AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 2011

AVG Anti-Virus is one of the handiest free antivirus systems available for personal users.

Despite being a free security tool, AVG Anti-Virus is as good as any paid app. It features a bunch of dedicated modules to protect you from antivirus, spyware, rootkits and spam, and also includes the so called LinkScanner – an extra layer of protection that checks search results and web links to make sure they’re safe.

One of the best things about AVG Anti-Virus is that it offers neat, effective protection while staying silently minimized in your system tray, without guzzling system resources and of course, without constantly bothering you with warning windows or update messages. Being the free version of a complete program, AVG Anti-Virus shows the odd nag screen encouraging you to buy AVG Professional, something which may annoy more sensitive users.

AVG Anti-Virus has dramatically improved with its latest version. It features a nicely designed, more user-friendly interface, and includes a desktop widget from which you can scan the system or update the virus database. Of course, you still have the same three types of scan: full system, selected files and folders and anti-rootkit. AVG Anti-Virus also lets you schedule scans for a certain day and time.

The whole AVG Anti-Virus package should be enough to ensure you’re not infected with any virus. The program also integrates seamlessly with Windows Explorer, allowing you to scan files from their context menus. AVG Anti-Virus’s database is automatically updated on a daily basis, so you’re always protected from even the most recently discovered threats.

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Mozilla Firefox 3.6.13

No longer a fledgling upstart, Firefox is the gold standard of alternatives to the still-dominant Internet Explorer. Firefox 3.6 is full-featured, lightning fast, and secure. Its killer selection of add-ons remains strong, with built-in support for the next generation of themes, called Personas, plus the latest update makes version 3.6 about 20 percent faster than version 3.5. However, competition is strong and it can no longer be said that Firefox is the fastest browser available.

Several notable improvements in the latest revamp keep Firefox abreast of current browsing tech. In addition to the aforementioned improvements made to the TraceMonkey JavaScript engine so that it renders Web applications faster, there have also been other significant under-the-hood changes. These include: blocking third-party software from encroaching on Firefox’s file system turf to increase stability; support for the Web Open Font Format, which means many non-English browser users should have a faster time loading Web pages with downloadable fonts; and support for the File interface, which can help with tasks such as uploading multiple photos and is part of the draft HTML5-standard effort. HTML5 support debuted in Firefox 3.5. Another deeper change to the browser is that it is now running scripts asynchronously, which can help to load a Web page faster by putting off some work until the high-priority chores are complete. Firefox 3.6 also isolates out-of-date plug-ins so they do not become a security risk.

Unlike Firefox 3.5, which was more about keeping the browser current rather than blazing new trails, Firefox 3.6 is once again on the warpath. Upgrading is highly recommended.

  • Price: Free
  • Operating system: Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/7

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VLC Media Player 1.1.7

VLC Media Player is a long-time open-source favorite, and the latest version is also the first to be out of beta development. It’s not the only option for free video playback, but it’s one of the best, and the feature updates in version 1 make it well worth the upgrade.

Users can now get frame-by-frame advancement, granular speed controls allowing for on-the-fly slower or faster playback, and live recording of streaming video. The toolbars are fully customizable, so you can have only the buttons you need in the interface, there’s AirTunes streaming, and there’s better integration in Gtk environments. Along with the improvements, VLC continues to offer robust support for a wide range of video and audio formats, including OGG, MP2, MP3, MP4, DivX, HD codecs like AES3, Raw Dirac, and even support for playing back zipped files. The default interface is still a stripped down player that belies VLC’s functionality and features. Skinning can fix that quickly, but behavior can still be a bit unpredictable depending on the quality of the skin. VLC’s open-source foundation and community ensures that it evolves quickly and often, with new features and fixes released frequently. Overall, VLC Media Player is a must-have application for its ability to open just about any type of video file you throw at it

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