Archive for April, 2009

Write tests with EasyTestMaker

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

runs as Online Service
screenshot of EasyTestMaker

If you're a teacher, corporate trainer, or somebody else who has to create and use tests, you know that it's not a trivial thing to put them together. Not only do you need to have mastered the content and be able to generate questions that elicit good responses from your students, but there's also that whole logistical end of things as well. You can spend a lot of time setting-up and formatting the test itself. While this is important for your test takers, it may not be the best use of your time and efforts.

EasyTestMaker is a tool that helps take the tedium out of creating testing instruments. Use your smarts to get the information into the system, and let it format the test for you. Choose from multiple choice, true / false, short answer, and others. You can separate sections with different types of questions. Add headings and instructions between sections to make your test document more useable.

Save your tests and you've got access to them again and again. Input more questions and they're added to your library. You can print your tests out—even formatted for Microsoft Word—along with answer sheets.

EasyTestMaker is a free online service. Registration is required, and they promise you won't get spammed for your trouble.

Download EasyTestMaker

Backup Windows device drivers

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Driver Magician Lite

We can't emphasize enough the importance of backing up your computer. All it takes is one system glitch to send your vacation photos—or your business—into cyber-oblivion. Keeping an archive of your critical data is so important.

Of course, concerns like this could easily lead to overkill. When you buy insurance, you purchase protection for costs you yourself wouldn't be able to afford, but nothing beyond that. That's why, for example, when you buy fire insurance on your house, you aren't paying for protection to the ground under your house, since the dirt doesn't burn so easily.

In the same way, when you back up your machine, you generally don't back up that which you can easily replace. You've got the distribution media for your operating system, applications, and the like. No sense backing up what you've already got on CD. But there is a third type of data that you might want to look at.

When you load Windows onto your system, that's often just the start. You've got a bunch of different peripheral devices—printers, scanners, that sort of thing—each of which has some special drivers to allow them and your computer to talk to one another. After a system crash, it's no trivial matter to go out and find all those drivers again and reinstall them. That's where a tool like Driver Magician Lite comes in.

A free tool, Driver Magician Lite lets you easily back up the device drivers installed on your system. Now when your box dies, or you decide to upgrade to the latest and greatest, it's no big deal to get your system up and running.

Driver Magician Lite is a Windows application. You can use it on systems running Win98 or later.

Download Driver Magician Lite

Java-based cross platform tool for notes

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Jreepad

We're always excited about little tools that help make our lives easier. Anything that helps to make sense out of all the little bits-and-pieces of information that we need to keep track of is a good thing. We've recently added another of these to our list.

Jreepad is a Java reworking of the classic TreePad tool that we've looked at earlier. Whereas TreePad is strictly Windows, Jreepad will run on any system that supports a Java Virtual Machine, which includes OS X as well as various flavors of *NIX.

It uses a tree structure to organize your notes hierarchically. Individual notes are entered as "nodes" on that tree. Branches can be dragged around to reorganize your thoughts, so you're not stuck with your original organization scheme if it becomes clear to you that a different one might work better. Enter your notes in plain text, or format them as tabular data, or you can even mark them up with HTML. Jreepad has a powerful search capability, so it's easy to find just the info you're looking for. You can also create hyperlinks within your document, so it's easy to jump from place to place.

Jreepad is available as a .dmg file for OS X users, a .zip file for Windows installations, and as a platform-independent .jar file for everybody else.

Download Jreepad

Read and write ext2 filesystem from Windows

Monday, April 27th, 2009

runs on Linuxruns on Windows
screenshot of Ext2 IFS For Windows

If you're looking for the best of both worlds, you may have a dual-boot system. Fire your computer up, and then decide whether you're going to run Windows, or if today's more of a Linux day. Now you've got the support and application availability of a Windows system, with the flexibility of a UNIX-like box. While this is exciting stuff, you know you're bound to have issues now and then. Like when you're running Windows but really need something that lives on the Linux side.

Ext2 IFS For Windows is a tool that lets you access your Linux files while you're booted up in Windows. As the name would suggest, you can access your Linux ext2 filesystem from Windows. This is real access, too—it supports both read- and write for your files. And if you're a more advanced Linux user and have an ext3 filesystem, that's fine too. You access it in the same way, you just don't get the journaling support that comes with ext3. Your Linux volumes get Windows-style drive letters, and every application on your system can access your data directly.

Ext2 IFS For Windows is, as you might expect, a Windows application. It will run under WinNT, Win2k, and later.

Download Ext2 IFS For Windows

Clean up toolbar clutter

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of TrayEverything

You're a busy guy (or gal). You're running a bunch of programs, and your toolbar is just packed full of application icons. If "cleanliness is next go Godliness," then you've got an ungodly mess here. Maybe it's time to tidy things up.

TrayEverything is a tool that lets you take your application icons and stick them in the System Tray. But what have you really gained if you just go from a crowded toolbar to a crowded tray? You can take it beyond that: make that icon go away completely. You can even password-protect your hidden icon—helps you keep that important, um, work-related application you were working on—or maybe it was MineSweeper—secure Or you can group icons together so now where you once had five icons, you've got only one.

Minimizing application windows is easy—just double-click them, or you can hit the minimize button, and away they go. You can even choose to have inactive windows minimize themselves. That seems pretty handy.

TrayEverything is a Windows application. There's an ANSI version for Win95/98/ME, and a Unicode version for Win2k and later.

Download TrayEverything

Easily browse and edit XML files

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of XML Marker

XML—Extensible Markup Language—is the latest and greatest way to share data between systems and platforms. It's an open standard, so there's no worries about getting stuck in some proprietary format that may go away, or be so tightly controlled by its publishers that you'll need to pay to get your data back. No thanks.

While XML is flexible, it's not always the easiest thing in the world to work with. With its combination of markup tags and text, you can get some files that are pretty big, and kind of nasty to work with—one false move, and you've broken your data. What you need is an editor that can help you make sense of all the potential that XML brings to the table.

XML Marker is one such tool. When you load your data into its editor, the Tree View gives you a hierarchical view of your information. It's easy to drill down into the specifics, and then the Tree Selection Browser lets you easily tweak your values, without your having to fear that you'll smash the structure of the file at the same time.

XML Marker is a free download for Windows systems.

Download XML Marker

The Best Internet Radio Player Ever

Friday, April 24th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of RadioSure

Top 40 got you down? Adult Contemporary seeming neither adult nor contemporary? You could spend all day listening to your iPod, but then you'll never hear anything new. Maybe you ought to check out RadioSure.

RadioSure is an Internet radio receiver application. It comes pre-programmed with thousands of stations from around the world. So now when you just can't stand any more of the same old same old, take a listen to what's currently playing on the other side of the country—or maybe on the other side of the world. You can sort stations by location and genre, so if you've got a hankering for, I don't know, Estonian Trance or some such, you can probably find it.

It supports most popular audio streaming formats, and it's easy to add your own favorites to the mix. Like what you're hearing? Go ahead and record it to listen to again and again. You've got the world at your fingertips.

RadioSure is a Windows application. It runs on systems with WinXP and Vista.

Download RadioSure

Unleash the data in your email

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

runs on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Postbox

Have you ever used your email system as a database? When you want to remember to do something, you send yourself an email. When you want to capture a little piece of data, your send it off in an email to yourself. Since you've already got your head in that game, here's a way to make it work even better.

Postbox is a tool that helps you to organize the contents of your email messages. Not only that, it also looks at your attachments—images, documents, that whole deal—to help your keep track of it all. Now when you're trying to see everything about that new project, you'll really find everything. It's compatible with POP3 and IMAP mail protocols, so you're probably good to go with it right now. Search through everything, or filter your info so that you're only digging through a subset of your mail. You can even archive older stuff, so that you don't have to dig through it every day, while still allowing you to search through it when the need arises.

Postbox is available for Windows (XP and later) and Macintosh (OS X 10.4 and newer). It's currently beta-level software, so you might expect a bug or two. Their website says that this app is free, but suggests that they may change their pricing model somewhere down the road.

Download Postbox

Secure your system by reciting your Privacy Mantra

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Privacy Mantra

You're pretty careful in your computer life. You don't accept cookies that aren't from sites you're visiting. No pop-ups for you. You dump browser history regularly. But you're still leaving traces of everything you do on your system.

Your browser isn't the only thing on your machine that likes to keep track of where you've been and what you've done. Windows itself likes to make a record of things as well—and it doesn't want to let you get rid of this data either. Privacy Mantra can give you a hand with that.

It keeps an eye on all the places on your system that make a record of where you've been, and lets you dump that data. It recognizes potential security compromises and deals with them accordingly. Whether it's web browsers, Microsoft Office applications, or even RegEdit and crash logs, nothing's out-of-bounds for this tool. If you've been there, and your machine's got a record of it, you can probably erase it with Privacy Mantra.

Privacy Mantra is Windows NT/2000/XP/2003 compatible.

Download Privacy Mantra

Record your actions with ScreenToaster

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

runs as Online Serviceruns on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of ScreenToaster

Did you ever need to tell somebody how to do something on their computer? Some simple instructions are easy to talk through, but when things get more complicated, there's nothing that can substitute for showing them how to do it. That's all well and good if they're sitting at the next desk, but that's not so easy if they're halfway around the world. For that, you need a video capture tool that can record what you do on your screen, that they can look at later.

ScreenToaster is a free tool that helps you to do just that. It doesn't require a huge download, although it does need to stick a Java applet on your system, and it should run on any computer that supports Java, which means that most Windows, Mac, and Linux systems are good to go.

All you do is click the button, and start doing whatever it is that you want to record. Create a tutorial, where you demonstrate how to create a tutorial—you get the idea. When you're all done, you can send your handiwork via email, or embed it in a web page or blog.

And don't worry: ScreenToaster doesn't leave screen crumbs.

Download ScreenToaster