gizmo richards' support alert newsletter

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

Premium Edition
158, 19th June, 2008

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0. EDITORIAL: How Gizmo Protects his PCs


1.1 New Way to Discover the Latest Freebies    Please read this
1.2 Gizmo and His 60 Volunteer Freeware Editors Need Your Help
1.3 Easy Way to Detect Infections
1.4 More Malware Scanning Options
1.5 New Free File Sharing Site Offers Free Faxing
1.6 Great Internet Explorer V7/V8 Site
1.7 800,000 User Guides
1.8 Learn How to Solve Elusive Windows Problems (Premium Edition)
1.9 How to Send an Email Using any "From:" Address (Premium Edition)
1.10 How to Solve DVI Problems (Premium Edition)

2.1 A Free Gift from Gizmo: a $40 Backup Program   Nice!
2.2 Alternatives to Evernote for Web Note Taking
2.3 Another Free Option for Resizing Digital Photos
2.4 Free Personal Task Management Software Impresses
2.5 Free Auto Refresh Add-ins for Your Browser
2.6 Add Vista Flash Drive ReadyBoost to Windows XP (Premium Edition)
2.7 A Solution to XP SP3 Trashing Your Visual Styles (Premium Edition)
2.8 More Free Online Storage Options (Premium Edition)
3.1 Microsoft Security News
3.2 Apple Plugs More Flaws in QuickTime
3.3 The Latest News on AVG Free vs. Avast!
3.4 The Limitations of AV Certification
3.5 Infected Websites Replace Email as Main Source of Infection
3.6 Firefox 3 Released
4.1 USB Flash Drives at Ridiculous Prices
4.2 Best Vista Tweaks
4.3 Please Vote for Your Favorite   Have your say
4.4 Edit and Share Your Photos Online
4.5 Vista's Main Competitor: Windows XP
4.6 Useless Waste of Time Department
4.7 Zero Charge Directory Calls from Your Cell Phone (Premium)
4.8 Free Utility Reveals the Truth about Your Video card (Premium)
4.9 How to Make Your PC Run Faster (Premium Edition)
5.1 How to Strip Unwanted Formatting from Text
6.1 Free Remote Access Software Offers Simplicity
6.2 Free Utility Compares Two Microsoft Word Documents (Premium)


So many subscribers have asked me this question that I figure it's time to answer it publicly:

"Gizmo, could you tell me what security products you use to protect your computer? You must be using the very best packages available and I'd like to use them as well."

Today I'm going to tell you the security products I use but I'm going to start by telling you they are not all that important.

That's because the main way I protect my PC is not with good security products but rather with good security practices.

I regard protecting your PC from infection to be analogous to crossing a busy road unharmed. Stepping onto the road is like logging on to the internet. Crossing safely is like avoiding infection; you don't want to get hit.

Now there are two ways of crossing that road:

The first way is to be very careful about where you cross and to be watchful and aware of the dangers. In other words, make sure you don't get hit.

Another approach is to protect yourself with something like an army tank and cross anywhere, anytime. If you get hit, you rely on the tank to protect you.

Now no sensible person would adopt the latter approach to crossing a road, yet when it comes to computer security that's exactly what most folks do.

"Hey man, I'm using the latest McNortsky Super Security suite and nine other security scanners. I can do anything I want on the net and I'm invincible"

Sorry baby, you are not. You are the guy in the tank crossing the road who's about to get trashed by a big interstate semi.

I know. I've witnessed that accident many times.

If you want real computer security, you need to adopt safe computing practices. Like the rules of road safety we teach our kids, these practices are simple and well known. You can find them here:

So, apart from safe computing practices, how do I defend my PC?

Quite sparsely compared to some users.

On all my computers I always surf in a sandbox using Sandboxie and Firefox.

My firewall and AV scanners vary across different computers because I like to get hands-on experience with different products. Of course, each PC has only one firewall and one AV scanner.

The firewalls I'm using at the moment include Comodo, ZoneAlarm Pro and lately, the full version of Online Armor. All have inbuilt HIPS capability.

The only AV scanners I use are the paid version of Avira Personal and NOD32.

I don't have any anti-spyware or anti-trojan programs running, though I do carry out regular on-demand scans using WebRoot SpySweeper and CounterSpy. I never find anything.

For rootkit detection I do regular on-demand scans using GMER, Panda Anti-rootkit and DarkSpy. Again, I never find anything but I still consider it a good practice to do these regular on-demand scans.

Are these products the very best available? I can't say. What I can say is they are among the top contenders. I can also say there are other equally good products, including Kaspersky AV and Spyware Doctor that I'm not using just now.

In fact, I don't want to get into the whole "this is the best security product" game. It's like discussing the best tank to be in when crossing the road.

Folks, instead of playing the "best product" game, put your time and energy into better security practices.

If you do, your computer will end up a lot safer, a lot faster and your wallet will end up a lot fatter as well.

See you next month.



1.1 New Way to Discover the Latest Freebies

I hate to tell you this but you are missing out on some great freebies. That's because I just don't have the room in this newsletter to tell you about all the great new freeware finds being generated by our new Best-ever Freeware wiki website [1].

But here's the solution: I've created a brand new RSS feed called "Gizmo's Best-ever Freeware" [2] that lets you know all these juicy finds as soon as they are discovered. If you like this newsletter, you will love the new feed.

Use the link [2] below to subscribe to the feed now - it's completely free. And if you don't have an RSS reader, subscribe here [3] to get the feed delivered by email. Alternatively, install one of the free RSS readers listed here [4] then subscribe to the feed.

The new feed combines all my old RSS feeds into one, so if you're already signed up to any of my feeds or you don't need to subscribe again


[3 ]

1.2 Gizmo and His 60 Volunteer Freeware Editors Need Your Help

We need your help to spread the word about the new Best-ever Freeware wiki site [1]. It will only take a few of minutes of your time, and if you feel you've benefited from the site and this newsletter, it's a nice way of returning something to the community.

Here are some things you can do to help:

  • If you like the wiki site and think it is worth mentioning in Digg, then you can vote for it by Digging it at the link below. Please do this only if you think the site is genuinely worth Digging.
  • If you have a blog or website could you please mention the new wiki site?
  • If you belong to a forum would you post an item about the site?
  • Finally, why not visit the new freeware forums on the site [2]. It's just the place to go if you're looking for freeware help or advice, and well worth bookmarking.


1.3 Easy Way to Detect Infections
In the editorial column in issue #157, I suggested that you submit a HiJackThis log of your computer to free security forums to identify possible malware infections. Several users wrote in to say that many forums no longer provide this service. Here's an alternative that's quicker and simpler, though not quite as accurate: Use a web service that will analyze your HiJackThis log using an automated technique. I know of two such services. All you have to do is paste your HJT log to the website and the results come back within seconds. Of the two sites, I found the analysis from the first site more informative.

1.4 More Malware Scanning Options
Last month I also suggested that you use Jotti [1] to scan suspect files. I should have also mentioned Virus Total [2], another free online scanning service that uses 32 scanning engines rather than 20 used at Jotti. However, for new malware products it doesn't matter how many signature-based scanning engines you use, because the malware product's signature may not be in any of their databases. That's why I like the free Anubis service [3], which is a behavioral-based (rather than a signature-based) scanner. It's a little slow, but the results are very comprehensive. If a file scans clean on Anubis and either Jotti or Virus Scan, then you can be pretty confident that it's OK. Thanks to regular contributor Howie Mirkin for suggesting Anubis.

1.5 New Free File Sharing Site Offers Free Faxing
This new online file sharing service extends the concept of sharing files to include email, phone messages and even sending and receiving faxes, though the latter is currently USA only. No registration is required and it's totally free. A lot to like here. Thanks to subscriber L.S.D. for the suggestion.

1.6 Great Internet Explorer V7/V8 Site
Here's a site dedicated to IE7 and IE8 issues. There are a lot of useful tips here, though Firefox users will probably find this article [1] on uninstalling IE the most interesting.

1.7 800,000 User Guides
Lost that printer manual? Looking for that Network Card Setup Guide? If so, you can probably find them here in this huge online collection of manuals which cover just about every kind of electronic device and consumer item. Thanks to Lex for this one.

** Additional Items in this Premium SE Edition **

1.8 Learn How to Solve Elusive Windows Problems
Is your Windows installation slowing down? Do you have unexpected system crashes? This 75-minute video, which features Sysinternal's Guru Mark Russinovich, shows you how to investigate and solve these problems using free tools. Experienced users and techies will find this video a revelation. To watch this video you will need Microsoft's free SilverLight viewer, which is available on the video site. Thanks to JW.

1.9 How to Send an Email Using any "From:" Address
Subscriber Richard Dent writes " Gizmo, here's a website that your subscribers might find useful. It allows anyone to send an email from any "From:" address without registering or logging on."

1.10 How to Solve DVI Problems
Many modern monitors and home electronic devices now use a DVI connection. However, it's a system that often proves troublesome. As subscriber Dan M writes "Gizmo, in most cases getting DVI to work is not quite as easy as plugging in a toaster. For anyone who has purchased a new monitor and/or graphics card and who is unable to get DVI to work, the best link that I've found to solve your problems is the "Troubleshooting DVI problems" page on this site [1]. For a brief description of DVI-I, DVI-D (Digital), and DVI-A (Analog) see the Avid Knowledge Base here [2]."

Got some top sites to suggest? Send them to:


2.1 A Free Gift from Gizmo: a $40 Backup Program

Here's a great freebie for all my subscribers: A full commercial copy of Titan Backup, a secure, automated and easy-to-use backup solution for all your photos, music, emails, settings and important documents.

This is the full-featured version, the very same version you pay $40 for on the Titan Website.

There are no catches: no time limits, no inbuilt ads, no spyware, and no feature limitations. You don't even have to provide an email address!

When I was first approached by the developer, Neobyte Solutions, I was a little cautious, but after testing the product on my own PC I have become enthusiastic. This is an excellent commercial backup program and rates in the top group of products in its class. There is no freeware backup program that comes anywhere near this in quality or features.

Here's how to get your free copy:

Download the 15 day trial version of Titan Home from the Neobyte website here [1].

Install the product and then use the license number located on my website here [2] to convert the trial version into a full copy.

This offer is time-limited so I suggest you get your copy while you can. Even if you don't have an immediate need, download it for later use.

And no, I don't make a cent out of this or receive any other benefit. All I ask in return is that you don't email me any installation or usage questions. Instead, direct these to Titan.


2.2 Alternatives to Evernote for Web Note Taking
Subscriber Colin Stevens wrote in to tell me about Zotero [1], a free FireFox extension that allows you to easily gather and organize web-based and offline research. It uses a different approach than the class leading product Evernote [2], which makes it better suited to school or academic research, though perhaps less appealing to casual users. If you're in the latter group, you might like to check out another note-gathering solution called Eluma [2] that was suggested by Leib Moscovitz. It combines a browser extension with a desktop application to provide seamless integration of all your data sources in a way reminiscent of the now-defunct but much-lamented Onfolio. Well, Onfolio isn't really defunct, but it's now owned by Microsoft and offered as an add-in for Window Live Toolbar [4]. For Firefox users like me, that's more or less the same thing as defunct :>)

2.3 Another Free Option for Resizing Digital Photos
In last months Premium Edition I mentioned a little freebie called Photo Gadget Resize [1] that allows you to resize a photo by right clicking on the photo and simply selecting the size/quality you want. I also mentioned ShrinkPic [2], a program that works in the background and detects when you are sending large photos. It then automatically resizes these photos based on settings you have pre-selected. This prompted subscriber Tom Wilson to remind me that Microsoft's free Windows XP PowerToys package also has an excellent context menu photo resizer, along with 13 other applets which include a Virtual Desktop Manager, a syncing program, a power calculator and toolbar magnifier.

2.4 Free Personal Task Management Software Impresses

Task Coach is a full-featured task management package with the ability to create many levels of sub-tasks within tasks, and customizable color coded categories for different tasks.

Tasks can have priorities and due dates set, and you can very easily track the time spent working on any task by simply right clicking it and then selecting either Start or Stop Tracking Effort.

Time tracked in sub-tasks is totaled in the highest level task, and logged in individual sub-tasks. Entire trees of tasks and sub-tasks can be marked as completed or uncompleted.

Detailed descriptions, notes, budget and revenue tracking, file attachments and even date-based reminders are all supported.

While the authors list Task Coach as "Alpha state software" with cautions to backup data frequently, I've found Task Coach to be stable and reliable, as well as very easy to use.

Data is stored in XML format so it can be easily backed up and extracted if necessary. Task Coach will continue to log time even if you shut the program down, so if you need to conserve the memory it uses while working, you can start the application, start tracking time, and shut it down. Start the application again later and stop tracking time and you will have all the detail you need.

This review was prepared by Allan Marillier, the volunteer editor for this software category at our new freeware wiki. Allan's full review can be found here [2]. Freeware (GNU GPL), Windows 2000-Vista, 7.6MB


2.5 Free Auto Refresh Add-ins for Your Browser

Auto-refresh utilities automatically update your browser screen at pre-determined intervals. They're useful for monitoring fast-changing events such as sports scores, auctions and financial markets where you need to keep track of what's happening. And let's not forget Facebook and Twitter fans who simply must be tuned in to what's happening in their social network.

Firefox users have an easy first choice in the form of a free extension called ReloadEvery [1]. It gives you everything you really need.

For Internet Explorer there's a rather unimaginatively-named toolbar plug-in called "Auto Refresher for IE." Once installed, you have to enable it from View/Toolbars. It's quite an old product but I found that it worked fine with IE7.
As with all auto-refresh utilities, make sure you turn these products off when filling in web forms, otherwise you may find you lose all your work.


** Additional Items in this Premium SE Edition **

2.6 Add Vista Flash Drive ReadyBoost to Windows XP

The description on the website sounds very enticing:

"eBoostr is an alternative solution to Vista's ReadyBoost and SuperFetch technologies now available on Windows XP. It speeds up your PC and improves application responsiveness by using flash memory and free RAM as an extra layer of performance-boosting cache for your PC."

I downloaded the product and tried it on my XP based IBM T42 laptop with 1GB of memory. For a flash drive I used a Lexar Lightning with 2GB allocated to the cache. The Lightning is one of the faster flash drives and is well suited to the role.

The setup was simple enough, although creating the cache took a few minutes. Once it's setup the program runs quietly in the background, actively caching commonly used files and memory processes. It's quite active: the LED on the Flash Drive was flickering just about every time I did something on the PC.

The product uses an unusual trial system. The program works full-featured for four hours after a reboot, then disables itself until the next time you boot, at which time you get another four hours.

I guess it was designed to highlight to users the difference in performance with the product enabled compared to disabled.

It's a nice idea except that I didn't notice any real difference in performance!

I ran some timing tests and they did show my PC was running between two and six percent faster. The trouble is that didn't translate into a significant perceived improvement in speed.

After a week I uninstalled it. With the product fully removed my PC performed much the same.

However, my experience may be different to yours. You can download it and try it on your PC and see if it helps. Let me know if it does. Before you purchase it, consider that you might get better results if you simply buy more RAM memory for your PC. Commercial software, $19-$39, Windows 2000, XP, 2003 with USB 2 port, 1MB.

2.7 A Solution to XP SP3 Trashing Your Visual Styles

I've had several subscribers write in about third-party visual theme problems after they installed Windows XP SP3. Here's a solution sent in by subscriber James L. Dalton:

"Gizmo, I managed to restore my visual styles after installing SP3 by downloading and installing a different version of uxtheme.dll. The one I used is 6.0.2900.2180, though other versions might work better for some users. The version I used is available here [1] along with detailed installation instructions. Here's what I did: First I unzipped a copy of the updated .dll on my desktop, booted into safe mode, browsed to the system32 folder where uxtheme.dll resides, and renamed it to uxtheme.dll.old. Then, leaving the folder window small enough that I could see my desktop and the updated uxtheme.dll, I dragged a copy to the system32 folder. When I was asked if I wanted to make the change, I answered yes, dragged the renamed uxtheme.dll.old to the desktop and rebooted. Once I was in Windows again I deleted the old file. On my PC everything is now back as it was before SP3."

As James notes you may have to try other versions of uxtheme.dll if 6.0.2900.2180 doesn't work. There's a good selection here [2] and a Google search will reveal even more.

Many of these DLLs are provide as RAR file archives rather than ZIP. You can unpack RAR files using the excellent free 7-Zip [3] unzipper.


2.8 More Free Online Storage Options

In recent times I've had a flurry of email suggesting free online storage sites. I've covered many of these in previous newsletters but here are two new ones:

Nick Carter writes "Gizmo, I've been looking round for a decent media storage site and stumbled across Humyo [1]. I think it rates as good if not better than the MediaMax site you mentioned."

Subscriber Todd Hudspeth has found another. "Gizmo, I've been constantly looking for great freeware or online storage solutions. The new one that I've found to be very capable and of interest is called ADrive, and it allows you 50GB storage for free!"

I checked these out and Humyo offers 30GB of free space of which 25GB can be media files. However, the free service does not encrypt file transfers, has no desktop client or file sharing features and if you fail to login at every 90 days your files will be deleted. Signing up to the $60 paid service removes these restrictions.

ADrive provides 50GB of free storage with file sharing, and the accounts never expire. However, once again there is no desktop client, so you must upload or download via your browser. Additionally, I can see no mention of encryption. There is currently no paid service, though the site states that one is planned. How this will impact free account holders is unclear.

BTW, MediaMax has now morphed into "The Linkup" [3] and the offering has been changed. Their free account now offers only 25GB and has a very limiting maximum download size of only 10MB.

That's the problem with these free services: there is simply no guarantee of service continuity. That may be OK if you're backing up only non-critical files, but for serious data backup it's unacceptable.

If you want to back up critical files I suggest that you consider a paid online backup service like Mozy or Carbonite, both of which provide an excellent product at a reasonable cost. Personally I use Amazon's S3 service along with JungleDisk for a cost of less than $2 month, and I'm very happy with this solution. For more details, see here [4].



3.1 Microsoft Security News

The Microsoft "Patch Tuesday" for June [1] resulted in the release of seven security bulletins, three of which covered flaws rated "critical" by Microsoft.

One of the critical-rated patches addressed problems in Internet Explorer; the others addressed problems in Bluetooth and DirectX.

All three patches fix flaws that would allow a remote attacker to take control of a user's PC.

All of the updates are distributed automatically via the Microsoft Update Service. Dial-up users in particular need to be aware that these updates are large files and will require a considerable period of time online to be successfully downloaded. If you are not certain that you have received the updates, then visit the Microsoft Update Service [2] now.

[2] (Requires IE5 or later)

3.2 Apple Plugs More Flaws in QuickTime
Apple's popular QuickTime media player reinforced its reputation as a security risk with the announcement of five new security flaws in the product. This is on top of the 11 flaws fixed a couple of months ago. Some of these flaws are really serious. All users should upgrade immediately to version 7.5, which can be obtained by using the "software update check" feature in the product, or from here [1].

3.3 The Latest News on AVG Free vs. Avast!

First up I need to correct and apologize for an error I made in the May Premium issue when, in relation to AVG Version 8 [1], I said:

"The free version excluded the anti-spyware scanner, rootkit scanner and most of the other goodies added to the commercial V8 product. It also dropped active email protection."

This is incorrect. This is in fact what I should have said:

"The free version excluded the rootkit scanner, active protection against hostile websites and a number of the other goodies added to the commercial V8 product."

That out of the way, let me tell you the latest news:

First, AVG has announced [2] that they have extended the life of the old V7.5 until the end of 2008 rather than the end of May. That's good news and takes the pressure off AVG Free 7.5 users to make a decision.

Second, I keep on getting reports about AVG V8 bugs and how it's making users' PCs run more slowly.

My advice at this stage is to stay away from V8 until AVG has sorted out the problems. And they will; I recall a similar situation when V7 was introduced, but in the end V7 became a very solid product.

In contrast the reports I've been getting on Avast! V4 have been very positive. Although users report it to be resource-hungrier than AVG 7.5, it appears to be less hungry than AVG 8. And users love the fact that it provides broad-spectrum protection, which includes anti-spyware, anti-rootkit and email protection, in addition to anti-virus. It should definitely be high on your list of free security products to try. Remember though, it's only free for non-commercial use.


3.4 The Limitations of AV Certification

Many anti-virus scanner vendors proudly promote the fact that their product has achieved Virus Bulletin Top 100 (VB100) certification. This indicates that the product detected every one of the top 100 malware programs on VB's monthly "currently circulating" list.

I stopped using the VB100 as a guide a year or so ago when a vendor told me he had staff employed full time to ensure that his product passed each month. When queried about the priority he gave to the thousands of currently circulating malware products other than the top 100, it was clear that he was much less interested. This article [1] flags even more concerns about the VB100 certification.

So today, does VB100 certification for an AV mean anything? Yes, it means it passed the VB 100 test :>)


3.5 Infected Websites Replace Email as Main Source of Infection

I don't think anyone has any hard figures, but industry experts seem to think that currently about 70% of all new malware infections are from users visiting compromised or hostile websites. This contrasts with the situation a couple of years back where email was overwhelmingly the main vector for infection.

Most of these infected websites are legitimate sites that have been attacked and compromised by computer criminals, who use flaws in web server software (such as SQL and PHP) to take control of the server and then use the web sites on that server to infect unsuspecting site visitors. It may be hours or days before the site owner realizes there is a problem and fixes it. In the interim thousands of site visitors may have been infected.

Any website you visit is a potential victim, so you have no way of knowing what sites to avoid. You are surfing blind. That's why I recommend that all users surf using a sandbox or with reduced user rights.

And no, you cannot fully rely on your AV scanner or other security products to provide you with adequate protection. They sure can help, but it's been my experience that even the best security products do not perform well against hostile sites using zero day exploits.,289142,sid14_gci1316322,00.html

3.6 Firefox 3 Released
After a lengthy period of testing, Firefox version 3 was released publicly on Tuesday the 18th of June. It's faster, safer, easier to use and has many new features. I'll give you a full report when I've fully tested it but at the moment I can confidently say the only reason you wouldn't want to upgrade from V2 is the possibility that some of your extensions may not work with V3.


4.1 USB Flash Drives at Ridiculous Prices
Each month the prices drop further. I couldn't help notice that is selling an 8GB Kingston Traveler for $29.95 including shipping, the exact same price they were selling a 4GB Kingston drive three months previously!

4.2 Best Vista Tweaks
George L., one of the volunteer category editors at the best-ever freeware wiki site, has put together a whole bunch of free tweaks, tools and enhancements for Vista. Every Vista user should check this out.

4.3 Please Vote for Your Favorite
The contest for a new logo for the Best-ever Freeware wiki site has now reached the final stage. Please drop in and vote for the design you prefer best.

4.4 Edit and Share Your Photos Online
Most photo sharing sites like Flickr focus on the sharing side and provide only limited photo editing features. SplashUp makes editing the center of its offering while the sharing function is more limited. The editing setup works very well; using SplashUp is very much like using Adobe Photoshop, and the tools, while not as comprehensive as PhotoShop's, allow you to do almost anything you could conceivably want in the way of image editing. It is 100% free.

4.5 Vista's Main Competitor: Windows XP
You've got to laugh. Microsoft has just put out paper comparing Vista to XP Pro SP3. Not Mac OS X, Not Ubuntu Linux but XP! Shows you just how desperate they have become to counter the popular perception that Vista is a flop. Thanks to JW for the link. [download_microsoft_com]

4.6 Useless Waste of Time Department
Listen to a music composition [1] based only on sounds available from the Windows operating system itself. When finished, check out this Flash movie [2]. It's just eye-candy, but what eye-candy! Thanks to Lex for the second link.

** Additional Items in this Premium SE Edition **

4.7 Zero Charge Directory Calls from Your Cell Phone
Here's a tip from subscriber Noel Glucksman: "This no-cost directory service works like 411, sort of. After you dial in, you'll hear a brief 10 second ad before a recorded voice asks the usual 'What city and state?' You can save up to $3.50 a call." USA only.

4.8 Free Utility Reveals the Truth about Your Video card
If you're into computer games or high-end graphics, you really need excellent performance from your graphics card. This free utility provides more information about your graphics card than any utility I've seen. Thanks to JW for this one. Freeware, Windows 2000-Vista, 395KB.

4.9 How to Make Your PC Run Faster
Subscriber John Josub writes: "Gizmo, here's a little reminder for everyone. I have a dual core 6400 XP pro 2 gig RAM and watch HD movies through it on my big LCD while downloading/uploading and whatever other tasks I desire. Last 2-3 weeks the movies (biggest resource hog) began to freeze occasionally, and then I noticed the processor running near 100%. I racked my brains troubleshooting, thinking that either a virus or programs (CAD) I recently installed affected the PC. Scans upon scans, registry cleanups, disk defrag and no improvement whatsoever. Then I noticed some dust around the casing's perforation and decided to VACUUM my PC. Specifically, I popped the processor cover out and the copper cooler was full of dust, yet the PC was relatively clean. If it happened to me despite my wife's meticulous cleaning, then it happens to most. Perhaps a little reminder before others fry their processors; I almost did. Now the PC flies again." Good advice John, but you need to do this carefully. This guide will show you how.


5.1 How to Strip Unwanted Formatting from Text

If you've copied text from a webpage or a PDF file to an email, you've encountered the problem associated with formatting being copied along with the text. The result can look very strange indeed, with broken lines and odd fonts.

You've probably also encountered a similar problem when you copied an email reply into another document. All those crazy >>> characters get copied, along with the broken lines and paragraphs as well.

The good news is that there are several free programs available that allow you to copy the text you want without the unwanted formatting.

One of my favorites is StripMail [1]. It's a little stand-alone program that takes the clipboard contents and converts it into plain text without formatting.

It removes HTML and Word formatting, removes email reply ">" and "|" characters and will optionally remove line feeds so that broken lines are restored into proper paragraphs. At the touch of a button the stripped text is restored to the clipboard, ready for pasting into your document.

It works like a charm. I use it daily and it's one of the most useful utilities on my PC.

The only downside of StripMail is that you have to run the program each time you want to clean some text. I overcome this by assigning a hotkey to run StripMail to automatically strip the clipboard contents ready for pasting. Removing formatting is then as simple as copying the text, hitting the hotkey and pasting.

You can create the hotkey (as I did) by using the freeware program AutoHotkey [2], but you can also do it in Windows by using a shortcut that's linked to a hotkey. Here's how:

First download the StripMail program [1]. Then use Explorer to navigate to your C:\Program files folder. In that folder create a new folder called StripMail by right mouse clicking and selecting Create/New folder. Once the folder is created, move the StripMail program stripmail.exe you downloaded into that folder.

Now open Notepad or some other plain text editor and type in the following line:

stripmail.exe -d -x

Then save the one-line file as stripmail.bat in c:\Program files\StripMail.

What we have just created is a batch file that, when run, will open StripMail, clean the contents of the clipboard and then exit the program. Now we have to create a hotkey linked to this batch file so that it runs whenever the hotkey is pressed.

While in the c:\Program files\StripMail folder, right click your mouse and select Create/New shortcut. In the wizard browse to c:\Program files\Stripmail\stripmail.bat, highlight the file and click OK. In the next screen call the shortcut StripMail. Press OK and exit the wizard.

Now right click on the shortcut icon and select Properties. Click in the Shortcut key box and then press whatever key combination you want to use as a hotkey. I use F10 but you can use whatever keys you like as long as it doesn't conflict with another keyboard shortcut combination you regularly use. Click OK and you are finished.

Now the next time you want to copy text from an email or website, just copy the text as normal, hit F10 or whatever shortcut you used, and paste. Voila, the unwanted formatting has been removed.

If all that sounds too daunting for you, try the program called PureText [3]. It's simpler to setup than StripMail, because you can create your hotkey from within the program and the same hotkey will perform an automatic paste.

On the downside, it only removes formatting and will not remove email ">>" characters or hard line breaks.

Yet another option is to use a web service. I can recommend two sites: [4] and [5]. Both are free.

Finally, here's a way you can remove unwanted formatting from text with Microsoft Word. Highlight the text and press Ctrl + Spacebar. This will automatically convert what's highlighted to plain text formatting. It won't remove those pesky email ">>" characters though. You could use Word Search and Replace but StripMail is probably a better option.

[1] (268KB)


6.1 Free Remote Access Software Offers Simplicity

Subscriber Joel Futch is one of several subscribers who have written to me in glowing terms about the remote access program TeamViewer. Here's what Joe said:

"Gizmo, I really wanted to make sure you knew about TeamViewer. This free service has proved to be great for remote support and file transfer; the best I have found in fact.

I have used it to remote into many a relative's machine across the country to assist with issues, and it auto bypasses any firewalls that might block, once they are logged into the free web based service. I usually send a link to the download page, via email, and walk them through the steps to get the program installed. It has proven a simple enough task to explain even to extremely technically challenged people.

You can also log into the service from a home or business computer in the morning, write down your password, and then access that machine later from another location using the information. Not the greatest for this purpose, but good for the average user who doesn't know much about port forwarding etc, and does not want to have to pay for this sort of service. Also good for transferring large files from one computer to the next."

This is a fine product that performed well when I tested it. I particularly liked the fact that it's based on the same http protocol used by web browsers, so it should present few problems when installed behind routers and firewalls. I also liked the fact that it uses a safe SSL connection, which means your connection is encrypted end to end. On the downside, it's only free for non- commercial use. Freeware, all Windows versions, 1.29MB.


*** Bonus Freebie in this Premium Edition ***

6.2 Free Utility Compares Two Microsoft Word Documents

Users often have a need to identify the differences between two Microsoft Word documents. This can be easily done within Word itself, provided that the documents are just different versions and have been written with the Word "Track changes" feature enabled. If this is not the case, then you need a third party program to do the job.

There are many free programs that can compare different files and flag changes, but almost all of these work only with plain text files and can't handle the complex structure of .doc files. You need a special program that's specifically designed to compare Word document files.

There are plenty of commercial programs that will do the job, some of which cost hundreds of dollars, but I've never seen a decent free program. Until now, that is.

Subscriber Scott Youngman recently wrote in to tell me about a free Word comparison program called CSDiff. I was initially skeptical, but after fully testing the product I've changed my mind. This is a most impressive free product that does the job as well as many commercial utilities.

Usage is simple: just nominate the two Word files to be compared and hit the OK button. CSDiff then starts up Word and displays a third document with all additions, deletions and format changes clearly shown using the usual Word "Track changes" notation. For example, additions are shown in red type while deletions are shown in blue overwritten by strike-out characters. You can then edit this document and save the changes to a new file.

Options include the ability to do the comparison by letter, by word or by line, as well as various ways of handling whitespace. You can have line numbers if you wish and you also have the option of showing only changed lines.

As a bonus, CSDiff can also compare two folders rather than two documents.

All up, there is everything here you need to compare Word documents. And it's free.

Freeware, All Windows Versions but needs Microsoft Word, 1.34MB


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The 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities

The Extended List of the Latest Freebies>

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

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See you next issue.

Ian Richards