I had to reinstall Windows XP recently, and having a fresh install, I decided to try to keep it free of any unnecessary bloatware. Of particular concern was any program which installed background processes which launch on start up.
An ideal music production machine would be isolated from the internet, but the fact is most people don’t have a dedicated music machine separate from their general PC. Many people will want to view a range of media on their computers as well. Here is a list of some of the software I ended up installing. All of this software is free and most is open source.
PDF files are very common these days. You find them all over the internet, and even some plug ins come with PDF help files. But Adobe Reader is a huge program and installs a hidden background process which launches when Windows first starts up. A great alternative is the free Foxit Reader. It’s only a few megs, works with Firefox, and doesn’t install any hidden processes. I actually think it’s much faster than Adobe Reader as well so definitely worth checking out.
Quicktime is another one of those evil programs which installs start up programs for no reason. If you need quicktime support, use QT Lite, which installs just the barebones to get QuickTime running in your browser and in your media player.
Apple has another baddie on its hands with iTunes. This program installs all sorts of processes. If you just want to copy files on to your iPod, try YamiPod. You can even put the executable files on your iPod so you can use it on any computer. My only complaint about YamiPod is the smart playlist support is missing.
Most IM software such as AIM or YIM insist on starting at boot time, and AOL seems to have persistent processes. Pidgin is a multi-network IM client so you can use it to consolidate all of your different chat programs into one.
I love this lightweight media player; you’ll never need Windows Media Player or iTunes ever again. Use with ffdshow, which is an excellent “all-in-one” decoder. Using Media Player Classic and ffdshow, one can view almost every common media file. No more downloading those sketchy “codec packs”.
Another great alternative to WMP and iTunes is the VLC Media Player. I don’t like the interface quite as much as Media Player Classic, but it handles most media files without problems and without the need for external decoders or codecs.