Archive for October, 2007

Windows Software: Get Linux like workspaces with WindowsPager

WindowsPagerIn Linux there is (and has been for as long as I can remember), a feature in which you can have multiple desktops/workspaces that you are able to switch between. This is ideal for organising your running programs. I like using workspaces so that I can have one workspace for work, and another for play. WindowsPager is the ultimate boss key!

Microsoft has not responded to this well used feature, with anything that is worthwhile for Windows. They did release a powertoy which serves the purpose, but it shows numbers as the workspace icons, rather than showing what is actually in the workspace.

There are a number of freeware and shareware options which will allow you to have multiple workspaces in Windows. I have tested a number of them, and found them to be much larger and complex than they need to be, yet they are still not as functional as the switcher built into a Linux operating system. I wanted a program that was small, functional and easy to use.

WindowsPager is a new project hosted at SourceForge and it has come a long way in a short time. It sits snuggly in your taskbar. There are four squares (by default), each representing an individual workspace. It looks the same as the Linux switcher, and it is just as easy to use.  To switch workspaces, click on the workspace you want to go to. To move an application from one workspace to another, drag the icon of it to another workspace.

WindowsPager has been working well for me since version 0.8. WindowsPager 0.10 has just been released. All the releases are currently alpha releases, so bugs are to be expected. There are some obvious bugs here and there, but as it continues in development, we can look forward to added functionality and stability. I am finding that it is much more valuable for me to have a buggy version of it, than nothing at all.

There are a couple of limitations. You cannot drag a window from one workspace to another using the title bar. Saying that, I have not come across a Windows workspace switcher that can do this. There is also no dual screen support. It does work with dual screens, but only the preferred screen will be shown.

If you have trouble getting this to work properly, an initial restart may well help you. To have WindowsPager load at startup, create a shortcut to it in the startup folder of your start menu.

I am very excited about this project. Get your copy for free from Sourceforge


Windows software: Port Forwarding made easy with BaUPnP

BaUPnP

Some network programs require that you configure port forwarding in your router, so that they will work properly. This is confusing to many people, causing many newcomers to give up. For those who know what they are doing, it is time consuming. There is a quicker and easier way.

Fortunately, most routers support a standard called Universal Plug and Play (UPnP), meaning that you can use the BaUPnP tool to update your port forwarding settings, without going through all the menus in your router.

BaUPnP is a free command line utility that automates the process of forwarding your ports.

For use: On the computer you want the ports to be forwarded to, open up your command prompt and navigate through to the folder you have saved BaUPnP.

The tool, by default, configures port mapping for the two ports used by web-servers – that is port 80 (HTTP) and port 443 (HTTPS). You are able to use your own arguments for any service you want.

The following example configures port mapping for FTP (port 21) and Telnet (port 23):

BaUPnP.exe 21 23

It doesn’t get much easier than that!

As this program changes the port forwarding settings to your router, this program only needs to be run once. This is not a program that will clog up valuable resources after you have used it.

You are able to run it from multiple machines, each offering various services. Just keep in mind that you can’t use the same port from two computers. You will also need to ensure that UPnP is turned on in your router settings.

For more information and download instructions please visit barracudaserver.com.


Windows Software: BeyondCopy 1.24

BeyondcopyA network clipboard allows you to share the same clipboard between two computers connected via a network. You are able to copy text on one computer, and then paste it on the other.

Last week I posted an article about a handful of network clipboards that are available for free on Windows PCs. I was not able to get any of them to communicate to each other between Windows XP and Vista.

Over the week, I came across the open-source utility BeyondCopy 1.24, which is yet another network clipboard. I expected the same sort of luck as I had with the other programs I had tested, but I was pleasantly surprised when BeyondCopy worked for me first time without any fuss.

I installed the utility on each computer and added the other computers hostname to the list of acceptable computers. I opened up Notepad and typed in some text and copied it to the clipboard. I switched to the other computer and pressed paste, and clipboard followed me.

BeyondCopy runs in the task tray on both computers and can be started up with Windows. You are able to have more than two computers sharing the same clipboard. It is fairly secure as you have to put in the computer hostnames of all the computers you want to share the clipboard of, into the client on each computer. If you only do it on one, BeyondCopy will not connect. You are even able to change which port BeyondCopy uses for added security.

The documentation claims that the software will copy files but I had no luck with this. The help documentation isn’t too clear for this. I was able to copy text flawlessly, which is what I initially set out to do.

Now I have to get used to this new feature on my network. The impossible has become possible. I am already reaping the benefits as I have used it in writing this article. This one is a keeper!

BeyondCopy is free and available from their Website.


Windows Software: mRemote

MremoteThe latest Remote Desktop client which comes with Windows Vista only allows you to open up one remote desktop at a time. You are able to run multiple instances of it to open other desktops but this will clog up your taskbar quickly. Imagine having multiple clients to connect to other types of servers such as telnet and ssh2.

mRemote will let you store all your remote connections information in one place so that they can easily be recalled and accessed at the same time.

Their website explains it best

“mRemote allows you to manage all your remote connections in a single place. Currently it supports the RDP, VNC, SSH2 and Telnet protocols. The main intention is to have a central place to store all your connections and access them in the same window.”

I liked that the program was highly configurable for each server I connected to. I had the same control with remote desktops as I have with the latest Microsoft release of the Remote Desktop Client. Each new server connection loaded up in a new tab, making the switching between remote servers instant.

mRemote is still in Beta so take a bit of caution using it. There were a few tick box and layout problems which I came across but all in all, mRemote worked just as I hoped it would. I was able to connect to two computers via remote desktop, and another with telnet.

The install is a single file download and there is an uninstaller included. The latest version 0.0.7.0 was released 10/10/07. If you are using XP, ensure you have updated to the latest Remote Desktop Client from Microsoft before trying to use mRemote. You can download it here. This is not necessary if you are using Vista.

There are Remote Desktop Clients that will let you connect to multiple desktops from the same window. The programs I have seen are commercial releases, or they come with Windows Server. mRemote is the only client I have seen that will let you log on to multiple types of servers at the same time.

Download it for free from SourceForge.


Port Forwarding Basics – A Beginners Guide

Difficulty: 3

I thought this picture was bad. There are plenty worse ones available.Port Forwarding allows you to access computers behind a router, for various services. To put it another way, Port Forwarding offers you access to computers on your home network accessible from anywhere.

Eg, You may want to setup one of your home computers as a web server. If you have not set up port forwarding, typing in your home IP address into a browser will bring up the router settings. You will need to setup your router to send webpage requests to the computer that will be hosting the site. This is known as port forwarding and it is a supported feature for most routers. Without port forwarding you can’t move beyond the router, restricting you access to all of the computers on the network. 

I have found over the years, my needs for port forwarding have been limited to only a few simple tasks. I set up a web server and an ftp server on one machine. I also needed to have access to a remote desktop connection from another machine. This was easy to setup and allowed me to take my home computers with me on the road.

Once you have access to remote desktop on one machine, you have freedom to access shared network drives from within your home network. There is nothing that you are unable to access. It is as if you were at home, on your home computer.

This article will show you how to configure your router so that you can access computers on your home network, from any computer that is outside of your network. This article is designed for newcomers to Port Forwarding, meaning that there is lots of technical stuff left out.

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