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Off Brand Programs Part 1


Left 4 Dead proves that generics work just as well as the real thing.

Left 4 Dead proves that generics work just as well as the real thing.

Why pay full price for something just because everyone else uses it? You’re just paying for a name, for the advertising, right? Is the same true of computer programs? I’ve grown up using the popular ones — Windows operating system, Microsoft Office, iTunes. I never knew there were many other options. So for all those people who used to be like me, here is my review of a few nifty ways to save some money and support freeware.

Great alternatives to iTunes: Winamp, Mediamonkey

I received an iPod as a gift, so naturally I downloaded iTunes to manage it and all my music. It worked great for a while, until I noticed how messy the organization system was. iTunes made double copies of all my music folders, and so I went in and re-organized it all myself, which took a while but freed up some space. And for some reason all of my music was physically downloaded onto my iPod, which took some time to sort out.

Anyway, you can blame my low knowledge of iTunes for most of that stuff, which was mostly just based on ignorance of what the crap iTunes was doing to my music. So, instead of dealing with iTunes on my next computer, I made the switch to Winamp. I’m still getting used to all the functions, and it was not nearly as easy to manage my iPod at first, but I figured it out eventually and now Winamp runs much more smoothly on my computer than iTunes ever did. It uses 1/3 the CPU power (see below site), among other things, and has tons of plugins and support.

After re-formatting my old computer, I decided to check out my other media player options and found this site: http://www.skytopia.com/project/articles/music/players.html I gave Mediamonkey a try, but I couldn’t figure out how to import my ipod playlists, and lots of people had had the same problem, so I’m back to Winamp.

My particular problem aside, Mediamonkey is actually slightly better than Winamp at things like customizing tags, smart playlists, being able to burn MP3s to CD, etc. So, though MM didn’t work so well for me, it’s an interesting player to try without dumping Windows Media Player and iTunes bloatware on your comp.

Overall: Winamp’s my favorite so far, but Mediamonkey would be a close second if its iPod support was improved. This post has gotten a bit longer than I expected, so let’s make it a two-parter and finish it off later with a review of Open Office and Mac/Linux vs. PC.

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