Tools a happy internet surfer needs
Firefox and AdBlock with one of these filters. This gives you the bare minimum of a reasonable secure, fully featured browser with efficient popup and advertisement blocking. Next you want Thunderbird for your email, newsgroup and RSS feed needs. Forget about it's built in spam filtering though and head straight over to spambayes. This is the single best personal anti spam solution I've tested. Of course all this is pointless if you are running on one of the "swiss cheese" OSes, so as a Windows user at least upgrade to XPsp2. It's built in one way firewall plus your routers firewall protection plus a software firewall like Kerio should keep most intruders out of the system. You also want a couple of utility web sites, two particularly useful ones are bugmenot, which bypasses annoying but mandatory one time registrations, and mailinator for the times bugmenot fails and you actually have to give out an email address. For completeness and because everyone thinks you need one include AntiVir and Avg as your antivirus solution. I just do a scheduled nightly scan with these and turn off their realtime protection features because I find them terribly annoying and slowing down my system (life file system watch while compiling anyone?). They find at least a dozen virii and trojans per day but all of these sitting harmlessly in my spam email attachment folder and getting deleted no fuss. There are more tools I use and recommend, but these should give you an enjoyable online experience. Also, while this is a white-list of things I recommend, the black-list of things not to install is far far far longer. As a rule of thumb I try to stick with free open source software wherever possible and am very careful around file sharing tools and software from "evil" companies that try to lock you into their philosophy and try to talk you into installing far more than you originally asked for. Most important of all tools: common sense, a brain and the ability and willingness to read. It amazes me time and time again just how fucking stupid some people seem to be falling for the most naiive of traps and scams. BTW, I wonder how long the war between spammers, advertisers and users can continue the way it does currently. I remember back in the days I signed a petition for a commercial free internet, which would be absolutely laughable today. Today's reality has half of the internet financed by advertisements. Which puts me in a sweet spot because with my tools I don't see any of the annoying website banners and almost no spam mails at all. At the same time Joe average user isn't interested or educated enough to defend himself against the flood and thus pays for the ad sponsored services I'm benefiting from as well. Thank you Joe! I wouldn't want to live without my free search engines, free emails accounts, free message boards and blog services... Now imagine the anti ad tools getting better, easier to use and ubiquitous. Suddenly ads as a revenue stream and financial model are gone. Oh oh.