Geeks in Phoenix

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My five favorite free programs of 2011

At Geeks in Phoenix, we like to spotlight useful programs (most of them are free). And in this day and age, who couldn't use some free programs! We had some really great free programs released in 2011. From streaming music to creating websites, the offering was quite nice. Let's take another look at my five favorite free programs of 2011 (in no particular order).

Easily create, customize and publish web apps / websites for free with Microsoft WebMatrix

Microsoft WebMatrix web gallery screen
Microsoft WebMatrix web gallery screen

What a great package from Microsoft! You can get all of the software you need to create and publish a website. And you need is a hosting plan and you're ready to go. Yes, it does take a little time to install all of the software, but it's well worth it. Read the full article here.

Streaming music from the cloud for free with Google Music

Google Music website library
Google Music website library

If you want to stream your music collection from the cloud, Google Music is the program for you. With storage for up to 20,000 songs, it's by far the best free music storage / streaming service. As of this writing, I have over 1,800 songs on Google Music. Read the full article here.

Be more productive in your office for free with OpenOffice 3

OpenOffice3 main screen
OpenOffice3 main screen

OpenOffice is not new program, it's been around for a while. But it is the best alternative to Microsoft Office. And it's completely free. What more can I say. Read the full article here.

Try Windows 8 for free with Windows 8 Developer Preview

Metro interface inside of the Windows 8 Preview
Metro interface inside of the Windows 8 Preview

What can I say, I love to play around with new operating systems. And when I can do it for free, that's even better! If you want to give the Windows 8 Developer Preview a try, remember to use a virtual machine (like VirtualBox) or a computer that is non-productive. Read the full article here.

Calling on the cloud with Google Voice

Google Voice website
Google Voice website

I use Google Voice all the time. I love saving money on long distance and international calls. And for free, come on, it's a no brainier. All you need is a gmail account. Read the full article here.

Try Windows 8 for free with Windows 8 Developer Preview

By now, you have probability started hearing the buzz about Windows 8. Maybe it's the new interface, Metro, which brings touch screen ease of use and the simple tile look of the Windows 7 phone to the desktop. Or maybe it's the Metro apps, that with a connected Windows Live account, can be downloaded and used on any Windows 8 computer you login to. Or, my favorite, the improved multi-monitor options. But did you know you can try it out right now for free with the Windows 8 Developer Preview?

Login Screen inside of Windows 8Developer Preview
The login screen inside of Windows 8 Developer Preview. You slide the screen upward to get to the username and password fields.

Windows 8 Metro Interface
The Metro interface inside of Windows 8 Developer Preview. You scroll from left to right to access the different categories of tiles.

Now I have to warn you that the Windows 8 Developer Preview is a pre-beta version of Windows 8. Fun to play around with but in no way should you use it in a production environment. And remember that some of the features and/or functions may not work properly.

Windows 8 Windows Explorer
The new look of Windows Explorer inside of Windows 8 Developer Preview. Windows Explorer now sports a ribbon style toolbar.

You can upgrade an existing version of Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7. But be forewarned that you cannot uninstall this release. You can also create a multi-boot setup, with Windows 8 on a separate partition. I use Oracle's VirtualBox to run experimental operating systems like this. I downloaded to latest version and it already had pre-configured settings for Windows 8.

Here's a quote from the Windows 8 Developer website:

The Windows 8 Developer Preview is a pre-beta version of Windows 8 for developers. These downloads include prerelease software that may change without notice. The software is provided as is, and you bear the risk of using it. It may not be stable, operate correctly or work the way the final version of the software will. It should not be used in a production environment. The features and functionality in the prerelease software may not appear in the final version. Some product features and functionality may require advanced or additional hardware, or installation of other software.

Note: You can't uninstall the Windows 8 Developer Preview. To go back to your previous operating system, you must reinstall it from restore or installation media.

System Requirements

The Windows 8 Developer Preview works great on the same hardware that powers Windows Vista and Windows 7:

  • 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
  • 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver
  • Taking advantage of touch input requires a screen that supports multi-touch
  • To run Metro style Apps, you need a screen resolution of 1024 X 768 or greater

Notes about installing the Windows 8 Developer Preview

A clean install is supported on all builds, but you can upgrade if you are installing a download without the developer tools. You will receive the full set of migration options when setup is launched in Windows. To dual-boot, you must first boot from media and choose an alternative partition.

For more information on the Windows 8 Developer Preview, just follow the link below:

Windows Dev Center

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