"Gizmo's top picks of the best
Tech resources and utilities"
Issue 116 - 15th December, 2004
Support Alert is a registered online serial publication
IN THIS ISSUE:
1. SUPPORT ALERT AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE 2004
- Product of the Year
- Best Free Utility
2. TOP TECH SITES FOR 2004
- Excellent Free Tech Support Sites
- Free Help with MS Word
- The Definitive Microsoft Outlook Resource Site
- Free Modem Help
- Windows XP Tips Galore
- Troubleshooting Wireless Networks
- Is Your Browser Infected With Scumware?
- Check Your Browser Defenses
- Spyware Removal Utilities That Are Actually Spyware
- Free Service Tests a Suspicious File
- Free Wi-Fi Access Points
- The Top 75 Network Security Tools
- What DLL is That?
- Solve Windows File and Printer Sharing Problems
** Additional items in the premium SE Edition **
- How to Fix Your Printer Yourself
- How to Solve Problems Accessing Secure Sites
- Free CoolWebSearch Killer Available Again
- Track Your Web Site Google Rankings for Free
- How to Run SpamAssassin on Windows
- Good Spyware Resource Site
- How to Remove Spyware (and other nasties) from Your PC
- What to do When You Get the Blue Screen of Death
- How to Legally Share Music and Videos with your Friends
- How to Speed up Your P2P Downloads
- How to Speed Up FireFox
- Tweaks for XP Freaks
- How to Test Your Email Security
- How to Transfer Music & Files from your iPod to your PC
3. TOP UTILITIES FOR 2004
- Free Utility Enhances MS Word
- Free Local Search Utility Shines
- How to Manage Your XP SP2 Firewall
- Remove Hidden Data from Office Documents
- A Free Time Correction Utility That Actually Works
- New Microsoft Tweaking Utility
- Icon Manager Solves System Tray Clutter
- New Version of PocketKnife Peek
- Free Network Monitor Watches All
- Selectively Erase Browser Tracks
- Edit the Right Click Context Menu
- Easier Way to Handle Windows and DOS Paths
- The Best Text Processing Utility
- How to Fix the Windows Task Bar
- Free Utility Transparently Encrypts Mail
- The Best Free Windows Explorer Replacement
- The Best BitTorrent Client?
- Microsoft Restores Free Access to Lookout
- Tweak Your TCP Settings
- 309 Megabytes of Free, High Quality Windows Software
- Another Free Way to Free Up Your Desktop
- How to Check That Your System is Fully Secured
- The Best Free Anti-Trojan Scanner
** Additional items in the premium SE Edition **
- How to Run an Application as a Service
- The Best Boilerplate Text Manager
- Best Free Startup Manager
- The Free Encryption Utility That I Use
- Free Version of RealMedia without the Adware
- Genuine Security for Your PDA and Smart Phone Data
- The Best Free Process Viewer
- Free Utility Recovers BIOS Passwords
- How to Analyze Your Internet Sessions
- Free Collaboration Software
- File Sharing Without the RIAA Watching
- Easily Send Personal Email to Several Recipients
- Another Way to Increase Your Street Cred
- How to Automate Mouse Clicks
- Send Files up to 1GB for Nix
- Free Word DOC to PDF Converter
- Free Utility Controls User Access to USB Drives
- Free Network Management Tool
- Free Utility Fixes Broken XP WinSock Installations
- Encrypt a Message in an Application File
- The Best Free Registry Editor
- Get US Computer Prices Anywhere in the World
- How to Easily Remove All Traces of Software from Your Registry
- A Great Free Solution to Emailing Photos
Quote of the Week
"Nationalism is the strange belief that one country is better
than another by virtue of the fact that you happen to be born
- George Bernard Shaw
Of course, had Shaw been alive today he may well have added:-
"Software-centrism is the strange belief that one software
product is better than another by virtue of the fact that you
happen to use it."
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. 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 2004. The next issue will be around
the middle of January.
The free edition of Support Alert currently has over 45,000
subscribers in 49 different countries. To all of you, I wish
peace, happiness and prosperity for 2005.
P.S. My special thanks to all you "supporters" who subscribe to
the SE Edition of Support Alert. Without your contributions this
newsletter would have long ceased publication. Instead, with
your help, it has flourished. I thank you heartily for your
support and generosity.
1. SUPPORT ALERT AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE 2004
Product of the Year
Winner: Mozilla FireFox Browser
I'm afraid that this year it was a non contest for the Product
of the Year title. FireFox could in fact have won it on two
separate grounds; first for its achievement as an advanced,
customizable tabbed browser and second for its contribution to
As a browser FireFox is a delight. It's free, fast, stable, user
friendly, standards compliant and cross platform. Its speed
combined with tabbed browsing offers enormous productivity gains
to users. So much so that it's very hard to go back to clunky
single window browsers like Internet Explorer.
The hundreds of extensions available for FireFox allow users to
customize the product to meet their own specific needs. I
currently have 11 extensions installed performing functions
ranging from saving my tabbed browser sessions through to
telling me the weather forecast. They transform FireFox from
being a browser to being MY browser.
In a year marked by a tidal wave of spyware exploits FireFox
offers users a welcome lifeline. FireFox is nowhere near as
vulnerable to these attacks as Internet Explorer. In fact many
subscribers have written to me to say that the number of spyware
infections on their PCs has dropped to almost zero since
installing FireFox, an experience that mirrors my own.
As more people use FireFox it's quite possible that it will
itself become a target for hackers and malware purveyors. They
will however find their task much harder than with Internet
Explorer. That's because FireFox was designed right from the
start with safety and security in mind. The risk is further
reduced because FireFox does not support active scripting such
Microsoft's trouble-prone ActiveX.
Currently I recommend FireFox to all users as a security
accessory. In that role it shines. The fact that users also get
the world's best browser is a bonus to be savored.
A worthy winner of the Product of the Year Award
Best Free Utility for 2004
Winner: PrevX Intrusion Detection and Prevention Software
In the coming year I suspect that most users will end up
installing at least one intrusion detection software product
(IDS) on their PC. That's because IDS provide a vital additional
layer of protection against internet security threats.
Current security products like anti-virus software and spyware
scanners have a serious weakness. They are only effective at
protecting you from viruses, worms, trojans and spyware that are
currently listed in their signature databases. They offer little
protection against new malware products whose signatures are
Many anti-virus vendors only distribute updates to their
signature files on a weekly basis. In the interval between
updates your PC is vulnerable to new threats. Unfortunately
such threats can propagate across the internet in hours.
That's where IDS can play a vital role in securing your PC.
IDS detect malware trying to get into your PC by its behavior
rather than by looking for a characteristic signature. Kind of
like a detective catching a thief using his modus operandi
rather than his fingerprint. Any of you who use WinPatrol or
SpyBot's TeaTimer are actually using a form of IDS.
In the last month I've been evaluating the home IDS software
products on the market. I'll have the full results for a future
issue of this newsletter but I can tell you that the product
that impressed me the most was one called PrevX.
The level of protection offered by PrevX is awesome. It detected
everything I threw at it - nothing got past. It didn't miss a
single malware product.
And there's more that impresses:
Unlike other IDS programs like WinPatrol and TeaTimer, PrevX
runs as a kernel level service rather than a normal windows
program. This means it can not be easily attacked and pulled
down by hostile malware programs. This protection is vital as
many malware products routinely pull down or disable security
No other product I tested offered this combination of
outstanding detection combined with hardened self security.
But this effectiveness comes at a cost. IDS programs are
notorious for flashing up many false alarms and PrevX is no
different. In fact it's amongst the prolific. That's because
it's so good at watching your computer that it inadvertently
catches legitimate programs carrying out legitimate activities.
When first installed it issues dozens of security warnings.
Enough to annoy many users and confuse others.
That's the bad news. The good news is that PrevX gradually
learns what is legitimate and what is not so the number of
warning messages slowly declines over time. In the interim
though expect to get warnings frequently. Such is the cost of
Inexperienced users and those who install a lot of programs may
find this price too high to pay. That's a personal decision.
Those prepared to accept the inconvenience however will be
rewarded with a dramatic upgrade in their computer security.
That's why PrevX is now permanently resident on my PC.
One of the reasons PrevX is so effective is that it a home
version of a full fledged commercial IDS product. We
congratulate the PrevX Company for making such an outstanding
product available to the internet community for free.
2. TOP TECH SITES FOR 2004
Excellent Free Tech Support Sites
Subscriber Ted Green writes: "Thanks a million Gizmo for telling
me about the Tek-Tips forums. With the help of the forum members
I solved a Windows shutdown problem that was driving me nuts."
Note, though, that Tek-Tips is geared towards IT professionals.
Other users may get better results from the TechSupportGuy and
Suggestafix forums. Both are free and excellent.
Free Help with MS Word
Here's a site dedicated to tips, tricks and techniques for
getting the most out of MS Word
The Definitive Microsoft Outlook Resource Site
Whether you use Outlook as a stand-alone client or together with
Exchange, this site is quite simply the best Outlook resource on
Free Modem Help
Reader Alex Goode says, "This site is my first port of call when
I run into modem problems or when I'm looking for modem
info..." I've checked it out and it is as goode as Alex says.
Windows XP Tips Galore
The first link below is to a site offering a nice list of 101
tips covering ways you can improve performance, increase privacy
and more. The second link is another site which, rather cleverly,
lists its tips in popularity order. Backing up, restoring and
disabling XP activation topped the popularity list.
Troubleshooting Wireless Networks
Despite the advertising, I can assure you that installing a
wireless network can be a real pain. If you run into trouble try
the excellent troubleshooting section at this site. The site has
some excellent tutorials as well.
Is Your Browser Infected With Scumware?
In the editorial above, I mentioned a site where you can test
your IE browser for vulnerabilities. At this site, you can get a
quick check for actual infection. The test doesn't cover all
known products but it's well worth visiting.
Check Your Browser Defenses
I just discovered this site operated by security company Scanit
and its set of tests is quite comprehensive and covers multiple
browsers. Given the current scumware plague, I strongly
recommend you go to this site and test out your browser. It's
free and only takes a couple of minutes.
Spyware Removal Utilities That Are Actually Spyware
A few issue back I mentioned a number of bogus spyware removal
utilities, many with names deceptively similar to well known
legitimate products. This site has a more complete list with
over 100 entries. Many of the "free" apps generate large numbers
of fake "infections" to alarm users into purchase. Others are
simply spyware applications. Proof positive that scumware comes
Free Service Tests a Suspicious File
Got a program you'd like to run but not sure if it's OK.
Then upload it to this site where they'll run it through ten
different virus scanners and let you know the results.
Free Wi-Fi Access Points
This site lists free wi-fi network access points in the USA and
The Top 75 Network Security Tools
This personal list is more extensive than selective but is a
fabulous resource for anyone wanting to know what's available.
What DLL is That?
Ever wondered what a particular DLL does. Find out from this
useful Microsoft database.
Solve Windows File and Printer Sharing Problems
Suffering from invisible network printers? Only able to access
data one-way between PC's? Get solutions to these and other
common Windows 2000/XP file and printer sharing problems here:
MORE OF THE BEST TECH SITES FROM THE PREMIUM SE EDITION
How to Fix Your Printer Yourself
Sick of paying out big bucks to fix simple printer problems?
Then try repairing it yourself using the resources provided at
this specialist site.
How to Solve Problems Accessing Secure Sites
If you are experiencing problems accessing on-line banking,
credit card processing or other secure https sites, check out
this excellent problem solving guide.
Free CoolWebSearch Killer Available Again
Anyone who's ever been infected with any of the dozens of
variants of the Spyware program CoolWebSearch knows how
difficult it is to remove from your PC. In fact, the only
practical way to do it has been to use the free tool CWShredder.
Unfortunately, some months back the developer Merijn Bellekom
had to stop updating CWShredder. The latest news is that it has
been acquired by security company InterMute for incorporation
into their own product SpySubstract Pro. The good news is that
they are going to make a free version available and it will be
continually updated to include the latest variants. Freeware,
Track Your Web Site Google Rankings for Free
Anyone with a web site should be interested in how well their
site ranks in Google for relevant keywords. This site offers one
of the best keyword tracking tools available and it's totally
free. I use this for all my sites and find it invaluable. While
visiting, check out the other free tools.
How to Run SpamAssassin on Windows
SpamAssassin is a free, open source spam filtering package that
is widely used and highly regarded. It was written for
UNIX/LINUX based systems but it's quite possible to get it to
run on Win32 systems with a bit of fiddling. This site offers
detailed how-to instructions that make installation a cinch for
experienced users. If you don't fall into the "experienced"
category, check out the second link below for details of a
$29.95 commercial implementation of SpamAssassin for Windows.
Good Spyware Resource Site
The current spyware/adware/scumware plague is reaching near
epidemic proportions. This free site offers an excellent set of
protection/removal tools and many other resources.
How to Remove Spyware (and other Nasties) from Your PC
This practical guide is as good as I've seen but it's not
suitable for newbies.
What to do When You Get the Blue Screen of Death
TechRepublic is offering an excellent PDF white paper that
explains in detail the error conditions that give rise to the
dreaded BSOD and offers useful guidance how to track down the
problem. It's free but registration is required.
How to Legally Share Music and Videos with your Friends
Grouper is a free P2P software application that allows you share
MP3s, photos and other files with up to 30 family members or
friends. Where Grouper differs from other P2P networks like
KaZaa or eDonkey is that it allows users in the group to access
media files held on another PC. This means you can play music on
your PC that is stored on someone else's PC. Non-copyright files
like digital photos can be physically transferred if you wish.
Add to this free chat and messaging and you have a very
attractive package. Currently it's free. (1.2MB)
How to Speed up Your P2P Downloads
One of the many changes made to your system settings by Windows
XP SP2 is to reduce the maximum number of new internet
connections to 10 per second. This really impacts the
performance of all P2P clients including BitTorrent. You can get
a free patch from this site that increases the maximum from 10
to 50 per second. Does it make a difference? You bet.
http://www.xn.se/sp2-speed/fix.htm <=Some usage tips
How to Speed Up FireFox
The standard release version of FireFox is way faster than
Internet Explorer but further speed improvements are possible
with a bit of modification. At this site you can download
several different versions of FF, each optimized for a different
processor set. Are they faster? You bet - but be aware that
this is experimental stuff and not for the average home user.
Tweaks for XP Freaks
We've mentioned this excellent collection of free Windows XP
registry tweaks before but on a recent visit I noticed that it's
now bigger and better than ever. Each tweak can be downloaded as
a .reg file to save you the task of editing your registry.
How to Test Your Email Security
A while back I mentioned these two sites that will send you a
series of email messages, each of which tests for a specific
known email vulnerability. The messages are quite safe so don't
be alarmed if your virus scanner gives a warning. In fact, only
get alarmed if your virus scanner doesn't give a warning! Users
of V6 of the free AVG anti-virus product should prepare
themselves for a bit of shock.
How to Transfer Music & Files from your iPod to your PC
Apple iPod users were understandably annoyed when they
discovered that Apple had changed the latest version of iTunes
to prevent users from backing up their songs and files to their
PCs using the popular "iPod Download" utility. The good news is
that the Apple limitation can be overcome by a simple patch with
a hex editor. Full details here:
3. TOP UTILITIES FOR 2004
Free Utility Enhances MS Word
This is nice: a free Word add-in that provides a whole bunch of
additional features. I particularly liked the facility that
allows you to quickly select frequently used style elements
(such as fonts, symbols and bullets) rather than having to
scroll through multiple menus and long lists. Also nice is the
enhanced ability to paint formats. These are only two of the
dozens of additional productivity features offered. I'd say it's
an essential tool for serious Word users. Works with Word 2000
and later. The "Personal" version is free for individual use.
Free Local Search Utility Shines
A utility that can quickly search the content of your emails,
Word documents and other files is arguably the most important
productivity aid you can install on your PC. There are several
excellent search programs around such as X1 and Enfish but they
are relatively expensive products. Thanks to subscriber Lex
Davidson for prompting me to look at the free Copenernic Desktop
Search utility. It's some time since I last reviewed this and in
the interim huge improvements have been made. First, it's stable
and fast. Second, it allows you index a huge range of file types
including PDF, Office, Outlook, Outlook Express and RTF. Third,
it indexes file names as well as file contents so it's great for
quickly locating lost files. Finally, it presents the results in
a really easy-to-use format. No, the search interface is not
quite as slick as X1, nor is it quite as well integrated into
Office as Enfish, but otherwise it does a first class job.
How to Manage Your XP SP2 Firewall
OK, you've taken the plunge and installed SP2. Wouldn't it be
nice to be able to control your enhanced firewall, check current
activity or inspect the logs? Well you can do all that with
FirePanel XP, a $10 shareware product. The download is only
170KB but you need to have the Microsoft .NET framework
installed on your PC.
Remove Hidden Data from Office Documents
Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint all retain recent changes
to documents even though these changes are no longer visible.
Unfortunately, this information can be easily recovered with a
simple text editor. This presents a real security threat and
potential legal problems as well. Microsoft has released a free
Office XP/2003 add-in that removes this hidden information.
This is an essential download for all Office XP/2003 users.
A Free Time Correction Utility That Actually Works
A lot of folks have difficulty getting time correction software
to work on their PC. If that's you then try Dimension
4, a free utility that gives you the choice of connecting to a
time server either by standard TCP protocol or by the more common
(and more problem-prone) SNTP protocol. If you haven't yet got a
time correction utility, this is the one. It's free, itís easy
to use, and it has every function that you could conceivably
want. Because it works from both the command line and Windows,
it's ideal for batch files, too. (292KB)
New Microsoft Tweaking Utility
MS has released Tweakomatic, a WMI scripting utility that
"allows you to retrieve and/or configure Windows and Internet
Explorer settings" on a local or remote computer. In essence
it's a kind of like TweakUI with the advantage that it works on
remote machines, which makes it a very handy product for
sysadmins. Freeware, 258KB.
Icon Manager Solves System Tray Clutter
System Tray real estate is one of the most valuable and highly
congested areas of the Windows interface. PS Tray factory
allows you to consolidate many different icons into one master
icon. Right clicking this icon pops up a vertical menu giving
easy access to the individual icons and their right click/left
click functions. The product also offers complete control over
what icons are selected as well as their properties. Those
using Windows versions other than XP will also reap the
additional benefit of gaining XP-like task bar features. On my
XP machine this utility freed up two full inches of notification
area space - quite enough to earn it a permanent place on my
machine. Shareware, $24.95, 716KB.
New Version of PocketKnife Peek
This free utility has long been one my favorite Outlook add-ins.
It works by adding a button to the tool bar which, when pressed,
opens any HTML message as text. This allows you to safely open
any unknown message without fear of triggering a hostile script
or web bug. PKP also allows you to easily examine the full
message headers, which can be very useful at times. The latest
version of PKP now lists all email attachments including the
full contents of attached ZIP archives. A neat feature is that
attachment file names are shown with embedded blanks deleted,
thus eliminating one of the common ways of disguising an
attachmentís true file type. A must for every Outlook user.
Free for personal use, 520KB.
Free Network Monitor Watches All
ServersCheck is more than your usual LAN monitor. It also
optionally monitors a host of other functions including Internet
operations, email, FTP, application operation, TCP Ports,
Windows and Linux functions, database operation and file
activities. The list of things that can be monitored is truly
impressive; not quite sure if it can keep an eye on your
girlfriend but it wouldn't surprise me if it could. There is a
standard version that includes up to three monitors that is free
for personal use. Commercial versions with unlimited monitoring
start from $250. (9461KB)
Selectively Erase Browser Tracks
Internet privacy utilities typically work by erasing from your
computer all records of your browsing activities. This can be a
good thing, particularly when you are privately surfing at
work. However, these utilities also erase information you may
want to keep. For example, you lose the auto-completion of all
typed-in web addresses as well as any auto-logon cookies.
FreeToGo is a shareware utility that solves this problem by
allowing you to turn Internet privacy security on and off at the
flick of a switch. Turn it on when you are visiting "personal"
sites and off again at other times. It works a treat, though you
have to close your browser to clear your history. Shareware,
$24.95, 30-day free trial available, 365KB.
Add Mouse Gestures to Your Browser and More
Subscriber Michael Kairys writes: "Mouse gestures? You want
mouse gestures? Get StrokeIt! This has become one of my top
three (Well, five. Okay, ten ;-)) Ďabsolute must-haveí utilities
on any system I use. You can configure gestures and their
commands for specific applications or globally; and the commands
are a rich set, including running programs, sending keystrokes,
even sending Windows messages." Nice find Michael. StrokeIt!
does much more than add mouse gestures to your browser, it
really opens up a whole new way of working. Free for private
Edit the Right Click Context Menu
One of the common failings of software un-install routines is
that they leave unwanted items in the right-click context menu.
They can be removed by editing the Windows Registry; however,
the freeware utility "Context Menu Editor" will do the job
safely and painlessly. Freeware, 737KB.
Easier Way to Handle Windows and DOS Paths
Ninitech Path Copy is a little utility that adds a "Copy path to
clipboard" option to the right-click context menu. What's neat
is that it offers a sub-menu that allows you to choose several
ways of copying the path. These options include Windows full
file names, DOS 8.3 names, UNC path and more. You can even
specify your own formats. I use Path Copy regularly to convert
long Windows paths for use in old DOS programs. Freeware, 155KB.
The Best Text Processing Utility
Text processing is one of those computer tasks you end up doing
just about every day. Some jobs are simple like alphabetically
sorting a file or cleaning up a contact list. Others are more
complex like multiple search/replaces, converting formats or
sort-merging databases. Whatever the job, text processing is
something that's hard to avoid. There are plenty of specialized
utilities available to help you with individual text processing
tasks but TextPipe Pro is different in that it will do just
about anything. It's a unique product that could be best
described as a menu driven version of the classic UNIX utilities
grep and awk. Even so, that description would sell it short as
it is totally customizable and actually more powerful than its
UNIX descendants. Its features are too many to describe here so
I'll just give you an actual example of its use. This week I
needed to extract the AOL users from a list of subscriber's
email addresses. I then wanted to remove from the AOL list any
address which occurred in another list. Finally, I wanted to
remove invalid email addresses and strip off trailing blanks.
Normally, I'd write a tiny once-off program to do this kind of
job but I did it all with TextPipe in 15 minutes without any
prior experience using the product! Now that is impressive and
gives you an indication of its power. TextPipe is not cheap and
itís not for raw beginners, but anyone who regularly works with
files will find this an invaluable tool and an excellent long-
term investment. Shareware, $299, free trial, 3.95MB
How to Fix the Windows Task Bar
I don't know why so many people have trouble with the Windows
Task Bar. From subscribers' letters, I hear reports that it can
disappear, change position and shape, get grayed out, behave
unpredictably, get stuck in Classic View and more. Most of these
taskbar problems can be resolved by using this splendid free
utility from Kelly Theriot of Kelly's Corner fame. Additionally,
it will fix many stubborn Notification Area and Quicklaunch bar
problems. The standard version is free. Some optional advanced
features can be enabled for a modest $5 contribution. 48KB.
Free Utility Transparently Encrypts Mail
SecExMail Home is a security application that automatically
encrypts/decrypts mail to/from secure correspondents with whom
you have set up security keys. It works as an email proxy that
sits between your POP3/SMTP mail client and mail server so it
will work with just about any email program. What's nice is the
process is totally transparent to the user. All mail looks the
same to the user, secure or not, as SecExMail handles all the
housekeeping. Encryption is via RSA public key encryption and
the Twofish block cipher. Much to like here particularly at the
price. Free for personal use, Windows and Linux versions, 2.7MB.
The Best Free Windows Explorer Replacement
Anyone who tries to do any serious file management quickly runs
into the limitations of Windows Explorer. There are lots of more
powerful replacements available but most of these are expensive
commercial products. The best free version has long been
2xExplorer and the good news is the vendors of that product have
now developed an even more powerful product called Xplorer**2
(the **2 is my plain text transcription of a superscript "2"). A
shareware "Pro" version is available but what interests me is
their free "Lite" version that offers all the features of
2xExplorer plus 31 more! Impressive to say the least. Try it.
Once you get used to a two pane file manager, you'll wonder how
you ever worked without it. Free for home or academic use. 575KB.
The Best BitTorrent Client?
It's amazing how quickly BitTorrent has become one of the major
download formats. With good reason, too: it's fast, equitable
and efficient. If you haven't yet installed a BitTorrent client
on your PC, you should as there are some great free programs
available. I recommend the Open Source program Azureus. It's
beautifully implemented, well supported and, being Java based,
is available for multiple platforms. Of course the Java code
will eat up your CPU cycles so you need a fast PC. Those with
older machines should check out BitTornado. It's also cross
platform and is fast and highly configurable as well. Both
products are adware and spyware free.
Miccrosoft Restores Free Access to Lookout
Last issue I mentioned Lookout, an impressive new indexing
program for Outlook 2000 and above. It appears it impressed
Microsoft, too, because they just bought the company. As a
result, the free beta immediately disappeared from the Lookout
web site. (Thanks to subscriber Gary Kuever for letting me
know.) The latest news is that due to public outcry, Microsoft
has re-instated the free beta on the MS website. I've been using
it for a week and it's a great product. It finds email within
Outlook almost instantly and I'd rate it as just as good as
Enfish. Go get it while it's free. (860KB)
Tweak Your TCP Settings
Whether you use a modem or broadband, you'll get a faster
connection if you tweak your connection's TCP parameters. Among
the most important of these is MaxMTU which, in simple terms, is
the largest chunk of data you can send without it being broken
up into smaller chunks en-route. Most techies determine MaxMTU
by trial and error pinging using different packet sizes but it's
a tedious procedure and definitely not for beginners.
TCPOptimizer from SpeedGuide.net is a free utility that will do
the job for you automatically. Furthermore, it will use this
value to advise you on your other TCP settings and then apply
these values at the press of the button. There are commercial
programs that will do much the same thing but TCPOptimizer does
it just as well and is totally free. The only minus is the lack
of in-program help. However you'll find a useful FAQ at the
SpeedGuide site. (225KB)
309 Megabytes of Free, High Quality Windows Software
In previous issues I've mentioned some of the outstanding free
Linux software compilations that are available but this is the
first time I've seen anything comparable for Windows. The
quality is outstanding and the range excellent. There is
software here that will handle most normal PC tasks and it's all
free. The download is in the form of a 309MB ISO file which
you'll need to burn to CD. Conventional FTP and BitTorrent
download options are available.
Another Free Way to Free Up Your Desktop
Subscriber Pat Gibney writes: "Gizmo, here is a free program
launcher I've used for years and itís great! Hides all your
program icons with re-locatable sidebars and takes only one
click to launch the program." Nice one, Pat. I particularly
liked the way the launch bars are invisible until you move the
curser off a screen edge. Makes for a nice clean look. Free,
How to Check That Your System is Fully Secured
Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer (MBSA) is a free tool that
will scan your PC to identify any missing security updates as
well as some common security exposures. Originally designed for
corporate use, it works just fine on any Windows 2000 or XP home
machine. Well worth downloading. 1.6MB
The Best Free Anti-Trojan Scanner
Ewido is the best of a new crop of anti-Trojan programs. On my
recent tests over at www.anti-trojan-software-reviews.com, it
emerged as one of the few products that could reliably detect
polymorphic and process injecting Trojans that were totally
missed by anti-virus products like Norton and AVG. No, it's not
as good as TDS-3 or Trojan Hunter but you get what you pay for.
You see, the free version of Ewido doesnít have a memory monitor
but the on-demand scanner is so good that you'll have no
complaints. The free version download is actually the same as
the paid version but after 14 days the memory monitor becomes
non-functional. I recommend all readers download the product and
scan their PCs weekly. I suspect you may be surprised at what
you will find. I've also included a link to my full Ewido review
for those who want to know more about the product prior to
downloading. Note Ewido is for Windows NT/2K/XP only. Windows
9x/ME users should check out another anti-trojan called A
squared. It's an excellent alternative to Ewido.
http://www.emsisoft.com/en/ (A squared)
MORE OF THE BEST UTILITIES FROM THE PREMIUM SE EDITION
How to Run an Application as a Service
Running a program as a Windows Service can be beneficial in
certain situations. For example, you may want to hide the
application from users or reduce clutter. The most important
benefit, however, is that the application can run without the
user being logged in. In Windows NT/2000/XP, just about any
program can be run as a Windows service. Setting it up manually
is not too difficult - you can find instructions for NT/2000 at
the first link below and for XP at the second. The next two
links point to free utilities that may make the task easier,
though neither are exactly point and click. The final link is
to shareware utility Firedaemon, which offers the simplest route
of all. There's a free lite version but it's limited to 1
service per PC. (1.51MB)
The Best Boilerplate Text Manager
Ah, the Darwinian struggle for software survival on my PC
continues. CastlePaste, my longtime favorite utility for
inserting snippets of boilerplate text into documents, has just
been bumped off by KeyText. It's quicker than Castle Paste when
you need to enter new text, has a neater way of inserting the
snippets into other documents, and has fewer formatting problems
when inserting text into html email. On top of that, KeyText has
a scripting language that lets you add variable fields such as
dates to your text snippets as well as allowing you to record
macros to automate repetitive tasks or assign hotkeys to
specific functions. If your work involves re-using standard
blocks of text, you should check this one out. Shareware, $25,
Best Free Startup Manager
Everyone needs a startup program utility so they can exercise
control over what third party programs start automatically with
Windows. My long time choice has been PC Magazine's Startup Cop
but alas, this is no longer freeware - it's now only available if
you subscribe to the magazine's software service. My new choice
is Mike Lin's Startup Control Panel. Itís small, capable and has
powerful features not found in Startup Cop including the ability
to edit or add entries. Alas these same features make it
potentially dangerous in the hands of newbies. That caveat
aside, it's a great product. Thanks Mike. (59KB)
The Free Encryption Utility That I Use
This is what the web site says: "dsCrypt is AES/Rijndael file
encryption software with simple, multi-file, drag-and-drop
operations. It features optimal implementation, performance and
safety measures. dsCrypt uses an advanced encryption algorithm
and offers unique options for enhanced security." To that I'll
add the fact that it's tiny, easy to use, has open code, employs
proven techniques that are essentially unbreakable and comes
from a highly reputable source. In summary, dsCrypt offers the
average user everything they want in a secure encryption program
and it's free. That's why I use it myself. (25KB)
Free Version of RealMedia Without the Adware
The BBC, British media giant, is currently offering from its
website a free version of the RealMedia player which, according
to Boing Boing blog, has had all the adware and spyware
Genuine Security for Your PDA and SmartPhone Data
Here's a product so sufficiently secure that it's been used by
the U.S. Department of Defense. PDA Defense is software that
offers multi-layered security for Palm, Pocket PC, Blackberry
and some SmartPhone devices. You can even choose your
encryption: Blowfish 64, 128 or 512; or AES 128, 192 or 256-bit.
It can even be programmed to securely erase data after a certain
number of failed password attempts. Nothing in this world is
100% secure but PDA Defense provides industrial strength
protection in an easy to use package. Shareware, free trial,
The Best Free Process Viewer
PrcView has long been my choice for best in class but Process
Explorer has pushed it aside. The reason? A better display setup
coupled with more features and even more information. Process
Explorer uses two vertical panes. The top contains all active
processes while the second shows either all the handles opened
by a selected process or, optimally, a list of DLLs and memory
mapped files. A very handy search feature allows you to work
backwards from named DLLs or handles to the owning process. A
gem. Freeware, 230KB.
Free Utility Recovers BIOS Passwords
Users put far too much faith in the ability of BIOS passwords
(the one you get asked before Windows loads) to protect their
computer. The weak security it offers is amply demonstrated by
this free utility that easily recovers passwords from many
common BIOS's. Freeware, 115KB.
How to Analyze Your Internet Sessions
Most users (and a lot of techies) have no real need for packet
sniffers like Ethereal. Still, often it's useful to know more
detail about what's happening in an HTTP session than what is
provided by your browser status bar. There are various ways of
doing this but the easiest is to use a specialist browser plug-
in designed to display http requests and responses alongside the
web page itself. Without doubt the best of this class of
products I've seen is HttpWatch, a superb analytic tool that
lets you fully understand what's happening in your HTTP
sessions. Though, at $195, it's mainly of interest to corporate
buyers. Another product, IEwatch provides the key information
you need, and at $29.95 is priced within the reach of the
average user. Almost as good and totally free is ieHTTPHeaders,
an IE plug-in that adds an Explorer bar to display HTTP
Free Collaboration Software
Users often have the need to share files with each other or
across different computers such as an office and home PC. There
are a number of collaborative software products geared to handle
this kind of need but they are usually very expensive. However,
I've been quietly impressed by Foldershare, a free package that
allows you to share multiple files across a dedicated P2P
network. Usage is remarkably simple; whenever you update a file,
a Word document for example, it is updated transparently and
automatically on all the PC's of the users authorized to share
that document. For security, the data is 256-bit AES encrypted
and various levels of access permission can be assigned to
individual users. An impressive product. Freeware, registration
File Sharing Without the RIAA Watching
Regular readers of this newsletter know that I am no fan of file
sharing networks. It's not so much a moral objection as one
based on the unacceptable security risks involved. I do,
however, have a moral objection to the terror tactics used by
the RIAA and that's why I'm letting you know about a free
utility called "The Blocklist Manager." This utility downloads
the addresses used by the RIAA from a constantly updated source
and then exports these addresses to your file sharing client or
firewall where they can be permanently blocked. While at this
site, check out Protowall, a free driver level IP blocker and an
effective partner for Blocklist Manager.
http://bluetack.co.uk/blm.html <= Blocklist Manager 2.84MB
http://bluetack.co.uk/pw.html <= Protowall 875KB
Easily Send Personal Email to Several Recipients
If you want to send an email to a small, once-off list the usual
option is to use CC or BCC. In the process however, you lose the
personal touch so important in email. If you use Outlook, a much
better way is to use "Send Personally" a nifty add-in that at
the touch of a button, sends individual personal letters to each
address in the "TO:" field of your email. Since installing the
product I find I'm using it regularly. Shareware, $24, free 20
day trial. (642KB)
Another Way to Increase Your Street Cred
This is nice; a free blue screen of death screensaver with a
difference. "This screensaver pretends to cause a crash, 're-
boots' and installs Linux. Then watch who logs in.)"
This 235KB download requires Flash.
How to Automate Mouse Clicks
GhostMouse is a free automation utility that captures mouse
clicks into a file that can then be replayed without user
intervention. It's great for running programs automatically. One
of the simple specialized utilities that should be on every PC.
Send Files up to 1GB for Nix
This is impressive - a free service that allows you to send a
file up to 1GB to another PC or person. Just type in the
recipientís email address and upload the file. The recipient is
then notified by email and can download the file anytime within
7 days before it is deleted from the server. "No passwords to
share, no software to install, no accounts to create, and no
full mailboxes. Start sending now!"
Free Word DOC to PDF Converter
This is the first free Word to PDF converter I've seen and I
must say it seems to work very well. If you want to use some
of the product's advanced features you will have a watermark on
the output, but most users will be able to use the product
without limitation. As a bonus, the product is available in
English, French, German and Spanish versions. Freeware, 2.6MB
Free Utility Controls User Access to USB Drives
Subscriber Bill Henderson writes, ďI am one of the IT managers
that distrusts USB drives. A work-around is to download a
program called DEVCON.EXE from the Microsoft web site.
Distribute that round the network, then force-run it on logon
with parameters "disable @USB/*" to kill off all USB activity."
Nice find Bill. Devcon is a good free alternative to some
expensive commercial products that do the same thing.
Free Network Management Tool
NetClick LE allows you to manage all computers connected to
Windows NT/2K/XP networks from a single console. The utility
supports both NT domains and Active Directory. It allows central
control of many functions including access to files and shared
resources as well as running processes on any PC. It also allows
full management of all basic objects in the Active Directory and
includes a simple object search. It's free for home or
commercial use but the free version is restricted to 20
computers and two domains. A nice tool for small networks.
Free Utility Fixes Broken XP WinSock Installations
Many folks who have had a spyware infection have found that
after cleaning up they can no longer connect to the Internet.
The problem is usually a broken WinSock setup which is bad news
as it is a notoriously difficult problem to fix. This freeware
utility will attempt a repair. It mostly works but don't expect
miracles. Freeware, Windows XP only. (1.4MB)
Encrypt a Message in an Application File
Hydan is a free utility that will not only encrypt a message
inside an exe file but do so without altering the file size. An
The Best Free Registry Editor
I've used the full version of Resplendent Registry Editor for
years and have never had any reason to look for an alternative.
Recently a subscriber asked me what was the best free registry
editor and that made me realize I've never looked at that
particular product category. The first product I checked out was
Registrar Lite, the free version of Resplendent Registry Editor
and I'd have to say it's an impressive freebie. To start with,
it works totally reliably - an essential feature for any
registry editor. On top of that, the user interface is simple,
the functionality excellent and, perhaps most importantly, it
has a really fast search. I did, however, miss a "search and
delete" option - that's only available on the full product. That
said, it leaves Regedit for dead. If you know a better free
registry editor, drop me an email. Freeware, 2.0MB.
Get US Computer Prices Anywhere in the World
If you live outside the USA, you have probably encountered the
"we sell to the USA only" policy of many American web sites.
This is very frustrating as US prices are often the cheapest
available, particularly for computers and electronic goods. You
can now bypass this problem by using this web site that offers a
US address for your purchase. They also supply credit card
purchase facilities and cheap shipping as well. With service
charges as low as $4.95 per purchase, it's an attractive option.
How to Easily Remove All Traces of Software from Your Registry
Norton users take note. If you are still using regedit to remove
the last vestiges of a product from the Windows registry then
make your life easier with Karen's Registry Ripper. It's not
only quicker but will export the deleted values to a backup .reg
file as well. It's also useful for search and replace
operations. Thanks to subscriber Cliff Babcock for this
suggestion. Freeware, 0.88MB
A Great Free Solution to Emailing Photos
There are lots of digital photo resize utilities out there but
this freebie must surely offer the easiest way yet. Just "select
your pictures in Windows Explorer, right-click on them, select
Resize and then enter new picture size. Thatís all!" Note it
just changes the size not file format. 586KB
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