Category Archives: Open Source

Take A Scheduled Break From Computing – Free Workrave Reminds You When It’s Time

Workrave logo.pngThere’s an old joke that goes something like this – If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself. I’m sure there are a lot of guys my age who can relate. All those “little” injuries I suffered back in the day – the busted shoulder, the dislocated knee, the groin injury, the slipped disc ….., bother me every day.

Until a year ago or so, I exacerbated all those old injuries by bad computing habits – the type of habits that virtually all computer users have, including:

Slouching, rather than sitting upright (This used to be my favorite position).

Barely moving (except for hands and eyes).

Incorrect screen height and positioning.

Poor keyboard placement.

NOT taking breaks away from the keyboard. (I was totally guilty of this one).

In July of last year, I discovered a neat little freebie application – Workrave – an application that’s designed to prevent computer users from developing, or aggravating, occupational diseases such as carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive strain injuries (my problem), or myopia.

Since I installed this application, I’ve used it religiously to force myself to take micro-pauses, and longer rest breaks. The most important break being – walking away from the computer at regular intervals.

I have to admit, that while I haven’t had to deal with the back problem that was the catalyst for me in installing this application – I still creak a little, early in the morning.   Smile

One of the more impressive features of this application is a set of onscreen exercises that you can use to help you heal injuries, or as in my case, to help me get all the kinks out of my muscles.

Miss Workrave, illustrating  just two of the exercises.She’ll expect you to join in.

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Application setup goes relatively smoothly since the user interface is “follow the bouncing ball” simple.

You can enable/disable each timer, modify the time between breaks, and set the break durations from within the Preference menu.

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While taking this screen capture, as you can see, I was prompted to take a micro- break as per my schedule.

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The application can keep track of your computer activity and breaks.

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Bonus: By using Workrave’s built-in networking feature, you give everyone on the network an opportunity to relax, or exercise on a scheduled basis. A neat feature, I thought.

Available modes:

Normal – “Normal” mode is for normal usage. It will prompt you to break and, if so configured, force you to take the break.

Quiet – “Quiet” mode is pretty much like normal mode, in that it will still register your activity, and notice that you need to take a break, but it will not actually prompt you to take one, nor block you from using the computer. This is typically used when you want to show something on your computer to someone else. You are using the computer doing the explaining and the showing, but you do not want to be interrupted by breaks.

Suspended – In “Suspended” mode, Workrave no longer records your activity. This is typically used when someone else is using your computer for a brief time. In these cases, you may not want to quit Workrave, and you also don’t want the activity recorded, because it isn’t yours, and hence you will not need to take any “overdue” breaks. When someone else is using the computer for a longer time, it is best to quit Workrave altogether.

If you want to prevent injury, or other unpleasant consequences from too much time on the computer, or you need a reminder to take a break for any reason, Workrave could be just the right tool to help you do this.

I will say, it took some time to get the idea into my head that I had to become more responsive to the aches and pains, and other unpleasant consequences from too much time on the computer. I finally accepted the idea that a reminder program might be part of the solution and, as it turned out, Workrave was the right tool.

System requirements: Windows or GNU/Linux.

Download at: Workrave

Additional resources:

Computer terminal work and the benefits of microbreaks

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Filed under downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Living Life, Open Source, Software, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Download Miro – An HD Open Source Internet TV Platform And So Much More

imageThere continues to be much discussion in Tech media circles, on the benefits of  getting rid of expensive Cable TV where prices seem to be skyrocketing (I just got another $2 a month bump this week), and focusing instead on the multiple alternatives which the Internet now supports.

Given that your computer screen is, in reality, a high-definition display, you can easily enjoy Internet sourced videos in HD full screen. Pretty neat – especially if you have a wide screen LCD display.

Miro (last updated August 16, 2011), is a free (open source), Internet TV platform and Video Player (and so much more), that can certainly even out your path in breaking your reliance on Cable TV – and, the costs that go with it. Miro, in fact, might well be the perfect tool to help with your transition.

In my view, Miro is one of the most underappreciated open source applications available on the Internet. It never fails to amaze me how less deserving “media players”, which are often hyped to the max, can generate more downloads than this superb application.

Not only can Miro play virtually any video in HD, including, QuickTime, WMV, MPEG, AVI, and XVID, but on top of that this application, which sports major changes from previous editions, is effectively a media management center.  I must admit, I was more than a little surprised at how effective Miro is in this role.

For example, the application quickly, smoothly, and effectively, located my music files after prompting me to select a search path. Playback controls are typical and playlists are easily created.

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The core of the program however, is the well designed video features including built-in Torrent download capabilities.

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In the following example I downloaded a 1.4 GB movie using the Torrent client. The test torrent download  took full advantage of my Internet settings – 1.7 MB per second.

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Playback of the downloaded file was a bit of a treat really. Definitely HD; smooth; quality sound.

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Additional features include the ability to sync media to multiple devices –  including Android phones and tablets. Better yet, Miro will even convert video files to the right format to play on your phone.

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Getting the application just right to meet your specific needs, using the Settings menu is straightforward and uncomplicated.

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Fast facts:

Works with your current music library – It’s very easy to switch from iTunes to Miro– without any copying. Just point Miro to your music and video folders and those files will appear. If you don’t like Miro (impossible!), nothing’s changed.

Converts and syncs to Android – You’d have to be crazy to use a music player that doesn’t sync to your phone. Miro is simply the best music and video player for Android phones and tablets.

Download and play almost any video – Do you still use separate programs to download, play music, play videos, and sync to your phone? Miro plays almost any video or music format and downloads from YouTube, podcasts, Amazon, and bittorrent.

Convert any video – You can convert almost any video with Miro into mp4/h264, with presets for almost any device you can think of (including iPhones, iPods, iPads, Android phones, and more).

Share Your Media on your Network – When two Miro’s are on the same Wi-Fi network, they can stream and transfer music and videos to each other. It’s the easiest way to watch a video or play music upstairs if the file is downstairs.

Ultra-fast torrent downloading – Miro has some of the fastest bittorrent downloading in the world, built in. Try us head-to-head with any bittorrent application!

Open-source – don’t lock yourself in – Unlike some other media players, Miro is not trying to run your life. Not only is Miro 100% free and open-source, it’s made by a non-profit organization. You don’t need to be locked down by one corporation to have a great media experience.

Buy Music and Apps inside Miro – The Amazon MP3 store is built-in to Miro. Buy, download, and listen, seamlessly. Buy Android apps from the Amazon or Google app stores and they will sync to your device.

There are many more features in Miro that can be quickly covered in a short review. I haven’t, for example, covered the easy way to stream and share music and video on your local/home network, using Miro. Checkout the publisher’s features page.

This program continues to receive high praise from video geeks, and it’s worth considering as an addition to your entertainment applications.

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista, XP, Mac, Linux. (I have not tested this application in 64 bit – but, I understand 64 bit support is available).

Download at: Miro

User Manual for Miro 4.0 (last updated June 30, 2011), available here.

A caveat: During the install process, pay particular attention so that you don’t install items you may not want (Yahoo Toolbar/homepage) .

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Digital Media, downloads, Freeware, High Definition Video Players, Internet TV, Linux, Mac OS X, Media Players, Multimedia Tools, Open Source, Software, Video Apps, Windows Tips and Tools

Take That Extra Step To Protect Your Sensitive Data With Free AxCrypt Encryption

imageSophisticated and  aware computer users know, that financial data and other confidential information stored on a computer, can easily be subject to intrusive viewing by those not authorized to do so.

Some examples of how this might occur:

Internet malware attack: Increasingly, statistics reinforce the fact that financial data continues to be targeted by hackers/information thieves, for the purpose of identity theft.

Contrast that reality with these facts; there is no such thing as a totally secure Internet connected computer. All Internet connected computers are subject to attack and compromise.

Lost or stolen Laptop: How often have we read the following – 200,00 (insert your own number here), bank account numbers, Social Insurance Numbers, names, addresses and dates of birth were on a laptop stolen/lost earlier this week.

In too many of these cases, negligently, the data is unencrypted. Certainly Laptop theft or loss is not restricted to organizations; it can just as easily happen to you.

Lost or stolen USB drive: Since USB flash drives are so portable, you can take a drive virtually anywhere. Just like most items that are portable and that you carry with you, this type of drive can be lost, or stolen.

To reduce or eliminate the security threat of sensitive data exposure then, the most prudent course of action is data encryption. Essentially, data encryption is a secure process for keeping your sensitive and confidential information private. It’s a process by which bits of data are mathematically jumbled with a password-key. The Encryption process makes the data unreadable unless, or until, decrypted.

AxCrypt, a free (open source) encryption application which I have reviewed here previously, takes a different approach than many other encryption applications inasmuch as it is not a stand alone executable application – instead, it’s fully integrated into Windows Explorer and is invoked from there. Integration into Windows Explorer makes it an ideal encryption application for less experienced Windows users.

As the following series of screen captures clearly show, AxCrypt integrates seamlessly into Windows Explorer’s context (right click) menu.

Right clicking on the selected file/folder in Windows Explorer, followed by selecting “AxCrypt – Encrypt”, begins the process of encryption.

Click on any graphic to expand to original size.

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The next step requires the user to enter a protective password.

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In the following graphic (following successful encryption) you’ll notice the green AxCrypt icon, indicating that encryption is now in force.

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The decryption process is ever bit as simple –it’s virtually a mirror image of the encryption process.

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The following graphic illustrates the decryption password box.

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In the following graphic you’ll notice the green AxCrypt icon no longer shows – indicating that decryption has been successful.

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Bonus: Built in file Shredder illustrated.

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Fast facts:

Password Protect any number of files using strong encryption.

Right-click integration with Windows Explorer makes AxCrypt the easiest way to encrypt individual files in Windows.

Double-click integration makes it as easy to open, edit and save protected files as it is to work with unprotected files.

Many additional features, but no configuration required. Just install it and use it.

AxCrypt encrypts files that are safely and easily sent to other users via e-mail or any other means. Self-decrypting files are also supported, removing the need to install AxCrypt to decrypt.

Available languages: English, Danish, Swedish, German, Dutch, Hungarian, Spanish, French, Italian and Norwegian.

System requirements: Windows 2000, 2003, XP, Vista, 2008, Win 7 (32 and 64 bit system support).

Download at: Developer’s site (Axantum Software AB).

It’s not always possible to cover all the features and benefits of an application in a short review article – additional information is available at the developer’s FAQ page.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, downloads, Encryption Software, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Integrated Solutions, Open Source, Privacy, Software, System Security, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Nemo Documents – A Powerful Free Document Manager

My Hard Drives can be a bit of a “black hole” when I’m trying to find a particular document. With literally thousands of documents – Word files, PowerPoint presentations, Excel Work sheets, not to mention, images, videos, and more, spread all over, I occasionally feel as if I’m lost in space.

Stepping into this void for me, is a recent find – Nemo Documents, a powerful freebie document manager from Danish open source developer IOLA.

With Nemo Documents running, I can now view all of my Word docs (for example), in an easy to read “Calendar” view as well as a number of additional file formats. Better yet, the program integrates with Windows Desktop Search so I can locate files based on phrases within the documents, file types, modification dates, and so on.

Setup is easy, and on the first run the program will audit customary file locations in order to index files.

Click on any graphic to expand to original size.

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In my particular case, and perhaps yours as well, most of my documents are not located in the “usual suspect” places so, the ability to add locations is critical.

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File support is fairly robust – including support for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, images, video files, Google docs, and many more. You can choose which files to add and index, from the Settings menu.

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Calendar view – selectable Day, Week, Month, Year.

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Focusing on an individual  file allows you to view specific properties.

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The “List” view provides additional file references.

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The application can be run in a number of alternative languages including – Chinese, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Japanese, Lithuanian, Russian, and Portuguese.

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Since Nemo Documents adds an application icon to the Windows notification area, direct access is quick and easy.

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System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7.

There is a version available for Linux here.

Download at: Developer’s site (nemo-docs.com)

Nemo Documents is not an application for everyone, but for those users who have to deal with a sizeable number of diverse document files, Nemo can certainly make the job much easier.

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Filed under downloads, File Management, Freeware, Linux, Open Source, Productivity Software, Software, System Utilities, Timesaving Tips, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Free AxCrypt – Encrypt, Compress, Decrypt in Windows Explorer

imageI was introduced to AxCrypt by my good buddy Glenn Taggart, just over a year ago, and while I don’t currently use this application (I’m a diehard TrueCrypt fan), that doesn’t detract from the fact that this is a sweet encryption application – and free, as well.

AxCrypt takes a different approach than many other encryption applications  inasmuch as it is not a stand alone executable application – instead, it’s fully integrated into Windows Explorer and is invoked from there. Integration into Windows Explorer makes it an ideal encryption application for less experienced Windows users.

As the following series of screen captures clearly show, AxCrypt integrates seamlessly into Windows Explorer’s context (right click) menu.

Right clicking on the selected file/folder in Windows Explorer, followed by selecting “AxCrypt – Encrypt”, begins the process of encryption.

Click on any graphic to expand to original size.

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The next step requires the user to enter a protective password.

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In the following graphic (following successful encryption) you’ll notice the green AxCrypt icon, indicating that encryption is now in force.

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The decryption process is ever bit as simple –it’s virtually a mirror image of the encryption process.

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The following graphic illustrates the decryption password box.

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In the following graphic you’ll notice the green AxCrypt icon no longer shows – indicating that decryption has been successful.

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Bonus: Built in file Shredder illustrated.

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Fast facts:

Right-click integration with Windows Explorer makes AxCrypt the easiest way to encrypt individual files in Windows.

Double-click integration makes it as easy to open, edit and save encrypted files as it is to work with unencrypted files.

Many additional features, but no configuration required, just install it and use it.

AxCrypt encrypts files that are safely and easily sent to other users via e-mail or any other means. Self-decrypting files are also supported, removing the need to install AxCrypt to decrypt.

Available languages: English, Danish, Swedish, German, Dutch, Hungarian, Spanish, French, Italian and Norwegian.

System requirements: Windows 2000, 2003, XP, Vista, 2008, Win 7 (32 and 64 bit system support).

Download at: Developer’s site (Axantum Software AB).

It’s not always possible to cover all the features and benefits of an application in a short review article – additional information is available at the developer’s FAQ page.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Encryption, Encryption Software, Freeware, New Computer User Software Tools, Open Source, Software, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

TrueCrypt – Free Encryption To The Max

imageSophisticated and  aware computer users know, that financial data and other confidential information, can easily be subject to intrusive viewing by those not authorized to do so.

Some examples of how this might occur:

Internet malware attack: Increasingly, statistics reinforce the fact that financial data continues to be targeted by hackers/information thieves, for the purpose of identity theft.

Contrast that reality with these facts; there is no such thing as a totally secure Internet connected computer. All Internet connected computers are subject to attack and compromise.

Lost or stolen Laptop: How often have we read the following – 200,00 (insert your own number here), bank account numbers, Social Insurance Numbers, names, addresses and dates of birth were on a laptop stolen/lost earlier this week.

In too many of these cases, negligently, the data is unencrypted. Certainly Laptop theft or loss is not restricted to organizations; it can just as easily happen to you.

Lost or stolen USB drive: Since USB flash drives are so portable, you can take a drive virtually anywhere. Just like most items that are portable and that you carry with you, this type of drive can be lost, or stolen.

To reduce or eliminate the security threat of sensitive data exposure then, the most prudent course of action is data encryption. Essentially, data encryption is a secure process for keeping your sensitive and confidential information private. It’s a process by which bits of data are mathematically jumbled with a password-key. The Encryption process makes the data unreadable unless, or until, decrypted.

TrueCrypt is an outstanding free open source software application (one I have been using for years), for establishing and maintaining an on-the-fly-encrypted volumes.

On-the-fly encryption simply means that data are automatically encrypted, or decrypted, just before they are loaded or saved, without any user intervention.

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TrueCrypt uses 11 algorithms for encrypting private files in a password-protected volume. You can store your encrypted data in files, partitions, or on a portable storage device such as a USB flash drive.

Once your encrypted files are mounted to a local drive with your password or key, you can manipulate those files, i.e. you can open, copy, delete, or modify them. When you have completed working on those files, you then dismount the volume and the files are then safely secured from unauthorized access.

Indicative of this application’s popularity is the fact that it is downloaded tens of thousands of times each day, across the Internet.

Fast Facts:

Creates a virtual encrypted disk within a file and mounts it as a real disk

Encrypts an entire hard disk partition or a storage device such as USB flash drive

Encryption is automatic, real-time (on-the-fly) and transparent

Provides two levels of plausible deniability, in case an adversary forces you to reveal the password – Hidden volume – No TrueCrypt volume can be identified (volumes cannot be distinguished from random data)

Encryption algorithms: AES-256, Serpent, and Twofish. Mode of operation: XTS

Ability to encrypt a system partition/drive (i.e. a partition/drive where Windows is installed) with pre-boot authentication (anyone who wants to gain access and use the system, read and write files, etc., needs to enter the correct password each time before the system starts

Pipelined operations increasing read/write speed by up to 100% (Windows)

Mac OS X version

Graphical user interface for the Linux version of TrueCrypt

XTS mode of operation – XTS is faster and more secure than LRW

As I said, I have been using TrueCrypt for a number of years, and I have developed a lot of confidence in this outstanding application. If you determine that encryption of your sensitive data is a priority, I highly recommend that you give TrueCrypt a try.

How effective is TrueCrypt? If you have any doubts as to how effective TrueCrypt really is, then read this article. FBI hackers fail to crack TrueCrypt:

The FBI has admitted defeat in attempts to break the open source encryption used to secure hard drives seized by Brazilian police during a 2008 investigation.

System Requirements: Windows 7/Vista/XP (64 bit), Mac OS X, and Linux

Download at: TrueCrypt

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Encryption, Encryption Software, Encryption Software Alternatives, flash drive, Freeware, Open Source, Software, USB, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Slow Computer? Optimizing Windows Services Can Help

image Windows is a terrific operating system – no doubt about it (although, some will argue otherwise). Windows meets most of  my computing needs, as it does yours, I expect. The chances of my computing needs and your computing needs being the same however, are remote.

Unfortunately, Windows doesn’t differentiate between your needs and my needs. On installation, the OS generally assumes we both have the same needs (including security needs), and configures Windows Services accordingly.

Running with fewer services though, especially a service that you don’t use, or need, puts less strain on both the CPU and system memory. In some cases, reducing the number of running services can turn a sluggish PC around. So, if you want to get the best out of your machine, tweaking services is good practice.

Examples of services I’ve tweaked on this machine:

I don’t have a printer attached to this particular machine I’m using this morning, so I don’t need the spooler service running.

I don’t run a Tablet PC so I don’t need the Tablet PC Input service running.

The Fax service is disabled since I don’t use Fax.

I don’t allow any remote access to this machine so any services dealing with remote access are disabled. For example – I can’t imaging allowing remote access to my registry so, “allowing remote users to change my registry settings” (on this machine), is disabled.

Tweaking services however, is not without its hazards. For example, if a particular service is disabled, any other service/services that explicitly depend on it will fail to start.

Adjusting a service setting incorrectly, has the potential to leave a computer in an unbootable condition. I know – I’ve managed to do just that, a time or two, over the years.

Recently, an open source (free), application that promises to allow a user to tweak Windows services in a safe and easy way, caught my attention. Vista Services Optimizer, a Windows tweaking utility, which despite its name, has been optimized to run in Windows 7 as well, makes good on this promise.

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Even a casual user, with a few mouse clicks, can easily optimize Windows services to increase performance and security, automatically.

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A more experienced user gets a little more leeway, and can manually tweak using a more in-depth feature list.

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Very experienced users can tweak to their heart’s content, with the built-in Services Manager.

Here’s an example – I recently made some changes to the playlist on my IPod, which meant running ITunes; a bloated, cannibalistic piece of crapware that eats resources through various (usually unwanted), added services. Adjusting these parasitic services was a snap using Services Manager.

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In case your tweaking goes a step too far, recovery is just a mouse click away by simply using the built-in Smart Rescue Center.

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Bonus Module

Since many games are processor, system memory, and graphic intensive, setting up Gaming Mode will give your system an immediate performance boost when needed. Keep in mind that the best solution to improved gaming (all other components being up to the task), is the installation of a high-end graphic card.

Additionally, this module can be used to temporarily turn off unneeded Windows features, and free up computer resources, when running applications that benefit from a “lean” system profile – e.g., Photoshop.

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Fast facts:

System analysis highlights services that can be turned off

Automatic tune-up based on user’s system requirements

Restore function to restore to system defaults

Profile building

Automatic service state snapshots

Gaming mode

I don’t think it could be any easier to tweak Windows services than this. All the user needs to do is tick the appropriate check boxes, and the Services Optimizer takes care of the rest.

System requirements: Windows Vista – SP1 or higher (32-bit or 64-bit), Windows 7 (32-bit or 64-bit), Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 – Service Pack 1

Last updated: July 15, 2010

Download at: Smart PC Utilities

For those who need a portable version, you’re in luck – a portable version is available. However, Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 with Service Pack 1, must be resident on the host machine.

Note: During the install, you will have the option of installing a toolbar – don’t!

XP users – Optimizer XP 3.5 is available for download at Softpedia. I have not tested this application.

If you’re a real “hands-on” techie, then visit Charles “Black Viper” Sparks Website, (the best tweaking site on the Internet), where you’ll find  complete explanations of each service, and advice on which services you can safely disable – plus, a lot more.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Computer Tools, Computer Tune Up Utilities, downloads, Freeware, Open Source, Portable Applications, Slow Computer, Software, System Tweaks, System Utilities, USB, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista

Gmail Backup 0.107 – Now, More Than Ever, A Necessity

imageWith an uptime of 99.984 percent in 2010, it would be hard to argue with Gmail’s reliability. Unless of course, you happened to be one of the unlucky few who had to suffer through Google’s recent outage (caused by a software bug update), which included e-mail messages, and other data, disappearing.

Ben Treynor, Google vice president of engineering and site reliability, explained the snafu this way – “Some copies of mail were deleted, and we’ve been hard at work …….. getting it back for the people affected by this issue.”

I was amused by the bevy of tech journalist who underplayed the significance of this occurrence – sort of like “What’s the big deal. In the end, all was recovered – back to normal.” But, it is a “big deal.”

Cloud computing, and Gmail fits the definition of a “cloud computing” service – is not without its share of risks. It seems to me, that an absolute reliance on the unquestionable ability of any online storage service to recover from a potential disaster, is foolhardy.

If you’re undaunted by the possibility that Google is not immune from permanently losing your email correspondence, then you’ll see no need to backup your Gmail account.

But, if you’re like me, and you subscribe to a “never say never” point of view, then it would be prudent to backup your Gmail account locally to ensure you’ll have access to important emails – no matter the circumstances. And, Gmail Backup – a free minimalist Gmail backup application will help you do just that, efficiently.

Gmail Backup (which migrated from a commercial application to open source, in September 2010),  is definitely without any bells and whistles, but it does what it says it will do, without any fuss or bother.

The application is designed to backup your Gmail account to a folder on your Hard Drive, and as an added bonus, you can restore back to Gmail.

Prior to using the application, it’s necessary to enable IMAP by clicking “Settings” – “Forwarding and POP/IMAP” in Gmail.

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The application interface is simple and basic, as the following screen capture indicates.

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For this test run, I downloaded 47,142 emails totaling 1.03 GB (that’s 6 years or so of emails), which took  about 8 hours.  The average download speed was an unimpressive 50 KB/s – sloooooow! But, that’s not related to the application – that’s a Google issue.

The application transferred this huge number of emails perfectly. I selected one at random for this test, as indicated by the arrow in the following screen shot.

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Then, I opened that particular email in Thunderbird, to ensure the contents, and the attachments, were accessible.

Gmail Backup Test

Note: You don’t have to backup your entire Gmail account, as I did for this test. You have the option of choosing specific “from”, and “before” dates.

Gmail Backup is certainly not the most exciting application I’ve taken for a spin recently, but it’s basic functionality was impressive.

Not everyone has a need to backup their Gmail account (or agrees that it’s necessary), but if you do, then Gmail Backup is a free solution that’s worth taking a look at.

Note: As with all backups, the local folder should be copied to portable media – just in case.

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, and a Gmail account of course.

Download at: Download.com

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Filed under Backup Applications, Backup Tools, downloads, Email, Freeware, Gmail, Google, Open Source, Software, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Daphne – Kills Misbehaving Apps And Processes Dead!

imageClosing an application running in Windows is usually a pretty simple process, and there are more than a few ways to do just that. Occasionally though, no matter what you do, an application will refuse to close – it just hangs.

Normally, this is not much of an issue since all you need do is open Task Manager, locate the offending application or process, and kill it.

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But, if I had a dollar for every time Task Manager was unable to kill an application or process in the last year, my Winter vacation costs would be well in hand. There are times when Task Manager is just not up to the job. In such a case, many users will fall back on a hard reboot as a last resort – annoying, inefficient, and possibly leading to lost data.

There are a number of applications that address this irritating condition, and one I particularly like is – Daphne. Daphne is a very small free (open source), taskbar utility that improves on Windows process management, and can kill and terminate stubborn processes saving you from having to reboot your system, when Windows Task Manager fails to do so.

Daphne can be customized to suit your specific needs, and comes with a host of additional features some of which are not directly related to process killing. (See “Fast facts”).

Click on graphic to expand.

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The following graphic will give you a good indication of Daphne’s capabilities.

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Fast facts:

Installed software list for inspecting installed software available in tray icon menu.

Check process hierarchy tree using the “Show process tree” at tray icon menu.

Parent process name an PID at process’ properties.

Now you can make configuration portable using INI file instead of registry base configuration.

Support for DRK’s process data base information search and contribution.

Hide application tool: drop the target over the application’s window you want to hide. Later, you can restore the application from Daphne menu.

Take care: process names may be eclipsed by malicious software.

Find process window tool: identify the process which owns the targeted window.

Traps: you can set up traps to be applied to any process being created.

Detailed process list, including full path and arguments.

Per process detail including: Windows tree, thread list, modules, environment variables.

Using the windows tree you can: Show, hide, set always on top on or off, set focus, et cetera to any give window.

Kill all by name: Kill all process using a given name.

Kill menu: Customizable menu, each menu item has a process list to kill upon activation.

Process list highlighting with colors for custom, system and high CPU-consumption processes.

Control inspector window for revealing hidden passwords.

Drag and drop tool for killing, setting alpha, enabling controls and putting windows always on top.

“Hide Java VM from command line” option in advanced tab makes Daphne strip the path to the default Java VM in full path mode.

Languages: Spanish, Italian, German, French, Chinese, Valencian, Polish, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese, Arabic and Greek.

System requirements: Windows XP, 2003, Vista, Windows 7 x32

Download at the developer’s site: DRK.com

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Filed under downloads, Freeware, Open Source, Software, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Download Free LiberKey Version 5 – Now With Up To 306 Portable Applications

image Previously, I’ve reviewed a number of applications which will allow you to selectively install a compilation of freeware applications, including – Ninite, and ZeuAPP. There are slight difference between these two applications, but the overall objective of each application is the same; to save the user time.

LiberKey (which I’ve also reviewed previously – version 4.1), is a compilation of freeware, and open source  portable applications, which is offered in three flavors that can be installed on, and run from, a USB drive. Additionally, the application can just as easily be installed, and run, from a Hard Drive. In fact, for this updated test and review, that’s exactly what I choose to do.

Available applications cover a huge area of interest including Audio, Video, Graphics, Internet, Games, Security, Education, System, and more.

LiberKey Basic 5: 12 Applications, Installed size: 141.58 MB

LiberKey Standard 5: 89 Applications, Installed size: 535.54 MB

LiberKey Ultimate 5: 164 Applications, Installed size: 701.47 MB

As an bonus, more applications can be added at a later date using LiberKey’s catalogue. Additionally, you have an option of building your own LiberKey platform.

There have been major changes since I first reviewed LiberKey. This time out, on launching the application, you will find that you are presented with a blank  LiberKey menu applet.

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You will then have the opportunity to select the most appropriate suite for your needs. Checkout the developer’s site to view a listing of included applications.

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I choose the Ultimate edition adding (164 applications), which took approximately 40 minutes to download and install (in a single seamless process), to my Hard Drive. Lots of time – but lots of applications!

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Following installation, you’ll notice that the Menu has been populated.

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Fast facts:

Free.

Ready to use.

Portable applications.

Automatic online updates.

You can synchronize the display of the online catalog with your LiberKey.

This can help you to locate applications that could interest you.

The portable application launcher is user friendly, and no learning curve is involved, as the following screen capture indicates. In this example, simply clicking on HD Tune, launched HD Tune – Hard Disk Utility.

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With so many applications to choose from, finding the right tool for the job could be a bit of a hassle. But the developers have anticipated this, and provided a pop out description of each application – making it easy to put your finger on just the right tool.

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System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Win 7

Download at: LiberKey.com

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Filed under Computer Tools, downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Open Source, Portable Applications, Software, System Utilities, Utilities