Sunday, June 03, 2007

Adobe Acrobat PDF's on a Budget

Links:
Cute PDF Writer
PDF X-Change


The ubiquitous PDF has become the standard for giving someone a document you want to appear just so. You want the formating, the font, everything to be just as you want it. This can be a bit of a mixed blessing - but we got your back!

We have 2 apps for you today that deal with PDF's!

Number One => Cute PDF Writer.
I've tried a number of PDF making applications, including the official adobe ones - but this one is now my favorite. It's TINY, it's not in your face, it doesn't install a load of rubbish - it just sets up a new printer for you to print to - and anything sent to that printer will become a PDF. No mess, no problem.

Number Two=> PDF X-Change
Like I said above, the strength of the PDF is that you can't change it. Well, if you download any forms to fill in, unless you have some expensive software, your only option is to print it and fill it out - not good for people like me who make a million mistakes and has terrible writing. Some PDF's now have fill-inable forms - but these are still in the minority. Enter PDF X-Change. This small, free app lets you type anywhere on the form and quickly fill it out. You're bound to type slightly off-centre, but no worries, just type, and move it into place.

I only wish I knew about PDF X-Change when I was filling in my wife's immigration forms - that took forever!! And I kept having to reprint page 23 (or whatever) and re-filling it in cos I'd messed it up so much!!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

LogMeIn


Link: LogMeIn.com
Been a while since our last post eh? Well, this isn't a comprehensive guide to all interesting toys out there, these are just the ones you absolutely should know about. If you are interested in seeing what other interesting toys are out there, maybe check out DownloadSquad and LifeHacker.

Anyhow, today I'd like to talk about LogMeIn. This is a remote access software letting you remotely control another PC over the internet. There are many such applications out there, but this is our favorite due to it's free-ness and that it runs in a browser.

Where LogMeIn comes into it's own is when you are looked upon by your friends and family as the resident PC expert. And when they have a problem, they call you. Well, by installing LogMeIn on all their PC's, you can make a half hour phone call into a 2 minute solution by jumping onto their pc from the comfort of your own browser.

Here's the steps -
  1. Go to LogMeIn.com
  2. Get a log in id.
  3. Add your computer.
  4. Go to the next pc. Add it to your list.
  5. Rinse, Repeat.
Then when you sign into LogMeIn.com from any browser in the world you can take control of your home PC, or the PC of your friend. I've worked in a number of high security environments and so far, LogMeIn.com has worked in them all, making it great for quickly signing into your home PC and kicking off that download so it will be waiting for you when you get home.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

FastStone Capture

Link: FastStone Screen Capture.

Well friends, we've kind of reached that point - that point where we've pretty much posted everything that we feel is essential installation to run your machine like a geek! Now we are listing a few toys that we like.

I work in a technical environment, and I need to send people "screenshots" every day to converse about various pieces of software or reports. The oldschool way was to press PRINTSCREEN which puts a screencap onto the clipboard, open paint, say SAVE, and send that to whoever I want. If I wanted to send just a small piece of the screen, it was a hassle to clip it down.

FastStone is a free and flexible way to do a lot more. You get a small toolbar at the top of your screen that looks like this:




And lets you grab entire screen, 1 app only, draw a box around key area (very useful) and draw a random shape. Then you can set it up for clipboard, filesave, or auto file save. Beauty!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Citizen Google




Let me tell you why, if you don't already have one, you need to get yourself a Google Account.


  1. G-MAIL - Gmail.com
    Why is Google mail so much nicer than the myriad of other web mails out there? 2 reasons really.
    Reason 1 - the features - you get nearly 3 free GIGs of free email space, you can search it super fast as only Google can search, you don't get ads IN your mail (but you do get some text ads beside your mail), it's POP enabled so you can use any mail program like Outlook, it's got tricks like Vacation message, automatic email forwarding (if hotmail did this, we'd all forward our hotmail to our Gmail and never log in again) - basically they give the every freedom to leave Gmail, but you never would. On top of this there are things like Contact lists with Groups built in, fast spell check, picture view (view all 18 attached pictures in one page) and integration into many other Google products, like Picassa.
    Reason 2 - the experience. It's fast. It's slick. It takes you where you want to go without the fuss of adverts and extras. Think of the difference between Google search and every other search engine, and that's what Google mail is.

  2. Custom Google Homepage.
    Put your links, your feeds, your weather, your email, your local cinema information all on there, but still have it neat, very quick, and to the point.

  3. Google Maps. - Google.com/maps
    Yep, you can use this without your own sign in - but did you know if you have it Google will remember your search history, and you can make a "phone book" of places with nick names on each place. So I can say show me from "Algonquin Park" to "Home" and it knows exactly what both of those terms mean and gives me a great map.

  4. Google Calendar. - Google.com/calendar
    Sweet sweet calendar application that just works beautifully. Share your calendars with your friends, add events just by saying simple english statements like "Party at Bobs Tonight - 6pm". Also works in conjunction with Google Maps and Google Mail - so if you received a mail saying "Party at Bob's tonight at 6pm" it would give you a button to add that to the calendar.

  5. Google Photos (Picasaweb) Google.com/picasa
    You may be familliar with Picassa as an installed Windows Application - but if you have a Google account you will find that it has built in features for easily mailing your pictures. Posting your pictures online is simple - and the photo interface and slideshow online is great - including a quick way to download all your friend's photos.

  6. Google Talk Google.com/talk
    You've seen chat programs a plenty. But Google talk goes the extra mile with integrated interface in GMAIL, clear voice chat, and fast file transfer. Another very nice feature is if you don't like TYPING emails, you can just record a voice email using Google talk that will be delivered to your recipient via an MP3 attachment. If your friend has GMAIL, they will have a nice playback interface to play your message.

  7. Google News google.com/news - It's your customized news! Nuff Said.

  8. And Lots more!! Google documents, spreadsheets, diagrams, mobile applications, notebooks, desktop searching, website builder and a lab that has all kinds of interesting products in beta you can play with.
Google is not a company that rests on it's laurels and everything is constantly being innovated to what you want. So if you don't have a Google Account with Gmail address - what ARE you waiting for?? Google Mail is still in beta and by invite only but the invitations are unlimited these days so bug someone you know for an invite - like this guy!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Knoppix - Rescue Disk and a Lot More















Link : Knoppix
Difficulty: Intermediate
Requirements: A CD or DVD Burner and software that can burn a CD image like Nero.

If you are a typical computer user, you use a PC. On it you have some type of Windows.

Every once in a while, your computer has a problem. Maybe you haven't listened to your friends at RLAGeek and a virus has eaten key parts of your Windows registry. Here's hoping you have a backup regime (see previous postings)!

PC failure can happen at the most inconvenient times. You may need to finish that essay, or check for an important email, or get some essential info off the web, or even more likely, get a machine breathing enough to copy/burn off all of your irreplaceable files.

At such times, it's great to have a copy of KNOPPIX standing by. Knoppix is a complete operating system pre-loaded with OpenOffice, Firefox internet browser, email and full networking support. The best thing about it is, you put in the disk, turn on your PC, it comes up in Knoppix. You take out the disk, reboot, and poof it goes back into Windows or whatever your normal operating system is.

Knoppix doesn't even touch your hard drive. I know this for sure because a good friend brought over a laptop with a completely non-functioning hard drive. It booted Knoppix perfectly, and he was able to use that laptop for internet and office functions without any problem. Amazing!

Knoppix also gives you a great opportunity to play with a linux-based open source operating system completely risk free and then boot straight back into Windows. If you do want to change things in Knoppix, like save settings, bookmarks, and other Internet customization you can save your custom Knoppix Settings to a USB stick.

I highly recommend you burn yourself a CD and/or DVD copy of Knoppix if for no other reason then there may come a day when you have a PC that won't start up, that you need to start up!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

TED -- Torrent Episode Downloader









Link : Ted Main Site also : A fine directory of TV RSS Feeds

A while back Tomus Lupus reviewed uTorrent which is a great way to download things fast. But TED has revolutionized the way we watch television.

You tell it what show you like (say, Prison Break), and what season and episode you are up to, and it searches the web, finds the show you are up to, and feeds it to your uTorrent package. You wake up in the morning and find your hard drive full of hi definition television shows with the commercials already gone. You can watch it on your PC or if you really want to get into it, you can put out $100 or so and get a device that shows your PC media on your TV.

Don't structure your life around watching a show, let your shows come to you at your leisure, without commercials, with TED! Torrent Downloader Requred!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

AVG 7.5

Grisoft have rolled out version 7.5 of AVG Anti-Virus that Kev featured awhile back. The new version sports better virus detection, a smaller installation and a more polished interface.

If you want to upgrade instead of having to remove your existing installation just follow these instructions:
  1. Run the AVG Free Edition 7.5 Setup program
  2. Click "Next >" on the AVG "Welcome!" screen
  3. Click "Accept" on the "License Agreement on Use of an AVG Free Edition" screen
  4. Select "Repair installation" on the "Select Setup Type" screen and click "Next >"
  5. Select "Restart the computer now" (pre-selected by the program automatically) and click "OK" on the "Installation Complete!" screen to restart your computer and complete the installation
Download Link - AVG Anti-Virus 7.5

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ad-Aware / Spybot S&D

Links - Lavasoft's Ad-Aware / Spybot Search & Destroy

If you've noticed pop-up adverts appearing even when your not browsing the 'net - or your PC is suddenly trying to sell you viagra - You may have acquired a few unwanted pieces of software.

Spyware and Adware can come from pretty much anywhere - Peer-to-Peer software, unscrupulous web-sites or even accidentally clicking on a banner advert.

AVG Anti-Virus that Kev featured a while back does a great job of protecting your system from virus's, but malware is becoming more and more of a problem out on the interweb.

But fear not, we have a great tag-team to detect and remove this junk:

Ad-Aware

And Spybot.

Grab both of these then get them installed and updated. Give you system a full scan and see how much rubbish you've accumulated from all those lovely drive by installers and (if your still using Internet Explorer) ActiveX exploits.

It's a good idea to get into the habit of running full scans once a week or so in conjunction with AVG to keep you OS nice and healthy.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Open Office


Link: OpenOffice.Org

We all had that friend. That guy who never had Microsoft Office. That guy was trying to give you documents that were in Microsoft Works format. As a side, how did Microsoft make their budget word processor completely incompatible with just about any other word processor on the planet, including WORD?

Anyhow. You would send this guy a document, and he'd ask for it again in Rich Text.

Well, your troubles are over. Open Office is the free MS alternative. It not only handles word processing but spreadsheets, presentations, databases, drawing and more.

And other free office programs do that - but this one is COMPATIBLE with EVERYTHING. Including Microsoft Office's Excel, Word, Powerpoint--- and it's FREE.

Oh and it's got a bunch of features that MS Office DOESN'T have! Like the ability to turn ANY document into a PDF. Like the ability to turn a presentation slideshow into a flash animation.

And the ability to not charge you anything to own it. To be honest, other than companies, I don't know anyone who has actually paid the $400 US for MS office.... but embrace legality with OpenOffice - it's available for Windows, Linux and Mac! Go Nuts, for free.

Friday, September 15, 2006

How to Kill the Dog
















XP brought us a lot of great advancements - but it also brought a few annoyances. None so annoying than the new File Search and it's mascot, the cute sniffy Dog. It's time to kill the dog.

It's not JUST the dog. The classic search box gets RIGHT to the point. The Dog asks all kinds of irrelevant questions - i just want to search for my file!!! Maybe i want to list the largest files on the disk! Whatever I want to do, the Dog is just running interferance and must go.

To do this, you need a program called TWEAKUI. TweakUI lets you not only get rid of the dog, but a lot of other useful stuff to, like automatically log in without having to enter a password.

TweakUI is available for download on the POWERTOYS page at Microsoft.


To Get rid of the dog, download and open TWEAKUI, click on EXPLORER (the word, not the + sign) scroll to the bottom and click USE CLASSIC SEARCH IN EXPLORER.

The POWERTOYS page also has a lot of other cool stuff - some I can't seem to get going, but others are really useful - the most useful other than TWEAK UI would have to be IMAGE RESIZER - it takes a photo and resizes and optimises it, significantly reducing the size - all by right-clicking on the file.. You can select many files at once.















If you are a fan of DOS, you know it's frustrating to navigate through folders with long names, particularly with spaces in them. The COMMANDHERE powertoy lets you open a DOS window in any folder from the windows folder.
















Ahhhh, that's better.

Go on and play with the other POWERTOYS from Microsoft and see what else you find!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Backing up with SyncBack and Friends!

I want you to picture this: you go to your PC and find that your hard drive won't boot. In fact, it's damaged beyond repair. Despite any tricks you try on it, there's no getting at that data.

Your mind races - when was the last time i backed up my documents? How bad will my wife kill me when she realized i destroyed pictures of our last anniversary? Of the firstborn son's first 2 years? All that music I have?

Many of us don't really think about backups - but there's no excuse these days!! Let's talk about it!








SyncBack Freeware Edition
Link : Syncback 2BrightSparks Freeware Download Site (Freeware version direct download)

If you have more than one hard drive, then hesitate no longer and get this excellent free bit of software - SyncBack. Just like professional backup software, you can program intricate schedules to backup various areas of your hard drive nightly or on other schedules. You can set up file syncronisation, or straight backup, or only to only backup modified files - it's so straightforward, you can put together a reasonable backup regime in about 5 minutes.

And did I mention it's complete freeware? Fantastic.













Backing Up Your Other Stuff:


It's possible you don't have a second hard drive in your system, and you've simply got to burn stuff off to a DVD or, heaven forbid, a CD.

Backing up your Photos: You should definately get Picasa2 - along with being a fantastic photo manager, emailer, and quick fix editor, it's also a great backup tool. You creat Backup Profiles, and it will remember what you've offloaded to CD/DVD and what you haven't- so you can keep returning to that profile and only backing up stuff you haven't already. Picasa2 is available for free direct download, but it's also part of the unstoppable Google Pack/Google Updater - which is a better way to own and maintain it. See our previous posting on the Google Pack.

Backing up Music: There's other ways to do it, but as we noted in our Fun With iTunes posting - iTunes will back up your music - figuring out how many discs to burn to and then burning them off one by one. See the posting for details!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

VLC Media Player

Link: VLC Media Player

By now you might have noticed that we have a fondness for small, elegant, free programs that don't bloat themselves with unneeded and unwanted features. If it does it's job quickly, simply and with a minimum of messing around we like it.

And that's why I like VLC Player. It may not have the polished interface of some of the other media players out there (although there are a whole host of plugins and skins available for those who are so inclined) But it does it's job and it does it well. I have yet to throw a video or audio file at it that it wouldn't play, even .iso images and raw DVD .vobs it plays without complaint. It has a few small quirks and problems. But overall it's a wonderful little application.

Kev Says: I really enjoy the VLC player - but it's probably not for everyone! If you've never had a complaint with Window's Default Media Player, than there's probably no need to change to this. But if you download videos or have gotten hold of videos that couldn't play - or you've ever had to fuss with codecs - or you need to play a DVD on your PC and don't want to pay/pirate an application to do it - then i reccomend checking this out.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Treesize



















Link : Treesize Free Website (Download.Com Link)

Having a lot of storage is like having a lot of money: no matter how much you have, you're still probably going to find ways to use it up.

How annoying is it to have problems with your harddrive space?? The thing is, you do a little bit of math in your head and you can't really figure out how you could be filling up that many gigs of info.

Well, Treesize is the answer to such woes. Maybe that 2 gig video file is sitting somewhere completely forgotten about. Temp files to a program that should have been uninstalled. Disk images and ISO's hiding in some forgotten folder. Treesize makes that stuff float to the top.

And it does it, as you can see above, with beautiful graphics. You get a pie chart of your hard drive - you click on the biggest slice, and you get a new pie chart broken down a little more. It's hard to explain - but after clicking for a minute, I guaruntee you'll find all the big files hiding!

Now, this is the first time we're posting something that's technically not free - it has a shareware and pay version. But i can't see ANYTHING that's lacking from the shareware version, it doesn't time out, or limit ability hardly at all. So go to town, and enjoy your new found disk space!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

µTorrent

Link: µTorrent - BitTorrent Client.

We've both used a fair few of the numerous BT clients out there, but µTorrent manages to pack pretty much every feature you could want in a tiny package.
  • Scheduling
  • RSS Support
  • DHT
It's all there - combined with a nice, clean UI and amazing speed.

And did I mention it's only 170k?

(If your unfamiliar with the whole BitTorrent thing head over Here for a nice explanation.)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Fun with iTunes


Obviously iTunes is not a secret piece of software - it's the most popular way of buying music on the internet.

One of the biggest myths I seem to STILL come across with iTunes is you need an iPod to use it. You don't. iTunes is free and will manage your music, burn it to CD, and it is the best pod-cast manager out there. Video and enhanced podcasts keep itunes open on my system pretty much all the time.

But here's a couple of points about iTunes that you may or may not be aware of:
  1. iTunes is a great way to back up your music to disc. Especially to a DVD. You make a playlist for your library, excluding anything you don't want backed up (like podcasts), go to Edit/Preferences/Advanced / Burning - and change the disc format to Data Cd or DVD. Then highlight your playlist and hit the Burn Disc icon in the top right corner. It will calculate how many discs you will need, and step you through burning them one by one. You'll probably want a DVD burner for this if you have a large collection! You should have one anyways- they are so affordable these days, and great for backup.

    UPDATE SEPTEMBER 13 2006 > The new version of iTunes now supports backup without having to make a playlist. Just go to FILE / BACK UP TO DISC. It will let you back up either (a) everything (b) just purchased music from itunes store or (c) just music you haven't backed up yet. Of course, if there is some music you don't care if it's backed up, or you still want more control, then use the playlist method!

  2. You can make a couple of smart playlists to play all of your latest downloaded podcasts in a row. It's like your own radio station with none of the annoying fishing through menus to play the next podcast. Go to File / New Smart Playlist and try these settings.... (click to see bigger)



    You can tweak these settings to make yourself a Video list too, so like your own TV channel, it plays all your video podcasts in a row. This is especially good if you have an iPod with a small storage size- since the actual podcast sync options aren't the most flexible, you can just sync this playlist instead, along with perhaps just the latest podcast from each category. This smart playlist is always what i listen to by default as it's always new - oh you'll also want to sort that list by "date added" so the newest stuff is always on top. (click the graphic at the top of this post to see the what the playlist looks like)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Mighty Google Pack

Link: Google Pack

I just formatted and rebuilt my PC yesterday. It was a pretty painless process due to some preparedness that we'll get to in a few posts time!

But for now, let me tell you the FIRST thing I put on my clean hard drive.

Well, actually it was Windows. But after that, the SECOND thing i put on... was my network driver.

But the THIRD thing - that's what i want to talk about. Google Pack.

Google pack is a collection of great utilites you need for your PC in a single package. But the added bonus is it keeps an eye on all of them and updates them automatically when patches or updates are released.

The only issues i have with google pack are this:
  1. If you already have an installed piece of software included in the pack, it won't maintain its version (no auto updates).
  2. And this one is a bit bigger. All the apps included are free forever - except for Norton Antivirus 2005 SE which will run for a free period of a few months, and then request you change over to a paid subscription. Thee good news is you can unselect this when you install the software, and instead (although not through google pack) install the excellent AVG free instead - see yesterday's posting!!
It should really be one of the first things you put on any PC. Many of these softwares warrant their own posting and no doubt will get one-- but here's the quick rundown -
  • Firefox - Throw away your MS explorer and join those who have rediscovered the web with the greatest web browser out there
  • Picasa - Google's tip top photo manager, now with web hosting, and excellent photo backup
  • Google Earth - Satelite exploration at your desktop
  • Ad-Aware - the best ad and spyware detector
  • Others like screensaver, google toolbar, adobe reader, screensavers
What can I say? Other than the virus scanner, you've got a great toolkit ready to go with 1 download. If i were to improve it i might include WinRar and i'd swap out the virus util. But that's just me.

Adblock

Adblock - Firefox Plugin

Firefox is pretty good at stopping the ubiquitous pop-up and pop-under ads, but it's not so hot at filtering all the online poker and punch the monkey banners. That's where Ad-Block steps up - It lets you block ads - static, gif or flash - based on the originating URL.

Also check out the Filterset.G extension for a pre-compiled list of common ad servers.

Kev Says: You might want to go to Firefox's Extension page to make the install more painless. Follow this link to do that. Heck while you are there you can check out some other fine extensions, like the weathertastic ForecastFox

AVG Free Virus Protection

Links - AVG Free Download (Here's a Link to direct download for Windows XP)
People tend to do one of these things when choosing virus protection-
  1. Use whatever comes with their system, and pay the subscription when the trial period ends.
  2. Use whatever comes with their system, and not pay the subscription when the trial ends, relying on their old virus definitions and hoping that no new virus will attack them
  3. Put fingers in ears, sing "la la la la la"
Well, it's time to stop paying for / pirating / ignoring your virus protection. AVG Free offers all the protection of a Norton or a Symantec - but with no fees whatsoever. It auto updates, it scans your mail, run scheduled checks - what more could you want?

Installation note you might want to change - it defaults to 8 am daily check - you might want to put that to an overnight schedule.

Links - AVG Free Download

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Launchy

Launchy - Application Launcher.

When deciding which application we'd be featuring first Kev an I were in perfect agreement - Launchy is an application we both use countless times a day.

There are a lot of application launchers out there, but I've yet to see one that comes close to Launchy's speed, small Memory/CPU footprint and beautiful simplicity.

Once installed hit the shortcut (Alt - Space by default) to bring up the Launchy box, then just type the first few letters of the application you want to run and Launchy will bring up the closest match for you. If it doesn't guess right first time you can scroll through the list of other possible matches until you find what your after.

It's also adaptive - so if you always choose firefox instead of fireworks it will suggest that first. It's also not limited to shortcuts in the start menu, you can index any directory and any file extension - You could add your Mp3 directory, Documents folder, Anything!

Add to all that the skinable design and less than 1Mb download size and you have a wonderful little application!.

Welcome to Run Like a Geek!

Finding a beautiful PC utility is like finding treasure.

It can make your whole day. And there's so many free, elegant PC tools out there.

The problem is - where do you find them? You stumble across them and wonder where they've been all your life - but you also wonder what else is out there that you don't know about?

When i show my friends these tricks and tips i've come across, they ask me - where do you FIND this stuff. Well - hopefully this can be a central directory where everyone can find treasure.

I'm talking about free virus, backup, music, photo, file, internet and media management utilities you'll wonder what you did without.

Best,
Kev