Archive for January, 2011

Free Website Content

Monday, January 31st, 2011

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Free Website Content

People flock to your website or blog because of all your great content, right? The articles you write are incisive and the products you sell are top-of-the-line. Maybe it's time to take it to the next level, and add some professionally-generated content to your site as well.

The folks at TheFreeDictionary have free content available for you to add to your site. Along with their namesake dictionary, you can choose items like a Word of the Day, Article of the Day, timely news stories, and more. Choose as few or as many of these items as you like. They've made it easy to just copy and paste the code into your website, and they've even got controls to let you fine tune the appearance of the content, choosing fonts, colors, and more so that it will all fit flawlessly into your site.

Free Website Content from TheFreeDictionary is free, as you might expect. Each item that you paste into your pages has a link back to their site, and you have to leave that intact.

Download Free Website Content

Free Blackline Masters

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Blackline Masters

Teaching kids can be a greatly rewarding experience. Passing along the accumulated wisdom of the ages and getting the next generation ready to take their place in the world is a great way to make a difference. If you're going to do the best job possible, you're going to need the right supplies and materials for your lessons. Once you've bought books, pencils, and all the rest, you're looking at a big chunk of change, whether that's coming out of a school district's budget or your own bank account. One way to help those pennies go farther is to take advantage of free resources, like Blackline Masters.

Blackline Masters is a site that makes all different kinds of worksheets and templates available for anyone who teaches, whether it's teachers in a private or public school, or even parents who homeschool their children. There is a wide range of materials available, ranging from different types of graph paper (grids, polar layouts, and even logarithmic paper) through maps, national flags, music paper, and even a periodic table of the elements.

Blackline Masters are free to print or photocopy as many as you need. They're all available in PDF format, so you'll need a copy of Adobe Reader, or some other application that can read PDF files.

Download Blackline Masters

Network diagrams made easy

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of CADE

Back in the day, if you needed to lay out a network or some such, you grabbed a pad of graph paper and started doodling. While that may still be the simplest way to plan out your home office, if you're going to get much more complicated than that, you're probably going to want a somewhat more robust tool to work with.

CADE is a free vector editing diagramming tool that's perfectly suited to laying out network diagrams. It's got a palette full of network equipment you can just drag and drop into your diagram, so that you can look at the big picture, instead of getting bogged down in the details of drawing your servers, desktop machines, and other network nodes. And while you're in the neighborhood, you can also use CADE to create flowcharts, maps, and all manner of other graphical goodies.

CADE is a Windows application.

Download CADE

Apply different Terminal color schemes

Friday, January 28th, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of TerminalDecorator

If you're the type of guy (or gal) who lets your geek flag fly, then you probably spend a fair amount of time in Terminal, the command-line interface for OS X. While there may be a lot of different reasons to be in there, probably one of the more frequent ones is to access another machine via SSH, the SecureSHell. If you're only talking to one machine at a time, you can probably keep track of what's going on. But on those days when you've got three or four (or more) Terminal windows open at the same time, it can get pretty complicated trying to remember which one points to what host.

TerminalDecorator lets you assign an arbitrary color combination to your Terminal windows, depending on which server you're accessing at any given time. Now you'll not have to depend on system prompts that include your username or the working directory, you can know that the red terminal is connected here and the blue terminal points there. It's not that complicated, and the app itself is just a little Python script, but somebody already sat down and wrote it, so why not take advantage of it? And the first time you don't delete a file on the wrong server, you'll be glad you did.

TerminalDecorator is a Mac application.

Download TerminalDecorator

It's not your father's math class

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

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

If you had a rough time with math in school, it may be because it all seemed just too abstract and because there really just wasn't any way you could gain hands-on experience in working with it. That means you probably didn't have access to GeoGebra.

GeoGebra is a tool for teaching and learning mathematics. Rather than just dry lecture or lifeless paper and pencil exercises, the user interacts with the program, allowing you to really understand what's going on when you lengthen one side of a triangle or change the angle of a vertex of a polygon. Grab a point or line and drag it across the screen, and you'll see locations and lengths updated in real time.

GeoGebra is a Java application. You can run it as a desktop application, or you can access it as a Java applet through your web browser.

Download GeoGebra

Recover your work with Corrupt Office Extractor

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Corrupt Office Extractor

It used to be the case that if your Microsoft Office files were corrupted, you were pretty much out of luck. Maybe you could recover some content from them, but more than likely it's time to hope you made some good backups somewhere along the way. With more recent versions of Word and its kin, the format of these data files has changed. Now instead of some proprietary binary format, the data is held in plain-text XML files, which are compressed and decompressed as you use them. That means that it is possible to retrieve the content, if not the formatting, from broken files. You could get in there with a hammer and a pair of pliers, or you could check out a more appropriate tool like Corrupt Office Extractor.

With Corrupt Office Extractor, you can dive right in and try to fix broken files, whether it's the XML part that's messed up, or the ZIP-ped part that's ailing. Hopefully by the end of the day, your file will be back in the pink, but even if not, you've got the help you need to grab your text back. And that's a whole lot better than wishing you had made another copy of that important report.

Corrupt Office Extractor is a free download. It's a Windows application and should run fine under XP and later.

Download Corrupt Office Extractor

Apache, MySQL, and PHP for your Mac

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of MAMP

Any more, it seems like the Web is built around AMP—the combination of Apache web server, MySQL database, and PHP programming language. If you're a bigshot sysadmin, you probably set this stuff up in your sleep. For the rest of us, it's nice to have a set of training wheels to depend on when configuring these tools. If you're on a Mac, you're in luck with MAMP.

MAMP, the Mac version of AMP, is an easy to use way to install these applications on your Apple box. While you could install all these pieces individually—indeed, Apache is already installed in there—getting them to talk to one another can be a daunting task. With MAMP, you just install it and quit worrying. Want a platform to test out your new website before it goes live? How about installing a local copy of WordPress for your own use, or maybe to share across your intranet. There are all kinds of ways you can take advantage of this. although they do warn that it's probably not a good idea to use this as a platform for a real website. And it's all compartmentalized, so that if at some time in the future you decide you want to get rid of it, all you need to do is to delete its folder from Applications and it's gone, without leaving stuff scattered throughout your system.

MAMP is a free download, and super easy to install.

Download MAMP

Keep commands at your Fingertips

Monday, January 24th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Fingertips

Way, way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and the mouse was just a glimmer in some engineer's eye at PARC, there were keyboard shortcuts. Just like in typing class, where they taught you nave to take your hands off the home row keys, you could be well served by keeping your hands on the keyboard and remembering a few arcane commands. With the advent of and wide adoption of the mouse, we've forgotten a lot of those skills. Now instead of just typing a couple of keystrokes, we gesture wildly with our desktop rodent, hoping it will lead us to electronic bliss. If you've got all the time in the world, that may work for you. For the rest of us, a tool like Fingertips may be more helpful.

To use Fingertips, all you need to do is hit a hotkey and up pops its dialog box. Type a quickie command into it, and you're adding an event to your Outlook calendar, surfing to your favorite website, or opening that important spreadsheet. And you're doing so a whole lot quicker than you're used to. It's even got a built-in calculator, so you don't need to hunt for the trusty old ten-key or try to find your calculator app.

You can download a copy of Fingertips for free and run it on your Windows machine.

Download Fingertips

Share text with friends

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

runs as Online Service
screenshot of JustPaste.It

If you've got a little something you want to share with friends and co-workers, maybe you just shoot them an email. Or IM them. I suppose you could write a book. Or maybe you could just paste it.

JustPaste.it is a free online service that lets you pass information along to those who need to know. Just type or paste your information into the edit window, and you're good to go. They've got a WYSIWYG editor, or for real control, you can go in and edit the HTML yourself. It supports headings, font format and colors, images, and even lets you insert links. Whether it's a little snippet, or a more complicated chunk of content, it's easy to enter it. Press the Publish button and you'll get a URL you can pass along to others, so they can check out what you had to say.

You don't need to register to use JustPaste.it. All you do need is a web browser, and something to share.

Download JustPaste.It

Uncluttered online editor

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

runs as Online Service
screenshot of QuietWrite

It's awfully easy to get distracted when we're trying to get something done. Apps flashing across the desktop, and little reminders popping up all over the place. It's a wonder any work gets done. One answer to this problem are a whole class of apps that hide the rest of your system while you're focusing on a single task. Then there are minimalist editors with sparse interfaces that keep you from looking around while you work. A new addition to this category is QuietWrite.

A free online service, QuietWrite is a text editor with just a few bells, and no whistles. Basically, you point your web browser at their site and just start typing. You are allowed a little control over formatting—fonts, colors, that sort of thing—but mostly you just type. One added benefit here is that your work is auto-saved on a very regular basis. No more having to worry about things crashing since you last saved your work, because it's all done for you automatically.

You don't have to sign up to use QuietWrite, but once you do, then you can save and go back to your works-in-progress, as well as publish your masterpiece.

Download QuietWrite