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Some more cool SW

April 5th, 2006 · 4 Comments

Here’s some more free software that I’ve used recently. Why pay money, when there are such good free alternatives!

I’ve used the commercial program “Retrospect” backup software, and it works OK, but I’ve recently discovered a free backup program that I like even better. It’s Cobian Backup. It will back up the files on your hard drive to another hard drive, to CDs, to a network drive, or even to an FTP (internet) location. Conversely, you can use it to back up the files on a website down to your local computer, automatically, at regular intervals, using FTP. Compression is an option, using standard ZIP instead of proprietary formats, and encryption is also an option.

Google Earth has begun adding higher resolution graphics of some areas. Take a look at downtown Las Vegas — you can make out some of the types of cars, and even see people’s arms and legs in their shadows.

Nero is still probably the best CD/DVD burning software out there, but it’s not free like it was a few years ago when I started using it. Since it comes bundled with new CD and DVD burners, that’s not usually a problem, but if you lose it or for whatever reason don’t have a copy for a particular burner, there is a free alternative: CDBurnerXP Pro 3. I haven’t personally used it, but Donna has and reports that it is “great” and “very easy to use”.

Recently I suggested that “MyACDSee” was an alternative to the commercial “ACDSee” image viewer. I’ve had some problems with MyACDSee and can’t really recommend it, but I have found a free alternative that seems to give ACDSee a run for its money: FastStone. Just like ACDSee, it has a thumbnail viewer and slideshow, but even better it will do image editing, type conversion and emailing, with on-the-fly resizing and recompression during the emailing. FastStone has some other free image utilities, such as FastStone MaxView that is a small, simple quick image viewer. You can set it as your default program for opening image files, and then when you double click on an image in Explorer, or from Email, will open it instantly.

FoxIt Reader is still better than Adobe Acrobat, and has some newer versions that fix some minor bugs, especially with printing. If you’re already using it, make sure you have the latest version.

DVDShrink will make copies of your DVDs, even shrinking them as necessary to fit on a standard single-layered DVD. You have to have DVD-burning SW already on your hard drive for it to create the copy, but even if you don’t burn a new DVD with it, you can just copy it to your laptop hard drive and have movies to watch while travelling. Of course, this is only legal with DVDs that you own, and even then you may be in a gray area.

If you work with networked PCs, here’s a neat utility: Angry IP Scanner. It will scan a range of IP addresses and look for connected computers. Very useful for determining who is connected to your network, for troubleshooting or finding free-loaders. Pressing two buttons will load the range of your local subnet, and a third button starts the scan. One note: The default is to list ALL ip addresses, whether there is a connection or not. Go into Options and set it to show only ip addresses that have connections, otherwise it’s too hard to wade through the big list.

Another related utility is NetStumbler. This is used for “War Driving” (the practice of driving around looking for unprotected wireless networks), but has legitimate uses too. Running on a computer with a wireless connection, it will continuously monitor all the wireless signals it can detect, constantly updating readouts on strength of signal, encryption status, and many other parameters. If you are setting up or troubleshooting a wireless network and need to optimise the layout, this could be a very useful tool. You’ll probably be amazed at all the signals flying through your house, even though most of them will be too weak to connect to.

Tags: Computers, Tech & Science

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Donna // Apr 6, 2006 at 5:28 pm

    Thanks for keeping us up on all the latest, cool and FREE software! I always send the link to my friends to remind them to check out your recommendations.

  • 2 Don // Apr 7, 2006 at 6:28 am

    I tried NetStumbler on my laptop. It didn’t pick up any signals I didn’t already know about. My neighbor has a wireless Linksys that I was already aware of but nothing else. Speaking of a wireless router, anyone who uses one should make sure they secure it. When I first discovered my neighbor’s it was wide open. I was able to connect to the net through their router. Since I’m a nice, honest guy I went over and showed them how to secure it.

  • 3 Daryl // Apr 7, 2006 at 9:17 am

    About 6 of my neighbors have wireless, and at least one of them is so unsecure that I was able to log into their router and could have changed settings (if I had wanted to).

    If I knew who it was I would offer to help, but houses are so close that it’s kind of hard to tell and I hesitate to start knocking on doors asking.

  • 4 Richard // Apr 8, 2006 at 9:17 am

    As you all know, we frequently travel in the RV. I have found that most RV parks have individuals with wireless routers somewhere that are wide open. Even though the park may have a wireless system that you need to pay for, you can usually find one that is open and you can get onto for free. I always try this first before taking the time to set up my tripod dish.

    On more than one occasion we have stayed in campgrounds where I would wander around with my laptop to locate where the signal was coming from. If the owners were outside I then asked if it would be OK if I used their signal. Everyone I asked was open to it since they did not even know I had access. Most people seem pretty unsophisticated. I offered to show a couple of them how to secure their setup, but they did not seem to care. As long as it did not cost them anything and did not interfere with what they were doing it did not seem to be a big deal.

    When we first moved into the park in Corinth a few years ago where we stayed off and on for the next several years, there was a wide open signal. I even signed on to his router since he had not even changed the default passwords. I figured out who he was and obtained permission to use his connection (it was DSL) for a couple months. Funny thing is that he was a systems analyst and programmer for some large company nearby. Since he was in IT he should have known better!

    I am going to check out the backup program you mentioned. I have been using Retrospect for several years and it has worked fine, but it sounds like this one has some additional features that would be useful.