Hot find

Practice Your Logic With This Free, Fun Game

BonusBall is a free game that closely resembles a well-known game called Lines.  You can download BonusBall from http://www.games-kid.com/bonusball.html, and it runs on Windows XP and above.

The game is easy to learn, easy to play, but requires some thought in order to master it.

Get a $39 PDF to Excel Converter For Free

Programs to convert PDF files to text or document format are pretty common.  However, PDF To Excel Converter is the first program I've encountered which claims to be able to convert PDF files to Microsoft Excel format.

Relax At Your PC With This Sound Effect Generator

Atmosphere Lite is a free Windows program that generates realistic background sound effects on your PC.  Whether you're trying to get to sleep, or simply want to relax while reading some information on screen, the program offers a huge number of effects and combinations.

My Favourite Windows Troubleshooting Tool Is Both Powerful And Free

(Updated 14 Feb 2012 to correct error in URL and the program name)

If I've been a little quiet for the past couple of weeks, I apologise.  I've missed a couple of Gizmo days, and not posted as many new Hot Finds as I'd intended.  But there's a reason.  I've been trying to sort out a problem with a new server that I'm setting up as part of my day job, and it's taken a lot longer than I'd hoped.

But it does mean that I can bring you a real-world story about how a piece of freeware saved my sanity.

A Great Improvement On The Windows File Dialog

You're using your favourite program to edit a document, picture, web page, audio file, movie, or whatever.  You want to load or save a file so you hit the File menu and then choose Open, Save, or Save As.  And then you're faced with the standard Windows dialog box, from which to select the name of the file that you want to open or save.

More often than not, you need to search through a few folders before you find the file you're interested in.  And, in my opinion, the Windows dialog box just isn't up to the job of helping you do that.  

Cloud Storage Startup Also Lets You Run Your Own Server

Services such as Dropbox, which sync a folder on your PC with the cloud and also with your other devices, have one major drawback.  Your files get copied to the internet, and to someone else's server.  So they're not as secure as they might otherwise be.  Plus, in the case of Dropbox, the company has the ability to decrypt your files on its systems in order to de-duplicate them.  If you and I both upload the same file to our Dropboxes, the servers are intelligent enough to only store a single copy.  

Free Tool Deciphers Video and Audio Encoding Methods

Downloading a video or audio file from the Internet and then playing it on your computer is often fraught with difficulties.  Mostly, Windows will play the file just fine.  Frequently, though, you'll receive an error message about Windows not having the correct codec installed and thus not being able to play your file.

Create Your Own Original "Splodge" Painting In Seconds

Ever looked at a modern art painting and thought you could do better?  If so, and you've got 2 minutes to spare, now's the time to find out whether that's really the case.

Head over to www.jacksonpollock.org and click on the big arrow to enter the site.  Then just drag your mouse around the screen at various speeds.  Double-click to change the colour.

The system is fully browser-based so there's nothing to install. If you want to print your masterpiece, take a screen shot by pressing Alt-PrtSc then paste into your favourite image editor.

A Handy Tweaking Tool For Windows

I normally try to steer clear of system utility tools such as registry cleaners, generic Windows clean-up suites and so on, because in my experience they can do more harm than good.  But a simple, free program called Tweak Me seems to work rather well, and it's easy to reverse any changes because you can keep track of the selections you make.

Keep Tabs On How Much Data Your PC Downloads and Uploads

One of the most useful software tools that you can keep within reach of your computer is something that tells you how much information you upload to, and download from, the internet over a specific time period.  And, of course, how fast those transfers are taking place.

Those figures allow you to check that your internet connection is working correctly, that you're not in danger of reaching your ISP's monthly traffic limit, and that there aren't any trojans on your PC silently uploading the contents of your hard disk to some foreign hackers.

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