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Having used Windows computers much more than Macs there are certain applications I have come to rely upon which are available for free. The higher availability of great free applications has always been an advantage that Windows has over Mac OS, but there are now many great apps available for Mac OS, some of the ones I feel are particularly useful are listed below:

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Last year I traded in three old mobile phones that had been sitting in a drawer “as spares”. Television advertisements kept telling me that I could help save the planet by recycling my old phones, and earn a fortune in the process, so I visited the website of one of the most frequent advertisers and, carrying out the simple instructions, I swapped my phones for a grand total of £15.00, not quite the fortune the adverts had implied, but at least the drawer is less cluttered. Read the rest of this entry »

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Today I realised I was running short of space on one of my drives. With larger disks and online backup services it is not such a common problem as it use to be, but when it happens Windows still doesn’t offer a simple and intuitive way to find the largest files that are causing the problem.  Step in, WinDirStat!

WinDirStat (Windows Directory Statistics)  is a free program that makes finding and removing large files an easy, almost pleasing experience. It displays the contents of your disk as a colourful chart of grouped rectangles that helps you to easily spot where all your space has gone.

WinDirStat in action

WinDirStat (Windows Directory Statistics) cam be downloaded from here.

WinDirStat is, as the name implies, for Windows only, all versions,  it is quite old now so I don’t know if it works on Windows7 (thank you Brian Jacob). WinDirStat is based upon KDirStat which is still available for Linux systems. There is also something similar called GrandPerspective for the Mac.

I have used this software several times in the past and knew I needed it again today, in looking for it I realised it is not referred to in many places so, as much for my own benefit as for yours, I thought I would make it that little bit easier to find by blogging about it here.

Once downloaded, before it can display your disk in its useful coloured box format, WinDirStat  needs to look at your disk to see how much space all the files  are taking up. When you first run the program you are offered the choice between scanning all drives or selecting an individual drive (or even just a folder), if you are only concerned with one drive it will obviously be a lot faster to view only that one.

The next screen you see is  really just telling you that the software is getting the information it requires, the display shows pacman chomping through your folders, but rest assured he is not eating any files.

Once WinDirStat has finished analyzing your hard drive you get to see what I find to be the most useful representation of your hard drive for determining which files and folders are taking up the most space on your system. As shown above, the main window is full of coloured boxes and rectangles, each one representing an individual file on your system, grouped into larger rectangles representing the folders that they are within. As you move your mouse over the colourful graph you see the file names appearing in the status bar at the bottom of the screen. Click on any box and the traditional file manager view at the top of the screen will jump to that file. If you want to see how much space the entire folder that that file sits in is taking up simply click on the folder in the top left file manager and you will see the box representing its disk usage highlighted on the main chart.

Right click on any box or rectangle representing a file in the main window and you get the option to zoom in or out of the picture, giving you more detail on those numerous smaller files on your system.

Right clicking on any file or folder in the top-left file manager view gives you the option to delete it or open an explorer window onto it. When a file is deleted using this menu the image below is automatically updated to accommodate the change.

I hope you find this program as useful as I do!

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Online clocks with a difference:
All these clocks tick away while the web page is open, depending on your web browser you can usually make  it full-screen by pressing F11.

  • humanclock.com – it isn’t very clear which hand is the big one and which one is the little one in the human analogue clock. Their digital clock consists of a series of user submitted photos which have the current time contained somewhere within them.
  • clock – all the numbers are formed by flexible people
  • industrious clock – previously featured on this blog, this shows a man writing and erasing the numbers of time.

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Soon will your swiftly-passing days be over, and the fame and riches, the comforts, the joys provided by this rubbish-heap, the world, will be gone without a trace... Be ye loving fathers to the orphan, and a refuge to the helpless, and a treasury for the poor, and a cure for the ailing. Be ye the helpers of every victim of oppression, the patrons of the disadvantaged. Think ye at all times of rendering some service to every member of the human race. Pay ye no heed to aversion and rejection, to disdain, hostility, injustice: act ye in the opposite way. Be ye sincerely kind, not in appearance only. Let each one of God’s loved ones centre his attention on this: to be the Lord’s mercy to man; to be the Lord’s grace. Let him do some good to every person whose path he crosseth, and be of some benefit to him. Let him improve the character of each and all, and reorient the minds of men. In this way, the light of divine guidance will shine forth, and the blessings of God will cradle all mankind: for love is light, no matter in what abode it dwelleth; and hate is darkness, no matter where it may make its nest. O friends of God! That the hidden Mystery may stand revealed, and the secret essence of all things may be disclosed, strive ye to banish that darkness for ever and ever. “

(Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 3)

 

“The fleeting hours of man’s life on earth pass swiftly by and the little that still remaineth shall come to an end, but that which endureth and lasteth for evermore is the fruit that man reapeth from his servitude at the Divine Threshold. Behold the truth of this saying, how abundant and glorious are the proofs thereof in the world of being!”

(Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 233)

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A couple of months ago I put the three leading free desktop search utilities to the test to see which one was the best.

The following versions were tested: Windows Search 4, Copernic Desktop Search 2 and Google Desktop Search.  The test was done using WIndows XP. WIndows Vista has Windows Search built into it and that is an improved version, as far as I understand, of what I was testing on XP. First to the test was…

Acronis Disk Director 10.0Google Desktop Search

Google Desktop has two main features, a desktop search engine that will index the files on your computer and search through them instantly, and side bar similar to the one that comes with Windows Vista, to which you add lots of gadgets including news readers, email notifications, calendar, slide shows… the list goes on. Personally I find side bars distracting and I have enough distractions off-screen without a side bar giving me more, but this feature is easily disabled. Once Google Desktop Search has indexed the computer it is extremely fast to find results in most file formats including Outlook emails. The software can be accessed in several different ways, my favourite method is as a search box docked onto the task bar at the bottom of the screen. As you type a search query into the box the search engines starts to provide matches to the partial word you have entered. What is particularly good about Google Desktop Search is that the results are all shown with a content preview, showing the text that surrounds your search string where it has been matched, this makes it extremely easy to find the very document you are looking for. The only problem I found is that not all the documents on my computer were being indexed. I uninstalled the software, re-installed it and ran a full index and still found that many of the documents I had were not indexed by the Google Desktop Search.

Windows Search

I was optimistic when I installed this given that the product should be as well designed for Windows as such a product could be. Windows Search did index all of my files but it lacked the context to the results on the search bar. When used as a full application the software offered the ability to open the found documents in a preview window so that you could then search for the result inside the document and realise the context, but this worked very slowly. On the whole I didn’t feel that Windows Search 4 made searching much easier than using the search features already built into Windows and Outlook, having used Google Desktop Search I had had a glimpse of how quickly a search tool could work, and by comparison Windows Search was painful to use.

Copernic Desktop Search

Copernic Desktop Search is similar to Windows Search in appearance and in its interface, it does offer filename matches very quickly from a search box on the task bar at the bottom of the screen but in order to get context you have to use the application Window and preview the matched document in a preview window, this was, however, considerably faster in Copernic than it was in Windows Search. Copernic also seemed to index every one of the files on my computer, including Outlook email, and the application interface is very easy to use. I found that once I had used Copernic a few times I was able to use its features to find the documents and emails I needed very quickly.

Conclusions

My favourite desktop search for WIndows XP is Copernic Desktop Search. I found the instant contextual results in Google Desktop Search superior to both Windows and Copernic but the incomplete indexing made it inadequate at the most important task of searching files on my computer. I did check through the support forums but,  like others before me who had had the same problem, I could not find, nor was offered, any solutions. Copernic was fast and intuitive, had I not seen the way in which Google presented results I would not have even thought it might be lacking in any department.

My tests were limited to the free version of Copernic Desktop Search 2, they have since released version 3 and that appears to offer “results as you type” in the commercial (non-free) versions, their web site does not specify if these are contextual results or not. If Google added an option that would allow you to force indexing of files and folders it had missed out then Google Desktop Search would be my winner, but at the time of testing there was no known way of doing this.

Links: Winner: Copernic Desktop Search, Second: Windows Search 4, Third: Google Desktop Search

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Trying to work from Ladan’s side I have used a number of old, second hand laptop computers that have been on their way to the the microchip graveyard. When a computer dies, be it a recoverable error or not, it often takes a while to get a system up and running with my email and important data in place, especially if I am in need of another computer.

Acronis True Image Home 2010I decided I needed a solution that would enable me to get working quickly from any computer, and i bought a 4GB USB Disk to try to set somehting up. Now, had I bought a 2GB disk I now realise I could have done something a little more clever that would have worked without the need for WIndows being installed, but I may well come back to that in a future post, for now I have a 4GB disk and am very happy with what I have got, which is this…

  • An encrytped, password protected, briefcase of my most important documents
  • An encrypted, password protected, backup of my Outlook email folders and settings
  • A one-click facility to synchronise my public and private documents, and email, with any WIndows computer (in the case of email it needs to have Outllok XP or better installed)
  • All my essential applications installed on the USB disk and launchable from there
  • A nice launcher that sits in the Windows system tray and accesses all the facilities from the disk

So, not only do I have my data backed up but I can use almost all of it without interefering with another machine. If I want to use my email on a friends machine I will have to configure a user account under my name to use a fresh copy of Outlook, but I can use webmail for email too. I did consider using Thunderbird as my primary email client and then not needing access to Outlook on any machine (as I can run Thunderbird from the USB Drive), but I prefer Outlook for email management tools.

Here are the tools I am using, and hereby recommending…

  • Truecrypt – This creates an encrypted briefcase file that I can “mount” as a drive when I need access to it.
  • Allway Sync – A utility that can be set to synchronize between certain folders on the USB and the host computer]
  • PStart - An application launcher, like the WIndows start button, that can be configured to work for all the programs on a USB stick.

I also have OpenOffice, Firefox, Mozilla, FileZilla, Gimp, GeoClock, CCleaner, Process Explorer, InfraRecorder, VLC Media Player, Notepad++, Audacity, and a large number of other portable applications installed which can run from the USB drive. Using PStart I can open my briefcase as Drive J: with just one click, and carry out synchronization of Outlook between computers I use with just one click.

One note about Outlook and Encryption, if you are familiar with creating a new .pst file in Outlook then you will know that you are offered three levels of encryption for your messages… None, Compressible or Best… Outlook does not compress the .pst file itself so unless you are going to compress it then the Best option is best!

Most of my blog visitors are not that technical minded to want to know more details about this, so if you do want to know more please le tme know.

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Blog Action Day…

How to Save the Environment at Home

51 Things We Can Do to Save the Environment

The BBC Green Room

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The latest beta version of Google Earth, available from http://earth.google.com/ has two new sky related features.

I was wondering if anybody had found a hack to make it feel like you were flying a plane over Google Earth scenery, and I was pleased to find that Google have done it themselves. If you hold down CTRL+ALT+A (according to their instructions) you launch a flight simulator, choose your aicraft from two available, choose a starting point, and you can take to the skies. I have tested it by crashing into some trees in Venice. Details on all the controls are here.

On my computer CTRL+ALT+A didn’t work, something to do with having a British keyboard layout, but using the right hand (as opposed to left) CTRL with A (no ALT) worked instead.

There is also an option, which I have not tested yet, to explore space. You choose a location on earth from which to look at the skies and then click the sky button, from there you can explore our solar system and much of the known universe beyond it.

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I’m sorry if this isn’t of interest to you but the BBC have an article about how the word sorry has lost much of its sincerity in Britain…

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/6241411.stm

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My name is James Herbert, I am responsible for this blog, but not for any of the following…

I am not the author of lots of horror books, some of which have been made into movies. This man is.

I have never set foot inside Yale, let alone lectured as a Professor of Art History or Visual Studies. This man has.

I have helped produce a few short videos but cannot claim to have produced lots of R.E.M. pop videos, which this man has done.

I have never been a member of the of the Clinical Engineering Association of South Africa, let alone served on it’s National Council.

I have read a lot about the human brain in recent times but I haven’t gone for a Ph.D and specialised in cognitive-behavior therapy, unlike this man.

I also did’nt work as the production manager on such big motion pictures as Die hard 2, Demolition Man and The Goonies like this man did. I am not a top college american-football defender like this man. Nor have I edited the movie version of Dirty Sanchez or help edit Troy and Die Another Day like this man.

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