does a great job in keeping updated on the newest threats.  Oh, just be aware that it wants to install dropbox along with it.

All the packages I tried, all were free and had both desktop and mobile versions. If you really need a "central" to manage all your household units in one place, MacAfee is the winner. Otherwise, try Avira!

Let me know if you have a favourite of your own I can try!

Jun 1, 2014

Keeping data safe - part four

As I said, the final part of this series would be about using services that let you forget about backup. That is, unless you are really devoted to avoid data loss. And we are, aren't we?

The cloud and it's services has made this much more available only over the last year or so. There's a host of online services:

  • file storage (dropbox, Microsoft's onedrive (previously known as skydrive), google drive, jotta cloud, amazon, just from the top of my head)
  • online office apps
  • music and video streaming (spotify, wimp, youtube, hbo, netflix)
  • todo-lists like Wunderlist
  • online notebooks such as Evernote
  • specialized storages like flickr let you store and share your images
  • source code repositories
  • e-mail - back in the day, it was downloaded to a file on your computer. today, it's a given that it's available online.
  • and more
And with all of these services, backup is taken care of for you. In some cases, like a music streaming service, you don't have your music files backed up, but you have access to a whole library of music, that I pretty much can guarantee has a good backup strategy.

They also have apps for different systems, so you can get a hold of your stuff from work, from your cell phone, or from your linux laptop.

This means that you don't have to back up every single file on your existing drive. Instead, you can concentrate on the bits that aren't taken care of in the online services.

Imagine you're only using online services. Hard drive crashed? No problem. Just reinstall the operating system, and you're good to go. Seems too good to be true? Chrome OS already does this.

So what I'm suggesting is partly utilizing these services that already take care of the important part for you, so you can concentrate on actually generating more important personal memories (data). The different services offer different pricing models and features, so you need to consider them and make an educated choice for yourself.

Then know what's not included in the online storage, and assure that that part of your data is safely backed up as well.

Finally, I'd like to recommend taking a minute to value the different data. I mean, not every single file, but in groups: Family photos? Probably the one thing, next to work, that I'd really hate losing forever. Forever like in a house fire.

If an online service is terminated, there's a good chance your data won't be accessible. Likewise if your user is deleted for some reason, the terms of the service may state that they are required to keep your data only for a few hours...

Now the probability that your hard drive crashes simultanously to some critical error with your storage service, or very close to that, is of course very small. But it does exist. So if you really need to be sure, you should consider adding another backup to your system.