Archive for January, 2010

Updated Lorem ipsum generator

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Dummy Text Generator

When you design a new web site or add pages to an existing site, it's a good idea to build a mock-up first. This prototype lets you see how it's all going to look when it goes live; you can adjust colors, font size, layout of the page, and all that good stuff. Usually you aren't going to add your text until the last minute. But your page isn't going to flow right—and is going to look downright silly—unless you've got something in there as a placeholder for where your inspiring words are going to land eventually. That mocked-up text can go by a number of different names—Greeking is a favorite—and often includes a Latin passage that starts "Lorem ipsum….

While it's handy to have a stock chunk of text to use as a placeholder in your mock-ups, it might be nice to be able to be a little more specific with it. For example, you may want to specify a particular number of characters or words or paragraphs to use. That's where a tool like Dummy Text Generator could come in handy.

A free online service, these guys let you choose from a number of different text passages. Having chosen the placeholder text, you can further select the number of characters, words, and paragraphs to break it into. Its preview feature even lets you see what your passage will look like at different page widths. How many lines long will your text be on the page when your 200 word passage goes live? Advanced options let you experiment with different text styles, helping you to make your prototypes even more accurate.

You should be able to use Dummy Text Generator with just about any modern web browser.

Download Dummy Text Generator

An uninstaller that removes all the pieces

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Revo Uninstaller Freeware

Most Windows applications are complicated feats of engineering. They do all kinds of fancy stuff, but that often comes with an impressive level of complexity. As you know if you've ever tried to uninstall a Windows application, they've often got their tentacles wrapped around all kinds of important things on your system. Not only is there the main executable file, but often there are support files scattered across your hard drive, not to mention several—if not hundreds—of cryptic entries in the System Registry. If you just delete the program file itself, you leave tons of stuff behind. Heck, even if you use the built in uninstaller, you can leave debris scattered around your system. It would be nice if your uninstaller actually uninstalled.

Revo Uninstaller Freeware thinks it's up to that challenge. Sure, it can handle plain-old uninstalls, but it goes one better. Use this guy to uninstall an app and it will run through the normal uninstall routine, but then it'll go back and double-check to make sure that everything really did get picked up. No more leftover junk! A nice bonus here is that they do offer tech support for this freeware version of their application.

As the name would lead you to believe, Revo Uninstaller Freeware is a free download for your Windows 2000 (or later) system. Of course, they'd love for you to download and install (and pay for) the "Pro" version of their software, but there's no requirement that you do so.

Download Revo Uninstaller Freeware

Skitch lets you annotate your images

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

runs on Mac
screenshot of Skitch

How many times do we hear that a picture is worth a thousand words? Too many, no doubt. While a photo or drawing can help to point something out or demonstrate a problem, often the picture by itself isn't enough. After all, books and newspapers add captions to photos for a reason: the picture doesn't necessarily always tell the whole story.

If you're using pictures to tell a story, you might want to take a look at Skitch. This tool lets your take a screenshot of a web page or desktop application, and then add your own annotations to it. A picture's good, but when you add an arrow and a note—look at this widget, right here—and everybody will know what the excitement is all about. Or grab an image from your machine and have at it. Your annotations—circles, arrows, text—are all held in a layer separate from the image itself, so you can drag them around the canvas without messing-up the underlying picture. And it's easy to save your new-and-improved image to the desktop or upload it to any server.

Skitch is a Mac application. It runs under OS X version 10.4.6 and later. It's a Universal Binary, so it should be equally at home on PowerPC and Intel-powered Macs. The current release is a public beta, so it may behave in unexpected ways.

Download Skitch

Cl1p is an Internet clipboard

Monday, January 18th, 2010

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Cl1p

It's a pretty simple concept: you and your stuff are right here, but you want to be over there. Okay, so get up and walk across the room. Or drive across the state. Or fly across the continent. Pretty easy. You can do the electronic equivalent with the technology available: fax machines, email, and blog posts make it easy for your stuff (if not you) to move around at will. Depending on what you are trying to move around, these may all be overthinking the problem. Here's an example: you are surfing the Web on your Windows box and run across a cool Mac app that you'd like to try out. The easiest way to get that info from here to there is to fire-up your email program, create a message with the download URL copied-and-pasted into it, and send the message to yourself—on the other machine. Now move to your Mac, start-up Mail, grab that message, open it, and stuff the link into your browser. That's about eleventy-three steps for a rather simple operation. So how about a clipboard you can share between those machines?

Cl1p (see-ell-one-pee) bills itself as The Internet Clipboard. It's a pretty simple concept. Go to their site and paste any text (no images unfortunately) you want into their web form. Now from any other machine you go to that same page and grab what you pasted just a minute ago. It's quick, it's easy, and (of course) it's free. Your clipboard stays live for a week (or other period you choose), so you've got plenty of time to do what you need to do. You could also use this tool to share stuff with yourself if you've got a dual-boot system. Heck, you could even maintain an ongoing discussion here, although there are probably plenty of tools that would do a better job with that.

A free online service, Cl1p should be compatible with any recent web browser.

Download Cl1p

Simple CSS is like stylesheets with training wheels

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

runs on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Simple CSS

There's no doubt that Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) are the wave of the future for web page layout and formatting. Gone are the days when everything was a table and <FONT> tags ruled the day. Stylesheets give you much greater flexibility and accuracy in your text formatting and page layout. Unfortunately it's not always easy to figure out just which commands to use to get the job done.

Simple CSS tries to help make the whole stylesheet thing easier. A desktop app, you can use a series of dropdown lists to build your style rules. It's almost always easier to pick stuff from a list that to pull them up from memory, and this seems to be no exception. Text formatting, page layout, borders, and more are available to you. Use it to create new stylesheets, or import existing ones and use it to tweak them and get them just right.

Available in both Windows and Mac versions, Simple CSS is a free download. The Windows version runs under Win98 and later; for Mac it's a Universal Binary and runs under OS X and should do fine with Tiger (10.4).

Download Simple CSS

Monitor websites for changes at ChangeDetection.com

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

runs as Online Service
screenshot of ChangeDetection.com

Sometimes, it's what remains constant that's interesting to us. Other times, we're more interested in what's different. RSS feeds are built with this in mind: any time there's a new blog post or breaking news story, we can find out by subscribing to the right feed. But sometimes we're interested in things that we can't get through a feed. In situations like this, it's handy to have a tool that monitors a website for us, letting us know when something has changed there.

ChangeDetection.com is a website monitoring tool like this. All you need to do is give them a URL and an email address. They'll monitor that page, and whenever it changes, they'll shoot you an email letting you know about it. Conversely, if you've got a website that people are interested in (that's why you have it, right?) but don't supply an RSS feed, these guys give you a snippet of code you can paste into your page that will let your visitors monitor your site for changes. They go out and check pages about once a day, so this isn't a viable substitute for any kind of real-time information, but for stuff that changes less often, it might be just enough to keep you in the loop.

These guys have been doing this for free since 1999, so they must be doing a pretty good job. You don't need to sign up to use the service, although you can, and it should be compatible with just about any web browser. And of course, you'll need an email address if they're going to send you a note about what is going on.

Download ChangeDetection.com

Empty the Trash from your removable drive with Curb

Friday, January 15th, 2010

runs on Mac
screenshot of Curb

Windows' Recycle Bin and Mac's Trash are a pretty cool idea. Rather than having things go way when you delete them, à la UNIX, when you delete files on these systems they just go into a holding area that gets them out from under foot but doesn't really delete them, just in case you need to recover them later. Once you really are sure you're done with a deleted file or three, you just "empty the Trash", and they really go away.

When you mount a removable drive on your system—like a USB thumb drive—file deletion works the same way: delete really means "put it in the Trash." now fast forward to a situation where you want to pass your thumb drive along to somebody else, but you want to make sure that everything you don't want to share is deleted from that drive. As it sits right now, the only way to do that is to empty the Trash for your whole system. That may be okay, but if you've got files you deleted from your own hard drive, you may not be ready to chuck the whole pile at once.

Curb is a tool that can help you with this dilemma. When you want to clean up your USB drive, instead of emptying your system Trash, you just drag your drive—actually its icon—onto Curb and it automagically gets rid of those deleted files on your removable drive, but without messing with the rest of the files in our system's Trash folder.

You can download this app for your Mac for free. It runs under OS X 10.5 and later, on both Intel and PowerPC machines.

Download Curb

Make hard disk partitions bend to your will

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of PartitionWizard

As inevitably as time marches forward, the hard drives on our computers increase in size. Starting way back when with the original PC-XT—featuring a whopping 10 MB drive—we've gotten to the point where multiple-TeraByte systems aren't unheard of. Even with huge drive sizes, there are still limitations to what you can do with all that space. To help overcome some of these potential troubles, it's common to partition fixed drives into smaller volumes, breaking them into more manageable pieces.

Every operating system includes at least rudimentary tools necessary to create and manage disk partitions. Most of them, however, aren't capable of anything very interesting. Enter the world of after-market partition tools.

PartitionWizard falls into this class of tool. While it can do all the "normal" stuff—create and delete partitions, format them, etc.—this app also allows you to resize partitions, move them around, convert filesystems, and more. It's a far cry from FDISK.

PartitionWizard is a Windows app, running under XP and later on the desktop, and server running 2000 and later. It's free for both home- and business users.

Download PartitionWizard

Free service scans suspect files for viruses

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

runs as Online Service
screenshot of VirusTotal

John Donne wrote No man is an island, entire of itself….. If he had been alive today, he might notice that computers are pretty much that way, too. Sure, there still are un-connected machines out there—maybe at 35,000 feet while flying across the country, for example—but for the most part, we're all connected, whether it be via a local network, or worldwide via the Internet. Either way, while this affords us great opportunity to work together, it also means that it's just that much easier for bad things to happen as well. Computer security is a pretty big deal.

VirusTotal is a service that can help you keep an eye on your system's security. Got a questionable file? Maybe it's something you downloaded, or maybe it came as an attachment to an email. No problem; just upload it through their web form. Or you can send it as an email attachment—you actually submit the file via email. In addition, for Windows users they've even got an uploader tool you can install on your system, allowing you to upload files via context menu (right-click on the suspect file). They'll scan it for you, using a whole bunch of different tools, and then report on what they found (or hopefully didn't find).

A free online service, VirusTotal should be useable by anyone with an Internet connection and a web browser.

Download VirusTotal

Stop dithering and decide to dither your images

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

runs on Mac
screenshot of HyperDither

It's always amazing to me how the human brain works, trying to organize and extract meaning from seemingly meaningless stimuli. We all know that the pictures on the TV screen and images thrown against the wall by a movie projector don't really move; rather our brains take a series of still images and supply the "tweening" such that we see motion even when there is none. Or take a look at the pictures in a newspaper. There's not really a line or shape in most of them; instead it's a bunch of larger- and smaller-sized dots against a white background. You see shapes and a zillion different levels of gray because your brain fills-in-the-blanks to make us "see" pictures.

HyperDither is an interesting app that deals with this "see dots as images" thing. Built using the same same dithering filter used to convert grayscale images to black and white for early Macintosh computers, it takes your image and converts into a bunch of dots, to rather interesting effect. It's easy to use, as you can either browse to the file you're interested in, or just drag and drop your picture into the app's main window. You can even grab a whole folder's worth of files if you want to go nuts with it.

A free download, HyperDither is a Mac application. It runs under OS X (10.3 and greater) and is a Universal Binary, so you can use it on your PowerPC or Intel system.

Download HyperDither