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Let's put our wallets away, shall we? (At least until you get to the bonus deals.) Today, I offer proof positive that some of the best things in life are free(ware).
See, for a long time I've relied on (and recommended) IrfanView, a small, speedy image-editing tool that's great for stuff like rotating and resizing photos.
However, it's somewhat limited, especially if you're looking to organize a big photo library. Thankfully, there's a more capable tool that's also free: FastStone Image Viewer.
Recently updated to version 5.4 and reviewed by Download.com, "FSIV" offers not only the image-editing basics, but also cool stuff like brushes, filters and effects.
Said the reviewer: "It can resize, rotate, and crop images; fix red-eye and other image flaws; add borders, watermarks, and special effects; convert batches; and do far more, and better, than it should be able to for free."
Personally, I'm a fan of the old-school interface, which relies on a simple, familiar file-tree structure for navigating your folders. I also like the fact that the entire thing exists in a 6MB download, meaning it has a very small footprint and loads quickly.
So let us pause to celebrate -- and download -- this freeware gem. If you need an image editor that's a bit more robust than IrfanView, this is it.
Bonus deal: If you're anything like me, congratulations! Also, you rarely need to print in color, meaning a monochrome laser printer makes a ton more sense for your home office. Like this one: For a limited time, Adorama has the Canon ImageClass MF216n multifunction laser printer for $89.99 shipped. It lists for $199.99 and sells elsewhere for anywhere from $110-160.
The MF216n prints, scans, copies and faxes. It features a 250-sheet paper tray, auto document feeder and 24-page-per-minute output speed. Alas, your only connectivity options are USB and Ethernet -- sorry, no Wi-Fi -- but if you keep it connected to a computer that's on most of the time anyway, you can still print wirelessly from your mobile devices. CNET hasn't reviewed it, but PC Mag awarded it an Editors' Choice, and Amazon buyers rated it 4.4 stars out of 5.
Bonus deal No. 2: Jon Stewart is barely gone and already I miss him terribly. Here's hoping he'll be a very frequent guest on Colbert's new show. In the meantime, Amazon is offering up to 80 percent off Kindle books by various guests of "The Daily Show," which I think is kind of a cool promotion. My recommendations: "Lost in Shangri-La" ($1.99), "Packing for Mars" ($3.99) and Martin Short's "I Must Say" ($1.99). If there are other sale titles you'd recommend, hit the comments!
Bonus deal No. 3: Speaking of people gone way too soon (though at least Stewart is, you know, alive), I can't not share this: Amazon has "The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," Kindle edition, for $3.99. (You can also get it from Google Play for the same price.) The volume contains all five books in Douglas Adams' amazing series, which I read probably a dozen times in my youth. If you like humor, sci-fi or both, this deal is Prefect. (Fans will understand.)
Bonus deal No. 4: I don't know for how much longer, but Groupon once again (or maybe still?) has the refurbished HP Stream 11 laptop (blue or magenta) for $119.99 shipped. That's just a crazy-good deal on a full-blown Windows machine, though unfortunately it doesn't include the usual free year of Office 365 Personal; just a 30-day trial. (I think this deal previously included the full year, or at least the listing said it did, so I'm kind of scratching my noggin right now.)