gizmo richards' support alert newsletter

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

Premium Edition
Issue
152, 12th December, 2007

If you experience problems reading this issue in your email program you can read this issue online from the Supporters' Area here: http://www.techsupportalert.com/members/index.htm

IN THIS PREMIUM ISSUE:

0. EDITORIAL - End of year reflections

                    Call for Help: Try Your Hand at Reviewing  - Please read

1. BEST TECH SITES AND RESOURCES FOR 2007
1.1 Two Christmas Gift Ideas
1.2 Converting Movie Clips to Send Via Email
1.3 How to Find a File on the Web
1.4 Vista Driver Site
1.5 Great Site for Removing Spyware Infection
1.6 Test Suspicious Files for Malware
1.7 Website Identifies Mystery Files
1.8 Check Web Link Safety
1.9 Recovering Data from a Corrupted Hard Drive
1.10 Make Firefox Look like Internet Explorer
1.11 How to Select the Best File Compression Program
1.12 How to Permanently Wipe a Hard Drive
1.13 Portable Software Lists
1.14 How Does Your Firewall Rate?
1.15 See How Your Anti-virus Program Stacks Up
1.16 More Free Software from Microsoft
1.17 How to Save YouTube and Other Streamed Video Files
1.18 More Free Support Sites

                    ** Additional items in this Premium SE Edition **

1.19 How to Convert Normal Programs to Portable Software
1.20 Free Security Tools
1.21 How to Improve Your Wi-Fi Security
1.22 How to Download MP3 Audio from Youtube Videos
1.23 Thousands of Free Fonts
1.24 Free .ISO file burners from Microsoft
1.25 How to Generate a New Identity
1.26 The Best Collection of Free Software
1.27 How to Check Your Surfing Anonymity
1.28 Free Tutorials from Microsoft
1.29 How to Create Self-Destructing Email
1.30 Repair or Upgrade Your Laptop Yourself
1.31 Free Open Source Programs That Can Replace Commercial Software
1.32 Outstanding Site for Free Digital Photo Software

2. BEST FREEWARE AND SHAREWARE UTILITIES FOR 2007
2.1 Add Sticky Notes to Web Pages or Anything Else
2.2 Free Program Removes Ugly Wires from Your Digital Photos
2.3 Secunia Inspector Available as a Free Stand-alone Program
2.4 The Uninstaller You Have Been Waiting For
2.5 Free Remote Control Utility Offers Ease of Use
2.6 Recover Deleted Files from Digital Cameras and MP3 Players
2.7 Free Utility Copies Un-copyable Files
2.8 A Simple and Cheap Way to Get a Multi-Monitor Setup
2.9 Free Utility Removes Ads From Internet Explorer and More
2.10 Free Utility Preserves Desktop Icon Layout
2.11 Free Utility Backs Up Frequently Changed Files
2.12 Add Paste and Go Feature to Firefox
2.13 Better Manage Windows Startup
2.14 The Fastest BitTorrent Client Yet
2.15 The Best Free Program Launcher for Flash Drives

                   ** Additional items in this Premium SE Edition **

2.16 Free Vista Features for XP Users
2.17 More Vista Features for XP Users
2.18 Excellent Free Program Minimizer
2.19 Nifty Free Tray Clock Solves Calendar Problem
2.20 The Best Free Audio and Video File Conversion Program
2.21 Free Audio File Tag Editor
2.22 Free CAD Software
2.23 Free Suite of Portable Data Recovery Tools
2.24 The Best Way to Surf Anonymously
2.25 Freeware Replacements for Excel and Visio
2.26 Free Utility Converts Video Files for iPod Use
2.27 Free Utility Lets You Easily Edit MP3 Files
2.28 Portable Games for Your USB Flash Drive
2.29 How to Get RoboForm Pro and ZoneAlarm Pro Suite for Free
2.30 Free Utility Hides Folders
2.31 Learn to Type While Playing Computer Games
2.32 Free Utilities That Make Your PC Run Faster
2.33 Free Utility Makes You Look More Attractive in Photos
3.0 MANAGING YOUR SUBSCRIPTION


0. EDITORIAL

This is the special end of year edition of Support Alert. It features my pick of the very best tech sites and utilities that have appeared in the newsletter throughout the year.

And what a year it has been for this newsletter. Subscriptions have now reached an amazing 145,000 for the combined free and paid versions. This is an extraordinary total for a one man newsletter though to be honest, this "one man" is now pretty much at the limit of his capacity.

The success of this newsletter is due to you dear subscribers. Not only have you offered your support by subscribing but by sending in hundreds of excellent software suggestions during the year many of which have which have filled the columns of this newsletter. I thank you all.

But my most special thanks go to you, the Premium Edition subscribers. Without your financial support this publication would have ceased long ago.

Finally at this time of year lets all give 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.

To all of you, I wish peace, happiness and prosperity for 2008.

See you next month.

Gizmo
Ian Richards
editor@techsupportalert.com


Call for Help: Try Your Hand at Reviewing

I'm looking for experienced users to help with the "46 Best-ever Freeware" list.

The plan is to convert the list into a Wiki and allow site visitors to make suggestions and alterations along the line of WikiPedia.

For this to work, each software category needs an editor to moderate user comments, so I'm looking for experienced individuals to fill these roles.

If you feel that you are knowledgeable about a particular software category such as "program editors" or "disk encryption" then why not share your knowledge by becoming the editor for that category in the "46 Best-ever Freeware list."

As a category editor you will be fully credited for your efforts, unless, of course, you wish to remain anonymous. It's a great way to get your 15 minutes of fame. It's also a way of becoming an internet "giver" rather than just a "taker". And you will be surprised at just how much you will learn from the suggestions of others; I certainly have.

Already nearly 30 subscribers have volunteered but more are needed. If you are interested check out the list of still-vacant categories here [1] and select the categories that you would like to edit.

Then email me at editor@techsupportalert.com with your selections plus a very short description of your background and experience. If you have any commercial affiliations related to any of the categories, please state them.

Feel free to select as many categories as you like or to suggest a new software category if you feel it is needed.

Thanks guys.

[1] http://techsupportalert.com/allocation.htm


1. BEST TECH SITES AND RESOURCES FOR 2007

1.1 Two Christmas Gift Ideas

If you enjoy your Support Alert subscription why not share the good news and send a friend a gift subscription to the Premium Edition? At $10 it's an 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 [1] in a couple of minutes.

And here's another low cost gift. Subscriber Amber Carvan operates a wonderful children's craft site featuring simple projects that small children can make using common household materials. Amber offers this information for free but you can support her efforts by buying her printable $5 mini-book [2] filled with tons of craft ideas. Projects include advent calendars, Christmas cards, gift tags, decorations, fun and games and more. It's a perfect way to creatively amuse children over the holiday period and it's in support of an excellent cause.

[1] http://www.techsupportalert.com/gift-subscription.htm
[2] http://kidscraftweekly.com/christmas_craft.html

1.2 Converting Movie Clips to Send Via Email
Subscriber Joe Morice recently wrote asking how he could convert a 40 MB .avi video file to one less than 5MB for emailing. I replied that I didn't think it be done without serious loss in quality. Joe proved me wrong. He converted his 40 MB .avi to a 3.2 MB .mp4 using the free online conversion service at Zamzar [1] with little loss in quality when viewed on a PC. He even sent me links to the original and compressed files to prove it. Nice find, Joe. The Zamzar site is going from strength and is now a mandatory first stop when converting any file format to another.
[1] http://www.zamzar.com

1.3 How to Find a File on the Web
Sometimes you need to find a specific file on the web such as abcdef.zip. Google is always a good starting point but I usually have more luck with these FTP search engines.
http://www.filewatcher.com
http://www.metaftp.com/

1.4 Vista Driver Site
Here's a nice find: a site that list all Vista drivers as they become available, with direct download links to the drivers. It's free and updated daily.
http://www.radarsync.com/vista

1.5 Great Site for Removing Spyware Infection
If you suspect you have a spyware infection you should download the free HiJackThis! utility from here [1], then run it and paste the generated log to a security forum where experienced users can help you interpret the results. I normally recommend the Tom Coyote forums [2] for this purpose, but subscriber "John" suggests a smaller site run by Tom Mercado because: "if a user posts their HiJackThis! log in this forum [3] they get help within minutes or hours compared to the bigger sites that can take days." I tried it out anonymously and John is totally correct. Better bookmark this site, you might need it.
[1] http://www.spywareinfo.com/~merijn/programs.php
[2] http://www.tomcoyote.org/hjt/
[3] http://temerc.com/phpBB2

1.6 Test Suspicious Files for Malware
It's a good practice to run any file you download (or borrow) through a free web based file testing service that will check it for malware using multiple anti-virus and spyware engines. Here are two of my favorites: Jotti [1] currently uses 20 different anti-virus scanners, while Virus Total [2] uses 32! Using one of these services can't guarantee that a file is 100% free of malware, but it's a lot safer than installing an unknown program on the blind faith that it's OK.
[1] http://virusscan.jotti.org/
[2] http://www.virustotal.com/flash/index_en.html

1.7 Website Identifies Mystery Files
Usually you can identify the program you need to open a file by the file type, but what if it hasn't got one? This free service allows you to upload the file and have it identified. I tied it with a PDF file with the .pdf extension removed and it worked just fine. Thanks to subscriber Christian Dorfmair for the suggestion.
http://mark0.net/onlinetrid.aspx

1.8 Check Web Link Safety
Type in a web link at this site and they will scan to see if the website is hostile. Use this free service when someone sends you a link that you don't quite trust.
http://linkscanner.explabs.com/linkscanner/checkstep.asp

1.9 Recovering Data from a Corrupted Hard Drive
Data recovery is a very complex issue with many different kinds of problems and many possible solutions. However I was impressed by this detailed guide that shows you how you can use a Knoppix live CD to recover data from a Windows disk. It's not the only solution of its kind but the excellent instructions make it worth bookmarking.
http://www.shockfamily.net/cedric/knoppix/

1.10 Make Firefox Look like Internet Explorer
Why would you want to do this? Because it's a clever way to wean change-resistant users away from IE.
http://johnhaller.com/jh/mozilla/firefox_internet_explorer/

1.11 How to Select the Best File Compression Program
In issue #186 [1] I mentioned KGB, an archiving program that can compress text files down much smaller than many popular archivers though it takes a lot time and computing power in the process. This prompted subscriber Erik Wasberg to write in about a site called maximumcompression.com [2] that compares dozens of different archivers on the basis of compression efficiency, resource usage and time taken across various file types. This outstanding site is essential reading for those who needs to archive large amounts of data or indeed, anyone who has a general interest in file compression.
[1] http://techsupportalert.com/issues/issue146.htm#Section_2.2
[2] http://www.maximumcompression.com

1.12 How to Permanently Wipe a Hard Drive
Most users are aware they can securely erase files and drives using free utilities like "Eraser" [1] and "Boot and Nuke" [2] that overwrite the data multiple times. At this site [3], suggested by subscriber Chris Price, they show how you can securely wipe a drive using a little-known feature built into many hard drives.
[1] http://www.heidi.ie/eraser/
[2] http://dban.sourceforge.net/
[3] http://blogs.zdnet.com/storage/?p=129&tag=nl.e622

1.13 Portable Software Lists
There are lots of these lists; none is complete but here are two of the best. The first covers free software while the second includes commercial products as well.
http://www.portablefreeware.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_portable_software

1.14 How Does Your Firewall Rate?
At this site they test all the major firewalls using leak-tests. Now outbound leak-testing is only one criterion for assessing firewall performance indeed some would argue that inbound protection is more important. My view is that both are important as are user friendliness, resource usage, software compatibility and resistance to termination by hostile agents. That said Online Armor, Comodo, Jetico and ZoneAlarm Pro top he list while the Microsoft XP SP2 firewall get the wooden spoon. ZoneAlarm free was another notable poor performer.
http://www.matousec.com/projects/windows-personal-firewall-analysis/leak-tests-results.php

1.15 See How Your Anti-virus Program Stacks Up
In my April 2007 Editorial [1] I rated some of the most popular free and commercial AV scanners. Since then I've located an excellent additional data source [2] for assessing AV performance. It's a near real-time listing of how well the major scanners detect new threats identified by the Malware Incident Reporting & Termination (MIRT) team. The results support my previous findings namely the class-leading new threat detection rate of AntiVir and the relatively poor performance of AVG and Avast! with Kaspersky and NOD32 falling in the middle. Perhaps more important than the product ranking, is the relatively poor performance of ALL products in detecting new threats. This reinforces the point I have been making in recent issues that you can no longer rely exclusively on signature based anti malware products to protect you from the current onslaught of new threats. That said, it should be noted that the detection of new threats is only one of several criteria you need to consider when assessing the performance of AV products. See my April [1] editorial for more details.
[1] http://techsupportalert.com/issues/issue144.htm#Section_0
[2] http://winnow.oitc.com/malewarestats.php

1.16 More Free Software from Microsoft
Blogger Blake Handler has sent me two interesting links. The first is to a set of free Vista programs and accessories from Microsoft [1] and the second to free Office 2007 software [2]. There is some nice stuff listed.

 [1] http://bhandler.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!70F64BC910C9F7F3!1844.entry
 [2] http://bhandler.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!70F64BC910C9F7F3!1822.entry

1.17 How to Save YouTube and Other Streamed Video Files
There are lots of ways to do this but one of the easiest is to use the free KeepVid web service. Just paste the video link into the KeepVid site [1] and then download the video to your PC as an avi file, Flash file (flv) or as an MP4 for your iPod or PSP. Firefox users have another easy option by using the free DownloadHelper extension [2] that allows you to save YouTube, MySpace, Google videos, DailyMotion, Porkolt, iFilm, DreamHost and many other streams by simply clicking the special DownloadHelper toolbar icon. Thanks to Hopper for the latter suggestion.
[1] http://keepvid.com/
[2] http://www.downloadhelper.net/

1.18 More Free Support Sites
Subscriber Richard Yores writes, "Gizmo, just about the friendliest tech support forum I've seen on the net is CyberTechHelp [1]. Most user problems are answered quickly including analysis of HijackThis logs." I agree, Richard. It's both friendly and active. So too is D-A-L Computer Help [2], another forum-based support site. I suggest you try both the next time you have a PC problem.
[1] http://www.cybertechhelp.com/forums/
[2] http://www.d-a-l.com/index.php

** Additional Items in this Premium SE Edition **

1.19 How to Convert Normal Programs to Portable Software
Any program that can be run from a standard .exe file without the need for installation can be run perfectly well from a USB stick. However, quite a lot of .exe files are actually installer files or special archives containing multiple files. Universal Extractor is a free utility designed to extract the individual files from many different kinds of archives including msi, .cab and a wide range of .exe installer packages. Once you have extracted the files, it may be possible to find a stand-alone executable for use on your USB stick, though it's more likely that you will also need the supporting dlls. Be aware that many programs absolutely require installation and simply wont work as portable apps. It is surprising though, just how many you can get to work. Another trick worth trying is to install the application on your normal PC and then copy the whole installation directory to your USB drive. This often works fine though note that your newly created "portable app" may write to the registry of the host PC. Universal Extractor is a free, open source program. It works on all Windows versions and is a 4.59MB download.
http://www.legroom.net/software/uniextract

1.20 Free Security Tools
This site offers an eclectic collection of free security utilities covering encryption and CRC style file verification. Also included is an interesting free notepad replacement, a search and replace utility, a backup program and more. Thanks to Joe Fox for the suggestion.
http://members.ozemail.com.au/~nulifetv/freezip/freeware/

1.21 How to Improve Your Wi-Fi Security
Most of the public Wi-Fi networks found in airports and coffee shops are unsecured and present major security risks to users. This useful article [1] discusses the risks and what you can do to minimize them. Me, I always use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when using public Wi-Fi as it represents a near perfect security solution. If you are tech savvy you can set one up yourself using Hamachi [2] or alternatively use a reputable commercial VPN service provider such as HotspotVPN [3], JWire [4] or WiTopia [5]. There is also a free VPN service provider called HotSpot Shield [6] but I haven't used it and don't know how their service stacks up.
[1] http://www.jiwire.com/whitepaper-section1.htm
[2] http://www.hamachi.cc/
[3] http://www.hotspotvpn.com/
[4] http://www.jiwire.com/hotspot-helper.htm
[5] http://www.witopia.net/
[6] http://www.anchorfree.com/hotspot-shield/

1.22 How to Download MP3 Audio from Youtube Videos
Sometimes it's great to be able to download a video from a site such as Youtube, in order to play it offline or on a portable MP3 player. There are lots of programs that claim to be able to do this, some of which cost quite a bit of money. But there are also some free ones too, including some web-based tools. My favorite is Vixy, a web site that is quick, free, and easy to use. Just paste in the Youtube URL and select an output format, and within a minute or so the site will fetch the video, convert it to your desired format, and let you start downloading. Best of all, perhaps, is that one of the output formats is plain MP3 audio, so if there's a music video on Youtube that you want to listen to on your MP3 player, now you can.
http://vixy.net

1.23 Thousands of Free Fonts
Font Garden [1] is a collection of thousands of free fonts, ideal for producing logos and other designs for your site. It comes highly recommended by subscriber Tony Bennett. Keep in mind, though, that it's not wise to include non-standard fonts in your web page text, because the people who look at your site probably won't have the font installed on their computer. But there's no harm in turning a small amount of text into a graphic and inserting it as an image on your page instead. If you really need to include text in a non-standard font on a web page, there's actually a pretty neat solution that uses Flash to embed the font. Check out sIFR [2] for details.
[1] http://www.fontgarden.com
[2] http://www.mikeindustries.com/sifr

1.24 Free .ISO file burners from Microsoft
If you download a CD or DVD image as an .ISO file, perhaps for a Linux installation, you need a quick way to burn that image to a disk. CDBURN.EXE and DVDBURN.EXE are two command-line utilities that are about as simple as they come, and they're part of Microsoft's free Resource Kit tools for Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP. Also check out ROBOCOPY, an incredibly powerful file copying and backup tool, in the same package.
http://tinyurl.com/6csco (microsoft.com)

1.25 How to Generate a New Identity
Sick of those nosy websites that require all your personal details just to register? No problem, generate a new identity here [1] that you can use to complete registration. Thanks JW.
http://www.fakenamegenerator.com/

1.26 The Best Collection of Free Software
The OpenCD project was set up to provide a huge collection of free Windows Open Source applications and games in a single downloadable ISO file or CD. It was a great idea but updates were a bit slow coming. OpenDisc is a follow-on project with a similar objective, but it aspires to be more up-to-date and responsive to user needs. The early signs look encouraging, with an impressive download package [1] and a reasonably active blog and forum [2]. This is an extraordinary collection of software containing everything you could want to fully set up your PC. Do note, though, that the ISO download [3] is 555MB. Thanks to subscriber Patrick McCarty for letting me know about OpenDisc.
[1] http://theopendisc.com/programs/
[2] http://www.theopendisc.com/forum/
[3] http://theopendisc.com/latest-version/

1.27 How to Check Your Surfing Anonymity
How much information does your browser reveal about you and your computer? Run the tests at this site to find out.
http://www.all-nettools.com/library,privacy,4

1.28 Free Tutorials from Microsoft
Regular contributor Callie Jordan writes "Gizmo, I've recently stumbled onto a lot of free e-learning material from Microsoft. I had attended free live presentations they have around the country but then discovered that the live presentations are often simultaneously webcast. Then I found out they do webcasts all the time and they have covered just about everything. You can join them when they're live in which case you can ask questions and take polls and/or view/download them afterwards, which is what I do. The web addresses for this material are scattered all over the place. I suggested to Microsoft they consolidate their listings, but they don't really listen to me." Nice find Callie and don't worry, Microsoft doesn't listen to me either. On that score, just who DO they listen to?
http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/training/FX100565001033.aspx
http://www.microsoft.com/events/series/officesystemwebcasts.aspx
http://www.microsoft.com/events/default.mspx
http://www.microsoft.com/events/office.mspx
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/using/windowsvista/tipsandtricks/webcasts.mspx
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/using/windowsvista/tipsandtricks/default.mspx

1.29 How to Create Self-Destructing Email
That's right: email that conveniently destroys itself once read. This article lists several providers and discusses the pros and cons. Thanks to Noel Glucksman for the link.
http://www.smartcomputing.com/Editorial/article.asp?guid=&article=articles/2007/s1811/49s11/49s11.asp

1.30 Repair or Upgrade Your Laptop Yourself
This useful site, suggested by subscriber Andreas Büsing, should be a first port of call next time you have problems with your laptop. There's lots of practical information, including disassembly, trouble shooting, where to get spare parts and upgrades and more. Some laptop brands and models are better covered than others but the coverage is generally quite comprehensive. There is a commercial slant at times but hey, everyone is entitled to earn a living.
http://repair4laptop.org

1.31 Free Open Source Programs That Can Replace Commercial Software
Regular contributor JW sent me this link to an extensive list of Open Source software. The list is notable for several reasons. First it is very extensive, second it cross references each program to its commercial equivalent when such a comparison is possible. Finally it includes a great list of free Open Source games. https://help.ubuntu.com/community/ListOfOpenSourcePrograms

1.32 Outstanding Site for Free Digital Photo Software
If you interested in digital image processing you really must check out this site that specializes in free photo software. Utilities listed include digital editors, viewers, filters, albums, correction programs and a whole lot more. Thanks to regular contributor Tony Bennett for the find
http://www.photo-freeware.net

2. BEST FREEWARE AND SHAREWARE UTILITIES FOR 2007

2.1 Add Sticky Notes to Web Pages or Anything Else
Subscriber Christian Hess Araya writes "Gizmo in issue #149 you mentioned the Firefox extension Internote that allows you to attach notes to webpages so that when you revisit the page the sticky note is automatically displayed. I'd like to let you know about Stickies [1], a free utility, will let you do the very same thing, not limited to webpages but to *any* open window. That makes it so much more useful, IMHO." When I first received this message from Christian I wasn't sure that Stickies would display a note when you re-visited a webpage but it sure does - it remembers the window title. Freeware, Windows 95 and later, 953KB
http://www.zhornsoftware.co.uk/stickies/

2.2 Free Program Removes Ugly Wires from Your Digital Photos
If you take a lot of digital photos you will really appreciate this free utility suggested by subscriber Ken De Pree. Wire Pilot is photo retouching software, available as a stand-alone program or Photoshop plug-in, that's specially designed to allow the easy removal of unsightly wires, poles, antennas and other linear objects from your digital photos. I found it worked particularly well where the background behind the wire or pole you wanted to remove was sky, snow or other untextured surface. In these circumstances Wire Pilot was quicker to use than Photoshop's own tools and the results were just as good. The results with textured backgrounds were not quite as acceptable and clearly looked "processed." That reservation aside, this is a really useful free tool that can greatly improve the appearance of some of your favorite digital snapshots. You can either download the stand-alone program or a plug-in that works with Photoshop, Photoshop Elements 4, Jasc Paint Shop Pro, Corel PHOTO-PAINT, Macromedia Fireworks or XnView. Freeware, Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, 1.9MB.
http://www.colorpilot.com/wire.html

2.3 Secunia Inspector now Available as a Free Stand-alone Program
In recent months I've urged all readers to scan their PCs regularly using the free Secunia online Software Inspector Service [1]. It's a terrific product that identifies software with known security defects on your PC and tells you where you can get the latest patches and updates. Now Secunia has released a downloadable version that runs on your PC rather than from their website. According to Secunia, it looks for and checks "4,200 different applications", while "the web-based Secunia Software Inspector only detected around 40." Unlike the online service, it also checks for products that have reached the end of their life and are no longer being supported. It's currently only a beta and has a few bugs. On my PC it detected several products that had already been patched and insisted on evoking Internet Explorer for update downloads rather than my default browser Firefox. That aside, it detected nine software packages with flaws and another eleven that were obsolete, all of which were missed by the online service. Am I impressed? You bet! This is a mandatory download even though there are bugs. Many readers will be shocked by the number of flawed software packages on their PC which are revealed by this product. Beta software free for non-commercial uses, Windows 2000 SP4, XP SP2, 2003, 5.3MB.
[1] http://secunia.com/software_inspector/
[2] https://psi.secunia.com/

2.4 The Uninstaller You Have Been Waiting For

Sooner or later every user encounters the situation where they try a program, decide they don't want it, and proceed to uninstall it only to find the uninstall goes wrong, or worse still, no uninstall program was included with the original program.

Normal uninstall utilities are of little help in this situation. That's because they work by taking a snapshot of your system before and after installing a software product and use the difference to uninstall that product if required. This is a useful capability but its weakness is that the uninstaller program must actively monitor every software product you install. Often this is not the case.

Revo is an uninstaller that works differently. It can uninstall a program without the need to monitor its installation. It works by automatically doing what an experienced user would do manually. It removes all the program's files, autostart entries and removes all obvious registry entries.

This process can never be better than an inspired guess, but it's sure better than nothing at all. I ran some tests by getting Revo to uninstall a product whose installation I had monitored using ZSoft Uninstaller, a before and after uninstaller.
By and large Revo did a fine job, though not quite as good as a skilled user would do manually. There were still some remains left over, notably files stored in the user/local settings folder.

That said, the leftover files did no harm other than take up disk space, and they certainly would not interfere with the normal operation of the PC.

Note that when you ask Revo to uninstall a program, it first looks for the product's uninstall program and will run that program if it is found. Only if the search fails will it try to remove files and registry entries itself.

Note, too, that Revo can also act as a before and after uninstaller, but frankly this is not its forte. The freeware utility ZSoft Uninstaller [2] is a better choice for this particular application.

Overall I was very impressed by Revo. It is the only freeware product I know of that will make a decent job of cleaning up a failed install. It's not perfect in its un-installation, but it does a fine job in the circumstances and offers a lifeline to average users. Next time you encounter a failed uninstall, remember Revo. You will be glad you did. Thanks to subscriber Dieter Callens for the suggestion. Freeware, Windows 2000-Vista, 1.27MB.

[1] http://www.revouninstaller.com/
[2] http://www.zsoft.dk/

2.5 Free Remote Control Utility Offers Ease of Use
I'm impressed with CrossLoop. It's the easiest way yet to remotely control a distant PC. Before you get your hopes up, let me say that it is no substitute for products like LogMeIn or PCAnywhere, both of which allow you to login to a remote PC without anyone in attendance. By contrast, CrossLoop absolutely requires someone at the other end. If you can live with that limitation, CrossLoop may just what you have been looking for. It works like this: The user on the remote PC runs CrossLoop and generates a random 12 digit key which they send to you by email, phone, whatever. You plug this key into a copy of CrossLoop running on your own PC and request a connection with the remote. If the remote user accepts the connection you then can take control of the remote PC and operate it through your keyboard and screen. At all times the user at the remote sees on his screen exactly what is happening. That's pretty much standard remote computing, but it is the ease of use that makes CrossLoop different. No complex commands or firewall configuration are needed, just the ability to follow simple on-screen instructions. CrossLoop is really a smart front-end to the open source utility TightVNC. It supports 128 bit Blowfish encrypted connections and unlike the free version of LogMeIn, allows for two-way file transfers between the client and host PCs. Unlike Windows Remote Desktop, it will run on any PC from Windows 98 onwards. Just the thing for helping a friend with a PC problem, remote support or remote user training. Thanks to subscriber Mike Pasternack for the suggestion. Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 2.28MB
http://www.crossloop.com

2.6 Recover Deleted Files from Digital Cameras and MP3 Players
There are several free utilities that can recover files accidentally deleted from hard drives but I've long been seeking one that works with files accidentally deleted from flash memory in digital cameras, MP3 players or USB drives.
Thanks to a suggestion from subscriber Adam Smithee that search is now over. Recuva is a free utility from the makers of the highly regarded CCleaner. Not only does it recover files deleted from flash memory it also works for hard drives as well.
Recuva of course cannot undelete files that have been written over or are stored in physically damaged sectors. However its ideal for recovering those precious holiday photos immediately after you accidentally erased them. Free beta, Windows 98-Vista, 211KB.
http://www.recuva.com/

2.7 Free Utility Copies Un-copyable Files
Recent I had to transfer several hundred megabytes of media files from one large external drive to another. With Windows Copy the job just kept crashing. I tried the venerable but still effective XXCopy [1] but it fared no better. I then remembered a utility called Unstoppable Copier that had been recommended by subscriber George Rakocsi that I had never got around to checking out. It seemed the perfect tool for the job. According to the website Unstoppable Copier "allows you to copy files from disks with problems such as bad sectors, scratches or that just give errors when reading data. The program will attempt to recover every readable piece of a file and put the pieces together. Using this method most types of files can be made useable even if some parts were not recoverable in the end." Well I'm pleased to say Unstoppable Copier worked perfectly. As it turns out just one file was corrupted out of the 2700 files on the disk and that's what was causing Windows Copy to fail. After that incident do you think I'm going to recommend Unstoppable Copier? You bet and not only for problem copying but for recovering partly corrupted files as well. It's just the thing for getting your information off scratched CDs and DVDs, aging floppies and failing hard drives. Don't expect it to perform miracles though; some disks are just too physically damaged to allow data recovery. Freeware, All Windows versions, 67KB.
[1] http://www.xxcopy.com/index.htm
[2] http://www.roadkil.net/unstopcp.html

2.8 A Simple and Cheap Way to Get a Multi-Monitor Setup
Imagine working on a spreadsheet and you want more width to see the whole spreadsheet. Wouldn't it be nice if you could drag the right hand side of the spreadsheet window all the way to the right onto a second monitor alongside your main monitor? Well that's exactly what you can do with a neat shareware program called MaxiVista [1]. Regular contributor Lex Davidson has prepared an excellent review and this now available online [2]. He's really impressed and so am I. I use a multi-monitor / multi-PC setup all the time and can attest that it really improves my productivity. If you have an old PC lying around this could be the perfect use for it. Commercial software, from $29.95, free 14 day limited feature trial, Windows 2000, XP, 1.81MB
[1] http://www.maxivista.com/
[2] http://www.techsupportalert.com/review-maxvista.htm

2.9 Free Utility Removes Ads From Internet Explorer and More
Firefox users can effectively remove ads from web pages using the excellent free Ad-Block extension but there has been no comparable free add-on for Internet Explorer. Until now, that is.
IE7Pro not only provides ad blocking but tab management, proxy switching, mouse gestures and more including a very valuable crash recovery feature. There's even a Firefox GreaseMonkey-like scripting feature that allows you to add more functionality such as a rather neat skin for Gmail.
Hey with all these additional features you can convert IE7 into an almost passable alternative to Firefox ;>)
Seriously, IE7Pro is a terrific product and a must for all IE7 users. In fact it's so good that I suspect the pressure to convert it to a commercial product may well prove irresistible so download it now while it's free.
http://www.ie7pro.com/ Freeware, Internet Explorer 7, 985KB.

2.10 Free Utility Preserves Desktop Icon Layout
Ever installed a new program or changed your screen resolution only to discover your precious desktop icon layout has been scrambled? Restore Desktop 2.0 is a tiny little utility that allows you to easily reset you desktop back to your preferred layout. Just select the restore option from the right click context menu and all your icons will be instantly returned to where they belong. It will even restore your icons to their correct position relative to the screen edges when you change screen resolution. Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 78KB. NOTE: After I published this newsletter it looks like the developers have switched the link below [1] to a sales page for one of their shareware products. However I managed to find an alternative link [2] Click on the file size to download.
[1] http://www.softwarium.com/rdwin.html
[2] http://web.archive.org/web/20060127002359/www.softwarium.com/windownloads.html

2.11 Free Utility Backs Up Frequently Changed Files
Most users have learned to regularly save documents while they are creating them. While this prevents you from losing your work, it has the disadvantage that each time you save you write over the previous version and so can't go back to an early revision. You can get around this by using different file names each time you save but an easier way is to use the free FileHampster program that automatically time stamps and stores copies each time you save. Furthermore, it allows you to annotate each copy so that your revision versions are fully documented. I tried it and it works well though I suggest you watch the quick start tutorial before using. There are some nice plug-ins too, including one that allows you to use a third party dif program such as WinMerge to view the differences between versions. Overall I was quite impressed. Yes, there are other programs around that perform a similar task but FileHampster is as powerful as any yet is among the easiest to use. Freeware, Windows 2000 and later with .NET V2.0 Framework, 1.1MB
http://www.mogware.com/FileHamster/

2.12 Add Paste and Go Feature to Firefox
One of the many great features in the Opera Browser is the way it loads a site automatically when you paste the URL into the address box. The same applies to search, just paste the search term and the search runs automatically without the need to hit "Enter" or the Search button. Paste and Go [1] is a Firefox extension that gives you similar functionality in Firefox. It's not quite as elegant as the Opera implementation in that you need to use Shift Ctrl V to paste and go rather than just Ctrl V but, nonetheless, it will save you time every day. A related Firefox extension is Linkification. This allows you to highlight a text-only link in a web page and then use the right click context menu to open the link in a new tab or window. [1] https://addons.mozilla.org/firefox/3035/
[2] https://addons.mozilla.org/firefox/190/

2.13 Better Manage Windows Startup
Startup Delayer is a free utility that allows you to speed up your Windows startup by delaying the startup of non essential programs until Windows has loaded. The idea is quite sound. At startup many application programs try to run in a short period of time and in the process push your CPU to the limit. By delaying the onset of non-essential programs, resources are freed and thus Windows itself can start more quickly. That means your desktop comes up quicker and you can get on with your work with less delay. I tried it on my PC and managed to reduce the time for the desktop to be usable from 85 seconds to around 65 seconds. Not a lot but worthwhile if you reboot often. Thanks to subscriber Steven Hodge for the suggestion. Freeware, Windows 98->XP, 1.1MB
http://www.r2.com.au/software.php?page=2&show=startdelay

2.14 The Fastest BitTorrent Client Yet

BitTyrant V1.1 is a hot-rodded version of the popular Open Source BitTorrent client Azureus V2.5.
The modification is fiendishly clever. While most clients only consider the number of peers available for downloading, BitTyrant also considers the capacity of each peer and the data rate required to ensure reciprocation. It then utilizes this information using a dynamic algorithm to send only to the highest capacity peers data at the minimum rate for them to reciprocate.

In plain English this translates to your downloads running faster, much faster; around 65% on my tests.
Now, the standard Azureus client may be one of the most full featured clients available but it's certainly not the fastest kid on the block. With the BitTyrant mods, though, it's a speed demon. In fact, it's the fastest client I've tried.

Here's the downside:

First, this kind of mod breaks down some of the fairness characteristics of the BitTorrent protocol. If you are not comfortable with that then don't use BitTyrant.

Second, the standard Azureus client is updated regularly but there is no guarantee that BitTyrant will be kept up-to-date with the latest version. The authors of Azureus may even knobble the product to prevent the mod.

That said, the current V1.1 version of BitTyrant based on Azureus V2.5 is the fastest BitTorrent client yet.
Freeware, all Windows versions plus other operating systems, 8.11MB.
http://bittyrant.cs.washington.edu/

2.15 The Best Free Program Launcher for Flash Drives
When I mentioned in a previous issue that I use the PortableApps program launcher [1] for my USB drive I received a whole batch of emails from subscribers suggesting PStart [2] as an alternative launcher. I tied it and it is an excellent product. It's far more configurable than the PortableApps launcher and more like a full replacement for the Windows Start menu than simply a flash drive program launcher. It has many useful features, including full support for relative paths. This notable feature allows some semi-portable apps to work correctly when used on various PCs on which the assigned USB flash drive letter is different than the drive letter the application expects. PStart also supports symbolic place-holders, such as %windows%, that allow you to start an application installed on the host, such as Notepad, even though you don't know exactly where Windows is installed on that PC. PStart also supports program launch parameters, backup and restore, customizable icons, PStart's own appearance and much more. It's all very impressive and I have no hesitation in saying PStart is a much more powerful and fully featured product than the Portable Apps launcher. Frankly, though, this is not of much use to average users. To use most of PStart's many features you need a degree of technical knowledge. Without that you won't benefit from PStart's capabilities. Indeed, you may well be inconvenienced. For example, the Portable Apps launcher allows an application that has been downloaded from the Portable Apps site to be installed more or less automatically. Not so with PStart; each program has to be configured individually. These qualifications aside, Pstart is a top recommendation for experienced users and those who are technically minded. Other users will be better served by Portable Apps. PStart: Freeware, Windows 2000->XP, U3 and non-U3 versions available, 768KB
[1] http://portableapps.com/
[2] http://www.pegtop.net/start/

** Additional items in this Premium SE Edition **

2.16 Free Vista Features for XP Users
In issue #135 I mentioned how you can make XP look similar to Vista by using the Vista Transformation Pack. Since then a new version of the pack has been released this adds even more Vista-like features. Regular readers know that I'm not really into themes but I must admit this is now quite an impressive package. Note that this pack is more than a theme; it makes some changes to your system so back up before installing. Another product that can make your PC work more like Vista is Vista Start Menu emulator [2]. It sounded promising but the combination of slightly clunky graphics and a few bugs failed to impress me. Still, I'm not a great fan of the Vista Start Menu anyway so your mileage may vary.
[1] http://www.softpedia.com/get/System/OS-Enhancements/Vista-Transformation-Pack.shtml
Freeware, Windows XP, 30.2MB
[2] http://www.vseproject.extra.hu
Freeware, Windows XP with NET 2.0 Framework, 810KB


2.17 More Vista Features for XP Users
Google has just released version 5 of Google Desktop, their all-in-one product that includes desktop search, web search, Gmail access, search security, desktop sidebar, widgets, streaming feeds and more. What catches your eye is the new Vista-like look and operation of the sidebar and gadgets. It's very attractive, so attractive that XP users might want to use the product just to add a bit of Vista pizzazz (and functionality) to their desktop. I've been using the new Google Desktop for about a week and reluctantly admit to being impressed. I've always doubted whether there were any real advantages offered by this product over simply having a straight desktop search product but I've now changed my mind. If you use Google for web searching Gmail, Desktop Search or any of Goggle's other products, you'll find Google Desktop integrates them nicely and improves your productivity and security in the process. Be aware though that this product, like all products with desktop search, can eat up a big chunk of your computer's resources while indexing your files. Tuning the indexing process helps but don't bother trying this product on your old P3. Freeware, Windows 2000 SP3+, XP, Vista, 1.7MB.
http://desktop.google.com/

2.18 Excellent Free Program Minimizer
The ability to minimize a program to an icon in the system tray is a useful feature that saves valuable space on your task bar. Some programs have this feature built in but many don't. It is possible however, to minimize any program to a tray icon by using a third party utility. My top recommendation has long been TrayIt! [1] but subscriber Matt Hall recently wrote "Gizmo, a good alternative to TrayIt! is PowerMenu. It works slightly differently: first it gives the option to minimize to system tray on a context menu rather than by using the Ctrl key. Second it has additional options to keep the window always on top and also set priority and transparency. Like Trayit!, it doesn't need to be installed." Good suggestion Matt. Both programs work well, though TrayIt! seems to be an active project while PowerMenu hasn't been updated for some time. Also, some of the additional PowerMenu features only work for Windows NT and later.
[1] http://www.teamcti.com/trayit/trayit.htm Freeware, all Windows version, 66KB
[2] http://www.veridicus.com/tummy/programming/powermenu/ Freeware, all Windows , 49KB

2.19 Nifty Free Tray Clock Solves Calendar Problem
You know the problem: you want to quickly look at a calendar so you double click the tray clock to bring up the Windows Date and Calendar Applet. You then have to flick forward a couple of months to the date you want. Then you have to flick back to ensure that you don't accidentally change the system date. It's all so tedious. LClock is a tray clock replacement that solves this by popping up its own calendar with a single click on the tray clock. And it's not just a static calendar: you can use it for reminders and to-dos. It all works marvelously well and as a bonus you get a clock display that looks like the one in Vista. LClock is based on TClock lite that I featured in Issue #139. It's highly customizable but unfortunately unlike TClock Lite, LClock doesn't allow a simultaneous time and date display. Ah, perfection is so elusive ;>) Many thanks to subscriber Fred Hayes for the suggestion. Freeware, Windows XP, XP64, 2003, 186KB.
http://fileforum.betanews.com/detail/1092761816/1

2.20 The Best Free Audio and Video File Conversion Program

The ready availability of audio and video material in digital format has allowed all of us to have access to a huge range of content with an ease and accessibility never before possible.

This wonderful blessing has, however, been tarnished by the proliferation of different audio and digital media formats. The existence of so many formats has meant that seemingly simple tasks, such as transferring a YouTube video to your iPod or making an MP3 file from a DVD soundtrack, can end up being complex tasks, so complex that they become nearly impossible for non technical users.

In response to this situation we have seen the market flooded by expensive commercial media conversion programs, some costing up to $199. The good news is that there are many free media conversion programs available that will do the job just as well as their commercial cousins.

My long-time favorite has been "Super" [1]. It's really no more than a user friendly interface for a variety of command line conversion programs. It has two great strengths: first, it's reasonably easy to use, and secondly it handles a large number of different file formats.

For example, with video files it handles 3gp/3g2 (Nokia, Siemens, Sony, Ericsson), asf, avi (DivX, H263, H263+, H264, Xvid, MPEG4, MSmpeg4, etc), dat, fli, flc, flv (used in Flash), mkv, mpg (Mpeg I, Mpeg II), mov (H263, H263+, H264, MPEG4, etc), mp4 (H263, H263+, H264, MPEG4), ogg, qt, rm, ram, rmvb, str (Play Station), swf (Flash), ts (HDTV), viv, vob, and wmv. It also handles audio file format conversion including ac3, amr, mp2, mp3, mp4, ogg, ra, wav, and wma.

The download link for Super on the author's site is quite hard to find so I've listed an alternative download site [2].

An alternative to Super is MediaCoder [3]. It has the advantage of being open source and, arguably, is a little easier to use. It doesn't handle some of the formats handled by Super but is being continuously expanded by its authors. iPod and PSP owners will appreciate the special features for these devices that makes usage particularly straight-forward. Not all its features though are available in the free version.

If you are mainly interested in just video conversion then check out "Any Video Converter" [3]. It has a better interface than either Super or MediaCoder and is very fast as well. Input formats include DivX, XviD, MOV, rm, rmvb, MPEG, VOB, DVD, WMV and AVI. It's set up to make MP4 conversion as simple as possible, but it can handle other output formats if you are prepared to delve into the options.

Thanks to subscribers John Bruinen and Clayton Poole for suggesting MediaCoder.

[1] http://www.erightsoft.net Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 18MB.
[2] http://www.afterdawn.com/software/video_software/video_encoders/super.cfm
[3] http://mediacoder.sourceforge.net/
[4] http://www.download.com/Any-Video-Converter/3000-2194_4-10611989.html

2.21 Free Audio File Tag Editor
Graham Smale has emailed to recommend a free audio file tag editor called Mp3Tag. He says "It is excellent and allows for not only tag editing of all the major audio formats (including the insertion of images for CD/book covers) but allows for translating file names to tags and vice versa. It also has a scripting language and a host of pre-created scripts for renaming any tag or filename." Thanks for the suggestion, Graham. The program does look very useful for tidying up my collection of MP3 files into a standard naming format so that my media player can sort them correctly by artist, song, album etc. Freeeware, Windows 2K->Vista, 1,6MB
http://www.mp3tag.de

2.22 Free CAD Software
Subscriber Dave Berger writes "Gizmo I came across a free offering of commercial CAD software [1] that's an older version of a current product. It's an excellent product but requires registration. To avoid getting unsolicited mail just use a throwaway email address service like Spam Gourmet. Firefox users can do this using a terrific extension called Temporary Inbox [3] that's ideal for just this sort of thing."
[1] http://www.freeserifsoftware.com/software/DrawPlus/key_features.asp
[2] http://www.spamgourmet.com
[3] https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/2650

2.23 Free Suite of Portable Data Recovery Tools
ADRC Data Recovery Tools is comprised of a set of five tools operated from a common user interface. The tools are: a file undelete utility, an error tolerant file copier, a binary file image copier along the lines of Ghost, a drive imaging creation and restore program and, finally, a drive boot record builder/manager. When I first saw that the download file was only 44KB I thought, "That's way too small, this has got to be a trojan." This impression was reinforced when I first ran the program and it tried to launch my browser. But it isn't a trojan; it's just an efficiently written program that packs a lot of functionality into a small space. And the browser launch was simply to bring up a help file. As ever, first impressions can be very wrong. Anyway, I tried out all five functions available in the program and they all worked well, with the exception of the drive image restore which, on my XP SP2 test PC, corrupted several Windows files. In the end I had to recover these files using an Acronis True Image backup, so I'd stay away from imaging feature. Given that this program is small and portable, it's a great candidate for your USB toolkit. Freeware 95 -> XP, 44KB
http://www.adrc.com/software/data_recovery_tools/

2.24 The Best Way to Surf Anonymously

My top pick here has long been Xerobank (aka TorPark), a special version of the Firefox browser that comes pre-configured to make use of the Tor anonymizing network. Now having looked at Opera Tor [1], suggested by subscribers Rob Fuller and Allan Marillier, I'm not so sure.

As you might have guessed Opera Tor is a special version of the Opera 9.21 Browser configured to use Tor. It's got some good things going for it. It's portable, it's smaller than Xerobank, it loads faster, it connects faster to the Tor Network and seems to run a little zippier as well. The Opera browser used as a base is more than a match for Firefox, with many features (including BitTorrent) built into the basic browser; features that need to be added as extensions to Firefox. On top of that you get the excellent free mail client that comes with Opera.

And it has another feature not available in Xerobank: the excellent Privoxy proxy server that provides powerful ad filtering, security screening and more.

So with all of these pluses am I making Opera Tor my top recommendation?

I would, except for a strange message that appears on eSnips, one of the two Opera Tor official download sites. The message says "This file has been flagged by our users as inappropriate and is under review." I have no idea what this means and my attempts to have eSnips clarify it have not been answered. What I can say is that Opera Tor has passed all the malware tests on my PC and is also rated 100% clean by Softpedia. A Google search also came up with a blank.
Draw your own conclusions, but Opera Tor is now the product I'm using on my personal USB flash drive. Freeware, all Windows versions 6.4MB.

[1]  http://letwist.net/operator

2.25 Freeware Replacements for Excel and Visio
Subscriber Allan Marillier writes "Gizmo take a look at GNUMeric [1] as a free alternative to MS-Excel, and DIA [2] for a free alternative to Visio. DIA is not yet as advanced as Visio, but it is still good for a freebie. GNUmeric flawlessly opened some of my large Excel spreadsheets with all kinds of formulas, charts, custom conditional formatting etc." Nice suggestions there Allan. Both these programs form part of the Linux Gnome Office Suite, though the versions I tested ran on Windows. DIA is not quite there yet, but it's highly usable for simple charting. Indeed, I preferred it to the online charting service Gliffy [3]. Its limitations noted, DIA is a "must-have" for students who can't afford Visio. GNUmeric is a very different animal to DIA. This one really impressed me; it's probably the best freeware spreadsheet program (or web app) I've tried. Indeed, for most users it's a totally usable substitute for Excel. To test its limits I gave it to a friend who works as an actuary. His comments: " ... flawless, it correctly ran all my standard macros and even handled a complex 1100 line derivative macro that chokes on early version of Excel." He did note that he won't be abandoning Excel anytime soon.
[1] http://www.gnome.org/projects/gnumeric/ Freeware, Win2K-Vista, 16.2MB
[2] http://live.gnome.org/Dia Freeware, Win2K-Vista, 12.2MB
[3] http://www.gliffy.com/

2.26 Free Utility Converts Video Files for iPod Use
I've mentioned several general purpose video format converters in past issues, but if you are only interested in getting videos onto your iPod then the simplicity of this specialized iPod converter will appeal. "Free iPod Video Converter" is just a fancy front end to conversion utilities written by other folks but it works just fine. It will convert DVD/VCD, AVI, MPEG, WMV, RM, RMVB, DivX, ASF, VOB video files, it supports batch processing and has user selectable quality settings. Freeware, Windows 98 and later with DivX 8.0, 1.38MB.
http://www.ipod-video-converter.org/

2.27 Free Utility Lets You Easily Edit MP3 Files
mp3DirectCut [1] allows you to edit MP3 files directly without having to go back to the original. It's ideal for removing commercials, getting rid of plops and other wanted noises, cutting and pasting different MP3 tracks, or simply building your own ring tones from MP3 snippets.
This specialist utility is remarkably powerful, particularly given its tiny size: a mere 169KB. Apart from its powerful editing functions, it supports ID3v1.1, layer 2 (DVD audio) and cue sheets. It has automatic pause detection, allows fade-in and out, volume normalization and more. It allows direct MP3 creation from multiple sources, provided you have an MP3 codec (such as the wonderful LAME encoder [2]) in the same folder as mp3DirectCut.
It's really easy to use; quite intuitive really. And did I tell you that it's portable and totally free. mp3DirectCut is an absolutely outstanding product and the developer, Martin Pesch, should be congratulated. Freeware, All Windows versions, 169KB
[1] http://mpesch3.de1.cc/mp3dc.html
[2] http://lame.sourceforge.net/index.php

2.28 Portable Games for Your USB Flash Drive
USB sticks are great for business applications, but why not include some fun products on your drive as well? Here are some of the top-rated games from the Lupo PenSuite of portable applications [1]. Thanks to subscriber Zeeshan Ali for telling me about Lupo. Even if you are not interested in games, Lupo is well worth checking out.
[1] http://lupo73.altervista.org/
[2] http://lupo73.altervista.org/schede/games/zetrix.htm
[3] http://lupo73.altervista.org/schede/games/portablepuzzles.htm
[4] http://lupo73.altervista.org/schede/games/openarkanoid.htm

[5] http://lupo73.altervista.org/schede/games/mines-perfect.htm

2.29 How to Get RoboForm Pro and ZoneAlarm Pro Suite for Free

Subscriber Bruce Fraser writes "Gizmo for years I've been using the "Last Uncrippled Freeware Version" of RoboForm (version 4.6.8), available from lots of places including this site [1]. But last month I obtained the latest version of RoboForm for free. And I did it legally; in fact with Siber Systems' (the RoboForm company) invitation! First, some background. There are at least two promoters (probably different branches of the same company) who offer full-version software for free, in exchange for trying a product they are promoting: www.checkoutfree.com and  www.trialpay.com. Most of the offers involve buying something else (usually just the shipping charge; a good deal if it's something you really want); but a few of the offers are no-charge-if-you-cancel-during-the-trial-period. Some people find this a bit dicey, given the notorious tendency of some companies to hang on to their customers when they try to cancel. I've done it twice though, with no hassle at all. I waited a full month before telling you, just to make sure there was no funny business on my next credit card statement. These webpages [2], [3] explain the system in more detail as well as list many of the products available. Most of the products are unnecessary; your website and others give excellent freeware alternatives. But a few of them are truly worthwhile such as RoboForm Pro and ZoneAlarm Pro."

Thanks for that Bruce. I've known about this setup for a while and have always wondered what the catch was. Based on your experience it looks like there may be none.

[1] http://www.321download.com/LastFreeware/page7.html.
[2] http://www.oscandy.com/free/548-get-30-retail-commercial-software-for-free
[3] http://www.fatcash.com/t/18/740093/

2.30 Free Utility Hides Folders

I'm sure why subscribers keep asking me for a free program that will hide Windows folders. Maybe it's because most of the utilities on the market are expensive commercial products. Maybe it's because my readers have a lot to hide :>)

I suspect the real reason is simplicity and convenience. Folder hiding is a concept that's easily understood and it's a really straight forward way of keeping your private information away from casually prying eyes.

I only know of one free utility that does the job: Free Hide Folder [1].

Usage is simple, you just nominate the folders you want to hide and they immediately disappear from view. Un-hiding requires the use of a password.

Like most folder-hiding utilities the level of secrecy is minimal. That's because your information is hidden but not encrypted. Indeed I had no problem locating a file in a hidden folder by using Windows search. Then again you have to know what you are searching for.

I should also note that every time I used the program it nagged me for a donation. That's OK we all have to eat but it's still an annoyance.

In summary Free Hide Folder is a convenient and useful way of providing simple privacy protection. Don't depend on it though to hide anything of real importance. If you want real security consider using the free open source program TrueCrypt [3] instead. It creates a virtual disk in which you can store your confidential data as opposed to a folder. It's not quite as convenient to use but unlike "folder hiding" programs, it is totally secure.

[1] http://www.cleanersoft.com/hidefolder/free_hide_folder.htm
[2] http://techsupportalert.com/issues/issue137.htm#Section_5.1
[3] http://www.truecrypt.org/

2.31 Learn to Type While Playing Computer Games
Here's a neat idea; a special version of the computer game Space Invaders where to control the game you have to touch type characters. There also a BreakOut version for a bit of variation from Space Invaders. Freeware, All Windows, 1.1MB
http://www.touch-typing-tutor.com/TypingInvaders-FreeTypingGame.htm

2.32 Free Utilities That Make Your PC Run Faster

Every week I get letter from subscribers asking me whether they should buy a particular PC Tune up utility or subscribe to a particular commercial tune up service that claims to make their PC run faster.

In each case my advice is the same: save you money. You can easily tune up your PC using free utilities and in many cases get a better result than using expensive commercial products.

There are two freeware tune up options: the first is to use a specialist tune up utility that will do the job for you with a single click. The second option is to use a number of different freeware utilities each addressing one particular area of cleanup and tuning.

The first approach is easier the second is more comprehensive. Let's look at the products I recommend for each approach.

For one click cleaning the stand-out product is Advanced WindowsCare Personal [1] from IObit. The Personal version is a feature reduced version of their $29.95 Professional product. Features missing in the Personal version include automated scheduling, commercial use licensing, tech support and some advanced tuning tweaks. However the Personal version does include almost everything else including adware / spyware cleaning and immunization, removal of useless temporary files from your hard drives, Windows registry cleaning, startup program analysis, erasing private browsing history plus a number of system and security tweaks.

It's an impressive package for a freebie and this combined with one click operation, makes Advanced WindowsCare Personal an easy top recommendation for non technical users. It really only lacks in one area: it doesn't defragment your hard drive. However IObit, the makers of Advanced WindowsCare offer on their website an excellent free defrag program called SmartDefrag [2]. If you use this in conjunction with Advanced WindowsCare you will have a remarkably complete tune-up package for ZIP.

More technically inclined users will however find the lack of fine control in Advanced WindowsCare frustrating. Such users are more likely to be attracted to using several specialist packages each offering more settings and better user control. This approach is less convenient that a one click package that "does it all" but ultimately it's more customizable to the individual users needs and more powerful in the individual cleaning functions offered.

It's also less dangerous. A one click approach encourages haste and discourages careful consideration of what is being done. Advanced WindowsCare handles this by taking a system checkpoint before the start of cleaning which allows the user to bale out if something goes wrong. I suspect something would go wrong sooner or later. Using multiple programs encourages you to stop and think and that is not a bad thing.

There are several different tune up utility combinations that can be used. Many of you in fact will already be using some of these utilities but for those who aren't, here's my basic "freeware clean up kit" suggestion:

Spyware / Adware Cleaning: AVG Anti-Spyware [3]
Disk and Privacy Cleaning: CCleaner [4]
Registry Cleaner: EasyCleaner [5]
Defragmenter: Diskeeper V7 [6]

If you want some alternatives check out my "46 Best Freeware Utilities" list [7] and the subscribers-only "Extended List of Freebies" [8] for more details.

I recommend you run the utilities in the order they appear in the list above. Do check the settings for each program before you run them, particularly CCleaner whose default settings are a little aggressive. Remember that cleaning your PC always involves a small element of risk so backup and/or create a Restore Point before you start.

If you find you have spyware that can't be removed by AVG I suggest you download HijackThis from here [9] and follow the instructions also on the page how to paste the output to the Tom Coyote web forums. These folks should be able to help you permanently get rid of the problem. It won't cost you a cent either.

So how often should you tune up your PC? For most users I recommend that you run a spyware scan weekly and the other cleaning operations monthly. After each monthly Windows update is an excellent time to run a clean up. If you install and uninstall a lot of products you may however want to increase this frequency to weekly.

If you have never tuned up your PC you should see a real improvement in speed and responsiveness the first time you run these programs. However on subsequent runs the improvement may be much less noticeable.

[1] http://www.iobit.com/AdvancedWindowsCarePersonal/index.html
[2] http://www.iobit.com/SmartDefrag/index.html
[3] http://www.ewido.net/en/
[4] http://www.ccleaner.com/
[5] http://personal.inet.fi/business/toniarts/ecleane.htm
[6] http://www.majorgeeks.com/download.php?det=1207
[7] http://www.techsupportalert.com/best_46_free_utilities.htm
[8] http://www.techsupportalert.com/more/extended.htm
[9] http://ww.tomcoyote.org/hjt/


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http://www.reallusion.com/press/event/FaceFilterXpress/ff_promo.asp


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The 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities
http://www.techsupportalert.com/best_46_free_utilities.htm

The Extended List of the Latest Freebies
http://www.techsupportalert.com/more/extended.htm>

For lots more free IT newsletters see
http://www.freetechmail.org/infobase.asp?TPubId=79

Thanks to subscriber Roger Keeny for copy-editing this issue. If you have a need for such services, contact Roger at liddlebigboy@gmail.com.

Thanks also to my friend Robert Schifreen who helped prepare this issue while I was on vacation.

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Support Alert is a registered online serial publication ISSN 1448-7020. Content of this newsletter is (c) Copyright TechSupportAlert.com, 2007

See you next issue. Next month's issue will be published on the Thursday the 24th of January.

Gizmo
Ian Richards
editor@techsupportalert.com