Archive for April, 2009

Tiplet: Expert Tips & Tech Support

Monday, April 20th, 2009

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Tiplet

How much do you know about your computer? All your electronic gizmos and gadgets? The Internet? The truth is, no matter how much you know, it's impossible to know it all. Wouldn't it be nice to have access to a team of experts, who could help you wade through all the information out there, to really feel like you were on top of everything?

Tiplet is your own personal tech guru. Ask their team of experts and you may get an answer. Even if not, take a look at the questions they've answered for others. Whether it's email concerns, computer security issues, iPhone problems, they pretty much cover the waterfront. And best of all, it's all free. None of this "$50 for a tech support incident" stuff from them.

If you've got a tech question, cruise on over to their site and take a look–it may have been asked and answered already. And if not, go ahead and submit it to them; no doubt they've got somebody who's eager to talk about your issues.

Tiplet is a free online service. All you need to access them is a web browser. And a question.

Download Tiplet

Free ebooks from E-Books Directory

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

runs as Online Service
screenshot of E-Books Directory

If you love computers (and you probably do if you're viewing this), and you love to read, then e-books were created for you. You generally get all the content of a printed book, but with the convenience of electronic data—compact, easy-to-transport, no dead trees. It's not always to easy to find e-books, and when you do, you may have to pay a pretty penny for the privilege (are you listening, Amazon?). It would be nice to find a free alternative.

E-Books Directory includes a library of over 1500 volumes, all available for free. They run the range from previously published public domain works, to technical papers and documents, to user-contributed content. And did we mention it's free?

E-Books Directory supports a number of different formats. Depending on the items you're interested in, you may be able to read your selections online using your web browser; some may be available in PDF format so you'll need a copy of Adobe Reader (or another tool that can open those files); others may be available in DOC or RTF format, which means you'll need a word processor to check them out.

E-Books Directory is a free online service.

Download E-Books Directory

Create photo collages with Shape Collage

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Shape Collage

Back in the day, if you wanted to create a collage—a picture made up of other pictures, photographs, doodles, bits and pieces of "stuff", all glued together—you had to get out the scissors and paste. As with most complicated processes, there's now an electronic way to automate this process.

Shape Collage is a tool that lets you build a collage on your computer. You can use your own pictures from your local drive, or you can incorporate images from the Web. Choose a shape, add your images, tweak the spacing, and you're on your way to artistic greatness. Save your masterpiece as a JPEG or PNG, or even as a Photoshop PSD file. Each image in your collage is in a separate layer, so you can use Photoshop or GIMP to go in and manually adjust the particulars.

Shape Collage is free for personal use. It's available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and just about anybody else who supports Java. And you don't get glue all over your fingers.

Download Shape Collage

Clean up your hard drive with OmniDiskSweeper

Friday, April 17th, 2009

runs on Mac
screenshot of OmniDiskSweeper

Come on, admit it: you're a pack rat. We all manifest our pack rat-ed-ness in different ways. Maybe you haven't seen the top of your desk since the last Olympics. Maybe you've given up trying to park your car in the garage, 'cause it's too busy as a storage unit. Or maybe it's your hard drive. These places all seem to fill up on their own, as if the "stuff" in there were just magically drawn to it. While we can't help you with your issues in the physical world, we may have a tool to give you a hand with your electronic problems.

OmniDiskSweeper helps you to identify the big space-wasters that are filling up your hard drive. It features a Finder-like interface that automatically sorts files and folders by their size. The thought here is that the biggest potential space wasters are the biggest piles of "stuff". In other words, you can have a bunch of small files that will never amount to enough to really get in your way, but if you've got a couple of huge files that you really don't need, getting rid of them will free up a lot of space quickly. Whether it's old applications that you don't use any more, the PDFs of all the tax forms you downloaded three years ago, or any other space hogs, once you identify them, it's easy to just get rid of them.

OmniDiskSweeper is a Mac application. It's distributed as a Universal Binary, so it'll run on your PPC or x86 Macintosh. It requires OS X 10.4 or later.

Download OmniDiskSweeper

Keep your system secure with WinPatrol

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of WinPatrol

With computers, as in "real life", we all like it when things do what they're supposed to do, and don't do what they aren't supposed to do. You buy software, you want it to work correctly: draw a pretty picture, figure your taxes, take you to that cool new web site. What you don't want are things that email your credit card numbers to the bad guys, or trash your hard drive, or bring your network to its knees. WinPatrol fits into this latter category.

To help keep your system in good health, it takes a snapshot of your system's registry and other critical data, and then watches for changes. Unlike an antivirus tool that looks for a particular signature in executable files, WinPatrol zeroes in on behavior instead. We all know that everybody's trying to build a better mousetrap—or a more nefarious exploit to mess up your system—and with traditional virus protection tools, you always have to worry about the so-called "zero day attacks"—new nasties that are let loose out there before there's a fix for them. With these older style tools, you can't be protected from something that the tool has never seen before. WinPatrol has no such vulnerability.

WinPatrol is a free download. It runs on Windows systems from Win98 on up, and there's even special instructions for Windows 95 users.

Download WinPatrol

Defragment your hard drive with Smart Defrag

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Smart Defrag

When you get a nice, new computer, all the data stored on the hard drive is laid down in a clean, compact way. Over time, of course, you add new stuff—new programs, new data, new documents—and delete old and out-of-date files. After a while, you've got pieces of files and documents scattered all across your drive. While this may be an attempt to store your data more efficiently, it isn't necessarily the most efficient way to retrieve data from your system. After a while, it can really slow your system down. You may need to defragment your drive.

Smart Defrag is a tool you can use to help organize the data on your hard drive. Like all defrag tools, it moves your data around, putting all the pieces of this file or that document in adjacent locations on your drive. This means that when you go to bring-up the Johnson proposal, you're not going to hear your hard drive searching all over the place to find all the pieces of that file. That means that you'll be up and running faster. And unlike most disk defrag tools, Smart Defrag is always running in the background. That means that you'll never get into a situation where system performance becomes an issue, since it's always keeping an eye on things.

Smart Defrag is a free Windows application. It's designed for Win2k and later systems.

Download Smart Defrag

JustLooking image viewing for Mac

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

runs on Mac
screenshot of JustLooking

There are all kinds of tools out there that claim to be everything to everybody. They slice; they dice; they julienne. Heck, they're a floor wax and a dessert topping. JustLooking is not one of those tools.

What it is is a quick and easy way to check out the images on your system—think of it as a better version of Preview. It's got built-in navigation functionality, so once you find a picture you want to look at, it's easy to check out the other images in that same folder. It displays images at their real resolution, so you're not relying on the accuracy of image meta-data for display. It shows animated graphics as well.

Along with being able to view your images, you're also allowed a bit of manipulation, since you can print, resize, and even save to a couple of popular image formats.

JustLooking is a Mac application. It will run under OS X 10.4 and later.

Download JustLooking

Free Printable Planners

Monday, April 13th, 2009

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Printable Planners

How much is on your plate? No, not the one sitting in front of you at the dinner table–we're talking about the metaphorical plate that holds all the tasks, appointments, meetings, etc., that keep you busy. If you're doing anything at all, you really need some help keeping everything organized.

There are a bunch of automated tools out there that can help you maintain some modicum of sanity. They're fine, as long as you're sitting in front of your computer. But sometimes you're out on the road; or maybe you wake up in the middle of the night and need to scribble a note to yourself. All the automation in the world won't substitute for a good paper organizer at that point.

There are a bunch of folks who will sell you systems to help you organize your life. You'd recognize the names if you saw them. Unfortunately, some of them require that you re-finance your house to pay for them. How about a cheaper alternative?

Printable Planners offers a whole range of free printable planner and organizer pages. You supply the binder, and they'll provide the pages. (Hey, with the Hipster format, you don't even need a binder.) Choose from calendar pages with daily, weekly, or monthly layouts, as well as "to do" lists, contact management forms, lined and graph paper, and more. And best of all, it's all free. If you had a paper organizer, you could write that all down!

Printable Planners are a free download. You'll need a copy of Adobe Reader to print out the individual pages.

Download Printable Planners

RichCopy bulk file copy app

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of RichCopy

It's not too exciting, and certainly not very sexy, but there is a computing fact-of-life: files need to be moved from here to there. Whether you're copying files to make an archive or literally moving them into a different location, you need a tool to let you accomplish this high-tech sleight-of-hand.

All operating systems come with the ability to copy and move files. That doesn't mean that they will complete this task with the greatest speed or efficiency. Sometimes you need a specialized tool to get the job done right. RichCopy is one such tool for Windows users.

Unlike the lowly "copy" command in a terminal window, or the drag-and-drop we've all become accustomed to, RichCopy lets you do more, and do it faster. It lets you simultaneously copy files from different locations on your system, rather than making you move things one file- or one directory at a time. In addition, it copies multiple files in parallel, so that it gets the job done much more quickly. You can pause and re-start your copy process, so if you need to interrupt yur work, you don't have to go back and start over again. While RichCopy comes with a swell GUI, you can also run it from the command line.

RichCopy is a free download.

Download RichCopy

SourceEDIT text editor

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of SourceEDIT

When it comes to writing code for computer programs, the most basic tool you have at your disposal is a plain old text editor. Whether you're looking at Notepad on the PC, TextEdit on the Mac, or even Emacs or vi with the *NIX crowd, you can code just about anything without needing anything more. Of course, that's like saying that if you know how to swim, you shouldn't have any problem getting from New York to London either. Yes, you could do that, but there might be a more efficient way to go.

As with our swimming scenario above, there are more efficient and faster ways to code a page of HTML or a chunk of C++. A tool like SourceEDIT is one of those.

While you can easily enter the plain, unformatted text necessary for writing source code, you've also got additional tools that can give you a big leg up on the process. Syntax highlighting allows you more easily see keywords and variable names in your selected language, and they support PHP, Perl, HTML, and a host of others; heck, you can even add your own if you only write in Ada or FORTRAN. It helps speed you on your way with bookmarks and workspaces, and it even has built-in FTP support, so you can do everything from within your editor.

SourceEDIT is a free download. It runs on your Windows system.

Download SourceEDIT