Tag Archives: application

It’s World Backup Day – So What Are You Doing About It?

imageI have some bad news for you this morning. Those graduation pics you treasured, the pics of your toddler’s first steps, this year’s income tax return which was just about ready to be filed, that resume you just finished updating – GONE – ALL GONE. Your Hard Drive just quit overnight – never to be booted again. I know I should feel some measure of sympathy for you – but, I don’t.

I’m not trying to be a big *meanie here but, it seems to me, that you are the architect of your own misfortune. A little pre-planning to safeguard your irreplaceable data; documents, digital photos, email messages, personal and business related work, and important private data – could have saved you considerable distress.

If only you had a backup – but, you don’t – do you? I suspect that it’s little consolation but, you’re not alone. Despite the importance of Hard Drive backups, most computer technicians will tell you that typically, computer users’ do not backup their irreplaceable data.

It’s a little late to tell you this but, if you had been one of the few, out of the ordinary, computer users, who regularly and faithfully backup, you would have had some work ahead of you – but, you would have recovered your data.

All of the above of course, is an imaginary scenario – in fact, your system did boot up his morning. But, that’s hardly cause for complacency. Just like death and taxes are a certainty, the fact that your computer’s Hard Drive will crash one day and refuse to respond, is every bit as certain.

If you don’t yet have a backup plan, it’s time you thought seriously about developing one. The effort involved in learning how to protect your data, by developing and implementing a backup plan in today’s computing age, is minimal. Much easier than it was, even as little as two or three years ago.

The best backup strategy includes imaging your Hard Drives and partitions, since that allows you to restore your important data, your complete operating system, as well as your installed applications, user settings, etc.

There are loads of free applications out in the wild blue that, used properly and regularly, will speed to the rescue. One of the best free program – one that I have no difficulty recommending is – EASEUS Todo Backup.

This is a brilliant application which will allow you to backup, recover your backups, image your Hard Drives, clone your Hard Drives, and a host of additional features. All of this, in a “follow the bouncing ball” simple, user interface. If there’s an easier way to backup critical data, I have yet to find it.

The user interface has been designed so that a user with minimum computing experience, should have no difficulty.

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The following screen captures illustrate the simple process of backing up a particular folder.

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In this case, I choose the task name, selected the folder to be backed up, selected the backup media/location, and …..

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Done!

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Recovery, is point and click simple.

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Additional functions and features are available under the “Tools” menu.

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For example – you’ll have the option of creating a system boot disk. You should do so.

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Fast facts:

System Backup and Recovery – One-click system backup. Backs up entire system state including the operating system and installed applications on-the-fly without interrupting your work to get the system up in time after crash.

Restore System to Dissimilar Hardware – The feature of “recover to dissimilar hardware” can simplify system migration with restoring system to dissimilar hardware configuration for hardware replacement under WinPE recovery environment.

File and Folder Backup – Backs up specified files, network shared files, files in use, folders or file types in case of virus attack, hard disk failure, or deletion by accident, etc.

Disk & partition Backup – Full backup disk(s)/partition(s), dynamic volume(s), or GPT disk(s)/volume(s) to image. It ensures PC security and instant data recovery in case of any data loss.

Incremental/Differential Backup – Provide alternatives to perform full backups each time by offering incremental backup and differential backup. To capture changes with saving time & disk space.

Backup Schedule – To run backup automatically at a predefined time. By scheduling a backup task, your system and important data can be backed up now, daily, weekly, monthly.

Network Data Protection – Easy way to full backup network data, including network shared files on NAS and Windows, with full backup, incremental backup, differential backup and schedule backup, etc.

Disk Clone Tool – Clone or transfer all the data on a hard disk to another. Clone disk is especially useful to upgrade your hard drive to a new one without reinstalling operating systems and applications.

System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8.

Download at: EASEUS

If you’re looking for a free application to handle all of your backup needs, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in EASEUS Todo Backup. Give it a try.

* In recent years, I’ve written 20+ articles on the importance of backing up critical data and, it distresses me somewhat that they have been amongst the least read articles I’ve written.

Good buddy TeX, summed up the backup issue neatly in a comment to a previous backup article when he wrote – There are so many good programs out there for backing up, the problem is getting people to take that whole step seriously. It’s like dying,  “That always happens to someone else” theory.

It’s a point worth considering.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Backup Applications, downloads, Freeware, Hard Drive Cloning, Hard Drive Imaging, Software

Free PhotoRec – Easily Recover Deleted Photos And More

Yesterday, I posted an article on BootMed, a Ubuntu Linux driven set of recovery tools which is a worthwhile addition to any techie’s toolbox. One of the recovery tools packaged with this free Live CD is TestDisk – which includes the file recovery application PhotoRec.

In previous reviews, I’ve covered more than a few file recovery tools,  some of which have lived up to the developers’ claims – but, most have not. PhotoRec, on the other hand, (despites its name, it’s capable of recovering 390 types of files according to the developer), performed far outside my expectations.

In the following review, I’ll describe how easy it was to recover deleted photos from my camera’s SD Card and, deleted music files from my iPod. As you’ll see, this application is not wizard driven – but, despite that, it’s still very easy to use.

First up was a recovery attempt on an iPod.

On launching the application, the connected iPod was immediately identified.

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Selecting the drive was a simple matter of cursoring down, and pressing the Enter key.

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In just a few moments PhotoRec identified and recovered 13 previously deleted music files.

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All recovered files were saved to the recovery directory – as shown below.

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Each and every recovered music file was playable – as shown in the following screen capture.

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Next up – photo file recovery from my camera’s SD card.

In the following screen capture, I’ve illustrated the files Windows Explorer  identified on the SD card prior to the recovery operation.

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Again, after launching PhotoRec, the application correctly identified the attached device.

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The application “did its thing” and recovered 86 previously deleted pics.

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The following screen captures shows not only the photos that were recovered, but a number of recovered sound files and text files as well. I’ve highlighted one recovered photo file for illustrative purposes.

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The recovered photo (selected in the above screen capture), is shown below opened in IrfanView. As you can see from the Image properties box, all of the file properties have been recovered intact.

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System requirements: Windows 98 and later, Mac OS X, Linux (2.4 /2.6 kernel)

Download at: Cgsecurity.org

TestDisk – which includes PhotoRec – is in fact, a portable application and, does not require installation. Simply unzip the file and you’re good to go.

When it’s time to recover deleted files from an SD Card, Hard Drive, Flash Drive, etc., this powerful recovery application, (despite its command line interface), makes deleted file recovery just about as simple as it gets. It may even be suitable for those users who might not qualify as “expert”.

2 Comments

Filed under Computer Tools, downloads, File Recovery Software, Freeware

What Do You Know About Your Internet Connection And Home Network Security? – Free ICSI Netalyzr Fills In The Blanks

No matter how much one might want to keep up with all the available tech resources on the Internet – it’s a battle that just can’t be won. The sheer volume of information is simply overwhelming.

Regular reader Christopher A. (thank you Christopher), recently directed my attention to a superb free application (which, I was unaware of) – designed for those you have a need to checkout network performance and security – all of us, I should think.

ICSI Netalyzr is a small Java based application developed by The International Computer Science Institute – a leading center for research in computer science and one of the few independent, non-profit research institutes in the United States. Since its inauguration in 1988, ICSI has maintained an affiliation with the University of California at Berkeley.

ICSI Netalyzr can be run directly from the applications home page, which is hosted by USC.

A brief walkthrough.

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Following the “Start analysis” command, the service jumps right into the testing process. You’ll notice the advisory – “the test may take several minutes”. It does indeed – even on a very fast connection. So, be patient – it’s worth the wait.

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In the following screen capture, you’ll see a very small portion of the test results. The report is extensive and  chock full of confidential information – which you will not see here – for obvious reasons.

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I highly recommend that all users run this test from time to time.

There’s still more to come   Smile.

HomeNet Profiler:

HomeNet Profiler ( a downloadable application rather than a browser driven applet), is an additional service which collects performance, configuration, and security data related to your home network.

A quick walkthrough –

Download the executable from the homepage.

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Following the application launch, you will have the option to select various measurements – as shown in the following screen capture.

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Once the application has developed the relevant information, you may choose to go directly to the report by following the link provided………..

Home Profile 2

Alternatively, you may chose to have the report delivered by email.

Home Profiler

The following graphic references only a small portion of the full report. I’d like to share but, confidential information in the report will not allow this. Sorry  Smile.

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A full sample report is available here. I recommend that you take a peek at this.

Note: In addition, a HomeNet Profiler execution – includes a Netalyzr run as well.

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Filed under Connected Devices, downloads, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Network Tools, System Utilities

Give Malware The Old Heave Ho! – Trap It With Sandboxie!

imageWouldn’t it be terrific if, following a mistake which led to malware making its way on to your computer, you could wave a magic wand, utter the words – “get thee gone” – and, quick as you like – no more malware infection?

Luckily, you can do just that. You don’t have to be a magician – you don’t have to deliver a magic enchantment – but, you do need to be running a sandbox based isolation application.

And that, brings me to Sandboxie – the King of isolation applications in Geek territory. Rather than geek you into the land of nod – today’s review is what I like to refer to as a “soft review”.

Simply put, Sandboxie, when active, creates a virtual environment (of a sort), on a computer by redirecting all system and application changes, to an unused location on a Hard Drive. These changes can be permanently saved to disk or, completely discarded.

A case in point for isolating web surfing:

While surfing the Net, an inexperienced user mistakenly accepts an invitation to install a scareware application but realizes, after the fact, that this is a scam. Operating in a “real” environment, the damage, unfortunately, would already have been done.

Operating in an isolated environment with Sandboxie active; the system changes made by this parasite could be completely discarded – since the attack occurred in a – “I’m not really here” environment .

An obvious part of reviewing an application is, providing a technical breakdown of just how an application gets the job done – or, in some cases how/why an application doesn’t quite get it done.

It’s not often that I get caught between the proverbial “rock and a hard place” in terms of illustrating an applications aptitude in getting the task accomplished. In this case however, Ronen Tzur, Sandboxie’s developer, has taken the expression – a picture is worth a thousand words – and definitely run with it. Well done Ronen!

From the site: Introducing Sandboxie

Sandboxie runs your programs in an isolated space which prevents them from making permanent changes to other programs and data in your computer.

The red arrows indicate changes flowing from a running program into your computer. The box labeled Hard disk (no sandbox) shows changes by a program running normally.

The box labeled Hard disk (with sandbox) shows changes by a program running under Sandboxie. The animation illustrates that Sandboxie is able to intercept the changes and isolate them within a sandbox, depicted as a yellow rectangle. It also illustrates that grouping the changes together makes it easy to delete all of them at once.

Fast facts:

Secure Web Browsing: Running your Web browser under the protection of Sandboxie means that all malicious software downloaded by the browser is trapped in the sandbox and can be discarded trivially.

Enhanced Privacy: Browsing history, cookies, and cached temporary files collected while Web browsing stay in the sandbox and don’t leak into Windows.

Secure E-mail: Viruses and other malicious software that might be hiding in your email can’t break out of the sandbox and can’t infect your real system.

Windows Stays Lean: Prevent wear-and-tear in Windows by installing software into an isolated sandbox.

The developer has provided a clear and concise Getting Started tutorial – which includes:

How to to use Sandboxie to run your applications

How the changes are trapped in the sandbox

How to recover important files and documents out of the sandbox

How to delete the sandbox

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7 (32 and 64 bit).

Available languages: English, Albanian, Arabic, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Czech, Danish, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Macedonian, Polish, Portuguese (Brasil and Portugal), Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, and Ukrainian.

Download at: Sandboxie

A Caveat: You may run with Sandboxie free of charge – but, once past the initial 30 days, you will be reminded that a lifetime licensed version is available for € 29 ($38 USD at today’s conversion rate).

My good buddy from Portugal, José – a super geek – is of the opinion that Sandboxie is in a class of its own. I couldn’t agree more José.

16 Comments

Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Cyber Criminals, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Malware Protection, Virtualization

One More New Year’s Resolution – I Will Learn To Backup My PC

imageTHIS is one resolution you MUST keep. And, to make it a snap to stick with this resolution – featured elsewhere in this post, you’ll find an updated review of arguably the best free (and dead easy to run), backup app around – EASEUS Todo Backup 4.

Here’s why I’d like to push you in that direction. Let’s start with a quote from my good buddy Dave Brooks, an A+ certified professional computer technician, and a popular guest writer here on Tech Thoughts:

“You don’t need to know how a PC works to use it, just like your car, if you have problems you visit a mechanic, you don’t need to know how it does what it does.

One thing you DO need to know is – you MUST back up your computer if you have anything of even remote value to you on it.”

Dave knows what he’s talking about. After fifteen years in the industry, Dave knows, that at some point, your computer will suffer system, or hardware failure.

What are you going to do then – if you don’t have a current (and tested) backup of your critical data, system/device drivers (something many of us forget), and user operating system settings?

Most important of all – how are you going to recover your irreplaceable data; documents, digital photos, email messages, personal and business related work, and important private data?

So backups are important – critically important. Despite the critical importance of Hard Drive backups, most computer technicians (including Dave), will tell you; typically, computer users’ do not backup their irreplaceable data.

If you should suffer catastrophic Hard Drive failure and you are one of the few, out of the ordinary, computer users who regularly and faithfully backup, you will have work ahead of you, but you will recover. But without a plan, your data becomes a hostage to fortune. Your Hard Drive might be damaged by malware – it might not. Your Hard Drive might fail – it might not. But why take the risk?

If you don’t yet have a backup plan, it’s time you thought seriously about developing one. Make developing and implementing a backup strategy, a New Years resolution you intend to keep.

The effort involved in learning how to protect your data, by developing and implementing a backup plan in today’s computing age, is minimal. Much easier than it was, even as little as two or three years ago.

The best backup strategy includes imaging your Hard Drives and partitions, since that allows you to restore your important data, your complete operating system, as well as your installed applications, user settings, etc.

There are loads of free applications out in the wild blue that, used properly and regularly, will speed to the rescue. One of the best free program, that I have no difficulty recommending, is EASEUS Todo Backup.

Free EASEUS Todo Backup 4 – Easy Backup For The Rest Of Us

This is a brilliant application that will allow you to backup, recover your backups, image your Hard Drives, clone your Hard Drives, and a host of additional features. All of this, in a “follow the bouncing ball” simple, user interface. If there’s an easier way to backup critical data, I have yet to find it.

The user interface has been designed so that a user with minimum computing experience, should have no difficulty.

image

The following screen captures illustrate the simple process of backing up a particular folder.

image

In this case, I choose the task name, selected the folder to be backed up, selected the backup media/location, and …..

image

Done!

image

Recovery, is point and click simple.

image

Additional functions and features are available under the “Tools” menu.

image

For example – you’ll have the option of creating a system boot disk. You should do so.

image

Fast facts:

System Backup and Recovery – One-click system backup. Backs up entire system state including the operating system and installed applications on-the-fly without interrupting your work to get the system up in time after crash.

Restore System to Dissimilar Hardware – The feature of “recover to dissimilar hardware” can simplify system migration with restoring system to dissimilar hardware configuration for hardware replacement under WinPE recovery environment.

File and Folder Backup – Backs up specified files, network shared files, files in use, folders or file types in case of virus attack, hard disk failure, or deletion by accident, etc.

Disk & partition Backup – Full backup disk(s)/partition(s), dynamic volume(s), or GPT disk(s)/volume(s) to image. It ensures PC security and instant data recovery in case of any data loss.

Incremental/Differential Backup – Provide alternatives to perform full backups each time by offering incremental backup and differential backup. To capture changes with saving time & disk space.

Backup Schedule – To run backup automatically at a predefined time. By scheduling a backup task, your system and important data can be backed up now, daily, weekly, monthly.

Network Data Protection – Easy way to full backup network data, including network shared files on NAS and Windows, with full backup, incremental backup, differential backup and schedule backup, etc.

Disk Clone Tool – Clone or transfer all the data on a hard disk to another. Clone disk is especially useful to upgrade your hard drive to a new one without reinstalling operating systems and applications.

Full list of features here.

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

Download at: EASEUS

If you’re looking for a free application to handle all of your backup needs, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in EASEUS Todo Backup. Give it a try.

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.

10 Comments

Filed under Backup Tools, downloads, Freeware, Hard Drive Cloning, Hard Drive Imaging, Windows Tips and Tools

14 Free Tools To Help You Hunt Down And Destroy Tough Malware

imageChoosing and using the right tool, which has been designed specifically for the job at hand, is obviously a levelheaded approach. Still, I’ll wager that you can conjure up more than one occasion when you’ve encountered the “one tool for all purposes” mindset – the so-called “Birmingham Screwdriver” effect (sorry Michael   Smile) – “If it doesn’t work – hit it. If it still doesn’t work, use a bigger hammer.”

The Birmingham Screwdriver approach, taken by many AV solutions, may not always be the most appropriate approach to eradicating a tough malware problem – a specially designed application which targets specific classes of malware may be a better solution.

The following tools have been specifically designed to help skilled users better identify malware infections and then, eradicate those specific infections. These tools require advanced computer knowledge – unless you feel confident in your diagnostic skills, you should avoid them.

Should you choose to add these applications to your antimalware toolbox, be aware that you will need the latest updated version for maximum efficiency.

Emsisoft HiJackFree

The program operates as a detailed system analysis tool that can help you in the detection and removal of Hijackers, Spyware, Adware, Trojans, Worms, and other malware. It doesn’t offer live protection but instead, it examines your system, determines if it’s been infected, and then allows you to wipe out the malware.

Runscanner

If you’re a malware hunter, and you’re in the market for a free system utility which will scan your system for running programs, autostart locations, drivers, services and hijack points, then Runscanner should make your shortlist. The developers of Runscanner describe this freeware utility as having been designed to “detect changes and misconfigurations in your system caused by spyware, viruses, or human error.”

HijackThis

HijackThis is a free utility which heuristically scans your computer to find settings that may have been changed by homepage hijackers, spyware, other malware, or even unwanted programs. In addition to this scan and remove capability HijackThis comes with several tools useful in manually removing malware from a computer.

The program doesn’t target specific programs, but instead it analyses registry and file settings, and then targets the methods used by cyber-crooks. After you scan your computer, HijackThis creates a report, and a log file (if you choose to do so), with the results of the scan.

RKill

RKill is a program developed at BleepingComputer.com – “It was created so that we could have an easy to use tool that kills known processes that stop the use of our normal anti-malware applications. Simple as that. Nothing fancy. Just kill known malware processes so that anti-malware programs can do their job.”

Emsisoft BlitzBlank

BlitzBlank is a tool for experienced users and all those who must deal with Malware on a daily basis. Malware infections are not always easy to clean up. In more and more cases it is almost impossible to delete a Malware file while Windows is running. BlitzBlank deletes files, Registry entries and drivers at boot time before Windows and all other programs are loaded.

McAfee Labs Stinger

Stinger is a stand-alone utility used to detect and remove specific viruses. It is not a substitute for full anti-virus protection, but rather a tool to assist administrators and users when dealing with an infected system. Stinger utilizes next generation scan engine technology, including process scanning, digitally signed DAT files, and scan performance optimizations.

Specialty Removal Tools From BitDefender

Eight special removal tools including Conficker Removal Tool

Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool

This tool checks your computer for infection by specific, prevalent malicious software (including Blaster, Sasser, and Mydoom) and helps to remove the infection if it is found. Microsoft will release an updated version of this tool on the second Tuesday of each month.

NoVirusThanks

NoVirusThanks Malware Remover is an application designed to detect and remove specific malware, Trojans, worms and other malicious threats that can damage your computer. It can also detect and remove rogue security software, spyware and adware. This program is not an Antivirus and does not protect you in real time, but it can help you to detect and remove Trojans, spywares and rogue security software installed in your computer.

Norton Power Eraser

Symantec describes Norton Power Eraser in part, as a tool that “takes on difficult to detect crimeware known as scareware or rogueware. The Norton Power Eraser is specially designed to aggressively target and eliminate this type of crimeware and restore your PC back to health.”

Rootkit Tools:

If you think you might have hidden malware on your system, I recommend that you run multiple rootkit detectors. Much like anti-spyware programs, no one program catches everything.

Microsoft Rootkit Revealer

Microsoft Rootkit Revealer is an advanced root kit detection utility. Its output lists Registry and file system API discrepancies that may indicate the presence of a user-mode or kernel-mode rootkit. According to Microsoft, Rootkit Revealer successfully detects all persistent rootkits published at http://www.rootkit.com, including AFX, Vanquish and Hacker Defender.

IceSword

IceSword is a very powerful software application that will scan your computer for rootkits. It also displays hidden processes and resources on your system that you would be unlikely to find in any other Windows Explorer like program. Because of the amount of information presented in the application, please note that IceSword was designed for more advanced users.

GMER

This freeware tool is essentially a combination of Sysinternals’ Rootkit Revealer and Process Explorer. The program can list running processes, modules and Windows services, in addition to scanning for the presence of rootkits.

Tizer Rootkit Razor

Tizer Rootkit Razor, will allow you to identify and remove Rootkits from your computer. I should be clear however, this tool is not “one-click simple” to decipher, and users need to be particularly mindful of false positives.

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, Anti-Malware Tools, downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, rootkits, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Probe System Restore Points With Free System Restore Explorer

imageHave you ever wanted to access a file, or an application, within a System Restore Point? You can do just that with a neat little freebie – System Restore Explorer.

Running System Restore Explorer will allow you to “Mount” a System Restore Point and you’ll then have the “go ahead” to browse and copy files or, launch an application from within the selected System Restore Point. As well, System Restore Explorer provides an option to delete selected restore points.

A brief walkthrough:

I have chosen to mount a restore point created on November 29, as illustrated below. Note that System Restore Explorer displays the date and time of the restore point creation, as well as a brief description.

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Mounting a restore point automatically runs Windows Explorer, and as the following screen capture illustrates (click the graphic to expand), I now have access to (in this case), HarddiskVolumeShadowCopy3.

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Expanding HarddiskVolumeShadowCopy3 provides access to the applications in the restore point, and for this test, I have chosen to execute the graphic application, IrfanView.

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Clicking on the IrfanView executable (i_view32.exe), promptly launched the application, as illustrated below.

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System requirements: Windows Vista, Win 7 – 32-bit and 64-bit.

Download at: Developer’s site

You may not often need to dig inside a System Restore Point, but if you do, having this freebie in your toolkit will make the job that much easier.

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, downloads, Freeware, System Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Free Paint.NET 3.5.1 – Maybe Not A Photoshop Killer But…….

image This latest release of Paint.NET (October 9th, 2011), might not be quite Photoshop in disguise, but it’s a pretty serious contender.

While it can’t perform some of the more esoteric functions of Photoshop, it can certainly assist even an average photo hobbyist achieve spectacular results – results which are generally not achievable in a free photo application.

I’ve always been a big fan of Adobe Photoshop, the trendsetter/innovator for all photo editor and image manipulation software, but I stopped buying Photoshop at version 7, and in 2004 switched over to Paint.NET.

The downside of Adobe Photoshop, especially for typical users (other than its price – which is formidable), is it’s huge size on disk; it’s very challenging platform requirements, and an extreme learning curve which demands time and training.

Most of us don’t need the flexibility, or the power of a high end (read: expensive), photo editor. Instead, we’re generally looking for an application that’s small (at less than 4 MB, Paint.NET is small), fast, and free, with an intuitive interface that’s very easy to use; especially for those with only modest previous experience. Incidentally, for everyday basic photo manipulation, Irfanview gets a real workout on my machine.

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You don’t have to take advantage of all of the powerful features built into this impressive application of course – see fast facts below. You can just stick to those tools you are most familiar with, including resizing, cropping, correcting red eye, flipping, and rotating. As well, you can perform a wide variety of additional image adjustments, including brightness, contrast, and applying special effects such as sharpen and blur.

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Fast facts:

Interface – Simple, intuitive, and innovative user interface. Every feature and user interface element was designed to be immediately intuitive and quickly learnable without assistance. The interface is also enhanced for Aero Glass if you are using Windows 7 or Vista.

Performance – Extensive work has gone into making Paint.NET the fastest image editor available.

Layers – Usually only found on expensive or complicated professional software, layers form the basis for a rich image composition experience. You may think of them as a stack of transparency slides that, when viewed together at the same time, form one image.

Special Effects – Many special effects are included for enhancing and perfecting your images. Everything from blurring, sharpening, red-eye removal, distortion, noise, and embossing are included. Also included is our unique 3D Rotate/Zoom effect that makes it very easy to add perspective and tilting.

Adjustments – Adjustments are also included which help you tweak an image’s brightness, contrast, hue, saturation, curves, and levels. You can also convert an image to black and white, or sepia-toned.

Powerful Tools – The facilities for creating and working with selections is powerful, yet still simple enough to be picked up quickly. Other powerful tools include the Magic Wand for selecting regions of similar color, and the Clone Stamp for copying or erasing portions of an image. There is also a simple text editor, a tool for zooming, and a Recolor tool.

Unlimited History – Everybody makes mistakes, and everybody changes their mind. To accommodate this, every action you perform on an image is recorded in the History window and may be undone. Once you’ve undone an action, you can also redo it. The length of the history is only limited by available disk space.

Active Online Community – Paint.NET has an online forum with a friendly, passionate, and ever-expanding community. Be sure to check out the constantly growing list of tutorials and plugins!

Automatically Updated – Updates are free, and contain new features, performance improvements, and bug fixes. Upgrading to the latest version is very simple, requiring only two clicks of the mouse.

System requirements: Windows 2003, Vista, Server 2008, XP, Win 7 – NET Framework 3.5 SP1 (automatically downloaded with the application).

Languages: English, Chinese (Simplified), French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese (Brazil), Russian, and Spanish

Download at: Paint.NET

Plugins –  There’s a solid choice of plugins available. These plugins add new effects and the ability to handle new file types. You can check these out here.

Tutorials – Tutorials that describe the use of core features of Paint.NET such as tools, effects, and adjustments. Check them out here.

Unless you have extremely unusual image editing requirements that can only be met with Photoshop, Paint.NET should more than meet your needs, and then some.

BTW, Paint.NET v4.0 is targeted for release in 2012. Features planned for version 4.0 include a new UI, improved extensibility, revamped brushes and shapes system, antialiased selections, and adjustment layers.

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 64 Bit Software, downloads, Free Photo Applications, Freeware, Graphic Software, Photo Tools, Software

Pick Out PDF Text And Reuse It With Free Nitro PDF

imageAs an active blogger, I get a pile of information sent my way from application developers and service providers  – including media reports, product news, reviewers guidelines, and so on – most of which is in PDF format. So my PDF application of choice, Nitro PDF (the free version), gets a real workout around here.

Most often, the material received can be filed away for later retrieval but, there are times when the information needs to be acted upon relatively quickly. And, that might mean I need to “cut and paste” from within a PDF. Constructing a “pull quote”, for inclusion in an article, is a good example.

Accessing content from within a PDF can often be a bit painful though – without the right tool. Sure, a user might have the option of converting a PDF file to a Word file for example (depending on the capabilities of the PDF reader), then working with the contents of the new Word file.

A better way:

Nitro PDF provides a terrific feature in the free version of PDF Reader Version 2 – the ability to copy data directly from within a PDF file, and paste it into a selected application – so, no more converting, saving, opening, and copying, to get to your objective. Nitro’s solution is basically “one click simple”.

The following screen captures illustrate a real world example in which this feature can be used to save time – always a consideration for those of us who have little of it to spare.

Culling data from OPSWAT’s latest quarterly market share report (shown open in Nitro PDF) for inclusion in a new article for later publication, is a snap.

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It’s simple a matter of selecting the text to be copied (additional text operatives are available) …

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and, pasting the selected text into the appropriate application. In this case, LibreOffice (an outstanding substitute for Microsoft Office, BTW).

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If working with PDF files is a task you get involved in, then Nitro PDF is an application you should consider adding to your toolbox.

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7 (32 bit  and 64 bit, Vista and Win 7).

Available languages: Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

Download at: Nitro PDF Reader

It’s not often that I feel comfortable rating a free application a 10 out of 10 – but, Nitro PDF meets my criteria in every way.

You can read a full review of this terrific free application here – NEW – Nitro PDF Reader Version 2 Launched Today (June 21, 2011).

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Blogging Tips, downloads, Free PDF Software, Freeware, MS Word Alternatives, Software, Timesaving Tips, Windows Tips and Tools

Flash Cookies – Spyware By Any Other Name

imageI first wrote on the issue of Flash cookies back in September 2009, and since then, I’ve watched as these obnoxious web trackers and privacy invaders multiply like a virus. Based on the number of questions I continue to get on the Flash cookie issue, it’s apparent – confusion reigns when it comes to this underhanded privacy threat.

One of the better forum comments I’ve seen referencing Flash cookies:

“I think many people may not realize how serious it is. In many ways, I see it as the virtual equivalent of dumpster diving or taping together a shredded document. It is deliberately ignoring a data owners deletion of data by an entity that has no business doing so.”

This practice of  web sites dropping Flash cookies onto your computer, which occurs without your knowledge or permission, is akin to hacking – according to some in the security community. Frankly, I agree.

Continuing developments in tracking technologies, and a complete disregard for fundamental privacy rights, should be a major topic of conversation in the security community – until such time as the issue has been resolved in favor of consumers.

In the meantime, we’re on our own. It’s up to us, as individual consumers, to take the appropriate steps to safeguard our privacy (as best we can), while interacting with the Internet.

Here’s what we’re up against – and, this is just one small example.

From Disinformation.com

McDonald’s, CBS, Mazda, Microsoft Sued For Tracking Internet Users’ Histories

In a complaint filed Tuesday with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Sonal Bose alleges that McDonald’s and the other companies “acted in concert with Interclick,” to mine users’ Web surfing history for marketing purposes. “Defendants circumvented the privacy and security controls of consumers who, like plaintiff, had configured their browsers to prevent third-party advertisers from monitoring their online activities,” Bose alleges.

The lawsuit alleges that the companies violated the federal computer fraud law, wiretap law and other statutes. She is seeking class-action status. This lawsuit comes several weeks after Bose sued Interclick for allegedly using history-sniffing technology and Flash cookies to track her online activity.

History-sniffing technology exploits a vulnerability in browsers to discover the Web sites users previously visited. Researchers from the University of California, San Diego recently brought the technique to light when they published a paper explaining the technique and naming 46 Web sites where history-sniffing technology was being deployed. In at least some cases, ad company Interclick reportedly used the technology without the publishers’ knowledge.

Bose also says in her complaint that she believes that the defendants used Flash cookies for tracking purposes. Flash cookies are stored in a different place in the browser than HTTP cookies, and therefore, require additional effort to delete.

Flash cookie quick facts:

They never expire

Can store up to 100 KB of information compared to a text cookie’s 4 KB.

Internet browsers are not aware of those cookies.

LSO’s usually cannot be removed by browsers.

Using Flash they can access and store highly specific personal and technical information (system, user name, files,…).

Can send the stored information to the appropriate server, without user’s permission.

Flash applications do not need to be visible.

There is no easy way to tell which flash-cookie sites are tracking you.

Shared folders allow cross-browser tracking – LSO’s work in every flash-enabled application

No user-friendly way to manage LSO’s, in fact it’s incredible cumbersome.

Many domains and tracking companies make extensive use of flash-cookies.

If you value your privacy, then without a doubt you need to control these highly invasive objects, and if you are a Firefox user there is a solution – BetterPrivacy – a free Firefox add-on.

From the BetterPrivacy page:

“Better Privacy serves to protect against not delectable, long-term cookies, a new generation of ‘Super-Cookie’, which silently conquered the internet.

This new cookie generation offers unlimited user tracking to industry and market research. Concerning privacy Flash- and DOM Storage objects are most critical.

This add-on was made to make users aware of those hidden, never expiring objects and to offer an easy way to get rid of them – since browsers are unable to do that for you”.

In the following screen capture (click to expand to original), you’ll notice BetterPrivacy has deleted a cumulative total of 6188 Super Cookies.

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The Options and Help tab (shown in the following screen shot), will allow you to choose specific deletion methods. You should consider selecting “Disable Ping Tracking”, which will prohibit sites from following you as you surf the Net.

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Download at: Mozilla

For a more detailed breakdown on flash cookies, and the danger they represent to personal privacy, checkout The Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Google Chrome users can take advantage of the Click&Clean Extension (works with Firefox as well).

The following screen capture of Click&Clean’s Options menu, illustrates the application’s ability to deal with Flash cookies.

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Fast facts:

Delete your browsing history
Clear records from your download history
Remove cookies and Empty cache
Delete temporary files
Remove Flash Local Shared Objects (LSO)
Delete private data when Firefox closes
Automatically close all windows/tabs
Clean up your hard drives and Free up more disk space – including secure file deletion
Launch external applications, like CCleaner, Wise Disk Cleaner etc. on Windows – or Janitor, BleachBit, etc. on Linux

Download the Firefox version at: Mozilla

Download the Chrome version at: The Chrome Web store

You can read a full review of this application – Clean Up With Click&Clean Firefox and Chrome Extension, on this site.

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Filed under Browser add-ons, Chrome Add-ons, downloads, Firefox Add-ons, Flash Cookies, Freeware, Privacy, Windows Tips and Tools