Archive for August, 2008

eCalc free online basic and scientific calculators

Monday, August 11th, 2008

screenshot of eCalc

Every system ships with a calculator or two. It only makes sense: computers are, when you get right down to it, machines to play with numbers. Binary "one" and "zero", ASCII values, numbers are everywhere. All calculators are not created equal, however. If you're looking for something more, you might want to check out eCalc.

With eCalc, you have your choice of a basic calculator, for simple math problems or balancing your checkbook, or the more complex scientific calculator. It features all the trig and log functions you would expect, and allows you to choose between algebraic or RPN input. Along with the calculator, there is also an additional palette of useful stuff. There's a unit conversion tool (how many carats in a pound?), a list of frequently used constants, and a base conversion tool so you can jump back and forth between binary, octal, decimal, and hexadecimal numbers.

eCalc is a free online service.

Download eCalc

Take annotated screenshots with Bug Shooting

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

screenshot of Bug Shooting

When you're trying to describe something that's happening on your computer screen, there's nothing like a screenshot to show what's really going on. Regardless of what platform you're running on, it's generally pretty easy to take that screenshot, but it's not always easy to make sure that you're getting your message across with that pretty picture.

Bug Shooting is a screen capture tool with a difference. Created for use in the software testing biz, not only does it grab what's onscreen at a given time, but it also lets you annotate that image. Now you can draw circles around what you're trying to highlight, and write messages like "what's up with that radio button?" directly on the picture. It's much easier than telling somebody to take a close look at the third option button down in the fourth groupbox on the fifth tab of a form. You get the idea.

Along with adding text and shapes, you can crop and resize images, add arrows, combine images, and more. It includes a built-in screen magnifier, so you can really see what you're talking about.

Bug Shooting runs under Windows and requires XP or Vista, along with ver. 2 of the .NET Framework.

Download Bug Shooting

Tag your MP3s with ToeTag

Saturday, August 9th, 2008

screenshot of ToeTag

Did you ever wonder how iTunes or other media players know so much about the files they're playing? I mean, you've got a file with a name like "my-cool-audio-file.mp3" but when you load it into your player, it tells you that it's actually "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" from The Beatles' White Album. This bit of data sleight-of-hand is accomplished though the use of an "id3 tag", a bit of meta-data that many media files carry along with the actual content of the file itself. This meta data includes information about the title and number of the track, the artist, the album, and more.

If you need to tweak this information, or maybe add more to it, you need a tool to access it. That's where ToeTag comes in.

Named, unfortunately perhaps, after the coroner's favorite means of identification, ToeTag lets you add, edit, or delete meta information stored in your media files. Add a track name, correct a misspelling, or even enter information about the bitrate of the recording, or the composer of the piece. You can also grab song information on-line from the free tracktype.org server.

ToeTag works on Windows Vista and Windows XP with .NET 2.0.

Download ToeTag

Free website templates

Friday, August 8th, 2008

screenshot of Open Web Design

So you've decided you need a website. Maybe you're launching a new business and you know you need an online presence. Maybe you've just been chosen by your club or organization to build them a site. Or maybe you just want a place to put all those vacation photos.

Generally there are two types of people who build websites: those with no sense of design, or those with no time. Some people fit into both of those categories, but that's a different story. In either case, it may be time to call in reinforcements.

The folks at Open Web Design have over three thousand web design templates that you can download and use for free. Now even if all your taste is just in your mouth, or if you're the most time-pressed person around, there's no reason you can't have a snazzy new website. Take a few minutes to browse through their extensive collection; you're sure to find a design that will be just right for your new site.

Open Web Design website templates are a free service.

Download Open Web Design

USB Drive Letter Manager

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

screenshot of USB Drive Letter Manager

We've gone on in the past about the virtues of the USB drive. Small, easy to work with, they're the wonder of the age. Sometimes they don't work and play well with others—or maybe it's the "others" that don't behave as they should.

When you mount a USB drive on a Windows system, it wants to assign it a drive letter. That seems entirely reasonable. Unfortunately, sometimes Windows isn't very smart about the letter it assigns, meaning that if the letter it wants to assign to your removable drive is already in use, perhaps for a network volume, you may never see your USB device in Windows Explorer. It doesn't matter how cool a flash drive like this is if you can't use it.

USB Drive Letter Manager is a tool that helps deal with this problem. Rather than relying on the good graces of the operating system from Redmond, it uses its own logic to supply a useful drive letter to your device, making sure that you can actually use it.

USB Drive Letter Manager runs as a service on Windows versions from Win2k up through Vista. It is provided as freeware for private and educational use.

Download USB Drive Letter Manager

Free file format conversion tool

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

screenshot of Format Factory

Formats, formats, formats…. We're awash in multimedia content: images, audio, video. Do you have the right tools to deal with all of the different file formats? In other words, if you download "X", can you look at it, listen to it, or play it? How about putting it on your iPod, iPhone, or PSP? Not necessarily—you may need to convert that file to a different format.

Format Factory is a free media converter that can convert just about anything into just about anything else. Along with file conversions, the authors say that you can use this tool to repair broken audio and video files, as well as reducing their sizes. You can also tweak picture files, flipping and rotating images. Ripping DVDs for backup or archival purposes is supported too.

The authors are working to make this tool available to as many folks as possible. It is currently available in over a dozen languages, but if you're fluent in one that they haven't localized for yet, they're eager for you to give them a hand with that as well.

Format Factory is a Windows application.

Download Format Factory

Free online guitar tuning tool

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

screenshot of Guitar Tuner

In the beginning was air guitar. It wasn't very musical, but you sure looked good. Then came Guitar Hero. Now you actually helped make the music, but it's still kind of karaoke for guitars. If you really want to make music, you've got to get a real guitar.

Whether your taste—or budget—runs to a Stratocaster, a Les Paul, or just a beat-up old Harmony, one thing is for sure: you've got to tune your axe if you want to play it. The best way to tune your guitar is to score yourself a big old grand piano, but if you thought Fender and Gibson wanted a lot of money, you haven't lived until you've priced a piano. No, that's not really an option. A much more economical alternative is found online with Guitar Tuner.

These folks have a free online guitar tuner app on their site that you can use to tune your guitar to the traditional tuning, or to any of over 50 alternative tunings; and if that's not enough, you can even create your own tunings.

They've got a lots of other guitar-related stuff on their site for you as well—lessons, a buyer's guide, and more.

The Guitar Tuner is a free online service.

Download Guitar Tuner

Convert images to Windows icons and back

Monday, August 4th, 2008

screenshot of Icon Sushi

Where would we be without icons? No, we're not talking religious imagery here, we're talking about those ubiquitous little pictures that we double-click on to launch applications in a modern GUI-based computer environment.

One of the biggest drawbacks with icons is their lack of flexibility. There's a fixed set to deal with system needs, like folders and such. Applications usually come with their own. But what if you want to organize things a different way, or your design sense doesn't match that of the people who crated these stock icons? You need to be able to create your own!

Icon Sushi can give you a hand with that task. With this tool, you can convert your favorite image files into icon files to use on your system. Start with BMP or PNG files, or even Photoshop PSDs and convert them into fully useable Windows ICO icon files. You can also grab icon images out of other EXE or DLL files, so that you've got just the images you need. Or if the need should arise, you can take icon files and convert them into image files as well.

Icon Sushi is a free Windows app. It's been tested under WinXP, but it may run under Win2k as well.

Download Icon Sushi

Free rapid application development tool

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

screenshot of LyteRAD

Back in the day, you could run a business—or your life—on the back of an envelope. A couple of notes here, a little sketch there, and you were good. Nothing all that complicated.

Update to today. There's no such thing as simple any more. What you used to be able to do on a legal pad requires computers and more. There's a lot you can accomplish with a word processor and a spreadsheet, but if you really want to take care of everything, you need specialized software that deals with your particular issues and concerns. Who knows what those are better than you?

Now you can take your knowledge and expertise and leverage it into applications that you build yourself. LyteRAD is a lightweight rapid application development framework that lets you build complex database applications without writing a line of code. They supply the tools, including an embedded database, and you put it together. Sound good?

LyteRAD is available as a free download (the "CE" edition), and also has paid upgrades. It's a Windows application.

Download LyteRAD

Create word clouds with Wordles

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

screenshot of Wordles

There's the old saying about a picture being worth a thousand words. While the count may not be exact (maybe this picture is worth only 950 words), the idea is still the same: sometimes verbal information can actually be presented better as an image. We've all seen the little charts and graphs they put in the newspaper; they wouldn't be there if they didn't help us to better understand the underlying story.

Word clouds are an interesting way to present data based on how often an item is repeated in a chunk of text. If you were looking at a paragraph, for example, you're going to notice some interesting things about how often terms occur. There will always be a lot of instances of "the" and "and", but once you get past those types of words, you're going to see that keywords for that text tend to appear more often than other words. Your paragraph about widgets will generally feature the word "widget" more times that any garden-variety passage of English prose. When you make a list of the words in that paragraph, and then resize them such that words that appear more frequently are in a larger font than words that you run across at a lower rate, you have an idea of what a word cloud is. You may have even seen them on Flickr or Del.icio.us.

You can generate your own word clouds with Wordles. Enter text into a web form, or even point the tool at a page you've created, and it will generate a word cloud that gives you a visual idea of just what your terms are doing. If you think you've written a page about widgets, but you see "gadgets" as the biggest term in your word cloud, maybe you need to go back and tweak your writing.

Wordles is a free online service. While you can access it with just about any modern web browser, you need to have a recent version of Java (version 5 or 6) on your machine as well to make it work.

Download Wordles