Mainstream: Speedtest by Ookla
Geekier Alternative: OpenSpeedTest hosted by BSNL
Because: Come on, it’s from BSNL and it doesn’t suck. What more do you want? Apart from the patriotism swag, OpenSpeedTest like the name implies, is completely open source. It does nothing except what it is advertised to do, that is, measure your internet speed and it feels much more snappy and responsive than Speedtest with a spartan but clean UI. It’s also more accurate in finding your nearest servers and the results don’t fluctuate as much as Speedtest over several tests, thereby giving you a more precise idea of what speeds you are exactly getting. Also, it doesn’t sell your information like IP address to other people and did we mention that there are absolutely no ads?
Because: You either die a hero or live long enough to become the villain. Adblock started the revolution against the tyranny of ads long long ago. But now, it’s allowing companies to bribe it into whitelisting their ads? Unacceptable, old friend. It also sucks relatively more resources and its filters aren’t updated that regularly either. Ublock Origin, while not exactly the new kid on the block, is still the king of the hill. It’s UI feels a little clunky at times but it’s not terrible and its ad blocking is the best par none right now. Unless you want to spend some time learning how to make a Pi Hole. Now that’s some quality ad blocking.
Mainstream: Google for googling search engines.
Geekier Alternative: Duck Duck Go
Because: Everyone is sort of resigned to the fact that Google is privy to all your information. The Sun rises in the east, Half Life 3 is coming soon, Google is going to stalk you and bombard you with creepily specific ‘personalized’ ads. What if we told you it doesn’t have to be this way? What if there was an alternative? Enter the red pill: Duck Duck Go. The promise of absolute privacy it offers (and holds very tightly to) is a very compelling reason to switch. Having a large Digital Footprint becomes dangerous day by day, with hackers and identity thieves and other unsavoury characters and every little step you take to cut it down helps. DuckDuckGo doesn’t track you and doesn’t sell your history to advertisers. Plus it has tons of more customisability.
Because: Who would have ever thought that Reddit would become mainstream in India? Granted most people on the street don’t know what it is but as Digit readers, you already know India has a pretty active Redditor community. Here’s where you need to set yourself apart. Instead of clicking through each post in an image or navigating the rather strange, frightening, unknown seas of Imgur (Did you know that imgur has an active community too?), just add a p after reddit in the URL and refresh it. It’ll automatically turn into a slideshow that you can customize to your liking, from fullscreen to changing the auto next timer. It’s seriously a cool way to browse image heavy subreddits like /r/earthporn and /r/aww
Mainstream: Wolfram Alpha for Mathing
Geekier Alternative: Cymath
Because: If you have ever had to do a math assignment in the last few years, you probably know of Wolfram Alpha. For those who don’t, it’s basically a math search engine. Input your math query and it does some hocus pocus in the backend and spits out the answer. Simple right? But there’s no professor out there who’s going dish out precious marks for just answers without the steps. Good thing Wolfram Alpha can show you the steps too, yeah? Tough luck, buttercup, it’s behind a subscription paywall. But despair not, for Cymath is here. It does the same thing as Wolfram Alpha but the steps are free and it isn’t as pushy when it asks you to sign up for its subscription. True, Wolfram Alpha has a few more nice to have features and costs a whopping 25 cents less a month but if you’re just going to stick to the free program, Cymath all the way.
Mainstream: Teamspeak or god forbid, Skype for VOIP especially when gaming.
Geekier Alternative: Discord
Because: Gaming together with some mates on comms is one of life’s more easily obtainable pleasures. It might not really matter what software you use – be it in-game voice chat or a standalone offering (except Skype, it eats resources like crazy). But perhaps you’d prefer a more discreet and private server that’s also free. Or you’d like to merely text your friends without being on comms too. Or would like to stay connected on Mobile. If you found yourself saying yes to any of those, you should look into Discord (covered in SKOAR!). It’s a very light comms program that has unlimited free servers, is completely anonymous and easy to use. Instant Messaging is pretty neat too, with inline images and gifs. It can run as a web service too in your browser and actually has a pretty decent mobile app. Definitely worth making the switch with your fellow geeks!
Mainstream: Wetransfer for sending attachments
Geekier Alternative: Ge.tt or mixtape.moe
Because: Let’s make this clear. Nothing turns us off a service faster than pushiness to sign up/subscribe/whatever. While it makes sense to try get people to sign up so that they can generate some $$$, only sheeple will still use their site when a better alternative is available. So while both Wetransfer and Ge.tt offer pretty much the same functionality, we prefer the latter for it’s non-pushiness and subjectively, better UX. Also the ability to begin downloading the file at the receiver’s end while it’s being uploaded.
Because: Let’s face it. Wikipedia is everyone’s MVP for when you need filler text that looks somewhat relevant to whatever topic you are supposed to be presenting on, because who are we kidding, no one looks at presentations anyway unless you have some snazzy animations. But there’s always going to be that fear that you missed a hyperlink or a  somewhere and your teacher/boss is gonna zero in on it. That’s why Gwiki. It gives you just the plain text you need, correctly formatted so you can use it as filler in peace. Ok fine, it’s for distraction free reading. Happy now?
Mainstream: uTorrent as your torrent client
Geekier Alternative: qBitTorrent
Because: This one is a no brainer. The last good version of uTorrent without a hidden Bitcoin miner that leveraged your CPU to mine coins and no security exploits was version 2.2.1 – released back in 2011. The current version is also infested with ads and requires you to be vigilant not to accidentally download malware. qBitTorrent is lighter, completely open-source and generally does everything you’d want a torrent client to do, and it does it well. Deluge and Transmission are two other clients worth looking into but qBitTorrent should suffice for most use cases.
Mainstream: What’s my IP
Geekier Alternative: I Can Haz IP
Because: Sometimes, all you need is just your IP. You don’t need to know who your ISP is, what are you accessing the internet from, Nada. Just those 12 numbers separated into 4 by periods, no frills. And exactly for those situations, there exists I Can Haz IP…
Mainstream: Opening up Command Prompt to execute commands like tracert, ping and ipconfig.
Geekier Alternative: Create a batch file that’ll execute the commands for you when you open it.
Because: Opening up CMD to execute a command is actually painfully slow, if you think about it. Why should you suffer through it when you can achieve the same thing much faster? Open up notepad and type out each command you want your shortcut to perform, in separate lines. And if you want to look at the results, add pause in its own line at the end. Save this as a .bat file where ever you want. Opening it will execute the commands instantaneously without you having to do anything! As a bonus, you can set up a keyboard shortcut for even more functionality. Navigate to the shortcut’s properties, and in the shortcut tab you can set the hotkey.
Mainstream: Alexa for Website Ranking
Geekier Alternative: SimilarWeb
Because: Frankly speaking, Alexa is quite rubbish. It logs its data from only people who have its toolbar installed and since only a particular demographic (businesses and the tech illiterate) have the misfortune to have their browsers infested with toolbars, this ends up skewing the data quite a bit. While SimilarWeb isn’t perfect; far from it. It’s a wee bit pushy which we didn’t like, but the service itself is better.
This article was first published in the June 2017 issue of Digit magazine. To read Digit’s articles first, subscribe here or download the Digit app for Android and iOS. You could also buy Digit’s previous issues here.