Thursday, June 30, 2005

Windows XP PowerToys (Part 4)

Today's featured PowerToys are:
HTML Slide Show Wizard (Updated) [Download]
A wizard that helps you create an HTML slide show of your digital pictures that can be placed on a Web site. To access this utility, go under the 'Start menu|All Programs|PowerToys for Windows XP|Slide Show Wizard'. Then follow the wizard's prompts. When you're done a set of files will be created that can be uploaded to your web site.

CD Slide Show Generator [Download]
This utility is very similar to the HTML slide show wizard, except that it creates the slide show directly on the CD-R disk. To use this tool, put a CD-R disk into your CD-writer. Then add only images to the CD-ROM using the Windows Explorer. Click the 'Write these files to CD' task. In the Wizard select the option 'Yes add a picture viewer', and finish following the prompts in the wizard. After the CD is created, the slide show starts automatically when the CD-ROM is insert into the drive (as long as the AutoRun option is not disabled).

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Windows XP PowerToys (Part 3)

Today's featured PowerToys are:
Virtual Desktop Manager [Download]
Allows you to manage up to four virtual desktops from the Windows taskbar. This is a great feature to have if you run several applications at one time. You can assign a set of applications to one of the virtual desktops, then switch to those applications quickly. To access this tool right-click an empty area of the taskbar, and then select 'Toolbars > Desktop Manager'.

Image Resizer [Download]
Resize one or many image files without the use of digital editing software. Right-click the image(s), then select 'Resize Picture'. I dialog will display, asking you how large or small you want to make the image.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Windows XP PowerToys (Part 2)

Today's featured PowerToys are:
ClearType Tuner (New) [Download]
This is a control panel applet that allows you to adjust the ClearType system settings. This feature is designed to make text on your LCD screen easier to read. To access this utility open the Control Panel folder, then double-click the 'ClearType Tuning' control panel.

Tweak UI [Download]
This utility allows you to access system settings that are not available in the default Windows XP user interface. The settings that you can modify are: mouse, Windows Explorer , Taskbar , and more. To access this utility after you install it, go under the 'Start menu|All Programs|PowerToys for Windows XP|Tweak UI'. (Requires: Windows XP Service Pack 1)

Monday, June 27, 2005

Windows XP PowerToys (Part 1)

Each version of the Windows operating system (OS) and some applications since Windows 95, has had a set of PowerToys. PowerToys are basically a set unsupported and unpolished (meaning that they don't have a slick looking user interface) utilities written by Microsoft. These utilities can perform different and specialized tasks, such as: modifying the OS, or adding new functionality.

As I stated earlier, these utilities are offered as-is, and there is no support for them. So if you use them and run into a problem with them, you're on your own.

There are eleven Windows PowerToys utilities all together, some of them more useful then the others. These utilities also perform a plethora of different functions, and don't really address any specific set of needs.

Everyday, I will feature two of these utilities for you to try out. So, today's featured utilities are:

Alt-Tab Replacement [Download]
Displays the application icon of the window you are switching to, and a preview of the page. This assists in finding the correct window when using multiple sessions of the same application. After you install the utility, just press the Alt-Tab keys to see the utility in action.

Update: Reader Neil T. ( pointed out another great program called TaskSwitchXP. "It's similar to the Alt+Tab Replacement powertoy but faster and with more options. It's also open source."

Webcam Timershot [Download]
Takes Webcam pictures at specified time intervals and saves them to a designated location. The pictures can be saved to a network share, an FTP share or an HTTP WebDAV share. To access the appliction, click the 'Start|All Programs|Windows PowerToys|Timer shot'. When the Timershot configuration window opens, under the Devices section select Webcam. Set the time intervals for taking pictures. Then select the location where you want to save the pictures. Press the 'Apply Settings' button when done.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Really Useful Firefox Extensions

I have to admit, I am a Firefox fan like millions of other Windows users. If you use this browser, you quickly learn that you can literally add hundreds of extensions to expand its functionally. Most of these extensions that are available in my opinion are neat ideas, but for the most part useless.

I have read several articles from other people containing lists of that person's favorite Firefox extensions. My problem with most of these article is that most of the extensions that are listed are useless for day-to-day activities.

So I have decided to create my on own list of 'useful Firefox extensions'. Below is a list of extensions that I use everyday, and I would hate to work without them.
  • deskCut (Allows you to create shortcuts to web pages on your desktop.)
  • CopyURL+ (Quickly copies the web site title, and URL to the clipboard.)
  • IE View (Opens the current web page in Internet Explorer.)
  • Image Zoom (Allows you to zoom in or out on any image.)
  • Tabbrowser Preferences (Cause links that open as new windows, to open as tabs.)
  • Download Manager Tweak (Extends the functionality of the Download Manager.)
  • SpellBound (Spell checks your text entries in the form fields.)
  • ForecastFox (Displays weather information in the Firefox status bar.)
  • Sage (A lightweight RSS and Atom feed aggregator extension.)

Honorable Mention
There are some Firefox extensions that I plan on getting around to using more, so I decided to include them as an 'honorable mention':

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Testing Your Defenses (Part 3)

I posted the articles 'Testing Your Defenses' Part 1 & Part 2 earlier, if you have not already read them then I would highly recommend that you do so. This should be the last segment in this series or articles.

Network Security Tests
How secure is your computer's firewall software? To know for sure you need to test your system for security vulnerabilities. You can use one of the online security scanning services below to test your computer's defenses.

Each of these online services will probe your computer firewall for security weaknesses. If these weakness are not corrected, a malicious person or program can exploit these vulnerabilities to compromise your PC and it's data. Use the results from the scan to close holes in your digital security defenses.
  • PC Flank: This site's tests show how vulnerable your computer is to various Internet threats. The tests can also determines if a Trojan horse has already infected your system and how much personal information your Web browser reveals about you while you're surfing the web.
  • Sygate Technologies: Scans the different ports and protocols on your firewall, and can show you if any of them are open or vulnerable. Notes: Most of these tests will take a while to complete.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool

Microsoft recently released a malicious software removal tool; this program is able to scan your system and remove the 10 most virulent worms and viruses from it. Microsoft regularly updates this tool on a month as part of Microsoft's scheduled software patch cycle.

This tool is not designed as a replacement for having up-to-date anti-virus software installed on your computer. To get more information on this tool, go to the following web site.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Windows Media Player CODECs (Part 2)

In the previous article you learned that if you don't have the correct CODECs installed on your system for the Windows Media Player (WMP), you won't be able to view or listen to a media file that requires them.

There are two questions that you should be asking now. One, how do you figure out which CODECs you need to view the media files? Two, where can you download the CODECs so that you can install them on your computer?

To identify which CODECs are needed to view or listen to a media file, you need to download a utility called 'GSpot'. After you install this tool, all you have to do is launch the program, and open the media file in it. The tool should be able to identify and display the required CODECs needed to access the file.

Once you know which CODECs you need to access the file, go to one of the sites below to download the required CODECs:

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Windows Media Player CODECs (Part 1)

If you have a Windows Media Player (WMP) video or audio files that you can't view or listen to, this can be caused by the WMP missing the CODECs required to access the content. CODEC stands for COmpression/DECompression, basically it is a program that is used to compress video at different quality levels. Some CODECs are really good at creating high quality video/audio files, while keeping the file size small.

The WMP comes with a default set of CODECs that should be able to play most audio/video files. Although, it is not uncommon for video files to be compressed with the popular DivX CODEC. If you try to play a file encoded wtih this CODEC and you don't have this CODEC installed on your system, WMP will not be able to display it.

In order to view these files, you need to download and install the DivX software on your computer.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Great Freeware Windows Utilities, Part 5

Featured site of the Day:
Sysinternals Freeware: Provides advanced utilities, technical information, and source code related to Windows. This site contains some of the best and most useful free utilities for Windows.

To install most of these utilities you need to un-Zip them (Windows XP users, double-click .ZIP files to open them), and copy the contents to another folder. To remove these utilities, all you have to do is delete the programs.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Great Freeware Windows Utilities, Part 4

Featured site of the Day:
The Portable Freeware Collection: This site is dedicated to the collection and cataloging of portable freeware utilities.

To install most of these utilities you need to un-Zip them (Windows XP users, double-click .ZIP files to open them), and copy the contents to another folder. To remove these utilities, all you have to do is delete the programs.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Great Freeware Windows Utilities, Part 3

Featured site of the Day:
TinyApps.Org: This web site advertises itself as 'A guide to very small software for your PC'. Its a directory of small applications that can perform different functions. Most of the programs are completely self contained, while others have installer programs. Most of the programs listed on this site are free of charge.

Note: Some applications that are installed via installation program can be made into portable applications by copying the application folder from the 'C:\Program Files' directory and into another folder or on a USB drive.

To install most of these utilities you need to un-Zip them (Windows XP users, double-click .ZIP files to open them), and copy the contents to another folder. To remove these utilities, all you have to do is delete the programs.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Great Freeware Windows Utilities, Part 2

Featured site of the Day:
NirSoft: Like the previous featured site, if you work on computers for a living or hobby, you should check out the freeware utilities on this site. Most of the programs that I have found on this site a very useful.

To install most of these utilities you need to un-Zip them (Windows XP users, double-click .ZIP files to open them), and copy the contents to another folder. To remove these utilities, all you have to do is delete the programs.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Great Freeware Windows Utilities, Part 1

I have decided that I am going to theme the site this week. I am going to feature a new web site everyday that offers great 'portable' freeware utilities.

Portable utilities are programs that are generally self contained, and don't require an installation program to install them. Since these programs are portable, this means that they can be placed on the local hard drive, or can be copied to a USB drive.

To install most of these utilities you need to un-Zip them (Windows XP users, double-click .ZIP files to open them), and copy the contents to another folder. To remove these utilities, all you have to do is delete the programs

Featured site of the Day: If you work on computers for a living or hobby, you should check out the freeware utilities on this site. Most of the programs that I have found on this site a very useful.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Best FREE Online Hardware Support Sites

Do you have a problem with your computer, and you think it is hardware related. Here are some of the sites that I would use to help me troubleshoot my problems over the Internet.

For those of you who are thinking the obvious, if you're computer is down how are you going to access the Internet. Well, you will have to access these sites from another computer, if the one you're working on is down. If you don't have another computer, then you will be on your own.

The first place you want to start looking for help is your hardware (i.e.: computer, motherboard, or other peripheral) manufacturer's web sites. From here you will have access to online technical support, forum, and other resources:
Hardware/Drivers Sites
  • Tom's Hardware Guide (Latest information PC hardware)
  • Windows Driver Guide (Windows Drivers)
  • (Windows Drivers [Commercial - Not Free])
    • I included this entry because it is one of the most comprehensive sources for device drivers available that I am aware of. The free alternatives are not as good, with the exception of the 'Windows Driver Guide'.
General Support
  • Google
    • This is a very general purpose area to look for information, but it still contains a wealth of sites that might contain the answer to your question.
  • Google Groups
    • There is a possibility you can find the answer to your question here, if you can't find it in the main Google search engine. Google Groups gives you access to the Usenet archive, which is the world's largest online general purpose bulletin board.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Best FREE Online Internet Utilities

These are some of the more useful Internet utilities sites I have found. Each site can perform a different set of functions, such as: diagnostics, security, file sharing, etc.

All these sites are broken down into groups, based on the functions that they perform.

Network Tools
Miscellaneous Tools
I have tried to make this list as complete as possible, so if you feel that I am missing a great site that should be included in this list please feel free to e-mail me (use the 'Send Comments' link on the side to this page to e-mail me). I will include all the updates in this post as soon as I am made aware of them and have verified the site.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Best FREE Windows Malicious Software Removal Tools

These are the best free utilities for fighting malicious software (aka Malware). Malware can be defined as any software that installs itself on your computer without your permission, generally these types of programs will try to: monitor your computer activity (spyware), display popup ads (adware), destroy data (viruses), steal information (keyboard loggers) or steal resources (such as processor, memory, and network bandwidth) for malicious activities.

The programs listed below will help you fight against these types of programs by helping you to detect, remove, and prevent your system from getting infected in the first place.

Anti-Virus Scanners (Real-time)
  • Avast (Home Edition)
  • AVG (Free Edition)
Anti-Virus Scanners (Standalone)
Anti-Virus Scanners (Online)
Spyware and Adware I have tried to make this list as complete as possible, so if you feel that I am missing a great site that should be included in this list please feel free to e-mail me (use the 'Send Comments' link on the side to this page to e-mail me). I will include all the updates in this post as soon as I am made aware of them and have verified the site.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Use Outlook Express to Access your Gmail Account

Are you an Outlook Express (OE) user, and want to be able to get your messages from your Gmail account without having to use web the interface? This is possible, but there are a few things that you need to do to set this up.

Setting up your GMail account:
  • Login to the Gmail account on the Gmail web site.
  • Click Settings link in the navigation bar at the top of the page.
  • Click the 'Forwarding and POP' tab.
  • In the 'POP download' section, select 'Enable POP for all mail' or 'Enable POP only for mail that arrives from now on'
  • Press the 'Save Changes' button
Now to setup OE:
  • Luanch Outlook Express
  • From the Tools menu, select Accounts...
  • Click Add button, and select Mail...
  • Type your name and press the Next button
  • Enter your Gmail email address and press the Next button.
  • Under 'My incoming mail server is a' [dropdown menu], select 'POP3'.
  • In the 'Incoming mail server' field, type ""
  • In the 'Outgoing mail (SMTP) server' field, type "" and then press the Next button.
  • In the 'Account name' field, type in your Gmail email address (such as:
  • In the 'Password' field, type in your Gmail password and press the Next button
  • Press the Finish button.
Now configure the new account:
  • While still in the Accounts dialog, select the new account name that you just created and press the Properties button.
  • Click the Servers tab
  • In 'Outgoing Mail Server' section (its toward the bottom section of the dialog), make sure the 'My server requires authentication' checkbox is checked.
  • Click the Advanced tab
  • Check the 'This server requires a secure connection', under both 'Outgoing Mail (SMTP)' and 'Incoming Mail (POP3)'. Also make sure that the following ports are assigned each of the protocols
    • For 'Outgoing Server (SMTP)' field, type "465".
    • For 'Incoming Server (POP3)' field, type "995" .
  • Press the OK button when done.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Is That Email Message A Hoax?

Have you received strange email messages from Bill Gates, the American Red Cross, or some other organization asking you to fight some cause (like a little by dying of cancer) by forwarding that email to all your friends and family. As you probably already know these message are not real, and they're a hoax (watch this video).

Sometimes its not always easy to distinguish, the real messages from the fake one. To find out if a message could be a hoax, you can check it against one of the sites below to see if it has been floating around the Internet for a little while:

Friday, June 03, 2005

Is Windows XP Running Slowly?

If you're having a problem with your Windows XP computer running slowly. Check the 'Task Manager' (to access this utility right-click the Taskbar and select 'Task Manager', then click on the Processes tab) and look to see if the CIDAEMON.EXE is using a great deal of the CPU time.

The CIDAEMON.EXE is the Indexing service, and its updating the index catalog. To prevent this problem from happening again you can turn the Indexing service off.
  • Double-click My Computer.
  • From the View menu select 'Explorer Bar>Search'.
  • Click the 'Change Preferences' link.
  • Select 'Without Indexing Service'. (If you don't see this option, it is already turned off).
  • Click 'No, do not enable Indexing Service.'
  • Press the OK button.
Note: By disabling this service you will prevent Windows from indexing the documents on your computer. This slowdown any searching of the documents and your computer. If you don't use the option to search the contents documents it will be no great loss.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Karen's Calculator (PowerTool)

Karen's Calculator is a high-precision calculator. Unlike ordinary calculators, it returns completely accurate results, even with operands containing thousands of digits. If you're patient, operands and results containing hundreds of thousands of digits are possble too!

Most calculators are only accurate when dealing with numbers containing a few digits -- usually 16 to 32. When asked to calculate using larger numbers, they either fail (displaying an error) or return results that are only approximately accurate.

Karen's Calculator can easily handle numbers and results containing manu thousands of digits with complete accuracy. It also includes an on-screen "tape" -- which can be saved to disk -- versatile memory features, and more!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Spybot Search and Destroy 1.4

If your a fan Spybot Search and Destroy, I just found out they just released their latest version today which is v1.4. If you don't know what SS&D is, it is one of the Spyware/Adware detection and removal tools.

Below is a list of some of the new features:

First native multi-installation scanner
On PE boot CDs as well as on any system with multiple installations of Windows 2000 or later, Spybot-S&D 1.4 is able to scan the other installations as well, including the registry. From what we know, Spybot-S&D is the first anti-spyware solution that offers inactive registry scanning as a native feature.

Speed boost-ups
Spybot-S&D 1.4 should work noticably faster than 1.3 during scans. And if you still don't like to wait, you can play our easter egg while scanning.

Improved tools
We've improved the Tools section that Spybot-S&D offers in advanced mode - the process list now offers a list of open network connection per application (Windows 2000 or newer only), helping you to quickly identify which applications are local and which do use connections to the outside. Our detection mechanisms have also been updated, from detecting and cleaning services over protocol filters to the afore-mentioned scanning in inactive installations registries.

Graphics remake, and more
We've replaced the old home made icons with a bunch of great graphics provided by the guys at Yellow Icon Studio to make the user interface look smoother. But while this is highly visible on the surface, there have been more than 104 important changes underneath.