Monthly Archives: November 2007

DriveImage XML – Image and Backup Logical Drives and Partitions Free

DriveImage XML is a free, easy to use, and reliable program for imaging and backing up partitions and logical drives.

The program allows you to:

Backup logical drives and partitions to image files
Browse these images, view and extract files
Restore these images to the same or a different drive
Copy directly from drive to drive
Schedule automatic backups with your Task Scheduler

Image creation uses Microsoft’s Volume Shadow Services (VSS), allowing you to create safe “hot images” even from drives currently in use.

Images are stored in XML files, allowing you to process them with 3rd party tools. Never again be stuck with a useless backup!

Restore images to drives without having to reboot.

DriveImage XML runs under Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Vista only. The program will backup, image and restore drives formatted with FAT 12, 16, 32 and NTFS.

Since this program is currently distributed as freeware, there is no technical support.  Instead, refer to the program’s help file and documentation.  As well, you can refer to the program’s FAQ.

Download at author’s site: http://www.runtime.org/dixml.htm

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MWSnap – The Perfect Free Image Capture Tool

MWSnap is a highly rated small, yet powerful, Windows program for snapping (capturing) images from selected parts of the screen. I find this program invaluable in day to day usage.

The current version will capture the whole desktop, a highlighted window, an active menu, a control, or a fixed or free rectangular part of the screen. MWSnap handles the 5 most popular graphics formats, and contains several graphical tools including zoom, ruler, color picker and a window spy. It can be also used as a fast picture viewer or converter. This is a nice feature.

The application does not require installation and does not need any special drivers or system files.

MWSnap is freeware, but the author will gladly accepted donations.

Selected features:

5 snapping modes.
Support for BMP, JPG, TIFF, PNG and GIF formats, color depth and quality settings.
System-wide hotkeys.
Clipboard copy/paste.
Printing.
Auto-saving, auto-printing.
Auto-start with Windows.
Minimizing to system tray.
An auto-extending list of fixed sizes, perfect for snapping images for icons and glyphs.
A zoom tool for magnifying selected parts of the screen.
A ruler tool for measuring screen objects lengths.
A color picker showing screen colors with separated RGB parts.
Fast picture viewer.
Adding frames and mouse pointer images.
Multilevel configurable undo and redo.
Multilingual versions.
Configurable user interface.

Download at author’s site: http://www.mirekw.com/winfreeware/mwsnap.html

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Filed under Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Auslogics Disk Defrag – Free

Why Defragment Disks?

Disk fragmentation leads to system slowdowns, PC crashes, slow startups and shutdowns. Auslogics Disk Defrag® is designed for fast optimization of modern hard disks.

Hard disks are by far the slowest component in your computer. CPU and memory work much faster than hard disks since they do not have moving parts. So, fragmented disks often become a bottleneck to system performance.

As well as causing slowdowns, fragmentation makes the disk drive heads move more than necessary when reading files, and this can lead to freeze-ups and system crashes. It is important to keep your disks defragmented and optimized, as much as possible. Personally, I defrag with Auslogics Disk Defrag weekly.

Auslogics Disk Defrag was designed to remedy system sluggishness and crashes caused by disk fragmentation. It is optimized to work with today’s modern hard disks. The program is extremely easy to use, does not require any analysis phase and is faster than most disk defragmentation software. It will help you get maximum performance out of your hardware investments.

And, what’s most important; it’s absolutely free.

I have been using this application for the last year or more, and I recommend downloading Auslogics BoostSpeed to explore the multiple ways you can get better performance out of your system without expensive hardware updates.

Here are some key features of Auslogics Disk Defrag:

Improve computer performance and stability

Increase your productivity – no more waiting for files to open

Defragment disks in only a few minutes

Useful disk fragmentation map and detailed fragmentation report

Download: http://www.auslogics.com/disk-defrag/

Defragmentation Explained

Fragmentation is caused by creating and deleting files and folders, installing new software, and downloading files from the Internet. Computers do not necessarily save an entire file or folder in a single space on a disk; they’re saved in the first available space. After a large portion of a disk has been used, most of the subsequent files and folders are saved in pieces across the volume.

When you delete files or folders, the empty spaces left behind are filled in randomly as you store new ones. This is how fragmentation occurs. The more fragmented the volume is, the slower the computer’s file input and output performance will be.

Defragmentation is the process of rewriting non-contiguous parts of a file to contiguous sectors on a disk for the purpose of increasing data access and retrieval speeds. Because FAT and NTFS disks can deteriorate and become badly fragmented over time, defragmentation is vital for optimal system performance.

Download: http://www.auslogics.com/disk-defrag/

 

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Windows Tips That Work – Freeware Fills In Where Windows Comes Up Short

We all know that Windows is far from perfect–and developers may know that best of all. Thankfully, they also have the tools to fix those imperfections and share their ingenuity with us. When we’re really lucky, the developers give their software away for free, though some creators do ask for donations. If there’s a gap or two in your computing tool kit, one of these fabulous freebies might fill it.

Backing Up:

There are many backup programs, but few as elegant and powerful as SyncBack from 2BrightSparks. As its name suggests, SyncBack has two primary functions: backing up and restoring data (copying in one direction), and synchronizing folders (copying in both directions to make the contents of two folders identical). You can set up profiles for common backup or synchronization chores and run them automatically with the program’s scheduling feature.

SyncBack works with network drives, FTP servers, and CD or DVD drives (as long as you preformat the disks using the Universal Disk Format, or UDF, which is a newer way to format CDs and DVDs). The program e-mails you its log file automatically when your backup is done. It also shuts down any applications you specify before beginning, and it can launch applications before or after it finishes. Unlike some backup programs (including the backup software built into some versions of Windows), SyncBack can compress files using the standard .zip format. This lets you easily find and retrieve a single file inside an archive without having to navigate through a backup program. SyncBack’s elegant design offers easy and expert modes. The program is a snap to customize, too.

Folder Shortcuts:

Readers often ask how to create shortcuts to folders that will make them open where and how the user wants. Though Windows provides this capability, creating the shortcuts in Windows may entail setting up messy command-line switches that are nearly impossible to remember. To solve the problem, install SnapFolders. Right-click any folder to create a shortcut via the context menu, or launch the utility from its own shortcut to see a dialog box where you can specify shortcut preferences. SnapFolders puts the shortcut on your Start menu or on a submenu. The program doesn’t offer every possible tweak that the command-line approach does, but it saves time and trouble.

Tweaking the Taskbar:

Maybe you don’t like having the taskbar hide your desktop wallpaper. Or you need every inch of your desktop for icons and other doodads. One solution is to use the taskbar’s Properties dialog box to automatically hide the taskbar until your mouse moves over its original position. Unfortunately, this leaves an unsightly line along one edge of your screen–and on older systems, the action isn’t exactly brisk. A couple of freeware developers have found a cure for this.

One is AKSoftware’s Transbar, which lets you make the taskbar wholly or partially transparent in 1 percent increments.

Another is TaskbarHide, which instantly pops the taskbar on or off screen whenever you move your mouse over or away from it.

Start from scratch:

But what if you want to eliminate your taskbar altogether?

GeoShell is a free open-source taskbar replacement consisting of modular floating toolbars that you can group and rearrange to your heart’s content. Your desktop will be cleaner because its icons go into a menu instead of cluttering your screen. The menus can be more compact than a typical Windows desktop arrangement, though some clutter remains. Also, you may not like floating toolbars–personally, I prefer to anchor them to an edge of the desktop. GeoShell’s skin feature gives you more control over your desktop’s look and feel, and you can even download plug-ins to extend its features.

Destroy duplicates:

Does your hard disk have duplicate files? I’m not talking about backups, but rather, useless copies of the same file that you may have unknowingly downloaded or created multiple times.

DoubleKiller can help you find out. Despite some quirks in its interface, the program can search various drives for the file types you specify, hunting for files of the same name, size, date, and/or CRC32-checksums (a means of checking file contents. After completing the search, DoubleKiller gives you tools for launching, moving, or deleting the duplicate files it finds. The utility’s Help tab provides a brief instruction manual to get you started.

Renaming:

You just dumped 10,000 photos from your digital camera onto your hard drive, including a potpourri of memories from birthdays, weddings, vacations. How will you ever keep them straight? Bulk Rename Utility to the rescue!

Launch BRU from its Start menu icon, or right-click the folder containing the files you want to rename. The utility’s settings look a little complicated, but the numbered and highlighted sections indicate the order in which options (if any) will be applied. The result of this complexity is a great deal of power, not just for searching and replacing or for adding dates or numbers, but also for such features as appending the folder name or placing renamed copies in a folder of your choosing. BRU’s Tip of the Day helps you learn features gradually. Like most good file utilities, BRU shows you a preview of your new file names.

Sorting:

Now that you’ve renamed all your photos and other files, do you really want a bazillion of them to occupy the same folder? One way to organize a large number of files is to create folders for each letter of the alphabet (that is, a folder named ‘A’, another named ‘B’, and so on), and move your files into those folders based on each file’s name. Unfortunately, this process can be tedious.

File Sieve will automate the work. The program creates 27 folders (one for each letter of the alphabet, plus ‘#’ for files starting with numbers and symbols) in the location of your choice, and it copies or moves files into the alphabetically correct location. Once you’ve created the folders, you can run File Sieve to move or copy additional files, without creating the folders anew.

File-management:

Long ago a Windows program called File Manager showed multiple drives and folders in its parent window so we didn’t have to keep switching between, and manually rearranging, multiple Explorer windows.

FileAnt takes us back to this golden age with a powerful yet nimble file-management tool that opens multiple folders at once (accessible via tabs) and displays two at a time via its tiling option. The program has built-in viewers for previewing files without opening separate application windows, as well as its own FTP client, a pie chart diagram that shows the size of folders, custom folder icons, and folder synchronization. It even has an MP3 player you can access from its tray-icon menu. Prettier file utilities are available, but few are as powerful as FileAnt. The app is styled “free donationware,” meaning that donations are encouraged but not required.

Find that file:

Looking for a needle of a file in a hard-drive haystack?

Sometimes Windows’ built-in search tool simply isn’t up to the job. Fortunately, Mythicsoft has given us Agent Ransack, a free version of its FileLocator Pro file-search utility. Agent Ransack relies on the usual DOS wild cards or on more-robust regular expressions to search for your files. Don’t know what a regular expression is? Just click the Search Wizard button to have the program walk you through the steps for specifying the necessary parameters. For even more criteria, check the utility’s Expert User option. Agent Ransack even saves your previous search criteria and your past search results, too.


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Firefox 2.0.0.10 Fixes Several Flaws

A new version of Firefox was released today.

You can upgrade through the Help-Check for Updates feature.

The new version addresses three vulnerabilities, all rated “High,” which Mozilla defines as “Vulnerability can be used to interact gather sensitive data from other sites the user is visiting or inject data or code into those sites, requiring no more than normal browsing actions.” This is less serious than Critical, which entails remote code execution.

The three vulnerabilities are:

* 2007-37: jar: URI scheme XSS hazard: Several vulnerability scenarios are possible with the jar: URI scheme, which is intended to support signed pages in a jar file. Henceforth, these files may only be served with a Content-Type header of application/java-archive or application/x-jar.

* 2007-38: Memory corruption vulnerabilities: Three bugs can result in memory corruption that can cause program crashes. It may be possible that these could result in code execution, but this has not been demonstrated.

* 2007-39: Referer-spoofing via window.location race condition: It’s possible to fake the referer field by exploiting a timing issue in window.location. This could lead to a forgery attack in some cases.

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FaceBook: A Beginners Guide

Facebook is a social networking service that lets you connect with friends, co-workers, and others who share similar interests or who have common backgrounds. What makes Facebook different from other social networks are its extensive privacy controls, its development platform, and its large and quickly growing user base. Compared to many other social networks, Facebook gets new features and improvements almost daily.

Setup

Facebook is all about getting in touch with others. Facebook has created some simple ways to find your friends using your e-mail address, or the buddy list from your AOL instant messaging account. You can search by name, or pull up listings based on your computer’s address book.

Find your friends with Facebook’s built-in friend finder.

To start adding friends to Facebook use a multipronged attack. Use your most active Web mail account and your AIM buddy list, which in some cases could pull up nearly everyone you know. Since everyone needs an e-mail address to sign up with Facebook, giving Facebook permission to use your existing address books should make it possible to track down everyone with whom you communicate.

Once you’ve added the people you know or remember, one of your first steps should be filling out your own profile. You can do this before tracking down your friends, but you’ll find that people are constantly making tweaks to their profile, so nothing is set in concrete.

The two things that are important are a personal picture, and your contact information–both of which Facebook highlights when you’re setting things up. For profile pictures you can simply upload an image from your hard drive. Filling out the rest of your profile is as simple as completing any Web form. You’re not required to include anything about yourself, so don’t feel too inclined to fill out information you don’t want others to see; which brings us to the topic of privacy

Privacy

Privacy is one of the key differentiators of Facebook from other social networking services. Facebook gives you the option of controlling what others see, right down to individual photo albums, pieces of personal information such as your address, phone number, and so on.

Privacy controls you’ll find on the profile edit page.

To control or limit the flow of information to others–including your friends–Facebook has set up some simple controls to adjust privacy. When setting up your profile, you’ll notice some small blue locks under your contact information. You can adjust each one of these for the information to be visible to everyone, just your friends, or no one at all.

Those small blue locks are just beginning. To dig deeper, beyond just contact information, click the privacy link on the top right of Facebook. This will take you to a control panel where you manage various elements of your profile, including: what users see when searching for you; what actions Facebook reports to others; and which people get limited, or no access to your profile. While you can change any of these, the two most important ones are the profile settings (what parts of your profile people can see), and your news feed and mini-feed, which is a running ticker of your activity on the service. Some people are happy to allow everyone to know what they’re doing, but if you don’t feel like sharing this information with people, it’s worth taking a minute to tweak.

Saying hello

Once you’ve got your profile set up and you’ve linked with several friends, there are a handful of ways to communicate with others. The first is the Wall, which is the place to leave a note on everyone’s profile page. It’s completely public, so whatever you write, others will be able to see. You can leave attachments on people’s Walls, including photos, videos, and all sorts of rich media items that have been integrated with Facebook applications.

Facebook also has its own e-mail service.

One thing that makes this internal messaging service attractive is its conversation threading, similar to Gmail. Like Gmail, you begin typing in a friend’s name, or pick the “send FRIEND a message” from the list of commands under their profile picture. This will open up the message composition page, where you can write and add attachments, similar to what you’re able to do on their Walls. Writing on a Wall is a public affair. People can see what you wrote, and visa versa.

Sharing

You can post items to your profile or send them to your friends on and off the service. Anyone you’ve shared items with can then leave comments and discuss the item with others.

There are two easy ways to share links on Facebook. One is to copy and paste a link to your sharing page. The other is to add the “share on Facebook” bookmarklet to your browser’s bookmarks bar. I f you intend on sharing things on a regular basis, add the bookmarklet, it gives you a one-click option to share something and continue browsing. Either way, once you’ve fed in a URL, it will scrape the page to grab any related pictures and a brief description. You can go in and add your own text. Once you’re finished tweaking, you have the option of posting it to your profile, or of sending it to others on or off Facebook.

Applications

One of the biggest draws of Facebook is f8, a platform for developers to make their own applications that integrate tightly with Facebook. Your friends can see what applications you’re using and vice versa, taking some of the effort out of finding what’s cool and what’s not. Applications reside mostly on your profile, for others to see. Many applications are like little Web sites that run right inside the service.

To find applications, there’s a built-in directory on Facebook. This directory shows the newest and most popular applications, along with a counter of how many people are using them. Once you’ve found one you like, you can simply add it to your profile. There’s no software installation required–you’re simply telling Facebook you want access to it. Likewise, if you find one of your friends using an application, you can click the link to its name to find out more about it.

While personal style is an important part of social networking, adding too many applications to your profile can render things distracting to friends, who simply won’t bother visiting your profile page.

Social timeline

You may have noticed that every time you add a new friend on Facebook, you have the option to give a small amount of detail about how you know them. Many of these options include things such as when you had a job together, if you went to school at a certain time, and so on. All of this information is made available in your social timeline, which can be found under Friends > Social Timeline. Assuming filled out this information, you’ll be able to keep track of all sorts of life events.

To add on to the timeline, just pick a friend who you want to add details about, and choose the “How do you know FRIEND?” link when browsing or searching in the Friends tab on the top menu. It’ll pull up that same assortment of boxes you get when you first add a friend.

Facebook toolbar

You’ve already mastered profiles, messaging, and more. In fact, you’re doing it so regularly you’d like to add the service to your browser to skip a few steps. Lucky for you, there’s a toolbar you can install in your browser which gives you a handy Facebook search bar and a notifier for when you get new message or when friends change items on their profile. There’s also an integrated share button to post whatever you’re looking at, similar to the bookmarklet mentioned earlier.

Facebook Photo Album Downloader

Facebook lets you upload and share your photos with others. A Firefox extension will pull down an entire album for you. One installed, just right click on the link to an album, and it will fetch all the pictures and download them to your desktop.

Facebook events to Google Calendar

Facebook’s built-in events feature is a neat way to create and keep track of upcoming social events. If you’re a Google Calendar user, you don’t have to rely on yet another calendar with this script for Greasemonkey, a popular Firefox add-on. Facebook events to Google Calendar does just what it says, by giving you a new option next to a Facebook event that lets you send a copy straight to your Google Calendar.

Other resources:

Get productive with the best Facebook Apps: Lifehacker.com

Facebook Powertools: 150+ Apps, Scripts and Add-ons for Facebook: Mashable.com

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Get it for Free! Foxit Reader 2.2 Has Just Been Released

Get it for free!

Foxit Reader 2.2 has just been released. This new version introduces some new features, including word capturing, advanced search, minimizing to system tray, bookmarks synchronization and more.

Overview

Foxit Reader is a free PDF document viewer and printer. Small, fast, with a rich feature set. Foxit Reader supports Windows 98/Me/2000/XP/2003/Vista. Its core function is compatible with PDF Standard 1.7.

In the past, we have had to download a huge PDF reader, go through a lengthy installation process and wait for an annoying splash screen to disappear just to open a PDF document. As well, to annotate a PDF document, we have had to pay up to US$299 to buy the appropriate software. With Foxit Reader, that’s in the past.

Following are some of the advantages of Foxit Reader:

* Incredibly small: The download size of Foxit Reader is only 2.1 M which is a fraction of Acrobat Reader’s 20 M size.

* Fast: When you run Foxit Reader, it launches instantly. You are not forced to view an annoying splash window displaying company logo, author names and so on.

* Annotation tool: Have you ever wanted to annotate, or comment on, a PDF document.
Foxit Reader allows you to draw graphics, highlight text, type text and make notes on a PDF document and then print out or save the annotated document.

* Text converter: You can convert the whole PDF document into a simple text file.

* Security and privacy: Foxit Reader doesn’t connect to the Internet without your permission. Other PDF readers often connect to the Internet in the background.

Download it at http://www.foxitsoftware.com

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