Having just gotten off a plane, I'm now facing the difficulties that a West-to-East coast trip does to one's sleeping schedule. Thus, this week's freeware roundup has as much of a concrete theme as I have a coherent thought at the moment. But that's ok. Examples of killer freeware or open-source software don't always fall within a singe bucket.
So what's on-deck for right now? I won't give away too many details. Suffice, if you've ever lost data as a result of a scratched or scuffed CD, you'll want to click on the jump below. While the page loads, go dig though the trash to recover the media that you just tossed--it's not dead. It might be on life support, and you might stand a very good chance of losing parts of your data, but you might also be able to save a portion of the files located on said disc.
That's a great bit of lifesaving... and it's just one of the programs in this week's roundup!
As mentioned, this useful little applicationscans CDs and DVDs that have been otherwise mistreated by your hands, pets, or angry roommates. It's not a perfect application, however. Don't expect that the optical disc you dropped in the garbage disposal will suddenly pull up in Windows as if it was a fresh piece of media. The program scans discs and recovers as much data as it can, depending on the extent and location of the scratches, nicks, or gouges on your media of choice. From there, you can pick exactly what files or folders you want to restore--perfect if you're just trying to pull that one file from the CD your dog brought in from the backyard.
I've blogged about bandwidth-reporting tools before. However, Networx should be considered the Optimus Prime of them all. This program is simple to use--just install it and, poof, up it pops as a taskbar button. From there, the program records all the Internet traffic flowing in and out of your computer. You can get real-time statistics of exactly how much you've downloaded or uploaded. But that's just the tip of the ol' iceberg. The program's extensive reporting functionality allows you to draw up detailed measurements of your Internet use based over set periods of time. There's a quota system that alarms you when you're nearing a set bandwidth limit, as well as a pretty familiar array of common networking utilities built right into the program's interface.
Speaking of networks, this handy program gives you a VPN-based connection to the Internet, perfect for secure browsing and downloading when you're on an otherwise open network. Anonymous Web access is built into the program, just in case you want to keep your coffee-shop doings out of the hands of referral logs or what-have-you. This is one of the first things I would install were I to do any kind of online shopping, and especially secure logins, in a place where I don't exactly trust the network doings of those around me. I daresay this program is more important to your machine than any other networking app, even the Windows Firewall!
Are you sick of dealing with the multi-click, multi-captcha, single-download-at-once formats of popular Web-based file hosts? You know, the complex procedures and limitations put forth by sites like Rapidshare, Yousendit, or Megaupload? Work around their tricky (and annoying) habits with JDownloader, a one-stop shop piece of software that manages all aspects of accessing these sites. That includes running automatic downloads, unlocking parallel downloads, and automatically extracting files from downloaded archives, amongst other features. If you're a big free-file-host downloader, this program just saved you a day's worth of work, at least.
I've saved one of the best for last in this week's roundup. This program is simple in function, but absurdly helpful in functionality. Here's the deal. Load up outSSIDer on your laptop and it'll run, unobtrusively, in the background of your operating system. Now start walking around. When the program locates an open WiFi signal, it'll automatically try to connect to the network and alert you with a ringing bell noise. While this program might not be the best for a security-minded individual, it's extremely useful for one who just needs access to the Internet any way it comes through the airwaves.
David Murphy (@ Acererak) is a technology journalist and former Maximum PC editor. He writes weekly columns about the wide world of open-source as well as weekly roundups of awesome, freebie software. Befriend him on Twitter, especially if you have an awesome app or game you're dying to recommend!