Category Archives: USB

Download Microsoft’s Free Microsoft Office Starter Edition 2010

Update: November 30 – This offer is no longer available.

In October of last year, I noted that Microsoft had begun a campaign to tear down OpenOffice by focusing on what Microsoft considered the downside of working with OpenOffice. This struck me as a bit unusual – after all, why waste time on those who can’t hurt your sales. Unless, that is, OpenOffice, LibreOffice and similar open source office suites, are in fact, “real competition” for Microsoft.

It seems that may well be the case since Microsoft has now released Office Starter Edition 2010 (as a freebie), which includes Microsoft Word Starter 2010 and Microsoft Excel Starter 2010 – it does not include PowerPoint or Outlook. Both included components function almost the same as the full editions.

No need to worry about licensing issues either – Office Starter 2010 is not a trial version – it will not expire. On top of that, installing the application to a USB stick makes for the perfect (sort of), portable office.

Installation is an easy task – both application download and installation combine in a seamless single process.

image

Following installation you’ll find the application, and its components, neatly laid out in your “Start” menu as illustrated below.image

Word Starter 2010 screenshot:

image

Excel Starter 2010 screenshot:

image

Fast facts:

Create and edit basic Word documents and Excel spreadsheets with 100 percent file fidelity

Open existing Word and Excel documents

Manage a simple home budget

Write letters

Create newsletters with photos and easily send them out

System requirements: Windows 7, Windows Vista with Service Pack 1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2 and MSXML 6.0 (32-bit Office only), Windows Server 2008, or later 32- or 64-bit OS.

Download Office 2010 Starter at: Microsoft

There is some discussion, at the moment, as to just how long this offer from Microsoft will continue to be available so, if you’re interested, now might be the time to jump on this.

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.

Advertisements

23 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, downloads, flash drive, Free Office Suites, Freeware, Microsoft, Software, USB, Windows Tips and Tools

Free Linux Live USB Creator – Run Or Boot Linux From A Flash Drive

imageIf you’re looking for a painless way to run Linux without having installed any one of 200+ distributions to your Hard Drive, or without having to boot from a Live CD, then open source Linux Live USB Creator could be the perfect tool. In a very simple process, Linux Live USB Creator will install any one of a huge range of Linux distributions to a USB drive.

After installing your chosen Linux distribution, either from an existing ISO on your HD, or exercising the option to download an ISO through Linux Live USB Creator, you will have several available options.

Option 1 –  Run LinuxLive USB directly within Windows in a virtual environment.

Option 2 – Boot directly from the LinuxLive USB key.

The following screen captures illustrate how a previously complex process has been streamlined, so that a competent average user should be able to breeze through the installation. For this review, I installed PCLinux from an ISO, previously stored on my HD, to an 8 GB Flash Drive.

Launching Linux Live USB Creator will take you to a colorful, “follow the bouncing ball” simple interface.

image

In less than 5 minutes the process is complete and I’m off to the races!

image

Well, sort of. In fact, immediately upon installation completion, you will be taken to the developer’s site for a quick heads-up on using Linux Live USB Creator.

image

As per the developer’s instructions, using Windows Explorer, I navigated to the newly installed VirtualBox folder on the USB drive, clicked on Virtualize_This_Key.exe, and sat back as PCLinux launched inside Windows in VirtualBox.

image

Now, how cool is that! No fuss, no muss, no knowledge of running a virtual system required.

image

As stated earlier, you have a huge selection of Linux distros to choose from. For this review I choose PCLinux since I had it hanging around on my HD – one of those “I’ll get to it when I can” downloads.

image

Fast facts:

Free and Open-source – LinuxLive USB Creator is a completely free and open-source software for Windows only. It has been built with simplicity in mind and it can be used by anyone.

No reboot needed – Are you sick of having to reboot your PC to try Linux? No need with LinuxLive USB Creator. It has a built-in virtualization feature that lets you run your Linux within Windows just out of the box!

Supports many Linux distributions – Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian, OpenSUSE, Mint, Slax, CentOS, ArchLinux, Gentoo, PCLinuxOS, Sabayon, BackTrack, Puppy Linux …

Persistence – Having a Live USB key is better than just using a Live CD because you can even save your data and install software. This feature is called persistence (available only on selected Linux).

SmartClean & SmartDownload – SmartClean uninstalls properly any previous Live USB installations and SmartDownload lets you download any supported Linux in 2 clicks automatically selecting the best mirror to download from. SmartClean also lets you clean your USB key in 1 click.

Intelligent processing – LiLi works with many Linux, even if they are not officially supported.

Hidden installation – LiLi hides the Linux installation, your USB key stays clean.

File integrity – tells you if your ISO is corrupted.

Keeps your data on your USB device.

Intelligent formatting – can format disks bigger than 32 GB.

Auto-update – automatic updates when new Linux distributions are available.

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista, XP

Download at: Linux Live USB

User’s Guide – This tutorial will show you how to create a Linux Live USB very easily.

Tested on Windows 8 (developer).

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.

11 Comments

Filed under downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Linux, Live CDs, Open Source, Operating Systems, Portable Applications, Software, USB, Virtualization, Windows 8, Windows Tips and Tools

Norman Malware Cleaner –Another Free Tool To Remove Tough Malware

Just like the 14 free specialty malware removal tools I wrote on earlier this year, Norman Malware Cleaner has been designed to identify tough malware infections, including specific malware, and then help you eradicate those infections.

Since this particular application is a stand alone executable, it does not require installation (perfect for a Flash Drive). Since scanning with the most recent definition database is a must, you will need to download a new version of the application on a per use basis.

On execution, you will be presented with the following end user agreement. This may be the shortest end user agreement I’ve ever seen.

image

Despite the fact that this is a powerful application, setting the options is fairly straightforward.

image

For the first test, I ran a simple Quick scan as illustrated in the following two screen captures.

image

image

This scan completed in less than four minutes, and indicated that no infections were present.

image

I then changed two critical group policies which duplicated common malware attacks – no access to the Task Manager, and restricted access to Windows Explorer (show hidden files).

As you can see in the following screen shot, Norman Malware Cleaner had no difficulty picking up on, and cleaning, these registry changes on a scan rerun.

image

A scan results log file is saved to the desktop, as illustrated.

image

Fast facts:

Detect and Remove malware (viruses, Rootkit’s, FakeAV, worms and more)

Utilize advanced Anti-Rootkit technology

Quarantine module

Scanning and cleaning including Norman patented Norman SandBox technology

Supports Quick- Normal- Full- Custom Scan mode

Command line function for better tailor scanning across several machines (businesses)

Daily signature updates available

Systems requirements: Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, 2008 and Win 7.

Download at: Norman

Registration is required.

Note: This application is for use when you are dealing with a machine you know is infected. It is not a replacement for a real-time AV.

As with most tools in this class, advanced computer knowledge is required. Unless you feel confident in your diagnostic skills, you would be better off avoiding this application.

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.

8 Comments

Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, downloads, flash drive, Free Anti-malware Software, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Malware Removal, Portable Applications, Rogue Software Removal Tips, rootkits, Software, USB, Windows Tips and Tools, worms

FlashToMyPC – Access Your PC Remotely

Carrying computer files with you while you’re on the go is a breeze – USB devices, for example, are perfect for the job. File portability doesn’t stop there though. With a little planning, you can access your files through a Cloud based storage solution – SkyDrive, DropBox, Box.net – readily come to mind.

Here’s the kicker though – both of the above require that you plan ahead so that the required files are stored either on the USB device, or resident in the Cloud. Despite this plan ahead strategy, you may still run into one of those “uh, oh” moments. Robert Burns hit the nail on the head when he wrote (pardon the misquote) – “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray”.

If the file/s you need – then and there – are not on your USB device, or stored on a Cloud server, you’re probably looking at one of those “uh, oh” moments. Luckily, there are solutions to those almost inevitable – what am I going to do now times – that we’ve all experienced.

FlashToMyPC, developed by the folks at GigaTribe, which utilizes a good deal of the latter product’s technology, is a USB application which will allow you to access your entire hard drive from any Internet connected computer.

Here’s the lowdown:

image

Graphic courtesy of FlashToMyPC. Click on graphic to expand to original size.

Step by Step installation

Select the USB device to which you will install the application.

image

Once I had installed the application I took a quick look, using Windows Explorer, to ensure the executable installed correctly. Click on graphic to expand to original size.

image

Launching the executable (from the USB device), will bring up the following screen so that the second part of the install can be completed ……

image

the installation of FlashToMyPC on the selected machine.

image

Setup continues with the usual user name and password input requirements.

image

That’s it!

image

From now on, just insert your Flash drive into an Internet connected machine to access your own Hard Drive.

For the security conscious user (and, who isn’t theses days), the developer has built-in a number of hardcore security features, including

Only your USB Flash Drive can access your computer.

Your Flash drive is identified via a unique combination of hardware ID, software ID, username and password.

All data exchanged between your flash drive and your computer is encrypted (AES 256).

Transferred files are downloaded directly onto your USB Flash Drive, leaving no trace on the computer.

After 3 failed password attempts, your computer access is suspended for 24 hours.

If you’ve lost your USB flash drive, you can delete your computer’s access to it.

Deleting a Flash drive’s access link is easy.

image

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7. According to the developer a Mac version

FlashToMyPC is not freeware but, you can download a 30 day free trial at the developer’s site. You may continue past the trial date, at an annual fee of $9.95 USD.

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.

6 Comments

Filed under Cloud Computing, Connected Devices, downloads, Encryption, File Sharing, Geek Software and Tools, Interconnectivity, Networking, Portable Applications, Software, Software Trial Versions, USB, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Delete Data Permanently With Free Free File Shredder 2

This article is a companion piece to – Staples Resells Storage Devices Without Wiping Customers’ Personal Information – published earlier today.

File Shredder 3Many of us now own, and use a paper file shredder to destroy documents, and personal and financial papers that we don’t want to fall into the hands of identity thieves, or anyone else not entitled to have access.

So now, consider those files on your computer that you’ve deleted, sent to the recycle bin, and then flushed as you emptied the recycle bin. When you go through this process the deleted files are gone forever, right?

Well if you’re a typical computer user, you quite likely do believe that they’re gone forever, since the deleted files can’t be seen in Windows Explorer. In fact, you can’t find these files anywhere on your Hard Drive.

It may surprise you to learn that not only can I find those files but I can recover them as well. Oh, it’s not because I’m a super- duper tech wizard – although I will say, with some modesty, that I am. LOL.

Here’s the lowdown: when a file is deleted from your Hard Drive, what really gets deleted is the system link pointing towards the file, but not the file itself. Surprisingly, it is relatively easy to retrieve the deleted file using specialized file recovery software (often available as a free download), which takes advantage of shortcomings in the Windows operating systems.

Let me give you an example. Recently, I agreed to rebuild 30+ computers (at no cost – my way of giving back), being donated to a local charity for distribution to less fortunate families.

While working on these machines I noticed immediately that although the Hard Drives had undergone file deletion, they had not been wiped. Since these machine had been donated by a government agency; that struck me as being negligent in the extreme.

In order to bring this situation to the attention of those who had committed this serious breach in security, I recovered a number of these files. Not unexpectedly, the recovered files did in fact did contain confidential information. In this case – confidential information on families on public assistance.

As part of the process, I saved the recovered files to disk and presented the disk to the appropriate authorities. Shock, surprise, embarrassment, were just some of the reactions. It’s easy to see from this example, that deleted files (or a good portion of a file) can easily be recovered.

In order to delete or shred files permanently, to protect your privacy and potentially your security, or for any other reason for that matter, you need a program such as File Shredder 2 that is capable of overwriting the file with a random series of binary data multiple times.

This process is often called shredding. That way, the actual content of the file has been overwritten and the possibilities of recovering such a shredded file becomes mainly theoretical.

File Shredder 2, is a simple but powerful program, with a straightforward interface, that many users judge to be better than some commercial file shredders. With File Shredder 2 you can remove files from your hard drive permanently, and feel confident that the file can’t be recovered.

File Shredder 4

Running the program allows you to choose between 5 different shredding algorithms, each one gradually stronger than the previous one. As well, it has an integrated Disk Wiper which uses a shredding algorithm to wipe unused disk space. I use this feature frequently, to clean up my drives (after running test applications), and to destroy any leftover fragments of previously deleted/uninstalled files.

If you’re looking for a great free file shredder application that does what it says it does, in an easy to understand manner, I highly recommend File Shredder 2.

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

Download at: Download.com

If you’re looking for a more robust portable application – checkout Disk Wipe.

Disk Wipe is a free, portable Windows application for permanent volume data destruction. With Disk Wipe you can erase all disk data and prevent recovery of that data.

Disk Wipe uses powerful algorithms which fill the volume with useless rubbish binary data, multiple times. The possibility of recovering information from drives formatted with Disk Wipe, is virtually non existent.

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

Download at: the developer’s site (Disk Wipe)

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.

5 Comments

Filed under Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Hard Drive Tools, Portable Applications, Privacy, Secure File Deletion, Software, USB, Windows Tips and Tools

Free Glary Undelete – Easily Recover Deleted Photos And More

frustrated 2Later today, I’m going to perform bit of magic and help a friend recover photos accidentally deleted from her camera. No, I’m not Harry Houdini (magic is definitely not my thing), but I certainly do know which application to run in a given situation, which to many users, has all the appearances of being magical.

When it’s time to recover deleted files from an SD Card, Hard Drive, Flash Drive, etc., my magical application of choice is Glary Undelete. This free recovery application, (from the developers of my all time favorite Windows utility – Glary Utilities), with its wizard driven interface, makes deleted file recovery just about as simple as it gets.

The easy Hard Drive solution that most of us can use, most of the time, is to simply restore the file from the Windows Recycle Bin. The Recycle Bin can be a life saver when a file has been accidentally deleted.

Normally, the deleted file sits in the Bin until you empty it, or restore the file. But, what if the file has been permanently removed from the Bin, to make room for more recently deleted files for example, when the maximum size allocated in the Recycle Bin properties has been exceeded? And yes, it does happen.

If you take a look at the Recycle Bin’s properties dialogue box, you’ll see that the Bin’s size can be customized – but initially, the maximum size is set by the OS. BTW, I don’t recommend that you turn off the Recycle Bin, as I have done here for my data partition.

image

Still, all is not necessarily lost and here’s why: when a file is deleted from your Hard Drive, or portable media, what really gets deleted is the system link pointing to the file; but not the file itself.

Surprisingly, it can often be relatively easy to retrieve the deleted file, or a good portion of the file, using specialized file recovery software, which takes advantage of this reality.

To enhance the possibility of recovering the deleted file, rapid action is a prime requirement. File recovery software has limitations, so once you have realized you have deleted that important file; do not write any more files to the drive until you can run the recovery program.

Quick overview of Glary Undelete.

Filter searches by file name, file date, size, and recovery state.

image

Sample photo recovery operation from my camera’s SD Card. Click graphic to expand to original.

image

Undeleted Pic – you can see why I deleted it to begin with.   Smile

image

Just for a bit of fun, I recovered a very large .wav file (5 hours of sound), I had deleted from the camera’s SD Card.

image

I’ve had good success with this small application recovering deleted files, and I recommend that all users consider adding Glary Undelete to their toolbox. In computing, it pays to be a Boy Scout – “Be Prepared.”

Note: Glary makes the statement that this utility will, “even recover files that have been deleted by bugs, crashes and viruses”. I have not specifically tested this function.

Fast facts:

Supports FAT, NTFS, NTFS + EFS file systems

Supports recover compressed, fragmented and encrypted files on NTFS

Undelete files on portable media (SmartMedia, Secure Digital, MemoryStick, etc.)

Filter by file name, file date, size, and recovery state

Simple and user friendly interface

And more…

System Requirements: Windows Vista, XP, Windows 2003, Windows 2000, Windows 7.

Download at: Download.com

During the install, pay particular attention to the offer to install the Ask toolbar. I suggest you reject this offer.

Note: In Windows 7 (and Vista, I suspect), launching the application requires elevating privileges to an administrator level.

Final note: If you read user comments regarding this application on CNET, for example, you’re sure to find the usual whining and complaining posted by unsophisticated users who have not taken the time to become familiar with the application. Don’t be discouraged by this. Used properly, and in an intelligent manner, this application performs exactly as advertised.

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.

2 Comments

Filed under Computer Tools, downloads, File Recovery Software, flash drive, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, SD Card, Software, USB, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Free Glary Utilities Is Indispensable. Really?

Glarysoft  has a blurb on their site that at first glance may seem to be a little over the top. … “To call Glary Utilities helpful would drastically understate the situation. It hopes to become your INDISPENSABLE friend with its one-stop-shop utilities for optimizing and maintaining your PC for best performance.”

Since reviewing software (both free and commercial), is a good part of what I do as a blogger, I’ve tested and evaluated more than a thousand applications in the last few years. Sad to say, 30% or so, have turned out to be “not fit for consumption”. No, you normally don’t get to read reviews on the dreck – better to focus on what lives up to expectations, and not what doesn’t.

Based on this exposure to software applications, Glarysoft’s “indispensable” statement, got me thinking – so, I put it to my personal test. First, let me point out that I get loads of free licenses for the commercial version of applications that I test. However, to avoid the disclosure/non-disclosure issue, I do not keep such software on either my home system, or my test systems. Other than the OS, all software on my home machine is freeware.

But, I could have chosen to have kept on board any one of the dozen or so licensed computer maintenance utilities I’ve had access to in the last few years. Truth is, aside from the disclosure/non-disclosure issue, I’m just not into a “one click simple” computer maintenance solution. I’d rather rely on, as I do, a collection of freeware apps which are specially designed to address specific issues.

And, first among these freeware applications is Glary Utilities. So, from a personal perspective, I find little to argue with in Glarysoft’s “indispensable” claim. Since discovering Glary Utilities years ago, it has remained my go-to application for maintenance and cleanup.

Here’s why:

Glary Utilities, (last updated May 26, 2011 – version 2.34), is a terrific collection of system tools and utilities to fix, speed up, maintain, and protect a PC.

A great deal of personal experience with Glary Utilities has convinced me, that a typical user, particularly a new user, will really benefit by having this application on their system. Twenty million+ downloads from Download.com alone, speaks to the popularity of this indispensable application (last time I reviewed this app – February 11, 2010 – this figure stood at eight million).

Using Glary Utilities, it’s easy to tweak, repair, optimize and improve your system’s performance; and its ease of operation makes it ideal for less experienced users.

You can quickly find the tool you’re looking for: disk cleaner, uninstall manager, secure file deletion, memory optimizer, (a gentle) registry cleaner, duplicate file finder, tracks eraser, empty folder finder; a very convenient feature for those of us who like to test drive new software.

Prior to making important changes to your system, Glary Utilities creates a backup copy first, a very important feature.

A quick piece of advice: never allow an application to make system changes, without creating a system restore point first.

As well, you can manage and delete browser add-ons, analyze disk space usage, find, fix, or remove broken Windows shortcuts, and manage startup programs.

A one click maintenance solution is included, but I’m not a fan of this since I like to be much more hands on. But, less experienced users, should find this feature useful.

image

Hands on users will appreciate the functional and easily understood GUI.

image

You can comfortably fine tune the application using the clear and precise Settings Menu.

image

Fast Facts:

Disk Cleaner Removes junk data from your disks and recovers disk space

Registry Cleaner scans and cleans your registry to improve your system’s performance

Shortcuts Fixer eliminates the errors in your start menu & desktop shortcuts

Startup Manager manages programs which run automatically on startup

Memory Optimizer monitors and optimizes free memory in the background

Tracks Eraser erases all traces, evidence, cookies, internet history and more

File Shredder erases files permanently

Internet Explorer Assistant manages Internet Explorer Add-ons

Disk Analysis provides detailed information files and folders

Duplicate Files Finder searches for space-wasting duplicate files

Empty Folders Finder removes empty folders (I love this feature)

Uninstall Manager completely uninstall programs

Languages: 23 Languages available.

System Requirements: Windows 7, 2000, XP, Vista. 32/64bit versions.

Download at: Download.com

A portable version is also available which you can download at GlarySoft.

During the install, pay particular attention to the offer to install the Ask toolbar. I suggest you reject this offer.

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.

7 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, Computer Maintenance, Computer Tools, downloads, Freeware, Portable Applications, Privacy, Software, System Utilities, USB, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools