All posts by Clif Sipe

Promoting Freeware and Free information since 2004. Owner of FreewareWiki.com with over 2000 pages of freebies. Please subscribe to my Google Feed or follow me on Twitter @clifnotes.

Freeware Fridays | Top Tools of the Week #22

freeware-sign2

In case you haven’t seen them, here are the most recent posts in our Freeware category. We hope you enjoy reading about these freebies, and maybe you’ll find a keeper in the mix.



Import/Copy Music & Playlists From iPhone, iPod or iPad to Your Computer or iTunes

Import iPod Music and Playlists to iTunes

Import Music and Playlists from your iPhone, iPod or iPad to your computer or iTunes.

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 2011 is Now Available

avg-logo

AVG’s free anti-virus program is still a great option for protecting home PCs. The addition of the free LinkScanner and a new Threat Lab website are the real values though.

How to Read QR Codes on Your PC

Clif's QR tag

QR Codes? You’ve seen them. If you have a web enabled smart phone you can even read them. Now you can read QR codes on your PC.

WinPatrol Cloud Brings Group Intelligence to PC Security

scotty-the-windows-watchdog

WinPatrol has always been a great tool to help you control your PC settings and security. The addition of “cloud” collaboration features is now available as a beta download.

Try the Triple Engine Lunascape6 Orion Browser

lunascape-browser

Lunascape web browser uses three different rendering engines. You can easily see how a web page will appear in IE, Firefox, Chrome or Safari.

7 Awesome Design Tools Available Online

skitch

Are you looking for free and affordable applications that will make your web life easier? Look no further! Here are a handful of add-ons that streamline the graphic design process.

10 New Abstract Animated Screensavers

abstraction-color-dots-black

These abstract animated screensaver themes are good for getting into a thoughtful mood.

Windows Live Essentials 2011 Released

windows_live_essentials_beta

Download Windows Live Essentials 2011 Final version. Windows Live Essentials contains Live Messenger, Live Mail, Live Writer, Photo Gallery and Movie Maker.

Categorize Your Start menu Items with Handy Start Menu

handy start menu logo

Handy Start Menu is a free application that can do the job of keeping application shortcuts organized in the Start Menu as well fit as many items as you need.

FileTypesMan: Change Icon for A Filetype

extension list

Filetype manager by NirSoft is a free application that can help you change the icon associated with a specific filetype.


Be sure to let us know if you have a favorite freebie you’d like to see posted here. Our comments (below) are always open to you.

10 Animated Screensavers – Water Water Everywhere

screensaver-ico[Windows Only]
As many of you have learned by now, not all free screensavers are created equal. Many times, free means that you have to install stupid toolbars, adware and other unwanted junk along with the screensaver. That’s not true of the ones at NewFreeScreensavers.com. Check out these great looking waterscape themed screensavers.

water-1 water-2 water-3 water-4 water-5 water-6 water-7 water-8 water-9 water-a

This week’s waterscape themed screensavers are a special treat for those of you who feel like they should have been born under the sign of Aquarius. You have to see them to understand how well NFS has done on this set. My wife said Wow!, when I showed her the first one I installed.

Be sure to take a look at the top ten most popular screensavers which are available as one easy download. All of these screensavers are safe and totally free.

arrow-down-double-3 Download Page

Techie Buzz Verdict:

Once again, the author has made a change to the screensaver settings. I was not able to get the settings to work, but it doesn’t seem to affect the screensavers in any other way. You may not have the same problem though, and I’ll still recommend these with no reservations.

Techie Buzz Rating: 3/5 (Good)

New Ways to Get Infected Online – Fake Update Downloads

app-blocked2-ico Two days ago, the Symantec blog posted an article that describes how the newest and most successful malware and fake anti-spyware fools you into downloading it. The descriptions and images of these social engineering attacks are something you should see, so that you’ll know it when it happens to you.

Below are four images from the Symantec article. The first three show a web page with a fake warning to download updates. The last image shows you the payload, which is a fake anti-spyware program that tries to fool you into purchasing it (also known as scareware).

Image #1 download Firefox Secure Updates

fake-update-1

Image #2 download Updates

fake-update-2

Image #3 download Chrome Updates

fake-update-3

Image #4 resulting download scareware called Security Tool

fake-antispyware-1

Even though these images are a bit fuzzy, you can still see that they’ve done a good job of looking like legitimate warnings. The bad news is that this isn’t the scariest part. It gets worse.

According to the article, trying to cancel these warnings does no good. The fake warnings keep popping up. If you exit the page without downloading these updates, something even worse happens. They redirect you to a site that hits you with some heavy duty exploits that could infect your PC.

The Symantec article only tells you that their software and some common sense will keep you protected from these fake warnings.

If you want my advice, do the following if you think you are seeing a fake warning:

  1. Close the browser.
  2. Follow up with an anti-virus scan of your system.
  3. Use MalwareBytes Anti-malware to clean your system if you think you’ve been infected.
  4. If all else fails, and you’re certain you have a problem, go to an anti-spyware forum to get help. (SpywareWarrior and PC-Help are good)
  5. Optional tell me about your adventures, or comment below.

Update: Lorraine emailed me this link to removal instructions that helped her remove the “My Security Shield” scareware which looks like the “Security Tools” above.

[Source Symantec Blog]


AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 2011 is Now Available

avg-logo On September 28th, AVG announced the release of their 2011 suite of anti-virus and anti-malware programs. Included with this release is the ever popular free edition of AVG Anti-virus and the free LinkScanner application.

Even though AVG’s offerings have slipped some in the AV testing results, it’s still a great option for protecting home PCs. The addition of the LinkScanner, which warns you about your current web pages, bad links in web pages and risky links in email, seriously improves your chances of staying trouble-free.

As an added bonus to the entire web community, AVG has also unveiled AVG Threat Labs, a search engine which gives short reports on the safety of any web site or link.

A quick look at AVG Anti-Virus Free edition:

While installing, watch out for AVG’s offer to install a toolbar and change your home page to Yahoo. I said no to that. Be sure to uncheck those check-boxes if you feel the same way.

avg-install-3rd-party-options

Next, be prepared to wait. After the initial agreements, AVG will download about 130mb of data, to finish the install. With lots of others downloading the same data, you may not get a good download speed. I was definitely bored at this point.

After the download and install, the last screen will ask for your name and email address. If you are shy, you could type anything you want in there. You’ll also want to be aware of the very last check-box, which is set to allow AVG to collect anonymous information to help them improve the product. Uncheck it if you are paranoid.

Finally, here’s your first peek at the new AVG interface.

avg-main-interface

As you can see, the main two functions, Scan and Update, are on the left. Naturally, a free product is an opportunity to advertise, and you’ll see an Upgrade button and a large ad at the bottom. I don’t mind, but some people might.

I’m not going to go into any details on how to use AVG, it’s like most other anti-virus apps. Install it, do a few scans now and then, but mostly forget about it until a problem pops up.

AVG LinkScanner

During the installation of the anti-virus, I choose the Quick Install method. If you choose to customize your installation, you can select not to install some of the services such as LinkScanner. In previous versions of LinkScanner, there were some problems in certain web browsers, but those issues have been largely fixed. I recommend allowing it to install with the anti-virus. You can always disable it later if needed.

If you are using some other anti-virus product, you can install LinkScanner all by itself. There’s also a version for the Mac now.

Here’s what AVG says about the LinkScanner:

LinkScanner ® keeps you safe wherever you go online by actively checking links and web pages in real time the only time it matters – before you click that link. LinkScanner ® also places safety ratings next to your search results, allowing you to assess the safety of a site before visiting it.

The service it offers is similar to that offered by McAfee’s SiteAdvisor and WOT (Web of Trust), which I also recommend. I don’t believe it’s necessary to run more than one of these at a time, so pick one and try it out.

Once you start seeing link ratings in a web search, you’ll understand how it can keep you out of trouble.

linkscanner-ratings

download AVG Free Download AVG Anti-Virus 2011 Free Edition

download LinkScanner Download AVG LinkScanner

arrow-right-double Visit AVG Threat Lab to find out if sites or links are risky


Techie Buzz Verdict:

AVG’s free anti-virus products have always been good. However, due to recent results in AV testing, I’ve lost some of my faith in it. It’s still good, but not as good as some of the other free AV applications. However, the LinkScanner tool and the new AVG Threat Lab site have my hearty recommendations.

On a final note, my wife is a loyal AVG user and it’s always kept her safe. If you’ve been using AVG, and it’s been working well for you, there’s no reason not to upgrade to the 2011 version right now.

Techie Buzz Rating: 3/5 (Good)


How to Read QR Codes on Your PC

[Windows Only]

If you are reading this, it’s likely that you already have some idea what a QR Code (or tag) is. If not, you can find out more about QR Codes on Wikipedia.

Clif's QR tag

Here’s my QR tag – what does it say?

Below, you can find out how to decode it.

People with smart phones and an internet connection, can take a snapshot of the code and find out what it says. I don’t have a smart phone, so I was feeling a little jealous every time I saw one of the tags posted somewhere. I decided to look for a way to decode these tags using my PC.

After many false turns, I finally found some freeware QR decoders that run on a PC. First I’ll tell you about bcTester, which allows you to decode QR tags in images and PDF files.

arrow-down-double-3 Download bcTester

After downloading, extract the bctester_en.zip file to a folder and run the setup file. Once installed, you’ll find the app in your Programs menu and you can launch it from there. Here’s what the main interface looks like.

bctester-with-qr-code-inside

You can open an image or PDF from the the Openicon (looks like a folder), or you can drag and drop images or PDFs onto it. Once you’ve got something to decode, you can hit the QR icon to decode it. There are several other tools to help if you run into a tag that doesn’t want to spill it’s secrets, and they offer plenty of help if you need it.

Next, I’ll show you bcWebCam. This application takes advantage of your webcam to grab images from the real world and decode the tags for you. You’ll need to install it after extracting the setup files from a zip, just like the bcTester app I mentioned above.

arrow-down-double-3 Download bcWebCam

When launched, it shows you a basic how-tofor capturing and decoding tags and bar codes.

bcWebCam-interface

I gave it a try and didn’t have much luck with it. That’s mainly because I didn’t have any good examples of codes or tags to take a picture of. I have no reason to doubt that it works like it’s supposed to, with a little practice.

Techie Buzz Verdict:

You won’t find many free applications like these. The bcTester app is a definite winner, because it’s simple to use and it works well. I’ll withhold an opinion on the bcWebCam at this time.

Techie Buzz Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Automatically Turn Off the Touchpad When Using a Mouse

[for Windows and Mac OS X]

Do you use a laptop or netbook? How many times have you accidently hit your touchpad while typing? When it happens, you end up typing somewhere else or not at all. It’s aggravating, but it’s not something you need to put up with if you listen to our advice.

Last year, Keith wrote about a free little app that lets you disable the touchpad while typing. That application is called TouchFreeze (Windows Only), and it does a good job of keeping your cursor on track. Whenever you start typing, your laptop’s touchpad is automatically disabled.

I recently decided that I’d try TouchFreeze, but first I figured it would be a good idea to investigate my options. The first place I looked was in the mouse pointer options. Any Windows user can normally access the mouse settings by going to the Control Panel and double-clicking on the Mouse icon. Below you can see those Mouse icons as they appear in WinXP and Win7.

control-panel-mouse-winxp

control-panel-mouse-win7

Mac users with a Trackpad can access their settings by clicking System Preferences, selecting  Keyboard & Mouse, then switching  to the  Trackpad category.

I’m guessing that 99% of the time I use my laptop, I already have a mouse attached to it. I’ll admit that I’m still hooked on using a mouse. I’ve never gotten comfortable using a touchpad all the time.

I found out that my touchpad is a Synaptics device. Apparently, Synaptics touchpads are used on many major brands of computers, such as Dell, Samsung, Acer, HP, and Toshiba. The surprise for me, was that Synaptics already has a good solution for keeping my touchpad disabled when I don’t need it.

You can find the settings for your Synaptics touchpad in the Mouse settings on the last tab. The Synaptics settings include the option to turn off the touchpad whenever a mouse or other pointing device is attached.

This setting is labeled Disable internal pointing device when external USB pointing device is attached.

synaptic-settings

You may also be able to access the Synaptics settings by double-clicking on the Synaptics icon in your system tray. The Synaptics icon may look like one of these two icons below.

synaptic-icons

For the Mac users with a Trackpad, the same setting exists. Here you can see it at the very bottom of this image (from Apple.com). It says “Ignore trackpad when mouse is present”.

apple trackpad

That’s my solution to the problem. I like it because I don’t have to load any additional software on my laptop. TouchFreeze is great, but I don’t need it most of the time.


WinPatrol Cloud Brings Group Intelligence to PC Security

scotty-the-windows-watchdog

[Windows Only]

One of the first security apps that I install on a new PC is WinPatrol. I don’t feel safe without Scottythe Windows watchdog in my system tray. I was getting ready to install it on my new laptop, when I noticed that there’s a new version of WinPatrol being offered. Here’s a glimpse of WinPatrol Cloud (beta).

winpatrol-cloud

As it stands now, WinPatrol already offers you the ability to track and make changes to your Windows settings. Here’s a partial list of the features.

  • Notifies you when programs are added as autorun (launch at Windows start)
  • Notifies you when changes are made to file types (such as .EXE, .JPG or .MP3)
  • Notifies you when new toolbars or helpers are added to Internet Explorer
  • Notifies you when IE’s home page is changed by a program
  • Allows you to stop applications from being autorun
  • Allows you to delay the start of autorun applications
  • Allows you to kill normally hidden applications
  • Allows you to stop and control the running of system services
  • Allows you to view and remove cookies in Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome
  • Gives you information on unknown programs and services (Plus version)
  • much more …

Even without the added information from the PLUS version, the free version of WinPatrol is a great way to retain and increase your control of Windows.

At first, I didn’t see any new features in the cloud version. After upgrading my WinPatrol Cloud to the PLUS version, I discovered some of the new cloud features. Each page of information on unknown processes and services now has a place to vote on what you think of it.

winpatrol-cloud-stats-votes

As you can see, it’s also offering statistics on what other users have done with this program. This tracking of user decisions on configuration changes is one of the best new features. As the author says, it will be like the Millionaire’s “Ask the Audience” feature.

millionaire scottycloud

* Note WinPatrol is always free to use. You must purchase a license key to unlock the PLUS features. There’s also a portable version (singe EXE file) available, called WinPatrolToGo.

arrow-down-double-3 Download WinPatrol Cloud (beta)

Techie Buzz Verdict

I’ve used WinPatrol for over 6 years. It’s on almost every Windows machine I use. The addition of these new collaborative cloud features is like icing on a cupcake to me. WinPatrol always gets a big thumb’s up here.

techiebuzzrecommendedsoftware1

Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5 (Excellent)

10 New Abstract Animated Screensavers

[Windows Only]

As many of you have learned by now, not all free screensavers are created equal. Many times, free means that you have to install stupid toolbars, adware and other unwanted junk along with the screensaver. That’s not true of the ones at NewFreeScreensavers.com. Here are the most recent additions to the site.

abstraction-color-dots-black abstraction-colorful-circle abstraction-color-line-blur abstraction-diagonal-line abstraction-spirals-black abstraction-spirals-black-2 clock-night-butterfly skyscraper-clock space-funnel tunnel-black

These ten new screensavers are eye-catching and mesmerizing. Swirling colors are the most common theme, although the two clock themes were my favorites. I especially liked the butterfly clock theme. Although I didn’t hear any sound in the ones I tried, there is a mute option in the screensaver settings.

screensaver-mute

arrow-down-double-3 Screensaver Download Page

Techie Buzz Verdict:

I’ve downloaded and installed several of the screensavers at this site and never had a problem with any of them. These screensavers are safe, totally free, and there are dozens more to check out once you visit.

Techie Buzz Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Freeware Fridays | Top Tools of the Week #21

freeware-sign2

In case you haven’t seen them, here are the most recent posts in our Freeware category. We hope you enjoy reading about these freebies, and maybe you’ll find a keeper in the mix.


9 Intoxicating Oktoberfest Screensavers

around-beer

These beer screensaver themes are perfect for getting into a thirsty mood for the upcoming October festivities. Warning: Don’t drink and operate a computer.

Add Sticky Note Reminders to Applications And Websites

sticky-notes-popups

Gumnotes is a superb application for Windows which lets you add sticky note reminders to any application, document, files or a website.

Recover Passwords from over a dozen Applications

keys2-ico

Have you lost a password? If you need to recover a password from almost any application, we’ve covered some of the best ways to do that.

What is the Best Free Online Virus Scanner?

security-high-2

According to a trusted source, three free online virus scanners to try are: McAfee’s Freescan, Trendmicro’s HouseCall, and Symantec’s Security Check. I was skeptical and decided to try them myself.

How To Uninstall Internet Explorer 9 (IE9)

Internet Explorer 9

Microsoft released Internet Explorer 9 a few days ago. If you have installed the browser and find it buggy, you cannot directly go back and uninstall IE9 from the add/remove programs.


Be sure to let us know if you have a favorite freebie you’d like to see posted here. Our comments (below) are always open to you.

9 Intoxicating Oktoberfest Screensavers

[Windows Only]

As many of you have learned by now, not all free screensavers are created equal. Many times, free means that you have to install stupid toolbars, adware and other unwanted junk along with the screensaver. That’s not true of the ones at NewFreeScreensavers.com. Here are the most recent additions to the site.

around-beer attractions-beer beer-mugs clock-beer oktoberfest oktoberfest-bubbles oktoberfest-countdown salute-oktoberfest waitress-clock

These beer themes are perfect for getting into a thirsty mood for the upcoming October festivities. If you are hosting your own little Oktoberfest party, one of these on your screen is sure to be popular. Just be sure to set a password on the screensaver. I don’t recommend letting drunk people operate your PC. There’s nothing worse than a PC with a spyware hangover.

Video: THE ULTIMATE DRUNK PEOPLE COMPILATION

• Screensaver Download Page

Techie Buzz Verdict:

I’ve downloaded and installed several of the screensavers at this site and never had a problem with any of them. These screensavers are safe, totally free, and there are dozens more to check out once you visit.

Techie Buzz Rating: 3/5 (Good)