Archive for the Utilities Category

Defragging Your Way to Speed!

Posted in disk, Disk and File Mgt, Utilities on November 20, 2008 by Ethan Dickenson

kaleidoscope_7I have tested several defraggers and have finally found a product that has won my heart. Ultimate Defrag is fast, it gives you the ability to store data where you want it on your drive, you can schedule, and do pretty much anything you can think of related to the subject of defragging (at least for a single user…) In fact, I have to wonder what the paid version of their product does (I’m thinking that it’s a tool designed for an administrator in charge of managing disk resources…). There are several wonderful things about this product, but there are two things that really stick out for me. First, we’ve all run the Windows defragging software that comes with NT or XP and I’m pretty sure that it’s the same software that came with Windows 3.1 and earlier. When you run that old program you select a drive, hit the ‘defrag now’ button, and wait for, God only knows, how long. I’ve had it take days and sometimes (about 50% of sometimes) it just hangs. But Ultimate Defrag is so much better, it gives you a clear visual that shows how the data is moving on your disk so you know exactly where it is in the process. It’s also much faster, it allows you to structure your defrag (I’ll explain more about ‘structure your defrag below) so you can get the job done in a few minutes. So that’s wonderful improvement number 1 and wonderful improvement number 2 is that it allows me to select where I want to put my data. For those of you who don’t understand what defragging does, and the average user doesn’t and, in my opinion, shouldn’t have to understand such a technical detail, running a defragging program lines up all the data on your disk. Let me explain… when your disk saves data as you are working it doesn’t do it as efficiently as it should because it is doing 100 other things at the same time and it puts your data wherever it makes sense at the time you download it. Therefore, you end up with data scattered all over your disk and between your data there are many spots on your drive that have nothing stored on them. This slows down your disk because when you want to save something large your disk is forced to put it in several of these little spots or someplace where it isn’t convienent to get at quickly and it slows down your computer and it can even cause your hard drive to crash. In fact, I would bet my bonus check, that it’s the most frequent cause of hard drive crashes. OK, now back to the second reason Ultimate Defrag is so freaking great… it allows you to select where you want your data stored. I save a lot of stuff that I don’t use very often, I just like to know it’s there and keep it around and if I do open it up it doesn’t matter if it takes an extra couple of seconds to pull it all together. So I’ve selected to store all my previous data on the inside track of my disk (‘inside’ meaning as close to the center as possible) Your disk can retrieve data most quickly from tracks on the outside of your disk, I want all the new stuff that I will continue to save to populate that area. Now, if I work in the ‘data field’ and I have many large databases that I need to get to on a regular basis, I might select to put that data on the outside of my disk where it could be gathered quickly. The point is, Ultimate Defrag gives me the flexibility to do just that. It’s such an improvement over the old crappy defragger that is part of Windows and it’s so much better than all the other freeware defrag programs I’ve used…, I believe it should be part of the Windows operating system.

Some advice for users like myself. If you’re a user that is a lot like me (not operating with a lot of databases that I need to do queries on all the time and I’m not terribly short on disk space) then you may find some value in reading about how I have used the product. There are several options this product gives you for 112008ultimatedefragrunning a defrag session, I just want to get the job done… and I’m sure you do to… When you open the product you will see a list of 6 ‘types’ of defrags you can run on the left side. I chose Auto, when you open the options you can select what percentage of your ‘frequently used’ data you want to be placed on the outer (faster accessed) tracks of your drive. The greater the percentage, the looser (and more wasteful) your defrag. I’m disk rich right now so I’ve got the slider at 75% over on my left side, on the ‘faster’ end. If I were cramped for disk I would slide it to the right towards the ‘optimize’ end. I did run all the defrag processes offered. The only problems I ran into involved creating an archive. This is not an option in the ‘auto’ defrag so don’t worry about it unless you’ve decided you need more and if you have ventured into that area then you might want to try all the settings but from what I’ve learned I will stay away from the ‘respect the archive’ button (because the program has hung whenever I’ve run the process with that option selected) but I will select the ‘place data close to MFT (the directory table) and respect the folder ini archive.

That’s everything I want to know about defragging and then some and my guess is that you probably feel the same way. Ultimate Defragger makes it as painless as possible. So, go to this site, download and run the product and I bet you find that your system speeds up and you can scratch that todo off your list!

http://www.download.com/UltimateDefrag-Freeware-Edition/3000-2094_4-10582157.html

*UPDATED – Call Management, ‘Google Style’ – Free, Useful, RevolutionaryD

Posted in Download Management, Frequently Updated, phone, System Monitoring on April 25, 2008 by Ethan Dickenson

11.15.08. Google is not granting access to new beta testers through the Grand Central Website.  It has been several months since they did.  However, you can go to this link

http://www.grandcentral.com/home/reserve

and request to be included in the beta test.  Give it a try!!  I have been using the GC interface and I’m very pleased with all the call management functions.  When Grand Central opens it’s site for ‘production’  use to the masses,  it will revolutionize the way people use their phones.  More soon…   You can read my original post on this subject below.


Grand Central is a company that was purchased by Google about a year ago. It is the greatest new addition to phone management on the market and it’s free! Everyone should check this out. It is currently in Beta but I signed up a long long time ago and, while supplies last, I’ll send you an invitation if you leave a comment asking for one on this article…

When you sign up for Grand Central you get a new phone number. It is the last phone number you will ever need. It assigns you the number and then, through an intuitive GUI, it enables you to forward all your phones so they ring on that single number. You might think, why would I want to do that? It’s a little hard to explain all the advantages but there are many. I’ll do my best to outline the basics but to really understand things you should go to Grand Central’s website and check it out there. For one thing, now all your calls are logged on your computer, so you have a historical database of your incoming calls in a manageable format. It replaces your answering machine so you also have a historical database of all your incoming messages… It allows you to leave ‘group defined’ greetings for the incoming calls that you miss. This means that if you have someone you’ve been dying to get a hold of and you want to tell them something if they get to your answering machine, you can leave a customized message that will play as your announcement just for that phone number. This is a really impressive feature for both business and home use. You can have calls coming from certain numbers sent forward to certain phones. This way, if you always want your Mother to ring your home line instead of your business line you can assign all her phones to ring on your home line! As well, now you only have to remember one number and everyone can contact you via that one number and you set up the rules so when the call comes in it is sent to whatever number you would like it to be sent to. There is even a way to put a web call widget on your blog so anyone can call you and you don’t have to worry about them abusing the number because you have total and complete control when your calls come in! There are a hundred other great things that Grand Central can do to make managing your incoming calls more efficient so check out their website and if you want to give it a try, let me know and I’ll send you an invitation to the beta so you can get your own Grand Central Phone Number!

http://www.grandcentral.com/

Protect Yourself – A Black Network of Corporate Vigilantes Are Connecting to Your PC, and Stealing Data, To Incriminate You

Posted in Network Monitoring, Privacy, Red Alert, Security, System Monitoring, Utilities on December 14, 2007 by Ethan Dickenson

There is a gap between today’s technology and legislation to protect your privacy. Technology has moved so quickly that the Internet is a largely ungoverned place, and most of us would prefer it to stay that way. However, this new frontier may expose computer users to an invasion of our privacy that could end up costing us a bundle or possibly even land us in jail. It is likely that today your computer will be queried by over a dozen computers who are downloading copyright data (and who knows what else) from yourLiberty computer without your knowledge or permission. But these are not hackers or criminals, at least they are not organizations that you would normally consider hackers. I was shocked when I saw who the corporations that owned the list of blocked IPs. It is a who’s who of the computer industry and it bothers me that they are taking establishing what I would call a “covert connection” to my PC and downloading data from me. I’m willing to bet that nearly every PC has a few files on them that technically belong to someone else and contractually speaking, are illegal for you to have. You might not be using these files or you might not even be aware these files exist on your PC but you are responsible for having them and if they get redistributed you could be on the hook for more dollars than you care to think about. I’m not comfortable interpreting this “movement” or “trend” as being related only to copyrighted music either. It could reach into video clips (Youtube, Google…) , software evaluations and shareware programs, pictures, articles… anything that has the potential to be copyrighted. When the going gets tough, cash is tight, and companies will look to whatever source of income they can find. But the real issue isn’t whatever scenario I can come up with or whether you think you could possibly be liable for something, the real problem is the invasion of privacy and the question if search and seizure laws apply. I consider the data on my PC as my personal property. I’ve taken measures to lock it down and secure it. It disturbs me that corporations can establish a “hidden connection” to my PC and steal my data. But the straw that “breaks the camels back” in this situation is that they can use that data to incriminate you in a court of law! It is unthinkable that our society considers this process legal and it has to change. An equivalent example in the physical world would be if a private organization (not even the police) could break into your home and look for information to prove that you are guilty of something against the law and use that information in a court of law to incriminate you. In the real world this isn’t just trespassing and a violation of your privacy but it is a criminal activity and in most cases it would be classified as a felony. Our privacy laws exist to protect you from a person or an organization, old glorywhich may have self serving motives, from becoming too powerful. As discussed, in cyberspace organizations are breaking into your private area (your computer) and gathering whatever data they can (without your permission or knowledge), with the intention of using that data to incriminate you in a court of law. Unfortunately it is perfectly legal for them to gather this data now because our laws have not caught up to the unique environments the Internet has created.

So we need to protect ourselves and luckily there are organizations working to keep track of these issues and building programs to enable users to stop the offending sites from connecting to your PC. I tried several programs and the best solution I found is Peer Guardian2. These programs work from a large list of IP addresses and the need to update and process those lists can be resource intensive. Most of the other programs I tried took an enormous amount of resources to run but Peer Guardian2 ran well and didn’t max my system out even when it was updating the lists (which is the most intensive cycle). There are some issues in compatibility with some of the popular firewalls (specifically Outpost and Macafee’s Black Ice). However, it runs well with the Sygate firewall which is my Best of Breed pick. If you have questions about compatibility you should check out their FAQ. Peer Guardian2 also has a lite version that takes even fewer resources to run. Regardless of the resources I’m recommending that everyone download, install, and run Peer Guardian2. If you need to use a different firewall, make the change. If you need to spend 70 bucks and add some RAM it’s worth it (you probably need it anyway). It would probably be pushing it to run Peer Guardian on a PC with only 512k of RAM on it and I’m guessing it would choke on a CPU with 256k. However, If you’ve got more than 512k you will be fine.

One minor issue: I am currently having trouble getting the primary P2P list to update but I hope to resolve the issue and I don’t want to my readers to wait. Protect yourself! We all owe the developers working on Peer Guardian2 a thanks for developing the software. They do accept donations so if you really value the work they are doing please support them.

You can download Peer Guardian2 from the link below. It is in BETA but it is working well.

http://phoenixlabs.org/pg2/

If you are interested in reading about copyright infringement or if you have received a letter from a recording company you can check out this FAQ.

http://wiki.phoenixlabs.org/wiki/Infringement_FAQ

Fast Friendly and Efficient Way to Change Icons!

Posted in Desktop Enhancement, Graphics, Utilities on November 8, 2007 by Ethan Dickenson

As most everyone knows, there are several ways to change your desktop icons. Some of them work but have problems with things like the “recycle bin” or C:…. Some of them require you to boot up a program and manage it from there. I’ve even run into some that will change the icon but the icon won’t stay changed until you run their program every time after you boot your system. Explorer does an OK job of it but you have to open the “properties” of each file and then select the customize tab and then “browse” and it always starts you off in a window that is buried somewhere deep inside sys32… So, after using just about everything that is available I can now make an informed recommendation to you. By far, themy folder easiest, most efficient way to change your icons is with a free program from Horizon Software named “My Folder”.

After downloading and installing and when you first pull My Folder up there is a slightly clunky initial interface where you select what Icons you want to show in your quick menu. Don’t be discouraged, you won’t have to deal with it very often. Once you point to the folder where your icons are stored you can just right click on a file and then select the appropriate icon from their list. This is the way to go… You can change or color your icons very quickly.

I have had some minor problems with their quick menu lists disappearing and not being available. When this happens I just kill and restart their program and everything works well after that. It doesn’t happen very often and it isn’t a big deal to fix. I highly recommend My Folder to anyone who wants to customize their desktop.

http://www.grafile.com/software/myfolder_free/myfolder_free.html

Up Yours – With Firefox Universal Uploader

Posted in Firefox, Firefox Extension, Photo, Utilities on September 20, 2007 by Ethan Dickenson

This is an extension that you can’t live without if you want to storespinning blue world video and/or pictures on the Internet. And you should use the Internet because you can get a lot of free space and they have several features that you and your friends and family will benefit from.

The Firefox Universal Uploader is a ‘one stop shop’ for uploading files to several of these online photo services. You can upload to Flickr, Picasa, Youtube, Box.net(1GB of free space), Facebook, Webshots and OmniDrive.

This extension works well with everything else in our suite of Firefox extensions. boulder rollerI use 2 of the services mentioned, Flicker and Picassa. I have multiple Picassa accounts because I have multiple Gmail accounts. You have virtually unlimited space because you can sign up for as many Gmail accounts as you want and this upload manager will allow you to manage them seamlessly.

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/4724

Fontashia Fonterrific fontellicious fontout fontorino fontolla fontetaboutit

Posted in Desktop Enhancement, Entertainment, Frequently Updated, Web Site on September 20, 2007 by Ethan Dickenson

OK today we’re talking fonts. It’s been a while since I ventured out into the font world to have a look at what’s available out there. I’ve done a couple of things that I hope will save you some time. I’ve picked through most of the free sites and I can fill you in on their individual strengths and weaknesses. If you don’t want to look through a bunch of fonts, and you trust my taste, I’ve linked directly to the fonts that I’ve installed on my system. One more thing before I turn you loose: the term ‘breedlink’ refers to something that links directly to a file and it will start downloading. So whenever you see that term, you’ll know that when you click on it a download will start. Below, I’ve given you a link to the sites and a ‘breedlink’ to the fonts on that site that I found to be something I could read and may use.

At Font Freak you can download an endless supply of free fonts. The site layout is very basic. They just list the name of the font in the font’s ‘type’ and that’s all the information you get before you download. This makes for fast downloads but you don’t know what you are getting… The one thing that I really didn’t like about this site is that they mixed in shareware fonts with the free fonts. About 1 of every 10 fonts on the site is a shareware font. I don’t know how they hope to sell anything because you have every size and shape of font imaginable on the site for free.

Visit the fontfreak site at this link:

http://www.fontfreak.com/fonts-a.htm

These are breedlinks to the fonts I installed on my PC from this site.

Breedlink – http://www.fontfreak.com/fonts/a/AccidentalPresidency.zip

Breedlink – http://www.fontfreak.com/fonts/a/AntiKwa.zip

Breedlink – http://www.fontfreak.com/fonts/a/Aramis.zip

Breedlink – http://www.fontfreak.com/fonts/a/Arcitectura.zip

Breedlink – http://www.fontfreak.com/fonts/m/machinescript.zip

Breedlink – http://www.fontfreak.com/fonts/m/maize.zip

Breedlink – http://www.fontfreak.com/fonts/m/mechanihan.zip

Breedlink – http://www.fontfreak.com/fonts/s/sanity.zip

Breedlink – http://www.fontfreak.com/fonts/s/sanskritroman.zip

Breedlink – http://www.fontfreak.com/fonts/s/shrewsbury.zip

Breedlink – http://www.fontfreak.com/fonts/w/wesley.zip

Breedlink – http://www.fontfreak.com/fonts/z/zrnic.zip

———

Fonts 500 advertises themselves as “The Webs Top 500 Free Fonts”.

This site has quickest and easiest layout for downloading fonts. They list several on a page but you don’t get to see much of the font before you download. Same as above only in smaller type but at least you know they are all free so you can download away! I did notice some overlap between this site and Font Freak.

This is a link to the site itself:

http://fonts500.com/

Here are the ‘breedlinks’ to the fonts I installed on my PC from this site.

Breedlink – http://fonts500.com/zip/altea.zip

Breedlink – http://fonts500.com/zip/devroye.zip

Breedlink – http://fonts500.com/zip/ghostwriter.zip

Breedlink – http://fonts500.com/zip/adventuresubtitles.zip

Breedlink – http://fonts500.com/zip/queensland.zip

Breedlink – http://fonts500.com/zip/calligraphicav2.zip

Breedlink – http://fonts500.com/zip/rackham.zip

Breedlink – http://fonts500.com/zip/calligula.zip

Breedlink – http://fonts500.com/zip/oktoberfest.zip

Breedlink – http://fonts500.com/zip/nonpoint.zip

—————————-

Urban fonts was a laid out a little differently. When you ‘mouse over’ a font type it shows you the alphabet in that font and that helps with the selection process but it also slows down your ability to grab a bunch of fonts quickly. So the tradeoff is better knowledge for time put in. Their site is well worth a look. At this point, I was getting tired of downloading fonts and I was getting there seemed to be a lot of overlap with the other 2 sites but it is still a good site and I was happy I found it.

This is the link to Urban Fonts:

http://www.urbanfonts.com/

These are the ‘breedlinks’ to the fonts I thought were best at this site:

Breedlink – http://www.urbanfonts.com/scripts/index.php?aardvarkcafe.zip

Breedlink – http://www.urbanfonts.com/scripts/index.php?acens.zip

Breedlink – http://www.urbanfonts.com/scripts/index.php?salamander.zip

——————

Exljbris, is a totally different site. This is a guy that makes his own fonts and has created a website to distribute them. He has 8 different high quality and original fonts that are all readable and will be nice additions to your font library. I’d recommend you go to their site and download each of them. One bit of advice, if you look at the list of fonts on the left of their web page, you’ll notice that the first is named delicious, I was confused and thought it was a hot link to bookmark their site but it isn’t… Just click on deliscious and it will download the font…

http://www.josbuivenga.demon.nl/index.html

————

Those are the sites I’ve collected over the last couple of years. Please let me know if you know of a better site and I’ll try it out and probably put it in. This is a post that will be updated frequently so come back often to see if I’ve changed anything. Any new posts will be at the top and they will be marked as ‘new’.

Don’t Forage – Terabytes of Free Storage Available Online

Posted in Disk and File Mgt, Download Management, Free Storage on Internet, Frequently Updated, Utilities, Web Site on September 19, 2007 by Ethan Dickenson

This post is about file storage, not to be confused with photo storage, or a backup service. File storage can be used for a lot of different things and I’ve done my best to describe each service below. Generally, I’m talking about any type of file, could be photo, video, audio, text, word… files that you want to share with people, files that you want to store just to be safe and have another copy somewhere, or files you use for a website or a blog. All the services below allow you to link to the file you have uploaded to their site. spiderdanceToday you can store files and grant online access to your friends or the world. The amount of free storage available to everyone in the world is unlimited now. The computing industry has changed so dramatically. See the last paragraph of this post for my thoughts on this subject. But immediately below are links and descriptions to plenty of free storage on the web. I have not identified a ‘best of breed’ in this category because, as you will see, they all have slightly different market niches, messages, limits…

eSnips – Create an account and you can upload 5Gb of music, pictures, video, whatever you want. This site is designed to share with your friends and/or everyone in the world, however, the site your friends go to has so many scripts on it that it some browsers can’t read the page. I don’t want to put a negative spin on eSnips at all because their back end, which you will deal with, is great and I’m sure they will address issues as they come up. They have a flash uploader that works well for uploading several files. You can select several files at once, the file structure is straight forward, and you can mark files as private and manage a nice little 5GB archive for yourself at their site. They also have an uploader that integrates into your web browser and I really like the features it provides. You can tag, describe, and name your files before you upload and you can select to resize photos… If you can, this native uploader that integrates with your browser is the way to go. So enjoy eSnips because they are truly a great site.

http://www.esnips.com/SignInAction.ns

MediaFire – is the first free storage site that I found that offers unlimited space. I wasn’t that wild about their upload page, it is pretty basic but it works and you can set it to download several files at once (about 8 I think) but you have to select each file. I bet they come up with something better soon, because today they are a little behind the curve on uploaders but that could change any day. MediaFire gets points for it’s file structure and sharing ability and, of course, the unlimited space.

http://www.mediafire.com/

Microsoft’s SkyDrive – offers a puny 500mb free and I recommend that you use it! They are a very stable organization and who knows whatsmall kid dance is going to happen with the economy. This site is not designed for you to put a file up and share it with the world. It is designed to be thought of as a remote drive for you personally. I keep personal documents that I really need on this site. I also have a Window’s Live Space account which is like your Windows homepage and is integrated with SkyDrive. I think you’ve got to have a .net ID, which I recommend you take the time to get if you have not done so yet, and the site also integrates with your xbox 360 gamertag. The uploader is file by file so nothing special there but the file structure is the most familiar the most secure and dependable. So if you’ve already drank the coolaid go get yourself your 500MB and sing your praise to the great SkyDrive in the sky.

http://skydrive.live.com/?lc=1033

SendSpace Lite – This service was originally organized as a site to transfer large files and that is still their primary marketing spin. I think they used to have a limit on the amount of data that you stored on their site but they evidently have switched it to ‘unlimited’ recently. The individual file transfer size limit (not to be confused with total storage limit) for free users is 300MB but you can split and join files and they have a good FAQ on their page about it. SendSpace has an uploader (beta) that you download and it runs on your PC. This is not a site you should use for backup because they are very clear about the service being ‘as is’ and without warranty and basically, if the service is available, you can use it. However, with the unlimited restrictions on the amount of data that you can store and the effective locally running uploader, you could push a lot of data out to them very quickly and efficiently but their marketing message is pushing strongly away from providing the type of service you need to depend upon for backup or general availability. You can read about it on their FAQ.

This is a great site to use if you’ve got some large datasets that you may want to share with other people and/or you just want to keep ‘casual’ backups of that data around. It is a great spot to put the large files that you might normally delete from your system. Their ‘MAX’ service (fee based) offers a lot of options which I think would be really valuable to software developers or copyright owners who need to manage the distribution of media. You can set limits on the number of downloads or the amount of time a download is good for. But everything I link you to in this site is free. I only wanted to point out the marketing position of the site and their major direction. Regardless, SendSpace can be of great value to home users like us who take advantage of free services.

I’m giving you 2 different links to SendSpace, they have a program that gives me points if you sign up for a free account through the first link. The points go towards their fee based service which I don’t know if I would find value in or not. Regardless, I guess I would prefer that you sign in through the first link but if you have any reservations about doing that please go a head and use the second link (which is the same you would get if you Googled ‘SendSpace’).

http://www.sendspace.com/invite/t7dt1x

http://sendspace.com/register.html

Divshare – I can’t find a size limit to the amount of space a registered user has on this site. They don’t advertise ‘unlimited space’ like some of the others but they don’t talk about size restriction either. They talk about the limit of a single file transfer of 200MB (2GB if you are a paying customer) but they don’t mention a ‘total size’ for any single user. Divshare has a great flash uploader and you can upload entire folders with it. They also have a native loader that is fast, easy and works really well. DivShare is clear about your files being available “forever” and they give you a link so you can share your filesgirldancer with anyone you please. You can also password protect your files. There is no search engine at their site so files are only shared with the people that you refer to the site. You can create your own ‘player’ at this site and put your logo on it. This is a great tool for maintaining a blog or a website and I may utilize it for that purpose in the future, especially if I decide to add video. I just found out they have an uploader that is integrated with WordPress so I’ve downloaded that and will report back and update this post once I see how it works.

http://www.divshare.com/signup

Whew, this was a more detailed post than I intended it to be. However, unlimited space free of charge is truly worth taking some time to explain and I do wonder how all this will effect our computing environments and our culture. It is an amazing change that the market will take a while to digest and figure out how to use. Once that happens and the value is recognized and taken advantage of, the implications of this free unlimited space will reach deep into our culture. 15 years ago a 40MG drive ran you a couple hundred dollars and now you can get an unlimited amount of space for free on the Internet. You can store and grant on-line access to files of nearly any size and content (varies by service – IE nudity). It is truly a revolution and it is changing the way we think about computing. Once data transfer rates quadruple (or more, next 5 years) and space isn’t a problem, then think of the amount of media that will be hitting us. It’s out of control today but in 5 years it is going to have a gigantic impact on our culture.