Wednesday, May 30, 2007

De-Crap Your PC

If you've bought a new PC from one of the big manufacturers like HP, Dell or Toshiba, etc. in the last few years, then you'll recognise what I mean by the term "added crap software". There's trial versions of programs you'll never use and don't want, pop-up ads for unwanted services and links to third-party vendors sites. At best, this stuff takes up valuable disk space, space you've paid for and from which those big brand names are making a profit off. At worst, they can be really, really annoying and in some cases they can even compromise the security of your PC.

Obviously, you can manually remove all of this stuff but that can be a chore and some of it even resists basic removal techniques. However, there's a couple of useful bits of software that can reduce the overhead a bit…

The PC Decrapifier Windows Compatible

PC DecrapifierThe PC Decrapifier will uninstall many of the common trialware and annoyances found on many of the PCs from big name OEMs. It can be used to selectively clean off most of the annoying software that is typically shipped with newer PCs. Here's the current list of stuff it removes…
  • QuickBooks Trial
  • NetZero Installers
  • Earthlink Setup Files
  • Corel Photo Album 6
  • Tiscali Internet
  • Wanadoo Europe Installer
  • Get High Speed Internet!
  • Internet Service Offers Launcher
  • Dell Search Assistant
  • Norton Ghost 10.0
  • Norton Symantec Live Update
  • MS Plus Photo Story 2LE
  • MS Plus Digital Media Installer
  • McAffee
  • Norton Internet Security
  • Google Desktop
  • Google Toolbar
  • AOL US
  • AOL UK
  • MusicMatch Jukebox
  • MusicMatch Music Services
  • Wild Tangent Games (Dell/HP Game Console)
  • Norton AntiVirus 2005
  • Norton Security Center
  • Norton AntiSpam
  • PC-cillin Internet Security 12
  • Corel Snapfire Plus SE
  • Yahoo! Music Jukebox
  • Vongo
  • Office 2003 Trial Assistant
  • Norton Protection Center
  • HP Rhapsody
  • ESPN Motion
  • Dell URL Assistant
  • Orange Internet
  • Digital Content Portal
  • Run Registry Entries
  • Desktop Icons
  • Startup Menu Items
  • Reset IE Home and Search Pages
  • Corel WordPerfect
  • Roxio RecordNow
  • Sonic DLA
  • Sonic Update Manager
  • Sonic RecordNow Audio
  • Sonic RecordNow Copy
  • Roxio MyDVD LE
  • Microsoft Office Standard Edition 2003
  • Quicken 2006
  • Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007
  • Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007
  • Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo XI
  • Trend Micro PC-cillin Internet Security 14
So, it won't remove every piece of junk software from your machine but that's quite a big list and it's free for personal use (donations accepted). One point to note is that it's designed for Windows XP and Vista so it probably won't have much success on older systems.

ZSoft Uninstaller Windows Compatible

ZSoft UninstallerThe ZSoft Uninstaller is primarily a software removal tool that can be used instead of the usual Add/Remove Programs control panel. However, one of the features it lists is the ability to automatically find entries that are considered "crap-ware". ZSoft Uninstaller can be used as a Add/Remove applet replacement, but not only that, it can also…
  • Analyze an installation so it can be completely uninstalled (also supports reboots of the computer as the process is split into two: Before and after the installation).
  • Find and delete temporary files.
  • Delete entry's from programs that is no longer installed.
  • Hide Windows Updates.
  • Hide entries from the list that you are never going to uninstall (drivers etc.) making the list smaller and therefore easier to manage.
  • Show more information than available though add/remove.
  • Automatically find entry's from programs that are most likely already uninstalled.
  • Automatically find entry's that are considered "crap-ware".
  • Search the list of installed software.
Again, it's free but they will accept a donation if you find it useful.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Backing Up Your Blog

If you've spent a few years posting articles to your blog, imagine how you'd feel if you lost all that work. We're talking about a serious chunk of any bloggers life here as these things can eat into your very soul.

Now I'd expect any blog hosting service that charges for the privilege would have a backup regime in place to safeguard your data but it's worth checking the small print just in case. However, if you use one of the many free services as I do, then it's a good bet that they provide no guarantee as to the availability of your data.

So how do you back up your blog? Well, some systems like WordPress and TypePad allow you to export the content so you can back up the data yourself. This is also useful for moving your blog to another service but having to export your data regularly is a chore and so there has to be a better way. Luckily, there is…
BlogBackupOnlineBlogBackupOnline is a free service, for the moment, that gives you 50Mb of storage space and it automatically backs up you blog on a daily basis so there's no need for you to do anything else once you've registered it. 50Mb might not sound much but bear in mind that this doesn't include any image, video or other related external content so you can get a awful lot of HTML code into 50Mb.

Once the blog is registered, a full backup is taken of all entries. After being registered, BlogBackupOnline performs a daily incremental backup to find new entries, new comments, and other changed content.

Full Backup Window
Full or daily backups can be run manually at any time and it also has the added bonus of letting you export your backed up content to your own hard drive so, if your blog service doesn't have an export facility, then you can use this one. On top of all this, it keeps a backup log and you can browse through the backup content and access the history of each post as it keeps every version it finds when it does its daily backups. In other words, changes that may have been made to the blog are not over-written when the blog is backed up. If a change is made to an entry and you need to access a prior version, then you can retrieve it through the history link.

A backup isn't much use without a means of restoring the data after the server, or whatever broke, is running again so BlogBackupOnline allows you to upload the content of your backed up blog to an existing or even to a new blog and you can restore a single blog entry, comment, or the entire blog.

Another option is BackupMyBlog. Again, this one is free for the moment and you get 10Mb of space but it only backs up MySQL based blogs and it needs to be installed on the blog server. Not much use for most of us but there are folk out there with their own blog servers.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Open Source Alternative

Open Source AlternativeIf you're on the lookout for a free, open-source alternative to a commercial application like PhotoShop, iTunes Microsoft Office, or Final Cut Pro, then you might find Open Source Alternative worth checking out.

It's nicely laid out in categories or you can search for any commercial application or by tag. If it has the application or utility listed, then it also lists any open-source alternatives and whether they run on Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Unix or Java platforms.

NB: It really only deals with open-source software so you might find that some well known freeware alternatives aren't shown here.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Jumpcut - Edit Video Online

Jumpcut is yet another video hosting and sharing service of which there are many but Jumpcut comes at it from a different angle. What it allows you to do is to upload your audio tracks, photographs, movie clips, basically any kind of media that can be combined into a movie and then it lets you edit that movie.

You can upload from your computer, directly from camera or by e-mail and you can even import photographs directly from Flickr and Facebook. You can then rearrange the clips and add titles, transitions and effects, etc. You can also add more media elements as you need them from within the editor.

It's not just all about your movies as you can explore, view and even use other shared media in your own movies. You can even copy and remix someone's else's movie if you want to (and they've made it public).

Once you got a movie ready for publication, you can e-mail a link to it to anyone or post it to another web site as they give you the code to embed it anywhere as well as special automated links to post directly to MySpace!, Facebook, Blogger, TypePad, WordPress, Digg and

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Google Mobile Maps Goes A Bit More Global

Google Mobile MapsGoogle Mobile Maps is now available in 10 countries - Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. They've added a few bells and whistles as well…
  • Favourite places and routes - Save time (and avoid sore thumbs) by keeping a list of residential or business locations and driving routes.
  • Insta-KB-o-meter - Monitor your data consumption in real-time — just look to the top right portion of your phone screen while using Google Maps.
  • Enhanced business info - After selecting a particular business, select the "Details" tab for hours of operation, hotel amenities and more.
  • BlackBerry support - It now supports the Blackberry browser.
  • GPS support - If your device has GPS capabilities, the software can take advantage of it and automatically locate you.
The big benefit in the upgrade will be the route planning capabilities although traffic information is still unavailable for UK users with no definite date for its inclusion in the service.

A potential drawback is the amount of data being shifted down to your mobile device and, unless you have an unlimited or very generous data tarrif like T-Mobile's web'n'walk, you could end up paying a lot for this service.

Just go to on your mobile device to download and install the application.

Related Posts: Mobile Searching Updated

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Free RSS Readers

Having had a quite a few requests from staff over the last few weeks for aN RSS reader to be installed on their systems, I thought I'd jot down some notes on a few of the free ones that I found. Yes, some of you will be saying that browsers such as Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox all support RSS feed subscriptions and they do indeed but stand-alone applications can offer some extra functionality that some users think they want. But before I go there, I have to mention another alternative first…

Online RSS Aggregators

Bloglines - I use Bloglines, a free online service that helps me subscribe to and manage my feeds. It's an online aggregator that tracks a huge load of RSS and Atom feeds and serves me the ones I want as they come in and I can take clippings of items that interest me as I browse through them. You can even create a personal blog on Bloglines and then post clippings directly to that of you want to share articles.

It doesn't push newsfeeds at me by default so I get no visual notification of new posts but there is a web-based notifier available and there are lots of third-party utilities and even Firefox and Internet Explorer extensions that will do the job if required.

Since I move between home and work machines I find it simpler to check my feeds this way without having to subscribe twice. It also means that I don't need to install any particular software package and I can get those feeds from any internet connected computer.

Google Reader - Another online aggregator and one that is gaining a good sized user base. One of the attractions is its similarity with the GMail interface. Like GMail, feeds are organized into folders by tags and you can also give a post a star, which is useful if you want to flag it as interesting or just to be able to find and read it later.

Like Bloglines, you also get a public page, a blog into which you can share any of your feed posts. Unfortunately, it's not very customizable at present and the only way to post items is to use the share icon on each post. This is Google based though so I'd expect some more functionality to be added as the system develops. Where it hits big with power feeders is its large number of keyboard shortcuts.

Personal Portals like My Yahoo, NetVibes or iGoogle also allow you to add feed content to your pages. It's not exactly cutting edge but if you use them, then you might find it a useful option.

Standalone Aggregators

There are literally loads of these and the easy option for me here is to take advantage of the fact that the nice people at the Simplehelp blog have a good article reviewing a goodly number of them…

20 Free RSS Readers Reviewed

This covers Alertbear, Attensa for Outlook, Blam. BlogBridge, BlogLines, Firefox, Google Reader, Netvibes, Newsgator Online, QuickRSS, Rojo, RSSBandit, RRSOwl, Sage, Shrook, Straw, Thinfeeder, Thunderbird, Vienna and Vista Media Center. They don't review every possibility so I'll add a few more here too

SharpReader Windows Compatible - A Windows based RSS/Atom aggregator. I quite liked this one when I tried it out as it has pretty threading support and allows you to view connected items together and it can even show connections between items with the same link.

It'll minimize to the System Tray and, if configured, can popup an alert when new items arrive.

BottomFeeder Apple CompatibleLinux CompatibleWindows Compatible - A good, cross-platform RSS and Atom news aggregator available for Mac OS X, Linux, Windows and various shades of UNIX. It has to be said that this is a somewhat dated, if rich in functionality, reader. There's no obvious threaded article support and new items are displayed in a scrolling tickertape style window.

RSSReader Windows Compatible - A Windows RSS and Atom news aggregator, which displays new items in a System Tray popup. A few of our staff had this installed and were quite happy with it but we had problem installing it on non-admin systems and it doesn't list as having Vista support.

NetNewWire Lite Apple Compatible - Published by the same people that give us NewsGator Online, this is the Lite version of NetNewsWire, a Mac OS X RSS and Atom news aggregator. It can synchronize with NewsGator Online and the rest of the Newsgator suite of RSS applications.

I used to use NetNewsWire Lite before I discovered BlogLines but it's still a very useful reader and I know a few Mac users that have stumped up the cash for the full version.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Online Image Editing With Wiredness

I'm beginning to lose track of the number of free, online image editing and manipulation tools available. We've already got Phixr, Picnik, Snipshot, Pixenate, Fauxto and Preloadr and now another one, in the shape of Wiredness, has been added to the fold.

WirednessOkay, the name Wiredness doesn't immediately make you think of an image editor but no sign-up is required and the interface is available in English, French and German.

It has all the usual tools (crop, resize, rotate, flip, zoom) and you can adjust exposure, brightness and contrast. It also sports a decent array of effects such as red-eye removal, colorize, polaroid, watercolour, rounded, sharpen, greyscale, negate, sepia, sketch, blur, emboss and edge detect. On top of this, literally, you can add text and shapes and you can even overlay another image.

It can integrate with image storage and sharing site Flickr, although I suspect that functionality is still in development as it proved a bit unreliable when I tried it and I couldn't see any way to access my own images other than by searching for specific tags. Mind you it is still at the beta stage so I suspect it'll improve.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Handbrake Lives Again

HandbrakeHandbrake, that old faithful, open-source DVD ripper and video converter, has joined forces with the team that gave us MediaFork, the open-source community-contributed fork of HandBrake. The new name? .... Handbrake!

What's new? Loads and Windows users even have a GUI version instead of the old command-line one. Here's a brief list of the new stuff…

  • User presets (Mac).
  • AppleTV and PS3 support.
  • Anamorphic, even in QuickTime.
  • Surround sound (both AAC 5.1 and Dolby Pro Logic II).
  • Chapter markers (QuickTime-style).
  • Official support for the Windows GUI.
  • PPC Linux support.
  • High profile H.264 support.

Related Posts: MediaFork

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Publish Your Documents, Spreadsheets and Presentations Online

If you use ThinkFree, the free, online alternative to Microsoft Office, then you can now publish your work online for all the world to view using, ThinkFree Docs, an online community of publishers sharing a variety of documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.

While ThinkFree allowed you to share documents with other users, this is more like YouTube for office nerds as everyone can view them. Of course, you don't need to publish only ThinkFree documents as the service will take MS Office, PDF and RTF files.

Like YouTube, every published item can be commented on but unlike it, the files can't be downloaded.

Alternatives: Scribd