Archive for May, 2008

Remove data completely

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

screenshot of Eraser

You know that you erase data from a computer hard drive that the data really doesn't go away, right? Even reformatting your drive can leave enough stuff behind that somebody with the right tools and a fair helping of determination could resurrect your old financial information long after you've forgotten about it. Sure, when you dispose of an old system you can pull the hard drive, open it up, and destroy the disk platters. But suppose you want to donate your old laptop to charity, or give it to the kids, or even just get rid of some really bad poetry you've written? You need a tool that really makes it go away.

Eraser is just such a tool. Rather than just relying on your operating system's deleting files, Eraser goes out and overwrites deleted files in such a way that it becomes extremely difficult to bring them back. If you've written something on a piece of paper with a pencil and then flipped that pencil around used its eraser to get rid of it, you can still see a shadow of what you wrote. With Eraser, not only have you erased those pencil lines, but now you've gone back and scribbled all over where you had written. Curlicues, cross-hatching, "X's" on everything—you get the idea. Much more difficult to get back what was there originally.

Eraser is a Windows tool. It runs on any 32-bit version of Windows from Win95 on up; it is even supposed to run on DOS.

Download Eraser

Rest break reminder

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

screenshot of Dejal Time Out

The old saying says that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. It also makes him stressed, tense, and it messes-up his eyes, too. Sure, you know you need to take a break now and then, but it's easy to say you'll stand up and walk around the office "…just as soon as I finish this paragraph," or finish the next block of code, or get done reading this post, or whatever. What generally happens is that you blow past that chosen milestone and just keep on working.

Time Out acts as a gentle reminder that you need to stop, if only for a few seconds or minutes, and take a break. It allows you to set a "normal" break, where you get up and walk around the room every hour or so, as well as a "micro" break, just a few seconds to lean back, change your focus, and shake the cobwebs out. Your reminders come up by gently dimming the screen, telling you that it's break time, and showing you how long the break is scheduled to last. There's a "snooze" button that lets you postpone the break if this really isn't a good time, or if you're really under the gun, you can just bag this break altogether.

Time Out is a Mac application. It's available as a Universal Binary, and requires OS X 10.3.9 or later. For older versions of OS X, they've still got a down-rev version available as well.

Download Dejal Time Out

Secure password storage

Monday, May 19th, 2008

screenshot of Password Safe

How many passwords and logins do you have to keep track of? Work, home, banking, various online accounts—it's probably anywhere from several to dozens. If you're using reasonable passwords for these accounts—long, a mix of characters, no dictionary words, and different passwords for each account—then it's going to be just about impossible to remember them all. While a bunch of Post-Its stuck on your monitor may be the standard way to save a list like this, it's not really the preferred way. There's just not much security when your passwords scream "Free! Take one!" to anybody who happens to walk by.

Password Safe is an application that lets you keep track of all those passwords, and keeps everybody else out of them. With Password Safe, all you have to do is remember one password, and now all the rest of them are safely tucked away for you. You can choose to store all your information in one database, or you can use multiple ones—one for work, one for home, one for shopping, etc.

Password Safe is available for Windows, and also in a Java version that will run on Linux and Mac machines as well.

Download Password Safe

Collaborative timeline tool

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

screenshot of Dipity

Stuff happens. Generally it happens over time. Sometimes understanding a topic requires that you see just how things have changed over time—they've gotten better, they've gotten worse, they've gotten bigger, and so forth. A biography, a history book, even a class schedule are timelines of a sort.

Dipity is like Wikipedia for timelines. It bills itself as "…the easiest way to make and share interactive timelines about the people and things you care about." If you've got something you're interested in, and it happened over time, you can build and share a timeline of it. The rise and fall of Mesoamerican culture, the history of UFO sightings, Monty Python episodes—they're all fair game.

Timelines can have creators, editors, and fans, so you can create a timeline, collaborate with others in fleshing it out, and then share it with the world. Along with text, you can also incorporate images, links to other Web locations, Google maps, YouTube videos, and more. In addition, you can embed timelines in your web pages, so that your Mesoamerican ethnography site will include the timeline along with all the pictures of pyramids.

Dipity is a free online service. It should be compatible with most modern web browsers.

Download Dipity

iSnooze is an iTunes Alarm Clock

Saturday, May 17th, 2008

screenshot of iSnooze

Computers do a lot of things: productivity, communication, entertainment, and so much more. With iSnooze, your system will get you up and moving.

iSnooze is an alarm clock, but it's not like that big chrome wind-up model with the two big bells on top that sits on your nightstand. Instead, it rouses you from your peaceful slumber with playlists from iTunes.

iSnooze sits unobtrusively in your System Tray, waiting for the time for it to spring to life. Once it's time, it'll launch iTunes and start playing from your favorite playlists, or you can put it on Shuffle Play and hope you don't get Black Sabbath at oh-dark-thirty in the morning.

Supporting multiple alarms, you can set them for different times and days of the week. You can have the volume gradually increase, and when you just can't deal, it's got a configurable snooze alarm as well.

And hey, why use it just first thing in the morning? Maybe you want to catch your favorite streaming program every afternoon. Why not have iSnooze give you a hand with that.

iSnooze is a Windows application, and needless to say, it requires iTunes as well.

Download iSnooze

Organize your life online with Stikkit

Friday, May 16th, 2008

screenshot of Stikkit

Stikkit is an online tool that helps you organize all the disparate bits and pieces that make up your life. It's like having a pile of little sticky notes, only better. You can create a stikkit for anything you're interested in keeping track of, like people, events, and ideas. It's clever enough to figure out whether you're typing in a note, a calendar item, or contact information, and categorizes your stikkit accordingly.

You can log in and add or edit your stikkits, but the real savings is when you add a bookmark to your browser. Now whenever you need to take a note or look a something you've already written, it's just a quick click away. It's really helpful if you're taking notes while you browse the web—open a new stikkit and it's automatically populated with the title and URL of your current page.

You can share your stikkits with others, so that you can collaborate and all be on the same page. You can add to your notes via email as well. Each stikkit comes with a discrete email address. Send your note an email and the body of your message becomes a part of the stikkit.

Stikkit is a free online service. It should be compatible with most modern Web browsers.

Download Stikkit

Free Keyboard Macro Tool

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

screenshot of HotKeyBind

There are plenty of keyboard macro tools out there. They help make your life easier by assigning commands or snippets of text to hotkeys that you've chosen. Once you get the hang of them, they can really help improve your productivity.

HotKeyBind does all this, and it offers additional features. Many keyboard macro tools require that you use combinations of keys, generally an alphanumeric key like "A" or "6" in conjunction with a modifier, such as [Control], [Alt], or [Shift]. With HotKeyBind, you can use un-modified keys for your shortcuts. If you never use a backtick (that funny little backwards apostrophe that shares the key with the tilde next to the "1" key on your keyboard), why not make it do some work for you—maybe open a browser, or type your home address into a letter? HotKeyBind also lets you disable built-in Windows hotkeys, like the [WinKey] + R combination.

HotKeyBind is a free download. It's a Windows application, and runs under Win95 or later.

Download HotKeyBind

PC Tools Firewall Plus Free Edition

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

screenshot of PC Tools Firewall Plus

It's a dangerous place out there. Problems may be right around the corner, whether on the Internet, or even on your corporate network. Spyware, Trojans, backdoors—the list of threats goes on and on. You can install anti-spyware tools, virus checkers, and a host of other tools, but keeping this stuff off your system to start with may be the important first step.

A properly-configured firewall can make all the difference in the security of your system, and even in the systems of those who share a network with you. By monitoring the activity coming in to and leaving your computer, a firewall lets you know what's really going on with your system. Keystroke loggers, for example, can't just "phone home" and give away your passwords and account numbers. When some program you haven't approved tries to access your network, the firewall's going to ask you if that's okay. Sure, you're willing to let Firefox talk to the world, but when you get some unexpected, gnarly-sounding apps trying to talk to the world from your machine, you'll be able to stop them in their tracks. That helps keep your machine safe; in addition, that keeps the nasties from spreading to other hosts on your network.

PC Tools Firewall Plus is easy to set up and customize to your specific needs. You don't need a computer science degree, and you don't need to have an IT guy in the next cube to get it up and running.

PC Tools Firewall Plus is a Windows application. It requires Windows 2000 or later.

Download PC Tools Firewall Plus

Inquisitor search tool is like Spotlight for the Web

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

screenshot of Inquisitor

It's a big world out there. Zillions of Web pages, with bunches more being added every day. How in the world will you ever find the page you're looking for? Search engines and directories are a big help, of course, but even then you need to have some idea where to start looking—after all, they can't read your mind.

Enter Inquisitor. Start typing your search keywords, and instantly it starts to suggest pages that may help you find what you're looking for, as if it were actually reading your mind. It will even autocomplete your words, offering website suggestions, helping you to get to your goal that much faster. It's designed to work in conjunction with Google and Yahoo, but users can add their own favorites to that list.

Inquisitor is a Mac application. It requires OS X 10.4 or later, and works in conjunction with the Safari browser.

Download Inquisitor

Free Printable Paper

Monday, May 12th, 2008

screenshot of Free Printable Paper

Did you ever wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and wonder "where do you suppose I could get a pad of six-column columnar ledger paper at this time of the night?" Okay, neither have I, but certainly there have been times when I did need some specialized paper, whether accounting paper like this, or graph paper for laying-out the new garden, or even a couple sheets of notebook paper for the kids to finish their homework. It's not always easy to run to the corner office supply store, and there's no guarantee they'll have what you're looking for anyway.

PrintablePaper.net boasts hundreds of different sizes, shapes, and configurations of paper for you to download and print for free. They've got graph paper (with both lines and dots), lined paper, music paper, accounting paper, and penmanship paper—that wide-ruled paper that you used when you were learning how to write. These papers are available in letter-sized, legal-sized, ledger-sized (11 x 17 inches), and even A4-sized for non-US users.

Free Printable Paper is, as the name suggests, free to download and print. You need Adobe Reader, or another application that can open PDF files.

Download Free Printable Paper