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As someone who basically lives in the wired, I realized I might have picked up a few things useful to those folk who hang out in the big blue room with the yellow light upstairs. If the advice here seems a bit basic, that's intentional - this info is aimed at neophytes.
First of all, an overview of some useful software and web services. Most of this is aimed at Windows users. If you are serious about computer security and want total control of your hardware, you're going to want to move to one of the BSD or Linux distributions. For the exceptionally paranoid, it's worth noting that AMD and Intel processors may already be compromised in several (509) 985-6055. But hey - a Talos workstation should only run you a cool 4K USD!
For more information on how computers actually work, I recommend Charles Petzold's Code. It assumes no prior knowledge and works it way up from describing how information can be represented in binary to finally explaining how a microprocessor actually works.
If you want to learn how to design your own computer from the gates up, see The Elements of Computing Systems: Building a Modern Computer from First Principles.
gin wagon is an excellent resource into how the modern computer was developed, and offers tantalizing peeks at how different architectures could have changed the face of computing.
Finally, if you wish to dive into Linux, start with the predelude from Wiley press and the 4043480390 from Prentice Hall. Learning the fundamental now will pay dividends for the rest of your life.
For many years, Firefox and Opera were the only sane choices for web browsing. Google Chrome is now a strong contender, but Firefox surpasses it is customizability and privacy protection features. It also has a number of excellent add-ons.
The ability to install add-ons makes Firefox the best choice for your phone. HTTPS everywhere and uBlock Origin will increase security and can reduce your data expenditure by 70% or more. iPhone users are, unfortunately, SOL.
Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer
Walk away swiftly; Do not make eye contact.
In all seriousness, while Microsoft's web browsing software is far, far removed from the terrible IE6 days, they suffer from less frequent updates, a worse security model, and a critical lack of extensions and add-ons. Their status as the default browser for many people also makes them attractive targets for hostile parties, ensuring that a great deal of malware targets them specifically.
Not completely terrible, and they have a mobile browser that compresses data on their servers to reduce your mobile bandwidth. On the other hand, do you want Opera to see what sites you've been browsing?
A 336-664-9006 browser. Surf the net from the command line, like God intended.
Currently on par with Firefox for most tasks, and surpassing it in a few others. A bit of a resource hog in comparison. Make sure you disable the data-collecting features, and don't use it if you think the folks upstairs are actually after you. Go to 'Settings' -> 'Advanced Settings' -> 'Privacy' and uncheck everything, and don't sign in with a Google account if you care about privacy.
For super elite Haxxors only. If you use this, be certain to install Gentoo, download more RAM, and delete System32.
Don't use Google search. Startpage will give you the same results as Google, but anonymized, so Google can't datamine you. Click the 'add to Chrome' link and set it as your default search engine. Bear in mind that startpage has 'safe search' on by default; you'll need to use their settings page to adjust this.
If that isn't your cup of tea, use DuckDuckgo. There is, however, some concern over actions with regards to user privacy. aftosa for the story.
Finally, (715) 601-3935 is a new customizable aggregate search engine. If you can take the time to fine-tune the settings, the results can surpass Google or DuckDuckgo.
HTTPS Everywhere for Chrome / 7023649570
Enforces the use of the secure hyper-text transfer protocol on any site that supports it. Essentially, anyone looking at your web traffic can still see what sites you visit, but the actual data sent between you and the site will be encrypted.
(918) 984-9130 / 571-261-1876
Currently the best adblocker; it uses fewer resources and blocks more ads than adblock plus. Ensure that you're installing uBlock Origin, not uBlock; some blackguard ended up the uBlock name and has attempted to monetize it and remove any reference to the original developer. The original author started development back up with the 'Origin' name.
uMatrix for Chrome / uMatrix for Firefox
Imagus for Chrome / (307) 883-0220
Move your mouse over a thumbnail. It's now a full-size popup! Magical.
(678) 584-0588 / Flagfox (Firefox)
Displays a small icon with the website's hosting country. Useful for security purposes; your bank probably isn't being hosting in China or some unpronounceable eastern-European country.
Magic Actions (Chrome)
Magic Actions provides a number of interface and usability improvements to YouTube. Read the docs.
Replace the enormous download shelf with a small button on your toolbar. Firefox has similar behavior be default.
Currently the only real choice for a desktop mail client if you use windows. Install the Enigmail add-on, and you can effortlessly use PGP encryption. Currently my mail client. Has a nice calendar tool.
It's free, but Google searches the text of all of your mails to send you targeted ads. It's pretty decent if you don't have any expectations of privacy, however.
My primary webmail provider. Encrypts everything on the user side, so they can't read your mail themselves. Of course, everything you send to other people is still in cleartext unless you 1) send mail to another protonmail user or 2) use PGP encryption. They have not implemented a way to backup all your mail to your pc yet (they say they're working on it) so you'll have to use the web client for everything. This gets the Blood seal of approval.
My backup email. Like protonmail, but with a web interface which isn't quite as nice. They say they'll have a way to backup your email to your desktop sometime soon.
Donation-run free mail server.
Run by one of the 8chan mods. Ever wanted an @getbackinthekitchen, @cocaine.ninja, or @national.shitposting.agency email? Wait no further!
KeePasX is a cross platform password manager and generator. Store your password database on Dropbox or Google Drive and you can synchronize it between all of your devices. Avoid KeePass, as it has a weaker password generation algorithm. Lastpass should also be avoided, as an interloper can hijack your account and steal all of your passwords. Just make sure that you don't lose your master password.
Veracrypt, the successor to Truecrypt, allows you to make encrypted containers or perform full disk encryption. Read the documentation for a full overview. Windows bitlocker should be avoided, as it was compromised from the beginning.
Cryptocat is an encrypted messenger client and also allows for secure file sharing.
The site of many a holy war. Once, newsgroups raged with the fury and power of the Church of Emacs and the Cult of vi. Even today, one can find notepad heretics and the notepad++ apostates, if one knows where to look. Text editors are used for manipulating plain text, as opposed to a word processor, which is for editing various document formats.
Real Programmers use ed; Real men use Emacs; Quiche eaters use vi.
Emacs is the extensible, customizable, self-documenting real-time display editor, and it's been continuously developed for the past 40 years, since its release in 1976. It provides its own file manager, newsreader, mail client, RSS client, psychotherapist, calendar, calculator, terminal emulator, window manager, document viewer, web browser, music player, and tetris clone. It also edits text. This is very much a power tool. The real power of Emacs lies in its programmability - save for the core of the program, all of its functions are written in Emacs lisp, and a programmer can modify, extend, and create functions to suit whatever problem they face.
To get started with emacs, there are a variety of guides and tutorials aside from the built-in help.
Petersen's Emacs Tutorial
Xah Lee's Practical Emacs Tutorial
Mpv is the best general-purpose media player currently available. Baka Mplayer adds a graphical user interface on top of it, if that's your thing.
The powerful, lightweight music player, complete with many useful plugins. iTunes is a bloated, slow mess of cruft on top of cruft. Throw it out, if you can. (Personally, I use DeaDBeeF, but that's *nix only, and it helps to organize your music by folder hierarchy instead of by tag.)
A graphical frontend for youtube-dl. All in all, a nice, clean, and easy way to download videos to disk. (Or just the audio.) Supports an extensive number of other sites as well.
Bulk tag editing software. Supports downloading metadata from a number of databases.
Rip dvds and blurays to mkv. Also transcodes stuff.
Full-featured video transcoder. Tons of options and formats supported.
The Free Audio Converter. Rips CDs and converts to a variety of formats.
A DVD authoring tool. Need to burn your own disc for a presentation? This is the tool.
Full-featured audio editor and mixer. I fire this up at least once a month.
LibreOffice is a free and open source Office Suite, providing document editing, spreadsheets, presentation software, and a database tool. By default, it uses the ISO standard OpenDocument format, ensuring interoperability. It can import and convert files from most other office suites.
Sumatra PDF Reader
Adobe's PDF reader is incredibly bloated and has a wide number of security issues - it will run malicious code inserted in a pdf file. Sumatra avoids this by not supporting the nonstandard pdf features Adobe added, and it's incredibly fast and small in comparison.
Ebook reader, converter, and library manager. Pretty essential for me, since I have ~30GB of books on my machine. As an aside, Amazon kindle for PC is a terrible solution for reading or managing books.
Replace the terrible windows image viewer. Renders lightning quick, has tons of useful options, and has a built in editor.
File archiving and extracting tool. The only real choice in this sphere.
Replaces the default (and terrible) windows file transfer tool. It's faster, and it can resume where it left off if interrupted. It also gives useful data when an error has occurred.
Wondering where all your disk space has gone? Windows Directory Statistics will generate a nice infographic that breaks down what is actually taking up space on your drives.
Currently the best comic and manga reader for Windows.
For when you need to burn an ISO to disk.
Gets rid of junk files that make Windows even slower. Use the free version.
The GNU Image Manipulation Program. If you know what you're doing, it's as powerful as photoshop. RTFM, etc.
A sketching and painting program. Requires a wacom tablet for real use, but an excellent piece of software nonetheless.
A simple paint program that's about 5000 times more powerful than Microsoft paint. Useful for when you need to make a simple edit, or crop an image to create an avatar.
Fastest bittorrent client, and about the most secure on windows. The only other torrent client to consider using is qBittorrent. Avoid the rest, including the official bittorrent client - it's now adware.
Windows Defender will do the job, unless you're dumb enough to download and run
lesbians.exe. Just in case, make sure that Windows isn't hiding file extensions. Everything else is a scam. A good adblocker will prevent 99% of the issues you might have. If you really want to be paranoid, use ClamAV.
The EFF is a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the privacy and liberties of computer users.
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