Category Archives: Windows 7

Little TunnelBear (free) – A Drop Dead Simple VPN Built on Simplicity and Speed

I’m an Internet privacy advocate (regular readers will now pause – laugh – and say – “no kidding!”), and while the fight to rein in Google, and others, might seem unwinnable, privacy advocates have not lost the battle – yet. Which is why, I have a great interest in any tool that will either stop Google and other data accumulators from collecting, storing, and dissecting my private personal information, or inhibit their ability to do so.

As a result, I’ve long made it a practice to camouflage my IP address when searching for sensitive subject matter.  Sensitive subject matter doesn’t always involve porn. Although, ………….   Smile

Take a look at the following free VPN (Virtual Private Network) application – Little TunnelBear (a paid version with enhanced features is available), which allows you to surf the Web while hiding your IP address. Hiding your “real” IP address won’t leave traces of your private surfing activities – protecting you from snooping web sites, annoying advertisers, employers, curious family members, and of course – Google.

I’ve been running with TunnelBear, (for 6 months or so), on a daily basis – and I’m impressed – very impressed. This application is “snappy quick” which cannot be said of the majority of the 10 (or more), VPNs I’ve tested here in the last few years.

While the service is not entirely free (500 MB monthly free – an additional 1 GB is available (free) if one “Tweets” the application. Even with my heavy usage, I generally don’t run out of free data access (1.5 GB), until the 25/26th of the month.

At that point, I switch over to the free version of Expat Shield which unfortunately lacks the quickness of TunnelBear, with the additional handicap of being ad supported. Having said that, I’ll emphasize (from a previous review), that Expat Shield is a terrific application and, the developer is certainly entitled to generate revenue.

TunnelBear will get no points for a stylish  user interface …

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…. but I can assure you, that in this case “hot looks” cannot compete with speed, simplicity  and ease of use.  And, TunnelBear has all that – and more.

Simplicity – no need to launch a Browser first. Switch on – choose your preferred locale (the UK or the US) then launch a Browser.

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Please note that occasionally, you may find that instead of the UK, you will be assigned an alternative European IP address. Hungary and Holland come quickly to mind. It would be preferable, in my view, if the GUI reflected that fact.

Boost the freebie – If you have a Twitter account, and should you choose to do so, a quick Tweet is all it takes to bump up free data access to 1.5 GB. A very sweet deal, I think.

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Following which, an email similar to that shown below, will confirm your additional 1 GB of data access.

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I’ll repeat – Even with my heavy usage, I generally don’t run out of free data access (1.5 GB), until the 25/26th of the month.

Significant points:

There are no ads and the application doesn’t have to run in the background, or at startup.

Employs a minimum of  AES 128-bit encryption.

Normal surfing (hopping from site to site), showed no slowdown (none that I could measure in human terms) in connection speed.

Once the application has been started – all applications that communicate with a remote address will do so through TunnelBear.

As with all such applications, a leap of faith is required. While the application does shield you from prying eyes, the developer has full access. You need to consider the implications. In other words – do you trust the developer.

Here’s what the developer has top say on that issue –

“TunnelBear stores the absolute minimum amount of information required to operate our service. This information includes your email, first name, last name, # of times you’ve logged on and the overall amount of data you transferred for the month. We do NOT log any information as to the websites you visit, nor do we store your IP address after you disconnect.”

Having tested my fair share of anonymous surfing applications in the last few years, I’d judge this application to be as good, or better, than most.

Supported systems:

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Download at: Developer’s site (http://www.tunnelbear.com/)

Additional information is available from the developer’s FAQ page here.

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Filed under Android, Apple, downloads, Freeware, Google, Online Privacy, Software, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Vista, Windows XP

The Windows Club Latest Freebie – Ultimate Windows Customizer

imageRegular readers here will know, that I’m a big fan of the The Windows Club a great bunch of guys who have written and released some terrific free applications including Right-Click Extender (an absolute favorite of mine), Ultimate Windows Tweaker and FixWin Utility – all of which I have reviewed here, and recommended, in the last year.

The Windows Club’s latest release, Ultimate Windows Customizer (brought to you by my good buddy TeX, who gave me a heads-up this week), provides a full range of customizations designed specifically for your Windows 7 installation.

Ultimate Windows Customizer provides customization options in these areas –

Explorer

Context Menus

Libraries

Logon Screen

Start Orb

Taskbar

Miscellaneous

Extra Settings

Windows Media Player

Following installation, the application opens to a simple “click here” interface. Clicking on any of the following screen shots will expand the graphic to its original.

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The following two screen captures illustrate just a few of the customizations which can easily be pulled off using Ultimate Windows Customizer.

Context Menus

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Settings and Extras

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Fast facts:

Very simple and easy to use. No manual Hacks. No need to manually edit the Windows Registry and Windows System files.

Tested over and over for compatibility between various customizations.

70+ major features with literally tons of sub-features.

Built in Update Feature to be easily notified of new updates.

Backs up all System Files and Registry Settings that UWC deals with and does not modify these.

Error Log for easy display.

Easy uninstallation via the Control Panel.

Creates System Restore Point before any customizations are done.

System Requirements: Windows 7 (32-bit and 64-bit).

Download at: The Windows Club

As with all Windows Club applications to date, Ultimate Windows Customizer is a terrific application. One which can add a little sparkle, and increased convenience, to any Win 7 installation.

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Filed under downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, System Tweaks, System Utilities, Windows 7

Pin Files, Folders and Web Sites, To Windows 7 Taskbar – Free Windows 7 Taskbar Items Pinner

imagePinning applications to the Windows 7 Taskbar is generally very easy. Unfortunately, Windows 7 Taskbar was not designed with the ability to pin files,  folders, or web pages – but, a small freeware tool, Windows 7 Taskbar Items Pinner, enables you to overcome this limitation.

Download the executable file from the developer’s site (Kishan Bagaria – a 13 year old from India), then be sure to run the executable as “administrator” or, you’ll get the following -

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Currently, I’m testing Windows 8, so in some respects, I’m working with a user interface which has been turned upside down. One casualty of Microsoft’s thinking is – a reversal on a quick and easy way to reach all installed programs.

Using Windows 7 Taskbar Items Pinner, I’ve partially overcome this limitation by choosing to add two new links to the Taskbar – “Computer” and “Program Files”.

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A partial screen shot showing “Program Files” on the Taskbar.

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Activating the Program Files icon, launches the new Windows Explorer (notice the “Ribbon”) at C: Program Files. Since I work primarily in the “Desktop” –  as opposed to Windows 8 Metro interface, I now have quick access to a listing of installed applications.

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Custom items, including files and folders, or even a website can easily be added to the Taskbar – as the following series of screen shots (in which I have created a link to this website), indicate.

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The new Taskbar shortcut to Tech Thoughts, is shown in the following screen capture.

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If adding files, folders and web links to the Taskbar in Windows 7 is an option you’d like to exercise, then checkout the developers page for additional information on how to use this freebie effectively.

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Filed under Application Launchers, downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Software, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools

MachStudio Pro 2 – Price Cut From $4000 To Zero!

imageA product price reduction is one thing, but reducing the product price from $4000 to zero, zilch, nada – well, that’s a whole other thing. In a rather surprising move, StudioGPU, the developers of MachStudio Pro 2 (which has an excellent reputation in the 3-D industry), has done just that. Sort of beats a Wal-Mart rollback hands down!

If serious animation is your thing, and you have the hardware to support it – then rush on over to StudioGPU, and download their flagship product – MachStudio Pro 2.

I should point out; this application is not a toy – this is the real thing; designed by artists for artists, and shaped by the actual demands of a production environment.

Sample screen captures from video productions available at the developer’s site.

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Fast facts:

  • Real-time rendering on your desktop — say good-bye to expensive render farms.
  • Groundbreaking levels of interactivity giving the power back to the artist instead of the pipeline.
  • Provides revolutionary workflow allowing manipulation of cameras, lighting, ambient occlusion, animation, and materials in real-time.
  • Seamless interoperability with most leading CG software programs including Autodesk Maya and 3ds Max .
  • Resolution independent, allowing renders at any resolution and format (e.g. 1080P, 720P, 16:9, 4:3, NTSC, PAL and even 2K and beyond).
  • Render as final frame, or as passes for additional compositing work.
  • Generate higher quality CGI results for less time and money.

System requirements:

Windows 7 – 32 bit or 64 bit, Vista Business – 32 bit or 64 bit (SP1 or higher).

Minimum Hardware Requirements:

  • Intel Pentium 4 or higher, AMD Athlon 64, or AMD Opteron processor
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 2 GB of available disk space
  • 1 GB DirectX 11 compliant video card (tested w/ ATI and NVIDIA)

Download at: StudioGPU

If you’ve got a creative streak, and you have a drive to create imaginary worlds populated with imaginary characters, then this is a terrific opportunity to harness the power of your computer with the magic of MachStudio Pro 2.

Checkout the video at the developer’s site.

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I’m not an artist, a movie producer or director, but I’ve been playing with animation creative software since the days of Autodesk’s ground breaking 3-D applications in the 1980s. You can be sure, I’ve already downloaded MachStudio Pro 2.

Special thanks to Michael F., who brought this to my attention.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Animation Applications, Commercial Applications, Digital Media, downloads, Enterprise Applications, Free Full Versions, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Graphic Software, Multimedia Tools, Productivity Software, Software, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista

GigaTribe Private P2P – Share Your Videos, Pics, And Docs Privately

image A few days ago, I ran a few tests on peer to peer downloads, on the off chance that things had improved in this malware infested playground. No such luck, of course.

Of the five game files that I downloaded, every one came packed with a Trojan downloader, which, had I installed any of these applications, would have wrecked havoc on my test machine.

In a nutshell, that’s the main problem with public peer to peer file sharing. The chances are high, that you will not get what you think you will, and you will get what you don’t think you will.

Additional issues (but not the only issues) are:

Privacy: When you are connected to file-sharing programs, you may unintentionally allow others to copy confidential files you did not intend to share.

Spyware: There’s a chance that the file-sharing program you’re using has installed other software known as spyware to your computer’s operating system. I can assure you that spyware can be difficult to detect and remove.

So what’s a fellow to do who enjoys file sharing, and who doesn’t want to be burned by the cybercriminals who skulk on public file sharing networks, searching for victims?

A terrific solution to this quandary is a free application from GigaTribe. An application which is designed to create a private network between you, and your friends, relatives, co-workers, or, whomever you choose.

If you have every used peer to peer software, then you’ll find no learning curve involved in using GigaTribe – it’s functional, efficient, attractive, and “follow the bouncing ball” intuitive.

How much more simply can it be than this:

GigaTribe

The following graphic is from the publisher’s site.

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Fast facts:

GigaTribe has more than 1, 600,000 users.
Its unique technology has been developed by talented programmers with a strong history in the software industry.

There are no limitations on quantity or file size.
All your files are kept on your hard drive, eliminating the need to transfer them to an external server.

Files are available in their original format.
In just a few clicks, you can share and also find files as if you were in a virtual library. You will see files as they were organized on the hard drive, and you can download them in their original format.

You don’t waste time uploading files.
Once you select which folders you want to share, the contents of those folders are instantly accessible to your friends.

Your files remain yours!
Files you have decided to share are not saved on another company’s equipment. You keep your data under your control.

It´s a two-way sharing service.
Each contact can both share and download. You decide which content is worth downloading among the files available to you.

You may invite up to 500 friends.

Transfer automatically resumes.
If a download is interrupted (for example, if a contact goes offline), the transfer automatically resumes with no loss of data when your contact comes back online.

Security is, of course, GigaTribe´s major concern.

Only the people you have invited can see your files. Only the folders you have selected are visible to your contacts. Every exchange is strongly encrypted – No one can see what is being shared.

Downloads are encrypted (Blowfish 256-bit).

As an added bonus, users’ can create profiles, and have access to personal chat and a private blog, all from within the program. Now that’s cool!

According to the developers, GigaTribe (although I haven’t tested this), can also be used to access your PC from a remote location.

System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, Server 2008, Windows 7. (no indication on the publisher’s site of x64 compatibility).

Languages: English, Español, Français, Deutsch, Italiano, Português

Download at: Gigatribe

It’s not often that I can rate an application 100%, but GigaTribe comes very close. A superb application! If you’re into private file sharing, or it’s something that you’ve considered, then give GigaTribe a whirl – I think you’ll be glad you did.

For additional information checkout the developer’s FAQ.

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Filed under downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Networking, Peer to Peer, Privacy, social networking, Software, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

TweakGuides.com – A Tweakers Paradise?

imageComputing is more or less all about generics – a sort of, one size fits all approach. But, if you’re like me, the last thing you want is a machine that’s configured to run with settings which don’t take into account your specific requirements. Luckily, there are more than a few free tweaking apps available, which help average users apply the most common system tweaks.

But, if you’re considering customizations beyond the basics – tweaking your games, browsers, video card, or overclocking your CPU for example, you’re going to have to to dig a little deeper on your own. Unless you’re aware of TweakGuides.com, that is.

If you’re looking for a site that covers tweaking the way it should be covered – detailed, suitable for both novice and advanced users, and written in plain language, then TweakGuides.com is the place for you.

Just some of the goodies available at TweakGuides:

Firefox Tweak Guide

Google Customization Guide

The Gamer’s Graphics & Display Settings Guide

Game Tweak Guides

But, I’ve held onto the best for last – TweakGuides Tweaking Companion – a terrific compilation of Windows customization, optimization and troubleshooting advice for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7.

From the site:

The TweakGuides Tweaking Companion (TGTC) is the complete system customization and optimization guide for all Windows users. Designed for novice and advanced users alike, it is written in plain English to help you genuinely understand all key aspects of Windows and your PC.

The guide covers every major topic, from the correct installation of critical drivers and software, through to simple explanations and recommendations for every significant Windows setting and feature, all the major performance and convenience tweaks and customizations, as well as detailed troubleshooting advice.

Also provided are links and instructions for a large number of reliable free applications which can enhance your system and give you viable alternatives to purchasing commercial software.

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In all cases, the regular system specific edition of TweakGuides Tweaking Companion (PDF) is free.

Once downloaded, first extract the PDF file from the .ZIP archive using the built-in Windows compression utility, or the free 7-Zip utility. Then use the free Foxit Reader software to read the PDF file.

To round out the free offerings, the site provides a very active forum – the place to go for questions, answers, and advice, on operating systems, software, and hardware.

A big shout out to regular reader Michael F., for introducing me to this super site.  Thank you Michael.

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Filed under downloads, Firefox, Freeware, Google, System Tweaks, Technicians Advise, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Two Terrific Tweakers – WinBubble And Ultimate Windows Tweaker

imageWinBubble gives you the power to tweak Vista and Windows 7, in all of these areas – system optimization, interface and desktop customization tweaks, security tweaks, including Internet Explorer tweaks, and it’s not finished yet. Believe it – there are even more tweaks to suit your fancy.

It seems interfaces are getting much easier to navigate these days, and WinBubble’s interface is no exception. It’s tabs and check boxes layout, should be easy to follow – even for less experienced users.

The following screen captures illustrate this tab and check box layout:

WinBubble 1

WinBubble 2

WinBubble 3

WinBubble 4

If you’re a Vista/Win 7 user, and an easy to use tweaker is what you’re looking for, then you’re going to love WinBubble.

Note: The major benefit in using this type of tweaking application is the ease with which you can make changes to your system, without the drudgery of having to go through menu after menu, or manually editing the Registry.

But, with any application that makes changes to your system, use caution, and be sure to have a verified backup, or current system restore point.

System requirements: Windows 7, Windows Vista.

Download at: Download.com

If you’re a Windows XP user then checkout Tweak UI which is designed for a Windows XP installation.

Ultimate Windows Tweaker

Ultimate Windows Tweaker is a freeware utility for tweaking and optimizing Windows Vista, and now Windows 7 –  both 32-bit, and 64-bit versions.

This small (235KB), program has a clean, easy to understand interface that gives you access to over 150 system settings, some of which are hidden, and others that are just hard to find. The interface is organized for easy navigation, and it is complete with detailed descriptions for easy reference.

The following screen captures should give you a good idea of what you can accomplish using Ultimate Windows Tweaker.

Personalization Tweaks. Click on any graphic to expand.

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System Performance Tweaks.

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Network Tweaks.

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Additional Tweaks.

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System Requirements: Windows 7, Vista – 32 and 64 Bit.

Bonus: Ultimate Windows Tweaker can easily be copied to a USB flash drive for portability.

Download at: The Windows Club

While this application is designed for advanced users, I see no reason why careful average users should have any problem tweaking their system using Ultimate Windows Tweaker.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Portable Applications, Software, System Tweaks, System Utilities, USB, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista