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The web's top 20 open-source downloads

Download guide: Free open-source tools

MediaCoder:: If you need to convert media files between formats, shrink files with little quality loss, extract audio from video files, or manage multimedia in other ways, this is the program for you. It'll convert file formats, giving you a great deal of control over the output. So, for example, if you have a file that you'd like to convert so it can be played on a portable media player, MediaCoder will do the trick. It can also save you plenty of hard disk space by shrinking media files. There are also lots of extensions you can download that expand the program’s capabilities, such as make it easy to transcode files for specific media players.

Download MediaCoder

Audacity: Here's the program to get if you need to record or edit audio. If all you need to do is record, using the program is a breeze, but if you're going to do audio editing, you'll need to devote a bit of time to it.

You'll be able to combine tracks, cut audio out of tracks, import audio from multiple formats, create audio mixes, add all kinds of very cool special effects, edit ID3 tags, and more. You'll also be able to generate specific tones, and even create background white noise on command.

Download Audacity

Media Player Classic: Do you feel that most media players, such as Microsoft's Windows Media Player, have become bloatware, overblown applications that need to be slimmed down to their basics - just playing media?

If so, this is the program for you. The title says it all. It looks and works much like an earlier, classic version of Windows Media Player, way back in the days when it was a simple, svelte program.

In fact, there's not even an installation program; just double-click the file and it runs. Despite its simplicity, it's a great program. It will play just about any kind of media file you can throw at it, and will even play DVDs.

Download Media Player Classic

HandBrake: Got a DVD that you want to turn into MPEG-4 format so that you can store it on your hard disk, or make a backup to disc? Then you'll want HandBrake. It grabs video from a variety of sources, including a DVD and a DVD image, and grabs audio from sources as well, including MPEG audio tracks. You'll then be able to output a digital file in a variety of formats, including MPEG-4, AVI, OGM for video, or AAC, MP3, and Ogg Vorbis for audio.

There are some very nice extras in here, such as being able to select individual DVD chapters, grabbing subtitles, and more. You get plenty of control over your recording, including selecting the bit rate, maximum file size for video, and bit rate and sample rate for audio.

Download HandBrake

Utilities

RogueScanner: Think your home or small office wireless network is safe? Do you have any idea whether any intruders are on it? This free program is a great way to find out.

Run it on a PC attached to your network via Ethernet. (The program won't work in Windows Vista, so you'll need Windows XP.) When you run it, it immediately does a network scan, finding the wireless and wired devices attached to it. For each device, it lists the unique MAC address (a kind of serial number), the IP address, the manufacturer if it can figure it out, and model number if it can find that. It also tells you what kind of device it is, such as a router, printer, PC, and so on. And it will also flag any suspect devices it finds.

Just compare the information it finds to what you know of your network. If there are any wireless devices connected that you don't know about, you may have an intruder.

Download RogueScanner


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