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 #28

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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.


MiniBin Let’s You Manage Windows Recycle Bin From System Tray

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Need to quickly empty the Recycle bin and can’t find the Recycle bin icon on Windowsdesktop? MiniBin is a freeware utility which lets you manage Windows Recycle bin following a nifty little system tray icon.

Put the Newest Free Screensavers on Your Christmas List

nfs-35-christmas-newyears

Christmas is coming fast. I hope you’re ready for it. How about some free Christmas gifts for those geeky friends of yours?

FLUX: Adjust Screen Color Temperature According To Room Lighting

Flux Logo

Flux is a freeware that automatically adjusts the screen temperature according to the time of the day to keep your eyes healthy.

USBFlashCopy Automatically Copies Data From Your USB Drive To a Custom Folder

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USBFlashCopy lets you automatically copy all the data from your USB drive or any other drive letter to a folder in your computer, whenever you insert a removable drive in your system.

Inbox2 Beta: Access Facebook, Twitter and Gmail From The Same Window

Add Accounts

Inbox2 is a desktop client that brings the social networks and email accounts under one roof. The social networks you can connect are Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and email services like Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail are also supported.


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.

Chrome Extension for Goo.gl URL Shortener

chromeEarlier today, Amit wrote about the new API for Goo.gI, Google’s URL shortening service. Google launched the goo.gl service in December of 2009. Since that time, many people have adopted it over other URL shortening services such as Bit.ly and tinyURL. The two main reasons for adoption are that goo.gl filters and warns people about bad web sites, and it’s also recently been recognized as the fasted URL shortener.

At first the goo.gl links were only offered in the Google Toolbar. A little later, bookmarklets and other browser add-ons, such as Goo.gl for Firefox,   were offered.

I recently tried the goo.gl URL shortener for Chrome.

The extension installs easily, just as most other Google Chrome extensions do. Once installed, you’ll see a little gray and green icon in the top right corner of the browser.

goo-gl-face

When you are at a website that you wish to create a short link for, click the goo.gl icon to create the short URL. It’s simple to use, but there are also many other features that are offered in this extension.

* short URLs are automatically copied to clipboard
* show goo.gl history and traffic
* add Keyboard shortcuts for posting to other services
* create short URL from right clicking on links
* create QR Codes

You can also create links and automatically post them to your favorite web services, such as Blogger, Delicious, Digg, EverNote, Facebook, FriendFeed, Gmail, Google bookmarks, Google Buzz, Google Reader, Hotmail, Instapaper, LinkedIn, Mail,   MySpace, Netlog, Orkut, Ping.fm, Posterous, Reddit, Read It Later, StumbleUpon, Technorati, Tumblr, Twitter, Yahoo! Bookmarks and Yahoo! Mail.

goo-gl-services

The only other URL browser extension that I’ve found as useful, is the Shareaholic extension, which has very similar features.

arrow-down-double-3Install the goo.gl URL shortener for Google Chrome browser


Government Employees Fooled by Greeting Card Trojan

email from uncle samThe U.S. Government seems to be leaking a lot these days. After the WikiLeaks scandal, and the leak of the plan to stop leaks, we’ve heard about another leak. Two days before Christmas, an unknown number of government employees opened a greeting email that looked like it was from the White House. Normally, that’s no big deal, but this email contained a surprise gift.

Here’s what it said:

As you and your families gather to celebrate the holidays, we wanted to take a moment to send you our greetings. Be sure that we’re profoundly grateful for your dedication to duty and wish you inspiration and success in fulfillment of our core mission.

Greeting card:

hxxp://xtremedefenceforce.com/[omitted]
hxxp://elvis.com.au/[omitted]

Merry Christmas!
___________________________________________
Executive Office of the President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

People clicking on the links in this phishing email, downloaded a trojan called ZeuS. If they installed it, their computers proceeded to send out all of the Word and Excel documents to a hacker’s website. It appears that this hacker only wanted information that he could later sell.

Here’s what the greeting card website looked like.

trojan-ecard from krebsonsecurity.com

(image from KrebsOnSecurity)

I don’t think I should have to tell everyone this, but you should never have to download a greeting card. If you are asked to do this, exit the web page immediately.

Someone should have told the government employees about stuff like this. Very sensitive documents were stolen because the employees didn’t know about the high-risk practice of downloading from unknown websites.

Some of the documents were identified as coming from such places as the National Science Foundation, the Massachusetts State Police, the Financial Action Task Force, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and many other .gov sites.

The US Government is now proposing that people use an Internet ID card to protect their privacy. Would you trust them to know how to guard   your private information?

[via krebsonsecurity]

U.S. Orders Twitter to Hand Over WikiLeaks Private Messages

New information about a U.S. case against WikiLeaks has recently been revealed. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a secret subpoena to Twitter on December 14th. The subpoena orders Twitter Inc. to release private messages and other information about accounts owned by Julian Assange and others involved with WikiLeaks.

View the subpoena

The subpoena wasn’t public knowledge, because  Twitter was ordered not to reveal it, since it was “relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation“.   On January 5th,   the subpoena was unsealed due to legal pressure by Twitter.

Twitter declined to say much on the matter, except that its policy is to notify its users of government requests for information, when it can do so.

In a statement, Assange is quoted as saying If the Iranian government was to attempt to coercively obtain this information from journalists and activists of foreign nations, human rights groups around the world would speak out.

twitter2Twitter is based in San Francisco California, and it’s not likely that they would have responded to an information request from Iran. However, the U.S. DOJ has the legal authority to make Twitter cough up this data. It’s clear that Twitter will do so, despite their efforts to open it up to public review.

Google and Facebook have very likely received similar requests, but have not responded to reporters asking about this topic. It’s speculated that they’ve also gotten gag orders to remain quiet, but didn’t fight them as well as Twitter.

(Sources: TechCrunch, CBS News and others)

Microsoft Plans to Fail – Two Critical Bugs Left Unpatched

Next week, Microsoft’s first Patch Tuesdayfor 2011 will occur. A post in the Microsoft Security Response Center blog, outlines the planned patches. It appears that it’s going to be a smaller download than the 17 patches in December. That would be welcome, but the January downloads won’t include fixes for two serious flaws.

malwareThey said This month we will not be releasing updates to address Security Advisory 2490606 (public vulnerability affecting Windows Graphics Rendering Engine) and Security Advisory 2488013 (public vulnerability affecting Internet Explorer). We continue to actively monitor both vulnerabilities and for Advisory 2488013 we have started to see targeted attacks.

The Internet Explorer vulnerability affects nearly every PC running today. The Graphics Engine bug was only recently revealed at the POC conference a few days ago. It affects XP, Vista and 7 machines. We can forgive them for not reacting fast on the second one, but the other has been around long enough for at least a temporary fix to have been approved.

newyear-iconWe can’t wait much longer for these fixes. With users already seeing targeted attacks, Microsoft needs to recover from their New Year’s hangover and get back to work.

California says “All Your Phones are Belong to Us” – No Warrants Needed

scales-justiceMonday, The California Supreme Court decided to allow police to search arrestees’ cell phones without a warrant. The ruling of the 7 Justices was a 5 to 2 vote in favor of this. The majority said that defendants lose their privacy rights for any items on them when taken into custody. (Source SF Chronicle)

cali-state-flagThe dissenting opinion was voiced by Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar. She says this allows police “to rummage at leisure through the wealth of personal and business information that can be carried on a mobile phone or handheld computer merely because the device was taken from an arrestee’s person”.

Under current guidelines from the US Supreme Court, police are allowed to go through your wallet and other items. Should this right be extended to the data we carry on us? What happens when you are carrying not only a phone, but a laptop or tablet? Can they dig into these now without a warrant?

The American Civil Liberties Union hasn’t issued a statement concerning this decision yet. However, they have previously defended the rights of students in schools not to have their phone data seized by school officials. If they don’t defend the rights of an arrestee in this case, can they be taken seriously?

ohio-flagThe Ohio Supreme Court reached the opposite opinion in 2009, which forced police to get a warrant to search cell phones or other portable devices.

What do I think about this?

I now have one more reason to be proud that I live in Ohio, a state that defends my rights to carry personal data. I feel sad for the people of California. If taken to extremes, anyone there can now have all of their personal data seized, simply by being given a speeding ticket or jay-walking.

People of California read this post at eHow.com: How to Encrypt a cell phone.


Chrome and Safari Steal Users from Internet Explorer

Based on the 2010 reports from Netmarketshare.com, the web browsers from Google and Apple have slowly been stealing users from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. In the chart below, we can see the trends over the last year. (chart by CNET)

This may be partly due to the new browser ballot in Windows 7 that is required in Europe. However, even if that’s true, Microsoft still has no excuse for it’s falling browser marketshare. When the beta version of IE9 was released in February, no affect was seen on the marketshare. We’ll have to wait to see what happens when the finished version is released.

The gains by Chrome and Safari came at the expense of Internet Explorer‘s dropping percentage, which ended the year at 57%, after starting above 60%. Google’s Chrome browser gained almost 5 points in 2010 and ended with 10% of the market. Safari gained about 1.5 points and ended at about 6%. Firefox and Opera remained about the same at 23% and 2%.

The question that we think most interesting is What browsers do Techie Buzz readers use?. Here’s a chart from Keith showing our data.

The Techie Buzz chart shows more readers using Firefox than Internet Explorer. Chrome users are in third place, followed by Safari and Opera. If we can assume that most technology sites have similar stats, this doesn’t look good for Microsoft.

It appears that the more people know, the less they use Internet Explorer. Many people feel that the crucial advantage to using Firefox and Chrome is that they are more easily customized by using Addons and Extensions. Do you think Opera’s adoption of extensions will help them steal share from Microsoft?


How to Create a Hard Disk Partition in Windows 7

hard-diskDo you have plenty of free space on your C: drive? If so, one of best things you can do is to create another drive on your hard disk by creating a new partition (also known as a volume). Fortunately, Windows Vista and Windows 7 both allow you to do this easily.

You might be wondering why this is such a good idea. The safest place to store important information would be on a different machine, a backup drive or DVD. These aren’t always immediately available. It’s convenient to have an extra drive always there when needed. Another reason is that your operating system may some day need to be re-installed. If your personal information is on the same drive as the OS, you might lose it if it’s not backed up somewhere else.

Now that I’ve told you why, I’ll show you how. First, we’ll open the disk management console. An easy way to do this is the hit the Start button and type in the word partition, then select the result labeled Create and format hard disk partitions.

search-menu

Right click on the C: drive and choose Shrink Volume. This is the first step in creating the space you need for your new partition.

shrink-volume

Now you’ll see the system checking to see how much space you can borrow from your C: drive.

querying-shrink-space

After the query process, you’ll see the size before and size available. Type in the number of megabytes you want for your new partition. Keep in mind that 1024 megabytes is equal to one gigabyte. Also make the size smaller than the availableby a one or two thousand megabytes, just to allow a safety margin.

amount-of-space-to-shrink

After the Shrink process finishes, you’ll see the new partition as Unallocated. The next step is to turn it into a simple volume. Right click on the unallocated space and chose New Simple Volume.

new-simple-volume0

Now you’ll see the New Simple Volume Wizard.

simple-volume-wizard

After clicking Next, you’ll be asked to specify a size for the new volume. The default is what you’d normally want, so click Nextonce again.

simple-volume-wizard2

You’ll be prompted to assign a new drive letter. I usually choose a higher letter so that the DVD or other devices on your system won’t have to be assigned new letters when they are detected. Click Nextwhen you are done.

simple-volume-wizard3

Now you’ll be asked if you want to format the new volume. The best choice is typically NTFS. After making your choice here, click Next.

simple-volume-wizard4

You’ll be given one more look at the settings before you launch the formatting process. Review the info and click Finishwhen ready.

simple-volume-wizard5

Before it starts, you may get a warning about Dynamic disk’s. If you aren’t dual booting another operating system, you can ignore this and click Yes. If you are using more than one OS, you might lose any special boot managers at this point. You should research your best options if that’s the case.

dynamic-disk

Your new disk will appear in the Disk Management console now.

new-simple-volume2

That’s all there is to it. When you return to Windows, you’ll be able to use the new disk to store your personal information.

See also:

Create Extra Partitions From Unused Space In Windows Vista


2011 – How Did We Get Here? Where Are We Going?

Did you know that 74,000 years ago, Mankind was nearly wiped out due to the eruption of a super volcano? In fact, Life on the entire planet has been threatened with 5 major extinctions by climactic changes, asteroid falls, volcanic eruptions and gamma ray bursts, yet here we are.

Here’s a cool video showing what happened.

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As I mentioned a few days ago, Mankind’s biggest challenges are directly ahead of us. It may all be over in the next few decades if we don’t   get it right.

However, what lies ahead if we do? What is the future going to look like? One set of futurists believe that we are in the 4th epoch of evolution. They believe that the next epoch, the 5th, is a merging of man and machine called the Singularity.

This set of videos from the BBC, outlines the coming of Human 2.0.

Human 2.0

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t trust every prediction I see, but it’s becoming obvious that we have a tricky road ahead. I hope we don’t end up on the Information Highway to Hell.

What is the Meaning of the 21st Century?

earth-globeAs we start a new year, some of us try to find time to look back over the old year, and try to anticipate the changes coming in the new year.

Some people take the long view. James Martin and a few people at Oxford University, have chosen to think about what’s coming in the next few decades. They’ve put together an hour long video to illustrate the problems and solutions that will be needed for the 21st century. Here’s an 11 minute trailer for the movie.

Follow the link below to see this hour long video.

> The Meaning of the 21st Century

Here’s a quote from the sponsors of it:

We are at an extraordinary crossroads of human history. Our actions, or failure to act, during the next 20 years will determine the fate of the Earth and human civilization for centuries to come. This is a make-or-break century.

There are massive problems in the decades ahead … The good news is that there are solutions.

As we learn to understand this century and play its complex game, we can chart extraordinary futures. We can create civilizations more magnificent than anything yet conceived.

I’ve only watched the trailer at this point, but I’ll take time soon to watch the full movie. I recommend that you make time to watch it as well.


Coming in 2011 – World Population Hits 7 Billion

earth-globeAmong the predictions for the new year, I found a video showing the direction of the world’s population growth. I was surprised to learn that in 2011, the 7 billionth person will be born.

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Even more surprising, I found out that the world’s population may actually stabilize at around 9 or 10 billion people by 2050. It was surprising, only because I remember Malthusian predictions that this planet was headed for a big train wreck because of the birth rates. It turns out that it was mostly hype, and birth rates are slowing as we move into the future. In addition, improving technology allows us to support more people on fewer resources.

However, don’t consider this prediction to be very accurate. I’m not certain that they’ve completely considered the ideas of technology’s accelerating returns. Several people believe that medical science could allow us to live forever by 2030. If a group of our population actually stops dying, what happens to the future population growth?

I don’t trust long term predictions made by scientists. They prove to be wrong more often than they are right.

Skype Explains the Big December Failure

skypeOn December 22nd, millions of Skype users were left without service for roughly 24 hours. At the time, Skype was scrambling to get the system back up and didn’t offer a full explanation of what was happening. (what is Skype?)

Earlier today, Skype’s CIO, Lars Rabbe, gave a fairly detailed explanation about the system wide failure. Skype depends heavily on a world wide network of peer-to-peer nodesand supernodesthat are hosted by users running Skype’s software. This network distributes the service’s work load to each Skype user as needed.

According to Lars, a cluster of Skype servers overloaded and threw more of the load onto the peer-to-peer network. Normally, this should have only slowed the network down. Instead, a bug in some of the Windows clients running a newer Skype version, cause many to completely fail. About 50% of the peer-to-peer network stopped responding, and the entire network collapsed like a house of cards.

Skype technicians responded by creating new peers on the network called mega-supernodesto try to recover normal traffic, but the recovery still took a long time.

So what has Skype learned? Can they prevent downtime in the future? Here’s what Lars said about the future:

… we are learning the lessons we can from this incident and reviewing our processes and procedures, looking in particular for ways in which we can detect problems more quickly to potentially avoid such outages altogether, and ways to recover the system more rapidly after a failure.

Skype has become a critical communication tool for many individuals and companies. If Skype can avoid major disasters in the future, they’ll remain the king of VOIP. If not, they have plenty of competition waiting to jump in as a replacement.

Here are some of our previous posts about Skype:


10 Most Searched BitTorrent Downloads in 2010

the-pirate-bay2010 was not a good year for those looking for free movie downloads and other not-quite-legal files. Many of the file sharing sites were either shut down or forced to go legit. One of the most popular sites, The Pirate Bay, is one example of the sites being forced offline.

One of the best way to share files online is using the  BitTorrent protocol. Bittorrent shared files are stored across many different personal computers over the internet, making them almost impossible to shut down. Even though a site like Pirate Bay can be shuttered, the BitTorrent shared files are still around, and there are still ways to search for them.

Recently, the TorrentFreak website posted 2010’s top 100 searches for BitTorrent downloads. Here are the top ten items from their list.

1. inception
2. iron man 2
3. 2010
4. xxx
5. french
6. avatar
7. dvdrip
8. despicable me
9. porn
10. clash of the titans

Some of those searches aren’t surprising. Others in the list leave us wondering what people were really looking for. What’s so great about frenchdownloads? If you have some clue, let us know in the comments below.

Here are a few other posts about BitTorrent, in case you are curious.

Torrent Search bar, search torrents from firefox

Best Peer to Peer (P2P) & Torrent Software Clients for File Sharing

How to Open .torrent Files?

Disable BitTorrent Integration in Opera [How To]

The Pirate Bay: Finally Silenced by Hollywood, But For How Long?

6 Tools for Anonymous Torrenting Options

MacX DVD to iPod Ripper – Free for Limited Time

[Windows & Mac]

If you have a portable media player, one of your favorite past-times may watching movies on it. The biggest issue that you might have is getting a movie from a DVD into your device. There is  no shortage of video converters out there, however, not all of them are easy to use for inexperienced users.

macx-dvd-ipod-ripperAfter reading a post at instant fundas, I decided to try out MacX DVD to iPod Ripper. This program is free only until January 10th of 2011. You can only get a copy of it by visiting the Digiarty Facebook page and clicking the Likebutton there.

digiarty-facebook-like-button

Once you’ve Likedthe page, you will be given links to download a free copy of the program. It’s available for both Mac and Windows. Included in the download will be a text file called SN.txt, which will give you the free license serial number. The first time you run the ripper, it will prompt you for the license serial number.

To use MacX DVD to Ipod, you’ll see a set of simple instructions under Getting Started, as shown here.

winx-dvd-to-ipod

1. Click the Discbutton to chose the DVD you wish to convert.

2. Chose the file format from the to xxxtabs.

3. Click the Startbutton to begin the process.

As you can see, it has settings for iPod, iPad, iPhone and Apple TV. However, all the same formats can also be watched on a PC or Mac.

Using the normal settings for a 640×480 MP4, I was able to convert a 2 hour DVD in about 15 to 20 minutes. I found that using the H264 format made the conversion time increase to nearly an hour.

At Digiarty’s home site, they offer a totally free version of this software called WinX Free DVD to iPod Ripper. I tried it out and found that it doesn’t decrypt DVD movies. That means that it’s pretty much useless for most movies.

I could only wish that the MacX DVD to iPod Ripper was free all the time. It’s a great little program that’s pretty easy to use. It’s an ideal piece of software for doing what it was designed to do rip DVDs for iPods and the like.

Internet Explorer Critical Security Flaw – Early Present for Microsoft

malwareHave you opened all of your Christmas presents yet? Microsoft’s biggest present was a huge security headache that hit them just before Christmas. On December 22nd, Microsoft was forced to warn everyone that Windows users are now vulnerable to a flaw in all versions of Internet Explorer. This flaw, known to take advantage of specially formatted CSS (web page code), doesn’t have an easy fix.

metaploit-logoSo far, nobody has detected hackers using an exploit based on this zero-day CSS flaw. However, an exploit has been published and even included in the Metasploit security defense suite. That means that it’s only a matter of time before Microsoft’s problem becomes a problem for all users of Internet Explorer. Microsoft has promised that they are working in a fix for this flaw. Will it get here in time to save us from thousands of hacked home computers?

Here’s my suggestion to all of those using   Internet Explorer:

Download and install a different web browser such as Firefox, Chrome or Opera. Only use Internet Explorer if it’s absolutely needed. Once you’ve done that, you can patiently wait on Microsoft to fix this problem.

Affected Operating Systems: Windows XP, Vista, 7

Affected Browsers: IE6, 7, 8, 9