I may have done a list like this before, but I'm too lazy to look. I'm not going to make a list of things everyone thinks is cool, rather I want to share things that aren't so obvious that I use almost every day. Most are free, but all are really good.
Thanks to some well placed TV ads, Hulu is becoming much more popular. A service of NBC and Fox, this service allows you to watch recent episodes of your favorite shows as well as some older ones. But I recommend it not for TV shows, but rather for the movies. Uncut and with only a few breaks, they offer a good collection of recent and classic films. There's always around a hundred or so available. However, the collection changes all the time, so if you find something good you better watch it before they take it off.
It's not Photoshop, but it's pretty close and it's free. This image editor gives you the ability to do some amazing things with your photos. I've been using it to tweak, retouch and radically modify the photos in my collection for weeks. There are many forums out there to help you get started and then later do some of the more advanced stuff. It's open source so it's always improving and new plug-ins are being added all the time. If you have a digital camera and you want to turn you snapshots into some more professional/artistic photos, you need this. (Unless you can afford Photoshop!)
Piracy is illegal. Thou shalt not steal. I do not advocate stealing music. At all. Ever. If you like a song, buy it. If you like an artist, support them. Period.
However, if, like me, you have already spent a fortune on a music collection and, for whatever reason, are unable to digitize it yourself, then I do not see an issue with going out and collecting the digital versions of what you already own. (Just my opinion, I am in no way advocating my morality over yours.) In my case, much of mine is on cassette. I am able to plug a boombox into the computer and dub them over, but that is an extremely painstaking procedure and my ever diminishing mobility is making it increasingly difficult. With this site I can search by artist or title and it searches other sites to find it.
So, use this at your discretion, but do not steal.
Star Trek Remastered
The powers that be have decided to go back and fix scenery and effects in Star Trek, the original series. Using digital processes, the antique looking dials and panels have been updated to make them look more futuristic by today's standards. Not all episodes are available yet, but you can watch the ones that are online. Free.
Star Wars Revelations
A lot of fan films - amatuer spin offs - are really bad. Really, really bad. It seems anyone with a video camera and a computer thinks they can make movies. However, this one is different. The acting is not quite Hollywood, but the script is good, the effects are outstanding, and the whole project is well made. Taking place right before the events in the original Star Wars movie (Episode 4), this film is about an hour long and is totally free to download and share. If you're a Star Wars geek, you've got to check it out.
Wal~Mart Photo Online
I was really reluctant to try this one. There are so many sites on the Internet these days that let you share your photos. However, Wal~mart has something Photobucket doesn't - my family uses it. I can upload all the pictures of the grandkids and the grandmas can go to the site, pick the pictures they want, and have them printed at their local Wal~Mart and pick them up next time they go shopping. No shipping charges. Cool.
The Literature Network
Reading a book online is not quite as satisfying as having the real thing in your hands. There's just something about the "realness" of a book that computers can't compete with. That being said, this site is really good. Thousands of great works are now in the public domain. That means no one owns them any more and they can be freely shared without having to pay a publisher. This site brings as many as possible together in a format that is readable, searchable, and easy to use. Still not the same as paper and ink, but if you're a book geek, you should check it out.
This one's probably the only one on my list that isn't free. But it's worth it. Rent movies through the mail, no late fees. Plus you can watch them online. Obviously not all movies are available online, but there are many that are. Commercial free and some in HD (if your Internet speed allows it). There's a ton of old TV shows too. Unfortunately it's only on Windows and Mac. New movies every month.
This is one of Google's babies. This is a great way to sort and organize your photo collection. You can so some basic editing and tweaking too. If you use Blogger, you can also upload your pics direct to your blog.
Windows Movie Maker
I know that Macs do an awesome job with pictures and movies. Way better than Windows. But I don't have a Mac, I have Vista. I have yet to find a movie editor with the same drag and drop ease of use that Movie Maker has. It's not professional level movie making, but it's a great way to edit your home movies and write them to DVD.
I am really hoping the developers on this one will follow through with their promise to release this for Linux (don't know if it's available for Mac either). This is a nifty little social networking tool. It brings together your MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, email, gmail, and I don't know what else. It places icons in your system tray (down by the clock) and lets you know when you get an email, a Facebook update, a Tweet, all that fun stuff. You can have multiple notifiers for the same service if you have multiple accounts.
This one's not a download, but a web based tool. Convert any digital media to another format. Just about any other format you could want. Sure, you're uploading it and then downloading it and putting your file on someone else's computer. But it works, really well.
Another Windows only deal. This one makes slide shows from your photos, adding music and everything. With some patience, you also make some great effects with panning and zooming. It also produces custom music for your slides!
I mentioned earlier that I can plug a boombox into my computer to make mp3s. This is the program I use. Mix, cut, edit, add effects, all kinds of fun stuff. If you need an audio editor, there aren't any better.
Yes, it's another Microsoft thing, but guess what? Sometimes their stuff is actually useful. This one is free online storage. 25 gig worth. Not exactly a back up, but a good place to keep things you don't want to lose. Photos, music files, documents, everything. Files are limited to 50 MB each, so you can't upload that movie you pirated. You can also choose which people to share them with if you choose to do so.
A quick and dirty photo tool. Not an editor, but you can do some tweaks. I find this most useful for cropping and resizing. Small, fast, and able to do batches.
What things have you found that you use all the time?