Archive for March, 2011

Online virtual drum kit

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

runs as Online Service
screenshot of Pattern Sequencer

At its best, music is a a collaborative creative effort. You play guitar, she plays bass, he plays horns, and it all goes together. Sometimes, though, schedules don't work out, and it's impossible to get everybody in one place at the same time. At that point, you can either give up and go watch TV, or you can look for some help. If the drummer is the one who's a no-show, maybe it's time to hire Pattern Sequencer.

Pattern Sequencer is an app that will lay down a percussion track for you when there's no real drummer. You can pick from all the pieces of its virtual drum kit, including kick, snare, and toms, as well as hi-hat and crash cymbals, and even a rimshot to keep you going. Pick the tempo and volume, decide which sounds to use where, and you're off to the races. You can lengthen or shorten your passage, and it loops when it hits the end, so you can put Pattern Sequencer on the case and get back to making a melody.

Pattern Sequencer is a free online service; all you need is a web browser with Flash and you're good. And while you're there, you might check out some of the other apps they've got as well, including a Guitar Tuner that guarantees you'll never be off again.

Download Pattern Sequencer

FreeOTFE encrypts data on the fly

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of FreeOTFE

While some things are best when exposed to the light of day, there are some types of information that are better kept under wraps. Personnel records at work, for example, don't want to find themselves being available to anyone other than on a real need-to-know basis. And your plans for your next big marketing move aren't something you want your competitors to review before you've had a chance to implement them.

FreeOTFE is a free on-the-fly disk encryption application for Windows. To use it, you'll create an encrypted virtual drive on your system that looks like any other drive, but its contents will be totally encrypted, rendering them invisible to mere mortals. But since you've got the password, you can get in there and do what you need to with your data. And for even more protection, it's possible to create volumes that are invisible to Windows Explorer as well. Looks like that would make any data on there that much harder to get in and muck about with.

As its name suggests, FreeOTFE is a free download. It's a Windows app.

Download FreeOTFE

Launch apps easily with Todos

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

runs on Mac
screenshot of Todos

If you spend time hanging around download sites—and you know you do—pretty quick you're going to have so many cool applications, it's going to be tough to find them all when you need them. Sure, you can add a bunch of them to the Dock, but soon enough you're going to run out of room there, and then you're back to just digging through the Finder.

Todos is an tool that helps you find apps on your Mac. Activate it with a quick hotkey, or click on its menubar icon. It goes out and finds every application on your system, and then puts their icons up in a big window for you to choose from. You can customize its behavior, maybe getting it to ignore certain apps, like those you use so often that they're already in your Dock.

Todos is a Universal Binary, so it's equally at home on a PowerPC or Intel powered Mac. It's been tested under OS X 10.4 (Tiger), but will probably be right at home on later versions as well.

Download Todos

PNotes are electronic sticky notes

Monday, March 28th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of PNotes

You know your desktop and your computer monitor are all lavishly upholstered with little yellow, pink, and green slips of sticky paper. Whether it's a note to pick up a loaf of bread on the way home, a reminder of an important meeting, or your super-secret Admin password (don't do it!), your whole life is just one gust of wind from disaster, assuming those little notes will take flight when it hits. Time to come into the twenty first century, Buster.

PNotes (Pinned Notes or Portable Notes) is the electronic equivalent of a stack of Post-it's. Scribble your thoughts, comments, and reminders on them and you'll never lose a flash of genius again. The app doesn't get installed in a messy way on your system—no Registry troubles to worry about—so if you'd like, you can just stick it on a USB drive and drop it in your pocket when you hit the road. Try that with a fistful of stick notes.

PNotes is a free Windows application.

Download PNotes

Easily create CS3 style icons

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Icon Generator Pro

Variety, they say, is the spice of life. Nothing too spicy about the plain old icons that come with most applications. But if you could make your own, then your machine could be just as cool as you always wanted it to be. That's where you need a high-powered icon generator.

Icon Generator Pro helps you build those fancy CS3 or Web 2.0 style icons. Just pick a background color, a text color, and then type your text into the app. Or if you prefer, you can insert an image into your icon instead. Or if you want something more adventurous than a plain old square icon, you can also choose a star design instead. Once you've perfected your design, you can save it off in four different sizes, making it perfect for all kinds of different uses.

You can grab Icon Generator Pro for Windows, Mac, or Linux systems. This app runs on the Adobe AIR platform, so your system will need to support that.

Download Icon Generator Pro

JottiQ speeds up malware checks

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of JottiQ

It's a dangerous world out there. This is true whether you're looking at things on a personal level, or seeing things through the eyes of your computer (computers have eyes?). When you're out moving about, you can keep your eyes open, make sure you stay in well-lit areas, pay attention to your surroundings and all that. Your computer may find things more challenging though. Having that extra set of eyes for your system can be vital.

Jotti has a free online malware scanning service, where you can upload suspect files and have them checked by an array of antivirus tools. While this is handy, it can also be time consuming, since you're limited to uploading one file at a time. It would be nice if you could queue up files to be checked rather than having to deal with them individually.

JottiQ (get it?) lets you do just that. Once it's been installed, it's easy to give it multiple files to upload and check via the Jotti service. Now clearly you're not going to upload your whole hard drive here, but for checking out a couple of files at a time, it's got to be a whole lot faster than doing them individually.

A Windows application, JottiQ is "donationware", meaning that you can use it for free, or you can drop a couple bucks in the tip jar if you're so inclined.

Download JottiQ

Auspex speeds up your typing

Friday, March 25th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Auspex

How many times do you suppose you type the same little bits of text in a given day? Whether it's an email signature, a bit of code (#!/usr/bin/perl -w), or some other snippet, no doubt there's something you keep typing over and over again. Lots of apps may have built-in support of some of this via templates, canned signatures, and such, but there aren't necessarily a lot of tools that let you do this across applications. In other words, if you've got a signature that you use on Gmail but want to use it in a Word DOC, you're probably left just typing it in. That's where Auspex comes in.

Auspex is a tool that keeps an eye on your keystrokes, regardless of which application is currently active. When it recognizes a keystroke combination it recognizes (maybe "sig[tab]"), it will expand that out to type your whole signature, or whatever other text you've got associated with that command. If you've got stuff that you regularly type incorrectly, Auspex can serve as as an autocorrect tool—if your fingers get twisted around themselves and you regularly type "the" as "teh", teaching Auspex to replace "teh[space]" with "the" will keep you heading down the right path. While writing code, you can also use Auspex to auto-complete names of functions and variables, allowing you to use better names and make your code more readable.

You can run Auspex on Windows systems under XP and later. For maximum functionality, it needs to be running with Admin rights.

Download Auspex

Plant a virtual garden with VeggieSquares

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of VeggieSquares

Some hobbies you indulge in for the sheer joy of it. You're never going to get rich singing with the community choir, or collecting thimbles from World's Fairs. Sometimes, though, there is another benefit to be gained through a hobby. Gardening, for example, can give you a chance to play in the dirt and wonder at the miracle of life, but if you're growing veggies, you can also put some food on the table. Gardening can also be a family activity. Even the little ones can plant a seed and pull a weed.

VeggieSquares is an application that teaches kids about planting a vegetable garden. It's simple to drag little vegetables into the garden area. As you drop them in place, the app gives the user feedback about which plants work well together, and which might be better separated in the garden. And it's also a way to keep playing in the garden, even if there's an unexpected rainstorm that comes along.

VeggieSquares is a free download. It's a Windows app.

Download VeggieSquares

Use TaskDaddy for entering Outlook tasks

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of TaskDaddy

Microsoft Outlook, while maybe not a tool of a thousand-and-one uses, has at least a couple of big reasons for existence. As an email client, it's certainly used in a lot or organizations, maybe even more than anything else. But in addition to that, one of its other big purposes is that of a scheduling tool. Track your appointments, set a reminder, it can handle it all. All of that functionality comes, or course, at a rather hefty price in terms of size and complexity. If you've always got the app open, it's easy to add a new task, for example, but if you've turned off for a bit, it can be quite an ordeal firing it up, digging through layers of interface, just to add a simple task. That's where TaskDaddy can come in handy.

TaskDaddy is a standalone app that lets you add tasks without having to open up Outlook. Using an easy-to-remember syntax, it's easy to create a new Outlook task that includes a category, subject, due date, and task details. All you need to do is to type your information into a little application window, or if you're really good, there's a command line interface that lets you enter tasks directly from a DOS box. That could be a real time saver.

A Windows application, TaskDaddy runs under XP, Vista, or Windows 7. It's compatible with Microsoft Outlook 2007 or 2010, but not Outlook Express. While you can download it for free, you can also feel free to make a donation to encourage further development.

Download TaskDaddy

Organize color palettes with Color Warlock

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of Color Warlock

Some folks are left-brained, meaning that they do well with linguistic and reasoning-related tasks. Others excel at right-brained activities, tending toward the more artistic. And of course, there are those who are equally a home in either world, as well as those for whom it's all a challenge. If you tend to live most of your life in the left brain, things like design and color may be tougher to wrap your brain (sorry!) around. For folks like that, or anybody who could use a hand in dealing with color palettes, there's Color Warlock.

Color Warlock comes with pre-defined color charts, which can be a great help to the artistically uninspired. Color swatches include names and the all-important hex values (#9F8170) that you can use while building web pages. Or if you prefer, you can create your own collections of colors with its built in Chart Builder and use this tool to save them off to share with others.

Color Warlock is a Windows application. It's donationware, meaning you can download it and use if for free, or you can throw a few dollars in the jar to encourage the publisher to keep on coding.

Download Color Warlock