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.

Create Goo.gl Short URL’s with a Bookmarklet

goo_gl_logo Earlier today, Amit posted a note here, which told you about a Firefox add-on to create short URLs with Goo.gl. My immediate thought was:

How can I create Goo.gl links if I’m not using Firefox?

I wasn’t a bit surprised to find an answer at Marklets.com, one of my favorite spots to grab new bookmarklets. Bookmarklets will usually work in any modern web browser. If you don’t know what bookmarklets are, see this FAQ.

Now, I’ll part the curtain to display the Goo.gl Bookmarklet:

goo.gl bookmarklet

Drag the link above and drop it onto your web browser’s Bookmarks Toolbar, or right click and copy the address, then create a new bookmark. You can then move it to your bookmarks toolbar folder.

To use the Goo.gl bookmarklet, all you have to do is click the bookmarklet in your toolbar when you are at a page that you want to shorten the URL for. Here’s what you’ll see when you click the bookmarklet.

goo_gl_bookmarklet_shot

After the popup appears, highlight the short URL and copy it.

Here at Techie Buzz, we have also posted several other useful bookmarklets and links to lists of bookmarklets. You can find our posts about bookmarklets here.

Techie Buzz Verdict:

This bookmarklet could use some work. It would be nice if there were an easier way to grab the short URL instead of highlighting and copying. I also have to question the use of Goo.gl for shortening website addresses. Currently, there are far better URL shortening services out there, such as bit.ly and others we’ve mentioned before.

Techie Buzz Rating: 2/5 (Below Average)

Rohos Mini Drive – Hide Your Data on Flash Drives

I carry a 2Gb SD Card in my wallet almost every day. On the card, I have a complete portable suite of applications, pictures, movies, music and some personal data.

I keep it backed up occasionally, so I’m not worried if I lose it. However, I don’t want my personal data falling into the wrong hands. Up until recently, I’ve been using the free  Safehouse Explorer to encrypt all that data. It’s a fantastic and easy to use encryption utility, but now I’m using an app that works better for me.

rohos_mini_logo_new

Features:

Rohos Mini Drive (RMD) is a free encryption utility, especially designed to hide and protect data on a USB flash drive or other flash media, such as my SD card. RMD has a host of features that make it simple to manage hidden data on a flash drive. Here are a few:

  • Creates a virtual encrypted partition (volume)
  • Automatically detects your USB drive and helps create a new volume
  • Portable works on a guest computer without Admin rights
  • Volume is protected by password
  • Encryption is automatic – on-the-fly’
  • Encryption algorithm is AES 256 bit
  • Virtual Keyboard – protects your password from keyloggers
  • Autorun Folder – shortcuts that automatically start when volume is opened great for launching portable menus
  • File Virtualization you can safely open files without them being decrypted to temporary space on the host PC
  • FREE for non-commercial, personal use

Set-up and Use:

Portal the Flash Version – 3D Puzzle Game Rocks

I’m not into gaming much anymore, but the first time I saw the game Portal, I was sure I’d be addicted if I ever got a copy. Well, I never did get a copy of it. However, I don’t feel so bad now, because I can play a simple Flash version of the game that was made by a fan. ( Play it here: Portal the Flash Version )

The Flash version is very simplistic compared to the real thing, but it will still very likely have you wasting hours of time on these fantastic 3D puzzles.

Here’s what the Flash version looks like:

portal-the-flash-game

.

And in case you are curious, here’s what the real version looks like:

.

Have fun!

Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5 (Excellent)

Free Full Version of WinOptimizer 5

As is often the case with Ashampoo products, shortly after they roll out new versions, you start seeing free offers for the previous versions.

There’s nothing wrong with that at all. I’ve used several Ashampoo products after free versions became available. I’ve found their offerings to be very good in most cases. Ashampoo WinOptimizer is also one of those cases.

What is WinOptimizer?

winoptimizer-5-box WinOptimizer is a PC cleaner and optimizer. After scanning the system, the software offers you opportunities to change the PC settings to increase performance. It also scans for unnecessary (junk) files and orphaned or corrupted registry keys.

Here are a few additional features:

  • Undeleter
  • Icon Saver
  • Real-time backup
  • Registry Optimizer
  • Drive Cleaner
  • Tweaking Tools
  • Process Manager
  • StartUp Tuner
  • File Wiper
  • One-Click Optimization

WinOptimizer has consistently had a 4 out of 5 user rating at Download.com and is a popular download despite a normal cost of around $40 or $50 USD after a trial period.

In order to get it for free, you will have to jump through a few hoops. However, none of the hoops are on fire, and I’ll guide you through them step by step.

Get a free license and download WinOptimizer:

Change Your DNS Settings Fast with Dns Jumper

If you don’t know what a DNS is, or how to access your DNS settings, I recommend that you read an article I posted nearly two weeks ago: How to use Google Public DNS on Windows 7 and Windows XP

If you already know what DNS is, then you might get a real kick out of Dns Jumper.

Dns Jumper is a small, portable freeware application which makes changing your DNS settings as easy as clicking a button.

Here’s what it looks like:

You’ll need to download and unpack a ZIP file in order to gain access to the Dns_Jumper.exefile. There is no installation. Just move the EXE file to a safe folder and double click it to run Dns Jumper.

The home site for this little utility is fairly new, so it’s not rated by anyone yet, but this particular app seems to be quite safe to use.

Download Dns Jumper

http://sordum.3eeweb.com/?p=4573

Techie-Buzz Verdict:

Using this free little app sure beats having to dig into the Control Panel settings. The fact that it’s portable freeware is just icing on the cake. However, since I’m not familiar with the site and it’s author, I’ll reserve giving Jumper a higher rating. Oh, one thing I’d suggest to the author is … get rid of the music.

Techie-Buzz Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Multifox for Logging into Multiple Accounts

multifox-logo The Multifox addon for Firefox is a unique solution to an old problem that some of us account gluttons sometimes have.

The problem: Logging into several accounts at the same website, at the same time.

I’ll grant you that this isn’t a problem for most people, but if you are one of the few who have multiple email accounts, Twitter accounts, Facebook accounts, or accounts at some other site, Multifox could be your new friend.

Here’s how it works, once it’s installed:

Right click on any browser link, and you’ll see a new action in the menu, Open Link in New Identity Profile.

multifox-open-in-new-profile

The link will open in a new window, and you’ll be able to login in as you wish. As far as I know, there are no limitations, on the number of windows you can open this way.

Download Multifox

http://br.mozdev.org/multifox/

Techie Buzz Verdict

This addon could prove to be very useful to a select few Firefox users. If you are one of these, you know who you are.

Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5

Review of the Eset Online Scanner

A few days ago, I installed Microsoft Security Essentials on my new netbook. It is doing it’s job quite well so far. In fact, it caught an intrusion from some questionable software (my bad) that I was trying out.

Today I decided to get an additional opinion from Eset Online Scanner. I trust the Eset name, since their antivirus solutions have been a gold standard in security for many years. Eset’s online software uses the same AV engines and signatures as it’s flag-ship products, ESET Smart Security and NOD32. It promises to work on any Windows NT, 2000, XP, Vista or 7 systems. In addition, it will run directly inside of Internet Explorer 5 or greater (using ActiveX), and you can also run it from a downloaded Smart Installerif you aren’t using Internet Explorer.

After the ActiveX or the Smart Installer finishes, Eset will start downloading it’s signature database.

eset-online-scanner-signature-download

Next, you’ll be able to actually tweak your scan with a few settings. The settings will even allow you to change the areas that ESET will scan on your hard drive.

eset-online-scanner-settings

Now ESET gets down to the dirty job of actually scanning the PC. I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t take much more that 15 minutes before it finished.

eset-online-scanner-in-progress

And finally, you will reach the results screen. Hopefully, you’ll get the same message that I did.

eset-online-scanner-results-screen

If ESET’s online scanner does detect some suspected malware, it actually won’t automatically delete the files. Instead, they are put in quarantine and you’ll be allowed to either restore the files or delete them.

ESET Online Scanner page

http://www.eset.com/onlinescan/

Techie Buzz Verdict:

techiebuzzrecommendedsoftware1 Having a second opinion on your system’s security is almost priceless, and in this case, it’s almost painless. I can highly recommend ESET Online Scanner. I found no faults with the scanner, but if it were up to me, I’d get rid of the ActiveX install. It’s not needed and it’s extra work supporting it. I think I could also recommend that you download the Smart Installer and drop it on a flash drive, just before you make a house call to fix up your friend’s sick computer.

Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5 (Excellent)

The Matrix as Your Desktop and Screensaver

The_Matrix_Poster
© 1999 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

The cool green characters dripping down the monitors were a very cool effect in the Matrix movies, and you’ve probably seen any number of screensavers that give you the same effect.

However, have you ever seen this on your active Windows desktop? Now you can have it there easily. Won’t that impress all your geek friends? Okay, maybe not.

While cruising through SourceForge today, I ran across this Windows enhancement named ZMatrix. It’s free and open source software (FOSS), so you won’t have to worry about 3rd party advertising in this one.

Download the 2mb file and install it. There are no surprises and the initial setup is a breeze.

Here’s what it looks like on my desktop now.

zmatrix-black

It’s fully active, almost like having a movie as a desktop wallpaper. The two or three main settings I played with allowed me to either make the background black (as above) or show the characters streaming above my normal wallpaper, or even have the characters take on the color of the wallpaper behind them (as shown below).

zmatrix-opaque zmatrix-transparent

There are tons more tweaks (shown below) that I haven’t even played with.

zmatrix-config

Wait, that’s not all. I almost forgot to mention that it includes a screensaver. The screensaver has all the same options, which makes it possibly the best Matrix screensaver I’ve seen.

Download / Home page for ZMatrix

http://sourceforge.net/projects/zmatrix/

Techie Buzz Verdict:

I love playing with this enhancement, and I’m guessing other old Matrix fans out there will also enjoy it. I couldn’t find anything wrong to criticize, but I’ll stop short of recommending it as a must haveapplication. It’s really only eye-candy.

Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5 (excellent)

Review of Radian Application Launcher

There are plenty of free application launchers out there. Most of them will work fine in a pinch, and I’ve tried so many that I rarely get excited about seeing a new one. The only reason that I tried Radian, was because it had such a unique looking interface. (see the other app launchers we’ve mentioned)

radian-menu

As you can see from the screenshot, once it’s up, it looks entirely different from most launchers. The Radian launcher is triggered by a continuous right click anywhere on the screen. No matter what application is up on the screen, you’ll still be able to access your favorite applications.

Radian is currently at version 1.0.0.64 and is available for download as a 630k executable setup file. The installation is simple, and there are no surprises or unwanted companion programs. Since Radian is a free and open source software (FOSS) project at Sourceforge.net, I wasn’t expecting anything other than honestly free software.

As soon as the installation finishes, you are tossed into the design mode. This is the part that I found tricky. You’re left to try to figure out how to add, remove and organize the application links in the interface. After a bit of trial and error, I did finally get things the way I wanted them by dragging links around on the launcher and dragging new shortcuts from my Start menu onto the launcher. Once you get the hang of it, it really does make sense.

Later,   you can re-open design mode by right clicking the Radian icon in the system tray.

Here is a video, from one of authors, showing some of the main features. Admittedly, this video has no sound, and it’s way too long, but it may save you time figuring out how to use Radian.

Radian Home Page and Download

Techie Buzz Verdict:

I like the unique interface and it’s ability to be called up no matter what’s showing on your screen. I gave this launcher points for being free and open source. I had to take away points for it’s seeming lack of a help file and good documentation and I’d rate it’s ease of usea little below average. However, if you like impressive graphics and need a good launcher, you should give Radian a try.

Techie Buzz Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Mozilla Thunderbird 3 Review

thunderbird-icon Mozilla, the organization behind Firefox and other open source programs, just released version 3.0 of the Thunderbird email client.

They’ve packed quite a few changes into the new version, such as a tabbed interface, a new search tool and a streamlined setup for Gmail and other online mail services.

I’m a long time Gmail user, so switching to a PC client to read my mail instead of viewing it through a web browser is still feeling strange to me. However, the setup process was as simple as providing my login and password. Within 2 or 3 minutes, I was sending and receiving mail with no problems.

The T-bird main interface isn’t anything exciting to look at, and looks like most other email clients at first. However, there are lots of themes available to make it look just how you like it.

thunderbird-standard thunderbird-aero thunderbird-walnut

The new search interface is almost unbelievable. It’s very fast and it can find anything you’ve ever written once all of your mail is indexed.

thunderbird-screenshot-tabs-search

The tabs in Thunderbird are a big improvement for those who need to multitask. Opening an email in a tab is as simple as double clicking and right-clicking on a message opens it in a tab in the background. T-bird will also remember what you had open in the tabs when you close the program. The next time you return, the previous mail and searches will still be displayed.

Another thing many people will like is that you’ll be able to use Thunderbird on all of your computers, whether you use Windows, Mac or Linux.

If you enjoy creating nice looking emails, Thunderbird has a good many features to help, fonts of all kinds and tools to insert images, tables, links and HTML code.

The biggest plus in my estimation, is the addon support. There are lots of cool addons for Thunderbird, similar to the addons for Firefox. The first addon that I used allowed me to synchronize my Gmail contacts with T-bird. That certainly saved me time and effort.

thunderbirdt-addonsmanager

The download for Windows is less than 9mb and it installs easily with very few steps.

Download / Main Page for Thunderbird

Techie-Buzz Verdict:

techie-buzz-recommended-software[1]

Mozilla has made several excellent improvements with this version. In many cases, they’ve got a real shot at leaving the other email clients far behind in popularity. If you need an email client, Thunderbird is a winner for many reasons.

Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5 (Excellent)

How to Add WinHlp32 Support to Windows 7 and Vista

windows7looogoo The other day while I was playing around with an older program, I clicked on the built-in help feature and I received this message from Microsoft:

The Help for this program was created in Windows Help format, which depends on a feature that isn’t included in this version of Windows …

winhelp32-help-error

I went to the recommended site at Microsoft, and there they explained the following:

Microsoft stopped including the 32-bit Help file viewer in Windows releases beginning with Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008.

Isn’t that just sweet? Arghhhh!

Fortunately, they still offer you the chance to download and install the old help file viewer, which is named WinHlp32.exe.

Even if you haven’t gotten this helpfulmessage yet, you probably will at some time in the future. You can save yourself some time later and install the old help viewer now.

Here is the download for Vista, and here is the download for Windows 7. You’ll have to jump through Microsoft’s Genuine Validation hoop before you can get to the real download. Other than that, it acts like any other Windows Update.

If you need more help installing the old help, let me know with a comment below or email me.

Backup/Restore Windows Live Writer with Import/Export Plugin

Recently, someone posted a comment at my website, telling me about two useful and   free Windows Live Writer Plugins from Kobi Pinhasov. The first plugin that I tried out was called Import and Export Settings Wizard. (also see Windows Live Writer Backup)

kobi-pinhasov Kobi mentioned how that he’d always hated trying to sync up his WLW between different PCs. He decided to write a plugin to solve that problem. According to his blog post, this plugin will import and export the Configuration Settings, Auto links glossary, Preferences, Blog Accounts and the Installed Plug-ins. While exporting, you can save the backups in a local folder, network folder or FTP. He also plans to add the ability to export to SkyDrive and other cloud backup sites soon.

Here are some screen-shots as I tried out the Import Export Wizard plugin.

Screen-shots

1. As you can see, you will access the wizard via your Insertmenu in WLW.

lwl-import-export-insert-menu

2. You are first offered a choice as to what you’d like to do. I chose to Export my settings.

lwl-import-export-1

3. Next you can pick and choose which settings to back up.

lwl-import-export-2

4. As you can see below, I chose to export settings to My Dropbox account so that I could access them from anywhere on the web.

lwl-import-export-3

5. After a few seconds, the wizard reported that it was done.

lwl-import-export-4

Once I finished exporting, I checked the output folder that I’d selected and found the files that the wizard had created.

lwl-import-export-5

I have not checked out the Import setting on this plugin yet, but I do know at least one person who’s been using it, besides the author, that is.

Download this plugin at: Import and Export Wizard for Windows Live Writer

Techie Buzz Verdict

Using this plugin, you may save yourself a good number of headaches and save time. I like the way it works and I may give it a better rating once the author adds access to other web file hosting services.

Techie Buzz Rating: 3/5

Be sure to add a comment below or email me. I’d love to hear from you.

Windows CleanUp! for Fast and Fun System Cleanings

windows-cleanup-icon

Windows Cleanup is a small and portable freeware application which quickly scans your Windows system for various types of temporary files that you don’t need taking up space.

On a recent scan of my system, I was amazed to see that it actually cleaned up about 2 Gigabytes of unwanted files. While you can’t expect this to happen every time, I’m guessing that freeing up several hundred megabytes on your first run isn’t unusual.

As I mentioned above, CleanUp is portable, meaning that there is no installation required and it can be run from a floppy disk or a USB flash drive. It’s downloaded as a single executable file which is currently named CleanUp452.exe. I recommend that you move the file to your Program Filesfolder after you download it, then create a shortcut to it in your Start Menu or on the Desktop.

Why would you want to use Windows CleanUp?

Microsoft provides you with a utility which can clean up unused and temporary files. You’ll find it under the Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools menu, listed as Disk Cleanup. The Windows CleanUp program does everything that Disk Cleanup does, but it does much more, and it is much faster.

My wife and I have been using Windows CleanUp for several years now, and we’ve come to the point at which we’ve memorized the website address and tell all of our friends to go out and get a copy. It runs in all versions of Windows up to and including XP. However, I’ve been using it in Windows 7 with no problems, even though the author has not recoded it for Vista or Seven yet. The screen-shots below are all from my Windows 7 machine.

You might find that running Windows CleanUp occasionally will noticeably help your web surfing speed, since web browser slow-downs can be caused by large amounts of browser cache files that build up over time.

Below is a snapshot of the main interface of CleanUp. It’s simple, but there’s some real power hidden in the options when you need it. I definitely recommend that you go into the options before you run it the first time.

windows-cleanup-report

What does CleanUp remove?

  • Browser cache
  • Browser History
  • Cookies
  • Bookmarks and Favorites (optional and disabled by default)
  • “MRU lists” (Most Recently Used file lists) for many applications
  • Contents of the Recent Documents folder
  • Entries from the Run and Find Computer dialogs
  • Recycle Bins (on all drives)
  • Many temporary folders
  • Some unneeded registry entries
  • High scores for some Windows games;
  • And more

Fun?

So, where does the fun part come in? It’s the sound that Cleanup plays just after you click on the CleanUp!button.

I won’t tell you what the sound is, but you can hear it by clicking the play button.

This sound can be turned off in the options if you aren’t allowed to have fun.

Windows CleanUp Options

The CleanUp options will let you control exactly what you want this program to delete. There are some items listed on the first tab that you may not really want CleanUp to trash, so be sure to remove check-marks beside those items before you run CleanUp the first time.

windows-cleanup-options

Some of the other tabs in the options will allow you to specify files, registry entries and cookies that you don’t want deleted and also those that you specifically want to delete. For example, CleanUp will recognize the temporary files for most popular web browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox and Opera. However, CleanUp isn’t tweaked for Google Chrome yet. In order to make CleanUp remove the Chrome file cache, you’d have to open the Custom Filestab and enter something like this:

(for XP) C:\Documents and Settings\[USERNAME]\Local Settings\Application Data\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default\Cache\*.*

(for Vista or Win7) C:\Users\[USERNAME]\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default\Cache\*.*

In the above two paths, be sure to change [USERNAME] to your actual user name in Windows. Also leave out the text I have included in (brackets).

Tips on Use

CleanUp will work best for you if you run it while you don’t have any other programs running. This helps it avoid lockedfiles that are in use by other applications. When CleanUp runs into files that are locked, it will wait until it’s done with everything else, then ask you to log off Windows and log back in so that it can finish deleting those locked files.

windows-cleanup-reboot

Running Windows CleanUp before using a disk defragmenter program is always a sure way to speed up the defrag process.

Download / Homepage for Windows CleanUp!

Techie Buzz Verdict:

I have no problem recommending this program for use by anyone who would like to keep their system running leaner and faster. However, there’s always a danger that CleanUp could delete files that you really didn’t want it to. Always back up your valuable files before using new software or as part of your general computer maintenance.

Techie Buzz Rating: 3/5

How to use Google Public DNS on Windows 7 and Windows XP

Google recently announced that it’s offering a new public DNS server. It caught me by surprise. However, I’m not new to using public DNS services, and I gave Google’s new service a try. If you are using Windows 7 or Windows XP, I’ll show you how to set it up.

First, let’s get a couple of questions out of the way.

What is a DNS server?

DNS stuff can get pretty complicated, and I don’t want to go into details, so I’ll just give you a general idea. A DNS server is like a phone book. If you want to call someone using your phone, you may need to look up their phone number. Every website on the net has a 12 digit number (IP Address) that your PC needs to know in order to contact it. When you type a website name into a browser, your PC queries it’s assigned DNS server (the phone book), the DNS server reports the IP address (the phone number) back to your PC, and the PC initiates a connection with the site you requested. This all happens automatically and you really don’t need to know about DNS to use it. Most people are using a private DNS server that’s assigned by their Internet Service Provider, however, there are many open (public) DNS servers out there that anyone can use. Google’s new DNS server is only one among thousands.

Why would you want to use Google’s Public DNS?

I’m not sure that I completely agree with the reasons given at the Google Public DNS home page, but they state that their DNS service is faster, more secure and fairly private. Personally, I prefer OpenDNS, but that’s a topic for another time.

And now – on to the How toportion.

Set up Google Public DNS on Windows XP

Windows Double Explorer for Windows 7

A few weeks ago, I saw a new freeware Explorer replacement called Windows Double Explorer(or WDE). I downloaded it, tried it out, and it didn’t work. I moved on, thinking nothing more about it. I ran into it again recently, and I saw that it only works in Windows 7. The first time I used it, I had tried it in Windows XP. So, all this time I was missing out because I didn’t read the description closely.

WDE is available in two download packages. One download is a standard MSI installer so that it’s easily installed as you would most apps. The other download is labeled Copy and Run, but you might understand that better if I call it the portableversion. The Copy and Runversion is simply a zip file that you will have to unpack into a folder to run. I’ve read that this app does not write to the registry so it really can be considered portable.

After trying it in Windows 7, I can now show you some of the fine features of this application.

Windows Double Explorer allows you to view two or more folders in the same window. This makes dragging, dropping, copying, pasting and organizing so much simpler than the typical Windows Explorer. However, that’s only the tip of it’s iceberg full of features. Here’s a detailed look at WDE.

double-explorer-app

A. In this section, you can quickly change the layout from side-by-side to top-over-bottom. Clicking on the 1and 2can show you each explorer pane by itself as well.

B. You can drag and drop folders onto this Favorites Bar, and they’ll stay there as long as you need them. This makes for super-fast navigation.

C. In this section are a few standard tools such as Root, Folder Up,Back, Forwardand Delete.

D. Here are the tabs. You can right click on them and add as many tabs as you need. If you need to work in more folders, open up more tabs.

E. Here’s where you access the standard file and folder operations that are featured in normal Explorer windows.

I’m not done yet, there’s even more to show you.

double-explorer-app-known-folders

F. What you see above is only a portion of the long list that’s displayed when you click on the Known Foldersmenu. It displays twenty or thirty common folders in Windows 7 that you may need to access quickly.

I hope that’s enough to give you a good taste. There’s more I haven’t covered because I’m still learning to use it.

Here’s the website for Windows Double Explorer.

Techie Buzz Verdict:

techie-buzz-recommended-software If you feel the need for more efficiency when you’re organizing files, this app is a great helper. The only thing I didn’t like, was that the application does take a few seconds to start. Since that’s the case, I’ve learned to keep it minimized while it’s not being used. This is a very new program and I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for updates and improvements.

Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5

Be sure to add a comment below or email me. I’d love to hear from you.