Below find links to software I recommend and a brief description of why, everything you find here is free and/or open source.
Workstation OS – MX Linux
Lightweight, based on Debian stable with full disk encryption. Sold me when it supported a Toshiba touch-pad out of the box that Lubuntu, CentOS and Debian standard did not. Comes with scripts that simplify installation of non-free drivers and codecs.
Server OS – Debian
Ports exist for almost every architecture, source code and packages for >50K programs, and works great on older systems with low RAM.
Firewall OS – IPFire
Easy to use firewall featuring hardened Linux kernel, multi-threaded IPS, Antivirus Proxy, GeoIP blocking, DNSSEC, QoS, VLANs, Dynamic DNS, and lots more. Unlike pfsense this is Linux based so you can do alot more. This site is actually running inside of a qemu vm on ipfire connected to it’s dmz.
Router OS – OpenWRT
Alternative router firmware I switch to when manufacturer has ended support, or is not providing regular firmware updates to protect against the latest vulnerabilities. Thousands of Linux packages are available to add additional functionality. Easy to use build environment is available to create your own custom firmware. Not recommended for very old routers with less than 16MB Flash or 32MB RAM, for those I recommend using latest DD-WRT beta.
NAS – OpenMediaVault
Forked from the FreeNAS project that was based on FreeBSD, the original developer switched to Linux to better support bleeding edge features. Supports software RAID and my favorite out of box feature: SMTP notifications when array is degraded, giving you time to respond to bad drive before you loose data. Lots of additional functionality possible via add-ons.
Home Security – Zoneminder
I like this system because I can throw just about any camera I have onto it as a video source, from newer high resolution cams to old cellphones with cracked screens. Difficult to setup so I am planning a howto.
Image viewer – Irfanview
I have been using this for > 20 years, supports more image formats that any other program I am aware of and even more with optional plugin package. Works with Wine under Linux. This supports jpeg lossless rotation and the resize function is very high quality. My website logo was made in 5 mins with MS Paint + irfanview blur filter, very handy.
Terminal program – Putty
Windows no longer comes with hyper-terminal and to my knowledge still lacks an SSH client, so this tool is essential if you need to connect to serial devices or make ssh connections from Windows.
File Transfer GUI – WinSCP
GUI front-end built on top of Putty that allows you to move files around, create links, and set permissions graphically via SFTP, FTP, & SCP. Works on Linux via Wine.
Office Suite – Libre Office
Compatible with MS Office, I have been using this for years to edit spreadsheets and documents for free.
File Compression – 7Zip
Windows no longer supports creating password protected zip files, this can.
Media Player – VideoLAN
Windows does not include an MPEG2 codec for DVD playback, this does, and it lets you stream in a lot more formats than Windows Media Player does.
Android Network Scanner – Fing
Graphical NMAP in your pocket, great for determining the DHCP assigned address of that newly added device quickly. Calls other programs from port scan results, for instance: if port 22 is open it’ll connect with juicessh if installed.
Android SSH client – Juice SSH
Sounds cumbersome, but its surprisingly easy to manage your home devices via SSH from your phone with this, press the screen for sticky control key or arrows and the rest will feel intuitive.
Android Game – Domination
Risk clone that gets me through boring flights and car trips without internet service. The program has always been Java based, so it was a natural android port. Been playing this for over 15 years! Great AI, and features multiplayer support.