Gizmo Richards' Support Alert Newsletter

"Gizmo's top picks of the best
Tech resources and utilities"

 Free Edition
Issue 128,  14th December, 2005

IN THIS FREE ISSUE:

0.0 EDITORIAL - end of year reflections
1.0 SUPPORT ALERT AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE FOR 2005
1.1 Product of the Year
1.2 Best Free Utility
2.0 BEST TECH SITES AND RESOURCES FOR 2005
2.1  Site Offers Free Malware Test for Suspicious Files
2.2  Good Malware Prevention and Removal Site
2.3  Help with Spyware You Simply Can't Remove
2.4  Guide to Building an Unattended XP Install CD
2.5  Search Podcasts and RSS Feeds
2.6  Spyware-Free P2P Clients
2.7  How to Reinstall Windows Without Losing Your Data
2.8  $50 FolderShare Web Service Now Free
2.9   Fast Free Anonymizing Service
2.10 Free Spyware Scan
2.11 Free Bootable Ubuntu Linux CD
2.12 More Secure Cookie Management for Internet Explorer
2.13 The Best Internet Network Information Site
2.14 Master BitTorrent Search Site
2.15 Make Sure You Don't Have a Rogue Anti-Spyware Scanner
2.16 Help for Outlook Express Users

                   ** Additional items in the Premium SE Edition **

2.17 How to Remove Master Boot Record Viruses
2.18 How to Improve Your Internet Security
2.19 How to Reduce the Noise From Your PC
2.20 Cryptography Snake Oil Revealed
2.21 How to Fix Dead Pixels in Your Monitor
2.22 How to Burn an ISO Image to CD or DVD
2.23 Free Photoshop Video Tutorials
2.24 How to Identify DNS Problems
2.25 Try out PHP/SQL Server Software for Free
2.26 Securing Wi-Fi in the Enterprise
2.27 Email Service Allows You to Change Sent Mail
2.28 Free Stock Photos for Private and Commercial Use
3.0 BEST FREEWARE AND SHAREWARE UTILITIES FOR 2005
3.1  Free Utility Identifies Download File Size
3.2  Use One Keyboard and Mouse with Several Computers
3.3  Firefox Extension Lets You Use Old Extensions
3.4  Find Out What's Taking Up Your Disk Space
3.5  Free Utility Resets Read Only Files
3.6  Free Utility Minimizes Windows Apps to the System Tray
3.7  Free RSS Readers/Aggregators
3.8  Outstanding Firefox Extensions
3.9  Google Toolbar for Firefox
3.10 Remove Web Ads, Popups, Cookies and Enhance Your Privacy
3.11 Free Utility from Microsoft Detects Network Sniffers
3.12 Free Enhanced Calculator from Microsoft
3.13 Free Utility Offers Alternative to Hotkeys
3.14 Free Spell-Checkers for FireFox and Internet Explorer
3.15 Free Sound File Format Converter

                    ** Additional items in the Premium SE Edition **

3.16 Outstanding Free Remote Access Program
3.17 Clean Out the Junk From the Windows Uninstaller
3.18 Automatically Convert iPod Music Files to MP3
3.19 Free Digital Camera Lens Correction Software
3.20 Free Tool Protects Shared PCs
3.21 Free Utility Extracts Data from Unreadable CDs
3.22 Excellent Free Memory Test Utility
3.23 Free Email Program Ideal for Travelers
3.24 Free Utility Warns of Potential Disk Drive Failures
3.25 Free Full-Featured Accounting Package
3.26 Utility Restores Computers to a Standard Configuration
3.27 Free Flash Drive Backup Utility
3.28 Best Free Disk Cloning Program
3.29 New Free Autostart Manager Best in Class
3.30 Best Free CD Catalogue Organizer
3.31 700MB of Free Games
3.32 Extract Music Files from Your iPod to Your PC
4.0 MANAGING YOUR SUBSCRIPTION
5.0 AN EXCELLENT CHRISTMAS GIFT
0.0 EDITORIAL

This is the special end of year edition of Support Alert.

It features my annual awards for the "Product of the Year" and the "Best Free Utility."

It also includes my pick of the best tech sites and utilities that have appeared in the newsletter throughout the year.

I'm not making any claims about any of these being the absolute best in their class. I haven't reviewed all the sites and products available and besides, there is always an element of the subjective in such matters. What I can say is that the sites and products listed are superb by any standards. Congratulations to all involved.

I'd like to give particular thanks to the Web's freeware authors. They, in the true spirit of the internet, do what they do simply for the pleasure of their craft and the pleasure of sharing. We are the beneficiaries.

The free edition of Support Alert currently has over 75,000 subscribers in 81 different countries. To all of you, I wish peace, happiness and prosperity for 2006.

See you next month.

Gizmo Richards
editor@techsupportalert.com


P.S. In producing this newsletter during the year I have willingly and with pleasure given you hundreds of hours of my time. May I ask for a few seconds of yours in return?

Support Alert relies on voluntary donations to survive. If you feel that you've benefited from reading this newsletter during the year perhaps you might consider donating by subscribing to the premium "Supporters' Edition" of this newsletter.

The premium SE Edition contains almost twice the number of great tech sites, free utilities, tips and other content as the standard edition. It's also ad-free.

In fact, now is a GREAT time to subscribe as I'm offering a Christmas bonus. This month I'm giving away a free commercial software product to every third person who subscribes, while stocks last. I've got quite a pile here to give away so your chances of scoring a copy are excellent. Here's what's on offer:

Subscribe this month and have a 33% chance of winning one of the following:

- 5 copies of WebRoot SpySweeper V4.5 (Retail $29.95)

- 3 Copies of Perfect Disk V7 defragger (Retail $39.99)

- 2 copies of ZoneAlarm Pro (Retail $49.95)

I use all of these outstanding products myself and consider them as best in their class.

It's first-in, first served so subscribe now because once these products are gone, that's it.

I'm also giving away invites to Google Gmail to new SE subscribers. Last month everyone who wanted one got one and I expect the same to happen this month. Just email me at editor@techsupportalert.com after subscribing to the Premium SE Edition and I'll send your invitation.

Even if you don't win a prize you'll still get my special report "Gizmo's Desert Island Utilities" which outlines the software I consider most useful, including many free products. You'll also get the benefit of a 12-months subscription to the special enhanced Premium SE edition of this newsletter which contains almost twice the number of great tech sites and free utilities as the standard edition.

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE PREMIUM SE EDITION

12 months subscription to the Supporters' Edition costs $10 which can be made by check or credit card using either ClickBank or PayPal or simply send cash.

Use the link below to subscribe now:

http://www.techsupportalert.com/se-edition.htm

1. SUPPORT ALERT AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE 2005

1.1 Product of the Year

Winner: Mozilla FireFox Browser V1.5

Firefox V1.0 won my Product of the Year Award in 2004 and the just released V1.5 takes the prize again for 2005.

At first glance version 1.5 seems little changed from version 1 but under the hood the changes are many and significant. Here are just a few:

- Browsing back and forth between sites is now lightning fast. - There is a new "Clear private data" feature that allows you to erase your internet tracks with the click of a button. - Updating of the base product and extensions is now automatic with support for incremental downloads.
- Rendering has been improved and can be customized on a site specific basis to handle problematic and non-conforming sites - Tabs can be re-arranged using drag and drop
- The interface for options and preferences has been improved and the choices enhanced
- Popup blocking has been improved to handle the latest advertiser tricks

Perhaps the most important change has been the further enhancements to security. Firefox has always been a safe browser and the latest changes have made it even safer.

In fact, it is Firefox's high level of security that is the principal reason why I have awarded Firefox 1.5 "Product of the Year."

Yes, Firefox is also a great browser. Yes, it has many features totally missing from Internet Explorer. Yes, it has many free extensions that allow users to totally customize their browsing experience.

But security is the killer feature. With the internet awash with unscrupulous hostile web sites trying to infect your PC with unwanted spyware, users need all the protection they can get. Firefox provides outstanding primary protection against such attacks.

Almost all of these exploits utilize flaws in Microsoft Internet Explorer or Microsoft's proprietary ActiveX technology. Firefox users are immune to these attacks.

It is true that Firefox has suffered its own security flaws that could be exploited; however, the Mozilla organization has patched these promptly and effectively. So promptly in fact that I have never seen an active exploit that utilizes any Firefox flaw. In contrast, I see exploits utilizing Internet Explorer flaws every single day.

Over the year I've received dozens of letters from subscribers who have changed from Internet Explorer to Firefox. A common theme in these letters has been the dramatic reduction in spyware infection since using Firefox.

No browser can ever be 100% safe but Firefox is safer than most. That's the main reason why I recommend it to all users. It's also why Firefox is the worthy winner of my 2005 Product of the Year.

1.2 Best Free Utility for 2005

Winner: Microsoft Antispyware Beta

Although Microsoft Antispyware is an outstanding product, I was reluctant to choose it. That's because whenever I recommend any Microsoft product I always get vehemently slammed by the anti-Microsoft vigilantes. Mind you, if I criticize a Microsoft product I get equally abused by the Microsoft apologists. ;>)

But I've chosen to set politics aside. Microsoft Antispyware is a damn fine product and a worthy winner.

2005 has been the year of the great spyware plague. All users now need to protect their PCs with an effective anti-spyware product in addition to a competent anti-virus scanner.

Microsoft Antispyware is easily the best free anti-spyware product available.

In all my tests it comfortably outperformed its main rivals SpyBot Search and Destroy 1.4 and Ad-aware 1.6. It out-performed many commercial anti-spyware scanners as well.

Its particular strength is the quality of its real-time monitors that are constantly checking your PC for possible new infections. These monitors are noticeably more effective than the "Teatimer" monitor used in SpyBot. The free version of Ad- aware does not have any monitors.

Good as it is, there is an upgraded version of MS Antispyware on the way. It will be called Windows Defender and will include an enhanced user interface, the addition of rootkit detection and improved signature file updating.

Windows Defender will form part of an integrated set of security utilities that will be included in the upcoming Windows Vista operating system.

Windows Defender will also be made available to Windows XP users who use MS Antispyware via a software update. Timing details have yet to be announced.

Although MS Antispyware is the outstanding free anti-spyware product, it is not without its limitations.

First, it's only available for Windows 2000 and later.

Second, it may be the best free anti-spyware product but it's not currently quite as good as the best commercial products CounterSpy and WebRoot SpySweeper, both of which offer somewhat better detection and removal.

Third, its memory monitors may provide great protection but they eat up a quite a few of your CPU cycles in the process. Consequently, users with older, slower PCs may experience a performance hit. MS Antispyware is not alone in this characteristic but it's something you should be aware of.

That said, MS Antispyware is currently providing excellent protection for millions of PCs. For users with relatively recent PCs it the best free anti-spyware product available.

For its contribution to internet security I'm happy to declare Microsoft Antispyware the Best Free Utility for 2005.

2.0 BEST TECH SITES AND RESOURCES FOR 2005

A Wonderful Christmas Gift
If you enjoy your Support Alert subscription why not share the good news and send a friend a gift subscription to the Premium SE Edition? At $10 it's a economical Christmas gift and one the receiver will thank you for every time they receive a monthly issue. You can set up your gift subscription here:
http://www.techsupportalert.com/gift-subscription.htm

2.1 Site Offers Free Malware Test for Suspicious Files

Regular contributor Richard Thomas writes, "This [1] is a useful site Gizmo. You can upload a suspicious file and have it checked by several virus scanners and then have a report emailed to you." Thanks Richard, nice find - though I wish they documented exactly what AV scanners they use. That's one of the reasons I like the service offered by jotti.org [2] which uses 13 top of the line AV products to scan the suspect files you submit.
[1] http://www.virustotal.com/flash/index_en.html
[2] http://virusscan.jotti.org/

2.2 Good Malware Prevention and Removal Site

Here you can find excellent advice on how to configure your system to reduce the chance of spyware infection plus detailed information how to remove an existing infection. Most of this information is available elsewhere but the site owner Shanmuga has done an excellent job compiling the information and making it accessible. Well worth visiting and bookmarking.
http://www.malwarehelp.org/

2.3 Help with Spyware You Simply Can't Remove

Some spyware just keeps on re-appearing on your PC no matter how many times you remove it. When this happens, download HijackThis from this page and follow the instructions. These folks should be able to help you permanently get rid of the problem. It won't cost you a cent, either.
http://www.tomcoyote.org/hjt/

2.4 Guide to Building an Unattended XP Install CD

This site offers a clear how-to guide with separate instructions for beginners, intermediates and advanced users. When completed you'll have an unattended Windows XP install CD that includes SP2 and all subsequent hot fixes.
http://unattended.msfn.org/

2.5 Search Podcasts and RSS Feeds

Podcasts are really taking off since Apple introduced PodCasting support in iTunes. This site offers a good searchable directory of what podcasts are available [1]. If you are looking for an RSS feed on a particular topic then check out this RSS search engine [2].
[1] http://podcastalley.com/
[2] http://www.completerss.com/

2.6 Spyware-Free P2P Clients

Find out which P2P programs are clean and which are infected from this table:
http://www.spywareinfo.com/articles/p2p/

2.7 How to Reinstall Windows Without Losing Your Data

Worth bookmarking; one day you may need it. Better still, print a hard copy. ;>)
http://pcworld.about.com/magazine/2109p156id111652.htm

2.8 $50 FolderShare Web Service Now Free

I've reported favorably about FolderShare in previous issues. It's a web service that allows you to automatically synchronize and/or share files in a given folder across multiple computers. It also allows you access these files from any computer. FolderShare used to offer a cut-down service for free but a full- featured service with unlimited file space and individual files up to 2GB cost $50. Not anymore. FolderShare has just been bought by Microsoft and you can get the full premium service for free. I recommend you sign up, it's an unbeatable deal. Use it for syncing your home and office data, sharing photos and other large files with friends or simply as online backup of your critical data. To use the service you need to sign up on the web site and download the FolderShare "Satellite" client software. Free, Windows ME and later plus Mac OSX 10.3.8+, 646KB.
http://www.foldershare.com

2.9 Fast Free Anonymizing Service

Anonymouse [1] is a free web service that allows you to browse anonymously via their site. No proxy setup is required; all you have to do is go to the Anonymouse home page and enter the address of the site you want to browse to. Anonymouse also offers from their site a free web based anonymous email system called AnonEmail. Anonymouse has been recommended by over a dozen subscribers and I can see why; it's relatively fast for an anonymizing service, easy to use and free. I doubt that it provides the industrial strength security of services like JAP [2] and Tor [3] but most folks don't need that anyway and besides, Anonymouse is way faster.
[1] http://anonymouse.org/
[2] http://anon.inf.tu-dresden.de/index_en.html
[3] http://tor.eff.org/

2.10 Free Spyware Scan

I've written before about Trend Micro's excellent free online anti-virus scanner. Now they are offering a free anti-spyware scanner [1] as well. This one is not online; you have to download the 1.7MB file and then run it on your PC. It works just like McAfee's Stinger program in that there are no signature file updates so if you want to run the program in the future you have to download the latest version of the full program once again. It's a pretty competent anti-spyware scanner and will fix any problems detected. It's well worth the download even if you are already using another anti-spyware product; two opinions are always better then one. While at the Trend Micro site why not try their free online anti-virus scan as well? It's accessible from the same page as the spyware scanner. It will only work with Internet Explorer but Firefox and Opera users can use this [2] version. Editor's Note: It appears that Trend are no longer offering the spyware scan download.
[1] http://housecall.trendmicro.com/
[2] http://fr.trendmicro-europe.com/consumer/products/housecall_launch.php

2.11 Free Bootable Ubuntu Linux CD

If you haven't dabbled with Linux for a while you should try the latest 5.1 release of Ubuntu. It's a real step forward in both ease of installation and general usage. It's available for free download [1] as a full installation version or as a bootable live CD which includes all the free software from TheOpenCD project [2]. The live CD version is a great way to try out Linux without risking your Windows setup. It also allows you to test drive popular Open Source software products such as OpenOffice, Thunderbird, AbiWord and The Gimp which come pre-installed on the CD. Ubuntu.org will even send you free CDs containing both the full install and live CD versions by mail [3] though you do have to register first. You can even order multiple sets of CDs to give away to friends. They are truly free as Ubuntu.org wears the mailing cost as well. Now how good is that? Before installing Linux beginners should check out the introductory guide referenced in the last link below [4].
[1] http://www.ubuntulinux.org/download/
[2] http://theopencd.org
[3] http://www.ubuntu.com/download/support/documentation/faq/shipit/
[4] http://www.paulstamatiou.com/2005/10/24/how-to-ubuntu-linux-for-novices/

2.12 More Secure Cookie Management for Internet Explorer

If you configure IE to not accept any cookies, you'll find that quite a few web sites won't work correctly. I was over at the JAP security site the other day and noticed this downloadable IE6 cookie configuration file that allows you accept cookies for a single web session and then dispose of them when the session ends. It's a neat solution.
http://anon.inf.tu-dresden.de/ie6_privacy_en.html

2.13 The Best Internet Network Information Site

It's been a while since I last visited the DNS Tools site and in the interim it has added a whole batch of new online inquiry tools to its already excellent collection of free services. There are too many tools to describe but if you need to know anything about a web site, URL, email address or web routing then this is the place to go.
http://www.dnsstuff.com/

2.14 Master BitTorrent Search Site

Here's a nice find; a site that allows you to do a single search that will cover all the major BitTorrent sites. If you can't find what you want, try the second link which is to another BT search engine.
http://www.torrenttyphoon.com/
http://www.btbot.com/

2.15 Make Sure You Don't Have a Rogue Anti-Spyware Scanner

There are more than 200 bogus anti-spyware scanners out there trying to cash in on the current spyware plague. Many of these products generate a long list of supposed infections on your PC to panic users into buying. Worse still, some of these "security" products are actually themselves spyware. Almost all use product names similar to well known, reputable brands in order to confuse customers. Here's a complete list of products you should avoid compiled by security researcher Eric Howes. Check this list before buying any anti-spyware product.
http://www.spywarewarrior.com/rogue_anti-spyware.htm#products

2.16 Help For Outlook Express Users

Here you'll find an excellent collection of usage tips, how-to guides and solutions to common problems. Check out the FAQ, it's excellent.
http://insideoe.tomsterdam.com

** Additional items in the Premium SE Edition **

2.17 How to Remove Master Boot Record Viruses

2.18 How to Improve Your Internet Security

2.19 How to Reduce the Noise From Your PC

2.20 Cryptography Snake Oil Revealed

2.21 How to Fix Dead Pixels in Your Monitor

2.22 How to Burn an ISO Image to CD or DVD

2.23 Free Photoshop Video Tutorials

2.24 How to Identify DNS Problems

2.25 Try out PHP/SQL Server Software for Free

2.26 Securing Wi-Fi in the Enterprise

2.27 Email Service Allows You to Change Sent Mail

2.28 Free Stock Photos for Private and Commercial Use

----------------- sponsored links -----------------------

The Best Windows Backup Software
We are in the process of updating all the backup reviews at our site but I can tell you right now that the top product has blitzed the field for a second year in row. In fact, it's improved so much that it's now a one horse race for our "editor's choice." The updated review of the top product is now online. If you have been looking for a backup program, this is the one.
http://www.backup-software-reviews.com/

The Best SpyWare Detector
PC Magazine 10.31.05 "Webroot's Spy Sweeper 4.5 is the most powerful antispyware tool we've seen yet. Its Comprehensive Removal Technology attempts to remove spyware completely in a single pass, and its behavior-based Active Shields prevent the installation of new threats on the cleaned system. Fancy names aside, our testing shows that the utility really works." If you use Ad-aware or SpyBot you will be surprised just how more effectively SpySweeper detects and protects your PC from Adware, Spyware, Trojans and other malicious products. That's why it won the prized "Editor's Choice" award in PC Magazine's massive January 2005 survey of anti-Spyware products. Try the free evaluation copy of the new Version 4 and see for yourself.
http://www.webroot.com/consumer/products/spysweeper/index.html?acode=af1&rc=1132

The Best Remote Access Software
Our reviewer had given this product category away as "too slow, tool clumsy and too unreliable" but after reviewing this product he's changed his mind; "at long last a remote access solution that actually works! Quite frankly we agree with him, it's an impressive product. Read the full review here:
http://www.pcsupportadvisor.com/best_remote_access_software.htm

The Best Anti-trojan Scanner
Most users are not aware that their anti-virus scanner can only provide a moderate level of protection against trojan programs that try and take control of your PC. To really protect your computer, you need a dedicated anti-trojan program. Our editor's have reviewed every major product on the market and have concluded that two scanners stand head and shoulders above the other contenders.
http://www.anti-trojan-software-reviews.com

------------- end of sponsored links --------------------------

3.0 BEST FREEWARE AND SHAREWARE UTILITIES FOR 2005

Many of the best free utilities I've discovered during the year have been added to the "46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities" page on my web site so I haven't listed them again here. Do, however, check out the web site; you'll find some real gems there.
http://www.techsupportalert.com/best_46_free_utilities.htm

3.1 Free Utility Identifies Download File Size

It's often useful to know the size of a file before you download it, particularly if you have a slow connection or are approaching your bandwidth quota. Most folks do this by starting the download and then looking at the indicated file size in their download manager but InternetFileSize offers a far simpler solution. It works by adding a menu item to the right click context menu. All you do is right click on a download link and InternetFileSize shows the true file size, modification date and the true download path. Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 575KB.
http://www.moveax.com/eng/content/view/7/13/

3.2 Use One Keyboard and Mouse with Several Computers

Normally you need a KVM hardware switch to achieve this but Synergy is a free open source package that lets you do it with software. As a bonus, you can also switch between computers with different operating systems. Switching is achieved by simply moving your mouse off the edge of your screen. You can even cut and paste between machines. Neat eh? (543KB for Windows version)
http://synergy2.sourceforge.net/

3.3 Firefox Extension Lets You Use Old Extensions

One of the annoyances about installing a new version of Firefox is the likelihood that one or more of your old extensions won't work with the new version. This will become a pressing problem for many users when they upgrade to version 1.5. You can get around this by using the free "Nightly Tester Tools" extension which allows you to re-install your old extensions by bypassing compatibility testing. It adds a check box to the Firefox install dialog box. When checked, the extension will be installed regardless. That doesn't mean it will necessarily work, though, so use with appropriate caution.
http://users.blueprintit.co.uk/~dave/web/firefox/buildid/nightly.html

3.4 Find Out What's Taking Up Your Disk Space

Spacemonger is a free utility that displays the amount of space taken up by all the different folders and files in your system. It does this via a graphic display where the screen size of each folder is proportional to the space it takes on disk. At first look it seems rather ungainly, but it is actually extremely effective. Better still, the program does not need to be installed; all you have to do is run the executable file. This suits me fine as I only occasionally have need for this kind of utility - so why have it cluttering your Registry when you don't need it? Freeware, all Windows versions, 103KB.
http://www.werkema.com/software/spacemonger.html

3.5 Free Utility Resets Read Only Files

It's a familiar problem; you copy your report to a CD-ROM at work but when you take it home and transfer the file to your hard drive you find you cannot edit the file. The problem is that CD-ROM is a read-only medium so Windows flags any files as "Read Only." When you copy any files to your hard drive, the "Read Only" attribute gets copied too. Resetting the file attribute to "Read-Write" is not all that hard from Windows but it's much easier to use a specialist utility, particularly when a lot of files are involved. Thanks to Robert Conley for letting me know about CROA, a tiny free utility whose name tells it all; Clear Read Only Attributes. It's easy to use, will clear individual files, folders or whole drives and works at lightning speed. A nice little addition to your toolkit. Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 285KB
http://davidcrowell.com/Croa.aspx

3.6 Free Utility Minimizes Windows Apps to the System Tray

I've mentioned in the past a couple of programs that allow you to do this but I must say TrayIt! impressed me with its combination of simplicity and effectiveness. First, it requires no installation; just double click the program file and it's up and running. Second, it can minimize open windows to the tray either temporarily or permanently with just one click. Third, it handles "difficult" windows such as skins, with ease. Fourth, it works with all versions of Windows. Fifth, it's a tiny 45KB! Finally, it's free. A little gem.
http://www.teamcti.com/trayit/trayit.htm

3.7 Free RSS Readers/Aggregators

If you want to make use of the new Support Alert RSS feeds you'll need an RSS Reader of one sort or another. There's no shortage of options with dozens of stand-alone products on the market but one of the sweetest ways to access RSS is through your browser. Firefox users can subscribe to and read RSS feeds using the built-in Live Bookmarks feature. Use the first link below for a simple tutorial [1]. However Live Bookmarks is a bit minimal and most users would be better off installing a full Firefox RSS extension. Sage [2] is the safest bet for most users though some may prefer Pluck [3] because it allows you to store your feeds and bookmarks on a central server which you can then access from any PC. However, the centralized storage causes Pluck to run slower than Sage which stores information locally. Internet Explorer users can use also use Pluck as there's an IE add-in available. In fact, the IE version has more features than the Firefox version. If you want a stand-alone reader, check out two free, third generation aggregators BlogBridge [4] and GreatNews [5]. Those wanting to integrate RSS with Microsoft Outlook email might like to try RSS Popper [6].
[1] http://www.mozilla.com/firefox/livebookmarks.html
[2] http://sage.mozdev.org/
[3] http://www.pluck.com/
[4] http://www.blogbridge.com/
[5] http://www.curiostudio.com/
[6] http://rsspopper.blogspot.com/2004/10/home.html

3.8 Outstanding Firefox Extensions

Here are three less-known Firefox extensions that could really lift your productivity, particularly if you are an RSS user. The first is ScrapBook [1]. This allows you to save web pages, page snippets and links into hierarchical collections. Kind of like bookmarks on steroids with the web content available for offline use. All material you save can be annotated and you can even edit the raw material itself. On top of that, you can search saved collections including all saved web pages. Just the thing for all you information hunters and collectors for saving interesting information from web sites as well as your favorite blogs and feeds. The second extension I'd like to recommend is All-In-One Sidebar [2]. This allows you to select and load any of your Firefox sidebars with a single click. That includes bookmarks, history, Download, Sage, Scrapbook and more. I've always found the Firefox sidebar a little awkward to use but this extension pretty well solves the problem. It's a real timesaver, particularly if you a switching between Sage and ScrapBook. It also provides a number of other benefits like listing your extensions alphabetically and giving you fine control over how clicked links open in tabs. The third extension, "Livelines" [3], is a little more mundane but valuable in its own way. It allows you to add an RSS feed to Sage (or Bloglines or many other RSS readers) simply by clicking the Firefox Live Bookmarks icon that appears in the browser status bar of RSS enabled sites. It's simple, neat and effective.
[1] http://amb.vis.ne.jp/mozilla/scrapbook/
[2] http://firefox.exxile.net/
[3]https://addons.mozilla.org/extensions/moreinfo.php?application=firefox&id=324

3.9 Google Toolbar for Firefox

There's been an unofficial third party version of the Goggle Toolbar for the Firefox browser for some time. It works well enough but has been just been eclipsed by the release of Google's own version. It includes all of the same features of the third party version but adds many additional capabilities including SpellCheck, a web form spelling checker, AutoLink that turns street addresses into links to online maps, AutoFill for filling out online forms and WordTranslator for foreign language word translation. It looks better and is more compact as well. As a bonus, it even includes some features not found in Google's Internet Explorer Toolbar such as the useful ability to open search links in new tabs.
http://toolbar.google.com/firefox/index.html (291KB)

3.10 Remove Web Ads, Popups, Cookies and Enhance Your Privacy

My favorite tool for filtering web content has long been "The Proxomitron" but I'm well aware that it's way too complex for most users to set up. A lot simpler is the free Open Source utility Privoxy. It's basically an enhanced version of the well known JunkBuster utility and filters content in the same way as JunkBuster by setting up a proxy server that sits between your browser and the web. In addition to filtering ads, it can also enhance your privacy and security by blocking cookies and masking referrer and other browser information. Once installed all that's involved is configuring your browser's proxy settings, a 30 second job. Most users can simply use the default settings and they'll be rewarded with some excellent and intelligent filtering. Advanced users will find a lot to play with. FireFox users won't find much at all as FireFox already has excellent filtering via the free AdBlock extension. Freeware, all Windows versions, 1.27MB.
http://www.privoxy.org/
http://computercops.biz/files/ProxN45.exe <= The Proxomitron
http://accs-net.com/smallfish/prox.htm <= Proxomitron help

3.11 Free Utility from Microsoft Detects Network Sniffers

Microsoft has released a free security utility tool called Promqry 1.0 designed to detect the unauthorized presence of sniffers on a network. The utility, which can be operated through a graphical user interface or via command line, works by looking for network devices that are operating in promiscuous mode. It requires Windows 2000 or later and the Microsoft .NET framework. (255KB)
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=1a10d27a-4aa5-4e96-9645-aa121053e083&DisplayLang=en

3.12 Free Enhanced Calculator from Microsoft

Microsoft Calculator Plus is really three calculators in one. First, it's a normal four function calculator; second, it's a full fledged scientific calculator; and finally, it's a powerful unit conversion calculator. The scientific functions are extensive and it will handle hex, octal and binary arithmetic as well. The conversions offered are also comprehensive. It's a pity they didn't offer a financial calculator mode as well, but even so it is a most impressive freebie. Freeware, Windows XP only, 475KB.
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?displaylang=en&FamilyID=32B0D059-B53A-4DC9-8265-DA47F157C091

3.13 Free Utility Offers Alternative to Hotkeys

I'm not a great fan of hotkey programs for a couple of reasons. First, I keep forgetting the key assignments; second, I find I run out of free key combinations very quickly. SlickRun solves these problems by using "magic words" rather than hotkeys. It places a tiny text box on your screen and when you type specially assigned words into the box, they will launch a program, go to a web site or whatever. For example if you type "mail" it can launch your mail reader. Type in "46" and it can take you to the web page of the "46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities." Of course, it's up to you to define these magic words and you can have as many as you want. It all works very neatly with some really nice touches like auto-complete for your magic words which means you only have to type in two or three letters and SlickRun will complete the rest. Nice too, is an eyedropper tool that allows you to identify a program you want to "hotkey" just by clicking in its application window. There's also a built-in note jotter and a calendar date display. All this in a tiny 168KB. Highly recommended. Freeware, Win 98 and later, 168KB.
http://www.bayden.com/SlickRun/

3.14 Free Spell-Checkers for FireFox and Internet Explorer

I use an excellent free extension for FireFox and the Mozilla Suite called SpellBound [1] that will check the spelling in any web form. Make sure you follow the installation instructions carefully. Internet Explorer users can use the new Google Toolbar [2] which includes a quite usable spell-checker or, better still, install the free plug-in IESpell [3], a long time fave of mine before I moved to Firefox.
[1] http://spellbound.sourceforge.net/
[2] http://toolbar.google.com/index_2
[3] http://www.iespell.com/

3.15 Free Sound File Format Converter

Thanks to modest subscriber "willemien" for suggesting this free utility that will convert from wav, mp3, ogg, flac, aac, wma, au, aiff, ogg, msv, dvf, vox, atrac, gsm, dss and other formats into mp3 or wav. There's a paid version as well that handles even more formats but the free version should meet the needs of most users. Check out the other sound utilities at the site, all of which work together to form a most impressive sound processing suite. Freeware, all Windows versions, 312KB.
http://nch.com.au/switch/index.html

** Additional items in the Premium SE Edition **

3.16 Outstanding Free Remote Access Program

3.17 Clean Out the Junk from the Windows Uninstaller

3.18 Automatically Convert iPod Music Files to MP3

3.19 Free Digital Camera Lens Correction Software

3.20 Free Tool Protects Shared PCs

3.21 Free Utility Extracts Data from Unreadable CDs

3.22 Excellent Free Memory Test Utility

3.23 Free Email Program Ideal for Travelers

3.24 Free Utility Warns of Potential Disk Drive Failures

3.25 Free Full Featured Accounting Package

3.26 Utility Restores Computers to a Standard Configuration

3.27 Free Flash Drive Backup Utility

3.28 Best Free Disk Cloning Program

3.29 New Free Autostart Manager Best in Class

3.30 Best Free CD Catalogue Organizer

3.31 700MB of Free Games

3.32 Extract Music Files from Your iPod to Your PC
-----------------------------------------------------------

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See you next issue

Gizmo
Ian Richards
editor@techsupportalert.com