Freeware is one of the most under-utilized resources on the internet. That old adage that says the more something costs, the better it must be? Doesn’t apply to software. I’ve been a vocal advocate of free and open source software for many years and for many reasons . When I was first introduced (thanks, dad!) to freeware, the concept of software being portable was irrelevant. That was back in the day when Apple sold actual Apple computers and most software applications fit on a floppy disk or two.
I can’t recall the first time I visited Andrew Lee’s no nonsense freeware directory, The Portable Freeware Collection. What I do recall is that I couldn’t justify the cost of a USB flash drive at the time. (Hey, those things were expensive once!) Even though I didn’t have a need for software applications that were specifically portable, I kept coming back to TPFC because I knew that I could always find quality peer-reviewed applications.
There is also much to be appreciated in the design of the site itself. TPFC is blessedly free of gaudy colors, over-CSS’d menus, and encouragements to try some non-freeware application or another. In addition, the site is well-indexed and well-organized. And because of its light-weight design and efficient organization, I regularly check the site for updates from my phone’s mobile Opera browser. Now that’s portable!
>>Briefly, what is The Portable Freeware Collection?
The Portable Freeware Collection (TPFC) is database for portable Windows apps; “portable” not in the traditional CS meaning of the word (as in source code portability), but “portable” as in “you can store the application on a USB memory stick, and it should be able to run on any machine without reinstallation or reconfiguration”.
>>What is your typical user like? Who is most likely to use The Portable Freeware Collection?
All sorts, I guess. Most people just browse the database and look for portable apps they can use. Some actually find time to sign up with the TPFC forum and ask questions (eg. is there a portable app that does X?) Then, there is a small group of users who actively participate in the forum by suggesting apps that can be added to the database, or get down to pretty detailed discussion about how to bend certain apps so that they can be used in a portable manner.
>>Where did the idea for The Portable Freeware Collection come from? Is there an exciting story behind it?
I wish there is! But no. TPFC pretty much started off as a PHP programming exercise. I was doing too much Java at work, and wanted to get my hands dirty on something new. So I decided to see if I could write a small PHP frontend to index my collection of portable freeware. I have been collecting portable apps for quite a number of years prior to that because I got really tired of reinstalling and reconfiguring software every time I change machine. Then I started working and I needed to carry some apps to the office (eg. email clients, web browser, text editor) without having to travel with a bulky laptop. The habit got addictive rather quickly, and I started looking around for portable versions of everything (image editor, troubleshooting tools, media player etc.) I ended up with hundreds of them, and it was on one fateful day in 2004 when the two came together and I had a couple of weekends to work out something.
>>Can you talk about the community that has built up around The Portable Freeware Collection?
There are members of the TPFC community who help maintain the database, moderate the forum, suggest new portable software, alert us to software updates and so on (thanks guys, you know who you are). Then there is a huge following that has developed around a free application for making any software portable called “JauntePE“, which was developed single-handedly by this genius of a programmer called redllar. Two years back, he started using TPFC forum as a sounding board for JauntePE, and it attracted many fans. Unfortunately, like rock stars, redllar is somewhat temperamental, so JauntePE was available, not available, available, then not available again. Now we are all anxiously waiting for the next release of JauntePE after redllar tempted us recently with some screenshots of the new version.
>>Do any of your own values or concerns, things like global warming, politics, or poverty, make their way onto the site?
One recent case concerns censorship (which I am opposed to), and it cropped up when someone submitted Columbine Massacre for inclusion in the database. This is a game that is portable in the technical sense, but others objected to its inclusion due to the subject matter. I myself am a die-hard liberal and I hate censorship of any form, but sometimes it’s a difficult call when the feelings of so many people are involved. I am also surprised we actually have to deal with a matter like this in a forum where it is more typical to discuss DLL’s or registry entries.
>>What is the craziest, most outside-the-box way that you can imagine The Portable Freeware Collection having in impact on world peace? (If you think of a more realistic and down-to-earth idea, please share that too!)
Can’t think of any. In fact, if your readers can think of any association between TPFC and world peace, I’d love to know! Maybe if TPFC could play a tiny part in getting more people to use portable apps (and more software developers to release portable titles), then it helps reduces the overall rage quotient when people don’t have to waste a lot of time reinstalling/reconfiguring applications when their PCs break down. Yeah, that’s a nice thought.
>>What will we see from The Portable Freeware Collection in the future?
There are a couple of things on my todo list (eg. I’d like to implement a Google-style spell checker for the search keywords), but it pretty much depends on how much free time I have, and how motivated I am to do it. The latter is particularly tricky, since I don’t seem to have a lot of control over it. I could be sitting in the toilet and suddenly I have an idea to do something, and I will be able to hack it up in one or two hours. Otherwise, I could force myself to sit in front of the computer for the entire weekend and not have anything to show!
>>What is your favorite part about working with The Portable Freeware Collection?
Downloading cool apps and testing to see if they are portable. In a strange way, it’s a really zen and fun thing to do, especially if the app itself is novel. It’s like unwrapping a brand new bar of chocolate and savoring it for the first time. It really makes my day when I find something portable that I would personally use, and add it to my personal USB harddisk that I carry around with me.
Popularity: 27% [?]
Tags: Freeware, Interviews