Archive for October, 2010

Encode and Obfuscate PHP Scripts

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of PHP Obfuscator

Don't you hate it when people just sit there an look over your shoulder while you work? First of all, I just can't type with that extra set of eyes there; but more than that, maybe I don't want everybody in the world knowing exactly what I'm up to. Like coding a cool new script or application—after all, they call it "proprietary" for a reason. So how do you keep the prying eyes away?

PHP Obfuscator is a tool that keeps everybody from getting in there and mucking about with your code. It takes PHP code and turns it into gibberish that humans can't read, but that your server has no problem with. Pick a file or pick a whole directory, turn the crank, and your super new algorithm is super secret. You can choose which pieces to hide, including variables, functions, and more. Now you can distribute your code without giving away all your hard work.

An open source tool, PHP Obfuscator is a Windows application and runs on systems under XP and later. The resulting code should work on all PHP-enabled web servers.

Download PHP Obfuscator

Free Windows automation application

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Perfect Automation

There are never enough hours in the day. For that matter, there are never enough hands to get all the work done. While computers have brought us a long way in terms of productivity, they still require you to sit there banging away at the keyboard or relentlessly clicking that mouse. It would be handy if the machine itself would take care of some of those tasks.

Perfect Automation may be the answer. This app includes a scheduler tool, so you can run programs at preset times. Use it as a program launcher, so you don't have to dig through the Start menu to get things up and running. Maybe best of all, it's got a keyboard and mouse recorder. Step through your process once while recording it, and then play it back whenever you need to. Now instead of getting bogged down in a long series of complicated steps, you reduce all the tedium to simply playing back your script. That frees you up to return that phone call you never get to, or lets you go grab that all important next cup of coffee. There's also a script editor, so you can tweak your recorded scripts, or even write new ones from scratch. Perfect Automation is built to use the open source Gentee programming language, so the sky's the limit in terms of the complexity you build into your scripts.

You can grab Perfect Automation for free. It's currently compatible with systems running Windows (Win2k and later); an older version still available on their site runs under Linux as well.

Download Perfect Automation

Free open source editor for PHP, Perl, and more

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Komodo Edit

Writing computer code can be a complicated undertaking. You've got to figure out what you're trying to accomplish, then write the code, and then spend time debugging your handiwork. Sounds simple enough, but it can get messy. Which computer language are you writing in? Do you remember the differences in syntax between PHP and Perl? How about JavaScript? You might be interested in a text editor that helps you out with some of these complications.

Komodo Edit is a text editor designed specifically for programmers. You're working in plain text, so you don't have to worry about extra junk in your code. It features syntax highlighting and syntax checking for supported languages. It also includes autocomplete, so if you can enter the start of a command or keyword, you can probably finish it without having to know all the particulars—especially handy when it comes to functions with multiple arguments. Block indenting helps you better organize your code; code folding lets you focus on the stuff you're editing without having to dig through the stuff you aren't.

You can download a free copy of Komodo Edit. It's available for Linux, Mac, and Windows platforms.

Download Komodo Edit

Defective pixels tester

Monday, October 18th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Defpix

As you know if you've looked closely at your computer screen, the image you see on the display isn't so much like a photograph, with continuous lines and colors, as it is like a picture in the newspaper, with a bunch of little dots scattered around to make your brain think it's seeing a single picture. When everything works the way it's supposed to, it's all good. But of course, things don't always roll that way.

Defpix is a tool that can help you to identify defective pixels on your screen. By filling the screen with color—white, black, red, green, blue—you can identify pixels that are always on or always off. Whether a whole pixel is toast—always white or black—or you've having a problem with just a single sub-pixel—any of the individual RGB elements that don't behave as expected—you'll know once and for all whether your screen is having problems, or if you just need to get in there and dust a little more often.

You can use Defpix on systems running Windows. It's a free download and doesn't involve an installer, so you're not adding a bunch of extra junk to your machine.

Download Defpix

Make your digital images look like miniatures

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

runs as Online Service
screenshot of TiltShiftMaker

If you've ever been a Fourth Grader, you have experience building a diorama. These little shadow-box scenes of dinosaurs, the Battle of the Alamo, and more have a particular look to them. You can recreate that look without all the cut-up shoeboxes and Plasticene everywhere.

TiltShiftMaker takes your digital photo and manipulates it to look like a miniature. It does this by letting you focus in on a specific subject or area in the image and then selectively blurring items in the background. By changing the scope of the areas to be blurred and left untouched, you can dramatically change the appearance of your image. Choose an image from your hard drive, or specify a URL for a picture on the Web, and go. This tool works its magic, and lets you view and download the result.

TiltShiftMaker is a free online service, and you don't have to register to use it; all you need to get started is a browser and an image. And maybe a little nostalgia for paste and glitter all over your hands.

Download TiltShiftMaker

Flashnote is a quick notes manager

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Flashnote

Is your desktop covered with little bits and pieces of paper, each with an important idea, address, or appointment scribbled on it? You know that's not really a filing system, right? Sometimes you have a little bit of information you need to capture, but maybe it's not significant enough to add a contact record or set up a meeting in your PIM. That's where Flashnote could come in handy.

With this tool, it's easy to jot down those little notes you need to keep track of, but which don't warrant the full treatment of creating a full-on document to have to manage (and lose) on your computer. Use it to record notes, to-do items, and all those little things that make your desk look like an explosion in a Post-It factory. A quick hotkey combination brings up a window for you to type into. Categorize your notes so that you can find them when you need to get the information back from them. This is a lightweight app, so there's no provision for saving images or doing any fancy formatting in there, but it should do just fine with the odd email address, website URL, or brilliant idea you come up with.

Flashnote is a free download. It's a Windows application.

Download Flashnote

Data recovery tool

Friday, October 15th, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of TestDisk

There's no doubt your computer is a powerful tool. It can crunch numbers, process data, and do a whole bunch of other great stuff. Unfortunately, it's a complicated piece of machinery, and from time to time, it can go on the fritz. You can have problems with memory; the CPU can mess up, and the hard drive can flake out on you. Fortunately, there is help out there.

TestDisk is an application that can give you a hand when your hard drive starts to go nuts. Specifically, it deals with broken, missing, or lost partitions, and with bootable disks that don't boot any more. If your problem is a specific hardware issue, it's not going to help, but if your hard drive has seen better days because of runaway programs, nasty viruses, or (shudder) operator error, you might want to give it a go.

This app can deal with a wide variety of different operating system and disk combinations. It knows about FAT and NTFS file systems on your Windows machine, HFS and variants on your Mac, as well as ext2 and ext3 filesystems on your Linux machine, and a bunch of others. Because this is complicated and potentially dangerous stuff, there are detailed instructions on just how to use this tool.

TestDisk is a free download. And good luck.

Download TestDisk

Cool Timer for your computer

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of Cool Timer

Time. We never have enough of it. You've always got to keep track of it. While we can't give you more hours in the day, maybe there's a way to better keep an eye on what time you do have.

Cool Timer is an app that helps you keep track of time. It functions as a countdown timer, so you can steep your tea for just the right amount of time. It's a stopwatch, so you can track elapsed time. And it's an alarm, so you'll know when it's a specific time. Now you'll know it's time to kick the kids off the computer, how long you've been on that phone call, as well as never missing an important appointment again—or at least have to come up with a different excuse than "the time just got away from me." It features presets, so if you have a time that you use over and over again, you can just grab it from there, rather than having to re-enter it every time. Make it your own by customizing colors and choosing alarm sounds you want to use.

You can grab a copy of Cool Timer for free and run it on your Windows system.

Download Cool Timer

Turbo Service Manager

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of TSM

While it may be a simplistic way to analyze the complexities of the world, we seem to delight in creating lists that look something like "there are two kinds of people in the world, those who believe the Moon is made of green cheese, and those who don't." While this doesn't pass for in-depth analysis, it helps us to organize at least a little piece of our experience.

Turns out there are two different kinds of programs that run on our computers, those that have a user interface (word processors, web browsers, that sort of thing), and those that don't. In the Unix world, these apps are often called "daemons", but in the world according to Windows, they're more often called "services." Services are applications that run in the background to keep our computers doing the stuff that they do. Many of them are loaded automatically when we start our systems up. With programs that have an interface, it's easy to start and stop them and to tweak them to behave the way you want them to. For services, it's a more complicated task.

TSM (Turbo Service Manager) is a tool that lets you get in there and fine tune how your Windows services behave. Add new ones, remove old ones, change how they run, that sort of thing. You can manage this kind of stuff with various admin tools that come with Windows, but sometimes it requires a fair amount of digging to find just the exact pieces you're looking for. With TSM, it's easy to bend Windows to your will. Make changes, or use its "test load" functionality to see what would happen if you were to make an adjustment. That can be important, because it's also easy to hose your system, so you need to be really, really sure that you know what you're doing.

TSM is a free download.

Download TSM

Cousin Calculator

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

runs as Online Serviceruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Cousin Calculator

Genealogy is an interesting hobby. When you trace your family line, you gain insight into who you are and where you come from. It can also be a bit confusing, especially after you've gone back a couple of generations. How are all those people related? You can see the lines on the family tree, but what exactly do you call those people?

Cousin Calculator helps you figure out what your relationship is to others in your family, or relations between other members of the clan. By looking back to find a common ancestor shared by two individuals, you can see what kind of "cousin" you are. It can help take away some of the mystery of trying to figure out the difference between first cousins, second cousins, and the always elusive first cousin once removed.

The Cousin Calculator is available in several different versions: online as a web page (JavaScript required), as a download for Windows (or MS-DOS), or even for Mac (PPC only).

Download Cousin Calculator