By Jonathan Plutchok
Note to Readers: Best wishes to all my readers for a happy, healthy, prosperous, and above all serene new year. Due to the holiday, your Tool Bar & Grill chef is taking a week off. Visit this site again next week for a special double issue on local backup utilities! — Jonathan Plutchok, 16 September 2007.
When you’re packing to move to a new home, you discover all kinds of things you forgot you had. Some you pack, some you sell, some you just give away. I moved house last week, which left me very little time to write this column – but also turned up some valuable odds and ends that I’d like to share with you, my loyal readers. These tips are all about keeping up with the times.
Karen’s Tools Refreshed
Karen Kenworthy is a computing journalist who also writes clever little Windows utilities and publishes them for free. I featured Karen’s Directory Printer in an early post (10 October 2006). Her other great programs include Replicator (for backups and synchronization), Show Stopper (quickly shut down, restart, suspend, and other actions, and run a program automatically before any of these), Calculator, Once A Day (run a program once when Windows starts or a user logs on), and many more.
Karen spent the last few months updating and improving many of her free utilities. They are well worth checking out. You can find them all at http://www.karenware.com/powertools/powertools.asp. Karen’s utilities are donationware, so if you like and use any of them, please support the author with your contributions.
Music Utilities Improved
I usually use MP3DirectCut to edit MP3 files (reviewed on 10 January 2007). And I often listen to a folder full of music through 1by1, a simple media player that steps through a directory, playing each song in turn. The publisher of both these free programs, Martin Pesch, recently updated them. So if you already use these utilities or want to try them out, get the latest versions at http://mpesch3.de1.cc. And send a donation if you can (though the author accepts only bank transfers, not PayPal or credit cards).
Keep Your Software Up To Date
Sometimes your software is updated, often to improve security, and you don’t even know about it. So it’s good to use the free Secunia Software Inspector periodically. This free Web-based service (http://secunia.com/software_inspector) scans your computer and alerts you to security updates of about 40 popular titles, as well as Windows (XP but not Vista).
Even better is the new Secunia Personal Software Inspector, a free downloadable program that scans your disk for about 4,700 programs and identifies those with security updates, and those that have reached the end of their lives (i.e., are no longer supported). This program is a beta version and does not work perfectly (and does not support Windows Vista), but it’s way better than using obsolete, insecure software. Get it at https://psi.secunia.com.
Another useful update service is VersionTracker from C|Net. The VersionTracker Web site, http://www.versiontracker.com, lists and links to the latest updates for many Windows, Macintosh, and Palm programs (though it could benefit from a usability makeover). A paid “pro” version even downloads the updates automatically. You also can subscribe to the VersionTracker newsletter to receive update notices in your mailbox.
I hope this has been helpful. Please feel free to write your comments to ]]