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.
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
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
Foxit Reader for Windows
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
limit – typically 2 to 4Gb per month – applied to many low-cost broadband
constantly changing collection of Windows system files containing configuration
information for both the PC and programs stored on the hard disc
Technology Attachment, faster, higher performance interface used to connect
hard disc drives to PC motherboards
TIP OF THE WEEK
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.
© R. Maybury 2007, 0606