Archive for June, 2010

Design a room or a house with Roomle

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Roomle

There sure seem to be a lot of home improvement shows on the television machine lately. They cover everything from redecorating a room to adding a second story, and more. Unless you're a contractor yourself, you'd probably be advised to retain the services of professionals in the various building trades before you attempt anything too complicated. But what about the early stages, where you try to decide if this is something you really want to look into more deeply? You don't want to go out and hire some high-powered architect to just play "what if" games on a pad of paper.

Roomle is an online service that lets you design a room, flat, or palatial estate in the privacy of your own home. With its easy-to-use interface, in no time you'll draw your space (or upload an existing drawing), add furniture, and more. It's got plenty of prefab do-dads so you can add windows, doors, and furniture with little pain. Examine your handiwork in good-old 2-D, or render it all in glorious 3-D (funny glasses not required), to get an idea of whether your idea is a candidate for reality, or if it might be better to relegate it to the "it seemed good at the time" pile.

While you can create your designs without signing up, you won't be able to save your handiwork without creating a free account. All you'll need to use Roomle is a web browser and an idea.

Download Roomle

Mount remote storage as a local drive

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of NetDrive

If you're a truly connected geek, then you've no doubt got data scattered all over the world. The stuff on your local drive is easy to access. Getting at your removable media is a cinch. Network volumes are just a couple of clicks away. But what about the world beyond that? If you rely on FTP apps and such to access remote storage, your process doesn't go nearly as smoothly. It would be nice to integrate that kind of across the street and around the world data into your environment.

NetDrive lets you connect to, and work with, remote drives as if they were sitting right on your desktop. Once you connect, you can list directories, run apps, and do all the stuff that you normally do with Windows Explorer. No more pesky file upload apps are necessary, since you can drag and drop directly. You can even configure it to load when you start Windows, making it just about as seamless as possible.

A Windows application, NetDrive is free for home use. It should run on any reasonably configured system under Windows 2000 or later.

Download NetDrive

Flash cards go high-tech

Friday, June 18th, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Mnemosyne

Any third grader drilling away on number facts knows all about flash cards. This time-honored pedagogical tool has gotten more people through school than probably just about anything else, for one simple reason: it works. There's no substitute for drilling on facts like you can do with flash cards. So how do you improve on a technology that presumably is as old as the written word?

The Mnemosyne Project has one answer, with their automated flash card-like tool. Like traditional flash cards, you can enter the question and answer and then drill on those facts until you master them. Going one better, though, it also leverages off the smarts of your computer. After all, it can keep track of how well you are learning the stuff you're working on, and make sure that it cycles the trickier stuff through more often, letting you hit the hard stuff harder. It also supports pictures, sounds, and three-way flash cards, that can ask two different questions at once.

Mnemosyne is a free download. The latest release is available for Linux and Windows, and a previous version for Mac is also out there.

Download Mnemosyne

Large Text File Viewer

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Large Text File Viewer

We've talked before about the virtues of the text editor. With the ability to write and read unformatted text, this is the perfect application for writing code or doing other stuff where the text is the thing, and any formatting is just junk that gets in the way. Unfortunately, opening really big text files is something that has always taken a long time. Once you get into the "huge" range—files upwards of a gigabyte in size, you might as well pack a lunch and plan to make a day of it. Well, relief is on the way, Bunkey, in the form of an program aptly named Large Text File Viewer.

This tool is specially designed to handle these types of big files. Through some fancy programming sleight-of-hand, this app opens those really big files really fast. And with a file that big, you don't want to just be able to open it; you need to be able to find stuff in it as well. So it's got a powerful search facility built into it. You can search on plain old text, or it supports regular expressions, letting you get much more precise in detailing exactly what you're looking for. And its window lets you split the display, so you can be in two places (in the file) at the same time.

Large Text File Viewer is a Windows app. You can download it for free and use it on your Windows NT or later system.

Download Large Text File Viewer

Where did my hard drive space go?

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of GetFoldersize

Where did all my hard drive space go? You know the drill: you just bought the latest, greatest machine with a fast processor, tons of memory, and a hard drive as big as all outdoors, and now you're starting to run out of space. How did that happen? Dunno, but you do know it's time to do something about it. So what is taking up all that space? You could spend time digging through directories trying to make sense of it all, or you could take advantage of GetFoldersize.

With this free tool, you can look at your drive and figure out where all the stuff is that's making your great big drive act like it's a teeny, tiny drive. With its three-pane interface, it's easy to pick a drive, focus on a directory, and grab individual files. Sort by directory size, by number of files or folders they contain, or even by percentages. Use it on local drives, network drives, and more.

You can grab GetFoldersize with an installer or as a standalone (for your USB drive) for free. It should run on any Windows system from Win2k up through Windows 7.

Download GetFoldersize

Batch image resize tool

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

runs on Mac
screenshot of Pixer

Nothing's ever quite the way you want it. Just ask Goldilocks: chairs, breakfast, beds, nothing really worked for her. If you've got a pile of image files, you may be familiar with that concept. This picture is too big; this one is too small. Fire up Photoshop to fix them, and you're committing to a long, hard slog—as well as several bills—to get the job done. Faster and cheaper might be nice.

Pixer is a Mac tool that lets you tweak your graphics files. Choose an individual file or a whole folder full, drag them onto the app, and let go. Choose how you want them resized—you can specify a pixel number, percentage, or choose from presets for specific sizes, as well as being able to rotate and flip images, or crop and pad them. It supports most popular image formats, so you can probably use it for whatever you're working with.

Pixer is a free download for Mac users. You'll need to be running at least version 10.4 of OS X (10.5 for some advanced features) to use it.

Download Pixer

Clean your hard drive big-time

Monday, June 14th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Darik's Boot And Nuke

There comes a time in the life of every computer when it's time to be removed from service. Maybe it's because you just scored a hot new system and you're donating Old Reliable to a school or nonprofit, or maybe you're going to sell it on eBay to help pay for that fancy new machine. Either way, you need to get your stuff—programs and more importantly personal data—off the hard drive. A simple delete won't get the job done, so it's time to find a more industrial-strength tool to take care of business.

Darik's Boot And Nuke may be the answer you're looking for. Download this tool and install it on a floppy disk or CD, and you're all set for a high-powered hard disk-wiping machine. This guy takes out programs, data, even partition tables. While the best way to be absolutely sure that your data has been removed is to physically destroy your hard drive, you're going to have a hard time getting much for your system with no disk drive and all those metal shavings in there. Short of that, you can probably sleep pretty well at night after using this guy to clean out your machine.

There's no guarantee that this app will render all of your data unrecoverable forever, but for the price—did we mention it's free?—you probably can't do much better.

Download Darik's Boot And Nuke

Sticky notes online

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Listhings

The sticky note is a tried and true method of keeping track of things. You can stick them on a report. You can hang them on your computer. But one thing you can't very well do is look at one that's at home when you're at work, or vice versa. Unless you've got this teleportation thing down.

Listhings is an online sticky note tool. Go to their site, and you'll see a virtual corkboard—which looks like real cork—that you can add your own notes to. Pick a color, resize them, drag 'em around the screen, go nuts. But now when you stick a note up there, you'll be able to access it from anywhere, which could be pretty handy.

You'll need to sign up for a free account to be able to keep track of your notes. And of course, you'll need a web browser and an Internet connection. And maybe something worth jotting down?

Download Listhings

Free hex editor

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of HexEdit

There are geeks, and then there are GEEKS. Being knowledgeable about the software and hardware you use every day buys you some street cred in the geek world, but if you really want to let your Geek Flag fly, you're going to need to do more than that. We used to know a guy who balanced his checkbook in hexadecimal. Now that's hard core!

HexEdit is a tool that lets you get in and get intimate with your files. Not just some text editor, this tool lets you get in and look at the individual bytes in your files. You may find some interesting stuff in there, or if you decide to make an edit or two while you're in the neighborhood, you may totally trash the file. This brings up two important rules for using hex editors: (1) always work with a copy, not the original file, and (2) have a clue about what you're doing. When you're working with files on this level, there are no safeguards to keep you from breaking those files and more. Be safe.

HexEdit is a free download. It's a Windows application. Thick glasses and propeller beanie not included.

Download HexEdit

Don't delete your files, Camouflage them

Friday, June 11th, 2010

runs on Mac
screenshot of Camouflage

Does your desktop look like a bomb just went off: coffee cups, phones, piles of paper everywhere. What about your Desktop—the desktop on your computer? Files and folders scattered everywhere, downloads, and of course all that important stuff you don't want to lose track of. Thing is, though, now that it's buried with everything else you can't find it anywhere. You could clean house, but then what are you going to do with all that stuff.

Maybe the thing to do is to camouflage it, with Camouflage. This app takes everything and hides it for you, leaving only your Desktop wallpaper. Clicking on it will bring up a Finder window, so you know your stuff hasn't all really gone away, but at least you're not tripping over it constantly now. And if you've got so much mess that it spans several monitors, you can clean them all up at once, since Camouflage hides all that other junk as well.

Camouflage is a free download for your Mac.

Download Camouflage