Archive for December, 2008

Remember to take a break with Workrave

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

runs on Linuxruns on Windows
screenshot of Workrave

For folks who spend too much time in front of a computer, repetitive strain injury (RSI) can be a real problem. The effects can range from mildly annoying to physically debilitating; from headaches and eye strain up through carpal tunnel syndrome. One important way to try to avoid these types of problems is to mix up your routine, and to avoid repeating the offending actions. It's hard to remember to take a break, so sometimes a tool like Workrave can be a help.

Workrave is an application that reminds you to take a break. There are three different types of reminders for you: a micro-pause, a rest break, and a daily limit. The micro-pause is a frequent break of short duration—just a few seconds to take your hands off the keyboard and mouse and to focus your eyes somewhere else other than on your monitor. A rest break is a bigger break to your routine. You'll want to get up, move around, maybe go get that cup of coffee you've been craving. And, or course, the daily limit tells you that you've done enough for the day, and that you really ought to get on with the rest of your life.

The intervals between each of these breaks, as well as their duration, is individually configurable. If you haven't had any RSI problems, you may want to spread the timing out here; if you have had problems, then you may want to dial your breaks up to help keep from exacerbating problems. Needless to say, if you are experiencing RSI symptoms, it's always a good idea to check with your medical provider to explore ways to help deal with them.

Workrave is a free download. It's available for both Windows and Linux platforms.

Download Workrave

Create Mac- and Windows-specific Zip files

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

runs on Mac
screenshot of YemuZip

Zip files are a wonder. Creating an archive that includes multiple source files and compresses those files so that they take up less space is a great idea. Whether it's backing up your important data, or sharing files with co-workers, Zip files get the job done. They're even cross-platform, sort of.

If you've used Finder's Archive function to create Zip files, you've created Mac-specific archives. When you restore them onto your own Mac, or share them with another Apple system, everything's great. When you give it to your Windows buddies, they get all kind of Mac-specific stuff that looks like just so much gobbledygook on their machine.

YemuZip is a Mac application that lets you create both flavors of Zip files. When you're working with a Mac in mind, you want to preserve resource forks, Finder meta-data, and all that good Mac stuff. If your target is a Windows machine, you can strip that extra data from your archive, so your Microsoft-loving associates won't get all weak-in-the-knees when they open your archive.

YemuZip is a Universal Binary, so it is compatible with both PowerPC and Intel-powered Macs. It runs under OS X version 10.4 or later.

Download YemuZip

Copyscape helps you identify content taken from your pages by other web sites

Monday, December 29th, 2008

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Copyscape

You put a lot of time and effort, to say nothing of blood, sweat, and tears, into creating original material for your web site. It would really stink if somebody else were to lift your content for their own web site. But how would you know whether that has been done?

Copyscape is a free online service that can help you to find content from your site that has been, umm, "borrowed" by another site. It's easy to just enter the URL of a page from your site into Copyscape's search box. Click the button, and it goes hunting for content on the web that looks like the content of the page you just entered. It'll return a list of pages that look a lot like your subject page. The fact that there's a match doesn't necessarily mean that your content has been misappropriated, but now you have a list of pages to look at to see if it looks a little bit too close to what you wrote.

Copyscape requires only a web browser

Download Copyscape

Monitor HDD activity

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

runs on Windows
screenshot of DriveGLEAM

Your computer's a busy place. CPU, memory, video, data flowing in and out—there's always something going on. Some of it you can see: you've got a monitor, right? Other parts may not be so readily observable: you can't see the read/write heads flying back and forth across the platters in your hard drive, for instance. Now most desktop boxes have some sort of display—usually a handful of LEDs—to let you know when things are happening with your hard drive. Reading data, writing data, you get those reassuring flashing red and green lights, letting you know that things are happening. That's all well and good, assuming your desktop machine is actually sitting on your desktop.

In reality, most so-called desktop machines are actually sitting on a shelf or on the floor under your desk. That means you may not be able to see those lights, so you're still flying blind in terms of watching your HDD activity.

DriveGLEAM is a tool that supplies a virtual disk access indicator. Rather than requiring you to be able to actually see the front of your machine, you get indicators in the System Tray to let you know when data is moving to- and from your hard drive. You can choose to monitor physical drives, partitions, or both. It's a small app, and doesn't even require an installer, so you aren't committing a bunch of system resources to its care and feeding.

DriveGLEAM is a Windows application. It requires Win2k or later.

Download DriveGLEAM

MediaMonkey digital music player and manager

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

runs on Windows
screenshot of MediaMonkey

If you're a sucker for digital audio, you need a tool to help you manage it all. iTunes and WinAmp may be fine for listening to all your MP3 files, but you may need something more to really stay on top of your collection. You may need MediaMonkey.

While you can use MediaMonkey to listen to all your audio files (MP3, AAC/M4A, WMA, WAV, etc.), it does a whole lot more. It's easy to edit ID3 tags to stay on top of track and album names, as well as composer, performer, and genre information. You can identify tracks with missing information, and then edit them manually, or use automatic lookup to grab the correct info.

Keep track of your favorites by organizing your music into playlists. You can even burn audio CDs directly from MediaMonkey. Extensive reporting capabilities allow you to keep track of all the statistics around your collection, and you can export your information to Excel, html, and xml files.

MediaMonkey is a Windows application. It will run under Windows 98 or greater.

Download MediaMonkey

Evolution is like Outlook for Linux

Friday, December 26th, 2008

runs on Linux
screenshot of Evolution

If you're a serious Windows user in a corporate environment, you almost certainly use Outlook. It's a great tool for integrating email, contact information, and calendar management. Linux users can take advantage of this type of all-in-one functionality with Evolution.

Evolution runs on the GNOME desktop and provides much of the functionality of Outlook. Along with reading and writing email, you can create and maintain your address book. Calendars let you keep track of important meetings and other events, as well as keeping track of your to-do lists. Smart junk mail control lets you see the email you want and avoid the stuff you don't. Build filters to organize your messages, while smart searching allows you to find just the information you need when you need it. It can be configured as an Exchange client or a GroupWise client, so you'll always be able to work and play well with others.

Evolution is a Linux application.

Download Evolution

Textpattern CMS

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Textpattern

If you are responsible for a website with more than just a couple of pages, and more than one author, then you know what a pain administering that site can be. Trying to keep everything in sync can be a never-ending battle, and more often than not, one that you can't possibly win. This is why you may need a content management system.

A CMS helps keep track of who's who and what's what on your site, so you can create the content without having to keep track of what's happening with it afterwards. Textpattern is a tool that you may want to take a look at to help you with this.

You simply type new content into the edit window, without having to worry about the proper markup syntax. When you're ready to publish, Textpattern does the heavy lifting, formatting your text in valid XHTML. You and your contributors can focus on content, rather than the minutia of formatting. It supports stylesheets and makes it easy to adjust the look and behavior of your pages.

Textpattern works best when installed on an Apache web server. It requires PHP ver. 4.3 or later, and MySQL 3.23+.

Download Textpattern

Back up your email settings with KLS Backup

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

runs on Windows
screenshot of KLS Backup

How important to you are all the contacts you keep track of in your email program? Would you be lost without your web browser's favorites and bookmarks? Maybe it's time to think seriously about backing these up.

KLS Backup is a tool that helps you to do just that. Not a full system backup, it specializes in taking a snapshot of these important settings. It keeps an eye on Windows Mail, Outlook Express, and the profiles for all of your Mozilla apps: Firefox, SeaMonkey, and Thunderbird. You can choose where to save your backups, whether it's to your local drive, a network volume, or even an FTP server or CD / DVD. Restoring your settings is just as easy as creating the backups.

KLS Backup is free for personal use. It is a Windows app and runs under Windows 2000 and later.

Download KLS Backup

Save your Mac docs automatically with EverSave

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

runs on Mac
screenshot of EverSave

Have you ever lost a document you were working on because the app quit unexpectedly, or your computer decided to croak in mid-edit? Yep, there's nothing like that sinking feeling when you realize that the last minute / hour / day worth of work has just gone the the great Bit Bucket in the Sky. It would be nice if you could rely on your machine's remembering to save your work, even when you forget to.

EverSave is an app that does just that. Always running in the background, it waits for a pre-defined period of time, and then just saves your work for you. You can choose specific apps you want it to keep an eye on, or it can automatically work with your current active application. It's also quite well behaved—you can configure EverSave to ask you to confirm your saves, so you don't inadvertently overwrite documents you don't want to replace. If you want to temporarily suspend EverSave from saving your docs, there's an override switch that lets you stop autosaving without turning all of your normal parameters off.

EverSave is a Mac application.

Download EverSave

DoCab lets you create and extract files from CAB archives

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

runs on Windows
screenshot of DoCab

If you've used Microsoft Windows for any length of time, you have no doubt run across CAB files. These files with the .cab extension, are cabinet files, a special type of Windows-specific compressed archive file. Like the filing cabinet after which they are named, CAB files contain other files, often used by installers. While these installer programs usually take care of extracting and installing the files contained in the CAB, from time to time, you may need to locate one of these individual files, maybe to use to replace a broken version already installed on your system.

DoCab is a tool that lets you manipulate CAB files. You can build your own CAB file, containing whatever files you want to put into it. Choose the compression method you want to use. You can even make it self-extracting. Or, you can examine existing CAB files and extract one, several, or all of the files that are included in them. That may come in quite handy the next time you need to fix a broken device driver on your system.

DoCab is a Windows application.

Download DoCab