BOOT CAMP ARCHIVE 2007

  

 

BOOT CAMP 480 (12/06/07)

Freeware Top Tens. Part 6, Odds & Ends

 

Our final collection of freeware programs is a mixture of old favourites and some tools and utilities that didn’t fit into any of our earlier categories. Remember, we cannot answer technical queries, you install them at your own risk, and if you continue to use any of these programs please show your appreciation by paying the licence fee or making a donation.

 

Active Killdisk

If you are planning to sell or dispose of an old PC then you must wipe the drive to destroy any personal or private information on the hard drive. Formatting simply isn’t good enough and data can still be retrieved but Active Killdisk not only deletes everything on a drive, it then overwrites with random characters, making recovery next to impossible

 

DKOSD On-screen Caps Lock Indicator

Who amongst us hasn’t glanced up at the monitor to see a line of capital letters after accidentally brushing the Caps Lock key? If you are not an expert touch-typist it’s difficult to avoid but this little program can help. It generates a hard to miss on-screen message, warning that the Caps Lock is on or off, every time the key is pressed.

 

Foxit Reader for Windows

For years the only way to open pdf (Portable Document Format) files you needed the free Adobe Reader program. However, it has become slow and bloated and seems to ‘call home’ rather a lot, passing on who knows what information. There are alternatives though, try Foxit Reader, it’s free and the download is only 1.7Mb or around 10 times smaller than Adobe Reader. It opens quickly, there’s no ‘splash Screen’ and it has all the features you need to read pdfs.  

 

Google Earth

It’s what your PC was made for! A combination of high-resolution satellite and aerial photography lets you fly to any point on earth and zoom in to see people, cars and small features in stunning detail (though there are still lots of places where the detail isn’t so good, but it’s getting better all the time). Navigate using a place name, address, postcode or map coordinate and use your mouse to fly using the ‘Tilt’ and ‘Rotate’ options to give the images a real 3D feel.   

 

HDClone

If your hard drive fails the quickest way to get your PC back up and running is to have a ‘clone’ drive standing by. HDClone works with all common drive systems (IDE, ATA and SATA), but it’s not for absolute beginners. The cloning process takes a while and uses an independent operating system on a bootable floppy, but for making a one-off copy it’s just the job.

 

NaturalReader

If you have a visual impairment, or just tired eyes, NaturalReader will convert any text that appears on your PC screen -- Word document, web page, email or pdf etc. -- into speech. Simply highlight the text you want to read and click the play button, you can tell it to ignore punctuation marks, and vary the speed. The free version uses the rather robotic Microsoft ‘Sam ‘ voice, (used in the Windows XP Narrator utility), but more natural-sounding voices are available in the paid-for version, which also has the facility to save speech as a MP3 file. There are also some free alternative voices like Microsoft’s  ‘Mike’ and ‘Mary’ voices available from Here.

 

NetMeter

A lot of web users have ‘capped’ broadband connections, which means they have to keep a close eye on how much data they download each month, or risk paying extra charges. NetMeter does just that, showing you in real time, or using daily, weekly or monthly logs, how much data is flowing in and out of your PC. It will also ‘guesstimate’ your future wed downloads based on current and past usage; very handy if you are getting close to the limit!

 

RegSeeker

A tried, tested and very easy top use Registry cleaner that can help speed up your PC and avoid future problems by deleting the detritus left behind by uninstalled programs. Lots of other useful tools too, including a start-up editor, History file viewer and numerous desktop tweaks.

 

Snippy

Suppose you see something on a web page that you want to cut-out and keep, how do you do it? It’s difficult, you can copy and paste text, or copy images but it’s all a bit of a palaver. With Snippy you just click the mouse, outline the part of the page you want to copy – any shape you like -- and it’s saved to the clipboard from where you can paste it into documents or application of your choice.

 

Tweak UI For XP

Part of the Microsoft PowerToys suite and quite simply the ultimate configuration tool for Windows XP. Tweak UI gives you access to scores of hidden settings that let you change the way Windows XP looks and works, everything from the customising toolbars and the Taskbar, to getting rid of those annoying arrows on desktop shortcuts.

 

Next Week – Switching to Vista

 

JARGON FILTER

 

CAPPED BROADBAND

Download limit – typically 2 to 4Gb per month – applied to many low-cost broadband contracts

 

REGISTRY

A large, constantly changing collection of Windows system files containing configuration information for both the PC and programs stored on the hard disc

 

SATA

Serial Advanced Technology Attachment, faster, higher performance interface used to connect hard disc drives to PC motherboards

 

 

TIP OF THE WEEK

Google Pack

If you are worried about downloading programs from unfamiliar websites, or simply want to avoid lots of separate downloads, then several of the programs we’ve been looking at in the past few weeks are in the Google Pack. This single download contains up to 14 programs including Google Earth, Picasa, Firefox, Google Photo Screensaver, Google Desktop, Google Talk and Video Player, Skype, Spyware Doctor Starter Edition, and many more. Just download the whole pack and install the programs that you want.

 

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© R. Maybury 2007, 0606

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