Software I use

Both as a computer technician and as a user of computers, I tend to use a lot of software. Some of the software I've tried works very well, and some of it...decidedly does not.

On this page, I'm going to set down a list of the software I use regularly, in a number of different usage categories. I'm also going to classify the software I use as one of the following:

Commercial Software you have to pay for. Buy it in a store, or online.
Shareware Software you can try for free, but you should pay for it if you continue to use it. Usually only available online
Freeware Similar to shareware, but you can try it for free, and continue to use it for free. No payment required.
Open Source Free to use, and if you're a programmer you can get the source code and modify it — or join the programming team and submit your modifications for everyone to use.

Operating Systems
Web Browser
Office Applications
Instant Messaging Utilities
Disk Utilities
Software Development
Web Design

Communications /
Terminal Emulation

Android Phone Applications

Operating Systems

Okay, this is a trick question. I only use Microsoft Windows. I've given several varieties of Linux a try, but Linux is simply too convoluted for me to figure out in the amount of time I have for it. The fact is that I've grown up with MS-DOS and Windows computers, and I have a great deal of knowledge amassed over the years on how those systems work. Trying to duplicate that with a different system in a short amount of time hasn't worked for me. Macs? Similar problem — they're easy to use, but learning what goes on under the hood is another matter entirely. Plus, the hardware tends to be more expensive, so I haven't bought one to familiarize myself.

So, of the varieties of Windows out there, what are my favorites?

  1. Windows 7
  2. Windows 10
  3. Windows 11
Windows 7 was the best version of Windows that Microsoft put out. It's no longer supported...which simply means that it's no longer getting security updates. For the average user, as long as it's supplemented by a GOOD antivirus system, and as long as you don't use Microsoft's web browser or email products, "not supported" really doesn't mean much. I've still got one computer here running Windows 7, which was put into service as my main computer in 2009 and still sees quite a bit of use. It works.

Windows 8 was a bit of a dud — not quite as bad as a lot of people said, but still a misstep. The full-screen "Metro" applications, the squared-off corners and centered window titles that hearkened back to Windows 3.1, the loss of the Start menu...Microsoft made a lot of mistakes there. It was usable, in my opinion, if some third-party software  was added to soften some of the rough edges, but I avoided it.

Microsoft skipped the number nine in version numbers, and came out with Windows 10. It fixed a lot of the problems with Windows 8. Metro apps ran in a window. The Start menu was back...sort of, not as good as the one they had in  Windows 7, but usable. They did away wth Control Panel in favor of a new "Settings" application, with all the old familiar settings scattered through the new program in various places to be searched out. But overall, Windows 10 worked. It was touted as the last version of Windows, ever. There were to be semi-annual updates to it, in addition to the monthly security updates, where new features would be added. This worked...mostly. I didn't like it as well as Windows 7, but I found that it was good enough for everyday use.

Now, Microsoft has reversed itself and come out with Windows 11. My first impression is that the changes are mostly cosmetic. They've changed the Start menu again, and changed the Taskbar somewhat. Rounded window corners, gone since Windows 8 came out, are now back. (They look better.) The Settings application has been changed a bit, but most settings are in the same places as in Windows 10. Overall, I don't see a whole lot of difference between 10 and 11, functionally. But the system requirements for 11 are considerably higher than for 10 -- I had to get a new computer to try out 11, because none of the ones I had (all but one running Windows 10) met the requirements.

Office Applications

Spreadsheets Corel Quattro Pro 8 (Commercial)
Word Processing LibreOffice (Open-Source, offshoot of OpenOffice)
I've been using Quattro Pro since it was a Borland product in the days of MS-DOS. I have my accounting system set up in Quattro Pro spreadsheets, and converting to something else would be a time-intensive effort due to the differences between QPro's macro language and that used by either Excel or LibreOffice. I have a couple of newer versions of QPro as well, but v8 seems to work the best of any of them.  It may be a bit old, and has an occasional glitch running on Windows 7 and newer hardware, but I don't believe in upgrading just for the sake of upgrading.

Since building my newest desktop machine in 2009, I've switched over to using first OpenOffice, then LibreOffice as my main office suite for everything except spreadsheets.  The word processor is nearly as good as Microsoft's Word 2000 — the only thing I've found lacking in it so far is the mail merge function.  (It won't create mail-merge "catalogs" like I used to create our callers' association's roster in 1997.) The spreadsheet is capable, but won't import Quattro Pro v8 spreadsheets (let alone macros).  It does, however, open any Excel spreadsheet I've tried, including the new .XLSX format introduced in 2007.  The presentation graphics program opens and plays MS PowerPoint slideshows, too, so LibreOffice can function as a good substitute for people whose friends send them documents created with Microsoft Office.


Vector graphics CorelDRAW! (Commercial)
Bitmap graphics The GIMP (Open Source)
Honorable Mention
Inkscape (Open Source vector graphics package)
FastStone, IrfanView (freeware graphics viewers)
Greenshot (Open Source screenshot utility)
What's the difference between bitmap graphics and vector graphics? Mainly, vector graphics are stored as a mathematical representation of the elements in the drawing — curves, boxes, text, lines — and can be resized and moved around without losing any detail. Bitmap graphics exist as dots on a canvas, and moving things around can get problematic; resizing generally means either loss of detail (when making things smaller) or loss of focus/blurriness/blockiness (when making things larger). Each type of program has its areas where it excels — I use CorelDraw for making fliers and anything where I have to lay out and resize text, while I use The GIMP for editing photos and creating/editing graphics on the web. Sometimes I use them together — for example, the logo in my navigation bar to your left was created in CorelDraw, exported to a bitmapped graphics file (PNG, or Portable Network Graphics), and then edited in The GIMP to add transparency and to shrink it down to the exact size I needed.

There is an open-source vector graphics program called Inkscape also available. I have it on my laptop and have used it for a few things.  It seems to work well, but its CorelDraw import feature doesn't bring in text.  Since I have a LOT of CorelDraw drawings, most of which include varying amounts of text, Corel remains my primary choice for my personal use.  However, I'm using Inkscape more and more for graphics on websites that I design, partly because it's free (so someone who takes over the website from me won't have to buy an expensive tool to use my graphics), and partly becuse Inkscape does use the open standard SVG (Scaleable Vector Graphic) as its native file format—and most modern web browsers are including support for SVG graphics on websites.

FastStone Graphics Viewer and IrfanView are programs that do two things:  display all of the graphics files in a folder as thumbnails, and allow you to convert/resize/rename those graphics as groups.  Windows XP (and Windows 7 even more so) has a built-in thumbnailing function, but it's not quite as flexible as these programs.  I mainly use FastStone these days, but IrfanView has been very popular for a long time.  One of the things I use FastStone for most often is to take a set of pictures from a callers' association event and resize them all for web viewing — just select the pictures, go to the Batch Conversion function, specify a destination folder, and under the Advanced options tell it that I want them to be proportionally resized to 250 pixels high.  FastStone and IrfanView can also do rotations and minor editing (like red-eye removal); for bigger editing jobs (such as removing blotches from lens spots) I turn to GIMP.  [I've recently started looking at XnView as well -- it's a similar program, but will work within .ZIP files, too.]

I also use GIMP's File/Create/ScreenShot capability quite a bit for capturing on-screen images to send via email or to include with a help file on a program I'm writing.  However, sometimes that can be a bit cumbersome -- such as when trying to capture a pop-up menu.  There's a very good, open-source (and therefore, free) screen capture utility that makes that a bit easier. Greenshot lets you capture the entire screen, a single window, or any rectangular portion of the screen you pick, and either save it to a file (in just about any standard bitmap format), put it on the clipboard, or even edit it in its own editor. Plus, it has a portable version that you can take anywhere on a USB thumb drive.


For home use Avast! (Commercial/Freeware)
Windows 10 / 11
For business use Eset NOD32 (Commercial)
The major players in the antivirus category, McAfee and Norton, are NOT recommended by me. They are large and slow and have a tremendous effect on the speed of any computer they're installed on; in the case of McAfee, the user interface tends to be complex and slow to respond as well.

If your computer is a home computer and is not used for any business purposes, there's no reason for you to pay for an antivirus program at all. There are several perfectly good ones out there that are free for home use. If you use Windows 7, I generally recommend Avast! It's completely free for home use, although they'll try to convince you to buy their paid version. Don't -- you don't need it.

Windows 10 and later come with their own built-in antivirus. I've been using it since it came out on the laptop I got to use as a Windows 10 testbed, which has slowly morphed into the computer I use most of the time. In that time, I've never had any problems with viruses, whatsoever. I have no qualms about recommending the built-in Windows 10 antivirus.

Since most of my own computer use has some business purpose, I don't qualify for the free antivirus programs, apart from the one built into Windows 10. I've used several different commercial antivirus packages over the years, but the one I've settled on for the last nine years or so is  NOD32. It's highly regarded, small, lean and fast. I still use it on my Windows 7 computer, and also on my server and the laptop I use for square dance calling. (The latter because I'm VERY paranoid about anything gaining a foothold on that computer!)

NOTE: I recommend getting JUST the antivirus program from any of these companies, and not the full-fledged "internet security suite." The antispyware and antispam components of the suites are generally not as good as standalone programs, and you can cause numerous problems on your computer with a software firewall if you don't know exactly what you're doing. I generally recommend sticking with the firewall built into Windows, and supplementing it with a home router if you have a DSL or cable internet connection — the router will act as a firewall and block any incoming probes unless you specifically configure it to allow certain ones through.


Most of the most effective programs in this category are either free or free for home use. Currently, MalwareBytes seems to be the most effective at removing the toughest infestations. MalwareBytes is also readying an anti-rootkit product for release which appears to be very good; parts of it have been included in their main product.

Spybot and Ad-Aware are the venerable longstanding entries in the field, but they have been somewhat outdistanced by the others over the last few years. And, there are some other tools available for removing things that even MalwareBytes has trouble with, but they're generally things that only an expert should be using except under strict supervision.

MBAM is  BOTH commercial and freeware. The free version is generally an on-demand scanner only — you have to tell it when to run, and tell it to remove what it finds when it scans. To get automatic protection, you have to pay for the commercial product.

Web Browser

Hands-down the best web browser I've used. I've tried most of the other ones out there — including, of course, Microsoft's Internet Explorer — but it all comes down to one thing: I can make Firefox work the way I want it to much more easily than the others. It can be modified by the use of small programs called extensions which change the way that Firefox works. The ones I use most often are
AdBlock Plus Removes most of the annoying multimedia/Flash ads that pop up on web pages
Open With Allows the current page to be opened in any browser installed on the computer. Great for testing.
HTML Validator Allows the current page to be checked for compliance wiht HTML and CSS standards. Good for developing pages that should run in multiple browsers.
I used to use a lot more extensions than I do right now, but a number of them had their functionality absorbed into Firefox itself, and some were abandoned by their developers. These are the ones that I still use every day.

There are, of course, other browsers available. I've tried most of the ones that run on Windows — Opera, Safari, Google Chrome — but I keep coming back to Firefox. The only one that gives FF a run for its money is Chrome. However, every time I use it, I keep running into little ways in which I like Firefox better, even though FF is slower than it used to be.


Mozilla Thunderbird (Open-Source)
An email "client" is what you generally think of as an "email program" — it downloads your mail from the server for you and displays it. Optionally, it might do some spam checking and weed out messages that it thinks are spam. An email "checker," on the other hand, is a program which lives in your computer's system tray and notifies you when your server has mail waiting for you to download — you can then either preview it in the checker (and delete the ones you don't want coming in to your computer) or fire up your email client and download the mail.

I used Pegasus Mail almost since I first got an Internet account, up until about the end of 2014. It's a free program from New Zealand, and it was among the first programs to have the ability to filter incoming mail into different folders based on the source or content of the mail — very useful when you subscribe to Internet email lists. It has a very good trainable spam filter — meaning that you show it what messages you think are spam and what you think aren't, and it uses that to learn to classify incoming messages to your preference.

The downside to Pegasus is that setting it up tends to be a bit complicated, so I don't recommend it for casual users. Also, there have been very few updates for the past several years, and some people (notably GoDaddy's tech support mail system) had problems with the format in which it sends email. So, to start 2015 I moved over to Thunderbird — it has many of the features of Pegasus (including a trainable spam filter), but is easier to configure and is a little more modern overall.

Instant Messaging

I used to use instant messaging fairly often, but almost never do any more. When I did use it, Pidgin (formerly GAIM) was my program of choice. It is an open-source IM program that will connect to multiple messaging networks. I used it with AIM, ICQ and Yahoo, but it'll connect to a bunch of others as well. Much better than having 3-4 different IM programs running at once!


FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is one of the major ways of moving files between your computer and servers on the Internet — for example, I use it to transfer the files representing my web pages from my computer (where I create them) to my hosting provider's web server. While there are other FTP clients available, FileZilla is solid, functional, easy to use — and free.

Communications / Terminal Emulation

This is the type of program you'd use to log into a shell account on one of your ISP's servers, either by Telnet or SSH. If you don't know what that means, then you probably don't need it! For those who do, PuTTY doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles, but it has all the major features, including support for creating SSH tunnels. And, it's free.


Editing Audacity (Open-Source)
LAME (Open-Source)
MP3 DirectCut (Freeware)
CD Ripping
fre:ac (Open-Source)
Playback WinAmp (Freeware)
PaceMaker (Shareware)
VLC Media Player (Open-Source)
Girder (Commercial/Shareware)
As a square dance caller, I work with audio files a lot. I use Audacity to convert tape or phonographic music sources to sound files on my computer, and to clean up those sound files (reduce background noise, eliminate pops and clicks) and change the pitch and tempo. The LAME encoder is a plug-in used by Audacity and other programs in order to save files in the MP3 compressed format.

Traditionally, square dance music has come on 45RPM records; to get that music onto a computer, you have to connect a turntable to the computer, play the record, and record the audio to a computer file (using Audacity, in my case). In recent years, however, a lot of producers have been releasing music on CD and as downloadable MP3 files, and CD looks like it will eventually become the "hard" distribution medium of choice due to the low cost of producing a CD relative to the cost of pressing a vinyl record. CDs are easier to bring into a computer as a MP3 file, too — all you need is a "ripping" program. There are many available, including many free ones. I've settled on fre:ac (formerly called BonkEnc), partly because of its ability to fill in the song titles automatically when the CD is in an Internet database (not the case with square dance CDs), and partly because of its ability to use several different encoding formats. Now, if I could just get it to automatically insert 3 seconds of silence at the front of every MP3...well, it won't, but MP3 DirectCut will let me paste a sound clip directly into the front of any MP3 file, so that works well enough for my purposes.

When playing back those music files at a square dance, I use the free WinAmp player, or a program that I wrote specifically for playing music while calling. Pacemaker is a plugin for Winamp that allows the user to control pitch and tempo while the music is playing.

When I'm calling, I usually use a Snapstream Firefly remote control device to control my music playback. Girder allows me to assign various commands to keys on the remote, so that I can kick the pitch or tempo up/down, skip to the next song, pause the music, or change the volume by 1% or 10% increments. It's a commercial product with a 30-day trial version (although it was shareware when I first started using it), but it does a great job and is pretty simple to configure.

With Winamp, I don't really need the VLC media player — except that it tends to do a better job playing videos (downloaded from YouTube) than Winamp does. It will also play just about every audio and video file format in existence.

Disk Utilities


"Has your data been SAVED???"$aint $ilicon

It's VITALLY important that you have current backups of all of your data. If you don't already have one, run out and get a USB external hard disk at least as large as your computer's internal HD. ("You say it, but you won't do it. Do it NOW!" -- Blanche Bickerson)

There are two types of backups (for different purposes), and two types of backup programs:

Image Backups Creates an exact bit-by-bit copy of your entire hard disk, which can then be used to get your computer up and running again with a new hard disk if the old one fails completely. Seagate Disk Wizard (free, but only works with a Seagate hard disk in the system) and Acronis TrueImage (same program, without the Seagate limitation, but not free) do this. I've mostly switched my image backups to Macrium Reflect, which comes in both free (for home use only) and commercial versions. And, Windows 7 and later includes an image backup option built-in, but I've found it much easier to restore Reflect backups on a bare system than the Windows images..
File Backups Creates copies of each file on your hard disk, which can then be copied back to your hard disk if the original becomes lost or corrupted. This type of backup generally CANNOT be restored directly to a new hard disk to get a working system, as important files held open by the operating system while it is running can't be backed up reliably. However, it is very good for making backup copies of your documents and data between image backups. Cobian Backup is this type of backup program — very reliable and completely free, but it lacks the capability of backing up directly to a CD or DVD drive. (Works great with an external hard disk, though.) Windows 7 and later also includes a backup feature built-in, but I prefer Cobian.


Hard disks can be divided up into partitions — basically areas on the hard disk which get assigned their own drive letter as if they were separate disks. Sometimes when a system is partitioned in this way, we run into a situation where one partition gets filled up while another is nearly empty — and something else absolutely HAS to go into the first partition. Wouldn't it be great if we could adjust the sizes and make the first partition bigger and the second smaller? That's just what these programs do.

I used to use a program called Partition Magic for this — it was the program that created the entire category of on-the-fly partition editors. Then Norton/Symantec bought the company out, and because of my disenchantment with Norton I never tried it again. For several years, Acronis' Disk Director Suite was a good substitute, as are the two open-source packages listed above. However, I've recently settled on MiniTool's product — it's very capable, and it's free for non-commercial use.

Error Detection and Repair

There's nothing else like it. If you have any disk problems, you need this program. It will read every sector on the disk in sequence, optionally rewriting the data to refresh the magnetic signature. If it has problems reading a sector, it will read it repeatedly and perform statistical analyses to reconstruct the data that was once there, write it to a known good sector, and then either repair the bad sector (if possible) or mark it to prevent future use. It'll give a problem disk new life, and can recover data off of a failing disk.


A grab-bag of smaller programs that generally do one thing and do it well

PDF X-Change Editor
I tend not to use the ubiquitous Adobe Reader to open PDF file. For years, I used Foxit Reader, but they started bundling adware with it, so I went looking elsewhere. A company in Canada made a program called PDF X-Change Reader that worked well...and then they added the ability to actually EDIT PDF files to it. I use it all the time now. They also make a free addon for creating PDF files by printing to a special printer, which is included in the registered version of the editor.
Gives information about the computer's processor chip, motherboard, and memory. Useful if you aren't sure what speed memory to buy — PC-2700? PC-3200? PC2-5300? This will tell you.
Lets you view all the tasks that start automatically when your computer starts, and selectively turn some of them off.
Process Explorer
Shows all the processes running on the computer, and gives information about each, plus system memory usage. Like Task Manager, but LOTS more (and more useful) info.
File compression and decompression utility that handles many different formats — not limited to just ZIP
Utility that deletes unneeded temporary files and browser cache files from your hard disk, and searches the registry for deadwood.
If you're worried about someone recovering sensitive files you've deleted, Eraser will either do a military-level scrub on a file before deleting it, or do that same military-level scrub on all the empty areas of the hard disk.
Very good text editor, with features for programmers and web designers.
(Freeware / Shareware)
Good program for synchronizing files and subfolders in two folders. Basic version is free, with a donation to unlock some features like auto-update.
(Freeware / Shareware)
Analyzes how much space is being taken up by each folder's contents. Basic free version; more elaborate version is paid.
Stefan's Tools
Some good Windows Explorer add-ons and standalone utilities from one of the principal authors of TortoiseSVN. I use GrepWin, StExBar, and (occasionally) SKTimeStamp.

Web Design

I used Microsoft's FrontPage 2000 for quite a few years, but it was eventually abandoned by MS, forcing me to look for another program. Dreamweaver was too expensive for the amount of use I expected to get from it, and Microsoft's new offering, Expressions Web, just didn't seem right. I'd tried a little program called Nvu a few years back, which seemed promising but never went anywhere. I later found out that the original developer had abandoned it, but a new one picked up the project, changed the name to "KompoZer" and was working on fixing the outstanding bugs.

I used KompoZer for a number of years, but Kaze eventually ran out of time to continue its development, and the rendering engine embedded in it fell far behind the ones in the current generation of web browsers.

In the mean time, the original author of NVu returned to the field and released a successor program called BlueGriffon. I don't like its interface nearly as much as KompoZer's, especially for CSS, but it has the advantage of being mostly caught up with current standards. I'm using BG for initial design work now, but I generally switch to hand-coding with the PSPad text editor once I have the design worked up.

Software Development

I used to do a lot more programming and development than I do now — I was heavily into Turbo Pascal and JPI Modula-2 back when MS-DOS was still king, and did x86 assembly language programming as well. When I began working at Computer Scene in Ukiah (and began calling about the same time) I had less time for programming; plus, Windows came on the scene, making programming more complicated. So, I got away from it, and only started getting back into it around 2003 (after my divorce).

So, I'm not what you would call a heavy user of programming tools. Still, there are a number of things that I use on a regular basis and that I would unabashedly recommend.
This is the development environment I use. Think of it as Visual Basic, except that it uses Turbo Pascal instead of Basic. (Well, Object Pascal, not Turbo Pascal, but it's an outgrowth of TP.) As a language, it's about as powerful as C++, but not nearly as difficult to learn. I had the original version 1 of Delphi (for Windows 3.1) and put it aside, then got version 6 in 2002 and started getting back into programming.
These are the main component libraries that I use with Delphi, in addition to the components that come built-in. The JCL and JVCL are large libraries that have just about everything I could think of (so far, at least!). ICS is a set of Internet communication components.
These are add-ins for the Delphi IDE which add features and generally make it more convenient to use.

This is a program (actually, it very nearly qualifies as a programming language in its own right) for creating setup programs to install software. Written in Delphi, of course.

This is a comparison program — it looks at two files and shows you the lines in them that are different. It'll do the same thing with two folders — show the files that don't match. I used to use an open-source program called WinMerge for this, but I've switched to Beyond Compare. The main reason for this is that Beyond Compare has a feature that lets you compare a local folder on your computer with a remote folder on a FTP server and ony copy the changed files — very handy for updating my website. WinMerge lacks this feature, and the primary author indicated that it probably would never be added. Besides, BC is written in Delphi. :-)
This is a special type of graphics editor. It will import a graphic file (or let you create one in its editor, but I generally import an externally created one), and will generate from that a set of Windows icons in varying standard sizes and color depths appropriate for the different versions of Windows. It makes generating program icons pretty easy, and even allowed me to very simply generate the favicon.ico file for this website. (That's why you see my "LJ" logo in your address bar next to the page address, instead of a blank square.)
Subversion (or SVN) is a "Version Control System" or "Source Control System." When used by a single developer (as I use it), it's basically a system that stores the history of changes to your programming source code, so that if you make a change that doesn't work, you can easily go back to the way that it was before. When used by multiple developers, it allows them to coordinate their changes to the same source code files.

I use SVN both to manage my programming projects and to manage my web work. Every change I make to one or the other gets committed to the SVN repository for the project in question, so that I: (1) have a history of what I've done; (2) can easily revert back to an older version; (3) can create two different versions and switch between them [not that I do that very often!]; and (4) have a secondary copy that could function as a backup in an emergency.

TortoiseSVN is a Subversion client that integrates into Windows Explorer (the interface for managing files on your computer, not the web browser — that's Internet Explorer). It allows you to do all of the standard source control operations on files by right-clicking them and choosing options from the pop-up menus. It can operate either with or without a server; until 2009, I'd been operating without a server with the repository stored in a separate location on the same computer I was working on. However, that's now changed.

Visual SVN Server is freely available and built mostly from open-source parts (the Subversion server software and the Apache web server), but contains some parts that are not open-source. However, it is free, and it is extremely simple to set up and start using. I decided to install it on a whim in 2009 so that I could put my website files under version control (I work on my website on a different computer from the one I do my programming on), and it literally took me less than ten minutes to install it, import all my old repositories, and create a new one for the website. Another 5 minutes to install the TortoiseSVN client on my main machine and import the website into the repository, and I was done!

Android Phone Applications

At the end of May, 2011, I traded my Blackberry Pearl for a LG Phoenix running Android v2.3. Then, in January of 2013, I upgraded again to a Samsung Galaxy SIII running Android 4.0. Three years later, I moved up to a Google Nexus, and then a Samson Galaxy S8 two years after that.  Overall, I've been very pleased with my choices, although I outgrew the Phoenix quite quickly. (My upgrades to the Nexus and the S8 were prompted by battery failures.)

Android phones synchronize easily with my Google Calendars and address book, and do email well (my biggest criterion). My phones have gooed enough cameras built in that I've stopped carrying a digital camera with me.

When I switched from my Blackberry to the Phoenix, my Internet data usage went up quite a bit, from an average of 20-30MB per month to about 150MB.  With the Galaxy, it went up again, averaging 200-300MB per month.  Still well below my account limit, but I'm obviously using it more.  In fact, I entirely stopped using my Virgin Mobile pay-as-you-go wireless modem for my laptop, years ago, because the phone does almost everything I need to do when I don't have access to a WiFi hotspot.

Of course, the phone also runs applications, or apps.  I don't load my phone down with a lot of these, but there are a few that I've found to be very useful. Some come with the phone, while others I've downloaded from the Google Play Store.

Wifi Analyzer is a handly little program that tells you what wifi networks are in the area, what channels they're using, and how strong they are.  Handy when setting up a new wireless network, although it's not a spectrum analyzer -- it won't show you interference sources that AREN'T wifi networks.

CalRoadReport gets highway condition info over the internet directly from CalTrans. Very useful if you have to be travelling in the mountains during stormy weather and want to see if chains are going to be required ahead of you.

And, of course, Thomas Bernhed's program for playing square dance music. It's nowhere near as full-featured as the Windows version is, but it's plenty good enough for calling an occasional tip off of the phone, or for emergency use.