Archive for May, 2008

Windows Software: Startup Manager

StartupmanagerWhen a computer starts up and boots into Windows, there are a bundle of other programs that load up with it. Some of them are needed, but others are unnecessary and do little more than slow down a computer.

When I am told that a computer is running slow, the first thing I do is look in the locations that call these programs to load, and I cull the programs that are not necessary. There are numerous locations (registry, startup folders and win.ini) where these programs are called from, so the process can take quite a while.

Startup Manager is a free utility that shows you each of these locations in a single, easy to use interface. Just check out the screenshot of it. This is certainly a no nonsense program.

Startup Manager shows you what is going to be loaded at startup. All you need to do is untick the items that you no longer want to be part of your daily life.

The startup programs should probably be checked every 6 or so months to keep your computer running lean. The list can expand very quickly, often without the users knowledge. Using this utility can save a lot of time. It is one of those useful programs to keep on a USB disk, so that you can load it up quickly in the case a friend is in need.

Get your copy of Startup Manager for free from StartupManager.org.


Winamp Plugin: Save all the files from a playlist into a single folder with SendTo

SendToFor the last 10 years I have been using Winamp as my default music player. It is not as light weight as it once was, but it is still holds its place as being one of the best music players available. Not only is it intuitive, its plugin support and visualisations are unparallelled.

I needed to make some playlists for an upcoming party. I was using music from many different locations. I would eventually need to copy the files in the playlist to a single folder on a different computer, so they could be easily transported. It would have been a huge hassle to copy files individually from their current locations to the one location. I figured there was bound to be a plugin that would let me automate this process, so I proceeded to make the playlists.

It turns out that copying all the files from a playlist into a single folder is not as easy as I initially thought. Certain forums recommend using the Disk Writer plugin that comes standard with Winamp. The problem with this is that the files get converted to wav, and then with the right codecs, they get converted back to MP3. This is very time consuming and the quality of the track is likely to be reduced.

I eventually came across a plugin that does the job wonderfully. SendTo lets you choose a folder that the files will be copied to, and then proceeds copying the files no matter where they were originally located. This includes network drives. The copying process is as quick as a normal file transfer.

The final result is a folder with all the MP3 files that were in the selected playlist. It is now easy to transfer this folder to another computer.

There is nothing flashy about this plugin. It was designed specifically to do this task, and this task only. Saying that, it does it well. Get a copy of SendTo plugin for free from Winamp.com.


How-to: Simple computer troubleshooting guide for the workplace

HelpIf you work in a large company, and you are tired of waiting for IT support, this article is for you.

I thought it would be worthwhile to make a very simple guide which you can use to do some of your own fault finding. Why not see if the problem is something you can fix yourself quickly.

This may save you a call to the help desk, or at the very least, assist the help desk staff to support you in a more efficient way.

This guide is aimed at people who turn on their computer in the morning and expect everything to work as it did the day before, and every other day before that. If the computer is not working as it normally does, this guide will hopefully get you up and running. I have tried to make this guide as non technical as possible.

Topics covered in this article include:

  • Unable to log in
  • Unable to access the Internet and Email
  • Unable to print
  • Mouse and/or keyboard not working
  • Turning on your computer to find a blank screen
  • Calling the Help desk

Each of the above topics will only take a minute or two to check. This is surely much quicker than spending 5 minutes to the help desk, and even longer if you need to wait for a technician to come out.

Read the rest of this entry »


Windows Software: Monitor changes to your registry with Reg-Runner 2008

Regrunner

Most spy-ware, trojans, viruses or spam ridden software will place entries into your registry, without your knowledge. Once the entry has been made, the program can run once the computer is restarted. If software is discovered after this, it is too late because the damage has already been done. A timely and difficult clean up job is required to restore your computer to full working order… if you are lucky.

Reg-runner is a program that runs in the task tray, that will help you protect your computer from these nasties, by popping up a small alert when a change is made to the registry, or when a program or process has started or ended. The majority of these alerts will be for programs you intended to install or run, but eventually the time will come when you are alerted to a program that is not wanted. 

Reg-runner has a number of tabs, showing the programs that are loaded at startup, running processes and registry changes. Each of these entries can be looked at more deeply. Right clicking on any of the startup items or processes will bring up a context menu. From this menu, Reg-runner can shoot you off to Google or Processlibrary.com for more information. Using these resources, you can find out if any program is malicious, or more simply, what any of your programs or processes do.

This program is small, weighing in just under 400k. For those who don’t like to use virus scanners or anti spy-ware programs because they slow down your computer, this would be a very sensible addition to the task tray.

Reg-runner is available for free from SourceForge. There is a standard version, and a black edition for those who like to live on the dark-side.


Windows Software: Securely delete your files with Eraser

Eraser1Last week we looked at NTFS Undelete, which is a great free program to undelete deleted files. As I tested it, I was able to recover many deleted files, some of which had been deleted for years. It raised a security concern for me that these files were so easily recovered, so I had a look for some programs that would help to make deleted files stay deleted.

Normally it does not matter if files are recoverable. It is handy in many cases. If a file is accidentally deleted, it is nice to know that all is not lost. Some sensitive files, you may want out of your life forever.

I came across a small but powerful utility called Eraser that would fulfill my needs. After running it, my deleted files were no longer recoverable. It can be used in two main ways.

First off is the Recycle Bin add-in. When you right click on the Recycle Bin, you normally get the option to empty it. Eraser adds a number of extra options for you. You can securely delete the files in the recycle bin using any of the extra options. Most of them will run several passes over the file. Others will replace the file with random data, which in both cases will ensure the file is gone forever. This does take longer than a normal bin empty, but it is not an uncomfortable wait.

Secondly, Internet history, cookies and uninstalled programs all bypass the recycle bin. That is why Eraser offers another component to look after you. Eraser can be setup to do a number of tasks on a schedule. You can delete files, folders… or my favourite, erase all free space. This ensures that any deleted files will remain deleted.

Lastly, many people sell their computers without correctly wiping the disk beforehand. This makes all of their data available to the purchaser, whether the files have been deleted or not. Using Boot and Nuke which incorporates Eraser, you are able to make a floppy disk or CD that will erase a computer completely before it is sold.

Eraser runs on most versions of Windows. Get your copy of Eraser for free from their website.