========================
                         Support Alert
                    ========================
                    www.techsupportalert.com

                 "Your pointer to the very best
                  Tech information on the Web"

                  Issue 104 - 17th December, 2003

    Support Alert is a registered online serial publication
                         ISSN 1448-7020.

                        <<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>

Quote of the Week
=================

Definition of "Computer Science:"

"A study akin to numerology and astrology, but lacking the precision of the former and the success of the latter."

- Stan Kelly-Bootle
 

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EDITORIAL
=========

Being the last to be published in 2003, this issue is different.

First, it includes my annual awards for the "Product of the Year" and the "Best Free Utility"

Second, this issue features 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. I haven't reviewed all the 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.

And thanks to you gentle readers. Your letters, suggestions and occasional rebukes during the year have been a source of enjoyment and stimulation.

Well, folks, that's it for 2003. The next issue will be around the middle of January.

Support Alert currently has subscribers in 46 different countries. To all of you, I wish peace and prosperity for 2004.

Gizmo Richards
mailto:editor@techsupportalert.com

P.S. In producing this newsletter 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, then perhaps you would like to consider donating.

In fact, now is a GREAT time to donate. This month I'm giving away a free commercial software product to every second person who donates. 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:

Donate this month and have a 50% chance of winning:

- 3 copies of Port Explorer, rated as the best port
  enumerator/scanner by http://www.winnetmag.com. (Retail $40)

- 1 copy of TDS-3, which I rated as the most effective anti-
  trojan at http://www.anti-trojan-software-reviews (Retail $49)

- 2 copies of Norton Anti Virus 2004 (Retail $49.95)

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

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 a 12-months subscription to the special enhanced "Supporter’s Edition" of this newsletter which contains almost twice the number of great tech sites and free utilities as the standard edition.

HOW TO DONATE
=============

The suggested donation is $10 which can be made by check, postal order or credit card using either ClickBank or PayPal.

Click the link below to donate now:
http://www.techsupportalert.com/se-edition.htm
 

                 <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>

IN THIS ISSUE:

1. SUPPORT ALERT AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE 2003
 - Product of the Year
 - Best Free Utility

2. TOP TECH SITES FOR 2003
 - Start-Up Applications Unplugged
 - Configure Windows XP Services
 - Windows XP Tips from Microsoft
 - Great Free Support Site
 - Commercial Software for Free
 - Best Free Web Site Resources
 - Free Web Site/Application Development Tutorials
 - How Fast do you Really Surf

   Additional items in the Enhanced SE Edition

 - Excellent Collection of Free Fonts
 - $100 Cryptography Book for Free
 - Computer Security Test Sites
 - How to Optimize Your Swap File
 - Migrating to an Open Source Environment
 - How to Counter RIAA Tactics
 - Free Alternative to Mathematica
 - A Site That Offers Free Access to Your Bookmarks/Favorites
 - Best Site for Finding Drivers

3. TOP UTILITIES FOR 2003
 - Monitor Registry Changes
 - Free Route Tracer
 - Free Copy Utility
 - Read NTFS Disks From DOS
 - Google from Anywhere
 - Access the Command Prompt Easily
 - Free Sticky Notes Utility
 - Kill Unwanted Processes Quickly
 - Excellent Free File Manager
 - Superior Windows File Management
 - Outstanding Free Utility for Comparing Files
 - Free Source Code Documenter
 - Batch Process Digital Images for Free
 - Free Secure Erase Utility
 - Free Backup Program

   Additional items in the Enhanced SE Edition

 - Cheap Real-Time Backup
 - Confirm That Your Emails Have Been Read
 - Monitor Your User's Backup Needs
 - Free Data Recovery Utility
 - Free Utility Fixes Broken WinSock Installations
 - Fix Outlook & Outlook Express Quoting
 - Free Industrial Strength File Hiding and Encryption
 - Free Utility Stops Browser Hijacking
 - Free High Performance Remote Control Software
 

4. CHRISTMAS GIFT SUGGESTIONS
 - Give Anthrax to Your Boss
 - Miss Out on Christmas Toy Shop Crush
 - Bah Humbug!
 - For the Nerd Who has Everything
 - A Very Flash Drive
 - Cute and Free
 - Dream baby, dream

             <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>
 

1. SUPPORT ALERT AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE 2003
===========================================

Product of the Year
===================

Winner: MyIE2 Browser
http://www.myie2.com

Tabbed browsers offer enormous productivity gains to users. So much so that once you've used one, it's very hard to go back to plain browsers like Internet Explorer.

There are dozens of tabbed browsers to choose from and most are available for free. Opera and Mozilla Firebird are two examples of first rate implementations.

However, for those users who don't feel comfortable about straying too far from the Microsoft world, there is good news. There are numerous free third party browsers that are based on the Internet Explorer engine that also offer tabs.

Two of these are outstanding:  MyIE2 and Avant browser.  Not only do these products add tabbed Windows, they also add a raft of other productivity features. They are also free.

In effect, these products offer users the best of both worlds: the comfort of using the standard Internet Explorer core, and the productivity of modern browser features so lacking in the Microsoft product.

I've used both products for some time.  The Avant browser is slightly quicker then MyIE2 and has a cleaner look.  On the down side, its tabs are placed rather annoyingly at the bottom of the screen. There are also compatibility problems with some IE plug-ins.

MyIE2 on the other hand works with a wider variety of IE plug-ins. It also offers an enormous selection of plug-ins written specifically for it.

MyIE2 also adds more additional built-in functions than Avant. It's Tools menu allows one-click access to a wide range of services including translation, anonymizing services, the Internet Archive, Whois lookup, Advanced Google functions and much more.  It's also skinable, stable and free.

All this adds up to a product that offers the average user substantial productivity gains over using the standard Internet Explore browser built into Windows. And given that MyIE2 doesn't change your registry settings, it can happily coexist with IE.

Users of Opera and the Mozilla browsers have little to gain in using MyIE2. However, I strongly recommend that all users of Internet Explorer try this product. I suspect you will not be disappointed.

Best Free Utility
==================

Winner: AVG Anti Virus V7 Free Edition.
http://www.grisoft.com/us/us_dwnl_free.php

Don't let the fact that this product is free lead you to believe that it is a lesser product.

AVG ranks right up there with the best anti-virus products available. It has first rate detection capabilities, on demand scanning, a resident scanning monitor, email scanning, automatic updates and excellent handling of detected viruses.

On top of these features, AVG AV consumes relatively few of your valuable system resources. For example, it runs with less than half the CPU processing requirement of Norton AV 2004 and takes up less memory space as well.

The "free version" is free for home use by a single user. It is full-featured apart from a more basic interface and the disabling of some advanced technical features.

AVG is to be congratulated for providing a product of this quality for free. The cumulative benefit they have bestowed on the Internet community is immeasurable.

2. TOP TECH SITES FOR 2003
==========================

Start-Up Applications Unplugged
It's frustrating trying to edit the Windows start-up list because the filenames themselves tell you little about the program's function. This free site lists thousands of common startup files along with full descriptions of what they do, plus links back to the vendor's web site.  Top stuff.
http://www.sysinfo.org/startuplist.php

Configure Windows XP Services
Even experienced users find XP Services something of a mystery. This site provides explanations for all of the services plus some useful configuration information.
http://blackviper.com/WinXP/servicecfg.htm

Windows XP Tips from Microsoft
Dozens of XP Pro tips including a sneaky way to bulk rename files. I didn't know you could do that in Windows. Guess you learn something every day.
http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/expertzone/tips/default.asp

Great Free Support Site
I've mentioned this great site before but after using their services last week, I was again impressed with the service. They quickly solved an annoying problem that had been bugging me for weeks.
http://www.suggestafix.com/

Commercial Software for Free
Many commercial software products started life as freeware. You can still locate many of these original free versions at the Internet Archive, which has captured snapshots of the web at different points of time for research purposes.  Just enter the software vendor's web site address and with a bit of luck, you may be able to locate and download a free version.
http://www.archive.org/

Best Free Web Site Resources
I've been building Web sites for years. Here are some of the best services I've found:
The Best Totally Free Web hosting with No Ads:
http://www.portland.co.uk/
The Best Free Website Statistics:
http://www.addfreestats.com/

Free Web Site/Application Development Tutorials
I don't think I've ever seen a more comprehensive collection of web development tutorials. Topics include HTML, XML, JavaScript, ASP, PHP, .NET and dozens of others. The amazing thing is that they are all free.
http://www.w3schools.com

How Fast do you Really Surf
The high data rate you get when downloading a big file is not a reliable measure of how quickly you can surf. This site offers a free test that measures your connection speed to 40 different sites worldwide. Be prepared to have your ego deflated ;>)
http://www.numion.com/

MORE OF THE BEST TECH SITES FROM THE SUPPORTERS EDITION
=======================================================

- Excellent Collection of Free Fonts
- $100 Cryptography Book for Free
- How to Optimize Your Swap File
- Migrating to an Open Source Environment
- How to Counter RIAA Tactics
- Free Alternative to Mathematica
- A Site That Offers Free Access to Your Bookmarks Favorites
- Best Site for Finding Drivers

Donate $10 and get these additional items now.  You'll also get the enhanced "Supporters Edition" of the newsletter for the next 12 months plus "Gizmo's Desert Island Utilities" report.

Click the link below to donate now:
http://www.techsupportalert.com/se-edition.htm
 

3. TOP UTILITIES FOR 2003
=========================

Monitor Registry Changes
When installing new software it's often valuable to know exactly what changes have been made to the Windows Registry. RegShot is a tiny free utility that takes a before and after shot of the Registry and then exactly identifies what has been changed. Another useful free utility for your toolkit. (34kb)
http://regshot.ist.md/

Free Route Tracer
3D Traceroute is a free utility that graphically displays Internet route information. You can use it for technical tasks such as diagnosing slow connections or for general purpose snooping like determining the location and owner of a web site or tracing spammers. (996KB)
http://www.hlembke.de/prod/3dtraceroute/

Free Copy Utility
I was surprised recently to find that a friend of mine, who is a tech support professional, had never heard of the XXCOPY utility.  For those of you who are living in a similar state of ignorance, it's a command line copy program that can be best described as being like the old DOS XCOPY on steroids. It will even copy whole partitions including Windows 9X operating system partitions.  It's free. It's extremely useful in particular situations. It should be in everyone's toolkit. (252KB)
http://www.xxcopy.com/

Read NTFS Disks from DOS
Now here's a freeware utility that one day might just save your bacon.  This NTFS reader fits onto a FreeDOS bootable floppy which means that, should your NTFS based Windows system become terminally corrupted, you can still access your disks. It even includes a file search and copy utility. (832KB)
http://www.ntfs.com/products.htm

Google from Anywhere
Google has just released the beta of DeskBar, a search box located in the taskbar that allows you to perform a Google search from any application. Results come up in a special mini-viewer in a 3/4 screen sized window that overlays whatever application you are currently running. It comes with lots of options and features including the ability to search a thesaurus or look up definitions. A really neat feature is that you can select any text in your application and search that text by hitting Ctrl-Alt-G. The only downside is yet more demands on your taskbar real estate. Everyone should try this one, even Dave's Search Bar users. (413KB)
http://toolbar.google.com/deskbar/

Access the Command Prompt Easily
If you are a regular user of the Windows command prompt you will appreciate this nifty free utility that allows you to access the command prompt directly from Windows Explorer. The integrated environment is a real plus. So is the fact that you end up in the folder where you want to be. No more CD commands with long file name hassles. (118kb)
http://www.codeproject.com/csharp/CommandBar.asp

Free Sticky Notes Utility
ATnotes is a neat "Post-It" notes style utility that features configurable alarms, resizable windows, variable fonts and a host of other useful features. The product is remarkably similar to my favorite sticky notes utility, TurboNotes. Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery?  Maybe not. (723KB)
http://atnotes.fr.st/

Kill Unwanted Processes Quickly
Some applications like disk defragmenters, CD burners and partitioning programs require all other applications to be shut down.  Killing these processes through Task Manager or tray icons can be tedious. TrayKiller is a free application that does the job with a single click and will restart the applications just as easily. (1.5MB)
http://www.students.uiuc.edu/~reichler/TrayKiller/index.html

Excellent Free File Manager
Windows Explorer is fine for simple file management activities but when you have some serious work to do, you need a two pane file manager. I use EF Commander which is excellent but costs $25.  Recently I discovered 2X Explorer.  It offers most of the functionality of EF Commander and is totally free. As a bonus, its user interface is very similar to Windows Explorer, so most users will find this tool easy to learn and use.(392KB)
http://netez.com/2xExplorer/intro.html

Superior Windows File Management
Windows file managers are promoted as superior replacements for Windows Explorer (WE). Most are not, which is why most folks muddle along with WE. Directory Opus is different because it is genuinely superior to WE in just about every respect. By combining the WE tree model with dual panes, you get an ideal environment for effective file handling. Additionally, for speed, all panes are operated as separates threads and for power, each provides functionality totally missing from WE, such as wild card matching. There's way too much to explain so take advantage of the 60-day trial and see for yourself. It's not cheap at $59 but is a real productivity tool for power users. (9.6MB)
http://www.gpsoft.com.au/

Outstanding Free Utility for Comparing Files
WinMerge is a free Windows utility that compares two files and identifies the differences. The differences can then be merged from one file into the other. This is the sort of product that is ideal when you have several different versions of a file and are not sure how they differ. The product is geared to text files so it won't be much use to you with Word Processing or other complex formatted documents (see below). But for text reports or computer programs, WinMerge is ideal. (514KB)
http://winmerge.sourceforge.net/

Free Source Code Documenter
Doxygen is a free, open source documentation system for C++, C, Java, PHP and C# programs, amongst others. It generates documentation in HTML, PDF, RTF, PostScript and a number of other formats including compressed HTML which is compatible with Microsoft Help format. The documentation is produced from the source code. For undocumented code, Doxygen will automatically document the source code structure using a variety of dependence, inheritance and collaboration diagrams. Doxygen was developed under Linux but executables for Windows 9x/NT and Mac OS X are available.
http://www.stack.nl/~dimitri/doxygen/index.html

Batch Process Digital Images for Free
Irfanview is a free multimedia viewer and editor that supports a huge range of file formats. Each new version seems to add more capabilities but to me, its most powerful features are its speed and its batch processing capability.  If you want to resize sets of digital images for the web or for transmission by email, Irfanview is the best free solution available.  It's also a mighty fine image viewer as well. I just can't believe something this good is free.
http://www.filemirrors.com/search.src?file=iview380.exe&size=841216

Free Secure Erase Utility
Eraser is a free, GNU license utility that will securely erase files, folders or even whole disks from any Windows or DOS PC. Eraser overwrites data area with selectable random data patterns and also wipes data in the paging file, Internet cache, temporary files, Internet cookies, unused disk space and a number of other places where data can secretly lurk.  It handles FAT16, FAT32 and NTFS partitions as well.  Erasing files with high security will always be a difficult and time consuming task and can never offer absolute 100% safety. However, Eraser makes the task about as easy as it can be, with a security level beyond most conceivable requirements. An impressive package. (2.6MB)
http://www.heidi.ie/eraser/

Free Backup Program
Karen's Replicator v1.8.10 is a straight-forward backup utility that copies individual files, folders and even entire drives to another location.  The backup can be on another partition, local drive or network drive.  Its key feature is the ability to schedule automatic backups. No, it doesn't support removable media - that kind of feature is for a different class of backup product. The intended use of this product is to make regular automatic backups of critical files. While testing, I used it to make hourly backups of the file containing my notes for future issues of this newsletter.  Simple, effective and free. (1.4MB)
http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptreplicator.asp
 

MORE OF THE BEST UTILITIES FROM THE SUPPORTERS EDITION
======================================================

- A Cheap Real-Time Backup Program
- A Free Utility Confirms That Your Emails Have Been Read
- A Freeware program that Monitors Your User's Backup Needs
- An Impressive Free Data Recovery Utility
- A Free Utility that Fixes Broken WinSock Installations
- A Program that Fixes Outlook & Outlook Express Quoting
- Free Industrial Strength File Hiding and Encryption
- A Free Utility that Stops Browser Hijacking
- Free High Performance Remote Control Software

Donate $10 and get these additional items now.  You'll also get the enhanced "Supporters Edition" of the newsletter for the next 12 months plus "Gizmo's Desert Island Utilities" report.

Click the link below to donate now:
http://www.techsupportalert.com/se-edition.htm

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

4. Christmas Gift Suggestions
=============================

If you are completely lost for ideas, you might like to try these suggestions:

Give Anthrax to Your Boss
This large range of neckties features photographs of micro-organisms.  Fancy cholera? Maybe ebola?  Why not syphilis?
http://www.iawareables.com/shopping/tiedisplay.htm

Miss Out on Christmas Toy Shop Crush
Family Fun magazine subjected 479 of this year's new toys to the harsh judgment and grueling physical torture of over 1000 school children. In the end, only 66 toys got the thumbs up from the kids. You can find them here, all neatly grouped by age and category.
http://family.go.com/parties/holiday/specialfeature/famf0903_toy_main/

Bah Humbug!
Here's a site that you can recommend to all those Christmas Cynics. Here folks share their bad Christmas experiences. I found the imagery in this particular story particularly evocative:  "My girlfriend left me on Christmas Eve, 1998. I spent Christmas Day alone, sitting on a bean bag (she took all the other furniture), with a bottle of gin and no presents. Christmas dinner was spaghetti and frozen peas."  (Warning: strong language in some stories)
http://www.mymiserablechristmas.com/

For the Nerd Who has Everything
A Klein bottle is a container with only one surface - a kind of three dimensional version of the Mobius strip. You can order Klein bottles in all shapes and sizes from this site.  I quite liked the Klein beanie hats with matching Mobius scarf. From $30.
http://www.kleinbottle.com/

A Very Flash Drive
The Archos ArcDisk is smaller than a floppy disk yet offers 20 GB of storage.  Connect it to your PC through the USB 2 port and you have the ultimate portable data solution. $229
http://www.thinkgeek.com/computing/drives/6502/

Cute and Free
This is so cute that even hardened cynics will smile. Click on all the reindeers for maximum effect. Email to a friend.
http://web.icq.com/shockwave/0,,4845,00.swf

Dream baby, dream
Sony's Cybershot T1 measures only 3.6 x 2.4 x 0.8 inches yet offers 5 mega pixel resolution, a huge 2.5" TFT, Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens, 3x optical zoom and 32 fps video. It's not yet officially released in the States but you can buy it from this site which imports directly from Japan. ($699)
http://www.dynamism.com/dsc-t1/

Stop missing out on all this good stuff! Become a Supporter today and recieve the SE Edition immediately..

GET THE SPECIAL SE EDITION OF THIS NEWSLETTER NOW!
==================================================

This is the free edition of Support Alert newsletter. If you
like this version, you'll be blown away by the enhanced edition
that our supporters get.

Donate now and you'll not only get the enhanced "Supporters'
Edition", you'll also get "Gizmo's Desert Island Utilities"
report outlining the very best software utilities on the market,
including many free products.
http://www.techsupportalert.com/se-edition.htm

Donate by check, Postal Order or credit card using ClickBank or
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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
================
Thanks to the following volunteer reviewers for their efforts:

Daniel Rose (D.R.)
Annie Scrimshaw (A.S.) aka Annmarie at www.cybertechhelp.com
Jeff Partridge (J.P.)
Sheila Foss (S.F) aka PippieT

Reviews written by Annie, Daniel, Jeff and Sheila are indicated
by their initials at the end of the review.

Thanks too to A. Belile for proofreading this issue.

Content of this newsletter is (c) Copyright TechSupportAlert.com, 2003

See you next issue

Gizmo
Ian “Gizmo” Richards
editor@techsupportalert.com