Archive for June, 2008

Explore the Universe with WorldWide Telescope

Monday, June 30th, 2008

screenshot of WorldWide Telescope

Are you interested in all things astronomical? Can't afford to finance your own visit to the Hubble Space Telescope? The folks at Microsoft may be able to give you a hand.

No, they're not going to send you up on the next Shuttle mission, but they do have a "virtual telescope" that you can download. The WorldWide Telescope is a "visualization software environment" that lets your system act as a telescope, using images collected from any number of terrestrial and space-based telescopes. You can take advantage of the images they have, as well as going on a "guided tour", presented by scientists from some of the country's preeminent observatories and planetariums.

WorldWide Telescope is a Windows application. You'll need Windows XP or Vista as well as version 9 of DirectX and .NET Framework 2.0, and because of the large amount of data involved it won't hurt to have as fast an Internet connection as you can get your hands on.

Download WorldWide Telescope

Change your background images

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

screenshot of John’s Background Switcher

Do you have a short attention span? Or maybe you just have a lot of pictures. Either way, it might be nice to change your desktop wallpaper to take advantage of your cool collection of images. John’s Background Switcher may be the solution for you.

Sure, you can choose an individual picture or two to use on your screen. Set an interval and it'll change for you. Good enough. Or you can choose a directory full of images–"My Pictures" or "Burning Man '07"–and display those pictures. Not varied enough? How about Flickr or Picasa? Still not enough? You can even use Yahoo! image search to feed your habit. Now you've got virtually unlimited pictures to use for your wallpaper. Boredom shouldn't be an issue now!

John’s Background Switcher is a Windows app. It runs on anything from Win98 up through Vista, including both 32- and 64-bit versions. It also requires version 2.0 of the .NET Framework.

Download John’s Background Switcher

Create hidden, encrypted partition on USB drive

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

screenshot of Rohos Mini Drive

USB drives are pretty cool. You can take all that data and stick it in your pocket and walk away. That's handy if it's your drive and your data. That's not so handy if it's in somebody else's pocket.

Rohos Mini Drive is a tool that creates a hidden, encrypted partition on your thumb drive. The partition is totally hidden until you enter the correct password. You don't need to be an admin for the machine, you just need to know the password to open, read, and write from this hidden volume. As far as Windows is concerned, it's a real drive, but once you log out, it goes away and doesn't give any indication that there's more data on the drive than meets the eye. Now if the unthinkable happens and somebody walks off with your data—or you just drop it, leave it plugged into the machine, or any of a hundred other nasty scenarios—all is not lost, and you don't have to go join the Foreign Legion.

Rohos Mini Drive is a free Windows application. To use it, you'll (obviously) also need a USB drive.

Download Rohos Mini Drive

FileMenu Tools adds functionality to Windows Explorer

Friday, June 27th, 2008

screenshot of FileMenu Tools

Windows Explorer attempts to serve as the Swiss Army knife of file managers for Windows systems. While there's a lot that it can do, not everything can be accomplished easily. Sometimes add-on applications can help to extend Explorer's functionality in such a way that it becomes even more useful.

FileMenu Tools is one such application. You can do things like tweak the time stamps on files, change folder icons, delete locked files, and all sorts of other handy things. Synchronize folders, delete files without sending them to the Recycle bin, and even shred files to really, really get rid of them.

In addition, it's easy to configure the "Send To" menu, making it easier to open files and documents in non-default applications. Other context menu (right-click menu) items can be configured as well. There's really quite a list.

FileMenu Tools is a free Windows application.

Download FileMenu Tools

Organize your notes with Incollector

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

screenshot of Incollector

Do you have a bunch of little text files scattered across your desktop? You know the kind: notes you jotted while on the phone, IM transcripts, serial numbers, web addresses, that sort of thing. Pretty soon, they're all piled on top of each other, and you can't find anything in them.

Incollector is a tool that lets you organize your little bits and pieces of text so that you can make sense of them, and most of all, so that you can find them. When you add an entry to Incollector, you can tag is as a web address or a note, or any other category you want. Add a rating to help you remember how important a particular item is. When it comes time to retrieve your notes, Incollector has a search tool that makes it easy to find all your important notes.

Incollector runs on both Linux and Windows systems. The downloads include all the necessary support libraries (e.g. .NET 2.0 for Windows, etc.).

Download Incollector

Get rid of duplicate files with CloneSpy

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

screenshot of CloneSpy

How many copies of [name of some file] do you have on your machine? We're forever running across some interesting file—program, PDF, MP3—and downloading it. Some time later—days, weeks, months—we grab it again. Now we've got several copies of the file, wasting space on a hard drive with too much data already. But who has time to dig around and find all these duplicates?

CloneSpy can give you a hand with de-cluttering your hard drive. It goes out and finds duplicate files, whether they have the same name or not. It finds files with duplicate names. It even finds zero-byte files on your system. Once these files are identified, CloneSpy can delete the duplicates, move them to a specific location (so you can verify them before they go away), export a list of duplicates, or even feed information into a batch file you've created to apply your own set of rules to these files.

While it may not leave your hard drive smelling "minty fresh", CloneSpy will help rid you of these pesky space-wasting duplicates.

CloneSpy is a Windows application, and runs on anything from Windows 98SE on up. In keeping with the notion of helping you to maintain a clean hard drive, it installs only a single executable on your system—no junk dropped into remote locations.

Download CloneSpy

Free online password manager

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

screenshot of Passpack

A simple password is an ineffective password. A single password that you use for multiple purposes is a risky password. By the time you cover all the bases—complex, mixed upper- and lower case, alphanumeric and punctuation marks, no dictionary words—you've got a list of great passwords, but alas now you can't remember any of them. You need a "password locker" tool to keep track of them all. That's fine, as long as you always sit at the same desk with the same machine. What if you're out and about and need one of your passwords? Now you're in trouble. Enter Passpack.

Passpack is an online password manager tool. You can enter up to 100 entries for free, and they don't have to be just passwords. Save emergency info, travel info, confirmation numbers, all that sort of thing. The one thing they do ask is that you not store financial information here. Should everything go south, it's one thing if somebody can log into your blog; it's a totally different matter if they should log into your bank account and clean you out.

For most purposes, Passpack should give you plenty of security for your data. You always connect via secure HTTPS connections, and your data is super-encrypted as it sits on their servers. They've even got "disposable log-ins" for use on public computers. Pretty cool.

Passpack is a free service, and should be compatible with most modern web browsers.

Download Passpack

Clean your Windows with nCleaner

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

screenshot of nCleaner

How much extra junk do you have on your Windows system? Leftover keys in your Registry, old backup and temp files that aren't so temp, that sort of thing.

nCleaner is an all-in-one system cleaner and tune-up app that will help you to run a lean, mean, Windows machine. Along with cleaning up the leftovers, you can monitor your system for potential problems, and disable unnecessary features and services to shut down potential system vulnerabilities, as well as freeing up precious resources on your machine.

For added security, nCleaner includes a shredder that makes it impossible to restore deleted items and free space, making your system just that much more secure. Startup manager lets you see what apps and services are running at startup, and allows you to tweak or disable those that you really don't want running around unchecked. You can run cleanups at startup, shutdown, or at other specified intervals.

nCleaner is a Windows app that is free to use for non-commercial purposes. It runs under XP, 2003 Server, and Vista.

Download nCleaner

Free popup calendar for Windows

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

screenshot of QuickMonth Calendar

Are you always digging around for a calendar? With a computer, there's always a clock staring you in the face, but when you need to know what the date is for a week from Friday, you've got to find a calendar. How about one that sits on your desktop?

QuickMonth Calendar does just that. Actually, it doesn't sit on your desktop, but once you've installed it, just move your mouse over the system clock and up pops a calendar, or you can configure it to open up in response to a hot key combination.

While by default the calendar opens to this month with today's date highlighted, it's easy to move to other months and years as well. And of course, clicking on the "today" link at the bottom of the calendar brings you back to the present.

QuickMonth Calendar will always hang close to your Windows taskbar, so it won't get lost among all the apps running on your desktop. It gets it colors from your Windows theme or visual style, so it'll never look out of place on your machine.

QuickMonth Calendar is a free download for your Windows system.

Download QuickMonth Calendar

Free Diet and Weight Loss Journal

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

screenshot of FitDay

Who couldn't stand to lose some weight and get some more exercise? Yeah, I saw all your hands go up. It's kind of a pain in the neck to get going, and keeping track of your progress isn't always easy. Unfortunately, though, without some kind of organized feedback, it may not be so easy to stick with a program.

FitDay may be a help to you. It's a free online service that lets you track your progress, and helps you keep on top of things. It is a journal to record what you eat. how much you exercise, how your weight is (hopefully) going down. You can keep track of the calories and other nutritional information on what you're consuming, and see whether you're on track to meet your personal goals.

In addition to the main FitDay app, there are other helpful tools on the site. Need to know how many calories you burn walking at 2.5 mph on flat level ground? They'll tell you, based on your weight, height, age, and gender. There's plenty of other calculators like that as well.

FitDay is a free online service. If you're interested, they do have a paid version available for Windows systems for about $40.

Download FitDay