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.

Speed Up Your Boot Time with Soluto

[Windows XP/Vista/7]

soluto-iconHas your PC been taking longer and longer to boot? A long boot time can cause quite a bit of frustration. I’ve seen people buy a new PC, just because the old one was taking so long to fire up. To those of us who are power users, that seems pretty silly. We know how to manage the start-up processes. That doesn’t help the millions of users who don’t know why their PC is so slow to start.

In the past, there have been many applications that have made start-up management easier. My favorite app for that is WinPatrol. However, we do have posts about the best start-up managers here.

Recently, I heard some buzz about a new start-up manager that works quite differently, and much better than the managers I’ve used. It’s called Soluto.

So what is Soluto? Let’s hear from the authors …

Having been PC users since a very young age, we were simply tired of being so frustrated from our PC usage experience.

Soluto Beta allows you to understand your boot, discover which applications are slowing it down (and keep running later in the background, affecting your ongoing experience), and allows you to significantly improve it. While Soluto Beta focuses on the boot, it already researches for frustrations and helps map the PC Genome, and allows you to share your wisdom with others.

Most start-up managers let you tweak the Windows start-up settings. Once you’ve finished, the start-up managers aren’t normally running. Soluto takes a different approach. It uses a kernel level process that runs all the time. It gathers information during boot, and during your daily use. This is a unique approach and seems to be very effective. I found out how effective it was when I installed it the other day.

After boot, this is the first screen that I saw …

soluto-phones-home

Solutu looked for an internet connection, then it phoned home’ for advice about the applications it detected during start-up. Once that finished, I saw this screen …

soluto-displays-categories

The green section is a group of apps that Soluto has identified as no brainersor applications that you can remove from the boot without much thinking. The orange tinted category is a group of apps that you may have to get advice on. You may or may not want to remove these from the boot. The apps in the gray section can’t be removed.

Hovering over the green section, you’ll see a dialog appear …

soluto-make-decision

The dialog will tell you how long an application takes to launch during boot, and it gives you the options to Pauseor Delay.

soluto-pause

Pausing the app, takes it completely out of the boot cycle. The application isn’t deleted, and you can always start it manually from your Start menus.

soluto-delay

Delaying the app puts it on hold during the boot process. Once the PC has booted and the system is idle for any time, the application is launched.

As you go through this process of marking apps to Pause or Delay, you’ll see your estimated new boot time appear at the top of Soluto’s main window. As you can see, I saved over a minute of boot time.

soluto-final-results

There are some other important features in Soluto, but rather than bore you by writing more, I’ll show you a cool video:

If you can’t see the video, click here.


Download Soluto

Techie Buzz Verdict:

If your PC is slow to start, and you don’t know what to do about it, Soluto could save you plenty of frustration. The only thing I don’t like about Soluto, is the fact that it does run continuously as a system process. However, if this is weighed against the problems a slow PC can cause, I’d have to give Soluto a big thumb’s up.

techiebuzzrecommendedsoftware1

Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5 (Excellent)

A Web Browser for Your TV – Kylo

[Windows and Mac] I have hooked up my computers to the TV occasionally. It’s pretty cool, but for me, it’s not very handy. My couch is too far from the screen and I can’t read most of the text while surfing. A new web browser called Kylo, promises to solve that problem. The Kylo browser is based on Mozilla code, so it’s using the same engine that Firefox uses. Here’s what the web site says about their browser:

Sit back and get ready for big-screen browsing. Kylo brings your TV and computer together to create the ultimate content experience. Enjoy your favorite online shows, videos, music, games and news. Take your HDTV anywhere on the web.

I tried Kylo briefly last week. At first I was pretty amazed at how well it worked. Here you can see the Kylo home page. (click to expand pictures)

kylo-home-page

Next, I visited Youtube. It works very nicely in full screen mode most of the time. Occasionally the video would freeze, but going back to normal screen usually resumed the video.

kylo-at-youtube

Below, you can see the on-screen keyboard that pops up whenever you click into a text entry box.

kylo-big-keyboard

In the next two screens, I was watching a soccer match. It was almost like watching it on regular TV.

kylo-fifa-live kylo-fifa-full-screen

Rather than go into too much detail, I’ll show you a video on how Kylo works.

Click here if you can’t see the embedded video.

Download the Kylo TV Browser

Techie Buzz Verdict:

As I mentioned above, full screen video would occasionally freeze up. Other than that, I was pretty pleased with the way Kylo works. If you want to surf on your big screen, Kylo may be a good solution for you.

Techie Buzz Rating: 3/5 (Good)


Is Cyberdefender a Scam?

no-go-ico On March 24, 2010, lawyers representing the Cyberdefender Corporation issued a ‘take-down’ notice to Allen Harkleroad. The take-down notice claims that Allen published false and potentially defamatory articlesabout their product and sales practices.

The Contenders:

Cyberdefender is advertised as an easy solution for PCs that are running slow or are infected with spyware or adware. You may have seen the television advertisements for MyCleanPC.com and DoubleMySpeed.com. Visits to both of those websites will prompt you to install Cyberdefender software. It looks like Cyberdefender is the owner of both of those sites.

Allen Harkleroad is a well known consumer advocate, who has taken on some pretty big names in business, such as Dell, AMD, ATI, UPS and FedEx, to name a few.

The Contention:

Allen claims that Cyberdefender is a scam and has posted several articles in his websites, supporting those claims. Here’s one of them:

Beware of MyCleanPC.com and DoubleMySpeed.com Same Scam, Same Company

Here is a copy of the legal take-down notice from Cyberdefender’s lawyers:

CyberDefender Corp, MyCleanPC, DoubleMySpeed and Catanese and Wells

At one point, Allen says that he:

I installed the MyCleanPC software on a fully patched Windows XP machine that I rarely used just to see what happen. Other than installing software I use nothing else had been installed and no software had been uninstalled on the machine. It does have anti virus software on it. The CyberDefender software found over 3,000errors on a machine that runs perfectly fine, never had software uninstalled and rarely was on the Internet.

I’ve heard others claim that Cyberdefender isn’t worth the asking price. I decided to try it myself. I used Microsoft Virtual PC, with a copy of the IE6 test virtual machine. This allows me to run a clean, new, fully patched copy of Windows XP. It doesn’t have anything installed on it, not even an anti-virus program. The advantage to using a virtual machine is that I don’t have to worry about messing up a real computer.

Below, I have created a short slide show, which gives the results of my simple test.

Go here if you can’t see the embedded slideshow.

Conclusion:

Let the buyer beware. If I see over 300 errors reported on a clean PC, I have serious doubts and would never buy the software.   What do you think about DoubleMySpeed and MyCleanPC? Would you buy them?


Is it the Information Highway to Hell?

agent-ico As many of you know, the Internet is sometimes called the Information Superhighway. What most of you have not heard, is that the destination of this superhighway may not be what you had hoped. Where is it leading us?

What do you consider as threats to our privacy today?

• Cookie tracking
• Shopping data
• Search data
• Personal info from registrations
• Business info from credit agencies
• Medical data
• Government data
• Comments, Forums, Social sites
• GPS location tracking
• Cameras in Streets and Stoplights
• Cameras in Stores
• Cameras in Public Areas
• Nanny Cameras
• Home Security Cameras
• Satellite tracking cameras
• and more …

redlight-camera satellite

Doesn’t it make sense that someday, these will all be linked into the net and someone or something will be tracking your every movement? Who’s going to be watching? Governments are the obvious answer. For an example of this idea, watch “Enemy of the State“.

Another group to consider is the hacker community. They’ve discovered the profit in stealing your personal data.

If the governments and the hackers aren’t enough for you, let’s add more for you to worry about.

Your personal information is already a valuable commodity to businesses wanting to sell you products. What’s going to happen as those companies get access to ever more increasing amounts of data about you, where you are and what you are doing? Stephen Saunders at InformationWeek thinks the Internet will become:

… a sophisticated targeting system for companies to sell “stuff” to consumers, for governments to keep track of citizens, and for law enforcement to track illicit activity. In commercial terms, it will be an Internet where the user becomes the used.

I think Stephen may not be paranoid enough. After all, many are predicting the introduction of true machine intelligence by 2025. What could super-intelligent computers could do with all that information about us? I’m not afraid that Skynet will nuke us, but how long can we retain any illusion of freedom when our machines know everything about us and they’re smarter than we are? Watch the movie Eagle Eyefor a hint.

Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, expressed the same concerns ten years ago, in his post “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us“. I remember his question:

Can we doubt that knowledge has become a weapon we wield against ourselves?

Now you might understand why I’m a little paranoid about the future. I think we’ll have a choice to become “one with the machine”, like the Borg, or become useless slaves to our technology. The governments, corporations and hackers will be the least of our worries. Welcome to the machine.


Organize Simple Text Notes with QeepIt

notepad-ico [Windows Only] If you have a great deal of text data that you need to organize, and you don’t care if it looks fancy, you could always use a simple application like Qeepit. It allows you to write and organize notes in plain text. There are no pictures, fonts or links. What you see below is what you get.

qeepit-1

A few years back, a reader had asked me if there was a PIM (Personal Information Manager) available that kept its information in text files. Fortunately for them, I was able to recommend QeepIt, because I had used it before.

QeepIt’s notes can be organized into Groups, and those groups are simply folders inside the main FileStorefolder. Each note is a text file, as you can see in this image:

qeepit-note-files

If needed, any application that can read text files can also use QeepIt notes. For programmers, and others who extensively work with text files, this could be a big plus.

There are a few other features that make QeepIt a good option for taking notes. Each group of notes can have its own index mask which appears beside the notes. It can be easily customized by simply clicking once into the index to modify it. The index mask is shown below, outlined in green.

qeepit-index

Making changes to a note is just as easy. Double click inside any note and type away on it. Notes can also be Lockedand Hiddenif needed, to prevent accidental changes or lost privacy.

Qeepit includes manuals and supports the use of three languages, English, German and Italian.

Below are some snap-shots of the menus in QeepIt, so you get an idea about the various options available in this freebie.

queepit-menu1 qeepit-menu2 qeepit-menu3 qeepit-menu4 qeepit-menu5 qeepit-menu6 qeepit-menu7

The last thing I’ll mention is that QeepIt is completely portable. It stores all of its notes and settings inside the program folder. The program folder can be copied onto a USB flash drive or other portable storage, and it will run just as well from there.

Download: http://www.brothersoft.com/qeepit-9042.html

Home page: http://www.freewarehits.de (abandoned)

Note: Requires VB 5 Runtime libraries – http://support.microsoft.com/kb/180071

Techie Buzz Verdict:

If all you need are simple text notes, portability and compatibility with other software, QeepIt may be just what you need to keep yourself organized.

Techie Buzz Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Freeware Fridays | Top Tools Of the Week #12

freeware-signIn 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.


thunderbird_31[1]

Thunderbird 3.1 Available For Downloads

Thunderbird 3.1 has been released. Download the final release of Thunderbird 3.1 for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.


chhose-backup-dir

BackupAnywhere is a Simple USB Backup Tool That Supports Folder Sync

BackupAnywhere is a simple USB backup tool which can back up the entire content of a USB drive in a folder on your computer. You can also use this utility to sync your hard drive folders with USB Folders.


desktop-cc-icon

How to Hide Desktop Icons (Win XP)

There are many ways to hide Desktop icons. I’ll cover three methods here. The method you choose is up to you.


Windows Live Essential Beta

Windows Live Essentials Beta Available For Downloads

Windows Live Essentials which was earlier known as Windows Live Wave 4 has reached a beta stage will be available for downloads starting tomorrow.


check-mark-ico Why Was SHOUTCast Radio Removed From the Latest VLC 1.1.0 Release?

AOL Corporation is not too happy about the availability of SHOUTCast Radio on VLC and wants it removed. They forced VLC to include the adware SHOUTCast toolbar.


irotate-example

Easy Screen Rotation with iRotate

If you need an easy way to rotate your PC’s screen displays, iRotate is an option you should try.


Firefox Crash Protection

Firefox 3.6.4 Released With CrashProtection

Firefox 3.6.4 has been released with crash protection. Firefox 3.6.4 introduces Crash protection by using the Out-of-process plugins (OOPP) feature.


VLC-1.1.0-The-Luggage

VLC Media Player v1.1.0 Released GPU Decoding, WebM, Extensions and More

VLC has been updated to 1.1.0. The new releases supports GPU accelerated video decoding, webM and extensions.


Destroy-Twitter-2

Destroy Twitter 2.0 Released Quick Review

Destroy Twitter 2.0 has been released. Find out what’s new.


cd-drive-ico SystemRescueCD Releases Version 1.5.6 With a new GParted

SystemRescueCD is to data recovery what BackTrack is to hacking. It gives us an array of in built tools for partition recovery as well as backup. It supports the Ext2, Ext3 and Ext4, ReiserFS, VFAT, XFS, JFS, NTFS and Btrfs file systems.


Opera-10.54

Opera 10.54 Fixes Multiple Security Issues

Opera 10.54 fixes a host of security issues and is a highly reccomended update for all Opera 10.5x users.


chit-chat-for-facebook

Giving Up On Time Wasted on Facebook?

My previous girlfriend started to send Facebook messages … I haven’t visited the Facebook for days now and I don’t miss it, since I have Chit Chat.


vlcmediaplayer

7 Free Alternatives for Windows Media Player

There are several limitations to Windows Media Player. This post compiles a list of freeware that serve as alternatives to Windows Media Player.


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.


How to Hide Desktop Icons (Win XP)

desktop-cc-icon Some people drop shortcuts and files all over their Windows Desktop. The result will be something between rigid organization and total chaos. There are a few people who can’t stand to see anything on their Desktop except the nice wallpapers they put there. Here are a few tips for these neat freaks.

A. Right Click Method
— If you’ve been around Windows awhile, you probably already know this method. Right click anywhere on an empty area of your Desktop, and choose “Arrange Icons By“, then select “Show Desktop Icons“. Use this method to show or hide icons any time you wish. Just be aware that it takes Windows a seemingly long, 5 or 6 seconds to actually react to this choice. Why does it take so long? Ask Bill Gates.

showdesktop-icons-right-click

B. Registry Hack

— If you plan to make changes to the registry, be sure to create a backup before making changes. You can use the ERUNT tool to back it up, create a System Restore point, or you can read my post on how to use Regedit.

This hack will hide all the desktop icons until you remove it. Open Regedit and navigate to:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ SOFTWARE\ Microsoft\Windows\ CurrentVersion\ policies\ Explorer

Then add a new DWORD named NoDesktopwith a value of 1.

Here’s the registry merge script in case you want to create a .REG file.

——

REGEDIT4

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\policies\Explorer]
“NoDesktop”=dword:00000001

——

If you don’t understand something in this section, I’ll remind you to read my post telling you how to use Regedit. Don’t mess with the Windows Registry unless you have a basic knowledge of how it all works.

C. Freeware app Desktop Control Center

— Ok, I’ll confess, I am one of those neat freaksat times and my Desktop has way too many icons on it. My favorite method for hiding them is a little utility created by Robert Hess, a Microsoft Software Designer.

Desktop Control Center (DCC) is one of those hard to findutilities, written way back in the early 1990’s. It’s tiny, at 19k, and it’s a stand-alone, single executable file.

I usually set a link to it in my Quick Launch as shown below. The second, green icon is Desktop Control Center.

desktop-cc-quick-launch

Once launched, it’ll give you the option to hide all the icons, when you chose Hide the Desktop Window.

desktop-cc-app

You can close the DCC app as soon as you’ve made a choice. It doesn’t need to continue running. The reason I always place it next to the blue Show Desktopshortcut, is that when you hit Show Desktop, all your application Windows will minimize just an you’d expect, however, all your hidden icons will temporarily show on the desktop for you as well. Now that’s a neat trick.

Oh, in case you want it, here’s the green desktop icon I made for the Quick Launch shortcut. I created it with IcoFX.

The original icon for DCC is not very nice looking.

old-vs-new-icon

Download Desktop Control Center

By the way, I have to give DCC a thumbs up. It’s a great little app.

techiebuzzrecommendedsoftware1

Conclusion:

I’ve shown you three ways to hide the Desktop icons. Do you have your own special tricks for organizing and hiding icons on the Desktop? If so, please comment below.

Easy Screen Rotation with iRotate

irotate-example

[Windows All] Most of today’s graphics cards support the ability to rotate the screen display. Many people prefer to mount their monitors sideways, so that they can more naturally edit long document pages or read long web pages. On many PCs, the graphics card may support rotation, but the display properties don’t show the rotation settings, or a specific screen utility is missing. If you need an easy way to rotate your displays, iRotate is an option you should try. Here’s what the author says about it:

iRotate provides convenient access to the native rotation capabilities present in contemporary display drivers, via a popup menu accessible from the system tray and optional system-wide hotkeys. It’s no longer necessary to resort to bloated Windows hacks, additional software layers or phantom drivers to achieve content rotation.

For example, if I’m reading an eBook in the Kindle application on my Windows netbook, iRotate allows me to turn my netbook sideways and hold it like a real book. On the left side of this post, you can see what my display looks like. It’s almost like reading a real book.

The iRotate utility resides as an icon (or icons) in your system tray when it’s running. You can either right click on the icon or use the default hotkeys as shown below.

irotate-menu

In the image above, you can see that iRotate supports multiple monitors. This screen app works for most graphics cards, and it’s only about 125k in size. I think that’s amazing.

Download iRotate

Note: The download link is a little hard to spot. Look in the upper left corner of the web page, as shown in the image below.

irotate-download

Techie Buzz Verdict:

The iRotate program is small, light on resources, and works flawlessly for most graphics cards. It’s free for personal use, and I can’t think of any reason not to give it a big thumbs up.

Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5 (Excellent)

Dangerous Bug in Windows XP Turns Windows Help into Windows Hell

red-x-ico If you haven’t already, you need to fix your Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 machines to protect you against a recently discovered flaw. It’s called the HCP Flaw.

microsoft-hpc

Is it dangerous? Yes, all you have to do is view a specially coded page on the net, and your control over your PC can be stolen right out from under you.

Here’s what the problem is. A flaw in the Windows Help and Support Center (helpctr.exe) was discovered recently, and shortly after that, the information telling people how to take advantage of it was also published. It’s good when Windows flaws are reported, but it’s very bad when the information on how to use those flaws is also broadcast. You can bet that there are some black hats out there already infecting PCs with this new flaw.

There is a fix out from Microsoft. Go to this page and click on the Fixbutton to download the fix (KB2219475).

microsoft-hpc-fix

This fixisn’t a real solution. It disables the Help and Support Center in Windows, but if you are like me, you never use it anyway. Some time after Microsoft offers a real update to solve this problem, I’ll go back and re-enable the help center.

People running running Windows 7, Vista, 2000 or Server 2008 are safe from this bug. The affected operating systems are:

Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2, when used with:
Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition (32-bit x86)
Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition (32-bit x86)
Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition (32-bit x86)
Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Web Edition
Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Datacenter x64 Edition
Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Enterprise x64 Edition
Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Standard x64 Edition
Microsoft Windows XP Professional x64 Edition
Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition for Itanium-Based Systems
Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition for Itanium-based Systems
Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2, when used with:
Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition
Microsoft Windows XP Professional
Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 3, when used with:
Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition
Microsoft Windows XP Professional

Here’s a good place to find more information on the HCP Flaw if you need it.

Many thanks to Terry’s Computer Tips for this tip.


Save Money on Office 2010 or Get a Free Office Suite

no-word Microsoft left out a key ingredient in it’s recipe for getting everyone to use it’s newly released Microsoft Office 2010. They failed to offer Office 2010 upgrade discounts to the current users of Office 2007. What’s up with that?

office-2010

There is still hope for those wanting to save money on Office 2010. Microsoft is offering free upgrades to 2010 for those buying and activating Office 2007 or upgrading from Office 2003 to 2007. The best savings are for those upgrading from Office 2003 to Office 2010, as detailed in a post at PC World. The post mentions that there are several restrictions on the free upgrades. Due to the restrictions, many people and companies will still be paying a lot of money for a full featured and modern office suite. I have to wonder if MS Office is really worth all the trouble. After all, there are several free alternatives to MS Office.

Many companies, home users, local governments and schools have saved big money by scrapping Microsoft Office and switching to Open Office 3.2. Since Microsoft Office is so expensive, now is a good time to ask yourself if OpenOffice, which is completely free, could replace your existing Microsoft Office 2007. OpenOffice has a some great FAQs that can help you decide if it’s a good deal for you. Take a look at “Why OpenOffice.org“.

open-office-ad

There are plenty of questions raised when considering the cost of an office suite. Have you asked all the right questions?

MS Office 2010

OpenOffice.org